Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|The Early Edition: January 4, 2018|
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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.
The meeting between the presidents son Donald Trump Jr. and Russians at the Trump Tower in June 2016 was treasonous, Trumps former chief strategist Steve Bannon was quoted as saying in a book written by Michael Wolff entitled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. The Trump Tpwer meeting took place after an intermediary offered damaging material about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and attendees included Trump Jr., the presidents son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, David Smith reports at the Guardian.
An excerpt from the book revealing details about Trumps presidential campaign, the atmosphere within the Trump administration and Steve Bannons role, is provided by Michael Wolff at the New York Magazine.
Bannon lost his mind when he left the White House, Trump said in a statement yesterday responding to Bannons comments, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Wolffs book trashy tabloid fiction that is filled with false and misleading accounts. Eli Stokols reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, Trumps statement also said, and the acrimonious break between the president and Bannon could have implications for the struggle for influence within the Republican establishment. Jordan Fabian and Jonathan Easley report at the Hill.
Lawyers for Trump sent Bannon a cease and desist letter yesterday, accusing Bannon of breaching the employment agreement he signed with the Trump campaign and demanding that Bannon refrain from further disclosure of confidential information and disparagement of Trump and his family members. John Santucci reports at ABC News.
The White House has been angered by Bannons quotes to Wolff and, according to White House sources, Trump personally dictated key parts of the statement denouncing Bannon. Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein report at The Daily Beast.
Trump has been agitated by the ongoing Russia investigations, the probes have dragged on longer than Trumps lawyers had initially told the president and a source close to the White House said that Bannon had crossed a clear line when he made personal comments about the presidents family. Kevin Liptak and Dana Bush report at CNN.
The ten most explosive revelations from Wolffs book are provided by the BBC.
Trumps former campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit against special counsel Robert Mueller yesterday, arguing that the Justice Department had had exceeded its legal authority when the acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered Mueller to investigate links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, an order which gave Mueller a carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating. Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky report at the Washington Post.
Manaforts lawsuit asks for the federal judge to throw out Rosensteins order, to dismiss the indictment against Manafort and bar Mueller from pursuing similar investigations. Del Quentin Wilber reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has signaled his willingness to have the founders of the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S. testify publicly about the controversial dossier they commissioned alleging connections between Trump and Russia, the Senators comments follow an opinion piece written by the founders in the New York Times which accused the Republicans of spinning conspiracy theories about their firm, the dossier and leaking selective details from their closed-door testimonies. Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met with top federal law enforcement officials yesterday to discuss the dossier compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele and commissioned by Fusion G.P.S., the meeting was held following a request by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in a statement after the meeting that he believes the House Intelligence Committee has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that will provide the committee with access to all documents and witnesses we have requested, Karoun Demirjian and Matt Zapotosky report at the Washington Post.
The government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (C.R.E.W.) filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Justice Department for its decision to reveal anti-Trump private text messages between two F.B.I. agents, which have been seized on by Republicans as evidence of bias within Muellers team. Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.
The founder of Fusion G.P.S. have spun a sob story and their op-ed did not provide a single example of something that proves the dossiers claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes, referring to the opinion piece written by the founders earlier this week.
The reopened communication line between the two Koreas was tested by North Korean and South Korean officials yesterday, the reactivation of the line came following North Korean leader Kim Jong-uns comments in a New Years Day address that suggested that he would be open to talks with Seoul. Andrew Jeong reports at the Wall Street Journal.
We must keep our expectations at the appropriate level, the chief of United States Forces Korea Vincent Brooks was quoted as saying yesterday, warning that Kims peace overture should not lead to undue optimism. Hyonhee Shin reports at Reuters.
The U.S. has been sidelined while North Korea and South Korea have opened dialogue, Trump administration officials said that they were not opposed to the talks if they were confined to discussion of the Winter Olympics and said that the White House plans to keep in close contact with South Korean officials. Mark Landler reports at the New York Times.
The North and South Korean officials had little to say once the communications line was reopened, nevertheless the discussions were a breakthrough of sorts that have raised Seouls hopes of the possibility of a face-to-face meeting. Justin McCurry explains at the Guardian.
North Korea could make their country richer only if they adopted the right policies, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today, but did not mention Kims recent overture to South Korea, the APreports.
The president and the people of this country should be concerned about the mental fitness of the leader of North Korea, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters yesterday in response to a question about Trumps tweets about the size of his nuclear button. David Brunnstrom and Christine Kim report at Reuters.
The participation of North Korean athletes in the Winter Olympics could help to calm anxieties about potential missile tests or other belligerent measures, Adam Taylor explains the significance of the games in the context of the North Korean threat at the Washington Post.
The president does not actually have a nuclear button on his desk, Zachary Cohen and Brian Todd explain at CNN.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has approached the crisis peacefully and soberly, unlike Trump who has been bellicose and childish, Moon has taken advantage of Kims overture and while there are reasons to be cautious, the U.S. should lead a comprehensive strategy to test whether North Korea is serious about engaging in discussions. The New York Times editorial board writes.
Today we announce the end of the sedition, the head of the Irans Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) Mohammed Ali Jafari said yesterday, referring to the protests across the country that began Dec. 28 and saying that a large number of the trouble-makers have been arrested and there will be firm action against them. Al Jazeera reports.
Irans army chief Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi was quoted as saying today that his troops would be ready to intervene if needed, adding that the police were able to quell the sedition but his forces in the army would be ready to confront the dupes of the Great Satan [United States]. Michael Georgy reports at Reuters.
The protests in Iran have quietened down, however it does not mean that the anger has subsided and may point to a longer period of unrest. Amanda Erickson explains at the Washington Post.
The protests in Iran caught the Trump administration off guard, according to senior U.S. officials, the U.S. has been trying to protect the protestors through presidential tweets, public condemnation and international pressure on Irans leaders, and yesterday Irans mission to the U.N. complained in a letter to the Security Council and General Assembly that the U.S. had incited the protests. Dion Nissenbaum reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. will not be silent on Iran, unlike President Obama who failed to express American solidarity with the protests in the country in 2009 the Trump administration will show leadership and stand with Iranians demanding freedom and opportunity. The Vice President Mike Pence writes at the Washington Post.
The U.S. seeks to obtain information about Iranian individuals and organizations involved in the crackdown on protestors to feed into the U.S.s sanctions designation machinery, a senior Trump administration official said yesterday. Phil Stewart reports at Reuters.
The Iranian capital of Tehran has been largely devoid of pro- or anti-government protests, marking a significant difference to the 2009 protests, possibly revealing the divide between the perspectives of the urban middle class and the rural working class, and perhaps pointing to concerns in the capital about the potential for protests to descend into a breakdown of authority as has been seen in Syria. Thomas Erdbrink explains at the New York Times.
Saudi Arabia and Israel have looked at the unrest in Iran for potential leverage, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the demonstrators and denounced Irans cruel regime, Saudi Arabian officials has been more careful not to issue statements to avoid fueling claims by Iranian leaders that the protests have been spurred by foreign powers, however Saudi commentators have been more vociferous. Aya Batrawy and Josef Federman report at the AP.
The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war, the French President Emmanuel Macron warned yesterday, saying that it was important to maintain dialogue with Iran. Reuters reports.
It is highly unlikely that President Trump will certify Irans compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal when faced with the Jan. 13 deadline, according to a senior administration official, a measure that could lead to the deal falling apart. Katrina Manson reports at the Financial Times.
At least 20 people have been killed today by suspected Russian airstrikes in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, near the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to residents and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Reuters reports.
Rebel shelling destroyed at least seven Russian planes at a military base in Syria last week, according to the Russian Kommersant newspaper, Reuters reports.
A group representing opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have urged the U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to boycott the peace talks being hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Sochi at the end of January, saying that the Russian peace initiative sought to entrench Assads position and would represent a dangerous departure from the [U.N.-led] Geneva process. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
The war in Syria will be over in one or two years, the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militant group said yesterday, Reuters reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 46 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 22 and December 28. [Central Command]
The Israeli military has struck significant terror infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip this morning in response to three mortars fired from Gaza at Israel, the AP reports.
Israeli security officials and analysts have expressed concerns about Trumps threat to cut aid to the Palestinians, warning that cutting funding would further weaken the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has rejected military conflict with Israel. Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash report at the Washington Post.
The atmosphere in the month following the assassination of the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been tense, with the Houthi rebels tightening their grip on northern Yemen. Ali Al-Mujahed and Sudarsan Raghavan report at the Washington Post.
Norways Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that it would suspend exports of weapons and ammunition to the U.A.E. due to concerns about their use in the war in Yemen. Reuters reports.
There should be no doubt or fear as the defense of Pakistan is in competent and strong hands, the Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir said today, adding that Pakistan would be ready to face any U.S. action after Trump tweeted earlier this week that Pakistan was offering a safe haven to terrorists. Washignton confirmed yesterday that it would withhold £255m in military aid to Pakistan, Zarar Khan reports at the AP.
The third version of Trumps travel ban remains equally useless and cruel, the question of its legality may be considered by the Supreme Court in the coming year, whatever their decision may be, the ban is bad policy made poorly. The Washington Post editorial board writes.
The former National Security Agency (N.S.A.) contractor Harold Milton has agreed to plead guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information, according to court filings yesterday. Reuters reports.
|Michael Wolffs Fire and Fury: Inside Trumps White House|
On the afternoon of November 8, 2016, Kellyanne Conway settled into her glass office at Trump Tower. Right up until the last weeks of the race, the campaign headquarters had remained a listless place. All that seemed to distinguish it from a corporate back office were a few posters with right-wing slogans.
Conway, the campaign’s manager, was in a remarkably buoyant mood, considering she was about to experience a resounding, if not cataclysmic, defeat. Donald Trump would lose the election — of this she was sure — but he would quite possibly hold the defeat to under six points. That was a substantial victory. As for the looming defeat itself, she shrugged it off: It was Reince Priebus’s fault, not hers.
She had spent a good part of the day calling friends and allies in the political world and blaming Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Now she briefed some of the television producers and anchors whom she had been carefully courting since joining the Trump campaign — and with whom she had been actively interviewing in the last few weeks, hoping to land a permanent on-air job after the election.
Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump’s advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — the effective head of the campaign — wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue.
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.
“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”
The Postelection Chaos at Trump Tower
From the start, the leitmotif for Trump about his own campaign was how crappy it was, and how everybody involved in it was a loser. In August, when he was trailing Hillary Clinton by more than 12 points, he couldn’t conjure even a far-fetched scenario for achieving an electoral victory. He was baffled when the right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, a Ted Cruz backer whom Trump barely knew, offered him an infusion of $5 million. When Mercer and his daughter Rebekah presented their plan to take over the campaign and install their lieutenants, Steve Bannon and Conway, Trump didn’t resist. He only expressed vast incomprehension about why anyone would want to do that. “This thing,” he told the Mercers, “is so fucked up.”
Bannon, who became chief executive of Trump’s team in mid-August, called it “the broke-dick campaign.” Almost immediately, he saw that it was hampered by an even deeper structural flaw: The candidate who billed himself as a billionaire — ten times over — refused to invest his own money in it. Bannon told Kushner that, after the first debate in September, they would need another $50 million to cover them until Election Day.
“No way we’ll get 50 million unless we can guarantee him victory,” said a clear-eyed Kushner.
“Twenty-five million?” prodded Bannon.
“If we can say victory is more than likely.”
In the end, the best Trump would do is to loan the campaign $10 million, provided he got it back as soon as they could raise other money. Steve Mnuchin, the campaign’s finance chairman, came to collect the loan with the wire instructions ready to go so Trump couldn’t conveniently forget to send the money.
Most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role. They rise up the ladder of elected offices, perfect a public face, and prepare themselves to win and to govern. The Trump calculation, quite a conscious one, was different. The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn assured them.
Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.
There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.
From the moment of victory, the Trump administration became a looking-glass presidency: Every inverse assumption about how to assemble and run a White House was enacted and compounded, many times over. The decisions that Trump and his top advisers made in those first few months — from the slapdash transition to the disarray in the West Wing — set the stage for the chaos and dysfunction that have persisted throughout his first year in office. This was a real-life version of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, where the mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle — that they would lose the election — wound up exposing them for who they really were.
On the Saturday after the election, Trump received a small group of well-wishers in his triplex apartment in Trump Tower. Even his close friends were still shocked and bewildered, and there was a dazed quality to the gathering. But Trump himself was mostly looking at the clock. Rupert Murdoch, who had promised to pay a call on the president-elect, was running late. When some of the guests made a move to leave, an increasingly agitated Trump assured them that Rupert was on his way. “He’s one of the greats, the last of the greats,” Trump said. “You have to stay to see him.” Not grasping that he was now the most powerful man in the world, Trump was still trying mightily to curry favor with a media mogul who had long disdained him as a charlatan and fool.
Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”
The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution — suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.
Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 administrations, tried to impress on Trump the need to create a White House structure that could serve and protect him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff,” he told Trump. “And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington. You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.
“Who’s that?” asked Trump.
As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch — which employs 4 million people — will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner — a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.
It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him. “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”
Bowing to pressure, Trump floated the idea of giving the job to Steve Bannon, only to have the notion soundly ridiculed. Murdoch told Trump that Bannon would be a dangerous choice. Joe Scarborough, the former congressman and co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, told the president-elect that “Washington will go up in flames” if Bannon became chief of staff.
So Trump turned to Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman, who had became the subject of intense lobbying by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If congressional leaders were going to have to deal with an alien like Donald Trump, then best they do it with the help of one of their own kind.
Jim Baker, chief of staff for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and almost everybody’s model for managing the West Wing, advised Priebus not to take the job. Priebus had his own reservations: He had come out of his first long meeting with Trump thinking it had been a disconcertingly weird experience. Trump talked nonstop and constantly repeated himself.
“Here’s the deal,” a close Trump associate told Priebus. “In an hour meeting with him, you’re going to hear 54 minutes of stories, and they’re going to be the same stories over and over again. So you have to have one point to make, and you pepper it in whenever you can.”
But the Priebus appointment, announced in mid-November, put Bannon on a co-equal level to the new chief of staff. Even with the top job, Priebus would be a weak figure, in the traditional mold of most Trump lieutenants over the years. There would be one chief of staff in name — the unimportant one — and others like Bannon and Kushner, more important in practice, ensuring both chaos and Trump’s independence.
Priebus demonstrated no ability to keep Trump from talking to anyone who wanted his ear. The president-elect enjoyed being courted. On December 14, a high-level delegation from Silicon Valley came to Trump Tower to meet him. Later that afternoon, according to a source privy to details of the conversation, Trump called Rupert Murdoch, who asked him how the meeting had gone.
“Oh, great, just great,” said Trump. “These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”
“Donald,” said Murdoch, “for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”
“Take this H-1B visa issue. They really need these H-1B visas.”
Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America’s doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders. But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, “We’ll figure it out.”
“What a fucking idiot,” said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.
Steve Bannon, suddenly among the world’s most powerful men, was running late. It was the evening of January 3, 2017 — a little more than two weeks before Trump’s inauguration — and Bannon had promised to come to a small dinner arranged by mutual friends in a Greenwich Village townhouse to see Roger Ailes.
Snow was threatening, and for a while the dinner appeared doubtful. But the 76-year-old Ailes, who was as dumbfounded by his old friend Donald Trump’s victory as everyone else, understood that he was passing the right-wing torch to Bannon. Ailes’s Fox News, with its $1.5 billion in annual profits, had dominated Republican politics for two decades. Now Bannon’s Breitbart News, with its mere $1.5 million in annual profits, was claiming that role. For 30 years, Ailes — until recently the single most powerful person in conservative politics — had humored and tolerated Trump, but in the end Bannon and Breitbart had elected him.
At 9:30, having extricated himself from Trump Tower, Bannon finally arrived at the dinner, three hours late. Wearing a disheveled blazer, his signature pairing of two shirts, and military fatigues, the unshaven, overweight 63-year-old immediately dived into an urgent download of information about the world he was about to take over.
“We’re going to flood the zone so we have every Cabinet member for the next seven days through their confirmation hearings,” he said of the business-and-military, 1950s-type Cabinet choices. “Tillerson is two days, Sessions is two days, Mattis is two days …”
Bannon veered from James “Mad Dog” Mattis — the retired four-star general whom Trump had nominated as secretary of Defense — to the looming appointment of Michael Flynn as national-security adviser. “He’s fine. He’s not Jim Mattis and he’s not John Kelly … but he’s fine. He just needs the right staff around him.” Still, Bannon averred: “When you take out all the Never Trump guys who signed all those letters and all the neocons who got us in all these wars … it’s not a deep bench.” Bannon said he’d tried to push John Bolton, the famously hawkish diplomat, for the job as national-security adviser. Bolton was an Ailes favorite, too.
“He’s a bomb thrower,” said Ailes. “And a strange little fucker. But you need him. Who else is good on Israel? Flynn is a little nutty on Iran. Tillerson just knows oil.”
“Bolton’s mustache is a problem,” snorted Bannon. “Trump doesn’t think he looks the part. You know Bolton is an acquired taste.”
“Well, he got in trouble because he got in a fight in a hotel one night and chased some woman.”
“If I told Trump that,” Bannon said slyly, “he might have the job.”
Bannon was curiously able to embrace Trump while at the same time suggesting he did not take him entirely seriously. Great numbers of people, he believed, were suddenly receptive to a new message — the world needs borders — and Trump had become the platform for that message.
“Does he get it?” asked Ailes suddenly, looking intently at Bannon. Did Trump get where history had put him?
Bannon took a sip of water. “He gets it,” he said, after hesitating for perhaps a beat too long. “Or he gets what he gets.”
Pivoting from Trump himself, Bannon plunged on with the Trump agenda. “Day one we’re moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all-in. Sheldon” — Adelson, the casino billionaire and far-right Israel defender — “is all-in. We know where we’re heading on this … Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.”
“Where’s Donald on this?” asked Ailes, the clear implication being that Bannon was far out ahead of his benefactor.
“He’s totally onboard.”
“I wouldn’t give Donald too much to think about,” said an amused Ailes.
Bannon snorted. “Too much, too little — doesn’t necessarily change things.”
“What has he gotten himself into with the Russians?” pressed Ailes.
“Mostly,” said Bannon, “he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a shit about him. So he’s kept trying.”
Again, as though setting the issue of Trump aside — merely a large and peculiar presence to both be thankful for and to have to abide — Bannon, in the role he had conceived for himself, the auteur of the Trump presidency, charged forward. The real enemy, he said, was China. China was the first front in a new Cold War.
“China’s everything. Nothing else matters. We don’t get China right, we don’t get anything right. This whole thing is very simple. China is where Nazi Germany was in 1929 to 1930. The Chinese, like the Germans, are the most rational people in the world, until they’re not. And they’re gonna flip like Germany in the ’30s. You’re going to have a hypernationalist state, and once that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”
“Donald might not be Nixon in China,” said Ailes, deadpan.
Bannon smiled. “Bannon in China,” he said, with both remarkable grandiosity and wry self-deprecation.
“How’s the kid?” asked Ailes, referring to Kushner.
“He’s my partner,” said Bannon, his tone suggesting that if he felt otherwise, he was nevertheless determined to stay on message.
“He’s had a lot of lunches with Rupert,” said a dubious Ailes.
“In fact,” said Bannon, “I could use your help here.” He then spent several minutes trying to recruit Ailes to help kneecap Murdoch. Since his ouster from Fox over allegations of sexual harassment, Ailes had become only more bitter toward Murdoch. Now Murdoch was frequently jawboning the president-elect and encouraging him toward Establishment moderation. Bannon wanted Ailes to suggest to Trump, a man whose many neuroses included a horror of senility, that Murdoch might be losing it.
“I’ll call him,” said Ailes. “But Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert. Like for Putin. Sucks up and shits down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.”
Trump did not enjoy his own inauguration. He was angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears. Throughout the day, he wore what some around him had taken to calling his golf face: angry and pissed off, shoulders hunched, arms swinging, brow furled, lips pursed.
The first senior staffer to enter the White House that day was Bannon. On the inauguration march, he had grabbed 32-year-old Katie Walsh, the newly appointed deputy chief of staff, and together they had peeled off to inspect the now-vacant West Wing. The carpet had been shampooed, but little else had changed. It was a warren of tiny offices in need of paint, the décor something like an admissions office at a public university. Bannon claimed the nondescript office across from the much grander chief of staff’s suite and immediately requisitioned the whiteboards on which he intended to chart the first 100 days of the Trump administration. He also began moving furniture out. The point was to leave no room for anyone to sit. Limit discussion. Limit debate. This was war.
Those who had worked on the campaign noticed the sudden change. Within the first week, Bannon seemed to have put away the camaraderie of Trump Tower and become far more remote, if not unreachable. “What’s up with Steve?” Kushner began to ask. “I don’t understand. We were so close.” Now that Trump had been elected, Bannon was already focused on his next goal: capturing the soul of the Trump White House.
He began by going after his enemies. Few fueled his rancor toward the standard-issue Republican world as much as Rupert Murdoch — not least because Murdoch had Trump’s ear. It was one of the key elements of Bannon’s understanding of Trump: The last person the president spoke to ended up with enormous influence. Trump would brag that Murdoch was always calling him; Murdoch, for his part, would complain that he couldn’t get Trump off the phone.
“He doesn’t know anything about American politics, and has no feel for the American people,” Bannon told Trump, always eager to point out that Murdoch wasn’t an American. Yet in one regard, Murdoch’s message was useful to Bannon. Having known every president since Harry Truman — as Murdoch took frequent opportunities to point out — the media mogul warned Trump that a president has only six months, max, to set his agenda and make an impact. After that, it was just putting out fires and battling the opposition.
This was the message whose urgency Bannon had been trying to impress on an often distracted Trump, who was already trying to limit his hours in the office and keep to his normal golf habits. Bannon’s strategic view of government was shock and awe. In his head, he carried a set of decisive actions that would not just mark the new administration’s opening days but make it clear that nothing ever again would be the same. He had quietly assembled a list of more than 200 executive orders to issue in the first 100 days. The very first EO, in his view, had to be a crackdown on immigration. After all, it was one of Trump’s core campaign promises. Plus, Bannon knew, it was an issue that made liberals batshit mad.
Bannon could push through his agenda for a simple reason: because nobody in the administration really had a job. Priebus, as chief of staff, had to organize meetings, hire staff, and oversee the individual offices in the Executive-branch departments. But Bannon, Kushner, and Ivanka Trump had no specific responsibilities — they did what they wanted. And for Bannon, the will to get big things done was how big things got done. “Chaos was Steve’s strategy,” said Walsh.
On Friday, January 27 — only his eighth day in office — Trump signed an executive order issuing a sweeping exclusion of many Muslims from the United States. In his mania to seize the day, with almost no one in the federal government having seen it or even been aware of it, Bannon had succeeded in pushing through an executive order that overhauled U.S. immigration policy while bypassing the very agencies and personnel responsible for enforcing it.
The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? You have to undo this! You’re finished before you even start! But Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between Trump’s America and that of liberals. Almost the entire White House staff demanded to know: Why did we do this on a Friday, when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters?
“Errr … that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: Make them crazy and drag them to the left.
On the Sunday after the immigration order was issued, Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, arrived for lunch at the White House. Trump proudly showed them into the Oval Office. “So how do you think the first week has gone?” he asked the couple, in a buoyant mood, seeking flattery. When Scarborough ventured his opinion that the immigration order might have been handled better, Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.
After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”
“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”
Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.
Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.
“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.
“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.
“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when I could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”
The First Children couple were having to navigate Trump’s volatile nature just like everyone else in the White House. And they were willing to do it for the same reason as everyone else — in the hope that Trump’s unexpected victory would catapult them into a heretofore unimagined big time. Balancing risk against reward, both Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew. It was a joint decision by the couple, and, in some sense, a joint job. Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal: If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.
Bannon, who had coined the term “Jarvanka” that was now in ever greater use in the White House, was horrified when the couple’s deal was reported to him. “They didn’t say that?” he said. “Stop. Oh, come on. They didn’t actually say that? Please don’t tell me that. Oh my God.”
The truth was, Ivanka and Jared were as much the chief of staff as Priebus or Bannon, all of them reporting directly to the president. The couple had opted for formal jobs in the West Wing, in part because they knew that influencing Trump required you to be all-in. From phone call to phone call — and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls — you could lose him. He could not really converse, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. He demanded you pay him attention, then decided you were weak for groveling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his performance — without making him angry or petulant.
Ivanka maintained a relationship with her father that was in no way conventional. She was a helper not just in his business dealings, but in his marital realignments. If it wasn’t pure opportunism, it was certainly transactional. For Ivanka, it was all business — building the Trump brand, the presidential campaign, and now the White House. She treated her father with a degree of detachment, even irony, going so far as to make fun of his comb-over to others. She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair color.
Kushner, for his part, had little to no success at trying to restrain his father-in-law. Ever since the transition, Jared had been negotiating to arrange a meeting at the White House with Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican president whom Trump had threatened and insulted throughout the campaign. On the Wednesday after the inauguration, a high-level Mexican delegation — the first visit by any foreign leaders to the Trump White House — met with Kushner and Reince Priebus. That afternoon, Kushner triumphantly told his father-in-law that Peña Nieto had signed on to a White House meeting and planning for the visit could go forward.
The next day, on Twitter, Trump blasted Mexico for stealing American jobs. “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall,” the president declared, “then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” At which point Peña Nieto did just that, leaving Kushner’s negotiation and statecraft as so much scrap on the floor.
Nothing contributed to the chaos and dysfunction of the White House as much as Trump’s own behavior. The big deal of being president was just not apparent to him. Most victorious candidates, arriving in the White House from ordinary political life, could not help but be reminded of their transformed circumstances by their sudden elevation to a mansion with palacelike servants and security, a plane at constant readiness, and downstairs a retinue of courtiers and advisers. But this wasn’t that different from Trump’s former life in Trump Tower, which was actually more commodious and to his taste than the White House.
Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom — the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms. In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room. He reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.) Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.
If he was not having his 6:30 dinner with Steve Bannon, then, more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls — the phone was his true contact point with the world — to a small group of friends, who charted his rising and falling levels of agitation through the evening and then compared notes with one another.
As details of Trump’s personal life leaked out, he became obsessed with identifying the leaker. The source of all the gossip, however, may well have been Trump himself. In his calls throughout the day and at night from his bed, he often spoke to people who had no reason to keep his confidences. He was a river of grievances, which recipients of his calls promptly spread to the ever-attentive media.
On February 6, in one of his seething, self-pitying, and unsolicited phone calls to a casual acquaintance, Trump detailed his bent-out-of-shape feelings about the relentless contempt of the media and the disloyalty of his staff. The initial subject of his ire was the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, whom he called “a nut job.” Gail Collins, who had written a Times column unfavorably comparing Trump to Vice-President Mike Pence, was “a moron.” Then, continuing under the rubric of media he hated, he veered to CNN and the deep disloyalty of its chief, Jeff Zucker.
Zucker, who as the head of entertainment at NBC had commissioned The Apprentice, had been “made by Trump,” Trump said of himself in the third person. He had “personally” gotten Zucker his job at CNN. “Yes, yes, I did,” said the president, launching into a favorite story about how he had once talked Zucker up at a dinner with a high-ranking executive from CNN’s parent company. “I probably shouldn’t have, because Zucker is not that smart,” Trump lamented, “but I like to show I can do that sort of thing.” Then Zucker had returned the favor by airing the “unbelievably disgusting” story about the Russian “dossier”and the “golden shower” — the practice CNN had accused him of being party to in a Moscow hotel suite with assorted prostitutes.
Having dispensed with Zucker, the president of the United States went on to speculate on what was involved with a golden shower. And how this was all just part of a media campaign that would never succeed in driving him from the White House. Because they were sore losers and hated him for winning, they spread total lies, 100 percent made-up things, totally untrue, for instance, the cover that week of Time magazine — which, Trump reminded his listener, he had been on more than anyone in history — that showed Steve Bannon, a good guy, saying he was the real president. “How much influence do you think Steve Bannon has over me?” Trump demanded. He repeated the question, then repeated the answer: “Zero! Zero!” And that went for his son-in-law, too, who had a lot to learn.
The media was not only hurting him, he said — he was not looking for any agreement or even any response — but hurting his negotiating capabilities, which hurt the nation. And that went for Saturday Night Live, which might think it was very funny but was actually hurting everybody in the country. And while he understood that SNL was there to be mean to him, they were being very, very mean. It was “fake comedy.” He had reviewed the treatment of all other presidents in the media, and there was nothing like this ever, even of Nixon, who was treated very unfairly. “Kellyanne, who is very fair, has this all documented. You can look at it.”
The point is, he said, that that very day, he had saved $700 million a year in jobs that were going to Mexico, but the media was talking about him wandering around the White House in his bathrobe, which “I don’t have because I’ve never worn a bathrobe. And would never wear one, because I’m not that kind of guy.” And what the media was doing was undermining this very dignified house, and “dignity is so important.” But Murdoch, “who had never called me, never once,” was now calling all the time. So that should tell people something.
The call went on for 26 minutes.
Without a strong chief of staff at the White House, there was no real up-and-down structure in the administration — merely a figure at the top and everyone else scrambling for his attention. It wasn’t task-based so much as response-oriented — whatever captured the boss’s attention focused everybody’s attention. Priebus and Bannon and Kushner were all fighting to be the power behind the Trump throne. And in these crosshairs was Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff.
Walsh, who came to the White House from the RNC, represented a certain Republican ideal: clean, brisk, orderly, efficient. A righteous bureaucrat with a permanently grim expression, she was a fine example of the many political professionals in whom competence and organizational skills transcend ideology. To Walsh, it became clear almost immediately that “the three gentlemen running things,” as she came to characterize them, had each found his own way to appeal to the president. Bannon offered a rousing fuck-you show of force; Priebus offered flattery from the congressional leadership; Kushner offered the approval of blue-chip businessmen. Each appeal was exactly what Trump wanted from the presidency, and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t have them all. He wanted to break things, he wanted Congress to give him bills to sign, and he wanted the love and respect of New York machers and socialites.
As soon as the campaign team had stepped into the White House, Walsh saw, it had gone from managing Trump to the expectation of being managed by him. Yet the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy. And making suggestions to him was deeply complicated. Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate. He trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”
By the end of the second week following the immigration EO, the three advisers were in open conflict with one another. For Walsh, it was a daily process of managing an impossible task: Almost as soon as she received direction from one of the three men, it would be countermanded by one or another of them.
“I take a conversation at face value and move forward with it,” she said. “I put what was decided on the schedule and bring in comms and build a press plan around it … And then Jared says, ‘Why did you do that?’ And I say, ‘Because we had a meeting three days ago with you and Reince and Steve where you agreed to do this.’ And he says, ‘But that didn’t mean I wanted it on the schedule …’ It almost doesn’t matter what anyone says: Jared will agree, and then it will get sabotaged, and then Jared goes to the president and says, see, that was Reince’s idea or Steve’s idea.”
If Bannon, Priebus, and Kushner were now fighting a daily war with one another, it was exacerbated by the running disinformation campaign about them that was being prosecuted by the president himself. When he got on the phone after dinner, he’d speculate on the flaws and weaknesses of each member of his staff. Bannon was disloyal (not to mention he always looks like shit). Priebus was weak (not to mention he was short — a midget). Kushner was a suck-up. Sean Spicer was stupid (and looks terrible too). Conway was a crybaby. Jared and Ivanka should never have come to Washington.
During that first month, Walsh’s disbelief and even fear about what was happening in the White House moved her to think about quitting. Every day after that became a countdown toward the moment she knew she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus were simply incomprehensible. In early March, not long before she left, she confronted Kushner with a simple request. “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on,” she demanded. “What are the three priorities of this White House?”
It was the most basic question imaginable — one that any qualified presidential candidate would have answered long before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, Kushner was wholly without an answer.
“Yes,” he said to Walsh. “We should probably have that conversation.”
*Excerpted from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff (Henry Holt and Co., January 9, 2018). This article appears in the January 8, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
*This article has been updated to include more information from Wolff’s book about the nature of Trump’s conversation with the Mercers.
|Intel responds to the CPU kernel bug, downplaying its impact on home users – PCWorld|
|VOA Interview: Security Adviser McMaster Discusses Iran, Pakistan|
VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren interviewed National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster at the White House on Tuesday. Greta Van Susteren: General, nice to see you, sir. H.R. McMaster: Its great to be with you, Greta. Thank you. Van Susteren: Thank you for doing this interview. McMaster: Its a privilege to do it, thanks. Question: Well, lets start with Iran. A lots going on there. What are your reflections on it? McMaster: Well, the Iranian people are expressing frustration frustration about a regime that pays more attention to exporting terrorism than it does to meeting the needs of its own people. So, the president has been very strong in his support for the Iranian people and their rights to express themselves. And I think whats most important now is for the whole world to tell Iran that they have to respect the rights of their citizens and allow them to demonstrate peacefully and to not engage in the kind of violence against the demonstrators that we saw, remember, back in 2009 and that were starting to see now, as well. Q: Well, in 1956, we had a similar situation in Hungary, and the West didnt support the protesters there. Weve seen it in the early 90s with the Kurds in Iraq, and again, the United States voiced its support but didnt do anything. And we, as you mentioned, 2009 when President (Barack) Obama was president, in the Green Movement after the election. Is this administration going to do anything more than voice verbal support for the protesters? Or can they? McMaster: Well, well see what options are available. But I think what we need are strong voices across the world on behalf of the Iranian people. This is a dictatorial regime that is oppressing its own people, that is using the resources that this great nation with this rich culture and rich history needs, to foment hatred and violence across the greater Middle East. Theyre a driving force behind this fitna, behind this sectarian civil war, that has caused so much pain and suffering and death in Syria and Iraq and Yemen. They pose a continuing threat to Israel and within Lebanon to its stability, and this regime has to be held to account. And it seems as if the Iranian people are expressing their displeasure about the behavior of this regime and prioritizing this kind of violence over the benefit and the welfare of their own citizens. Q: I was comparing and contrasting in my own mind 2009, which was provoked by an election that the people they were unhappy with the election, they thought it was unfair. This one is a little bit different. Almost spontaneously, the number of cities that theres been a protest. At first, the suggestion was that it was as a result of an economic situation, that any sort of the economic benefits that they anticipated from the Iran deal didnt trickle down to them. Why do you think do you think this was this provoked by economics, or by Western influence? Why do you think the protests were sparked in the first place? McMaster: I think whats key is to let the Iranian people speak for themselves on this. I think its dissatisfaction with this dictatorial regime. It was over economics to a certain extent, and the skyrocketing of prices, the very high rate of unemployment, especially among young Iranians. And these are people who know the great potential of their country, and theyre frustrated to not be able to take advantage of that potential. But its also been about the external behavior of the regime, and how This is a regime that gives safe haven to al-Qaida terrorists who target Shi’ite, Christians, anybody who doesnt do and any Muslim who doesnt adhere to their narrow and irreligious definition of Islam. And so, this is a regime that is dishonest fundamentally, and a regime that has helped drive violence and hatred across the whole region. Q: I dont pretend to know what the solution is, its not my job. But even if it were my job, I dont know what the solution is. But if we do no more than to say Were with you, you know, with the protesters, how is the result going to be any different than 09, or even any of those other examples? I mean, arent we just going to expect that the Iranian that it will probably be the protesters who would be put down, there would be more violence? How do we expect a different solution, if our reaction is the same? McMaster: Well, were already doing more than that. As you know, in recent years, there was a hope a hope that the pursuit of this nuclear deal thats fundamentally flawed would change the behavior of this regime, that it would moderate its violent behavior. And of course, that hasnt been the case at all. So, what the United States has been doing, along with allies and partners around the world, is sanctioning that violent, that maligned, Iranian behavior. And so, its important, I think, that this regime be denied the resources it needs to continue its murderous campaigns. And so, its diplomacy, but its also sanctions. And we see that actually the Iranian people are expressing their displeasure about the nature of this regime how it treats them, but also how it treats the rest of the world. Q: Is there this interview is likely to be seen in Iran because of the Persian service of Voice of America. Is there a specific message that you want to get to the people of Iran? You know, that you want to tell the Iranian people what America is going to do if they do change the government? McMaster: Well, I think the first thing to know is the American people and this American government has great respect for the Iranian people, the Iranian culture, their tremendous history and the tremendous potential they have. And it breaks our heart to see Iranians not be able to realize their dreams. Also, we have to recognize, though, its up to all of us across the world to confront Irans behavior that is causing so much suffering their support for terrorist organizations and illegal militias that are perpetuating violence. And so, they have our emotional support, they have our sympathy, and were grateful, I think, to see them exercising their right to voice their displeasure with this dictatorial regime. Q: President (Donald) Trump has said that hes not going to certify the agreement, the nuclear agreement. Whats the message to Americans, and as well to the Iranians? What can we expect on that nuclear agreement? McMaster: Well, I think the main message is how can you trust this regime that treats its own people the way we see its treating its own people, that foments violence? Q: So, is the agreement off? The agreements definitely to be decertified? McMaster: Well, it might be. Well bring options to the president. The president declined to certify that the Iran nuclear deal was in the interest of the United States. And but that doesnt mean he wouldnt continue to adhere to the agreement, in terms of extending waivers on sanctions. Hell make that decision, I think, in the next few weeks to the next month. And so, well see what the president decides, but its really hard its really hard to trust this regime. Q: Are the protests in any way linked to the presidents thinking on the nuclear deal? McMaster: No, not that Ive been aware of. I mean, I dont think so. I think the world is watching very closely to see how this regime treats its own people. And I think that this Iran nuclear deal doesnt cover everything, right? It doesnt cover the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps destabilizing behavior in the region. It doesnt really fully cover their missile programs. And so, it doesnt cover their behavior and how theyre treating their own people in connection with these in connection with these protests. And so, I think the United States, other nations, have to take action not just based on this very narrow and flawed nuclear agreement, but have to look at the broad range of Irans behavior. Q: Theres a flawed agreement, and theres violating the agreement. And I know that the Republicans from the very beginning or many of them said it was a flawed agreement. What about a violation? Have the Iranians violated that agreement that the United States signed with them? McMaster: Its really impossible to tell whether or not Iran is violating that agreement. What we have seen is them step up to the line and crossed the line on how many centrifuges that theyre spinning how much heavy water they have in stock. Q: Is there anything wrong with coming up to the line? McMaster: And no, but is the verification mechanism in place to make sure that this agreement doesnt just give this dictatorial regime cover for developing a nuclear capability that threatens the world? And so, thats what we have to be confident of, and we cant be confident of that right now because the monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are anemic theyre not very strong. And so, those need to be strengthened. You know, there are sunset clauses to all this, and so, we have to block all paths to a nuclear weapon by this dictatorial regime, not just for the next few years, but we have to be able to do that in the long term. Because think about what happens if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, who gets a nuclear weapon next? Is it Saudi Arabia? Is it United Arab Emirates? Think about the breakdown of the nonproliferation regime and how that places so many people at risk of the most destructive weapons on Earth. Q: In the event that the Iranian government goes up to the line but doesnt cross it, and it is not recertified by the president, does that send a message around the world for decades about cutting a deal with the government, with the United States government? Does that indicate that we dont keep our word, recognizing that obviously administrations change but does that send a signal? McMaster: I think it does send a powerful signal. Q: Not an adverse one? McMaster: No, its a powerful, positive signal. You know, what the adverse experience has been or the negative experience has been is the 1994 agreed framework with North Korea. How did that work out? It was a weak agreement that was not monitored effectively. It was not enforced. Where are we now? You know, were at the cusp of a North Korea another rogue regime that might threaten the world with nuclear weapons. And of course, thats unacceptable now, and we cant let the situation with Iran get to that level, as well. Q: All right. Speaking about North Korea, I think theres ample evidence that Pakistan, through A.Q. Khan, who is basically their architect of their nuclear weapons program, was very helpful to North Korea developing their program. Do you have any suspicion that Iran and North Korea have worked together, even with the development of missile technology? Anything at all? McMaster: Yes, I mean, I think that Q: And are they doing it now? McMaster: Well, Ill leave that to our intelligence professionals to answer that question. But if you look at North Koreas track record, North Korea has never met a weapon that it has not proliferated. I mean, it was building a nuclear reactor in a clandestine site in Syria, for example. North Korea is selling weapons across the world to all sorts of regimes and bad actors. And North Korea has stated that it would be willing to proliferate nuclear weapons for the right price. And so, you have a regime that could possess nuclear weapons that could engage in extortion, blackmail, and then sell those most destructive weapons on Earth to the highest bidder and anybody willing to meet their price. Q: Well, its pretty evident that they have an aggressive program, and theyve been developing it for decades both missile and nuclear warheads, as well. Is there and the agreed framework, as you noted, didnt work because they cheated, and the program has gone on and on and on. Weve tried sanctions, weve engaged the world. Weve done a lot of different things to try to deter this nuclear program in North Korea. Is there anything short do you see anything short of war at this point? And Im not saying Im advocating for war or anything against it, but what are the solutions? What are the possibilities? McMaster: Well, the possibility is that the North Korean regime recognizes that the continued pursuit of these nuclear weapons and missiles is a dead end. And the only way to do that really, now, short of war, is through coercive economic power power that rests mainly in the hands of China but with others, as well. And the trend has been extremely positive. The trend has been positive in that more and more countries are stopping all trade with North Korea. Vietnam, for example. The Philippines. The list really is quite a long one. Q: But theres the illusive … They just stopped there were two ships with petroleum products in violation of sanctions that have been stopped in the last two weeks, so its getting in there some of it. McMaster: Thats why everybody needs to do more. Youve seen South Korea just interdict two ships and impound two ships. And the new U.N. sanctions will allow even greater sanctions on shipping companies that allow this illicit trade to continue. But really, as everybody knows, China has the vast majority of the coercive economic power over the North, and its our hope that China will act in its interest, and we cant ask them to do more than act in their interest. Q: The hope, but China hasnt. And the president, even long before he became president, I used to interview him when he was just a businessman in New York. He would talk about China and how they didnt deal fairly with the United States. What makes you think that China, now, is going to be is going to change to use their economic muscle to try to get a result out of North Korea? Is it just the fear that therell be 26 million people over the borders into North Korea and that Japan and South Korea want to become nuclear powers? Is that the only thing thats going to change China? McMaster: No. China recognizes that the situation has changed fundamentally, and China recognizes three fundamental shifts in their own thinking, and three fundamental shifts in what we all have to do together. The first shift is that denuclearization of the peninsula is the only acceptable answer. It used to be that youd hear a lot of talk about freeze for freeze, or suspension for suspension. Theres a recognition that thats no good anymore because their programs have progressed too far. The second thing is, China recognizes that this is a problem, really, between North Korea and the whole world, including a problem between North Korea and China. There used to be old talk about, Well, this is really a problem between the United States and North Korea. China recognizes that it is in Chinas interest to denuclearize the peninsula. And thats because of the threat of a breakdown in the nonproliferation regime. What if South Korea, what if Japan, conclude that they have to arm in similar ways to North Korea? And the third thing is that China recognizes that it really does have the coercive economic power to resolve this situation. And itll be up to China, and if they make those decisions, as you know, the U.N. Security Council has come up with more and more restrictions on North Korea, more and more sanctions against North Korea. Those have to be rigorously enforced. But we also have to acknowledge thats not going to be enough. And I think youre right about this. I mean, North Korea, unless more pressures applied, will not conclude that its in its interest to denuclearize. Q: I dont see North Korea because there really are two different people. Theres the leaders of North Korea, and theres the people. I dont I cant I dont have a crystal ball, but I dont see North Korea worried enough about I dont see anything that makes them want to give up their nuclear weapons. I dont think theres enough care about feeding their people, about a famine or anything else. McMaster: Well, you have different portions of the population in North Korea. Obviously, you have the elites in Pyongyang who live a very comfortable existence at the expense of the rest of the North Korean population who are part of Q: But theyre the ones who make the decisions. McMaster: They are, but those are the people who have to be affected by these sanctions. These are the people who have to conclude that it is not in their interest to continue on this path. That it is a dead end for them. And of course, this regime hasnt been without dissent. I mean, this is a regime, this is a leader Kim Jong Un whos killed members of his own family in the most egregious ways with a bad nerve agent in a public airport in Malaysia, with anti-aircraft guns in front of their military academy in a stadium. And so Q: So, how do you get him to think like, OK, Ive changed my mind. I want to protect my people from war with the United States or economic sanctions from the world. And Im going to give up my nuclear weapons, when hes bragging about it? McMaster: Well, I mean, you cant fire a missile without fuel, can you? And North Korea is wholly dependent on external sources for fuel. So, there are options available short of war if all nations conclude that its in their interest to act in a more aggressive manner, in terms of economic sanctions and to actually follow through. Q: If we cut off visibility to launch a nuclear weapon, he doesnt have the fuel to do it. He still has all these artillery weapons on the southern part of North Korea pointed right at South Korea. How potent or whats the strength that he has there? McMaster: Well, of course, this is what North Korea has done, right? Over the years, it has held the South Korea population at risk. Also, its been clear since 1953 that the South South Korea that the United States poses no threat to North Korea. Every provocation has come out of North Korea. And so, the only reason why North Korea could be pursuing this weapon is to do what? Its actually to coerce or blackmail or extort the United States to leave the peninsula and Northeast Asia. And to what theyve been saying for years. I mean, how many times in his latest speech did Kim Jong Un use the word, unification? What kind of unification does he have in mind? He has unification under the domination of the North and its failed system. I mean, this is So, whats important to recognize is that North Korea is pursuing this nuclear weapon, not for just defensive purposes that you hear some people argue about, but really for coercive purposes, for offensive purposes. And the world has to recognize that. Q: You know, its interesting. I dont think Ive been to North Korea three times. I dont have a sense and its a random sampling, and its no way any scientific study I dont have any sense that the people of North Korea, themselves, dont think that they have the best place on earth to live, except for those who may get some sort of information from the West. But I think thats the problem, too, is that the people arent with us, you know? The people are not against their leadership, at least not right now. McMaster: Well, its been three generations now of leadership whos systematically brainwashed their own population, who deny them access to outside information. Once information can penetrate that society, I mean, this is what he probably fears the most, right? So, theres some who argue, Well, what we really need to do is open the gates to this misunderstood regime in the North. Of course, thats one of the things that the North fears the most because it will expose all the lies. It will expose all of the hypocrisy. Q: Which is why they prevent the information from coming in. McMaster: Absolutely. Q: Kim Jong Un in a recent speech talked about making a gesture to South Korea, said maybe theyll send athletes to participate in the Olympic Games, and maybe theyll have negotiations, and also threatened that he has a button. I think he says he has a button on his desk to launch a nuclear weapon against us. What are your thoughts about that, about his gesture to South Korea? McMaster: Well, anybody who thought that that speech was reassuring was drinking too much Champagne over the holidays. And essentially, what he said is what you just summarized, that he is building a hair-trigger nuclear force that can place the world at risk. So, this is a great cause for concern. And I think the speech is pretty clear what the purpose was. It wasnt an unsophisticated approach to try to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States. Of course, thats not going happen. His provocative actions, what hes been doing, is driving our alliances closer together. Q: One last question on this. If the economic sanctions dont work, for whatever reason either they do not respond to them, or China doesnt stiffen them, or the North Koreans can cheat around them if those sanctions dont work, then what? And whats our timetable? McMaster: Well, what we have to do is prepare for a broad range of options for the president. And those include military options, and weve made no secret about that. And well work closely with our allies as we develop and refine those options. And essentially, if we have to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime, well bring those options and our assessment of risk and consequences to the president for a decision. Q: Whats the range in military options? What do you see as the far end and the light end? McMaster: Well, of course Im not going to discuss military plans. But those plans exist. Q: Hypothetically. I know, but hypothetically, whats the McMaster: Im not in a hypothetical position, so I cant. Q: OK, fair enough. All right, all right. OK. I said it was the last question, Ill make that the last question on that. All right. Let me turn now to Pakistan. And the president tweeted that the United States this is from one of his first tweets of the new year The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more! So, he has upped the pressure on Pakistan. Why? And to what end? McMaster: Well, I think the tweet speaks for itself. I mean, the presidents frustrated, and he values what we hope would be a partnership with Pakistan. But hes frustrated at Pakistans behavior in that it continues to provide support for these groups, it goes after terrorist insurgent groups, really, very selectively, and uses others as an arm of their foreign policy. The president has great sympathy for the Pakistani people and in particular, how much theyve suffered at the hands of terrorists who have victimized so many Pakistanis with mass murders, with that horrible mass murder in a school a few years ago. I mean, so, he empathizes with the Pakistani people, and he wants to see the Pakistani government go after these groups less selectively. This is not a blame game, as some would say. This is really our effort to communicate clearly to Pakistan that our relationship can no longer bear the weight of contradictions, and that we have to really begin now to work together to stabilize Afghanistan. And in a way, that would be a huge benefit to Pakistan, as well. Whats frustrating at times is we see Pakistan operating against the interests of its own people by going after these groups only selectively, by providing safe havens and support bases for Taliban and Haqqani network leadership that operate out of Pakistan as they perpetuate hell in portions of Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Q: I traveled with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan years ago when she was delivering news of an aid package about $7 billion a significant amount for the Pakistanis. And I remember that the Pakistanis were upset because we wanted to know how the money was going to be spent. They were very upset. So, you have that incredible sort of disconnect that did not seem to me to be outrageous that wed want to know how our money was going to be spent. On the other hand, when you dont give money to these countries, someone else steps in, so thats the risk. McMaster: Well, I dont think whos going to step in now, I think, and want Pakistan to continue its support for terrorist groups like the Haqqani network, for groups like the Taliban? I mean, certainly its not in Chinas interest. China has a terrorist problem on its southern border, a terrorist problem that does have connections back into Pakistan. Its not going to be any other country in the region, certainly, who will want Pakistan to continue this, really, pattern of behavior that weve seen, where it goes after these groups only selectively, while it sustains and supports others who act as an arm of its foreign policy. So, I think were confident that I mean, Pakistan doesnt want to become a pariah state. Pakistan is a country with tremendous potential human potential, economic potential. So, what we really would like to see is Pakistan act in its own interest and to stop going after these groups only selectively, and to stop providing safe havens and support bases and other forms of support for leadership. Q: How do you put into the equation the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear country, and that they have also palled around, at least historically, with North Korea on nuclear weapons? Do they hold some sort of — I dont want to use the term blackmail, its too strong but they do have that as a lever. McMaster: Well, I think it would just be unwise for any Pakistani leader I cant imagine a Pakistani leader using nuclear weapons to extort or for blackmail. Thats the day when Pakistan Q: Thats what North Korea is doing. McMaster: Well, I mean, does Pakistan want to become North Korea? Doesnt look too appealing a model to me. So, I think Pakistan could be on a path to increase security and prosperity, or it could be on a path to replicating North Korea. I think thats an easy choice for Pakistani leaders. Q: You know, its obvious when you look at foreign policy, you move one little piece on this chess table, and it affects so many other parts of the world. McMaster: None of these problems are disconnected from others. I mean, there are many connections between all these problems. Thats what weve discussed. Q: Is there a way to describe the presidents foreign policy? Ive heard one quote where he said that, where it says, The way Trump handles foreign policy moves us out of our comfort zone, me included. First of all, what did he mean by that? And secondly, how do you describe the presidents foreign policy? McMaster: Well, I would describe it as principled realism, and you can read more about this in the highly readable, page-turning, National Security Strategy, which is available now. Q: Which I did read. Its a lot, too. It is quite long. McMaster: But its clear. Its a succinct statement of his policy, his guidance to all the departments and agencies, and a clear description to our allies and partners and rivals of what we value as a nation and how we want to go about protecting and securing the vital interests of the American people, but to do so in a way that really emphasizes cooperation with others around the world. Q: By out of the comfort zone, you werent saying that you were in any way disagreeing with the president? McMaster: No. What the president does is, he challenges fundamental assumptions. He always says, Well, why do we have to do it this way? I mean, and so he makes a lot of our implicit assumptions explicit as we explain these to him. And I would say that hes made some very wise policy decisions across the last year and some very significant ones. And I would point to the August speech on the South Asia strategy. A very clear articulation of a winning strategy not just for Afghanistan and Pakistan but for the whole region, for the whole region of South Asia. The Indo-Pacific strategy, which he really laid out in terms of its security dimensions but really its economic dimensions, in two speeches one in South Korea, and one in Danang during the APEC Summit. And of course, the Iran strategy, which is a fundamental shift from strategy in recent years and reflects a determination to confront Irans maligned behavior and to choke off the financing to this dictatorship that its using to destabilize the whole Middle East and to perpetuate violence and human suffering there. Q: All right. (Russia President Vladimir) Putin, Russia and national security. First of all, do you believe that you may have said this a million times, I know that Russia interfered with our election? McMaster: Yes, of course. The presidents been on the record on that, as well. Q: OK. What do we do? McMaster: Well, what we have to do is come up with a way to deal with this very sophisticated strategy, this new kind of threat that Russia has really perfected in a lot of ways, and thats the use of disinformation and propaganda and social media tools to really polarize societies and pit communities against each other. To weaken their resolve and their commitment. We cover this quite a bit in the National Security Strategy and talk about how important it is for every time we talk about what divides us as country, we have to talk about what unites us. And thats our the common commitment to our values. We value individual rights and rule of law, and we value our democracy. Q: Its so insidious when someone sort of creeps into your election, into the debate, or puts false information out there. I mean, it just permeates every community in the country. McMaster: No, insidious is the right word. So, one of the most important remedies is to pull the curtain back on it to show this activity, to show what the source of this activity is, what the purpose of this activity is. And so doing, youre going to undercut a lot of their ability to exert that kind of negative influence on our society or others, you know? As you know, the Russians were very active in Europe, as well, in the French election recently, in the Spanish referendum in regards to Catalonia. You see them active in Mexico already. What they did in Montenegro and try to foment a coup, as well as this sort of sophisticated campaign. And so, pulling the curtain back on Russias destabilizing behavior, I think, is a very important first step, because once the people once everybody sees what theyre up to, they lose a lot of their power to foment lack of confidence and to pit communities against each other. Q: All right. I take it your counterpart in Russia denies this, denies doing this? McMaster: Well, I think Russias moved from what you might call plausible deniability to implausible deniability. These are the same people who said, Oh no, we didnt shoot down that airliner or murder all those people. Oh no, we dont have soldiers in Crimea or in eastern Ukraine. I mean, its just not credible anymore. Were not providing cover for a Syrian regime that is committing mass murder of its own people with chemical weapons. And so, its just not credible anymore. And so, what we need to do, I think, with Russia, is confront their destabilizing behavior. As I mentioned, pull the curtain back on it. Q: But doesnt Putin deny it? McMaster: But we also have to deter further conflict with Russia, and what we want to do is find some areas of cooperation. What we have seen recently is, it seems as if Russia will actually act against its interest to spite the United States, the West, our European allies. Q: Theyre saying if you dont have any self-preservation, its a terrible enemy, in some ways, our opponent. McMaster: Well, what wed like to do is find areas where we can cooperate with Russia in areas where our interests overlap. One of those is an area weve been talking about, which is in North Korea, another is in Iran. I mean, how can it be in Russias interest to help empower Iran across the Middle East? Theyre going to pay a huge price for that. Q: But Iran is helping in Syria, and so is Putin helping in Syria, (President Bashar al-)Assad. So, they both they have a common goal there. McMaster: So, every state every Arab state certainly should recognize what Russias been doing. And Russia should pay the price, in terms of its reputation, its access to the region, for what its doing to enable Iran and Irans very destructive activities perpetuating this fitna, or civil war, across the greater Middle East. And Russia shouldnt give cover and support to Iran so it can continue its nefarious designs across the region. I mean, not only has Iran continued to support terrorist groups like Hezbollah, all these other illegal armed groups about 80 percent of the fighters on the side of the Assad regime in Syria are Iranian proxies and in Yemen. And what theyre doing is weaponizing these networks with long-range missiles, as well. And so again, I think pulling the curtain back on it, really asking Russia, How can this be in your interest to aid and abet this Iranian regime? Q: I guess if I thought they responded a lot to shame. But I think the term thats been used by the Trump administration is theyre a strategic competitor. And in the past and not just in the past year since President Trump took office but in the years past is that Putin has gained in strength. This is not someone who seems to have been shamed away like, Oh, Im really sorry I was involved in the U.S. election, or Im ashamed. He seems to be emboldened by this. McMaster: Well, hes also now become one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth. I mean, that cant be in Russian interest. So, I think its important for Russia to conclude that its in its interest Russia is not going to act against its interest. We dont expect Russia to act against its interest or do the United States, or anybody else, a favor. What we want to do is to be able to find areas of cooperation, so we can help convince Russia that its in its interest to work together on some of these key priority threats to the world. I mean, how could it be in Russias interest to have the nonproliferation regime break down in Northeast Asia? To see other nations in Northeast Asia armed with nuclear weapons? Its not in Russias interest. You already see South Korea and Japan, and their alliance with us strengthened. You see South Korea and Japan arming at a breakneck pace. And so, this is not in Russias interest. And the way to resolve this is to resolve this problem with North Korea and really allow Northeast Asia to enjoy a new era of prosperity. Can you imagine without that threat from North Korea, how Russia, China everyone would benefit from that? Q: What surprises you most about the job before you took it and now that youve been in the seat? McMaster: Well, what surprised me the most is the high-quality people I get to work with. I mean, these extremely dedicated civil servants and officers from across our government on this National Security Council are tremendous. It is a great privilege to work with them. And then, I guess what surprised me, as well, is the degree to which we are working together based on our common interest with so many nations around the world. I mean, we have great relationships with our counterparts between National Security Councils, National Security Advisers. Its maybe part support group, but its also a group of like-minded nations. Theyre trying to advance and protect the interest of our citizens. And we have some as you were talking about, a lot of problems that were working on, but were also working on opportunities opportunities to increase the security and prosperity of all our peoples and of the world. Van Susteren: General, thank you very much, and good luck. Well be watching, and I hope you come back. McMaster: Thanks, Greta. Its was a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much.
|“Mopping up of high-ranking servicemen 2017|
A significant number of former leading employees of law enforcement agencies of Russian Federation have celebrated this New Year in prison. The CrimeRussia recalls owners of general’s apartments and mansions, who in 2017 had to move in cells of pre-trial detention centers and barracks of corrections facilities.
During implementation of the National plan for combatting corruption, the Russian law enforcement system has been paying extra attention to identification of large acts and prosecution of high-ranking corrupt officials in the last two years. On December 15 when a sentence to ex-head of Ministry of Economic Development Aleksey Ulyukayev was pronounced in Zamoskvoretsky Court, deputy prosecutor general of the Russian Federation Aleksander Buksman announced it on the meeting of heads of the security agencies in the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Nevertheless, law enforcement bodies were not an exception in the fight against corruption at the top echelons. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, only in 2017 servicemen found more than one and a half thousand corrupted employees in their ranks. As the CrimeRussia has found out, in the last two years the percentage of representatives of generals and senior command structure among security officers has really become much higher than earlier. Several of them have recently become defendants in new criminal cases, others have already got their terms according to courts’ decisions and have left to detention facilities.
Ex-head of Main Directorate for Economic Safety and Counteracting Corruption of MIA Denis Sugrobov
Former head of anti-corruption central board of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), who in April was sentenced to 22 years of maximum-security imprisonment, has got a pretty pleasant gift for the New Year from the Supreme Court. On December 19 Russian Armed Forces cut term to condemned for creating an organized criminal group and official power abuse Sugrobov for 10 years. Terms of his former subordinates were significantly lowered as well. Though considering the time that the former lieutenant general spent in the pre-trial detention center since 2014, he may leave on parole already in 4 years, his defense intends to obtain a non-guilty verdict.
Meanwhile, the investigation has established that being the head of the Main Directorate for Economic Safety and Counteracting Corruption Sugrobov has created a criminal community which was engaged in provocation of crimes and falsification of operational materials. Illegal actions of Sugrobov and his subordinates were revealed in 2014 after their unsuccessful attempt to set up deputy chief of the 6th service of Administration of Internal Security of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Igor Demin. The Investigative Committee of Russia believes that there was no motive of profit in actions of the officers: by sending agents provokers to the victims, they tried to obtain career development and awards. In total the investigation has found 19 trumped-up cases, as a result of which 29 people were illegally condemned or bribes, commercial bribery and swindle.
Former head of General Administration of MIA across the Northwestern Federal District Vitaly Bykov
Major general Vitaly Bykov was detained in St. Petersburg within the high-profile ‘case of golden parachutes’ 2,5 years ago. According to the investigators, Bykov and several his former subordinates have stolen more than 19 million rubles ($330 thousand) during disbandment of the Northwest central board in 2014. The frauds with the administration’s money were carried out by issuing of huge awards to the elected employees “for performance of particularly complex and important tasks” and by means of transfer of office apartments to private possession.
On July 17, 2017 the St. Petersburg court sentenced Bykov to 7 years of imprisonment, deprived him of general rank and ordered to pay a fine of 400 thousand rubles ($6,9 thousand). On December 14 the St. Petersburg city court, having considered the appeal of Bykov and two of his former subordinates who were put on probations, has upheld the sentences pronounced concerning them.
Ex-head of the expert and criminalistic center of MIA of Russia Pyotr Grishin
On December 5 head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation expert and criminalistic center (ECC) Pyotr Grishin and his deputy Oleg Mazur were detained by the staff of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation on suspicion of embezzlement of more than 80 million rubles ($1,3 million). On December 8 Pyotr Grishin was dismissed by the decree of the Russian President.
According to the data of the investigation, the management of the ECC has helped the company of the familiar interested person to conclude government contracts during purchasing the criminalistic equipment for regional ECC on a price overestimated by more than 80 million rubles ($1,3 million). In total the case includes three episodes of embezzlement of budget funds. On December 7 the Basmanny Court of Moscow sent lieutenant general Pyotr Grishin under arrest till February 5, 2018. The same term was pronounced to his deputy Mazur and businessman Sergey Narutov. All of the accused will face up to 10 years of imprisonment, however none of the detainees admit their guilt.
Former head of Administration of MIA of Russia across the Kamchatka Region Aleksander Sidorenko
The chief police officer of Kamchatka detained at the end of September on suspicion of official power abuse, became a defendant in the second criminal case under the same article in December, 2017. The police major general is accused of concealment of embezzlement of computer equipment for the of sum over 2,8 million rubles ($48 thousand) in the Administration. However in comparison with the first case concerning Sidorenko and the amount of damage according to it, the computers embezzled from the Regional Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are nothing. The general was arrested in the fall on suspicion of embezzlement of 200 million rubles ($3,4 million) during construction of a helipad for the aviation group of a special purpose (AGSP) in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The construction was financed by the Ministry of Defence, it was planned to finish the works by 2015. In fact the object is still not finished though ‘according to papers’ it has been ready long ago.
Ex-head of Administration of MIA across the Tomsk Region Igor Mitrofanov
Clouds over former head of the Tomsk Administration of MIA major general Mitrofanov are condensed. Investigation of the criminal case over swindle in which not only Mitrofanov, but also members of his family appeared is resumed. According to the statement of the Tomsk businessman, throughout a long time he bought expansive cars for the family of the general for which Mitrofanov’s family paid only half of the real cost, while for one of them they have not paid at all. Among them – several BMW, Lexuses and Porsche. Afterwards part of them, according to some information, was resold by members of the general’s family for higher price. Earlier in the middle of October, a criminal case was brought against general Mitrofanov on suspicion of official power abuse (part 1 Art. 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to the investigators, he covered his corrupted subordinate — former head of local Administration for Combatting Financial Crimes colonel Konstantin Savchenko condemned for bribes.
Former head of Federal Security Guard Service across the North Caucasian Federal District Gennady Lopyrev
Lieutenant general Lopyrev detained at the end of December, 2016 became the first high-ranking employee of the Federal Guard Service (FGS) – the most secret intelligence agency protecting the president and the top officials of the Russian Federation, – accused of bribery. According to the investigators, in 2012-2014 the general patronized businessmen during conclusion of government contracts on repair and construction of facilities of the FGS in Sochi for what he twice got bribes in total amount of 6,3 million rubles ($109 thousand). In a year after arrest Lopyrev, who did not admit his guilt, was sentenced to 10 years of high security imprisonment and a penalty in the amount of 150 million rubles ($2,6 million). A week later after adjudgement the court sugared the pill a little – charge of illegal storage of weapon was dismissed from Lopyrev in this connection he will spend 4 months less behind bars. The penalty sum to the general was also reduced – from 150 million rubles to 130 ($2,2 million). Besides, military rank and awards of Lopyrev were not declined.
Former commander of a task force of FSB Vympel Vladimir Podolsky
The legendary in certain circles general, who directed a set of special operations and personally took part in them as well as Lopyrev is the only representative of his department in this list. On December 21 major general Vladimir Podolsky and head of department of Administration P of Economic Security Service of the Federal Security Service colonel Sergey Gorbunov received 4 years of imprisonment each for fraud with ‘dead souls’. As the Main Military Investigation Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia found out, the crime was committed by the defendants during their work in Federal State Unitary Enterprise Vedomstvennaya okhrana objektov promyshlennosti RF of Minpromtorg which later was a part of Federal State Unitary Enterprise Okhrana of Rosgvardiya. According to the investigators, Podolsky who long time headed the federal state unitary enterprise an affiliated employee issued to himself a dummy adviser and together with two accomplices received his salary for one and a half years, what in total amount was 3,5 million rubles ($60 thousand). The prosecution asked for the former member of special forces 4 years and 6 months, however the court considered services in battle of the general and knocked off half a year, leaving his rank and awards.
Ex-deputy commander-in-chief of Internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Varchuk
Federal National Guard Troops Service (Rosgvardiya) as well as other law enforcement agencies actively fights against corruption in its ranks. However, so far Victor Zolotov’s department is more concentrated on eradication of a bad karma of Internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, exposing those corrupt officials who were not transferred to the new structure in April 2016.
Lieutenant general Vyacheslav Varchuk was arrested at the beginning of March, 2017 on suspicion of receiving multimillion ‘kickbacks’. During interrogations the general who was responsible for distribution of financial flows in Internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation admitted his guilt in taking a bribe in 10 million rubles ($173 thousand) in the form of a ‘kickback’. For this sum Vyacheslav Varchuk promised the staff of the Administration of communication to achieve allocation of 250 million rubles ($4 million) in addition to means already received from the budget. At the beginning of November the criminal case file concerning the former deputy of central board of Interior Ministry Troops of the Russian Federation came to the Moscow garrison court and shortly before it according to the petition of the investigation property of the general and 20 million rubles ($347 thousand) on the bank account in VTB 24 were arrested. It should be noted that Varchuk who entered in 2013 Forbes rating of 20 richest security officers of Russia, for years of service provided to his family comfortable existence. He and his relatives own real estate in the center of Moscow, an estate in the Moscow Region and a park of elite cars with a total cost of half a billion rubles ($8 million).
Former head of department of quartering and construction of Interior Ministry Troops of the Russian Federation Vladimir Panov
In a week after arrest of general Varchuk, the 1st Military Investigation Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia across the Southern Military District initiated a criminal case over bribe taking in an especially large scale concerning lieutenant general Vladimir Panov – one more deputy commander-in-chief dealing with construction issues. According to the investigators the general received ‘kickbacks’ rom the Spetsdorstroy company on construction of facilities in 127th motorized regiment of Interior Ministry Troops in Adler. During construction Panov has allowed the contractor to overestimate the estimate and illegally change the project documentation, putting into it works which were not provided by the government contract. The investigation has assessed the general damage caused to the state by criminal activity of Panov at 20 million rubles ($347 thousand). According to the criminal case file, for this Panov has received from the contractor 2 hydrocycles and a powerboat with a total cost of 2 million rubles ($34 thousand). The general, who retired 3 years ago and headed Administration of quartering and building of the Main command of Interior Ministry Troops of the Russian Federation for 16 years appears in the center of corruption scandal not for the first time. In 2005 he was suspected of inappropriate expenditure of means, and in 2011 – of embezzlement of 220 million rubles ($3,8 million). Both criminal cases were closed due to lack of evidence.
Ex-director of Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia Aleksander Reymer
In the next years the former colonel general of internal service would learn features of life of his former wards by own experience. In June, 2017 Zamoskvoretsky Court of Moscow found Aleksander Reymer guilty of arge scale swindle committed by a group of persons (part 4 Art. 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and sentenced him to 8 years of imprisonment, depriving him of the colonel general’s rank.
The court has established that Reymer and his accomplices have stolen 2,7 billion rubles ($46,9 million) of budgetary funds when purchasing electronic bracelets for prisoners. Since August the former head of the Federal Penitentiary Service serves sentence in ‘red’ correctional facility No. 5 in the Kirov Region. It is remarkable that in 2011 Reymer personally inspected this colony and gave it 4 points on a five-point scale.
Former head of General Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service across the Republic of Komi Aleksander Protopopov
Arrest of lieutenant general Protopopov last year on a charge of embezzlement of road plates has laid the foundation for series of high-profile criminal cases concerning the top management of the Federal Penitentiary Service in regions which has proceeded in 2017. During the investigation concerning Protopopov, a bribery episode was revealed and then in May of this year the Syktyvkar city court sentenced him to 7 years of maximum security penal colony and confiscation of property and also to a penalty of 1,875 million rubles ($32 thousand). On August 3 according to the petition of prosecutor’s office the court deprived the condemned ex-chief of the General Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service across Komi of the lieutenant general’s rank, however at the same time reduced his penalty to the sum of 600 thousand rubles ($10 thousand).
Ex-head of General Administration of Federal Penitentiary Service across the Rostov Region Sergey Smirnov
A former colleague of Protopopov in the Rostov region, lieutenant general of internal service Sergey Smirnov became a defendant in a criminal case one year later. Smirnov is in custody on charge of two episodes of bribe taking for the total amount of 3 million rubles ($52 thousand), which he, according to the Investigative Committee of Russia, received from businessmen through his deputy, colonel Sergey Ralnikov. The colonel began to cooperate with the investigation, admitting his guilt before the hearing. According to his indications, he was only an intermediate link between businessmen and head of the General Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service across the Rostov region Sergey Smirnov. The head of regional Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service for a moderate bribe provided to representatives of the Rostov business preference on obtaining government contracts for works in corrective labor colonies of the area.
Former head of General Administration of Federal Penitentiary Service across Kuzbass Konstantin Antonkin
On a twist of fate major general Antonkin had to meet the New Year in the Kemerovo pre-trial detention center because of an unfinished construction of other pre-trial detention center in the region. The object, which construction has begun in 2014 still is not finished. According to the investigators, in 2012 the head of the General Administration of Federal Penitentiary Service suggested the director of civil engineering firm to provide him a government contract for the sum of about 60 million rubles ($1 million) connected with carrying out repair construction works namely – to construct the pre-trial detention center-5 in the city of Belovo. For the services the suspect has asked to issue to him a land plot and to build there a house. As a result the house for the general at the cost of 15 million ($260 thousand) was built, while the pre-trial detention center – was not. As a result, a criminal case against the major general according to part 6 Art. 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe taking on especially large scale).
Former head of General Administration of Federal Penitentiary Service of the Perm Region Aleksander Sokolov
For ex-chief of Russian Federal Penitentiary Service across the Perm Region Aleksander Sokolov the 2017 year was completely unlucky. This is because the former lieutenant general, who was deprived by court of a special rank, already serves a sentence, which he received in 2016, 5 years for swindle. In September a new criminal case was brought against Sokolov. According to the investigation, the general in 2012-2013 took from a Perm businessman bribes in a large size, and took it in deferent means – certificates on tours, collection silver coins, weighing 1 and 3 kg and a land plot of 0,5 hectares. Now this property is arrested, and the indictment on criminal case is approved. Soon it will be considered by court.
Former deputy director of Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia Nikolay Barinov
On November 2 former deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service Nikolay Barinov was detained in Moscow. The state councilor of the Russian Federation of the second class (the rank corresponding to the lieutenant general’s rank) is suspected of bribe taking (part 4 Art. 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to the investigators, Barinov got bribes for the total amount of not less than 110 million rubles ($1,9 million) during construction of the new pre-trial detention center Kresty-2 near St. Petersburg. The president of the Petroinvest company Ruslan Hamkhokov, who is also under arrest, paid to representatives of Federal Penitentiary Service 12% of the allocated funds in the form of ‘kickbacks’. The bribes were first transferred to the deputy chief of Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia Sergey Moyseyenko, who then shared it with Barinov.
Ex-deputy director of Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia Oleg Korshunov
Deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia Oleg Korshunov arrested on September 14 became famous as “the richest jailer of Russia”. During Korshunov’s search, a collection of expensive watches was found. Besides, the deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service had his own yacht, house with the mooring in the Moscow Region Pirogov and a Robinson helicopter. The 54-year-old Korshunov, who from the middle of 2015 was responsible for logistic support of the Federal Penitentiary Service is accused of misappropriation of more than 160 million rubles ($2,7 million). According to the investigators, the deputy director of the Federal Penitentiary Service entered into collusion with businesswoman Marina Dyukova and promoted a victory of her Energoresurs company in competitions on supply of sugar and gasoline to the department. Korshunov considers transactions with Energoresurs favorable to the Federal Penitentiary Service and does not admit his guilt. The ex-deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service celebrated the New Year in the pre-trial detention center Lefortovo, where according to the members of Public monitoring commission of Moscow, he was convinced of defects of the apparatus of execution of punishments. . According to the person under investigation when he tried to report about shortcomings of keeping of prisoners to the chief of the pre-trial detention center, he in reply showed him the resolutions and orders signed by him. “Yes, it was necessary to appear here to understand a lot of things”, Korshunov admitted.
It is easy to notice that in the long list of heads of the law enforcement agencies who in 2017 appeared before the law there is no representatives of the Investigative Committee of Russia. However, judging by the latest events, the Investigative Committee has every chance to ‘recoup’ in respect of cleaning of the ranks in new, 2018.
On December 26 after searches at his the place of residence and at the country house, former head of the Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee in Central federal district of Moscow colonel of justice Aleksey Kramarenko was detained. He is suspected of official power abuse (Art. 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and bribe taking (Art. 290 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). According to Kommersant, former deputy chief of the Main Investigation Directorate of the Investigative Committee across Moscow Denis Nikandrov accused of bribe taking from Zakhari Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy – Shakro the Young) for release of his colleague Andrey Kochuykov (Italiyanets – Italian), gave testimonies against him. From the middle of 2016 general Nikandrov together with other persons involved in this case Mikhail Maksimenko and Aleksander Lamonov is in the pre-trial detention center where as it has become clear in court recently, he managed to get married during this time. Due to the activity of Nikandrov counting on a special order of consideration of the case and Kramarenko’s arrest in new year, some more leading Russian Investigative Committee officers suspected of corruption collaboration with ‘thief in law’ Zakhari Kalashov may appear under investigation. In September it was reported that due to this searches at the head of the Main Investigation Directorate of the Investigative Committee across Moscow general Drymanov were allegedly carried out, however the general has publicly denied this information later. Sources predict personnel ‘cleaning’ in the Investigative Committee till spring of 2018. It may end with large-scale reform of Investigative Committee or its abolition. As the CrimeRussia wrote earlier, his initiative is being considered in the Russian President Administration now.
|Ex-aide Bannon has lost his mind – Trump|
Former White House aide Steve Bannon “lost his mind” after he lost his job, US President Donald Trump has said.
The president disavowed Mr Bannon after he was quoted in a new book describing a meeting between Mr Trump’s son and a group of Russians as “treasonous”.
The Russians had offered Donald Trump Jr damaging information on Hillary Clinton at the June 2016 meeting.
Mr Trump’s lawyers have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mr Bannon, US media reports said.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Mr Trump said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party,” he continued.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country.”
Mr Trump’s lawyers said Mr Bannon had broken his employment agreement by speaking to the book’s author Michael Wolff about Mr Trump and his family, “disclosing confidential information” and “making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr Wolff about Mr Trump, his family members, and the Company,” the letter said, according to the Washington Post newspaper.
Mr Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, was considered a key player in the Trump White House and helped shape Mr Trump’s “America First” campaign message before he left his post in August.
He returned to his role as the head of the right-wing Breitbart News website, where he said he planned to help Mr Trump’s administration as a “wingman outside”.
Mr Trump reportedly spoke to Mr Bannon as recently as 13 December, the day of the special US Senate election in Alabama that saw the defeat of Republican Roy Moore, whom Mr Bannon supported.
The president’s comments came hours after the explosive new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, revealed that Mr Bannon called Mr Trump Jr’s meeting “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”.
Speaking to the author, Mr Bannon said of the investigation into whether there was any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
An inevitable break-up
Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington
Donald Trump swept to the presidency in part on the back of Steve Bannon and his Breitbart conservative media empire. Now we will see how he fares when he’s at war with them.
The president’s blistering reply to Mr Bannon’s comments appears to indicate that the bridge between the politician and his ideological spirit guide has been reduced to cinders. But how will Mr Trump’s legion of supporters react? It is never wise to underestimate their dedication to the man himself, above all else.
No matter the outcome of this coming battle, this has to be viewed as a devastating failure for Mr Bannon personally. After spending years advocating for an anti-establishment conservative populism, he finally had a seat in the halls of power. He said in early 2017 that his goal was nothing short of the “deconstruction of the administrative state”.
Now he is on the outside again, besieged by long-time antagonists and former allies. His president recently signed a tax bill embraced by corporate interests. His first post-2016 foray into elective politics, the Alabama Senate race, ended in humiliating defeat.
Perhaps, given all this, the Bannon-Trump feud was as inevitable as it is certain to be vicious.
Emails show Mr Trump Jr agreed to meet Russian associates in June 2016 on the premise that they had damaging information against his father’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. The meeting was also attended by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and aide, and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Mr Bannon reportedly told Mr Wolff that the three senior campaign officials “should have called the FBI immediately” after the meeting, according to US media reports.
The Senate, House of Representatives and a special counsel are all investigating alleged Russian interference in the presidential election and alleged attempts to undermine Mrs Clinton – a claim denied by the Kremlin. Mr Trump has also vehemently denied any collusion.
The book makes a series of other claims, including a suggestion that Mr Trump and his election campaign staff did actually not want to win the election.
It also alleges that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told Mr Trump during a meeting last February that the British intelligence services may have been spying on him and his campaign, according to a report in The Times newspaper.
In March the then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer told journalists UK intelligence services could have been involved in an alleged spying operation on Trump Tower in New York. GCHQ said the allegation was “nonsense”.
The Times says Mr Blair was hoping to get a job advising Mr Trump on the Middle East. A spokeswoman for Mr Blair told The Times that the allegations were a “total fabrication” and said Mr Blair had not suggested himself as Mr Trump’s Middle East envoy.
Mrs Sanders described the book as “filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House”.
“Participating in a book that can only be described as a trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy”.
|pakistan shanghai cooperation organization – Google Search|
The Diplomat–Dec 4, 2017
With India being one of the most energy-hungry nations, involvement in the SCO provides it with an opportunity to satisfy its energy requirements through regional diplomacy. India’s pending energy projects like the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline, IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline, …
Pakistan Observer–Dec 6, 2017
Admittedly, without the sincere cooperation of other nations, especially neighbouring states, its’ too difficult to combat the menace of transnational terrorism. Therefore, the Pakistani ruling elite considers Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) a vital forum for pursuing its counter-terrorism objectives regionally and …
Pakistan Observer–Dec 15, 2017
Pakistan and India joined for the first time after their accession in June this year. With the presence of Pakistan and India, the potential of SCO has been amplified to manifold. This has also increased the chances for the region to see convergence for interest in the areas of regional peace and security by the member states …
Pakistan Observer–Dec 19, 2017
Sixteenth meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council of the Heads of Government (CHG) was held from November 30, 2017 to December 1, 2017 at Sochi, Russia. Since Pakistan and India were admitted as full member of SCO in its 17th summit held in June 2017, this is the first meeting of the SCO …
|Pakistan – Google Search|
NPR–19 hours ago
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning, “and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.
Pakistan Dismisses Trump’s Tweet on Aid as ‘Incomprehensible’
New York Times–18 hours ago
US to announce ‘actions on Pakistan within hours’
International–The News International–10 hours ago
Trump publicly insulted Pakistan. What was the point?
Opinion–Washington Post–19 hours ago
Trump’s Belligerence Toward Pakistan Isn’t Unreasonable
In-Depth–The Atlantic–19 hours ago
Warning tweet: Trump calls out Pakistan on terrorism, but sustained …
Blog–Times of India (blog)–19 hours ago
|US Iran Pakistan – Google Search|
Politico–Jan 1, 2018
President Donald Trump kicked off the New Year with tweets blasting Pakistan, Iran and former U.S.presidents, writing that the United States has “foolishly” given billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan and that Iran is “failing.” “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid …
Trump goes on foreign policy offensive at start of 2018
Financial Times–16 hours ago
Donald Trump Rages Against Iran, Pakistan In First Tweets Of 2018
HuffPost–Jan 1, 2018
US President Donald Trump begins 2018 with angry tweets aimed at …
In-Depth–NEWS.com.au–Jan 1, 2018
Trump publicly insulted Pakistan. What was the point?
Opinion–Washington Post–19 hours ago
Trump says Iranian people fighting ‘brutal’ regime; slams Pakistan …
In-Depth–Chicago Sun-Times–Jan 2, 2018
|US Iran – Google Search|
Washington Post–Jan 2, 2018
A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement released Tuesday blasted the U.S. administration and Israel for expressing support to Iran’s protesters. It blamed the U.S. and Israel for destabilizing the region. The ministry said Iran’s sovereignty should be respected and no one should interfere in Tehran’s internal …
Iran protests: US brands Tehran’s accusations ‘nonsense’
BBC News–18 hours ago
Analysis: Trump insists response to Iran protests will be different …
Opinion–USA TODAY–18 hours ago
US Preventing Iran from Reaping Benefits of Nuclear Deal: First VP
International–IFP News–Dec 29, 2017
US, Europe Condemn ‘Unacceptable’ Loss Of Life In Iranian Protests
In-Depth–RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty–11 hours ago
‘Take care of us‘: Why thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets
Opinion–CBC.ca–Jan 2, 2018
Newsweek–16 hours ago
Iran’s leadership has blamed foreign powers, especially the U.S., for having a hand in recent, deadly protests that have swept the country, pointing to President Donald Trump’s immediate support for demonstrators on social media and the U.S.‘s long history of invasions and interventions that includes an …
|Iran – Google Search|
CNN–2 hours ago
Mojtaba, a 33-year-old Iranian who gave only his first name, told CNN that a lot of young people wanted the same lifestyles they see others having in wealthier parts of Iran as well as abroad. “A lot of the kids in the smaller cities have gotten a taste for a better life through social media. They look at what they …
How Iran protests could impact oil prices
CNBC–2 hours ago
Analysis: Trump insists response to Iran protests will be different …
Opinion–USA TODAY–18 hours ago
Tens of thousands of people have protested in Iran. Here’s why.
In-Depth–Washington Post–4 hours ago
Live Blog: Deadly Protests Continue In Iran
Blog–RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (blog)–Jan 1, 2018
Why did protests erupt in Iran?
Opinion–<a href=”http://Aljazeera.com” rel=”nofollow”>Aljazeera.com</a>–Jan 1, 2018
BBC News–1 hour ago
The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has declared the defeat of the “sedition” in the country, referring to a wave of anti-government protests. Maj Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari made the announcement as tens of thousands of people attended pro-government rallies called to counter the unrest. It began last …
|Transatlantic Relationship – Google Search|
Atlantic Council (blog)–Dec 26, 2017
Please join the Atlantic Council and the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 for a conversation with female thought leaders about the current state of the transatlantic relationship. In today’s turbulent political and security environment, the transatlantic alliance is at a critical …
International Politics and Society–Dec 26, 2017
Be it international law, humanitarian principles or multilateral agreements, the 45th President of the United States of America has attacked the basis of the transatlantic relationship without offering viable alternatives. In the EU, meanwhile, a new system of values and legal process has been established that …
euronews–Jan 1, 2018
Trump was immediately offered a state visit to the UK which includes being hosted by the Queen, but criticism of the UK’s response to terror attacks began the downhill journey of the transatlanticfriendship. Promises of mass protests on the streets and reported concern in Buckingham Palace postponed that …
International Politics and Society–Dec 12, 2017
But they also believe that Europeans need to tend and care for the relationship, precisely because it’s going through such a rocky patch. They insist …. We need both: more Europe and more democracy on the one hand, and the preservation of transatlantic foundations for the post-Trump era on the other.
|Trans-Atlantic Relationship – Google Search|
New York Times–9 hours ago
The first faction is represented by a group of foreign policy experts who published a “Trans-Atlantic Manifesto,” which appeared in October in The New York Times and the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. They argue that guarding the trans-Atlantic relationship is crucial to the liberal world order and that …
Atlantic Council (blog)–Dec 26, 2017
Please join the Atlantic Council and the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 for a conversation with female thought leaders about the current state of the transatlantic relationship. In today’s turbulent political and security environment, the transatlantic alliance is at a critical …
Handelsblatt Global Edition–Dec 21, 2017
Therefore the desire to find a new basis for the relationship with the US may be a necessary and correct political course. Our trans-Atlantic ties are undergoing radical change. There is no going back to the old days, but it does continue to be based on common values and decades of friendship with shared …
International Politics and Society–Dec 26, 2017
Be it international law, humanitarian principles or multilateral agreements, the 45th President of the United States of America has attacked the basis of the transatlantic relationship without offering viable alternatives. In the EU, meanwhile, a new system of values and legal process has been established that …
|In Era of Trump, Germany Seeks a Stronger Role Abroad|
“This means that as a matter of course we will also be seen as a competitor,” Mr. Gabriel said in the closely watched speech in which he called for Germans to shed their post-World War II reticence.
Washington’s role as a protector of Europe’s security and economic interests, set out by George C. Marshall 70 years ago, has begun to crumble, Mr. Gabriel argued. Under the Trump administration, Germany is no longer viewed as special, but one partner among many, he said.
He pointed to the most recent United States sanctions against Russia passed by Congress this summer, which may affect German economic interests, as well as to Mr. Trump’s disavowal of the Iran nuclear deal and the American president’s plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Mr. Gabriel, President Emmanuel Macron of France and other world leaders have warned the Trump administration that such a shift on Jerusalem could reverberate throughout the Middle East and set back attempts for peace.
“A solution to the Jerusalem problem can only come through direct negotiations between the two parties,” Mr. Gabriel said. “Everything that exacerbates the crisis is counterproductive.”
German skepticism regarding the shift in the trans-Atlantic relationship has been building since Mr. Trump’s early threat that Washington’s support for NATO was conditional on other members meeting their financial commitments.
More Germans now see their country’s relationship with Washington as a larger foreign policy challenge than the threat posed by North Korea or Iran, according to a survey commissioned by the Körber Foundation in October.
While the arrival of more refugees remained Germans’ biggest foreign policy concern, identified by 26 percent of the 1,005 people questioned, 19 percent of respondents identified ties to Washington as a primary reason to worry.
In May, Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear Berlin’s increasing skepticism that Europe could still count on Washington.
“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” she told voters after a contentious NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a Group of 7 meeting in Italy.
The chancellor also called for Germans to be ready to “fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
Part of that must include a renewed commitment to Europe, along the lines of the French president’s vision for “a more integrated Europe” as the path to “real sovereignty.”
Mr. Gabriel’s remarks deepened the acknowledgment of that widening divide between the United States and Europe.
But they also highlighted a vacuum of leadership among the once-tightly knit phalanx of like-minded Western nations, as the United States increasingly appears to be jettisoning that role.
As the United States withdraws, no one has looked to Europe to fill the void, Mr. Gabriel said. Instead, he warned, that space was being filled by Russia in the Middle East and by China in Africa.
“The world sees Europe as rich, but weak,” Mr. Gabriel said, reminding Germans that their economic prosperity has come thanks to the country’s geographic location and political role at the heart of Europe.
But progress in Europe is stymied until Berlin can get its own political house in order, after a general election on Sept. 24 that robbed Ms. Merkel of a clear path to form a new government.
Against the backdrop of such political uncertainty, it was not clear exactly if Mr. Gabriel was speaking on behalf of the chancellor, but he remains Germany’s top diplomat in Ms. Merkel’s caretaker government.
The German election, for the first time in postwar history, sent seven parties spanning the breadth of the political spectrum to a Parliament that has swelled to 709 seats.
Among them is the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which through a combination of drawing support away from the large centrist parties and motivating previous nonvoters emerged as the third strongest force.
Because none of the traditional parties is willing to cooperate with the AfD, Ms. Merkel — whose party lost seven percent of the vote, despite remaining the strongest force — has had a hard time forming a coalition.
She is now seeking to try to revive the cooperation with the Social Democrats, her governing partners of the past four years who had vowed they would not enter into another coalition government.
In recent weeks, however, some political leaders in Berlin have been citing the need for leadership in Europe to prod the Social Democrats to join a coalition.
The Social Democrats will hold a party congress this weekend, where they are to decide whether their party should enter into negations with Ms. Merkel’s conservatives.
In his speech, Mr. Gabriel, a Social Democrat, reminded Germans that in the future, they would have to get used to taking risks, including risking failure, if the European project was to remain a force in the world.
Germans remain largely ambivalent to any use of force on the international stage. The survey for the Körber Foundation showed a majority, 52 percent, felt Germany should show restraint on the international stage.
Earlier in the year, a survey for the Pew Research Foundation found the same number of Germans, 53 percent, said they did not think their country should provide military force to defend a NATO ally if it were attacked by Russia.
If Germany truly hopes to play a stronger role on the world stage, such attitudes will have to change, Dominique Moïsi, of the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne, said on Tuesday at the Körber Foundation conference.
“You cannot remain a soft power, if by the end of the day, you don’t have a minimal element of hard power,” Mr. Moïsi said.
|US Germany Russia nytimes – Google Search|
New York Times–Dec 28, 2017
Mr. Trump, officials recalled, had little idea of Ukraine’s importance, its history of being bullied by Russia or what the United States and its allies had done to try to push back Mr. Putin. German officials were alarmed by Mr. Trump’s lack of knowledge, but they got even more rattled when White House aides …
New York Times–Jan 1, 2018
Mr. Kim’s sudden peace overture on Monday will probably encourage both Russia and China to renew their calls for some kind of “freeze for freeze” — a freeze on North Korean tests in return for a freeze on all American-South Korean military exercises. Presumably, under that situation sanctions would …
New York Times–Dec 23, 2017
MOSCOW — The decision by the United States to supply weapons to Ukraine is dangerous as it will encourage Kiev to use force in eastern Ukraine, … The agreements, intended to end the fighting in Ukraine, were signed by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in the Belarusian capital in early 2015.
New York Times–4 hours ago
Mr. Levit was born in 1987 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia (the same city, he noted, as another, slightly younger piano star, Daniil Trifonov), where his mother was a serious pianist and his father an engineer. His family moved to Germany when he was 8 — in search, he said, of better opportunities — and …
New York Times–Dec 27, 2017
The prompt release of all prisoners was a key part of a 2015 peace agreement brokered by France, Germany and Russia in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. … and Cooperation in Europe, whose monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine recently reported a sharp uptick in fighting, the American secretary of state, …
New York Times–Dec 5, 2017
He pointed to the most recent United States sanctions against Russia passed by Congress this summer, which may affect German economic interests, as well as to Mr. Trump’s disavowal of the Iran nuclear deal and the American president’s plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Mr. Gabriel …
|US Germany Russia – Google Search|
Washington Post–Dec 14, 2017
As another deadline is approaching for the United States to decide on new sanctions against Russia, it may be worth considering that it is America’s allies in Europe that are paying the biggest cost for these measures, according to the German IFW institute’s assessment, which is so far most comprehensive …
Deutsche Welle–Dec 9, 2017
The result is the first time the public’s trust in the US has fallen below Russia in over a decade. An Infratest survey of public trust in Germany’s global partners in June found both countries tying at 21 percent. France and Britain fared far better in the German public’s eyes. More than 90 percent said Paris was …
ABC News–Dec 23, 2017
Ukraine has long sought the weapons for its fight against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 since April 2014 … Without mentioning the U.S. decision, France and Germany on Saturday urged combatants to fully implement a much-violated cease-fire agreement.
TASS–Dec 30, 2017
BERLIN, December 31. /TASS/. Europe should be interested in improvement of relations between Moscow and Washington and resolution of the conflict regarding North Korea may particularly contribute to that, Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday in an interview with Funke …
Europe ‘should be interested’ in improving Russia–US ties, key to …
International–RT–Dec 31, 2017
|U.S. Will Never Be the Same After Trump, Germany Says|
Germany’s top diplomat has told foreign policy experts that his country’s relationship with the U.S. has suffered irreparable damage under the administration of President Donald Trump, whom he accused of leading Europe on the path toward nuclear war.
Addressing the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned Tuesday that the West risked losing its influence over world affairs if it continued to follow the U.S.’s lead. Gabriel, who also served as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s second-in-command, criticized Trump’s “America first” vision of international relations and announced that Germany would pursue its own agenda and no longer operate under the shadow of its ally in the White House.
“The U.S. no longer sees the world as a global community but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage,” Gabriel said, according to Deutsche Welle.
“Germany can no longer simply react to U.S. policy but must establish its own position…even after Trump leaves the White House, relations with the U.S. will never be the same.”
President Donald Trump’s controversial, nontraditional take on foreign policy has alienated some of Washington’s closest allies. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has been deeply critical of Trump’s stance on Iran and North Korea and says Europe must take its own path. George Frey/Getty Images
Gabriel warned that nations disillusioned with the militant direction the U.S. has taken under Trump have not sought a greater alliance with the EU and urged European countries to follow Germany’s lead in standing up against what he said could be “a new nuclear arms race in Europe.” Germany has been a staunch supporter of U.S.-led Western military alliance NATO, which has adopted a hardline stance against Russia since the country’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from neighboring Ukraine, but Germany has also advocated for dialogue with Moscow.
Since taking office in January, Trump and his administration have been met with a series of scandals and controversial decisions that have hampered the Republican leader’s image at home and abroad. Trump’s initially close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and dismissal of NATO raised deep concerns among defense allies, and his recent escalations in diplomatic wars with Iran and North Korea have elicited negative reactions from European officials, including Gabriel himself.
In October, Gabriel protested Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, to which Germany was a signatory, and said it was “imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue.” In August, he warnedthat Trump’s hardline stance toward nuclear-armed North Korea could lead to an all-out war that “in the worst-case scenario…could result in more victims than World War II,” the deadliest conflict in human history.
Trump also took a rare shot at arguably his closest major European ally, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, last week after she criticized the U.S. leader for sharing far-right videos on his Twitter account. After May suggested that Trump’s decision to share the controversial, anti-Muslim videos was “wrong,” Trump tweeted the conservative British prime minister should instead “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom” and the U.S. was “doing just fine.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Sarah MacIntosh, British permanent representative to NATO, during a NATO foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, on December 5. Tillerson’s recent efforts to reassure European allies over U.S. commitments have been undercut by reports that Tillerson did not truly speak for Trump’s inner circle and may soon be fired. Virginia Mayo/Pool/Reuters
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the man tasked by Trump with building transatlantic bridges between the White House and Europe, has also found himself on the wrong end of his boss’s foreign policy, according to numerous reports suggesting he would soon be replaced. Both Trump and Tillerson have continually denied such reports, even as Tillerson reassured European allies of the U.S.’s commitment to its historic relationships during a trip to the U.S. mission to Belgium in Brussels on Tuesday.
“While we don’t have any wins on the board yet, I can tell you we’re in a much better position to advance America’s interests around the world than we were 10 months ago,” Tillerson told U.S. diplomats and staff, according to Reuters.
That same day, Gabriel warned, “The withdrawal of the United States under Donald Trump from its reliable role as a guarantor of Western-led multilateralism accelerates a change of the world order with immediate consequences for German and European interests.”
Beyond just taking on Trump and his allies, Gabriel railed Tuesday against what he considered insufficient Western reactions to conflicts in Syria, where government forces supported by Russia and Iran have largely defeated jihadis and rebels once backed by the West and still supported by some of its allies, and in Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists remained in control of parts of the country’s restive east.
|US Germany – Google Search|
NPR–3 hours ago
As Germany and the U.S. face the future they are caught in a “grass is always greener” moment, where each sees in the other the thing it does not have. Even if Germany is really good at manufacturing, maybe it needs to try to emulate the U.S. and start looking beyond manufacturing to find postindustrial …
U.S. News & World Report–4 hours ago
Germany Ended 2017 With Record High Employment. The number of jobless people in Germany fell by 183,000 in December compared with a year earlier and the country finished the year with a record 44.3 million people in work. Jan. 3, 2018, at 4:54 a.m.. Germany Ended 2017 With Record High Employment …
German jobs bonanza pushes unemployment to record low
Reuters–3 hours ago
USA TODAY–21 hours ago
Many of the differences Zaske points out between Germany and the USA could also be made about 1970s America and today’s. Many kids in Germany, like American children before helicopter parenting, Zaske writes: ▻ Spend more time outdoors. ▻ Walk or bike to and from school or the playground by …
U.S. News & World Report–2 hours ago
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday it was following developments in Iran with concern but stressed that protesters there demonstrating … to initiate dialogue with the protesters and to respond proportionately to demonstrators who engage in violence, adding that Germany was alarmed by …
The Latest: Germany says Iran protests ‘deserve our respect’
Miami Herald–1 hour ago
The Guardian–Dec 27, 2017
The two countries were “deeply disappointed” by the sentence of Wu Gan, better known by his online nom de plume “Super Vulgar Butcher”, according to a joint statement by the US and German embassies in Beijing. Wu’s sentence was the harshest in a spate of politically motivated trails targeting civil …
Voice of America (blog)–Dec 27, 2017
“The embassies of Germany and the United States are deeply disappointed that Chinese human rights defender and blogger Wu Gan and Chinese attorney Xie Yang have been convicted on vague charges of “subverting state power” and that Wu has been sentenced to eight years in prison,” a statement …
<a href=”http://Snopes.com” rel=”nofollow”>Snopes.com</a>–Dec 7, 2017
“Germany,” as a country, did not release an official statement to the world “denouncing” its ally the United States. Instead, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel gave a speech on 5 December 2017 before government officials in Berlin, which was basically a call to recognize what many in Europe already …
Germany Wants to Break From US on Foreign Policy, Take Europe …
Observer–Dec 7, 2017
Newsweek–Dec 5, 2017
Germany’s top diplomat has told foreign policy experts that his country’s relationship with the U.S. has suffered irreparable damage under the administration of President Donald Trump, whom he accused of leading Europe on the path toward nuclear war. Addressing the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum, …
In Era of Trump, Germany Seeks a Stronger Role Abroad
In-Depth–New York Times–Dec 5, 2017
|Germany – Google Search|
NPR–3 hours ago
This is the first of three reports from NPR’s John Ydstie on Germany’s manufacturing strength. America needs to create more manufacturing jobs: That’s been a constant refrain of President Trump and was one of the goals of the corporate tax cut recently passed by Congress and signed into law. The loss of …
Bloomberg–3 hours ago
Germany has been enjoying a strong economic run supported by domestic spending and solid global trade, with Purchasing Managers’ Indexes on Tuesday showing factory activity for the country and the euro area jumping to records in December. At the same time, business optimism has slipped from an …
New York Times–15 hours ago
The controversy is the latest to involve the far-right party Alternative for Germany, known by its Germaninitials AfD. The party made big gains in national elections in September, placing third, entering Parliament for the first time and making life extremely difficult for the center-right Christian Democrats, who …
Twitter blocks far-right leader as Germany tightens hate speech law
Highly Cited–CNNMoney–Jan 2, 2018
Deutsche Welle–2 hours ago
The study, carried out by the criminologists Christian Pfeiffer, Dirk Baier, and Sören Kliem at the behest of the German Family Ministry, researched the increase in violent crime recorded in Germany over the past two years. The study also suggested a link between an increase in reported violent crimes in …
Influx of young male migrants fuelling violence in Germany: Study
CTV News–56 minutes ago
|Is the Trans-Atlantic Relationship Dead?|
It’s a strange debate, in that it is both hypothetical and emotional.
It is hypothetical, because economically, Germany and the United States remain close business partners, despite the failure to establish a trans-Atlantic trade deal and the shifting orientation of both economies toward China.
Militarily, Germany and Europe depend on the United States, too, still ducking under its nuclear umbrella. True, the European Union has recently taken steps toward military cooperation and independence, but there is neither the will nor the resources to provide the level of protection that America still offers. While many German voters probably feel flattered by the talk of their country’s leading role in the world, the majority is still not willing to accept the cost. Germany is an aspiring power that lacks both the public support and the strategic culture to live up to the expectations.
And yet, the debate over where, exactly, German-American relations are headed is passionate, and sometimes angry. It is not just about budgets and defense plans; it is also an emotional issue, a question of love and dependence and letting go. Many Germans still look fondly to America; we study there, travel there, have family there, buy clothing and food and music from there, and will continue to do so, whoever is president.
Today, though, there is a new current of anti-Americanism rising as well, different from the usual continental grumblings. It believes that America has overstayed its welcome on the world stage, that it still insists on dominating both culturally and politically. It believes that American culture is superficial and phony, that Americans are hypocritical and uneducated. “What good has ever come from the United States of America?” a reader in Berlin wrote to me recently in response to an editorial.
The roots of this new anti-Americanism go deeper than Mr. Trump. Germans point to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and war on terrorism, and to Barack Obama’s tendency to overpromise American action on foreign policy while furthering many of his predecessor’s worst policies. But finally, in Donald Trump, we have a cartoon bad guy, the essence of every anti-American prejudice: a rude, uneducated bully who drinks giant amounts of Diet Coke.
Hardcore anti-Americanism is still a minority view in Germany. A study published last year, before Donald Trump became president, found that about 10 percent of Germans hold such views. Very few policymakers apart from the radical fringes are openly anti-American.
Still, it can be found lingering underneath the surface of the current debate — for example, when Mr. Gabriel said that Germany “needs to seek a strategic relationship, not submission to U.S. politics, as we have never seen it in the past.”
Social Democrats have always played on the theme of the European David against an American Goliath, but this time it seems to be catching on elsewhere. Anti-Americanism is not just an opportunity to vent. It also serves as an outlet for the insecurity of a nation faced with a new global environment that seems to demand radical change, while practically speaking, radical change is impossible.
As a world player, Germany can act only through Europe, the British historian Timothy Garton Ash writes. But as it does so, it is inhibited by the inertia of masses in movement, the other 26 European Union states. Germany must fill the post-American vacuum; Germany cannot fill the vacuum. Talk of a strategic shift is a reverie — a way to escape the limitations to real action.
|Trump’s Belligerence Toward Pakistan Isn’t Unreasonable|
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|How The Russia Investigation Might Evolve In 2018|
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit <a href=”http://www.npr.org/” rel=”nofollow”>http://www.npr.org/</a>.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It’s a new year, but the Russia imbroglio – the sprawling, long-running saga about Moscow’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath – is still going strong. Washington spent much of last year simply trying to determine what happened in that attack, and there are still many questions that haven’t been answered.
We’re going to take the next few minutes to look at how that investigation might evolve this year. And here to talk about that is NPR’s national security editor, Phil Ewing. Hi, Phil.
PHILIP EWING, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: Let’s start with one big story coming up this year, the midterm elections. Are they likely to be like 2016 in the sense of so-called fake news, the use of trolls, bots, that sort of thing?
EWING: Well, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, the answer is yes. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, has already said the bureau has a special task force set up to watch for foreign interference in the new year. Plus, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, and his predecessor and many others in and out of the administration have said they fully expect more dirty tricks in this election and also in the 2020 presidential race. In the spy world, these are called active measures. A nation state uses its intelligence and diplomatic and other tools to shape the information environment by putting out false stories like you mentioned or exacerbating controversies, in our case, that already exist.
This never really stopped happening after the 2016 election. There were Russian Twitter accounts that turned up the volume on the Charlottesville unrest last year or the NFL protests over the national anthem or the Alabama special election and other stories. But what we can’t know today is whether the government and the states will be ready to deal with the full gamut of things we saw in 2016 – the cyberattacks that targeted politicians, institutions like the Democratic National Committee or some other new kind of technique for mischief that nobody has thought about yet.
SIEGEL: As you’ve said, though, Russia has kept up a lot of the social media agitation. Why? What’s in it for Russian President Vladimir Putin?
EWING: I think it’s a low-cost option for him to be a player in the West, not just the United States but in Europe, in the U.K. There were indications of Russian interference in European elections in the vote that the Brits had for getting out of the European Union, the so-called Brexit controversy. And it enables him to increase Russia’s throw weight on the global stage. And it’ll be very interesting because he has an election this year as well, and he may make the case to his own voters that he continues to be a player and increase Russia’s prestige on the world stage through these kinds of measures.
SIEGEL: Back to Washington, there are several congressional investigations still underway about Russia’s activities. Are those likely to wrap up this year?
EWING: Members of Congress say that’s what they want to happen. There are several committees looking into this. The House and Senate intelligence committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee and a couple of others have also had hearings or spoken about this. We don’t know yet when their work might wrap up, but there have already been suggestions that the politics might actually be too fraught for them to come to any kind of consensus on this.
Republicans and Democrats might be – might not be able to get to the same findings, so they could release reports of their own – a majority Republican report, a minority Democratic report. And we’ll just have to see how that plays out. But 2018 might bring kind of a story of “Choose Your Own Adventure” depending on which version of the case you want to follow.
SIEGEL: What about special prosecutor Robert Mueller? What, if anything, do we know about what direction his investigation might take this year?
EWING: That’s one of the biggest and most important questions in this whole story, and I don’t think anybody outside of the special counsel’s office actually knows the answer. He has shown how effectively he can keep secrets. He, for example, reached a guilty plea with one former campaign adviser and then kept it completely secret until that was unsealed publicly. Mueller has never been the kind of guy to give interviews even before this when he was FBI director or talk openly about what he was doing. Plus, his office is under a gag order as part of the prosecution it brought against Trump’s former campaign chairman. So unless something changes drastically, the only way we’ll know what Mueller is doing is when he goes public or he takes more people to court.
SIEGEL: NPR’s Phil Ewing, thanks.
EWING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
|Poll: Republicans ratings of FBI fall as other government agencies rise|
Washington (CNN)Republicans’ reviews for a slew of government agencies have improved as Donald Trump’s administration puts its stamp on the federal bureaucracy, according to a new poll from Gallup, but there’s one agency whose ratings have shifted in the opposite direction among the President’s partisans: The FBI.
While 62% of Republicans gave the FBI “excellent” or “good” marks in a 2014 survey from Gallup, just 49% say the same now. The agency is the only one of 13 tested whose ratings among Republicans have worsened compared with 2014.
Trump has actively criticized the FBI throughout his time in office, from his firing of agency head James Comey in May through tweets in late December (sent after the completion of the Gallup poll) criticizing the agency’s retiring deputy director over donations to his Democratic wife’s campaign for state senate in Virginia.
Adding to the President’s criticism, Republicans on Capitol Hill have raised doubts about the fairness of both the agency’s treatment of Hillary Clinton during the investigation into her use of a private server for State Department emails and the investigation into Russian interference in 2016’s election, which is led by special counsel Robert Mueller, himself a former FBI director.
Among Democrats, the poll finds ratings for the FBI have actually improved over the same time frame: 60% said it was doing a good job in 2014, 69% say the same now.
Republicans’ views on several agencies in Gallup’s polling have improved markedly under Trump: Ratings for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have risen 33 points; the Federal Emergency Management Agency is up 28 points; up 27 points for the Secret Service; and 26 points for the Department of Homeland Security. Democrats’ ratings for most of the agencies tested have not changed enough to be significant, with exceptions for the Secret Service (+13), NASA (+11) and the CIA (+10) in addition to the shift on the FBI.
Overall, the poll finds the FBI ranks near the top of the 13 tested agencies, with 58% rating the job it is doing as “excellent” or “good,” behind just four other agencies — the US Postal Service (74% excellent or good), the CDC (66%), the Secret Service (63%) and Homeland Security (59%). The CIA (57%), NASA (56%) and FEMA (55%) also garner majority-positive reviews, ranking just behind the FBI’s numbers.
The improved ratings for individual government agencies come even as overall impressions of the government have remained negative.
in December found that just 28% of Americans were satisfied with the way the nation is being governed, with 68% reporting being dissatisfied. There, too, however, Republicans views have become sharply more positive under Trump (66% satisfied) than they were under President Barack Obama, a Democrat (10%).
The Gallup poll on government agencies was conducted by telephone from December 18-19 among a random national sample of 1,011 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
|Huma Abedin Used Yahoo, That Was Hacked|
Huma Abedin forwarded sensitive State Department emails, including passwords to government systems, to her personal Yahoo email account before every single Yahoo account was hacked, a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of emails released as part of a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch shows.
Abedin, the top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, used her insecure personal email provider to conduct sensitive work. This guarantees that an account with high-level correspondence in Clinton’s State Department was impacted by one or more of a series of breaches — at least one of which was perpetrated by a “state-sponsored actor.”
The U.S. later charged Russian intelligence agent Igor Sushchin with hacking 500 million Yahoo email accounts. The initial hack occurred in 2014 and allowed his associates to access accounts into 2015 and 2016 by using forged cookies. Sushchin also worked for the Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital, which paid former President Bill Clinton $500,000 for a June 2010 speech in Moscow.
A separate hack in 2013 compromised three billion accounts across multiple Yahoo properties, and the culprit is still unclear. “All Yahoo user accounts were affected by the August 2013 theft,” the company said in a statement.
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Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, regularly forwarded work emails to her personal <a href=”mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a> address. “She would use these accounts if her (State) account was down or if she needed to print an email or document. Abedin further explained that it was difficult to print from the DoS system so she routinely forwarded emails to her non-DoS accounts so she could more easily print,” an FBI report says.
Abedin sent passwords for her government laptop to her Yahoo account on Aug. 24, 2009, an email released by the State Department in September 2017 shows.
Long-time Clinton confidante Sid Blumenthal sent Clinton an email in July 2009 with the subject line: “Important. Not for circulation. You only. Sid.” The message began “CONFIDENTIAL… Re: Moscow Summit.” Abedin forwarded the email to her Yahoo address, potentially making it visible to hackers.
The email was deemed too sensitive to release to the public and was redacted before being published pursuant to the Judicial Watch lawsuit. The released copy says “Classified by DAS/ A/GIS, DoS on 10/30/2015 Class: Confidential.” The unredacted portion reads: “I have heard authoritatively from Bill Drozdiak, who is in Berlin…. We should expect that the Germans and Russians will now cut their own separate deals on energy, regional security, etc.”
The three email accounts Abedin used were <a href=”mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a>, <a href=”mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a>, and <a href=”mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. Though the emails released by the State Department partially redact personal email addresses, the Yahoo emails are displayed as humamabedin[redacted].
Clinton forwarded Abedin an email titled “Ambassadors” in March 2009 from Denis McDonough, who served as foreign policy adviser to former President Barack Obama’s campaign and later as White House chief of staff. The email was heavily redacted before being released to the public.
Stuart Delery, chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, sent a draft memo titled “PA/PLO Memo” in May 2009, seemingly referring to two Palestinian groups. The content was withheld from the public with large letters spelling “Page Denied.” Abedin forwarded it to her Yahoo account.
Abedin routed sensitive information through Yahoo multiple times, such as notes on a call with the U.N. secretary-general, according to messages released under the lawsuit.
Contemporaneous news reports documented the security weaknesses of Yahoo while Abedin continued to use it. Credentials to 450,000 Yahoo accounts had been posted online, a July 2012 CNN article reported. Five days later, Abedin forwarded sensitive information to her personal Yahoo email.
Abedin received an email “with the subject ‘Re: your yahoo acct.’ Abedin did not recall the email and provided that despite the content of the email she was not sure that her email account had ever been compromised,” on Aug. 16, 2010, an FBI report says.
The FBI also asked her about sending other sensitive information to Yahoo. “Abedin was shown an email dated October 4, 2009 with the subject ‘Fwd: US interest in Pak Paper 10-04’ which Abedin received from [redacted] and then forwarded to her Yahoo email account…. At the time of the email, [redacted] worked for Richard Holbrooke who was the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). Abedin was unaware of the classification of the document and stated that she did not make judgments on the classification of materials that she received,” the report said.
The U.S. charged Sushchin with hacking half a billion Yahoo accounts in March 2017, in one of the largest cyber-breaches in history, the Associated Press reported. Sushchin was an intelligence agent with Russia’s Federal Security Service — the successor to the KGB — and was also working as security director for Renaissance Capital, Russian media said.
“It is unknown to the grand jury whether [Renaissance] knew of his FSB affiliation,” the indictment says.
Renaissance Capital paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech in 2010 that was attended by Russian officials and corporate leaders. The speech received a thank-you note from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Renaissance Capital is owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owned the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. He unsuccessfully ran for Russian president against Putin in 2012.
Sushchin’s indictment says “the conspirators sought access to the Yahoo, Inc. email accounts of Russian journalists; Russian and U.S. government officials,” and others. Information about the accounts such as usernames and password challenge questions and answers were stolen for 500 million accounts, the indictment says. The indictment does not mention Abedin’s account.
A hacker called “Peace” claimed to be selling data from 200 million Yahoo users.
The user data also included people’s alternate email addresses, that were often work accounts tying a Yahoo user to an organization of interest. The hackers were able to generate “nonces” that allowed them to read emails “via external cookie minting” for some accounts.
The New York Times reported that in the 2013 hack, which affected all Yahoo accounts, “Digital thieves made off with names, birth dates, phone numbers and passwords of users that were encrypted with security that was easy to crack. The intruders also obtained the security questions and backup email addressed used to reset lost passwords — valuable information for someone trying to break into other accounts owned by the same user, and particularly useful to a hacker seeking to break into government computers around the world.”
Yahoo published a notification on Sept. 22, 2016, saying: “Yahoo has confirmed that a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company’s network in late 2014 by what it believes is a state-sponsored actor.”
Clinton downplayed the risks of her email use days later, saying it was simply a matter of convenience.
“After a year-long investigation, there is no evidence that anyone hacked the server I was using and there is no evidence that anyone can point to at all, anyone who says otherwise has no basis, that any classified materials ended up in the wrong hands. I take classified materials very seriously and always have,” Clinton said on Oct. 9, 2016, at the second presidential debate,
Abedin’s use of Yahoo email is consistent with the determination by the FBI that Clinton associates’ emails were, in fact, compromised. “We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private email accounts of individuals with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her private account,” then-FBI director Jim Comey said in 2016.
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|Trump Accuses Former Clinton Aide of Failing to Follow Security Protocols|
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