Christie Faces Probes, Smears Like He Inflicted On Foes
Misconduct allegations mounted over the weekend against embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie despite his attempt to blame the George Washington Bridge scandal on underlings.
New Jersey's U.S. Attorney office met Jan. 19 for several hours with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer regarding her claim against two top Christie aides. Zimmer has alleged that the aides threatened last spring to hinder federal relief for her city's Hurricane Sandy damage unless she supported Christie's picks among Wall Street investors for a Hoboken redevelopment plan.
Christie is shown at left with President Obama in a photo courtesy of Wikimedia as they toured flood damage in 2012 just days before Obama's re-election. Christie's joint appearance and thanks to Obama were widely reported as bipartisan cooperation, but angered some conservatives.
The new allegations and the media blitz parallel those that Christie orchestrated previously in his career against others. He created a public image as a GOP corruption-fighting legislator and U.S. attorney on his way to winning his state's governorship in 2009.
Update: Rob Kall writes on OpEdNews, Governor Rod Blagojevich's Defense Attorney Compares Chris Christie's Situation to Blago's... and It's Not Pretty.
I discussed that history with New Jersey radio host Bob Carson Jan. 19 in an hour-long interview on his public affairs show, Carson's Corner, which can be heard here, among other places. In 2009 and 2010, we had examined these same Christie tendencies in previous Carson's Corner shows at a time when virtually all of the rest of the state's media had bought into Christie's image as a blunt-talking reformer fighting for the ordinary citizen.
We focused then as now on the unfairness and duplicity in Christie's overblown "Big Rig III" probe. As New Jersey's U.S. attorney under the Bush administration, Christie's groundwork for the probe swept him to the governor's office.
Christie hired more than a dozen of his former federal colleagues from the U.S. attorney's office for state posts, thereby illustrating how the so-called "loyal Bushie" brand of political back-scratching flourished under his supervision.
The Justice Integrity Project also reported evidence that the more than 40 indictments had been packaged by federal prosecutors to help him win office, not as impartial justice, as described in previous stories excerpted below.
More currently, a state legislative chairman issued 20 subpoenas last week for Christie associates and their organizations to describe why authorities inflicted traffic gridlock on Fort Lee for four days last September on the New Jersey side of the bridge across the Hudson River to New York City.
One of those ordered to testify is David Samson, a Christie appointee who heads the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that controls bridge operations.
Samson hired for protection Michael Chertoff, right, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary and former New Jersey U.S. Attorney. Among other jobs, Chertoff is founder of the Chertoff Group, which received a $1.2 million security contract from the Port Authority.
So he has close experience in cozy arrangements, as described in a special section about Chertoff's career in my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters. Chertoff is also an attorney with Covington and Burling, and it is in that role that he is representing Samson.
MSNBC host Steve Kornacki has reported that the Christie administration used its Port Authority appointees to pressure developers to increase their support for the GOP governor's 2013 re-election campaign and future prospects. Kornacki also broke the Zimmer story.
Additionally, the Washington Post post reported in its print edition Jan. 20, Christie’s early ad too tough for Jersey. The report by David Fahrenthold disclosed that Christie's first run for political office achieved success by using inaccurate television ads to smear his opponent.
For a 1994 race for the county board in Morris County, Christie's television ad against his GOP opponent "ran more than 400 times on cable TV before the June GOP primary," the Post reported. "That 1994 race was New Jersey’s introduction to the brash and confident Christie, whose hardball tactics have repeatedly surprised people — even in a state that thinks it invented hardball. But in Morris County back then, people thought Christie had learned the downside of playing so rough: That ad helped get him into his first elected office but then helped get him out of it. He was sued for defamation, required to apologize and then defeated at the polls after just one term."
The Post story noted that Christie's GOP opponent from 1994 forgave the governor before he died in the belief that Christie had gone on to become a good governor.
Christie and his aides have denied wrongdoing, as for example, in a Newark Star-Ledger column, Top Christie official calls Hoboken mayor's storm funding claims 'absurd.'
Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger for the Washington Post, wrote that MSNBC should be embarrassed, not Christie.
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, a Democrat at left, is responsible for helping sort through facts involving any federal investigation.
From 2002 to the end of 2008 during the Bush administration, Christie Christie held the same powerful office in charge of all federal civil and criminal litigation in the state, with strong influence also over FBI and other federal investigations.
Christie won success via the nation's increasingly politicized justice system, which the Justice Integrity Project has reported as veering from its ostensible mission into becoming a political spoils system. Christie had scant special distinction for the post aside from Republican fund-raising and other party loyalty. He was a protégé of Bush senior advisor Karl Rove, and President Bush nicknamed him "Big Boy."
Against all odds, former New Jersey assemblyman Louis Manzo successfully defended himself from an unfair and illegal corruption indictment in the Big Rig case.
Last week in an exclusive interview, Manzo predicted that Christie has enough political skills and insider ties to survive the current investigation. Manzo has written a biography of Christie scheduled for release late this spring, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie. [Editor's note: This book title changed after this column appeared.]
Building in part on Manzo's forecast, I predict that Christie will use his skills and positions, which including chairmanship of the republican Governors Association, to remain viable also, but ultimately will fall short of his goal of becoming the 2016 GOP nominee.
Supporters of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush can be expected to help prop up Christie for the short term and happily watch his troubles overwhelm his campaign down the road when it is too late for Wall Street and the party's center-right to coalesce around another candidate aside from Bush.
As for now, WABC-AM host Geraldo Rivera asked former New York City Police and Corrections Commissioner Bernard Kerik about the situation in a wide-ranging interview covering Kerik's career and views. Our project has documented that Kerik, a Republican once closed to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and President Bush, was treated unfairly in a federal prosecution primarily by a Democratic-appointed judge and prosecutors. They put Kerik pre-trial on corruption charges into solitary confinement and otherwise forced him into a guilty plea amid a witch-hunt atmosphere by a metro New York media that had formerly lionized him.
Released from prison last year following his term, Kerik is currently looking for work. New York's most decorated police officer in history has been advocating sentencing reform in his spare time with the view that mandatory sentences he saw imposed on others.
Regarding the current investigations of others in New Jersey, where Kerik lives with his family, he said, "Somebody's lying, and in a lot of trouble."
Other Justice Integrity Project Columns
Justice Integrity Project, Christie Faces Probes, Smears Like He Inflicted On Foes, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 20, 2014. Misconduct allegations mounted over the weekend against embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie despite his attempt to blame the George Washington Bridge scandal on underlings. New Jersey's U.S. Attorney office met Jan. 19 for several hours with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer regarding her claim against two top Christie aides. Zimmer has alleged that the aides threatened last spring to hinder federal relief for her city's Hurricane Sandy damage unless she supported Christie's picks among Wall Street investors for a Hoboken redevelopment plan.
Justice Integrity Project, How Christie’s Bridge Scandal Helps Jeb Bush Win in 2016, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 12, 2014. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a big winner so far in the political scandal and cover-up engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Justice Integrity Project, Court Slaps Feds Again For Christie-Era NJ Prosecutions, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 21, 2011. In a major setback for the U.S. Justice Department and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a federal appeals court last week dismissed federal bribery and conspiracy charges against two New Jersey Democrats targeted in a trap set by Christie. Our non-partisan Justice Integrity Project has repeatedly pointed to the 46-defendant “Bid Rig III” case as one of the nation’s most scandalous political prosecutions of recent years.
OpEdNews, Christie's Corruption Case Shows Horrid Legacy of 'Loyal Bushies,' Cover-ups, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 3, 2010. The Justice Department this week resumed its massive New Jersey political corruption "Bid Rig III" case with a trial that continues the self-inflicted damage from its 2006 political purge of U.S. attorneys.
Related News Coverage
Christie Administration Bridge Scandal
Update: New Republic, Chris Christie's Entire Career Reeks It's not just the bridge, Alex MacGillis, Feb. 12, 2014. Has there ever been a political reversal of fortune as rapid and as absolute as the one just experienced by Chris Christie? even post-Bridgegate, the prevailing interpretations of Christie fundamentally miss the mark. He has been so singularly successful at constructing his own mythology—as a reformer, a crusader, a bipartisan problem-solver—that people have never really seen him clearly. Over the past three months, I talked to more than 50 people who have crossed paths with Christie throughout his career—legislators, officials, Democrats, Republicans, lawyers, longtime New Jersey politicos. (Christie himself didn’t respond to a detailed request for comment.) The problem with Christie isn’t merely that he is a bully. It’s that his political career is built on a rotten foundation. Christie owes his rise to some of the most toxic forces in his state—powerful bosses who ensure that his vow to clean up New Jersey will never come to pass. He has allowed them to escape scrutiny, rewarded them for their support, and punished their enemies. All along, even as it looked like Christie was attacking the machine, he was really just mastering it.
OpEdNews, Governor Rod Blagojevich's Defense Attorney Compares Chris Christie's Situation to Blago's... and It's Not Pretty, Rob Kall, Feb. 4, 2014. I interviewed Sam Adam Jr., right, rated one of the top 100 defense attorneys in America, who defended former governor Rod Blagojevich he first time he was tried. I asked him to compare the Blagojevich case with Chris Christie's situation. He did, discussing how the case would be approached by defense and prosecution, and discussing advantages and disadvantages Christie has. Attorney Adam started off commenting, "I see Chris Christie having a lot of problems now under mail and wire fraud, maybe a RICO statutes as well coming down the line." I asked, "What about the criminality of Bridgegate?" Blagojevich defense attorney Adam answered, "Well the truth of the matter is there are so many laws on the books that you can get anybody for anything if you want to.
Here is an individual who also is involved with a law firm that was being used to lobby on behalf of the Rockefeller Group. Now the Rockefeller Group is trying to develop in Hoboken, and he and his firm were out there lobbying for that group."
Huffington Post, Wolff & Samson, Firm At Heart Of Christie Controversy, Has Had An Ally In The Governor, Andrew Perez and Christina Wilkie, Jan. 30, 2014. When the New Jersey-based industrial giant Honeywell Industries threatened to move its headquarters in 2010 unless the state doled out millions of dollars in tax incentives, the company did what many of New Jersey's biggest corporate players do -- it hired the law and lobbying firm Wolff & Samson to press its case. Honeywell paid Wolff & Samson $80,000 in lobbying fees in 2010 to lobby agencies like the Economic Development Authority. It paid off.
Star-Ledger / NJ.com, Top Christie official calls Hoboken mayor's storm funding claims 'absurd,'Erin O'Neill, Jan. 20, 2014. Top Christie official calls Hoboken mayor's storm funding claims 'absurd.' Guadagno says she has personal relationship with Hoboken mayor, is 'surprised' by allegations. One of the top Christie administration officials that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has accused of threatening to withhold storm aid if she didn't push forward a redevelopment project called her allegations "patently false and absurd on their face." In a statement released this morning, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable said he welcomes a "full and thorough law enforcement review of her libelous claims.” Zimmer claims Constable, as well as Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, told her if she moved forward on a real estate project, the storm-ravaged city would receive more disaster relief funding. Guadagno said she was surprised by Zimmer's accusations. "I deny wholeheartedly those allegations," she said. "I thought we had a good relationship."
NorthJersey.com / Bergen Record, Port Authority study favored politically connected builder for Hoboken redevelopment, Scott Fallon, Jan. 20, 2014. A planning report heavily favored the politically connected builder of a proposed $1.1 billion development that is at the center of a dispute between the governor’s office and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. The mayor alleges that the Christie administration withheld Sandy recovery money from her city because she did not favor fast-tracking the massive project. Of the 10 industrial and commercial properties that the report recommended for redevelopment, nine were owned by a subsidiary of The Rockefeller Group, records show. The Rockefeller Group is represented by the law firm of David Samson, a close Christie adviser whom Christie appointed as chairman of the Port Authority, which paid for the planning study. Michael Sullivan, one of the report’s authors, said Monday that his team did not favor The Rockefeller Group and that the Port Authority had limited involvement in the report’s preparation.
Wall Street Journal, Justice Goes After the GOP, Harvey Silverglate, Jan. 30, 2014. Investigating Chris Christie's administration, indicting another prominent Republican. Is it political? Is Eric Holder's Justice Department driven by a political agenda, or are the department's recent prosecutorial decisions simply signs of overzealousness? The Justice Department has focused on two prominent Republicans, announcing a corruption indictment of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and launching an active and very public criminal investigation into the antics of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration. In doing so, federal prosecutors have created at least the appearance that they are targeting two men who have been touted as plausible candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
Newsmax, Dershowitz: 'The Dominoes Are Beginning to Fall' for Christie, Todd Beamon, Jan. 31, 2014. Alan Dershowitz, left, told Newsmax on Friday "the dominoes are beginning to fall" in the spiraling bridge-gate scandal engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and said "I think he hasn't told the whole truth and is in trouble." The U.S. attorney should now subpoena the documents that were referred to in the letter and should sit down and talk to the governor," the former Harvard Law School professor said in an exclusive interview. "The governor so far has not spoken to law enforcement nor has he spoken under oath, so legally, he can lie all he wants," Dershowitz said. "He's not obliged to tell the truth. Politically, he may be obliged to tell the truth, but legally he's not. "But once he sits down and talks to law enforcement, he has to tell the truth, otherwise he can be prosecuted for a crime. The men have known each other since high school, according to news reports, but Christie made negative comments about [former aide David] Wildstein at the Dec. 13 press conference. "Gov. Christie really made his stupid mistake by treating Wildstein the way he did," Dershowitz said. "He provoked him. Christie showed his total ineptness when he said what he said about Wildstein at the press conference."
Washington Post, For 2016, Hillary Clinton has commanding lead over Democrats, GOP race wide open, Philip Rucker and Scott Clement, Jan. 29, 2014. Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a commanding 6 to 1 lead over other Democrats heading into the 2016 presidential campaign, while the Republican field is deeply divided with no clear front-runner, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was at or near the top of the Republican field in many public opinion surveys last year, is in third place — with the support of 13 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — behind Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) with 20 percent and former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 18 percent.
AP via Washington Post, Christie aide: Hoboken treated no differently, Staff report, Jan. 20, 2014. Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on Monday pushed back against a claim that Superstorm Sandy relief funding was withheld from a severely flooded city because its Democratic mayor wouldn’t sign off on a politically connected real estate venture. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno strongly denied Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claims as “false” and “illogical” on Monday, the day before Christie’s second-term inauguration. And Marc Ferzan, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, told reporters in a conference call that Hoboken has been treated no differently than other cities with respect to storm relief funds. Dwayne Doherty, a spokesman for the Manhattan-based Rockefeller Group, declined to comment on the project Monday because it is being investigated by federal authorities and a legislative committee.
OpEd News, Chris Christie's Many Tales From the Dark Side, Jerry Policoff, Jan. 21, 2014. Chris Christie has burst onto the national scene in recent years. Despite having many critics and detractors he has become something of a darling of the mainstream media, and is viewed by many as a potential successful Republican candidate for the presidency. A close look at Chris Christie's career reveals a pattern of entitlement, bullying, vindictiveness, and a disturbing lack of respect for ethics and the rule of law. The Bridge scandal is wholly consistent with Christie's past behavior, and renders his denials less than credible. Only his defensive posture seems to have changed, and perhaps that should be seen as a sign that he fears his past ability to deflect criticism out of sheer bluster and arrogance may finally be wearing thin.
AP via Washington Post, New subpoenas seek to unravel NJ bridge scandal, Jan. 16, 2014. Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s top staffers are among 20 people and organizations subpoenaed in a widening traffic jam scandal that has shaken his administration. Christie’s chief of staff, chief counsel and top communications aide are among those to receive subpoenas Thursday and Friday. The Christie for Governor campaign organization also was subpoenaed, though the governor wasn’t.
Carson's Corner Radio, Interview of 'Presidential Puppetry' Author Andrew Kreig, Bob Carson, Jan. 19, 2014.
Bergen Record / NorthJersey.com, Port Authority chairman hires former Homeland Security chief as attorney in GWB probe, Shaun Boburg, Jan. 19, 2014. Port Authority chairman David Samson, a Christie ally now embroiled in two controversies, has hired former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff to represent him in a widening investigation into lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Samson was one of 18 people to be issued a subpoena for documents Friday from a legislative panel investigating the politically motivated closures, which were carried out by two Christie executives at the Port Authority in September. Records show Chertoff's consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, received a no-bid contract worth at least $1.2 million from the Port Authority to review the agency's security and provide recommendations. The results of the study, conducted in 2011 and 2012, while Samson was chairman of the agency, have not been released publicly. Chertoff, an attorney at the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling LLP, confirmed on Sunday that he was representing Samson through the firm. Chertoff, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, founded The Chertoff Group in 2009. He is a native of Elizabeth and was the top federal law-enforcement official in New Jersey from 1990 to 1994 and later served as a federal judge for two years before his appointment by former President George W. Bush to lead Homeland Security in 2005.
WABC-FM (New York), Hurricane Sandy scandal thickens, Geraldo Rivera, Jan. 20, 2014. The Hurricane Sandy scandal thickens between Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Geraldo tells you the latest and debates who is lying in this case with Eric Bolling, Peter Swire, Bernie Kerik and more! Listen here.
Washington Post, Christie’s early ad too tough for Jersey, David A. Fahrenthold, June 19, 2014. In 1994, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (R) ran for the county board in Morris County. His television ad against his opponents was inaccurate and led to a lawsuit. Christie’s inaccurate ad ran more than 400 times on cable TV before the June GOP primary. He won. That 1994 race was New Jersey’s introduction to the brash and confident Christie, whose hardball tactics have repeatedly surprised people — even in a state that thinks it invented hardball. But in Morris County back then, people thought Christie had learned the downside of playing so rough: That ad helped get him into his first elected office but then helped get him out of it. He was sued for defamation, required to apologize and then defeated at the polls after just one term. In office, Christie focused on some of the issues that have defined his career. He pressed for stronger ethics rules, called for lower taxes and attacked cronyism in the county’s business dealings. Former colleagues on the board said he was hardworking, confident and sometimes contentious. But Christie continued to make enemies outside the chamber, by starting a new campaign just months after the old one ended. He ran for the state assembly. That 1995 campaign fizzled in part because of lingering anger over the 1994 ad.
MSNBC, Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage, mayor alleges, Steve Kornacki, Jan. 18, 2014. Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc. The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants. In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported. “The bottom line is, it’s not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer,” she said Saturday on UP w/ Steve Kornacki.
Washington Post, The scandal is MSNBC, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 18, 2014. The New Christie Scandal. The bridge scandal started out as a test for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Now it has become a test for the media. MSNBC, which long ago stopped being a news outlet in the sense of going out to find facts and is largely indistinguishable from Democratic Party talking points, has been going 24/7 since the bridge story broke. No surprise. But then Saturday MSNBC decided to throw even the pretense of journalism overboard. It ran with a claim from Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken claiming Christie withheld Sandy relief funds to gain approval for a business development. Christie’s office put out a quick denial of the allegations, as did the developers. MSNBC says the mayor has a personal diary that corroborates her claim — a diary that has yet to be released, reviewed or verified. Rather than, you know, investigate the story, MSNBC threw it out on the air hoping others would follow. The Hill had the good sense to note this mayor had changed her story from earlier claims that the funds were denied for not backing him for governor. Then Saturday afternoon Christie’s team had enough. It put out a written statement:
MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week. Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama Administration approves the next rounds of funding. The Governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she’s ‘very glad’ he’s been our Governor. It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television.
In short, the Hoboken mayor has been all over the place, claiming different things have been for retribution. With no correspondence or other documented communication with the governor, we’re supposed to take a personal diary that could have been written at any point in time as reliable? A professional news operation must be more than simply a bulletin board for partisans.
Huffington Post, Chris Christie: The End Game, Robert Kuttner, Jan. 20, 2014. Let me go out on a limb here. Chris Christie will not run for president, and he is very likely not to serve out his term as governor of New Jersey. The reason is very simple. Given everything we know about Christie's style of governing, it is inconceivable that he did not know what his underlings were up to. This is a man who is an obsessive micro-manager, as well as a vindictive bully. Does any serious person think that he would tolerate senior people who would pull a caper like blockading the George Washington Bridge without keeping the boss informed? Such a person would never have been hired. Because there is no proof of his hands-on involvement -- yet -- much of the press and nearly all of the Republican Party has been content to play along with Christie's game of The Staff Did It. The criticism has been directed at his failure to keep tabs on rogue employees.
Bergen Record / Northjersey.com, Christie recalls how Obama reached out after Sandy, Melissa Hayes, Oct. 26, 2013. It may be the defining image of Chris Christie in the days after Superstorm Sandy: the governor clasping President Obama’s hand, the president placing his hand on Christie’s shoulder in a moment of shared grief. hat embrace of the president — a Democrat days away from reelection in a race many Republicans believed at the time still close — still has Republicans seething and pundits analyzing how it will affect Christie’s national potential.
Washington Post, Documents show coverup in N.J. traffic shutdown, Philip Rucker and Aaron Blake, Jan. 10, 2014. Gov. Chris Christie’s lieutenants worked furiously to hide the apparent act of political retaliation, though the documents do not directly implicate the governor. Read the documents released Friday. The Fix: 5 big unanswered questions. By our count, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answered 94(!) questions over a nearly two-hour press conference Thursday focused on his administration's push to cause a traffic jam in Fort Lee as a measure of political payback. Still, there are plenty of questions that either didn't get asked or Christie couldn't (or wouldn't) answer. Here's five.
WNYC / NJPR, Mayors: Was Christie Getting Revenge on Me, Too? Sarah Gonzalez, Jan. 10, 2014. Mayors in New Jersey say they're starting to consider foul play on behalf of the Christie administration in light of the George Washington Bridge lane closure controversy. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says she had a face to face visit with Governor Christie in the Spring, when he asked her to endorse him for re-election. She told him she would be remaining neutral. “He was quite disappointed, but I wouldn't say that he was angry. He was disappointed and said he would keep asking,” Zimmer said. "And I said, 'We can keep the conversation going but I don't expect to be changing my position.’ And I didn't.” She had applied for a Hazard Mitigation Grant to protect Hoboken from flooding. During Sandy, 80 percent of the city was under water.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Washington Post, McDonnell, wife charged; Ex-Va. governor allegedly took gifts, vacations, loans, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Sari Horwitz, June 21, 2014. Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. Authorities alleged that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from executive Jonnie Williams again and again, lodging near constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides. In exchange, authorities alleged that the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governorship to Williams’s struggling company, a small former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.
Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show via OpEdNews, Whistleblower Former NSA Exec Thomas Drake On Obama's Speech, Bengazi, 911 and more, Rob Kall, Jan. 20, 2014. After attending a pre-lecture reception, then a one hour lecture, then doing dinner with Thomas Drake, that lasted almost five hours, I got together three days later with Thomas and did what turned out to be an almost 2.5 hour interview. This is the first hour of the interview. From Wikipedia: Thomas Drake is a former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), a decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy veteran, and a whistleblower.'
Washington Post, Top federal contractor official leaves administration, Joe Davidson, Jan. 19, 2014. Top Obama contracting official leaves for a position with a firm that facilitates federal procurement.
Guardian, Evidence of 'industrial-scale killing' by Syria spurs call for war crimes charges, Ian Black, Jan. 20, 2014. Senior war crimes prosecutors say photographs and documents provide 'clear evidence' of systematic killing of 11,000 detainees. Syrian government officials could face war crimes charges in the light of a huge cache of evidence smuggled out of the country showing the "systematic killing" of about 11,000 detainees, according to three eminent international lawyers. The three, former prosecutors at the criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, examined thousands of Syrian government photographs and files recording deaths in the custody of regime security forces from March 2011 to last August. Most of the victims were young men and many corpses were emaciated, bloodstained and bore signs of torture. Some had no eyes; others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution. The 31-page report, which was commissioned by a leading firm of London solicitors acting for Qatar, is being made available to the UN, governments and human rights groups. Its publication appears deliberately timed to coincide with this week's UN-organised Geneva II peace conference, which is designed to negotiate a way out of the Syrian crisis by creating a transitional government.
Common Cause via Institute for Public Accuracy, 'Net Neutrality' Ruling Poised to Make Web into “Something that Looks Like Cable TV,” Michael Copps, Jan. 14, 2014. The New York Times reports: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out Federal Communications Commission rules that require Internet service providers to give all traffic equal access through their networks.” Michael Copps, a former longtime Democratic FCC commissioner and special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Initiative, released a statement: “The Court’s decision today is poised to end the free, open, and uncensored Internet that we have come to rely on. People depend on the Open Internet to connect and communicate with each other freely. Voters need it to inform themselves before casting ballots. Without prompt corrective action by the Commission to reclassify broadband, this awful ruling will serve as a sorry memorial to the corporate abrogation of free speech.”
The Justice Integrity Project (JIP) researches official misconduct
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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative January 2017 news and views
Martin Luther King Day Federal Holiday Jan. 16, 2017
In Memoriam: The Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To The MLK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, May 26, 2016. The Justice Integrity Project presents a "Readers Guide to the MLK Assassination" of key books, videos, documents, websites and other archives most relevant to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder on April 4, 1968.
See also: Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Enhanced By Historic Discovery, Jan. 18, 2016. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is forever enhanced by discovery of a 24-minute recording of his first meeting with the national media, which occurred during a 1962 speech that was the first ever by an African American at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. His photo on that occasion is above.
Washington Post, Europe leaders shocked as Trump slams NATO and E.U., raising fears of transatlantic split, Michael Birnbaum, Jan. 16, 2017. European leaders took a tough line on President-elect Donald Trump’s comments that the European Union is bound for breakup and NATO is obsolete, raising the prospect of an unprecedented breach of transatlantic relations once Trump comes to office.
European leaders said Monday that they may have to stand alone without the United States once Donald Trump enters office, raising the prospect of an unprecedented breach in transatlantic relations after Trump’s comments that the European Union is bound for a breakup and that NATO is obsolete.
Trump said in a weekend interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild newspaper that the 28-nation European Union was a vehicle for German interests and said that he was indifferent to the bloc’s fate. He also said he was committed to European defense even as he expressed skepticism about NATO’s current configuration.
Trump’s attitudes have alarmed Europe, which is facing a wave of elections this year in which anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic leaders could gain in power. Most mainstream leaders had committed to working with Trump after his inauguration Jan. 20, even as they expressed hope that he would moderate his views once he took office.
His hard line has created the grim realization in Europe that they may now have to stand alone, without their oldest, strongest partner.
“We Europeans have our destiny in our own hands,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin. She pledged to work with Trump whenever it would be possible. (Merkel is shown in a file photo via Flickr photo by Glyn Lowe at Photoworks.)
Mediaite, Clinton Global Initiative Plans to Shut Down Following HRC’s Election Loss, Ken Meyer, Jan. 16, 2017. It would seem that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) will be coming to an end, due to plans to lay off its last group of employees in the next few months. The Clinton Foundation issued a WARN filing with the New York Department of Labor, saying that 22 CGI employees will lose their jobs due to the “discontinuation of the Clinton Global Initative.” This has reportedly become the subject of a significant dispute within the Foundation in terms of how the layoffs ought to be handled.
During the election, revelations about the Clinton Foundation invited concerns about “pay-to-play” practices at the State Department. The CGI was engulfed in these condemnations, with critics saying that wealthy foreign donors could influence Hillary Clinton and the government through their contributions. Clinton’s team argued that the Foundation contributed to a variety of international charity projects, though it remained a subject of criticism throughout the election.
The New York Observer reported, The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative, that the CGI has seen a decrease in foreign donations while suggesting that contributors were more interested in Clinton access than charity. It is worth noting that the Observer is owned by Jared Kushner, who is both son-in-law and upcoming senior adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.
Huffington Post, These are the eight richest men in the world. They hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — 3.5 billion people, Staff report, Jan. 16, 2017.Just eight super-rich men hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to an analysis from the charity Oxfam released Sunday night.
Six of these billionaires, from Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, are American entrepreneurs: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Rounding out the list are Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon, and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of a retail conglomerate that includes clothing chain Zara. Together their net wealth ― assets minus debts ― amounts to $426 billion.
SouthFront, Military Situation In Deir Ezzor As ISIS Spits Government-Held Pocket Into Two (Map Update), Staff report, Jan. 16, 2017. The map shows a military situation in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor after ISIS broke Syrian army defenses and split the government-held pocket into two separate parts.
Washington Post, Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare, Paul Waldman, Jan. 16, 2017. When even the most committed Republicans came around to support Donald Trump in 2016, they made a kind of bet. It wouldn’t matter much that Trump had no apparent fealty to conservative ideology or that he was a complete ignoramus about policy, because he’d be leaving all that boring stuff to them. The Republican Congress would pass its agenda, he’d sign whatever they put in front of him, and they’d all live happily ever after.
But now it’s not looking so simple. In fact, Trump just dealt a huge blow to their top priority: repealing the Affordable Care Act. Accomplishing repeal without causing the GOP a political calamity is an extremely delicate enterprise, and the last thing they want is to have him popping off at the mouth and promising things they can’t deliver. Which is what he just did:Crowley to forgo post in Trump White House.
Washington Post, GOP national-security experts fear Trump has blacklisted them, David Nakamura, Jan. 16, 2017. Those who signed two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, which called Donald Trump’s candidacy a danger to the nation, believe they have been put on an “enemies list” as the president-elect, who has virtually no experience in national security and foreign policy, fills positions in his administration.
One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.
Washington Times, Crowley to leave Trump team, Stephen Dinan, Jan. 16, 2017. GOP foreign policy adviser Monica Crowley said Monday she will relinquish the senior job she’d been poised to take in the Trump White House.
Ms. Crowley, who had been tapped to be senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, had been dogged in recent weeks by questions about whether she lifted portions of her past written work from other writers. Her move seemed designed to keep that from becoming a distraction as the Trump team prepares to take office.
Crowley (shown in a file photo) was to have worked for National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general. “The NSC will miss the opportunity to have Monica Crowley as part of our team. We wish her all the best in her future,” Gen. Flynn said in a statement.
A report by CNN earlier this month found passages in Ms. Crowley’s 2012 book What the (Bleep) Just Happened closely tracked with others’ work. A separate story by Politico, a website for political insiders, said it found more than a dozen instances of what it deemed plagiarism or insufficient attribution in her 2000 dissertation. HarperCollins, the publisher of the 2012 book, withdrew the digital version of the book from circulation last week amid the accusations.
Observer, The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative, Michael Sainato, Jan. 15, 2017. On January 12, a WARN notice was filed with the New York Department of Labor — the main office of the Clinton Global Initiative would be closing.
The Clinton Foundation’s long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 elections provoked critics to allege conflicts of interests. Clinton partisans defended the organization’s charitable work, and dismissed claims that it served as a means for the Clintons to sell off access, market themselves on the paid speech circuit, and elevate their brand as Hillary Clinton campaigned for the presidency. Editor's note: The Observer is owned by Jared Kushner, who is both son-in-law and upcoming senior adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.
Trump Transition: Foreign Policy
Reuters via Huffington Post, Trump Wants To Cut Russia Sanctions In Return For Nuclear Arms Deal, Staff report, Jan. 15, 2017. The President-Elect also criticized Moscow for its role in Syria. President-elect Donald Trump will propose offering to end sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he told The Times of London.
Trump, in an interview with the newspaper published online on Sunday, was deeply critical of previous U.S. foreign policy, describing the invasion of Iraq as possibly the gravest error in the history of the United States and akin to “throwing rocks into a beehive.”
But ahead of his inauguration on Friday as the 45th U.S. president, Trump raised the prospect of the first major step towards nuclear arms control since President Barack Obama struck a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia in 2010.
“They have sanctions on Russia -- let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” the Republican president-elect was quoted as saying by The Times.
“For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”
The United States and Russia are by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers. The United States has 1,367 nuclear warheads on deployed strategic missiles and bombers, while Russia has 1,796 such deployed warheads, according to the latest published assessment by the U.S. State Department.
Trump has vowed to improve relations with Moscow even as he faces criticism he is too eager to make an ally of Putin, a former KGB spy who rose to the top of the Kremlin in 1999. The issue has faced renewed scrutiny after an unsubstantiated report that Russia had collected compromising information about Trump.
Washington Post, Pence: Trump campaign did not have contact with Russia, Abby Phillip, Jan. 15, 2017. Vice President-elect Mike Pence denied Sunday that the Trump campaign had any contacts with Russia during the campaign. Repeatedly pressed on the issue on "Fox News Sunday," Pence (shown in an official photo) eventually answered directly, saying, "Of course not."
"Why would there be any contacts between the campaign" and Russia, he said. He added that questions about contacts with Russia during the campaign were part of an attempt to cast doubts on the legitimacy of Trump's election.
Trump Transition: Domestic Policy
Washington Post, Trump vows ‘insurance for everybody’ in plan to replace Obamacare, Robert Costa, Jan. 15, 2017. In an interview with The Post, the president-elect declared that his plan for replacing the health-care law is all but finished. While he declined to reveal specifics, Donald Trump said he would force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices for Medicare and Medicaid, and warned Republicans about slowing his agenda.
Washington Post, Trump’s administration will regulate Trump’s businesses, raising prospect of conflicts, Rosalind S. Helderman, Drew Harwell and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 15, 2017. The president-elect’s refusal to divest from his vast holdings means, according to ethics experts, that government officials could feel pressure to keep the boss and his businesses’ bottom line happy.
Washington Post, A hellscape of lies and distorted reality awaits journalists covering President Trump, Margaret Sullivan, Jan. 15, 2017. The past teaches plenty about what to expect from Trump, “the gaslighter in chief,” who punishes reporters for doing their jobs and will relentlessly manipulate reality if it means a better public image.
Washington Post, Priebus to Obama: ‘step up’ and tell Democrats to stop questioning Trump’s legitimacy, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 15, 2017. The incoming chief of staff called John Lewis’s remarks about Trump “insanity” and rejected comparisons to the president-elect’s own well-publicized doubts about Obama’s eligibility to serve.
Washington Post, Priebus warns ethics chief to ‘be careful’ discussing Trump’s business conflicts, Abby Phillip, Jan. 15, 2017. Donald Trump's incoming White House chief of staff warned the director of the Office of Government Ethics on Sunday to "be careful" about criticizing Trump's handling of his business conflicts.
Ethics office Director Walter Shaub (shown in an official photo) last week criticized Trump's plan to shift ownership of his businesses to his sons, and his office has sought to influence Trump on the issue on Twitter for several weeks. "The head of the government ethics ought to be careful because that person is becoming extremely political," Priebus said on ABC News's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
New York Post, Trump’s friend ‘fell in love’ with dog she offered for White House, Aaron Short, Jan. 15, 2017. Donald Trump might be the first pet-less president in 150 years, after a plan to have him adopt a goldendoodle dog fell through. Lois Pope, a Palm Beach, Fla., philanthropist and a longtime friend of the president-elect, believes a pooch belongs in the White House and began searching for a hypoallergenic breed for Trump once he won the election.
“Every president has had a first dog, and he did not have a dog,” said Pope, 83, whose husband, Generoso Jr., founded The National Enquirer and left her $200 million after his death in 1988. “I wanted to find a dog with a great disposition, and I didn’t want a small dog. He’s a guy who is 6-foot-2. He doesn’t want a small dog.”
Pope chose one with a burnt-orange coat — similar in color to Trump’s mane — that is part golden retriever and part poodle. She named the 8-week-old pup Patton — after Trump’s favorite military hero — and sent him an ownership certificate.
Media & Intelligence Services
OpEdNews, Europe's Courageous Journalism Voice Has Passed Away, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 15, 2017. On January 13, Udo Ulfkotte died, reportedly of a heart attack. Ulfkotte had been an editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitzung. He published a courageous book — Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News — which he said that the CIA had a hand on every significant journalist in Europe, which gave Washington control over European opinion and reduced knowledge of and opposition to Washington's control over European heads of state. Essentially, there are no European governments independent of Washington.
Courage, once plentiful in Europe, is today hard to find. Charles de Gaulle was the last head of a major European state that maintained independence from Washington. Today we find independence in Marine Le Pen and perhaps in the president of Hungary. But for the most part West and East European heads of state are Washington's vassals committed to Washington's wars.
Washington Post, News briefings could be moved from White House, Priebus says, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 15, 2017. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that news conferences traditionally held in the White House briefing room could be moved to a larger space, not in the White House, to allow for “more press, more coverage from all over the country.”
Priebus (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) spoke on ABC’s “This Week” hours after Esquire magazine published a report that suggested that the media could be permanently evicted from their longtime space in the White House itself to other buildings nearby. In that report, incoming White House Communications Director Sean Spicer acknowledged there has been “some discussion about how to do it.”
“The only thing that’s been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press room,” Priebus said Sunday, calling the 49-seat briefing room “very, very tiny” and suggesting a larger space in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building — located just west of the White House — could better accommodate scores of reporters who want to cover the Trump administration.
“You can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country,” he said. “Some of this is getting way out of whack, and I think people should be encouraged that we have so many people who want to participate.”
He did not mention evicting journalists from their workspace in the White House, located steps from the West Wing offices of the president and senior administration officials. The Esquire report quoted an anonymous “senior official” referring to the media as “the opposition party” and saying: “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”
Jeff Mason, a Reuters reporter who chairs the White House Correspondents’ Association, said Sunday he is meeting with Spicer to get more details about Trump’s plans. He noted that the White House briefing room is already open to all reporters who request access. “We support that and always will,” he said. “We object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps.”
Huffington Post, Trump’s Rift With Press Will Grow If Reporters Are Kicked Out Of White House, Michael Calderone, Jan. 15, 2017. The Trump campaign blacklisted news organizations. Now the transition team is considering moving journalists from the briefing room. Donald Trump’s team is considering moving press conferences out of the White House briefing room, where they’ve been held for decades, in a potential change that has alarmed journalists just days before the start of the new administration.
The incoming press secretary has discussed no longer televising daily briefings, a practice that began in the 1990s, or even holding the briefings in a different way. He’s also talked about switching up the briefing room seating arrangement, a process overseen for decades by the White House Correspondents’ Association. During the 2016 race, Trump’s campaign blacklisted nearly a dozen news organizations, including The Huffington Post; kicked journalists out of events; forced them into a “press pen”; and condoned the manhandling of a reporter. The candidate’s press-bashing was likened to that of authoritarian leaders. He ditched reporters and routinely ridiculed them on stage and on Twitter, behavior he’s continued since winning the presidency.
Above the Law, Supreme Court Update: Trump Has Started Interviewing SCOTUS Candidates, David Lat, Jan. 15, 2017. On Saturday afternoon, here in cold and snowy New York, President-elect Donald Trump interviewed Judge William Pryor (shown in an official photo) of the Eleventh Circuit for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The opportunity to meet with PEOTUS to talk about SCOTUS must have lifted Judge Pryor’s spirits, in the wake of the loss of his beloved Crimson Tide in Monday’s football championship.
The news of a Trump/Pryor meeting, while notable, is not surprising. At last week’s press conference, Trump said that SCOTUS meetings are underway and we should expect a nominee within two weeks of inauguration day. And Judge Pryor, beloved by conservatives, sits at the top of the Trump SCOTUS list. (Lists of likely contenders here and here to fill the vacancy and join the eight current justices portrayed above.) Could Trump pick someone not on the list? There was one promising possibility:
“After his [post-election] talk with Trump, Texas senator Ted Cruz and his chief of staff, David Polyansky, then sat down with Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who sounded him out about his interest in filling the Supreme Court vacancy created by the late Antonin Scalia. Cruz — widely considered one of the best Supreme Court litigators of his generation — swatted down the idea, according to four people to whom he has relayed the conversation.
That meeting took place on November 15. A few days earlier, on November 11, my colleague Joe Patrice had written a column entitled Why Donald Trump Must Nominate Ted Cruz To The Supreme Court. Great minds think alike?
Alas, Cruz (shown in a photo) declined — mainly because, well, he still wants to be president. As one of his friends told Politico, “Who knows what’s gonna happen eight years from now? Ted would be a young man…. [T]hat’s another negative to being a Supreme Court justice, it’s a lifetime commitment…. Ted wasn’t ready to lay down his sword and pick up a pen for the rest of his life.”
With Cruz out of contention, Trump is presumably sticking to his list. Aware of other shortlisters who have met or are meeting with the president-elect? Drop me a line, by email (subject line: “SCOTUS”) or by text message (646-820-8477). It would be great to know who else has made the final round (without having to camp out by Trump Tower in the cold).
WhoWhatWhy, Ruminations on the Greatest Mystery Never Solved, WhoWhatWhy Team, Jan. 14, 2017. Getting to the Truth Is Really Difficult: JFK Assassination Research Challenges. More than 50 years after the assassination of JFK, questions of who, what, and why remain unresolved. Despite valiant efforts by a dedicated research community, the obstacles remain formidable.
At a recent JFK research conference in Dallas, Russ Baker addressed some of these challenges and how to move forward.“There is a tremendous debt owed to this amazing bunch of people who do this stuff selflessly their whole lives … This may be the greatest revelation out of the whole thing if nothing else, the fundamental goodness, decency, and tenacity” of truth-seeking investigators in the U.S. and around the world, Baker said.
Washington Post, U.S. attorney in Baltimore is Trump’s pick to be deputy attorney general, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 14, 2017. Rod Rosenstein (shown in an official photo) headed the office for the District of Maryland under both Bush and Obama.
Washington Post, A reassuring choice for deputy attorney general, Jonathan H. Adler (professor at Case Western University School of Law), Jan. 13, 2017. Rod J. Rosenstein would be a good choice for deputy attorney general. CNN and other news outlets are reporting that President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Rod J. Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position in the Justice Department. Rosenstein would be a fabulous choice for this position, and one that should be completely free of controversy.
Rosenstein currently serves as the U.S. attorney for Maryland. He was first appointed to this position by President George W. Bush in 2005 and retained in this position by President Obama. Prior to his appointment as U.S. attorney, Rosenstein served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Tax Division in the Justice Department and as an assistant U.S. attorney. He also served in the Office of the Independent Counsel and as counsel to Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann during the Clinton administration. Rosenstein is admired and respected on both sides of the aisle.
Rosenstein is also a veteran of the judicial confirmation wars. Bush nominated Rosenstein to an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in November 2007. At that point, the seat had been open for nearly seven years, but the Senate was in no rush to act. The Post praised Rosenstein as a “worthy nominee” and pointed out the hollowness of the arguments against him. No matter. The Senate never held a vote on his nomination, leaving the seat open for the next president to fill.
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. October 29, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)
Consortium News, The Scheme to Take Down Trump, Daniel Lazare, Jan. 14, 2017. The U.S. intelligence community’s unprecedented assault on an incoming U.S. president – now including spreading salacious rumors – raises questions about how long Donald Trump can hold the White House, says Daniel Lazare.
Is a military coup in the works? Or are U.S. intelligence agencies laying the political groundwork for forcing Donald Trump from the presidency because they can’t abide his rejection of a new cold war with Russia? Not long ago, even asking such questions would have marked one as the sort of paranoid nut who believes that lizard people run the government. But no longer.
Thanks to the now-notorious 35-page dossier concerning Donald Trump’s alleged sexual improprieties in a Moscow luxury hotel, it’s clear that strange maneuverings are underway in Washington and that no one is quite sure how they will end.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper added to the mystery Wednesday evening by releasing a 200-word statement to the effect that he was shocked, shocked, that the dossier had found its way into the press. Such leaks, the statement said, “are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”
WhoWhatWhy, The Death of a Journalist Who Knew Too Much, Jeff Schechtman, Jan. 13, 2017. Was Dorothy Kilgallen Murdered? What Was She About to Learn?
Consortium News, Mainstream Media’s Russian Bogeymen, Gareth Porter, Jan. 13, 2017. The mainstream hysteria over Russia has led to dubious or downright false stories that have deepened the New Cold War, as Dr. Gareth Porter notes regarding last month’s bogus tale of a hack into the U.S. electric grid.
In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the U.S. election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into U.S. power infrastructure.
DHS had initiated the now-discredited tale of a hacked computer at the Burlington, Vermont Electricity Department by sending the utility’s managers misleading and alarming information, then leaked a story they certainly knew to be false and continued to put out a misleading line to the media.
Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story of Russian hacking of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011. The story of how DHS twice circulated false stories of Russian efforts to sabotage U.S. “critical infrastructure” is a cautionary tale of how senior leaders in a bureaucracy-on-the-make take advantage of every major political development to advance its own interests, with scant regard for the truth.
Real Clear Politics, Trump's Honeymoon Over Before It Starts, Alexis Simendinger, Jan. 13, 2017. Forget about the honeymoon. Donald Trump will move into the White House bolstered by less public support and goodwill than his recent predecessors enjoyed, and his weaker standing will impact governing choices he faces, according to experts.
Why is that important? Because the president-elect has an ambitious but vaguely detailed agenda he wants to enact before the end of the year. He has no domestic governing experience, and no international training as a representative of more than 300 million people or as a commander of the U.S. military.
A Quinnipiac University survey this week found that 51 percent of the public disapproves of Trump’s transition performance. Gallup reported a month ago that respondents were evenly split (48 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved) when asked how they thought Trump was handling his preparations to govern.
That split contrasted with the three presidents before the incoming 45th commander in chief. Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each climbed above 65 percent in job approval during their transitions into the White House (Obama, the first African-American president, soared to 75 percent).
Washington Post, Carson pushes increased private-sector role in HUD programs, Jose A. DelReal and David Weigel, Jan. 13, 2017. Ben Carson on Thursday detailed his vision for the Department of Housing and Urban Development: one that integrates government assistance programs with “holistic” solutions and greater involvement of businesses and faith groups.
Carson, speaking before a generally friendly Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, repeatedly suggested that the private sector should play a larger role in addressing poverty and systemic inequities, investing in “human capital” as a means of increasing quality of life and profits.
Carson’s testimony marked his most extensive comments on housing and urban development. Urban policy experts were closely parsing Carson’s remarks and responses to lawmakers for clues about his vision on the government’s role in housing policy, which he rarely spoke about publicly before his nomination.
TPM, Chaffetz Demands Ethics Chief Testify In House Following Criticism Of Trump, Caitlin MacNeal, Jan. 13, 2017. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the director of the Office of Government Ethics on Thursday demanding that he sit for an interview with the committee about his public statements on Donald Trump.
Chaffetz's letter follows public remarks from the office's director, Walter M. Shaub Jr., during which he criticized Trump's plans to separate himself from his business as inadequate. Chaffetz (shown in an official photo with a flag ) focused on a series of tweets published by the Office of Government Ethics in November praising Trump for divesting, even though the President-elect had not made any such announcement, and encouraging Trump to make a clean cut from his business when he takes office.
The tweets also revealed that the ethics office had discussed divestiture with the Trump transition team.
In his letter, Chaffetz said he was concerned that the Office of Government Ethics (whose director Shaub is shown in a photo) was "blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance." He said that the tweets about Trump's plans to address potential conflicts of interest were confusing since they made it unclear whether the office approved of Trump's plans.
World Crisis Radio, Chaos in the Health Care System: Congress votes on Friday the 13th, Webster G. Tarpley (shown in file photo), Jan. 13, 2014 (1 hour, 13 min.). Excerpted from Tarpley comments: We are now in uncharted territory, chaos in the health care system…Thousands of lives will be lost. How many thousands? I don’t know.
If you don’t have any health care you better get some. Get yourself into Obamacare right now so that you’ll have something in your hand to negotiate with or stake a claim. You’ve got a little time, not a lot, maybe weeks.
The [Republican] promise was “Repeal and Replace.” There is no "replace" and there can’t be, given the ideology of a tribe of extreme ideologues, the Republican Party. There cannot be a replacement if you’re going to have the obligation of hospitals to treat people who come to the hospital with no insurance. There’s also the problem of pre-existing conditions. Republican ideology prevents any effective answer to those two problems.
You're heard of the scare tactic of rising insurance rates. Remember, the increases in premiums and deductibles are being done by whom? Obama? No. They are being done by private insurance companies. The Republicans try to hide this important fact.
We're not really fighting here for the perpetuation of Obamacare. The original sin was to give power to those people instead of "Medicare for All" at a cost of about $150 a month per person, with subsidies for the truly destitute.
Alleged Russian Pressure On Trump
NBC News, John Lewis: ‘I Don’t See Trump as a Legitimate President,’ Matt Rivera, Jan. 13, 2017. In an exclusive interview with NBC News' "Meet the Press," Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said he does not believe Donald Trump is a "legitimate president," citing Russian interference in last year's election. Asked whether he would try to forge a relationship with the president-elect, Lewis said that he believes in forgiveness, but added, "it's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president."
When pressed to explain why, he cited allegations of Russian hacks during the campaign that led to the release of internal documents from the Democratic National Committee, and Hillary Clinton's campaign co-chairman, John Podesta. "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis (shown in an official photo) told NBC News' Chuck Todd.
Trump appeared to acknowledge this week that Russia did engage in hacking during the campaign, but he has vigorously argued that any foreign interference had no impact on the election's outcome.
Washington Post, Senate Intel chiefs promise investigation of Trump-Russia ties as House Democrats accuse FBI director of stonewalling, Staff report, Jan. 13, 2017. Democrats are furious with FBI Director James Comey for refusing to say whether the FBI is probing alleged ties between president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders announced late Friday that they would look into allegations of links between Russia and the 2016 political campaigns as part of a broader review of the intelligence community’s report on Russian hacking.
Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that their investigation, announced on Tuesday, would review “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns” — a scope that includes allegations of ties between president-elect Donald J. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Their announcement came as additional House Democrats called for FBI Director James B. Comey’s resignation, following a closed-door briefing from spy chiefs about Russia’s alleged election-related hacking in which they say Comey stonewalled members about whether the FBI is investigating links between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
Democrats accused Comey of being “inconsistent” for refusing to confirm or deny whether or not the FBI was investigating the alleged ties, despite his willingness to frequently update Congress on the status of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. They described the exchange with Comey as “contentious” and even “combative,” while leaders accused him of using a double standard.
“One standard was applied to the Russians and another standard applied to Hillary Clinton,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who one member described as “just outraged” at Comey’s resistance to questions. Pelosi “really let Comey have it” during the meeting, the member said, who spoke on background because the meeting was classified.
Telegraph, Britain dragged into Donald Trump 'dirty dossier' row amid claims Whitehall knew of the file, Gordon Rayner, Claire Newell and Ruth Sherlock, Jan. 13, 2017. Britain has been dragged into the frantic row over the “dirty dossier” on Donald Trump after it was claimed that the Government gave the FBI permission to speak to the former MI6 officer who compiled it.
Sources in the US have told The Telegraph that Christopher Steele, a former spy, spoke to officials in London before he handed the document to the FBI and met one of its agents. The document, which contained allegations of lurid sexual behavior by Mr Trump in Russian hotels, was leaked earlier this week, and Britain now finds itself caught in the crossfire of accusations between Russia and the US.
On Thursday Russia publicly accused MI6 of “briefing both ways” against Russia and Mr Trump and suggested Mr Steele was still working for the Secret Intelligence Service.
Mr Trump has angrily rejected the information in the dossier as “fake” and the involvement of a former MI6 officer is unlikely to help Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US when he becomes president later this month.
Sir Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia, described the dossier as looking "pretty shaky". He told Sky News: "For example, it claims that the Russians began to cultivate Donald Trump five years ago. "If they did that they showed remarkable prescience because at the time he had nothing to do with American politics." Mr Steele was hired to find information on Mr Trump by a Washington-based consultancy that was being paid by Republican opponents of the president-elect – the BBC claimed they were acting on behalf of fellow nominee Jeb Bush – and, later, by Democrats.
Moon of Alabama, "35 Pages" Attack Against Trump Fails, Anonymous, Jan. 13, 2017. The tale about the fake accusations about Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election becomes more gripping by each day. They are part of a larger war between various groups of the "elites" but also include infighting between U.S. government organizations.
We know that there was heavy Ukrainian influence on the side of Clinton in the election and in the current smear campaign against Trump and Russia. But it certainly wasn't Ukraine alone that is behind this. There are more international connections.
The "former" desk officer for Russia in the British MI6 Christopher Steele was the one who prepared the 35 pages of obviously false claims about Russian connections with and kompromat against Trump. There are so many inconsistencies in these pages that anyone knowledgeable about the workings in Moscow could immediately identify it as fake. Putin personally started working on Trump five years ago when Trump had no political role or hope whatsoever? A Trump associate met Russian officials in Prague even though he has never been in the Czech Republic?
Even the second, more official handover to the FBI still did not result in the hoped for publication of the allegations. But by that time Clinton was widely expected to win the election anyway so no further steps were taken.
After Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) unexpectedly won the election a new effort was launched to publish the smears. The Director of National Intelligence decided (or was ordered to) "brief" the President, the President elect and Congress on the obviously dubious accusations. It was this decision that made sure that the papers would eventually be published. The attack was a deep state attempt to stage a coup against Trump.
Trump has deliberately rattled the members of the deep state with his brazen criticism of U.S. intelligence findings about Russian hacking. Deep government does not stand idly by, as David Runciman wrote recently in the London Review of Books, and allow itself to be shat upon by newcomers. The president-elect has enemies in profusion on the inside who are practiced at the art of the leak. They may have had no official role in this attempt to stage a coup against Trump before he’s even inaugurated, but they must be cheering BuzzFeed’s naughtiness as they sharpen their knives for his administration.
This blog reported and warned a month ago of such "elite" coup attempts. (See also: Moon of Alabama, The "Elite" Coup Of 2016, Anonymous, Dec. 15, 2016. There is an "elite" coup attempt underway against the U.S. President-elect Trump. The coup is orchestrated by the camp of Hillary Clinton in association with the CIA and neoconservative powers in Congress. The fight has since become more intense.)
Counter-Punch, The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence, Jeffrey St. Clair, Jan. 13, 2017. Barack Obama was in Brasilia on March 19, 2011, when he announced with limited fanfare the latest regime change war of his presidency. The bombing of Libya had begun with a hail of cruise missile attacks and air strikes. It was something of an impromptu intervention, orchestrated largely by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and the diva of vengeance Samantha Power (shown in an official photo), always hot for a saturation bombing in the name of human rights.
Obama soon upped the ante by suggesting that it was time for Qaddafi to go. The Empire had run out of patience with the mercurial colonel. The vague aims of the Libyan war had moved ominously from enforcing “a no-fly zone” to seeking regime change. Bombing raids soon targeted Qaddafi and his family. Coming in the wake of the extra-judicial assassination of Osama Bin Laden in a blood-spattered home invasion, Qaddafi rightly feared Obama wanted his body in a bag, too.
Absent mass protests against the impending destruction of Tripoli, it fell to Congress to take some tentative steps to challenge the latest unauthorized and unprovoked war. At an earlier time in the history of the Republic, Obama’s arrogant defiance of Congress and the War Powers Act of 1973 might have provoked a constitutional crisis. But these are duller and more attenuated days, where such vital matters have been rendered down into a kind of hollow political theater.
All the players duly act their parts, but everyone, even the cable news audience, realizes that it is just for show. The wars will proceed. The Congress will fund them. The people will have no say in the matter. As Oscar Wilde quipped: “All the world’s a stage, badly cast.”
Intercept, Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump, Alex Emmons, Jan. 13, 2017. With only days until Donald Trump takes office, the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.
The change was in the works long before there was any expectation that someone like Trump might become president. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself.
Gateway Pundit, CIA Coup? Ex-Spook: Langley ‘Taking Traitor Trump Out Now,’ Kristinn Taylor, Jan. 13, 2017. Former spook John Schindler pronounced on Twitter Thursday night that the CIA is trying to take out President-elect Donald Trump before he is sworn in as president next Friday, January 20. Schindler has long accused Trump of being a Russian stooge.
Schindler’s bio for his Observer column reads, “John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee.”
Schindler made his comment about the CIA in reaction to a report by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that an Obama administration offical told him Trump’s national security adviser retired Lt. General Michael Flynn made several calls to Russia’s U.S. ambassador the day last month that President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for allegedly interfering in the presidential election to benefit Trump.
Michigan-born reporter Serena Shim died following car crash in Turkey in 2014, but her legacy is celebrated at Arab American National Museum in Michigan. Shim is described as a hero
Middle East Eye, From war zones to museum: The legacy of Serena Shim, Mark Mondalek (shown in a file photo below), Jan. 13, 2017. Artifacts from the celebrated career of journalist and foreign correspondent Serena Shim were recently put on display at the Arab American National Museum (AANM), a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, in Dearborn, Michigan. Shim, who was originally from Detroit, spent her professional career overseas, broadcasting from such places as Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Ukraine.
She was most well-known for her fearless reporting on the presence of the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants operating freely along the Turkey-Syria border. “The Arab American National Museum is thrilled to accept the artefacts donated by the family of Serena Shim into our permanent collection, and to display them with other recent donations,” said Elyssa Bisoski, AANM’s curator of collections. “The museum tells the story of Arab Americans, starting with the earliest immigrants, and Serena’s exhibit helps bring that story into the modern day.”
The glass-covered exhibit at AANM -- the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture -- features various press ID cards that belonged to the late Lebanese-American reporter, along with her passport, driving permit and tablet. “She is being commemorated back where she was born and raised, for the work that she did abroad,” said Shim’s mother, Judith Poe. “To see her in a museum today speaks volumes about all that she was able to accomplish in her life.”
Shim died in October 2014 while covering a siege by IS militants on the Syrian-Kurdish border city of Kobani for Iran’s PressTV, after a car crash in southeastern Turkey. She was 29 years old. Shim grew up in the Detroit suburbs of Dearborn and Livonia. After high school, she moved to Lebanon, settling near south Beirut in her father’s hometown of Bourj el-Barajneh.
She was in Syria when the peaceful uprising began in 2011, and later went undercover inside Turkey to confront the state’s complicity in the conflict. She found herself in uncharted territory as a correspondent just six days into her new assignment after discovering that the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) was actively inquiring about her location.
Shim’s employer advised her to go public immediately and disclose the entire disconcerting affair during a live telecast. Evoking her past reports as evidence, she ruminated on what the MIT’s interest in her might have been, citing her firsthand reportage on IS and al-Qaeda-affiliated militant groups crossing freely into Syria from the Turkish side of the Bab al-Hawa border via “World Food Organisation trucks” and other non-governmental organisation covers.
Two days later, the rental car that Shim was riding in was involved in a car crash in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province. Her family found the circumstances of the accident suspicious and alleged foul play by Turkish authorities. She died allegedly of heart failure a half-hour after arriving at the hospital.
Washington Post, Democrats can’t win until they recognize how bad Obama’s financial policies were, Matt Stoller, Jan. 12, 2017. He had opportunities to help the working class, and he passed them up. President Obama can’t place the blame for Hillary Clinton’s poor performance purely on her campaign. On the contrary, the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels.
Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point.
Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.
Alleged Russian Blackmail Scandal
Washington Post, Justice Department inspector general to investigate pre-election actions by department and FBI, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 12, 2017. The Justice Department inspector general will review broad allegations of misconduct involving the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices and the bureau’s controversial decision shortly before the election to announce the probe had resumed, the inspector general announced Thursday.
The probe will be wide ranging — encompassing the FBI’s various public statements on the matter, whether its deputy director should have been recused and whether FBI or other Justice Department employees leaked nonpublic information, according to a news release from Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
Lawmakers and others had called previously for the inspector general to probe the FBI’s pre-election actions when it came to the Clinton probe, alleging that FBI Director James B. Comey bucked long-standing policies with his communications about the case and that information seemed to have leaked inappropriately — perhaps to former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Washington Post, A British ex-spy was identified as the Trump dossier source. Now he’s hiding, Karla Adam, Jan. 12, 2017. Christopher Steele apparently caught wind that his identity could be made public and hit the road. But not before arranging for his neighbor to look after his cats.
Radar Online, ‘Forgery!’ Donald Trump Spy File Is ‘Bogus,’ Security Expert Claims, Sharon Churcher, Jan. 12, 2017. See the typos and other 'tell-tale signs' the shocking new document could be a fake. The dirty dossier claiming Russia hatched a blackmail plot against Donald Trump is a “forgery,” according to a former US intelligence expert who has analyzed the 35-page document for RadarOnline. Wayne Madsen, who worked in disinformation analysis at the US Navy’s Washington DC telecommunications command, told Radar exclusively that he believes the dossier that surfaced online Tuesday night is a crude attempt to discredit the President-Elect.
“The entire script is more Austin Powers than James Bond,” Madsen told Radar. The dossier, which contained countless sleazy allegations about the President-Elect “appears to be a hybrid,” Madsen claimed, “in which genuine U.S. and/or British intelligence information – such as what appears to be a standard report on Russian cyber-targeting – has been thrown together with bogus material in an attempt to make the entire document appear authentic.”
According to reports, the document supposedly was prepared by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, and details alleged collusion between Trump and Russian operatives. But Madsen told Radar that he believes that the header on the dossier, labeling it “Confidential/Sensitive Source,” is an immediate giveaway that it is a hoax.
Alleged Trump Conflicts of Interest
Washington Post, After his rebuke of Trump, federal ethics chief called to testify before House lawmakers, Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. Walter M. Shaub Jr. (shown in a photo) has been in Republican crosshairs for his rebuke of Donald Trump’s plan to separate his business empire from the presidency. (The office is described here.)
New York Times, Trump’s Business ‘Separation’ Plan Does Nothing of the Kind, Editorial board, Jan. 12, 2017. First, if Mr. Trump continues to own the businesses, he will continue to receive payments they earn from dealings with foreign governments. Most if not all of these payments will violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which expressly forbids anyone in public office from receiving any gifts, salary or profits of any kind from transactions with foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Apart from exceptions already set forth in the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, Congress, even though now controlled by Republicans, has shown no appetite for making further exceptions.
Absent such consent from Congress, President Trump will be in violation of the Constitution as of next Friday with respect to, among other things, loans from foreign-government-controlled banks, leases of Trump office space to foreign-government-controlled companies, foreign governments and diplomats renting rooms in Trump hotels and any investments that are made alongside foreign sovereign wealth funds. The plan announced on Wednesday does nothing to fix this problem because if President Trump still owns the businesses, or he is the beneficiary of a trust that owns the businesses, he receives the economic benefit — the “emolument” — from all of these transactions.
Washington Post, Obamacare is one step closer to repeal after Senate advances budget resolution, Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a budget resolution instructing House and Senate committees to begin work on legislation to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. The House is expected to take up the legislation Friday.
Senate Democrats made a late-night show of resistance against gutting the Affordable Care Act by forcing Republicans to take politically charged votes against protecting Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care programs. The measure narrowly passed without the support of any Democrats.
Washington Post, CIA nominee says he would defy Trump if ordered to resume such techniques as waterboarding, Karoun Demirjian and Joby Warrick, Jan. 12, 2017. During his confirmation hearing, Rep. Mike Pompeo told senators that as CIA director he would not only commit to cross the president-elect, but that Donald Trump would expect him to do so. Pompeo also told senators that he considered the intelligence community’s report on Russia to be “sound” as an analytical product.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said Thursday he would “absolutely not” comply with any orders from Donald Trump to start using enhanced interrogation techniques again. During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo told senators that as CIA director, he would not only commit to cross Trump, but that the president-elect would expect him to do so. Trump said during his campaign that he would consider resurrecting interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
“You have my commitment that every day, I will not only speak truth to power, but I will demand that the men and women … who live their life doing that will be willing, able, and follow my instructions to do that each and every day,” Pompeo (shown in official photo) said.
Washington Post, Politics has always been post-truth. Trump’s just honest about it, Barton Swaim, Jan. 12, 2017. Barton Swaim is the author of "The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics." What does President-elect Donald Trump really mean when he praises Russian President Vladimir Putin? No one knows yet; perhaps Trump doesn’t even know.
But it’s curious, isn’t it, that so many of his critics take his flattery to be genuine expressions of his attitude, when everything else about his speech and conduct suggests that he often does not mean what he says. That’s not quite the same thing as saying he’s a liar. If Trump is a liar, he is an unconventional one. His inventions and madcap exaggerations seem intended less to deceive than to scandalize and provoke.
Atlantic, A ‘One-Stop Shop’ for the Alt-Right, Rosie Gray, Jan. 12, 2017. The white nationalist leader Richard Spencer is setting up a headquarters in the Washington area. Richard Spencer, one of the best-known leaders of the white nationalist movement that has adopted the name “alt-right,” has—by his standards—been laying relatively low lately. Spencer’s never shied away from the media, but an outbreak of Nazi salutes caught on video by The Atlantic at his organization’s conference in November caused an overwhelming uproar, making Spencer a target within his own movement and threatening his carefully cultivated image as the alt-right’s approachable face.
Add to that a planned neo-Nazi march against Jews in Spencer’s town of Whitefish, Montana, stemming from his feud with a local woman whom he accused of harassing his mother, a dilletantish congressional-run trial balloon, and getting banned from Twitter for a while, and it hasn’t been the best couple of months for Spencer. Meanwhile, the movement he takes credit for naming has been riven by internal feuds over “Hailgate.”
This month, Spencer’s rebooting again: He is renting a “hub” for the alt-right movement in a townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Spencer and Jason Jorjani, the editor-in-chief of Arktos, a publishing arm associated with the alt-right, have bought the domain name altright.com. Spencer and Jorjani met at the conference for the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s innocuously named think tank, where attendees gave Nazi salutes as Spencer shouted “Hail Trump” from the stage. They quickly formed a bond, and are now joining forces to brand themselves as the intellectual leaders of the alt-right.
Trump, GOP Policy Proposals
Washington Post, Deportation force ‘not happening,’ Paul Ryan tells undocumented family, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. The House speaker (shown in an official photo) said he was working to find a “good, humane solution” for immigrant families protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Washington Post, House GOP leaders attempt to quell concerns before key vote to begin unwinding Obamacare, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. House Republican leaders attempted to quell concerns of a skittish rank and file before a key vote Friday to begin unwinding the Affordable Care Act. The assurances came after lawmakers across the GOP’s ideological divides sounded anxious notes this week about advancing legislation that would repeal Obamacare without firm plans for its replacement.
Washington Post, New feds could be fired for ‘no cause at all’ by Trump under planned legislation, Joe Davidson, Jan. 12, 2017. Feds should put on their body armor now. A range of Republican proposals on federal hiring, firing and retiring will have them under fire during the Trump administration. One flying under the radar poses a fundamental threat to the purpose of the civil service. It would essentially dispose of federal employee due process rights. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) considers his bill “a tool for … President [-elect Donald] Trump to use in draining the swamp.” In the process, it would eviscerate civil service protections for all new federal employees. His deceptively named “Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act” says staffers hired one year after enactment or later “shall be hired on an at-will basis.”
Intercept, Cory Booker Joins Senate Republicans to Kill Measure to Import Cheaper Medicine From Canada, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 12, 2017. Bernie Sanders introduced a very simple symbolic amendment Wednesday night, urging the federal government to allow Americans to purchase pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they are considerably cheaper. Such unrestricted drug importation is currently prohibited by law.
The policy has widespread support among Americans: one Kaiser poll taken in 2015 found that 72 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing for importation. President-elect Donald Trump also campaigned on a promise to allow for importation.
The Senate voted down the amendment 52-46, with two senators not voting. Unusually, the vote was not purely along party lines: 13 Republicans joined Sanders and a majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, while 13 Democrats and a majority of Republicans opposed it. One of those Democrats was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who is considered a rising star in the party and a possible 2020 presidential contender.
Democratic Action Plan on Gerrymandering
OpEdNews, Holder on Redistricting: Chair of the Newly Formed National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Marta Steele (author of Grassroots, Geeks, Pros and Pols), Jan. 12, 2017. Former Attorney General Eric Holder this morning announced the formation of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), to combat gerrymandering, euphemistically referred to as "redistricting." Holder will head the group, supported by soon to be ex-president Obama, among many others, including Congressman Mark Schauer (D-MI) and representatives of the Democratic Governors Association.
The event was held in a crowded room at DC's Center for American Progress (CAP). It consisted of Holder's announcement and discussion of NDRC's formation followed by a one-on-one follow-up interview by CAP president Neera Tanden. She compared this country's map of electoral districts to a "complicated jigsaw puzzle" and the many blatant partisans drawing them up as "kids guarding candy jars." These districts are drawn up at every level from federal (congressional) to state to city to town.
The basic stimulus for the formation of NDRC, said Holder, was the upcoming US census, on the basis of which, every 10 years (most of the time) electoral districts are drawn up. Quoting Tom Paine at least, among many others who have reiterated the statement, Holder said that "voting is a basic right without which all others are useless." We all know that lives were sacrificed or at least offered up to spread the franchise as far as it can go: beyond property-owning white men to all white men to women to Native Americans and to blacks, the most sinuous path of all, the one most often threatened and interfered with, by gerrymandering among many other devices I have written about before. (see my book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols . . . " [Columbus: CICJ Press, 2012]).
Holder (shown in a file photo by Noel St. John) called the recent 2016 election the worst impediment to voting rights so far, hardly reflecting the voters' choice, which was adamantly reflected in HRC's popular vote total that exceeded Trump's by nearly 3 million votes. Something is rotten, rippled through the audience.
The former Attorney General noted a fact most of us are aware of: that in 2012 Democratic Representatives amassed 1.4 million more votes than did Republicans, and yet the latter occupy a "huge majority" of the seats. Those up for grabs every two years are few. Incumbents retain their seats 97 percent of the time, with only 10 percent of the seats in realistic contention, according to CAP. Politicians choose their constituents rather than the inverse situation that democracy requires. In 2014 Democrats lost 1,000 elected positions to the GOP.
Holder pinpointed gerrymandering as the principal cause and a dire situation that has attracted the attention of President Obama and should in turn involve all of us who want to fight for fair elections. We can participate at many levels, including joining the politics dance ourselves by running for office. As Obama noted in his farewell speech the other day, all it takes is a clipboard and some signatures [and chutzpah, he didn't add].
CIA Favorability poll January 2017 (NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll)
NBC News, Democrats Now Give the CIA Higher Marks than Republicans Do. That’s a Really Big Shift, Carrie Dann, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump has spent the weeks since the election openly questioning the Central Intelligence Agency's assessments about Russian interference in the fall contest, prompting his foes to laud the apolitical and fundamentally patriotic mission of America's intelligence officers.
But as with so many other U.S. institutions, public perceptions of the intelligence community have a whole lot to do with politics. While the CIA still remains relatively popular — much more so than Congress or either political party — the past two decades have shown significant fluctuation in how Republicans and Democrats view the agency, according to polling conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.
And for the first time since the survey asked about the CIA back in 2002, Democrats now have a more positive view of the nation's foreign intelligence agency than Republicans do.
In the wake of Trump's unvarnished skepticism about the CIA's assessment that Russia did act to influence the outcome of the election in his favor, a December NBC/WSJ poll showed that 29 percent of Republicans view the CIA positively, compared to 24 percent who view it negatively (Net favorability of +4 percent.) But for Democrats, it was 46 percent positive, 14 percent negative (Net favorability of +32 percent). (President Obama is shown in a file photo speaking at CIA headquarters.)
War On Pornography?
Huffington Post, A Porn-Free America? Republicans Pledge Expurgation Of ‘Public Health Crisis’ That Is ‘Destroying The Lives Of Millions,’ Jesse Jackman, Jan. 12, 2017. The war on pornography has begun. And while it may seem insignificant compared to some of Donald Trump’s plans for his first 100 days in office, it nevertheless represents a very real threat to a sui generis prerogative of every American consumer: the right to enjoy adult films.
On July 16, 2016, Trump signed “The Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge,” drafted by the anti-pornography organization Enough is Enough. The eight-page document, which is popular with the Republican Party’s conservative base, purports to shield children from “dangerous [online] content and activity,” but more generally calls for the establishment of “a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture.” By signing the pledge, Trump ― who has appeared in three softcore porn videos and who opened the first casino strip club in Atlantic City in 2013 ― aligned himself with the position that pornography is a public health hazard, an assessment with which most scientists and public health specialists disagree.
Cuba Policy & Immigration News
Washington Post, Obama ending special immigration status for migrants fleeing Cuba, Karen DeYoung, Jan. 12, 2017. The new policy eliminates a temporary parole period that allowed Cubans to enter the U.S. while waiting for a green card. The change applies to those entering by land or by sea.
Unz Review, Risks And Opportunities For 2017, The Saker, Jan. 12, 2017. I submit that 2017 will be the “Year of Trump” because one of roughly three things will happen: either Trump will fully deliver on his threats and promises, or Trump deliver on some, but far from all, his threats and promises or, finally, Trump will be neutralized by the Neocon-run Congress, media, intelligence community. He might even be impeached or murdered. Of course, there is an infinity of sub-possibilities here, but for the purpose of this discussion I will call the first option “Trump heavy”, the second one “Trump light” and the third one “Trump down.”
Before discussing the possible implications of these three main options, we need to at least set the stage with a reminder of what kind of situation President Trump will be walking into. I discussed some of them in my previous analysis entitled “2016: the year of Russia’s triumph” and will only mention some of the key outcomes of the past year in this discussion. They are: 1) The USA has lost the war against Syria. 2) Europe is in a state of total chaos.
Freedom Award For Biden
Huffington Post, Obama Awards Biden The Presidential Medal Of Freedom In Surprise White House Tribute, Marina Fang, Jan. 12, 2017. He called Biden “the best vice president America has ever had.” Biden (shown in a photo), already teary during the tribute, began crying when the award was announced. “I had no inkling,” Biden said, taking the podium after Obama awarded him the medal.
Obama honored Biden’s lifetime of public service, including his decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president. He pointed to Biden’s championing of the Violence Against Women Act, his diplomacy, his “cancer moonshot,” and his “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses. “That’s a pretty remarkable legacy, an amazing career in public service. It is, as Joe once said, a big deal,” Obama said, pausing between the “big” and the “deal."
Bloomberg Business Week, Davos Wonders If It’s Part of the Problem, Jan. 12, 2017. Kenneth Rogoff can pinpoint the moment he started to grow concerned Donald Trump would be the next U.S. president: It was when Rogoff’s fellow attendees at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last January said it could never happen.
The repeated failure of business and political elites to predict what’s coming — last year, that included the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union — doesn’t strike those returning this month to the Swiss Alps as very funny. After a year in which political upsets roiled financial markets and killed off the careers of once-dominant Davos-going politicians, the concern for delegates attending this year’s meeting isn’t that their forecasts are often wrong, but that their worldview is.
Associated Press via Las Vegas Sun, GOP concerns about deficits, debt disappear in Trump era, Andrew Taylor, Jan. 11, 2017. For decades, congressional Republicans have pushed to slash the budget and reduce the size of the federal government, especially during the eight years Democratic President Barack Obama was in office. Now that Republican President-elect Donald Trump is poised to take charge, deficits and debt just don't seem to matter to the GOP.
The first significant piece of legislation under unified Republican rule is a budget measure that, as a prerequisite for a speedy repeal of the Affordable Care Act, endorses deficits adding almost $10 trillion to the debt over the coming decade.
Soon to follow is the health repeal measure itself, which could erase more than $1 trillion in "Obamacare" taxes that the party has previously held onto in earlier budget plans to keep its promise to balance the budget.
Republicans will also turn to a huge, $1 trillion-plus spending bill to wrap up unfinished Cabinet agency budgets. It's likely to carry Trump priorities — billions of dollars for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and even more for the Pentagon.
Trump and incoming top White House officials such as his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, are making it clear that the new administration doesn't support tackling the financial problems of the huge benefit programs that are the biggest drivers of future debt, Social Security and Medicare. A more pressing priority is a huge infrastructure spending plan.
Washington Post, Senate grills secretary of state nominee about his friendships with autocratic leaders, Ed O'Keefe and Anne Gearan, Jan. 11, 2017. Longtime ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson is set to spend much of the day answering questions about his leadership of the oil giant, where he amassed a personal fortune of approximately $400 million, and the deals and relationships he forged in Russia and the Middle East. Tillerson has said that he would separate his business background from his new role.
Washington Post, Trump outlines plan to shift assets, give up management of his company, Drew Harwell, Jan. 11, 2017. But Trump's commitment will not resolve what federal officials and ethics advisers say is his most key conflict: His continuing ownership of his business, the Trump Organization.
Huffington Post, Black Dem: Testifying Last In Sessions’ Hearing Is Like Being Sent To ‘Back Of The Bus,’ Jennifer Bendery, Jan. 11, 2017. Who makes John Lewis wait to talk about civil rights? The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus slammed Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday for making black lawmakers wait until the end of a hearing to testify against U.S. attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, comparing it to “being made to go to the back of the bus.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who leads the 49-member caucus, joined Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, on the final panel in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sessions’ nomination. Committee chairmen often let lawmakers testify first in hearings, as a courtesy, before members of the public. In this case, Grassley opted not to do so. That meant lawmakers had to wait to lodge their opposition after public testimony was heard. This didn’t sit well with Richmond.
A Grassley spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on why CBC members were scheduled last. But a Politico reporter said Grassley told her it was just the way it worked out.
Alleged Russian Blackmail Scandal
New York Times, ‘I Think It Was Russia,’ Trump Says About D.N.C. Hacking, Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Weisman, Jan. 11, 2017. President-elect Trump conceded for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of Democrats during the presidential campaign. But at the news conference he vigorously denied the swirl of allegations about his ties to Russia. For the first time, President-elect Donald J. Trump concedes Russia likely meddled in the election.
■ Mr. Trump says he will present a replacement for the Affordable Care Act very soon.
■ A news conference descends into a circus.
■ The president-elect presents his plan to distance himself from his businesses.
Washington Post, Trump cites Kremlin statement to deny reports of Russia ties, asks, ‘Are we living in Nazi Germany?’ Abby Phillip, Jan. 11, 2017. The president-elect charged via Twitter that his “crooked opponents” were trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in “one last shot" at him.
Wall Street Journal, Christopher Steele, Ex-British Intelligence Officer Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump, Bradley Hope, Michael Rothfeld and Alan Cullison, Jan. 11, 2017. Former spy is director of London-based Orbis Intelligence Ltd. A former British intelligence officer now working for a private security-and-investigations firm produced the dossier of unverified allegations about President-elect Donald Trump’s activities and connections in Russia, people familiar with the matter say.
Justice Integrity Project editor's note: UK authorities issued a DA-Notice warning to journalists not to identify any former intelligence officers reputedly involved. A DA-Notice (Defense Advisory Notice) — called a Defense Notice (D-Notice) until 1993 — is an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. The system is still in use in the United Kingdom.
McClatchy News, Russian tech expert named in Trump report says US intelligence never contacted him, Kevin G. Hall and Tim Johnson, Jan. 11, 2016. A Russian venture capitalist and tech expert whose name and company are mentioned in the now-notorious document alleging connections between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers says no intelligence officers have ever contacted him about the accusations, which he says are false.
A report compiled by a former Western intelligence official as opposition research against Trump was made public Tuesday when BuzzFeed posted its 35 pages. The document included unsubstantiated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin. It also alleged that global tech firm XBT Holding, with operations in Dallas, was instrumental in the hack of leaked Democratic Party emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and fellow Democrats.
XBT, owner of Dallas-based enterprise-hosting company Webzilla, is run by a successful Russian tech startup expert, Aleksej Gubarev. In a phone interview from Cyprus, where he said he’d lived since 2002, Gubarev said he was surprised to see his name in the report. “I don’t know why I was there,” Gubarev said, adding that perhaps a competitor sought to discredit him. “I still don’t understand the true reason for this report.”
The salacious innuendoes in the periodic reports about Trump’s personal life dominated social media headlines. The mention of Webzilla and Gubarev was among the more specific allegations: that XBT and affiliates “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”
Gubarev said he operated 75,000 servers across the globe and got real-time information if there had been hacking or illicit activity tied to his businesses. There is no evidence of that, he said, adding that no one has contacted him. “I have a physical office in Dallas. Nobody contacted me,” said Gubarev, adding that 40 percent of his business is handled over the servers it runs in Dallas and the United States accounts for about 27 percent of his global business.
A federal law enforcement source told McClatchy that the document was being examined as part of a broader FBI inquiry into Russia’s influence on the U.S. election but wouldn’t characterize its credibility. A source familiar with the former Western intelligence expert who compiled the dossier told McClatchy that the ex-spy has extensive experience in tracking activities in the Kremlin.
The report alleges that Gubarev and another hacking expert were recruited under duress by the FSB, the Russian intelligence-agency successor to the KGB. Gubarev said he had not been threatened or blackmailed, nor had his mother, who lives in Russia. Gubarev’s Facebook page shows his wife, Anna Gubareva, and him on the bow rail of a fast-moving luxury yacht. His profile picture shows him behind the wheel of a vintage convertible Citroen. He is the public face of a number of tech companies around the globe.
XBT offers an array of tech services, from dedicated hosting of servers and cloud-based storage to developing apps for mobile phones and offering virtual private servers. His company advertises specialized services to software developers, advertisers, gaming companies and electronic-commerce enterprises. It also operates data centers in Russia, Asia, Europe and Dallas.
If law enforcement wants to talk with him, Gubarev said, his door is open. “I’m ready for any investigation. I’m ready to cooperate with everybody, he said.
Washington Post, After the Trump dossier, James Comey is running out of excuses, James Downie, Jan. 11, 2017. James Downie is The Washington Post’s Digital Opinions Editor. The rash of stories on Donald Trump and Russia published Tuesday leave many questions unanswered. The allegations, as sensational as some are and as damning as others are, are just that: allegations. Intelligence agencies (not to mention countless news outlets) have sought to verify them for months now, with little or no success. The fact remains that we know little more now than we did last week about Trump’s ties to Russia and whether Vladimir Putin’s government has compromising information on the president-elect.
There is one thing we do know, though: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention in the election last October — controversial at the time — looks completely indefensible now.
Comey (shown in an official photo) understands that the FBI weighing in publicly on open investigations, when charges are still being proved, is unwise. Doing so puts those being investigated at the mercy of innuendo and rumor. Yet Comey ditched this rule when he notified Congress 11 days before the election that the FBI was looking into whether there were previously unrevealed emails from Hillary Clinton on a laptop belonging to her aide’s estranged husband. (It should also be noted that this followed months of anti-Clinton leaks from Rudy Giuliani’s friends in the FBI’s New York field office.)
In other words, while Comey stayed silent about new accusations against Trump, he piped up about a big nothing-burger against Clinton.
Intelligence Claims: Anti-Trump
Mediaite, No, That Trump/Russia Dossier Isn’t an Elaborate 4chan Hoax, Alex Griswold, Jan. 11, 2017. Despite rumors being spread on pro-Donald Trump and alt right websites, there is no evidence that the document posted by Buzzfeed detailing a supposed link between Trump and Russia is an elaborate 4chan hoax. Townhall, for example, published a piece titled “Did 4Chan Troll The CIA?” which was later picked up by the Drudge Report alongside posts from conspiratorial and alt-right sites. By Wednesday, it was gospel among the Trump faithful that 4chan was behind it all.
But the notion that 4chan was the source for the memo or any of the information in it is more than just baseless – it’s easily disproved. The supposed “proof” for the 4chan genesis theory was a November 1 post on 4chan’s /pol/ board in which an anonymous user claimed he gave Republican “Never Trump” operative Rick Wilson a fake story about Trump and Russian spies.
Intelligence Claims: Pro-Trump
The Intercept, The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer, Glenn Greenwald (shown in file photo), Jan. 11, 2017. The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combating those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.
But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.
Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?
All of these toxic ingredients were on full display yesterday as the Deep State unleashed its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump: vesting credibility in and then causing the public disclosure of a completely unvetted and unverified document, compiled by a paid, anonymous operative while he was working for both GOP and Democratic opponents of Trump, accusing Trump of a wide range of crimes, corrupt acts and salacious private conduct. The reaction to all of this illustrates that while the Trump presidency poses grave dangers, so, too, do those who are increasingly unhinged in their flailing, slapdash, and destructive attempts to undermine it.
Almost immediately after it was published, the farcical nature of the “dossier” manifested. Not only was its author anonymous, but he was paid by Democrats (and, before that, by Trump’s GOP adversaries) to dig up dirt on Trump. Worse, he himself cited no evidence of any kind, but instead relied on a string of other anonymous people in Russia he claims told him these things. Worse still, the document was filled with amateur errors.
Global Research, Britain’s Involvement In CIA Bid To Block Trump’s Inauguration Is Truly The Funniest Fake News Story Yet, Graham Vanbergen, Jan. 11, 2017. Read the article (These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia) if you wish -- as it is typical of the made-up nonsense we should expect nowadays that has not only not been verified in any way but, as you’ll see, been totally trashed by the originators of fake news in this so called ‘post-truth era.’
The dossier is in fact a series of memos and, according to Buzzfeed News, it “includes specific, unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.” A number of mainstream outlets only posted the two most damning pages but Buzzfeed News went on to publish the entire 35 page document. One can only speculate what it was that motivated Buzzfeed to publish fully unverified documents.
One utterly laughable accusation, I kid you not: “Trump’s personal obsessions and sexual perversions,” are that when staying at the Ritz Carlton Moscow hotel, in order to defile a bed in which Obama had stayed in previously, he employed “a number of prostitutes to perform “golden showers” (urinating) show in front of him.”
The dossier, confirmed by all the press has been “compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official.” No-one has been able to confirm the authenticity or credibility of who this ‘former’ Brit Intel officer is.
Meanwhile, in another related story that some might consider to have a degree of impact on the veracity of the entire dossier, (and to be fair, British Intelligence are good at ‘dodgy dossiers’), a post on Reddit via 4Chan claims that the infamous “golden showers” scene in the unverified 35-page dossier, allegedly compiled by a British intelligence officer, was a hoax. It was apparently fabricated by a member of the chatboard as “fanfiction,” then sent to Rick Wilson, who proceeded to send it to the CIA, which then put it in their official classified intelligence report on the election. You literally could not make this up.
The Guardian went today with the lead headline “FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts.” It’s first paragraph reads thus: "Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself. The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump’s relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant.”
PaulCraigRoberts.org, Obama The War Criminal, Butcherer of Women and Children, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 11, 2017. Dr. Roberts (shown in a file photo) is a conservative scholar who was assistant Treasury Secretary during the Reagan administration responsible for certain national securities duties among other things and later associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. There is no doubt that US President Barack Obama is a war criminal, as are his military and intelligence officials and most of the House and Senate.
Obama is the first president to keep the US at war for the entirety of his eight-year regime. During 2016 alone, the US dropped 26,171 bombs on wedding parties, funerals, kid’s soccer games, hospitals, schools, people in their homes and walking their streets, and farmers tilling their fields in seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
What does the administration have to show for eight years of illegal military interventions in seven countries, none of which comprised a danger to the US and against none of which the US has declared war? Terrorism was created by US invasions, no wars have been won, and the Middle East has been consumed in chaos and destruction. Worldwide hatred of the United States has risen to a record high. The US is now the most despised country on earth.
Raw Story, Bernstein rips ‘propaganda minister’ Kellyanne Conway: ‘One of the great anonymous sources of our era,’ Elizabeth Preza, Jan. 11, 2017. Famed journalist Carl Bernstein tore into Kellyanne Conway Wednesday over her callous dismissal of CNN’s reporting, calling the incoming counselor to the president “a propaganda minister.”
On his eponymous show, Anderson Cooper hammered Conway over her refusal to accept a CNN report regarding ties between Russian intermediaries and Donald Trump’s inner circle. as well as allegations that the Russian government has incriminating information about the president-elect. Conway and members of the Trump team are pushing back hard against CNN’s reporting after BuzzFeed leaked the unverified dossier Tuesday night. At a press conference Wednesday, Trump conflated CNN and BuzzFeed’s separate reports, at one point shouting at CNN’s Jim Acosta, “You are fake news!”
Around the Nation
Washington Post, In stark farewell, Obama warns of threat to U.S. democracy, Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe, Jan. 10, 2017. The president returned to his home town in Chicago to lay down a critical mile marker of his presidency, seeking to address both the past and the future. The president (shown in a file photo) used his farewell speech in his home town of Chicago to defend his imperiled legacy and press a broad, optimistic vision for the country that seems more divided than ever.
Washington Post, Dylann Roof sentenced to death for Charleston church slayings, Kevin Sullivan, Jan. 10, 2017. The 22-year-old (shown in a mug shot) was convicted last month of 33 counts of federal hate crimes for killing nine black parishioners during a massacre inside a Charleston church. The same jury that found him guilty deliberated for just under three hours before deciding his sentence.
Claims Of Trump Scandal
BuzzFeed News, These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia, Ken Bensinger, Miriam Elder, and Mark Schoofs, Jan. 10, 2017. A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.
The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Barack Obama and Trump.
Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.
The document was prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent. It is not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors. The report misspells the name of one company, “Alpha Group,” throughout. It is Alfa Group. The report says the settlement of Barvikha, outside Moscow, is “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates.” It is not reserved for anyone, and it is also populated by the very wealthy.
The documents have circulated for months and acquired a kind of legendary status among journalists, lawmakers, and intelligence officials who have seen them. Mother Jones writer David Corn referred to the documents in a late October column. Harry Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson tweeted Tuesday that the outgoing Senate Democratic leader had seen the documents before writing a public letter to FBI Director James Comey about Trump’s ties to Russia. And CNN reported Tuesday that Arizona Republican John McCain a gave “full copy” of the memos to Comey on Dec. 9, but that the FBI already had copies of many of the memos.
A dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.
Washington Post, BuzzFeed’s ridiculous rationale for publishing the Trump-Russia dossier, Erik Wemple, Jan. 10, 2017. It’s a cliche for editors: Let readers decide for themselves. It is most commonly uttered in reference to public policy debates or investigative revelations, when arguments have been presented and facts are well established.
Today BuzzFeed has plopped the term into a very different context. In a story with three by-lines — Ken Bensinger, Mark Schoofs and Miriam Elder — the news division of the popular website published a dossier of allegations pertaining to Donald Trump and Russia. It describes attempts by Russian officials to cultivate Trump and gather compromising material on him. The existence of the document isn’t a scoop: Mother Jones’s David Corn before the election discussed some of the material, and CNN today scooped a story under the plain-language headline, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.”
To its credit, BuzzFeed notes prominently that the “allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.” In fact, that qualification comes in the sub-headline. To its discredit, the BuzzFeed story offers this motive for publishing the allegations: “Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”
Americans can only “make up their own minds” if they build their own intelligence agencies, with a heavy concentration of operatives in Russia and Eastern Europe. CNN pointedly declined to drop the document’s details on the public: “At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”
Though the dossier started out as opposition research, funded first by groups connected to Trump’s GOP primary opponents and later by those on the Democratic side, as reported by CNN — and it is the work of a former British intelligence operative. It has evolved into essentially a government document — something that reporters might seek via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A synopsis of the dossier has been presented both to President Obama and to President-elect Trump.
Guardian, FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts, Julian Borger, Jan. 10, 2017. Donald Trump and his inner circle ‘have received a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals’, a report dated June 2016 alleges. Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey (shown in an official photo), last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.
The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump’s relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant. The Guardian has not been able to confirm the veracity of the documents’ contents, and the Trump team has consistently denied any hidden contacts with the Russian government.
Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but late on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” He made no direct reference to the allegations.
Zero Hedge, 4Chan Claims To Have Fabricated Anti-Trump Report As A Hoax, Tyler Durden, Jan. 10, 2017. In a story that is getting more surreal by the minute, a post on 4Chan now claims that the infamous "golden showers" scene in the unverified 35-page dossier, allegedly compiled by a British intelligence officer, was a hoax and fabricated by a member of the chatboard as "fanfiction", then sent to Rick Wilson, who proceeded to send it to the CIA, which then put it in their official classified intelligence report on the election. Here is 4Chan's explanation of how the story came to light (edited for removal of extra punctuation):
polacks mailed fanfiction to anti-trump pundit Rick Wilson about trump making people piss on a bed obama slept in....he thought it was real and gave it to the CIA.... >the central intelligence agency of the united states of america put this in their official classified intelligence report on russian involvement in the election....donald trump and obama have both read this pol/acks fanfiction....the cia has concluded that the russian plans to blackmail trump with this story we made up....just let that sink in what we have become.
PaulCraigRoberts.org, Don’t Count On Trump Being Inaugurated, Paul Craig Roberts (shown below), Jan. 10, 2017. The latest “explosive” fake news is that “multiple US officials with direct knowledge” told CNN that they have “classified documents” that Russia has compromising documents on Trump that would allow them to blackmail the US President. The documents consist of memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative “whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible.”
According to antiwar.com “the dossier claimed several figures in the Trump campaign were in league with the Russian government during the campaign, and that Russia had been conspiring with them to groom Trump as an ally for ‘at least five years.’ It also claims exchanges of information between Trump and the Kremlin for ‘at least eight years,’ . . . The dossier names former Trump adviser Carter Page, his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, as well as incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as having personally and repeatedly met with Kremlin officials on anti-Clinton leaks.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is the former Director of the Defense Intellience Agency. If such a high level US intelligence official is repeatedly meeting with Kremlim officials and the CIA has to learn about it from memos written by an unidentified former British intelligent agent, the CIA is totally incompetent.
The dossier claims that in Russian hands are videos of “wild sex parties” staged by Trump on his numerous trips to Moscow. And it gets wilder. The New York Times also ran with the story but did state that there was at the present time no confirmation for the story.
Consider these three questions:
- How would a former British intelligence operative get such extraordinary documents from Russian intelligence?
- If he had such documents, why would he hand them over instead of selling them to Trump for a major fortune?
- Why would such a crazy story be on CNN and in the New York Times unless the ruling establishment intends to use it to block Trump from the presidency?
What this elevation in wild charges tells me is that the CIA’s effort to sell Trump on the Russian hacking did not succeed, and the CIA has escalated its attack on the president-elect. Here are the URLs to the CNN, New York Times, and Antiwar.com reports.
Washington Post, Intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims Russia has compromising information on president-elect, Greg Miller, Rosalind Helderman,Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson, Jan. 10, 2017. A classified report delivered to President Obama (shown in a file photo) and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.
The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations, but believed that the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.
Trump, however, replied Tuesday night with a Tweet declaring: “FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
A senior U.S. official with access to the document said that the allegations were presented at least in part to underscore that Russia had embarrassing information on both major candidates, but only released material that might harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — a reflection of Russian motivation that bolstered U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help Trump win.
Washington Post, Sessions says he would recuse himself from Clinton matters, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 10, 2017. If confirmed as attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email practices or her family’s charitable foundation, he said.
Under questioning from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sessions (R-Ala.) acknowledged that his campaign-trail comments about the inquiries “could place my objectivity in question,” and he said unequivocally that he would recuse himself.
“We can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute,” he said. The assertion was an early highlight of the hearing, as the future of the Clinton investigations has long been a source of public speculation since Donald Trump was elected president.
Washington Post, Trump names vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. to lead commission on ‘vaccine safety,’ Abby Phillip and Lena Sun, Jan. 10, 2017. The newly formed commission suggests that the president-elect continues to believe a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism. Donald Trump asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, according to Kennedy.
The stunning move would contradict established science, medicine and the government’s position on the issue. It comes after Trump — who has long been critical of vaccines — met at Trump Tower with Kennedy, who has spearheaded efforts to roll back child vaccination laws.
Washington Post, This new poll has all kinds of bad news for Donald Trump, Aaron Blake, Jan. 11, 2017. A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Trump has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. Trump’s continued controversies seem to have put him right back where he was before he won the election.
Quinnipiac is the first high-quality pollster to poll on Trump twice since the election. And while its poll in late November showed his favorable rating rising from 34 percent to 44 percent, that number has dropped back to 37 percent, which is about where it stood for much of the campaign. That’s tied for Trump’s worst favorable rating in a poll since his election. And a majority — 51 percent — now have an unfavorable view of him.
Fishbowl DC, Following Discovery of Plagiarism, HarperCollins Pulls Monica Crowley’s Book, Corinne Grinapol, Jan. 10, 2017. Before she was chosen by Donald Trump to serve as senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, Monica Crowley was an author and conservative commentator, appearing on Fox News and contributing to publications like the Washington Times. It turns out she was also a plagiarist.
A report by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and his KFile crew “found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia,” in Crowley’s 2012 book, What The (Bleep) Just Happened. The report showed dozens of side-by-side comparisons of the book’s text alongside the sources from which they appear to have been lifted.
In response, HarperCollins issued a statement today saying that the book “will no longer be offered for purchase until such time as the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material,” although it did also say that the book had “reached the end of its natural sales cycle.” This was not Crowley’s first instance of plagiarism. A Politico investigation also discovered that Crowley (shown in a file photo) plagiarized parts of her Ph.D. dissertation, showing, as did CNN, the side-by-side comparison of the passages in question.
The Trump transition team is standing by their pick, choosing to focus – in a statement issued to CNN prior to the publisher’s announcement it was pulling the book – on the fact that the book was published and that it was popular, as well as claiming that the investigations were politically motivated: "Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country."
Over at PressThink, journalism professor Jay Rosen had some thoughts on that statement: "It goes from zero to 60 on the politicize-everything dial, signaling to Trump supporters that there is nothing here about authorship, publishing, standards, or trust, nothing that might transcend politics, just political combat in another form: a CNN investigation."
Huffington Post, Fox News Secretly Settled Bill O’Reilly Sexual Harassment Case: Report, Willa Frej, Jan. 10, 2017. He allegedly pursued a sexual relationship with a fellow anchor in 2011. Fox News settled a sexual harassment case involving anchor Bill O’Reilly in the days following Roger Ailes’ departure from the network last summer, several news outlets reported. Juliet Huddy, a former Fox on-air personality, alleged that O’Reilly (shown in a file photo) “pursued a sexual relationship with her” in 2011, according to a letter from her lawyers obtained by The New York Times. Lawnewz.com first reported the settlement Monday.
“When she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career,” the letter said. “He invited her to his house on Long Island, tried to kiss her, took her to dinner and the theater, and after asking her to return a key to his hotel room, appeared at the door in his boxer shorts.” A second top network figure, Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, also reportedly sought retaliation against Huddy for not wanting a personal relationship with him.
She was offered a “high six figures” sum in order to stay quiet, people briefed on the agreement told the Times. 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly’s lawyer, meanwhile, disputed the allegations. Huddy left the network last September.
New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman tweeted Tuesday that there may have been several secret settlements at the network. Fox News has been engulfed by sexual harassment scandals for several months, even resulting in the departure of Ailes, the network’s former chairman and the man many credit for its explosive growth and popularity.
New York Times, Clare Hollingworth, Reporter Who Broke News of World War II, Dies at 105, Margalit Fox, Jan. 10, 2017. From a single gust of wind, Clare Hollingworth reaped the journalistic scoop of the century. Ms. Hollingworth, the undisputed doyenne of war correspondents, who died on Tuesday in Hong Kong at 105, was less than a week into her first job, as a reporter for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, on that windy day in 1939.
Driving alone on the road from Gleiwitz, then in Germany, to Katowice, in Poland — a distance of less than 20 miles — she watched as the wind lifted a piece of the tarpaulin that had been erected on the German side to screen the valley below from view. Through the opening, Ms. Hollingworth saw, she later wrote, “large numbers of troops, literally hundreds of tanks, armored cars and field guns” concealed in the valley.
The date was Aug. 28, 1939, and her article, published the next day, would become, as the British paper The Guardian wrote in 2015, “probably the greatest scoop of modern times.” On Sept. 1, Hitler’s forces invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II.
CIA JFK Secrets Scheduled for Release?
JFK Facts.org, Secret JFK document #2: James Angleton’s testimony, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 10, 2017. On January 22, 1976. retired CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton testified in secret session with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, otherwise known as the Church Committee. Forty two years later, the 74 page transcript of Angleton’s testimony is still a state secret, according to the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s comprehensive listing of still-classified JFK material. Angleton’s testimony, scheduled to be released in October of this year, could not be more important to JFK assassination scholarship
Washington Post, Trump scrambles to avoid conflicts between public, business interests, Drew Harwell and Rosalind S. Helderman, Jan. 9, 2017. Despite expressing initial reluctance to separate from his business empire, the president-elect has taken steps to unwind some potential tension points. But the approach is unlikely to eliminate every ethical pitfall.
Washington Post, Days before hearings, ethics reports for four Trump nominees not yet public, Michael Kranish and Abby Phillip, Jan. 9, 2017.The lag in the release of the reports underscores concerns from the Office of Government Ethics that it is being rushed to approve the documentation.
The Hill, Exxon subsidiary did business with Iran under Tillerson: report, Mark Hensch, Jan. 9, 2017. A subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp. did business with Iran while President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of State was a top executive there, according to a new report. The oil giant also conducted deals with Sudan and Syria during Rex Tillerson’s tenure, USA Today reported Monday. All three nations were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism at the time.
USA Today, ExxonMobil and Iran did business under secretary of State nominee Tillerson, Oren Dorell, Jan. 9, 2017. ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan through a European subsidiary while President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of State was a top executive of the oil giant and those countries were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show.
That business connection is likely to surface Wednesday at a confirmation hearing for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (shown in a file photo) before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The sales were conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by Infineum, in which ExxonMobil owned a 50% share, according to SEC documents unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic research group.
Washington Post, Attorney general nominee to press image of tough lawman at confirmation hearing, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 9, 2017. Sen. Jeff Sessions will cast himself as an old-school law enforcer who will remain fiercely independent of the president who appointed him, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
National Press Club, HHS Secretary Burwell praises Affordable Care Act, discusses its future, Julia Haskins, Jan. 9, 2017. Coming up on her last few days as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Burwell spoke at a National Press Club luncheon Jan. 9, extolling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and warning against its repeal without a comprehensive, timely replacement.
Deep State Analysis
WhoWhatWhy, Deep History and the Global Drug Connection, Part 5: CIA In Latin America, Jan. 9, 2017. Introduction by Russ Baker: In this final excerpt ("US Responsibility for the Flood of Heroin in the World"), Peter Dale Scott focuses on CIA drug ties into Latin America and shows that, by working with the drug underworld, the national security state also ends up harming….national security.
Professor Peter Dale Scott (shown in a file photo) sees what the rest of us miss. His decades-long investigation of the connections between the hugely lucrative and unstoppable global drug trade and the national security apparatus is unparalleled. The details are also highly complex and a challenge to absorb. Nevertheless, they demand our attention. In this final excerpt from his new book, Scott focuses on CIA drug ties into Latin America, and finishes off with the argument that in choosing to tolerate and even work with the drug underworld, the national security state also ends up harming….national security. This is Part 5 of a 5-part series.
Excerpt from Peter Dale Scott's American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014, citations omitted):
Here is yet another fact that is so alien to our normal view of reality that I myself find it hard to keep in mind: US backdoor covert foreign policy has been the largest single cause of the illicit drugs flooding the world today.
It is worth contemplating for a moment the legacy of CIA-supported drug proxies in just two areas — the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent. In 2003, according to the United Nations, these two areas accounted for 91 percent of the area devoted to illicit opium production and 95 percent of the estimated product in metric tons. [Add in Colombia and Mexico, two other countries where the CIA has worked with drug traffickers, and the four areas accounted for 96.6 percent of the growing area and 97.8 percent of the estimated product.]
The CIA’s covert operations were not the sole cause for this flood of opium and heroin. But the de facto protection conferred on sectors of the opium trade by CIA involvement is clearly a major historical factor for the world crime scourge today.
When the CIA airline CAT began its covert flights to Burma in the 1950s, the area produced about 80 tons of opium a year. In ten years’ time, production had perhaps quadrupled, and at one point during the Vietnam War the output from the Golden Triangle reached 1,200 tons a year. By 1971, there were also at least seven heroin labs in the region, one of which, close to the CIA base at Ban Houei Sai in Laos, produced an estimated 3.6 tons of heroin a year.
Afghan opium production has been even more responsive to US operations in the area. It soared from 200 metric tons in 1980, the first full year of US support for the drug-trafficking mujahideen Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to 1,980 metric tons in 1991, when both the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to terminate their aid. (54) After 1979 Afghan opium and heroin entered the world market significantly for the first time and rose from roughly 0 to 60 percent of US consumption by 1980. (55) In Pakistan there were hardly any drug addicts in 1979; the number had risen to over 800,000 by 1992.
Washington Post, Against China’s objections, Ted Cruz and Texas governor meet with Taiwanese president, Amy B Wang, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jan. 9, 2017. The meeting (with Cruz shown in an official photo) is likely to irk officials in Beijing amid already heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.
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The American Conservative, Hillbilly Energy: J.D. Vance and the forces that elected Trump, Rod Dreher, January/February issue. Editor's note: This article from the January/February 2017 issue hasn't yet been published online. For now, it's just available to subscribers.
Opening: In late June, Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance's memoir of his tumultuous childhood lived on the border between Appalachia and the Rust Belt, appeared in bookstores, attracting little notice. A month later, an interview Vance did about the book with The American Conservative went viral, melting down this magazine's internet server three times and propelling the book to the No. 1 slot on the New York Times bestseller list.
Washington Post, Longtime D.C. TV anchor Maureen Bunyan out at WJLA, possibly ending her career, Paul Farhi, Jan. 9, 2017. TV station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group has decided not to extend WJLA news anchor Maureen Bunyan’s contract, signaling what could be the end of her decades-long presence on Washington’s airwaves.
Bunyan, 71, is a pioneering figure in TV news; she was among the first African American women in the nation to anchor a local evening newscast. She has appeared almost continuously over the past 44 years as a reporter and anchor on local stations, first at what is now WUSA, Channel 9, and since 1999 on WJLA, Channel 7.
She will join a growing list of TV news veterans who have been ousted by Sinclair as part of a broad cost-cutting strategy implemented since it bought WJLA, NewsChannel 8 and seven other stations from longtime owner Allbritton Communications of Arlington in mid-2014. Sinclair, the nation’s largest owner of TV stations with 173 outlets, declined to comment about Bunyan on Sunday. She also had no comment.
New York Times, Jeff Sessions, the Grim Reaper of Alabama, John J. Donohue, III and Max Schoening, Jan. 8, 2017. John J. Donohue III (shown in a file photo) is a professor and Max Schoening is a student at Stanford Law School. When Jeff Sessions was Alabama’s attorney general, he supported the death sentence for a Ku Klux Klan member convicted of lynching a black teenager. Mr. Sessions, whose confirmation hearings for attorney general begin on Tuesday, points to this to rebut the charges of racism that have followed him for decades.
Yet we learn more about Mr. Sessions’ legal mind-set from a look at the 40-plus death sentences he fought to uphold as Alabama’s attorney general from 1995 to 1997. He worked to execute insane, mentally ill and intellectually disabled people, among others, who were convicted in trials riddled with instances of prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination and grossly inadequate defense lawyering. Mr. Sessions’ eager participation in an unjust Alabama capital system makes him a frightening prospective civil rights enforcer for the nation.
Many of the people Mr. Sessions worked to execute had received abysmal representation at trial. Although Mr. Sessions (shown with a flag in an official photo) participated in a capital system stacked against defendants, his main policy concerns seemed to have been that Alabamians were being executed neither quickly enough nor for enough types of crimes. He promoted a bill seeking to eliminate a stage of the capital appeals process and another to execute people convicted twice of drug trafficking. Neither passed.
Mr. Sessions’ support for the death penalty, even in troubling circumstances, remains unwavering. Last August, he praised Mr. Trump’s 1989 newspaper ads calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York, which appeared shortly after five black and Latino teenagers were charged with raping a white jogger. The men, known as the Central Park Five, were exonerated in 2002 and awarded a $41 million settlement, but for Mr. Sessions, the ads proved that Mr. Trump “believes in law and order.”
Surely, Mr. Sessions isn’t to blame for all the flaws in Alabama’s capital system that pervaded the cases he litigated, many of which involved horrific crimes.
But his pursuit of executions in spite of racial bias, defendants’ mental disabilities and other injustices raises concerns about how he will oversee federal capital prosecutions, and shows his lack of commitment to due process and equality. Mr. Sessions’ ugly record in Alabama makes clear that his nomination to be the attorney general should be swiftly rejected.
President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office to the White House Colonnade, May 19, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Politico, Obama taps longtime aide to oversee presidential records process, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 8, 2017. President Barack Obama has selected his close aide Anita Decker-Breckenridge to act as his representative in the process that will lead to many of his White House records becoming public in future decades. A letter Obama sent to the National Archives in July authorizes Decker-Breckenridge to convey Obama's wishes about which of his presidential files can be made public and which should be kept under wraps for a period of time.
The letter, released to Politico on Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, also indicates that Obama is exercising his rights to put many of those records off-limits for 12 years after he leaves the presidency later this month. While the move could be seen as at odds with Obama's frequently-stated commitment to transparency, it's a step other recent presidents have also taken before leaving the White House.
Decker-Breckenridge, currently Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations, started out as a driver and secretary for Obama in 2003, when he was a state senator. She helped with his 2004 U.S. Senate bid, managed many of his offices in Illinois after he won that job and aided in organizing his 2007 announcement of his campaign for the presidency. Obama's notice dated July 26, 2016, means that if he were to die or become incapacitated before 2029, Decker-Breckenridge would retain discretion over which advice and appointment-related records should be made public.
Washington Post, Trump confidants may face tangle of potential conflicts as presidential advisers, John Wagner and Ylan Q. Mui, Jan. 8, 2017. With confirmation hearings set to start for Cabinet nominees, ethics experts are raising alarm about others with the president-elect’s ear, including billionaire investor Carl Icahn, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who stand to profit as members of a “shadow Cabinet.”
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn will have the ear of President-elect Donald Trump as an adviser focused on cutting government regulations. But Icahn also stands to benefit if his advice is taken: It could make the energy companies and others in which he has a stake more profitable.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who’s a major figure in her father’s business, has been present at transition meetings and is expected to continue to counsel him at the White House. So, too, is her husband, Jared Kushner, who has a web of business interests of his own that could be impacted by Trump administration policy.
And another Trump intimate — his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — is making no secret of his desire to profit on his continuing closeness to Trump, setting up a new lobbying firm with an office just a block from the White House.
Washington Post, Mattis urged Iran strike over U.S. troops deaths in Iraq, Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, Jan. 8, 2017. Gen. James Mattis’s falling-out with the Obama administration over Iran offers perspective into how he will lead the world’s largest military as Defense Secretary and the advice he will bring during sensitive Situation Room debates.
The Iranian-supplied rockets were raining down on Gen. James N. Mattis’s troops throughout the spring and summer of 2011 with greater and greater intensity. Six American soldiers were killed by a volley in eastern Baghdad in early June. A few weeks later, three more Americans died in a similar strike, driving the monthly death toll to 15. It was the worst month for U.S. troops in Iraq in more than two years, and Iran’s proxies were vowing more rockets and more bloodshed.
Mattis, shown in an official photo and the top American commander in the Middle East, was determined to send a clear message to Tehran to stop it. His proposal, crafted with the support of the ambassador and the senior American commander in Iraq, was to hit back inside Iran, said current and former senior U.S. officials, who took part in the debate.
One option was a dead-of-night U.S. strike against an Iranian power plant or oil refinery, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.
Mattis’s proposals quickly reached the White House, which had a different view of how to curb Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior. To President Obama, a U.S. strike on Iranian soil would only inflame a volatile situation and widen a conflict that he had promised to end. Others in the White House worried that Mattis’s proposal risked starting yet another war in the Middle East.
The battle over how to respond to the mounting American casualties in summer 2011 reflected the deepening divide between the president and his top commander in the Middle East.
Now Mattis will play a different role for a new commander in chief. As President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Pentagon, Mattis will oversee a force of nearly 1.3 million active-duty troops scattered across more than 150 countries. He will serve a president who has questioned the impartiality of America’s intelligence agencies and has moved in often puzzling ways to embrace longtime adversaries, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has emphasized the value of unpredictability over careful deliberation and raw power over diplomacy.
Washington Post, Republicans don’t want to hurt ‘real America.’ By repealing Obamacare, they will, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jan. 7, 2017. Any vote to repeal Obamacare without a plan is a vote to deprive many of their health insurance.
Fake News Controversies
Washington Post, It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news,’ Margaret Sullivan, Jan. 8, 2017. Co-opted by conservative media, the label is misleading and useless.
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Fox 61-TV (Hartford), Skakel's release reversed,but will he go back to prison? Al Terzi and Jenn Bernstein interview legal expert Jim Bergenn, Jan. 8, 2017 (9:46 min. video). The Connecticut Supreme Court announced Dec. 30 that it was reinstating the conviction against Michael Skakel that was overturned in 2013. The case was about if Skakel was properly represented in the murder trial accusing him of murdering Greenwich teen Martha Moxley with a golf club in 1975. Both Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time, and lived across the street from each other.
He was convicted in 2002, and he was granted a retrial in 2013 by a state Superior Court due to "inadequate representation." In February 2016, the state Supreme Court heard an appeal from the state prosecutors, who thought Skakel received appropriate representation to meet his constitutional rights. The court agreed, in a 4-3 ruling, with the state, and now the initial conviction will stand.
Skakel's case garnered nationwide media attention due to his connection to the Kennedy family. The late Robert F. Kennedy's wife, Ethel, is Skakel's aunt. Robert Kennedy Jr. has previously said he thinks his cousin is innocent, and that two other men committed the crime.
The appeals process began in 2013 when Hubert Santos, Skakel's attorney for the appeal to the state Supreme Court, claimed Skakel's original trial attorney, Mickey Sherman, didn't do enough to pursue the possibility of a different suspect, which he claims is why Skakel was convicted. That led to Skakel being ranted a retrial. The state appealed the granting of a retrial, and the state won, meaning the original conviction will stand. Editor's Note: The defense has applied for reconsideration, and the judge who wrote the Supreme Court's decision has resigned.).
Strategic Culture Foundation, Crowdfunding Terrorism Through Halal Certifications, Wayne Madsen (shown in file photo), Jan. 8, 2017. Although it is well known that the Wahhabist governments, royal families, and top businesses of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain directly finance jihadist terrorists in Syria, Iraq, and countries around the world, many consumers are unaware that percentages of their purchases of Muslim "hala"» (imam-certified) food products eventually end up in the hands of jihadist organizations. Halal refers to any food product that can be eaten by observant Muslims. Anything other than halal is «haram» and prohibited for Muslims. Haram includes pork, blood, or meat from approved animals but which have been strangled or slaughtered with blunt knives.
Even if a small percentage of imams who certify products as being halal are passing the profits on to terrorist organizations, it potentially represents a large amount of money. Malaysian studies have valued the worldwide halal food industry as between $600 billion to $2.1 trillion. Halal certifications are usually paid by food companies at set annual rates.
Considering all the firms worldwide that pay such fees to imam halal certifiers, this amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. Some halal certifiers have become quite wealthy from the halal certification scheme. Halal certifiers have also been quite secretive about who receives donations, with some admitting only that the funds go to Islamic madrassa schools and mosques. However, many of these madrassas and mosques are linked to the Wahhabis.
Some Muslims have opined that halal certification is nothing more than a money-making scam, with the most ridiculous aspect being halal certification for dog food. It is ironic that the same imams who declare dogs to be "unclean" animals also willingly charge pet food manufacturers to certify food for the "unclean" beasts to be halal. Yet, the practice continues with fees charged for halal "stamps" on food, in some cases, indirectly propping up various jihadist groups with large sums of ready cash.
Strategic Culture Foundation, US Aristocracy Panics that Maybe Trump Is Serious, Eric Zuesse, Jan. 8, 2017. Donald Trump is being significantly opposed by both parties regarding his foreign policies, even though his domestic policies are being opposed on a far more partisan basis, by Democrats, and have a higher chance of congressional passage than his international initiatives do. The "realignment across the board within American political parties" is actually a realignment only in the field of foreign policy — not at all in domestic policy.
Washington Post, Ethics office warns that Trump, GOP are rushing Cabinet confirmations, Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan, Jan. 7, 2017. The director of the Office of Government Ethics said Saturday that plans to confirm Donald J. Trump’s top Cabinet choices before background checks are complete are unprecedented and have overwhelmed government investigators responsible for the reviews.
Washington Post, Democrats seek to delay confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, citing unfinished ethics review, Emma Brown, Jan. 7, 2017. Democrats are pushing to delay next week’s confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary (and shown in a phjoto), until a federal watchdog agency finishes reviewing her background and financial investments for possible conflicts of interest or other ethics concerns.
Washington Post, As attorney general, Sessions could play major role on immigration, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 7, 2017. Long before Donald Trump chose him to lead the Justice Department, the senator from Alabama opposed efforts to reform the system in ways that might help those who entered the country illegally.
Washington Post, Donald Trump Jr. backs the ‘Hearing Protection Act,’ an effort to ease restrictions on gun silencers, Michael S. Rosenwald, Jan. 7, 2017. The president-elect’s son — who is joining gunmakers to tout legislation easing restrictions — says silencers would protect shooters’ ears. Critics worry that the devices could aid criminals.
Fake News Controversies
OpEdNews, A Case Study in the Creation of False News, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 7, 2017. For many weeks, we have witnessed the extraordinary attack by the CIA and its assets in Congress and the media on Donald Trump's election. In an unprecedented effort to delegitimize Trump's election as the product of Russian interference in the election, the CIA, media, senators and representatives have consistently made wild accusations for which they have no evidence. The CIA's message to Trump is clear: Get in line with our agenda, or we are going to mess you over.
It is clear that the CIA is warring against Trump. But the CIA's media assets have turned the facts on their head and are blaming Trump for having a negative view of the CIA. Now that the story is Trump taking on the CIA and not the CIA taking on Trump, the case can be built against Trump.
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Washington Post, Game wardens killed a deer — in front of the family that kept it as a pet, Karin Brulliard, Jan. 7, 2017. Faline entered the Mcgaughey residence on the morning of Dec. 19, ate three cookies and then left to wander around outside. By that afternoon, she had been fatally, and purposely, shot by local authorities while her caretakers watched.
Faline was a mule deer. But was she a pet, a wild animal — or something in between? That question is at the heart of a dispute between the Mcgaughey family and wildlife officials in Kansas, where they live. To the Mcgaugheys, Faline was tame but free, and she did not deserve to die. To wildlife authorities, the deer was a socialized wild animal that could have harmed people and spread disease to other animals.
Guardian, Israeli diplomat caught on camera plotting to 'take down' UK MPs, Ian Cobain and Ewen MacAskill, Jan. 7, 2017. Shai Masot is recorded discussing how to discredit MPs in comments described by Israeli embassy as ‘unacceptable’ An Israeli embassy official has been caught on camera in an undercover sting plotting to “take down” MPs regarded as hostile, including foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan, an outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state.
In an extraordinary breach of diplomatic protocol, Shai Masot, who describes himself as an officer in the Israel Defence Forces and is serving as a senior political officer at the London embassy, was recorded by an undercover reporter from al-Jazeera’s investigative unit speaking about a number of British MPs.
The Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, apologised to Duncan on Friday. An Israeli spokesman said Regev made clear that “the embassy considered the remarks completely unacceptable.”
The Israeli embassy said Masot “will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly.” Masot declined to comment or to elaborate on what he meant when he said he wanted to “take down” a number of MPs.
Masot had been speaking to Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant who was formerly an aide to another Conservative minister. Also present was a man they knew as Robin, whom they believed to be working for Labour Friends of Israel, a pressure group. In fact, Robin was an undercover reporter. The recordings form the basis of four half-hour documentaries that al-Jazeera is to broadcast from 15 January.
Strizzolo, discussing with Masot how to discredit MPs, said: “Well, you know, if you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide.” Later she added: “A little scandal, maybe.”
Scandalous and Deadly 'Mistake' By Defense Department?
TruthDig, Report Points to a Pentagon Plot to Subvert Obama’s Syria Policy, Gareth Porter, Jan. 6, 2017. Airstrikes by the United States and its allies against two Syrian army positions Sept. 17 killed at least 62 Syrian troops and wounded dozens more. The attack was quickly treated as a non-story by the U.S. news media; U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) claimed the strikes were carried out in the mistaken belief that Islamic State forces were being targeted, and the story disappeared.
The circumstances surrounding the attack, however, suggested it may have been deliberate, its purpose being to sabotage President Obama’s policy of coordinating with Russia against Islamic State and Nusra Front forces in Syria as part of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement. Normally the U.S. military can cover up illegal operations and mistakes with a pro forma military investigation that publicly clears those responsible.
But the air attack on Syrian troops also involved three foreign allies in the anti-Islamic State named Operation Inherent Resolve: the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. So, the Pentagon had to agree to bring a general from one of those allies into the investigation as a co-author of the report. Consequently, the summary of the investigation released by CENTCOM on Nov. 29 reveals far more than the Pentagon and CENTCOM brass would have desired.
Thanks to that heavily redacted report, we now have detailed evidence that the commander of CENTCOM’s Air Force component attacked the Syrian army deliberately. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (shown in an official photo) and the military establishment had a compelling motive in the attack of Sept. 17 — namely, interest in maintaining the narrative of a “new Cold War” with Russia, which is crucial to supporting and expanding the budgets of their institutions....
When the commander of the Central Command’s Air Force component, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigan (shown in a file photo in uniform), was asked about the JIC at a press briefing Sept. 13, he seemed to suggest that opponents of the provision were still hoping to avoid cooperating with the Russians on targeting.
Gen. Harrigan’s strike worked like a charm in terms of the interests of those behind it. The hope of provoking a Syrian-Russian decision to end the cease-fire and thus the plan for the JIC was apparently based on the assumption that it would be perceived by both Russians and Syrians as evidence that Obama was not in control of U.S. policy and therefore could not be trusted as a partner in managing the conflict. That assumption proved correct.
Claims of Russian Hacking, Propaganda
Washington Post, Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election, Greg Miller and Adam Entous, Jan. 6, 2017. Russia carried out a comprehensive cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin that “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released today. The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale.
The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.
The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.
Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.
The Guardian, Young Russian denies she aided election hackers, Shaun Walker and Sam Thielman, Jan. 6, 2017. White House claims Alisa Shevchenko was involved in hacking the US election but in an interview she says authorities misinterpreted facts or were fooled. Alisa Shevchenko: ‘I am now de-facto blocked from the world’s major information security market.’
Alisa Shevchenko (shown in a personal photo) is a talented young Russian hacker, known for working with companies to find vulnerabilities in their systems. She is also, the White House claims, guilty of helping Vladimir Putin interfere in the US election.
Her company was a surprise inclusion on the US sanctions list released last week, alongside top officers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency and two well-known criminal hackers. The company “provided the GRU with technical research and development,” according to the fact sheet released by the White House. No further details were given. In addition to the sanctions, the US expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country, and said it would take further, non-public measures in response.
The former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, who currently lives in Russia, wrote on Twitter: “Few techs doubt that Russians could have a hand in hacks, but public policy requires public evidence.”
After a week in which Russian interference in the election – apparently with the goal of helping Donald Trump to victory – has dominated the news agenda, Shevchenko has spoken out to decry the sanctions against her. Shevchenko told the Guardian she was furious at her company’s inclusion on the list, and denied ever having knowingly worked for the Russian government. She communicated via encrypted email, from a location she said was “a wild countryside area a few hours away from Bangkok”.
In answers that were defiant, and occasionally abrasive, she decried the “insane level of hysteria around the entire ‘Russian hacking’ story.” She suggested that the US authorities were guilty either of “a technically incompetent misinterpretation of the facts” or had been fooled by a “counterfeit in order to frame my company”. Those who could have had an interest in framing her could include competitors, US intelligence or Russian intelligence, with the goal of screening the real culprits, Shevchenko said.
Huffington Post, Donald Trump Admits U.S. Taxpayers Will Pay For The Wall, Claims Mexico Will Reimburse Costs, Christina Wilkie, Jan. 6, 2017. This doesn’t sound like his campaign promise. President-elect Donald Trump said on Friday that he intends for U.S. taxpayers to fund the construction of his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That money, Trump tweeted, “will be paid back by Mexico later."
The tweet Trump wrote on Friday morning followed multiple reports detailing how members of his transition team have been working with congressional Republicans to come up with a way to use taxpayer dollars to pay for building the wall. Trump claimed he needed to use congressionally appropriated funds to build “the Great Wall for [the] sake of speed.”
But making U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for the border wall would violate one of Trump’s central campaign promises, and a pledge that Trump reiterated at countless rallies, when he would ask the crowds, “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?!” and get chants of “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!”
Washington Post, A resurrected House rule lets Congress slash pay for civil servants, Editorial Board, Jan. 6, 2017. House Republicans caused an understandable furor this week when they proposed to gut the House ethics office and then reconsidered. That two-day debacle diverted attention from another baleful “reform” that did succeed. Members of Congress awarded themselves the power to slash the annual pay of any federal employee to as low as $1, thereby essentially telling government workers to forget about civil-service protection: Their jobs now may rise or fall on political whim.
USA Today, Trump must expose Obama-era power grabs: Columnist, James Bovard, Jan. 6, 2017. Opening the books on the outgoing administration would be a booster shot for democracy. President-elect Donald Trump will face pervasive doubts about his legitimacy from the day he takes office. His opponents will likely portray him as governing in unprecedented and reckless ways. The best response to such charges is to open the books and expose how the Obama administration commandeered far more power than most Americans realized.
Trump should follow the excellent precedent set by President Obama. In 2009, shortly after he took office, Obama released many of the secret Bush administration legal memos that explained why the president was supposedly entitled to order torture, deploy troops in American towns and cities, and ignore the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless, unreasonable searches. The disclosures signaled a new era in Washington and helped give Obama a reputation as a champion of civil liberties.
Turnabout is fair play. Trump should quickly reveal the secret memos underlying Obama’s “targeted killing” drone assassination program.
It is vital for a Trump White House to compel disclosures because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has become largely a mirage. While Obama boasted of “the most transparent administration in history,” federal agencies slammed the door on routine requests — especially from the media. The Associated Press reported in 2015 that the Obama administration “set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them” under FOIA. Federal agencies were also hit by a record number of lawsuits contesting FOIA denials in 2015.
Washington Post, Third lien on Trump hotel brings alleged unpaid bills to over $5 million, Jonathan O'Connell, Jan. 6, 2017. The rush to get the D.C. hotel open on time meant 12-hour days for weeks, a contractor says, but resulted in $2.1 million in allegedly unpaid work. Workers from AES Electrical apparently went all out to make sure Donald Trump could open his luxury hotel on the day he wanted.
The AES filing brings the total of allegedly unpaid bills on the hotel to more than $5 million. Washington-area plumbing firm Joseph J. Magnolia Inc. and Northern Virginia construction company, A&D Construction, are seeking $2.98 million and $79,700 respectively.
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Washington Post, Fort Lauderdale airport shooting suspect had visited FBI office in Alaska last year, Mark Berman, William Wan and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 6, 2016. An Iraq War veteran who had complained that the government was forcing him to watch Islamic State videos pulled a gun from his checked bag and opened fire Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale’s international airport, killing five people and injuring eight, authorities said.
The bloody rampage at a quiet baggage-claim area sent people scrambling through the terminals and across the airfield at one of the country’s busiest airports, shutting down all flights for hours while paramedics and federal and local law enforcement officers flooded the scene. The alleged gunman, identified by authorities as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, was apprehended unharmed. Santiago was in federal custody Friday night following a lengthy interview by Broward County sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents. He will face federal charges, officials said.
Politico, North Carolina man set to plead guilty in hacking of CIA Director John Brennan, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 6, 2016. A North Carolina man is set to plead guilty Friday morning to being part of a hacking ring that harassed a series of senior U.S. Government officials, at one point breaking into the personal email account of CIA Director John Brennan (shown in an official photo). Justin Liverman, 24, known online as "D3F4ULT," is scheduled to appear in an Alexandria, Va. federal courtroom to plead guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to court records.
Officials accused the Morehead City, N.C. man of being part of a loose-knit group of hackers known as "Crackas with Attitude." Messages the "Crackas" obtained from Brennan's America Online email account, including a sensitive government security clearance application, were posted online by WikiLeaks in October 2015. That's the same pro-transparency website that roiled the U.S. presidential campaign last year by releasing nearly 60,000 emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's personal Gmail account.
Human Rights News
The Indicter, Over A Quarter Million Read The Indicter Magazine In 2016, Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Jan. 6, 2016. Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli (shown in a file photo), is editor-in-chief of The Indicter and a longtime medical school professor and human rights activist based in Sweden and Italy. Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig is a member of The Indicter's editorial board.
Julian Assange once suggested that the best defense mechanism of Sweden’s media might be the Swedish language, which few elsewhere in the world understand.
The Indicter, most of whose audience is located in the US and other English-speaking countries (see map down-below), has established itself as a rare window through which the secrets of Sweden’s elites can be seen from abroad, as shown by this annual report of our nearly 300,000 site visitors and our compilation of articles.
We analyze and share geopolitical-relevant news about Sweden that otherwise would remain known only by a self-affirming Swedish governing class and commentariat (which we have termed a "Duck Pond" of complacency). Conversely, we give interested Swedes an insight on the international opinions about Sweden, which the state-owned and mainstream media restrict.
The few media sites that published in English from Sweden are financed by the Swedish state and are devoted to a pro-NATO agenda of biased news despite Sweden's ostensibly neutral status.
Washington Post, WikiLeaks proposes tracking verified Twitter users’ homes, families and finances, Brian Fung, WikiLeaks wants to start building a list of verified Twitter users that would include highly sensitive and personal information about their families, their finances and their housing situations.
“We are thinking of making an online database with all 'verified' twitter accounts & their family/job/financial/housing relationships,” WikiLeaks tweeted Friday. The disclosure organization, run by Julian Assange, says the information would be used for an artificial-intelligence program. But Twitter users immediately fired back, saying WikiLeaks would use the list to take political vengeance against those who criticize it.
Twitter “verifies” certain users, such as world leaders, nonprofit organizations and news outlets, with a blue check mark beside their names so that other users of the service can be confident about the posters' identities. WikiLeaks, which has a verified Twitter account, did not say whether it would subject itself to the scrutiny it was proposing.
Asked by journalist Kevin Collier why it needed to build a database of dossiers, WikiLeaks replied that the database would be used as a “metric to understand influence networks based on proximity graphs.” But the proposal faced a sharp and swift backlash as technologists, journalists and security researchers slammed the idea as a “sinister” and dangerous abuse of power and privacy.
SouthFront, Russia Pulls Out Admiral Kuznetsov Battlegroup From Syrian Waters, Reduces Military Presence In Country, Staff report, Jan. 6, 2017. The Russian Navy is returning the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser and its battlegroup from the Mediterranean to its home base in Russia’s Severomorsk.
Warplanes from Admiral Kuznetsov’s deck carried out 420 sorties, destroying 1,252 terrorist targets in Syria. Admiral Kuznetsov is returning to its home base as Russia begins reducing its military presence in the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial pullout of military forces from Syria after negotiating a ceasefire deal with Iran and Turkey.
Unz Review, Russian Interference in the Election: A Media Hoax? Stephen J. Sniegoski, Jan. 6, 2017. The mainstream media’s narrative that the Russian government interfered with the United States election, and that this interference invalidated, or at least tainted, Trump’s election has culminated in President Obama taking a series of measures against Russia, which consist of: imposing sanctions on the GRU and the FSB (the two major Russian intelligence organizations), four officers of the GRU, and two Russian individuals who allegedly used “cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information;” expelling 35 diplomats and intelligence officials; and closing two Russian compounds in Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Long Island, New York.
Like other common memes — such as anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism — used to silence debate, the exact meaning of Russian interference in the election is unclear — and Obama’s inclusion of a number of extraneous issues in his explanation for taking retaliatory action against Russia muddles the issue even more.
The reference to Russian interference in the election includes a composite of alleged Russian misdeeds — “fake news,” computer hacking, and manipulating voting machines – which are usually lumped together but are actually quite different and should be analyzed separately since the combination approach only serves to obfuscate the issue. Of course — and this probably would not be shocking to most readers of this essay — many of those who promote the idea of Russian culpability are not really concerned about pursuing a Socratic search for truth but instead want to anathematize Putin’s Russia and/or delegitimize Trump’s election victory.
First, let me take care of the most extreme claim — that Russian hackers manipulated election results to make Trump president. This would be a nearly impossible task since voting machines are not attached to the Internet, and it was never pointed out how the Russians could do this on any significant scale. Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton was urged by “a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers” to demand a recount in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — in which Clinton seemed to be slightly ahead in pre-election polls but which were won by Trump by narrow margins. The group claimed to have statistical evidence that the vote had been altered.The basis of this claim, however, was quite flimsy since it simply rested on an analysis that showed that in Wisconsin counties with electronic voting machines, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes than in counties with paper ballots or optical scanners. It was then assumed that the same thing could have occurred in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
There was a recount in Wisconsin in which Trump increased his victory margin by 131 votes; a total of 2.976 million ballots were cast. The recount was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein who covered the estimated $3.5 million cost of the endeavor. Similar efforts by Stein to get recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania were blocked in the state courts because of her lack of standing by the laws of those states—not having any chance of winning herself, she could not be considered an “aggrieved party.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not make official efforts to get recounts in any states. With Trump’s victory in Wisconsin surviving the recount, he had garnered a majority of the electoral votes, which would make him President unless there were a far higher number of faithless electors than turned out to be the case. Nonetheless, half of Clinton’s voters still think Russia hacked the election day voting.
Washington Post, Republicans run the spread offense to ram through Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, James Hohmann, Jan. 5, 2017. By scheduling six confirmation hearings for the same day, the Senate GOP is working to prevent any one Donald Trump nominee from dominating a news cycle. The gambit is very likely to succeed.
It’s no coincidence that Republican committee chairmen scheduled hearings for some of the president-elect’s most controversial and polarizing nominees next Wednesday. Trump, after putting it off repeatedly, will also finally have his first press conference since the election at the same time. And Mitch McConnell plans a budget vote-o-rama, including votes related to the repeal of Obamacare. This will further distract the press and the public.
The GOP leadership’s approach will minimize unflattering process stories and prevent Trump’s nominees from receiving the kind of full airing and scrutiny that they would otherwise. It’s the political equivalent of running a no-huddle offense in the first quarter and throwing a lot of deep balls when you know the defense is outmatched. The other side’s best safety is still recovering from a pulled hamstring, and the defensive coordinator is distracted by the head coaching job he’s going to take next season. The odds are that Team Trump will score a bunch of touchdowns.
In fact, the conventional wisdom inside the Capitol right now is that all of Trump’s picks will get confirmed, no matter how many red flags several have in their backgrounds. Here are the six hearings now set for next Wednesday:
Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson. Trump’s pick for CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Attorney General nominee Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (shown in a file photo). John Kelly’s confirmation hearing to run the department of homeland security. Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to become Transportation secretary.
Because Harry Reid myopically went nuclear in 2014, all these folks can now be confirmed with just 50 votes.
New York Times, In Break With Precedent, Obama Envoys Are Denied Extensions Past Inauguration Day, Jan. 5, 2017. President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, according to several American diplomats familiar with the plan, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods.
The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain. In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.
Mr. Trump, by contrast, has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20 with a mission of dismantling many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements. “Political” ambassadors, many of them major donors who are nominated by virtue of close ties with the president, almost always leave at the end of his term; ambassadors who are career diplomats often remain in their posts.
Intelligence Agency Controversies
The Hill, Trump rips media for saying he is in 'agreement' with Assange, Rebecca Savransky, Jan. 5, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday morning criticized the media for saying he sided with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and against the U.S intelligence community. "The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange - wrong," the president-elect tweeted Thursday. "I simply state what he states, it is for the people ... to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against 'Intelligence' when in fact I am a big fan!"
See also: Huffington Post, Trump Tweets He’s A ‘Big Fan’ Of Intelligence As Congress Begins Russia Hacking Probe, Dustin Volz and Patricia Zengerle, Jan. 5, 2017. Trump is due to be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on Friday on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party. President Obama will be briefed on Thursday.
Washington Post, Russia meddled in U.S. election, Clapper says, rejecting Trump’s view, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 5, 2017. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified in a Senate hearing that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election consisted of hacking and the spreading of traditional propaganda and “fake news.” The testimony comes as President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced skepticism that Russia interfered in the election. The country’s top intelligence official said Thursday that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election consisted of hacking, as well as the spreading of traditional propaganda and “fake news.”
“That’s classical tradecraft that the Russians have long used,” said Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. (shown in an official photo), testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on foreign cyber threats, and especially Russian hacking and interference in the election.
Baltimore Sun, DNC and Podesta emails were leaked, not hacked, op-ed writers say, William Binney and Ray McGovern, Jan. 5, 2017. It has been several weeks since the New York Times reported that "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" led the CIA to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin "deployed computer hackers" to help Donald Trump win the election. But the evidence released so far has been far from overwhelming.
The long anticipated Joint Analysis Report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI on Dec. 29 met widespread criticism in the technical community. Worse still, some of the advice it offered led to a very alarmist false alarm about supposed Russian hacking into a Vermont electric power station. Advertised in advance as providing proof of Russian hacking, the report fell embarrassingly short of that goal. The thin gruel that it did contain was watered down further by the following unusual warning atop page 1: "DISCLAIMER: This report is provided 'as is' for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within."
Also, curiously absent was any clear input from the CIA, NSA or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Reportedly, Mr. Clapper will get a chance tomorrow to brief an understandably skeptical Donald Trump, who has called the briefing delay "very strange," even suggesting that top intelligence officials "need more time to build a case."
Mr. Trump's skepticism is warranted not only by technical realities, but also by human ones, including the dramatis personae involved. Mr. Clapper has admitted giving Congress on March 12, 2013, false testimony regarding the extent of NSA collection of data on Americans. Four months later, after the Edward Snowden revelations, Mr. Clapper apologized to the Senate for testimony he admitted was "clearly erroneous." That he is a survivor was already apparent by the way he landed on his feet after the intelligence debacle on Iraq.
Mr. Clapper was a key player in facilitating the fraudulent intelligence. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put Mr. Clapper in charge of the analysis of satellite imagery, the best source for pinpointing the location of weapons of mass destruction — if any.
When Pentagon favorites like Iraqi émigré Ahmed Chalabi plied U.S. intelligence with spurious "evidence" on WMD in Iraq, Mr. Clapper was in position to suppress the findings of any imagery analyst who might have the temerity to report, for example, that the Iraqi "chemical weapons facility" for which Mr. Chalabi provided the geographic coordinates was nothing of the kind.
William Binney worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA. Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president's daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan's most senior national security officials from 1981-85.
Russian Election Interference Claims
RealClearPolitics, Sen. Tillis: We Are Living In A Glass House Throwing Rocks Complaining About Election Interference, Ian Schwartz, Jan. 5, 2017. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) addresses the history of U.S. interference in foreign elections at Thursday's hearing on possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Tillis (shown in a file photo) said the U.S. is living in a "big glass house," responding to Sen. Graham's "rocks" comment, and noted that the U.S. has "been involved in one way or another" in at least 81 different foreign elections since the end of World War II. Tillis said:
"There has been research done by professors up at Carnegie Mellon that has estimated that the United States has been involved in one way or another in 81 different elections since World War II. That doesn't include coupes or the regime changes, some tangible evidence where we have tried to affect an outcome to our purpose. Russia has done it some 36 times.
"In fact, when Russia was apparently was trying to influence our elections, we had the Israelis accusing us of trying to influence their election. I'm not here to talk about that but I am here to say that we live in a big glass house and there are a lot of rocks to throw and I think that is consistent with what you said on other matters."
See also: Guardian, FBI ‘Granted FISA Warrant’ Covering Trump Camp’s Ties To Russia, Louise Mensch, Nov. 7, 2016. Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.
Washington Post, U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory, Adam Entous and Greg Miller, Jan. 5, 2017. Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.
The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House. The classified document, which officials said is over 50 pages, was delivered to President Obama on Thursday, and it is expected to be presented to Trump in New York on Friday by the nation’s top spy officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan.
New York Post, The left and right are having a meltdown over Russia, John Podhoretz, Jan. 4, 2017. John Podhoretz is editor of "Commentary" and was a speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In this time of weird reversals, Democrats and liberals who scoffed at Mitt Romney’s 2012 assertion that Russia was our primary adversary have become so convinced of Vladimir Putin’s perfidy, they sound like the Cold Warriors of old. Meanwhile, our incoming president continues to extend the benefit of the doubt to Russia when it comes to cyber-mischief, even going so far as to get in a public kerfuffle with America’s intelligence agencies and accuse them of rescheduling a briefing on Russia out of rudeness or lack of preparation.
CIA Funding of Media
JFKFacts.org, Literary (CIA) agents at work, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 5, 2017. In Literary Agents: Rethinking the legacy of writers who worked with the CIA, Patrick Iber of the New Republic delves into the role of the CIA in the culture Cold War. He doesn’t specifically mention the role of Cord Meyer and James Angleton but they were probably the two CIA officials most responsible for CIA cultural funding between 1954 and 1967, Iber captures what was most problematic about the CIA’s role, something I will touch on in my forthcoming Angleton biography.
“In 1966, The New York Times confirmed suspicions that the CIA was pumping money into “civil society” organizations: unions, international organizations of students and women, groups of artists and intellectuals. The agency had produced the popular cartoon version of George Orwell’s anticommunist classic Animal Farm in 1954. It flew the Boston Symphony Orchestra on a European tour in 1952, to counter prejudices of the United States as uncultured and unsophisticated. It promoted the work of abstract expression."
Federal Employee Targeting?
Washington Post, House Republicans revive arcane 1876 rule that could slash pay for federal workers to $1, Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein, Jan. 5, 2017. Opponents and supporters agree that the move puts agencies on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.
U.S. Civil Rights
President Barack Obama makes a point during a meeting with senior staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 18, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Washington Post, Obama’s lawyers are set to empower Trump, Shirin Sinnar, Jan. 5, 2017. Shielding the executive branch from human rights lawsuits is dangerous considering the incoming executive. At various moments, President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to torture terrorism suspects, ban Muslims from entering the country, banish more prisoners to Guantanamo Bay and round up millions of undocumented immigrants.
The Obama administration opposes all of these policies and has taken some steps to make it harder for Trump to achieve them. Yet two days before Trump’s inauguration, President Obama’s Justice Department will argue to the Supreme Court that victims of federal policies related to immigration and national security should not be able to sue government officials for damages — even if those policies were clearly unconstitutional.
In the final case of the Obama administration, lawyers for a president avowedly committed to the rule of law will empower a successor threatening to demolish it.
Shirin Sinnar is an associate professor at Stanford Law School. She co-authored an amicus brief in "Ziglar v. Abbasi."
SouthFront, US-Led Coalition Does Not Bomb ISIS Oil Production Facilities in Syria – Russian MoD, Staff report, Jan. 5, 2017. The US-led coalition did not target oil production facilities, seized by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, said the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov. “Miraculously, only oil fields captured by ISIS -- allowing the militants to earn tens of millions of dollars every month on illegal oil sales and recruit mercenaries from all over the world -- did not come under the US bombardment,” Konashenkov said.
He also commented on a statement of CIA Director John Brennan Tuesday that Russia is using a “scorched-earth policy” in Syria, which “led to devastation and thousands upon thousands of innocent deaths,” while “that’s not something that the United States would ever do in any of these military conflicts.”
“I would also like to remind [John Brennan] that international wars of the past decades unleashed by the US thanks to false CIA data in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have all been started, continued, and finished with a destroyed economic infrastructure of these states by the US Air Force,” the major general said, adding that it was “doubtfully a coincidence” that US companies close to the CIA and the Pentagon had “always” received contracts to rebuild these damaged infrastructures.
SouthFront, Syrian War Report: Conflict Is Heading To Its Turning Point, Staff report, Jan. 5, 2017. The ceasefire agreement, which came into effect on December 30 and was the first step to negotiations in Astana on the settlement of the Syrian conflict, remained shaky across Syria. The intensity of clashes observed in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, Daraa and Quneitra was much reduced. Clashes continued in Eastern Ghouta and in Wadi Barada near Damascus.
It can be explained by limitations of Turkey’s influence on militant groups in these areas: Ankara had not been able to push the so-called “moderate part” of the opposition to separate itself from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). So, both militants and government forces continued offensive operations against each other there. The Syrian army and its allies are now especially interested in the liberation of the Wadi Barada area because it will allow them to secure the water supply line to the Syrian capital.
Center for Public Integrity, Barack Obama's ambassador legacy: plum postings for big donors, Will Donald Trump similarly reward his political patrons? Dave Levinthal and Chris Zubak-Skees, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump has begun nominating the people who he wants to represent U.S. interests abroad.
But even Trump, who despite his "drain the swamp" mantra has been rewarding major campaign donors with prime positions in his cabinet, will find it difficult to match President Barack Obama's legacy of sending top political patrons to the world's poshest capital cities, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. (The practice has been embraced by Democratic and Republican presidents alike for generations.)
During his second term, Obama named 31 campaign "bundlers" — supporters who raised at least $50,000 to fund his presidential campaigns — as ambassadors. Obama tapped nearly all of these bundlers to serve in Western European nations or other highly developed and stable countries such as Canada and New Zealand.
Another 39 of Obama's second-term ambassador nominees are political appointees who either gave his campaign money or are known political allies. They, too, largely enjoyed postings to wealthy and peaceful nations — Ireland, Denmark and Australia, for example — or high-profile countries such as China and India.
Trump Plans Major Intelligence Overhaul?
Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top US Spy Agency, Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect works with advisers on restructuring Office of the Director of National Intelligence. President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said, prompted by a belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized.
The planning comes as Mr. Trump has leveled a series of social media attacks in recent months and the past few days against U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing and mocking their assessment that the Russian government hacked emails of Democratic groups and individuals and then leaked them last year to WikiLeaks and others in an effort to help Mr. Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo) win the White House.
One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment on the plan.
“The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world [is] becoming completely politicized,” said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition operation. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”
In one of his latest Twitter posts on Wednesday, Mr. Trump referenced an interview that WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange gave to Fox News in which he denied Russia had been his source for the thousands of emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton advisers, including campaign manager John Podesta, that Mr. Assange published. Mr. Trump tweeted: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’—why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
Mr. Trump has drawn criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and from intelligence and law-enforcement officials for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, for attacking American intelligence agencies, and for embracing Mr. Assange, long viewed with disdain by government officials and lawmakers.
“We have two choices: some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law…who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.). “I’m going with them.”
But for Mr. Trump and some of his supporters, the accusations of Russian hacking and the criticism of WikiLeaks are seen as an effort to delegitimize the president-elect’s victory.
Washington Post, Donald Trump nominates Wall Street lawyer, Jay Clayton, to head SEC, Trump to tap Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head SEC, Renae Merle, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he will nominate Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, placing another financial industry insider in a key position in his administration.
As chairman of the SEC, Clayton would help police many of the same large banks he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays. He also would play a key role in Trump's efforts to dismantle parts of 2010’s financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act. Clayton brings “decades of experience helping companies navigate complex federal regulations” and would “play an important role in unleashing the job-creating power of our economy,” according to a statement issued by Trump’s transition office announcing Clayton's nomination.
The nomination immediately drew rebuke from progressive groups, which have been critical of Trump's track record of nominating Wall Street insiders for high-level positions, despite being critical of the industry during the presidential campaign. Trump has nominated Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, to be Treasury secretary, and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked on mergers and acquisition deals for the bank. Last month, Trump said he would appoint Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs' president and chief operating officer, to lead the powerful National Economic Council.
Associated Press via MSN, Reality TV's Omarosa hired for Trump's White House outreach, Julie Pace and Julie Bykowicz, Omarosa Manigault is getting hired. A memorable contestant in the first season of "The Apprentice," Manigault is expected to join President-elect Donald Trump's White House staff, according to two people familiar with the decision. Her job is expected to focus on public engagement.
Manigault was one of Trump's most prominent African-American supporters during the campaign and has been working with his transition team. Her effusive praise of Trump has at times drawn criticism. "Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump," she said in an interview for a PBS "Frontline" documentary about the presidential campaign. "It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe."
Manigault, who prefers to use only her first name, made it through nine weeks of "The Apprentice" before Trump directed his infamous tagline, "You're fired," at her. She was portrayed as a cut-throat contestant during the season. She returned to Trump's "Apprentice" franchise several times and has appeared on other reality TV shows. Manigault said she has stayed close to Trump over the years and served as his campaign's director of African-American outreach.
Last month, she shepherded NFL legends Ray Lewis and Jim Brown into a Trump Tower meeting with the president-elect. Afterward, Lewis posted a photo of himself and Manigault on his Facebook page, writing, "Was great meeting Omarosa and the team ... very impressive and passionate."
This will be Manigault's second season at the White House. She worked in the office of Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration. The Trump transition team did not respond to inquiries about Manigault's role. The two people familiar with the decision insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the hiring process publicly. Manigault previewed her hiring during the Fox News New Year's Eve coverage, according to news reports, saying her title would be "huge."
Global Research, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Campaign to Destabilize the Trump Presidency, Michel Chossudovsky, Jan. 4, 2017. Obama has formally accused Moscow of interfering in the US elections on behalf of Donald Trump. These are serious allegations. Whereas the sanctions are directed against Russia, the ultimate intent is to undermine the legitimacy of president-elect Donald Trump and his foreign policy stance in relation to Moscow.
According to the US media, the sanctions against Moscow were intended to ”Box in President-elect Donald J. Trump” because Trump “has consistently cast doubt” that Putin was involved in the alleged hacking of the DNC. In an earlier report on Kremlin meddling, the NYT (Dec. 15) depicted Donald Trump as “…a Useful Idiot”… an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power." (Emphasis added.)
But the accusations against Trump have gone far beyond the “Box in” Narrative. The unspoken truth pertaining to Obama’s Executive Order is that the punishment was intended for Trump rather than Putin.
The objective is not to “Box-In” the president-elect for his “unfamiliarity with the role of intelligence.” Quite the opposite: The strategy is to delegitimize Donald Trump by accusing him of high treason.
In recent developments, the director of National Intelligence James Clapper has “confirmed” that the alleged Russian cyberattack constitutes an “existential threat to our way of life.”
“Whether or not that constitutes an act of war [by Russia against the US] I think is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make,” said Clapper.
That “act of war” not by Russia but against Russia seems to be have been endorsed by the outgoing Obama administration: several thousand tanks and US troops are being deployed on Russia’s doorstep as part of Obama’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve” directed against the Russian Federation.
Are these military deployments part of Obama’s “act of retribution” against Russia in response to Moscow’s alleged hacking of the US elections?
Is this a “fast-track” procedure on the part of the outgoing president with the support of US intelligence, intended to create political and social chaos prior to the inception of the Trump administration on January 20th?
According to Donbass DINA News: “A Massive US military deployment [on Russia's border] should be ready by January 20.” And insanity could potentially unleash World War III.
Meanwhile the “real story” behind hacking is front page news. The mainstream media is not covering it. The ultimate intent of this campaign led by the Neocons and the Clinton Faction is to destabilize the Trump presidency.
Prior to the November 8 elections, former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leo Panetta had already intimated that Trump is a threat to National Security. According to The Atlantic, Trump is a “Modern Manchurian Candidate” serving the interests of the Kremlin.
Election Recount Insider Analysis
Columbus Free Press (Ohio), The Real Story of the Recount, Bob Fitrakis, Jan. 4, 2017. Bob Fitrakis, Ohio Green Party Co-Chair and the Federal Elections Commissioner in Jill Stein’s Shadow Cabinet served as legal counsel for Jill Stein’s 2016 recount campaign. Jill Stein’s multi-state presidential recount was unprecedented. The idea originated from a group of computer scientists represented by attorney John Bonifaz, who after analyzing the U.S. computerized voting system found it to be vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. Social scientists and statisticians deemed some of the 2016 election results to be improbable. Election integrity volunteers and attorneys stepped up to help sort it out.
Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, agreed to ask for recounts in three states: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The donation page went online the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The recount was quickly financed in a few weeks by 150,000 small donors at the grassroots level across the political spectrum.
But if you were watching Fox News or reading Facebook during the recount you would think Stein, with a suspicious and nefarious agenda, was at best working undercover for the Clinton campaign or at worst, involved in a political payola campaign scam to enrich herself.
In reality, she was using the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency on International Development (USAID) standards of election integrity that every democratic country on the planet is held to – except the United States.
That standard is simple: If there is a significant mismatch between exit poll numbers and official vote totals, it is assumed something is amiss. In the case of this November’s presidential election, 13 states had exit poll-vote total mismatches that raised red flags with discrepancies that were far outside the margin of error. Twelve went for Trump and one for Clinton.
In the Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida exit polls, Clinton was ahead but Trump won the official vote count. In fact, in 24 out of 28 states there was a shift to Trump. This wouldn’t happen except once in every 52,440 presidential elections. Statisticians predict that this should be more evenly divided between the two candidates. All three states chosen for the recount admitted errors in their official vote counts, all in Trump’s favor.
Media & Trump Transition
Fishbowl DC, Donald Trump Reportedly Asks Rupert Murdoch to Suggest Names to Lead the FCC, Corinne Grinapol, Jan. 4, 2017. In the last two paragraphs of a piece in which New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman contemplates who will take Megyn Kelly‘s place in Fox News Channel’s prime-time lineup (a “pro-Trump conservative,” probably) is a far more important, and troubling, issue. The impetus, it turns out, for creating a thick chunk of pro-Trump programming is business, not ideological. A source told Sherman that Donald Trump asked Rupert Murdoch for his suggestions for FCC Chair.
Put another way, Trump is asking Murdoch to choose the person he’d like to head the regulatory body that regulates Murdoch’s business, as well as those of his competitors.
Washington Post, Internet providers are pushing for a repeal of Obama-era privacy rules, Brian Fung, Jan. 4, 2017.The rules, which were passed in October, are meant to keep firms such as Comcast and Verizon from abusing the behavioral data they collect on customers. That information includes your Web browsing history and the content of your emails.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk in the Oval Office before their weekly lunch, May 6, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Washington Post, Obama to huddle with Democrats on protecting his signature health care law, Juliet Eilperin and and Amy Goldstein, Jan. 4, 2017. Obama’s rare visit to Capitol Hill, 2 ½ weeks before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, marks the start of his administration’s final push to defend its achievements before handing over the reins of power in Washington.
WLIS / WMRD (1420 and 1150 on the AM dial in Connecticut), The Phil Mikan Show, Jan. 4, 2017. Longtime Connecticut talk show host Phil Mikan (shown in a file photo) interviewed Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig for an hour about the incoming Trump Administration and related developments.
These included the project's column on federal judicial and prosecutor nominations, public anger towards officials, and a discussion of the pervasive public relations techniques involved in government affairs and reporting.
Washington Post, How Julian Assange evolved from pariah to paragon, David Weigel, Joby Warrick, Jan. 4, 2017. Once vilified by the right, the founder of WikiLeaks is now seen by some as a hero of transparency.
Federal Employee Targeting?
Federal News Radio, Blast from the past: House reinstates rule targeting agency spending, employee salaries, Nicole Ogrysko, Jan. 3, 2017. Members of Congress brought back a longtime relic from previous congressional sessions Tuesday afternoon that could have major implications for federal employees during the appropriations process.
The House of Representatives voted on party lines and approved the rules package for the 115th Congress. It reinstates the “Holman Rule,” a little-known provision that allows lawmakers to bring an amendment on an appropriations bill to the House floor that may “retrench” agency spending, reduce the number of federal employees in a particular agency or cut the salary or “compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”
Five lawmakers from the national capital region say reinstating the rule would allow any member to bypass traditional order and make significant changes to agency functions or personnel. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with Reps. John Delaney (D-Md.), Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) wrote in opposition of the rule.
“We see this as an end-around, a surgical tool intended to reach deep into the federal budget to cut away programs and employees who run afoul of the Majority’s ideology,” a spokesman for Rep. Beyer’s office told Federal News Radio. “Functionally, a member could effectively remove an individual by reducing their salary or defunding their program. This is even more concerning given reports of transition team members requesting names of federal employees doing work on specific projects.”
The Holman Rule essentially lets House lawmakers make changes to a federal employee’s salary or position without input from the appropriations committee. Members can debate these amendments on the House floor for a limited time.
“Reviving this rule means lawmakers will be able to vote to cut the pay and jobs of individual workers or groups of workers without getting input from the agencies where these employees work,” said J. David Cox, national president for the American Federation of Government Employees, in a statement. Longtime federal employees may recognize the Holman Rule as a familiar provision. It was last included during a congressional session in 1983. The rule itself dates back to 1876 and has been a part of the rules package on occasion since then.
Mediaite, CNN Panelist to Trump: ‘Why Not Stay Silent’ as ‘Intelligence Community Has Information’ on You, Justin Baragona, Jan. 3, 2017. During a panel discussion on President-elect Donald Trump’s adversarial relationship with the intelligence community over the issue of Russian hacking, which continued this evening with a mocking tweet from Trump, CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali suggested Trump should be careful.
Why? Well, because the intel community likely has some dirt on the incoming POTUS. After host Don Lemon brought up Trump’s tweet this evening where he claimed his meeting with intelligence agency heads was delayed while labeling the Russian hacking as “so-called,” Naftali said it was a “bad idea” taking them on.
“The intelligence community has information about him that I’m sure he would like not to be released,” the historian explained. Naftali noted that there was probably no “great secret there” but it “doesn’t make sense for Donald Trump to make adversaries” in the intelligence community. He further asked, “Why not stay silent?”
Washington Post, More than 1,100 law school professors oppose Sessions’s nomination as attorney general, Sari Horwitz, “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality,” states the letter signed by professors from 170 law schools. More than 1,100 law school professors from across the country is sending a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general.
The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions (shown in an official photo) on Jan. 10-11.
“We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,” states the letter, signed by prominent legal scholars including Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Washington Post, It started with a little online venting. Now the Women’s March could be the biggest inauguration demonstration, Perry Stein and Sandhya Somashekhar, Jan. 3, 2017. Teresa Shook never considered herself much of an activist, but when the election results became clear, she asked her friends how to create an event page on Facebook for a march. By the time she went to bed, 40 people were on board. Now, more than 100,000 have said they plan to attend what has become a focal point for activists opposing Donald Trump’s agenda.
TPM, Trump To Nominate Robert Lighthizer As US Trade Representative, Caitlin MacNeal, Jan. 3, 2017. Donald Trump on Tuesday morning announced that he will nominate Robert Lighthizer to be the United States trade representative. Lighthizer supports Trump's trade agenda and was an early supporter of the President-elect. He served as deputy U.S. trade representative under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Criticism of Obama Justice Record
Black Agenda Report Radio, Obama’s Pardons Distract from the Horror of Mass Black Incarceration, Glen Ford, Jan. 3, 2017. Americans imprison big, but they pardon very small. President Obama set a record by giving clemency to 1/2000th of the 2.3 million U.S. prison inmates. The Brennan Center recommends release of 40 percent of inmates. But the Black Is Back Coalition calculates that even release of twice that many – 80 percent – would still maintain mass incarceration at 1973 levels.
The whole damn system has to go, for Black folks to even get close to justice. President Obama, a master of public relations, now has bragging rights for having granted clemency to a record number of federal prisoners – 1,176 of them, at last count, more than those set free by the past 11 presidents, combined. Looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every
two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society
living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.
The incompetent, lazy and white supremacist corporate media forget, or never reported, that for several years the Obama administration delayed the release from prison of five times as many inmates as he pardoned: about 6,000 federal prisoners convicted under the old crack cocaine laws. A federal appeals court wanted to
let them out, ruling that they were covered by a prison reform bill, but President Obama successfully argued to keep these men and women in prison. Several years later, Obama staged a huge public relations extravaganza, releasing many of these same inmates, supposedly out of the goodness of his heart. It was two years too late. Some never got out.
The Brennan Center for Justice released a study last month that concluded the U.S. could set free 39 percent of its prison population with no threat to public safety. The Brennan researchers argue that you can’t make a dent in the mass incarceration system unless whole categories of prisoners are made eligible for immediate release. They say 25 percent of the prison population should, instead, have been sentenced to drug treatment, community service, probation or a fine. Another 14 percent of inmates have already served enough time in prison, and are no longer a risk. Together, that comes to almost 40 percent of the prison population -- one and a half million people, about half of them Black.
GOP House Members Reverse Vote Gutting Ethics Oversight
Roll Call, House GOP Rolls Back Ethics Office Changes, Rema Rahman, House Republican leaders on Tuesday reversed a rule change that would have limited the independent Office of Congressional Ethics from investigating wrongdoing by members in the 115th Congress. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting, according to several lawmakers in attendance. The move came before the House was to vote on a package of rules changes on the first day of the new session.
Washington Post, Defying Ryan, House Republicans vote to rein in independent ethics office, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 3, 2017. The move to place the Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee stands to please many lawmakers who have been wary of having their dirty laundry aired by the independent entity, but some Republicans (including Speaker Paul Ryan, shown in an official photo) feared that rolling back a high-profile ethical reform would send a negative message as the GOP assumes unified control in Washington.
Politico, What is the Office of Congressional Ethics and why does it matter, Kyle Cheney and John Bresnahan, Jan. 3, 2017. House Republicans’ sudden move to gut their own independent ethics watchdog is in jeopardy following a rebuke from President-elect Donald Trump on the first day of the 2017 session. But their closed-door vote to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics — the most sweeping Congressional ethics reform of the last decade — is the result of years of building tension between lawmakers and investigators they’ve accused of overzealous pursuits.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, established in 2008, was the House’s answer to a string of ethics scandals involving members and staff — most notoriously the sweeping bribery conspiracy engineered by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The office was envisioned as an independent check on Congress’ power to police itself. Though it would feature no subpoena power, the office’s most important bludgeon was its ability to make public any reports that the House Ethics Committee decided not to pursue. Since its create, OCE has launched more than 100 inquiries and dismissed about two-thirds of them.
Republicans have moved to gut the already-limited power that OCE has to investigate members. It would be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and fall under direct oversight of the bipartisan House Ethics Committee.
The new office would have to halt any investigation if the Ethics Committee makes a written request to shut it down. Anonymous tips to the office would no longer be accepted, and any investigations that turn up potential criminal activity would be halted immediately and referred to the Ethics panel. Republicans are going to debate the amendment again in a Tuesday afternoon meeting, following Trump’s complaint. Stay tuned.
Politico, Jack Abramoff slams GOP over House ethics changes, Shane Goldmacher, Jan. 3, 2017. Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former lobbyist whose felony crimes eventually helped lead to the creation of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, ripped House Republicans for their move to gut the independent watchdog.
Abramoff, who emerged from prison as a self-styled ethics reformer, told Politico that the House GOP package adopted on Monday is “exactly the opposite of what Congress should be doing.” Abramoff is shown in a file photo (courtesy of Noel St. John) speaking at the National Press Club.
War, Peace and Hidden History
New York Times, Nixon Tried to Spoil Vietnam Peace Talks to Win 1968 Election, Peter Baker, Jan. 3, 2017 (print edition). Newly discovered notes by an aide to Richard M. Nixon appear to confirm suspicions that, while running for president, he was directly involved in persuading South Vietnam to resist a peace deal. Richard M. Nixon told an aide that they should find a way to secretly “monkey wrench” peace talks in Vietnam in the waning days of the 1968 campaign for fear that progress toward ending the war would hurt his chances for the presidency, according to newly discovered notes.
In a telephone conversation with H. R. Haldeman, who would go on to become White House chief of staff, Nixon (shown in an official photo) gave instructions that a friendly intermediary should keep “working on” South Vietnamese leaders to persuade them not to agree to a deal before the election, according to the notes, taken by Mr. Haldeman.
The Nixon campaign’s clandestine effort to thwart President Lyndon B. Johnson’s peace initiative that fall has long been a source of controversy and scholarship. Ample evidence has emerged documenting the involvement of Nixon’s campaign. But Mr. Haldeman’s notes appear to confirm longstanding suspicions that Nixon himself was directly involved, despite his later denials.
“There’s really no doubt this was a step beyond the normal political jockeying, to interfere in an active peace negotiation given the stakes with all the lives,” said John A. Farrell, who discovered the notes at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library for his forthcoming biography, Richard Nixon: The Life, to be published in March by Doubleday. “Potentially, this is worse than anything he did in Watergate.”
Through much of the campaign, the Nixon team maintained a secret channel to the South Vietnamese through Anna Chennault, widow of Claire Lee Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Mrs. Chennault had become a prominent Republican fund-raiser and Washington hostess.
Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The Polka Dot File, a book last summer by former reporter Fernando Faura, linked Chenault and her reputed disruption of peace negotiations to a mysterious "lady in the polka dot dress" reportedly at the scene and otherwise complicit with the June 1968 assassination of Democratic presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles.
Huffington Post, Megyn Kelly Leaving Fox News For NBC, Michael Calderone, Jan. 3, 2017. Her national profile increased following Donald Trump’s attacks — and also interest from competing networks. Fox News host Megyn Kelly (shown above in a screen shot) is leaving the cable news network for NBC News, the network announced Tuesday. Kelly will take on multiple roles at NBC. She’ll host a one-hour daytime talk show airing Monday through Friday and a Sunday evening news magazine show, and will contribute on breaking news stories and NBC’s coverage of major political and special events.
Washington Post, Syrian rebels threaten to snub peace talks amid cease-fire violations, Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 3, 2017. Syrian rebels have suspended talks over peace negotiations scheduled for later this month, accusing pro-government forces of breaking a cease-fire intended to stem bloodshed ahead of the meeting. Brokered by Russia and Turkey, the truce was to have been followed by talks between mainstream rebel factions and government representatives in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
The Indicter, New Analysis of Swedish Police Report Confirms Julian Assange’s Version in Sweden’s case, Celia Farber, Jan. 3, 2017. Author and investigative reporter Celia Farber concludes that the police reports confirm Julian Assange’s testimony, as given to the prosecutor in her questioning conducted at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. It has also been established that the crucial allegations against Mr Julian Assange, as have appeared in the Swedish and international media were constructed by the police and were not what the complainants really said or wished to achieve.
It has been discovered that it was the police, or the prosecutor’s office, which unlawfully and/or unethically leaked the “allegations” to the evening paper Expressen, which is clearly known for its declared NATO sympathies. Regrettably, but also predictably, this was an opportunity for Western mainstream media to create a scandal around the founder of WikiLeaks. Likewise, it was an occasion used by the MSM to insidiously attack the organization that had partly exposed the corruption of the governments they represent, and partly surpassed them in journalistic efficacy and objectivity.
But it was more than purely vendetta-time; it was a well-articulated campaign which started that day in August 2010 when – according to the Snowden documents– the US government asked the countries participating in the military occupation of Afghanistan under US command to prosecute Julian Assange. Sweden obeyed; others cooperated.
Nevertheless, the Afghan Logs and the Iraq Logs exposed by WikiLeaks remained published. The WikiLeaks founder did not surrender. The Assange case, already politically in its origins, turned into a spiral of increasing geopolitical dimensions.
Our position has always been that the above-described political aspect has always been present in the ‘Assange case’ and we could hardly be – in principle – interested in furthering a discussion on details pertaining the intimacy of Mr Assange or of other people around the constructed ‘legal case.’
CIA Funding of Media
New Republic, Literary Agents: Rethinking the legacy of writers who worked with the CIA, Patrick Iber, Jan. 3, 2017. Essay on New Book: Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers by Joel Whitney (OR Books, January 10, 2017).
The struggle for academic patronage and the strained conditions of nearly all media properties have led to fewer jobs and fewer venues for substantial writing; the possibility of leading a public-facing life of the mind now seems vanishingly small, which only heightens nostalgia for the golden age of the 1950s. Yet the shadow of the CIA lurks behind the achievements of that time. The free play of ideas—the very thing that was supposed to distinguish the United States from the Soviet Union in the first place—turned out to be, at least in part, a carefully constructed illusion. What if the prominence of midcentury intellectuals, the sense that they were engaged in important political and artistic projects, is inseparable from the fact that they were useful to America’s Cold War empire?
Through such relationships, the CIA wielded undue influence on the literary landscape. Whitney makes a compelling case, for instance, that the CIA reinforced the literary prestige of white men in American letters. If other nations believed that race relations in America were poor, the agency feared, it would damage our ability to lead the “free” world. So the CIA sponsored African American voices only if their critique of U.S. society wasn’t too sweeping. And even writers it did support, like Richard Wright, found that the CIA was spying on them at the same time. “I lift my hand to fight communism,” Wright wrote, “and I find that the hand of the Western world is sticking knives into my back.” Ex-Communist Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, attended some CCF events; he was the only black writer featured in The Paris Review’s “Art of Fiction” series until the 1980s.
The evidence that investigative journalists like Whitney and [Frances] Saunders have amassed should leave no doubt that the so-called “free market of ideas,” which the CIA claimed to be protecting, was distorted and undermined by the agency’s own activities. The CIA’s cultural apparatus gave intellectuals a way to advance professionally, as long as they rejected radicalism and embraced the necessity of U.S. power in the Cold War. The CIA did not create those opinions, but it amplified them and helped give its warriors the sense of being engaged in a world-historic struggle.
Huffington Post, Pelosi Slams GOP ‘Cowardice’ on Obamacare Repeal With No Replacement, Jeffrey Young, Jan. 2, 2016. Republicans still don’t know what they want to do on health care, the Democratic leader says. Republicans are dead set on acting swiftly to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without having a new health care reform platform in place because they know their party doesn’t have a way forward, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday.
The congressional GOP leadership’s preferred strategy on Obamacare ― dubbed repeal-and-delay ― is to begin moving filibuster-proof legislation through Congress as soon as lawmakers return this week, with an eye toward presenting it to President-elect Donald Trump to sign right after he’s inaugurated this month.
But Republicans plan to postpone developing their own health care proposals for up to four years ― after the next presidential election ― because the party has never been able to agree on what it wants to do instead.
To Pelosi, this signals that the House GOP leadership knows it faces major obstacles uniting its fractious caucus around what role the federal government should have in creating the conditions for more Americans to obtain affordable health insurance coverage.
“Repeal and delay is an act of cowardice on the part of the Republicans,” she said during a conference call with reporters Monday. “Where are they going to get the votes to replace? If, in fact, ideologically they’re opposed to a public role and any participation in the good health of the American people, where are they going to get the votes, unless they were to act in a bipartisan way?”
Pelosi (shown in an official photo) previously predicted Republicans would fail to even pass their repeal bill. Trump and Republicans in Congress are in full agreement that the Affordable Care Act must go, not least because they have been promising to undo the law since President Barack Obama enacted it in 2010. But during that time, the GOP has failed to coalesce around an alternative.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a broad framework for a new health care platform last year, and Trump’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), has authored health care reform legislation.
CNN, House GOP guts ethics panel, Deirdre Walsh and Daniella Diaz, Jan. 2, 2016. House Republicans voted Monday night in favor of a proposal that would weaken Congress' outside ethics watchdog and remove its independence. Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte's proposal would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics ― an initial watchdog for House members but without power to punish members -- under oversight of those very lawmakers.
This will now be included in a larger rules package that will be voted on in the full House of Representatives Tuesday. Goodlatte argued that changing the ethics review process "strengthens the mission" of the office and it will remain the panel to review potential rules violations. "It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify. The (ethics office) has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work," Goodlatte said in a written statement Monday evening.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed the move. "Republicans claim they want to 'drain the swamp,' but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress," she said in a statement Monday following the vote. Pelosi added: "The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office."
But GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told reporters he backed the proposal because "it's the right thing to do." Rogers said there were "numerous examples" of members "who were falsely accused by this group who had to spend a fortune to get their good name restored so I think there's been an abuse."
Washington Post, Trump’s inability to tolerate critics may be his biggest problem, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 2, 2016. A single, unidentified source, according to the New York Post, says President-elect Donald Trump told Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he likes him better than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (“he likes Schumer more than Ryan and McConnell because they both wanted him to lose”).
We cannot tell if Trump actually said it, let alone meant it, let alone will mean it a week or a day from now. (Operating off a single blind source in the Trump administration would seem to be the definition of reckless, by the way.) Welcome to Trump politics — irrational, personalized, mercurial, vengeful and maybe fictionalized by media straining for insights into the new administration.
One thing we can be sure of: At some point Trump will decide Schumer is a “loser” or “the worst” or whatever childish insult comes to mind because Schumer and Trump do not share objectives. As self-evident as it may be, Trump operates in a world in which someone’s worth (whether it is Schumer or Ryan or Russian President Vladimir Putin) is a direct reflection of whether he is saying nice things about Trump. This may be one reason he relies so heavily on his children; they know better than to insult him or to challenge him in ways that prompt him to lash out.
Washington Post, Winners and losers of the biggest state political battles of 2016, Amber Phillips, Jan. 2, 2017. By most measures, 2016 was the Republicans' year. They'll enter 2017 with near-historic majorities in Congress, governors' mansions and state legislatures, and as attorneys general, secretaries of state — you get the point. But Democrats and liberal advocates had some surprisingly major victories in 2016, especially on state referendums dealing with drugs, minimum wage and guns. Here are the nine biggest state political and policy battles, divided into categories by which side won.
Crimes Against Democracy
JFKFacts.org, Anthony Summers digs deeper on Orest Pena, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 2, 2017. A faithful reader adds to what is known about Orest Pena, the New Orleans bar owner whose testimony to Congress in 1978 remains secret. The reader quotes from Anthony Summers’ useful reporting in his book, Not in Your Lifetime.
“There was the claim of Orest Pena, a New Orleans bar owner who in 1963 himself supplied occasional information to FBI agent Warren De Brueys," wrote Summers (shown in a file photo). "Pena was to say he had seen Oswald with Agent De Brueys on “numerous occasions” and that De Brueys threatened him physically before his Warren Commission appearance, warning him to keep quiet.
Around the Nation
AP via Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bundy friends, family protest federal monument decision, Wire and staff reports, Jan. 2, 2017. Obama on Thursday declared the nearly 470-square-mile Gold Butte National Monument in an area across the Virgin River from the Bundy homestead, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The announcement coincided with designation of a more than 2,100-square-mile Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.
The local Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, conservationists and advocates praised the Gold Butte designation, which U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is retiring after 34 years in Congress, backed. They said the area is home to threatened wildlife, such as the desert tortoise and bighorn sheep, and contains ancient rock art and artifacts, unique geologic features, rare fossils and recently discovered dinosaur tracks.
The Spectrum of St. George, Utah, reported that Carol Bundy expressed fear during the protest that the government will ban grazing in the Gold Butte area — although the U.S. Interior Department says grazing will be allowed. Bundy nephew Josey Spencer said the group hoped President-elect Donald Trump will reverse Obama’s monument declaration.
Trial is set to begin Feb. 6 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas for the first six defendants in the criminal case stemming from the armed standoff in April 2014 that stopped a U.S. Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy cattle. Nineteen people were arrested last year, including five Bundy family members. Two men have pleaded guilty; Cliven Bundy and four sons are to stand trial later this year.
Bundy family members maintain the state, not the federal government, has authority over the public land where he has grazed cattle for decades. The position has roots in a nearly half-century fight over grazing policies in Nevada and the West, where the U.S. government controls vast expanses of property. Federal land managers obtained court orders to remove Bundy cattle from the land after telling judges that he failed for years to pay required grazing fees.
Washington Post, lslamic State says it carried out deadly New Year’s Eve attack at nightclub in Istanbul, Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib, Jan. 2, 2017. The mass shooting that killed 39 people was designed to target Christians as an act of vengeance for Turkish military actions, the militant group said.
SouthFront, Syrian Army Continues Anti-Terrorist Operation Northwest Of Damascus, Liberates Ayn Al-Fijah Village, Staff Report, Jan. 2, 2017. The Syrian government launched military operation in the Wadi Barada area in December, 2016 after Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and its allies poisoned the water supply line to the government-held area of Damascus.
Middle East Eye, Why Israel Med UN Settlement Vote With Anger, Fear, Horror, Basheer Nafi, Jan. 2, 2017. No measure has so exposed the commitment of the Sisi regime to serving Israeli interests as the affair of the Security Council resolution. The UN Security Council resolution denouncing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was a last-minute one.
The council voted on it during the final hours of 23 December, the last day of serious work at the UN prior to the end-of-year holidays. It was also the last day of serious work for Barack Obama's administration before Donald Trump takes over the White House on 20 January.
The resolution, therefore, seemed as if it was Obama's last message to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government - the same government which has resisted every Washington attempt, however small, towards achieving a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has never hesitated to manipulate America's partisan politics against the US president, such as when Netanyahu, invited by Republicans, gave his speech against the Iran nuclear deal before Congress in March 2015.
Washington Post, GOP Congress maps plans for sweeping conservative agenda, David Weigel, Jan. 1, 2017. When the 115th Congress begins this week with Republicans firmly in charge of the House and Senate, GOP lawmakers are ready to move quickly on an ambitious package of conservative legislation, confident that their long-delayed legislative goals are poised to become reality with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Huffington Post, Impeaching Trump: The process begins now, Robert Kuttner, Jan. 1, 2017. Donald Trump is wildly unfit to be president, and he will demonstrate that in ways that break the law and violate the Constitution.
Since the election, there have been three wishful efforts to keep Trump from the presidency: a recount doomed by a lack of evidence; a futile campaign to flip Trump electors; and an even more improbable drive to get the Supreme Court to annul the 2016 election. These moves, indicative of magical thinking, make Trump’s opposition look a lot weaker than it is ― at a time when the stakes for the Republic could not be higher. There will also be marches and demonstrations, but they will also look weak unless they have a strategic focus.
There is only one constitutional way to remove a president, and that is via impeachment. What’s needed is a citizens’ impeachment inquiry, to begin on Trump’s first day in office.
The inquiry should keep a running dossier, and forward updates at least weekly to the House Judiciary Committee. There will be no lack of evidence. The materials should be made public via a website. The inquiry should be conducted by a distinguished panel whose high-mindedness and credentials are, well, unimpeachable.
There needs to be a parallel public campaign, pressing for an official investigation. For those appalled by Trump, who wonder where to focus their efforts, here is something concrete―and more realistic than it may seem.
Trump has already committed grave misdeeds of the kind that the Constitutional founders described as high crimes and misdemeanors. With his commingling of his official duties and his personal enrichment, Trump will be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which unambiguously prohibits any person holding public office from profiting from gifts or financial benefits from “any king, prince or Foreign state.”
Trump, who has entangled his business interests with his political connections at home and abroad, has already declared his contempt for these Constitutional protections. He declared, “The law is totally on my side, meaning the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” Oh, yes he can, and this president will.
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For Secret Service Officer
Please ask President Obama to pardon Abraham Bolden, the first African American to serve on the White House detail guarding a president. Now 80, he was framed on corruption charges as he tried to warn the Warren Commission about security threats to President Kennedy, who had invited him to break the color barrier on the White House staff. Details of the injustice are in many places, including well-regarded historical books, his own 2008 memoir, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, and JIP coverage, which includes an update on his exemplary life since serving his harsh, unjustified five-year sentence under horrible conditions.
Emails on his behalf addressed to President Obama can be brief, and can be coordinated for delivery via the University Justice Coalition.
Past News Reports
Call to Action
The Justice Integrity Project urges readers to sign the petition to President Obama for clemency for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003), whom our research indicates was unjustly convicted in 2006 on politically motivated corruption charges. The petition is here. Siegelman is shown above with his wife (at center), son and daughter. He was re-imprisoned at age 67 in September 2012 in Louisiana.
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