June 2017 News Reports

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 Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative June 2017 news and views

June 30

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Washington Post, Trump’s voting commission asked states for election data. At least 25 states say they can’t or won’t hand it over, Mark Berman and David Weigel, June 30, 2017. President Trump’s voting commission stumbled into public view this week, issuing a sweeping request for nationwide voter data that drew sharp condemnation from election experts and resistance from at least 24 states that said they cannot or will not hand over all of the data.

Donald TrumpThe immediate backlash marked the first significant attention to the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” since Trump started it last month and followed through on a vow to pursue his own unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud is rampant and cost him the popular vote in the presidential election. The White House has said the commission will embark upon a “thorough review of registration and voting issues in federal elections,” but experts and voting rights advocates have pilloried Trump for his claims of widespread fraud, which studies and state officials alike have not found. They say that they fear the commission will be used to restrict voting.

Those worries intensified this week after the commission sent letters to 50 states and the District on Wednesday asking for a trove of information, including names, dates of birth, voting histories and, if possible, party identifications. The letters also asked for evidence of voter fraud, convictions for election-related crimes and recommendations for preventing voter intimidation — all within 16 days.

While the Trump administration has said it is just requesting public information, the letters met with swift — and sometimes defiant — rejection. “This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement. “At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.”

Vice President Pence, who is chairman of the commission, hosted a conference call with the group’s members Wednesday morning, three weeks before they are scheduled to have their first meeting in Washington.

Kris Kobach Kansas AG

During the call, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the vice chairman, told the other members about the letters. A spokesman for Pence defended the letters, noting they seek information that is available publicly under state laws. The request drew a new round of scrutiny to Kobach (shown at right), a candidate for governor of Kansas in 2018 and an intellectual and political leader among conservatives who want to crack down on illegal immigration and the perceived threat of voter fraud.

President Donald Trump official

Talking Points Memo, Curveball! Trump Suddenly Endorses Obamacare Repeal And Delay, Caitlin MacNeal,June 30, 2017. As the Senate struggles to come up with a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that wins the approval of 50 Republican senators, a Republican senator on Friday morning suggested repealing the Affordable Care Act now and devising a replacement later. President Donald Trump quickly jumped on board. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), wrote a letter to Trump Friday morning suggesting a plan to repeal Obamacare now, with a year-long delay in implementation, setting up Congress to work on a replacement plan this summer.

“On the current path, it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that attempts to prop up much of the crumbling ObamaCare structures. We can and must do better than either of these – both because the American people deserve better, and because we promised better,” Sasse wrote in the letter. He asked Trump to call on Republicans to repeal Obamacare in early July if they cannot reach an agreement on a comprehensive plan by then.

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough  (MSNBC Screen shot)

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough

Washington Post, Donald Trump is not well, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, June 30, 2017. President Trump launched personal attacks against us Thursday, but our concerns about his unmoored behavior go far beyond the personal. America’s leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president. We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, “Morning Joe.”

The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.” 

New York Times, Crude Tweet by Trump Rebuked on Capitol Hill and Beyond, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, June 30, 2017 (print edition). President Trump lashed out Thursday at the appearance and intellect of Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” drawing condemnation from his fellow Republicans and reigniting the controversy over his attitudes toward women that nearly derailed his candidacy last year. Mr. Trump’s invective threatened to further erode his support from Republican women and independents, both among voters and on Capitol Hill, where he needs negotiating leverage for the stalled Senate health care bill.

New York Times, Opinion: The Blood on a Tax Cut, Timothy Egan, June 30, 2017. Lost in the usual banality of the Beltway box score this week are the moral dimensions of the plot to gut health care. The reprieve on a Senate vote, until after the July 4 recess, is momentary. Still, it gives people just enough time to consider the audacity of meanness behind what Republicans are trying to do.

There is blood on this tax cut. It’s a simple swap — taking away $700 billion from one class of people to give it to another. That swap would leave 22 million Americans without health care over the next decade, and many of them will die prematurely because they will not see a doctor in time. In turn, those making $875,000 a year would get an average tax cut of about $45,000. Those making $5 million a year would get a break of $250,000.

National Press Club, NY Times reporter Peter Baker captures legacy moments of Obama presidency, Julia Haskins, June 30, 2017. In his new book about President Barack Obama's two terms in office, New York Times Chief White House Correspondent Peter Baker isn't trying to draw a conclusion about whether Obama succeeded or failed, he's portraying the moments that defined his legacy. The book, Obama: The Call of History, offers readers a closer look into Obama’s life in office and the people and key events of his presidency.

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New York Times, Fury in Nevada for Senator Who Stood Against Health Bill, Jonathan Martin, and Kenneth P. Vogel, June 30, 2017. Dean Heller, the Nevada senator who broke with President Trump on health care, now faces the wrath of Las Vegas’s biggest titans and the Republican rank and file.

More on Trump's Charm Offensive

New York Times, I’ve Overestimated Donald Trump, Gail Collins, June 29, 2017. I have to confess I’ve overestimated Donald Trump. Back in the day, he sent me a copy of a column he objected to, with some notes suggesting I was a “dog and a liar” with “the face of a pig.” I’ve had many opportunities to make use of that story since Trump became a presidential candidate, so it’s all fine for me. However, I have to admit that it did not occur to me he’d keep doing that kind of stuff as president of the United States.

June 29

War In Syria

Syria Flag

The American Conservative, Ex-Weapons Inspector: Trump’s Sarin Claims Built on ‘Lie,’ Scott Ritter, June 29, 2017. Scott Ritter takes on White House Syria attack claims. The lack of any meaningful fact-based information to back up the claims of the White Helmets and those who sustain them, like the U.S. government and Bellingcat, raises serious questions about the viability of the White House’s latest pronouncements on Syria and allegations that it was preparing for a second round of chemical attacks.

If America has learned anything from its painful history with Iraq and the false allegations of continued possession of weapons of mass destruction on the part of the regime of Saddam Hussein, it is that to rush into military conflict in the Middle East based upon the unsustained allegations of an interested regional party (i.e., Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: U.S. Retreats From Al-Tanf – Gives Up On Occupying South East Syria, Admin, June 29, 2017. The U.S. is giving up its hopeless position at the Syrian-Iraq border crossing near  al-Tanf in south east Syria. The U.S. military had earlier bombed Syrian forces when they came near that position but it then found itself outmaneuvered, cut off from the north and enclosed in a useless area.

Syria Flag

The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. About 150 or so U.S. trained Arab fighters will be flown from al-Tanf to north-east Syria where they will join the (hated) Kurdish forces.

Climate Change Challenge To Trump

Washington Post, Angela Merkel predicts showdown with U.S. over climate at G-20, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Stephanie Kirchner, June 29, 2017. Her pledge echoed a rare joint statement from Germany, France and Italy rebuking President Trump’s call to revise the agreement.    Angela Merkel

In forceful remarks before Germany’s Parliament on Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to defend the international climate agreement spurned by the Trump administration, anticipating a difficult meeting of the leaders of the world’s major economies next week in Hamburg. Despite the withdrawal of the United States, the world’s second-largest polluter, the E.U. remains committed to the Paris climate accord, she said. But she was blunt about the obstacles posed by American retreat from the deal, which was signed by 195 nations in an attempt to forge global consensus around limiting greenhouse gases.

German Flag

“Since the U.S. announced that it would exit the Paris agreement, we cannot expect any easy talks in Hamburg,” Merkel said, referring to the Group of 20 summit scheduled for July 7-8. “The dissent is obvious, and it would be dishonest to cover it up.”

President Donald Trump official

Media

New York Times, Trump Under Fire for Mika Brzezinski ‘Face-Lift’ Tweet, Michael M. Grynbaum, June 29, 2017. President Trump assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski, saying she had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a stay at Mar-a-Lago. The tweet was met with immediate criticism on social media.  President Trump on Thursday assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski in unusually personal and vulgar terms, the latest of a string of escalating attacks by the president on the national news media.

Shortly before 9 a.m., as Ms. Brzezinski’s MSNBC show “Morning Joe” was ending, Mr. Trump used Twitter to taunt Ms. Brzezinski and her co-host, Joe Scarborough, referring to them as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe” and saying that at one point Ms. Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.’’

The graphic nature of the president’s suggestion that Ms. Brzezinski had undergone plastic surgery was met with immediate criticism on social media. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrote on Twitter, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” And a spokesman for NBC News, Mark Kornblau, wrote on Twitter: “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘It is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.”

In a statement on Thursday morning, MSNBC said: “It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.”

Around The Nation: Budget Crisis In Illinois

New York Times, Illinois Nears Unprecedented 3rd Year Without Budget, Julie Bosman and Monica Davey, June 29, 2017. Many people who depend on state services — public university students, drug addicts, troubled teenagers, the elderly — have already felt the repercussions.

San Francisco Bay View, Free at last, Rev. Edward Pinkney is back in action, Philip A. Bassett, June 29, 2017. Philip A. Bassett is the author of “Soldier of Truth: The Trials of Rev. Edward Pinkney.”  In these days of tremendous change and social upheaval, it’s good to know that a man of impeccable integrity is back in the public arena. After two and a half years in various Michigan prisons, Rev. Edward Pinkney has returned to his home in Benton Harbor, Mich. A bulldog for social justice, the reverend, who turns 69 this year, shows no sign of slowing. “There is drama every day in prison,” he told me. “Even among friends.” He said there were more than a few times where he was on the phone with Dorothy and a fight would break out somewhere nearby.

Background: Truthout, News Analysis: Rev. Edward Pinkney Imprisoned for Fighting the Whirlpool Corporation, Victoria Collier and Ben-Zion Ptashnik, Dec. 16, 2014. The Rev. Pinkney is shown in a family photo.On December 15, Rev. Edward Pinkney, a leader in the struggle for social and economic justice for the residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was sentenced to serve up to 10 years in prison, on the basis of thin circumstantial evidence that a few dates had been altered on a recall petition against the city's mayor, James Hightower. The recall was prompted by the mayor's continued support for tax evasion by the Whirlpool Corporation, the Fortune 500 company and $19 billion global appliance manufacturer, headquartered in Benton Harbor.

The politically motivated prosecution against Pinkney killed the petition to recall Hightower, who many believe would have been ousted due to his ongoing protection of Whirlpool's interests at the expense of impoverished Benton Harbor, which is over 90 percent African-American. There was absolutely no evidence to convict Pinkney, and, legally, the altering of a petition document should have been a misdemeanor offense.

Predicted U.S. Economic Damage From Climate Change

Science, Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States, Solomon Hsiang, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen, Robert Muir-Wood, Paul Wilson, Michael Oppenheimer, Kate Larsen, and Trevor Houser, June 29, 2017. Estimates of climate change damage are central to the design of climate policies. Here, we develop a flexible architecture for computing damages that integrates climate science, econometric analyses, and process models. We use this approach to construct spatially explicit, probabilistic, and empirically derived estimates of economic damage in the United States from climate change.

Importantly, risk is distributed unequally across locations, generating a large transfer of value northward and westward that increases economic inequality. By the late 21st century, the poorest third of counties are projected to experience damages between 2 and 20% of county income (90% chance) under business-as-usual emissions.

New York Times, As Climate Changes, Southern States Will Suffer More Than Others, Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, June 29, 2017.As the United States confronts global warming in the decades ahead, not all states will suffer equally. Maine may benefit from milder winters. Florida, by contrast, could face major losses, as deadly heat waves flare up in the summer and rising sea levels eat away at valuable coastal properties.

In a new study in the journal Science, researchers analyzed the economic harm that climate change could inflict on the United States in the coming century. They found that the impacts could prove highly unequal: states in the Northeast and West would fare relatively well, while parts of the Midwest and Southeast would be especially hard hit.

Trump's Judge-Selection Advisor

National Law Journal, Meet the Kirkland Partner in Line to Shepherd Trump's Judicial Nominees, Marcia Coyle, June 28, 2017. Beth Williams, then in the Senate, worked on Roberts, Alito confirmations. If President Donald Trump gets to fill another U.S. Supreme Court seat, he will have an experienced hand in Kirkland & Ellis partner Beth Williams guiding any nominee through confirmation. Williams is Trump's pick to head the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy. Here are six things to know about Williams, whose nomination was considered Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rules For U.S. Travel Ban

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New York Times, Rules for New Travel Ban Set: Grandma, No; Stepsister, Yes, Gardiner Harris and Ron Nixon, June 29, 2017. Stepsiblings and half-siblings are allowed, but not nieces or nephews. Sons- and daughters-in-law are in, but brothers- and sisters-in-law are not. Parents, including in-laws, are considered “close family,” but grandparents are not. The State Department issued new guidelines Wednesday night to American embassies and consulates on applying a limited travel ban against foreign visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Enforcement of the guidelines will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

The guidelines followed the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to allow parts of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban to move forward, while also imposing certain limits, as the court prepares to hear arguments in October on the scope of presidential power over border security and immigration. The court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Vatican Treasurer Accused In Sex Scandal

Washington Post, Accused cardinal denies Australia sex abuse allegations, takes leave of absence, Stefano Pitrelli, Michael Birnbaum and A. Odysseus Patrick​, June 29, 2017. A top Vatican official denied allegations of sexual offenses on Thursday after being charged by Australian police, saying he would take a leave of absence as one of Pope Francis’ chief advisers to defend himself. Speaking to reporters in the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell denounced “relentless character assassination” in the media and confirmed he would return to his native Australia to face the charges. Australian police earlier Thursday announced that Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” that nation’s term for charges related to past conduct.

Pell — Australia’s senior-most Catholic prelate — has for years faced questions in his role in the staggering scale of sexual abuse by the Australian church. But he has never before been directly charged. The controversy is a challenge to Pope Francis’ attempts to address the church’s long-running abuse scandal, particularly since much of the abuse in the Australian church was well-known at the time the pontiff appointed him to his current role.

Media

OpEdNews, Washington Has Been At War For 16 Years: Why? for Paul Craig Roberts, June 29, 2017. For 16 years the US has been at war in the Middle East and North Africa, running up trillions of dollars in expenses, committing untold war crimes, and sending millions of war refugees to burden Europe, while simultaneously claiming that Washington cannot afford its Social Security and Medicare obligations or to fund a national health service like every civilized country has.

Considering the enormous social needs that cannot be met because of the massive cost of these orchestrated wars, one would think that the American people would be asking questions about the purpose of these wars. What is being achieved at such enormous costs? Domestic needs are neglected so that the military/security complex can grow fat on war profits.

The lack of curiosity on the part of the American people, the media, and Congress about the purpose of these wars, which have been proven to be based entirely on lies, is extraordinary. What explains this conspiracy of silence, this amazing disinterest in the squandering of money and lives?

HuffPost, New York Times Employees Walk Out As Layoffs Loom, Andy Campbell, June 29, 2017. Copy desk to management: “You turned your backs on us.” Dozens of New York Times employees stage a walkout after cuts to the publication’s copy desk were announced. Layoffs at the Times conclude a month of sweeping cuts across the media industry and signal that the plight of shrinking newsrooms is far from over.

Several Times employees told HuffPost that 109 copy editors were offered buyouts as part of a company plan to cut copy desk staff down to as few as 50 people. That revelation ― along with a bizarre interview process, labeled “death panels” by employees, in which copy editors were reportedly forced to justify their continued employment ― led the desk to fire back at the company in an open letter to Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn on Wednesday.

June 28

Washington Post, The Senate health-care bill is proof: Trumpism isn’t populism, Matt O'Brien​, June 28, 2017. The Senate's health-care bill might be too much for even Marie Antoinette. It's really pretty simple. The Senate bill would, over the course of the next decade, cut Obamacare's health insurance subsidies by $408 billion and Medicaid by $772 billion all to pay for $700 billion of tax cuts, nearly half of which the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says would go to the top 1 percent of households.

​Washington Post, Pentagon plan to defeat ISIS looks very much like Obama’s approach, Karen DeYoung, June 28, 2017. The Pentagon is putting the final touches on a promised new counter-Islamic State strategy for Syria and Iraq, and it looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued, according to senior defense officials.

The core of the strategy is to deny territory to the militants and ultimately defeat them, and to stay out of Syria’s civil war pitting the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia against domestic opposition forces. The two fights in that country have come into increasingly close proximity in recent months, and there have been clashes.

Military officials from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on down have emphasized in recent days that they are not looking for a fight with the regime or the Iranians. That has put them at odds with White House officials who have expressed concern about Iranian expansion across a new battlefield in Syria’s southern desert. Critical of what they view as the Pentagon’s reluctance to prevent Iranian gains, these officials consider Iran’s increasing presence there a hindrance to the United States ’ pursuit of the Islamic State, and an attempt by Tehran to consolidate postwar control. Rather than allowing the regime and Iranian militia forces to plant their flags in the desert, the U.S. military and its proxy forces, they say, should be planting their own.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is going down for Russian money laundering, and now there’s nothing he can do to stop it, Bill Palmer, June 28, 2017. A funny thing happened last night: the United States Treasury Department gave in. For months it had been trying to fend off the Senate Intelligence Committee’s attempts at getting its hands on the records pertaining to a 2015 money laundering bust of Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino. But now the Treasury has finally caved, giving up the documents that will lead to Donald Trump’s demise, both as a president and as a free man.

Senator Mark Warner revealed last night on-air during the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC that the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has indeed just forked over thousands of pages of evidence (link). This is the motherlode that we’ve all been waiting for. These documents will identify which Russians were laundering their money through Trump’s casino, which in turn is going to point to who’s been loaning him money, who’s been floating his bankrupt businesses for the past decade, and whom in Russia he answers to.

Around the Nation: New York Subway Crisis

New York Times, Every New York City Subway Line Is Getting Worse. Here’s Why, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Ford Fessenden and KK Rebecca Lai, June 28, 2017. Subway delays have become an aggravating fact of life in New York City. Every day brings a new set of alerts about painful disruptions across the system. Trains creep along or stop in the tunnels. Crowds thicken on the platforms.

Fighting Bank Against Global Banksters

C.S. Lewis via PR Newswire, UBS Whistleblower Reveals the Secrets of Offshore Banking and Offers Expert Consultation to Help UBS and Swiss Bank Clients Get Their Rightful Compensation, Staff report, June 28, 207. For decades, the now-defunct façade of Swiss banking secrecy has cheated worldwide clients who deposited money in Switzerland, alleges UBS Whistleblower and former banker, Bradley Birkenfeld. In his explosive book, Lucifer's Banker -- The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy, Birkenfeld details how UBS, one of the world's largest banks, helped the ultra-wealthy commit tax fraud.

Now, a team of senior ex-UBS bankers and international lawyers are lending their expertise to help former Swiss bank clients get their rightful compensation from "kickbacks" taken. Presently, every UBS client whether individual, corporation, endowment, foundation, trust and/or government entity can now demand all of their rightful "kickbacks" from UBS before October 2017. Birkenfeld, along with a group of senior ex-UBS private bankers and professional international law firms, have been assembled to assist every Swiss bank client to promptly file their rightful claims. To get the facts go here.

Media, Courts, Sources

Salon, South Carolina political blogger faces potential jail time for refusing to reveal his sources, Charlie May, June 28, 2017. A well-known controversial South Carolina blogger could face jail time for refusing to reveal his anonymous sources after being demanded to do so by a court, which “could set a very disturbing precedent,” a top state press official told the Post and Courier. Will Folks, a former spokesman for former Gov. Mark Sanford, started a news blog fitsnews.com where he writes about politics sports and culture, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Folks is being sued for defamation by former state Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, for citing anonymous sources who said Bingham “was the subject of an ethics complaint” according to CJR. One story said Bingham would even receive an indictment, but that has not happened.

The blogger is scheduled to appear before Circuit Judge Keith Kelly where he may be charged with contempt of court for refusing to give up his sources, according to the Post and Courier. After Folks refused to reveal his sources, Bingham’s attorneys filed a motion to hold Folks in contempt. Under the law, the judge can decide whether to fine Folks for each day he doesn’t give up his sources, or put him in jail, the Post and Courier reported.

The South Carolina Press Association is supporting Folks, and believes it could set a dangerous precedent for journalists to be prosecuted in civil lawsuits. “It seems as though this is being used as a way to ‘out’ confidential informants,” Executive Director Bill Rogers said, according to the Post and Courier. “If that’s the case, they’re going to stop talking and society will not be well served.”

Citizens Against Political Assassination (CAPA), Benson’s JFK Film ‘The Searchers’ On Researchers Premieres July 4 On Web, Andrew Kreig, June 28, 2017. On the Fourth of July, 2017, The Searchers — The Story of Researchers of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy — will be released worldwide on Amazon Video Direct and Vimeo

Office Products Buyout At Staples

New York Times, Staples to Sell for $6.9 Billion, and Its New Owner Has an Uphill Battle, David Gelles and Michael J.de la Merced, June 28, 2017 As online shopping claims ever more casualties, Staples, a mainstay of office supplies, has agreed to sell itself to a private equity firm. The deal is the latest instance of a once-prominent name in retailing being laid low by the Internet.

As online shopping claims ever more casualties, Staples, a mainstay of office supplies, has agreed to sell itself to a private equity firm. The deal is the latest instance of a once-prominent name in retailing being laid low by the powerful forces reshaping how people shop (in other words: Amazon).

Sycamore Partners — a private equity firm that specializes in retailers and already owns the likes of Talbots, the Limited and Hot Topic — said Wednesday that it would  acquire Staples for $6.9 billion, citing its “iconic brand.” Yet Sycamore is acquiring a company that is squarely in decline. Sales and gross profits at Staples have fallen for each of the last four full years. At the same time, the company has been shrinking the number of stores it operates.

June 27

Paul Manafort

Washington Post, Manafort files as foreign agent for Ukraine, discloses $17.1 million in payments over two years, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, June 27, 2017. Paul Manafort, a former chairman of President Trump’s campaign, disclosed the payments to a consultant firm in a filing to the Justice Department. The report makes him the second former senior Trump adviser to retroactively acknowledge the need to disclose work for foreign interests.

Washington Post, A Time magazine with Trump on the cover hangs in his golf clubs. It’s fake, David A. Fahrenthold, June 27, 2017.  The framed copy of Time magazine was hung up in at least five of President Trump’s clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

This cover — dated March 1, 2009 — looks like an impressive memento from Trump’s pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.

But that wasn’t true. The Time cover is a fake.  There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

The real Time cover, left, and the fake Donald Trump cover. (Left: Time. Right: Angel Valentin for The Washington Post)

Trump Pollution Control Cutbacks At EPA

Washington Post, Trump administration to propose repealing rule giving EPA broad authority over water pollution, Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, June 27, 2017. President Trump’s administration will revoke a rule that gives the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority over regulating the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday.

Testifying before Congress, Pruitt — who earlier said he would recuse himself from working on active litigation related to the rule — said that the agency would “provide clarity” by “withdrawing” the rule and reverting standards to those adopted in 2008. Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, had sued EPA over the regulation, saying it “usurps” state authority, “unlawfully broadens” the definition of waters of the United States and imposes “numerous and costly obligations” on landowners.

Washington Post, Senate leaders postpone vote to overhaul Obamacare as bill faces GOP rebellion, Sean Sullivan, Kelsey Snell and Juliet Eilperin​, June 27, 2017. Facing a rebellion within their own ranks, Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday postponed a vote to overhaul the 2010 Affordable Care Act until after the July 4 recess.

Mitchell_McConnellThe delay, which came after five Senate Republicans said they could not support a move to bring up the bill this week in the wake of a new budget analysis of its impacts, means that lawmakers will be exposed to a barrage of lobbying in their home states in the coming days. The current proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (shown at left), which would make deep cuts to the Medicaid program while rolling back many of the existing law’s insurance mandates and tax increases, has come under attack from both the left and right.

On Monday the prospects for a quick vote on the measure deteriorated after the Congressional Budget Office concluded that it would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured by the end of the coming decade while reducing federal spending by $321 billion.

New York Times, Health Bill Is in Peril as G.O.P. Support Wanes After Report, Thomas Heath and Robert Pear, June 27, 2017 (print Susan Collinsedition). The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was edging toward collapse on Monday after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine (above left) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (at right), said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote expected as early as Tuesday, meaning a collapse could be imminent.

The report left Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, with the unenviable choices of changing senators’ stated positions, withdrawing the bill from consideration while he renegotiates, or letting it go down to defeat — a remarkable conclusion to the Republicans’ seven-year push to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Global Cyber Attack Spreads

New York Times, New Ransomware Cyberattack Spreads From Europe to U.S., Mark Scott and Nicole Perlroth, June 27, 2017. The hack bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines. A number of institutions and companies said they had been targeted, but it remains unclear who is behind it.

Computer systems from Russia to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that bore similarities to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide. As reports of the attack spread quickly, the Ukrainian government said that several of its ministries, radiation monitoring at the Chernobyl nuclear facility, local banks and metro systems had been affected. And in the first confirmed cases in the United States, Merck, the drug giant, confirmed that its global computer networks had been hit, as did DLA Piper, the multinational law firm.

Computer experts were calling the virus Petya, and said that it was similar to the WannaCry attack, which spread quickly across much of Asia and Europe. Others cautioned, however, that it could be yet another type of ransomware. Researchers at the computer security company Symantec said the new attack was using the same hacking tool created by the National Security Agency that was used in the WannaCry attacks. Called Eternal Blue, the tool was among dozens leaked online last April by a group known as the Shadow Brokers. The N.S.A. has not acknowledged its tools were used in WannaCry or other attacks.

Global News: Syria, Advancing Against ISIS, Denies U.S. WMD Claim

New York Times, Syria Denies Planning Another Chemical Attack, Ben Hubbard, June 27, 2017. Syrian and Russian officials on Tuesday rejected an accusation from the White House that Syrian forces were preparing to launch a chemical weapons attack, calling the statement a provocation. The rebuttals came in response to a White House statement late Monday saying that Syria appeared to be preparing a new chemical attack and warning that the government of President Bashar al-Assad would “pay a heavy price” if it carried one out.

Syria Flag

The accusation appeared to catch American military and diplomatic officials off guard, and it remains unclear if it was based on raw intelligence that President Trump had chosen to declassify. In Damascus, Ali Haidar, the Syrian minister for national reconciliation, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the government did not have chemical weapons and that it would not use any. He accused the White House of releasing the statement to pave the way for a “diplomatic battle” against Syria at the United Nations.

More Self-Dealing In Trump World?

Jay SekulowWashington Post, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow’s family has been paid millions from charities it controls, Aaron C. Davis and Shawn Boburg, June 27, 2017. Sekulow (shown in a file photo), the most visible member of the legal team defending President Trump in the Russia investigation, is poised to capitalize on his new role in ways that are not obvious to the public.

Fake News, White House Style

Washington Post, Opinion: Sarah Huckabee Sanders lambastes fake news — and then promotes a journalist accused of deceptive videos, Aaron Blake, June 27, 2017. In the span of a few seconds, the deputy White House press secretary attacked the media for inaccuracies and then turned around and urged them to watch a new video from conservative undercover video journalist James O'Keefe, who has been accused of deceptive editing and tactics. In other words, when you are lecturing journalists on the importance of accuracy and ethics, citing O'Keefe probably isn't a great idea. And really, the juxtaposition of those two things from Huckabee Sanders at Tuesday's briefing says it all.

Trump Investigations

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New York Times, How Donald Trump Misunderstood the F.B.I., Tim Weiner, June 27, 2017. Since Watergate, the bureau has come to view itself as an essential, and essentially independent, check on the president.

Utah Snowflake In Congress Wanted Taxpayers To House Members A Second Home

Washington Post, Chaffetz: Members of Congress should get stipends to afford homes in D.C., Jenna Portnoy​, ​June 27, 2017. The Utah Republican made the comment that lawmakers have trouble stretching their $174,000 salaries to cover housing weeks after stating that poor people should give up iPhones to pay for health insurance.

Jason ChaffetzOn his way out of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (shown in an official photo) gave many District residents another reason to gripe Tuesday when he called for members of Congress to receive a housing stipend of up to $30,000 a year. Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chaired the committee that has oversight of the nation’s capital, said federal lawmakers have trouble stretching their $174,000 salaries to cover housing in Washington, which he called “one of the most expensive places in the world,” and homes in their congressional districts.

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The idea lit up Twitter as people who think members of Congress are paid plenty, thank you very much, recalled Chaffetz’s comment earlier this year that low-income people could afford their own health care if they would scale back spending on things such as “that new iPhone they just love.” “Chaffetz makes $175K/yr, wants extra $2500 for housing stipend. But others need to evaluate if they can afford the luxury of an iPhone? Ok!” tweeted Adam Best of Austin. Some city leaders were irked by Chaffetz’s habit of sleeping on a cot in his Capitol Hill office while in Washington, saying that the choice left him few opportunities to get to know the city and the wishes of its citizenry.

Editor's Note: The Justice Integrity Project left a reader comment on the Post site: Here are two matters not yet stated: 1) This gross cheapskate inflicts himself on his staff's sensibilities by sleeping at his office, so he says; 2) He said he's leaving because of family concerns. That's often an excuse for something. What's the real story?

Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court SealPolitico, Supreme Court takes case on what qualifies as obstruction, Josh Gerstein, June 27, 2017. The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take up a case about what kind of conduct can justify a criminal charge of obstruction of the Internal Revenue Service. New York courier service owner Carl Marinello, who was convicted on eight counts of failing to file tax returns, is challenging his conviction on a ninth, more serious count of obstructing administration of the tax code.

The obstruction conviction raised alarm among both civil libertarians and business advocates because the trial court did not require prosecutors to prove that Marinello knew of any pending IRS audit, investigation or other proceeding. As a result, critics say, the government could use the statute to prosecute just about anyone who filed an inaccurate tax return or maintained false accounting records.

Some aspects of the case parallel the ongoing debate about whether President Donald Trump's actions in connection with the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents could be considered obstruction of justice. 

Lawyers say any impact on Trump's situation is likely to be limited because the statute at issue in the Marinello case pertains solely to the tax code. In addition, the Supreme Court already ruled in 2005-in a case involving accounting firm Arthur Andersen-that a defendant must know about a pending or looming official proceeding in order to be convicted of obstruction of justice.

Empire Building

Future of Freedom Foundation, Empire-Speak, Jacob G. Hornberger, June 27, 2017. One of the most fascinating aspects of living under imperialism is the lexicon that this philosophy brings into existence. It’s called Empire-Speak. Given the complexity of this specialized language, it usually takes people years of education and training to master it.

One of the finest examples of Empire-Speak appeared last week in a Washington Post op-ed by Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who often appears as a commentator on Fox News. Krauthammer penned an op-ed entitled “The Great Muslim Civil War – and Us” that is an absolute masterpiece of Empire-Speak. According to Krauthammer, the world is witnessing a gigantic battle between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims. Krauthammer is simply preparing the American people for what lies ahead — more interventionism, more imperialism, more militarism, and more death and destruction at the hands of the U.S. Empire. And, of course, more official enemies as old official enemies are defeated or disappeared.

June 26

Trump Tweets

Donald TrumpWashington Post, Trump’s latest bizarre tweets about Russia just left him badly exposed, Greg Sargent, June 26, 2017. In recent days, President Trump has adopted a fiendishly clever new line on the ongoing Russia probes: He will fully acknowledge that Russia did try to sabotage our election, but only in the context of blaming former president Barack Obama for it. This morning, Trump took this argument to a new level, testing an argument about Russian meddling that I had not heard before.

This line of argument leaves Trump deeply exposed, however. It represents an acknowledgment that the intelligence community had, in fact, concluded that Russia interfered with the purpose of helping Trump win. And it also exposes Trump to questions about what his administration (and Republicans) are prepared to do about expected Russian efforts to meddle in the next election.

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Washington Post, Supreme Court allows limited version of Trump’s travel ban to take effect and will consider case in fall, Robert Barnes June 26, 2017. The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination.

The court made an important exception: It said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” In the unsigned opinion, the court said that a foreign national who wants to visit or live with a family member would have such a relationship, and so would students from the designated countries — Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who were admitted to a U.S. university.

The court said it would hear the case when it reconvenes in October. But it also indicated in the ruling that things may change dramatically by then. It asked the parties to address whether the case would be moot by the time it hears it; the ban is supposed to be a temporary one while the government reviews its vetting procedures.

Crime News Around the Nation

Associated Press, Rabbi, several others arrested in public benefits fraud case, David Porter and Bruce Shipkowski, June 26, 2017. A New Jersey rabbi and his wife and three other couples defrauded state and federal public assistance programs out of more than $1 million by under-reporting their incomes, according to criminal complaints released Monday. One of the couples continued to receive Medicaid assistance for their children despite making more than $1 million in both 2012 and 2013, according to one criminal complaint. Another continued receiving benefits in 2014, even though they made $1.8 million the year before, prosecutors said.

Politics Around the Nation

McClatchy, President Jason Kander? He’s making all the early moves, Lindsay Wise, Alex Roarty and Bryan Lowry, June 26, 2017. Missouri Democrat Jason Kander spent this week knocking on voters’ doors, shaking hands, giving speeches and snapping selfies with eager young campaign volunteers. In Georgia. He was in Atlanta on the last leg of a cross-country tour, the sort that tells the political cognoscenti that this is an up-and-comer to be watched closely.

Jason KanderBut this is a guy (shown in a file photo) who’s never held an office higher than secretary of state in Missouri. He narrowly lost a winnable Senate campaign last year. He currently holds no political office, and the Kander Political Action Committee is dormant. He says he’s dedicated to his current job advocating for voters’ rights as the head of Let America Vote, a nonprofit he founded that primarily helps Democrats. In the past month, Kander has spoken to Democrats in New Hampshire, visited with the party faithful in Iowa, and canvassed for Georgia House candidate Jon Ossoff. He also made appearances in Massachusetts, Arizona, Kentucky and Utah.

What is Jason Kander up to? The telltale signs of national ambition are hardly subtle. Kander’s Twitter feed — followed by more than 162,000 people — blasts out videos and photos of the lanky Army veteran, 36, his shirt sleeves rolled up, looking every bit the part of a political candidate. He has a contributor contract with CNN, and the Beltway-based Politico recently called him the “hottest star in Democratic politics.”

White House Floats WMD Claim Against Syria As Assad Troops Gain Against ISIS

New York Times, White House Warns of Possible Chemical Attack by Syria, Michael D. Shear, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 26, 2017. President Bashar al-Assad appeared to be preparing a chemical weapons attack similar to the one in April, the White House said, warning that he would “pay a heavy price” if one occurred.

Media: CNN Trump Investigators Resign After Article Retracted

CNN, Three journalists leaving CNN after retracted article, Brian Stelter, June 26, 2017. Three CNN journalists, including the executive editor in charge of a new investigative unit, have resigned after the publication of a Russia-related article that was retracted. Thomas Frank, who wrote the story in question; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, have all left CNN. "In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story's publication," a spokesman said Monday evening.

An internal investigation by CNN management found that some standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published, people briefed on the results of the investigation said. The story, which reported that Congress was investigating a "Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials," cited a single anonymous source. These types of stories are typically reviewed by several departments within CNN -- including fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers -- before publication. This breakdown in editorial workflow disturbed the CNN executives who learned about it.

In a staff meeting Monday afternoon, investigative unit members were told that the retraction did not mean the facts of the story were necessarily wrong. Rather, it meant that "the story wasn't solid enough to publish as-is," one of the people briefed on the investigation said. The reporting about the Russian investment fund and Trump officials was not relayed on CNN's television channels, but it was published on the web and shared on social media.

On Friday, one of the people named in the story, Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci, disputed Frank's reporting and said, "I did nothing wrong." Friday night, once it was determined that editorial processes were not followed, CNN deleted the story from CNN.com. Soon thereafter, the story was officially retracted and replaced with an editor's note. The piece "did not meet CNN's editorial standards and has been retracted," the note said. "Links to the story have been disabled." The editor's note also included an apology to Scaramucci. "CNN did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted," Scaramucci tweeted the next morning. "Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on."

The departures of Haris, Lichtblau and Frank are likely to come as a surprise to colleagues, particularly given the reputations of the three men. Frank worked for USA Today and Newsday for three decades, pursuing investigations and covering the Iraq war as an embedded reporter, before coming to work at CNN. He was part of an ambitious new investigative unit that was created last winter, bringing together existing teams from within the company and new hires like Lichtblau. A veteran of The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006, Lichtblau joined CNN just three months ago. Haris, who was named the executive editor of CNN Investigates in January, was previously the executive editor of CNN Money.

June 25

More Focus on Kushner?

Washington Post, Kushner dealings with Deutsche Bank may draw scrutiny from special counsel, Michael Kranish​, June 25, 2017. A month before the election, Jared Kushner’s real estate company received a $285 million loan from the lender, which was facing federal and New York charges at the time. Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)Kushner’s association with Deutsche Bank is among a number of financial matters that could come under review by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right), who is examining President Trump’s son-in-law as part of his probe into possible Russian influence in the election.

The Rush To War

Blockbuster Sy Hersh Exposé....Published In Germany Only....Debunks U.S. Chemical Attack Claims Against Syria

Die Welt ("The World," one of Germany's most influential newspapers), Trump‘s Red Line, Seymour M. Hersh, June 25, 2017. Seymour M. Hersh (shown in a screen shot below) exposed the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam 1968. He uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and many other stories about war and politics. President Donald Seymour Hersh Democracy Now! Screen shot 2014Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children. Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack.

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon. The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives.

Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with members of the coalition at a forward operating base near Qayyarah West, Iraq, April 4, 2017. (DoD PhotoMarine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with members of the coalition at a forward operating base near Qayyarah West, Iraq, April 4, 2017. (DoD Photo by Dominique Pineiro)

Consortium News, A Baseless Justification for War in Syria, Dennis J. Bernstein, June 25, 2017. For almost 16 years, the U.S. government has stretched the military force authorization against Al Qaeda to justify a wide-ranging “war on terror” but now has gone further, attacking the Syrian military inside Syria, notes Dennis J Bernstein.

Joseph DunfordU.S. government officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (shown at right), claim the current U.S. authority to mount military operations in Iraq and Syria is legally based on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] declaration to go after Al Qaeda and related terror groups after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. But how does that cover the recent U.S. attacks on Syrian government forces that have been battling both Al Qaeda and its spinoff, Islamic State?

Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, asserts that the recent U.S. shoot-down of a Syrian government jet inside Syria on June 18 was not only illegal under international law but amounts to an impeachable act by President Trump. In an interview with Flashpoints’ Dennis J. Bernstein, Professor Boyle said, “What the U.S. government is getting away with here is incredible.” Boyle also talked to Bernstein about the questionable Russia-gate investigation and the darker history behind Special Prosecutor Robert Swan Mueller III, the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Climate Change Warning In Florida

Washington Post, As coral reefs wither amid climate change, so will the Florida Keys’ economy, Chris Mooney, June 25, 2017. While the debate over climate change is often framed as pitting jobs against the need to protect the planet, the devastation of the Florida Reef Tract due to the warming sea is a stark example of how rising temperatures threaten existing economies.

Trump Crony Recalled

President Trump, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House in May in a meeting from which U.S. media were banned

President Trump, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House in May in a meeting from which U.S. media were banned (Russian photo).

New York Daily News, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a central figure in Trump controversies, will leave Washington for Russia, Jason Silverstein, June 25, 2017. People in Washington will finally stop secretly meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — because he’s leaving. The Kremlin diplomat at the center of multiple President Trump controversies will be stepping down in July and returning to Russia, BuzzFeed News reported Sunday.

Russian Flag

Kislyak will leave in his wake a series of investigations tied to talks he had with Trump aides during and after the 2016 campaign. The 66-year-old diplomat has served as the ambassador to the United States since 2008, and avoided controversy for most of that time. But Kislyak became a central figure in the investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign — and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin. Kislyak possessed a singular ability to derail the careers of Trump officials simply by talking to them.

Attack On Sanders

Bernie Sanders OfficialWashington Post, Sanders responds to ongoing probe into wife’s 2010 bank loan, David Weigel, June 25, 2017. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has retained counsel as the FBI investigates whether his wife, Jane Sanders, committed fraud to acquire a loan for a now-shuttered Vermont college, predicted Saturday night that the probe would be a political fizzle. “This was a story that just, amazingly enough, came out in the middle of my presidential campaign, initiated by Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont,” Sanders (shown at left) said in an interview, between rallies in Pennsylvania and Ohio organized to defeat Senate Republicans’ health-care bill. “That’s about it. I don’t think it’ll be a distraction.”

Last week, longtime Sanders supporter Harry Jaffe reported that Bernie and Jane Sanders had retained attorneys Rich Cassidy and Larry Robbins to represent them in a long-running investigation into the collapse of Burlington College, which Jane Sanders led from 2004 to 2011. The investigation began in January 2016, when attorney and Vermont GOP vice chair Brady Toensing urged the FBI to probe whether Jane Sanders had committed bank fraud to acquire a new campus for the college.

June 24      

Investigative Commentary

Robert Parry

Consortium News, Policing ‘Truth’ to Restore ‘Trust,’ Robert Parry (shown in a file photo), June 24, 2017. The U.S. mainstream media insists it just wants “truth” algorithms to purge “fake news” from the Internet, but the real goal seems to be restoring public “trust” by limiting what the people get to see.

There’s been a lot of self-righteous talk about “truth” recently, especially from the people at The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream news media. They understandably criticize President Trump for his casual relationship with reality and happily dream about how nice it would be if they could develop algorithms to purge the Internet of what they call “fake news.”

Consortium News, Behind the ‘Scapegoating’ of Russia, Rick Sterling, June 24, 2017. The media/political hysteria over Russia-gate is leading the world to possible nuclear annihilation with few serious questions asked. But a new book, The Plot to Scapegoat Russia, tries to supply some context. Attorney Dan Kovalik has written an extremely important book that challenges the current media/political focus on “Russia-gate” and warns that dark forces of war are taking us in an ever more dangerous direction.

In the foreword to the book, The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia, author David Talbot writes: “The US war machine has revived the tried-and-true Red Scare…. This massive anti-Russian propaganda campaign is one of the biggest fake news operations in U.S. history….“Unlike our war-obsessed media, human rights lawyer Dan Kovalik does understand that peace and diplomacy are in the best interests of the American and Russian peoples. His book is an urgently needed counterassault against the propaganda forces that are trying to push us over a precipice that it too terrifying to even contemplate. It’s time for all of us to speak truth to power before it’s too late.”

Talbot’s warning is not hyperbole. As I write this review, the U.S. military is pushing ever closer to direct military confrontation with Syria, Iran and Russia inside Syria.

Trump's Defense?

Donald TrumpWashington Post, Trump lashes out at Obama over Post report on Russian election meddling, Avi Selk and Amy B Wang, June 24, 2017.  President Trump on Saturday called out Obama administration officials for not taking stronger actions against Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, contradicting his past statements and suggesting without proof that they were trying to help Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

His tweets came after the Post revealed Friday that the Obama White House had received reports as early as August 2016 regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in the cyber campaign with instructions to defeat or damage Clinton and help to elect Trump, according to “sourcing deep inside the Russian government.”

Washington Post, Koch network won’t endorse Senate GOP’s health-care measure in its current form, James Hohmann, June 24, 2017. Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoGroup wants a “more dramatic” reversal of the Affordable Care Act. An official with the Koch network said the debate has focused too much on the number of insured people and not enough on outcomes.

Univision, Panama's ex-president wiretapped Americans, according to court documents, Staff report / Mostrar Créditos, June 24, 2017. At least two Americans were among those targeted by President Ricardo Martinelli, according to a witness affidavit in the Miami extradition case against the former president. Martinelli's lawyers say he is being framed by the current government of Panama. The former deputy manager of the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain and a decorated U.S. military officer were allegedly the subjects of illegal wiretapping ordered by Panama's ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, according to a former Panamanian official involved in the spy program.

Systems analyst Ismael Pitti acknowledged that he participated in the operation run by Panama's National Security Council, according to an affidavit obtained by Univision Investiga. His remarks appear to be the basis of a U.S. government court filing in Miami this month backing a request by Panama to have Martinelli extradited to face charges of embezzlement and illegal spying.

June 23

Health Care Battles

New York Times, The Unaffordable Care Act, Editorial Board, June 23, 2017. The bill’s real aim is to cut taxes for the rich. It would be a big mistake to call the legislation Senate Republicans released on Thursday a health care bill. It is, plain and simple, a plan to cut taxes for the wealthy by destroying critical federal programs that help provide health care to tens of millions of people. Over all, the Senate would reduce federal spending by about $1 trillion over 10 years and use almost that much to cut taxes for rich families and health care companies.

HuffPost, Republican Sen. Dean Heller Says He Can’t Support GOP Health Care Bill ‘In This Form,’ Paige Lavender, June 23, 2017. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said Friday that he cannot support the GOP health care bill in its current form.

From Russia With Love?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to President Obama during a meeting at the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. Among the issues they discussed was Syria. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to President Obama during a meeting at the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. Among the issues they discussed was Syria. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool)

Washington Post, Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault, Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous, June 23, 2017. In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century. It was a case that took almost no time to solve and was traced to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But because of the ways President Barack Obama and President Trump handled it, the Kremlin has yet to face severe consequences. Through interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials, the Post tells the inside story of how the Obama administration handled the Kremlin’s meddling.

FBI logo

Palmer Report, Top FBI official refuses to deny that Donald Trump is a Russian agent, Bill Palmer, June 23, 2017. In any investigation, it’s proper to define what the investigation is not about. That was the case when FBI assistant director Bill Priestap testified publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Some of the questions tend to be partisan posturing aimed at driving a particular premise. But when it came to Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, his question was an easy one, or at least it should have been: “Did Donald Trump become an unwitting agent of the Russians?”

After a long pause that was obvious in nature, the FBI official looked befuddled and threw up his hands and simply said “I can’t really comment on that.” Heinrich replied with “I don’t blame you for not answering the question,” which evoked laughter in the room. But when you think it through, it’s not a laughing matter.

Beltway Opinion

Sally Yates

Washington Post, Making America scared again won’t make us safer, Sally Q. Yates, June 23, 2017. Sally Q. Yates (shown in an official photo) served in the Justice Department from 1989 to 2017 as an assistant U.S. attorney, U.S. attorney, deputy attorney general and, briefly this year, as acting attorney general. In today’s polarized world, there aren’t many issues on which Democrats and Republicans agree. So when they do, we should seize the rare opportunity to move our country forward. One such issue is criminal-justice reform, and specifically the need for sentencing reform for drug offenses.

All across the political spectrum, in red states and blue states, from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and the Koch brothers to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the American Civil Liberties Union, there is broad consensus that the “lock them all up and throw away the key” approach embodied in mandatory minimum drug sentences is counterproductive, negatively affecting our ability to assure the safety of our communities.

But last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the clock to the 1980s, reinstating the harsh, indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum drug sentences imposed at the height of the crack epidemic. Sessions attempted to justify his directive in a Post op-ed last weekend, stoking fear by claiming that as a result of then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Smart on Crime policy, the United States is gripped by a rising epidemic of violent crime that can only be cured by putting more drug offenders in jail for more time.

That argument just isn’t supported by the facts. Not only are violent crime rates still at historic lows — nearly half of what they were when I became a federal prosecutor in 1989 — but there is also no evidence that the increase in violent crime some cities have experienced is the result of drug offenders not serving enough time in prison. In fact, a recent study by the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission found that drug defendants with shorter sentences were actually slightly less likely to commit crimes when released than those sentenced under older, more severe penalties.

Contra Corner, The "Soft Coup" Under Way In Washington, David Stockman (shown at right), June 16, 2017. David Alan Stockman is an author, former businessman and U.S. politician who served as a Republican U.S. Representative from the state of Michigan and as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. Bull’s eye! “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice … You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

The Donald has never spoken truer words but also has never sunken lower into abject victimhood. Indeed, what is he waiting for­– handcuffs and a perp walk? Just to be clear, “he” doesn’t need to be the passive object of a “WITCH HUNT” by “they.”

If Donald Trump had any kind of presidential strategy and propensity to take command, he would have had all the intercepts of Russian chatter gathered up weeks ago. He would then have had them declassified and made public, even as he launched a criminal prosecution against Obama’s hit squad­.

Given that he is up against a Deep State/Dem/Neocon/ mainstream media prosecution, the Donald has no chance of survival short of an aggressive offensive of the type described above. But that’s not happening because the man is clueless about what he is doing in the White House and is being advised by a cacophonous coterie of amateurs and nincompoops. So he has no action plan except to impulsively reach for his Twitter account.

From the very beginning, the Russian interference narrative was rooted in nothing more than standard cyber noise from Moscow that pales compared to what comes out of Langley (CIA) and Ft. Meade (NSA). And we do mean irrelevant noise.

At bottom, the latter was a rearguard invention of the Deep State and Democratic partisans. They became literally shocked and desperate for a scapegoat early last fall by the prospect that the unthinkable was happening. Namely, the election by the unwashed masses of an outsider and insurrectionist who could not be counted upon to serve as a “trusty” for the status quo; and whose naïve but correct instinct to seek a rapprochement with Russia was a mortal threat to the very modus operandi of the Imperial City.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller (shown at right) is a card-carrying apparatchik of the Deep State, who was there at the founding of today’s surveillance monster as Director of the FBI in the aftermath of 9/11. Since the whole $75 billion apparatus that eventually emerged was based on a vastly exaggerated threat of global Islamic terrorism that doesn’t exist, Russia had to be demonized into order to keep the game going­ — a transition that Mueller fully subscribed to.

So he will “find” extensive Russian interference in the 2016 election and bring the hammer down on the Donald for seeking to prevent it from coming to light. The clock is now ticking and his investigatory team is being loaded up with prosecutorial killers who have proven records of thuggery when it comes to finding crimes that make for the fame and fortune of the prosecutors­ — even if the crime itself never happened.

Anthony M. Kennedy Official Photo

Washington Post, The terrifying and terrible prospect of Justice Kennedy retiring, Ruth Marcus, June 23, 2017. (Justice Anthony Kenned, a Republican appointee and the high court's most senior justice, is shown in an official photo.) Replacing him could make the Bork fight look like a kindergarten squabble.

Washington Post, I worked on the EPA’s climate change website. Its removal is a declaration of war, Jason Samenow, June 23, 2017. Administrator Scott Pruitt’s senseless decision is a broadside against scientific integrity.

Global News

French Flag

French Flag

Russian Flag

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Macron re-aligns French policy on Syria and Russia, Wayne Madsen, June 23, 2017 (Subscription required). In a move that has shocked establishment foreign policy establishments in Europe and the United States, French President Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild banker, has stated that the removal of Bashar al Assad is no longer a precondition to ending the Syrian civil war. (Russia's flag is at right.)

Kris Kobach Kansas AG

Politico, Magistrate fines Kobach but won't release Trump meeting memo — yet, Josh Gerstein, June 23, 2017. A federal magistrate has fined Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach $1,000 for presenting misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit, but won't permit — for now — the release of a policy memo Kobach prepared for President-elect Donald Trump. U.S. Magistrate Judge James O'Hara issued the ruling Friday in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law requiring voters to present proof of U.S. citizenship when they register.

O'Hara said Kobach and his legal team "made patently misleading representations to the court" about the memo Kobach was photographed taking into a Nov. 20 meeting with Trump as well as another document proposing changes to the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the motor-voter law. "The court cannot say that defendant flat-out lied in representing the content of the disputed documents," the magistrate wrote in his 24-page decision.

But O'Hara added: "As officers of the court, defense counsel have a duty of candor to the court and to opposing counsel. Justice requires that all involved in our legal system work to ensure that a true and accurate picture of the facts is presented to the court. This means that parties and their attorneys must respond to discovery fairly and accurately and that counsel assert only arguments that are supported by facts."

Strange Fruits

Daily Caller, VA Fires Prominent Whistleblower As Trump Signs Accountability, Whistleblower Protection Bill, Jonah Bennett, June 23, 2017. The Memphis VA medical center fired whistleblower Sean Higgins Thursday, the day before President Donald Trump signed into law major accountability and whistleblower protection legislation, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned. In a letter dated Thursday and received by Higgins on Friday, Memphis VA medical center director David K. Dunning stated that Higgins was being terminated for “disruptive behavior” and “profane language” effective on June 30.

OpEdNews, Opinion: The US Criminal "Justice System" is Devoid of Justice, Paul Craig Roberts, June 23, 2017. In 1992, Fran and Dan Keller were convicted despite the absence of any evidence of raping a three-year-old, a crime that never occurred. Among the absurd charges was the transport of children to Mexico to be raped by military officials. The Kellers spent 21 years in prison before finally being exonerated by a conviction integrity unit that found no credible evidence for the conviction.

This kind of ridiculous conviction plagued child care providers during the 1980s and into the 1990s. The Amirault family who operated the Fells Acres Day Care Center in Massachusetts were ruined. The insanity spread wider. Young women with emotional problems were told by "therapists" that they had been raped by their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers. Families everywhere were blown apart by wild charges.

I wrote about many of the child care cases. Only in the Wenatchee case did facts that I helped to marshal result in the cases being overturned. During the entire process I was attacked by the local newspaper and radio station. Neither were interested in any facts. They knew the church was guilty. Period.

Evidence simply was not important. Juries were ramrodded by hysteria conjured up by "child advocates," newspapers and TV reports. 

Consider the case of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. He was framed by Republican US attorneys and Republican federal judges. A normal everyday political contribution was turned into an influence-selling case. In Siegelman's case, even the intervention of 113 former state attorneys general led by New York attorney general Robert Abrams, who called Siegelman's frame-up an "enormous scandal," could not prevent Gov. Siegelman from being sent to prison by corrupt Republicans.

Americans do not understand this. They have been deceived by "law and order conservatives" that liberal judges always let the criminals off and that any criminals that somehow are sent to prison despite the liberal judges are rescued from jail by liberal parole boards.

Sports/Entertainment Opinion

Washington Post, Baseball moves way too slowly. Is it time for a pitch clock?  George F. Will, June 23, 2017. From Little League on up, players emulate major leaguers, so Major League Baseball’s pace-of-play problem is trickling down. Four innings into a recent College World Series game here, just seven hits and three runs had consumed 96 minutes. During a coach’s visit to the pitcher’s mound, the other team’s three base runners visited their dugout to confer with their coach. The Congress of Vienna moved more briskly.

One of the six games of the 1948 Boston-Cleveland World Series was 1 hour and 31 minutes; the average, 2 hours. This year the average nine-inning game is 3 hours and 4 minutes, up 4 minutes from last year and 14 minutes from 2010. MLB’s worry, however, is less the length of games than that the length has increased as action — batters putting balls in play — has decreased.

'Arab NATO' Internal Fight

New York Times, Arab Nations Issue Demands to Qatar, Ben Hubbard, June 23, 2017. Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries that recently cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar issued a harsh list of demands on Friday, insisting that the wealthy but tiny Persian Gulf nation shut down the news network Al Jazeera, abandon ties with Islamist organizations and provide detailed information about its funding for political dissidents.

The demands, which were presented to Qatar through mediators from Kuwait, risked pulling other powers deeper into the rift by calling on the country to shut down a Turkish military base and to downgrade its ties with Iran — a difficult task given that Iran and Qatar share a large gas field that provides much of Qatar’s wealth.

The demands signaled an escalation in the deepest political crisis among Arab Gulf countries in years, after nations including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut economic, diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar this month, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Qatari officials did not immediately respond on Friday, but they have denied supporting extremists and said that they would neither negotiate while under a blockade nor submit to demands that undermined the country’s sovereignty. All of the nations involved are allies of the United States, and most — including Qatar — host large American military bases. But analysts have accused the Trump administration of sending mixed signals, exacerbating the rift.

Media and JFK Records

Kennedys and King, How Max Holland Duped the Daily Beast, James DiEugenio, June 23, 2017. For many, many years now Holland has been ignoring the declassified records of the ARRB. Even when he was supposed to be reporting on those files. The fact that he still does so, even on the eve of their final disbursement, tells us all we need to know about him.

On April 28th of this year, Max Holland published an essay on the JFK case in The Daily Beast. Holland brought up a different milestone date. This one concerned the 50th anniversary of a story originally published on April 25, 1967 in the (now defunct) New Orleans States Item. Holland’s article was called “How the KGB Duped Oliver Stone.” Holland stated that the 50-year-old article—titled “Mounting Evidence Links CIA to Plot Probe”—was a triumph for Moscow.  The article describes the arrest of Clay Shaw by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison on March 1, 1967. Holland characterizes the arrest of Shaw for conspiracy in the JFK case as “outlandish and baseless”. He adds that the reasons for Shaw’s arrest had already been reviewed back in 1963 by the FBI and found wanting.

U.S-Russia Confrontation In Syrian Skies

South Front, Qatar Crisis: Origins and Consequences, Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson, June 22, 2017. The current crisis surrounding Qatar represents the most severe conflict among Gulf Arab states since the end of the Cold War. While these oil-rich, autocratic OPEC members have historically been at the most allies of convenience united by common fears (USSR, Saddam Hussein, Iran, etc.), their mutual mistrust has arguably never escalated to the point of demanding to what amounts to a complete surrender by one of its members. Several interesting features of this crisis immediately jump out.

Unz Review, The latest escalation in Syria – what is really going on, The Saker, June 23, 2017. To understand why the Russians used the words “threat like an air target” rather than “will shoot down” you need to remember that Russia is still the weaker party here. There is nothing worse than not delivering on a threat. If the Russians had said “we will shoot down” and then had not done so, they would have made an empty threat. Instead, they said “will treat as an air target” because that leaves them an “out” should they decided not to pull the trigger.

It cannot be overemphasized that the very last thing Russia needs is to shoot down a US aircraft over Syria which is exactly what some elements of the Pentagon seem to want. Not only is Russia the weaker side in this conflict, but the Russians also understand the wider political consequences of what would happen if they took the dramatic step to shoot down a US aircraft: a dream come true for the Neocons and a disaster for everybody else.

More On TrumpCare Bill

Washington Post, Senate Republicans unveil health-care bill as GOP struggles to advance its vision, Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Paige Winfield Cunningham​, June 22, 2017. Republican leaders are briefing rank-and-file senators this morning and are expected to release the bill publicly ahead of a likely vote next week. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators, whose concerns he has struggled to balance in recent weeks.

Ted CruzWashington Post, Four GOP senators say they oppose current health plan, putting bill at risk, Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell, June 22, 2017. Those senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas (shown at right), Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah — dislike the Senate GOP bill because they do not feel it goes far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose only two Republicans and still pass the measure.

Washington Post, Opinion: Senate Republicans ready themselves for a massive theft from the poor, Eugene Robinson, June 22, 2017. The “health-care bill” that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn’t really about health care at all. It’s the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich — a theft of historic proportions.

Mitchell_McConnellWashington Post, Here’s what we know is in the Senate proposal so far, Paige Winfield Cunningham​, June 22, 2017. The bill contains three elements McConnell (shown in an official photo) is betting will win over a half dozen or so moderates who remain skeptical but whose votes are crucial to overall passage.

Washington Post, Obama on the GOP health-care plan: ‘This bill will do you harm,’ Juliet Eilperin, June 22, 2017. Former president Barack Obama posted a nearly 1,000-word critique of the Senate health-care bill Thursday on Facebook, warning, “This bill will do you harm.”

Barack ObamaWhile Obama (shown in a photo from his presidency) has repeatedly defended the Affordable Care Act, which represents perhaps his most significant domestic legislative achievement, Thursday’s statement was even more pointed than his previous comments. Calling the GOP leadership’s bill “a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America,” he called on Americans to push back against congressional Republicans.

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family — this bill will do you harm,” the former president wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

Washington Post, The Republicans’ Obamacare repeal is one big lie, Steven Pearlstein, June 22, 2017. Steven Pearlstein is a Post business and economics writer. He is also Robinson Professor of Public Affairs at George Mason University. The Obamacare repeal is really a Republican war on the poor and the sick. The Senate health-care bill is a blatantly cynical and political plan to reward the rich, squeeze the poor and give Republicans the chance to claim they protected the middle class — or at least those in the middle class who aren’t too sick.

The Republican campaign to repeal Obamacare was always based on a false promise (okay, a lie): that it was possible for all Americans to have better, cheaper medical care without raising taxes or reducing the incomes of doctors and the profits of hospitals and drug companies.

HuffPost, Police Forcibly Remove Health Care Bill Protesters Outside Mitch McConnell’s Office, Ryan Grenoble, June 22, 2017. Capitol Police forcibly removed protesters gathered outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Thursday, with at least one photo showing drops of blood on the hallway floor. The crowd was protesting the health care bill that Senate Republicans had written in secret at McConnell’s direction. Judging by photos and video from reporters, the senator’s staffers didn’t appreciate their presence. A draft of the health care bill, released this morning, shows Republicans intend to dramatically cut back on Medicaid and other safety nets, then funnel that money to the richest Americans.

Politics Around the Nation

New American Journal, Alabama Senate Race Could Change the Balance of Power in Washington, Glynn Wilson, June 23, 2017. Doug Jones with former Vice President Joe Biden. As the Republicans in the United States Senate release their version of a bill to gut the Affordable Care Act and leave millions of Americans without healthcare, there is a sleeper special election Senate race down in my home state of Alabama that could begin to upset the balance of power in Washington. The Republicans only hold a majority in the U.S. Senate by two seats, 52-46 with two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

In December, when Alabamians go to the polls to vote on a replacement for Luther Strange in the seat long held by (at least for now) Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that majority could be cut to 51 to 49, making it difficult for Republicans to pass any of the legislation Trump wants or stop Democrats from filibustering anything the Republicans propose. Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D) says politicians in Washington and Montgomery, such as Trip Pittman, who is running against Strange in the Republican primary, are playing politics with people’s lives and healthcare. 

Preventing U.S. 'Debacle' In Syria?

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)The American Conservative, How America Armed Terrorists In Syria: Another Middle East debacle, Gareth Porter, June 22, 2017. Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii (D) (shown at right), a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

By helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.

Media: Gabe Pressman Passes

NBC News (Channel 4 in New York City), New York Legend Gabe Pressman Dead at 93, June 22, 2017. The local broadcast icon, fondly known as "the reporter's reporter," called NBC 4 New York home for half a century. Gabe Pressman touched countless lives, and even at 93 years old, he never stopped working. Sue Simmons joins Stefan Holt and Natalie Pasquarella to pay tribute to the legendary New York journalist -- who, up until last week, was showing up in the NBC New York newsroom.

Trump Investigations / Revelations

Palmer Report, Senate Judiciary Chair meets with Robert Mueller, says “everything’s on the table” in Donald Trump probe, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is going full steam ahead in his investigation into Donald Trump, and he’s bringing the Senate on board with him. Mueller met with the heads of multiple congressional committees today that are also investigating Trump for various improprieties, in order to make sure they’re all on the same page. The verdict: “Everything’s on the table.”

Charles Grassley R-IOThat’s the word from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (shown in an official photo), a Republican who of late has become increasingly cooperative with the efforts of his Democratic counterpart Dianne Feinstein. On his way into their meeting with Robert Mueller today, Grassley was asked by CNN reporter Manu Raju if he plans to allow his committee to investigate Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, as Feinstein has formally requested.

Washington Post, How Trump’s dubious claims make the entire government react, Abby Phillip​, June 22, 2017. The Comey “tapes” tweet deepened the president’s legal and political quagmire and highlighted a new reality for Washington, which must spring into action to bolster or refute his assertions of questionable origin. The words leapt from President Trump’s mind to Twitter at 8:26 a.m. on the Friday after he fired FBI director James B. Comey, setting off a cascade of activity inside and outside the federal government to figure out what, exactly, he meant. “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump wrote.

With that tweet, Trump immediately deepened his own ­legal and political quagmire, evoking comparisons to President Richard M. Nixon and prompting congressional committees investigating his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia to demand the disclosure of any such recordings.

The incident highlights a new reality for Washington, which now must spring into action to bolster or rebuff presidential assertions of dubious origin and with no evidence to back them up. In many cases, the claims have had the opposite effect of what the president presumably intended — feeding into doubts about his credibility, deepening his legal woes and generating unflattering accounts that dominate the news for weeks at a time.

Center for Public Integrity, Trump appointee is a Saudi government lobbyist, Carrie Levin, June 22, 2017. Richard Hohlt earning six figures from kingdom bent on influencing Trump,  One of President Donald Trump’s newest appointees is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on the kingdom’s behalf, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

Since January, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has paid longtime Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt about $430,000 in exchange for “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.” Trump’s decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president’s vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests.

Trump singled out lobbyists for foreign governments for special criticism, saying they shouldn’t be permitted to contribute to political campaigns. Hohlt is himself a Trump donor, though his contributions came before he registered to represent Saudi Arabia. “I will issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a FOREIGN GOVERNMENT! #DrainTheSwamp,” he tweeted in October.

Guardian, Guatemala president under pressure over lobbying firm linked to Mike Pence, Nina Lakhani, June 22, 2017. Guatemala’s president Jimmy Morales is under growing political pressure over two contracts with an Indiana lobbying firm closely linked to the US vice-president Mike Pence.Opposition politicians have called on Morales to reveal his role in the $80,000-a-month contracts signed with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, which appear to have been designed to sideline the state department and the Guatemalan foreign affairs ministry. 

Around the Nation: Anti-Castro Lawyer Despises Trump

Tampa Bay Times, Anti-Trump and anti-Castro, local Cuban hardliner leader Ralph Fernandez is isolated, Paul Guzzo, June 23, 2017. A framed black-on-white sign in the reception area of Ralph E. Fernandez and Associates in Hyde Park makes a powerful political statement: "If you voted for Donald Trump this firm does not want your business."

In these polarized times, such a business decision may seem absurd, acknowledges Fernandez, a longtime Tampa attorney. But he stands by it. "Someone said recently they're a lifelong proud Republican and voted for Trump," Fernandez said. "I told them to turn around and leave."

Bottom line aside, it's an even odder stance for Fernandez to take. He has long been the darling of Tampa's Cuban hardliners, the face of that local community for more than 30 years. Anti-Trump, anti-Castro, Fernandez — who fled the Communist nation in 1961 at the age of 8 — now finds himself without a side in the Cuba debate.

"Here is where I pit myself against friend and foe alike," he said. "This is the defining moment of my life because I know the consequences." Hardliners, most of them Republican, are now touting Trump's new Cuba policy, which they hope will punish the Communist government and bring about increased freedoms, fulfilling the president's campaign promise.

But Fernandez calls Trump's stance bluster, thinks the president views Cuba only as a political opportunity and even compared him to Fidel Castro.

"I am Cuban but I am an American first," Fernandez said. It's been reported that Trump as a businessman was interested in investing in Cuba's state-run hotel industry, Fernandez said. "How can I overlook that?"

Inside the White House

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoWashington Post, Opinions: Why Trump will never get anything done, Ronald A. Klain, June 22, 2017. Donald Trump promised to get Congress to repeal Obamacare, enact tax reform, pass a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, impose tariffs on outsourcers, subsidize child care and fund a border wall with Mexico — all in the first 100 days of his presidency. Not surprisingly, none of those things happened. What is surprising is that little of this agenda has even been submitted by the president to Congress: no tax bill, no infrastructure bill, no anti-outsourcing bill, no child-care bill and no legislation to build the wall. Why?

The explanation goes beyond the usual factors that bedevil any new president — overpromising on the pace of action, underpreparing for the challenges of office, trouble in staffing up. These do play some part in Trump’s achingly slow start. But Trump’s failure to get key agenda items to the starting line reflects more fundamental problems in policymaking — problems that will persist even after this administration is fully staffed and acclimated.

The Trump policy process must surely be gridlocked because — to the extent there is any indication of what Trumpism is as a policy philosophy — it is a jumble of populist slogans and corporatist concessions totally at war with itself.

Politics of Fear

New York Times, Donald Trump Does His Best Joe McCarthy Impression, James Risen and Tom Risen, June 22, 2017. Wheeling, West Virginia: On Feb. 9, 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy disembarked from his Capital Airlines plane at Stifel Field here, where he planned to speak at a Lincoln Day event hosted by the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club.

At the McLure Hotel downtown that night, Joe McCarthy, a 41-year-old junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, gave one of the most infamous speeches in American history, mixing right-wing demagogy and outright lies as he claimed that there were hundreds of Communists burrowed deep in the State Department and accused President Harry Truman’s Democratic administration of refusing to weed them out.

On June 28, 2016, another Republican politician landed at Stifel, now named Wheeling Ohio County Airport, to campaign here: Donald Trump.

One year after he walked in Joe McCarthy’s footsteps in Wheeling, Mr. Trump now practices Mr. McCarthy’s version of the politics of fear from the White House. The two figures, who bear striking similarities — and who shared an adviser, Roy Cohn — both mastered the art of fear politics.

James Risen is an investigative reporter for The Times and the author of “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.” Tom Risen is a reporter for Aerospace America Magazine.

War Drums

New York Times, Fears Grow That U.S. Is Inching Toward Bigger Role in Syria War, Helene Cooper, June 22, 2017. Recently the United States has shot down a Syrian warplane, come close to shooting another and downed two Iranian-made drones that were nearing American-backed troops.  To hear the Pentagon tell it, the United States still has no intention of getting involved in Syria’s six-year civil war; the American presence there is solely to help its allies defeat the Islamic State.

But a recent spate of incidents have raised alarm from diplomats and national security officials that the United States may be inadvertently sliding into a far bigger role in the Syrian civil war than it intended. Russia has retaliated by threatening to treat American planes as targets; in a dramatic “Top Gun”-style maneuver on Monday, one of Moscow’s jets buzzed within five feet of an American spy plane.

None of these encounters involved the Islamic State. The contradiction opens a larger question, national security experts say, of what kind of broader strategy the Trump administration plans once the Islamic State — now on the defensive — is defeated in Syria.

National Security Criminal Prosecutions

CIA Logo

Washington Post, Former CIA officer accused of selling top secret information to China, Rachel Weiner, June 22, 2017. A former CIA officer sold top secret and other classified documents to Chinese intelligence officials, according to charges filed Thursday in Alexandria federal court. Kevin Patrick Mallory, 60, of Leesburg, Va., was arrested Thursday and appeared briefly in front of Judge Theresa Buchanan on counts of delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and making false statements. He asked to be represented by a public defender.

Washington Post, Appeals court affirms most convictions of ex-CIA officer convicted in leak case, Matt Zapotosky, June 22, 2017. A federal appeals court panel on Thursday largely affirmed the convictions of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who was found guilty in 2015 of giving classified information to a journalist in a case that free-press advocates worry may have set a precedent for compelling reporters to reveal their sources.

Jeffrey Sterling Consortium NewsA three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld all but one of Sterling’s convictions and determined that because his 42-month sentence could have applied to any single count of which he was found guilty, there was no need to take further action. Sterling (shown in a file photo), now 50, is scheduled to be released from prison next June, online court records show, though Pollack said he hoped to be moved to a halfway house before then, possibly in December.

Washington Post, Army busts another general for improper relationship with woman, Craig Whitlock, June 22, 2017. The Army has demoted the former commander of the 1st Infantry Division for having “an inappropriate relationship” with a junior officer, the latest in a string of episodes in which Army generals have landed in trouble for personal misconduct.

Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., who also served as the commander of Fort Riley, Kan., was reprimanded and demoted from major general to brigadier general after investigators found that he had called and texted a female captain more than 850 times over 10 months and was spending time at her home. Grigsby is the sixth general in the past year whom the Army has punished for sexual misconduct or improper interactions with women.

Supreme Court

ICE logo

Politico, Supreme Court makes citizenship stripping tougher, Josh Gerstein, June 22, 2017. The Supreme Court has complicated the Trump administration's efforts to strip naturalized Americans of citizenship due to false statements made during the naturalization process. A six-justice majority of the high court ruled Thursday that a naturalized immigrant can lose his or her citizenship for lying to the government only if the lie would have led officials to deny citizenship or obscured facts likely to lead to such a denial.

'Pizzagate' Shooter Sentenced

Washington Post, ‘Pizzagate’ gunman sentenced to four years in prison, as prosecutors urged judge to deter vigilante justice, Spencer S. Hsu, June 22, 2017. ​Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, commandeered Comic Ping Pong in December to investigate a false Internet rumor of a pedophile ring linked to Hillary Clinton.

June 21

Washington Post, Senate Republicans set to release health-care bill, but divisions remain, Paige Winfield Cunningham, Juliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan, June 21, 2017. Their plan, an attempt to strike a compromise between existing law and a bill passed by the House in May, would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. But on the eve of its release, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faced the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators.

Time, Meet the 13 Senators Deciding on Your Health Care Behind Closed Doors, Elizabeth O’Brien and Sergei Klebnikov, June 21, 2017. The most closely guarded piece of writing this summer isn't the new season of Game of Thrones — it's the GOP Senate's health care bill.

For the last several weeks, media outlets have reported that 13 Senate Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss legislation that could lead to millions fewer Americans having health coverage — and make it hard for many people with pre-existing conditions to buy an affordable plan. While Vox and The New York Times have reported the names of the 13 members, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't even confirm the existence of the group in an email to MONEY, pointing instead to working lunches that include all 52 Republican senators.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the American Health Care Act, the health care bill passed by the House last month, would cause 23 million people to lose coverage by 2026, compared with current law, and that coverage would grow increasingly expensive for less healthy individuals. Republicans in the Senate vowed to start over, but from what little has leaked of their proposal, lawmakers are planning tweaks to the House version and not a wholesale revision.

Mitchell_McConnellMcConnell (shown in a file photo) has said he wants to bring the bill to the full Senate for a vote ahead of Congress’ July 4 recess. If he succeeds in gathering 50 votes to pass the legislation, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking 51st vote, then President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

Yet with less than eight full working days to go, the group has not released a draft of the legislation that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare. Senate Democrats on Monday began a campaign to thwart the Senate’s regular business to protest their colleagues’ lack of transparency. Axios reported Tuesday that McConnell plans to release a "discussion draft" of the bill on Thursday. Who are these 13 senators? MONEY took a look at their public statements as well as their biggest donors, using data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Washington Post, GOP win in Ga. election lifts Trump’s hopes of steadying presidency, agenda, Robert Costa, Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck, June 21, 2017. Republican Karen Handel bested Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special election, a victory that will keep Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in GOP hands after a grueling campaign that was the most expensive in House history. But even as the GOP celebrated, the win underscored President Trump’s lingering problems for the party’s incumbents in 2018.

Solartopia, Opinion: Jim Crow GOP steals another election as brain dead Democrats, media say nothing, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wassermanm, June 21, 2017.  The Jim Crow GOP has stolen yet another Congressional election, this time in Georgia. And now the US Supreme Court will allow secretaries of state to completely trash the ballots of anyone they choose. So the Trump/GOP domination of American elections is essentially secure for the foreseeable future. Anyone believing the 2018 or 2020 elections will provide realistic opportunities to overthrow Trump/GOP control of the government is living in a dream world.

That dream world fits an historic pattern. The much-hyped Congressional race between Democrat John Ossof and former Georgia GOP secretary of state Karen Handel was the most expensive in US history, costing more than $50 million. It has ended with yet another victory for Jim Crow election theft as surely as if the KKK had run rampant through the countryside, lynching potential voters.

When the seat was vacated by a Trump cabinet pick, Ossof apparently won a run-off election. Early reports showed him with well over 50% of the vote. But as usual where electronic voting machines are involved, Ossof’s margin mysteriously fell under the majority as the evening proceeded, forcing a run-off.  Not one major media outlet reported that GOP secretaries of state like Handel have been using the infamous Crosscheck program to strip untold numbers of minority and other suspected Democrats from the registration rolls.

Kris Kobach Kansas AG

As reported by Greg Palast in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Crosscheck was developed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to eliminate millions of non-white voters from the registration rolls. In 2016 some 30 GOP secretaries of state used it to help put Trump in the White House.

Trump has since appointed Kobach to a special national commission on elections. Trump also picked J. Kenneth Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state responsible for flipping the 2004 presidential election from John Kerry to George W. Bush. The commission will be a perfect weapon to further enhance the Republican apparatus for stealing elections.

CIA Concerns

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014

New York Times, Flynn Heard C.I.A. Secrets Despite Blackmail Worries, Matt Apuzzo, Matthrew Rosenber and Adam Goldman, June 21, 2017. Intelligence officials overwhelmingly agreed that Michael T. Flynn (shown in a file photo) was vulnerable to blackmail, yet Mike Pompeo, the new C.I.A. director, continued to deliver sensitive intelligence briefings in his presence.

CIA Logo

New York Times, Psychologists Open a Window on Brutal C.I.A. Interrogations, Sheri Fink and James Risen, June 21, 2017. A lawsuit filed on behalf of former prisoners reveals new details about a program that used techniques widely viewed as torture.

Saudi King Shuffles Succession To Son

Washington Post, Saudi king names son as new crown prince, upending line of succession, Sudarsan Raghavan and Kareem Fahim, June 21, 2017. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman elevated his 31-year-old son on Wednesday to become crown prince, ousting his nephew in a seismic shift in the royal succession line that could have deep ramifications for the oil-rich monarchy and the broader Middle East.

Mohammad Bin Salman file photoIn a series of royal decrees, published in the Saudi state news agency, the monarch stripped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from his position. A powerful figure who as interior minister oversaw the kingdom’s security and counterterrorism operations, he was in line to inherit the throne. He was relieved of all his positions, according to the decrees.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the new crown prince (shown at right), will also become the kingdom’s deputy prime minister while retaining his control of the Defense Ministry and other portfolios. The decree all but confirms him as the next ruler of this key American ally and the Arab world’s largest economy.

Saudi Arabian flag

The ascension of Mohammed bin Salman, along with other recent appointments made by his father, is the latest sign of a shift to a younger generation of leaders within the ruling family, one that could usher in economic and social change to a nation where it’s still illegal for a woman to drive, where cinemas are banned and coffee shops are segregated.

Inside the White House

Washington Post, She signed her name as ‘the Honorable Omarosa Manigault.’ But should she use the title? Emily Heil, June 21, 2017.  Omarosa Manigault isn't "The Honorable." White House aide Omarosa Manigault’s invitation to members of the Congressional Black Caucus last week probably wasn’t going to go over too well anyway, but the way she signed off didn’t help her case.

After asking them to attend a meeting with her boss, President Trump, the former reality TV star signed the missive: “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.” That didn’t impress CBC members (who, for the record, do get to be called “The Honorable”). “Multiple CBC members said they were put off … saying she hasn’t earned that title nor has she helped raise the profile of CBC issues within the White House as promised,” Politico reports.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Congressional Black Caucus turns down Trump invitation, Andrew Taylor and Darlene Superville, June 21, 2017. The Congressional Black Caucus turned down an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump, telling him Wednesday they believe their concerns are falling on “deaf ears” at the White House and his policies are devastating to the millions of Americans in the nation’s black communities. A White House spokeswoman said the development was “pretty disappointing” and pledged to arrange for individual members to meet one-on-one with Trump.

Politics Around the Nation

Robert Parry

Consortium News, Russia-Gate Flops As Democrats’ Golden-Ticket, Robert Parry (shown in file photo), June 21, 2017. The national Democrats saw Russia-gate and the drive to impeach President Trump as their golden ticket back to power, but so far the ticket seems to be made of fool’s gold. The national Democratic Party and many liberals have bet heavily on the Russia-gate investigation as a way to oust President Trump from office and to catapult Democrats to victories this year and in 2018, but the gamble appears not to be paying off.

The Democrats’ disappointing loss in a special election to fill a congressional seat in an affluent Atlanta suburb is just the latest indication that the strategy of demonizing Trump and blaming Russia for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat may not be the golden ticket that some Democrats had hoped. Though it’s still early to draw conclusive lessons from Karen Handel’s victory over Jon Ossoff – despite his raising $25 million – one lesson may be that a Middle America backlash is forming against the over-the-top quality of the Trump-accusations and the Russia-bashing, with Republicans rallying against the image of Official Washington’s “deep state” collaborating with Democrats and the mainstream news media to reverse a presidential election.

To many Americans struggling to make ends meet, the national Democrats seem committed to the interests of the worldwide elites: global trade, financialization of the economy, robotization of the workplace, and endless war against endless enemies. Earlier this year, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found only 28 percent of Americans saying that the Democrats were “in touch with the concerns of most people” – an astounding result given the Democrats’ long tradition as the party of the American working class and the party’s post-Vietnam War reputation as favoring butter over guns.

Yet rather than rethink the recent policies, the Democrats prefer to fantasize about impeaching President Trump and continuing a blame-game about who – other than Hillary Clinton, her campaign and the Democratic National Committee – is responsible for Trump’s election. Of course, it’s the Russians, Russians, Russians!

Now, the national Democrats are clambering onto the bandwagon for a costly and dangerous New Cold War with nuclear-armed Russia. Indeed, it is hard to distinguish their foreign policy from that of neoconservatives, although these Democrats view themselves as liberal interventionists citing humanitarian impulses to justify the endless slaughter.

 JFK Assassination Files

AlterNet, The Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief Will Decide the Fate of Secret Documents on JFK's Assassination, Jefferson Morley and Rex Bradford, June 21, 2017. A version of this story first appeared in Newsweek. He’s called global warming a hoax, suggested that Barack Obama was not an American and linked autism to childhood vaccinations. And soon, President Donald Trump, America’s most powerful conspiracy theorist, will decide the fate of more than 113,000 pages of secret documents about the ultimate conspiracy theory: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

Ever since JFK was shot and killed on that fateful Friday afternoon in Dallas, theories have abounded about who really did it. The Russians? The Cubans? The CIA? During the 2016 campaign, Trump even claimed, without evidence, that the father of his Republican rival Ted Cruz might have been involved.

Now, on the year marking the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth, the conspiracy theorist in the White House will have to decide whether highly anticipated secret JFK assassination files can be released in October as planned. By law, federal agencies such as the CIA and FBI may contest the release of these records, but in that case, the president would make the final call.

A new forensic investigation reveals that the files are twice as voluminous as previously estimated. Metadata analysis of the government’s JFK database reveals the coming files contain more than 113,000 pages of material, ranging from trivial to sensational. This trove will likely illuminate many of the events leading up to Kennedy’s murder in 1963 and other pivotal episodes in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Cold War conspiracies documented in the coming records include:

Transcripts of the interrogation of a Soviet defector at a CIA black site
A report on a suspected KGB assassin in Mexico
The CIA connections of four Watergate burglars
The operational files of two CIA assassination planners

June 20

Washington Post, Republican Karen Handel wins hard-fought Ga. House race, Robert Costa, Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck​, June 20, 2017. Handel bested Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special election, a victory that will keep Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in Republican hands after a grueling campaign that was the most expensive in House history. But even as the GOP celebrated, the victory underscored President Trump’s lingering problems for GOP incumbents in 2018.

Government Secrecy

Washington Post, Senate GOP leaders set to unveil health bill this week as divisions flare over details, process, Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell​, June 20, 2017. Several Republicans said a vote could come as soon as next week — even as key senators expressed concern about the emerging legislation, the secrecy surrounding it and the level of disagreement that remains.

Washington Post, In Trump era, more Washington business handled behind closed doors, Philip Rucker and Ed O'Keefe, June 20, 2017 (print edition).  On issues ranging from the health-care bill to the president’s golfing, federal leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency. The Senate bill to scale back the health-care law known as Obamacare is being written in secret by a single senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a clutch of his senior aides.

Officials at numerous agencies of the Trump administration have stonewalled friendly Republicans in Congress — not to mention Democrats — by declining to share internal documents on sensitive matters or refusing to answer questions. President Trump, meanwhile, is still forbidding the release of his tax returns, his aides have stopped releasing logs of visitors to the White House and his media aides have  started banning cameras at otherwise routine news briefings, as happened Monday. Trump even refuses to acknowledge to the public that he plays golf during his frequent weekend visits to his private golf courses.

Political Infighting In Washington, Pennsylvania

New York Times, He Avoids Anything Partisan. Now He’s a Partisan Target, Alan Rappeport, June 20, 2017. The head of the Congressional Budget Office, a provider of cost estimates for legislation, has been under intense pressure from top Trump administration officials.

HuffPost, Pennsylvania Radio Host Quits After He’s Ordered To Not Criticize Donald Trump, Ron Dicker, June 20, 2017. Bruce Bond, host of a talk radio show broadcast Saturdays in central Pennsylvania, has resigned instead of heeding management’s order to stop criticizing President Donald Trump, media outlets reported. Bond said he felt he had no choice after receiving the directive from one of his bosses at WTPA-FM, which has a listening area that includes the state capital of Harrisburg.

GOP Armed Services Chief McCain Bashes Trump Nominee

John McCainWashington Post, Senators grill Trump’s pick for No. 2 Pentagon job over lack of experience, Dan Lamothe​, June 20, 2017. President Trump’s choice to take the No. 2 job at the Pentagon had a rocky confirmation hearing Tuesday, with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) at one point threatening to withhold his nomination from a vote and other lawmakers questioning how he will overcome his lack of experience in the Defense Department.

Patrick M. Shanahan, a vice president at the aerospace company and defense contractor Boeing, who was nominated in March to be deputy defense secretary, also faced questions about how he will manage day-to-day operations in the Pentagon while recusing himself from all decisions with a tie to Boeing. Shanahan has worked for the defense behemoth since 1986, with stints overseeing civilian airliner programs and military equipment. Editor's Note: McCain has a long history of challenging Boeing, including favoring its rival Airbus for a $34 billion Air Force tanker refueling contract that went to Boeing.

Gun Rights Pundit Cites Congressional Shooting

Future of Freedom Foundation, The Bizarre Mindset of Gun-Controllers, Jacob G. Hornberger, June 20, 2017. Just consider the latest shooting episode in Alexandria, Virginia. An angry and disgruntled leftist, James Hodgkinson, takes a handgun and an assault rifle to an Alexandria ball park and starts shooting a group of Republicans who are practicing for a baseball game. Hodgkinson begins shooting at them. The group is not able to fire back because none of them has a gun.

State Department Rebukes Saudis Over Qatar Rift

Washington Post, State Department issues unusual public warning to Saudi Arabia and UAE over Qatar rift, Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung, June 20, 2017. The statement suggested that the Saudis may have provoked a crisis and drawn the U.S. into the dispute on false pretenses. The diplomatic crisis has been a test of the new U.S. administration’s pull with Arab allies, and has pitted President Trump’s public support for the Saudi-led action against Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s preference for quiet, backroom diplomacy.

JFK-Deep State Book Reviews

JFKcountercoup, Book Review: Antonio Veciana's 'Trained to Kill,' Bill Kelly, June 20, 2017. William Kelly is secretary of Citizens Against Political Assassinations (www.CAPA-US.org). Book under review: Trained To Kill:  The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy and Che (Skyhorse Publishing) by Antonio Veciana, with Carlos Harrison and forward by David Talbot.

After decades of knowing for certain that David Atlee Phillips is the true identity of CIA spymaster "Maurice Bishop" Antonio Veciana finally comes clean and confirms this truth he had previously denied. We knew Phillips was "Maurice Bishop" — as Veciana described him to Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi and journalist Dick Russell in the 1970s — by comparing that profile to Phillips' description of himself in his autobiography Nightwatch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service, as there are over a dozen matches of specific times, places and events that certify his true identity.

Richard SchweikerThese associations cannot be coincidences and serve what Sen. Richard Schweiker (R-Pa.) called the "fingerprints of intelligence." Schweiker (shown in a file photo at left) recognized a composite sketch of "Bishop" as David Phillips, someone who had testified before his Intelligence oversight committee. Schweiker had hired Philadelphia investigative journalist Gaeton Fonzi as an investigator for the the Frank Church Intelligence Committee subcommittee (led by Schweiker and Sen. Gary Hart), and Fonzi was subsequently hired by Richard Sprague, the first chief-council to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

Veciana told Fonzi about "Maurice Bishop," an American intelligence spymaster who recruited Veciana while he was working as a banker in Havana and then directed his anti-Castro activities for over a decade, including a number of failed plots to kill Castro.

Antonio Veciana

While these plots are interesting, including one involving a bazooka that led to the arrest of the parents of Sylvia Odio, an important and significant fact that isn't mentioned by Veciana (shown in a file photo), and what he leaves out indicates that he knows more and this story is not yet fully understood.

Other missing items include the lack of photos, footnotes and an index, things I would have thought Pulitzer Prize winning co-author Carlos Harrison would have insisted on. But as with Peter Janney's Mary's Mosaic, they may be included in future editions, as this story has legs and will not die.

Lee Harvey Oswald Cuba Passport application

The hook to Veciana's story is that his intelligence case officer — Bishop/Phillips, introduced him to Lee Harvey Oswald — the accused assassin of President Kennedy in Dallas a few months before the assassination. The fact that Oswald (shown in a passport photo) was living in New Orleans at the time is used in an attempt to discredit Veciana or make it a case of mistaken identity. Although Oswald's exact whereabouts at the time are unknown, he was attempting to penetrate another anti-Castro group: the DRE. And despite not having a drivers license he got around pretty good.

They met on the first Saturday in September in the lobby of the Southland Center, the tallest building in Dallas, and a place that Oswald was familiar with, as he had applied for a job there, and it was the location of the Mexican consulate. Phillips (shown below at right in a file photo) was already there talking to Oswald, who Veciana was introduced to.

David Atlee Phillips

But Oswald never said a word. They looked for a coffee shop, and stopped a young couple heading for the observation tower on the roof, and they said there was a diner around the corner, and Oswald left Phillips and Veciana to discuss their work. But after the assassination the girl recognized Oswald, the accused assassin, as one of the three men she encountered, and told her mother, but they never came forward out of fear. Veciana too, recognized Oswald as the man Phillips introduced him to, but didn't press the issue, never mentioning it again, until he was questioned by Fonzi.

But as with the Odio incident, it matters not at all if it was Oswald or look-a-like or an imposter, or even if Oswald was a shooter or a patsy. Either way these incidents remove the assassination from being the act of a deranged loner and clearly define it as a covert intelligence operation — one planned and conducted by an intelligence agency network.

Click here for full review.

Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Plots against Castro and the JFK case: A CIA agent’s story, Bill Hughes, June 16, 2017. Introducing Antonio Veciana’s book — Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy and Che — I couldn’t help thinking when reading Veciana’s riveting account of his licensed-to-kill days as a CIA asset: Will our country’s bloody past now come back to haunt us as our politics continues to badly splinter the nation?

Our America, via its “Deep State” operatives, has a notorious record of removing foreign leaders, whose politics our elite insiders oppose, by any means necessary, including murder. A case in point was the CIA-orchestrated assassination in 1973, of Chile’s Socialist President, Salvador Allende. The fingerprints of then-President Richard M. Nixon and his alter-ego, Henry Kissinger, are all over that foul deed.

This brings us back to Veciana. He is a native of Cuba, who now resides in Miami, FL. He is 88 years old and in failing health. He insisted that he wrote the book because he no longer feared a Cuban-inspired assassination attempt on himself. Veciana said it was time to reveal “the truth about his double life.”

Antonio Veciana

In his book, written with Carlos Harrison, Veciana (shown in a file photo) recounts his amazing transformation, beginning in 1959, from a mild manner accountant in Havana, to a paid CIA asset, a spy, a wannabe Fidel Castro assassin and a terrorist. Like many of his fellow Cubans, Veciana opposed the dictator Fulgenico Batista, who came to power in 1952. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled Cuba for Spain. Castro and his supporters then took over.

Veciana then met a man known as “Maurice Bishop.” His real moniker was David Atlee Phillips. He would later become the CIA’s chief of Western Hemisphere operations and Veciana’s handler. For all the failed hit jobs on Castro, Bishop supplied Veciana with the “training, the money, the intelligence and the weapons.” Veciana details all of the assassination attempts in his book. Some of the capers, however, read like a “keystone cop” operation, including the one where they were going to kill Castro with a (double gasp) – “poison pen!”

When Veciana finally ran out of gas as a CIA asset, in July, 1973, Bishop retired him. He then gave him $253,000 as a “honorarium.” 
A failed attempt, in Miami, on Veciana’s life followed. Eventually, both Bishop and Veciana testified, in the late '70s, before a Select House Committee investigating the JFK assassination. Bishop died in 1988.

The most shocking revelation in this memoir is the author’s claim that he met Lee Harvey Oswald, in a Dallas, Texas, hotel lobby, with Bishop, only days before JFK’s assassination, on November, 22, 1963. If true, it would give credence to Oswald final words, “I’m a patsy” and put the CIA, and Bishop/Phillips, in the center of that crime of the century.

Trained to Kill covers a lot of our country’s darkest chapters. It’s a darn good book, but without corroboration in key parts, its plausibility should be weighted carefully by the discerning reader.

Child Sex Scandal Case, Imprisonment Debunked

The Intercept, Texas Couple Exonerated 25 Years After Being Convicted of Lurid Crimes That Never Happened, Jordan Smith, June 20 2017. Twenty-five years after they were convicted of a crime that never happened, Fran and Dan Keller were formally exonerated on June 20 in Austin, Texas.  The couple’s prosecution in 1992 was part of a wave of cases across the country amid an episode of mass hysteria known as the Satanic Panic.

Beginning in the 1980s, accusations flew that the childcare industry had been infiltrated by bands of Satanists hell-bent on brainwashing and sexually abusing young children. The Kellers’ exoneration closes a decadeslong chapter of profound injustice for a couple that paid an exceptionally high price for the credulousness of local law enforcement. “I still can’t believe it’s happening,” Fran, now 67, said on Tuesday morning while driving with her husband to sign the legal paperwork. Dan, 75, is slightly more upbeat — he always thought this day would come.

The exoneration is the first for the nascent conviction integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under the new DA, Margaret Moore. Court documents filed Tuesday announced that there is “no credible evidence” against the Kellers. Moore said she personally reviewed the case and believes exoneration “to be a just outcome.”

When I began reinvestigating the case in 2008 for the Austin Chronicle, I was stunned to learn that police and prosecutors who had worked the case back in the early ’90s still believed some of the most outrageous allegations leveled against the Kellers. The Austin Police Department refused to release its investigative report on the case, forcing the Chronicle to take the agency to court. We ultimately won the right to full, unredacted access.

June 19

Russia Threatens U.S. Over Attack on Syrian Aircraft

Russian Flag

New York Times, Russia Threatens to Target U.S. Warplanes Over Syria, Ivan Nechepurenko, June 19, 2017. Russia condemned on Monday the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and suspended the use of a military hotline that Washington and Moscow have used to avoid collisions in Syrian airspace. Russia also threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies over Syria.

“All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin ordered Russian military forces to Syria in September 2015 to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia and the United States signed a  memorandum on preventing air incidents between the two countries. Since then, the agreement has been a crucial link that has allowed Moscow and Washington to coordinate their military actions in the region, in which Iran, Israel, Russia, Syria, Turkey, and the United States with its allies carry out attacks in pursuit of often competing aims.

Related coverage: Associated Press via Washington Post, Russia says it will treat US-led coalition planes in Syria, west of the Euphrates, as targets after US downed US downed Syrian jet, Staff report, June 19, 2017. See also, SouthFront, Russia: Any Aircraft of US-led Coalition Discovered West Of Euphrates River Will Be Followed By Russian Air And Ground Defenses As Targets, Staff report, June 19, 2017. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the US aviation attack in Syrian airspace may be considered an “act of aggression.” Russian missile defense will follow any aircraft of the US-led coalition west of the Euphrates River.

“In areas where Russian aviation is conducting combat missions in the Syrian skies, any flying objects, including jets and unmanned American Flagaerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River will be followed by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets,” the ministry announced. The Russian military added that the US-led coalition command didn’t make an attempt to avoid the incident via the deconfliction channel with Russia. On June 18, the US-led coalition downed a Syrian Air Force Su-22 jet in the western part of the Raqqah province. The Su-22 was fulfilling its mission against ISIS.

Joseph DunfordNational Press Club, Terrorist battle will rage beyond ISIS, Joint Chiefs chair warns, Ken Dalecki, June 19, 2017. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford (shown at right), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Americans to be prepared for a long battle with terrorist organizations that will not end with the defeat of ISIS in the Middle East. As part of a wide-ranging "fireside chat" question-and-answer interview with National Press Club President Jeffrey Ballou at a Club Headliners Luncheon, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Americans should realize that terrorism is something the world "will be dealing with for a long period of time" and that countermeasures must be politically, economically and militarily sustainable.

Dunford predicted that a mid-July Trump administration decision on U.S. force levels in Afghanistan will be part of a broad South Asia strategy that will go beyond the local commander's request for 4,000 additional troops to counter opposition forces. Dunford said the objective in Afghanistan and other conflict areas from West Africa to Southeast Asia is to assist a broad coalition of some 60 members in reducing the level of violence to where local forces can control the situation.

Centcom logoThe general appeared to downplay threats from Russia over the U.S. downing June 18 of a Syrian fighter plane. The U.S. and Russian military have been working for eight months on "deconfliction" to avoid mishaps in a mutual effort to defeat ISIS, an effort Dunford said "has worked very well" until the June 18 incident sparked Russian protests in support of its Syrian regime ally.

Dunford said the administration has had the congressional authorization it needs since the 9/11 2001 attacks to conduct the war on terror, but that he would like to see Congress adopt a "clear and unmistakable" resolution to show U.S. troops that they have the support of the American people. He credited U.S. and coalition efforts against some 17 terrorist organizations with providing the pressure needed to prevent another 9/11.

SouthFront, Government Forces Rescued Pilot Of Su-22 Downed By US-led Coalition – Media, Staff report, June 19, 2017. Government forces have rescued a pilot, Ali Fahed, of the Su-22 warplane downed by the US-led coalition, according to the Syrian media. According to reports, the pilot has been evacuated from the area controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF units were trying to prevent this but failed.

SouthFront, Syrian Army Captures Strategic Crossroad Town Of Resafa In Raqqah Province (Map, with Syrian forces in red, ISIS in gray), Staff report, June 19, 2017. Pro-government forces, led by the Syrian Army Tiger Forces, have captured the strategic crossroad town of Resafa in the province of Raqqah. The town had been controlled by the ISIS terrorist group.

The liberation of Resafa is the latest success in a series of advances made by government forces in the province. Controlling Resafa, the Tiger Forces and their allies are able to control the road between the town of Tabqah (controlled by US-backed forces) and the city of Deir Ezzor besieged by ISIS terrorists.

Meanwhile, reports continue appearing about sporadic firefights between US-backed forces and the Syrian army in the area south of Tabqah. Yesterday, the US-led coalition downed a Syrian Su-22 warplane in the area arguing that the Su-22 had dropped bombs near US-partnered forces.

U.S. Controversy Over Trump Campaign's Foreign Ties

Paul Manafort

Washington Post, At height of Russia tensions, Trump campaign chairman Manafort met with business associate from Ukraine, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Rachel Weiner, June 19, 2017. In August, as tension mounted over Russia’s role in the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort (shown above in a screen shot), sat down to dinner with a business associate from Ukraine who once served in the Russian army.

Konstantin Kilimnik, who learned English at a military school that some experts consider a training ground for Russian spies, had helped run the Ukraine office for Manafort’s international political consulting practice for 10 years.

Kilimnik, who provided a written statement to the Washington Post through Manafort’s attorney, said the previously unreported dinner was one of two meetings he had with Manafort on visits to the United States during Manafort’s five months working for Trump. The first encounter was in early May 2016, about two weeks before the Trump adviser was elevated to campaign chairman. The August dinner came about two weeks before Manafort resigned under pressure amid reports that he had received improper payments for his political work in Ukraine, allegations that he has denied.

Bloomberg, In Hamptons House, a Link to Manafort and Jared Kushner’s Dad, Andrew Martin, June 19, 2017. Kushner bank issued mortgage to Manafort’s wife 15 years ago; N.Y. is investigating ex-campaign manager’s real estate deals. Jared Kushner was a junior at Harvard when an enterprising political operative was drawn into his family’s orbit. His name: Paul Manafort. It was 2002, and, back then, few might have imagined that the two men’s worlds would intersect one day in the figure of Donald Trump.

The Kushners and the Manaforts, it turns out, go way back -- at least when it comes to two of New York’s great obsessions: money and real estate. Kushner, of course, is now the son-in-law and confidant of President Trump. Manafort is a big-time Republican strategist and Trump’s former campaign manager. Both have been pulled into the vortex of questions surrounding the administration and Russia.

But 15 years ago, when Trump was still running casinos, Manafort’s wife, Kathleen, received a mortgage on a 10-bedroom home in the Hamptons on Long Island. The $150,000 loan was made by NorCrown Bank, in Livingston, New Jersey, whose chairman was Kushner’s father, Charles, the patriarch of the family real estate empire and, at the time, a Democratic powerbroker in New Jersey.

Huffpost, Michael Flynn Worked With Foreign Cyberweapons Group That Sold Spyware Used Against Political Dissidents, Paul Blumenthal and Jessica Schulberg, June 19, 2017. While serving as a top campaign aide to Donald Trump, former national security adviser Michael Flynn made tens of thousands of dollars on the side advising a company that sold surveillance technology that repressive governments used to monitor activists and journalists.

Flynn, who resigned in February after mischaracterizing his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., has already come under scrutiny for taking money from foreign outfits. Federal investigators began probing Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of a Dutch company led by a businessman with ties to the Turkish government earlier this year. Flynn’s moonlighting wasn’t typical: Most people at the top level of major presidential campaigns do not simultaneously lobby for any entity, especially not foreign governments. It’s also unusual for former U.S. intelligence officials to work with foreign cybersecurity outfits.

Nor was Flynn’s work with foreign entities while he was advising Trump limited to his Ankara deal. He earned nearly $1.5 million last year as a consultant, adviser, board member, or speaker for more than three dozen companies and individuals, according to financial disclosure forms released earlier this year.

Two of those entities are directly linked to NSO Group, a secretive Israeli cyberweapons dealer founded by Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio, who are rumored to have served in Unit 8200, the Israeli equivalent of the National Security Agency.

Changing Face of Religion

Christian Post, After More Than 20 Years as Conservative Leader Paul Williams Comes Out as Transwoman, Leonardo Blair, June 19, 2017. Williams began his work with Orchard Group in 1979 and became the president and chairman of the group in 1989, driven by a "simple statement of faith."

"These convictions have been passed down by each generation of leaders. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, we continue to affirm the following: The inspiration and authority of the whole Bible (Old and New Testament) as the revelation of God by the Holy Spirit," the organization declares in part on their website.

Behind closed doors, however, Paul was beginning to embrace a different life as Paula. Paul's 40-year-old son, Jonathan Williams, pastor of Forefront Brooklyn, a new church started with help from Orchard Group, told The New York Times that his father told him in December 2012, a year before he retired, that he wanted to live life as a woman.

High Court To Examine Gerrymandering

Washington Post, Supreme Court to hear potentially landmark case on partisan gerrymandering, Robert Barnes, June 19, 2017. The Supreme Court declared Monday that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted. The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes.

But the Supreme Court has long been tolerant of partisan gerrymandering — and some justices have thought that the court shouldn’t even be involved. A finding otherwise would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that will take place after the 2020 election and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states. The court accepted a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges last year ruled that the state’s Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a redistricting plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.

Media

HuffPost, CNN White House Reporter Questions Covering ‘Bizarre’ And ‘Pointless’ Briefings, Michael Calderone, June 19, 2017. “There must be collective action or else the stonewalling will continue,” Jim Acosta told HuffPost. CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta on Monday questioned why he, and the rest of the press corps, bothered showing up. “I don’t know what world we’re living in right now,” Acosta said on air after White House press secretary Sean Spicer took questions from reporters but didn’t allow video or audio coverage of the exchanges.

“I don’t know why everybody is going along with this,” he added. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It just feels like we’re sort of slowly but surely being dragged into a new normal in this country where the president of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.”

President Donald Trump hasn’t participated in a full-blown press conference since February, and his last interview was five weeks ago with a sympathetic Fox News host. Trump’s spokespeople have also been meeting the press less frequently. During the first 100 days of the administration, Spicer and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held an official briefing or more informal gaggle at “a rate of about once every two days,” The Washington Post reported last week. Spicer and Sanders have since shifted to a rate of once every three days, with briefings also becoming shorter.

Capital Living Frightens Alabama Congressman, Seeks Special Gun Rights For Congress

Washington Post, GOP congressman wants his colleagues to be able to carry guns everywhere, including in D.C., Jenna Portnoy, June 19, 2017. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) plans to introduce legislation this week to allow members of Congress to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States, except the Capitol or events where the president and vice president are present. 

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said witnessing the shooting attack on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others last week motivated his call for members of Congress to circumvent D.C. gun laws and arm ­themselves. Brooks, who was on the playing field when the shooting began last week at the Republican congressional baseball practice, plans to introduce legislation this week to allow members of Congress to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States, except the Capitol or events where the president and vice president are present.

Brooks told the Washington Post that he has a concealed-carry permit in Alabama but declined to say whether he carries a weapon because he doesn’t “want the bad guys to know about our defense capabilities.” Brooks, who took cover in the first-base dugout during the shooting, said that if he had had his pistol he would have fired at the gunman “with a surprise short-range attack.”

“As a consequence of none of us in that dugout having the ability to defend ourselves, that shooter was able to wound three more people,” he said.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) accused Brooks of politicizing the shooting and trying to interfere with local laws passed by elected officials. “Representative Brooks apparently did not want to be left out as members use last week’s horrific shooting to go after D.C.’s local gun safety laws,” Norton said in a statement. 

More Security For Trump, Family

Politico, Coast Guard seeks input on Mar-a-Lago security zone, Josh Gerstein, June 19, 2017. The Coast Guard is seeking formal comment from the public on plans to limit boat traffic outside President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, better known to some as the winter White House. A notice set for official publication Tuesday asks for feedback on three maritime "security zones" that the agency plans to use to protect Trump and members of his family when they're visiting Mar-a-Lago.

The zones were used during visits Trump made to Palm Beach earlier this year, but the Coast Guard didn't formally open a 30-day comment period because security plans were developed too close in time to the visits to permit that, the agency said. The notice suggests that Trump will be scarce at the resort over the summer, but will be visiting more frequently beginning in the fall.

The security restrictions won't be in force continuously, but solely when Secret Service protectees like the president or first lady are on hand.

Media Around the Nation

HuffPost, HuffPost Lays Off Dozens Amid Corporate Cutbacks, Michael Calderone, June 14, 2017. The creation of a new Verizon digital unit called Oath, following the acquisition of Yahoo, is expected to result in roughly 2,100 layoffs. Verizon owns AOL, HuffPost’s parent company. HuffPost laid off over three-dozen employees Wednesday, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, as part of broader corporate cutbacks.

Global News: Former Korean Prisoner Dies

Cincinnati Enquirer via USA Today, Student held by North Korea dies after returning to US, Hannah Sparling, June 19, 2017. No other outcome was possible. That's the message in a brief statement issued Monday by Otto Warmbier’s family. Warmbier, 22, was imprisoned for a year and a half in North Korea. He finally made it home this past week, but he was in a coma. Doctors described his condition as a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”

"It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds,” reads a statement from parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier.

“But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched – Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two – that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.”

Justice Around the Nation

New York Times, When the Car Is Repossessed, but the Debt Remains, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, June 19, 2017. Millions of Americans are shackled to high-interest auto loans after a subprime lending spree, and regulators fear the effect on the broader economy.

Global Free Press Issues

New York Times, Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Activists and Their Families, Azam Ahmed and Nicole Perl Roth, June 19, 2017. Mexico’s most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted by advanced spyware sold to the Mexican government on the condition that it be used only to investigate criminals and terrorists.

Reporters Without Borders, Outspoken blogger stripped of Vietnamese citizenship, Staff report, June 19, 2017. Pham Minh Hoang, an outspoken blogger, free speech advocate and university academic with French and Vietnamese dual nationality, is facing imminent deportation from the country of his birth because the Vietnamese authorities have stripped him of his Vietnamese nationality. oang, 62, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, could be deported at any time following a decree by Vietnam’s president depriving him of his Vietnamese citizenship on May 17.

“I don’t know what my status is today,” Hoang said in an interview for RSF, his voice choked with emotion. Speaking in the low-income neighborhood where he lives, he said he was still shocked by the president’s decision to strip him of his Vietnamese nationality, a measure that he and his lawyer describe as “completely illegal.”

RSF editor in chief Virginie Dangles said: “It is *both unacceptable and illegal to strip one’s citizens of their nationality with the sole aim of silencing them. The French authorities must not permit such an expulsion, which is nothing other than a way for the Vietnamese authorities to silence a critic.” Vietnam has one of the worst scores of any country in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, in which it is ranked 175 out of 180.

June 18

Trump Ramps Up Undeclared Wars In Middle East & Central Asia

Washington Post, U.S. aircraft shoots down Syrian government jet over northern Syria, Pentagon says, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Kareem Fahim​, June 18, 2017. The shoot-down came hours after Syrian government-backed forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja’Din, according to a Pentagon statement. A U.S. strike aircraft shot down a Syrian government fighter jet Sunday shortly after the Syrians bombed U.S.-backed fighters in northern Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Pentagon said the downing of the aircraft came hours after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja’Din, southwest of Raqqa. The rare attack was the first time a U.S. jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, and signaled the United States’ sharply intensifying role in Syria’s war. The incident is the fourth time within a month that the U.S. military has attacked pro-Syrian government forces.

A statement distributed by the Syrian military said that the aircraft’s lone pilot was killed in the attack and that the jet was carrying out a mission against the Islamic State. The Pentagon said the downing of the aircraft came hours after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja’Din, southwest of Raqqa.

The rare attack was the first time a U.S. jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, and signaled the United States’ sharply intensifying role in Syria’s war.

Editor's note: Maps by the news site Southfront, most recently dated June 17 above, have shown Syrian forces (shown in red) advancing steadily through gray-shaded ISIS-held territory in recent weeks, with SDF forces in a yellowish shade. This includes a steadily advancing front-line in orange towards Ja'Din, which is shown as ISIS territory in a triangle-shaped section just to the right of the oranged-shaded front line on above map's right-hand side near a strategic road intersection shown as still controlled by ISIS but threatened by Syrian Tiger Force troops. So-called Free Syrian Army, al-Queda and other anti-government territory at the left side of the map is shown in green. Syrian government troops are making major advances against ISIS through much of the country's central region.

The U.S. rejected the Syrian government’s claims that the aircraft was bombing the Islamic State, adding that Ja’Din is controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces and that the terrorist group had not been in the area for some time. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of predominantly Arab and Kurdish fighters, is a key proxy force for the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. The fighters were instrumental in retaking towns and villages from the Islamic State in recent months and are fighting to retake the extremist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa.

Also on Sunday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps announced that it had launched a rare cross-border missile attack against Islamic State militants in eastern Syria. The missile strikes, launched from Iran, were in retaliation for twin Islamic State attacks earlier this month in Tehran, the Iranian capital, on the parliament and the tomb of the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution that killed 18 people, according to a statement carried by Iran’s official news agency.

Washington Post, Afghan war faces flurry of setbacks as U.S. military debates new policy, Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin, June 18, 2017. Growing doubt about the ability of Afghan security forces to make progress against insurgents and new concerns about poor vetting and conflicting loyalties after recent insider attacks on U.S. troops have highlighted the need for action and perils of various approaches. But no new U.S. strategy or troop numbers have been announced, reportedly because of disagreements within the Trump administration. 

Flynn Fees Led To Foreign Payments, Conflict Probe

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014

New York Times, Flynn’s Disdain for Limits Leaves Him in a Legal Quagmire, Nicholas Confessore, Matthew Rosenberg and Danny Hakim, June 18, 2017. Fired by the military, Michael T. Flynn (shown in a file photo) tried to build a lucrative consulting business, ultimately becoming a top adviser to Mr. Trump. His business ties are now the subject of an inquiry.

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Washington Post, Trump lawyer: ‘President is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction,’ John Wagner, June 18, 2017. Jay Sekulow’s comments on “Meet the Press” are at odds with a Post report and even a tweet from Trump himself. Special counsel Robert Mueller III is said to be interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
June 17

New York Times, Judge Declares Mistrial in Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Case, Graham Bowley, Richard Pérez-Peña and Jon Hurdle, June 17, 2017. The decision came after jurors, who had been deliberating since Monday, reported being hopelessly deadlocked. After the mistrial, which Mr. Cosby’s lawyers had supported, prosecutors said they would retry him on the charges at a later date.

New York Times, Trump’s Business Ties in Persian Gulf Raise Questions, David D. Kirkpatrick, June 17, 2017. In the feud among Arab nations, President Trump has supported the ones with which he does business.

Washington Post, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke rescinds acceptance of Homeland Security post, Abby Phillip, June 17, 2017. Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. has withdrawn his name from consideration for an assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security, an adviser to Clarke confirmed to The Washington Post on Saturday.

David A. Clarke Jr. Milwaukee Police Chief Gage Skidmore photoClarke (shown in an official photo) was expected to start in a role at DHS at the end of June, but according to one person close to the administration who is familiar with the situation, his appointment had been subject to significant delays that contributed to his withdrawal. Clarke, a vocal supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign, is also a controversial figure. He was accused of plagiarism, and has drawn scrutiny for conditions in his jails that left one mentally ill inmate dead. Trump and Clarke met in Wisconsin on Tuesday, and they discussed other roles in which Clarke could support Trump.

June 16

Pogo LogoProject on Government Oversight (POGO), Limits Placed on Congressional Oversight, Staff report, June 16, 2017. In May, a legally binding opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) was made public, stating that individual Members of Congress “do not have the authority to conduct oversight” of the executive branch, and thus are only entitled to “voluntary cooperation” with their requests for information. However, individual Members of Congress play a critical role in conducting a lot of important oversight. If agencies follow the OLC opinion, it would diminish Congress’s oversight power.

As pointed out in a previous Project On Government Oversight blog, the OLC opinion builds on a harmful and long-standing executive branch policy that diminishes congressional oversight authority, with what appears to be a troubling new twist. And Congress has rightly excoriated the executive branch for this new policy—most notably in a letter from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)—defending its Constitutional duty and responsibility to oversee the executive branch.

Justice Department logoThe OLC opinion ("Authority of Individual Members of Congress to Conduct Oversight of the Executive Branch") dangerously asserts that only committee or subcommittee chairmen have Constitutional authority to conduct oversight, and, accordingly, to make requests for, and be official recipients of, information from the executive branch. It argues that the Constitution does not authorize individual Members of Congress—including committee ranking minority members—to conduct oversight, since they are not “endowed with the full power of Congress” in the form of a chair appointment. As a result, the requests for information by Members who are not Chairs, would not be “properly considered” as an oversight request, because they do not “trigger any obligation to accommodate congressional needs and [are] not legally enforceable.”

Oddly and detrimentally, the opinion puts oversight requests from individual Members of Congress (and even other committee members and the Ranking Members) as less important than information requests from the public. Such requests may (or may not) be answered at the discretion of the executive branch, wrenching away Members’ Constitutional prerogative to exercise oversight as a separate but equal branch of government. The opinion’s de facto result would be to increase and centralize the power of the executive branch—which is primarily made up of appointed bureaucrats, not elected representatives.

USA Today: RIGGED: Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing, June 16, 2017. Most days, the trucker would drive more than 16 hours straight hauling LG dishwashers and Kumho tires to warehouses around Los Angeles, on their way to retail stores nationwide.

These port truckers — many of them poor immigrants who speak little English — are responsible for moving almost half of the nation’s container imports out of Los Angeles’ ports. They don't deliver goods to stores. Instead they drive them short distances to warehouses and rail yards, one small step on their journey to a store near you.

A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.

If a driver quit, the company seized his truck and kept everything he had paid towards owning it. If drivers missed payments, or if they got sick or became too exhausted to go on, their companies fired them and kept everything. Then they turned around and leased the trucks to someone else.

Drivers who manage to hang on to their jobs sometimes end up owing money to their employers – essentially working for free. Reporters identified seven different companies that have told their employees they owe money at week’s end. The USA Today Network pieced together accounts from more than 300 drivers, listened to hundreds of hours of sworn labor dispute testimony and reviewed contracts that have never been seen by the public.

display: block; margin: 10px auto 10px auto;Washington Post, Trump puts pressure on deputy attorney general, a key figure in Russia probe, Sari Horwitz, Devlin Barrett and Lynh Bui, June 16, 2017. The president’s tweets raised concerns that Rod J. Rosenstein (shown above in a C-SPAN screenshot0 could be fired by the president, while others say he must recuse himself from supervising the special-counsel investigation that has engulfed the White House.

Trump Claims $1.4 Billion In Assets Now, Not the $10 Billion During Campaign

New York Times, Trump’s Businesses Show Mixed Returns During Campaign and Presidency, Steve Eder, Eric Lipton and Andrew W. Lehren, June 16, 2017. The Trump International Hotel in Washington and the Mar-a-Lago private resort in Florida have been among President Trump’s favorite spots to visit in the months since he became president. And both were among the most lucrative properties in his portfolio during what otherwise was a mixed year for the Trump family businesses, according to a financial disclosure report released Friday.

The 98-page report is the first official look at how Mr. Trump’s private finances fared during his campaign and the early months of presidency, even as he has stepped away from the day-to-day management duties of his company. They show Mr. Trump and his related business entities reported revenue of at least $597 million, down about 3 percent from the $615 million in the period a year before. Mr. Trump reported assets valued at a minimum of $1.4 billion, down slightly from $1.5 billion in 2016.

One place where his revenue fell considerably was at Trump National Doral, a golf resort near Miami and his biggest cash flow generator. It reported revenue of $116 million, down 12 percent from Mr. Trump’s 2016 disclosure, even though the Trump Organization recently completed a major renovation there.

More On Trump Rants Against Investigators

Washington Post, Trump appears to confirm obstruction probe, attacks Rosenstein in tweet rant, Abby Phillip​, June 16, 2017. The president fired off tweets attacking the special counsel's Russia investigation, and apparently, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Donald TrumpOn Thursday night, Rosenstein issued a statement casting doubt on news stories based on anonymous sources, notably from unidentified countries.

News reports (including in the Washington Post) have detailed parts of the special counsel's investigation. "Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch of agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated," Rosenstein's statement said. "Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations."

Washington Post, Trump finds himself exactly where he doesn’t want to be, Eugene Robinson, June 16, 2017 (print edition). President Trump now finds himself exactly where he doesn’t want to be: under investigation by a dogged, highly respected prosecutor who owes him no personal or political loyalty. And the president has only himself to blame.

Justice Department log circularTrump let off some steam Thursday morning by issuing a couple of angry statements on Twitter: “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.” And then: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people!” 

Not for the first time, Trump gives a false impression of what’s really going on. He pretends there has already been a finding that there was no collusion between anyone involved in his presidential campaign and the Russian attempt to meddle in our election. No such conclusion has been reached.

OpEdNews, A government in a state of paralysis; no plan, no vision for the future, no capability to solve this country's problems, Michael Payne, June 16, 2017. What could not be more obvious and very troubling is the fact that those in control of this government are caught up in a state of paralysis, one of their own making; going from day to day just reacting to conditions that suddenly emerge around them. They have absolutely no vision of the direction that this country should take going into the future. What is the plan that this Trump-led government is following? Sure he and his GOP cohorts say that they want to create jobs, improve our system of healthcare, repair and rebuild the infrastructure, and initiate tax reform. That's great and that's what the American people have been hearing for a long time but do we hear anything about specific steps that they intend to take to make those initiatives come to fruition?

Mike Pence

Washington Post, Pence’s balancing act as Trump’s No. 2 shows signs of strain amid White House turmoil, Ashley Parker​, June 16, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence (shown at right) turned 58 on the same day that two senior intelligence officials fielded questions before a Senate committee about the FBI’s ongoing Russia probe. Pence’s political balance-beam routine is showing signs of strain, according to a portrait of the vice president culled from interviews with 17 aides, advisers, friends, allies and Republican operatives.

Trump Policy Changes on Cuba, U.S. Civil Rights Enforcement

Washington Post, Trump announces revisions to portions of Obama’s Cuba policy, John Wagner and Karen DeYoung​,
The policy seeks to prohibit commercial dealings that benefit the Castro regime and somewhat limits the freedom of U.S. citizens to travel to the island, but leaves in place many Obama-era changes.

New York Times, Education Dept. to Scale Back Civil Rights Inquiries, Erica L. Green, June 16, 2017. The department will not consider civil rights investigations mandatory, loosening rules that spurred broad looks at issues from sexual assault to disciplinary actions.

Russia Suggests Possible Killing Of ISIS Leader

Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in 2014 in speech at mosque, distributed by AP from screen shot

New York Times, Russian Military Says It Might Have Killed ISIS Leader, Andrew Kramer, June 16, 2017. Russia’s military said on Friday that it was looking into whether a Russian airstrike in the Syrian desert killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (shown above in a file photo), the self-declared caliph of the Islamic State, in what would be a major military achievement.

Russian Flag

In a statement issued to Russian news agencies, the Defense Ministry said that the Russian Air Force struck a meeting of Islamic State leaders on May 28 outside Raqqa, Syria, the group’s de facto capital, possibly killing Mr. Baghdadi, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Nothing has been heard from Mr. Baghdadi since November, when the Islamic State released a blistering audio recording in which he urged forces to remain firm in the face of the American-backed Iraqi offensive in Mosul.

Justice Around the Nation

New York Times, Guilty Verdict in Texting Suicide Case, Sarah Stein Kerr and Neeti Upadhye, June 16, 2017. In a rare legal finding, a judge found Michelle Carter, 20, guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Ms. Carter urged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to commit suicide through text messages and phone calls in 2014.

JFK Assassination, CIA Plots Against Castro

Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Plots against Castro and the JFK case: A CIA agent’s story, Bill Hughes, June 16, 2017. Introducing Antonio Veciana’s book — Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots Against Castro, Kennedy and Che — I couldn’t help thinking when reading Veciana’s riveting account of his licensed-to-kill days as a CIA asset: Will our country’s bloody past now come back to haunt us as our politics continues to badly splinter the nation?

Our America, via its “Deep State” operatives, has a notorious record of removing foreign leaders, whose politics our elite insiders oppose, by any means necessary, including murder. A case in point was the CIA-orchestrated assassination in 1973, of Chile’s Socialist President, Salvador Allende. The fingerprints of then-President Richard M. Nixon and his alter-ego, Henry Kissinger, are all over that foul deed.

This brings us back to Veciana. He is a native of Cuba, who now resides in Miami, FL. He is 88 years old and in failing health. He insisted that he wrote the book because he no longer feared a Cuban-inspired assassination attempt on himself. Veciana said it was time to reveal “the truth about his double life.”

In his book, written with Carlos Harrison, Veciana recounts his amazing transformation, beginning in 1959, from a mild manner accountant in Havana, to a paid CIA asset, a spy, a wannabe Fidel Castro assassin and a terrorist. Like many of his fellow Cubans, Veciana opposed the dictator Fulgenico Batista, who came to power in 1952. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled Cuba for Spain. Castro and his supporters then took over.

Fidel Castro 1959 Photo at National Press ClubVeciana then met a man known as “Maurice Bishop.” His real moniker was David Atlee Phillips. He would later become the CIA’s chief of Western Hemisphere operations and Veciana’s handler. For all the failed hit jobs on Castro, Bishop supplied Veciana with the “training, the money, the intelligence and the weapons.” Veciana details all of the assassination attempts in his book. Some of the capers, however, read like a “keystone cop” operation, including the one where they were going to kill Castro (shown in a 1959 photo at the National Press Club) with a (double gasp) – “poison pen!”

When Veciana finally ran out of gas as a CIA asset, in July, 1973, Bishop retired him. He then gave him $253,000 as a “honorarium.” 
A failed attempt, in Miami, on Veciana’s life followed. Eventually, both Bishop and Veciana testified, in the late '70s, before a Select House Committee investigating the JFK assassination. Bishop died in 1988.

The most shocking revelation in this memoir is the author’s claim that he met Lee Harvey Oswald, in a Dallas, Texas, hotel lobby, with Bishop, only days before JFK’s assassination, on November, 22, 1963. If true, it would give credence to Oswald final words, “I’m a patsy” and put the CIA, and Bishop/Phillips, in the center of that crime of the century.

Trained to Kill covers a lot of our country’s darkest chapters. It’s a darn good book, but without corroboration in key parts, its plausibility should be weighted carefully by the discerning reader.

Global News: Media Sugar Daddies Quarrel?

Moon of Alabama, Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets, Staff report, June 16, 2017. The spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar gives us some amusing entertainment. Both countries spent billions to arm and supply tens of thousands of brutal Takfiris to fight the Syrian government and people. They also spent millions to buy this or that "western" think-tank and/or writer.

Now that the two Wahhabi dictatorships are fighting each other, they spill the beans over each others nefarious deeds. Various "western" think-tanks and media, who avidly supported al-Qaeda, ISIS and other criminals in Syria, are the well-deserved collateral casualties in this fight.

CNN produced [a] propaganda piece for the "Syrian rebels" aka al-Qaeda with the help of al-Qaeda's Bilal Abdul Kareem and with Clarissa Ward starring in an al-Qaeda bridal — or a sack. Her sympathies are with the terrorists.

The costume show won awards. But CNN never mentioned the help it got from the terrorist organization and its media frontman Bilal Abdul Kareem. Are they ashamed or do their managers fear to be put into jail for evidently supporting a terrorist organization?

Those are several cakes flying into many deserving faces. Various think tanks are currently coming out on this or that side of the Qatar-Saudi Arabia spat. Here is a cheatsheet on which "western" think tank is financed by which side of the GCC spat. It helps to evaluate the various op-eds written in this or that Gulf-money financed propaganda office.

See related story: CNN, Clarissa Ward On Syria: 'There are no winners in Aleppo,' Aug. 15, 2016. 'This is Hell.' Editor's note: On Aug. 8, 2016 CNN's Senior International Correspondent Clarissa Ward spoke at a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. Her full remarks are excerpted here.

June 15

Washington Post, Special counsel is investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings, Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky and Adam Entous, June 15, 2017. FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the finances of other Trump associates.

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Washington Post, Trump lashes out after reports of obstruction probe; Pence hires a lawyer, John Wagner and Ashley Parker​, June 15, 2017. A heightened sense of unease gripped the White House amid developments in the probes into Russia and the 2016 election: President Trump expressed frustration at reports that the special counsel’s inquiry now includes potential obstruction of justice, and aides repeatedly deflected questions about the investigation; Vice President Pence acknowledged hiring a private lawyer to handle fallout from the investigations.

New York Times, Trump’s Imminent Cuba Problem, Christopher Sabatini, June 15, 2017. Soon — maybe as early as Friday — President Donald Trump, with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, is expected to announce a presidential initiative that will roll back the Obama-era efforts that loosened the 56-year-old United States embargo on Cuba. How far will the president go?

More important than the actual content of the executive changes, though, will be how the United States Congress, businesses and other interested groups react to Mr. Trump’s reversal of policies that, according to Pew Research Center, 75 percent of Americans support.

Key, too, will be the reaction of the Cuban government. For the past half-century, the gerontocratic Cuban regime has survived because the embargo has not just isolated the Cuban people from their closest neighbor of more than 300 million — including close to two million fellow Cubans — but also provided a convenient excuse for the regime’s economic failure.

9-11 Investigation

9-11 Hijackers (Florida Bulldog collage)

Accused 9-11 Hijackers (Florida Bulldog collage)

Florida Bulldog, FBI asks Miami judge to reconsider, keep secret ‘sensitive details’ about 9/11, Dan Christensen, June 15, 2017. The FBI is pushing back against a federal judge’s findings that certain classified details about the funding of the 9/11 attacks and the 19 al Qaeda suicide hijackers should be made public. Specifically, the government is asking Miami U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga to reconsider her May 16 ruling that would largely open for public inspection a 60-page FBI slide show titled “Overview of the 9/11 Investigation.” The FBI showed the overview to the 9/11 Review Commission in secret on April 25, 2014.

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The FBI released some of the overview’s pages in full earlier this year, but many more were either partially blanked out or withheld completely for privacy or other reasons. The overview and numerous other FBI records are the focus of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by Florida Bulldog one year ago. Here’s what an FBI official told the court last week about four blanked-out PowerPoint slides regarding “the transfer of money prior to and funding of the attacks.”

Malcolm Turnbull

Aussie Ridicule?

New York Times, Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Leader, Pokes Fun at Trump in Leaked Recording, Jacqueline Williams, June 15, 2017. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first phone call with President Trump was famously unpleasant. His next one might be even more so. On Thursday, an Australian news network released a brief recording of Mr. Turnbull (shown in a file photo) poking fun at the president, at a dinner full of journalists that was supposed to be off the record.

Australian flag

Mr. Turnbull’s parody of Trumpian rhetorical bluster, and his allusion to the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, were recorded Wednesday night at Parliament House’s Mid Winter Ball, an annual event not unlike the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington.

Two U.S. Foreign Policies On 'Terror' Creator Qatar?

Reuters via U.S. News and World Report, Qatar Happy With Jet Deal, Tom Finn, June 15, 2017. A $12 billion deal to buy Boeing F-15 U.S. fighter jets shows Qatar has deep-rooted support from Washington, a Qatari official said on Thursday, adding that its rift with some other Arab states had not hurt the U.S. relationship with Doha. Qatar is facing a severe economic and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies who cut ties last week, accusing it of funding terrorist groups, a charge Doha denies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly echoed the accusations against Qatar, even as his Defense and State Departments have tried to remain neutral in the dispute among key allies. Qatar is home to the headquarters for U.S. air forces in the Middle East. On Wednesday U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed the previously-approved warplane deal with Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah.

Global Climate Change

New York Times, The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching, Michael Kimmelman, June 15, 2017. In the waterlogged Netherlands, climate change is considered neither a hypothetical nor a drag on the economy. Instead, it’s an opportunity. ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands — The wind over the canal stirred up whitecaps and rattled cafe umbrellas. Rowers strained toward a finish line and spectators hugged the shore. Henk Ovink, hawkish, wiry, head shaved, watched from a V.I.P. deck, one eye on the boats, the other, as usual, on his phone.

Mr. Ovink is the country’s globe-trotting salesman in chief for Dutch expertise on rising water and climate change. Like cheese in France or cars in Germany, climate change is a business in the Netherlands.

That’s because from the first moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms.

From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity. While the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris accord, the Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward.

It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over. You may wish to pretend that rising seas are a hoax perpetrated by scientists and a gullible news media. Or you can build barriers galore. But in the end, neither will provide adequate defense, the Dutch say.

This is the message the Dutch have been taking out into the world. Dutch consultants advising the Bangladeshi authorities about emergency shelters and evacuation routes recently helped reduce the numbers of deaths suffered in recent floods to “hundreds instead of thousands,” according to Mr. Ovink.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “You can say we are marketing our expertise, but thousands of people die every year because of rising water, and the world is failing collectively to deal with the crisis, losing money and lives.” He ticks off the latest findings: 2016 was the warmest year on record; global sea levels rose to new highs.

The Netherlands effectively occupies the gutter of Europe, a lowlands bounded on one end by the North Sea, into which immense rivers like the Rhine and the Meuse flow from Germany and France. Dutch thinking changed after floods forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate during the 1990s. The floods “were a wake-up call to give back to the rivers some of the room we had taken,” as Harold van Waveren, a senior government adviser, recently explained.

American Conservative, The ‘Global Order’ Myth: Teary-eyed nostalgia as cover for U.S. hegemony, Andrew J. Bacevich, June 15, 2017. During the Age of Trump, Year One, a single word has emerged to capture the essence of the prevailing cultural mood: resistance. By their own lights, anti-Trump forces are fending off the apocalypse. As in November 1860 so too in November 2016, the outcome of a presidential election has placed at risk a way of life.

You get the drift. Liberalism, along with norms, rules, openness, and internationalism: these ostensibly define the postwar and post-Cold War tradition of American statecraft. Allow Trump to scrap that tradition and you can say farewell to what Stewart Patrick refers to as “the global community under the rule of law” that the United States has upheld for decades.

But what does this heartwarming perspective exclude? We can answer that question with a single word: history.  

Or, somewhat more expansively, among the items failing to qualify for mention in the liberal internationalist, rules-based version of past U.S. policy are the following: meddling in foreign elections; coups and assassination plots in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Cuba, South Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, and elsewhere; indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns in North Korea and throughout Southeast Asia; a nuclear arms race bringing the world to the brink of Armageddon; support for corrupt, authoritarian regimes in Iran, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Egypt, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere—many of them abandoned when deemed inconvenient; the shielding of illegal activities through the use of the Security Council veto; unlawful wars launched under false pretenses; “extraordinary rendition,” torture, and the indefinite imprisonment of persons without any semblance of due process.

Granted, for each of these, there was a rationale, rooted in a set of identifiable assumptions, ambitions, and fears. Yet collectively, the actions and episodes enumerated above do not suggest a nation committed to liberalism, openness, or the rule of law. What they reveal instead is a pattern of behavior common to all great powers in just about any era: following the rules when it serves their interest to do so; disregarding the rules whenever they become an impediment. Some regimes are nastier than others, but all are law-abiding when the law works to their benefit and not one day longer. Even Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s USSR punctiliously observed the terms of their non-aggression pact as long as it suited both parties to do so.

However ill-suited by intellect, temperament, and character for the office he holds, Trump has seemingly intuited the need for such change. In this regard, if in none other, I’m with the Donald. But note the irony. Trump may come closer to full-fledged historical illiteracy than any president since Warren G. Harding. Small wonder then that his rejection of the mythic past long employed to preempt serious debate regarding U.S. policy gives fits to the perpetrators of those myths.

June 14

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)Washington Post, Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say, Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz, June 14, 2017. The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

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The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown above right) to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Health Care Disaster Looming?

Washington Post, The GOP’s fantastically anti-democratic quest to kill health care in the dark, E.J. Dionne Jr., June 14, 2017. There is work here for activists, politicians and the media. Activists must understand that they have less time to save the Affordable Care Act than they might think. Democratic senators must take every opportunity to force this issue to the fore. Disruption in the face of this violation of legislative norms is no vice.

We know that the Trump/Russia story will still be there in a month. We cannot say the same about the health insurance millions of Americans count on. By then, it may be on the road to extinction.

Angry Shooter Killed After Targeting Republicans

Washington Post, Gunman in GOP baseball practice attack dies after shootout, Peter Hermann, Paul Kane and Amber Phillips, June 14, 2017. ​House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (shown in photo) remains in critical condition; five others injured. A gunman, who was identified by law enforcement as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., unleashed a barrage of gunfire at a park in Alexandria, Va., as Republican members of Congress held a morning baseball practice. President Trump later announced that the gunman had died.

Scalise is the third-highest-ranking House Republican and has a round-the-clock Capitol Police detail. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the manager of the GOP baseball team, said there were “dozens, if not hundreds, of shots fired.” Members of the team and onlookers took cover in dugouts, got down on the ground or beneath a sport-utility vehicle.

Washington Post, Gunman repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers for favoring ‘super rich,’ Ann E. Marimow, Tom Jackman and Shawn Boburg, June 14, 2017. The Illinois man suspected of firing dozens of rounds at a Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria Wednesday morning was highly critical of President Trump and other Republican leaders on social media, and had volunteered for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders.

Law enforcement officials were still investigating what motivated James T. Hodgkinson, 66, whose attack injured five people, including a GOP lawmaker and two Capitol police officers. Hodgkinson, who died after a shootout with police, worked as a home inspector and lived with his wife in Belleville, a suburb of St. Louis. But he appeared to have stayed in the Alexandria area for at least the last six weeks, according to former Alexandria mayor Bill Euille and one other man. As Hodgkinson’s photo circulated in the news Wednesday, both men said they realized they had encountered Hodgkinson regularly at the local YMCA across the street from the baseball field.

In a series of letters to his local newspaper, Hodgkinson repeatedly blasted Republican lawmakers for favoring the “super rich.” A Facebook page believed to be his features pictures of Sanders, and anti-Trump rhetoric, including a recent post that reads: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

Bernie Sanders OfficialPolitico, Sanders condemns shooting by gunman who volunteered for his campaign, Staff report, June 14, 2017. ​Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (shown at left) on Wednesday condemned the shooting by a gunman who had volunteered for his presidential campaign, calling the attack that wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise a "despicable act."

Huffington Post, Republican Congresswoman Receives Threat After Scalise Shooting, Marina Fang, June 14, 2017. A Republican congresswoman from New York said she received an email threat just hours after Wednesday morning’s shooting at a baseball field that wounded GOP Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others. Rep. Claudia Tenney forwarded to several news outlets, including HuffPost, the email that began with the subject line: “One down, 216 to go.”

Legal News Around the Nation

New York Times, Manslaughter Charges for 5 Officials in Flint Crisis, Scott Atkinson and Monica Davey, June 14, 2017. For the first time, investigators have directly linked the conduct of government officials to the deaths of residents in the water contamination crisis. Five officials in Michigan, including the head of the state’s health department, were charged on Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter, marking the first time investigators have drawn a direct link between the acts of government officials in Flint’s water contamination crisis and the deaths of residents that followed.

Since 2014, when this city switched water suppliers, partly to save money, the water has been linked to the lead poisoning of children and the deaths of 12 people from Legionnaires’ disease. It was one those deaths that led to the involuntary manslaughter accusations, Bill Schuette, Michigan’s attorney general, said on Wednesday. He also announced a new list of charges in a sweeping investigation that has already led to cases against 13 officials.

Politico, Feinstein defends blue-slip tactic to block judges, Josh Gerstein, June 14, 2017. The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee is warning Republicans against cutting back on the rights of home-state senators to block judicial nominees through a process known as the blue slip. At a confirmation hearing Wednesday on three of President Donald Trump's judicial picks, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said she wanted to counter Republicans' claims that the blue-slip procedure has not been religiously applied to nominations for circuit court seats.

Dianne FeinsteinFeinstein (shown in an official photo) noted that one of the nominees appearing before the panel Wednesday, Kevin Newsom, has been selected for a seat that President Barack Obama tried to fill last year. Obama's pick, U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon, never got a hearing because Sen. Richard Shelby and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions declined to return the so-called blue slips for the Alabama resident. So, the seat remained vacant.

The blue slip process, applied to judicial nominees, as well as U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal positions, is a Senate tradition and not a formal rule. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have said recently they would favor softening the practice if Democrats use it to block too many of Trump's nominees.

Washington Post, Congressional Democrats to file emoluments lawsuit against Trump, Staff report, June 14, 2017. Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress agreed to file a lawsuit Wednesday against President Trump alleging that by retaining interests in a global business empire he has violated constitutional restrictions on taking gifts and benefits from foreign leaders.

The lead senator filing the complaint in federal district court, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn., shown in an official photo), said Tuesday that the lawsuit has already drawn more congressional plaintiffs — 196 — than any legal action previously taken against a president. No Republicans had joined in the lawsuit so far, although they will be invited to do so, Blumenthal said.

An advance copy of the legal complaint argues that those in Congress have special standing because the Constitution’s “foreign emoluments clause” requires the president to obtain “the consent of Congress” before accepting any gifts.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump's new Cuba policy is extortion on behalf of the Trump Organization, Wayne Madsen, June 14, 2017. (Subscription required.)

Politics around the Nation

Washington Post, Sessions finds a shield in executive privilege — but it might not be a strong one, Matt Zapotosky, June 14, 2017. Analysts disagreed on whether Jeff Sessions (shown in photo) was appropriately using it to advance a worthy goal, or merely suggesting it as a shield to fend off questions.

Washington Post, If Virginia is a preview, the GOP’s in big trouble in the Georgia and 2018 races, Jennifer Rubin, June 14, 2017. Meanwhile, America’s opinion of Trump as president keeps slipping, Philip Bump.

Global News: Syrian Forces Break ISIS Ranks

Syria Flag

SouthFront, Govt Forces Break ISIS Defense Lines In Raqqah And Homs Provinces, Staff report, June 14, 2017 (Video report with map). The Syrian Army Tiger Forces have made large progress against ISIS terrorists in the province of Raqqah. The Tiger Forces liberated a number of villages and reached the Ithriyah-Tabqah road southwest of the area controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). A major part of elite ISIS units had been redeployed to the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor.

The US military has deployed a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS, shown in a government file photo) near At Tanf in southeastern Syria. The system was moved from Jordan. The HIMARS deployment dramatically strengthens the US military presence in the area and poses a direct threat to Syrian government forces deployed northeast of At Tanf. Earlier this month, the army and its allies reached the border with Iraq and started setting up fortifications there.

Thus, the both sides are considering a possibility of military escalation at the Syrian-Iraqi border. The more the battle for Raqqah takes time, the more opportunities Syrian government forces obtain to reach the city of Deir Ezzor before the US-led coalition decides that it needs to capture this oil rich area by itself.

Media: Politico attacks SouthFront

SouthFront, Politico: Veterans Today and SouthFront turn American service members and veterans into a fifth column, Staff report, June 14, 2017. Politico, the most read “Capitol Hill” publication online, has released an investigation arguing that Veterans Today and SouthFront are shaking pillars of American society, foremost among them the military.

From our own point of view the article written by Ben Schreckinger provides another evidence of a high evaluation of our collaborative effort by mainstream media outlets and think tanks funded by corporates and governments. It explains why more and more people turn away from the mainstream coverage and analysis of the military and geo-political issues of our time. SouthFront provides a full text of Politico’s investigative report.

Media: Oliver Stone wins courage award, premieres on Showtime interviews of Putin

Consortium News, Oliver Stone Receives Gary Webb Award, Robert Parry, June 14, 2017. For his brave work in the field of documentaries, director Oliver Stone was the 2016 recipient of the Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award, which he received from Robert Parry of Consortiumnews.com on June 3.

Robert Parry: Everyone knows Oliver Stone [shown below in a Justice Integrity Project photo from a separate event on June 3] is a great screenwriter, director and producer. He’s done famous movies. But I also thought people should recognize that he has done very significant support for documentary projects. He has been involved in them, he has helped fund them. What he’s done, which is almost unique at this moment in American history, is he tries to deal with people who are often leaders of other countries that are under attack by the United States, or being harshly criticized. Some of these leaders are being demonized and they’re being turned into cardboard characters that can be easily denounced and dismissed.

And what Oliver Stone has done, like in his documentary about some of the leaders of South America [South of the Border], is to show this from their side, what they’re thinking, what makes them tick. And that is so important at a time when the United States can engage in horrible wars. We’ve seen the effects of demonizing leaders. And it’s not to say these leaders are great guys, no one’s suggesting that, but that when we demonize and make them not into human beings anymore, then it becomes very easy to go to war with them and their countries. We saw this happen with Saddam Hussein for instance, in Iraq, and to the horrible cost to the people of that region and to the American soldiers who had to execute this war.

So we’ve seen the consequences of not dealing honestly and fairly with people and not trying to explain to the public that these are multi-dimensional leaders. They are people that you may end up not liking, that you may disagree with, but you should at least know what drives them. Oliver Stone is really one of the very few people with the courage to say, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to present these people as real people, and we can factor that in to how the American people want to feel about this issue.”

Democracy Now! Oliver Stone Interviews Putin on U.S.-Russia Relations, 2016 Election, Snowden, NATO & Nuclear Arms, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, June 14, 2017.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, at this pivotal moment in U.S.-Russia relations, we’re joined now by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, one of Hollywood’s best-known directors. His films have included Platoon, JFK, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July. Over the past two years, Stone conducted more than 20 hours of interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin, covering issues from NATO to the nuclear arms race, the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the 2016 U.S. election. Showtime is airing a four-part special this week called The Putin Interviews. This is an excerpt.

Global News

Fifth Estate, Experts: Deep State Killed JFK For His Cuba Policy, Peace Advocacy, Editor: Robert Finnegan, June 14, 2017 (republication with new photos of Justice Integrity Project column). Rogue U.S. officials conspired with their powerful patrons to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963 primarily because of his opposition to a CIA-led U.S. military overthrow of Cuba's Communist government.

Media: Fake News

9/11 Truth Action Project, AP Recites Government Narrative of WTC Destruction as Fact, Without Attribution to Any Source, Staff report, June 14, 2017. Last year’s Europhysics News feature by Steven Jones, Robert Korol, Tony Szamboti, and Ted Walter was back in the news yesterday when the Associated Press published a so-called “AP Fact Check” describing the four authors as “vocal Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists.” 

While the AP’s brazen dismissal of the scientific article was typical of mainstream reporting, the most shameless violation of journalistic standards appears in the story’s title and opening sentence, which stated the official explanation of the World Trade Center’s destruction as fact — not even bothering to attribute the claim to any source.

Media Layoffs

HuffPost, HuffPost Lays Off Dozens Amid Corporate Cutbacks, Michael Calderone, June 14, 2017. The creation of a new Verizon digital unit called Oath, following the acquisition of Yahoo, is expected to result in roughly 2,100 layoffs. Verizon owns AOL, HuffPost’s parent company. HuffPost laid off over three-dozen employees Wednesday, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, as part of broader corporate cutbacks.

USA Today, Time Inc. cuts 300 jobs in restructuring plan, Mike Snider, June 14, 2017. Time Inc., is cutting its global staff by 300 employees as part of a restructuring plan. More than half of those eliminated positions are based in the U.S. and 40% of the reductions came from volunteers accepting buyout offers. Time CEO Rich Battista called the move "a difficult but necessary step," in a memo to employees. Overall, about 4% of the company's employees are affected; Time Inc. had about 7,450 employees at the end of 2016.

June 13

Trump Gives Military Green Light

Washington Post, Trump gives Pentagon new powers to set troop levels in Afghanistan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, June 13, 2017. With the new authority granted by the president, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis could authorize the deployment of thousands of more troops, something commanders on the ground there have been requesting for months.

Political Tea Leaves In Virginia Primary?

Washington Post, Virginia primary voters choose their man, Gregory S. Schneider, June 13, 2017. Northam wins Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia; Ed Gillespie wins tight GOP primary over Trump ally Corey Stewart. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia Tuesday by an unexpectedly wide margin, and Republican Ed Gillespie held off a surprising challenge from Donald Trump acolyte Corey A. Stewart for that party’s nomination. Gillespie edged past Stewart by just over a percentage point — fewer than 4,500 votes. 

The nation was watching Virginia as a political laboratory for how the political parties handle the deep divisions that followed last year’s election of President Trump. The establishment forces seemed to win out, as Virginia voters resisted efforts to pull further to the right or left.

Stewart’s strength on the Republican ballot was the biggest surprise of the evening. He had been running as more Trump than Trump, making provocative statements and campaigning on the issue of preserving Confederate monuments. Overall, Democrats turned out in far greater numbers than Republicans. About 540,000 voters cast ballots in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, while just over 360,000 voters cast ballots on the Republican side, with nearly all precincts reporting.

North Korea's U.S. Human Rights Victim Returns Home

Washington Post, Detained U-Va. student medically evacuated in a coma from North Korea, Anna Fifield​, June 13, 2017. Three other Americans remain prisoners in North Korea. North Korean officials told U.S. counterparts last week that Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was detained for 17 months, became ill from botulism sometime after his March trial and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill, the family said.

Justice Department logoWashington Post, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says only he has the power to fire special counsel on Russia, Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky​, June 13, 2017. Rosenstein testified that if the president ordered him to fire the special counsel handling the Russia investigation, he would only comply if the request was “lawful and appropriate.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify later today.

Senate Cracks Down On Public Viewings Of Senators Under Question

Roll Call, Senate Moves to Limit Press Access, Joe Williams, June 13, 2017. Change would restrict camera, video use.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. (shown in an official photo), the new chairman of the Rules Committee, is moving to restrict the use of cameras in Capitol hallways. Confusion took over the Capitol on Tuesday as rumors swirled that the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Rules Committee were restricting media access to members on Congress and staff around the Capitol complex.

Any new policy could stem from existing chamber rules, but enforcement of such measures would be a drastic change from the manner in which press has done its job in the Senate. While hallways in the basement of the Capitol building are deemed public spaces, accessible by tourists and media alike, new limitations could require reporters to obtain specific consent from senators and the Rules Committee itself before interviewing them, stifling the ability of media to speak to members

Reporter Describes FBI Probe As Focused On Global Trump Financial Corruption

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), As Mueller focused on Trump's RICO crimes, special prosecutor became Trump's latest target, Wayne Madsen (author and former Navy intelligence officer, shown in a file photo), June 13, 2017 (subscription required).

Trump Defenders Allege Deep State Plot By FBI, Democrats

Future of Freeedom Foundation, Will They Succeed in Removing Trump from Office? Jacob G. Hornberger, June 13, 2017. If the Pentagon and the CIA stepped in, removed Trump from office, took control, and promised a new election within a reasonable period of time, my hunch is that there would be a lot of established types, especially within the mainstream press, who would be ecstatic. They would lament that a coup had become necessary but they would justify it as necessary to save the country from Trump. And they would emphasize that the national-security establishment was paving the way toward a transition to democracy.

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Of course, what they would be ignoring in the process is that the national-security establishment would have destroyed democracy in order to save it. The Constitution provides two means by which to involuntarily remove a president from office: by defeating him in the next election and through impeachment. In order to be removed from office through impeachment, the president must be convicted by the Senate of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

There is no doubt that liberals, the mainstream press, and the Washington establishment want to see Trump removed from office long before 2020, perhaps even as early as this year. That’s what the special counsel is all about. His job isn’t to investigate whether a particular crime has been committed. His job is to go on a giant fishing expedition to see if Trump has committed any crimes.

The one that most of these people seem to be hoping for is “obstruction of justice.” They are hoping that when Trump purportedly asked former Attorney General James Comey to drop his investigation into the Russia brouhaha, that could be considered “obstruction of justice” which they could then call a “high crime or misdemeanor” on which they could base their impeachment proceeding.

Patrick J. BuchananLewRockwell.com, Are We Nearing Civil War? Patrick J. Buchanan (conservative commentator and former Nixon speechwriter, shown in a file phot), June 13, 2017. President Trump may be chief of state, head of government and commander in chief, but his administration is shot through with disloyalists plotting to bring him down. We are approaching something of a civil war where the capital city seeks the overthrow of the sovereign and its own restoration.

Last week, fired Director of the FBI James Comey, a successor to J. Edgar Hoover, admitted under oath that he used a cutout to leak to The New York Times an Oval Office conversation with the president. Goal: have the Times story trigger the appointment of a special prosecutor to bring down the president. Comey wanted a special prosecutor to target Trump, despite his knowledge, from his own FBI investigation, that Trump was innocent of the pervasive charge that he colluded with the Kremlin in the hacking of the DNC.

Comey’s deceit was designed to enlist the police powers of the state to bring down his president. And it worked. For the special counsel named, with broad powers to pursue Trump, is Comey’s friend and predecessor at the FBI, Robert Mueller. As Newt Gingrich said Sunday: “Look at who Mueller’s starting to hire. … (T)hese are people that … look to me like they’re … setting up to go after Trump … including people, by the way, who have been reprimanded for hiding from the defense information into major cases.…This is going to be a witch hunt.”

Operatives at State, disloyal to the president and hostile to the Russia policy on which he had been elected, collaborated with elements in Congress to sabotage any detente. They succeeded. The media, the beneficiaries of these leaks, are giving cover to those breaking the law. The real criminal “collusion” in Washington is between Big Media and the deep state, colluding to destroy a president they detest and to sink the policies they oppose.

Gary Null Show, A look at the FBI under Robert Mueller and James Comey – its failures and illegal activities, Gary Null interviews Coleen Rowley, June 13, 2017. Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI special agent who was with the agency for 24 years and a former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel who testified in 2002 to the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice as a whistleblower regarding some FBI pre-911 failures to read, share and act on intelligence to track Zacarias Moussoui, who has been identified as central to the 911 plot.

She stepped down from her legal position with the Agency in 2004 after her unsuccessful issuance of warnings about the dangers of invading Iraq. In 2002, Coleen was selected by Time magazine as one of its 3 Persons of the Year award. She ran for Congress to represent Minnesota’s 2nd District in 2006 with the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. Within the FBI she knew and worked with Robert Mueller and James Comey. Her writings appear on Consortium News, and her website is ColeenRowley.com.

June 12

Washington Post, In Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting, it’s all praise for the chief, John Wagner​, June 12, 2017. First White House chief of staff Reince Priebus thanked the president for the “opportunity and blessing” to serve. Then one by one, pretty much everyone else seated around the table took the opportunity to lavish their leader with praise, too, as the media looked on.

At Monday’s Cabinet meeting — the first President Trump had held with everyone on board — White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus spoke up to thank Trump “for the opportunity and blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” Priebus said he was offering words on behalf of everyone in the room.

But one by one, pretty much everyone else seated around the table took the opportunity to lavish their leader with praise, too, as the media looked on. “It’s an honor to be able to serve you,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I am privileged to be here,” said Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. “Deeply honored.”

Marc Kasowitz file photo

New York Times, Role of Trump’s Lawyer Blurs Public and Private Lines, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Sharon LaFraniere, June 12, 2017. Marc E. Kasowitz (shown in a file photo), the president’s private lawyer, has counseled administration staff and exerted broader influence over legal strategy.

Washington Post, With lawsuit, Democratic state attorneys general escalate campaign against Trump, Aaron C. Davis and Karen Tumulty, June 12, 2017. In the first lawsuit of its kind brought by government entities, D.C. and Maryland allege payments by foreign governments to President Trump’s businesses violate anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution. The case showcases the increasingly influential role in Washington of Democratic state attorneys general at a time when their party is largely shut out of power.

Washington Post, Sessions will testify in open hearing before Senate Intelligence Committee, Sari Horwitz​, June 12, 2017. Jeff Sessions, testifying Tuesday before Congress for the first time since he was confirmed as attorney general, is expected to receive questions about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.

Cuba Policy

National Public Radio, Trump Expected To Restrict Trade, Travel With Cuba, Geoff Bennett and Scott Horsley, President Trump is preparing to announce changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, possibly tightening restrictions on travel and trade that were loosened under former President Barack Obama. Trump is expected to announce the changes in Miami on Friday.

The move was confirmed by a congressional source with direct knowledge of the situation. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been leading the push for a more restrictive policy, along with his fellow Cuban-American, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

The changes could make it more difficult for Americans to visit the island and for U.S. companies to do business there. The Obama administration ended decades of economic and diplomatic isolation of Cuba, in hopes that renewed engagement would lead to reforms in the communist country. The White House declined to discuss the pending changes.

The administration is considering stepped up policing to discourage pleasure travel and limiting visitors to one trip per year. Polls suggest a majority of Americans support greater engagement with Cuba. Last month, 55 senators sponsored legislation that would further relax travel restrictions. Carlos Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary under former President George W. Bush. "This decision will not play well anywhere, except for in those very cloistered spots in South Florida where Sen. Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart have constituents."

Cosby Case Goes To Jury

Washington Post, ‘This ain’t right!’: Cosby attorney blames lies, greed and the media in closing arguments, Manuel Roig-Franzia, June 12, 2017. The two-hour closing was an attempt to stem the momentum built by prosecutors during an intense week of testimony that included an emotional appearance by Andrea Constand, who says Bill Cosby — her mentor in 2004 — drugged and sexually assaulted her.

Around the Nation: Kansas 'Tickle-down' Tax Experiment Halted

Washington Post, Trickle-down economics is a nightmare. Kansas proved it, Eugene Robinson, June 12, 2017. The Republican gospel of cutting taxes and government services to the bone doesn’t lead to economic growth; it leads to crisis and decline. Just ask the people of Kansas, who finally have seen the light. If House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) don’t heed the Kansas lesson, they deserve to have their majorities stripped away in next year’s midterms. And they won’t be able to claim they weren’t warned.

The states are supposed to be laboratories for testing government policy. For five years, Kansas’s Republican governor, Sam Brownback, conducted the nation’s most radical exercise in trickle-down economics — a “real-live experiment,” he called it. He and the GOP-controlled legislature slashed the state’s already-low tax rates, eliminated state income tax for most owner-operated businesses and sharply reduced vital government services. These measures were supposed to deliver “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” Brownback said.

Clinton Foundation Hacker Sentenced

Politico, Clinton Foundation hacker gets 18-month sentence, Diamond Naga Siu, June 12, 2017. A Florida resident's concerted but failed attempts at hacking the Clinton Foundation drew an 18-month prison sentence Monday, although he may not see any extra time behind bars since he's already serving 42 years for child pornography that Secret Service found after seizing a slew of computers and electronic equipment from his residence in 2015. Timothy Sedlak, 44, received the sentence from U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams at a hearing in Manhattan, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Media: Alternative View Of Putin Via Oliver Stone Interviews

Robert Parry

Consortium News, Oliver Stone Reveals a Vulnerable Putin, Robert Parry (shown at left), June 12, 2017. Exclusive: The U.S. political/media demonization of Russia’s Putin is unrelenting, but an interview series with director Oliver Stone poses tough questions to Putin while also letting Americans see the real person. Before we stumble into a nuclear war and end life on the planet, the American people might want to watch Oliver Stone’s four-part series of interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin on “Showtime.” Stone (shown below right in a file photo) accomplishes what Western journalists should do but don’t, by penetrating deeply into the personality of this historic figure.

Typically these days, American TV news personalities use interviews with a demonized foreign leader, like Putin, to demonstrate their own “toughness” on air, hurling insulting questions at the target and pretending that this preening behavior proves their courage. In reality, it is bad journalism for a wide variety of reasons. Stone does something quite different and, in today’s modern world, quite remarkable.

June 11

Investigation Into Trump Operations

Preet Bharara

Washington Post, Ex-federal attorney says Trump tried to ‘cultivate some kind of relationship,’ then fired him, Sandhya Somashekhar, June 11, 2017. Preet Bharara, who became the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York during the Obama administration, said on ABC‘s “This Week” that he had become increasingly uncomfortable with the president’s efforts to contact him one on one. Bharara (shown in an official photo) said he was dismissed 22 hours after refusing a call from Trump.

Politico, Trump gives Priebus until July 4th to clean up White House, Tara Palmeri, June 11, 2017. President Donald Trump has set a deadline of July 4 for a shakeup of the White House that could include removing Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, according to two administration officials and three outside advisers familiar with the matter. Although Trump has set deadlines for staff changes before, only to let them pass without pulling the trigger, the president is under more scrutiny than ever regarding the sprawling Russia investigation, which is intensifying the pressure on his White House team.

Days after his return from his first foreign trip late last month, Trump berated Priebus in the Oval Office in front of his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie for the dysfunction in the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversation.

Boston Globe, Trump impeachment is wrong 2018 election message, Democrats say, Staff report, June 11, 2017 (print edition). That rumbling you hear is from the fervent activists in the party’s base demanding that Democratic leaders press hard now to impeach President Trump. But the message coming back from the top is far more cautious: Just hang on, folks.

Given how unlikely it is that the House Republican majority would approve articles of impeachment (no American president ever has been impeached when his own party controlled the House), the real political prize for Democrats is winning the House in 2018. And making impeachment the major theme of 2018 elections is not a winning formula, at least not yet, in the view of party strategists.

Roll Call, Judge Changes Gianforte Sentence After Giving Him Four Days, Eric Garcia, June 11, 2017. Montana Republican Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte (shown in a campaign photo) will serve no jail time for his assault of a journalist but will do community service and undergo anger management counseling. Gallatin County Judge Judge Rick West initially sentenced Gianforte to four days in jail, but then changed the sentence to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management. Gianforte will also have to pay $385 in fees.

June 10

President Donald Trump official

New York Times, Trump’s Feud With Comey Overshadows Russian Threat, Peter Baker and David E. Sanger, June 10, 2017. Security experts worry that the focus on the battle between the president and the former F.B.I. director will divert attention from Russian intervention. Lost in the showdown between President Trump and James B. Comey that played out this past week was a chilling threat to the United States. Mr. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testified that the Russians had not only intervened in last year’s election, but would try to do it again.

“It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,” Mr. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.”

What started out as a counterintelligence investigation to guard the United States against a hostile foreign power has morphed into a political scandal about what Mr. Trump did, what he said and what he meant by it. Lawmakers have focused mainly on the gripping conflict between the president and the F.B.I. director he fired with cascading requests for documents, recordings and hearings.

But from the headquarters of the National Security Agency to state capitals that have discovered that the Russians were inside their voter-registration systems, the worry is that attention will be diverted from figuring out how Russia disrupted American democracy last year and how to prevent it from happening again. Russian hackers did not just breach Democratic email accounts; according to Mr. Comey, they orchestrated a “massive effort” targeting hundreds — possibly more than 1,000 — of American government and private organizations since 2015.

Anniversary of President Kennedy's Historic 1963 Speech Calling For World Peace

Hidden History Museum, 54 years ago today, a President called for the end of the Cold War, Dave Ratcliff, June 10, 2017. On June 10, 1963, the 35th President of the United States addressed the graduating class at American University in Washington D.C. on the "the most important topic on earth: peace." During his aborted term in office President Kennedy changed from the Cold Warrior of the 1960 election campaign to a man turning to a peacemaker.

JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass coverAs Jim Douglass writes in The Assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy in the Light of the Fourth Gospel, John F. Kennedy was raised from the death of wealth, power, and privilege. The son of a millionaire ambassador, he was born, raised, and educated to rule the system. When he was elected President, Kennedy’s heritage of power corresponded to his position as head of the greatest national security state in history. But Kennedy, like Lazarus, was raised from the death of that system. In spite of all odds, he became a peacemaker and, thus, a traitor to the system.

It was especially in the confrontations with the military during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis that Kennedy was raised from death to life. He resisted, at great risk to himself, the deadly pressures of the military to escalate those Cold War battles. He was then inspired to go on to further peacemaking initiatives: the American University address, the test-ban treaty, the back-door opening to Cuba, and his decision to withdraw from Vietnam.

President and children John John and Caroline dancing December 1962. Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty ImagesWhy? What raised Kennedy from the dead? Why did John Kennedy choose life in the midst of death and by continuing to choose life thus condemn himself to death? I have puzzled over that question while studying the various biographies of Kennedy.

May I suggest one source of grace for his resurrection as a peacemaker? In reading his story, one is struck by his devotion to his children. There is no mistaking the depth of love he had for Caroline and John, and the overwhelming pain he and Jacqueline experienced at the death of their son Patrick. (At right, President John F. Kennedy looking at his children John John and Caroline dancing in the Oval Office. Washington, December 1962. Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images.)

Post-Election British Turmoil

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New York Times, May’s Top Aides Quit Under Pressure From U.K. Cabinet, Steven Erlanger, June 10, 2017. Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, Prime Minister Theresa May’s co-chiefs of staff, resigned amid reports that senior ministers had warned Mrs. May they would challenge her leadership unless she fired the two. Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, trying to pacify her Conservative Party after a major setback in the country’s election on Thursday, on Saturday let go her top two aides, who had earned reputations for secrecy and arrogance.

The aides, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, Mrs. May’s co-chiefs of staff, resigned after reports that senior Conservative ministers in the prime minister’s cabinet had warned her that they would challenge her leadership of the party unless she became more inclusive, consulted more widely and fired Ms. Hill and Mr. Timothy.

Ms. Hill is well known for her aggressive treatment of senior ministers and Downing Street staff, while Mr. Timothy is considered responsible for shaping the Conservative election platform, which proved so unpopular with voters that one Conservative member of Parliament, Nigel Evans, said, “We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot; we shot ourselves in the head.”

Mrs. May’s former director of communications, Katie Perrior, spoke openly on Saturday about the behavior of the two aides, which she described as tyrannical, and resulted in an office that was “pretty dysfunctional.”

Qatar Foes, Allies, Predictions

Unz Review, The Crisis In Qatar: Yet Another Clumsy Attempt By the Three Rogue States To Weaken Iran, The Saker (pen name for strategic analyst writing for an alternative publication], June 10, 2017. We will probably never find out what truly was discussed between Trump, the Saudis and the Israelis, but there is little doubt that the recent Saudi move against Qatar is the direct results of these negotiations. How do I know that? Because Trump himself said so!

Trump’s catastrophic submission to the Neocons and their policies have left him stuck with the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and Israel. While the KSA and Qatar have had their differences and problems in the past, this time around the magnitude of the crisis is much bigger than anything the past. This is a tentative and necessarily rough outline of who is supporting whom:

Supporting the Saudis (according to Wikipedia): United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Maldives, Yemen (they mean the pro-Saudi regime in exile), Mauritania, Comoros, Libya (Tobruk government), Jordan, Chad, Djibouti, Senegal, United States, Gabon.

Flag of Turkey

Supporting Qatar: Turkey (flag shown at right, and now deploying troops in Qatar), Germany, Iran.

The numbers are on the Saudi side, but the quality? The situation is very fluid and all this might change soon, but do you notice something weird in the list above? Turkey and Germany are supporting Qatar even though the U.S. is supporting the KSA. That’s two major NATO member states taking a position against the USA.

Next, look at the list supporting the Saudis: except for the USA and Egypt they are all militarily irrelevant (and the Egyptians won’t get militarily involved anyway). Not so for those opposing the Saudis, especially not Iran and Turkey. So if money is on the side of the Saudis, firepower is on the side of Qatar here.

Qatar Hires DC Representation

Reuters, Qatar, accused of supporting terrorism, hires ex-U.S. attorney general, Doina Chiacu and Ginger Gibson, The government of Qatar has hired John Ashcroft, the U.S. attorney general during the Sept. 11 attacks, as it seeks to rebut accusations from U.S. President Donald Trump and its Arab neighbors that it supports terrorism.

Qatar will pay the Ashcroft Law Firm $2.5 million (2 million pounds) for a 90-day period as the country seeks to confirm its efforts to fight global terrorism and comply with financial regulations including U.S. Treasury rules, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, filing on Friday with the Justice Department.

"The firm's work will include crisis response and management, programme and system analysis, media outreach, education and advocacy regarding the client's historical, current and future efforts to combat global terror and its compliance goals and accomplishments," according to a letter by Ashcroft firm partner Michael Sullivan included in the filing. Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, is shown in an official photo from his tenure in the Bush administration.

Qatar faces isolation by fellow Arab countries after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt severed ties with Doha on Monday, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and their adversary Iran. Qatar denies the allegations. The crisis is a major diplomatic test for the United States, which is a close ally of countries on both sides but has given mixed signals on whether to isolate Qatar or bring it into talks with other Gulf countries.

The Ashcroft firm was hired to do a compliance and regulatory view of Qatar's anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing framework, Sullivan said in an email. "Qatar is confident that the review and analysis will confirm that Qatar has significant measures in place to prevent and detect efforts to launder funds and/or to use its financial systems to finance terrorist organizations," he said.

American FlagNew York Times, Forces Led by U.S. Accused of Illegally Using White Phosphorus in Syria, Anne Barnard, June 10, 2017. Images and reports from witnesses in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa suggest that the United States-led coalition battling the Islamic State there has used munitions loaded with white phosphorus, the use of which in populated areas is prohibited under international law. Photographs and video clips posted online showed blinding spots of light spreading outward on Thursday night over what residents said was eastern Raqqa. The images were distributed by the Aamaq news agency of the Islamic State, as well as a monitoring group. The Islamic State has made claims of use of white phosphorous by United States-led forces before as part of its efforts to discredit its enemies.

Fake News

New York Times, Conspiracy Theorist, His False Tweet and a Runaway Story, Jeremy W. Peters, June 10, 2017. The journey of one tweet about James B. Comey shows how misinformed, distorted and false stories are gaining traction far beyond the fringes of the internet. 

Jack Posobiec had his Twitter sights set on James B. Comey. A pro-Trump activist notorious for his amateur sleuthing into red herrings like the “Pizzagate” hoax and a conspiracy theory involving the murder of a Democratic aide, Mr. Posobiec wrote on May 17 that Mr. Comey, the recently ousted F.B.I. director, had “said under oath that Trump did not ask him to halt any investigation.”

It mattered little that Mr. Comey had said no such thing. The tweet quickly ricocheted through the ecosystem of fake news and disinformation on the far right, where Trump partisans like Mr. Posobiec have intensified their efforts to sow doubt about the legitimacy of expanding investigations into Trump associates’ ties to Russia.

But as the journey of that one tweet shows, misinformed, distorted and false stories are gaining traction far beyond the fringes of the internet. Just 14 words from Mr. Posobiec’s Twitter account would spread far enough to provide grist for a prime-time Fox News commentary and a Rush Limbaugh monologue that reached millions of listeners, forging an alternative first draft of history in corners of the conservative media where President Trump’s troubles are often explained away as fabrications by his journalist enemies.

In this fragmented media environment, the spread of false information is accelerated and amplified by a web of allied activist-journalists with large online followings, a White House that grants them access and, occasionally, a president who validates their work. The right-wing media machine that President Bill Clinton’s aides once referred to as “conspiracy commerce” is now far more mature, extensive and, in the internet age, tough to counter.

JFK Facts, June 10, 1963: A profile in courage with lethal consequences, Jefferson Morley, June 10, 2017. President Kennedy’s speech to the graduating class of American University in Washington DC 54 years ago today represented the high point of his efforts to wind down the Cold War. His vigorous style and clear mind never had a more important goal — or more powerful enemies. 

Trump Fights Back

President Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)

Washington Post, Trump says he would ‘100%’ talk to special counsel about Comey meetings, David Nakamura​, June 9, 2017. The president said he would be willing to meet with Robert Mueller to discuss conversations he had with FBI Director James Comey before he was fired. '

“One hundred percent,” Trump told a reporter who asked whether he would be open to talking about the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Trump also claimed that Comey’s testimony a day earlier pointed to no collusion with the Russians or an attempt to obstruct the probe.

Marc Kasowitz file photo

Washington Post, Trump’s lawyer in Russia probe has clients with Kremlin ties, Shawn Boburg, June 9, 2017. The hard-charging New York lawyer President Trump chose to represent him in the Russia investigation has prominent clients with ties to the Kremlin, a striking pick for a president trying to escape the persistent cloud that has trailed his administration.

Marc E. Kasowitz’s clients include Oleg Deripaska (shown in a file photo below left), a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has done business with Trump’s former campaign manager. Kasowitz (shown in a file photo above Oleg Deripaska (file photo)right) also represents Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, U.S. court records show.

Kasowitz has represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him, court records show. A different lawyer in Kasowitz’s firm showed up in court instead, avoiding a scenario that would have highlighted Kasowitz’s extensive work for high-profile Russian clients.

Kasowitz, whose scrappy style in the courtroom mirrors Trump’s approach to politics, represented Trump in various matters for more than a decade before he took on either Deripaska’s company or Sberbank, according to one of Kasowitz’s partners in the firm.

Washington Post, Comey’s sharing of notes about Trump doesn’t make him a criminal, analysts say, Matt Zapotosky, June 9, 2017. As President Trump lambasted former FBI director James Comey for engineering the release of details of their conversations to a news reporter, some legal experts say Comey was within his rights to reveal the information.

Justice Department log circularWashington Post, Did Trump just acknowledge that he told Comey to back off Michael Flynn? Amber Phillips, June 9, 2017. In his second tweet before lunchtime, the president potentially undermined his private lawyer’s statements the day before that rebutted key parts of the former FBI director’s testimony. Update: President Trump gave the same maybe-I-did, maybe-I-didn't statement in a press conference Friday. When asked by ABC's Jonathan Karl whether he told Comey to back off the Flynn investigation, Trump said: "I didn't say that. I will tell you I didn't say that. And there'd be nothing wrong if I did say that, according to everything I read today." The original post about why this doesn't make sense follows.

Global News: Major Advance By Syrian Forces Across Desert To Iraq Splits U.S., Rebels

Report: Syria Reaches Iraq Border, Isolates Free Syrian Army Bases (Map by SouthFront on June 9, 2017; compare corridor in red between FSA green areas at center to a recent previous map below of the largely uninhabited region showing ISIS regions in dark)

SouthFront, Russian Military: Syrian Government Forces Reached Border With Iraq, Staff report, June 9, 2017. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reached the Syrian-Iraqi border after a fast advance in the southeastern desert, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. It is believed that the Russian Special Operations Forces may have participated in the operation alongside the SAA. Moreover, there have been unconfirmed reports of the deployment of Russian Army forces on the road to prevent the US-led coalition from attacking the SAA.

With this advance, SAA has returned to the Syrian-Iraqi border for the first time in three years. The SAA had lost the Baghdad-Damascus road after ISIS attack on Al-Tanf in 2014. Now, it will be almost impossible for the FSA and the US-led coalition to attack Deir Ezzor from the southern direction because the SAA blocked the road to it, and Iraq wouldn’t allow the US coalition to launch an operation towards Deir Ezzor from its territory.

Related Story: Associated Press via Washington Post, Circling around US embeds, Syrian forces reach Iraq border, Philip Issa, June 9, 2017. Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported on Friday that pro-government forces circled around U.S. military advisers in eastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border, dealing what could be a major blow to the declared U.S. mission to defeat Islamic State militants in the desert region.

Syria Flag

The development, if true, would mean Russian-backed pro-government forces have blocked the path of U.S.-backed opposition forces advancing north along the Iraqi-Syrian border, in the direction of the IS strongholds of Boukamal and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria. The two forces have clashed regularly in the area, with U.S. aircraft twice striking Russian-backed forces the Pentagon said were threatening its local allies. The strikes are believed to have killed dozens of Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militia forces, in addition to destroying tanks and heavy weapons.

By circling around them, the Russian-backed forces have apparently avoided a direct confrontation with U.S.-backed forces based out of al-Tanf, the border post under U.S. and opposition control.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an attack on Raqqa earlier this week and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition have intensified since then. In a video posted on its Aamaq news agency, IS also alleged the coalition used white phosphorous over Raqqa on Thursday at dusk, when Muslims would have been breaking their Ramadan fasts.

Shocking British Election Result

Washington Post, Britain’s May resists calls to step down after Conservative losses, Griff Witte, Karla Adam and William Booth, June 9, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May (shown in an official photo below) narrowly won reelection on June 9 against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. However, her Conservative Party lost its majority in the British Parliament, and leaders are calling on her to resign.

Theresa May official photoShe promised no delays in negotiations with the European Union, which were scheduled to begin later this month. “What the country needs more than ever is certainty,” she said in a grim-faced statement that reflected the major challenges ahead for her government after an election gamble that tipped the scales in favor of her political opponents.

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A projection based on final results in nearly every district nationwide put the Conservatives at 319 seats — seven short of what they would need for a working majority in the 650-member Parliament and well down from the 331 they won just two years ago.

For May, the results from Thursday voting were precisely the reverse of what she hoped. May called the snap election seeking to strengthen her hand in the E.U. negotiations and further sideline her political critics. The political wreckage also included the resignation of the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, Paul Nuttall, whose party led the charge for Brexit but now lost its sole seat parliament in further sign of shifting British views and political realignments.

Jeremy CorbynWashington Post, Jeremy Corbyn’s success is a model for American progressives, James Downie, June 9, 2017. Chalk up another loss for conventional wisdom. As Thursday dawned in Great Britain, it was expected that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party would expand its majority in Parliament over the Labour Party and its “far-left” leader Jeremy Corbyn (shown in a file photo).

Friday dawned upon a different reality: The Conservatives have 318 seats — a loss of 13 seats from the previous election and eight short of the 326 needed an official majority. They will form a coalition government with the far-right Democratic Unionist Party, but with fewer votes to spare for any vote on Brexit (or any vote at all) the new government will be far weaker and less stable.

May’s resignation and/or another election soon are both distinct possibilities. Corbyn and Labour, with 262 seats, on the other hand have beaten every expectation: the most seats for Labour since 2005, the biggest share of the popular vote since 2001 and the largest popular vote swing toward Labour (almost 10 percent) since 1945. Corbyn’s success provides a model for U.S. progressives in 2018, 2020 and beyond: If you need turnout to win — as liberals in the United States do — you need a bold, uncompromising platform with real solutions.

Opinion: Think Tank Leader Calls For Transparency On CIA

Future of Freedom Foundation, Why Should CIA Murderers Be Protected by Secrecy? Jacob G. Hornberger, June 9, 2017. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen is upset with the Post for disclosing the identity of a CIA agent, Michael D’Andrea, who is a “covert operative running the CIA’s Iran operations.” In an article in the Post, he says that the information put D’Andrea’s life at risk.

CIA Logo

Of course, we’ve all grown up under the notion that it vital to America that CIA agents remain secret and that their identities and names never be disclosed to the public. That’s because all of us have been born and raised under a national-security state system and are taught from the first grade on up never to question it. And we’re taught that our “free” society depends on the CIA and its secret murders, kidnappings, and other felonies committed around the world, including here in the United States.

What nonsense. When a free society depends on the commission of murders, kidnappings, and other felonies, something is clearly amiss. Perhaps that is why our American ancestors not only failed to delegate the power to kidnap and murder to federal officials in the Constitution but also expressly forbade it in the Bill of Rights, which forbids any U.S. official from depriving any person of life or liberty without due process of law.

Qatar Crisis

Guardian, Qatar crisis grows as Arab nations draw up terror sanctions list, Peter Beaumont, June 9, 2017. Qataris denounce list, which includes politicians and members of ruling family, as ‘baseless and without foundation in fact.’  Qatar has been isolated by land, sea and air in a coordinated diplomatic move taken by other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have sanctioned a dozen organizations and 59 people it accuses of links to Islamist militancy – a number of them Qataris or with links to Qatar – escalating the diplomatic crisis in the region.

The publication of the sanctions list comes amid increasing efforts by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to diplomatically and physically isolate the tiny but wealthy Gulf state of Qatar, which has been subjected to a series of co-ordinated measures in the past five days. The move was announced as Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, approved new legislation – rushed through the Turkish parliament the day before – for increased military cooperation with Qatar, including the potential deployment of Turkish troops.

Washington Post, Tillerson called for the Saudi-led bloc of nations to ease the blockade on Qatar. An hour later, Trump contradicted him, Karen DeYoung and Sudarsan Raghavan, June 9, 2017. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (shown in a file photo) wanted to resolve the week-long Persian Gulf dispute, warning that the blockade causes humanitarian hardship and has hindered U.S. military actions against ISIS. Then the president called the Saudi-led action “hard but necessary.” 

Guns and Butter, Langley's Jihadists: From the Mujaheddin to ISIL, Bonnie Faulkner interviews, Wayne Madsen, June 10, 2017. (Episode #368, 58:25 min.) Manchester UK terror attack; al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi as intelligence cut-outs; origins of ISIL; Rita Katz' SITE, The Search for International Terrorist Enemies; update on war in Syria; the war in Yemen; Israel's Clean Break Policy of the 1990s complementary to the 1982 Oded Yinon Plan calling for the destruction of the modern Arab nation states and their replacement with warring caliphates and warlords; Trump taking the side of the Sunni Wahhabis; Trump's Middle East advisor Stephen Miller a hard Zionist; the 2012 Benghazi attack; Russia and US in Syria.  

Saudi Snub For London Victims?

BBC, Saudi football chiefs apologize over London attack tribute, Staff report, June 9, 2017. Saudi football chiefs have apologized after their national team elected not to take part in a minute's silence for victims of the London Bridge attack. Australian players linked arms as a sign of respect before Thursday's World Cup qualifying match at Adelaide Oval. Saudi players took up field positions and some continued to stretch. Football officials said they had been told in advance that the "tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture." An Australian MP called it "disgraceful."

Football's world body Fifa says the Saudi team will not face sanctions. It said it had reviewed what had happened and judged that there were "no grounds to take disciplinary action." Eight people were killed and 48 injured on Saturday when three men drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, before abandoning the vehicle and stabbing people in the surrounding area. Two Australians, Kirsty Boden and Sara Zelenak, were among the eight victims of the terror attack.

Alleged Leaker

Reality Leigh Winner, 25 photo via Lincoln County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges she leaked a classified National Security Agency report to an online news outlet. Photo via Lincoln County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office via Associated Press

New York Times, N.S.A. Contractor May Have Mishandled Secrets Before, Prosecutor Says, Alan Blinder, June 8, 2017.  A federal prosecutor said on Thursday that Reality Leigh Winner, the National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking a highly classified report, might have stolen or exposed other secrets before her arrest last week.

“This was not the first time the defendant mishandled classified information,” Jennifer G. Solari, an assistant United States attorney, said during a detention hearing, in which she described a recorded jailhouse telephone call and referred to an episode last year in which Ms. Winner placed a portable storage device into a sensitive computer. It was not clear, either in Courtroom No. 1 or even to federal investigators, whether Ms. Winner had distributed classified information beyond a single N.S.A. report related to Russian hacking activities. But Ms. Solari said the authorities were concerned because Ms. Winner referred to “documents” during a telephone call with her mother.

“I screwed up,” Ms. Winner, 25, the first person to face prosecution by the Trump administration in connection with a leak of sensitive information, said during the call, according to Ms. Solari. Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps of United States District Court cited the “strong” weight of evidence against Ms. Winner — including a recorded confession to the F.B.I. — and other factors when he ordered her held without bond until her trial. Ms. Winner, who pleaded not guilty on Thursday, can appeal the judge’s bond decision.

Robert F. Kennedy Assassination in 1968

Off Guardian, The Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy: Questions, Hints and Allegations, Edward Curtin, June 9, 2017. Edward Curtin teaches teach sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. There is a vast literature on the CIA-directed assassination of President John Kennedy. Most Americans have long rejected the Warren Commission’s findings and have accepted that there was a conspiracy. There is much less research on the assassination of JFK’s brother, Senator Robert Kennedy, and, if asked, far fewer people would say it was a conspiracy and a cover-up. They may not even know the alleged assassin’s name.

I would like to focus on the so-called “girl in the polka-dot dress,” and ask you to think along with me as we explore why she was so conspicuous that day and night, and what function she may have served.  I know you will agree that it is counterintuitive for her to have behaved the way she did. Counterintuitive for the general public, that is. The best detailed day-to-day account of this mysterious girl is in the book linked to above by Fernando Faura, The Polka-Dot File, on the Robert F. Kennedy Killing (see my review here).

June 8

Comey Testimony On Trump

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017

New York Times, All the President’s Lies, editorial board, June 8, 2017. James Comey made plain that unlike Mr. Trump, he values honesty and the Constitution above blind loyalty. Weeks after being described by Donald Trump as a “nut job,” James Comey on Thursday deftly recast his confrontation with the president as a clash between the legal principles at the foundation of American democracy, and a venal, self-interested politician who does not recognize, let alone uphold, them.

In sworn testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, made clear that he had no confidence in the president’s integrity. Why? “The nature of the person,” he said. Confronted with low presidential character for the first time in his career, Mr. Comey began writing meticulous notes of every conversation with Mr. Trump. “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” he said.

Washington Post, Comey lays out case that Trump obstructed justice, Matt Zapotosky​, June 8, 2017. While James Comey did not explicitly draw legal conclusions, he said that President Trump’s request to terminate the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn left him “stunned” and that senior FBI officials considered it to be of “investigative interest.”

Washington Post, Comey says he shared notes in hopes of a special counsel, Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima, June 8, 2017. In remarkable admission, the fired FBI director testified he helped reveal details of talks with Trump. The admission shows the degree of concern James Comey (shown at right in a file photo) had about both Russian interference with U.S. politics and his doubts about the Justice Department’s ability to probe such activity.

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Washington Post, Seven takeaways from Comey’s extraordinary testimony so far, Amber Phillips, June 8, 2017. Fired FBI director James B. Comey's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his conversations with President Trump on Russia can be summed up in one word: Newsworthy.

Washington Post, In performance of a lifetime, Comey plays two roles: Classic G-man and aggrieved victim, Marc Fisher​, June 8, 2017. Folksy, entertaining, serious and melodramatic, the former FBI director combined aw-shucks modesty with blunt accusations that the president had lied.

James Comey

New York Times, James Comey’s Testimony: ‘Comey Was Playing Chess,’ Emily Bazelon and Elizabeth Goitein, June 8, 2017. Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School, and Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan center, watched James B. Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, where the former F.B.I. director discussed the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Emily Bazelon: Now that the public hearing is over, let’s think about what Comey accomplished today. His probity and patriotism and commitment to public service were on full display. He backed up his growing and, eventually, deep-seated suspicion of the president. He refrained from drawing a conclusion about obstruction of justice, while underscoring the gravity of what’s at stake for the Russia investigation and for the rule of law. I know Trump defenders will continue trying to wave it all away — it’s already becoming clear how they want to do so — but Comey keeps making it harder for them.

Elizabeth Goitein: Emily, I agree with you that Comey acquitted himself well, especially given that some aspects of how he handled matters are hard to explain. I didn’t see any senators who were eager to tackle him on credibility.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Indictments moving closer to Trump and his mafia cabal, Wayne Madsen (shown in file photo), June 8, 2017 (subscription required; column excerpted with permission). WMR was the first to report that the law enforcement probe of Donald Trump and his family and close associates was focused on RICO — Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — criminal violations. In the past 24 hours, actions of New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the U.S. Justice Department indicate that New York state and federal investigations of those in the Trump Organization and Kushner Companies orbit are in full swing.

Global News: UK Elections Today

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Associated Press via Boston Globe, In a blow to UK’s May, Tories may fall short of majority, Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless, June 8, 2017. An exit poll has projected that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will win the biggest share of seats in Britain’s Thursday election, but could fall short of a majority in Parliament.

The survey predicted the Conservatives will get 314 seats, and the Labour Party 266. It projected 34 for the Scottish National Party, and 14 for the Liberal Democrats. Based on interviews with voters leaving polling stations across the country, the poll is conducted for a consortium of UK broadcasters and regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result.

Theresa May official photoWashington Post, Britain votes in election torn between terrorism worries and Brexit strategies, Karla Adam, William Booth, Griff Witte, June 8, 2017. Prime Minister Theresa May (shown in a file photo) sought the election to strengthen her hand in talks with the European Union. But attacks in Manchester and London changed the race.

Comey Testimony Preview

Washington Post, Trump to Comey: ‘I expect loyalty,’ according to former FBI chief’s prepared testimony, Devlin Barrett, June 8, 2017 (print edition). In written remarks submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee ahead of his Thursday hearing, James Comey (shown in a file photo) recalled nine separate private conversations with President Trump, one of which he detailed the president asking him to drop any investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Washington Post, Comey could turn lawmakers’ Russia probes to questions of obstruction, Ed O'Keefe and Karoun Demirjian, June 8, 2017 (print edition). If the testimony of former FBI director James Comey suggests that President Trump’s actions constituted an obstruction of justice on investigations of Russia-related matters, the focus of congressional inquiries could shift from intelligence details to legal and criminal matters.

Justice Department logo

Washington Post, A viewer’s guide to the Comey hearing: Who are the senators asking him questions? Ed O'Keefe, June 8, 2017). The Senate Intelligence Committee hosts the most-anticipated congressional hearing of the year Thursday, when former FBI director James B. Comey is scheduled to testify and share details of his firing by President Trump and the conversations they had about ongoing investigations into Russia’s alleged meddling in U.S. elections. Rarely do congressional hearings draw global attention anymore — mostly because it’s become a tired, predictable format where witnesses read pre-written statements and lawmakers lob either softball or gotcha questions designed to win favor with a certain constituency or score press attention.

Palmer Report, James Comey’s testimony against Donald Trump isn’t a nuclear bomb. It’s death by a thousand cuts, Bill Palmer, June 8, 2017. We’ve now seen the prepared text of former FBI Director James Comey’s opening statement in today’s public hearings. So whether he reads all seven pages out loud, or he offers a condensed version of what’s been posted, we know where he’s headed with it. What we don’t know is which of the predictable questions from the committee he’ll answer, and how he’ll answer them. But based on what we know of Comey, we can take a good gander.

It’s important to understand that, wherever mindset James Comey might be in right now, he’s seasoned enough at these things to understand that he won’t take Trump down by ranting and raving. That would only paint him as a disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind. Instead, Comey has to come off as the consummate professional who is only interested in laying out the facts. He’ll speak his words carefully. He’ll speak in a measured tone. He’ll act like he’s not even mad that Trump fired him.

Global News: UK Getting Blowback For Covert Operations?

Syria Flag

SouthFront, Both London and Manchester Terrorists Linked to UK Covert Operations in Syria and Libya, Mark Curtis, June 8, 2017. The {United Kingdom's] Telegraph reports that London attacker Rachid Redouane fought in the 2011 British/NATO war against Qadafi – as did Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber – and joined a militia which went on to send jihadist fighters to Syria. In Libya, he is believed to have fought with the Liwa al Ummah unit.

The Liwa al Ummah was formed by a deputy of Abdul Hakim Belhaj, the former emir of the al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. In 2012, the Liwa al Ummah in Syria merged with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was formed in August 2011 by army deserters based in Turkey whose aim was to bring down Assad. In Syria, the Liwa al Ummah was often referred to as an ‘FSA unit’[4] and sometimes teamed up with al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.

The UK has been reported as covertly supporting al-Nusra in Syria. Moreover, the UK backed and supplied the FSA. In February 2012 Britain pledged to send advanced communications equipment to the FSA to help coordinate its forces. In August 2012, it was reported that British authorities “know about and approve 100%” intelligence from their Cyprus military bases being passed through Turkey to the rebel troops of the FSA. In August 2013, the UK announced £1m support to the FSA in form of communication and other equipment.

The FSA has been covertly armed by the US and Gulf states and trained by Turkey – all as part of the UK-backed covert operation to oust Assad which began in 2011. {Sourcing footnotes omitted.)

Global News: South Korea Stalls U.S. Missile Systems

Washington Post, South Korea suspends deployment of American missile defense system, Anna Fifield, June 8, 2017. The THAAD battery could be frozen for two years during an environmental assessment.

Global News: Trump, Russia Competing For Qatar Help?

President Trump meets Qater Emir Tamim bin Hamad in May 2017.jpgQatar’s ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani meets U.S. President Donald Trump three weeks ago on the latter's trip

SouthFront, Trump Offers To Mediate Qatar Crisis. Qatar Foreign Minister To Visit Moscow On Saturday,  Staff report, June 8, 2017. In a phone call Wednesday with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, President Trump said he wanted to help Qatar and its Arab neighbors resolve the row that has upended any sense of Gulf unity, suggesting a possible White House summit among leaders. Blockaded by its neighbors by land and sea, Qatar is eager for Trump’s help. Qatar’s U.S. ambassador, Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, told the Associated Press his country is counting on Washington to persuade Saudi Arabia and others to back down.

Trump’s bid to fashion himself as a neutral arbiter among Arab governments departed from his stance only a day earlier, when he left little doubt about where he felt the fault rested,” the AP article reads. Earlier this week, Trump supported the Saudi-led block actions against Qatar in a Twitter storm. Thus, Washington fueled the crisis with a clear aim to gain revenue mediating it later.

Meanwhile, it looks that Qatar is not very satisfied with the US mediation in the crisis. Doha clearly understands that the situation is very shaky. Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani will Visit Moscow on Saturday where he will hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Global News: U.S.-Iranian Confrontation At Syrian Border

New York Times, U.S. Says It Shot Down Drone That Attacked Fighters in Syria, Michael R. Gordon, June 8, 2017. An American warplane shot down a “pro-Syria regime” drone on Thursday after the drone attacked United States-backed fighters in southern Syria, the American military said. The confrontation was the latest clash in a potential proxy war in Syria that pits Iranian-backed militias that support President Bashar al-Assad against Syrian fighters who have been trained by American, British and other coalition military advisers.

TCentcom logoheir ultimate goal, many analysts say, is to link up with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and establish a supply corridor that runs from Syria to Iraq and, eventually, to Iran. The episode occurred when the drone, which United States officials said appeared to be Iranian-made, dropped a munition near the Syrian fighters, who were accompanied at the time by advisers from the American-led coalition.

Editor's Note: Syria's government disputes that it agreed to a deconfliction zone near American troops. Also, it insists that it invited Iranian forces to fight ISIS, is rapidly defeating ISIS in the nation's interior, and has never invited United States or coalition troops to wage war in Syria.

Analyzing The 'Conspiracy Theory' Smear

PaulCraigRoberts.org, The American Catastrophe, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in a file photo), June 8, 2017. Americans prefer to dismiss scientists, experts, and Paul Craig Robertstruth-tellers as “conspiracy theorists” than to accept that their government is guilty of false flag attacks. The gullible and naive population holds on to this absurd belief despite the complete documentation of Operation Gladio, Operation Northwoods, the Gulf of Tonkin fake incident, and so on. One of the most frustrating experiences is the American who says, “If there was a conspiracy, someone would have talked.” Yes, of course, they do talk, and it has no effect whatsoever.

For example, Israel’s attack 50 years ago today on the USS LibertyUSS Liberty day after June 8,1967 attack., which killed 35 American sailors and wounded 174, is still an official coverup despite the complete and total exposure of the attack by Admiral Tom Moorer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, judge advocate general of the US Navy, James Akins, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, General Ray Davis, assistant commandant of the US Marines, Captain Ward Boston, one of the US naval officers ordered to produce the cover up, by every surviving member of the USS Liberty’s crew, and by testimony of Israeli pilots involved in the attack on the USS Liberty (shown in a government photo the day after the attack). All of this talk had no effect on the official coverup, which remains the official word.

The same is true for the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. The evidence is conclusive from eye witnesses, films, autopsies, and expert testimony that the assassinations of JFK and RFK were conspiracies.

Note: For details, see also: 1) the USS Liberty Memorial: "The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a United States Navy technical research ship, USS Liberty, by Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats, on 8 June 1967, during the Six-Day War"; and 2) Mondoweiss, Al Jazeera investigates the USS Liberty attack in 'The Day Israel Attacked America,' Colleen McGuire, Nov. 11, 2014: “The Day Israel Attacked America, a 50 minute video produced by Al Jezeera, offers proof that Israel deliberately intended to destroy the Liberty. The video broadcasts for the first time ever audio exchanges in Hebrew between the pilots and ground control. At least three times, starting at 5:15 a.m, ground control is told the ship is American. By 2:00 pm, ground control commands the pilot to attack the ship. An argument ensues when the pilot reminds his superiors the ship is American."

June 7

ISIS Attacks Iranian Parliament

Iran Flag

Washington Post, ISIS claims responsibility for two attacks that killed 12 in Iranian capital, Paul Schemm and Brian Murphy, June 7, 2017. Gunmen stormed two major sites in Tehran, killing at least a dozen people in gunfire and suicide blasts in parliament and at the revered tomb of the nation’s Islamic revolution leader. Gunmen stormed two major sites in Iran’s capital Wednesday, killing at least 12 people in gunfire and suicide blasts in parliament and at the revered tomb of the nation’s Islamic revolution leader. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Tehran attacks, which would mark the group’s first major strikes in Iran.

The twin attacks — coming in the middle of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan — also appeared calculated for maximum shock among Iranians. Parliament is widely respected as a voice on domestic policies even as the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the final word on most international and security issues. The vast shrine complex of Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is a centerpiece of homage to the country’s Islamic revolution and its break from the Western-allied monarchy.

The timing, meanwhile, could have been designed as an attempt to boost the Islamic State’s stature among backers as it faces a two-pronged assault against its key urban strongholds: Mosul in northern Iraq and the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa, in Syria. An expanded offensive by U.S.-backed forces against Raqqa began Tuesday.

Ron Paul

Washington Post, Ron Paul Institute, White House Blames Iranian Victims for ISIS Attack, Daniel McAdams, June 7, 2017. It is particularly bloody to use an official statement of sympathy over a terrorist attack as a vehicle to promote war against the victim country, but that is exactly what the Trump White House did today after dual attacks in Iran left at least a dozen civilians dead.

In a breathtaking display of cruel indecency, Trump's team used the attack as an occasion to stick the boot in and blame the victims. Wrote the White House:

We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.

In other words, too bad you got killed but because we determine your government to be "state sponsors of terrorism" you got what you deserved. When was the last time Iran or Iranian allies attacked the US or US interests? If we count Beirut, it's been over three decades. Why exactly is Iran a "state sponsor of terrorism"? Because they haven't buckled under aggression from Saudi Arabia and threats from Israel?

Saudis, UAE Criminalize Qatari Media, Including Al Jazeera Cable

SouthFront, Saudi Arabia And The United Arab Emirates Criminalize Sympathy With Qatar, Staff report, June 7, 2017. The governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia announced that any sympathy with Qatar or the publication of pro-Qatar material on social network websites would be considered a crime. The UAE announced that anyone who violates the new law will be tried with 15 years’ imprisonment plus a fine of half a million of UAE dirhams. Saudi Arabia will punish the lawbreakers with up to 5 years’ imprisonment plus a fine of up to 3 million Saudi riyals.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt announced on June 4 that they are cutting all diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed limited economic sanctions, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism in the Middle East and specifically in the Gulf countries in cooperation with Iran, according to many official Saudi sources. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of supporting Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Saudi reports, today a list of Saudi demands was sent to Qatar to to be met within 24 hours or new sanctions will be imposed against it by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The demands included:

  •     Cutting diplomatic ties with Iran;
  •     Halting the funding of the Muslim Brotherhood and expelling them from Qatar;
  •     Halting the funding of Hamas and expelling its commanders from Qatar;
  •     Stopping the work and broadcasting of Al-Jazeera TV fully;
  •     Stopping Qatari interference in the Egyptian internal affairs; and
  •     Stop supporting terrorist groups.

Leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United States participate in a ceremonial bonding during a presidential trip to Saudi Arabia.

SouthFront, The Qatar Crisis: Origins and Consequences, J. Hawk, June 8, 2017. The current crisis surrounding Qatar represents the most severe conflict among Gulf Arab states since the end of the Cold War. While these oil-rich, autocratic OPEC members have historically been at the most allies of convenience united by common fears (USSR, Saddam Hussein, Iran, etc.), their mutual mistrust has arguably never escalated to the point of demanding to what amounts to a complete surrender by one of its members. Several interesting features of this crisis immediately jump out:

First, the breaking off of diplomatic relations by Saudi Arabia and several other major regional powers including Egypt, and depriving Qatar of the ability to use land and air transport routes through or over the territory of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, including Egypt came suddenly and without any warning. There was no ongoing visible dispute between Qatar and any of its neighbors, no major recent provocative policy moves. This suggests it was a premeditated and planned move by Saudi Arabia and its partners.

While the US role in the crisis is still ambiguous, it is unlikely in the extreme that Saudi Arabia would have undertaken something so drastic without coordination with the US, particularly since this action comes literally on the heels of President Trump’s high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia. While initially silent, President Trump ultimately took to Twitter to back Saudi Arabia against Qatar, even as the US still maintains major military presence in that country.

The nature of the accusations leveled at Qatar is nothing short of extreme.  Both US and Saudi leaders accused Qatar of about the worst offense currently available, namely supporting violent Islamic extremism. Trump went so far as to say that Qatar’s change of policies would be a major step toward resolving the problem of terrorism.

Saudi Arabian flag

Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia which culminated with the rather bizarre “glowing orb” ceremony, acquires a new meaning. While we do not yet know just how much leeway Washington is giving Riyadh in its dealings with Doha and how much coordination and communication there are between the two powers, Trump’s behavior while in Saudi Arabia was likely intended to send a message that Saudi Arabia has the full faith and confidence of the United States, though evidently Qatar had failed to heed the warning.

If the Saudi action does result in Qatari abandonment of Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, it will help the US restore some of its political standing in the region by drawing both Israel and, especially, Egypt, closer toward the US. Qatar’s emasculation furthermore promises to bring the wars in not only Syria but also Libya to a closer conclusion by eliminating a significant player pursuing an independent objective.

Last but not least, Qatar also enjoys rather better relations with both Russia and Turkey than Saudi Arabia, which no doubt raised additional fears in Washington that Russia is about to take the US’ place as the most influential external power in the Middle East. The emergence of a Russia-Iran-Turkey-Qatar constellation as a result of Russian diplomacy and Turkey’s own regional ambitions is a nightmare scenario for both Riyadh and Washington.

Qater skyline of its capital city of Doha

Reporters Without Borders, Al Jazeera – collateral victim of diplomatic offensive against Qatar, Staff report, June 7, 2017. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the offensive by a group of Arab countries against Al Jazeera Media Network, which is suffering the consequences of their decision to cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Just hours against Saudi Arabia and three other Arabian Peninsula countries announced that they were severing diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, Saudi Arabia closed the Al Jazeera bureau in Riyadh and withdrew its operating license. The state-owned Saudi Press Agency accused Al Jazeera of promoting the propaganda of terrorist groups, backing the Houthi rebel militias in Yemen and trying to create divisions within Saudi Arabia.

Justice Probes

FBI logo

New York Times, Trump Picks Former Justice Official as Head of the F.B.I., Glenn Thrush and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, June 7, 2017. Wray Is Said to Be Low-Key and Principled. Christopher A. Wray, an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush, is considered a safe, mainstream pick. Mr. Wray represented Gov. Chris Christie in the so-called Bridgegate scandal.

Washington Post, Trump to nominate Christopher Wray as next FBI director, Matt Zapotosky, June 7, 2017. Wray (shown above) is a former Justice Department official and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s attorney. Trump posted the announcement on Twitter, declaring Wray a “man of impeccable credentials.”

Justice Department logo

Wray, now a partner at King & Spalding, led the Justice Department’s Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005, and his firm biography says that he “helped lead the Department’s efforts to address the wave of corporate fraud scandals and restore integrity to U.S. financial markets.” He oversaw the president’s corporate fraud task force and oversaw the Enron Task Force.

Before that, he worked in a variety of other Justice Department roles, including as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta. More recently, he has served as the attorney for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a Trump ally.

Dan CoatsWashington Post, Coats told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on Russia probe, Adam Entous, June 7, 2017. The interaction with Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats suggests President Trump tried to enlist top officials to have then-FBI Director James B. Comey curtail the bureau’s focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn amid its probe of whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russian officials during the 2016 election.

Washington Post, Intelligence officials Rogers, Coats say they won’t discuss private talks with Trump, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian, June 7, 2017. Mike Rogers and Daniel Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that they have never felt pressured to do anything illegal or that would interfere in an ongoing investigation. The Washington Post has reported that President Trump asked the two men to publicly deny the existence of any evidence showing coordination with Russia during the 2016 election.

Washington Post, Opinion: Intelligence officials’ outrageous contempt of Congress, Jennifer Rubin, June 7, 2017. Jennifer Rubin (shown at left) is a syndicated conservative columnist who has repeatedly criticized President Trump. Again and again today at the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers refused to answer direct questions as to whether they had been asked by the president to interfere with the information. None of these witnesses invoked executive privilege or national security. They just didn’t want to answer. King finally blew up, scolding Rogers (shown at right in an official photo) that what he “feels” isn’t relevant. He demanded to know why Rogers and Coats were not answering.

This is nothing short of outrageous. Congress has an independent obligation to conduct oversight. Witnesses cannot simply decide they don’t want to share. If they could, there would be no oversight. While they were not under subpoena, their behavior was contemptuous and frankly unprecedented. The committee has the option to subpoena witnesses, demand answers and then hold them in contempt if they decline to answer.

More Global News: Russia Denounces U.S. Attack On Syrian Forces

SouthFront May map of "De-escalation" / "De-confliction" zones, with approximate locations of May 18 and June 6 U.S. coalition attacks

SouthFront, Lavrov Denounces US Claims On De-Confliction Zone In Southeastern Syria, Staff report, June 7, 2017. Russia considers the US-led coalition actions against pro-government forces in Syria an act of aggression and rejects the justification for the Tuesday attack issued by the Pentagon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

Sergey Lavrov“Of course, this is an aggressive act, which violates the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and which voluntarily or involuntarily targeted those forces that represent the most effective forces struggling with terrorists on the ground. This causes our concern,” the Russian state-run news agency quoted Lavrov (shown in a file photo) as saying. “There was information and I believe that it was close to reality that these pro-government forces were advancing to the relevant area to prevent the destruction of two bridges linking Syria with Iraq.“

Department of Defense SealThe Pentagon justified the attack on government forces saying that they were advancing inside some kind of de-confliction zone.

Lavrov rejected this claim. “I don’t know anything about such zones. This must be some territory, which the coalition unilaterally declared [de-confliction zone] and where it probably believes to have a sole right to take action. We cannot recognize such zones,” the minister said. Earlier this year, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a deal to establish de-confliction zones in several parts of Syria. This effort was coordinated with the Syrian government. However, no de-confliction zone was established in the area claimed by the U.S.

Turkey Supports Qatar In Escalating Gulf Rupture

Flag of Turkey

Al Jazeera, Turkish parliament approves troop deployment in Qatar, Staff report, June 7, 2017. Turkish parliament approves legislation allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar. Turkey's parliament has approved a legislation allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar. The bill, first drafted in May, passed with 240 votes in favor. Qatar faces embargoes as biggest regional diplomatic crisis in years escalates. Turkey is a key ally of Qatar and is setting up a military base in the country which also hosts the largest US air base in the Middle East.

German FlagSouthFront, Germany Withdraws Troops From Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase, Staff report, June 7, 2017. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that German troops stationed in the Turkish base would be moved to a military facility in Jordan over the coming months. Earlier this week, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel failed to resolve differences between the two countries over the request of German lawmakers to visit their troops stationed in Incirlik.

Law Enforcement Around the Nation

New York Attorney General's Office, Schneiderman, Manion Announce Indictment Of “Taxi King” Evgeny Freidman For Allegedly Stealing Nearly $5 Million In MTA Taxes, June 7, 2017. Freidman And Company CFO Allegedly Withheld Nearly $5 Million In MTA Passenger Surcharges From The State Of New York; If Convicted, Defendants Could Face 8 1/3 To 25 Years In Prison; Schneiderman: No One Is Above The Law; 'We Will Hold Accountable Those Who Cheat The System.'

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion announced today the arrests of Evgeny A. Freidman, 46, of New York, NY, and Andreea Dumitru, 41, of Sunnyside, NY, on a five-count indictment charging them jointly with theft and failure to remit to the New York State Tax Department over $5 million in 50 cent MTA surcharges between 2012 and 2015. During this time period, Freidman and Dumitru — respectively the CEO and CFO of Taxiclub Management Inc.—managed a fleet of over 800 medallion taxicabs out of locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Woodside, and Long Island City.

“The ‘Taxi King’ built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers – pocketing money that should have instead been invested in our transportation system,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “No one is above the law, and my office will use every tool available to hold accountable those who cheat the system.”

“This indictment exposes a blatant scheme to short-change the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the transportation infrastructure relied on by millions of New Yorkers,” said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion. “Hundreds of honest taxi drivers did their part in collecting the proper fare, however Mr. Freidman and his business partner are accused of manipulating tax filings to put this money right into their own pockets. We will continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office and all of our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who accumulate personal wealth with tax schemes and ill-gotten gains face justice.”

This case was the result of a joint investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Taxation and Finance. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Taxpayer Protection Bureau is conducting an ongoing parallel civil investigation into Mr. Freidman’s conduct. Separately, the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau has investigated Freidman’s failure to properly pay drivers; those investigations resulted in a 2013 settlement for $1.2 million and a 2016 consent order in New York Supreme Court requiring Freidman and four of his taxi medallion management agencies to pay over $275,000 in damages and fines and to hire an independent monitor to examine compliance with TLC driver-related rules.

June 6

Inside Trump White House

New York Times, President Shows His Frustration With Attorney General, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, June 6, 2017. Mr. Trump blames Attorney General Jeff Sessions for troubles plaguing the White House, and has fumed that Mr. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions (shown below), and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

“They wholly undercut the idea that there is some rational process behind the president’s decisions,” said Walter E. Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general under Mr. Clinton. “I believe it is unprecedented for a president to publicly chastise his own Justice Department.”

Mr. Sessions and the Justice Department remained silent on Monday. But at least one lawyer close to the administration suggested that there was consternation in the department over the president’s messages. George T. Conway III, who until last week was Mr. Trump’s choice for assistant attorney general for the civil division and whose wife, Kellyanne Conway, is the president’s counselor, posted a Twitter message suggesting that Mr. Trump’s tweets “certainly won’t help” persuade five justices on the Supreme Court — the majority needed — to uphold the travel ban.

Politico, Everything we know about the Mueller probe so far: Mueller Hires Experts in Fraud, Mafia for Trump Probes, Darren Samuelsohn, June 6, 2017. Mueller, who brings a wealth of national security experience, is expected to take an expansive view of his role. Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a prosecution team with decades of experience going after everything from Watergate to the Mafia to Enron as he digs in for a lengthy probe into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

His first appointments — tapping longtime law-firm partner James Quarles and Andrew Weissmann, the head of the Justice Department's criminal fraud unit — were the opening moves in a politically red-hot criminal case that has upended the opening months of the Trump White House.

Mueller is expected to take an expansive view of his role. He inherited a spate of existing federal probes covering figures including the president's son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, and former campaign hands Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Carter Page.

Palmer Report, Report: DOJ’s International Criminal Division targets Jared Kushner in Trump-Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, June 6, 2017. “A source in DOJ confirms that Jared Kushner (shown in a file photo) is being interviewed by AG’s International Criminal Division,” political insider Claude Taylor has revealed. Best we can tell, that’s an informal reference to the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

This stands out as crucial, because it suggests that Jared Kushner’s meeting with the Russian Ambassador and/or his subsequent meeting with the head of a Russian bank are now part of an international criminal investigation. It’s also noteworthy that the Department of Justice can’t bring charges against foreign citizens, so this would point to Kushner himself being the most likely target. Meanwhile, we reported late last week that Congress is now looking into whether Jared Kushner’s decision to meet with the Russians was related to the fact that he’s massively in debt on his primary asset, a New York City office building.

Yahoo News, Four top law firms turned down requests to represent Trump, Michael Isikoff,June 6, 2017. Top lawyers with at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures to represent President Trump in the Russia investigations, in part over concerns that the president would be unwilling to listen to their advice, according to five sources familiar with discussions about the matter.

The unwillingness of some of the country’s most prestigious attorneys and their law firms to represent Trump has complicated the administration’s efforts to mount a coherent defense strategy to deal with probes being conducted by four congressional committees as well as Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Among them, sources said, were some of the most high-profile names in the legal profession, including Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly; Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Paul Clement and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis; and Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell.

The president’s chief lawyer now in charge of the case is Marc E. Kasowitz, a tough New York civil litigator who for years has aggressively represented Trump in multiple business and public relations disputes — often with threats of countersuits and menacing public statements — but who has little experience dealing with complex congressional and Justice Department investigations that are inevitably influenced by media coverage and public opinion.

“The concerns were, ‘The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen,’” said one lawyer close to the White House who is familiar with some of the discussions between the firms and the administration, as well as deliberations within the firms themselves.

 

New York Times, U.S. Diplomats Stage Quiet Revolt Against President’s Policies, Mark Landler, June 6, 2017. Senior career diplomats have distanced themselves from the White House, with some citing a struggle to defend the president’s positions. As President Trump strains alliances and relationships around the world, some of the nation’s top career diplomats are breaking publicly with him, in what amounts to a quiet revolt by a cadre of public servants known for their professional discretion.

On Monday, the chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy in Beijing, David H. Rank, announced his resignation after telling his staff he could not defend the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. A day earlier, the acting ambassador to Britain, Lewis A. Lukens, tweeted his support of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack there. On Sunday morning, President Trump had picked a fight with the mayor on Twitter.

Last month, the ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, reacted to Mr. Trump’s dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, by tweeting, “Increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions.”

Global News: Major Advances In Syrian War

Map updated by SouthFront as of June 6, 2017 (Note: Regions of Free Syrian Army control in green and nearby are primarily desert)

SouthFront, Military Situation In Southeastern Syria, Staff report, June 6, 2017. Government forces are steadily advancing east of the al-Busairi crossroads in the southeastern Syrian desert. The goal of this advance is to expand a buffer zone south of Palmyra and to set a foothold for possible push towards the border with Iraq. In turn, the US-led coalition has set up the second military facility at the Syrian-Iraqi border. The coalition set up the facility near Al-Zquf in order to train “moderate opposition” for a “battle against ISIS”. Another military facility of the US-led coalition is located Al-Tanf.

SouthFront, ISIS Defense Lines Collapse At Iraqi-Syrian Border; PMU Liberates Large Area, Staff report, June 6, 2017. On Tuesday, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) continued crushing ISIS terrorists in the area near the border with Iraq.

Saudi Arabian flag

SouthFront, Qatari Diplomatic Crisis. What Is Behind It? Staff report, June 6, 2017. The row between Qatar and the Saudi-led block has been growing in the Middle East since Monday when Saudi Arabia and some other countries broke diplomatic ties with Qatar. Qatar was also excluded from the Saudi-led coalition operating in Yemen.

The rift among Middle Eastern countries that had played a joint role in the Syrian, Iranian and Yemeni crises is a result of the ongoing collapse of the ISIS terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. The US and its Middle Eastern ally, Saudi Arabia, are deeply concerned that this may increase further the influence of Iran and organizations like the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Lebanese Hezbollah in the region.

President Trump meets Qater Emir Tamim bin Hamad in May 2017.jpgPresident Trump meets Qater Emir Tamim bin Hamad in May 2017

Al Jazeera, Trump weighs in on Qatar rift with Gulf neighbors, Staff report, June 6, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump has weighed on the ongoing diplomatic dispute with Qatar and neighboring Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia, saying his trip to the Middle East is "already paying off." In a series of posts on Twitter on Tuesday, Trump referenced Qatar when he said leaders of the Middle East have stated that they "would take a hard line on funding extremism."

Terrorism In London

Washington Post, Authorities identify third London Bridge attacker, Karla Adam and Griff Witte​, June 6, 2017. Youssef Zaghba, 22, an Italian national of Moroccan descent living in east London, was not on the radar of police or intelligence services. He was stopped in Italy last year trying to go to Syria, according to a media report.

United Kingdom flag

The identities of the two attackers announced Monday fit a pattern. Much like the assailants in the two earlier attacks, these men had British roots and were peripheral to the focus of security agencies. London Mayor Sadiq Khan criticized the cuts to the police under the Conservative-led government and argued that London could lose front line police officers if May’s Conservative Party triumphs in the election.

June 5

Trump Plans

Washington Post, As Trump lashes out, Republicans worry it could put their agenda at risk, Robert Costa, June 5, 2017. President Trump faces a convergence of challenges this week, including former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony at a Senate hearing. But instead of hunkering down and delicately navigating the legal and political thicket, Trump spent much of the day launching volleys on Twitter about the London mayor and federal courts in the wake of the London Bridge terrorist attack.

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Washington Post, Trump’s latest Twitter barrage could hurt effort to restore travel ban, Matt Zapotosky​, June 5, 2017. President Trump on Monday derided the revised travel ban as a “watered down” version of the first and criticized his own Justice Department’s handling of the case — potentially hurting the administration’s defense of the ban as the legal battle over it reaches a critical new stage.

U.S. Supreme Court SealTrump in a tweet called the new ban “politically correct,” ignoring that he himself signed the executive order replacing the first ban with a revised version that targeted only six, rather than seven, Muslim-majority countries and blocked the issuance of new visas, rather than revoking current ones. Trump said the Justice Department should seek a “much tougher version” and made clear — despite his own press secretary’s past remarks to the contrary — that the executive order is a “ban,” not a pause on some sources of immigration or an enhanced vetting system.

Washington Post, White House formally backs plan to send 30,000 federal workers to private corporation, Ashley Halsey III and John Wagner​, June 5, 2017. The move would separate the nation’s air traffic controllers and those who work on a $36 billion modernization program from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Cosby Trial Begins

Washington Post, A Bill Cosby accuser sobs in court: ‘I remember wanting to cover myself and not being able to,’ Manuel Roig-Franzia, June 5, 2017. A witness sobbed, burning through tissues while she testified that the famous man gave her a pill and touched her as her vision blurred. Attorneys stalked across the well of the courtroom, voices booming in scorn and disgust.

The drama unspooling in a creaky old courtroom here in this Philadelphia suburb is a trial that once would have seemed unimaginable, a reckoning for a comic legend who not so long ago embodied an ideal of wholesome fatherhood. Bill Cosby’s days as America’s biggest television star are long behind him. But as he nears his 80th birthday, legally blind and leaning on a cane, he is the focal point in one of the highest-profile criminal trials in recent memory.

The aging entertainer (shown in a file photo) listened intently Monday, occasionally clenching his fist or wincing, as attorneys offered competing visions of him on the opening day of the jury trial in his sexual assault case. A capacity crowd jammed into the courtroom, filling every seat in eight long rows of wooden benches. News helicopters hovered outside.

Global News: Middle East Rupture

Washington Post, Four Arab nations sever diplomatic ties with Qatar, exposing rift in the region, Kareem Fahim​, June 5, 2017. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain accused the gas-rich country of supporting terrorist organizations and stoking conflicts. Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated Sunni Islamist groups.

Zero Hedge ImageGulf Cooperation Council (GCC) graphic by Zero Hedge

Zero Hedge, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, & Bahrain Cut Diplomatic Ties, Shut All Borders With Qatar, Tyler Durden, June 5, 2017. Just days after president Trump left the region, a geopolitical earthquake is taking place in the Middle East tonight as the rift between Qatar and other members of the (likely extinct) Gulf Cooperation Council explodes with Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt cutting all diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it of “speading chaos,” by funding terrorism and supporting Iran. The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiraled since, and appears to be climaxing now… just days after President Trump left the region.

SouthFront, Al Jazeera Reports Leaked Emails Showing Relationship Between UAE And Israeli-linked Think Tanks, Staff report, June 5, 2017. As tensions between Qatar and the Saudi-led block grow, the sides use more and more diplomatic and media tools each against others. The Qatari state-run media outlet Al Jazeera released a rare article based on leaked emails revealing the hidden Emirati diplomacy in the Middle East.

“The latest email leaks from the Hotmail account of the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, could threaten Emirati diplomacy and strain regional relations, analysts say. “If the leaked emails are proved to be genuine, they could become a source of stress for the UAE,” Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center Washington DC, told Al Jazeera.

On Saturday, hackers released what they claimed was the first in a series of emails taken from the inbox of Otaiba. The leaks have revealed a strong relationship between the UAEand think-tanks closely allied to Israel, along with Emirati efforts to tarnish the images of Qatar and Kuwait; Emirati involvement in the failed coup attempt in Turkey; and the UAE’s fight against Islamist movements, particularly Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some of the leaked emails include a detailed agenda for a meeting scheduled later this month between officials from the UAE government and representatives of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a pro-Israel think-tank. The agenda includes a joint assessment of the changes that have taken place in Saudi Arabia, which proposes a plan to support Saudi stability and its new policy directions.

The agenda also includes a review of internal Saudi policies, domestic challenges faced by the Saudi leadership, foreign policy and the kingdom’s role in stripping legitimacy from worldwide “jihad,” Al Jazeera’s article reads.

Al Arabiya English, Bahrain announces it is cutting all ties with Qatar, Staff report, June 5, 2017. Bahrain (home port of the major U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf) has announced it is cutting all ties and relations with Qatar, according to a statement carried on Bahrain News Agency. The statement on Monday morning said Bahrain decided to sever ties with its neighbor “on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue destabilizing the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to intervene in its affairs.”

Qatari citizens have 14 days to leave Bahraini territories while Qatari diplomats were given 48 hours to leave the country after being expelled. Meanwhile, Bahrain has also banned all of its citizens from visiting or residing in Qatar after the severance of ties. Meanwhile, Bahrain has has closed both air and sea borders with Qatar.

Middle East Eye, Qatar crisis: What does it mean for US military in the Gulf? Staff report, June 5, 2017. The Gulf has long been a host for numerous US military forces. The decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE to break off diplomatic ties with Qatar is likely to cause some headaches in the US as the countries are major military allies and host important US bases. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quick to downplay suggestions that the spat could undermine the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. "I do not expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified - the unified - fight against terrorism in the region or globally," Tillerson told reporters in Sydney after meetings between Australian and US foreign and defence ministers.

Qatar is home to the Al-Udeid Airbase, from where the United States carries out air strikes against militants in the region. Located 20km southwest of the capital Doha, the base hosts more than 11,000 American troops and has been used since 2016 to bomb Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. US Air Force Central Command (also known as Centcom), Combined Air and Space Operations Center and the 379th Air Expedition Wing are all housed at the base. Bahrain houses the US Navy's Fifth fleet, which patrols the seas of the Middle East and Central Asia. Saudi Arabia hosts five air bases. A $110bn arms deal made between the US and Saudi during President Donald Trump's recent trip has further cemented the military relationship between the two countries.

CNN 'Fake News'?

CNN correspondent Becky Anderson, in dark coat center, helps hear colleagues arrange London demonstrators for now-controversial segment alleged to be "fake news'

Washington Examiner, CNN rejects critics who say it staged sympathetic Muslim images, Eddie Scarry, June 5, 2017. CNN is dismissing critics who claim the network staged a demonstration to make Muslims look sympathetic in light of the weekend terror attacks in London. A video uploaded online showed CNN correspondent Becky Anderson preparing to narrate video of a group of Muslims holding up signs in solidarity with the victims of the attacks.

Before Anderson begins her reporting, the demonstrators are seen being guided by police into a spot together so that the camera can frame the shot in an area that had been blocked off by police. The video was uploaded to YouTube with the title, "CNN staging the narrative before making report, they are truly Fake News!" It was shared on Twitter by the British conservative news personality Katie Hopkins, who said the video showed CNN "scripting a narrative. Right before your eyes."

But CNN dismissed the claim that it had staged the scene for any purpose outside of getting a clear shot on camera. "This story is nonsense," CNN said in a statement. "The group of demonstrators that was at the police cordon was being allowed through by officers so they could show their signs to the gathered media. The CNN crew along with other media present simply filmed them doing so."

The rampage in London on Saturday night involved a car plowing into a crowd and knifemen stabbing pedestrians. At least seven were killed and nearly 50 were injured.

See also Associated Press Twitter below and Mediaite, CNN Rebuts Claim They ‘Staged’ a Pro-Muslim Shot During London Aftermath, Colby Hall, June 4, 2017. perspective; and Gateway Pundit, CNN Creates #FakeNews in London Following Terror Attacks, Carter, June 4, 2017. CNN's London Muslim Story June 2017

NSA Contractor Charged In Leaks

Justice Department log circularNew York Times, Contractor Charged With Espionage, in a First Under Trump, Charles Savage, June 5, 2017. Reality Leigh Winner, 25, has been charged under the Espionage Act for sending a report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to the news media. An intelligence contractor was charged with sending a classified report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to the news media, the Justice Department announced Monday, the first criminal leak case under President Trump.

The case showed the department’s willingness to crack down on leaks, as Mr. Trump has called for in complaining that they are undermining his administration. His grievances have contributed to a sometimes tense relationship with the intelligence agencies he now oversees. The Justice Department announced the case against the contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, about an hour after the national-security news outlet The Intercept published the apparent document, a May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency.

NSA Official LogoWashington Post, Federal contractor charged, accused of giving classified NSA document to news, Devlin Barrett, June 5, 2017. The criminal charge is the first from a leak investigation during the Trump administration. A person familiar with the case said it involves a document given to The Intercept website about a Russian hacking effort before the 2016 election.

A 25-year-old government contractor has been charged with mishandling classified information after authorities say she gave a top-secret National Security Agency document to a news ­organization.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25 photo via Lincoln County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office

Reality Leigh Winner was accused of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information — the first criminal charge filed in a leak investigation during the Trump administration. Winner (shown in a jail mug shot) was arrested Saturday and the case was revealed Monday, shortly after the website the Intercept posted a redacted version of a U.S. intelligence document describing Russian government efforts to use hacking techniques against employees of a company that provides technical support to states’ voting agencies.

Documents filed in federal court against Winner in Georgia did not identify the news outlet or the document, although both the Intercept and the court papers say it was dated May 5. A person familiar with the case said the charges stem from the document given to the ­Intercept. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said investigators’ fast work “allowed us quickly to identify and arrest the defendant. Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government. People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”

Winner’s lawyer, Titus T. Nichols, said he had not seen the evidence in the case, so he could not discuss the specific accusations. He said his client has served in the Air Force for six years, including a recent assignment at Fort Meade, Md., home of the NSA.

Global News: ISIS Fights Syrian Army At Strategic City

Syria Flag

SouthFront, Military Situation In Deir Ezzor As Fighting Intensify In Strategic City, Staff report, June 5, 2017. Last weekend, ISIS (shown in a file photo) launched a large advance against the Republican Guard and the National Defense Forces (NDF) in order to tighten the siege on the strategic government-held 137th Brigade Army Base or even to capture it.

Trump Plan For Hard-Line Cuba Policy?

New York Times, Undoing Work on Cuba, Editorial board, June 5, 2017. To spite his predecessor, the president will further isolate America. To the long list of Barack Obama’s major initiatives that President Trump is obsessed with reversing, we may soon be able to add Cuba. In 2014, Mr. Obama opened a dialogue with Cuba after more than a half-century of unyielding hostility, leading to an easing of sanctions. Mr. Trump promised in his campaign to return to a more hard-line approach. If he does, as seems likely, he will further isolate America, hurt American business interests and, quite possibly, impede the push for greater democracy on the Caribbean island.

Soon after his election, Mr. Trump declared, vaguely but ominously, that if Cuba did not “make a better deal” he would “terminate deal.” He gave no specifics and no decisions have been announced. But details of what a policy reversal could look like are emerging.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThe aim generally would be to reimpose limits on travel and commerce, supposedly to punish Cuba’s despotic government, now led by Raúl Castro, brother of the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Among the measures being considered are blocking transactions by American companies with firms that have ties to the Cuban military, which is deeply enmeshed in the economy, and tightening restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba that Mr. Obama eased last year before his historic trip to Havana.

This hard-line sanctions-based approach was in place for more than 50 years after the 1959 revolution and never produced what anti-Castro activists hoped would be the result, the ouster of Cuba’s Communist government in favor of democracy. Isolating Cuba has become increasingly indefensible.

Trump Defenders

Washington Examiner, Corey Lewandowski shares negative review of Megyn Kelly's NBC debut, Eddie Scarry, June 5, 2017. Corey Lewandowski may still harbor some ill will toward Megyn Kelly. On Monday, President Trump's former campaign manager — who is said to still be in touch with the White House — tweeted a negative review of Megyn Kelly's anticipated NBC debut with his 251,000 followers.

Russian President Vladirmir Putin is interviewed by Megyn Kelly in an NBC interview broadcast on June 4, 2017 (screenshot)

Kelly (shown with Putin in an screenshot) made her premiere Sunday night with a much-hyped interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The review, published in the local New York newspaper Newsday, called Kelly's debut a "rough start" for what the reviewer believed was a lack of follow-up questions from Kelly. "Not once did Kelly interject, not once did she tell him that what [Putin] was saying was a load of nonsense," the review said. "Bottom line: Rough launch for Megyn Kelly, but score one for Vladimir Putin..."

Putin offered mostly slippery answers to Kelly in the interview, which focused on Russia's interference in the U.S. election (he denied it was state sponsored); his association with Trump's team (he said he only vaguely knew former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn); and who in Trump's orbit had U.S. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met with (he said he didn't know).

The Future of Freedom Foundation, Bring the Troops Home, Mr. President, Jacob G. Hornberger, June 5, 2017. Jacob G. Hornberger (shown in a file photo) is president of a foundation that held a “National Security State and JFK” conference last June 3 featuring 11 speakers, including the prominent Libertarian and former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and film maker Oliver Stone. Another terrorist attack in London, and more predictable responses from President Trump, British Prime Minister May, other public officials, and the mainstream press. We have to crack down on terrorism. The problem is with extremist Muslims. They hate us for our freedom and values. Don’t be afraid. Go about your daily lives as if nothing has happened.

And, of course, not one single word of the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan, which has entailed killing Muslims and other for at least 25 years and which continues unabated to this day, a policy with which the British government has partnered and supported since its inception. Why not even a peep about more terrorist retaliation from U.S. foreign interventionism?

Isn’t the answer obvious? If they mentioned that, that would cause people to ask a very basic question: Is the interventionism worth the death and destruction that comes as “blowback,” the term that the noted scholar Chalmers Johnson used to title his excellent and profound book: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire?

That’s the last question that U.S. officials and British officials want Americans or British citizens to ask. They don’t want their citizens to be questioning or challenging the massive, ongoing death and destruction that the U.S. military and CIA have been wreaking and continue to wreak in that part of the world, with the full support of the British (and French and other) governments.

Donald TrumpThe Saker, The Coup, Then and Now – The Enemies of Humanity Try to Give Trump the JFK Treatment, Anton Chaitkin, June 5, 2017. The Anglo-American oligarchy began a coup against President Donald Trump after his surprise 2016 election. They were in a panic to block his announced aims of partnership with Russia, the end of permanent war, the overturn of predatory Free Trade, and the return of Glass Steagall to break Wall Street’s power. The panic turned into a frenzy on the Russian angle, as it emerged that Trump had been working with strategic advisors who were prepared to return the United States to its traditional support for national sovereignty, and drop the regime-change insanity pursued by Presidents Bush and Obama.

We have seen this kind of  before, against the outstanding nationalist U.S. President of the second half of the 20th century, John F. Kennedy. We have lived in the shadow of that coup ever since. Perhaps throwing some new light on those events and, most importantly, what Kennedy himself understood about them, can help us see our way now to sanity and survival.

More Fake News?

Mainstream media announcers like CNN's Kate Bolduan above are alleged to have promoted a "fake news" war propaganda story last August featuring a Syrian boy at left alleged by the media to have been a victim of Syria's "regime" bombing of Aleppo. A man saying he is the father is now saying they lived a normal life and participated in a propaganda exercise by rebels and the so-called "White Helmets" working with revels and subsidized by Western governments. Western media seeking to overthrow Syria's president Bashar al-Assad heavily front-paged the boy and the White Helmets last summer, as shown below.

SouthFront, Video: MSM Propaganda Turns Against Itself As Family Of “Boy In Ambulance” From Aleppo Tells Truth, Staff report, June 5, 2017. The dad of the the boy whose photo was used by the mainstream media in a propaganda war against the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance tells the truth about the incident.

Omran Daqneesh was depicted stunned and sitting alone in the back of an ambulance after an airstrike (Aleppo Media Center)

New York Times, Syrian Boy Who Became Image of Civil War Reappears, Megan Specia and Maher Samaan, June 6, 2017. A young Syrian boy who captured the world’s attention last year when images of his blood- and dust-covered face spread across the internet has re-emerged this week — in interviews on news outlets with ties to the Syrian government. The boy, Omran Daqneesh, came to symbolize the plight of civilians besieged by government forces in eastern Aleppo when his family’s home was bombed in August and local activists shared photos and video of the frightened Omran on social media. Now, he and his family have appeared in a series of televised interviews on news channels supportive of President Bashar al-Assad, apparently part of a calculated public relations campaign by the Syrian government.

Guardian, New footage emerges of Syrian boy who gave a face to the suffering in Aleppo, Kareem Shaheen, June 5, 2017. New footage has emerged of Omran Daqneesh, the boy whose bloodied and dusty image gave a face to the suffering of Aleppo’s civilians in last year’s siege. The images were posted on the social media account of a pro-Syrian government television presenter and appeared to show the young boy in good health and living in Aleppo, which is now under the control of forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad.

As the rebels retreated from Aleppo, reports had emerged that the Daqneesh family had crossed over into government territory, but they had not been heard from until now. The images and a short video clip posted by Kinana Alloush – a reporter who once posted a selfie with the corpses of rebel fighters – marked the first time Omran had appeared publicly since he was wounded in a regime airstrike. An image of Omran, stunned and sitting alone in the back of an ambulance after a regime airstrike, quickly went viral when it emerged last August and highlighted the suffering of east Aleppo’s besieged civilians. His brother later died of his wounds from the same airstrike.

In a short interview clip posted by Alloush, Omran’s father tells the TV presenter that he did not hear a plane above his house before the strike and said he rejected offers to leave Syria by parties wishing to damage the reputation of the country’s armed forces. He said that he changed his son’s name and his hairstyle to evade individuals who threatened to kidnap him and accused rebels of intimidating him.

It was unclear if the family had been coerced into conducting the interview. The Syrian government has carried out similar disinformation efforts in the past, promising benefits to defectors or displaced civilians if they speak out against alleged rebel crimes.

Legal News

Reuters, Supreme Court limits SEC's power to recover ill-gotten gains, Sarah N. Lynch and Lawrence Hurley, June 5, 2017. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday scaled back the Securities and Exchange Commission's power to recover ill-gotten profits from defendants' misconduct, handing Wall Street firms a victory and dealing another blow to the regulator's enforcement powers. In a 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found that the SEC's recovery remedy known as "disgorgement" is subject to a five-year statute of limitations. The justices sided with New Mexico-based investment adviser Charles Kokesh, who previously was ordered by a judge to pay $2.4 million in penalties plus $34.9 million in disgorgement of illegal profits after the SEC sued him.

The decision marked the second time since 2013 that the Supreme Court has reined in the SEC's enforcement powers. In the prior case, called Gabelli v. SEC, the justices unanimously ruled that civil monetary penalties are also subject to a five-year time bar. The ruling represented a major victory for Wall Street firms, whose Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association trade group had urged the justices to curb the SEC's powers in order to provide more certainty and predictability to the enforcement process.

Writing for the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that disgorgement counts as a penalty and is therefore bound by a five-year statute of limitations that already applies to "any civil fine, penalty or forfeiture." The SEC disgorgement process "bears all the hallmarks of penalty: It is imposed as a consequence of violating a public law and is intended to deter, not to compensate," Sotomayor wrote. Kokesh was sued by the SEC in 2009 for misappropriating investors' money. His penalties covered conduct within the five-year statute of limitations, but the disgorgement covered conduct that largely occurred outside that time frame.

Chicago Sun-Times, After latest defeat, Rod Blagojevich will aim again for Supreme Court, Jon Seidel, June 5, 2017. Rod Blagojevich (shown in a file photo) will again try to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case after a federal appeals court in Chicago refused Monday to listen to further arguments, his lawyer said. The imprisoned Democrat’s latest defeat was not unexpected. But it means he is quickly running out of legal options nearly a year after his 14-year prison sentence was reinstated. It took a three-judge panel from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just three days this spring to affirm Blagojevich’s sentence.

June 4

British Terror Attack

United Kingdom flag

Washington Post, London attack toll rises to 7 dead as Theresa May insists ‘things need to change,’ 12 suspects arrested, Griff Witte, Karla Adam and Rick Noack, June 4, 2017. The rampage set off scenes of panic in the heart of London. ‘Things need to change,’ Theresa May says, Prime minister vows a review of counterterrorism laws. Raids in the east London neighborhood of Barking signal that authorities are probing at least the possibility that others may have been involved in planning the attack.

Theresa May official photoAfter the carnage, the prime minister May (shown in a file photo) blamed the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism” after the third terrorist incident in her country in three months. The low-tech but high-profile attack will raise questions about how British security services failed to stop yet another mass-casualty strike after years of thwarting such attempts. The three attackers, who injured at least 48 people, were fatally shot by police minutes after the first emergency call.

Washington Post, Trump reacts by stoking fears, renewing a personal feud, Philip Rucker, June 4, 2017. Before offering condolences to the British people, the U.S. president referred to his travel ban and made other statements on his preferred platform of Twitter. On Sunday, he derided the London mayor, who had sought to reassure the city.

Intercept, Saudi Arabia Lavishes Conservative U.K. Officials With Gifts, Travel, And Plum Consultancies, Lee Fang, June 4 2017. New figures released by British Parliament show that, at a time when U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s ties to Saudi Arabia have become an election issue, conservative government officials and members of Parliament were lavished with money by the oil-rich Saudi government with gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees.

United Kingdom flag

Tory lawmakers received the cash as the U.K. backs Saudi Arabia’s brutal war against Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the U.K.’s uneasy alliance with the Saudis an election issue, with voters going to the polls on June 8. The Tories’ ties to Saudi Arabia, Labour leaders charge, have resulted in record weapons sales — conservative governments have licensed £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in arms sales to the Saudi military since the onset of the Yemen campaign — and a reluctance to criticize human rights abuses.

While Tory politicians have defended the arms sales to Saudis as a move to shore up Britain’s allies in the region, Tory members of Parliament have collected £99,396 ($128,035) in gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees from the government of Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began.

The kingdom’s financial ties to Tory parliamentarians are detailed in the register of financial interests, a disclosure published by Parliament. Some of the the Saudi kingdom’s largesse came in the form of gifts.

Then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has come under fire for defending a mass execution in Saudi Arabia that included a nonviolent government critic, accepted a watch from the Saudi ambassador worth £1,950 ($2,514). Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, who has presided over parliamentary debate regarding foreign policy in the Middle East, received a food basket from the Saudi Embassy with an estimated value of £500 ($644).

Trump Plans

New York Times, Budget-Busting Cost of Nuclear Weapons Update: $1.2 Trillion, James Glanz and David E. Sanger, June 4, 2017. The estimate of a project to fulfill President Trump’s pledge to remake the nation’s atomic arsenal is 20 percent more than once envisioned, and it is unclear if the White House can stomach the cost.

Around the Nation: Teacher Sex Predators

The Cool Justice Report, Mandatory Reporting Law on Sexual Abuse Not So Mandatory — Especially for Prep Schools, Andy Thibault (shown in a file photo), June 4, 2017. Abysmal Failures in So-Called Background Checks Noted; State Reports Only 14 Arrests, Four Convictions in Past Seven Years. 

Connecticut has been a very safe place to avoid arrest and prosecution for failing to report sexual abuse — especially if you're a teacher or administrator at a prep school.

That's just part of the picture. Suppose you lose your teaching job after being accused of rape. Just don't put that job on your resume. You'll be fine for perhaps a decade or more. It also helps to amend your full name on the resume. Supposed background checks will fail to detect resume gaps and irregularities.

But what about that mandatory reporting law compelling teachers and administrators to report suspected abuse to the state? No problem. It hasn't been enforced with any great enthusiasm at the preps: No report, no warning for future employers or victims. The revelations come after a series of articles by The Boston Globe Spotlight Team and an investigation by the powerhouse law firm Covington & Burling for Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford. The Globe found that abuse victims routinely suffered retaliation at private schools in New England. The schools in turn covered up the abuse. Choate, for example, failed to report abuse incidents prior to 2010.

A spokeswoman for Connecticut courts told The Cool Justice Report there were just 14 arrests in the state for failing to report sexual abuse from January 2010 through late April 2017. During the same time, there were only four convictions, according to the data provided via the state Judicial Department. One of the convictions was of a day care operator.

U.S. Probes Of Russia

New York Times, ‘Soft Power’ of a Russian Bank Comes to Light in U.S. Inquiry, Ben Protess, Andrew E. Kramer and Mike McIntire, June 4, 2017. Investigators of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign are looking at Jared Kushner’s meeting with the head of VEB, a bank owned by the Russian state. “This is not a bank,” said a Standard & Poor’s analyst. “We should rather treat this bank as a government agency.”

Global News: Putin Denies Interference

Russian President Vladirmir Putin is interviewed by Megyn Kelly in an NBC interview broadcast on June 4, 2017 (screenshot)

Russian President Vladirmir Putin is interviewed by Megyn Kelly in an NBC interview broadcast on June 4, 2017 (screenshot)

Washington Post, Putin calls U.S. election-meddling charge a ‘load of nonsense’ in Megyn Kelly interview, David A. Fahrenthold, June 4, 2017. Russian President Vladimir Putin testily rejected the idea that his government had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — or that he is holding compromising evidence against President Trump — in an interview broadcast Sunday night with NBC’s Megyn Kelly (shown in file photo).

Megyn Kelly Fox News Photo“They have been misled,” Putin responded when Kelly said that American intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia interfered in the campaign with the goal of electing Trump. “They aren’t analyzing the information in its entirety. I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.”

The interview with Putin (shown in a file photo) — conducted last week during an economic forum in St. Petersburg — was the opening segment in the debut episode of “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly.” Kelly, who was a prime-time star on Fox News Channel, moved to NBC at the start of this year.

The interview was tense at times, with Putin calling Kelly’s questions a “load of nonsense.” “Your lives must be so boring,” if Americans are reduced to making up stories about Russia, he said. The Russian leader, a former KGB intelligence officer, is not given to unguarded moments or admissions of guilt. When Kelly asked him about allegations of Russian involvement in the campaign, he replied with a conspiracy theory about the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

“There’s a theory that Kennedy’s assassination was arranged by the United States intelligence services. So, if this theory is correct — and that can’t be ruled out — ” then the same agencies could fabricate evidence of Russian hacking, Putin said.

See also: Washington Post, Megyn Kelly saw an aggressive, peeved Vladimir Putin. That behavior could hurt him, David Ignatius, June 2, 2017.  

Global News: Syrian War

SouthFront, US-led Coalition Set Up New Base At Syrian-Iraqi Border (Photos, Video), Staff report, June 4, 2017. The US-led coalition has set up a new military base in Al-Zkuf, 70 km north-east of Al-Tanf near the Centcom logoSyrian-Iraqi border. According to the US-led coalition, the aim of the base is to fight ISIS. The base is located in 130 km from the city of Al-Bukamal in the province of Deir Ezzor. A US-backed militant group, Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra will be involved in the effort.

June 3

Washington Post, Police say at least 1 dead after suspected terror incidents at London Bridge, nearby market, Griff Witte, Rick Noack and Karla Adam​, June 3, 2017. Police respond to an incident on London Bridge after a van struck pedestrians on Saturday. Witnesses said the incident began when a speeding van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday night before the occupants got out and began stabbing patrons at bars and restaurants in the nearby Borough Market area.

Trump Afghan Decision Looms

New York Times, Obama’s Dilemma on Troop Surge in Afghanistan Now Vexes Trump, Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt, June 3, 2017. A new president confronts an old war, one that bedeviled his predecessor. He is caught between seasoned military commanders, who tell him that the road to victory is to pour in more American troops, and skeptical political advisers, who argue that a major deployment is a futile exercise that will leave him politically vulnerable.

Barack Obama in 2009. But also Donald J. Trump in 2017. As Mr. Trump faces his most consequential decision yet as commander in chief — whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, where a truck bombing on Wednesday offered a brutal reminder that the 16-year-old war is far from over — his administration is divided along familiar fault lines.

How Trump Won

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainWashington Post, ‘Shadow’ network aided Trump’s rise to power, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg, June 3, 2017. Long before Donald Trump promised to build a wall, ban Muslims and abandon the Paris climate accord, David Horowitz used his tax-exempt Freedom Center to rail against illegal immigrants, the spread of Islam and global warming. Since its formation in 1988, the Freedom Center has helped cultivate a generation of political warriors seeking to upend the Washington establishment.

Reflections On JFK Death

Citizens Against Political Assassinations, JFK Birthday Inspires Art, Advocacy, Snark, Andrew Kreig, June 3, 2017. Johnn F. Kennedy Looking UpThe 100th birthday anniversary of President John F. Kennedy on May 29 prompted many memorials about the late president’s enduring popularity, the continuing controversies over his murder, and at least one prominent display of mockery of him by a big newspaper. The mass media and major cultural institutions focused heavily on JFK’s achievements, agenda, family, and legacy for politics, the arts and foreign affairs.

But some Kennedy supporters stressed also the uncomfortable reminder that the search for truth about his death continues. Polls show that most Americans do not believe the official accounts of his death, particularly the central claim in the 1964 Warren Report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to kill the president by firing three shots during the president’s 1963 motorcade in Dallas.

Beyond that, a Washington Post feature story, "JFK’s last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht," timed for the late president’s birthday mocked Kennedy and his friends for their behavior on his last birthday. This column surveys these developments and previews an important forum June 3 in Virginia, "The National Security State and JFK."

June 2

Trump Climate Change Decision

Washington Post, Scott Pruitt, outspoken and forceful, moves to the center of power within the Trump administration, Juliet Eilperin and Scott Pruitt EPABrady Dennis, June 2, 2017. The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency played a decisive role in president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal and has emerged as one of the most influential policy architects in the Cabinet, a skilled and sometimes brash lawyer who is methodically taking apart a slew of regulations and agreements.

Washington Post, Trump’s Paris speech needs a serious fact check, Dino Grandoni​, June 2, 2017. Many of the reasons Trump gave for withdrawing seemed at their best strained and at their worst unfounded. Here are some of the claims we struggled with.

Trump Scandals

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Media being lazy and ignorant in coverage of Trump scandal, Wayne Madsen (shown in file photo), June 2, 2017 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). The corporate media is being lazy and ignorant in its coverage of the scandal surrounding the Donald Trump administration and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Washington Post, Ethics office will press White House on undated conflict-of-interest waivers, Matea Gold, June 2, 2017. One such blanket waiver that ethics experts have flagged allows White House appointees to communicate with media organizations where they previously worked — an exemption that appears to have been tailored for chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who previously ran the conservative Breitbart News.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThe Office of Government Ethics plans to press the White House to clarify when it issued a slew of ethics waivers giving its staffers permission to interact with their former employers or clients, an indication that the exemptions might not have been properly granted.

Ten of the 14 waivers publicly disclosed this week by the White House are undated and unsigned, raising questions about when they were put in place. Particularly troubling, ethics experts said, was a blanket waiver allowing White House appointees to communicate with media organizations where they previously worked that was described as “retroactive” — a maneuver that the ethics office said was not permitted. “There’s no such thing as a retroactive waiver,” said Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the ethics office.

Washington Post, Man arrested Wednesday with military-style rifle at Trump hotel faces federal felony gun charge, Spencer S. Hsu, June 2, 2017. Bryan Moles withdrew $10,000 and loaded his car with guns and survival gear before driving to Washington from his home in Pennsylvania, prosecutors said.

Reflection On Death of a Cold Warrior

PaulCraigRoberts.org, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Paul Craig Roberts (shown below at left), June 2, 2017. Brzezinski’s death at 89 years of age has generated a load Paul Craig Robertsof propaganda and disinformation, all of which serves one interest group or another or the myths that people find satisfying.

For 12 years, Brzezinski was my colleague at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where I occupied the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy. When I was elected to that chair, CSIS was a part of Georgetown University. However, the president of Georgetown University was one of those liberals who hated Henry Kissinger, who was also our colleague, and the university president also hated Ronald Reagan for his rhetoric, not for his deeds about which the Georgetown president was uninformed. So I also was unwelcome. Whatever I was worth to CSIS, Kissinger was worth more, and CSIS was not going to give up Henry Kissinger. Therefore the strategic research institute split from Georgetown university. Brzezinski stayed with CSIS.

I was born into The Matrix. It took many decades, insider experience, and fortuitous experiences for me to escape. Brzezinski (shown in a file photo at right) might have been one of the fortuitous events. I remember him telling me that as National Security Advisor he was awakened in the middle of the night with the message that a couple hundred Soviet ICBMs were on their way to America. Before he could clear his mind, he was told that it was several thousand ICBMs on their way to destroy America. As the futility of a response hit him, a third message reached him that it was all a mistake from a training exercise somehow being transferred into the early warning network. 

The Cold War was an orchestration of the military/security complex, and there are many victims. Brzezinsky was a victim as the Cold War was his life. JFK was a victim as he lost his life to it. The Vietnamese, who died in the millions, were victims. The most important truth of our time is that the world lives on the knife-edge of the American military/security complex’s need for an enemy in order to keep profits flowing.

National Security Archive, The White House, the CIA and the Pike Committee, 1975, John Prados and Arturo Jimenez-Bacardi, June 2, 2017. At the height of congressional pushback against the “imperial presidency” in the mid-1970s, Representative Otis G. Pike’s investigation, which paralleled Senator Frank Church’s simultaneous inquiry, raised fears at the CIA and the White House about secret activities coming to light but also about setting precedents for Congress’s right of access to Executive Branch information.

CIA LogoPike (shown in a file photo) held his first public hearing on August 4, 1975. He used the occasion to contrast the Ford administration’s public posture that it was cooperating fully with the CIA and White House’s actual practice of obfuscation and delay. The impasse escalated tensions, leading to destructive clashes between the sides.  

Global News: Afghanistan Bombing Atrocity

Washington Post, In Kabul, anger against Afghan government touches off deadly street clashes, Pamela Constable and Sharif Walid​, June 2, 2017.  An anti-government protest spiraled into a deadly street battle Friday, with security forces opening fire and using armored vehicles to chase demonstrators angered by a massive truck bombing earlier this week.

As many as six demonstrators were killed, including the son of a senior legislator, reports said. Thousands of people converged on the site of Wednesday’s blast in Kabul’s diplomatic zone, shouting chants against President Ashraf Ghani and hoisting banners with gruesome photographs from the bombing. The attack left more than 100 people dead and 450 injured.

Enraged over the loss of life, protesters burned the president in effigy and called for the Taliban to be hung. Police opened fire on some who tried to march to the presidential palace.

June 1

Climate Change

Washington Post, Trump to pull U.S. from historic Paris climate agreement, Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson​, June 1, 2017. Casting his decision as a ‘reassertion of America’s sovereignty,’ president’s move alarms leaders worldwide. President Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he is withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, a move to honor a campaign pledge that dismayed America’s allies and thwarted the global effort to address the warming planet.

Trump’s decision alarmed leaders around the world, drawing swift and sharp condemnation from foreign officials as well as top U.S. environmentalists and corporate titans, who decried the U.S. exit from the Paris accord as an irresponsible abdication of American leadership.

But Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait) cast his decision as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” arguing that the climate pact as negotiated under President Obama was grossly unfair to the U.S. workers he had vowed to protect with his populist “America First” campaign platform. The United States will join two other nations — Syria and Nicaragua — in the U.N. climate group that do not participate in the accord.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump proclaimed in a forceful, lengthy and at times rambling speech from the Rose Garden of the White House.

New York Times, Making His Case, Trump Cited Dubious Data, Mark Landler, Brad Plumer and Linda Qiu, June 1, 2017. The president seemed to base his decision more in his belief in its potential to save jobs than in any disbelief in climate science. But he also justified his action with distorted reports.

New York Times, U.S. Is Out — Except These Cities, States and Companies, Hiroko Tabuchi and Henry Fountain, June 1, 2017. An unnamed group, which includes 30 mayors, three governors, 80 university presidents and over 100 businesses, is negotiating with the United Nations to accept its emissions reduction plan.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainNew York Times, Looking to 2018 (and Beyond), Trump Bets on His Base, Peter Baker, June 1, 2017. He gambled that placating his most ardent fans would serve him better than bowing to polls showing wide support for the accord.

Washington Post, Inside Trump’s decision: How efforts to dissuade him actually backfired, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Michael Birnbaum, June 1, 2017. Trump never liked the Paris climate deal. But factions inside the White House, the business community, on the world stage and in the president’s family jockeyed for influence as he decided. Here's what they argued, and the impact they had.

Huffington Post, Obama Says Trump’s Choice Means U.S. Will Join Nations That 'Reject The Future,' Igor Bobic, June 1, 2017. Former President Barack Obama says President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on combating climate change means the U.S. will join “a small handful of nations that reject the future.” The announcement, which is a setback to international efforts to curb global warming, will put the U.S. on the same page as Syria and Nicaragua ― the only nations not to have participated in the agreement. Others, including China, India, and the European Union, indicated they planned to forge ahead in the effort to fight climate change.

Trump Scandal Probes

Washington Post, James Comey is jumping into the fire by testifying to Congress about Trump. What’s in it for him? Amber Phillips, FBI logoJune 1, 2017. The former FBI director's reputation is at stake, but testifying could provoke a ferocious and very public response from President Trump.

Washington Post, Explanations for Kushner’s meeting with head of Kremlin-linked bank don’t match up, David Filipov, Amy Brittain, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger​, June 1, 2017. The Russian bank says the December meeting with the president’s son-in-law was held as part of a new business strategy, but the White House says it was related to diplomacy.

Western Leaders Convene For Secret Annual Gathering

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Bilderberg confab in Virginia highlights concerns about Trump, Wayne Madsen (shown in file photo), June 1, 2017 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). Every time the secretive Bilderberg Group has met at the Westfields Marriott in Chantilly, Virginia, U.S. policy has been at the forefront of discussions between the government and corporate gurus who gather behind tight security. This year, the Bilderbergs are discussing in Chantilly the ramifications of the Donald Trump presidency on the "international order."

U.S. Politics

Lllewellyn King photo and logoWhite House Chronicle, Trump’s Foreign Policy — Punish Friends, Reward Enemies, Llewellyn King, June 1, 2017. The president, in the incoherence of his foreign policy, is creating great gashes between traditional allies that will leave scars down through history. He also appears to be set on empowering our putative enemies, Russia and China.

Many of us White House watchers think it is quite possible that some of those around the president had questionable relations with the Russians both during the campaign and after the election. Their motivation remains unclear. Also unclear is why Trump is so pro-Russian.

China is another Trumpian riddle. He campaigned against China for job snatching, currency manipulation, the trade deficit and its incursions into the South China Sea. In a classic East meets West scenario, Trump, the self-styled dealmaker, was going to sit opposite Chinese President Xi Jinping and negotiate.

China Flag

But when they met at the White House, all points of contention evaporated; even freedom-of-navigation operations by U.S. warships in international waters near contested reefs in the South China Sea were curtailed. Either there was no negotiation, or Trump folded.

Washington Post, A Republican weak spot in 2018: Longtime lawmakers in shifting districts, Paul Kane, June 1, 2017. These are strange Donald Trump Logo Make America Great Againtimes for some longtime House Republicans. After years, sometimes decades, coasting to reelection in traditional Republican strongholds, these lawmakers find themselves under fire from angry constituents swept up in organized efforts to oppose Trump. And in some cases, they are already seeing Democratic opponents line up against them for an election 17 months away.

History would seem to favor these entrenched Republicans as familiar figures in their districts. But history has also shown that when the House majority changes hands, a large chunk of the losses tends to come from these members of the old guard. In some cases, they lost touch with their districts over time. Just as often, they had never run modern campaigns and their political operations had grown too rusty to contend with a shifting political landscape.

Global News: Israel

Israel Flag

New York Times, Trump Opts Not to Move Embassy to Jerusalem, for Now, Peter Baker, June 1, 2017. The decision, likely to disappoint many Israel supporters, was made in hopes of preserving the president’s chances of negotiating a peace settlement.

Global News: ISIS Battle

SouthFront, Co-Founder Of ISIS News Agency ‘Amaq’ Killed By US-Led Coalition Air Strike, Staff report, June 1, 2017. The air strike reportedly led to the death of Rayan Maashar and his daughter Lian. His wife was seriously wounded and she in critical condition. According to the Ala’an TV report, Rayan (shown in a file photo) had worked with the “Aleppo News” that supported the Syrian opposition and the Free Syrian Army. He is originally from Al-Dana city in the Idlib countryside. He moved first to Aleppo, then to Raqqa and finally settled in the Deir Ezzor countryside.

Amaq is the ISIS main news agency and is considered one of the most important propaganda tools used by the terrorist group. It has also published many of ISIS’s calls to carry out acts of terrorism in various parts of the world. According to Janan Musa, one of the most important staff in the news agency also is called Abu Suleiman al-Amriki, a U.S. citizen.

Global News: U.S. Claims Right To Kill Syrian Government Forces

SouthFront May map of "De-escalation" / "De-confliction" zones, with approximate location of May 18 U.S. coalition attacks

Military Times, U.S. forces increasing combat power at Tanf, preparing for a fight with pro-Syrian regime militias, Shawn Snow, June 1, 2017. Over the past several days, the U.S. military has been increasing its combat power at a remote training facility near the Tanf border crossing in Syria in preparation for any aggression by pro-regime and Iranian-backed militias, which have been massing forces in the area, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve.

The development comes as militias aligned to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and groups backed by Iran have steadily massed forces just outside the 55 kilometer-radius deconfliction zone around the Tanf region since the beginning of May. Those forces have tanks, artillery and modified pickup trucks with mounted heavy weapons, Dillon said.

The training facility at Tanf rests near a strategic border crossing between Syria and Iraq and houses a couple hundred coalition and partner forces. Force protection at the remote base has been a primary concern, according to officials at U.S. Central Command. U.S. air-power has “constant coverage over our forces at Al Tanf,” to respond to hostile actors and to watch threats to U.S. and partner forces at the facility. On May 18, coalition jets launched a strike against a pro-regime convoy that had trespassed into the deconfliction zone after that convoy refused to react to a show-of-force flyover and warning shots. The airstrike destroyed an armored vehicle and bulldozer. Those forces halted their forward progress but are still deep within the zone, and are considered a threat, Dillon said.

The U.S. is also using the telephone hotline established with the Russians to avoid mid-air mishaps. We are “offering [the militias] a way to vacate the area through the deconfliction line with the Russians,” Dillon said. The militias responded, via the Russians, that they are in the area to fight ISIS, he said. However, analysts suspect the militias’ primary goal is to establish a land corridor to link Iran with Damascus and its Shia proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. “it is a key part of a network of connections for Iran," said Luke Coffey, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Global News: Saudi Executions

Huffington Post, Saudis Signal Expanded Executions Policy After Donald Trump’s Visit, Akbar Shahid Ahmed, June 1, 2017. The president’s first trip abroad also appears to have sparked crackdowns in Bahrain and Egypt. More to come.