June 2016 News Reports


 

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

June 30

Politico, Former CIA chief Hayden: Trump will have to bring own bucket to waterboard, Nick Gass, June 30, 2016. When it comes to Donald Trump's repeated calls for waterboarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation, Michael Hayden, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, has been clear: The military would likely ignore his orders. But the retired four-star general who served as CIA director under both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama said Thursday that if Trump wants to waterboard suspected terrorists, he will have to bring his own bucket.

Michael HaydenIn an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Hayden (shown in a file photo) criticized Trump's language following terrorist attacks by the Islamic State that “in essence” represented a “tactical success for our enemy” but that Trump “elevated ... to this realm where they can claim strategic success.”

When co-anchor Norah O'Donnell referred to Hayden’s past comment that the next president or next CIA director would have to bring his own bucket to interrogate in such a situation, Hayden affirmed that Trump would have to do as much if he wanted to bring back the tactic.

“Yeah. Look, this is one of those instances coming out of the [National Security Council] meeting, you’d say, look, we are kind of changing the game plan. We got the attorney general to agree to an interpretation of the one law that does make it illegal, and we want you guys to go do this,” Hayden explained. “At that point, the director is going to have to man up and simply say, for the protection of my officers, I'm afraid, Mr. President, I cannot direct that.”

Reuters via Huffington Post, Istanbul Bombers Were Russian, Uzbek, Kyrgyz Nationals, Turkish Official Says, Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler, June 30, 2016. Three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers who killed 42 people in a gun and bomb attack at Istanbul airport this week were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, a Turkish government official said on Thursday.

Flag of TurkeyThe pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper said the Russian bomber was from Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, where Moscow has led two wars against separatists and religious militants since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Yeni Safak said the organizer of the attack was suspected to be a man called Akhmed Chatayev, of Chechen origin. Chatayev is identified on a United Nations sanctions list as a leader in Islamic State responsible for training Russian-speaking militants, and as wanted by Russian authorities. The Hurriyet newspaper named one of the attackers as Osman Vadinov, also Chechen, and said he had come from Raqqa, the heart of Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria.

United Kingdom flagWashington Post, Former London mayor Boris Johnson says he will not run for British prime minister, Griff Witte​, June 30, 2016. In shocking turnaround, Boris Johnson will not run for British P.M. Johnson (shown below in a file photo), a leader of the "leave" movement, made his announcement minutes before the deadline to enter the race.

Boris JohnsonEarlier in the day Michael Gove, who had been expected to serve as Johnson’s campaign manager, surprised the political establishment by announcing he would enter the fray.  As the “leave” camp split, Theresa May presented herself as a “unity” candidate who, despite backing “remain,” could bring together the badly fractured Conservative Party.

Mirror (London), Boris Johnson did not make a noble sacrifice; He threw in the towel because he was beaten, Kevin Maguire, June 30, 2016. Michael Gove knifed him in the front and the back, leaving BoJo another victim of the referendum blast he helped detonate. Decades of ruthless blond ambition were destroyed in a single 'Et tu Michael' moment, his ally and traitorous fellow Brexit Boy Michael Gove knifing Johnson in the front and the back.

Johnson’s priority was always Johnson, from Eton to Oxford University and the posh Hooray’s Bullingdon Club, then The Times (sacked for fabricating quotes) and Daily Telegraph, before moving on to the Spectator and Parliament with an eight-year diversion to London City Hall. Johnson too has now won in Europe then lost an election by pulling out of the Tory leadership race to avoid humiliation.

Gove, no better than the worst best friend he’s just taken out, highlighted Johnson’s untrustworthiness in his damning statement. Johnson’s old Telegraph editor Max Hastings admitted he wouldn’t trust his former scribe with his wife or his wallet and it seems the MPs and Cabinet Ministers who know the one-time hopeful best actually respect him least.

Don’t feel sorry for Johnson. He is conceited, not half as clever as he thinks and quite frankly not up to the Downing Street job. The joke is on the joker.

Guardian, Iran covertly recruits Afghan Shias to fight in Syria, Sune Engel Rasmussen and Zahra Nader, June 30, 2016. Shia men from Afghanistan are coaxed into war to support Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Guardian investigation reveals.

Washington Post, Obama proposes new military partnership with Russia in Syria, Josh Rogan, June 30, 2016. The Obama administration has proposed a new agreement on Syria to the Russian government that would deepen military cooperation between the two countries against some terrorists in exchange for Russia getting the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S.-supported rebels.

The United States transmitted the text of the proposed agreement to the Russian government on Monday after weeks of negotiations and internal Obama administration deliberations, an administration official told me. The crux of the deal is a U.S. promise to join forces with the Russian air force to share targeting and coordinate an expanded bombing campaign against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, which is primarily fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Politico, Lewandowski loses $1.2 million book deal, Trump’s ousted campaign manager had a big offer from HarperCollins, but declined to provide a copy of his non-disclosure agreement, Kenneth P. Vogel and Hadas Gold, June 30, 2016. Corey Lewandowski had a $1.2-million offer from HarperCollins to write a book chronicling his time running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but the publishing giant backed away from the deal amid concerns about Lewandowski’s nondisclosure agreement, according to two sources familiar with the talks.

Lewandowski, working through a California-based representative named Robert Stryk, began soliciting offers for a book, tentatively titled Let Trump be Trump, from multiple publishers in March, while he was working as Trump’s campaign manager, according to one of the sources, a Republican operative. A source in the publishing industry said Lewandowski’s representative received at least some interest from as many as five publishing houses, but that, in several cases, there was concern about how his nondisclosure agreement might affect any resulting book.

On Tuesday, Lewandowski said, “I’m not shopping a book deal,” and that he doesn’t have an agent doing so on his behalf. “I would negotiate my own deal if I was looking for one.”

June 29

New York Times, Trump Institute Used Plagiarized Real Estate Lessons, Jonathan Martin, June 29, 2016. Plagiarized Lessons and Deceptive Tactics: A Look Inside the Trump Institute. In 2005, he lent his name to a venture, the Trump Institute, that promised falsely that he had handpicked its teachers. In 2005, as he was making a transition from developing real estate to capitalizing on his fame through ventures like a reality show and product-licensing deals, Donald J. Trump hit upon a two-pronged strategy for entering the field of for-profit education.

Donald Trump button open mouthHe poured his own money into Trump University, which began as a distance-learning business advising customers on how to make money in real estate, but left a long trail of customers alleging they were defrauded. Their lawsuits have cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

But Mr. Trump also lent his name, and his credibility, to a seminar business he did not own, which was branded the Trump Institute. Its operators rented out hotel ballrooms across the country and invited people to pay up to $2,000 to come hear Mr. Trump’s “wealth-creating secrets and strategies.” And its customers had ample reason to ask whether they, too, had been deceived.

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial — one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Huffington Post, Why The New Child Rape Case Filed Against Donald Trump Should Not Be Ignored, Lisa Bloom, June 29, 2016. An anonymous “Jane Doe” filed a federal lawsuit against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump last week, accusing him of raping her in 1994 when she was thirteen years old. The mainstream media ignored the filing. If the Bill Cosby case has taught us anything, it is to not disregard rape cases against famous men. Serious journalists have publicly apologized for turning a blind eye to the Cosby accusers for over a decade, notwithstanding the large number of women who had come forward with credible claims. And now history is repeating itself.

In covering a story, a media outlet is not finding guilt. It is simply reporting the news that a lawsuit has been filed against Mr. Trump, and ideally putting the complaint in context. Unproven allegations are just that - unproven, and should be identified that way. (Mr. Trump’s lawyer says the charges are “categorically untrue, completely fabricated and politically motivated.”) Proof comes later, at trial. But the November election will come well before any trial. And while Mr. Trump is presumed innocent, we are permitted - no, we are obligated — to analyze the case’s viability now.

Huffington Post, The Senate Is About To Anger Vulture Funds And Help Puerto Rico, Laura Barron-Lopez, June 29, 2016. With two days left before Puerto Rico defaults on a sizable portion of a $2 billion debt payment, the Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that will stave off the creditors and hedge funds now circling the island.

The bill — which will establish an oversight board to aid Puerto Rico in restructuring its $70 billion in debt — comes too late to prevent the commonwealth from defaulting on a payment due July 1. But it will put an immediate pause on any lawsuits filed against the island for what would amount to roughly a year and half.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin with ISIS backdrop (Press TV image/DCMA)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin with ISIS backdrop (Press TV image via DCMA)

SouthFront, Russia to Restore Ties with Turkey, Lift Tourism Restrictions despite “Growing Terror Threat,” Staff report, June 29, 2016. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to launch the process of restoring cooperation with Turkey after phone conversation with his Turkey counterpart. “The Russian leader said that he would instruct the government to start negotiations with the Turkish Russian Flagauthorities to restore the mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in trade, economic and other areas,” the Kremlin said on June 29.

Additionally, Putin instructed the government to lift tourism-related restrictions against Turkey, expressing hope that Turkish authorities will take the so-called “additional measures” to ensure safety of Russian nationals.  “Although this announcement is being made amid growing terror threat, we will lift the administrative restrictions in this sphere [tourism], and I am asking the government of the Russian Federation to begin the process of normalizing trade and economic relations with Turkey,” Putin noted at a government meeting.

Flag of TurkeyIt’s clear that Putin’s orders are a political move aimed to show the progress in the expected normalization. However, the decision to lift tourism-related restrictions against Turkey next day after a bloody terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport (40+ people killed and 230+ injured) looks at least questionable.

The Kremlin’s press service added that the Russian and Turkish presidents underscored the need to bolster “international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.” The dramatic imporvement of the cooperation in this sphere is also very questionable because the both countries have different views on the solution of the conflict in Syria where the terrorist threat is especially high due to constant efforts of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the USA.

SouthFront, Aleppo on the Verge of Recapture, Brian Betts, June 29, 2016. Aleppo has been a central theater of the Syrian Conflict since its early days in 2012. Today, Aleppo has become a chaotic mixture of criminal infighting and assassinations set against the creeping shadow of the Islamic State. As the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) ground force and Russian air power is brought to bear against the roiling turmoil that is Aleppo, the last hand for peace has been extended and summarily withdrawn. With the capture of Aleppo imminent, this article looks back at how the battle has progressed.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with wife Asma at ceremony for deceased soldiers March 21, 2016 SANA Photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with wife Asma at ceremony for deceased Syria soldiers fighting rebels and terrorists March 21, 2016 (SANA Photo)

Reuters, Islamic State forces Syria rebels to retreat from border area, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tom Perry, June 29, 2016. U.S.-backed Syrian rebels were pushed back from the outskirts of an Islamic State-held town on the border with Iraq and a nearby air base on Wednesday after the jihadists mounted a counter-attack, two rebel sources said. Amaq news agency, affiliated with IS, earlier said the group had killed 40 rebel fighters and captured 15 more in a counter-attack at the Hamadan air base north-west of the city.

SouthFront, New Syrian Army Offensive on Al-Bukamal Ended as Failure, June 29, 2016. The ISIS terrorist group has repelled the advance of the US-backed militant group, knowns as “New Syrian Army”, helped by Western-backed special forces near the strategic city of Al-Bukamal in the Deir Ezzor province. ISIS-linked media outlets have released photos and videos of weapons and equipment allegedly captured.

Washington Post, Attorney general meets with former president Clinton amid politically charged investigation into his wife’s email, Matt Zapotosky, June 29, 2016. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with Loretta Lynchformer president Bill Clinton at the airport in Phoenix this week — an encounter that she described as “primarily social,” but one that drew instant attention because of the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the email practices of his wife, Hillary, while she was secretary of state.

Lynch (shown in an official photo) confirmed the meeting, first reported by ABC15 and others, publicly saying it occurred at the airport where she had just landed for a stop on her nationwide tour of law enforcement agencies. She said that she, her husband and the former president discussed their travels, the former president’s grandchildren and the golf he had played in Arizona. “No discussions were held on any cases or anything of that,” Lynch said, “and he didn’t raise anything about that either.”

The FBI and the Justice Department are in the midst of a high-profile investigation into leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state — a probe that has, at times, been the subject of intense focus on the campaign trail. The decision on whether to bring charges in the case would ultimately run through Lynch.

Guns and Butter, The Plot to Kill King: An Interview with Dr. William Pepper Thirty-Nine Years Into the Investigation, Bonnie Faulkner, June 29, 2016. Guest: Dr. William Pepper, a friend of King and author of the new book "The Plot To Kill King." We discuss Dr. King's legacy and all that was lost with his assassination, the war in Vietnam, the control of major news media, and disturbing revelations by new witnesses about the conspiracy to end Dr. King s life.

Guns & Butter investigates the relationships among capitalism, militarism and politics. Maintaining a radical perspective in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Guns & Butter reports on who wins and who loses when the economic resources of civil society are diverted toward global corporatization, war, and the furtherance of a national security state. Bonnie Faulkner has produced and hosted this weekly, one-hour public affairs program on KPFA and WBAI radio stations which are part of the Pacifica Network, as non-commercial, listener-sponsored radio. Her show is pre-produced and covers many different subjects as noted above.

John KerryGuardian, John Kerry: Brexit could be 'walked back,' Jennifer Rankin, June 29, 2016. US secretary of state expresses doubts over whether Brexit will happen as David Cameron ‘has no idea how he would do it’  The US secretary of state has raised doubts about whether Brexit will ever happen, suggesting most leave campaigners do not truly believe in Britain’s divorce from the EU and do not know how to achieve it.

Claiming there were a number of ways in which Thursday’s vote could be “walked back”, John Kerry, who visited Downing Street on Monday, said David Cameron was loath to invoke article 50, the EU exit procedure.  He said the British prime minister felt powerless to “start negotiating a thing that he doesn’t believe in” and “has no idea how he would do it.”

Apparently referring to Boris Johnson, one of the frontrunners to replace Cameron, Kerry added: “And by the way, nor do most of the people who voted to do it.”

Daily Mail, Lee Harvey Oswald was INNOCENT - but his sniper rifle WAS used to assassinate JFK as part of CIA plot, author of new study claims, Daniel Bates, June 29, 2016. Lee Harvey Oswald was not in the sniper's nest from which President John F Kennedy was shot - but his gun was used in the shooting, a new book concludes. In a forensic analysis of the killing, author Flip de Mey puts forward a new theory for the assassination which he says has not previously been considered.

De Mey says that Oswald was not on the sixth floor of the Dallas book depository when the three shots were fired at Kennedy. He analyzes the claims of two key witnesses and says that they either lied or were unreliable. But in a surprise twist de Mey also claims to prove conclusively that Oswald's gun was used in the killing - even if it was not him who pulled the trigger.

The claims add new layers of intrigue to the death of Kennedy, who was shot dead while his Presidential motorcade drove through Dallas, Texas, on November 22 1963. In The Lee Harvey Oswald Files: Why The CIA Killed Kennedy, de Mey, tries to logically work through each theory, eliminating impossible scenarios and leaving him with 'the truth.'

June 28

U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi, Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Proposed Report, June 28, 2016. 81 New Witnesses, 75,000 New Pages of Documents Reveal Significant New Information; Fundamentally Changes the Public’s Understanding of the 2012 Terrorist Attacks that Killed Four Americans. (4:10 min. video above narrated by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL).

Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC-04) released the following statement after the committee’s Majority released a mark of its investigative report: “Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were heroes who gave their lives in service to our country. Their bravery and the courageous actions of so many others on the ground that night should be honored.

Benghazi Map“When the Select Committee was formed, I promised to conduct this investigation in a manner worthy of the American people’s respect, and worthy of the memory of those who died. That is exactly what my colleagues and I have done. “Now, I simply ask the American people to read this report for themselves, look at the evidence we have collected, and reach their own conclusions. You can read this report in less time than our fellow citizens were taking fire and fighting for their lives on the rooftops and in the streets of Benghazi.”

The committee’s proposed report is just over 800 pages long and is comprised of five primary sections and 12 appendices. It details relevant events in 2011 and 2012. The following facts are among the many new revelations in Part I:

    •     Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. [pg. 141]
    •     With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM, which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video, and others containing the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.” [pg. 115]
    •     The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically would have participated in the White House meeting, but did not attend because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries. [pg. 107]
    •     A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times. [pg. 154]
    •     None of the relevant military forces met their required deployment timelines. [pg. 150]
    •     The Libyan forces that evacuated Americans from the CIA Annex to the Benghazi airport was not affiliated with any of the militias the CIA or State Department had developed a relationship with during the prior 18 months. Instead, it was comprised of former Qadhafi loyalists who the U.S. had helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution. [pg. 144]

New York Times, 2-Year Panel on Benghazi Ends, Finding No New Fault by Clinton, David M. Herszenhorn, June 28, 2016. Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional Trey Gowdyinvestigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The 800-page report, however, included some new details about the night of the attacks, and the context in which they occurred. And it delivered a broad rebuke of government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department — and the officials who led them — for failing to grasp the acute security risks in Benghazi, and especially for maintaining outposts there that they could not protect.

The chair was U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), shown in an official photo.

In a sign that Mr. Gowdy was also facing pressure from the right, two of the committee’s conservative members, Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Pompeo of Kansas, wrote a 48-page addendum including somewhat harsher criticism of the Obama administration, its response to the attacks and its subsequent public explanations.

“Officials at the State Department, including Secretary Clinton, learned almost in real time that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” Mr. Jordan and Mr. Pompeo wrote. “With the presidential election just 56 days away, rather than tell the American people the truth and increase the risk of losing an election, the administration told one story privately and a different story publicly.”

Hillary Clinton Benghazi Committee CNN Pompeo 10-22-15Hillary Clinton is shown in a screen shot from her 11 hours of testimony last fall before the committee on the issues.

Politico, Republicans blast Benghazi response as political, Louis Nelson, June 28, 2016. Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi said the U.S. response to the 2012 terrorist attack was slowed by election-year politics and slammed Democrats who attacked the committee’s report as the result of similar electioneering.

Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said that despite the claims Democrats have made, much of the information contained in Tuesday’s report is new. He characterized the report as apolitical, focused not just on former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s role in the U.S. response to the attack, but on that of multiple members of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Anne Stevens

New Yorker, Chris Stevens’s Family: Don’t Blame Hillary Clinton for Benghazi, Robin Wright, June 28, 2016. On Tuesday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is controlled by a Republican majority, charged the Obama Administration with diplomatic miscalculations, security failures, and a lengthy delay in rescue efforts, which contributed to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, after an attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Dr. Anne Stevens, the sister of Ambassador Chris Stevens, has served as a family spokesperson since his death. She is the chief of pediatric rheumatology at Seattle Children’s Hospital. We spoke twice in the past three days, including shortly after the House Select Committee report was issued.

Christopher StevensDr. Stevens recalled that her brother (shown in an official photo) had been fascinated by the Middle East since childhood, when he dressed up as Lawrence of Arabia, with a towel and a pot atop his head. He served in the Peace Corps, in Morocco, before joining the Foreign Service, and he served twice in Libya before his final posting there, as well as in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. My interview with Dr. Stevens has been condensed and edited for clarity.

New York Magazine: Whom do you fault for the lack of security that resulted in the death of your brother, in Benghazi?

It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.

I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.

Washington Post, Benghazi committee ‘squandered millions of taxpayer dollars,’ Democrats say, Karen DeYoung and Adam Goldman​, June 28, 2016. ​A 344-page Democratic report on the investigation amounted to a preemptive strike against the Republican majority version that is to be released today.

BBC, Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 41dead, 239 injured, Staff report (updated), June 28, 2016. Ataturk airport was long seen as a vulnerable target, our Turkey correspondent adds, reporting from a plane Flag of Turkeystuck on the tarmac in Istanbul. A gun and bomb attack on Istanbul's Ataturk international airport has killed 36 people and injured about 90. Three attackers opened fire near an entry point to the terminal and blew themselves up after police fired at them, officials say. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said early signs suggested the so-called Islamic State was behind the attack

Huffington Post, Hardline Immigration Hawks Are Starting To Panic About Donald Trump, Michelle Fields, June 28, 2016. Trump’s fluctuating positions on his proposed Muslim ban and mass deportations seem “kind of like barstool philosophizing.” Donald Trump has spent the week pedaling backward and forward on his immigration positions, leaving immigration hawks — and some of his biggest boosters — worried about the strength of his support for mass deportations and a blanket ban on Muslim immigrants. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a prominent Trump supporter and immigration hawk, told HuffPost he was perplexed by Trump’s series of unfolding positions.

Washington Post, Trump promised millions to charity. We found less than $10,000 over 7 years, David A. Fahrenthold, June 28, 2016. A review also showed that he donated less than a third Donald Trump 2016 buttonof $8.5 million pledged since 2001. In May, under pressure from the news media, Donald Trump made good on a pledge he made four months earlier: He gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families. Before that, however, when was the last time that Trump gave any of his own money to a charity?

If Trump stands by his promises, such donations should be occurring all the time. In the past 15 years, Trump has promised to donate earnings from a wide variety of his money-making enterprises: “The Apprentice.” Trump Vodka. Trump University. A book. Another book. If he honored all those pledges, Trump’s gifts to charity would have topped $8.5 million. But in that time, public records show, Trump donated about $2.8 million — less than a third of the pledged figure — through a foundation set up to give his money away. And there is no evidence that Trump has given to his foundation lately: The last record of any gift from him to his foundation was in 2008.

Washington Post,

.be" target="_blank">Defying GOP orthodoxy, Trump trashes trade deals and advocates tariffs, Jose A. DelReal and Sean Sullivan​, June 29, 2016. Ticking through a seven-step plan to boost job growth, Donald Trump delivered an uncharacteristically disciplined address that nonetheless put him out of step with decades of conservative thinking and some of his own prior positions, which were less protectionist.

Washington Post, Supreme Court again supports ‘ingratiation and access’ in politics, Robert Bauer, June 28, 2016. Robert Bauer served as White House counsel to President Obama. He is a partner at Perkins U.S. Supreme Court SealCoie and teaches at New York University School of Law.  A unanimous Supreme Court held Monday that it is not — certainly not under any and all circumstances — a crime for someone to pay for “access” to government decision-makers. Careful not to say so too explicitly, the court is signaling that political favor-seeking fueled by cash and gifts may well be repellent, but there is only so much the legal system can — or should — do about it.

Legal Schnauzer, U.S. Supreme Court overturns white-collar corruption convictions of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, but what about Don Siegelman, of Alabama? Roger Shuler, June 28, 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) yesterday overturned the convictions of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, leaving many Alabamians and justice activists asking: Does this create a pathway to freedom for Don Siegelman?

Our answer is . . . maybe.  In fact, Siegelman's best hope might have little to do with the McDonnell case and everything to do with the fact that trial judge Mark Fuller no longer is on the federal bench. Appellate-court decisions often focus on narrow issues that might, or might not, apply to similar cases. Such rulings are written in a form that is . . . well, let's just say they hardly are models of clarity. Both of those qualifiers apply to McDonnell v. United States, which was issued yesterday morning (The opinion is embedded at the end of this post.), and that makes it difficult to come to solid conclusions about how it might apply to the Siegelman case.

First, McDonnell dealt almost entirely with this narrow question: Did McDonnell take "official action" to benefit a constituent (Jonnie Williams) who showered the governor and his wife with favors and more than $175,000 in gifts (Rolexes, designer clothes, catering for a daughter's wedding), apparently in hopes of receiving favorable action for his vitamin and dietary-supplement company. The McDonnells helped arrange meetings for Williams with state university and health-care officials who might be able to help launch his products. Federal prosecutors argued that was an illegal "quid pro quo" -- the gifts (the "quid") in exchange for access to key state officials (the "quo"). But SCOTUS found that setting up meetings for Williams was part of everyday activity for a governor; it was not an official action, meaning their was a "quid" but no "quo."

In our coverage of the Siegelman case, plus a quick review of documents yesterday, I have not found any evidence that the "official action" question was raised. It appears that both sides conceded Siegelman's appointment of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy was an "official action." Does that mean McDonnell offers nothing for Siegelman, that the former Alabama Governor (still in federal prison at Oakdale, Louisiana) is out of luck because yesterday's ruling focused narrowly on an issue that didn't seem to be in play at the Siegelman trial?

Chicago Tribune, Supreme Court ruling unlikely to affect Blagojevich resentencing, Patrick M. O'Connell, June 28, 2016. A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday to throw out the bribery conviction of a former Virginia governor will play little role in the ongoing legal odyssey of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor's lawyer said. "It really doesn't change anything," said Blagojevich's lawyer, Leonard Goodman. "I don't think this will be a primary focus."

Blagojevich has served more than four years in a federal prison in Colorado for misusing his powers as governor in an array of shakedown schemes, most famously for his alleged attempts to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after his 2008 election as president. In March, the Supreme Court declined to hear Blagojevich's appeal of a 14-year prison sentence. A federal appeals court last year dismissed several counts against the former governor and ordered he be resentenced, but the three-judge panel called the evidence against him "overwhelming" and made it clear he will likely remain locked up for years to come. Blagojevich is scheduled to be resentenced Aug. 9.

Times-Picayune / NOLA.com, Is Bob McDonnell ruling a lifeline for New Orleans' Bill Jefferson? Andrew Boyd, June 28, 2016. When the Supreme Court breathed life into former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's hopes for beating his federal corruption rap, countless defense lawyers undoubtedly blew the dust off basement boxes this week to see just what that meant for their convicted clients. In New Orleans, that client would be former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, who is nowhere close to the end of his 13-year prison sentence. Convicted on 11 counts related to using his office to benefit himself and his family, Jefferson has exhausted all his appeals. The high court refused to take up his case in November 2012.

Then came McDonnell, who saw his and his wife's convictions vacated Monday (June 27). Whether Jefferson's defenders are signaling a new optimism isn't clear — his trial and appellate attorneys haven't returned voicemails — but the similarities between McDonnell's case and Jefferson's are striking.

For McDonnell, it was a Rolex watch and a Ferrari ride. For Jefferson, it was the $90,000 the FBI found in his freezer. But the true parallels lie in what McDonnell and Jefferson were doing that attracted the scrutiny of federal prosecutors. Neither McDonnell nor Jefferson was writing legislation or changing laws or issuing orders in exchange for gifts or money. They were peddling their influence.

The court ruled in the McDonnell case that selling an "official act" can be illegal. But, according to the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, it "must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee." Jefferson was charged with corruption and bribery for using his office to help American businesses secure deals in West Africa in exchange for money or to secure financial stakes in companies controlled by members of his family. A jury convicted him on 11 of 16 charges in August 2009.

Reuters via Huffington Post, UK Labor Party Backs No Confidence Motion On Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Staff report, June 28, 2016. Corbyn has been at the center of a party revolt following the Brexit Jeremy Corbynreferendum. Lawmakers from Britain’s opposition Labour Party backed a motion of no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn (shown in a file photo) by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday, but Corbyn said he would not resign. They voted 172 to 40 for the motion, sources said.

Bloomberg, Merkel Tells Cameron Before EU Summit: Don’t Delude Yourself, IanWishart, John Follain and Jonathan Stearns, June 28, 2016. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the U.K. to have no illusions about life outside the European Union, hardening her stance ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s first meeting with fellow EU leaders since triggering the political earthquake that’s shaken the bloc’s foundations.

Angela MerkelMerkel, in her toughest response yet to last week’s British vote to quit the 28-nation EU, said that the U.K. can’t expect favored treatment once it leaves and that there will be no informal talks on a new relationship before the government in London files its application for divorce. “There shouldn’t be the slightest misunderstanding about the conditions laid out in the European treaties for a case like this,” Merkel said in a speech to Germany’s parliament in Berlin on Tuesday. “My only advice to our British friends is: Don’t delude yourself about the necessary decisions that need to be taken.”

Merkel, shown in a file photo, won applause from German lawmakers as she laid out her approach to the two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels that will be dominated by Brexit and the political and economic fallout reverberating across Europe. As she spoke, a taste of things to come was on show in the European Parliament, where United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage clashed with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Why are you here?” Juncker demanded, as he turned to look at the leading “Leave” campaigner. Farage hailed the result of last week’s vote as “seismic,” saying the U.K. “will not be the last member state to leave the European Union.”

Related: New York Times, With ‘Brexit,’ Washington’s Direct Line to the Continent Suddenly Frays.

Washington Post, European leaders to confront Cameron over U.K.’s departure, Michael Birnbaum, Griff Witte and Anthony Faiola​, June 28, 2016. European Union leaders converged on Brussels to hear British Prime Minister David Cameron explain his vision of the nation's future. Some British politicians have suggested an arrangement that would keep their nation as close to the bloc as possible without formally being a member.

WhoWhatWhy, Why Brexit Panics Eastern Europe, Victor Kotsev, June 28, 2016. Big-power rivalries and home-grown dysfunction raise fears along eastern periphery of the European Union. Bulgarian Prime Angela Merkel and Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov Gatis Rozenfelds / Wikimedia Minister Boyko Borissov with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at EPP EaP Leaders' meeting. Photo credit: Gatis Rozenfelds / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Britain’s bolt from the European Union could have a seriously destabilizing effect on the Balkans — a region whose volatile politics lit the fuse for World War I and which has continued to be an area of critical global significance. In Western Europe, the Brexit debate has mostly been about migration and money. But countries on the EU’s eastern periphery, like Bulgaria, have a different reason to be concerned.

In this part of the continent, the EU has served as a democratic anchor of sorts — in a region torn apart by escalating conflicts involving authoritarian-leaning Russia and Turkey, as well as homegrown authoritarian forces. Analysts say it’s too early to despair, but nevertheless worry about the impact of Brexit on the future of still-precarious representative democracies in Eastern Europe.

 

SouthFront, EU Death Watch: Brexit and After, J.Hawk, June 28, 2016. The Brexit vote in favor of leaving the EU ranks as one of the most significant events of the last decade. It is an earthquake which, in addition to its immediate consequences, will be followed by aftershocks by years if not decades to come. It is an event of first-rank significance for not just the increasingly dis-United Kingdom, but also the EU, US, Russia, and much of the rest of the world.

Brexit leaves the UK in a state of political, constitutional, and even territorial crisis. It has rendered David Cameron and his political cabinet impotent, with no apparent successor in the wing. It has badly damaged the anti-Brexit Labor Party. There is no clear way forward from the vote, as British laws do not have a clear-cut set of rules dealing with referenda or departing the EU. To top it all off, even the future of the UK as it currently exists is in some doubt. 

United Kingdom flagIt also does not appear likely that the referendum will be overturned. Maneuvers such as the second referendum petition drive or the threat of a Scottish veto seem motivated by desperation.

Ignoring, or setting aside, the referendum and pretending it never happened is theoretically possible since it is perfectly legal–the referendum only plays an advisory role and is not legally binding.

At the same time one has to keep in mind that the British political system is remarkably ramshackle and improvised, with precedent, usage, and custom providing the system’s stability in lieu of an actual written constitution. Ignoring the referendum would therefore set a precedent that would simply destroy British politics as we have known them for the last two centuries. It would be the political equivalent of Ukraine’s Maidan – a desperate move in order to gain a short-term political advantage at the cost of long-term unraveling of the state. Nobody wants that, least of all the British financial sector, whose dominance is dependent on continuing the fiction of stability and predictability of British politics.

Washington Post, A 30-year-old Saudi prince could jump-start the kingdom — or drive it off a cliff, David Ignatius, June 28, 2016. Can this young prince save Saudi Arabia from itself? Saudi Arabia is at a historic tipping point; why that matters for America.

War OnThe Rocks, Russia is in Charge in Syria: How Moscow Took Control of the Battlefield and Negotiating Table, Sam Heller, June 28, 2016. Sam Heller is a Beirut-based freelance writer and analyst focused on Syria. The Kremlin has successfully made itself the most powerful party to this war. The best the White House can do now is to make them own it.

Russian FlagEarlier this month, 51 mid-level officers at the U.S. State Department wrote a “dissent cable” arguing for the limited use of U.S. military force against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. By using standoff weapons and airstrikes on regime targets, they said, the United States could force regime compliance with Syria’s nationwide “cessation of hostilities” and compel the regime to participate in political negotiations to resolve the country’s bloody years-long war.

Yet these diplomats seem to have mostly ignored Russia’s role in Syria — and at least for now, it is Russia, not America, that is the decisive force in the Syrian war. But not all is well for the Kremlin. Russia finds itself in the middle of a war that seems impossible to resolve military or politically — on Moscow’s terms or anyone else’s. Russia is invested heavily in a political process that, thanks to uncooperative Syrians on all sides of the war, seems unlikely to succeed. Yet Russia also appears convinced that a purely military victory by the regime is impossible. Now, with negotiations stalling, Moscow must grapple with how to deliver “success” in Syria.

Middle East Eye, The Syria 'dissent' memo and bureaucratic pressure strategy, Gareth Porter, June 28, 2016. The supposed dissenters knew very well that Kerry has been advocating essentially the same policy they were articulating for years. The memorandum by 51 State Department officials calling for US military intervention in Syria last week has been treated in news media coverage as a case of dissent from existing Syria policy by individual officials involved in Syria policy.

But the memo has all the earmarks of an initiative that had the blessing of the most senior officials in the department – including Secretary of State John Kerry himself – rather than having been put together by individual officials entirely on their own. And it may mark the beginning of an effort to take advantage of the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

June 27

 U.S. Supreme Court Building

Los Angeles Times, Supreme Court overturns Texas abortion restrictions, David G. Savage, June 27, 2016. The Supreme Court, in a victory for abortion-rights advocates, has limited the power of Texas and other states to restrict or effectively shut down clinics that offer the procedure. The justices, by a 5-3 vote, said Monday that Texas lawmakers went too far by imposing unnecessary regulations that had forced most of the state’s abortion clinics to go out of business.

The decision is the court's clearest pronouncement since 1992 on abortion, and it makes clear that states may not impose health regulations that severely restrict the right to abortion.

The Texas case has been seen as a crucial test of a state’s power to regulate the practice of abortion. Though states have the authority to regulate doctors and hospitals to protect the health of patients, the Supreme Court has said states may not put an “undue burden” on pregnant women who seek an abortion. This includes “unnecessary health regulations,” the court said in 1992.

U.S. Supreme Court Eight Members 2016At issue in the case were two stringent regulations adopted by the Texas Legislature in 2013. One required doctors who perform an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The state’s lawyers said the rule ensures that doctors are “qualified,” and that it “promotes continuity of care” if an emergency arises. Abortion-rights advocates said hospitals often refuse to extend privileges to these doctors because of the controversy over abortion and because very few of their patients will be admitted to a hospital.

The other disputed rule would require all abortions, even those within the first weeks of a pregnancy, be performed in a facility meeting the standards of an outpatient surgical center. The state said this would help ensure “a sterile operating environment” for surgery, but clinic directors say the extra space and equipment is costly and unneeded.

"We conclude that neither of these provisions [on admitting privileges and surgical center requirements] offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes," Justice Stephen Breyer (at left in the second row in adjoining photo) said for the majority. "Each places substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution."

He was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. In dissent were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Texas had no reported deaths from abortions in the five years prior to the enactment of the new law in 2013. In their appeal, lawyers for the Whole Woman’s Health said only nine clinics would remain in business in Texas if the law were fully enforced, leaving a “vast geographic area that is larger than California” without a licensed abortion facility.

Washington Post, 25 states have abortion rules similar to the Texas regulations that were just struck down, Denise Lu and Sandhya Somashekhar, June 27, 2016. They have at least one of the two types of regulations that were litigated in the case decided today: requiring doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards of surgical centers.

Washington Post, Supreme Court overturns former Va. governor McDonnell’s conviction on corruption charges, Robert Barnes​, June 27, 2016. ​The court said in its unanimous ruling that it was concerned with the prosecution’s “boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute” but left open the possibility he may be tried again. The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public corruption conviction, and made it harder to prosecute public officials for alleged wrongdoing.

The court said it had no opinion on whether McDonnell should be retried under the stricter standards the decision imposes, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described the former governor’s actions as “tawdry” in announcing the decision from the bench. McDonnell’s promising political career was derailed by his entanglement with a businessman who showered McDonnell and his family with luxury gifts and financial benefits.

“If the court below determines that there is sufficient evidence for a jury to convict Governor McDonnell of committing or agreeing to commit an ‘official act,’ his case may be set for a new trial,” Roberts wrote. “If the court instead determines that the evidence is insufficient, the charges against him must be dismissed. We express no view on that question.”

John RobertsRoberts (shown in an official photo) added: “There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that. But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.” McDonnell and his wife Maureen were convicted by a federal jury in 2014, and McDonnell was close to reporting to prison before the Supreme Court decided to take his case.

The McDonnell case stems from more than $175,000 in loans and gifts — a Rolex watch, vacations, partial payments of a daughter’s wedding reception, among them — that the governor and his family received from Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. Williams, the chief executive of Star Scientific, wanted state universities to perform important clinical tests on a dietary supplement the company had developed.

Washington Post, The Bob McDonnell Supreme Court ruling makes convicting politicians of corruption almost impossible, Chris Cillizza, June 27, 2016.  No one thinks Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, acted nobly in their dealing with dietary supplement businessman Jonnie Williams. They accepted $175,000 in gifts and donations — Rolexes! Ferrari rides! Wedding gifts! — from Williams, who was relentlessly trying to gain access to the Virginia governor and his wife in hopes of improving the chances of his various businesses succeeding.

And yet, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned McDonnell's conviction on corruption charges Monday. Why? Because it is very, very hard to convict politicians on public corruption charges without a smoking gun. And there wasn't one in this case.

"There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that," wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the majority opinion.

What Roberts is saying is this: Yes, McDonnell and his wife breached the public trust and drastically underperformed the expectations we have for our elected officials. But disappointment and tawdriness aren't illegal.

Politico, Lyle Denniston, a lion of the Supreme Court beat, leaves SCOTUSblog, Hadas Gold, June 27, 2016. Lyle Denniston, dean of the Supreme Court press corps, is leaving SCOTUSblog to join the National Constitution Center, the center announced over the weekend. Denniston has been with SCOTUSblog for 12 years, but rose to prominence in the past few years beyond an initial audience of insiders as a series of closely and widely watched landmark Supreme Court decisions drove readers to the site. Denniston's propensity to beat the competition and break news on the Court has helped make SCOTUSblog the go-to place for everyone from everyday readers to the White House itself.

Lyle Denniston portrait"It has been a fabulous trip, since February 2004, when my then-latest attempt at retirement proved — as usual — to be premature," Denniston, who is in his mid-80s, wrote in a farewell blog post. "In those twelve-plus years, SCOTUSblog has become a standout in legal journalism, more than fulfilling the creative dream that [owners] Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe had when they started it, before I logged on with them."

Though it's been praised, SCOTUSblog has encountered its own difficulty being recognized by the galleries and obtaining credentials. The blog is owned and run by the law firm Goldstein & Russell, which argues before the Supreme Court. Denniston (shown in a file photo) often found workarounds, using press passes from other publications he wrote for.

"The blog has also taught me that serious journalism still has a very large place amid the babbling noises of the Internet," Denniston further said in his farewell. "I have but one regret, and it is that I was unable to persuade the traditional journalists who control the credentialing for Congress that I was as independent as they feel they are, and that journalism can take unusual new forms and still be journalism."

At the National Constitution Center, Denniston will become the full-time Supreme Court correspondent for the Constitution Daily blog. Denniston, who will also begin lecturing at the University of Baltimore law school, has previously written for The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, American Lawyer, The Washington Star, The Nebraska City News-Press, and The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal.

Republican National Convention logoPolitico, Hardly anybody wants to speak at Trump's convention, Alex Isenstadt, June 27, 2016. Politico reached out to more than 50 prominent Republicans. Few said they plan to attend the convention in Cleveland, let alone speak. A slot at the Republican National Convention used to be a career-maker — a chance to make your name on the big stage and to catch the eye of the Republican donors and activists who make or break campaigns.

In the year of Trump: Not so much. “Everyone has to make their own choice, but at this point, 70 percent of the American public doesn’t like Donald Trump. That’s as toxic as we’ve seen in American politics,” said Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican strategist who helped to craft the party’s 2012 convention. “Normally, people want to speak at national conventions. It launched Barack Obama’s political career.”

Washington Post, Civil rights leader Walter Fauntroy arrested at Dulles, Ian Shapira, June 27, 2016. Walter E. Fauntroy, Washington’s legendary former congressional delegate, was arrested Monday morning at Dulles International Airport and jailed in Loudoun County after returning home from a four-year sojourn in the Persian Gulf, authorities said.

Walter Fauntroty recentFauntroy, who helped plan the 1963 March on Washington with his friend the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was arrested about ­8:15 a.m. on an outstanding warrant by Border Patrol officials while he was clearing customs. He had just gotten off a nonstop Emirates airline flight from Dubai to Dulles, said one of his attorneys, Johnny Barnes. He was scheduled to spend the night in jail before a hearing Tuesday morning in Loudoun County General District Court.

Fauntroy, 83, was arrested on a bad check charge stemming from his debt to a hotel for a planned inaugural event to celebrate President Obama's election. He is shown in a recent photo from the Gulf, where he has said he was seeking to raise money for an innovative energy business.

Legal Schnauzer, Are rumors of an FBI raid in Montgomery connected to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's efforts to trump up criminal charges against Donald Watkins and me? Roger Shuler, June 27, 2016. Alabama was awash with rumors late last week that the FBI was raiding government offices in Montgomery. Both al.com and the Montgomery Advertiser reported on the story but the full picture remains blurry.

The real story, according to one Web-based report -- Why Federal Prosecutors Are Taking Down Bentley by Donald V. Watkins -- is about Gov. Robert Bentley's ongoing efforts to seek bogus criminal charges against Watkins and myself in retaliation for our reporting about Bentley's extramarital affair with former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason and the apparent misuse of state resources.

On a related note, corporate interests are pushing for the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute Bentley, concerned the governor's buffoonish and apparently criminal actions will sully the state's business climate, according to a new report.

What exactly happened late last week in Alabama's capital?

Here is our best guess, based on a review of multiple press reports: (1) State auditor Jim Zeigler said his office had received multiple reports that FBI agents had seized records and equipment during a raid at the Information Services Division of the Governor's Finance Office; (2) Bentley fired James Nolin, chief information officer in the finance office, and placed Rex McDowell, assistant director of finance information/administrative services, on leave; (3) Members of the Bentley administration claimed there had been a computer-security breach, and they invited the FBI to help investigate the matter; (4) The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) said Bentley was asking the FBI to assist with a "routine administrative audit"; (5) An FBI official said the agency was not involved with an audit in Alabama "at this time."

Intercept, DNC Platform Leaves Door Open for No-Fly Zone in Syria, Refuses to Call for End to Israeli Occupation, Zaid Jilani, June 27, 2016. The Democratic National Committee’s Platform Drafting Committee quashed efforts by the Bernie Sanders campaign last week to insert language in the platform opposing a U.S.-led no-fly zone in Syria and calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The deliberations, which took place in St. Louis last week as part of a multi-step process to write the party’s nonbinding platform, represent a tilt to a more hawkish direction for Democrats under presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. The final platform will not be written until the convention in Philadelphia next month – a process that could possibly open it to votes from a much wider pool of delegates on the floor.

Arab American Institute President Jim Zogby, a Sanders appointee to the platform committee, explained that he was introducing an amendment that would, in part, read: “To this end, the Democratic Party does not support direct U.S. military intervention against the Assad regime, including the imposition of no-fly zones or safe zones.”

This is also the current position of President Barack Obama, who while bombing ISIS units in Syria has rejected direct strikes against the Syrian government, saying that “we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.”

Zogby’s amendment faced opposition from a number of Clinton appointees to the committee.  “I don’t think we should define such decisions for the future president,” said Wendy Sherman, a former senior State Department official. “I strongly urge that we oppose this amendment.”

Former California Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, another Clinton appointee, also joined in opposition. “I don’t think the platform looking at, and if it makes sense, pursuing that option,” he said of the no-fly zone.

Consortium News, Europeans Contest US Anti-Russian Hype, Joe Lauria, June 27, 2016. Freelance writer Joe Lauria (shown in a file photo at left) covered the United Nations for the Wall Street Journal and Boston Glove for more than two Joe Lauriadecades until last fall. A significant crack has been unexpectedly opened in the wall of Europe’s disciplined obedience to the United States. I’m not only referring to the possible long-term consequences for U.S.-European relations in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, but the unlikely blow against Washington’s information war Frank Walter Steinmeieron Moscow delivered by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (shown in a file photo at right), who a week ago shockingly accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of “war-mongering” against Russia.

Stars and Stripes, US has trained fewer than 100 in Syria to fight Islamic State, Tara Copp, June 27, 2016. Less than 100 additional Syrian leaders have been trained under a revamped U.S. program to fight the Islamic State group, U.S. officials said Monday. In October, the United States halted another train-and-equip program in Syria, which transported whole units of fighters out of the country to train at facilities in Turkey, Jordan and other locations. The fighters were given U.S. equipment, trained and transported back to Syria. But the vast majority of the Syrian units left the program or turned over their U.S.-provided equipment to other groups.

The United States had planned to train about 5,000 fighters each year in the first program, which cost $346.8 million in fiscal year 2015. But in September, Gen. Lloyd Austin, who led U.S. Central Command at the time, informed Congress that only “four or five” U.S.-trained fighters were in Syria.

On Monday, three U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the new train-and-equip program, which was started in March. The program returns those leaders to their units to push that training down the ranks and provides equipment to the forces that they lead. The new program to train the leaders has $416 million budgeted for it in fiscal year 2016, the U.S. officials said, and includes the equipment the United States is providing.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported another U.S. program to train and equip Syrian forces had lost equipment to Jordanian intelligence operatives who were siphoning off and selling that supply as they moved through the country on their way to Syria.

June 26

Al Jazeera and New York Times, C.I.A. Arms for Syrian Rebels Supplied Black Market, Officials Say, Ali Younes and Mark Mazzetti, June 26, 2016. Some of the weapons linked to thefts by Jordanian intelligence operatives are believed to have been used last year to kill two Americans and three others. The revelations of a massive smuggling operation looting American arms come from a joint investigation by the New York Times and Al Jazeera.

Weapons shipped into Jordan by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia intended for Syrian rebels have been systematically stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, according to American and Jordanian officials.

Some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting in November that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, FBI officials believe after months of investigating the attack, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The existence of the weapons theft, which ended only months ago after complaints by the US and Saudi governments, is being reported for the first time following a joint investigation by Al Jazeera and The New York Times.

The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of program to arm and train rebels - the kind of program the CIA and Pentagon have conducted for decades - even after the Obama administration had hoped to keep the training program in Jordan under tight control.

The Jordanian officers who were part of the scheme reaped a windfall from the weapons sales, using the money to buy expensive SUVs, iPhones and other luxury items, Jordanian officials said.

The theft and resale of the arms - including Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades - have led to a flood of new weapons available on the black arms market.

Investigators do not know what became of most of them, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals. Weapons smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.

Telegraph, Isil murders five media activists for exposing Syria atrocities, Zia Weise, June 26, 2016. ISIL has executed five media activists in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, warning that anyone who tries to document the group’s atrocities will never be safe from retribution. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, said it had received a video depicting the activists’ deaths, carried out on various charges including “acting against the Islamic State, communicating with outside parties and receiving funds.”

The Observatory reported that the jihadists murdered one of the activists by hand-cuffing him to his explosives-rigged laptop and detonating it. Another was killed while tied to his camera. One of the activists had been providing the Observatory with information about events in the areas of Deir Ezzor ruled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Isil attempts to keep a tight grip on any news and footage emerging from territories under their control, executing any activists who try to its expose crimes.

Washington Post, Poll: Support for Trump plunges, giving Clinton double-digit lead, Scott Clement and Philip Rucker​, June 26, 2016. Support for the GOP candidate has plummeted as he alienated fellow Hillary ClintonRepublicans and large majorities of voters overall in a month of self-inflicted controversies. The Democrat has jumped ahead, 51 percent to 39 percent, in a national Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Donald Trump button open mouthDonald Trump’s bad month just got worse, because Sanders backers just rallied to Clinton, Aaron Blake, June 26, 2016. Donald Trump would like for Bernie Sanders supporters to ditch the Democratic Party and support him. There is very little evidence that they will do that, mind you, but it's certainly possible that they might just stay home — which would help Trump.

Well, we have some bad news for the Trump campaign. Sanders supporters aren't just rallying around Clinton; they're doing it rather quickly. Last month, 20 percent of Sanders supporters said they would back Trump over Clinton in the general election. This month, that figure is down to 8 percent.

Washington Post, Where will Sanders take his progressive revolution?  David Weigel and John Wagner, June 26, 2016. As his presidential bid winds down, the senator from Vermont must persuade his supporters to continue the movement with someone else.

Telegraph (London), Isil murders five media activists for exposing Syria atrocities, Zia Weise, June 26, 2016. Isil has executed five media activists in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, warning that anyone who tries to document the group’s atrocities will never be safe from retribution. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, said it had received a video depicting the activists’ deaths, carried out on various charges including “acting against the Islamic State, communicating with outside parties and receiving funds”.

The Observatory reported that the jihadists murdered one of the activists by hand-cuffing him to his explosives-rigged laptop and detonating it. Another was killed while tied to his camera.One of the activists had been providing the Observatory with information about events in the areas of Deir Ezzor ruled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Isil attempts to keep a tight grip on any news and footage emerging from territories under their control, executing any activists who try to its expose crimes. In the video, the terrorist group warned media activists that they were not safe even outside of Syria, showing the faces of anti-Isil journalists who have been murdered by Isil in southern Turkey. The group has claimed responsibility for assassinating four Syrian media activists in Turkey.

Brexit balloon via Flickr pda portalImage by Portal GDA via Flickr

Strategic Culture Foundation (Russia), Brexit Shatters EU and Its Washington Bond, Finian Cunningham, June 26, 2016. The British rejection of European Union membership came like a brick slamming into a pane of glass. The impact has stunned observers, radiated shockwaves and suddenly thrown up an arresting vista of cracks and jagged shards.

In short, the Brexit vote has not only severed Britain’s union with the rest of Europe, it has also unleashed secessionist forces presaging the dissolution of the United Kingdom’s own internal union. An equally important form of inflexibility seen in the EU bloc is in foreign policy. The EU seems to have become a passive replica of the US-led NATO military alliance and under the thumb of Washington’s decree. Granted, most of the membership overlaps between the two organizations. But for many of the EU’s 500 million citizens, the EU’s lack of independence in foreign policy from Washington is a source of consternation.

The Brexit thus heralds much more than the shattering of the EU. On a national level, the United Kingdom is also prone to fracturing, while at the international level the Atlanticist bond with which Washington has dominated the EU is another fracture point.

Robert Mueller at White House with BO discussing Boston Marathon bombing

FBI Director Robert Mueller, center, discusses the Boston Marathon bombing with President Obama, shown at far right. (White House photo highlighted by WhoWhatWhy)

WhoWhatWhy, Was Tamerlan Tsarnaev a Double Agent Recruited by the FBI? Peter Dale Scott, June 26, 2016. WhoWhatWhy Staff: Last month, we reported startling new evidence that answered the questions: What did the FBI know about accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev — and when did it know it?

Now the public is asking the same questions about Omar Mateen. For an in-depth look at how the FBI interacts with prospective informants, please see the story below by the noted author Peter Dale Scott. Published two years ago, it is still highly relevant.

Huffington Post, The RNC Plans To Turn Bernie Backers Against Hillary Clinton’s VP Pick, Sam Stein, June 26, 2016. In a strategy memo provided to the Huffington Post, the committee outlines how it will attack the top candidates. The Republican National Committee is planning to cleave liberal voters away from Hillary Clinton as part of a campaign to counteract her forthcoming pick of a vice presidential running mate.

In a detailed memo outlining its strategy to combat Clinton’s VP choice, the committee says it will frame the selection as both a cynical play to certain constituencies and as an emotional letdown for voters who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primary. The goals, the memo says, are to “drive wedges between these top contenders and either Clinton and/or traditional Democrat constituencies, such as labor, environmentalists, and gun control advocates, and other traditional left-wing constituencies;” and “[w]here applicable, frame the choice as an insult to the large, deep base of Bernie Sanders supporters who are struggling with the notion of supporting Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democrat nominee.”

Titled “Project Pander,” the RNC’s strategy memo also reveals which candidates the committee views as most likely to be selected. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), HUD Secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) occupy the top tier; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) are in the second.

Authored by Raj Shah, the research director and deputy communications director at the RNC, the memo telegraphs a campaign of subterfuge that is traditionally executed in private. Parties normally don’t like their fingerprints on the attacks against the opposition. But this has been an untraditional election, with both sides relatively unapologetic about the mud they are slinging.

Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director and chief strategist, said that the committee already has conducted extensive field research in San Antonio, Boston and Richmond, Virginia (homes to Castro, Warren and Kaine, respectively) in addition to investigative work on all six potential choices.

Strategic Culture Foundation, Turkey’s Scholars Call Erdogan’s Presidency Fraud, Eric Zuesse, June 26, 2016. One of the Constitutional requirements to be able to serve as Turkey’s President is to have a college Recep Tayyip Erdogandiploma, and Turkey’s association of professors have declared fake that of Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan (shown in file photo), which presents him as having graduated from "Marmara University."

National Press Club, Ukrainian Prime Minister secures pledge of economic assistance during U.S. visit, Peter Hickman, June 26, 2016. On his first visit to Washington since taking office, the new Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, told a June 16 National Press Club Newsmaker press conference that his country received a pledge of $220 million in economic assistance from the United States during meetings with U.S. officials.

June 25

Washington Post, E.U. founding nations: Britain needs to leave bloc as ‘quickly as possible,’ Anthony Faiola, June 25, 2016. Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg collectively called for fast follow-through on the stunning British decision, putting pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron.  Following the landmark vote in Britain to withdraw from the European Union, foreign ministers from the bloc’s six founding nations urged London on Saturday to move toward the exit door as “quickly as possible."

German FlagMeeting in Berlin, the top diplomats of Germany (flag shown above), France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg collectively called for fast follow-through on the stunning British decision, putting pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, who has sought a slower pace of extraction.

On Friday, Cameron said he would step down after several months but has not immediately sought to trigger the European Union’s Article 50, which would set up a two-year negotiating period ending with withdrawal. But the top diplomats meeting Saturday suggested the European Union was not prepared to wait for domestic politics to play out in Britain, suggesting that Cameron would face intense pressure on Tuesday during a summit in Brussels of 28 national leaders and European officials.

Washington Post, Vote sends a message to all politicians everywhere: It can happen here, Dan Balz​, June 25, 2016. Frustration with political elites knows no borders today. There are signs of it across Europe and in the United States. Who’s to say there are no more significant shocks ahead?

Washington Post, Sanders puts his stamp on DNC platform, but presses for more, Anne Gearan, June 25, 2016. Democrats have approved a draft party platform strongly influenced by the liberal agenda of Sen. Bernie Sanders, but his campaign pledged Saturday to continue fighting on several policy fronts ahead of the party’s nominating convention next month.

The draft policy rubric approved early Saturday is evidence of the sway Sanders holds after a bruising primary that technically has not ended. The language would move the Democratic Party to the left on issues ranging from wages to banking reform to climate change, and represents several concessions by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to her persistent primary rival.

Washington Post, Donald Trump’s Scottish golf swing: A chaotic two-day trip across the green, Jenna Johnson, June 25, 2016.  Donald Trump capped off his two-day overseas tour in a golf cart Saturday Donald Trump for President logoafternoon, zooming around the golf course he built on top of sand dunes. Running the country won’t be much different than building a resort like this, he told the pack of political reporters who followed in maintenance carts — “just a lot bigger.”

Amid the chaos of the day, Trump seemed to dramatically shift on two of his major policy proposals, although it was unclear if he meant to do so and his staff provided no clarification.

There was great anticipation as Trump stepped up to the microphone at a press conference on the ninth hole of the course, close to a cliff. Before he could say anything, a man wearing a Turnberry sweater jumped up to apologize for having forgotten to hand out golf balls to the crowd— then tossed dozens of red golf balls featuring a black swastika in Trump’s direction. Secret Service agents surrounded the man, British comic Simon Brodkin, and escorted him away.

Trump then spoke to the world, standing in a sea of Nazi golf balls.

CBS News, Conservative columnist George Will leaves GOP over Donald Trump, Reena Flores, June 25, 2016. Conservative columnist George Will is joining the exodus of Republicans who are leaving their party because of its presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

George Will Will, who writes for The Washington Post and is a Fox News contributor, reportedly told the Federalist Society Friday that he was no longer a Republican. "This is not my party," Will said during a speech at the organization's Washington, D.C., luncheon, according to conservative news outlet PJ Media.

He said that House Speaker Paul Ryan's endorsement of Trump was one of the reasons he jumped the GOP ship and further predicted that Trump in the White House with "no opposition" from a Congress with a Republican majority could spell disaster. That scenario, according to Will, would be even worse than Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office with a Republican Congress.

Later, in an interview with PJ Media, Will said he had switched his party to become "an unaffiliated voter in the state of Maryland."
Conservative columnist George Will leaves GOP over Donald Trump

Real News Network, Michael Hudson argues that military interventions in the Middle East created refugee streams to Europe that were in turn used by the anti-immigrant right to stir up xenophobia, June 25, 2016.

Strategic Culture Foundation (Russia), Syria: Aleppo Cease-fire on Brink of Collapse, Alex Gorka, June 25, 2016. General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russian General Staff, said that Russia’s patience is waning over the situation in Syria. According to him, Russia was in full compliance with its obligations to maintain cease-fire and ensure national reconciliation in Syria, while the US had problems with the "opposition" under its control.

The gist of the problem is that the militant groups in Aleppo are grouped around Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch condemned by UN resolutions the US voted for, that was never part of the cessation of hostilities and kept attacking Syrian government forces, particularly in southern Aleppo. The US failed to comply with its obligation and make militants split off from al-Nusra. 

Facebook, Why Federal Prosecutors Are Taking Down Bentley, Donald V. Watkins, June 25, 2016. Alabama is home to three major automobile producers: Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Honda Manufacturing Donald Watkinsof Alabama, and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. The state is also home to two major engine producers, International Diesel of Alabama and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama, Inc.

Last year, Google, Inc., the world’s second most valuable company, announced that it would invest $600 million to locate a massive data processing center in north Alabama, one of only fourteen in the world. Google’s financial investment in Jackson County matches Airbus’s $600 million investment in Mobile, Alabama, where the aerospace giant began building its first U.S.-based production facility in 2013.

These companies are global conglomerates. They could have easily located their manufacturing facilities in other countries. For a variety of reasons, they chose to locate their facilities in the United States and to site them in Alabama.

None of these companies can afford to be associated, directly or indirectly, with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's “sex for power” and public corruption scandal. All of them have stellar international reputations that must be safeguard from embarrassing scandals at all times. Under no circumstances can they bring world leaders and industry giants to a meeting with a sitting governor who is the “target” of an ongoing federal criminal investigation for racketeering and public corruption.

Furthermore, Alabama’s governor has become the laughingstock of the nation. Bentley’s salacious scandal has dragged Alabama back into the negative spotlight of every major newspaper and electronic media organization in the world. Yet, Bentley, whose situation is analogous to a “dead man walking”, refuses to resign.

Unz Review, US Options in the Ukraine: Trigger a Religious War? The Saker, June 25, 2016. Listening to the imperial media one might be excused for thinking that nothing dramatic is happening in the Ukraine and that the crisis has basically leveled off in some way. Well, why not? They just had recent elections and, apparently, that went well, Russia is still showing her usual bad will and threatening behavior.

June 24

Washington Post, Britain shocks world: breaks with European Union, British leader steps down, Griff Witte, Karla Adam and Dan Balz, June 24, 2016. British voters defied their leaders and international allies by cutting ties with the European Union in a stunning result Friday that threw financial markets into chaos, forced Britain’s prime minister to resign and unleashed a new independence quest by Scotland. As Britain absorbed the earth-shaking news, the political fallout reached to the highest level with Prime Minister David Cameron (shown below) saying he would step down after championing the campaign to remain in the European Union.

David CameronJust hours later, the leader in heavily pro-E.U. Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said she will push for their own referendum to break with England and the other two partners in the United Kingdom, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A second independence referendum, following a defeated vote in 2014, is “highly likely,” said Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister. Calls to break away were echoed by nationalists in Northern Ireland. In an emotional address outside 10 Downing Street, Cameron said the country now deserved “fresh leadership” in the face of the rejection in Thursday’s referendum. Cameron, who enjoys a close relationship with President Obama, said he hoped a new prime minister could be in place by October.

The vote result will rattle officials in Washington. Obama had made a high-profile plea for Britain to stay. He was briefed on the results of the referendum, the White House said, and was expected to speak to Cameron in the next day. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who was in Scotland on Friday to open a golf course, backed Brexit.

Asked by reporters about the vote as he toured his course to the tune of bag pipes, Trump on Friday called it “a great thing.” 

JIP Editor's note: As reaction, trading in foreign markets showed an historic drop of the value of the British pound compared to the dollar. London and Scotland voted heavily to remain in the European Union, United Kingdom flagwhereas most of the rest of England and Wales voted to leave. The national margin was about 52 to 48 percent for "leave," with support for "leave" generally heavier among older and less educated voters upset at globalization and increasing regulation via the EU's regulatory bodies going beyond free trade issues into regulation increasingly intruding into fields, such as immigration, traditionally governed on a national level.

On other fronts, the unexpected vote on a "populist" theme shocked establishment interests, including in the United States and across Europe. Terms of British withdrawal are unknown because no other nation has ever withdrawn from the European Union. 

Huffington Post, Trump Praises Scotland For Taking ‘Their Country Back’ When Majority Voted To Stay In EU, Lee Moran, June 24, 2016. Donald Trump’s inaccurate tweet about how Scotland voted in the EU referendum has sparked a furious backlash during his visit to Britain.  Donald Trump is not getting the warm Scottish welcome he was hoping for.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee arrived in Scotland on Friday to officially open his new Trump Turnberry golf resort. Protesters greeted him with golf balls emblazoned with Swastikas, a symbol of Nazi Germany, at the opening of the course. Trump also faced a backlash after tweeting that people in Scotland were “going wild” following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Many Scots are angry at his tweet because most actually voted to remain inside the EU.

Donald Trump ribbon cutting at new Trump Turnberry golf course June 24, 2016 Andrew Learmonth via Twitter

Washington Post, As markets tank, Trump holds a ribbon-cutting at his Scottish golf course, Jenna Johnson and Jose A. DelReal, June 24, 2016. Arriving in Scotland on Friday, the likely GOP presidential nominee did not seem to understand the gravity of Britain’s decision as he attended a surreal ribbon-cutting at his luxury golf resort.

Twitter, Protester with golf balls covered in swastikas just thrown out of opening of Trump Turnberry, Andrew Learmonth, June 24, 2016. [Above, the U.S. presidential candidate and several colleagues and Donald Trump protest with golf balls in Scotland June 24, 2016members of his family cut a ribbon in Scotland for construction of his new golf course shortly after guards ejected a protester who distributed golf balls painted with Nazi symbols (brief video of a comedian, Simon Brodkin, viewable via Andrew Learmonth's Twitter feed. and in a video excerpt on Sam Seder's