Category Archives: War

Key Russian witness testifies before Mueller grand jury (and more)

On  August 21, the New York Times published a report on Rinat Akhmetshin, one of the Russians who met with senior Trump campaign officials in June of last year. Akhmetshin is not just a Russian lobbyist. Lobbyist at Trump Campaign Meeting Has a Web of Russian Connections:

[I]nterviews with his associates and documents reviewed by The New York Times indicate that Mr. Akhmetshin, who is under scrutiny by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has much deeper ties to the Russian government and Kremlin-backed oligarchs than previously known.

He has an association with a former deputy head of a Russian spy service, the F.S.B., and a history of working for close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Twice, he has worked on legal battles for Russian tycoons whose opponents suffered sophisticated hacking attacks, arousing allegations of computer espionage. He helped federal prosecutors bring corruption charges against an American businessman in the former Soviet Union who turned out to be working for the C.I.A.

He also helped expose possible corruption in government contracting that complicated American efforts to keep troops at an air base in Kyrgyzstan — an American presence that the Russians fiercely opposed.

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Mr. Akhmetshin’s meeting with Trump campaign officials is of keen interest to Mr. Mueller, who is investigating the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Of all the visitors who attended the June 2016 session at the Trump Tower, he appears to have the most direct ties to Russian intelligence. The session was arranged by a Russian businessman close to Mr. Putin whose emissary promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

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Trump Tower Moscow, a tower of lies from Trump (Updated)

As a candidate for president (and since), Donald Trump has repeatedly denied that he had any business interests in Russia. Here’s what we know about Donald Trump and his ties to Russia; Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia.

This, of course, was a lie. And it was known to be a lie at the time. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president:

While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.

As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating — both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’ ” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 6 and grew up in Brooklyn.

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The sorry state of Afghanistan

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan was considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in the art of fixing failed states before he became the country’s president. In office since 2014, he is confronted by a large number of intertwined political, security and economic problems. His Afghan government is troubled by a low level of revenue collection, a high level of corruption and a dismal job creation record. The country’s overall literacy rate is about 38%. Afghanistan is a poor country, it has a per capita GDP of $2,000. The Taliban movement is resurgent. It is a severe challenge to the government’s control of territory, economic development and the population’s security.

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Trump parrots Kim Jong-un in making nuclear threats

The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. It is the only time that such weapons have been used in war.

Donald Trump, apparently unaware of these historically significant anniversary dates, yesterday threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” — a veiled nuclear threat — if it does not stop threatening the United States.

So now Donald Trump is making the same wild threats that Kim Jong-un and North Korea regularly make? Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ statement echoes North Korea’s own threats.

Hours later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to assuage Americans’ fears that a nuclear war with North Korea was imminent.

What is this, good cop bad cop? A return to Richard Nixon’s Madman Strategy with Tillerson reprising the role of Henry Kissinger?

The Washington Post reports, As Tillerson tries to assuage Americans’ fear, Trump highlights U.S. nuclear arsenal:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday defended President Trump’s forceful warning to North Korea to stop threatening the United States, and dismissed concerns that Guam is in any imminent danger from Pyongyang’s missiles.

“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said in an interview with two pool reporters while flying from Malaysia to a scheduled refueling stop in Guam.

“I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S. has the unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.”

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Trump-Putin campaign investigation

The Wall Street Journal is the first to report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has recently impaneled a grand jury in the Trump-Putin campaign investigation (separate from the Gen. Michael Flynn grand jury) indicating that the investigation has entered a new phase. Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe (pay firewall article):

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry will likely continue for months.

The Washington Post picks up the Journal’s report, Special Counsel Mueller using grand jury in federal court in Washington as part of Russia investigation:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller began using a grand jury in federal court in Washington several weeks ago as part of his probe into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

The development is a sign that investigators continue to aggressively gather evidence in the case.

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The obstruction of justice charges come together

There is a regular pattern to Trump administration lies. First, deny everything. Then when the facts come out that the denial is a lie, deflect and attempt to shift blame to others. Finally, when more facts come out to prove the deflection is a lie, diminish the lie by admitting that “Yeah we did it, but so what? What’s the big deal?” The important fact here is that every step is a lie and an effort to mislead. The truth is never seriously considered.

We have seen this play out with the Trump campaign’s meeting with Russian operatives last June. At first, everyone denied that they ever met with any Russians. Then when the facts came out that they did, they attempted to deflect by claiming they did not know what the meeting was about beforehand and it turned out to be a “nothingburger” about Russian adoptions. Then when the facts revealed that the participants were disclosed and that the subject of the meeting was revealing dirt on Hillary Clinton, the narrative shifted to “Yeah we did it, but so what? What’s the big deal?” Trump sycophants like FAUX News even went so far as to argue that collusion with the Russian government is not a crime (foreign contributions — including “in kind” contributions of opposition research — does, in fact, violate federal campaign laws).

Rinse, lather, repeat.

When the Trump campaign meeting with Russian operatives was revealed, Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement that left out key details (lies by omission) and sought to deflect with the Russian adoption cover story (lies by commission).  The Washington Post reported last week that Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer:

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.

The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

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