Tag Archives: National Security

‘Collusion’ in plain sight: a compromised president is a national security threat

This past week we learned from Paul Manafort’s attorneys that their client shared closely guarded campaign polling data with Russian (and Ukrainian) oligarchs who have close ties to Vladimir Putin. Paul Manafort shared 2016 polling data with Russian associate, according to court filing.

David Measer explains The real value of Paul Manafort’s polling data:

[I]t’s a mistake to treat polling data as mere briefing material; it’s actionable information. Those of us in advertising use it to decide who to target; to position the brands we represent as distinctive from other brands; to develop messaging and ads; and to knock competitors out of their positions in consumers’ minds. We’ve known since 2017 that the Russian disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election did the same thing — aiming different posts at people who indicated that they “liked” patriotism or lived in Ferguson, Mo.

Passing on this kind of information gives a partner the ability to reach audiences in a very personalized way. And if that partner is a foreign country intent on influencing voters, exploiting divisions and disrupting elections, the data is priceless. It gives them the tools to get pretty close to the holy grail of marketing: to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.

This would be the Russian troll farm run by Russian intelligence agencies whom the Special Counsel has indicted for interference in the 2016 election.

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Trump gives his pal Putin some early Christmas gifts

Russian asset and unindicted co-conspirator Donald Trump has given his pal Putin some early Christmas gifts, just what Putin wanted for Christmas.

The “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Putin’s Russia was all about lifting sanctions on Russia. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort reported directly to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close friend of Putin. On Wednesday, Trump lifted sanctions on Oleg Deripaska’s companies (a preview of sanctions relief to come?) Trump admin to lift sanctions on firms owned by Russian oligarch Deripaska:

The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it would lift financial sanctions on Deripaska’s aluminum company, United Co. Rusal, as well as En+ Group plc and JSC EuroSibEnergo in 30 days, after Deripaska agreed to reduce his ownership stake in each of the companies to below 50 percent.

“Treasury sanctioned these companies because of their ownership and control by sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, not for the conduct of the companies themselves,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“These companies have committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control. The companies will be subject to ongoing compliance and will face severe consequences if they fail to comply,” he continued.

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Not just Russia – the Middle East leg of the Mueller investigation

From time to time there has been reporting on another leg of the Mueller investigation into Middle East countries attempting to influence the 2016 election — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel — and possible “collusion” with the Trump campaign. It does not receive nearly as much attention as the Russia leg of the Mueller investigation.

The Daily Beast reports that this may be about to change early next year. Get Ready for Mueller’s Phase Two: The Middle East Connection:

Over the past year, the indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas have largely been connected, in one way or another, to Russia. But now, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast.

While one part of the Mueller team has indicted Russian spies and troll-masters, another cadre has been spending its time focusing on how Middle Eastern countries pushed cash to Washington politicos in an attempt to sway policy under President Trump’s administration. Various witnesses affiliated with the Trump campaign have been questioned about their conversations with deeply connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, according to people familiar with the probe. Topics in those meetings ranged from the use of social-media manipulation to help install Trump in the White House to the overthrow of the regime in Iran.

Now, according to those same sources, the Special Counsel’s Office is ready to outline what cooperating witnesses have told them about foreigners’ plans to help Trump win the presidency. Two sources with knowledge of the probe said Mueller’s team has for months discussed the possibility of issuing new charges on this side of the investigation.

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TIME Person of The Year: The Guardians (Journalists)

TIME magazine has named its person of the year, and it is collectively journalists who have been murdered or imprisoned in pursuit of the truth. The Guardians And The War on Truth:

Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Capital Gazette newspaper staff, which lost five members in a newsroom shooting this year; jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis; and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who was arrested after criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

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As TIME reports:

Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.

But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?

Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?” Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.

Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.

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Discovery in Emoluments Clause case to be resisted by the Grifter-in-Chief

Grifter-in-Chief Donald Trump’s lawyers made a desperate last-minute bid over the weekend to block the discovery process in the Emoluments Clause case filed by the Attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.  U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte rejected their arguments.

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have wasted no time in seeking discovery. Maryland and District of Columbia Seek Business Records Related to Trump Hotel:

The State of Maryland and the District of Columbia began issuing subpoenas on Tuesday for records related to President Trump’s hotel in Washington, seeking evidence of conflicts of interest that violate the Constitution’s anti-corruption provision.

See Subpoena For Documents (.pdf) to U.S. Department of Commerce (for payments made to Trump International Hotel, etc.), and Subpoena For Documents (.pdf) to DJT Holdings, LLC (for financial records from as many as 13 of President Trump’s private entities, including all state and federal business income tax returns, etc.) Production of documents is due on January 3, 2019.

The subpoenaed documents could lead to depositions with Trump Organization officials.

Their demands for a vast array of documents, including tax records related to the president’s business, are certain to run headlong into a legal challenge by the administration. The Justice Department is expected to contest rulings by a federal judge who allowed the litigation to go forward, and the case appears bound for the Supreme Court.

The governments of Maryland and the District of Columbia are claiming that Mr. Trump is violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign leaders or state officials who patronize the Trump International Hotel, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House. They are seeking documents from about a dozen entities connected to Mr. Trump’s business, including the trust in which he placed assets when he became president, as well as from numerous other entities.

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