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  1. #4096

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump Discussed Easing Iran Sanctions, Prompting Bolton Pushback
    By Jennifer Jacobs, Saleha Mohsin, Jenny Leonard, and David Wainer
    September 11, 2019, 4:00 AM EDT Updated on September 11, 2019, 1:05 PM EDT
    Sanctions move aimed at securing Rouhani meeting this month
    Bolton was key architect of ‘maximum pressure’ campaign

    ...Donald Trump discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month, prompting then-National Security Advisor John Bolton to argue forcefully against such a step, according to three people familiar with the matter.

    After an Oval Office meeting on Monday when the idea came up, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced his support for the move as a way to restart negotiations with Iran, some of the people said. Later in the day, Trump decided to oust Bolton, whose departure was announced Tuesday.

    The White House has started preparations for Trump to meet with Rouhani this month in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly the week of Sept. 23, according to the people. It’s far from clear if the Iranians would agree to talks while tough American sanctions remain in place.

    Trump told reporters at the White House that he’s “not looking at anything” with regard to a meeting with Rouhani, but indicated he may consider easing sanctions on Tehran to make it happen. “We’ll see what happens,” he said after he was asked about backing off the sanctions, adding that he does not desire “regime change” in Iran.

    One scenario, shared by two of the people, would be that Trump joins a meeting between Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron. The people said they had no indication it would actually happen.


    Bolton built his career on a hard-line approach toward Iran, long calling for preemptive strikes on the country to destroy its nuclear program. His sudden dismissal immediately fueled speculation -- and worry in some quarters -- that the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign might ease in a bid to lure Iranian leaders to the negotiating table.

    Easing any sanctions without major concessions from Iran would undercut the pressure campaign that not only Bolton, but also Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Trump have said is the only effective way to make Iran change its behavior.

    America’s European allies, frustrated by Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord and stymied by U.S. sanctions in their bid to trade with Iran, have been desperate to find a way to broker a deal between Washington and Tehran. Macron even invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to talks on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in France last month and won verbal support from Trump for a sanctions reprieve. Then nothing happened.

    “Bolton made sure to block any and all avenues for diplomacy w/ Iran, including a plan being brokered by Macron,” Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said on Twitter. “The French are offering Trump a facing-saving way out of a mess of his creation. He should grab it.”

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, on the other hand, may have lost one of its staunchest allies with Bolton’s departure. Israeli officials, worried about legitimizing Iranian leaders, are concerned that the chances for such a meeting are increasing. Their chief fear is that U.S. sanctions could be scaled back and pressure on the regime eased, an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


    But Iranian leaders, at least publicly, have spurned the suggestion of a Trump-Rouhani encounter, which would be strongly opposed by more conservative factions in Iran, especially if there’s no let up in sanctions essentially blocking Iranian oil sales. Mnuchin on Tuesday indicated sanctions will remain, saying, “We are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.”

    Pompeo, who last year set out 12 demands that he said Iran must fulfill in order to become a “normal country,” could still try to prevent Trump from softening his stance. Pompeo has, however, recently taken a more moderate tone in lockstep with the president, saying in a briefing Tuesday that Trump is prepared to talk without preconditions.


    Oman Talks

    For Rouhani, sitting down with Trump would be an immense political gamble with his nation’s economy weighed down by crippling American sanctions and no guarantee of an agreement that would allow Tehran to again legally sell oil. Mindful of the political risk of talks with the U.S., Iranians have long favored quiet discussions instead. The 2015 nuclear deal was preceded by years of back channel diplomacy among lower-level officials in Oman.

    Nevertheless, Rouhani adviser Hesameddin Ashena tweeted on Tuesday that Bolton’s departure is a “decisive sign of the failure of the U.S. maximum pressure strategy in the face of the constructive resistance from Iran.”

    Trump, with his 2020 re-election campaign already underway, would also have to step out of his political comfort zone. Isolating and weakening the Islamic Republic is one foreign policy issue Republican lawmakers and conservative national security experts broadly agree upon. It’s also a rallying cry for conservative Jewish supporters of Israel and key Trump backers, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

    Obama Handshake

    Regardless of whether a direct meeting takes place, diplomatic efforts to address Iran-U.S. tensions will be at the forefront of the UN gathering. Impromptu chats and sideline diplomacy are a hallmark of the annual gathering.

    In 2015, a backstage handshake between President Barack Obama and Zarif generated headlines across the Middle East -- and accusations by Iranian hardliners that Zarif was “unrevolutionary.” At this year’s assembly, Macron as well Japan’s Shinzo Abe plan to meet Rouhani as they try to break the impasse.

    Bolton’s departure also leaves Pompeo, who had clashed with Bolton over several issues, in the unchallenged role as Trump’s closest aide on foreign policy. While Bolton often made his differences with the president clear, Pompeo has spent more than two and a half years in Trump’s orbit without letting much daylight come between himself and the president.

    Asked on Tuesday if he could foresee a meeting between Trump and Rouhani during the UN meeting, Pompeo responded: “Sure,” adding, “The president’s made very clear, he is prepared to meet with no preconditions.”

    — With assistance by Ivan Levingston, Jordan Fabian, and Nick Wadhams

    So this is another "idea" Tiny had, built on nothing but his desire to have some pictures with someone other than his bff Kim Jong-un to use as political ads leading up to November next year. Bolton doesn't deserve anyone's sympathy. If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  2. #4097

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    ‘You’re a prop in the back’: Advisers struggle to obey Trump’s Kafkaesque rules
    Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker
    September 11, 2019 at 6:04 p.m. EDT

    In...Trump’s renegade orbit, there are unspoken rules he expects his advisers to follow. He tolerates a modicum of dissent, so long as it remains private; expects advisers to fall in line and defend his decisions; and demands absolute fealty at all times.

    These rules and more were broken by John Bolton, the national security adviser who left the White House suddenly Tuesday on acrimonious terms.

    The rupture between Trump and Bolton, as chronicled in public and in private accounts of administration officials, is a case study of the president’s sometimes Kafkaesque management style — an unusual set of demands and expectations he sets for those in his direct employ.

    The episode also illustrates the varied forces that propel advisers into the president’s inner circle — and often churn them out with similar velocity.

    “You’re there more as an annoyance to him because he has to fill some of these jobs, but you’re not there to do anything other than be backlighting,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House communications director who is now critical of Trump. “He wants, like, a catatonic loyalty, and he wants you to be behind the backlights. There’s one spotlight on the stage, it’s shining on Trump, and you’re a prop in the back with dim lights.”

    Trump’s desires for his advisers range from the trivial — someone who looks the part — to the traditional — someone willing to vigorously support him and defend his policies in media appearances. But these demands can be grating and at times terminal for members of his staff — especially for those who, like the national security adviser, may find themselves at odds with the president on critical issues.

    “There is no person that is part of the daily Trump decision-making process that can survive long term,” said a former senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “The president doesn’t like people to get good press. He doesn’t like people to get bad press. Yet he expects everyone to be relevant and important and supportive at all times. Even if a person could do all those things, the president would grow tired of anyone in his immediate orbit.”

    Leon Panetta, who served as a defense secretary, CIA director and White House chief of staff in past Democratic administrations, said Trump’s eclectic management style can be dangerous.

    “The presidency is an isolated position to begin with, and it is incredibly important to have people around you who will tell you when they think you’re wrong,” Panetta said. “Presidents need to appreciate that information and not then take it out on that individual.”

    “This president,” Panetta added of Trump, “has a real blind spot in that he does not want anybody around him who is critical.”

    Current and former White House officials stress that Trump brokers and even encourages disagreement, but only to a point and only on his terms. The president enjoys gladiator fights — pitting his aides against one another like so many ancient Romans — but only if he can play emperor, presiding over the melee and crowning the victor.

    “He has become more convinced than ever that he is the ‘chosen one,’ ” said Tony Schwartz, who co-wrote Trump’s 1987 bestseller, “The Art of the Deal,” but has since become critical of the president. “The blend of the megalomania and the insecurity make him ultimately dismissive of anybody’s opinion that doesn’t match his own.”

    Trump’s advisers can be arranged into several categories, as one former senior White House official explained. In bucket one, this person said, are those aides whose demise — often via tweet — is all but foregone, the result of the president’s coming to suspect that an adviser thinks he or she is smarter than he is or is trying to undermine him in some way. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s first secretary of state, is a cautionary tale of this category.

    In bucket two sits the adviser who simply doesn’t gel with the president, ultimately failing to build the personal rapport necessary to survive, this person said. Trump may think this official is a good person who genuinely wants to help implement his policies — but for whatever reason, the adviser just irritates the president. H.R. McMaster, who preceded Bolton as national security adviser, is an example.

    There is the politically expedient adviser, who brings Trump utility in the short term. Stephen K. Bannon, a former White House chief strategist, was useful early in the administration in helping to channel the hard-right base that lifted Trump to victory.

    A final category is the shiny new toy — an adviser Trump has recently hired and is excited about, whether because of a tough nickname (James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Trump’s first secretary of defense) or because he or she has vigorously defended Trump on television.

    Bolton moved through all the buckets before being unceremoniously dismissed.

    In some ways, Trump has an ecumenical approach, viewing top advisers less as a vaunted Cabinet and more as just one of many sources from which he can seek advice and glean information. He is, for instance, nearly as likely to heed a Fox News host as to heed a senior administration official.

    This attitude was prevalent during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump paid far closer attention to what he consumed in media reports and tips he received in phone calls from friends than from formal presentations by his official policy advisers, most of whom had virtually no face time with the candidate.

    “He really doesn’t believe in advisers,” said a Republican in close touch with Trump, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations. “He really just has people around him he asks questions of. John [Bolton] saw his role as advisory, but Trump thinks he’s his own adviser, and I don’t think people fully appreciate this.”

    Some officials no longer in the administration have offered some glimpses into the challenges of trying to manage and advise Trump.

    Tillerson, speaking to CBS News’s Bob Schieffer in December, described the president as “pretty undisciplined” and someone who “doesn’t like to read.” Tillerson also described an imperious president who would sometimes suggest ideas that were illegal.

    “So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it,’ and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,’ ” Tillerson said.

    After leaving the administration, John F. Kelly said serving as Trump’s second chief of staff was “the least enjoyable job I’ve ever had.” Asked during an appearance at Duke University what advice he had given to his successor, Mick Mulvaney, Kelly joked, “Run for it.”

    People who have known the president over the years stress that, for Trump, everyone is eventually expendable.

    “When you use people like Kleenex, eventually the Kleenex is filled with snot, and you throw it out,” said “Art of the Deal” co-author Schwartz. “That’s the way Trump treats everyone.”
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  3. #4098

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by Ti-Amie View Post
    Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017

    By Jim Sciutto, Chief National Security Correspondent

    Washington (CNN)In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

    A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

    The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.
    The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.

    At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or "exfiltration" as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.

    A US official said before the secret operation there was media speculation about the existence of such a covert source, and such coverage or public speculation poses risks to the safety of anyone a foreign government suspects may be involved. This official did not identify any public reporting to that effect at the time of this decision and CNN could not find any related reference in media reports.

    Asked for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs, told CNN: "CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President's handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate."

    A spokesperson for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger."

    Wide concerns about Trump in intelligence community

    The removal happened at a time of wide concern in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration. Those concerns were described to CNN by five sources who served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress.

    Those concerns continued to grow in the period after Trump's Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter's notes. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community's response to the Trump-Putin meeting.

    Knowledge of the Russian covert source's existence was highly restricted within the US government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was "no equal alternative" inside the Russian government, providing both insight and information on Putin.

    CNN is withholding several details about the spy to reduce the risk of the person's identification.

    The secret removal of the high-level Russian asset has left the US without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and the plans and thinking of the Russian president at a time when tensions between the two nations have been growing. The US intelligence community considers Russia one of the two greatest threats to US national security, along with China.

    "The impact would be huge because it is so hard to develop sources like that in any denied area, particularly Russia, because the surveillance and security there is so stringent," a former senior intelligence official told CNN. "You can't reacquire a capability like that overnight."

    Months of mounting fear

    The decision to pull the asset out of Russia was the culmination of months of mounting fear within the intelligence community.

    At the end of the Obama administration, US intelligence officials had already expressed concerns about the safety of this spy and other Russian assets, given the length of their cooperation with the US, according to a former senior intelligence official.

    Those concerns grew in early 2017 after the US intelligence community released its public report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which said Putin himself ordered the operation. The intelligence community also shared a classified version of the report with the incoming Trump administration, and it included highly protected details on the sources behind the intelligence. Senior US intelligence officials considered extracting at least one Russian asset at the time but did not do so, according to the former senior intelligence official.
    In the first months of his administration, Trump's handling of classified intelligence further concerned intelligence officials. Ultimately, they decided to launch the difficult operation to remove an asset who had been working for the US for years.

    The President was informed in advance of the extraction, along with a small number of senior officials. Details of the extraction itself remain secret and the whereabouts of the asset today are unknown to CNN.

    CNN's Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.
    Christopher Miller
    Moscow has filed a request with Interpol to locate Oleg Smolenkov in the US, says Russia's Foreign Ministry.
    I think it was the NYTimes that put his name out there which was all kinds of wrong.

    Sorry I was wrong. It was Ken Dilanian of NBC who outted him.

    Hayley Flott ��*♀️ ��*♀️
    Replying to
    Great job
    !!! What a scoop! Hope you can live with yourself
    John Deau
    Replying to
    LOL, like they can't find him.
    This is Putin's way of legitimizing Smolenkov--letting us know that he's a real defector. And, thus, that he gave real intel.
    Putin is getting ready to throw Trump under the bus, as Trump has outlived his usefulness. So it's back to sowing chaos.
    Quiet football is on!
    Replying to
    This guy knows trump's secrets. This was a planed leak by the trump administration to blame the media for when he falls out a window.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  4. #4099

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    " blame the media for when he falls out a window." I know that sounds a bit like that guy was joking, but he shouldn't be. This man is in amazingly serious jeopardy......poisoning, window-falling, firearms "accidents", whatever. He needs witness-protection to a degree it may never have been done. There need to be about 3 incredibly reliable long-time agents who are privy to his whereabouts in a yurt in central Tibet and no one else. The Trump administration (all of them) should have absolutely no access to this man's whereabouts once he is hidden.


  5. #4100

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Andrew McCabe’s legal team asks Justice Dept. if grand jury rejected charges in his case
    Matt Zapotosky and Spencer S. Hsu
    September 13, 2019 at 12:09 p.m. EDT

    The legal team for Andrew McCabe has asked federal prosecutors in D.C. whether a grand jury had rejected their bid to indict the FBI’s former acting director on charges of lying to investigators, pointing to media inquiries and news accounts detailing a series of unusual events in the case.

    In emails Thursday to U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu and other prosecutors in her office, McCabe lawyer Michael Bromwich said his team had received media inquiries about grand jurors declining to bring the case, and pointed to published reports describing how even after the Justice Department approved prosecutors to seek charges, no indictment was returned.

    Bromwich noted he had “no independent knowledge of whether the reporting is accurate” but suggested that if it was, prosecutors should abandon their effort. He wrote that — based on a Thursday discussion with federal prosecutors — it “is clear that no indictment has been returned.”

    McCabe’s legal team provided The Washington Post with a copy of the emails. Spokespersons for the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

    “In substance, the decision whether to resubmit a case, following a no true bill, to the same grand jury — or submit the case to a new grand jury — is entrusted to your discretion,” Bromwich wrote. “We believe that for the reasons we have presented to you and the Deputy Attorney General in person and in writing, you should not resubmit this case.”

    A “no true bill” case refers to a situation when grand jurors are asked to bring an indictment and decline to do so.

    To bring charges against McCabe, prosecutors would have to convince 12 of 23 grand jurors that there was probable cause he had committed a crime — a low legal bar. This week, it seemed prosecutors were on track to do so. The panel that had been investigating McCabe was resummoned after a months-long hiatus, and McCabe was told Thursday that his final bid to persuade the deputy attorney general that charges should not be brought had failed.

    But grand jurors came and went with no public indictment being returned. That could be a sign they balked, though it is also possible they have filed a determination under seal or could be asked to return later.

    McCabe and his team have waged an aggressive behind-the-scenes battle to dissuade prosecutors from moving forward with the case. Last month, after being informed that line prosecutors had recommended moving forward with charges, they met with Liu, and later — after Liu endorsed prosecutors’ recommendation — with Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. They were waiting to hear back from the No. 2 Justice Department official when the grand jury was suddenly brought back in this week.

    Bromwich cited some of that effort, and noted that if grand jurors declined to bring an indictment, Justice Department policies would advise them not to continue pursuing the case. The policies, Bromwich wrote, call for prosecutors to bring charges only if they believe “the admissible evidence is sufficient to obtain and sustain a guilty verdict by an unbiased trier of fact.”

    “If the evidence presented by your office was insufficient to convince 12 members of the grand jury to find probable cause to believe that Mr. McCabe had committed any crimes, no attorney can reasonably believe that ‘the admissible evidence is sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict by an unbiased trier of fact,’” Bromwich wrote. “If the grand jury voted not to approve charges, it did not find probable cause. Therefore, it is simply not reasonable to believe that a trial jury would find Mr. McCabe guilty of any charges employing a far more rigorous and exacting standard — beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    It is rare, but not unheard of, for grand juries to decline to indict.
    In a famous case from the 1980s, a grand jury declined to indict former professional tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis in a drug case, after his attorney waged a public campaign to present his side of things and said he expected charges before they were filed. In 1993, a grand jury declined to indict U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb of Virginia on obstruction and wiretapping charges — though that case had an unusual wrinkle in that the Justice Department’s No. 2 official told grand jurors explicitly that the decision to indict was theirs alone.

    A grand jury also famously declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in St. Louis in 2014.

    Those in legal circles often joke that prosecutors can get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich” because the standard for returning an indictment is low, and because defense attorneys are not allowed to present grand jurors their side of a case. When a grand jury fails to return an indictment, there is sometimes speculation that it is because prosecutors did not try very aggressively to persuade the panel.

    According to Justice Department statistics, there were just five “no true bill” cases returned by federal grand juries from October 2012 through September 2013, the last year for which data is publicly available — compared to nearly 86,000 prosecutions in federal district courts that year.

    Even if a grand jury rejected charges, it is possible the Justice Department could continue pursuing the case, perhaps with new evidence or a new grand jury, though the previous grand jury’s decision would almost surely hamper that effort and any future trial.

    McCabe, 51, was involved in supervising two of the bureau’s most politically sensitive cases: the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the inquiry into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election.

    The allegations against McCabe stem from the fall of 2016, a particularly fraught period in the bureau when the Clinton email case was wrapping up and the Russia investigation was gaining traction. A Wall Street Journal report published around that time detailed tension inside the FBI and Justice Department over the Clinton email case and a separate investigation of the Clinton family foundation.

    McCabe has acknowledged he authorized two FBI officials to speak to a reporter. But he initially denied having done so when FBI officials — and, later, the inspector general’s office — tried to determine who might have spoken to the media.

    The inspector general determined McCabe lied four times to investigators, a possible federal crime, regarding his contacts with members of the media. Based on those findings, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI.

    Prosecutors began using a grand jury last year after the Justice Department inspector general referred his investigation to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  6. #4101

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Kremlin-Controlled Russian Bank Hires Trump Insider as a Lobbyist
    John Sweeney will be paid to help Vnesheconombank avoid sanctions.
    Dan Friedman

    With Congress mulling legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia for its attack on the 2016 American election, an important Russian bank connected to Vladimir Putin’s government has turned for help to a well-positioned lobbyist in Washington: a Trump insider and former Republican House member named John Sweeney. In August Sweeney signed a whopping contract to lobby on behalf of this bank to stave off sanctions from the US government.

    Sweeney, who formerly represented district near Albany, filed paperwork late last month with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit to represent Vnesheconombank, known as VEB.RF, a Kremlin-controlled investment bank. The bank’s chair, Igor Shuvalov, was appointed last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who gave him orders to increase funding of national development projects.

    The filing says that Sweeney will “engage in meetings and other communications with U.S. government officials regarding potential new sanctions legislation…that could affect” the bank. Shuvalov, along with all members of the bank’s supervisory board, was included on a January 2018 Treasury Department report listing officials closely affiliated with the Russian government. That report, which Congress required Treasury to issue, did not lead to sanctions against those individuals, and the bank and its officers do not currently face any. But the bank could be hurt by sanctions legislation proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), which would bar US firms and citizens from investing in Russian energy projects or participating in ventures that involve Russian government debt, which could harm the country’s ability to finance infrastructure projects. That bill and a separate measure proposed in the House aim at punishing Russia for interfering in the 2016 election. Neither has passed Congress.

    Sweeney was hired to work for Vnesheconombank by the International Centre for Legal Protection, a Moscow entity formed to help Russia and Russian entities enmeshed in complex international legal disputes. The onetime House member will receive $62,500 per month for 12 months for the work, according a contract he filed with Justice Department.

    Reached by phone Thursday, Sweeney said he would call back, but he did not. He did not respond to a voicemail or questions sent by text message.

    Sweeney represented an upstate New York district from 1999 through 2006, when he was defeated for reelection by Kirsten Gillibrand, now the junior senator from New York. In the final weeks of the 2006 race, Sweeney faced domestic abuse allegations (claims that he has denied). In the years that followed, Sweeney twice pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. Sweeney stopped drinking and recently announced 10 years of sobriety. He also weathered a federal grand jury investigation, into whether he took official acts while in office to help three clients of an Albany lobbying firm in exchange for “a stream of financial benefits,” according to FBI records cited by the Albany Times Union. He was never charged in that case, which lasted from 2006 until at least 2008.

    An early Trump backer, Sweeney led Trump’s successful primary campaign in New York. Sweeney served on Trump’s presidential transition team, helping to vet potential senior national security and intelligence officials, ambassadors, and political appointees for multiple agencies.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  7. #4102

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Schiff accuses top intel official of illegally withholding 'urgent' whistleblower complaint
    By KYLE CHENEY 09/13/2019 08:12 PM EDT

    The nation's top intelligence official is illegally withholding a whistleblower complaint, possibly to protect President Donald Trump or senior White House officials, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff alleged Friday.

    Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint, accusing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the complaint from Congress, even after the intel community's inspector general characterized the complaint as credible and of "urgent concern."

    “A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the [inspector general] determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never," Schiff said in a statement. "This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct."

    Schiff indicated that he learned the matter involved "potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community," raising the specter that it is "being withheld to protect the President or other Administration officials." In addition, Schiff slammed Maguire for consulting the Justice Department about the whistleblower complaint "even though the statute does not provide you discretion to review, appeal, reverse, or countermand in any way the [inspector general's] independent determination, let alone to involve another entity within the Executive Branch."

    "The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials," Schiff wrote in a letter to Maguire on Friday.

    The initial whistleblower complaint was filed last month, and Schiff indicated that it was required by law to be shared with Congress nearly two weeks ago. His subpoena requires the information to be turned over by Sept. 17 or else he intends to compel Maguire to appear before Congress in a public hearing on Sept. 19.

    Schiff said Maguire declined to confirm or deny whether the whistleblower's complaint relates to anything the Intelligence Committee is currently investigating or whether White House lawyers were involved in the decision-making about the complaint.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  8. #4103

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Chairman Schiff Issues Subpoena for Whistleblower Complaint Being Unlawfully Withheld by Acting DNI from Intelligence Committees

    Washington, September 13, 2019

    Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a subpoena to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire to compel the production of a whistleblower complaint that the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s (IC IG) determined to be credible and a matter of “urgent concern,” as well as the IC IG’s determination and all records pertaining to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) involvement in this matter, including any and all correspondence with other Executive Branch actors such as the White House. The Acting DNI was required by statute to submit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees more than 10 days – but he refuses to do so.

    Prior to issuing the subpoena, the Committee learned that the complaint involves confidentially and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community and the ODNI refused to rule out that the underlying conduct relates to an area of active investigation by the Committee, raising serious concerns that the whistleblower complaint is being withheld to protect the President or other Administration officials. Absent compliance with the subpoena, the Committee plans to require Acting Director Maguire to appear before the Committee in an open hearing on Thursday, September 19, 2019.

    Chairman Schiff stated:

    “A month ago, a whistleblower within the intelligence community lawfully filed a complaint regarding a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law, or deficiency within the responsibility or authority of the Director of National Intelligence. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community found that complaint not only credible, but urgent. More than ten days since the Director was obligated to transmit the complaint to the intelligence committees, the Committee has still not received the disclosure from the Director, in violation of the law.

    “A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the IC IG determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never. This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.

    “After Watergate exposed significant intelligence abuses, a critical bargain was struck: in exchange for the Intelligence Community’s willingness to reveal closely guarded national security secrets, the congressional intelligence committees and leadership promised to handle that information responsibly. It was also of vital importance that intelligence officials have a lawful and protected means of bringing misconduct to the attention of Congress and the public. By withholding a credible whistleblower complaint that potentially deals with executive branch wrongdoing, the DNI is in violation of the applicable statute and has made itself a party to the concealment of potentially serious misconduct.”

    The Committee learned that the DNI was withholding from the Committee an authorized and protected whistleblower disclosure involving an “urgent concern,” which is defined by law as “a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information.”

    On September 9, 2019, the IC IG transmitted a letter to the Committee notifying it of the existence of a whistleblower complaint. The following day, on September 10, 2019, Chairman Schiff requested the full and unredacted whistleblower complaint, the IC IG determination related to the complaint, and all records pertaining to the ODNI’s involvement in this matter, including any and all correspondence with other Executive Branch actors including the White House. As noted in Schiff’s letter to Acting DNI Maguire:

    “We do not know whether this decision to withhold the disclosure was made only by you, or whether it involved interference by other parties, including the White House. The Committee’s recent experience has heightened concern of improper White House efforts to influence your office and the Intelligence Community. The failure to transmit to the Committee an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint, as required by law, raises the prospect that an urgent matter of a serious nature is being purposefully concealed by the Committee.”

    On September 13, 2019, the Committee received a letter from the ODNI declining the Chairman’s request and stating that the DNI, contrary to an unambiguous statutory command, is withholding the complaint from the Committee because, in part, it involves confidentially and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.

    In Schiff’s September 13, 2019 letter to the DNI accompanying the subpoena, Schiff writes:

    “… in violation of the statute’s explicit command, and in a stark break with the unbroken practice of previous Directors of National Intelligence, you have refused to transmit to the Committee the whistleblower disclosure, along with the IC IG’s determination that the information in the disclosure represents a credible urgent concern—even after the Committee’s formal request on September 10, 2019. So far as the Committee is aware, this marks the first time a Director of National Intelligence has ever sought to overrule the IC IG and conceal from Congress a whistleblower complaint—in this case, one the IC IG has already determined to be a credible urgent concern. You have also refused, in further contravention of the statute, to provide the whistleblower with required direction, through the IC IG, on how to contact the Committee directly in a secure manner.

    “As Acting Director of National Intelligence, you have neither the legal authority nor the discretion to overrule a determination by the IC IG. Moreover, you do not possess the authority to withhold from the Committee a whistleblower disclosure from within the Intelligence Community that is intended for Congress.

    “Your office has attempted to justify doing so based on a radical distortion of the statute that completely subverts the letter and spirit of the law, as well as arrogates to the Director of National Intelligence authority and discretion he does not possess. Under the statute, the Director serves as a conduit to transmit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committee with any comments the Director considers appropriate and consistent with proper security practices.

    “Even though the disclosure was made by an individual within the Intelligence Community through lawful channels, you have improperly withheld that disclosure on the basis that, in your view, the complaint concerns conduct by someone outside of the Intelligence Community and because the complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications. In a further departure from the statute, your office consulted the Department of Justice about the complaint, even though the statute does not provide you discretion to review, appeal, reverse, or countermand in any way the IC IG’s independent determination, let alone to involve another entity within the Executive Branch in the handling of a whistleblower complaint. Your office, moreover, has refused to affirm or deny that officials or lawyers at the White House have been involved in your decision to withhold the complaint from the Committee. You have also refused to rule out to me that the urgent concern, and underlying conduct, relates to an area of active investigation by the Committee.

    “The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials. This raises grave concerns that your office, together with the Department of Justice and possibly the White House, are engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible “serious or flagrant” misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law.

    “Accordingly, due to the urgency of the matter and the unlawful decision by your office to withhold from the Committee an Intelligence Community individual’s credible “urgent concern” whistleblower disclosure, the Committee hereby issues the attached subpoena compelling you to transmit immediately to the Committee the disclosure, in complete and unaltered form, as well as to produce other related materials.”

    Schiff’s letter to the Acting DNI on September 10, 2019 can be found *here. Schiff’s letter to the Acting DNI accompanying the subpoena on September 13, 2019 can be found *here.

    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  9. #4104

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Adam Schiff
    DOJ argues that Congress can’t see if the evidence warrants impeachment until it’s voted to impeach him — and not even then.

    The legal term for that reasoning is called “ass-backwards.”

    It would make Trump unindictable, unimpeachable, and essentially untouchable.

    He isn’t.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  10. #4105

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Elaine Chao Investigated by House Panel for Possible Conflicts
    By Eric Lipton and Michael Forsythe
    Sept. 16, 2019
    Updated 4:48 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Reform Committee asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Monday to turn over documents related to communication with her family’s shipping company as the panel stepped up an investigation into whether any actions taken by Ms. Chao amount to a conflict of interest.

    The request by the committee in the Democratic-controlled House relates to actions Ms. Chao has taken that potentially benefited Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company owned by her family. Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government to help build ships that Foremost has purchased from government-owned shipyards there.

    The actions by Ms. Chao — including joint public appearances since she became transportation secretary in 2017 with her father, James Chao, who founded the company, and a planned trip to China to meet with government officials there along with her father — have led House investigators to question if she is using her office to try to benefit her family’s financial interests.

    “Federal regulations prohibit federal employees from using their public offices for the ‘private gain’” of friends or relatives, said the letter sent on Monday to Ms. Chao by the House investigators, who cited articles that appeared in The New York Times in June and Politico in 2018 that detailed continued ties between Ms. Chao and her family’s company. “Several reports indicate that you have used your official position to benefit Foremost Group, a shipping company owned by your father and sisters that is headquartered in New York and operates a fleet that transports materials to and from China.”

    The Times investigation found numerous instances in which Ms. Chao, as transportation secretary, may have boosted Foremost’s image. In addition to inviting her father to the department in 2017, she also appeared at a signing ceremony that August at the Harvard Club in New York involving Foremost and the Sumitomo Group, a Japanese company with mass transit projects in the United States that fell under her oversight.

    The letter to Ms. Chao cites moves by the department to cut specific grant programs intended to help support the United States maritime industry. They include cuts proposed, but rejected by Congress, in 2017 and 2018 for the Maritime Security Program, which subsidizes American-flagged cargo ships so they are available, when necessary, to help the Pentagon move supplies to war zones. Cutting those grants could have undermined the American maritime industry at the same time her family’s company was receiving support from the Chinese maritime industry.

    The committee also asked Ms. Chao about her failure in 2018 to sell off her holdings in Vulcan Materials Company, a manufacturer of road construction materials, despite a promise to do so in an ethics agreement that Ms. Chao signed in early 2017 before her confirmation as transportation secretary.

    The letter is signed by Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, the committee’s chairman, and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, who is the chairman of the panel’s economic and consumer policy subcommittee.

    The Transportation Department, in a statement on Monday, said it intended to respond to the request from House investigators, but suggested that the allegations of any conflict of interest were unjustified.

    The agency also pointed out that while it did advocate cuts to certain maritime grant programs, overall it has increased maritime spending, particularly on ships used by maritime academies.

    “We look forward to responding to the committee’s request,” the statement said. “Media attacks targeting the secretary’s family are stale and only attempt to undermine her long career of public service.”

    The agency has also said that Ms. Chao’s failure to sell the Vulcan stock was an oversight that occurred when the company paid her out on stock options she earned while serving on the Vulcan board by issuing her shares of stock in the company instead of paying her cash. Ms. Chao subsequently sold the Vulcan stock, after it was reported, at first by The Wall Street Journal, that she still had financial ties to the company, even while she helps oversee federal highway building efforts.

    The department said in a statement on Monday that the stock Ms. Chao held in Vulcan did not create a conflict of interest and that Ms. Chao’s “decision to divest entirely demonstrates her commitment to going above and beyond what is required in terms of compliance.”

    Ms. Chao’s family wealth has also benefited her husband, Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who is the Senate majority leader. In 2008, the couple received a gift from Ms. Chao’s father valued between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal disclosures.

    The House Oversight Committee sent Ms. Chao 18 different document and information requests related to the two matters, including requests for copies of any communication since January 2017 between Ms. Chao or any employee at the Transportation Department with her father or her sister Angela Chao, who is now the chief executive of Foremost.

    The committee also asked for copies by the end of this month of all documents related to a trip that Ms. Chao planned to take to China in October 2017. The trip was canceled after State Department officials raised ethics concerns about her plan to include members of her family in meetings with Chinese government officials, as was reported in June by The Times.

    House investigators have sent out many letters like this since Democrats took control in 2019, requests that in many cases the Trump administration has resisted, leading to subpoenas, and growing friction between the House Democrats and the administration.

    A spokeswoman for the Oversight Committee said this request to Ms. Chao was the “initial inquiry to Secretary Chao about these specific issues,” suggesting that this is not a matter that the committee has already spent a large amount of time investigating.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  11. #4106

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    US Attorney SDNY
    Chinese government employee charged in Manhattan federal court with participating in conspiracy to obtain U.S. visas fraudulently

    U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated: “As alleged Zhongsan Liu conspired to obtain research scholar visas fraudulently for people whose actual purpose was not research but recruitment. Rather than helping to bring students to the U.S., Liu allegedly conspired to defraud this country’s visa system to advance his efforts to attract U.S. experts to China. Thanks to the FBI, this alleged abuse of the visa system has been halted.”

    Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said: “We welcome foreign students and researchers, including from China, but we do not welcome visa fraud – especially on behalf of a government. We will continue to confront Chinese government attempts to subvert American law to advance its own interests in diverting U.S. research and know-how to China.”


    According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court[1]:

    From approximately 2017, up to and including September 2019, LIU participated in a conspiracy to fraudulently procure U.S. visas for employees of the government of the People’s Republic of China (the “PRC Government”). LIU operates the New York office of the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel (“CAIEP-NY”). CAIEP-NY is a PRC Government agency that, among other things, engages in talent-recruitment for the benefit of the PRC. In particular, CAIEP recruits U.S. scientists, academics, engineers, and other experts to work in China.

    LIU worked with others, including other PRC Government employees in the United States, to fraudulently procure J-1 Research Scholar visas for a CAIEP-NY employee (“CC-1”) and a prospective CAIEP-NY employee (“the CAIEP-NY Hire”). The J-1 Research Scholar visa program permits foreign nationals to come to the United States for the primary purpose of conducting research at a corporate research facility, museum, library, university, or other research institution.

    In or about April 2018, CC-1 applied for and received a J-1 visa to conduct research at a particular U.S. university (“University-1”) located outside New York. Although CC-1 represented to the U.S. Government that she was entering the United States for the primary purpose of conducting research at University-1, CC-1’s actual purpose in the United States consisted of performing full-time talent-recruitment work at CAIEP-NY. LIU helped CC-1 take measures to enhance her false appearance as a Research Scholar at University-1 by, among other things, directing CC-1 to report to University-1 upon her arrival in the United States; ensuring that CC-1 obtained a driver’s license in the state where University-1 is located; and instructing CC-1 to periodically visit University-1 while working full-time at CAIEP-NY.

    In addition, LIU attempted to enable the CAIEP-NY Hire to obtain a J-1 Research Scholar visa under false pretenses. In particular, LIU reached out to contacts at multiple U.S. universities in order to arrange for a university to invite the CAIEP-NY Hire to come to the United States as a J-1 Research Scholar. In truth and in fact, however, LIU intended that the CAIEP-NY Hire’s primary purpose in the United States would consist of engaging full-time in the talent-recruitment work of CAIEP-NY.

    LIU, 57, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

    Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, and thanked the U.S. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations, and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division for their assistance.

    This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Gillian Grossman is in charge of the prosecution.

    The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  12. #4107

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    New York Prosecutors Subpoena Eight Years of Trump Tax Returns
    Move is part of probe examining whether payment to Stormy Daniels violated state business-records law

    By Corinne Ramey and Rebecca Ballhaus
    Sept. 16, 2019 5:21 pm ET
    State prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed eight years of President Trump ’s tax returns from his longtime accounting firm, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    The subpoena seeks documents including Mr. Trump’s personal tax returns and those of his longtime business, the Trump Organization, the person said. The probe is examining whether a payment to former adult-film star Stormy Daniels—and the way the Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement of that payment—violated a state law that bars falsifying business records, according to the person.

    A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is conducting the investigation, declined to comment.

    Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said, “We are evaluating our options, taking a look at the situation and we’ll respond in due course.”

    A spokeswoman for the accounting firm, Mazars USA, said in a statement that the company would “respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.” She said it is the firm’s policy not to comment on work it does for clients.

    The subpoena was reported earlier by the New York Times.

    An investigation by Manhattan state prosecutors into the president’s role in hush-money payments has escalated since the federal investigation into those payments—which sent former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to prison in May—concluded this summer. Investigators from the district attorney’s office met with Mr. Cohen this summer, the person familiar with the matter said.

    A lawyer for Mr. Cohen didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    In August 2018, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to charges including violating campaign-finance law by arranging hush-money payments during the 2016 election to two women who alleged they had affairs with Mr. Trump. He has said he did so at Mr. Trump’s behest, an assertion that was confirmed by federal prosecutors in a court filing last year.

    Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing.

    Until this summer, federal prosecutors in Manhattan probed the possible involvement of others at the Trump Organization in Mr. Cohen’s campaign-finance violations. They haven’t disclosed any indictments of any executives at the company.

    Federal prosecutors said in a charging document for Mr. Cohen that the Trump Organization accounted for reimbursement checks to him for the payments as “legal expenses,” when, in fact, there was no such retainer agreement. The reimbursement Mr. Cohen sought was “not in connection with any legal services he had provided,” prosecutors have said.

    Justice Department policy bars the indictment of a sitting president.

    The subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney’s office is the latest chapter in a multipronged effort by investigators to obtain the president’s financial information.

    The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees in April subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for documents and financial records—including tax returns—related to Mr. Trump, his children and various business entities they own spanning the last decade. Deutsche Bank told a federal appeals court last month that it has copies of tax returns sought under that subpoena.

    In July, the House Ways and Means Committee sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service for the president’s tax returns. In a separate dispute, the president sued that committee and New York state officials in an attempt to block his state tax returns from being turned over to the panel.

    Mr. Trump in 2016 broke with four decades of precedent for presidential candidates in declining to release his tax returns.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  13. #4108

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    I can't see any structural difference between the Government of the USA and the government of Venezuela. None.
    Missing winter...

  14. #4109

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    A very sad comment......and despite how embarrassing that fact is, and how obvious it should be what a mess this man has caused, he still has an approval rating that does not preclude the chance of re-election. He should be in a position by now where he would be praying for 5% of the vote!!!! GH

  15. #4110

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Matthew Yglesias
    This is completely insane.



    Trump’s going to go to war bc MBS has promised to keep oil prices low thru the election.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

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