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  1. #3271

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Drew Hammill @Drew_Hammill

    The United States Congress is a co-equal branch of government in our system of checks and balances. The Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight in the war zone where our men and women in uniform are risking their lives every day.

    After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines.

    In the middle of the night, State Dept's Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased danger to the delegation & to troops, security, & other officials supporting trip.

    This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.

    In light of the grave threats caused by the President’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to further endanger our troops and security personnel, or the other travelers on the flights.

    Whether here or abroad, the Speaker always thanks our troops, diplomats and intelligence community for their heroism & service. The Speaker commends her colleagues on the delegation, who personally & officially have dedicated their lives to protect & defend the American people.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  2. #3272
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    shtexas's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by Ti-Amie View Post
    It seems another fresh hell has opened up this morning. To be honest I don't have the strength today...
    I would be more comfortable if someplace other than Buzzfeed had this story.

  3. #3273
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    shtexas's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by shtexas View Post
    I would be more comfortable if someplace other than Buzzfeed had this story.
    Or maybe I should say less comfortable.

  4. #3274

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    I'm okay with Buzzfeed, just need to look closer at what they've become to me, rather than where they started, which was how I still viewed the name until a year or so ago. Now that they do serious news and are committed to investigative journalism, they really are legit and have broken a good deal of stories. I personally think they could do with a name change in furtherance of that seriousness, but no one asked me.

  5. #3275

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Peter Sterne
    Verified account

    There are 3 possibilities with the BuzzFeed story:

    - the story accurately reflects what Cohen told federal prosecutors in another office (e.g. SDNY) but not SCO

    - the story has minor inconsistencies with what Cohen told SCO

    - the story’s central claims are substantively wrong

    Also, because this is only too true. So, so leaky.


    Keep in mind that the BF story is scoped just like Cohen's plea filings were scoped, which went thru SDNY, and SDNY is famously leaky, suggesting sources are at SDNY and not SCO.

  6. #3276

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    David Frum
    Verified account

    Here's Don Jr testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump Tower Moscow negotiations faded away at end of 2014

  7. #3277

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    If you're not up for reading, this conversation occurred on Meet the Press, follow the link to watch the clip.

    Giuliani: Discussions on Trump Tower in Moscow were 'active' throughout 2016 election

    Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat says "remarkable" shifting timeline is cause for more investigation.

    By Ben Kamisar
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow remained an “active proposal” as late as November of 2016, leaving open the possibility that Trump’s family-led company continued to pursue the business deal up until the presidential election, months later than previously known.

    Appearing on NBC's “Meet the Press,” Giuliani said the president has told him he can “remember having conversations” with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, about the project well into 2016. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline of his involvement in that proposal, admitting that he worked on it through June of 2016 after initially saying it ended at the beginning of that year.

    “It's our understanding that they went on throughout 2016," Giuliani said of the discussions, adding that there "weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can't be sure of the exact date."

    "Probably could be up to as far as October, November — our answers cover until the election," he said, referring to written questions Trump and his lawyers have answered from special counsel Robert Mueller's office. "So anytime during that period they could've talked about it. But the president's recollection of it is that the thing had petered out quite a bit.”

    "I would say Michael Cohen would have a much better recollection of it than the president," Giuliani added. "It was much more important to him. That was his sole mission. The president was running for president of the United States. So you have to expect there's not going to be a great deal of concentration on a project that never went anywhere."

    Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said that the idea that negotiations could have continued into November was “big news.”

    “That is news to me, and that is big news. Why, two years after the fact, are we just learning this fact now when there’s been this much inquiry?” asked Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    “I would think most voters — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — that knowing that the Republican nominee was actively trying to do business in Moscow, that the Republican nominee at least at one point had offered, if he built this building, Vladimir Putin, a free-penthouse apartment, and if those negotiations were ongoing up until the election, I think that’s a relevant fact for voters to know," Warner said. "And I think it’s remarkable we are two years after the fact and just discovering it today.”

    The Moscow tower project is part of separate investigations by the special counsel and lawmakers into links between Trump’s campaign and Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

    Cohen has said he lied about the length of his involvement in the process in order to be consistent with Trump’s own public pronouncements that he wasn’t involved in business dealings with Russia.

    The questions about Cohen’s motives were also caught up in a disputed story published by BuzzFeed that claimed Trump personally directed Cohen to lie to Congress.

    That accusation prompted Democrats to immediately sound alarms, with some calling for impeachment proceedings.

    But one day after the story’s publication, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement that "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate." BuzzFeed has said it stands by the story.

    On Sunday, Giuliani said he was “100 percent certain” that Trump never asked Cohen to lie to Congress.

    “The Justice Department and the special counsel’s office said that the story was inaccurate. And the inaccuracy is that there’s no evidence that the president told him to lie,” he added.

  8. #3278

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Deripaska and Allies Could Benefit From Sanctions Deal, Document Shows

    By Kenneth P. Vogel
    Jan. 21, 2019

    WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.

    But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.

    The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.

    With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point. House Democrats won widespread Republican support last week for their efforts to block the sanctions relief deal. Democratic hopes of blocking the administration’s decision have been stifled by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    The Treasury Department announced the sanctions last April against Mr. Deripaska, six other Russian oligarchs and their companies, including Mr. Deripaska’s aluminum giant, Rusal, as well as the holding company that owns it, EN+, and another company it controls, EuroSibEnergo. Like other oligarchs, Mr. Deripaska is closely allied with the Kremlin.

    The sanctions were in retaliation for “a range of malign activity around the globe” by Russia, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said at the time.

    The personal sanctions on Mr. Deripaska went into effect immediately, but those on his companies were delayed several times, and Mr. Mnuchin struck a conciliatory tone toward the companies. He clarified that the goal of the sanctions was “to change the behavior” of Mr. Deripaska, and “not to put Rusal out of business,” given the company’s pivotal role as a global supplier of aluminum.

    Mr. Mnuchin indicated that the Treasury Department might be willing to lift the sanctions from Mr. Deripaska’s companies if he reduced his stake to less than 50 percent.

    Last month, Mr. Mnuchin announced that the department had reached an agreement to lift the sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies in exchange for a commitment “to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control.”

    The department laid out the broad contours of the agreement in a letter to Congress, which was released publicly. But the confidential document, which was not released publicly but was reviewed by The New York Times, describes the deal in considerably greater detail, including proprietary information about the corporate restructuring, much of it not previously reported.

    It shows that the sanctions relief deal will allow Mr. Deripaska to wipe out potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in debt by transferring some of his shares to VTB, a Russian government-owned bank under limited United States sanctions that had lent him large sums of money.

    The confidential document, titled “Terms of Removal,” also shows that the agreement would leave allies of Mr. Deripaska and the Kremlin with significant stakes in his companies. The document is signed by executives representing Mr. Deripaska’s three companies as well as the official in the Treasury Department who oversees the division that handled the negotiations.

    The new information could lend ammunition to criticism that the Trump administration either knowingly let a Kremlin-allied oligarch off easy, or was outmaneuvered by a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign funded by his companies.

    Mr. Deripaska has attracted particular attention because he has been a bit character in the story lines around the Russia investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Deripaska had a business relationship with Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. Mr. Manafort has been convicted and pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s team.

    In response to questions about the details outlined in the confidential document, the Treasury Department issued a statement broadly defending the deal, citing provisions that keep Mr. Deripaska and his allies from exerting voting control of some of their shares.

    “Deripaska’s control over these entities is severed by this delisting, and he can no longer use them to carry out illicit activities on behalf of the Kremlin,” the statement said. “En+, Rusal and ESE have committed to provide Treasury with an unprecedented level of transparency into their dealings to ensure that Deripaska does not reassert control. Treasury will be vigilant in ensuring these commitments are met, and failure to comply will bring swift consequences, including the reimposition of sanctions.”

    Yet Mr. Deripaska’s associates have privately expressed satisfaction with the deal. And representatives for EN+ suggested to at least one prospective outside buyer who expressed interest in Mr. Deripaska’s shares that the company would only consider selling to an independent investor as a fall back option if Treasury did not approve the restructuring agreement.

    The publicly released letter sent to Congress said the under the agreement to lift the corporate sanctions, Mr. Deripaska would reduce his ownership stake in EN+ from approximately 70 percent to 44.95 percent. That would include a “restructuring transaction” with a Swiss mining company with which he has worked closely, Glencore, and the transfer of one block of his EN+ stock to VTB Bank and another to a charitable foundation.

    The letter did not identify either the number of shares to be transferred, or the name of the foundation. And it stressed that “none of the transactions to be undertaken consistent with the agreement will allow Deripaska to obtain cash either in return for his shares or from future dividends” issued by his companies, which “will be placed into a blocked account.”

    But the unreleased, confidential document contains raw numbers, names and other details that raise questions about the degree to which the deal is penalizing Mr. Deripaska.

    The document identifies the foundation as Volnoe Delo, which was founded and funded by Mr. Deripaska. It supports programs ranging from stray dog rescue to archaeological excavations to book fairs. Under the deal, it will receive nearly 21 million shares of EN+, amounting to 3.22 percent of the company.

    The confidential document reveals that Glencore, which is among Rusal’s biggest customers for aluminum, will receive 67.4 million shares of EN+, good for 10.55 percent of the company.

    And VTB, which reportedly already owned nearly 10 percent of EN+, will receive nearly 92 million additional shares, bringing its total stake in the company to about 24 percent.

    In return for the additional shares going to VTB, which were worth nearly $800 million at the close of trading Friday on the Moscow stock exchange, Mr. Deripaska would be released from debts he owes the bank, the document shows. Mr. Deripaska had secured the loans with stock in one of his companies before the sanctions were announced. The stock prices of Rusal and EN+ plummeted after the sanctions were announced last year, but rose on the news of the deal to lift them — in effect allowing Mr. Deripaska to pay off more of the loans than he would have been able to do absent a deal with the administration.

    Another Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, owns a stake in Mr. Deripaska’s empire. He also faces sanctions from the United States.

    Notably, VTB would be able to collect dividends from its EN+ shares, according to the confidential document, despite the bank being under limited United States sanctions.

    Another Russian oligarch who faces sanctions by the United States and has attracted the interest of Mr. Mueller’s investigators, Viktor Vekselberg, also has a stake in Mr. Deripaska’s empire through a company called SUAL Partners Limited. Another investor in SUAL Partners is Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who has British and American citizenship. He donated $1 million through another company he controls to the committee that funded Mr. Trump’s inaugural festivities, which Mr. Vekselberg attended and to which Mr. Blavatnik was invited.

    According to the confidential document, under the restructuring agreement approved by the Treasury Department, SUAL would own 22.5 percent of Rusal, while EN+ would own 56.88 percent of Rusal.

    The document specifies the precise ownership stakes in EN+ of other people and entities with personal relationships to Mr. Deripaska. That includes shares owned by his ex-wife, Polina Yumasheva, a British-educated daughter of the chief of staff to Boris N. Yeltsin, a former president of Russia. She owns 5.19 percent of EN+, while her father, Valentin Yumashev, owns 1.57 percent, and a firm called Orandy Capital Limited, which reportedly has links to the family, owns another 1.78 percent, according to the document.

    Taken together, Mr. Deripaska, his foundation, his ex-wife, her father and Orandy Capital would own nearly 57 percent of EN+ under the deal.

    In its letter to Congress outlining the deal, Treasury stressed that independent trustees with “no personal or professional ties” to Mr. Deripaska will control the EN+ board votes associated with the shares owned by Mr. Deripaska’s foundation, his ex-wife, her father and the family-linked Orandy Capital, as well as those being transferred to VTB.

    The deal also requires Mr. Deripaska to hand over voting authority for 10 percent of his shares to “a voting trust obligated to vote in the same manner as the majority of shares held by shareholders other than Deripaska.”

    Critics of the deal pointed out that, after Treasury announced it, the share prices of Rusal and EN+ rose sharply, providing a boost to the portfolios of Mr. Deripaska, his family and VTB.

    “Score that a win for Putin,” tweeted Michael A. McFaul, a former United States ambassador to Russia, referring to the Rusal share price surge.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  9. #3279

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Michael Cohen Postpones House Testimony, Citing Trump Tweets About His Family
    Trump has tweeted about Cohen’s father-in-law

    By Rebecca Ballhaus
    Updated Jan. 23, 2019 2:11 p.m. ET
    WASHINGTON—Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President Trump, on Wednesday moved to postpone his scheduled testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing attacks by the president on his family.

    Lanny Davis, a spokesman for Mr. Cohen, said in a statement that the testimony would be postponed “due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel.” Rudy Giuliani is one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

    “This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first,” Mr. Davis said, adding that Mr. Cohen would testify at a “later date.”

    A spokeswoman for the House Oversight Committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Cohen had been schedule to testify Feb. 7.

    Mr. Trump in recent weeks has attacked Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, implying in a Fox News interview that he was guilty of criminal activity.

    Referring to Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump said, “In order to get his sentence reduced, he says, I have an idea, I’ll give you some information on the president. Well, there is no information. But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at.”

    In a CNN interview Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said Mr. Shusterman “may have ties to something called organized crime.” He didn’t offer any details or explain why he believed that might be the case.

    There is no mention of Mr. Shusterman in the government’s charging documents or sentencing memorandums for Mr. Cohen.

    Mr. Giuliani didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

    Mr. Cohen’s testimony was expected to focus on his life story, examining how he went from serving as one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal aides for more than a decade to publicly breaking with him last year and implicating him in two federal crimes.

    However, his testimony was expected to be highly restricted to avoid interfering with the special counsel’s Russia investigation. He was also expected to be limited in what he can say about the continuing Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office investigation.

    The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight committees had issued a statement criticizing the president’s comments.

    “The integrity of our process to serve as an independent check on the Executive Branch must be respected by everyone, including the President,” they wrote. “The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.”
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  10. #3280

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    This was totally expected after his, uh, shoulder surgery that gave him a black eye...


    Brandi Buchman

    If you were looking forward to Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress in Feb. but now find yourself deflated since he has asked to delay... May I remind you of this: Manafort's sentencing in VA is on the books for Feb. 8. I'll be there with coverage, I hope you join me.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  11. #3281

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    House Democrats probe how Jared Kushner got security clearance
    The probe was launched "in response to grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump administration," said Rep. Elijah Cummings.

    Jan. 23, 2019, 11:02 AM EST
    By Ken Dilanian

    The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation into the White House security clearance process, an inquiry that promises to put a spotlight on how President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, overcame concerns to gain access to highly classified information.

    "The Committee on Oversight and Reform is launching an in-depth investigation of the security clearance process at the White House and Transition Team in response to grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump administration," Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a letter to the White House obtained by NBC News.

    The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Last February, NBC News reported that more than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president's daughter Ivanka; Kushner, her husband; and the president's top legal counsel. Kushner has since obtained a clearance, according to his lawyer, despite reports that he has been targeted for manipulation by foreign governments.

    Cummings said he is seeking documents relevant to the NBC news report.

    Kushner's clearance was downgraded last February after it emerged that he initially failed to submit required information on his financial disclosure form. He regained full clearance a few months later, his lawyer said, but White House and CIA officials declined to discuss the circumstances.

    According to The Washington Post, Kushner was granted only "top secret" status, a designation that bars him from reviewing some of the government's most closely guarded intelligence.

    In the letter, Cummings said the investigation will seek to determine "why the White House and Transition Team appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information" and "the extent to which the nation's most highly guarded secrets were provided to officials who should not have had access to them."

    Last year, Cummings pointed out, John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff, acknowledged "shortcomings" with the White House's security clearance process.

    Kelly warned that the White House "should — and in the future, must — do better," and added that "now is the time to take a hard look at the way the White House processes clearance requests."

    But the White House has said nothing about any changes made to the process, and has rebuffed congressional requests for information, Cummings said.

    "For the past two years, I have sought information with other Committee Members about a series of extremely troubling incidents regarding the security clearances of some of President Trump's top aides, but the White House has refused to provide the information we requested, often ignoring our requests completely," Cummings said.

    Cummings' letter seeks information about reports of security clearance issues involving multiple current and former officials, including:

    • Senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner

    • National security adviser John Bolton

    • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn

    • Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr.

    • Former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland

    • Former White House staff secretary Robert Porter

    • Former National Security Council senior director Robin Townley

    • Trump's former personal assistant, John McEntee

    • Former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka

    Cummings said he also sent a letter to the National Rifle Association about Bolton, seeking information about his contacts with Maria Butina, an NRA member who has been charged as an unregistered agent of Russia.

    Cummings said he is demanding documents relating to Kelly's review of security clearance processes in 2018, and the NBC report that 34 White House officials who had started working on the first day of the Trump administration were still working with interim security clearances as of November 2017 and that more than 130 political appointees in the Executive Office of the President were working with interim security clearances as of that date.

    Cummings also asked for documents pertaining to what he said is the White violation of the SECRET Act — a law requiring the White House to submit a report to Congress by August 2018 on its procedures for adjudicating security clearances.

    Cummings sent similar letters Wednesday to Vice President Mike Pence in his capacity as chair of the transition team, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of State and the National Rifle Association.

    House Republicans had launched an investigation into security clearances in February 2018, after questions about how Porter, who had been staff secretary, had been given access to top secret code-word information despite domestic violence allegations against him.

    But the White House defied the GOP-controlled committee's requests for information and no action was taken.

    Democrats have vowed to issue subpoenas if the Trump administration fails to turn over documents in response to requests from committee chairman.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  12. #3282

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    That's great. It is truly a mystery how Jared went from working on classified information without a security clearance to being restricted from that information when the checkered conflict stories came out to apparently working with a security clearance with no word on how it was obtained.

  13. #3283

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzNU View Post
    That's great. It is truly a mystery how Jared went from working on classified information without a security clearance to being restricted from that information when the checkered conflict stories came out to apparently working with a security clearance with no word on how it was obtained.
    Or this guy

    Malcolm Nance
    ‏Verified account

    Among others It’s Seb Gorka’s turn in the barrel. How was he teaching US special ops servicemembers w/ no real credentials, job experience & then got a top terrorism job in WH after he founded a neoNazi organization in Hungary? He was utterly unclearable but wanted a TS/SCI. Why?
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

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