AuthorTopic: Who They Are...  (Read 875 times)

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A shocking new Pennsylvania grand jury report has revealed that more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused 1,000 children, and possibly thousands more, over a span of seven decades. The church leadership covered up the abuse, lying to communities, transferring predator priests rather than firing them, and locking abuse complaints away in what the church called a “secret archive.” For more, we speak with Shaun Dougherty, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Pennsylvania priest. His story was included in Tuesday’s grand jury report. He was molested by a priest from the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in Pennsylvania for three years, starting when he was 10 years old. George Koharchick, the priest responsible, has been defrocked. Even though the FBI determined he was a child predator, Koharchick cannot be tried as such because of an expired statute of limitations. We also speak with Bob Hoatson, a former Catholic priest and the co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, which assists victims of sexual abuse.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We’re continuing to look at the shocking new Pennsylvania grand jury report that has revealed how more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused a thousand children, and possibly thousands more, over seven decades, and that the church leadership covered up the abuse. We’re joined now by two guests.

AMY GOODMAN: Shaun Dougherty is with us. He was molested by a priest from Altoona-Johnstown diocese in Pennsylvania for three years, starting when he was 10 years old. The priest responsible, George Koharchick, has been defrocked. Even though the FBI determined he was a child predator, the priest cannot be tried as such because of expired statute of limitations. Shaun Dougherty’s story was one of many included in the grand jury report released on Tuesday.

Bob Hoatson is also with us, a former Catholic priest, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, which assists victims of sexual abuse.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Shaun, we saw you in the clip released by the Pennsylvania attorney general. Talk about what happened to you, how old you were and when you blew the whistle or told anyone.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Beginning in fifth grade, my priest, my religion teacher, my pee-wee basketball coach, was Father George Koharchick, a well-loved young priest in our community who had been grooming me for years, of getting used to him handling me physically, touching me, having him close to me. And in the fifth grade, that touching progressed to sexual assault.

George Koharchick, to this day, I believe, he must have—my belief is that he has a personal infatuation with male genitalia. I believe—from the patterns in the things that he did throughout the three years, I believe he was testing us to see—he wanted to know the exact day that we were going to be sexually mature, in my opinion. And that progressed to a one-time digital penetration in a shower when I was 13. I did not like that experience at all. And I gave him a look in the shower. And surprisingly, it ended for me that day in the shower. Unfortunately, for some of my friends, it continued for them.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Do you know how many people were involved, how many children?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: He admitted to the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury to being close to 12 boys. I imagine it’s a much bigger number than that.

AMY GOODMAN: And when did he admit this?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: The report was released in March of 2016 by then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania. And on pages 66 and 67 of that, my name is a redacted name. And at some point over the course of that grand jury investigation lead-up to that rollout, he admitted to that. And it’s on the—it’s in the report.

AMY GOODMAN: What did the church know of what he was doing? He not only groomed you.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Here’s the fun part.

AMY GOODMAN: He groomed your parents, as well, playing—going bowling with them?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Not just mine. Not just my parents, he groomed the entire community. Since becoming public, after the report came out, I—reading that, I decided I can’t stay silent. Well, what drew me out was a newspaper article with him on the front page. Two people had gone to the bishop of Altoona-Johnstown—

AMY GOODMAN: When?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: —diocese, in 2012, to call him out.

AMY GOODMAN: Six years ago.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Those two same brothers went to the then-monsignor in 1983 about Father Koharchick, in my eighth grade year, reported it—

AMY GOODMAN: Decades ago.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: —confirmed it. Monsignor went then to Bishop Hogan, covered it up. And this is firsthand experience by one of the brothers. I’m very—I grew up with these guys. And now I know—

AMY GOODMAN: Bishop Hogan, the bishop of?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Bishop Hogan, Altoona-Johnstown, years ago, made an arrangement, a financial: We need to protect the church, we need to protect the reputation, we need to protect your kids, we need to keep it quiet. And they agreed to transfer him. It took them six months. They didn’t tell anybody. They permitted—I grew up a block from the school. It was in my eighth-grade year. They didn’t tell anybody. They allowed me and three of my friends in the rectory, in his private space, to pack his belongings. The entire top shelf of his book was all medical journals on male genitalia. Right? We got in the car, drove to Portage, Pennsylvania, to the new school and to the new rectory that he was assigned to, and we spent the night in the rectory. And he had just been transferred for sexually abusing two boys.

AMY GOODMAN: What happens when a priest is caught, what, embezzling?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY:They’re in jail, immediately. You can’t steal from the church. The church steals from you. It’s not a two-way street. That is not a two-way street with the church. Money flows one direction. And if you take it from them—

AMY GOODMAN: Yet when a priest steals the life of a child, the dignity of a child, the church protects?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Part of me feels that there is a—I mean, I can’t say. Bob could probably speak more to this when he comes on, is that I have to say that there has to be a part of the church that feels that that is their benevolent right of some kind. I really—I really just—it’s starting to seem like there is a percentage of the church that feels like it is their divine right to do this. It is so systemically huge.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You mentioned earlier—and forgive me for asking—what exactly digital penetration is?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: He stuck his finger in my anus in the shower when I was 13 years old. I believe he was testing to see if I would go further.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you talk about also the issue of the statute of limitations and what that means for survivors like yourself?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: When I was a child and I was faced with this, my statutes of limitation only permitted me to talk and press charges until I was 15 years old. I had two years past the end of the last assault. So I was not legally old enough to drive a car in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, yet I had to come forward and tell my parents and the community that the guy that they bowl with every Thursday night is raping the kids.

AMY GOODMAN: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro emphasized how the Catholic Church delayed taking action on reports of priests engaged in child sexual abuse in order to prevent criminal charges from being filed.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOSH SHAPIRO: The pattern was abuse, deny and cover up. The effect not only victimized children, it served a legal purpose that church officials manipulated for their advantage. The longer they covered it up, the less chance law enforcement could prosecute these predators, because the statute of limitations would run. As a direct consequence of the systematic cover-up by senior church officials, almost every instance of child sexual abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. I want to bring a former priest into this conversation. That’s right. Bob Hoatson, former Catholic priest, president of Road to Recovery, talk about being in the church, when you were a priest, and blowing the whistle.

ROBERT HOATSON: Well, I was 40 years an insider in this church. I was 23 years in the religious life and 14 as a priest. So I saw it from the inside. I was sexually abused by three different men in the religious life. And I knew what was going on on the inside. And it was just abject corruption from the get-go. This church is a criminal enterprise, that actually covers up the massive sexual abuse of children for centuries.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Bob, could you explain—respond to what Shaun said earlier? I mean, you were sexually abused by three different men. They were all priests, is that correct?

ROBERT HOATSON: They were religious brothers, actually.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what does that mean?

ROBERT HOATSON: A religious brother is someone who lives in community but does not have the ability to say mass, etc. They do more social kinds of works, like education, hospital work, etc.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to you?

ROBERT HOATSON: Well, the day I stepped into the religious life at the age of 18, after having graduated from high school as the top senior of my class, this person said to me, this superior said to me, “Bob, you’re a cold person. I’m going to have to warm you up.” He continued that mantra on for the entire year, until the second superior I had, in the novitiate, which is the most important year of formation because that’s where you learn the spiritual life, well, that superior sexually abused me. And then when I reported it to another superior, he told me that, yes, I was preyed upon, but that night he crept into bed and sexually assaulted me in the same way that I had described to him several hours previously.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So do you agree with what Shaun suggested, that part of the church is their belief that they have some kind of benevolent right?

ROBERT HOATSON: Oh, absolutely. What this is is a massive abuse of power. And then it’s exhibited in the sexual abuse of not just children, but teenagers and vulnerable adults, as well. And it’s also part of the reason why financial crimes are committed within the church. So, every aspect of dysfunction is exhibited because of the abuse of power.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about when you came forward in a big way. It wasn’t actually when you were being sexually abused, though you were repeatedly.

ROBERT HOATSON: Yes. In 2003, I testified before the New York state Legislature, and I was a priest at the time. I was directing two schools in the inner city of Newark. And I called for the resignation of any bishop in the United States who has covered up child sexual abuse. Three days later, I was called into the chancery of the Newark archdiocese and fired by my bishop for speaking out.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And they said explicitly to you that you’re being fired because you spoke out?

ROBERT HOATSON: Oh, yes, I was told that my language was too volatile at the hearing in Albany, and the bishop asked me to tone down my language. And then I was—they slid a letter across the table at me, and it said that “You’re fired, effective immediately.” Now, they didn’t take away my priestly faculties then, but in 2005, when I turned around and sued him for doing all of these retaliatory things, then they put me on complete suspension, and I wasn’t able to function as a priest at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you blew the whistle at a Catholic high school. Explain.

ROBERT HOATSON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: This wasn’t when you were being abused.

ROBERT HOATSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: But you felt that the—what? Principal?

ROBERT HOATSON: Well, having been abused as a child and also as a teenager, my antenna, you know, has been up for a very long time. So, in 1981, when I was stationed at a high school in Boston, Catholic Memorial High School, the chaplain of the school used to go into the athletic locker room with a camera. He would go into the shower room. So, I saw this. I went immediately to the headmaster, and I said, “This has to stop. He has to be out of here.”

Well, he happened to be the third-highest-ranking member of the archdiocese of Boston at the time. He was the vice chancellor. His name was Fred Ryan. And Monsignor Fred Ryan was sexually abusing, I thought, two kids in particular. I went to the headmaster. I told him. The headmaster said, “Oh, no, he’s a wonderful priest. We’re not going to do anything about this.” Twenty years later, those two young men went public with their abuse. And that’s really what started Road to Recovery, because I went back to Boston every week from then on to help them in their recovery. And I apologized profusely to them for not screaming more loudly in 1981.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Shaun, could you elaborate on the point that Bob made? I mean, on the one hand, the scale of this grand jury report—I mean, a thousand survivors of sexual abuse, over 300 priests implicated—and yet, obviously, there has been a massive cover-up. Could you say who you think—how many people have been responsible for that cover-up, how many people are complicit, and what you think should happen?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: There’s really no current way to tell how many people are involved in the cover-up. I mean, the Roman Catholic Church is a massive organization that has many hands and fingers that are willing to help. It’s not hard—it hasn’t been hard for them to find an enabling ear to bend. So, they are having a lot of help.

What should happen as a result of this? These are crimes. Massive amounts of crimes have been committed. And crime deserves a punishment. You know, use a little of the Catholic tough love with the Catholic Church. You know, the legislative end of this, in Pennsylvania, I have been to the Capitol regularly for the last two-and-a-half years, since becoming public, to pass very commonsense legislation that Representative Mark Rozzi of Berks County, also a rape victim of the church—he was raped in a shower at 13, which is why he’s a representative, and he’s pushing for this legislation. The Republican-controlled Senate in Pennsylvania, that is dominated by lobbyists from the Insurance Federation, from the Catholic Conference, will not let it go.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: What is the Insurance Federation?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: The insurance agents don’t want this law to go through, either, because they’re the ones that are going to be set footing the bill. The church only does it; they don’t pay for it.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what the Catholic Conference is.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: You know, the Catholic Conference is a conference of bishops in the country that get together. Even though each individual diocese is run individually by each individual bishop—they only have that control of their diocese—they do meet. And on certain aspects of the religion and activities, I believe they come to a common consensus. They argue with—I think it’s just like our political arena. And when they come to a consensus, that’s it.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there something particular about Pennsylvania? Are we going to see this—this is a grand jury report just out of Pennsylvania. It’s 300 priests, they’re saying. They say a thousand young people, children, girls and boys, but probably thousands and thousands more, the attorney general found.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: I’ve been told, and it’s being reported, that they have over a hundred calls in 12 hours to the hotline since it’s been released. This is an open investigation. It is continuing. I believe those numbers are very conservative.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, where is Pope Francis on all of this? Pressure is growing. He hasn’t responded. The church sex scandals continue to grow across the globe. I’m talking about sex abuse scandals. Earlier this week, former Australian Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest. He’s the most senior Catholic official in the world to be found guilty of concealing the sexual abuse of children. That was Australia. In late July, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, became the highest-ranking Catholic leader in the United States to resign, after he was accused of abusing a number of boys as young as 11 years old. Meanwhile, Tuesday, authorities in Chile raided the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s Episcopal Conference as part of a widespread investigation into sex abuse. Well, former Father Bob Hoaton [sic], what is your response? Hoatson.

ROBERT HOATSON: Well, just anecdotally, in 1994, when I was considering leaving the Irish Christian Brothers and going to be a priest, I asked the vocation director in the Newark archdiocese, “Has Cardinal—has Archbishop McCarrick stopped sleeping with the seminarians?” It was known by everyone. And he assured me that he had and that the papal nuncio and that another bishop had intervened and stopped it.

But what we’re talking about here is—it’s worldwide. It’s not going to stop, unless the outside agencies, like the federal governments—two years ago, 32 organizations, led by Road to Recovery and Catholic Whistleblowers, approached the Obama administration and pleaded for a national commission to investigate the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse problem. We didn’t get anywhere, but we’re still doing, you know, these kind of things. Australia, the Royal Commission was an absolute gem. It’s going to be a seminal work in the history of child protection. We need to do the same thing in the United States.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what do you expect? Do you think that the Vatican will respond, Shaun?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: I think eventually they’re going to have to respond in that, and I think the politicians are going to have to respond. Let’s keep in mind, this is a very damning report that was exposed. They were successful at redacting 30 names. Every diocese in Pennsylvania—

AMY GOODMAN: Of the priests.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Of the priests. Every diocese in Pennsylvania is exposed, right? So, if you’re a Pennsylvanian, listen to this, and you have young daughters or young boys: I can’t tell you where in Pennsylvania those 30 people are right now. The only way we can do that is if we pass Mark Rozzi’s legislation, because those 30 are going to argue before the Supreme Court. The Catholic Church and those 30 are going to be hidden, unless the Supreme Court releases those names. So there’s no telling where these 30 guys are operating in Pennsylvania.

AMY GOODMAN: You compare the treatment of these rapists and the cover-up of them to—oh, let’s—the National Catholic Reporter 2010: “A Catholic nun, who was a member of a Phoenix Catholic hospital’s ethics committee, was excommunicated and reassigned last week for her role in allowing an abortion to take place [in a] hospital,” the surgery considered necessary to save the life of a critically ill patient. You compare to that, and you think about the other stories that were told. For example—this was in the Pennsylvania attorney general’s report—ex-priest Edward Ganster left the priesthood in 1990, moved to Orlando, Florida, area and went on to work at Disney World before he died in 2014. And how is that connected to the Catholic Church? He got a letter of recommendation from the Catholic Church. Father Hoatson?

ROBERT HOATSON: Right, yeah, this is systemic. When Governor Frank Keating resigned as the chair of the first National Review Board, that was set up after the Dallas Charter was passed in 2002, he resigned and said, “This is exactly what the Mafia is like. It’s dealing with the Mafia.” And that’s what we’re dealing with. And we have to make sure that Catholics now take back their church and insist that these people are eliminated, fired. And that’s what the pope has to do. He has to have mass firings of bishops, and the leadership has to change. And that, of course, leads then to the structural changes that need to be made, things like mandatory celibacy, which is absurd. And in 2018, the fact that we still have some of these traditions in place—

AMY GOODMAN: And what about nuns as priests?

ROBERT HOATSON: Of course. Women have to have full participation in the church. If women were in leadership positions, this never would have happened.

AMY GOODMAN: For parents—

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: I’d like to go one step further: not only leadership positions, power, position of power. If a woman that is celibate, on level heading as a priest—a nun is not on level heading as a priest in the eyes of the church. But in the eyes of the church, if a nun feels—I’m not saying on the outside—within herself, feels that she is on equal footing with this priest, there’s nothing to prevent her from saying “Hey, what’s going on here? This is no more”—like they did to us. The nuns are excellent at it, let me tell you. I grew up with nuns, and they’re good at policing. But they only have so much power. You know, you can’t police the priests if you have less power.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you both for being with us, for sharing your stories, for responding to this report. And, of course, we’ll continue to cover this story. This is one state, Pennsylvania. Do you know of other states that are doing this kind of investigation?

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Right here. We’re sitting in one of the worst.

AMY GOODMAN: New York.

SHAUN DOUGHERTY: Absolutely. And we have the most archaic laws here. We’re equal to Mississippi and Alabama, as far as our statutes of limitation in New York go. Plus, I will tell you, we have Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Niagara Falls. These guys work just like single guys. They bring them across state lines. “Let’s go to New York. I’ll take you to St. Patrick’s. I’ll take you to a Broadway show. We’ll go to Niagara Falls. And you’ll be sexually abused, but it’ll be OK. You’ll have a great time. We’ll get you a 'I love New York' hat, and we’ll take you home to your family.”

ROBERT HOATSON: We need 49 more grand jury investigations, is what we need.

AMY GOODMAN: In all of the states. Shaun Dougherty, survivor of sexual abuse by a Pennsylvania priest, and former Catholic priest Bob Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline azozeo

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Re: Who They Are...
« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2018, 03:35:37 PM »
Expect this purge to continue for some time.

Checked out any John Podesta art work ?  Now there's a real creep show.  :evil4:

I hope you have a strong intestinal tract, for what's coming  :emthup:

I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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Trump an Asset of the Russian Government?
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2018, 04:08:39 AM »
Trump an Asset of the Russian Government?

How ‘Trump Tower Became a Cathedral of Money Laundering’




By Travis Gettys

August 17, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - An investigative journalist explained on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that President Donald Trump’s real estate business was essentially a money laundering front.

Craig Unger alleges in his new book, “House of Trump, House of Putin,” that the president had been compromised by Russian intelligence for years through his ties to mobsters who pumped money into his family’s real estate empire.

“I go back nearly 40 years, and I see essentially the greatest intelligence operation of our times,” Unger said. “It started off in 1984 with a man who has ties to the Russian mafia, and he meets with Donald Trump in the Trump Tower, the supreme moment of Donald Trump becoming a master of real estate in the United States — and what we end up seeing is Trump Tower become sort of a cathedral of money laundering.”

That mob associate paid $6 million in cash for five condominiums, and Unger tracked hundreds of similar transactions over the following three decades.

“That sets off a pattern that goes on for the next 30 years or so, in which over 1,300 condos are sold in what appears to be money laundering,” Unger said. “They have two characteristics. One, they are all cash purchases. Two, they are shell purchases, they’re anonymous purchases. The records don’t show who the true owners are.”

Unger said the illegal transactions had made Trump an asset of the Russian government and its president, Vladimir Putin — a former KGB operative — because he said there was no meaningful difference between the country’s organized crime network and its intelligence agencies.

“I can’t get inside Donald Trump’s mind, but he’s meeting with this guy,” Unger said. “We know there are about 1,300 other operations in which he’s profiting heavily from that. If he can go through that and doesn’t figure that out, he’s either inexplicably stupid or there is a legal concept of willful blindness, and perhaps that’s what’s going on.”

This article was originally published by "Raw Story" -

***

House of Trump, House of Putin by Craig Unger

House of Trump, House of Putin

THE UNTOLD STORY OF DONALD TRUMP AND THE RUSSIAN MAFIA

By CRAIG UNGER

Category: World Politics

ABOUT HOUSE OF TRUMP, HOUSE OF PUTIN

“The story Unger weaves with those earlier accounts and his original reporting is fresh, illuminating and more alarming than the intelligence channel described in the Steele dossier.”—The Washington Post

House of Trump, House of Putin
offers the first comprehensive investigation into the decades-long relationship among Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian Mafia that ultimately helped win Trump the White House.


It is a chilling story that begins in the 1970s, when Trump made his first splash in the booming, money-drenched world of New York real estate, and ends with Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States. That moment was the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City. This book confirms the most incredible American paranoias about Russian malevolence.

To most, it will be a hair-raising revelation that the Cold War did not end in 1991—that it merely evolved, with Trump’s apartments offering the perfect vehicle for billions of dollars to leave the collapsing Soviet Union. In House of Trump, House of Putin, Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world. He traces Russia’s phoenixlike rise from the ashes of the post–Cold War Soviet Union as well as its ceaseless covert efforts to retaliate against the West and reclaim its status as a global superpower.

Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president. This essential book is crucial to understanding the real powers at play in the shadows of today’s world.

PRAISE

Praise for House of Trump, House of Putin

“The story Unger weaves with those earlier accounts and his original reporting is fresh, illuminating and more alarming than the intelligence channel described in the Steele dossier.”—The Washington Post

“Omarosa vs. Trump may be the political pro wrestling match of the week, but a more serious confrontation may be prompted by a book that came out Tuesday, alleging that President Donald Trump may be a Russian asset compromised by billions of laundered dollars over decades of shady real estate deals.”—Newsweek

“Unger, a veteran journalist and author, takes the reader on a veritable tour of sleazy night clubs, restaurants and resorts frequented by Russian oligarchs and criminals in this book subtitled “The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia.” Often, that tour leads to the doors of the White House and Trump Tower, and the implication is clear to even the most obtuse reader: Trump is in Putin’s pocket and those of the financiers who have grown immensely rich through their associations with the country’s putative dictator”—Spectator USA


"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Honot Among Thieves? White House counsel Don McGahn Cooperating
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2018, 06:35:19 AM »
White House counsel Don McGahn is worried Trump’s setting him up on obstruction — so he’s talking a lot to Mueller
According to the New York Times, McGahn is cooperating “extensively” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice inquiry.


White House counsel Don McGahn after a meeting in Washington, DC in July 2018. He’s reportedly speaking at length with Robert Mueller out of concern he’s the fall guy for Trump.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump may not be speaking to special counsel Robert Mueller, but White House Counsel Don McGahn has. At length. Because he fears Trump may be setting him up to take the fall on potential obstruction of justice and that he’d then wind up like John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon who eventually flipped: in prison.

Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times reported on Saturday that McGahn has taken part in at least three voluntary interviews totaling 30 hours with Mueller’s team of investigators in the Russia probe over the last nine months. He’s discussed a wide range of matters, including the president’s decision to fire former FBI director James Comey, the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump’s public and private griping about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

According to the Times, two of Trump’s original lawyers, John Dowd and Ty Cobb, devised an “open-book strategy” for Trump when the Mueller investigation first started, the idea being that if Trump did nothing wrong, as he insisted, then why not be as cooperative as possible? McGahn was reportedly dubious of the plan but went along, and when the special counsel’s office asked to interview him last year, he was “surprised” but complied when Trump and his lawyers gave him the go-ahead.

The report describes McGahn and his lawyer, William Burck, as “stunned” at the Trump team’s willingness for him to talk to Mueller. So much so that they developed a theory that he’s being set up:

Mr. McGahn and his lawyer, William A. Burck, could not understand why Mr. Trump was so willing to allow Mr. McGahn to speak freely to the special counsel and feared Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction, according to people close to him. So he and Mr. Burck devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn did nothing wrong.

Schmidt and Haberman draw parallels between McGahn and Dean, who served as White House counsel under the Nixon administration and was a central figure in the Watergate scandal. He took part in Nixon’s cover-up of the Democratic Party headquarters and eventually flipped on his boss after being fired. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after striking a deal with the prosecution and received a prison sentence.

“This sure has echoes of Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, John Dean, who in 1973 feared that Nixon was setting him up as a fall guy for Watergate and secretly gave investigators crucial help while still in his job,” historian Michael Beschloss told the Times.

Maggie Haberman @maggieNYT

McGahn was leery of becoming Trump’s John Dean. So, after Cobb and Dowd encouraged cooperation with Mueller, McGahn - fearful he was being set up for blame on obstruction issues - talked and talked. @nytmike and me [url=https://www]https://www[/url].nytimes.com/2018/08/18/us/politics/don-mcgahn-mueller-investigation.html 

Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel. For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual, but Mr. McGahn views his role as protecting the presidency, not the president.

White House Counsel Has Cooperated Extensively With Mueller’s Obstruction Inquiry

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, was a witness to key episodes being scrutinized in the case. His cooperation with investigators is unusual.

nytimes.com

The publication also reports that it’s not clear that Trump “appreciates the extent to which” McGahn has cooperated with Mueller and that the president has wrongly believed that McGahn would act as a personal lawyer for him. McGahn views his role as a protector of the presidency, not Trump.

That McGahn is speaking with special counsel Mueller is not new information, but the extent to which he’s cooperating — and his potential motivations for doing so — are. The report also details a distant relationship between Trump and McGahn, who has overseen Trump’s judicial appointment and deregulatory push at the White House but also appears not to be overly warm with the president himself.

According to the Times, Trump and McGahn rarely speak, and when they do, chief of staff John Kelly and other advisers are usually present. Trump questions McGahn’s loyalty. McGahn, behind his back, calls the president “King Kong.”

Trump on Saturday reacted to the Times story in a tweet and said he allowed McGahn and all other “requested members” of the White House staff to cooperate with Mueller. “Most transparent in history,” he wrote.


Update: Story updated with Trump tweet on McGahn

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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The moral rot is spreading
« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2018, 03:31:09 AM »
The moral rot is spreading


Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Columnist

What President Trump and his cadre have done is very bad.

What Republican leaders are doing is unforgivable.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) stood on the Senate floor Wednesday morning for his first public remarks since the seismic events of the day before: The president’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to fraud and breaking campaign finance laws, implicating the president in a crime; the president’s former campaign chairman was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes, making him one offive membersof Trump’s team who have been convicted or have admitted guilt; and a Republican congressman wasindicted, the second of Trump’s earliest congressional supporters to bechargedthis month.

It was time for leadership. McConnell ducked.

Instead, he hailed Trump’s campaign rally in West Virginia the night before. He disparaged President Barack Obama’s record. Hespoke aboutlow unemployment “under this united Republican government.” He went on about coal, taxes, apprenticeship programs, health research, prisoner rehabilitation and more — and not a peep about the corruption swirling around the president. When reporters pressed McConnell in the hallway for comment, he brushed them off.

McConnell’s counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), wasequally cowardly. “We are aware of Mr. [Michael] Cohen’s guilty plea to these serious charges” was his office’s official statement. “We will need more information than is currently available at this point.”

What more do you need, Mr. Speaker? What more will it take, Republicans? It seems nothing can bring them to state what is manifestly true: The president is unfit to serve, surrounded by hooligans and doing incalculable harm.

A scroll through Republican lawmakers’ tweets since the Cohen-Manafort combination punch late Tuesday found shameful silence. GOP House leadersKevin McCarthy(Calif.) andSteve Scalise(La.) tweeted about a murder allegedly committed by an illegal immigrant.

It briefly appeared that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) was doing the right thing. Hetweeted a suggestionto read Gerald Seib’s Wednesday Wall Street Journalcolumnproclaiming the “darkest day of the Trump presidency.” Fourteen minutes later camea corrective tweetfrom Grassley: He meanta previous Seib column, on another subject.

Among the few Republican lawmakers demonstrating dignity: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), ex-FBI agent,commendedhis former colleagues for “upholding the rule of law.”

This intolerable silence of the Republicans — through “Access Hollywood,” racist outbursts, diplomatic mayhem and endless scandal — is what allows Trump and his Fox News-viewing supporters to dock their spaceship in a parallel universe where truth isn’t truth. At Tuesday night’s rally in West Virginia, Trump’s irony-challenged audience could be heard chanting “Drain the Swamp!” and “Lock her up!” (Hillary Clinton, that is), just a few hours after Paul Manafort’s conviction and Cohen’s guilty plea.

Republican lawmakers fear that with87 percentof Republican voters backing Trump, crossing him is political suicide. But this is circular. Support among the Republican base remains highbecauseRepublican officeholders validate him.

It took a year from the Watergate break-in to Republican Sen. Howard Baker’s immortal 1973 question about a Republican president: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Instead of Baker, today we have Texas’s John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican,saying: “I would note that none of this has anything to do with the Russian collusion or meddling in the election.”

And Sen.Lindsey O. Graham(S.C.): “Thus far, there have yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign.”

And Sen.Orrin G. Hatch(Utah): The “president should not be held responsible for the actions of the people he’s trusted.”

AndGrassley: “I don’t think I should be speculating.”

But there doesn’t have to be collusion, or even speculation, to recognize that something is terribly wrong. There is no good answer to the question Cohen lawyer Lanny Davisposedafter his client said under oath that Trump directed him to pay off two women to influence the election: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

A few Republican senators (Jeff Flake, Bob Corker,Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Richard Burr) have rhetorically distanced themselves from Trump. But their modest efforts don’t sufficiently protect the party, or the country, from Trump’s sleaze and self-dealing.

The moral rot is spreading. Two weeks ago, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was arrested on charges related to insider trading — from the White House lawn. On Tuesday, Rep.Duncan Hunter(R-Calif.) and his wifewere chargedwith using campaign funds for travel, golf, skiing, tuition, tickets, clothing, makeup, dental work and more, often while claiming the funds were being used on charities.

His office’s Trumpianresponse: “This action is purely politically motivated.”

If Republicans don’t put some moral distance between themselves and Trump, there will soon be nothing left to salvage.

Read more fromDana Milbank’s archive,follow him on Twitterorsubscribe to his updates on Facebook.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

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Re: The moral rot is spreading
« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2018, 05:26:05 AM »
The moral rot is spreading


Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Columnist

What President Trump and his cadre have done is very bad.

What Republican leaders are doing is unforgivable.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) stood on the Senate floor Wednesday morning for his first public remarks since the seismic events of the day before: The president’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to fraud and breaking campaign finance laws, implicating the president in a crime; the president’s former campaign chairman was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes, making him one offive membersof Trump’s team who have been convicted or have admitted guilt; and a Republican congressman wasindicted, the second of Trump’s earliest congressional supporters to bechargedthis month.

It was time for leadership. McConnell ducked.

Instead, he hailed Trump’s campaign rally in West Virginia the night before. He disparaged President Barack Obama’s record. Hespoke aboutlow unemployment “under this united Republican government.” He went on about coal, taxes, apprenticeship programs, health research, prisoner rehabilitation and more — and not a peep about the corruption swirling around the president. When reporters pressed McConnell in the hallway for comment, he brushed them off.

McConnell’s counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), wasequally cowardly. “We are aware of Mr. [Michael] Cohen’s guilty plea to these serious charges” was his office’s official statement. “We will need more information than is currently available at this point.”

What more do you need, Mr. Speaker? What more will it take, Republicans? It seems nothing can bring them to state what is manifestly true: The president is unfit to serve, surrounded by hooligans and doing incalculable harm.

A scroll through Republican lawmakers’ tweets since the Cohen-Manafort combination punch late Tuesday found shameful silence. GOP House leadersKevin McCarthy(Calif.) andSteve Scalise(La.) tweeted about a murder allegedly committed by an illegal immigrant.

It briefly appeared that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) was doing the right thing. Hetweeted a suggestionto read Gerald Seib’s Wednesday Wall Street Journalcolumnproclaiming the “darkest day of the Trump presidency.” Fourteen minutes later camea corrective tweetfrom Grassley: He meanta previous Seib column, on another subject.

Among the few Republican lawmakers demonstrating dignity: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), ex-FBI agent,commendedhis former colleagues for “upholding the rule of law.”

This intolerable silence of the Republicans — through “Access Hollywood,” racist outbursts, diplomatic mayhem and endless scandal — is what allows Trump and his Fox News-viewing supporters to dock their spaceship in a parallel universe where truth isn’t truth. At Tuesday night’s rally in West Virginia, Trump’s irony-challenged audience could be heard chanting “Drain the Swamp!” and “Lock her up!” (Hillary Clinton, that is), just a few hours after Paul Manafort’s conviction and Cohen’s guilty plea.

Republican lawmakers fear that with87 percentof Republican voters backing Trump, crossing him is political suicide. But this is circular. Support among the Republican base remains highbecauseRepublican officeholders validate him.

It took a year from the Watergate break-in to Republican Sen. Howard Baker’s immortal 1973 question about a Republican president: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Instead of Baker, today we have Texas’s John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican,saying: “I would note that none of this has anything to do with the Russian collusion or meddling in the election.”

And Sen.Lindsey O. Graham(S.C.): “Thus far, there have yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign.”

And Sen.Orrin G. Hatch(Utah): The “president should not be held responsible for the actions of the people he’s trusted.”

AndGrassley: “I don’t think I should be speculating.”

But there doesn’t have to be collusion, or even speculation, to recognize that something is terribly wrong. There is no good answer to the question Cohen lawyer Lanny Davisposedafter his client said under oath that Trump directed him to pay off two women to influence the election: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

A few Republican senators (Jeff Flake, Bob Corker,Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Richard Burr) have rhetorically distanced themselves from Trump. But their modest efforts don’t sufficiently protect the party, or the country, from Trump’s sleaze and self-dealing.

The moral rot is spreading. Two weeks ago, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was arrested on charges related to insider trading — from the White House lawn. On Tuesday, Rep.Duncan Hunter(R-Calif.) and his wifewere chargedwith using campaign funds for travel, golf, skiing, tuition, tickets, clothing, makeup, dental work and more, often while claiming the funds were being used on charities.

His office’s Trumpianresponse: “This action is purely politically motivated.”

If Republicans don’t put some moral distance between themselves and Trump, there will soon be nothing left to salvage.

Read more fromDana Milbank’s archive,follow him on Twitterorsubscribe to his updates on Facebook.


Who are we kidding here?

The moral rot is through and through, and it's come to us as an inevitable result of the way we allow big money to control our elections.

The difference between a Duncan Hunter and a Paul Ryan is that Hunter just lacks the sophistication to wash the money properly that donors are stuffing in his pockets. As a junior member of Con-gress he must be forgiven for not having learned the ropes of how to profit enough from legal (but morally bankrupt) means of obtaining the necessary walking around money to pay for all the little necessities, like golf shorts and his kids' braces.

The Ryans and McConnells of the world are far more clever, and their scams pass the minimal sniff test. But they aren't fundamentally different. Pigs at the trough, all of them. Take it from somebody who knows pigs.

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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How This Will End
« Reply #21 on: August 24, 2018, 09:52:53 AM »
How This Will End
Sooner or later, tyrants are always abandoned by their followers.


ELIOT A. COHEN
CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS

Michael Gerson, one of the most eloquent and principled critics of Donald Trump, insists that we are at June 1973, the moment when John Dean’s testimony broke the dam that a year later swept Richard Nixon off into disgrace. Others agree: This is an inflection point. And yet an equally well-informed friend insists, “I no longer believe in political inflection points and neither should you.” Who knows? But even if we do not recognize the turning points in the moment, we can anticipate what the end will feel like when it does arrive.

To be sure, Trump could hang on until the 2020 election. It is even possible, if considerably less likely, that he could be re-elected and march off into a glitzy retirement at Trump properties in Florida and New Jersey, his retreat from public life punctuated only by bursts of increasingly senile bombast. But it does seem more likely than once it was that he will go down in disgrace.

The mood of that moment was given to us in an episode now faded into the remote, pre-Paul Manafort-conviction, pre-Michael Cohen-guilty plea world, when Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the flashy villainess of more than one Trump reality-television show, turned on her benefactor with juicy and not entirely incredible revelations. A puerile justice this: the secret taper of others taped, the once upright Marine general caught trying to bully the only black woman close to the president by locking her in the Situation Room while threatening her with legal consequences to force her resignation. Her betrayal of her benefactor proved a tawdry but revealing final episode in this particular show.

But to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as “the Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

And so it will be for Trump. To be clear, these are very different people. Macbeth is an utterly absorbing, troubling, tragic, and compelling figure. Unlike America’s germaphobic president, who copped five draft deferments and has yet to visit the thousands of American soldiers on front lines in Afghanistan or Iraq, he is physically brave. In fact, the first thing we hear about him is that in the heat of battle with a rebel against King Duncan (who he later murders) Macbeth unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops. He is apparently faithful to wife, has a conscience (that he overcomes), knows guilt and remorse, and has self-knowledge. He also has a pretty good command of the English language. In all these respects he is as unlike Trump as one can be.

But in the moment of losing power, the two will be alike. A tyrant is unloved, and although the laws and institutions of the United States have proven a brake on Trump, his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end these fall away as well.

And thus their courtiers abandon even monumental tyrants like Mussolini—who at least had his mistress, Claretta Petacci, with him at his ignominious end. (Melania’s affections are considerably less certain.) The normal course of events is sudden, epic desertion, in which an all-powerful political figure who loomed over everything is suddenly left shrunken and pitiful, a wretched little figure in gaudy robes absurdly too big for him, a figure of ridicule as much as, and even more than, hatred.

This is going to happen to Trump at some point. Of the Republicans in Congress it may be said of most of them:Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love.For now, admittedly, there are those who still court his favor—Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, once the trusty vassal of Senator John McCain, the bravest of warriors and noblest of dukes, seems to have switched his allegiance from his dying lord to the swaggering upstart aged prince. But that is about ambition, not affection.

For the moment, the Republicans will not turn on Trump. They fear a peasant revolt, many of them; they still crave favors; they may think his castle impregnable, although less so if they believe what the polls tell them about some of its tottering walls. But if they suffer a medieval-style slaughter on Election Day, the remnants of the knights of the GOP will know a greater fear than that of being primaried. And at the moment when they no longer fear being swept away in 2020, when the economy may be in recession and the Mueller probe is complete with revelations whose ghastliness would delight the three witches of the Scottish play, they will suddenly turn on Trump. Act V of this play will also have a non-linear finish.

And what of Trump himself? In this respect he will be like Macbeth. Where Nixon, who was a statesman, saw the inevitable and resigned, this president is more likely to go down spitting defiance. As for the rest of us, Macduff says to the cornered king just before their final death grapple:

live to be the show and gaze o’ th’ time.

We’ll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,

Painted upon a pole, and underwrit

‘Here may you see the tyrant’

And so it will likely be, as Americans gaze back and wonder how on earth this rare monster, now deposed, ended up as their president.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

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Re: How This Will End
« Reply #22 on: August 24, 2018, 11:19:53 AM »
How This Will End
Sooner or later, tyrants are always abandoned by their followers.


ELIOT A. COHEN
CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS

Michael Gerson, one of the most eloquent and principled critics of Donald Trump, insists that we are at June 1973, the moment when John Dean’s testimony broke the dam that a year later swept Richard Nixon off into disgrace. Others agree: This is an inflection point. And yet an equally well-informed friend insists, “I no longer believe in political inflection points and neither should you.” Who knows? But even if we do not recognize the turning points in the moment, we can anticipate what the end will feel like when it does arrive.

To be sure, Trump could hang on until the 2020 election. It is even possible, if considerably less likely, that he could be re-elected and march off into a glitzy retirement at Trump properties in Florida and New Jersey, his retreat from public life punctuated only by bursts of increasingly senile bombast. But it does seem more likely than once it was that he will go down in disgrace.

The mood of that moment was given to us in an episode now faded into the remote, pre-Paul Manafort-conviction, pre-Michael Cohen-guilty plea world, when Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the flashy villainess of more than one Trump reality-television show, turned on her benefactor with juicy and not entirely incredible revelations. A puerile justice this: the secret taper of others taped, the once upright Marine general caught trying to bully the only black woman close to the president by locking her in the Situation Room while threatening her with legal consequences to force her resignation. Her betrayal of her benefactor proved a tawdry but revealing final episode in this particular show.

But to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as “the Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

And so it will be for Trump. To be clear, these are very different people. Macbeth is an utterly absorbing, troubling, tragic, and compelling figure. Unlike America’s germaphobic president, who copped five draft deferments and has yet to visit the thousands of American soldiers on front lines in Afghanistan or Iraq, he is physically brave. In fact, the first thing we hear about him is that in the heat of battle with a rebel against King Duncan (who he later murders) Macbeth unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops. He is apparently faithful to wife, has a conscience (that he overcomes), knows guilt and remorse, and has self-knowledge. He also has a pretty good command of the English language. In all these respects he is as unlike Trump as one can be.

But in the moment of losing power, the two will be alike. A tyrant is unloved, and although the laws and institutions of the United States have proven a brake on Trump, his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end these fall away as well.

And thus their courtiers abandon even monumental tyrants like Mussolini—who at least had his mistress, Claretta Petacci, with him at his ignominious end. (Melania’s affections are considerably less certain.) The normal course of events is sudden, epic desertion, in which an all-powerful political figure who loomed over everything is suddenly left shrunken and pitiful, a wretched little figure in gaudy robes absurdly too big for him, a figure of ridicule as much as, and even more than, hatred.

This is going to happen to Trump at some point. Of the Republicans in Congress it may be said of most of them:Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love.For now, admittedly, there are those who still court his favor—Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, once the trusty vassal of Senator John McCain, the bravest of warriors and noblest of dukes, seems to have switched his allegiance from his dying lord to the swaggering upstart aged prince. But that is about ambition, not affection.

For the moment, the Republicans will not turn on Trump. They fear a peasant revolt, many of them; they still crave favors; they may think his castle impregnable, although less so if they believe what the polls tell them about some of its tottering walls. But if they suffer a medieval-style slaughter on Election Day, the remnants of the knights of the GOP will know a greater fear than that of being primaried. And at the moment when they no longer fear being swept away in 2020, when the economy may be in recession and the Mueller probe is complete with revelations whose ghastliness would delight the three witches of the Scottish play, they will suddenly turn on Trump. Act V of this play will also have a non-linear finish.

And what of Trump himself? In this respect he will be like Macbeth. Where Nixon, who was a statesman, saw the inevitable and resigned, this president is more likely to go down spitting defiance. As for the rest of us, Macduff says to the cornered king just before their final death grapple:

live to be the show and gaze o’ th’ time.

We’ll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,

Painted upon a pole, and underwrit

‘Here may you see the tyrant’

And so it will likely be, as Americans gaze back and wonder how on earth this rare monster, now deposed, ended up as their president.


Macbeth? Nah. Bad analogy. Trump will never feel how small he really is, way too delusional and self-important. He will go down blaming anybody and everybody but himself for his troubles.

I expect the foundation investigation to find all kinds of tax malfeasance, but I doubt that will stick to a sitting POTUS.

And if it does, the conservatives will be very correct in asserting that the Clintons are the poster children for using their non-profits for an ATM. Nothing unexpected.

And as often as Trump has been IRS audited, there might NOT be much there that will stick anyway, or it woulda stuck already. jmho.

I know there has to be stuff for Mueller to find on the campaign finance stuff, but Trump is right in claiming it's common, and small potatoes most of the time. We'll see.

« Last Edit: August 24, 2018, 12:23:27 PM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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Do Police Shield White Nationalists While Targeting Counter-Protesters?
« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2018, 07:30:01 AM »


Are the refs in the tank? Could there be a direct connection between police response to white nationalists and the presence of white nationalist officers on a police force? Does a hobby horse have a hickory dick?

Do Police Shield White Nationalists While Targeting Counter-Protesters?

Members of the Patriot Prayer group at the rally in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 4
Photo: Mike Bivins

When the Patriot Prayer group and the Proud Boys—two groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups with white nationalist leanings—decided to rally in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 4, counter-protesters made plans to have a presence there as well.

From a First Amendment standpoint, both groups had a constitutional right to be there. Police showed up—ostensibly to keep order—but by many first-hand accounts, when it came time for police to flex their muscles, they seemed to target the counter-protesters while simultaneously protecting the Patriot Prayer and Proud Boymembers.

Similarly at “Charlottesville 2.0” on Aug. 12, some have suggested thatpolice seemed to go out of their way to ensure that white nationalist groups were provided with special transport and protection on a day when many more people showed up to demonstrate against them. Again, there have been accusations that police appeared to target counter-protesters when it came time to bring the hammer down.

It’s a story we could write every single day on The Root and it would still be the same. Even when Black Lives Matter activists gather to peacefully protest in the name of justice, the police response seems to lean towards being confrontational and antagonistic rather than maintaining the peace.

At the Patriot Prayer rally, four people were arrested and at least three were injured by nonlethal crowd control munitions used by police, according to OregonLive. All were identified as counter-protesters.

Jeremy Alva is a 33-year-old Portland resident and president of Games to Gather, a nonprofit dedicated building positive environment within the local gaming community. He attended the rally in Portland along with a friend as an observer.

Alva told The Root that he arrived pretty early in the day and noticed that the police created a barricaded area in the park with only three entrances. People who came through any of those three entrances were searched. He also noted that most people—including the Patriot Prayer group—avoided the barricaded area the cops had created.

“We got there about 10:30 a.m,” Alva said. “The Patriot Prayer bus was unloading, and they were all wearing armor and helmets and seemed to have the same type of color scheme going on—not an actual uniform, but just similarly dressed. I saw one man with a baseball bat, and he still had it when I saw him later during the day.”

Alva said that most of the confrontations he witnessed were verbal with a lot of yelling. He witnessed the end of one physical altercation that stopped without police intervention. For the most part, he said the groups stayed on their individual sides of the park.

Things changed when police arrived, however. Alva said he believes law enforcement escalated the tension on that day.

“After 11:30 a.m., four or five trucks with cops in armor showed up, and it was strange because there was nothing happening,” Alva said. “They definitely appeared when nothing was happening. They stood in a line facing both sides of the road and began policing who could go back and forth.”

Alva said it seemed that police were singling out counter-protesters.

Mike Bivins, a 30-year-old freelance journalist in Portland, echoed Alva’s observations.

Bivins went to the rally to document it through video and live tweets. He observed both sides mostly yelling at each other and noted that there was one physical altercation.

Once police got involved, Bivins said it was hard to tell what set off their engagement with the crowd.

“I heard explosions, and everyone started panicking,” Bivins said. “I did not see what started it, but police seemed to be policing the Antifa/counter-protester group more than the Patriot Prayer group.”

The Root sent a query to the Portland Police Bureau’s Public Information Officer Sgt. Christopher Burley, and asked him about the Patriot Prayer rally. The Root told him that the witnesses we spoke with said the police seemed to be targeting counter-protesters and asked him if he thought that was a fair assessment of what happened.

Burley told us via email that Portland police’s “response during crowd management events is related to the behavior of individuals and not based on political beliefs or speech.”

We asked Burley aboutthe reported injuries peoplesuffered as a result of police use of “riot control agents and less lethal impact munitions.” He referred us to the official Police Bureau statement on the issue.

In the statement, PPB says that the “intent of law enforcement today was to provide a safe environment for all participants, nonparticipants and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment.”

PPB acknowledges the use of six different types of “riot control agents and less lethal impact munitions” including aerial distraction devices, .60 caliber less lethal round, rubber ball distraction devices, stinger rounds, 40 mm less lethal impact round and pepper spray.

Out of the hundreds that turned out for both sides, at least three people were reportedly injured by the crowd-control munitions used by Portland police. The reported injuries included third-degree chemical burns, open wounds and a traumatic brain injury.

While the city’s Police Chief Danielle Outlaw told reporters thather department would stop using flash-bang devices for now, she still defended the actions of her officers at the Patriot Prayer rally, according to OregonLive.

Ultimately, all of those injured during the rally—as well as the four people arrested—were reportedly identified as counter-protesters. That follows the narrative of what many said on social media—that the police appeared to have purposely targeted the counter-protesters while mostly ignoring the Patriot Prayer group and their allies.


In Charlottesville, Va., and Washington, D.C., on Aug. 12, some reported on social media that police made Unite the Right members surrender the flagpoles they were carrying.

Unite the Right 2 did not have the same number of white nationalists turn out as they did last year—some reports say only about two dozen showed up—and that surely played a role in police action and response. As NPR reported, “they were vastly outnumbered by the number of police assigned to protect them. They were vastly outnumbered by the number of reporters present to observe them. And they were certainly outnumbered by the many, many counter-protesters whose chants just drowned them out.”

By some accounts,police attitudes toward counter-protesters were antagonistic whereas their attitudes toward white nationalists appeared to take a friendlier approach according to the witnesses we spoke with and witness accounts on social media.

It is worth mentioning that the idea of white nationalists infiltrating law enforcement in this country is something that has been discussed, studied, and investigated for years. Last year, a police officer with D.C. Metro was investigated after he was photographed wearing a shirt with a racist symbol on it while he was on duty.

Could there be a direct connection between police response to white nationalists and the presence of racist or white nationalist officers on a police force?

Taken separately, all of these factors could be described as isolated incidents—but when put together, it paints an ugly picture of law enforcement in this country and the role they play in upholding white supremacy, racism and the tenets of white nationalism.

So, do police shield white nationalist groups? Do police target counter-protesters? Do police try to silence the voices of those with whom they disagree?

In short, yes.

Jonathan Savage, 34, is an attorney with Savage Law Group in St. Louis. He told The Root he believes there is a clear bias in policing that dates back to the inception of police during the days of slavery.

“I’m from St. Louis and I was here during the time before and after Ferguson,” Savage said. “There’s clearly a bias as it relates to police protection and police serving in black communities compared to the way they serve in communities that are not black. In my opinion, that dates back to slavery—when the police force was established in order to make sure slaves stayed in order and did not run away. I think that has transcended into modern-day policing. From the time that slavery was abolished, through the Jim Crow era, to the 70s all the way up to now.

“I would call it an innate bias and innate disposition as it relates to a fear of blacks. I think officers—whether they are black or white—are taught to fear what society deems as people who look like thugs—black people,” he added.

Savage, who is black, said he has been racially profiled in his own town, even while driving a nice car, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. He said that there is an “innate bias” that “subjects blacks to a higher standard of criminality than it does for people who are white.”

According to Savage, those attitudes bleed over into how different communities are policed. In black communities, he said, there is a lack of protective policing and an emphasis on keeping black people in order.

“It is not the type of policing that is protecting and serving and being a part of the community,” Savage said. “We all fear crime. No one wants to be raped. No one wants to be murdered. In black communities, violent crime is heightened because we lack protection.”

So how does that translate to the policing of activists and rallies?

“Wherever you are, the police always make sure there’s tightened security so that white people can freely express their First Amendment rights: freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” he said.

“On the other side, whenever there are black activists who pose no threat to officers or anyone, officers are brought out to these communities when we express our constitutional rights—not to protect us, but to keep us in order,” Savage continued.

“They come out with batons and in riot gear in order to create a heightened fear. In my opinion, it draws fear but also a sense of adrenalin for those who protest. It makes everyone madder.

“It’s unfortunate that we don’t get the same protections as those organizations that are founded on hatred. Whenever anyone who has a voice against oppression wants to protest, we are met with opposition, we are met with force—and that perpetuates the racism,” Savage said. “It gives a voice to racism. It becomes pretty clear when you see these things—you see the president of the United States shunning athletes who want to be a voice outside of the field. They want to do something better for their community and the world, so they decide to take a stand against racism by protesting. Then you have the president demoralize and dehumanize them while simultaneously enabling the white supremacy groups.”

So how do we fix this, especially in this political climate? Savage has some ideas.

“One of the only solutions is education,” Savage said. “Police officers, unfortunately, have unfettered discretion to do what they want when they want because that is the way the laws are written. A police officer can essentially commit murder if he says he feels his life is in danger.

“We need to get on the books and change the laws. People need to be educated to the sensitive nature of race and how it can be demoralizing to African Americans—it is a sensitive subject. Those on the other end of the spectrum need to understand why we feel the way we feel. Why it’s wrong for you to protect a group that is essentially founded on hate versus a group that is simply saying black lives matter?”

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STEVE BANNON WANTS TO NATIONALIZE FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE’S DATA
« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2018, 04:09:30 AM »
"...buying bulk data, it seems, is all well and good when it comes to winning elections for Donald Trump, and nefarious when it is done for the purpose of selling ads."

STEVE BANNON WANTS TO NATIONALIZE FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE’S DATA
The co-founder of Cambridge Analytica says Big Data should be placed in a public trust.


BY TINA NGUYEN
Bannon attends a House Intelligence Committee meeting on January 16, 2018.
By Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

>Five months ago, a whistleblower accused Cambridge Analytica co-founder Steve Bannon of being personally involved in the company’s efforts to use data from tens of millions of people, harvested without permission from Facebook, to build detailed “psychographic” portraits of individual voters. Bannon has denied knowing how the data was collected, but was more than happy to take credit for the results on behalf of Cambridge Analytica’s most high-profile client, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. “I helped put the company together,” he boasted in March at a conference in New York, arguing that his campaign tactics were not so different from Barack Obama’s. The real villain, he explained, was Facebook, the company that had kept tabs on users and collated their personal information in the first place. “It’s bought and sold every day, it’s just a marketplace,” he said, before digressing into a characteristic rant. “You’re all serfs,” he continued, repeating the word three times. “The data is all out there, they take your stuff for free and monetize it for huge margins. They take over your life.”

Yes, buying bulk data, it seems, is all well and good when it comes to winning elections for Donald Trump, and nefarious when it is done for the purpose of selling ads. Bannon isn’t alone in this mindset: conservatives have grown exponentially less trusting of Silicon Valley in general, and social-media companies in particular, in the years since the 2016 election, as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have begun to crack down on hate speech, foreign propaganda, and conspiracy theories. In the past week, the president has tweeted repeatedly about his suspicions that tech companies have been suppressing conservative voices in favor of “fake news” like CNN and NBC. “We have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in, and you just can’t do that,” Trump said during a press conference on Tuesday. “So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population, O.K.?”

Bannon, an expert himself on the use and misuse of Big Data, offered an unusual solution Wednesday in a conversation with CNN’s Oliver Darcy: nationalization. Or at least something similar. “I think you take it away from the companies. All that data they have is put in a public trust,” Bannon explained. “They can use it. And people can opt in and opt out. That trust is run by an independent board of directors. It just can't be that [Big Tech is] the sole proprietors of this data . . . I think this is a public good.” These companies, he added, “have to be broken up just like Teddy Roosevelt broke up the trusts.” He went on:

“These [companies] are run by sociopaths,” he said. “These people are complete narcissists. These people ought to be controlled, they ought to be regulated.” At one point during the phone call, Bannon said, “These people are evil. There is no doubt about that.”

Such a proposition isn’t necessarily at odds with Bannon’s populist-nationalist economic vision, which isn’t opposed to state intervention. But it’s certainly hypocritical, given his own history of weaponizing big data for political gains, not to mention the Trump base’s well-documented mistrust of the government’s data-collection programs. However, his rant against Big Tech’s leaders—“they are not mature adults,” he said at one point. “They are all man-childs. How can they have this unlimited power? It’s outrageous”—isadroitly timed to take advantage of growing anti-tech sentiment on the populist right. Not only has Trump himself taken up the cause, but a poll released Wednesday from the conservative Media Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of conservatives believe social media is deliberately suppressing their views, while another two-thirds believe Facebook is not treating right-wingers fairly on its platform.

If there’s an intellectual through-line reconciling Bannon’s hypocrisy, it’s that he believes no one will bother to hold him accountable, so long as he ends up on the right side of history. Much like Trump, who has chosen a convenient time to magnify the right’s cries of censorship (just after a week in which his former lawyer and former campaign chairman pleaded guilty and were convicted, respectively), he’s willing to latch onto almost any cause in order to boost his own credentials. A well-practiced populist ambulance-chaser, Bannon’s speciality is popping up where he sees a likely success, and taking credit for it. He can now claim to have foreseen the upending of Silicon Valley, when in reality he is firmly bringing up the rear.

« Last Edit: August 31, 2018, 06:46:49 AM by Surly1 »
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Re: Who They Are...
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2018, 06:49:45 AM »
Quote
"...buying bulk data, it seems, is all well and good when it comes to winning elections for Donald Trump, and nefarious when it is done for the purpose of selling ads."

STEVE BANNON WANTS TO NATIONALIZE FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE’S DATA
The co-founder of Cambridge Analytica says Big Data should be placed in a public trust.


Eddie said:

Attack of the dreaded Brown Background again. I hate that.

Bannon really probably wanted to buy the data personally, but he just didn't have  the cash. What a dangerous dingbat.

Surly edit: trying to fix the deaded brown background of html incompatibility with SMS.
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Re: Who They Are...
« Reply #26 on: August 31, 2018, 06:59:35 AM »
Anyone who heard Lindsay Graham's (aka Huckleberry J. Butchmeup's) latest turn in re his formerly good buddy Attorney General Jeff Sessions was probably reminded of his performance last year when he warned Trump that decapitating his AG would be a bridge too far. If you were waiting for a profile in courage to emerge from Republicans in Congress after MccaIN'S FUNERAL CEREMONIES, stop holding your breath. formerly one of Trump's harshest critics, Graham paved the way for the post-midterm election fate of Jeffy Bo, telling reporters on Capitol Hill that Trump is "entitled to an attorney general he has faith in."

I was left wondering what happened to Ol' Huck.

Some thoughts:

Confirmed: Lindsey Graham took huge money from Kremlin oligarch

Palmer Report » Analysis

This week Lindsey Graham completed his transformation from Donald Trump’s biggest Republican detractor to Trump’s most eager criminal co-conspirator. Graham misused his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand that the Department of Justice prosecute Christopher Steele, a man he knows to be innocent. If you’re trying to understand what’s happened to Graham, you can start by following the money – and yes, Graham took Kremlin money.

In mid-2017, Palmer Report reported on documents uncovered by the Democratic Coalition, which revealed that several Republican office holders took significant money in the 2016 election cycle from a Kremlin oligarch who just happens to have dual U.S. citizenship. Months later, the Dallas Morning News confirmed our story by reporting the same names and numbers (link). The donations were technically legal on their face, but they were highly suspicious. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wasn’t even running in 2016, took $2.5 million. He then went on to work behind the scenes during the election to try to prevent President Obama from revealing that Russia was trying to hack the election. Someone else notable took that same Kremlin money: Lindsey Graham.

Even though Lindsey Graham wasn’t running for anything in 2016 either, he took $800,000 from this same Kremlin oligarch. Again, the donation was legal. And realistically speaking, it’s incredibly difficult to believe that someone like Graham could be coaxed into throwing away his legacy and going on a crime spree to protect Donald Trump, simply because someone handed him eight hundred grand. So what’s really going on here?

We must get to the bottom of why Lindsey Graham decided to take this highly suspicious – if technically legal – money from a Kremlin oligarch during a year in which he wasn’t running for office and therefore wouldn’t have urgently needed it. Are there illicit reasons Graham took the money, and if so, are those reasons now being used to motivate him to behave in such an uncharacteristic manner?

« Last Edit: September 02, 2018, 10:05:39 AM by Surly1 »
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Re: Who They Are...
« Reply #27 on: September 02, 2018, 07:32:03 AM »
"No neo-Nazi movement of any account in this country, etc., etc."

That White Nationalist Who Quit Last Week Was Attending Immigration Meetings

That White Nationalist Who Quit Last Week Was Attending Immigration Meetings

Just another one of those strange coinky-dinks that dog this administration! What are the odds so many white supremacists end up working for Trump? Via the Washington Post:

Ian M. Smith, a Department of Homeland Security analyst who resigned this week after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups, attended multiple immigration policy meetings at the White House, according to government officials familiar with his work.

Smith quit his job Tuesday after being questioned about personal emails he sent and received between 2014 and 2016, before he joined the Trump administration. The messages, obtained by the Atlantic and detailed in a report published Tuesday, depict Smith engaging in friendly, casual conversations with prominent white supremacists and racists.

In one email from 2015, Smith responded to a group dinner invitation whose host said his home would be “judenfrei,” a German word used by the Nazis during World War II to describe territory that had been “cleansed” of Jews during the Holocaust.

“They don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” Smith replied, using the German word for “Friday,” according to the Atlantic. “I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hours and talk to people like Matt Parrot, etc.,” Smith added, a reference to the former spokesman for the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party.

Oh, and he used to write for the National Review.


 

« Last Edit: September 02, 2018, 10:01:46 AM by Surly1 »
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GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #28 on: September 02, 2018, 10:09:28 AM »
GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
Ruth May, Contributor


Editor's note: Ruth May wrote this column in August 2017. Click here for an extensive update

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it's because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik's donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik's holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio's Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik's two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump's Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik's companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5thAvenue in New York.

Len Blavatnik, considered to be one of the richest men in Great Britain, holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. He is known for his business savvy and generous philanthropy, but not without controversy.

In 2010, Oxford University drew intense criticism for accepting a donation of 75 million pounds from Blavatnik for a new school of government bearing his name. Faculty, alumni and international human rights activists claimed the university was selling its reputation and prestige to Putin's associates.

Blavatnik's relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik's money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.

Oleg Deripaska is the founder and majority owner of RUSAL, the world's second largest aluminum company, based in Russia. Len Blavatnik owns a significant stake in RUSAL and served on its Board until November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected. 

Deripaska controls RUSAL with a 48 percent majority stake through his holding company, EN+ Group, and the Russian government owns 4.35 percent stake of EN+ Group through its second-largest state owned bank, VTB. VTB was exposed in the Panama papers in 2016for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Vladimir Putin and is under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Deripaska has been closely connected to the Kremlin since he married into Boris Yeltsin's family in 2001, which literally includes him in the Russian clan known as "The Family."According to the Associated Press, starting in 2006, Deripaska made annual payments of $10 million to Paul Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus to advance Putin's global agenda.

Len Blavatnik's co-owner in RUSAL is his long-time business partner, Viktor Vekselberg, another Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. Blavatnik and Vekselberg hold their 15.8 percent joint stake in RUSAL in the name of Sual Partners, their offshore company in the Bahamas. Vekselberg also happens to be the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus.

Another oligarch with close ties to Putin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns a 3.3 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Rybolovlev is known as "Russia's Fertilizer King" and has been in the spotlight for several months as the purchaser of Trump's 60,000 square-foot mansion in Palm Beach. Rybolovlev bought the estate for $54 million more than Trump paid for the property at the bottom of the crash in the U.S. real estate market.

The convoluted web that links Putin's oligarchs to Trump's political associates and top Republicans is difficult to take in.

Trump and Putin have a common approach to governance. They rely heavily on long-term relationships and family ties. While there have been tensions between Putin and Deripaska over the years, the Kremlin came to Deripaska's rescue in 2009 when he was on the verge of bankruptcy by providing a $4.5 billion emergency loan through state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB), where Putin is chair of the advisory board.

VEB, known as President Putin's "pet bank," is now in crisis after sanctions applied by Europe and U.S. in 2014 have isolated it from the international banks that were the sources of its nearly $4 billion in hard currency loans that, according to Bloomberg, mature this year and in 2018.

Russia's international currency reserves are near a 10-year low, which has put further pressure on the president of VEB, Sergey Gorkov, to find sources of international rescue capital. Notably, it was Gorkov who met secretly with Jared Kushner in December at Trump Tower. Kushner's failure to report the meeting with Gorkov has drawn the attention of the Senate intelligence committee that now wants to question Kushner about the meeting.

Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmay

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How Putin's oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns
« Reply #29 on: September 02, 2018, 10:16:52 AM »
How Putin's oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns



Editor's note May 8, 2018: This column originally published December 15, 2017. New allegations about $500k in payments from a Russian oligarch made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen have placed it back in the news.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia.

Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.

An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycle. Blavatnik's family emigrated to the U.S. in the late '70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late '80s.

Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik's campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire. During that season he contributed $53,400. His contributions increased to $135,552 in 2011-12 and to $273,600 in 2013-14, still bipartisan.

In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik's political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

In 2017, donations continued, with $41,000 going to both Republican and Democrat candidates, along with $1 million to McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund.

Touch chart to see info:

So is this legal?

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democratic leader on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News in September: "Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern."

Under federal law, foreigner nationals are barred from contributing directly or indirectly to political campaigns in local, state and federal elections.

Should Blavatnik's contributions concern Mueller's team of investigators? Take a look at his long-time business associates in Russia.

The Oligarchs

Oleg Deripaska is said to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs, and he is founder and majority shareholder of Russia's Rusal, the second-largest aluminum company in the world. Blavatnik holds a stake in Rusal with a business partner.

Further, nearly 4 percent of Deripaska's stake in Rusal is owned by Putin's state-controlled bank, VTB, which is currently under U.S. sanctions. VTB was exposed in the Panama Papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Putin.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, began collecting $10 million a year in 2006 from Deripaska to advance Putin's interests with Western governments. Deripaska's name turned up again in an email handed over to Mueller's team by Manafort's attorneys. According to The Washington Post, in the email dated July 7, 2016, just two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president, Manafort asked an overseas intermediary to pass a message on to Deripaska: "If he [Deripaska] needs private briefings, tell him we can accommodate."

Viktor Vekselberg is one of the 10 richest men in Russia. He and long-time business partner Blavatnik hold a 20.5 percent stake in Rusal. (They met while attending university in Russia.)

In 1990, Blavatnik and Vekselberg co-founded the Renova Group for large-scale investments in energy, infrastructure, aluminum and other metals. One of their earliest investments was in Tyumen Oil Co. (TNK), founded in 1995. TNK is best known for its contentious partnership with British Petroleum after the two entities formed a joint venture in 2003. That rocky relationship ended 10 years later when they sold out to the state-controlled energy giant, Rosneft, under pressure from the Russian government.

As for BP, that pressure took the form of growing harassment and intimidation from Russian authorities who at one point, according to Forbes, refused to renew visas for BP employees, forcing BP's joint venture chief Robert Dudley (who is now chief executive of BP) to flee Russia and manage TNK-BP from a foreign outpost in a secret location.

Vekselberg has connections to at least two Americans who made significant GOP campaign contributions during the last cycle. They are among several Americans who also merit Mueller's scrutiny.

Touch chart to see info:

The Americans

Andrew Intrater, according to Mother Jones, is Vekselberg's cousin. He is also chief executive of Columbus Nova, Renova's U.S. investment arm located in New York. (FEC records list his employer as Renova US Management LLC.)

Intrater had no significant history of political contributions prior to the 2016 elections. But in January 2017 he contributed $250,000 to Trump's Inaugural Committee. His six-figure gift bought him special access to a dinner billed as "an intimate policy discussion with select cabinet appointees," according to a brochure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Alexander Shustorovich, chief executive of IMG Artists, attempted to give the Republican Party $250,000 in 2000 to support the George W. Bush presidential campaign, but his money was rejected because of his ties to the Russian government, according to Quartz. So why didn't the Trump team reject Shustorovich's $1 million check to Trump's Inaugural Committee?

Simon Kukes is an oil magnate who has something in common with Intrater. From 1998 to 2003, he worked for Vekselberg and Blavatnik as chief executive of TNK. Redacted CIA documents released in 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act said "TNK president Kukes said that he bribed local officials." The CIA confirmed the authenticity of the reports to The Guardian newspaper but would not comment further. In 2016, Kukes contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund. He had no significant donor history before last year's election.

Touch chart to see info:

There is no doubt that Kukes has close ties to the Putin government. When he left his job as CEO of TNK in June 2003, he joined the board of Yukos Oil, which at the time was the largest oil company in Russia owned by the richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Four months after Kukes joined the board, authorities arrested Khodorkovsky at gunpoint on his private plane in Siberia on trumped up charges of tax evasion and tapped Kukes to be CEO. This decision could only have been made at the highest levels in the Kremlin. The arrest of Khodorkovsky rattled the nerves of international investors and was the first tangible sign that Putin was not going to be the kind of leader that global executives and Western governments had expected him to be when he first took office in 2000.

Khodorkovksy was given a 13-year sentence in a Siberian prison and served 10 years before being released by Putin in December 2013, a month before the start of the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, as a sign of goodwill. As for the fate of Khodorkovksy's company, its largest oil subsidiary was sold in a sealed bid auction to Baikal Financial Group, a shell company with an unpublished list of officers. Baikal was registered at an address that turned out to be a mobile phone store in Tver, Russia. Three days after the auction, all of Baikal's assets were acquired for an undisclosed sum by Rosneft, the Russian oil giant that went on to buy TNK-BP in 2013.

In total, Blavatnik, Intrater, Shustorovich and Kukes made $10.4 million in political contributions from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017, and 99 percent of their contributions went to Republicans. With the exception of Shustorovich, the common denominator that connects the men is their association with Vekselberg. Experts who follow the activities of Russian oligarchs told ABC News that they believe the contributions from Blavatnik, Intrater and Kukes warrant intense scrutiny because they have worked closely with Vekselberg.

Even if the donations by the four men associated with Russia ultimately pass muster with Mueller, one still has to wonder: Why did GOP PACs and other Trump-controlled funds take their money? Why didn't the PACs say, "Thanks, but no thanks," like the Republicans said to Shustorovich in 2000? Yes, it was legal to accept their donations, but it was incredibly poor judgment.

McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process, McConnell's PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik's AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik's AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia's interference in the election.

And consider Steve Mnuchin, Trump's campaign finance chairman. Could he have known that the Trump Victory Fund, jointly managed by the Republican National Committe and Trump's campaign, took contributions from Intrater and Kukes? Mnuchin owned Hollywood financing company RatPac-Dune with Blavatnik until he sold his stake to accept Trump's appointment as the Treasury secretary.

Which PAC officials are making the decisions to accept these donations?

The Supreme Court

The contributions are legal because the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling, Citizens United, and several subsequent decisions, allowed American corporations and citizens to give unlimited amounts of money to PACs and non-profit 501c4 organizations, regardless of how they make their money, where they make their money, or with whom they make their money. The only caveat is that PACs and non-profits cannot coordinate their activities with the political candidates they support.

The man who led the winning fight for Citizens United was David Bossie, president of the conservative non-profit since 2001. In 1996, Bossie was hired by Republican Rep. Dan Burton to lead an investigation into President Bill Clinton's campaign fundraising. Burton fired him 18 months later for manipulating recordings of conversations among law officials and Webb Hubbell, a Clinton confidant who resigned as associate attorney general and pleaded guilty to tax fraud during the Whitewater investigation. CNN reported at the time that Newt Gingrich, who was speaker of the House, called Bossie's tampering with the Hubbell recordings an embarrassment to the Republicans.

Bossie served as Trump's deputy campaign chairman.

The Super PAC, Make America Number 1, is primarily funded by Trump's largest donor, Robert Mercer. His Renaissance Technologies hedge fund donated $15.5 million to the PAC.

Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, assumed control of Make America Number 1 in September 2016 and is now tainted by her role in the communications between Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hired for $5.9 million to handle the digital portion of the Trump campaign.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rebekah Mercer asked Cambridge chief executive Alexander Nix if the firm could compile stolen emails related to Hillary Clinton so that they could be more easily searched. (This suggestion came from someone she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, according to The Hill. Cambridge Analytica had worked on digital marketing for Cruz before he dropped out of the Republican primary.)

Nix confirmed that he had asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to forward the Clinton-related emails. Assange said he declined the request.

Rebekah Mercer also heads the non-profit Making America Great, formed in March 2017. The non-profit ran a seven-figure ad campaign highlighting Trump's achievements. Bossie is the group's chief strategist.

Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, contributed $150,000 to Mercer's Make America Number 1 PAC and another $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Prince has recently testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his trip to the remote Seychelles for a secret meeting in December 2016 with a close ally of Putin, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to setup a back channel of communication between then president-elect Donald Trump and the Russians, though Prince has denied this allegation. Before the 2015-16 elections, Prince's political contributions totaled a mere $31,800 as far back as 2007, according to FEC records.

The hybrid super-PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, was formed in 2013 under the name Stop Hillary PAC. It is managed by Dan Backer, the lead attorney who won the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commissioncase in 2014. The Supreme Court decision eliminated the cap on how much wealthy individuals can donate to federal candidates, parties and PACs in a single, two-year election cycle.

Like Bossie, Dan Backer helped to open the floodgates to millions of dollars of influence brought to bear on incumbents and their political challengers who are now pressured to kowtow to their donors with the biggest bank accounts, even if their billions are earned in Russian rubles.

Backer was born in Russia and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1978.

The changes to our campaign finance laws created an avenue for Russia to try to influence our elections. There are holes in our firewall and they aren't on the internet.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound