West Virginia coal baron tries to silence John Oliver

A Republican coal baron is suing John Oliver, HBO, Time Warner, and the writers for Oliver’s show over the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight.
The suit, filed on June 21 in the circuit court of Marshall County, West Virginia, holds that Oliver and his team “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies” by airing an episode that ripped into him. Murray runs the country’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy Corporation.
“They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case,” reads the complaint, which also lists Murray’s companies as plaintiffs.
The lawsuit isn’t a surprise to Oliver. In fact, the British comic said on the episode of his show that aired on June 18 that he expected it, noting that Murray has sued several other media outlets in the past (including, in May, the New York Times). In the episode, Oliver criticized Murray’s business practices, saying he doesn’t do enough to protect his miners’ safety. Oliver also noted that his team contacted Murray’s company before the episode aired, and that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter––the first time that had ever happened to his show.
Parts of the complaint read like it had been written by President Donald Trump. One paragraph says Murray “has built a strong reputation as one of the as one of the staunchest defenders and most ardent champions of the United States coal industry and America itself.” The complaint also claims that “[d]efendants’ broadcasts have vigorously supported and advanced Mrs. Clinton’s agenda.”
At the heart of Murray’s complaint is Oliver’s discussion of the collapse of one of his mines in Utah, which killed nine people. Oliver said on the show that a government report concluded the collapse happened because of unauthorized mining practices, and also noted that Murray holds the collapse actually happened because of an earthquake.
The complaint says Murray directed Oliver’s team to studies supporting that argument—and that he deliberately ignored them.
“Because Defendant Oliver omitted any mention of the other reports he was aware of that evidenced that an earthquake caused the collapse, as Mr. Murray correctly stated following the collapse, Defendant Oliver’s presentation intentionally and falsely implied that there is no such evidence,” the complaint said.
The complaint also said Murray’s website “was hacked and inundated with the message incited by Defendants: ‘Eat shit, Bob.’” And it says Murray’s health grew worse after Oliver’s show aired, “likely further reducing his already limited life expectancy due to his Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.”
Ever since Hulk Hogan (with an assist from Peter Thiel) sued Gawker into bankruptcy, high-profile lawsuits against media outlets tend to generate significant jitters. But Ken White, a First Amendment litigator at Brown White & Osborn LLP in Los Angeles, told The Daily Beast HBO and Oliver don’t have much to worry about.
“Overall I’d say it appears frivolous and vexatious,” he said. “Any core of merit is buried in nonsense.”
“It does arguably cite one or two statements (like the bit about earthquakes) that could possibly be defamatory, since they involve fact,” he said. “But for the most part the section describing the purportedly false statements is rambling and semi-coherent, mixing fact with opinion and insult.”
White said HBO’s lawyers will likely try to get the suit moved to federal court—especially given that West Virginia coal country state courts are unlikely to sympathize with sardonic New Yorkers.
“It looks like the Plaintiffs tried to craft the complaint to avoid federal court, but they probably won’t succeed,” he added.
A spokesperson for HBO, who hadn’t yet seen the full complaint, told The Daily Beast the company is confident nothing in the episode violated Murray’s rights.
“While we have not seen the complaint, we have confidence in the staff of Last Week Tonight and do not believe anything in the show this week violated Mr. Murray’s or Murray Energy’s rights,” a spokesperson said.
And Oliver is unlikely to lose sleep over the suit. As the episode ended, a person in a squirrel costume came onstage—a reference to a rumor that Murray started the coal company because a squirrel told him to—and held up an oversized check.
“Hey Bob, just wanted to say, if you plan on suing, I do not have a billion dollars,” the person in the squirrel suit said. “But I do have a check for three acorns and eighteen cents.”
“Oh, that’s very nice of you, Mr. Nutter Butter,” Oliver replied.
“It is,” said the squirrel. “It’s made out to, ‘Eat shit, Bob!’ Memo line: ‘Kiss my Ass!’”
“Thank you, Mr. Nutter Butter!” Oliver cried, jubilant.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/coal-king-sues-hbo-over-john-olivers-show

Advertisements

follow up: MSNBC backs down for now, O’Donnell stays on

Update of the previous post:  TRUMP REPEATEDLY PRESSURED MSNBC TO FIRE LAWRENCE O’DONNELL HOST OF “THE LAST WORD”, IS IT WORKING?

https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/trump-repeatedly-pressured-msnbc-to-fire-lawrence-odonnell-host-of-the-last-word-is-it-working/

MSNBC will renew Lawrence O’Donnell’s contract, which was due to expire today. At least for now, the network’s increasingly conservative tilt—new show hosts include Greta Van Susteren, Nicolle Wallace*, Hugh Hewitt, and, on sister network NBC, Megyn Kelly—will not be bleeding into the primetime liberal line-up of Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and O’Donnell. At the end of Wednesday’s The Last Word, O’Donnell congratulated an intern starting a new job next week and added, “You know where I’ll be next week? I will be sitting right here talking about the James Comey hearing and everything else that happens next week and everything that happens for the next couple of years.” Later he confirmed by tweet that he won’t get bumped from his 10 pm perch: “Yes I will be saying hi to Rachel @maddow at 10 pm for the foreseeable future.”
*(Some of us here at the Examiner have been enjoying Nicolle Wallace’s show, she has great enthusiasm for gleefully busting fellow Republicans for their hypocrisy supporting Trump.)

Though O’Donnell will remain at MSNBC, it’d be a mistake to think that protesters were overreacting. MSNBC, long considered the liberal answer to Fox News, is doling out valuable TV time to any conservative Never Trumper or ex-Foxer who bats an eyelash at them. The former Fox anchor Van Susteren has been hosting an hour-long weekday show at 6 pm since September. Wallace, a former communications director for George W. Bush and a top adviser for the McCain/Palin ticket (which she famously didn’t vote for) took over the 4 pm slot from Steve Kornaki just a few weeks ago. Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt—who never-Trumped for a nanosecond—will reportedly get his own show on Saturday mornings. And to top it off, climate-change denier George Will, recently booted from Fox News for opposing Trump, has signed on as a contributor to MSNBC and NBC, where former Fox News star Megyn Kelly will debut her Sunday night show this weekend. In September, Kelly will also take over the third hour of NBC’s Today show.

O’Donnell supporters aren’t crazy to believe that MSNBC could be as ruthless as the next corporate media outlet. Just the day before O’Donnell announced his good news, we learned that CBS had fired Scott Pelley as the anchor of its nightly news show. Pelley has been outspoken about Trump—saying stuff like “It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality”—something unheard of for a network-news anchor. (Pelley will remain with CBS, however, returning full-time to 60 Minutes.)

MSNBC, of course, has its own history of unceremoniously shedding talent. In February, Tamron Hall quit both NBC and MSNBC after being told—just minutes before going live on air for her daily MSNBC news show—that Megyn Kelly would be bumping her from Today. That followed the purges of 2015, when Andrew Lack, the MSNBC executive, let go of, or moved to obscurity, some of the channel’s more progressive daytime voices—Ronan Farrow, Alex Wagner, Al Sharpton, and Ed Schultz—in an effort to make MSNBC look more like NBC and its straight-news approach. In early 2016, Melissa Harris-Perry quit her weekend show over disputes about editorial control. “They wanted us to cover politics in the narrowest sense,” Harris-Perry said at the time.

But even if Lack lusted for a more centrist prime time, it may not have made business sense to ax O’Donnell, as a number of the protesters pointed out to me. During the month of May, MSNBC earned its highest prime-time ratings ever, topping CNN and Fox in the desirable demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds for the first time in 17 years. And in terms of total viewers among MSNBC shows, also for the month of May, O’Donnell has had ratings second only to Maddow. Like CNN and Fox, MSNBC has Trump to thank for the ratings boost, but it has improved over the last year at far higher percentages than its rivals.

We don’t know what concessions either side may have made, but for now MSNBC issued a statement that portrays O’Donnell as just one of the five amigos: “Each weeknight, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Brian Williams provide insight and perspective that lets you know you’re in the know.”

But in truth, many viewers consider only some of those hosts to be the last bastion of progressive TV news. “Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow are essential to what’s left of my sanity,” Beverly Bullock told me at the rally. “A true, honest, crusading press is needed more than ever. The press is the only sector that’s really standing up for our country.”

And as much as anyone may or may not love O’Donnell, for some, the anxiety is not really about him. Claire Dillingham, a semi-retired teacher who attended the rally, said, “This is what I’m scared of—not of this or that individual losing a job so much as the whole attempt to tell the press to ‘Shut your mouth.’”

https://www.thenation.com/article/getting-last-word/

Trump repeatedly pressured MSNBC to fire Lawrence O’Donnell host of “The Last Word”, is it working?

Read our previous post: The voice of the resistance not so much racism and stupidly undermine MSNBC

https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/voice-of-the-resistance-not-so-much-racism-and-stupidly-undermine-msnbc/

Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” has just four weeks left in his contract, and the cable network does not appear to be interested in renewing his deal. Four well-placed sources tell HuffPost that MSNBC has not been in contact with O’Donnell’s team of representatives to negotiate a new deal.

The absence of active negotiations weeks before a contract expires is highly unusual and often a sign that a contract won’t be renewed. News networks normally don’t risk letting the contract of a host who has a highly rated program expire or even come close to expiring before renegotiating. A short time-frame puts the network at a strategic disadvantage in talks, that’s why cable networks often start negotiating renewals six to nine months in advance of a contract ending.

A spokesman for NBC News declined to comment on “ongoing negotiations.” Although, multiple sources from inside and outside the network have told HuffPost that no negotiations have taken place.

O’Donnell, who has been appearing on the network since its inception, has hosted his highly rated program since the fall of 2010. “The Last Word” is the cable network’s second-highest rated program, according to Nielsen figures, behind only “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

O’Donnell has even been, on some nights, besting Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic that television advertisers care about the most.

If O’Donnell’s contract is not renewed, that would not come as a surprise to many network insiders. Andy Lack, the chairman of NBC News, is no fan of O’Donnell’s program, sources say. Some say it’s because he doesn’t appreciate the liberal nature of “The Last Word,” but others say it’s about the fact that O’Donnell rejected Lack’s request to move his program from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. This decision was O’Donnell’s prerogative, two sources said, because his contract stipulates that his program must air in prime time.

O’Donnell’s refusal to move his program could have led Lack, who is known to bristle at dissent, to sour on O’Donnell, sources said. A senior NBC News executive disagreed with the idea that Lack isn’t a fan of O’Donnell’s show saying, “He is proud of and enthusiastic about all the work that’s being done across all of MSNBC’s primetime slate, including Lawrence’s program.”

There does appear to be some evidence of Lack’s distaste. O’Donnell has not had a face-to-face meeting with him since Lack returned to the network in 2015 after stints at Sony Music and Bloomberg Television, two sources said.

A senior NBC news executive said that Lack doesn’t take a heavy-handed approach with the cable network’s on-air talent and that frequent face-to-face meetings are often a sign that he isn’t satisfied. Sources familiar with the production of “The Last Word” say that Lack doesn’t interfere with the program’s editorial direction. And in Lack’s previous stint as NBC News president he was the one that pushed for O’Donnell to appear on the then nascent cable MSNBC network when it was founded in 1996.

Andrew Lack (second from left) meets with executives from Microsoft, General Electric and Drugstore.com in Manhattan to announce the creation of MSNBC.

Lack’s programming decisions and leadership style have caused tension internally at MSNBC leading staff members and on-air talent to express their displeasure internally and externally. For this story, HuffPost spoke to more than 10 sources inside and outside the network who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about network business.

If O’Donnell’s contract is not renewed, the news would certainly be welcome to President Donald Trump, who has had a long-running feud with O’Donnell.

In 2011, O’Donnell called on NBC to fire Trump, then the host and executive producer of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” for pushing his racist and inaccurate “birther” conspiracy against President Barack Obama. In 2015, he also claimed that Trump was lying about his wealth. Trump threatened to sue O’Donnell for making false statements but never followed through on his threat (which O’Donnell had predicted).

According to three sources, Trump has pressured MSNBC President Phil Griffin to fire O’Donnell on multiple occasions. Griffin alluded to Trump’s push for O’Donnell’s ouster in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last month, saying, “[Trump] started calling me all the time in 2011 to say Lawrence O’Donnell was a ‘third-rate’ anchor.”  Griffin and O’Donnell enjoy a cordial relationship but Griffin’s power as the President of MSNBC has been diminished by Lack since he returned in 2015. As a result, Lack will be the one to decide whether O’Donnell stays and under what terms.

There is a fear, among some at MSNBC, that Lack is making programming decisions in an effort to appease the Trump administration (an accusation that has been made of CNN and Fox News), which may lead to more access to the White House and in turn, conservative viewers.

A senior NBC News executive pushed back on this claim. “Is he bringing in more voices from all over the political spectrum? Yes. But that’s to make better programming and more informed analysis. We don’t do things to appease people in power. We hold them accountable.”

If MSNBC failed to renew O’Donnell’s contract, it would be unprecedented, given his high ratings.

It’s unclear who would replace O’Donnell if MSNBC declines to renew his contract. Multiple sources have told HuffPost that Brian Williams, whose program, “The 11th Hour,” is on MSNBC at 11 p.m. Eastern, has been eager to have an earlier start in the evening schedule.

If MSNBC failed to renew O’Donnell’s contract, it would be unprecedented, given his high ratings, but multiple sources tell HuffPost that Lack attributes O’Donnell’s high-ratings to heightened interest in Trump and the fact that his program’s lead-in is the top-rated Rachel Maddow show, and doesn’t credit O’Donnell’s star power and fan base for the high-ratings. Despite this, Lack is said to dislike when people attribute his cable network’s blockbuster ratings to Trump: He believes, according to multiple sources, that the high ratings are largely a product of his programming decisions.

A senior NBC News executive disputes both of these characterizations saying that Lack believes ratings success is more nuanced than attributing it to one or two factors. “He considers prime time to be the “op-ed section” of the cable news network, and believes MSNBC is on top right now because it has the smartest, most insightful and most dynamic opinion hosts in the business,” the executive said.

O’Donnell is not giving up on what appears to be his quest to stay at MSNBC. On May 3, he tweeted about “The Last Word” program beating Hannity in the ratings. “We need audience support now more than ever,” O’Donnell replied. “So thanks again.”

Friday night, he sent another Twitter message about his rankings. “Last night @maddow was #1 rated show in all of cable tv, not just cable news. @TheLastWord was #2,” he wrote. “Thanks for your support. We need it.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lawrence-odonnell-msnbc-future_us_59162d8ce4b00f308cf5534a

Dictatorship 101: Fire the FBI director investigating your regime, then start jailing reporters

Traitor Trump’s cronies copy National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini’s behavior.

A reporter has been arrested for pressing Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to say whether or not the Trump health care bill would make it harder for domestic violence survivors to obtain insurance.

West Virginia police arrested Dan Heyman at the state capitol Tuesday as he walked with Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, holding a recorder out and asking Price repeatedly about claims that insurers could refuse to serve survivors of familial abuse. That claim is based on inference from the bill’s provision allowing states to abandon consumer protections from Obamacare with federal permission.

Heyman had sought out Price on his way into the capitol. “At some point, I think [they] decided I was too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job, so they arrested me,” Heyman told West Virginia Metro News. Heyman was later charged with “willful disruption of a governmental process,” according to the news service.

This is Tom Price. Don’t yell questions at Tom Price. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A police report justifying the charge said the reporter “was aggressively breaching the Secret Service agents” and “causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price,” the West Virginia Metro News reported. Heyman was only released after someone from his news agency posted a $5,000 bond. He faces a $100 fine and up to six months in jail under state law.

Heyman’s arrest is the most dramatic recent illustration of the chilling effect President Donald Trump’s election has had on the news business, but it is not the first.

The traveling press corps who followed Trump’s campaign were frequently turned into a side show at his rallies, kept inside a tight and prominently placed cordon where Trump himself would typically point them out as enemies to his supporters. He also occasionally remarked that America should “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue reporters who enjoy First Amendment protections.

In one high-profile incident, a senior campaign aide grabbed a reporter by the arm hard enough to leave bruises — an incident the campaign denied despite video evidence. Trump’s political persona frequently relies on cherry-picking media reports he likes and deeming all others “fake news.”

But journalists can handle being presented as a political enemy to the public. The use of state power to physically detain them and then pursue criminal penalties against them for doing their jobs is something different.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wouldn’t rule out the idea of using cops and prosecutors to go after the press back in January. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked him to commit to “not put reporters in jail for doing their jobs” during his confirmation hearing, and he responded that “I’m not sure.” Subsequent reports that Sessions is considering criminal charges against Wikileaks revived deep concerns about press freedom under Trump.

Both Sessions’ exchange with Klobuchar and the reports of a potential Wikileaks prosecution primarily relate to issues of leaked information and source protection. Heyman’s detention and misdemeanor charge is obviously a different beast, pertaining to reporters’ physical and verbal conduct around the public officials they cover.

Heyman is not the first journalist to experience such rough handling by the legal system in the newly dawned Trump era. Several journalists were detained and charged with felony rioting at a mass roundup in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day. Their charges were eventually dropped.

But Heyman’s case is very different even from that mass-arrest sweep. He was solo, in a public building, repeatedly asking a public official for an answer on a matter of some controversy and great public interest.

Republicans and some reporters have scoffed at the idea that Trumpcare would treat domestic violence and rape as pre-existing conditions because the bill does not explicitly do so. But it is not difficult to infer that by allowing states to seek waivers to dump the most expensive health care patients into high-risk pools rather than requiring insurers to cover them at the same price as everyone else, those who suffer ongoing psychological or physiological effects from trauma could quickly be priced out of insurance coverage.

Price may not want to answer questions like Heyman’s. He may not appreciate being bird-dogged by a reporter rather than addressing the media through the controlled environment of a press conference.

But it’s hard to reconcile Heyman’s status as a member of the constitutionally-protected free press with the West Virginia capitol police’s decision that “yelling questions at” public officials in a hallway constitutes an illegal “willful disruption of governmental processes.”

Extrajudicial assassination of Journalists!?!

Washington DC – Two journalists who say they have been targeted by the United States have filed a complaint against the American government, accusing it of putting them on a “kill list” and demanding to be taken off it.

The complaint was filed in the US District Court of the District of Columbia on Thursday on behalf of Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan – a dual Pakistani-Syrian citizen who works for Al Jazeera and Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American who has freelanced for Al Jazeera.

It accuses the US government of using information gathered via its Skynet surveillance programme, which has been used to guide drone strikes on “terror suspects”.

The plaintiffs accuse the United States of conspiracy to commit murder outside its borders and violating international law on targeting civilians.

Filed by UK-based rights group Reprieve and the Washington DC-based law firm Lewis Baach, the complaint asks the court to declare the journalists’ inclusion on the list illegal, and issue an injunction removing their names until they can review the secret evidence against them. It also asks the US to cease any planned strikes against the plaintiffs.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s founder and director, said the timing of the filing is linked to information his organisation has received from a secret source in Turkey who claims an attempt on Abdul Kareem’s life is imminent.

“A major reason for filing this litigation now is not because we’re going to win it next week, and get an injunction against [President Donald] Trump from killing these guys, but because we know they’re targeting Bilal and we’ve got to intimidate them enough, through publicity, to prevent them from doing this,” said Stafford Smith.

He told Al Jazeera there is no doubt the men are on the list of targets the US government is going after.

“When you look at Ahmad Zaidan … we have a copy of their [US] leaked Power Point saying he’s on the list. So that’s pretty powerful,” Stafford Smith said.

He said the case of Abdul Kareem is “even stronger”, as the US has allegedly targeted him several times before.

“The reason we know that is that three of those strikes, at least, maybe more, were drones, and the only country that had weaponised drones at the time was the US,” said Stafford Smith.

The Kill List – Kate Toomey

https://soundcloud.com/aljazeera/the-kill-list-kate-toomey

According to Reprieve’s research, it is not uncommon for the United States’ drone programme to require several attempts before killing a target, even ones such as Abdul Kareem or Zaidan who are not in hiding.

“The US misses on average three times for each person they’re trying to target. And with some people as many as nine or 10 times… Even a cat has only nine lives,” Stafford Smith  said.

Named after the artificial intelligence system in the Terminator movies, Skynet uses metadata – such as geolocation and social media activity – to flag individuals as potential “terrorist” threats, placing them on the so-called kill list – also referred to as the ” disposition matrix ” in the complaint.

“When you use an algorithm, it sounds very fancy, but an algorithm carries with it all the biases of the person who wrote it… This is the same problem with Skynet,” said Stafford Smith.

“The people who are really the ‘bad dudes’ out there, like Osama bin Laden, are not tweeting to anyone – they’re not sending text messages to [current al-Qaeda chief] Ayman al-Zawahiri.”

The sort of activities carried out by reporters in the normal course of doing their job, he said, is essentially what landed both men on the kill list.

Over the course of his career, Zaidan has interviewed senior leaders of groups listed as “terrorist” organisationis by the US, including former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Abu Mohammad al-Jolani,  head of the group formerly known as al-Nusra Front in Syria. He served as Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Pakistan for many years.

In a document leaked in 2015, the US National Security Agency alleged that Zaidan was a member of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood – allegations that he countered in an op-ed detailing his meetings with members of al-Qaeda and other groups.

Abdul Kareem was one of the few Western journalists reporting from the ground during the battle for Aleppo last year for a number of outlets, including Al Jazeera. He has also interviewed members of the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate in rebel-held areas.

The complaint filed on Thursday stated: “Neither Zaidan nor Kareem pose a continuing, imminent threat to US persons or national security. Neither Zaidan nor Kareem is a member or supporter of any terrorist group. Inclusion of Zaidan and Kareem on the kill list under these circumstance was arbitrary and capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”

In Abdul Kareem’s case, being targeted also violates his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment – prohibiting illegal seizure of evidence, in this case, data – as well as the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees US citizens due process.

The complaint has been filed against President Donald Trump, the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, the CIA, as well as several security-related agency and department heads.

Requests for comment were not responded to by the time of publication.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/journalists-allege-threat-drone-execution-170330205806045.html

 

 

 

 

Former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s “dossier” report continues to be proven true.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who wrote the dossiers on Trump’s team and Russia

 

The BBC has learned that US officials “verified” a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election – that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.

So far, no single piece of evidence has been made public proving that the Trump campaign joined with Russia to steal the US presidency – nothing.

But the FBI Director, James Comey, told a hushed committee room in Congress last week that this is precisely what his agents are investigating.

Stop to let that thought reverberate for a moment.

“Investigation is not proof,” said the president’s spokesman.

Trump’s supporters are entitled to ask why – with the FBI’s powers to subpoena witnesses and threaten charges of obstructing justice – nothing damning has emerged.

Perhaps there is nothing to find. But some former senior officials say it is because of failings in the inquiry, of which more later.

The roadmap for the investigation, publicly acknowledged now for the first time, comes from Christopher Steele, once of Britain’s secret intelligence service MI6.

He wrote a series of reports for political opponents of Donald Trump about Trump and Russia.

Steele’s “dossier”, as the material came to be known, contains a number of highly contested claims.

At one point he wrote: “A leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail KULAGIN, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation… would be exposed in the media there.”

There was no diplomat called Kulagin in the Russian embassy; there was a Kalugin.

One of Trump’s allies, Roger Stone, said to me of Steele, scornfully: “If 007 wants to be taken seriously, he ought to learn how to spell.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Kalugin was head of the embassy’s economics section.

He had gone home in August 2016 at the end of a six-year posting.

The man himself emailed journalists to complain about a “stream of lies and fake news about my person”.

If anyone looks like a harmless economist, rather than a tough, arrogant KGB man, it is the bland-faced Kalugin.

But sources I know and trust have told me the US government identified Kalugin as a spy while he was still at the embassy.

It is not clear if the American intelligence agencies already believed this when they got Steele’s report on the “diplomat”, as early as May 2016.

But it is a judgment they made using their own methods, outside the dossier.

A retired member of a US intelligence agency told me that Kalugin was being kept under surveillance before he left the US.

In addition, State Department staff who dealt with Russia did not come across Kalugin, as would have been expected with a simple diplomat.

“Nobody had met him,” one former official said. “It’s classic. Just classic [of Russian intelligence].”

Last month, the McClatchy news website said he was under “scrutiny” by the FBI as he left the US. They did not report, as my sources say, that he was a member of one of Russia’s spying organisations, the SVR or GRU.

Steele’s work remains fiercely controversial, to some a “dodgy dossier” concocted by President Trump’s enemies.

But on this vitally important point – Kalugin’s status as a “spy under diplomatic cover” – people who saw the intelligence agree with the dossier, adding weight to Steele’s other claims.

But then they knew him already.

I understand – from former officials – that from 2013-16, Steele gave the US government extensive information on Russia and Ukraine.

This was work done for private clients, but which Steele wanted the US authorities to see.

One former senior official who saw these reports told me: “It was found to be of value by the people whose job it was to look at Russia every day.

“They said things like, ‘How can he get this so quickly? This fits exactly with what we have.’ It was validated many times.”

Another who dealt with this material in government said: “Sometimes he would get spun by somebody. [But] it was always 80% there.”

None of these reports touched on the nature of Trump’s relationship with Russia.

But last June, Steele began sending pages of what would later be called his dossier.

In light of his earlier work, the US intelligence community saw him as “credible” (their highest praise).

The FBI thought the same; they had worked with Steele going back to his days in MI6.

He flew to Rome in August to talk to the FBI.

Then in early October, he came to the US and was extensively debriefed by them, over a week.

He gave the FBI the names of some of his informants, the so-called “key” to the dossier.

But the CIA never interviewed him, and never sought to.

This comes from several people who are in a position to know.

They are alarmed at how the investigation is going, and worry it is being fumbled.

One said: “The FBI doesn’t know about Russia, the CIA knows about Russia.

“Any sources Steele has in Russia, the FBI doesn’t know how to evaluate.

“The Agency does… Who’s running this thing from Moscow? The FBI just aren’t capable on that side, of even understanding what Chris has.”

Another reflected growing frustration with the inquiry among some who served in the Obama administration: “We used to call them the Feebs. They would make the simple cases, but never see, let alone understand and go after, the bigger picture.”

(My editors have asked me to explain, for readers outside North America, that feeb is slang for someone feeble-minded, used above as a contraction of the initials FBI.)

I understand that Steele himself did not ask to brief the CIA because he had a long-standing relationship with the FBI.

The Russia people at the CIA had moved on and he felt he did not have the personal contacts he would need.

The CIA and the FBI would not comment on any of this. But the FBI is said to have a large presence at the US embassy in Moscow and has long experience of investigating Russian organised crime in the US.

The FBI director, Comey, also said in his testimony to Congress: “This investigation began in late July, so for counter-intelligence investigation that’s a fairly short period of time.”

Several sources have told me that late last year Steele himself grew increasingly disillusioned with the FBI’s progress.

“He really thought that what he had would sway the election,” said one.

So in October, pages from his reports were given to a few journalists, including me.

Most news organisations that got this material decided it was not solid enough to publish.

In early December, the whole thing, 35 pages, was sent to Senator John McCain, who pressed the FBI director to investigate exhaustively.

The following month, the intelligence agencies briefed both then-President Barack Obama and Trump about the dossier – and the entire contents were published by Buzzfeed.

In the report, Steele spoke of an “established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin… an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least 8 years.”

Members of the Obama administration believe, based on analysis they saw from the intelligence community, that the information exchange claimed by Steele continued into the election.

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls. The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”

This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.

“If you need to ensure that white women in Pennsylvania don’t vote or independents get pissed in Michigan so they stay home: that’s voter suppression. You can figure what your target demographics and locations are from the voter rolls. Then you can use that to target your bot.”

This is the “big picture” some accuse the FBI of failing to see.

It is, so far, all allegation – and not just the parts concerning Donald Trump and his people.

For instance, the US intelligence agencies said last October that the voter rolls had been “scanned and probed” from a server in Russia.

But the Russian government was never shown to have been responsible.

There are either a series of coincidences or there is a conspiracy of such reach and sophistication that it may take years to unravel.

“I hear a lot of people comparing this to Watergate,” said Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

“Let me just tell you, the complexity of this case is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

“Watergate doesn’t even come close. That was a burglary in the Metro section of the Washington Post.

“It doesn’t have the international waypoints [of this]. Russia’s M.O. is to avoid attribution. This investigation is going to take time.”

In his testimony, the FBI director gave away nothing of the details of the inquiry. As I wrote in January, it is being done by a “counter-intelligence taskforce” that includes the CIA, with the FBI leading.

I wrote then that the secret US intelligence court had granted an order, a so-called Fisa warrant, to intercept the electronic records of two Russian banks.

The White House cited this report several times as evidence for President Trump’s tweets that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower… This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

It isn’t.

Since Watergate, no president can simply order the CIA or FBI to tap someone’s phone.

I wrote that: “Neither Trump nor his associates are named in the Fisa order.”

If they were, the court would have to see “probable cause” that they were agents of a foreign power.

It is possible that the communications of Trump associates were picked up in monitoring of foreign entities, such as the Russian banks, so-called “incidental collection”.

This is presumably what the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, is talking about when he asks Congress to investigate an “abuse of power” by the Obama administration.

Comey was careful in his testimony to say the investigation was into “co-ordination” rather than collusion.

“Collusion is not a term, a legal term of art,” he said, “and it’s one I haven’t used here today, as we’re investigating to see whether there was any co-ordination…”

“Explicit or implicit coordination?” a Congressman asked.

“Knowing or unknowing,” Comey replied.

The investigation, then, is into a range of possibilities: at one end, unwitting co-operation with Russia by members of the Trump campaign; at the other conscious “co-ordination”.

Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, said that if Trump’s aides knew of Russia’s plans, there should be charges of treason.

Trump’s enemies ask us to believe that some of his people were either traitors or dupes.

The president himself has another version of events: there was no “co-ordination”; the whole thing is a monstrous lie created by the Obama administration, fed by the intelligence community and amplified by the “dishonest” media, billowing black clouds of smoke but no fire.

When the dossier was released, he tweeted: “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

These two stories cannot be reconciled.

With each new drip of information, option three – the chance that this is all a giant mistake, an improbable series of coincidences – seems further out of reach.

Increasingly, the American people are being asked to choose between two unpalatable versions of events: abuse of power by one president or treason that put another in the White House.

It cannot be both.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39435786#

 

 

 

Imagine if the armed Malheur take over was Native people or Black Lives Matter, there never would have been a trial.

Look at the way the indigenous people been treated in Dakota. Amy Goodman charged with a serious felony for reporting it. Look at the brutal way any Black Lives Matter demonstration gets treated. If either those groups were involved it would have been met with overwhelming force with many casualties.  

gun rally

A jury’s stunning rejection of the government’s case against seven people charged in connection with this year’s armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon has reignited the combustible debate in America over the federal government’s authority and its land use policies in the West.

While land rights and anti-Washington activists greeted the jury’s decision as a long-overdue victory for American liberty, others called it a terrifying invitation for armed protesters to occupy federal land and buildings with impunity, potentially putting federal workers at risk.

“People are starting to pay attention to the narrative that the government is trying to push upon the people, and they’re not buying it. The government is overreaching, and it’s time for that to stop,” said B.J. Soper, an Oregon activist who closely monitored the trial and also was present at the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this January and February.

The acquittal after a six-week trial comes at a time when tensions across the nation are already amped up because of the vitriolic presidential campaign and growing fears of potential violence on and after Election Day.

“This absolutely shocking verdict is sure to embolden armed paramilitary groups in the white-hot political environment in this country,” said Tarso Luis Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates, a human rights organization that has studied the anti-government activism in Oregon. “This sends a signal that not only is it appropriate to challenge the rule of law through armed militancy, but that it is effective to do so.”

The defendants argued that their occupation was a peaceful act of civil disobedience, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., in protest of vast federal land ownership in the West. They said they acted after years of frustration with government agencies that they say strangle local economies with over-regulation and pay little attention to local concerns.

Federal prosecutors charged that the well-armed occupiers, led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, illegally occupied the property and used guns and the threat of force to hold it in an incident that drew international attention to the remote, snowy plains of far Eastern Oregon.

The six men and one woman acquitted Thursday were officially charged with conspiracy to prevent federal employees from doing their job, an argument rejected by a federal court jury in Portland.

That decision was “vindication for everyone who has stood up and said to the government: ‘What you are doing is wrong, and we want you to stop,’ ” Soper said.

The jury’s full reasoning remained unclear Friday, however. One juror wrote to the Oregonian newspaper after the trial, saying, “It should be known that all 12 jurors felt that this verdict was a statement regarding the various failures of the prosecution to prove ‘conspiracy’ in the count itself — and not any form of affirmation of the defense’s various beliefs, actions or aspirations.”

 

Mark Heckert, of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a sportsmen’s group, could barely control his rage at the decision, which he said did not represent the “rural values” cited by supporters of the defendants.

“Negotiating at the barrel of a gun is not a rural value; that’s just intimidation,” said Heckert, who visited the refuge during the occupation as a public lands advocate. “It emboldens these guys who think if something doesn’t go your way, grab a gun and go out and force people to change it. I’m disgusted at the actions that people can take without any consequences.”

In addition to the seven people acquitted Thursday, 11 others charged have already pleaded guilty; seven more face trial in February.

But most attention has been focused on the trial of the Bundy brothers, whose father, Cliven Bundy, has become a potent symbol for activists angry over land policies in the West, where the federal government owns more than 50 percent of the land in many states.

Hundreds of armed activists faced off with armed Bureau of Land Management agents and other federal authorities at Bundy’s Nevada ranch in 2014 in a dispute over Bundy’s refusal to pay more than $1 million in overdue fees to graze his cattle on federal land.

Fearing bloodshed, federal authorities backed off for almost two years before filing federal firearms and other charges against Bundy and 18 other people, including Ammon Bundy, 41, and Ryan Bundy, 43. Despite their acquittal Thursday, the brothers were ordered held in jail pending their trial in Nevada in February.

That withdrawal from the land in 2014 has been seen as emboldening militia groups, including the Oath Keepers and the 3 Percenters, to stage armed confrontations with authorities at mines on federal property in Oregon and Montana — as well as the wildlife refuge occupation.

Critics said the jury’s verdict would encourage them further.

“It’s disastrous; what this verdict is very likely to do is to unleash these people,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors anti-government extremism. “The danger is that we get armed invasions of all kinds of public lands and similar institutions, to push the completely bogus idea that the states are the real owners of public lands. The real danger is bloodshed.”

Michele Fiore, a Nevada state assemblywoman and high-profile supporter of the Bundys, said that such predictions were groundless. She said that many of the defendants had spent nine months in jail awaiting trial, so their activism has come with a heavy price despite the acquittal.

“Personally, I don’t see anyone just going in and taking over federal buildings because we got a not-guilty verdict,” she said.

  1. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers — including hundreds of BLM agents — disagreed.

“This acquittal sends a very dangerous message that members of the public can engage in an armed takeover of a federal facility and face no consequences,” Cox said in a written statement.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell sent a note to all employees Friday, including those at the Bureau of Land Management, saying she was “profoundly disappointed” in the decision and “concerned about its potential implications.”

“In the coming days and weeks, I encourage you to take care of yourselves and your fellow employees,” she wrote. “The armed occupation in Oregon was and continues to be a reminder that employees in all offices should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”

Jamie Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, issued a statement Friday saying the jury’s decision represented “a day of national sorrow for all who care about our country’s magnificent public lands, and a time for deep concern among our nation’s law enforcement officers who will confront increased threats of violence across the West.”

Bob Dreher, another official of that organization, said, “The signal that it sends is that they got away with it.” He said the verdict adds validation to statements by Ammon Bundy and others “about how the federal government is illegitimate,” which “puts everybody at risk — federal workers at risk, federal lands at risk of intrusion.”

Joseph Rice, a local Republican official in Southern Oregon, noted that Americans have “a constitutionally protected right to redress grievances with the government.”

“It doesn’t say how or when it’s done. It’s at the individual’s choosing,” Rice said.

Rice said history suggests that civilians have more to fear from the government than vice versa. He said federal authorities instigated violence at the 1990s standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Tex., which resulted in scores of deaths and energized the anti-government militia movement. At the Oregon standoff, he said, Oregon State Police troopers fatally shot LaVoy Finicum, who had been a spokesman for the group.

Finicum was killed when state police and the FBI stopped a car in which he and other occupation leaders were driving. Officials said Finicum was shot when he appeared to reach for a loaded gun in his jacket, and the troopers were later cleared of wrongdoing.

“Lavoy Finicum was basically set up and assassinated,” Rice said. “That man was denied his day in court, and, as we saw yesterday, would have been found innocent. He broke no law yet was murdered by the government.” Rice faulted the BLM for failing to make good-faith efforts to communicate with and work with local people who feel that their traditional means of earning income — including grazing, ­timber-cutting and mining — are threatened by federal environmental policies that they believe favor endangered species over the economic well-being of communities.

 

The acquittal came as a shock to black activists in Portland. Earlier this month, during the Malheur trial, police used pepper spray to break up a peaceful sit-in over a police union contract at City Hall.

“We were all thrown down the stairs and out the door by riot cops because our mayor said he didn’t feel comfortable with us being in a public space,” said Teressa Raiford, a community organizer active in the Black Lives Matter movement who is also running a write-in campaign for Multnomah County sheriff.

“It’s very racist out here, and this is a serious message to everybody that says, ‘You know what, if you don’t look like us, if you don’t stand for America — and I guess America is white — you’re an insurgent and we’ll treat you as such,’ ” she said. “It’s horrible.”

Thursday’s verdict came on the same day that Native American protesters of an oil pipeline in North Dakota were tear-gassed, which came as no surprise to Jarvis Kennedy, an official with the Burns Paiute Native American tribe, which lived on the land where the Oregon wildlife refuge is now located.

“I kind of figured they’d get off because there were no minorities there,” Kennedy said. “It’s all about white privilege.”

Sottile reported from Portland. Lisa Rein in Washington contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/after-oregon-verdict-a-hot-debate-a-victory-for-liberty-or-license-to-intimidate/2016/10/28/3cc1372c-9d37-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1