Even the Wall Street Journal is completely embarrassed by Donny

The Wall Street Journal unloaded on President Donald Trump late Monday night, lambasting the president for being mired in an investigation into Russian involvement in his campaign and for continually hiding damaging details that inevitably are leaked.

Following a weekend when Trump’s attorney attempted to put out the fire – and failed spectacularly — the Journal editorial board finally had enough.

Under the heading “The Trumps and the Truth,” they wrote, “Even Donald Trump might agree that a major reason he won the 2016 election is because voters couldn’t abide Hillary Clinton’s legacy of scandal, deception and stonewalling. Yet on the story of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump and his family are repeating the mistakes that doomed Mrs. Clinton.”

“Don Jr. released his emails that showed the Russian lure about Mrs. Clinton and Don Jr. all excited—’I love it.’ Oh, and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Beltway bagman Paul Manafort were also at the meeting. Don Jr. told Sean Hannity this was the full story,” they continued. “But then news leaked that a Russian-American lobbyist was also at the meeting.”

“Even if the ultimate truth of this tale is merely that Don Jr. is a political dunce who took a meeting that went nowhere—the best case—the Trumps made it appear as if they have something to hide. They have created the appearance of a conspiracy that on the evidence Don Jr. lacks the wit to concoct,” they wrote.

The Journal then brought the heat.

“Don’t you get it, guys? Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the Russia story. Everything that is potentially damaging to the Trumps will come out, one way or another. Everything. Denouncing leaks as “fake news” won’t wash as a counter-strategy beyond the President’s base, as Mr. Trump’s latest 36% approval rating shows,” the editorial continued.

According to the Journal, Trump needs to come clean, releasing “every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations.”

“That means every meeting with any Russian or any American with Russian business ties. Every phone call or email. And every Trump business relationship with Russians going back years,” they wrote.”This should include every relevant part of Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which the President will resist but Mr. Mueller is sure to seek anyway.”

Writing, “Mr. Trump will probably ignore this advice,” the editors concluded, “Mr. Trump somehow seems to believe that his outsize personality and social-media following make him larger than the Presidency. He’s wrong. He and his family seem oblivious to the brutal realities of Washington politics. Those realities will destroy Mr. Trump, his family and their business reputation unless they change their strategy toward the Russia probe. They don’t have much more time to do it.”

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/07/dont-you-get-it-guys-wsj-eviscerates-oblivious-trump-over-russia-scandal-in-devastating-editorial/

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Trump Jr keeps lying and the right wants to get their way no matter what the price

A Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military said Friday that he attended a June 2016 meeting between President Trump’s oldest son and a Kremlin-connected attorney.

The presence of Rinat Akhmetshin adds to the number of people in attendance at the Trump Tower gathering that emerged this week as the clearest evidence so far of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russia.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Akhmetshin said he participated in the session with several others. His role in the meeting was first reported by NBC News and the Associated Press.

Akhmetshin, a U.S. citizen, was lobbying at the time against U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia for human rights violations.

Trump Jr. has waved away concerns about the 30-minute session, which he agreed to because he was promised negative information about his father’s political opponent, Hillary Clinton. He was joined at the meeting by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, then chairman of the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. has said that he did not receive the negative information on Clinton that he was promised by an acquaintance, Goldstone, and that he did not know the people with whom he was meeting.

Veselnitskaya said she and Akhmetshin were working at the time defending a Russian businessman from federal charges of money laundering in a suit that was settled early this year.

Akhmetshin was born in Russia, served in the military and told people he had worked in intelligence, according to one person who said he worked with Akhmetshin in the past but asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about it.

Akhmetshin emphatically denied to The Washington Post that he ever worked as an intelligence agent though he did confirm that he served as an 18-year-old draftee for two years in a unit of the Soviet military that had responsibility for law enforcement issues as well as some counterintelligence matters.

He said that he became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and is also still a Russian citizen.

According to AP, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Kremlin knows nothing about Akhmetshin.

Akhmetshin’s participation raises the level of the concern about the meeting. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said he was disturbed by the news.

“Today’s report that a former Russian counterintelligence officer was also present during the meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, if accurate, adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

 

 

Rinat Akhmetshin is a Hacker and a spy

Rinat Akhmetshin, the former Russian intelligence officer who took part in Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting at Trump Tower last June 9, has been accused of masterminding an international hacking conspiracy.

The Daily Beast reports that a case filed with New York Supreme Court in 2015 alleges that Akhmetshin successfully orchestrated the hacking of two computer systems and stole documents from International Mineral Resources (IMR), a Russian mining company.

“The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. was told in July 2015 that Akhmetshin had arranged the hacking of a mining company’s private records — stealing internal documents and then disseminating them,” the Daily Beast reports. “The corporate espionage case was brought by IMR, who alleged that Akhmetshin was hired by Russian oligarch Andrey Melinchenko, an industrialist worth around $12 billion.”

Akhmetshin denied that he orchestrated any hacking of the company, but acknowledged that he “found” a hard drive that just happened to contain sensitive IMR documents.

Akhmetshin, a registered congressional lobbyist, has in the past also done work on behalf of Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was also present at the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower.

The Right wants to get their way no matter what the price

To many, the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was anxious to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians will not come as a surprise. It is but the latest example of the take-no-prisoners, anything-goes politics of our day. Sure, soliciting help from a hostile foreign power is exceptional, and it is certainly true that the Trumps have taken “unconventional” politics to new heights. But how we do politics in the United States, the boundaries of acceptable behavior, has been shifting for two decades.

The real surprise – the part of the story that we should be gravely concerned about – is that this disclosure will not matter to a great many American voters. After thinking and writing about politics for two decades, I have come to the conclusion that the real issue we face is not the conduct of public officials or their surrogates, but how nefarious acts are now sanctioned, and even applauded, by so many on both sides of the partisan fence.

So what’s changed in our politics?

Fear and loathing

For one, the nature of partisanship is different. Until about a decade ago, one’s attachment to a party was centered around policy disputes or cues from groups and associations. But today’s version is grounded in the fear and loathing of the other side. Trunkloads of data, much of it from the Pew Research Center, suggest each side sees the other party as crazy and certainly dangerous. So it does not matter what your side does so long as it keeps the nut jobs on the other side at bay.

A new volume by political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels further helps to fine-tune our understanding how people vote and which party they identify with. Their book, “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” suggests “issue congruence [between voters and parties], in so far as it exists, is mostly a byproduct of other connections, most of them lacking policy content.” In other words, we don’t think through issues, policies and candidate characteristics, but instead see elections as “us versus them.” These scholars argue voters tie themselves with racial, ethnic, occupational, religious, recreational and other groups, with partisanship as the byproduct. Our group identity, not policy concerns or ideology, determines vote choice. That is to say, we gather comfortably with our tribe and tune out other points of view.

A central force propelling hostility toward the “other” party is the partisan media. Many such outlets have figured out a sustainable business model. Smaller audiences can be profitable, so long as they remain loyal. Loyalty springs from “crisis” and, of course, “menace.” This leads to treating every issue as a true threat to our existence or a usurpation of fundamental “rights.” The other party is always the villain, and your side can do no wrong – so long as it is for the grand struggle.

And then there is the online world. Voters rarely explore new ideas and perspectives, but share, like and retweet concordant ones. We fence in and we fence out. As recently noted by journalist and author Megan McArdle, “Social media, of course, makes this problem worse. Even if we are not deliberately blocking people who disagree with us, Facebook curates our feeds so that we get more of the stuff we ‘like.’ What do we ‘like’? People and posts that agree with us.”

Sorting and filtering

Is the filtering of information really a new development? It is not at all clear that voters have ever absorbed a broad range of information or shifted though competing evidence. It is likely party bosses, elected officials, candidates and even media elites have always been able to manipulate mass opinion to a degree. Cognitive time-saving cues, especially party identification, have always been used to sort and filter.

But something very different is happening today. In the recent past, news was more widely viewed as objective, leading to a high degree of accepted facts and authority. When the news media unraveled the story of Watergate, for example, citizens of all partisan stripes accepted it as fact. What scholars dubbed “short-term influences” could override partisan leanings.

Which leads us to “alternative facts,” the aggressive spinning of policies and arguments regardless of contrary verifiable information. This may be a game-changer in our politics. The barrier for evidence has, it seems, evaporated, and emotion-rich information is used to draw more viewers, readers and listeners. If we add the continual drive for fresh “news” and the high costs of creating traditional journalism, we are left with little consensus or authority. New York Times blogger Farhad Manjoo put it this way: “We are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest – we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.”

Finally, popular culture has also probably contributed to our growing indifference to nefarious acts. We pick our reality show contestant and applaud every backhanded, despicable move that gets him across the finish line. There can’t be two winners or a collective good, only a sole survivor. Or shall we say that only one apprentice can get the job? And the best part of the show – the segment that really gets the producers juiced – is when things get truly ugly.

Democratic accountability

The latest Trump team revelation is a shocker, but even more stunning is the meager impact it will likely have on his supporters. As noted in a recent USA Today story, in Trump country the Russia disclosure is no big deal.

As voters, citizens are called to judge those in power. But there must be an objective standard for the assessment, which is why the framers of the Constitution put so much stock in a free press. The governed in a democracy must be willing and able to fairly judge the acts of the governors. But today “your side” has always done a good job and the “other” party has always failed. Any contrary revelation can be explained away as fake news.

The key ingredient in the democratic accountability process – objectivity – is disappearing, and the foundation of our limited government has been shaken. In Federalist #51 and elsewhere, James Madison wrote, “A dependence upon the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government…” Many are starting to wonder if Americans are up to the job – and whether the fate of the grand experiment is at risk.

excepts From the Washington Post,  Raw Story and The Conversation

Lies and the lying liars who get paid big buck$ to tell them

A member of President Trump’s legal team said Sunday that Trump is not under investigation by the special counsel, an assessment at odds with a Washington Post report last week and seemingly with a tweet by Trump himself on Friday.

This comes on the heels of the bizarre Rod Rosenstein statement last Thursday night
https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/is-deputy-attorney-general-rod-rosenstein-starting-buckle-under-pressure/

“Let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction,” lawyer Jay Sekulow said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” part of a blitz of bookings on the Sunday public affairs shows.

The Post reported last week that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who was appointed to oversee the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

On Twitter on Friday, Trump wrote as part of a tweet about the probe that “I am being investigated.”

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump  I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt 6:07 AM – 16 Jun 2017

“The president is not under investigation by the special counsel,” Sekulow told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources that were purportedly leaking information to The Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president.”

Sekulow cited congressional testimony by fired FBI Director James B. Comey that he had told Trump on several occasions that Trump was not personally under investigations. Those conversations, however, occurred before Comey was fired and before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.

The Post story cited five people briefed on the interview requests, who said that the current director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators.

The five people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Sekulow’s interview with NBC was one of four scheduled Sunday-morning television appearances.

Even FOX isn’t buying it

In a combative and testy exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” Sekulow acknowledged he could not know for sure that Mueller has not opened an investigation but said he had no reason to believe he had. “Nothing has changed” since Comey informed the president that he was not being personally investigated, he said.

The interview turned tense, however, when host Chris Wallace then asked Sekulow about the remainder of Trump’s tweet, in which Trump had complained that he was being investigated for firing Comey by the man who told him to fire Comey.

Wallace asked Sekulow if Trump believes that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who wrote a memo criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, has done anything wrong.

Sekulow responded that Trump had been getting at a “constitutional issue.”

“He’s being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general recommended him to take, by the agency that recommended he take the action. That’s the constitutional threshold issue,” Sekulow said.

When Wallace pointed out that Sekulow had appeared to agree in his answer that the president is under investigation, the lawyer grew flustered. He said he had only been discussing the constitutional problem posed if the president were being investigated.

“I don’t appreciate you putting words in my mouth when I’ve been crystal clear that the president is not and has not been under investigation,” he said.

“But you don’t know that he’s not under investigation, right?” Wallace responded.

“You’re right, Chris. I cannot read the mind of the special prosecutor,” Sekulow responded. “We’re agreed, then,” Wallace said.

Wallace then asked if Trump believes the law allows for a president to be indicted.

Constitutional scholars have debated the question for years, though the Justice Department has said in formal opinions written under Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon that the Constitution bars a sitting president from facing legal indictment.

Sekulow responded that Trump couldn’t be indicted “because there’s not an investigation.”

“Oh boy, this is weird,” Wallace responded, noting, again, that Sekulow cannot know there is no investigation.

Sekulow also insisted that Trump’s tweets have posed no problems for his legal team. He said Trump had learned the effectiveness of social media as a communications tool during the campaign.

“Nothing he’s tweeted has caused me any issues whatsoever,” he said. “Nothing.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/06/18/trump-lawyer-the-president-is-not-under-investigation-for-obstruction/?utm_term=.95089a6839f8

We’re so sorry Vladimir, your can have your houses back, in exchange you give us…….nothing


Trump administration moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York

The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

President Barack Obama said Dec. 29 that the compounds were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes” and gave Russia 24 hours to vacate them. Separately, Obama expelled from the United States what he said were 35 Russian “intelligence operatives.”

Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.

Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.

In Moscow on Wednesday, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said Russia was “taking into account the difficult internal political situation for the current administration” but retained the option to reciprocate for what he called the “expropriation” of Russian property “if these steps are not somehow adjusted by the U.S. side,” the news outlet Sputnik reported.

Senior Tillerson adviser R.C. Hammond said that “the U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements.” He said the next senior- level meeting between the two governments, below the secretary of state level, will be in June in St. Petersburg.

Before making a final decision on allowing the Russians to reoccupy the compounds, the administration is examining possible restrictions on Russian activities there, including removing the diplomatic immunity the properties previously enjoyed. Without immunity, the facilities would be treated as any other buildings in the United States and would not be barred to entry by U.S. law enforcement, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

Any concessions to Moscow could prove controversial while administration and former Trump campaign officials are under congressional and special counsel investigation for alleged ties to Russia.

Changes in the administration’s official posture toward the compounds come as Russian media recently suggested that Kislyak, about to leave Washington after serving as ambassador since 2008, may be proposed by the Kremlin to head a new position as U.N. undersecretary general for counterterrorism.

Kislyak, who met and spoke during the campaign and transition with President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn; Trump’s White House adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; and others, is known to be interested in the post. His replacement as Ambassador, Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov, was confirmed last month by the Russian Duma, or parliament. Officials in Moscow said Russian President Vladi­mir Putin will officially inform Trump of the new ambassador when the two meet in July, at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg. It will be Trump’s first meeting with Putin as president.

The U.N. General Assembly must first approve establishment of the counterterrorism slot, part of a larger U.N. reorganization and the first new post at that level for decades.

Russia will almost certainly claim the slot as the only member of the five permanent members of the Security Council without one of its nationals in a senior U.N. position. Jeffrey Feltman, a former senior U.S. diplomat, is undersecretary-general for political affairs; comparable jobs for peacekeeping, humanitarian affairs and economic affairs are held, respectively, by nationals from France, Britain and China.

Secretary General António Guterres will decide who fills the new job, although both Russia and the United States are expected to make their views known.

Kislyak has repeatedly rejected descriptions of him in the U.S. media as a spy. Asked whether U.S. intelligence considered him to be one, James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, told CNN on Sunday that “given the fact that he oversees a very aggressive intelligence operation in this country — the Russians have more intelligence operatives than any other nation that is represented in this country, still even after we got rid of 35 of them — and so to suggest that he is somehow separate or oblivious to that is a bit much.”

The Russian compounds — a 14-acre estate on Long Island and several buildings on secluded acreage along the Corsica River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — have been in Russian possession since the days of the Soviet Union. According to a Maryland deed in 1995, the former USSR transferred ownership of the Maryland property to the Russian Federation in 1995 for a payment of one dollar.

Russia said it used the facilities, both of which had diplomatic immunity, for rest and recreation for embassy and U.N. employees and to hold official events. But U.S. officials dating to the Reagan administration, based on aerial and other surveillance, had long believed they were also being used for intelligence purposes.

Last year, when Russian security services began harassing U.S. officials in Moscow — including slashed tires, home break-ins, and, at one point, tackling and throwing to the ground a U.S. embassy official entering through the front of the embassy — the Obama administration threatened to close the compounds, former Obama officials said.

In meetings to protest the treatment, the Obama administration said that it would do so unless the harassment stopped, and Moscow dropped its freeze on construction of a new consulate to replace the one in St. Petersburg, considered largely unusable because of Russian spying equipment installed there. Russia had earlier blocked U.S. use of a parcel of land and construction guarantees in the city when sanctions were imposed after its military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The threat of closing the compounds was not pursued. In late December, after U.S. intelligence said there had been election meddling, and in response to the ongoing harassment in Moscow, Obama ordered the compounds closed and diplomats expelled. “We had no intention of ever giving them back,” a former senior Obama official said of the compounds.

Trump, then at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, appeared to disparage the Obama administration sanctions, telling reporters, “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”

Surprisingly, Russia did not respond. It later emerged that Flynn, in a phone conversation with Kislyak, had advised against retaliation and indicated that U.S. policy would change under the Trump administration.

The Kremlin made clear that the compound issue was at the top of its bilateral agenda. Russia repeatedly denounced what it called the “seizure” of the properties as an illegal violation of diplomatic treaties.

On May 8, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, Thomas Shannon, traveled to New York to meet with his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on what the State Department described as “a range of bilateral issues” and what Russia called “irritants” and “grievances.”

Ryabkov brought up the compounds, while Shannon raised St. Petersburg and harassment, suggesting that they deal with the operation of their diplomats and facilities in each others’ countries separate from policy issues such as Syria and proposing that they clear the decks with a compromise.

Russia refused, saying that the compound issue was a hostile act that deserved no reciprocal action to resolve and had to be dealt with before other diplomatic problems could be addressed. In an interview with Tass, Ryabkov said Moscow was alarmed that Washington “carries on working out certain issues in its traditional manner, particularly concerning Russia’s diplomatic property in the states of Maryland and New York.”

Two days later in Washington, Tillerson told Lavrov that the United States would no longer link the compounds to the issue of St. Petersburg.

Immediately after their May 10 meeting at the State Department, Tillerson escorted Lavrov and Kislyak to the Oval Office. There, they held a private meeting with Trump. The night before, the president had fired FBI Director James B. Comey, who was then heading an FBI investigation of the Russia ties.

Comey, Trump told the Russians, was a “real nut job,” and his removal had “taken off” the ­Russia-related pressure the president was under, the New York Times reported. Later in May, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation.

In a news conference at the Russian Embassy after his meetings with Tillerson and Trump, Lavrov said of the compound closures, “Everyone, in particular the Trump administration, is aware that those actions were illegal.”

“The dialogue between Russia and the U.S. is now free from the ideology that characterized it under the Barack Obama administration,” he said.

Besides being a “wanna be” agent for Russia, here’s what insiders say about him

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump, is now a key figure in the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — and now a slew of White House officials have rushed to the New York Times to anonymously trash him.

In a new report from Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman and Sharon LaFraniere, several unnamed White House officials paint a damning portrait of Kushner as an entitled egomaniac and an “aloof preppy” who regularly takes on big assignments — and then takes no responsibility for them when he fails.

Below are the five biggest reasons that White House staffers have told the New York Times that they can’t stand Jared Kushner.

 

  1. He whines a lot. Even though no one forced Kushner to take on a role as a top adviser to his wife’s father, sources say he regularly complains that his association with the scandal-plagued Trump White House is damaging his reputation.

 

  1. He regularly skips town when bad news hits. Staffers tell the Times they were particularly annoyed that Kushner and First Daughter Ivanka Trump took a ski holiday back in March on the same weekend that the original version of the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill crashed and burned in the House.

 

  1. His family is using his connections with Trump to hawk visas to Chinese investors. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Kushner Companies gave a presentation to wealthy Chinese investors that informed them that they could get American visas if they invested in the Kushners’ real estate projects — and they even name-checked both Jared Kushner and Trump during the presentation. Sources tell the Times that even President Trump was annoyed by this, and he’s made “snarky, disparaging comments” about Kushner’s family in recent weeks.

 

  1. Trump gives Kushner a lot of jobs — and he takes no responsibility for doing them. Among other things, Trump has tasked Kushner with bringing peace to the Middle East, solving the opioid crisis, and reorganizing the executive branch of the United States government. In reality, however, sources tell the Times that he often avoids “messy aspects of his job that he would simply rather not do — he has told associates he wants nothing to do with the legislative process.”

 

  1. He’s seen as untouchable. Even though Trump has been a lot more critical of Kushner ever since the backlash that has ensued since the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, he’s still seen as indispensable to the Trump White House, if for no other reason than he’s married to Ivanka Trump.
    http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/here-are-5-reasons-anonymous-white-house-officials-say-they-cant-stand-jared-kushner/

    Jared does take after is father

In another gift for his BFF Putin, “Donny two scoops” breaks NATO

You did it Donny!

LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

It was the toughest review yet of Trump’s trip to Europe, which inflamed tensions rather than healed them after the U.S. president sparred with the leaders of Washington’s closest and oldest allies on trade, defense and climate change.

Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, told a packed beer hall rally in Munich that the days when her continent could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.”

The comments came as Europe watches Britain preparing to leave the European Union and faces antagonism from Washington.

Merkel said that Europe’s move toward self-reliance should be carried out “of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbors wherever that works.”

It was an unusually stark declaration from the normally cautious head of Europe’s most powerful economy, and a grim take on the transatlantic ties that have underpinned Western security in the generations since World War II. Although relations between Washington and Europe have been strained at times since 1945, before Trump there has rarely been such a strong feeling from European leaders that they must turn away from Washington and prepare to face the world alone.

The German leader received a minute-long ovation for her comments, which came as she seeks to whip up voter support ahead of September elections. Although her message was partly aimed at her electorate, it was a measure of how badly relations have deteriorated with Trump’s United States that hitting Washington might win votes, while working with it could be perilous.

The remarks were a clear repudiation of Trump’s troubled few days with European leaders, even as Merkel held back from mentioning the U.S. president by name. On Thursday, Trump had harsh words for German trade behind closed doors. Hours later, he blasted European leaders at NATO for failing to spend enough on defense, while holding back from offering an unconditional guarantee for European security. Then, at the Group of Seven summit of leaders of major world economies on Friday and Saturday, he refused to endorse the Paris agreement on combating climate change, punting a decision until this week.

Merkel’s comments were similar to some she made shortly before Trump’s inauguration in January. But they carry extra heft now that Trump is in office — and after Trump had a days-long opportunity to reset relations. Instead, by most European accounts, he strained them even more.

“The belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on transatlantic relations at Germany’s University of Regensburg. “After the inauguration, everyone in Europe was hopeful that Trump would become more moderate and take into account the positions of the G-7 and of NATO. But the opposite has happened. It’s as if he is still trying to win a campaign.”

Trump, who returned from his nine-day international trip Saturday, had a different take.

This was Trump’s first trip overseas as president, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome, Belgium and Sicily, Italy.

“Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” Trump tweeeted on Sunday, reviving a prolific Twitter habit that had slackened during his days on the road.

But many European leaders emerged from their meetings with Trump filled with fresh worry. Trump was far more solicitous toward the autocratic king of Saudi Arabia earlier in the week, telling him and other leaders of Muslim-majority countries — many of them not democratically elected — that he was not “here to lecture.” Days later in Brussels he offered a scathing assessment of Washington’s closest allies, saying they were being “unfair” to American taxpayers.

The practical consequences of the rift remain uncertain. The United States remains the largest economy in the world, and its military is indispensable for European security, putting a clear limit on Europe’s ability to declare independence. American consumers also form an important market for European products — including the German BMWs that Trump complained about in closed-door meetings in Brussels, according to German press accounts.

Nor is Europe united in its approach to Trump: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has cracked down on critics at home, has embraced the U.S. leader. British Prime Minister Theresa May also has tried to maintain ties, though that’s in part because she needs partners as she leads her country out of the European Union.

Yet even as Merkel positions herself ahead of the election, the message could be the signal of a shift away from the United States, perhaps even one that could outlast Trump’s time in office, and that would weaken U.S. global power over the long term. European leaders are developing plans to deepen military cooperation independently of the United States. They are also reaching out to economic partners in Asia that Trump has spurned. All of those shifts will have consequences that extend years, analysts say.

Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group of analysts, said Trump’s performance in Europe left wounds that could come back to haunt the United States.

“Trump is creating the biggest transatlantic rift since the Iraq War, perhaps even since WWII,” he said. “This leaves the U.S. exposed. If the Iran nuclear accord flounders, for example, Europe may well not end up on Trump’s side of a dangerous crisis.”

Conservative Trump critic William Kristol, who edits the Weekly Standard magazine, wrote on Twitter: “Merkel’s comments today are a reminder that Trump’s failures are, while he’s president, also America’s failure, and damage America.”

The landslide election in France of President Emmanuel Macron this month has revived hopes for Franco-German cooperation on efforts to bolster European defense initiatives. European leaders want to coordinate defense purchasing and do more to have standing military capabilities that are deployable outside NATO command structures, where the United States is the dominant force.

Germany raised its military spending by $2.2 billion this year, to $41 billion, though it remains far from being able to stand on its own militarily.

Merkel and Macron have vowed to work together to further the pro-globalization agenda that Trump stands against.

Merkel’s comments were not the only sign Sunday of a Europe determined to hit back. Macron acknowledged that he came prepared for his handshake with Trump, who likes to throw others off balance with a firm yank of the arm. Macron appeared to force Trump to keep shaking hands even after the U.S. leader tried to disengage.

“We must show that we will not make small concessions, even symbolic ones,” Macron told France’s Journal du Dimanche in remarks published Sunday. He called it “a moment of truth.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/following-trumps-trip-merkel-says-europe-cant-rely-on-us-anymore/2017/05/28/4c6b92cc-43c1-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_story.html?tid=pm_pop_b&utm_term=.9fa810d9e63f

Pence is up to his eyeballs in this treason: a timeline

The Trump White House has produced what appear to be at least three cover-ups. They relate to:

1) former-national security advisers questionable activities relating to Turkey;

2) Flynn’s role in the Trump/Russia controversy; and

3) the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Each is a piece of the larger picture depicted in our overall Trump-Russia timeline. But the complexity of the entire situation can render even the summary timeline overwhelming.

So as we continue to update our overall Trump-Russia timeline, we’re also putting together timelines that track key players and events. Our timeline of the Comey firing is the first example. By isolating the pertinent portions of relevant entries that share a common thread, important players have fewer places to hide. Facts, truth, and clarity are Trump’s adversaries.

This Pence edition of the timeline focuses on the vice president: What did he know, when did he know it, and at what points did his public statements diverge from what he knew or reasonably should have known? (The final phrase creates legal responsibility for presumed knowledge, even if the speaker in question denies it.)

Ultimately, the facts will produce answers, and we’ll be updating the Pence timeline, too.

Pre-Pence Primer on Flynn

Late summer 2015: A member of Trump’s campaign staff calls retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn to ask if he’s willing to meet with Trump. Flynn agrees.

Dec. 10, 2015: At the 10th anniversary gala of Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network, RT, Flynn sits at Putin’s table. For his appearance on the network, he nets $33,500 of the $45,000 paid to his speakers’ bureau. For all of 2015, Flynn receives more than $65,000 from companies linked to Russia.

Mid-January 2016: Flynn applies for a five-year renewal of his security clearance. [Added May 25, 2017]

Feb. 11, 2016: According to a May 22, 2017 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), investigators meet with Flynn to discuss his security clearance application. When asked about his Moscow appearance, Flynn reportedly says, “I didn’t take any money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking me.” [Added May 25, 2017]

March 14, 2016: Investigators issue a report on Flynn’s security clearance application. According to the summary in Rep. Cummings’ May 22 letter, Flynn told investigators he was paid by “US companies” when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015. The report also says that Flynn told investigators he had not received any benefit from a foreign country

 

Cover-up #1: Pence, Flynn, and Turkey

July 15, 2016: Trump tweets:  @realDonaldTrump

I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.
7:50 AM – 15 Jul 2016

August 2016: The consulting firm headed by Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn begins to perform lobbying work for a company owned by a close adviser to Turkey’s President Erdogan.

Nov. 8, 2016: Trump and Pence win the election.

Nov. 10, 2016: During their first meeting after the election, President Obama warns Trump about appointing Mike Flynn to a top national security post. In 2014, Obama had removed Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Nov. 11, 2016: Vice President-elect Pence replaces Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as chair of Trump’s transition team.

Nov. 14, 2016: Reporters ask Mike Flynn’s business associate Robert Kelley if Turkish interests had retained their consulting firm from August through Election Day because of Flynn’s close relationship with Trump. “I hope so,” Kelley says. The subject of Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkey comes up again periodically in news reports throughout November and December.

Nov. 18, 2016: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sends Trump transition team chair (and Vice President-elect) Mike Pence a letter expressing concerns about national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn’s conflicts of interest. Specifically, Cummings worries about Flynn’s work for an entity affiliated with the government of Turkey, as well as a paid trip to Moscow in December 2015 during which Flynn was “highly critical of the United States.”

Nov. 28, 2016: Trump’s transition team acknowledges receipt of Cummings’ Nov. 18 letter regarding Mike Flynn.

Jan. 4, 2017: National security adviser-designate Mike Flynn tells the transition team’s chief counsel Donald F. McGahn II that he is under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey. Flynn’s lawyer followed up, but did not get a call back until Jan. 6.

Jan. 10, 2017: President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, informs Trump of the military plan to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa with the help of Syrian Kurdish forces. Obama’s team informed Trump because execution of the plan would not occur until after the inauguration. Turkey has long opposed US forces partnering with Kurdish forces in the region. Trump national security adviser-designate Flynn tells Rice to hold off on approving the mission.

March 7, 2017: Former national security adviser Mike Flynn files registration documents confirming that between August 2016 and Election Day, he’d earned $530,000 for lobbying work on behalf of a company owned by a Turkish businessman. Flynn acknowledges that his work as a foreign agent could have benefitted the Turkish government.

March 9, 2017: Responding to questions about Mike Flynn’s lobbying activities for Turkish interests during the campaign and thereafter, Vice President Mike Pence tells Fox News’ Bret Baier twice that he’d just learned of it: “Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I’d heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for Gen. Flynn’s resignation.” BAIER: “You’re disappointed by the story?” PENCE: “The first I heard of it, and I think it is, uh, it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask Gen. Flynn to resign.” Asked whether Trump knew about Flynn’s activities on behalf of Turkish interests, Sean Spicer says, “I don’t believe that that was known.”

March 22, 2017: In a joint letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee request information and documents relating to payments that former national security adviser Mike Flynn received from entities affiliated with foreign governments, including Russia and Turkey.

May 9, 2017: Over Turkey’s objections, the Pentagon announces that the US will partner with Kurds to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. On Jan. 10, the Obama administration had presented President-elect Trump with a plan to partner with the Kurds against ISIS, but his then-national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn had killed it.

Cover-up #2: Pence, Flynn and Russia

April through November 2016: Mike Flynn and other advisers to the Trump campaign have at least 18 phone calls and emails with Russian officials, including six contacts involving Russian ambassador

Late November 2016: In a meeting that includes senior Trump transition national security team members, national security adviser-designate Mike Flynn reveals he has scheduled a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In attendance is Marshall Billingslea, a member of the team who had been a senior Pentagon official for President George W. Bush. He warns Flynn that any such communications carry risks because US intelligence agencies are almost certainly monitoring Kislyak’s conversations. After the meeting, Billingsea asks national security officials in the Obama White House for a copy of the classified CIA profile of Kislyak.

Dec. 29, 2016: On the same day President Obama announces sanctions against Russian in retaliation for its interference in the 2016 election, national security adviser-designate Flynn places five phone calls to the Russian ambassador.

Dec. 30, 2016: After Putin makes a surprise announcement that Russia would not retaliate for the new sanctions, Trump tweets:

Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016

Jan. 15, 2017: Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Vice President Pence says Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama announced new sanctions was “strictly coincidental,” explaining: “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”

Also on Jan. 15, 2017: On Fox News Sunday, Pence denies contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. Responding to Chris Wallace, Pence says, “All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates were with the American people.” On a third try, Wallace asks if Pence had ever asked Donald Trump if there were any contacts in the campaign between Trump or his associates and Russians, Pence answers, “Of course not.”

Jan. 20, 2017: Trump and Pence are inaugurated.

Jan. 22, 2017: Flynn is sworn in as national security adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Jan. 23, 2017: At Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, Spicer says none of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador touched on the Dec. 29 sanctions. That got the attention of FBI Director James Comey. According to The Wall Street Journal, Comey convinced acting Attorney General Sally Yates to delay informing the White House immediately about the discrepancy between Spicer’s characterization of Flynn’s calls and US intelligence intercepts showing that the two had, in fact, discussed sanctions. Comey reportedly asked Yates to wait a bit longer so that the FBI could develop more information and speak with Flynn himself. The FBI interviews Flynn shortly thereafter.

Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informs White House Counsel Don McGahn that, based on recent public statements of White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Flynn had lied to Pence and others about his late-December conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. According to Sean Spicer, Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”

Jan. 27, 2017: McGahn asks Yates to return to the White House for another discussion about Flynn. He asks Yates, “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another?” Yates explains that Flynn’s lies make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail because the Russians know that Flynn lied and could probably prove it.

Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn tells reporters at The Washington Post he did not discuss US sanctions in his December conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Feb. 9, 2017: Through a spokesman, Flynn changes his position: “While [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

Feb. 10, 2017: Trump tells reporters he was unaware of reports surrounding Flynn’s December conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Feb. 13, 2017: The Washington Post breaks another story: Then-Acting Attorney General had warned the White House in late January that Flynn had mischaracterized his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, and that it made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Later that evening, Flynn resigns.

Feb. 19, 2017: NBC’s Chuck Todd questions Reince Priebus about Flynn’s firing. The White House line was that Trump had fired Flynn because he’d lied to Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russians about US sanctions. But that left an awkward gap of more than two weeks during which Trump apparently knew about Flynn’s deception before firing him. “Why did more than a week go by before the vice president was informed of this issue?” Todd asks. “Well, I think he was always aware of the issue as to whether or not he talked about sanctions,” Priebus answers. Later, Todd asks about the more than two-week delay between Yates’ disclosure of Flynn’s deception and Trump’s decision to fire him. “Waiting that long, do you regret that it looks like that the vice president is essentially not in the loop?” Todd asks. “No,” Priebus replies, “the vice president’s in the loop on everything, Chuck.”

March 30, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that Mike Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution in return for testifying before congressional intelligence committees. The next day, his lawyer confirms, “Gen. Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit.”

March 31, 2017: Trump tweets: @realDonaldTrump

Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
4:04 AM – 31 Mar 2017

April 19, 2017: The White House refuses the March 22 bipartisan request from the House Oversight Committee for more information and documents relating to payments that former national security adviser Mike Flynn received from entities affiliated with the Russian and .

April 25, 2017: Flynn reportedly receives a message from Trump to “stay strong.” When the story appears on May 18, the White House does not respond to a request for comment.

April 28, 2017: The chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee send letters to several former Trump campaign advisers, including Carter Page, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Among other requests, the letters ask for a “list of all meetings between you and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests which took place between June 16, 2015 and Jan. 20, 2017.” The letters also request information about any such meetings of which they are aware, as well as all documents relating to Trump campaign communications with Russian officials or business representatives. The committee also seeks information about any financial and real estate transactions related to Russia from June 15, 2015 through Trump’s inauguration.

May 11, 2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee sends Mike Flynn a subpoena for documents that he’d refused to produce voluntarily in response to the committee’s April 28 letter request.

May 19, 2017: Vice President Pence faces added scrutiny on what he knew about Flynn’s connections to Turkey and Russia — and when he knew it. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee post a Nov. 18, 2016 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to Pence, who at the time was vice president-elect and chair of the presidential transition team. The letter expressed concerns about national security adviser-designate Flynn’s ties to those countries. In response to the posting, Pence’s spokesperson states, “The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding Gen. Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.” A White House aide adds, “I’m not sure we saw the letter.” Democrats on the House Oversight Committee then post the formal Nov. 28, 2016 transition team message acknowledging receipt of Cummings’ letter.

May 22, 2017: Rather than produce documents in response to a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mike Flynn invokes his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Cover-up #3: The Firing

May 8, 2017: Trump tells a few close aides, including Vice President Pence and White House counsel Don McGahn, that Comey has to go. According to ABC News, Pence, McGahn, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner are members of a small group that begins to prepare talking points about Comey’s firing. Trump summons Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to the White House, where he instructs them provide a written justification for removing Comey. Before Rosenstein prepares the requested memo, he knows that Trump intends to fire Comey.

May 9, 2017: Citing the May 9 recommendations of Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, Trump fires FBI Director Comey, ostensibly because of his inappropriate statements about the Clinton email investigation prior to the 2016 election. Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein write that terminating Comey is necessary to restore trust, confidence and integrity in the FBI. In his termination letter to Comey, Trump also says he “greatly appreciates you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”

May 10, 2017: Pence says repeatedly that Comey’s firing occurred because Sessions and Rosenstein recommended it: The deputy attorney general “came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership. He brought that recommendation to the president. The attorney general concurred with that recommendation.”

Also on May 10, 2017: Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump had been thinking about firing Comey “since the day he was elected,” but reiterates Pence’s position that Sessions and Rosenstein were “absolutely” the impetus for the firing.

Also on May 10, 2017: The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Trump had been the impetus for Comey’s firing, not Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

Also on May 10, 2017: Rod Rosenstein speaks by phone with White House counsel Don McGahn. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein insists that the White House correct the misimpression that Rosenstein initiated the process leading to Comey’s firing. He suggests that he can’t work in an environment where facts aren’t reported accurately.

Also on May 10, 2017: The White House releases a new timeline of the events relating to Comey’s firing. It recites that the impetus for removing Comey had come from Trump, not the deputy attorney general. But the White House acknowledges that Trump met with Sessions and Rosenstein on May 8 to discuss “reasons for removing the director” and that the attorney general and his deputy sent their written recommendations to Trump on May 9.

Also on May 10, 2017: House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asks the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate Comey’s firing.

Also on May 10, 2017: During an Oval Office meeting with Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides, Trump discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then he adds, “I’m not under investigation.”

May 11, 2017: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies that James Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day…. The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.”

Also on May 11, 2017: Trump tells NBC’s Lester Holt that he had already decided to fire Comey before his meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein: “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story….” Trump also says that on three different occasions — once in person and twice over the phone — he’d asked Comey if he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia, and Comey told him he wasn’t.

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/is-pence-next-a-timeline-of-the-vice-presidents-role-in-trumps-russia-related-mess-provides-some-clues/

Vladdy has last laugh