While you console yourself with all of Trumps failures, remember he’s still a wrecking ball swinging through our country

Trump has been paralyzed on healthcare and tax reform, but his administration has been active in eroding safeguards and protections elsewhere

 

Six ways Trump is ‘dismantling’ the US after six months in office

Business and the economy

Given all that Donald Trump promised the business world during his bombastic campaign, it’s tempting to dismiss the president’s first six months with a “meh”. It would also be myopic.

While protesters are worried about the future, the president has so far failed to pass his tax reforms, which business wanted. But at the same time fears that his China rhetoric, threats of trade wars and Tweets about penalties for US businesses who ship jobs overseas, have not amounted to much.

The economic trends started under Obama have continued: stock markets have continued their giddy ride to uncharted highs, unemployment has continued to drift down and interest rates have remained low.

Trump’s overture may seem a little weak but the president has already made significant moves and still more may be happening in the wings. Trump has ordered a review of Dodd-Frank, the regulations brought in to tame US financial institutions after they triggered the worst recession in living memory. He has appointed a sworn enemy of net neutrality over at the Federal Communications Commission who is now working to dismantle Obama-era open internet protections. He has freed up energy firms to start polluting rivers again and scrapped a rule which barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labor or safety laws.

After years of gains for consumer, environmental and worker rights groups, the pendulum is being swung the other way – but most often those changes are happening behind closed doors.

In March, Trump pledged to “remove every job-killing regulation we can find” and deregulation teams have been set up to comb through the statutes looking for rules to cull. A recent ProPublica and New York Times investigation found Trump’s deregulation teams were being conducted in the dark in large part by appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts of interest.

It’s hardly surprising given that the Trump administration has literally removed the White House visitors book, so we may never know who has been whispering in the president’s ear. Six months in, it is hard to tell what is being cut and by whom. We may never know the consequences of Trump’s regulation death squads until it’s too late. Dominic Rushe

The environment

In the past week, both Emmanuel Macron and Sir Richard Branson have claimed that Donald Trump has been gripped by regret over his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. But hopes that the US president will reverse this decision sit uneasily with the consistency of his administration’s environmental rollbacks.

In Scott Pruitt, Trump has an Environmental Protection Agency chief who understands how the agency works and how to hobble it. Pruitt, who has dismissed the mainstream scientific understanding of climate change, has spearheaded a concerted effort to excise or delay dozens of environmental rules.

Emissions standards for cars and trucks, the clean power plan, water pollution restrictions, a proposed ban on a pesticide linked to developmental problems in children, regulations that stop power plants dumping toxins such as mercury into their surrounds – all have been targeted with efficacious zeal by Pruitt.

The EPA administrator was also a fierce proponent of a US exit from the Paris accord, ensuring that Trump wasn’t swayed by doubts raised by Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and adviser. The US won’t be able to officially pull out until 2020, but the decision has dealt a hefty blow to the effort to slow dangerous global warming and provided a tangible victory for the nationalist, climate change denying elements that now roam the White House.

Elsewhere, public land has been thrown open to coal mining – an industry repeatedly fetishized by Trump – and oil and gas drilling is being ushered into America’s Arctic and Atlantic waters. Two dozen national monuments are under review, several may be shrunk or even eliminated. In less than six months, Trump has begun to tear up almost all of the key planks of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda. This blitzkrieg is likely to slow now that it faces a thicket of legal action launched by enraged environmental groups and some states, such as New York. But to Trump’s supporters, the president, who pledged during the campaign to reduce the EPA to “tidbits”, is delivering on his crusade to transport the environmental and industrial outlook of the late 19th century to the modern day. Oliver Milman

Immigration

Donald Trump’s bluster over his harsh immigration reform – namely the implementation of a diluted Muslim-targeted travel ban and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants – belies the cost these self-proclaimed victories have had on both the fundamental institutions of democracy and the most vulnerable communities in the United States.

Take the travel ban, which targets refugees and visa applicants from six Muslim majority countries. The president’s first failed order, haphazardly issued in January, provoked scenes of chaos at airports around the country – temporarily separating families, canceling legitimately issued visas and propelling the country towards a constitutional crisis, before a series of federal courts intervened to block it.

After his second attempt in March was blocked again in the lower courts, the president, seemingly without care for due process or respect for the co-equal branches of government, threatened to simply abolish the federal appeals court he incorrectly identified as responsible for the decision.

‘I have the right to be here’: becoming an American under a Trump presidency

Trump’s bullish perseverance on the ban, which has left many in Muslim and refugee communities around the US living in fear, has resulted in a temporary ruling in the supreme court that allows a much-diluted version of the order to come into effect. Although the president heralded the decision a victory, the ultimate test comes in autumn when the country’s highest court will ultimately rule on the ban’s constitutionality.

The president has also moved quickly to supercharge efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants. By empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the federal agency responsible deportations, to target essentially anyone in the country without legal paperwork, the number of immigration arrests has soared. Although the administration has celebrated this uptick, it has actually been able to deport people at a much slower rate due to the crippling backlog inside America’s immigration courts.

Trump’s attempt at a solution to this has been to create a network of new courts, attached to remote detention centers and far from the reach of immigration attorneys. The strategy, plagued with due process concerns, has enjoyed mixed success. But, once again, it is those most vulnerable – many of whom have lived in America without paperwork for decades and have no criminal history – who have paid the highest price. Oliver Laughland

no one wants to sit next to the mean kid

Diplomacy

First, the good news. Donald Trump has not started a war. He has, therefore, so far, avoided the worst case scenario that some predicted for his presidency. One-eighth of the way through his term, he does not yet have a stain on his record like George W Bush has with Iraq. Instead, his Twitter spats with cable TV hosts and their indulgence by the media are a luxury of peacetime.

But in other, important ways, the US president has set about diminishing America’s global leadership role and diplomatic standing. He has emphasized the defense of America and western civilization and downplayed democracy and human rights. He has warmed to authoritarian leaders in China, the Philippines, Russia, and Saudi Arabia while going cold on Britain (still no visit), the European Union and Australia. His attacks on the press send an alarming message to dictators everywhere.

The world has noticed. A major survey of 37 countries by Pew Research last month found that just 22% of respondents had some or a great deal of confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. After his performance at Nato and G7 meetings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said pointedly: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” At the G-20, he cut a lonely, isolated figure.

Trump appears to push aside Montenegro PM at Nato photocall

This damage could be undone relatively quickly but the “America first” president’s proposed 30% cut to the state department, where many top staff have left and not been replaced, threatens to be a lasting legacy. Max Bergmann, a former official, wrote in Politico: “The deconstruction of the state department is well underway… This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.”

The outlier in Trump’s foreign policy came on 6 April, when the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airfield in Syria in retaliation for the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. It was a move welcomed by hawks and loathed by “anti-globalists” in Trump’s support base. But the most urgent issue, enough to test any US president, is North Korea. There is little evidence so far to suggest he will succeed where others have failed. David Smith

 

Gender and Equality

Trump’s White House has wasted little time erasing many of the changes that advocates for trans rights, reproductive rights and survivors of sexual assault achieved under the Obama administration.

The Trump team is in the middle of sharply reversing how the federal government enforces laws against gender bias. In February, the administration withdrew the Obama-era guidelines requiring schools to give transgender students unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. And Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, may restrict the federal government’s ability to intervene when colleges and universities do a questionable job of handling students’ complaints of sexual assault.

Trump is also attempting to dismantle the nation’s public safety net for family planning, with an assist from his party in Congress. The president has signed legislation encouraging states to withhold federal family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood. The latest version of Republican’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate the birth control mandate – which is also under fire from Trump’s health department – not to mention maternity coverage requirements.

Every repeal attempt has contained a measure to block women on Medicaid from using their insurance at Planned Parenthood – measures that would shutter scores of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. And the administration is poised to give the green light to states, like Texas, that axe Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs.

The White House also has aims to zero out funding for the government-funded Legal Services Corporation, which is the main source of legal assistance for women attempting to escape domestic violence, when Congress passes a budget this fall.

Finally, there’s US supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who observers say “has all the makings of an extreme anti-abortion justice”. Trump named Gorsuch eleven days into his presidency, fulfilling a longtime campaign promise to nominate justices who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade. Molly Redden

 

Criminal justice

Much of what the federal government can do on criminal justice is left to Congress since most criminal justice happens at state and local, rather than federal levels. However, Trump’s administration hasn’t spared much time doing what it can to reverse a roughly decades long retreat from the peak of tough-on-crime, mass-incarceration dogma.

So far, efforts on criminal justice have been much more sizzle than steak, but the prospect of dramatic policy change looms just around the corner. Stuffed in a suite of executive orders signed in February, Trump commissioned a task force to make recommendations on combating “the menace of rising crime”, which has been an enduring theme of the administration despite being debunked by experts. That task force, which reportedly, and curiously, does not include police chiefs or criminologists is scheduled to make its recommendations on 27 July.

“If you’re going to see anything from the Trump administration proposing new [or longer] mandatory minimums and a general return to the tough on crime tactics, I think you’ll see those recommendations made by the task force,” said Ames Grawert, a criminal justice researcher with the Brennan Center for Justice.

It remains unclear how much support there might be in Congress for taking up such recommendations. As recently as December there was real momentum behind a bipartisan bill to make sentencing less punitive, not more.

In the interim, attorney general Jeff Sessions has instructed federal prosecutors to seek the highest possible penalty in every case and has championed initiatives to push state cases for federal prosecutors to obtain harsher sentencing.

In another reversal from the Obama era, Sessions has also signaled that the DoJ will not use its authority to investigate or reform local police departments, even in cases where gross negligence, or rampant civil rights violations may be occurring. Sessions tried and failed, to pause a consent decree negotiated in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray unrest, and his department has so far flaked-out of a similar effort that was slated for Chicago under the previous administration.

“We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals,” Sessions wrote in an April 18 op-ed in USA Today. Jamiles Lartey

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/19/six-ways-trump-is-dismantling-america-after-six-months-in-white-house?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=235673&subid=9599609&CMP=GT_US_collection

Trump successfully diverted us with misogyny yesterday while real news on collusion broke

Forget the stupid tweets: There’s big news on Trump’s Russia connections — and he doesn’t want you to read it
New reports link Michael Flynn to hacking and reveal Trump’s massive business deals in the former Soviet Union

Well, Thursday was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? We got to spend the day wallowing in presidential misogyny, a treat we haven’t been able to savor since we heard Donald Trump brag about getting away with random crotch grabbing because he is such a “star.” No one can be surprised. We knew he was a snake before we let him in.

As much as the president’s grotesque tweets served as a grim reminder of his true character, Trump did manage to do the one thing he has been dying to do for weeks: move the press off the Russia story. Sadly for him, it only lasted a few hours before yet another late-breaking Russia scoop hit. The Wall Street Journal’s Shane Harris published a story that links former national security adviser Michael Flynn to a longtime right-wing operative named Peter W. Smith, who told Harris he had engaged with Russian hackers to obtain the so-called “missing emails” from Hillary Clinton’s private server. Smith also claimed he was in touch with Michael Flynn and possibly his son, both of whom he knew through some earlier business dealings.

Harris also reports that “investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary.” That would be quite a coincidence if there were two different operations described exactly that way. As they say, stay tuned. There’s no way of knowing if this man was just blowing smoke about Flynn or whether it represents the first evidence that there was some collusion between the campaign and Russia, in this case through an outside intermediary steeped in right-wing opposition research for decades.

Smith died in May, but his history suggests it’s at least plausible that what he told Harris is true. Murray Waas wrote in Salon way back in 1998 about Smith’s role as the instigator of  “Troopergate,” which led to the Paula Jones lawsuit against Bill Clinton (with which Kellyanne Conway’s husband George was intimately involved) and the rest was history. Smith is exactly the kind of man who would have involved himself in a nefarious scheme like this.

That story will undoubtedly be picked over quite a bit in the coming days. Unfortunately, another big Russia story, arguably even more significant, landed yesterday and few people seem to have noticed. Kevin G. Hall and Ben Weider of the McClatchy Washington bureau reported that Trump’s business dealings in countries of the former Soviet empire were much more substantial than he’s let on and his ties to bankers, oligarchs and politicians in the area are much more consequential. They write:

McClatchy’s investigation reveals how Trump sought a foothold not just in Russia but across the former Soviet empire. Not known before, the Trump Organization in 2012 negotiated with then-Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov for an obelisk-shaped tower to be built near the presidential palace, designed by architect John Fotiadis, who also did the Batumi project and lists offices in New York and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Trump Diamond lost out to a rival project in Astana for the tallest building in Central Asia, the 75-story Abu Dhabi Plaza.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. The Trump Organization was involved in dozens of deals throughout the region with money traced back to Russian sources, in some cases including the big oil company Rosneft. Once again, Trump’s close relationship with Bayrock CEO Felix Sater, a known mob associate with ties to the CIA, the FBI and the Russian government, was implicated along with another controversial company called the Silk Road Group. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who has strong personal and business ties to Ukraine, was also involved with many of these negotiations. (Cohen was recently served with a subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee.)

What’s most interesting about all of these deals is their recent vintage. Indeed, the big tower project in Georgia mentioned in the McClatchy report wasn’t canceled until Jan. 6, 2017, two weeks before Trump took office. Trump said it was solely for business concerns (since he believes that it’s impossible for a president to have conflicts of interest) but the company he was involved with, Silk Road, said it was because of the massive publicity that was sure to follow, which hardly seems like convincing.

More likely the project was ditched because of the company’s relationship with Russia and Iran, two countries under U.S. sanctions. That would have been a bit of a problem for a sitting U.S. president, even one who believes that nothing is illegal if the president does it.

McClatchy reports that “none of this is revealed in Trump’s financial disclosure statements. And since he hasn’t released his tax returns, these sorts of relationships are not apparent.” We don’t know how many more situations like this exist that are still quietly percolating with Trump’s full knowledge while the country is kept in the dark.

There is a reason why Trump has been so desperate to end the Russia probe, and Occam’s razor says this is probably the reason. A G-Man with an unlimited mandate looking into all his dicey business dealings undoubtedly has him waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, the president has prevailed against all advice and will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G-20 meeting. Trump’s political advisers tried to impress on him just how bad it will look to be glad-handing with Vlad, while his policy advisers are surely petrified that he will make a major error. Trump’s vaunted negotiating skills have turned out to be hype, and nobody know if he’s going to give away the store.

According to the Guardian, Trump has tasked his staff to come up with some “deliverables” for his pal Putin, with no plans to ask for anything in return. One thing we know he won’t be doing is broaching the subject of cyber attacks. According to this report by CNN, his team cannot get him to devote any time or attention to the problem:

“I’ve seen no evidence of it,” one senior administration official said when asked whether Trump was convening any meetings on Russian meddling in the election. The official said there is no paper trail — schedules, readouts or briefing documents — to indicate Trump has dedicated time to the issue.

He is simply not interested. But then, in Trump’s worldview, if the Russian helped him get elected why would he do anything to stop them from doing it again? What he does want is to stop the investigation from delving too deeply into his relationships and business dealings in the region. It turns out there are a lot more of them then he’s admitted up until now.

HEATHER DIGBY PARTON – Salon

http://www.salon.com/2017/06/30/forget-the-stupid-tweets-theres-big-news-on-trumps-russia-connections-and-he-doesnt-want-you-to-read-it/

Trump Takes a Dump on America’s global standing

America’s global standing plummets under Donald Trump

A new survey from Pew Research Centre shows sharp drops in approval

They love him in Russia!

It’s no surprise that a fast-tweeting, obnoxious pugnacious President, with little regard for diplomatic niceties or enthusiasm for treaty obligations, is not much liked outside his borders. Nonetheless, the magnitude of the change in global opinions on America’s leadership since Doofus Donald took office is still remarkable.

A new survey by the Pew Research Centre of 40,447 people in 37 countries shows that trust in Trump pales in comparison with Barack Obama’s final ratings. Whereas 64% of those surveyed had confidence in Obama to do the right thing, just 22% are similarly optimistic about his successor, whom they described as “arrogant” (75%), “intolerant” (65%) and “dangerous” (62%). Citizens in Western Europe put no more stock in Trump—who took office just five months ago—than they did in George W. Bush, the architect of the highly unpopular war in Iraq when he limped out of the White House in 2008. Respondents’ approval rating for America overall has also slumped, from 64% to 49%.

Of all the countries surveyed by Pew, Trump’s worst ratings come from Mexico, America’s southern neighbor. The president has characterized its immigrants to his country as rapists and promised to force its government to pay for a wall on their shared border. Sure enough, just 5% of Mexicans say they are confident in him.

At the other extreme, respondents in only two countries prefer Trump to his predecessor. Israelis are fonder of him by seven percentage points, perhaps because he has sounded, at times, friendlier toward settlements and harsher towards Iran. A far greater gain comes from Russia, where only 11% liked Barack Obama, but 53% say that they like Trump. The FBI is currently investigating whether anyone involved in Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election on his behalf.

Even in countries where he is mostly despised, Trump still found some support from those who share his ideology. Across Europe, people with favorable views of their hometown populist party have much higher appraisals for Trump—though, even among them, confidence was not above 50%. Of those who approve of the National Front, 39% express confidence in Trump; for those who disapprove of Marine Le Pen’s party, that number is just 6%.

America’s president is often described as the “leader of the free world”. Trump may be making that moniker an anachronism. Given his reluctance to reiterate America’s commitment to NATO’s collective defense policy, it is little wonder that Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor and a staunch defender of liberal internationalism, inspires more confidence than Trump does. However, he also fell short of leaders with far weaker democratic credentials. Even autocrats like Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin scored better.

info from The Economist

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/06/daily-chart-19

Trump’s business partnerships with shadowy Russians in New York real estate deals

A bombshell Bloomberg View report dropped Wednesday morning detailing President Donald Trump’s shadowy business partnerships with Russian investors on New York City real estate deals.

Rachel Maddow teased the report, which links the president to possible money laundering operations through his business associate Felix Sater — a mob informant and felon who has boasted of his ties to the Kremlin and Russian intelligence.

While special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether Trump obstructed justice in firing former FBI Director James Comey, the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia also continues. As The Washington Post reported last week, the investigation into Trump also involves tracking concerning financial activities. The New York Times went even further, saying that Mueller is looking into whether Trump associates laundered payoffs from Russians and funneled them through offshore accounts.

“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” Trump said during a 2007 deposition. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said a year later.

A troubling history of possibly compromising business relationships has scored cash for Trump for years, according to Bloomberg. The Bayrock Group, a now-dormant development firm that operated in Trump Tower, partnered with Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump on a series of deals between 2002 and 2011. The largest of the deals was part of a project in Manhattan, the Trump Soho Hotel.

During the years that the two worked together, Bayrock was a link between several dark projects in the U.S. and Europe that once named after Trump. Bayrock used Icelandic banks to launder money from government investors, legislators and others, Bloomberg reported.

One principal was a career criminal, according to Bloomberg, named Felix Sater, who worked with organized crime in both the U.S. and Russia. Before he brought the company to Trump he worked as a mob informant for the FBI and ran to Moscow to avoid any criminal charges.

Trump, Arif and Sater, at right

A former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, admitted that he left the firm out of fear the company was a front for a money laundering scheme and filed a lawsuit claiming he’d been swindled out of millions by cash skimming and tax dodging.

A federal judge agreed in December that Kriss’ suit could move forward as a racketeering case.

Trump claims he barely knows Sater, but the two met frequently at Trump Tower and Sater showed Trump’s children around Moscow on a visit, and he also carried Trump Organization business cards.

Sater was also involved with Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and former national security adviser Michael Flynn on a Ukrainian peace proposal.

He went to prison for 15 months in 1993 for slashing the man’s face open with a margarita glass during a bar fight, and Sater later fled to Moscow after federal prosecutors charged him and his associates with laundering about $40 million from elderly Holocaust survivors for the mob.

Sater “was always hustling and scheming, and his contacts in Russia were the same kind of contacts he had in the United States,” Lauria wrote in his 2003 memoir, “The Scorpion and the Frog.” “The difference was that in Russia his crooked contacts were links between Russian organized crime, the Russian military, the KGB, and operatives who played both ways, or sometimes three ways.”

He eventually came back to the U.S. to face charges but traded on his knowledge of Stinger missiles for sale on the black market in Afghanistan to strike a plea deal in the money laundering case, which was then sealed.

Sater and Kriss joined Bayrock, headquartered at Trump Tower, in 2002 with a $10 million investment from former Soviet official Tevfik Arif, who reportedly made his fortune running upscale hotels in Turkey that catered to wealthy Russians.

Marketing documents for Bayrock pitched prospective investors claiming a former Soviet oligarch, Alexander Mashkevich, was one of Bayrock’s primary sources of capital.

According to Bloomberg, Bayrock was never out of money, despite running a small development firm. Kriss’ lawsuit alleges they could operate “month after month, for two years, in fact, more frequently, whenever Bayrock ran out of cash.” If times got tight, Bayrock’s owners would “magically show up with a wire from ‘somewhere’ just large enough to keep the company going.”

Both Sater and Arif wooed Kriss to Bayrock by promising him 10 percent of the firm’s profits, according to the lawsuit. Being located in Trump Tower gave “an air of success” to the company, according to Kriss — as well as an opportunity to work with Trump.

Sater was the one who built the relationship with the future president, according to court records. He used three Trump Organization executives to eventually lead him to Trump in 2002, when the celebrity real estate developer wasn’t in a good place financially and had barely escaped personal bankruptcy in the 1990s. His reputation was sunk and no bank wanted anything to do with him, so Trump turned to developing golf courses. Arif and Sater pitched him the idea of doing international hotel chains with Trump’s name, according to Kriss — which they claimed would help pump up his “brand.”

The relationship proved mutually beneficial, and both Bayrock and Trump saw their fortunes rise after the debut of his reality show, “The Apprentice,” in 2004.

“That put Bayrock in a great position once the show debuted,” Kriss said. “The show did it for Trump, man. Nobody was interested in licensing his name before that.”

Bayrock promised Trump an 18 percent equity stake in the Trump Soho hotel, which would provide a steady stream of cash from fees and his name on a Manhattan building. No one knows whether Trump did any research into the Bayrock partners backgrounds, but Bloomberg alleges that Trump was known for lacking concern for such matters.

Sater claims he revealed his convictions to Trump Organization members and assumed they relayed it to Trump, but he can’t say for sure.

“It’s not very hard to get connected to Donald if you make it known that you have a lot of money and you want to do deals and you want to put his name on it,” said Abe Wallach, who served as Trump’s right-hand man from 1990 to 2002. “Donald doesn’t do due diligence. He relies on his gut and whether he thinks you have good genes.”

Due to a language barrier, Arif had little to do with Trump, so it was left to Sater and Kriss — who had most of their interactions with Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, but the future president always had final say.

According to a deposition, Sater met with Trump multiple times a week to talk about business, including a plan to use Sater’s Russian connections to build a “high-rise” in Moscow.

Sater claimed he wouldn’t call Trump “my friend” in a 2008 deposition, but the two traveled together to look at deals. “Anybody can come in and build a tower,” he said. “I can build a Trump Tower because of my relationship with Trump.”

They began the international hotel-condo projects by exploring deals in Turkey, Poland, and Ukraine. Sater took Ivanka and Don Jr. to Moscow looking for land for a Trump-branded hotel, but none got past the planning stages. In the U.S., however, Bayrock and Trump projects moved forward.

Developing a Phoenix hotel became a nightmare when a zoning debate surfaced and Sater ended up in court with a local investor named Ernest Mennes. In a lawsuit, Mennes claimed he threatened to reveal Sater’s criminal history, and Sater said that he had a cousin that would “electrically shock Mr. Mennes’ testicles, cut off Mr. Mennes’ legs, and leave Mr. Mennes dead in the trunk of his car.”

Mennes also claimed Bayrock and Sater skimmed money off of the development. They ultimately settled the suit, sealed the court documents and Sater’s lawyers deny Mennes’s allegations

They then started the Trump International Hotel and Tower project in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2005. It ultimately ended up in foreclosure. Finally, Bayrock and Trump built the Soho hotel with a Trump, Sater and Arif photo from a launch party in 2007 — which Trump advertised as part of “The Apprentice.”

An influx of funding came in from an Icelandic investment bank named the FL Group. Sater and Lauria had a longtime mob ally recruited into FL. Trump didn’t seem concerned about vetting the firm despite operating in a country with problematic banking systems. The FL Group went under, a little more than a year after its investment, but was never prosecuted despite other Icelandic banks being jailed for money laundering.

In an interview, Kriss said competitors of the FL Group also asked to invest in Bayrock. He took the proposal to Sater and Arif, who told him that the money from Icelandic banks “was mostly Russian,” and that the group was forced to take FL’s funds for other deals with Trump because the firm was “closer to Putin.”

“I thought it was a lie or a joke when they said Putin,” Kriss remembers, though he doesn’t have financial records to prove it. “I didn’t know how to make sense of it at all.”

When Kriss complained he was owed a payout after the FL deal, but he said that Sater threatened him, so he took $500,000 and eventually quit.

By December 2007 Sater’s past was splashed across the New York Times, and he began using an alternative spelling of his name, “Satter.” Just days following that article, Trump sat for a deposition with the Bloomberg story’s author, Timothy O’Brien, as part of a libel lawsuit Trump had filed for “TrumpNation.” O’Brien’s attorneys asked if Trump planned to sever ties with Sater because of the organized crime ties and The Times article. Trump said he wasn’t sure yet.

“Have you previously associated with people you knew were members of organized crime?” one of O’Brien’s lawyers asked Trump.

“No, I haven’t,” Trump replied. “And it’s hard to overly blame Bayrock. Things like that can happen. But I want to see what action Bayrock takes before I make a decision.”

When asked about Sater any time since Trump claimed they weren’t close. In a 2013 deposition around the failed Fort Lauderdale project, Trump was asked about Sater again.

“He was supposedly very close to the government of the United States as a witness or something,” Trump claimed. “I don’t think he was connected to the Mafia. He got into trouble because he got into a barroom fight.”

“I don’t know him very well,” Trump swore under oath. He then claimed he hadn’t spoken much to Sater. “If he were sitting in the room right now I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

Trump continued, claiming that he didn’t think any questions about Sater’s background should have influenced his business partnership. “Somebody said that he is in the Mafia. What am I going to do?” Trump said.

By 2008, Sater was forced to resign from Bayrock. The Trump Soho hotel was a flop, opening in 2010 with unfilled units. Those who did buy condos sued Bayrock and Trump and it was forced into foreclosure.

When Kris left Bayrock he set up another firm and sued Sater, Arif, Trump and Bayrock in Delaware in 2008. He claimed Bayrock was a criminal operation and demanded back pay. The case was moved to New York in 2010. Interestingly, however, Sater accidentally left a copy of his deal with the government for the Stinger missile on an old Bayrock computer. An employee found it and gave it to Kriss’s attorney, who filed it as an exhibit.

Trump was ultimately dropped from the case, and Sater came after Kriss with multiple lawsuits claiming, among other things, that Kriss used the courts to come after Slater.

Kriss then began receiving threatening emails, and he discovered there were hundreds of websites that had false and disparaging information about him. He moved to sue the anonymous authors for defamation and the court ruled in his favor and the sites were delisted from Google. He used the court order to find the source of the sites and found them tracked back to Sater’s home address in Sands Point.

At one point, Kriss claims “goons” showed up at his real estate projects in Brooklyn asking his workers if they knew the stories about their boss. Letters questioning his background arrived in every mailbox of every resident in two buildings where Kriss had apartments. Investors in his new company, East River Partners, stood by him but Kris said that Sater’s digital attack on him may be impossible to overcome.

His new attorney, Bradley Simon, stated that he continues to be mystified by how Sater has managed to stay in business this long.

“Sater was a cooperating witness for the Eastern District of New York and he continued going on a crime rampage,” says Simon. “He’s filed all kinds of frivolous lawsuits, but that’s what he does. He seems to have unlimited funds.”

After leaving Bayrock, the Trump Organization briefly employed Sater as a consultant and more recently he was named in other litigation for an Ohio shopping mall where millions allegedly disappeared. The case was settled in 2013.

Sater and others at Bayrock would not comment for O’Brien’s expose.

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/trumps-links-to-russian-money-laundering-raises-new-questions-about-secret-real-estate-deals-since-election/

Trump, Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik and the Republican-Russian election interference web

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman met in August — as controversy swirled over possible Russian interference in the election — with a business associate who may have ties to Russian intelligence.

Paul Manafort met twice during the presidential campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, who helped run the Ukraine office for his political consulting operation for 10 years — including a previously undisclosed dinner shortly before his own Russian ties forced him out of the Trump campaign, reported the Washington Post.

Konstantin Klimnik

Kilimnik learned fluent English and Swedish at a Soviet military school, and his later work as a translator earned him a reputation as an operative for Russia’s GRU intelligence service — although he denies those connections and U.S. officials have not made that allegation.

He began working for Manafort, whose own ties to the Kremlin are under investigation by Congress and the FBI, in 2005, and he stayed with the consulting group through its work for pro-Russian hardliner Viktor Yanukovych, who became president of Ukraine and later fled to Russia.

Kilimnik admits to meeting twice with Manafort in the U.S. during the presidential campaign.

The first meeting came in early May 2016, about two weeks before Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman, and the second was in August — about two weeks before he resigned under pressure related to his political work in Ukraine.

The business associates met at the Grand Havana Room in New York City, where they talked about which clients owed them money, the overall situation in Ukraine and the U.S. presidential campaign.

Manafort admits to discussing with Kilimnik the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, but simply as part of a conversation about current events at that time.

“It would be neither surprising nor suspicious that two political consultants would chat about the political news of the day, including the DNC hack, which was in the news,” Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told the Post. “We’re confident that serious officials will come to the conclusion that Paul’s campaign conduct and interaction with Konstantin during that time was perfectly permissible and not in furtherance of some conspiracy.”

Kilimnik’s late-summer visit to the U.S. drew the attention of U.S. authorities, and he later told associates that he played a role in softening the Republican platform toward Russian interests in Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities formally investigated Kilmnik’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence last year, and he was cleared, although some lawmakers there questioned whether the probe deliberately avoided findings that could have affected the U.S. presidential race.

Kilimnik’s name appeared this spring on a subpoena issued in Virginia by a federal grand jury in connection with Manafort’s work in Ukraine and his business connections.

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/revealed-trump-campaign-chief-met-with-suspected-russian-spy-last-august-to-discuss-dnc-hacks/

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

Is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein starting to buckle under pressure?

That Rosenstein put out a statement at all is weird. That it was this statement is even weirder. oh ya……and he might have to recuse himself,

Late Thursday night, seemingly unprompted, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — he of the James Comey firing memo and the appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel in the Russia investigation — put out a very odd statement on just how terrible anonymously-sourced stories are.

Here it is in its entirety:

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-standing policy to neither confirm or deny such allegations.”

Er, what?

This statement is 62 words long but it really could have been just two: “Fake news.”

Rosenstein, according to CNN’s Evan Perez, was not asked by the White House to release the statement. But it comes directly from President Trump’s playbook: An attempt to discredit any negative stories that rely on anonymous sourcing.

Trump seemed to take a swipe at Rosenstein — anonymous leak statement notwithstanding — in a Friday morning tweet. “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted.

The Rosenstein statement isn’t just strange because it seemingly came out of nowhere. The oddest part of it is when Rosenstein warns people to be skeptical of anonymous sources “particularly when they do not identify the country … with which these alleged sources supposedly are affiliated.”

If Rosenstein suspects that sort of disinformation campaign from a foreign government, I think he should tell us more about it as soon as possible. As in, if a foreign government is actively leaking information about the Russia investigation to US reporters for the express purpose of disrupting Trump’s presidency, that’s a pretty big damn deal. Right?

The rest of his statement is the standard sort of stuff that comes out of the Trump White House regarding anonymous leaking. “Caution” is necessary. “Skeptical” is the right view Americans should take. And so on and so forth.

Recusal next?

The senior Justice Department official Rod Rosenstein with ultimate authority over the special counsel’s probe of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election has privately acknowledged to colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the matter, which he took charge of only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ own recusal, sources tell ABC News.

Those private remarks from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are significant because they reflect the widening nature of the federal probe, which now includes a preliminary inquiry into whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he allegedly tried to curtail the probe and then fired James Comey as FBI director.

Rosenstein, who authored an extensive and publicly-released memorandum recommending Comey’s firing, raised the possibility of his recusal during a recent meeting with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s new third-in-command, according to sources.

Although Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to lead the federal probe, he still makes the final decisions about resources, personnel and — if necessary — any prosecutions.

In the recent meeting with Brand, Rosenstein told her that if he were to recuse himself, she would have to step in and take over those responsibilities. She was sworn-in little more than a month ago.

US intel agencies formally ask DOJ to investigate Russia-related ‘leaks,’ as Trump uses media-bashing to raise funds

Justice Department special counsel investigating Trump for obstruction of justice: Report

Potentially complicating matters, Trump posted an exasperated message today on Twitter, dismissing the Russia-related probe as a “witch hunt” and lamenting that he’s “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!”

Rosenstein is keenly aware that he could become a potential witness in the investigation.

“I understand there are serious allegations that have been raised,” Rosenstein told a Senate panel earlier this week. “I recognize the importance of these questions, and I think that Director Mueller ought to review that and make a determination of whether or not he believes it is within the scope of his investigation.”

Rep. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, asked Rosenstein specifically whether he might have a conflict of interest if he becomes a witness in the investigation.

“I’m not going to answer hypothetical questions,” Rosenstein said. “[But] I am working with career professionals who know these rules and are responsible for enforcing these rules, and I can assure you that we’re going to do the right thing, and we’re going to defend the integrity of that investigation.”

One source said Rosenstein has yet to formally ask career attorneys inside the Justice Department for their opinion on whether he should recuse himself. Any serious contemplation of recusal likely wouldn’t happen unless Rosenstein seeks such an opinion.

If Rosenstein were to announce his recusal, it would represent the latest twist in an increasingly unpredictable and dramatic investigation.

Rosenstein took command of the investigation in early March when Sessions announced that he was recusing himself due to his substantial role in Trump’s presidential campaign last year. Two months later, at Trump’s urging, Rosenstein wrote a letter to the president detailing his belief that Comey should be fired.

Within days, a top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote his own letter, insisting that Rosenstein’s hard-earned reputation as an “apolitical actor” was “now imperiled” by the deputy attorney general’s role in Comey’s firing.

Around the same time, Comey orchestrated a series of bombshell news reports laying out portions of one-on-one conversations he allegedly had with Trump, including the infamous conversation in the Oval Office where Trump allegedly told Comey, “I hope you can let this go.”

According to Comey, Trump was referring to the FBI’s investigation into Mike Flynn, who was fired himself as national security adviser months earlier for allegedly lying to White House officials about his post-election contacts with Russian operatives.

In the wake of those news reports, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to conduct the broad investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential campaign and alleged collusion with Trump associates.

“The public interest requires me to place this investigation under a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Rosenstein said in his announcement last month.

Rosenstein hasn’t spoken with Mueller since, he told lawmakers last week.

But inside his office in recent days, the deputy attorney general has been grappling with what to do about the expanding probe, and seething over news accounts laying out some of its details, according to one source.

Late last night, he issued what many online are calling a “bizarre” statement, condemning recent reports.

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true and stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,'” Rosenstein said. “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

No explanation for the statement was given, but it came just hours after The Washington Post published a story saying Mueller’s inquiry is now looking at the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser to the president.

Source CNN