The Mayor: Prayer Breakfasts in the morning….thievery as a public official during the day????

It appears as if in 2016, the (honorable?) Eureka Mayor Frank Jager was not only earning over $100,000 a year in PERS retirement and $15,000 a year from the County working as a deputy coroner/public “administrator of estates”, he couldn’t help himself from allegedly stealing from dead people thru the unethical practice of having his wife and himself purchasing property from deceased peoples estates at below market value.  We have a question for our very religious Mayor; what would Jesus do?  Certainly not what this ex-EPD “good ole boy” has done.  It is time for Mayor Jager to repent.  It is also time for some justice and for him to reap the consequences of this kind of low-life behavior and probably breaking the law.

This growing scandal is catching many of our local good ole boys by surprise. They thought sheriff Billy was going to handle it in the usual way, appoint the usual suspects to investigate one of their own then say basically “nothing to see here move along” sweeping all under the rug. Well as we posted about before…https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/former-epd-good-ol-boys-are-finally-getting-caught-with-their-hands-in-the-cookie-jar/  (OOPS!) The DA invited the State Department of Justice in. For the most part, they don’t give a shit about the local good ole boys perceived right to line their pockets at the rest of our expense. Stay tuned to this story is going to get interesting especially if it starts coming out the tragic death of family members was followed by the looting of their estate

The rumors mill is reporting that Mayor Jager is for some reason feeling a sense of relief because the FBI has declined to investigate at this time.  However, from what we have heard the California Department of Justice is very interested in investigating the whole matter.

Take a deep breath Mayor Jager, it’s going to be quite a ride

Former EPD good ol’ boys are finally getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar!!!

Integrity

Thanks to a complaint from a concerned citizen and the questioning of Ryan Burns from the Lost Coast Outpost, it looks like the FBI and the State Attorney General’s office will be looking into the Coroner’s handling of estate properties.  And by handling, we mean the most extreme “low-balling” of the purchase price and outright theft of deceased people’s property:

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2017/jul/7/da-maggie-fleming-calls-fbi-state-attorney-general/

Great “ethical standards” law enforcement!!!  Stealing from the dead or potential family members of the deceased is just plain low.  But that’s business as usual at the Eureka Police Dept(EPD) and in Humboldt’s Good Ol’ Boy network. Wait, EPD you say?  Why would we put EPD into a story about the Sheriff-Coroner sales of property that appears on the face of it illegal?  The reason is that former EPD officers (not Sergeants or Lieutenants) Frank Jager and Dave Parris have run the coroner’s office since the nineties!

Mills and Downey

When we first heard about the selling off of deceased people’s property to county employees, Eureka Mayors, and their family members: we weren’t at all surprised.  We’ve been getting tips for years that people who’ve had their property seized in marijuana raids have later seen their ATV’s and trailers being used/owned by the same officers who raided their property.  But what the hell could we do about that? Who would believe us? If people in the drug trade don’t complain, the problem would just persist.

However, in this case, we have some hope.  At first, we were pretty worried.  Newly minted Sheriff William “Billy” Honsal gave an interview to Ryan Burns, in which he talked about the new “investigation” he was calling for.  The “independent” investigator would be hired by the HCSO, to look into the corruption that was happening under Billy Honsal’s nose when he was in command or second-in-command at the Sheriff’s office:

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2017/jun/30/sheriff-honsal-interview/

In that same article, Honsal was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to get too specific into the investigation because I want the independent investigator at the DA’s Office to evaluate the entire investigation and then make a referral to the DA based upon that, but the idea is there is a government code section that basically says no property shall be sold to any current employees of the Coroner’s Office or Public Administrator.”

Now that quote was when we started to get worried and started asking questions to our sources at the County and City of Eureka.  Our worst fears of corruption and potential cover-up had been confirmed, …..that is until today’s announcement from DA Fleming.  Congratulations and respect to DA Magie Fleming for requesting the State and Federal Government to investigate this case.  Maybe some truth will come out of this investigation and criminals (whether elected or not) will be held to account.

But even before this investigation gets underway, it would be nice for the community to understand who the players involved in this good ol’ boy theft of property were, and why those connections had us so worried about what may happen.

NCJ photo of Jager

First, we have former EPD officer Frank Jager, currently the Mayor of Eureka, who was the Humboldt County Coroner from 1999 until 2009. Then in 2009, the Department was taken over by Dave Parris.  Parris ran the department until it was consolidated with the HCSO in 2015.

Paris and Downey

Interesting to note that both Jager and Parris were police officers at the Eureka Police Department.  Neither of them promoted above the rank of officer (?), but both of them ended up running the Detectives Bureau at EPD at different times. Their rise to the top position of County Coroner was filled with lots of glad-handing, favors and out and out corruption.  It’s also important to notice that these men went to prayer breakfasts in the morning and then stole from dead people during the day. (Not a big surprise to the Examiner)

To top that off, Billy Honsal, a regular prayer breakfast attendee is the son of William Honsal Sr.  William Honsal Sr. was a former EPD Captain who was known for several officer-involved shootings.  Honsal Sr. is BFF’s with recently retired evangelical Sheriff Downey, who hired Honsal Jr. from an outside agency as the under-sheriff, groomed him as his heir and then promoted him to Sheriff when he left suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly earlier this year.

But it goes further from there!  Until DA Fleming made her bold move the investigation of Jager and Parris would have been under the direction of Chief DA Investigator Wayne Cox.  Cox was an officer at EPD before becoming a DA Investigator.  Cox was given the Investigator and Chief position by his former boss, Mike Hislop.  Hislop was a former EPD Sergeant who got the position of Chief DA Investigator from his father in law, Jim Dawson.  Now the EPD connections are obvious here, and there’s clearly a built-in bias if Cox was to head an investigation into fellow former fellow EPD officers Jager and Parris.

But it goes even further from there….   You see, many sources have reported to us that Mike Hislop was a thief of the first order back in his days in power.  In fact, we’ve been told that he had a hanger at the Eureka airport filled with lots military surplus gear he obtained when he was a Peace Officer.  That gear was supposed to be utilized by the agency he worked for, but there’s been accusations and speculation that the gear never made it to his employers. And military gear was just the tip of the iceberg for tips about Hislops corruption and thefts.  So you see why we were a little worried that Hislop’s minion Wayne Cox might not look seriously into corruption and theft.

Hopefully, the FBI looks into this as a very “broad” investigation.  Maybe they can flesh out whether the theft/sale of deceased people’s property was an isolated corrupt practice, or was part of a broader theft of community member’s property (such as drug seizures, Military Surplus given to departments, unclaimed property, ect.).

As a side note, this investigation and corruption couldn’t have been a surprise to former Sheriff Mike Downey or soon to be former Chief Andy Mills.

The Examiner has to ask. Did they leave their post’s early knowing shit was about to hit the fan?  That’s as good an explanation as any of the questionable statements we heard from them when they announced their departures!!!

Good luck Federal and State authorities, bring your hip boot waders you’re stepping into some deep shit!!!

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/

Everything Trump does links back to Russia; and Putin wants revenge on the US

King & Spalding’s location in Moscow

President Trump on Wednesday morning announced that he will nominate Christopher A. Wray as the new head of the FBI. Trump just weeks ago fired James Comey, the former director, in a controversial move. Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.” Wray served as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s personal lawyer during the Bridgegate scandal. Prior to that, Wray was an assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005, and focused on financial crimes, including serving as point man on the Enron Task Force after that energy company’s massive fraud triggered a market meltdown. He also was an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia during the Clinton administration. Since 2005, he has been a litigation partner at King & Spalding. This is the Law Firm Representing Russia’s National Oil Company Rosneft

They even have offices in Russia!  King & Spalding LLC Legal services in Moscow, Russia
Address: БЦ “Легенда Цветного”, Подъезд B, 5 этаж, Tsvetnoy Blvd, 2, Moscow, Russia, 127051
Phone: +7 495 228-85-00

 

Meanwhile, David Ignatius’ of the Washington post writes:

Putin’s campaign of personal revenge against the United States

Investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov tries to explain the murky world of Russian intelligence that’s now the focus of a U.S. criminal investigation into the hacking of the 2016 campaign.

Big events in today’s Russia often aren’t the product of broad strategy, argues Soldatov, but rather are “tactical moves” that reflect the personal interests of Vladimir Putin and his all-powerful “presidential

Soldatov thinks the Putin factor is crucial in understanding issues in the hacking investigation. Putin has a personal dislike of Hillary Clinton, and Russian intelligence had been gathering information about her since late summer 2015. But what may have pushed the Russian operation into a higher gear was the April 2016 publication of the so-called Panama Papers, which revealed secret bank accounts of some of Putin’s close friends and associates.

“It was a personal attack,” says Soldatov. “You cannot write about Putin’s family or personal friends.” He speculates that the Russian leader “wanted to do something about it, to teach a lesson.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies any collusion took place between Russia and President Trump’s campaign before Trump’s inauguration. Putin spoke at a forum in St. Petersburg moderated by Megyn Kelly. Putin denounced the Panama Papers as a deliberate effort by America to embarrass him. “Officials and state agencies in the United States are behind all this,” he charged in April 2016. “They are used to holding a monopoly on the international stage and do not want to have to make way for anyone else. . . . Attempts are made to weaken us from within, make us more acquiescent and make us toe their line.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied at the time that the United States was “in any way involved in the actual leak of these documents.” But he confirmed that the U.S. Agency for International Development had supported the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, one of the media organizations involved in researching the Panama files. To the Russians, that was proof enough.

For Putin, the ex-KGB officer, nothing in the information arena is accidental. In a combative session last Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, he rebuffed NBC’s Megyn Kelly: “As for independent sources, there is nothing independent in this world.” When she pressed about Russian “digital fingerprints” in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, he exploded: “What fingerprints? Hoof prints? Horn prints?”

The day before, Putin had said that “patriotically minded” Russian private hackers might have been involved in the operation. But by Friday, he was in full denial mode, suggesting that the CIA could have manufactured the whole thing: “IP addresses can be simply made up. . . . There are such IT specialists in the world today, and they can arrange anything and then blame it on whoever.”

Soldatov argues that Russian intelligence taps a network of private hackers, much as the CIA and National Security Agency use private contractors to develop offensive cyber weapons and “zero-day exploits” for malware. “Although the [Russian] security and intelligence services have cyberwar capabilities, most of the actual strikes come through other channels,” he wrote in a post last year on his website, Agentura.ru. He cited the example of a Russian technology company that allegedly was asked to help organize “sensitive” denial-of-service attacks.

The truth of what happened in the 2016 campaign will take many months to unravel, and there’s a cloud of misinformation, fueled by Putin, President Trump, and insatiable media coverage. Soldatov notes, for instance, that the famous dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele included “unverifiable” details and some “confusion” about facts. But Soldatov wrote in January for the Guardian that it’s also “a good reflection of how things are run in the Kremlin — the mess at the level of decision-making and increasingly the outsourcing of operations.”

To Russian eyes, all information is potential disinformation, and secrets are hidden from the public. As Putin scolded Kelly last Friday: “A non-classified version means no version.” The Russians regard American media claims of independence as bogus, and they see their own propaganda outlets competing on equal terms with global media companies.

“Sputnik,” for example, had its own booth at the St. Petersburg forum. The director of national intelligence described Sputnik in a Jan. 6 reports as part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine,” but its brochures describe a media group publishing 2,000 news items a day in Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and English.

As the investigation of Russian hacking rolls forward, we shouldn’t lose perspective: Russia isn’t a demonic, all-powerful presence. It’s a sophisticated, increasingly modern country. But it’s also the rare nation run by a former intelligence officer, who sees the world through a very particular lens.

Does Vladimir have buyer’s remorse yet? Maybe he should

Vladimir Putin may well have played himself. By blatantly intervening in a U.S. presidential election, he has greatly increased his notoriety, which is no small thing. In doing so, he might have awakened a sleeping giant.

Like the proverbial dog chasing after a car, Putin has long tried to interfere in the political life of rival countries whether by seeking to buy off politicians or by using clumsily designed disinformation campaigns to move the discourse in a more pro-Putin direction. Though a victory by Donald Trump in 2016 might have seemed unlikely, Putin presumably thought it would be worth his while to take Hillary Clinton down a peg or two regardless of the outcome of the election. When Trump actually won, well, the dog finally caught the car. So, how well has Putin’s maneuvering worked out for him and for Russia?

To many, the answer is obvious: This has been an absurdly successful gambit. There is a widespread fear in Europe that the Trump presidency has already damaged NATO, which in turn has created an enormous opportunity for Putin’s Russia. This is not at all a ridiculous notion. As someone who has long believed that the U.S. ought to increase its defense budget to counter the Russian threat, I take it very seriously.

But let’s consider the possibility that Putin has made a terrible mistake.

Just a few years ago, Mitt Romney was widely ridiculed for claiming that Russia was America’s chief geopolitical adversary. The notion that the U.S. ought to redouble its efforts to counter Russian aggression and to shore up the NATO alliance was seen by many as an anachronism—a throwback to Cold War–era thinking that had no place in the 21st century. During his first term as president, Barack Obama sought to “reset” relations with Putin’s Russia by, among other things, dropping plans to deploy a missile defense shield to protect U.S. allies in Eastern Europe and agreeing to an arms control agreement that was frankly a much better deal for Russia than it was for the U.S. At a summit in Seoul in March 2012, in an exchange not intended for public consumption, Obama assured his Russian counterpart, then-President Dmitry Medvedev, that he might be willing to go even further in accommodating Russia’s interests, but that he needed some breathing room as he ran for his second term. “This is my last election,” Obama explained. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Suffice it to say, Obama soon realized that Romney had a point. Shortly after Putin returned to the presidency, he embarked on a series of astonishingly aggressive moves, including but not limited to the invasion and annexation of Crimea; using “little green men” special operations forces to bolster ragtag pro-Russian separatist militias in eastern Ukraine; launching a massive intervention on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria, partly as an opportunity to show off its new military hardware; and stepping up its efforts to threaten and intimidate the Baltic states. Whereas anti-Russian sentiment was once concentrated among GOP hawks, Democratic foreign policy thinkers, including those surrounding Hillary Clinton, started talking tougher about Putin. Then after Clinton’s defeat in November, the Democratic Party as a whole truly caught anti-Russia fever.

Strikingly, a new Pew survey finds that support for NATO has surged among Democrats, rising from 58 percent in 2016 to 78 percent earlier this month. While support for NATO has slipped somewhat among Republicans, falling from 52 percent to 47 percent, the net effect is that there is now an increased awareness of the importance of America’s alliances. While there are some Republicans, among them California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who openly express their admiration for Vladimir Putin, anti-Russian sentiment among rank-and-file Republicans remains pretty robust. Either Trump will have to adapt to changing public opinion or his Democratic successor will devote his or her energies to shoring up NATO and keeping Russia in check, employing Romney-esque rhetoric about Putin’s perfidiousness all the while. That is not a great outcome for Vladimir Putin.

In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be all that hard to tame Russia. Russia is a power in precipitous decline with an economy one-tenth the size of America’s and less than 40 percent the size of Germany’s. Despite a recent uptick in the Russian birth rate, the country still has an old undereducated population plagued by chronic disease, and its economy isn’t exactly an innovative dynamo. No one expects Russia to come close to China’s military potential a decade or two from now, even if we assume Chinese economic growth stagnates in the coming years. Russia’s chief geopolitical weapon, its rich endowment of oil and gas resources—which it has long used to wring concessions out of its European neighbors and to finance its geopolitical ambitions—has been devalued by the shale energy revolution in North America and increased production in Saudi Arabia and other major oil-producing states. It’s no exaggeration to say that in a long, drawn-out conflict with the U.S. and its allies, Russia is screwed.

The great game Vladimir Putin is playing is ultimately a futile one.

For years, Putin has played this weak hand impressively well. How has he leveraged his country’s meager resources to make itself a force on the world? It’s simple: He has forced Russians to bear enormous sacrifices by forcing them to rely on shoddy Russian-made goods instead of higher-quality European imports, holding down wages and consumption more broadly, and imposing rigid spending constraints that are starving public services. So far, the Russian public has been willing to make these sacrifices in the name of national glory. But how much longer will they be able to stand it? Add in the fact that the real threats to Russia’s territorial integrity come not from the West, where Europe’s rich market democracies are content to be left alone, but from the South and the East, where the forces of militant Islam and China pose far greater challenges.

What the U.S. and its allies need to do is remind the Russian people that the great game Vladimir Putin is playing is ultimately a futile one. Russia would be much better off making its peace with the Western alliance than trying to tear it apart. To convince the Russians of this, however, the U.S. would need to make meaningful investments in defending the nations of central and Eastern Europe, and it would need to do this in partnership with Germany. Right now, the German government devotes 1.2 percent of GDP to defense expenditures, which is lower than the 1.6 percent they were spending in the late 1990s when the security environment in Europe was not nearly as menacing. Contrast Germany’s military spending with U.S. spending, which currently amounts to 3.6 percent of GDP as compared to 3.2 percent in the late 1990s.

When Donald Trump’s dismissiveness towards America’s European allies leads German Chancellor Angela Merkel to start talking about how “the times in which we [Europeans] can completely rely on others are partly over,” my first reaction is dismay, for all the obvious reasons. The U.S. needs Germany and vice versa, and it’s a shame to think that Merkel considers the U.S. a less-than-reliable friend. My second reaction is, What took you so long, Angela? Of course Europe can’t depend on others to ensure its security. If Germany and our other European allies had consistently spent 2 percent of their GDPs on defense instead of relying on the U.S. to pick up the slack, there is no way Russia would have dared to behave so recklessly.

Strange as it may sound, Trump may have inadvertently done some good by reminding Europeans that they can’t always count on American largesse and by rallying American Democrats against a uniquely insidious threat. If I were Vladimir Putin, I’d be scrambling for a Plan B.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/05/vladimir_putin_may_look_like_a_genius_for_aligning_himself_with_donald_trump.html

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