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A whistleblower leaked a photograph of a private meeting between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a coal baron who’s also a major Republican donor. Now he’s being threatened.

 Photographer Simon Edelman used to work for the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor and failed presidential candidate Rick Perry.

But then Edelman leaked photographs of a secret meeting between Perry and Robert E. Murray, the owner of a major coal mining operation, and a longtime Republican donor and supporter of Donald Trump. The pictures show Perry and Murray embracing and exchanging an “action plan” drafted by Murray — essentially, a list Murray’s list of demands for changes to policy and regulations he wanted that would benefit the coal industry.

After those photos surfaced, Edelman was let go. The Department of Energy seized his personal laptop and escorted him out of his office in the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. His employment agreement was terminated, even though he was supposed to be employedfor two more years.

Then, according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Energy, the threats started.

In one phone call that was recorded, an official at the Energy Department pushed for him to turn over the drive and said, “I would suggest that doing it sooner rather than later would probably be a good thing for you.”

Photos taken by government employees as part of their official duties are in fact in the public domain, and do not belong to any specific agency, the head of the agency, or the president and his administration.

Whistleblower Edelman alerted Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) about the department’s actions, and now they’re pushing for the department, and Perry, to come clean about why the photographer was really fired.

It’s not difficult to understand why such a meeting would be a huge embarrassment for the Perry, the Energy Department, and the Trump administration.

Murray contributed $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration and personally held a fundraiser for him during the campaign. Before that, he also financially supported Perry’s political career.

After the Sago Mine disaster in 2006 where 12 miners were killed and only one survived, Murray lobbied against the push in West Virginia to pass safety legislation.

His company, Murray Energy, operated the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah that collapsed in 2007, trapping six miners. Before the collapse, the mine had received 64 violations and racked up $12,000 in fines.

After President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, Murray laid off 156 workers and alleged that the Obama administration was engaged in a “war on coal.”

Murray sued John Oliver and HBO over an episode of the program Last Week Tonight that exposed his shoddy safety record and habit of suing journalists who write about his business.

He has also has long been a fixture on right-wing outlets like Fox News.

It is the troubling track record of someone involved in the mining business, let alone exerting an undue influence on the entire Department of Energy, the presidency, and the government. Murray is not someone who should have that kind of influence over the lives of mine workers, who have already gotten a raw deal from Trump after a campaign of absurd promises.

The Trump administration is in bed with the worst of the worst of corporate America. Trump and his team have shown time and again that they will not hesitate to cover up and hide massive corruption. In this case, it seems the Energy Department is willing to go so far as to threaten a whistleblower who dared to tell the truth about it.

Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)