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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Judiciary Chair Nadler Launches ‘Massive’ Probe Of Trump World

The House Judiciary Committee unveiled a sweeping new investigation into Trump and his inner circle Monday, requesting documents from more than 80 individuals and entities, including Trump’s family, businesses, and presidential administration.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said the investigation will focus on three main areas: obstruction of justice, public corruption, and abuses of power by Trump.

“Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,” Nadler said in a statement Monday.

“We have seen the damage done to our democratic institutions in the two years that the Congress refused to conduct responsible oversight,” Nadler added. “Congress must provide a check on abuses of power.”

As part of the “massive investigation,” as Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) described it, congressional investigators are seeking documents from nearly everyone in Trump’s orbit — including family members, business associates, and campaign staffers, as well as organizations like the NRA and Cambridge Analytica.

Others on the list include Trump’s inaugural committee, the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, the Trump transition team, and the White House.

The document request comes after last week’s explosive House Oversight Committee hearing, in which Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen repeatedly name-dropped key figures in Trump’s orbit, accusing them of engaging in criminal activity.

Many of the people named by Cohen are on the list of document requests published Monday.

The part of the probe focused on obstruction will look at efforts by Trump and others to interfere in criminal investigations, as well as their alleged attempts to cover up criminal activity.

The probe into potential abuses of power will focus on Trump’s attacks on the free press, the judiciary, and law enforcement agencies, as well as misuses of presidential pardon power and other presidential authorities.

Investigators will also look at potential acts of public corruption by Trump and his associates, including violations of the emoluments clause, conspiracy to violate federal campaign and financial reporting laws, and “other criminal misuses of official positions for personal gain.”

“We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record,” said Nadler. “Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee.”

“This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts,” Nadler added. “That is exactly what we intend to do.”

With Democrats in control, Congress is finally fulfilling its constitutional oversight duty — and today’s document request shows just how powerful that oversight can be.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

 

Russia Embarrasses Trump With Leak Of Secret Talk At G-20 Meeting

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a warning shot at Trump this week, strategically dropping compromising information to remind Trump that he has saved all the receipts from their interactions — and he’s not afraid to use them.

Citing a Russian government official, the Financial Times reported Tuesday that Trump met with Putin at last year’s G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, without a translator or anyone from his administration present during the exchange.

The revelation provides the most detailed account to date of Trump and Putin’s interactions during the November summit — and the details don’t line up with the White House’s description of the event.

While Trump and Putin had initially been scheduled to meet at the summit, Trump publicly canceled the meeting amid new revelations about his financial and business ties to Moscow. Trump cited Russia’s increased aggression toward Ukraine as a reason for canceling the meeting just ahead of the annual summit.

The Kremlin pushed back on Trump’s attempt to cancel the meeting, saying Putin would still have a brief, impromptu meeting with Trump at the summit. In response, a White House official told reporters traveling with Trump to the summit that “there is no scheduled pull aside” between the two leaders.

News reports after the event discussed Trump’s interactions with other world leaders attending the summit, but did not mention any meetings with Putin.

And although the White House acknowledged in a statement at the time that Trump and Putin had briefly exchanged words on the sidelines of the summit, the encounter was described as casual and unplanned — just one of “a number of informal conversations with world leaders.”

But according to the new report, the meeting was not so brief, nor was it just a casual conversation.

Speaking to the Financial Times, a Kremlin official said the meeting lasted upwards of 15 minutes and included discussions about substantive issues including the conflict in Syria, as well as Russia’s recent aggression toward Ukraine and seizure of two Ukrainian Navy vessels.

Trump and Putin also discussed potential arrangements for a formal meeting, the Kremlin official said.

Putin clearly had the upper hand during the exchange, as he was accompanied by a translator. Trump, meanwhile, was accompanied by Melania, and no one else.

“The four of them sat at a table and were among the last to leave,” the Financial Times reported.

None of this was disclosed by the White House, and the timing of the leak from the Kremlin comes just as the Russian government is publicly expressing its anger with the Trump administration for its position on recent events in Venezuela.

The revelation that Trump and Putin discussed Syria policy is particularly damning. Less than three weeks after the November meeting, Trump abruptly and unexpectedly announced that he was ordering U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria — a move that stands to greatly benefit Putin, who praised Trump’s decision, which Trump’s own military and intelligence advisers had warned against.

Since Trump was not accompanied by a notetaker or translator, there is no way to know whether Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria was part of a deal he struck with Putin.

The revelation that Trump was not forthcoming about his November meeting with Putin comes just weeks after the Washington Post reported that Trump had withheld details of his previous talks with Putin from top officials in his administration, including confiscating notes from an interpreter who was present during one of the meetings.

Trump has said he has the right to meet in private with world leaders, but this latest disclosure proves why that’s such a dangerous idea — especially when that world leader is Putin.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

Big Putin Win As White House Lifts Sanctions On Oligarch

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

The Trump administration on Sunday quietly lifted sanctions on three businesses linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Vladimir Putin who also has ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

It was a shockingly brazen move — and “a big win for Putin,” as one former U.S. ambassador to Russia put it.

The move to lift sanctions on three companies linked to one of Putin’s closest allies came despite objections from lawmakers, who say the Trump administration is going too easy on Putin and his allies.

The sanctions had been imposed in April to punish Russia for malign activities, including its annexation of Crimea and continued aggression in Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 presidential election, and its support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Democrats mounted an effort this month to stop Trump’s Treasury Department from lifting sanctions on the Russian companies, but Republicans used their majority in the Senate to block the legislation. Only 11 Republicans were willing to vote against Trump’s demands to ease up on Russia.

Upon hearing the news, Russian state media literally laughed at the GOP’s capitulation, saying the sanctions were only imposed in the first place to make Trump and the GOP look tough ahead of the midterms.

To make matters worse, despite the Treasury Department’s claim that the sanctions were being lifted as part of a deal that would reduce Deripaska’s control and ownership of the businesses, newly revealed confidential documents show that Deripaska and his allies will actually retain majority ownership of the holding company.

As a result, Deripaska is now in a position to wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that he would have otherwise had to repay — precisely the opposite of what the sanctions were supposed to achieve.

That may explain why Trump rolled out the sanctions on a Sunday evening, apparently hoping that no one would notice the huge gift he was handing to Putin, whose economy has been hit hard by U.S.-backed sanctions.

But the move didn’t go unnoticed in Russia. According to The New York Times, Deripaska’s companies celebrated Sunday when the sanctions were removed, with the main holding company calling it “a turning point in this great company’s fortunes.”

And it looks like Deripaska won’t be the only one sharing in the riches: Immediately after the sanctions were officially lifted, one of Deripaska’s companies announced that it was appointing seven new directors as part of its deal with the Treasury Department.

Included among those new directors is a banker named Christopher Bancroft Burnham — who also happened to serve on Trump’s transition team.

And what did the U.S. get in exchange for this deal? Precisely nothing.

No wonder Russia is laughing.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

 

Russian TV Laughs As Senate Republicans Lift Sanctions On Putin Pal

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

The GOP-controlled Senate rejected legislation this week that would have required the U.S. Treasury Department to keep sanctions on companies linked to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

The move is a major win for Putin, whose economy has been hit hard by U.S.-backed sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, its involvement in human rights abuses around the world, and its malicious cyber activities including the 2016 influence operation targeting the U.S. presidential election.

While Democrats had mounted an effort to block Trump’s Treasury Department from lifting sanctions on the Russian companies, Republicans used their majority in the Senate to hand Putin a victory by easing the sanctions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Democratic effort to keep sanctions in place a “stunt.” Only 11 Republicans were willing to vote against McConnell and Trump’s demands to ease up on Russia.

Not surprisingly, the vote came as welcome news in Russia, where state-run media seized on the development and celebrated the fact that Republicans had enough votes to stop the Democratic effort to keep sanctions in place.

As investigative journalist and Russian media analyst Julia Davis first reported on Twitter, the hosts of the popular Russian state TV program “60 Minutes” used Thursday’s episode to highlight the move by Republicans, touting it as the first time since 2014 that the U.S. has lifted sanctions on Russia.

The show’s hosts, Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov, “laugh[ed] out loud about the Democrats not getting enough votes to block the effort,” Davis reported. The pair then “expresse[d] hope that this is just the beginning” of sanctions relief now that the midterms are over and Republicans have maintained their majority in the Senate.

As Davis has noted previously, Russia experts believe the desire for sanctions removal was a key reason why the Kremlin rooted for Republicans to maintain their congressional majorities in the midterm elections last year.

Russian state media reported before the November election that recent economic sanctions proposed by Trump were likely just for show — a ploy to make him look “tough on Russia” — and that he would likely soften his position after the election.

Russian officials even devised a plan to indirectly influence U.S. sanctions policy by fostering a closer alliance between the two countries, focusing on joint economic and business ventures. The Kremlin reportedly believed that a stronger American economy, or at least the image of one, would allow Trump to go easy on sanctions without political consequences.

Part of that plan, according to multiple Russia analysts, involved touting Trump’s supposed economic achievements and cultivating relationships with elected Republicans — many of whom traveled to Moscow last summer and fall.

Russians don’t see Republicans as a “viable threat,” Davis reported, and they believe they’ll capitulate to Trump on foreign policy matters like sanctions. The Kremlin thinks it is particularly promising to promote Trump’s nationalist base as part of an effort to pressure elected Republicans into agreeing to policies that are compatible with Russia’s national interests and goals.

Clearly, the Kremlin was correct in its assessment.

Despite Trump’s frequent claims of being “tough on Russia,” his administration has repeatedly slow-walked sanctions and attempted to remove existing sanctions. And while Republicans have previously forced Trump’s hand on sanctions, this week was among the first times they gave the green light to Trump to lift sanctions that were initially imposed in response to Russia’s election interference.

Sanctions relief has been one of the Kremlin’s top priorities for years. With this week’s vote, Trump and his GOP allies handed Russia a major win without asking the Kremlin for anything in return — publicly, at least.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

‘No Collusion?’ Trump Team Had 100-Plus Contacts With Russians

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

new analysis reveals that members of Trump’s campaign and transition teams had more than 100 contacts with officials linked to the Russian government, despite two years of constant denials from Trump’s team that these conversations and meetings ever happened.

At least 28 high-level campaign officials and Trump advisers knew of these contacts — and not one was ever reported to the authorities. Instead, the new analysis notes, “the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.”

Using publicly available court documents and news reports, researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) counted the number of known contacts between the Trump team and Russian operatives. Many of the operatives had close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other politicians, and some were officials linked to Russian intelligence services and state-run banks.

With the news this week that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates shared polling data with Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik, the total number of contacts now stands at 101, according to the CAP analysis.

The 101 contacts include face-to-face meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails, and video chats. To come up with that number, researchers counted each meeting and communication as a separate contact, but omitted many contacts in which intermediaries stood in for members of Trump’s team.

The total number of contacts they counted is considered to be a conservative estimate, the report says — so the actual number could be much higher.

Contacts between Trump’s team and Russian officials included 28 meetings, starting in November 2015. The contacts continued through January 2017 — the month that Trump took office.

Members of the Trump team who had contacts with Russia during the campaign or transition include, but are not limited to, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner are among the other members of Trump’s team who had contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and/or transition period.

For two and a half years, however, Trump and his associates have denied these contacts and lied to keep them hidden.

Looking only at the 13 months after the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, the Trump team denied having any involvement with Russia at least 20 times.

During the height of the presidential campaign in July 2016, Paul Manafort called it “absurd” when he was asked if there were “any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime.” He went on to flatly deny having any ties to Russia, saying “there’s no basis to it.”

That same month, Trump claimed it was a “conspiracy theory” to suggest that Russia was trying to help him win the election, adding, “I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

He repeated that blanket denial at an October 2016 campaign rally, telling the crowd, “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”

The following month, Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks claimed that “there was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” A short time later, Kellyanne Conway suggested that it was “dangerous” to state that the campaign had contact with Russians who were trying to influence the election.

Trump continued his denials as he prepared to take office, often using Twitter to broadcast his lies. Just days before his inauguration, Trump wrote an all-caps tweet declaring, “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

A few months later, he issued nearly the same denial, saying, “I have nothing to with Russia … no loans, no nothing.”

Even with all of the evidence that has been revealed publicly, Trump still denies reports of contacts between his associates and Russian officials. Just last month, he blasted the Russia investigation in a tweet and once again denied any wrongdoing related to Russia.

“AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” he tweeted.

But unfortunately for Trump, most Americans don’t believe him. According to a December 2018 poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans express little or no trust in Trump’s denials. In contrast, most Americans (53 percent) say they have a lot or some trust in special counsel Robert Mueller to be fair and accurate.

The CAP analysis shows that Americans are right not to believe Trump. No matter how many times he tries to deny it, the evidence clearly shows that not only did members at every level of his campaign have extensive contact with Russia — they also lied about it every time.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

 

Russia Gloats: Thanks To Trump Chaos, ‘We Will Finally Defeat America’

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Trump’s manufactured crisis at the border is wreaking havoc in the U.S., sparking a government shutdown that has lasted for three weeks and causing chaos for federal employees and countless Americans who rely on the basic functions of government to remain operational.

But not everyone is upset about the turmoil.

As reported by investigative journalist and Russian media analyst Julia Davis, Russian state TV is celebrating the chaos.

On Thursday’s episode of the Russian state TV program “60 minutes,” the hosts gleefully highlighted the disarray Trump has caused and cheered on the possibility that he would plunge the U.S. into further chaos by declaring a state of emergency over a non-existent border crisis.

“Then we will finally defeat America,” declared co-host Olga Skabeeva.

Meanwhile, other segments on Russia’s state TV highlighted the controversy over funding for Trump’s border wall — and as seen below, it appears that Russian media is taking its cues from Fox News.

The opinions expressed on state TV provide important insight into the Kremlin’s perspective on domestic affairs in the U.S. Since Russian TV is controlled by the state, the only views and statements that are allowed on state TV are ones that the Kremlin approves of.

Sowing divisions around issues such as immigration was a focus of Russia’s 2016 influence operation, and clearly it remains a focus today.

As Retired General Gen. Hertling explained, the Kremlin likes to see the U.S. in a state of chaos because it puts us in a weaker position on the global stage.

“Our dysfunction remains a delight for Russian state TV, because it meets Putin’s strategy,” Hertling wrote in a tweet.

And with Trump creating more dysfunction every day, Putin couldn’t be more delighted.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

Cohen Will Testify On Capitol Hill Before Going To Jail

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, has agreed to testify in an open session of Congress early next month, marking the first major move by the new Congress to increase accountability for Trump and his associates.

The hearing, scheduled for Feb. 7 before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was announced Thursday afternoon by new committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

“I thank Michael Cohen for agreeing to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily,” Cummings said in a statement. “I want to make clear that we have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office. The Committee will announce additional information in the coming weeks.”

Cohen also released a statement Thursday saying that he had agreed to testify publicly before the committee “in furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers.”

“I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired,” he added.

The announcement was perfectly timed to ruin Trump’s day — coming just as Trump arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border for a photo-op designed to rally support for the wall that no one wants.

While Trump had hoped to dominate the headlines with his stunt, the revelation that Cohen had agreed to testify publicly stole the spotlight as networks interrupted their coverage with the breaking news.

It’s not yet known what Cohen will be asked about when he appears before the congressional committee, but investigators have no shortage of material to work with.

In December, Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple criminal charges, including two campaign finance violations stemming from illegal hush money payments made to women during the presidential campaign.

According to prosecutors, Trump directed Cohen to commit those crimes. If Cohen testifies publicly about Trump’s role in the illegal scheme, that will put Trump in a vulnerable position.

Cohen also pleaded guilty to felony counts of lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia and failing to report millions of dollars in income.

When he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Cohen admitted that he had provided false statements to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Trump Tower Moscow project in order to minimize Trump’s actual role in the effort to build a Trump property in Moscow.

He also admitted to lying about the timeline of the negotiations for the project, claiming they had ended before the Iowa caucuses in February 2016 when they were actually ongoing through the summer of 2016 — meaning that Trump was engaged in negotiations with Moscow, and lying about it, throughout the presidential primary election.

The news about Cohen agreeing to testify publicly marks a significant development in the ongoing investigations encircling Trump and his associates.

As Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer,” Cohen was involved in the inner workings of Trump’s financial and business dealings, as well as his personal life. He knows Trump’s secrets — and now he is about to have an opportunity to tell them to the public.

As former FBI special agent Josh Campbell put it, Cohen’s testimony “will be unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory” because “[h]e’s a witness essentially unencumbered by personal legal jeopardy (he’s already going to jail) and he will not have to respect classification restraints (he doesn’t work for the govt). Buckle up!”

The era of oversight has begun — and if this development is any indication, the road ahead is a rough one for Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

 

Manafort Court Filing Shows Collusion With Kremlin Agent In 2016

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have accidentally revealed information about their client that could provide the strongest evidence yet of direct coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Due to an apparent filing error, Manafort’s lawyers let slip that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has accused Manafort of sharing polling data from the 2016 presidential election with a Russian operative — while Manafort was working with the Trump campaign — and later lying to Mueller about it.

Manafort’s attorneys submitted a new court filing Monday in response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s allegation that Manafort broke his September 2018 plea agreement by lying to federal investigators.

The filing was made public Tuesday, with large portions of the text redacted. It turned out, however, that the redacted text could be revealed simply by copying and pasting it into a new document.

Most of the redacted information pertains to Manafort’s communication with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime ally and business partner of Manafort who is accused by Mueller of being an operative with active ties “to a Russian intelligence service.”

Among other key details, the poorly redacted filing revealed that Mueller’s team has alleged that Manafort “lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”

In other redacted sections, Manafort’s attorneys write that he “conceded” to prosecutors that he discussed a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion,” and that he traveled to Madrid to meet with Kilimnik.

While the date of the meeting in Madrid is not specified in the filing, an unredacted section states that “these occurrences happened during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign.”

All of this looks incredibly damning. One of the key questions investigators have been trying to answer is whether Russian operatives had any help from the Trump campaign when deciding where to target the Facebook ads and other social media operations that made up their 2016 influence operation.

It has previously been reported that Russian Facebook ads specifically targeted battleground states including Wisconsin and Michigan — two states that were crucial to Trump’s electoral college victory. Trump won both states by less than a 1 percent margin, and Michigan was the closest race in the country, with Trump edging out Hillary Clinton by less than 11,000 votes out of an estimated 4.8 million total ballots cast.

“Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal,” CNN reported in October 2017.

“The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages” and “some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.”

At least 25 percent of the Russian-linked Facebook ads released during the 2016 presidential campaign are believed to have been geographically targeted to focus on states with the closest races.

In addition to Russian-linked content, there are also questions about whether the Trump campaign may have worked with outside actors to boost its own efforts as Election Day drew near.

The Trump campaign relied heavily on highly targeted Facebook content to reach its desired audience, and it has been reported that the campaign suddenly shifted resources to Rust Belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

And Manafort may have had an important role in the Trump campaign’s decision to start targeting those states. In November 2016, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported that Manafort sent at least one memo to Trump telling him to focus on Michigan and Wisconsin.

If the campaign passed this information along to Russian operatives, it would have been possible for the foreign agents to amplify the effectiveness of the Trump campaign’s last-minute shift in voter targeting.

And if the information that was accidentally revealed on Tuesday is proven to be true, we may now have an answer as to how Russia knew exactly where and when to target their illegal activities — and that answer would directly implicate the Trump campaign, providing the clearest evidence yet of collusion.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

 

Senate Republicans Protect Don Jr. From Perjury Probe

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is once again rejecting calls to bring Donald Trump Jr. back in to testify before the committee, even in the face of new evidence indicating that the president’s son may have lied to Congress during sworn testimony.

Grassley said Monday that he did not see a need to re-interview Don Jr. because “there is nothing inconsistent” about his prior statement to the committee in which he claimed that he was only “peripherally” aware of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations.

This comes just days after Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Moscow real estate deal, which Donald Trump was allegedly pursuing during the presidential campaign through at least June 2016, despite previous claims that the negotiations ended in January of that year.

In his plea deal, Cohen said he had kept Trump’s family members briefed on the talks through summer of 2016. Although the names of the family members were not specified, multiple reports indicate that Don Jr. and Ivanka were heavily involved in the Moscow deal and would have known that negotiations to build the property were still going on at the height of the 2016 campaign.

In light of the new information regarding the Trump Tower Moscow deal, Democratic lawmakers want to bring Don Jr. back to address the potentially false statements he made in previous testimony.

On Monday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released a statement calling into question the truthfulness of Don Jr.’s testimony, with an emphasis on three areas of particular concern: the Trump Tower Moscow deal; offers of foreign assistance to the Trump campaign; and the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting when Don Jr. met with a Russian government lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“Lying to Congress is a federal crime & the Judiciary Committee must determine if facts were deliberately omitted or misstated to mislead & prevent us from getting to the truth. Chairman Grassley, we must have Donald Trump Jr. & other key witnesses re-appear before the Committee,” Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a tweet.

 

According to CNN, Don Jr. has testified under oath about the proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal to at least three congressional committees.

In September 2017, shortly after the details of the Moscow deal were made public for the first time, the House Judiciary Committee asked Don Jr. about his role in the project. At the time, he said he was “peripherally aware of it” but that most of his knowledge of the real estate venture “has been gained … over the last few weeks.”

He also testified about the Moscow deal before the Senate and House Intelligence committees.

Despite his claims of being only peripherally aware of the negotiations, recent reports indicate that both Don Jr. and Ivanka not only knew about Cohen’s efforts to broker a deal to build Trump Tower Moscow in 2016, but “were also working to make Trump Tower Moscow a reality.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into their involvement in the Moscow talks, but Grassley apparently doesn’t think Don Jr.’s potential perjury is worth the time to investigate further.

Taking a cue from Trump, Grassley claimed this week that allegations that Don Jr. lied to Congress are based on “fake news.”

At the same time, however, Grassley and other GOP leaders are pushing for criminal investigationsof witnesses who they believe gave misleading statements during the Kavanaugh hearings, and during testimony surrounding the so-called “dossier.”

This is not the first time Don Jr. has been accused of lying to Congress during the course of the Russia investigation — nor is it the first time Trump’s GOP allies have helped provide cover for witnesses who may have perjured themselves in congressional testimony.

All of this, of course, begs the question: If Republicans don’t think Don Jr. did anything wrong, why are they going to such great lengths to keep it covered up?

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

Trump Threatens To Reveal Classified Secrets In Partisan Fight

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Trump threatened Wednesday to jeopardize national security to protect himself, saying that if Democrats “want to play tough” by investigating him, he will strike back by declassifying documents he claims will be “devastating” to them.

“If they want to play tough, I will do it,” Trump told the New York Post. “They will see how devastating those pages are.”

After winning a majority in the House of Representatives during the midterm elections, Democrats have made it clear they’re planning to fulfill their constitutional oversight duty by launching a series of investigations into Trump and his scandal-plagued administration.

Trump quite obviously fears what these investigations may uncover — so he’s threatening to declassify sensitive intelligence and wield it as a weapon against the new Democratic majority in a last-ditch effort to protect himself.

Speaking to the Post on Wednesday, Trump said he is waiting to declassify certain documents related to the Russia investigation so he can use them as leverage against Democrats at a time of his choosing.

“It’s much more powerful if I do it then, because if we had done it already, it would already be yesterday’s news,” Trump said, referring to applications for surveillance warrants and other sensitive documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“I’m a counter-puncher and I will hit them so hard they’d never been hit like that,” Trump told the Post.

Earlier this year, Trump threatened to declassify documents and communications related to the Russia investigation and certain government officials he has targeted over the past many months. However, he appeared to back away from this threat temporarily, saying the Justice Department had asked for more time to review the national security concerns involved with declassifying such information.

But based on what he told the Post, it appears that he was also advised by White House lawyer Emmet Flood to hold off on declassifying the documents so they could be weaponized and used for political purposes.

“He didn’t want me to do it yet, because I can save it,” Trump said.

His comments to the Post come just weeks after he threatened to take a “warlike posture” if Democrats try to investigate him or his administration.

With control of the House committees, Democrats are expected to investigate a range of issues that Republicans have ignored for two years.

This includes issues related to Russian election interference and potential coordination with the Trump campaign, as well as Trump’s shady finances and conflicts of interest, the corrupt Cabinet he assembled, and his self-dealing family members.

Democrats have also indicated that they will open up a probe to look at whether Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine the Russia investigation constitute obstruction of justice, and whether his financial ties to Saudi Arabia are guiding his administration’s decision-making in the aftermath of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the behest of the Saudi crown prince.

Trump has so many scandals to investigate that that officials in his administration are reportedly worried that the White House doesn’t have enough lawyers to deal with it all.

And now, he’s threatening to create an entirely new scandal — one that threatens national security by compromising highly sensitive sources and methods — in a desperate attempt to hide from the inevitable fallout of his scandal-ridden presidency.

This wouldn’t be the first time Trump has weaponized our nation’s most sensitive secrets to save his own skin. With the help of his complicit Republican allies, Trump has overseen the selective declassification of a slew of intelligence and, as a result, endangered the lives of crucial informants and forced sources in Russia to go dark due to fears of being outed.

If Trump chooses to declassify intelligence from the Russia investigation for political purposes, the move could have severe repercussions for national security that may last years or even decades — but apparently that’s a price he’s willing to pay to protect himself.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

 

GOP Blocks Senate Bill To Protect Special Counsel

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Senate Republicans blocked an effort Wednesday to advance a bill that would have protected special counsel Robert Mueller.

The push to hold a floor vote on the legislation was led by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) objected to the request to vote on the bill, claiming that it would be unconstitutional to pass legislation to prevent Mueller from being arbitrarily fired or prohibited from carrying out the Russia investigation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also voiced his opposition to the bill, calling it “a solution in search of a problem.”

Republicans have consistently refused to take action to protect Mueller, arguing that such legislation is not necessary. However, the most recent push to bring the bill to the floor for a vote comes amid a series of moves by Trump that indicate the bill is not only necessary but more important than ever before.

On Wednesday, Trump retweeted a meme showing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of the Russia probe, behind bars. The meme also included a caption suggesting that Rosenstein should be tried for “treason.”

Trump later defended the retweet by saying that Rosenstein “should have never picked a special counsel.”

This comes just weeks after Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed loyalist Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker has spoken out against the Russia investigation and indicated that he would support restricting the scope of the probe or even cutting funding for it.

Meanwhile, Trump has ramped up his attacks on Mueller, his team, and the investigation, falsely accusing the special counsel of encouraging witnesses to lie and frequently referring to the probe as a “witch hunt.”

Despite what Republicans claim, there is no reason to believe that Trump won’t try to coerce the new acting attorney general to fire Mueller or obstruct his work. In fact, there’s good reason to believe he may try to do just that, given that he has already fired an FBI director in an attempt to shut down the probe.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

Under Trump, Right-Wing Terrorism Surges In US

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Right-wing domestic terrorism has surged since Trump took office in January 2017, according to a new analysis of global terrorism data from the Washington Post.

The report found that there were more acts of terrorism motivated by right-wing political ideologies in 2017 than all other types of domestic terrorism combined. Out of 65 total incidents, 36 were classified as right-wing terrorism. The remaining incidents included 10 acts of left-wing terrorism, 7 acts of Islamist extremism, and 12 classified as “other/unknown.”

While right-wing terrorism was already on the rise in the years leading up to Trump’s presidency, the report notes that the uptick in violence carried out by right-wing attackers “accelerated” in 2017 and again in 2018.

“Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist,” the report says.

It went on to note that although the data on domestic terror in the U.S. show “a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.”

Overall, acts of right-wing terrorism not only occur more frequently but are also more likely to be deadly than left-wing terrorism, experts told The Post.

In 2018 alone, at least 20 people have been killed in suspected right-wing attacks, according to the analysis. In comparison, analysts only documented one fatality from an attack that may have been motivated by left-wing ideologies.

Despite this, Trump continues to peddle baseless lies portraying Democrats as an “angry left-wing mob,” while ignoring the actual mob violence carried out by right-wing extremists like the Trump-loving Proud Boys.

Terrorism researchers told the Post that right-wing violence has risen alongside “white anxiety about Obama’s Presidency” and has “accelerated in the Trump era.”

While Trump has attempted to deny his role in inspiring violence, experts say right-wing extremists believe Trump is “offering them tacit support for their cause,” according to the Post. And they’re right — he is.

Notably, Trump’s presidency hasn’t driven increases in the incidence of left-wing or Islamist terrorism — only right-wing terrorism.

Since 2014, the total number of politically motivated domestic terror incidents has remained relatively stable, at about 20 attacks per year. At least, it was stable until Trump took office. But in just the first year of his presidency, right-wing attacks tripled from their previous annual average, causing the overall incidence of domestic terrorism to soar.

The new analysis is in line with other recent reports on extremism in the U.S., all of which point to far-right violence as the greatest threat in this area.

According to new FBI statistics released this month, documented hate crimes rose by 17 percent in 2017, with particularly notable increases in anti-Hispanic and anti-Semitic crimes. This coincides with a study by the Anti-Defamation League, which found a 57 percent surge in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017.

During the same time period, white supremacist murders more than doubled, making 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence.

These trends been attributed in large part to Trump’s incendiary rhetorictacit endorsement of violence, and open embrace of far-right extremism. But while Trump’s role in the rise of right-wing violence may be more out in the open, Republicans have done their part too, standing by his side as complicit co-conspirators — at best.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

 

Trump’s DHS Spending Millions To Spy On ‘Caravan’

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

The Trump administration is reportedly paying undercover informants to infiltrate the migrant caravan and spy on the group as they make their way north after fleeing violence in Central America.

According to NBC News, the Department of Homeland Security is overseeing the operation to gather intelligence from the group of about 4,000 asylum-seeking migrants.

In addition to placing undercover informants within the caravan, DHS personnel are also reportedly collecting intelligence from migrants using WhatsApp groups to communicate along their journey.

On Monday, officials from DHS said the intelligence they’d gathered had led them to believe that a large group of migrants was planning to rush the border by running through the car lanes of a border crossing near San Diego.

That prompted Customs and Border Control to close all northbound traffic lanes near the port of entry for three hours on Monday. However, the supposed influx of migrants never occurred.

The use of taxpayer dollars to spy on asylum-seeking migrants has come under scrutiny from some national security officials, who say that although it’s not illegal to pay informants and fund efforts to monitor communications, it’s a highly questionable use of limited resources.

“Those resources have to come from some place. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyberattacks,” John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence for DHS, told NBC News.

“I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan,” he added.

While Trump has tried to portray the migrants as a threatening group of terrorists, gang members, and drug dealers — even sending thousands of troops to the border in a desperate and costly stunt — there have been no reports of violence from the caravan and no indication that they pose any risk to anyone.

Furthermore, the Defense Department’s own risk assessment contradicts Trump’s claims about the migrants being a national security threat.

However, Trump’s apocalyptic fear-mongering did resonate with gun-toting militia members and other far-right extremists, who interpreted his rhetoric as a call to arms and responded by descending on the border region.

Military and law enforcement officials were alarmed enough by the prospect of armed vigilantes gathering alongside thousands of U.S. troops at the border that they were forced to issue warnings to Army commanders and local communities.

Meanwhile, as Trump authorizes the use of tax dollars to spy on people fleeing violence, he is simultaneously stripping funding from programs aimed at combating the exact type of far-right extremism he’s inflaming with his anti-immigrant fear-mongering — in other words, exactly the outcome you’d expect when racism and xenophobia are used to inform public policy.