TBR News January 6, 2019

Jan 06 2019


The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. January 6, 2019:” Donald Trump was always a very spoiled and willful child. When he was much younger, he was quite good looking but now that he is old, his looks have fled and he is fat and balding but he still believes that he is handsome and, most important, still a darling child who always gets his way.

He has constantly lied to anyone who would listen and has a habit of cheating on his bills, abusing his employees and strutting about as if he is actually someone of importance.

As President, assisted in achieving that high office by pragmatic Russians, he has, he knows, achieved the pinnacle of earthly grandeur and deserves to be worshiped, and obeyed, by a public who must learn the magnificence of their jobbed leader.

Trump has insulted legions of people in his life but has made a colossal error by insulting those in the government whose support and cooperation is necessary in leading the nation.

He has also deliberately insulted foreign nations, done terrible damage to the image of the United States as a world leader and the inevitability of his downfall totally escapes him.

The one positive aspect of the Trump attempted dictatorship is to unify disparate political and social entities against him and this union is far more beneficial to the public weal than the struttings, racial dislikes and vulgar personal actions of a man who would be more at home imitating the Roman emperor Nero to a school of deaf-mutes,”

Table of Contents

  • 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 8
  • The key factor in the rise of Trumpism that we continue to ignore
  • Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, but sea-level rise is overtaking his favorite vacation spot
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • American detained by Russia tried to steal thousands of dollars from U.S. while deployed to Iraq as a Marine
  • Smallpox as a weapon

 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 8

November 15, 2018

by Daniel Dale Washington Bureau Chief

Toronto Star

WASHINGTON—It took Donald Trump until the 286th day of his presidency to make 815 false claims.

He just made another 815 false claims in a month.

In the 31 days leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Trump went on a lying spree like we have never seen before even from him — an outrageous barrage of serial dishonesty in which he obliterated all of his old records.

How bad have these recent weeks been?

  • Trump made 664 false claims in October. That was double his previous record for a calendar month, 320 in August.
  • Trump averaged 26.3 false claims per day in the month leading up to the midterm on Nov. 6. In 2017, he averaged 2.9 per day.
  • Trump made more false claims in the two months leading up to the midterms (1,176), than he did in all of 2017 (1,011).
  • The three most dishonest single days of Trump’s presidency were the three days leading up to the midterms: 74 on election eve, Nov. 5; 58 on Nov. 3; 54 on Nov. 4.

As always, Trump was being more frequently dishonest in part because he was simply speaking more. He had three campaign rallies on Nov. 5, the day before he set the record, and eight more rallies over the previous five days.

But it was not only quantity. Trump packed his rally speeches with big new lies, repeatedly reciting wildly inaccurate claims about migrants, Democrats’ views on immigration and health care, and his own record. Unlike many of his lies, lots of these ones were written into the text of his speeches.

Trump is now up to 3,749 false claims for the first 661 days of his presidency, an average of 4.4 per day.

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not telling the truth.

  • Oct 17, 2018

“I do not want to do that, and frankly they (Saudi Arabia) have a tremendous order — $110 billion. Every country in the world wanted a piece of that order. We got all of it. And what are we going to do? Again, I’ve had some senators come up and some congressmen that said, ‘Well, you know, sir, I think what we should do is we should not take that order.’ I said, ‘Who are we hurting? It’s 500,000 jobs. It’ll be ultimately $110 billion. It’s the biggest order in the history of our country from an outside military.’ And I said, ‘We’re going to turn that down? Why would we do that?’”

Source: Interview with Fox Business’s Stuart Varney

in fact: There is no basis for Trump’s claim that Saudi Arabia has made $110 billion in military equipment orders, or that the orders will create 500,000 jobs. The Associated Press wrote: “Trump’s wrong to suggest that he has $110 billion in military orders from Saudi Arabia. A far smaller amount in sales has actually been signed…Details of the $110 billion arms package, partly negotiated under the Obama administration and agreed upon in May 2017, have been sketchy. At the time the Trump administration provided only a broad description of the defense equipment that would be sold. There was no public breakdown of exactly what was being offered for sale and for how much…The Pentagon said this month that Saudi Arabia has signed ‘letters of offer and acceptance’ for only $14.5 billion in sales, including helicopters, tanks, ships, weapons and training. Those letters, issued after the U.S. government has approved a proposed sale, specify its terms…Trump’s repeated claims that he’s signed $110 billion worth of new arms sales to Riyadh are ‘just not true,’ said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former CIA and Defense Department official.” The White House did not respond to a request for an explanation from U.S. website Axios on the jobs claim, which Trump increased from “over 40,000” jobs in March to “450,000 jobs” on Oct. 13 to 500,000 jobs on Oct. 17 to 600,000 jobs on Oct. 19, the day he also introduced the “over a million jobs” claim. Reuters reported: “An internal document seen by Reuters from Lockheed Martin forecasts fewer than 1,000 positions would be created by the defense contractor, which could potentially deliver around $28 billion of goods in the deal. Lockheed instead predicts the deal could create nearly 10,000 new jobs in Saudi Arabia, while keeping up to 18,000 existing U.S. workers busy if the whole package comes together — an outcome experts say is unlikely.”

“…that horrible $150 billion deal we gave them — the Iran deal, the Iran nuclear deal. We pulled it.”

Source: Interview with Fox Business’s Stuart Varney

in fact: The “$150 billion” figure has no basis. Experts said Iran had about $100 billion in worldwide assets at the time; after the nuclear deal unfroze Iranian assets, Iran was able to access a percentage of that $100 billion, but not all of it. PolitiFact reported: “The actual amount available to Iran is about $60 billion, estimates Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pinned it at $56 billion, while Iranian officials say $35 billion, according to Richard Nephew, an expert on economic sanctions at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.” It is also an exaggeration to say Iran was “taking over the Middle East” before Trump took office, though it exerted significant influence in several countries

“Iran has been set back very big when I knocked out the Iran deal, you know it’s a different country than it was. When I first came in, if you look through it and you take a look, oh a day before I came in, Iran was taking over the Middle East, they were going to take over everything, from Syria to Yemen to this — now they’re way pulling back, they’re having riots in the street, they are a mess as a country and that had to do with the day that I pulled that horrible $150 billion deal we gave them — the Iran deal, the Iran nuclear deal. We pulled it.”

Source: Interview with Fox Business’s Stuart Varney

in fact: It is an exaggeration to claim “Iran was taking over the Middle East, they were going to take over everything.” Hussein Banai, a professor who studies Iran at the international studies school at Indiana University, said in an email: “The claim that Iran was on the verge of taking over the Middle East prior to Trump taking office is utterly false. In fact, quite the opposite was the case, as the Sunni-majority Arab states in the region — most vocally led by Saudi Arabia and with the expressed support of the US and Israel — had already begun to curb Iran’s influence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. There is no question that the perception of many of Iran’s rivals in the region after the nuclear deal was that the Islamic Republic had emerged with a stronger geopolitical hand. But the reality was that Iran had merely emerged from nearly 40 years of isolation from which many of these rivals had benefited. So, I would say that the major grievance at the time was that the Obama administration had allowed for the Islamic Republic to become a ‘normal’ country. The issue was never Iran’s military might — its defense expenditures and capabilities are dwarfed by those of Israel and Saudi Arabia — but the fact that it was on the verge of a major economic boom in a post-sanctions world.”

“…look, they’ve been taking $500 billion a year our of country, it’s time that we stopped, OK? We’ve rebuilt China…”

Source: Interview with Fox Business’s Stuart Varney

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017, $375 billion if you only count trade in goods and exclude trade in services.

“You know, it used to take 21 years to get a highway built, you know, bad case, but it would take 21 years, we’re trying to bring that down to two and maybe even one. And by the way, if it’s not right, we’re not going to approve it, but we’re not going to take 21 years to find out whether or not we can do it.”

Source: Interview with Fox Business’s Stuart Varney

in fact: While some controversial and complicated infrastructure projects may have taken 21 years to get approved in the past, there is no basis for Trump’s suggestion that this time frame was standard. The Treasury Department reported under Obama: “Studies conducted for the Federal Highway Administration concluded that the average time to complete a NEPA (environmental) study increased from 2.2 years in the 1970s, to 4.4 years in the 1980s, to 5.1 years in the 1995 to 2001 period, to 6.6 years in 2011.” Further, there is no current evidence that Trump has already succeeded in reducing the standard approval time frame to two years, although he says this is his intention. His Department of Transportation reported a median approval time of 3 years, 10 months in 2017.

“…and our military is rebuilding like it’s never been, really never happen before. We got a raise for the people, they haven’t had a raise in 11 years, we got a raise for the great people in the military and you know we’re doing a lot of things, a lot of great things.”

Source: Interview with Fox Business’s Stuart Varney

in fact: Members of the military have received a pay raise every year. The military pay increase in the 2019 defense bill, 2.6 per cent, is the largest in nine years.

“Our great people in the military hadn’t received a wage increase in more than 10 years. Now they’re getting an increase. First time in more than 10 years.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Military Times reported when Trump first started saying this: “In fact, troops have seen a pay raise of at least 1 per cent every year for more than 30 years.” The pay increase in the 2019 defense bill, 2.6 per cent, is the largest in nine years.

“And that includes NATO, where we’re paying for 90 per cent of NATO to protect Europe. And I think it’s all fine, but they have to pay. I got them to put up $44 billion last year.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: This is a slight exaggeration. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in July that the increase was $41 billion, not $44 billion, since Trump took office: “In fact, since President Trump took office, European allies and Canada have added an additional $41 billion to their defence spending.”


“Because we had these horrible trade deals, we had these horrible military deals, where we paid for everybody’s military, or we certainly don’t get subsidized or paid back what we should be. And that includes NATO, where we’re paying for 90 per cent of NATO to protect Europe.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The U.S. is not paying anywhere near 90 per cent of the cost of NATO. According to NATO’s 2018 annual report, U.S. defence spending — on everything, not just protecting Europe — represented 72 per cent of alliance members’ total defence spending in 2017. Of NATO’s own organizational budget, the U.S. contributes a much smaller agreed-upon percentage: 22 per cent.

“And on trade, as an example, almost $800 billion a year has been lost for many years in our…$800 billion. It’s not even a conceivable number.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The U.S. has not once had an $800 billion trade deficit in any year. The deficit in 2017 was $566 billion. It was $810 billion if you count only trade in goods and ignore trade in services. Trump, as usual, did not say he was doing so.

“You go to the European Union, they had no intention of renegotiating; now they’re renegotiating. We’ll see what happens with that one. They’ve treated us very harshly for many, many years, taking out tremendous amounts of money over $150 billion a year for many years.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Including all kinds of trade, the U.S. had a $102 billion trade deficit with the European Union in 2017, according to U.S. government statistics. The $150 billion figure — actually $151 billion — counts only trade in goods and ignores trade in services, in which the U.S. has a significant surplus.

“Thank you very much, Bob. And I have to say that these are countries, in every instance, which had no intention of ever negotiating with the United States. They were not going to. They were very happy with the deals the way they were. Speaking for Mexico, Canada, South Korea — every one of them. You go to the European Union, they had no intention of renegotiating; now they’re renegotiating.” And: “And they said, ‘We would like to negotiate immediately.’ And President Obama was unable to get anybody even to go to the table. And that goes for previous administrations also, too. It’s incredible.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: During the Obama presidency, the U.S. and European Union engaged in three years of extensive negotiations on a possible free trade agreement, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). (Talks stalled in late 2016, with the U.S. election approaching, amid opposition from factions in key European countries like France and Germany.) The U.S. and 11 other countries also negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which Trump abandoned.

“California is a mess. We’re giving billions and billions of dollars for forest fires in California. There’s no reason for those fires to be like they are. They are leaving them dirty. It’s a disgraceful thing. Old trees are sitting there rotting and dry. And instead of cleaning it up, they don’t touch them; they leave them.” And: “Old trees are sitting there rotting and dry. And instead of cleaning it up, they don’t touch them; they leave them. And we end up with these massive fires that we’re paying hundreds of billions of dollars for — to fix. And the destruction is incredible.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: “Hundreds of billions” is an obvious exaggeration. Bill Gabbert offered a rough estimate on the website Wildfire Today: “The average annual costs of suppressing fires in California from 2003 through 2012 was approximately $300 million. Only one time during that 10-year span did suppression costs exceed $1 billion — in 2008 when about $1.1 billion was spent in the state. If that annual average suppression cost remained the same it would take 180 years to total $200 billion. Mr. Trump’s statement about the costs of suppressing fires in California is off by a factor of approximately 180.” Molly Hunter, a research scientist in the field of fire science at the University of Arizona, suggested looking at 2017 cost-per-fire estimates from the annual report issued by the National Interagency Coordination Center, which handles wildfires. “I haven’t added up the costs for CA, but I don’t think it would amount to billions and billions,” Hunter said in an email, and indeed it does not: the estimates for California fires add up to $513 million. The Sacramento Bee reported: “Although a full accounting won’t be available for months, a review of federal data shows that the U.S. government has spent about $1.4 billion the past two years dealing with wildfires in California.”

“That is great. And I think one thing — very important — roadways and highways were taking forever to get approved. And we’ve cut them down many, many years. And ultimately, maybe we’ll get down to one, but we are getting very close to two. And in some cases, you know many stories where they’re 21, 22 years — 18 years, 19 years to get just approvals. And in many cases, they don’t get approved. After spending tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars on the approval process, in many cases they don’t even get approved after so many years. So we’re down to two years. We’ll very soon be down to two years, and maybe we’ll even do better than that. And they may not get approved, and that’s okay, too, but at least you’re going to know if it’s not going to happen.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: While some controversial and complicated infrastructure projects may have taken 18, 19, 21 or 22 years to get approved in the past, there is no basis for Trump’s suggestion that this time frame was standard. The Treasury Department reported under Obama: “Studies conducted for the Federal Highway Administration concluded that the average time to complete a NEPA (environmental) study increased from 2.2 years in the 1970s, to 4.4 years in the 1980s, to 5.1 years in the 1995 to 2001 period, to 6.6 years in 2011.” Further, there is no current evidence that Trump has already succeeded in reducing the standard approval time frame to two years, although he says this is his intention. His Department of Transportation reported a median approval time of 3 years, 10 months in 2017.

“And I don’t blame China. I blame the people that were in charge of running our country, for allowing that to happen. China was taking out $500 billion a year — and more. And that should never have been allowed to happen.” And: “Our country has rebuilt China — with their hardworking genius also. But how our country has allowed itself to lose $500 billion a year, and much more than that, is ridiculous — is ridiculous.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017, $375 billion if you only count trade in goods and exclude trade in services.

“We totally support people with pre-existing conditions. We have a tremendous level of talent, and we’re doing a lot of work on pre-existing conditions. And Democrats will never be able to pull that off.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: This is nonsensical: Democrats have already implemented a plan to protect people with pre-existing conditions: Obamacare, which made it illegal for health insurance companies to discriminate against these people. It is Republicans, who have made repeated attempts to to repeal Obamacare, who have not put forward a clear plan. As part of a Republican lawsuit to try to get the Affordable Care Act struck down, Trump’s administration is formally arguing that the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional and should be voided. Trump has not said what he would like to replace these protections with.

“African-American, Hispanic American, Asian-American unemployment rates have all recently achieved their lowest levels ever recorded.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The unemployment rate for African-Americans and Hispanics was indeed at a record low, at least for the period since the government began releasing data for this group in the 1970s. The Asian-American unemployment rate, however, was not close to a record. It briefly dropped to a low, 2.0 per cent, in May — a low, at least, since the government began issuing Asian-American data in 2000 — but the most recent rate at the time Trump spoke, for September, was 3.5 per cent. This was higher than the rate in Obama’s last full month in office — 2.8 per cent in December 2016 — and in multiple months of George W. Bush’s second term.

“We’ve rebuilt and are in the process of rebuilding our military to a level that it’s never been before. I had to do that. In order to get the $700 [billion] and the $716 billion — those numbers have never been heard of before…”

Source: Remarks at meeting with workers on regulations

in fact: Those numbers have been heard of before. Obama signed a $725 billion version of the same bill in 2011.

“And they are an ally. We have other very good allies in the Middle East. But if you look at Saudi Arabia, they’re an ally and they’re a tremendous purchaser of not only military equipment, but other things. When I went there, they committed to purchase $450 billion worth of things, and $110 billion worth of military. Those are the biggest orders in the history of this country — probably the history of the world. I don’t think there’s ever been any order for $450 billion. And you remember that day in Saudi Arabia where that commitment was made.”

Source: Remarks at meeting with workers on regulations

in fact: There is no basis for either the claim that the U.S. has $450 billion in business orders from Saudi Arabia or that it has $110 billion in military-related orders from Saudi Arabia. The White House has not explained what Trump has talking about; PolitiFact reported: “Hossein Askari, a business professor at George Washington University, analyzes international trade in the Middle East. He knows of no tally of contracts to back up Trump’s assertion. ‘There is absolutely no such number that could support the $450 billion,’ Askari said.” As for the $110 billion figure, the Associated Press wrote: “Trump’s wrong to suggest that he has $110 billion in military orders from Saudi Arabia. A far smaller amount in sales has actually been signed…Details of the $110 billion arms package, partly negotiated under the Obama administration and agreed upon in May 2017, have been sketchy. At the time the Trump administration provided only a broad description of the defense equipment that would be sold. There was no public breakdown of exactly what was being offered for sale and for how much…The Pentagon said this month that Saudi Arabia has signed ‘letters of offer and acceptance’ for only $14.5 billion in sales, including helicopters, tanks, ships, weapons and training. Those letters, issued after the U.S. government has approved a proposed sale, specify its terms…Trump’s repeated claims that he’s signed $110 billion worth of new arms sales to Riyadh are ‘just not true,’ said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former CIA and Defense Department official.”

“We’re stopping Iran. We went a big step when we took away that ridiculous deal that was made by the previous administration — the Iran deal — which was $150 billion and $1.8 billion in cash. What was that all about?”

Source: Remarks at meeting with workers on regulations

in fact: The “$150 billion” figure has no basis. Experts said Iran had about $100 billion in worldwide assets at the time; after the nuclear deal unfroze Iranian assets, Iran was able to access a percentage of that $100 billion, but not all of it. PolitiFact reported: “The actual amount available to Iran is about $60 billion, estimates Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pinned it at $56 billion, while Iranian officials say $35 billion, according to Richard Nephew, an expert on economic sanctions at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.” It is also an exaggeration to say Iran was “taking over the Middle East” before Trump took office, though it exerted significant influence in several countries.


“So one of things we’re most proud about is what’s happened with our steel industry. Our steel industry was dead. Our aluminum — the aluminum industry was dead. It was dead as a doornail — both of them. And steel in particular, but aluminum also — steel is through the roof now.” And: “Steel was — we weren’t going to have a steel industry. Steel is a very important, you know, category.”

Source: Remarks at meeting with workers on regulations

in fact: The U.S. steel and aluminum industries were not “dead” or nearing extinction before Trump imposed his tariffs, though the steel industry was obviously much smaller than it was at the heyday of large integrated steel mills. The American Iron and Steel Institute said then: “The steel industry directly employs around 140,000 people in the United States, and it directly or indirectly supports almost one million U.S. jobs.” Bloomberg reported in an October fact check: “In fact, U.S. steelmakers Nucor Corp. and Steel Dynamics Inc. were two of the healthiest commodity companies in the world before Trump took office and imposed 25 percent tariffs on foreign steel imports


The key factor in the rise of Trumpism that we continue to ignore

How the end of the Cold War led to the election of President Trump

January 2,2019

by  Mitchell Lerner

The Washington Post

President Trump’s surprising electoral victory in 2016 launched a wide array of suggested explanations. Racism. Sexism. Class divisions. Russia. Cheating. There may be some truth in all (or none) of these hypotheses. However, one important factor has been absent from the conversation: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

While these events happened three decades ago, analysts who ignore their impact on the contemporary political moment are missing a central piece of the story about how the United States reached its current destination, and are thus offering an incomplete vision of the formation of the Trump coalition.

From its earliest days, American politics were defined by a fierce distrust of the federal government, a sentiment that produced the weak Articles of Confederation and then underlay the criticisms of its stronger replacement. Maryland’s Luther Martin spoke for many of the antifederalists in 1788 in his condemnation of the Philadelphia convention for giving the federal government “great and undefined powers,” which threatened “the destruction of the state governments, and the introduction of monarchy.”

While the antifederalists lost, fears of a powerful federal government that might trample individual rights remained the guiding force in American politics for generations. “The people reign in the American political world like God over the universe,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville. “It is the cause and aim of all things, everything comes from them, and everything is absorbed in them.”

The Cold War, however, challenged this traditional hostility toward centralized power. Unlike the rapid rise and fall of the federal state that had occurred in earlier American wars, World War II bequeathed to the nation another conflict, one that would last a half-century and would, with the rise of nuclear weapons and the spread of a hostile political ideology, appear particularly ominous to the American public.

The 1950 outbreak of the Korean War convinced many Americans both in and out of government that communism was on the march and presented such a danger to the United States that expanded federal power was necessary. Federal government spending thus exploded during the Korean War, but unlike in previous conflicts, it remained on the upward trajectory afterward, almost doubling over the next 15 years. Even many conservatives were willing to accept this new path as necessary. So great was the perceived threat that shortly after the war ended in 1953, some of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s aides warned that the Cold War might necessitate restrictions on basic American liberties that could change the nation’s fundamental way of life. Nevertheless, they were “prepared to go to full mobilization and controls if this were necessary to safeguard the national security.”

This perceived threat led Americans to continue to acquiesce to the increased growth and reach of their national government during the Cold War years, as many came to see government as not just a necessary evil but sometimes as something positive. The defining sense among the American people that a powerful government would inevitably strip them of individual rights had been replaced by a sense that a powerful federal government was necessary to safeguard their fundamental freedoms, and from that changed perspective flowed a somewhat artificial marriage between the two that underlay much of the next few decades of expansive federal policy.

In 1964, 77 percent of Americans said they trusted the federal government all or most of the time. In 1972, conservative President Richard M. Nixon, who had created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, imposed price and wage controls and proposed a federally guaranteed minimum income program, was reelected with almost 61 percent of the popular vote, with foreign policy issues at the heart of his victory. While few Americans had learned to love a powerful federal government, they had at least learned to live with it, especially if it meant keeping communism at bay.

This sentiment, however, began to wane in the 1970s, largely in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, which reminded many of why Americans had distrusted the government for so long. President Ronald Reagan capitalized on the emerging sentiment to win the White House in 1980, famously declaring that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” The Soviet Union’s collapse removed the last restraint on anti-federal government sentiment. Big government was suddenly no longer needed to defend the national interests against the communist threat, and perhaps, no longer needed for anything else.

Years of pent-up hostility toward government and those who administered it exploded. Conservatives, some of whom had grudgingly accepted the expanded federal government and others who had been marginalized by the new moderation, now sought to make amends and seize political opportunity by launching frenzied attacks on federal programs and the bureaucrats who oversaw them. Decades before the Trump presidency, Republican congressmen led by Newt Gingrich of Georgia weaponized the debt ceiling, opposed providing federal disaster funds unless they were offset by federal spending cuts, launched personal and partisan assaults on Democratic leaders that fundamentally damaged the legislative process and forced a lengthy federal government shut down. The end of the Cold War had liberated them from the threat of big government tyranny, many believed, and it was time to undo the damage that had been done.

“The Fall of the Berlin Wall symbolizes an epochal change in the way people live,” declared the Republican Party platform in 1992. “More important, it liberates the way people think. We see with new clarity that centralized government bureaucracies created in this century are not the wave of the future. Never again will people trust planners and paper shufflers more than they trust themselves.” Although Democrat Bill Clinton won that election, he, too, recognized the changing vision unfolding around him, as 60 percent of the country thought the government was trying to do “too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses,” while a mere 32 percent favored more government involvement. “The era of big government is over,” Clinton famously announced.

No one, however, embodied this anti-government sentiment quite like Trump. Portraying himself as the ultimate outsider, Trump condemned federal programs and officials with an almost unprecedented ferocity.

Trump also went much further, attacking the basic political norms and assumptions that had defined much of 20th-century America. He didn’t just criticize Hillary Clinton; he called for her imprisonment. He didn’t just disagree with his media critics; he labeled them enemies of the people. He rejected the traditional standards to which presidential candidates had previously adhered, refusing to release his tax returns, refusing to divest from his financial empire and even refusing to promise to accept defeat if it came at the ballot box.

Fifty years earlier, such tactics probably would have appalled an American populace that had accepted action from Washington as necessary and sometimes even welcome. In 2016, however, they resonated with a nation whose trust in the government to “do what is right” had fallen to 18 percent. Without the Cold War realities to buttress the pro-government consensus, the nation had stormed down a path of renewed and hyper-intense hostility toward the government and its representatives.

That path had been largely dormant since World War II, but in 2016 it helped lead Trump to the White House. With the 2020 elections on the horizon, it is important to understand the complex and deeply historical roots of those 2016 results. Doing so requires that we move beyond the easy explanations of race and gender and recognize the important role played by changing perceptions of the fundamental role of government in American life.


This is the Nancy Pelosi moment and Donald Trump should be very afraid

For two years the President has shown disdain for the institutions and practices of governance. Bad move. A new era has just dawned

January 6, 2019

by Sarah Churchwell

The Guardian

The Trump White House has frequently been called chaotic, wild, undisciplined, disorderly. But a better word might be “unruly,” because if there’s one thing Donald Trump can’t abide, it’s rules. Not only has the Trump administration signally failed to follow the rules, it’s not clear it ever bothered to learn them. But as the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives last week, that abruptly changed. Trump is about to get schooled in the rules of the game.

For two years, thanks to a Republican Congress that chose not to honor its constitutional duty to maintain oversight of the executive branch, the American political drama has centred on special counsel’s Robert Mueller’s investigation. But that focus is about to widen, as Nancy Pelosi, the once and future Speaker of the House, reclaimed the gavel, promising to show Americans its power: the picture of her smiling as she wielded it went viral, for good reason.

That the game has changed, significantly, was clear in the many stories and images circulating last week: as the first two Native American women sworn into Congress tearfully embraced; as Ilhan Omar became the first woman to wear the hijab in Congress and Rashida Tlaib was sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran; as Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual woman to join Congress, and swore her oath of office on the Constitutions of the United States and her home state of Arizona, rather than on a religious text; and as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to a failed attempt to shame her for once having danced on a rooftop in a tribute to The Breakfast Club by dancing into her congressional office.

Pelosi began by sending the president a brief letter, instructing him to deliver a State of the Union address on 29 January. It opened by reminding Trump of the rules that are about to be enforced: “The constitution established the legislative, executive, and judicial branches as co-equal branches of government.” Some commentators called this sentence gratuitous and for any other president it would have been. But this one has more than earned a civics lesson, given that he notoriously claimed as he entered office that Congress works for him. Certainly, the Congress he’s enjoyed until now, under Senator Mitch McConnell and former Speaker Paul Ryan (who just left office with a dismal 12% approval rating), gave him reason to think so, and McConnell continues to do so.

Pelosi’s first action was to summon Trump to Congress at her behest. The message was clear: this is her territory, and she’s in charge now. Refusing to fund Trump’s signature promise of a wall on the southern border, Pelosi called it a barrier not “between America and Mexico, but between reality and his constituents, his supporters”. Pelosi will reintroduce the Trump White House to reality, putting serious brakes on what is increasingly a runaway train. One way to do that is through non-partisan strengthening of the electoral process and Democrats introduced a bill that calls for automatic voter registration, nationwide early voting, ending congressional gerrymandering and the release of presidential tax returns.

But Pelosi is also asserting the power of her office, going so far as to claim in one interview that the constitution makes her office equal to the president’s. This is untrue: Congress in its entirety equals the presidency, while she only leads one of its two chambers. That said, Pelosi has just, not incidentally, become third in line to the Oval Office; should something occur that occasioned the removal of both the president and the vice president from office before 2020, Nancy Pelosi would by law assume the presidency.

But what might such a something be? Many Americans think Congress, which can remove the president, is spoiled for justifications. One freshman member of the 116th House, the most diverse in American history, lost no time in saying so. Palestinian-American Tlaib caused uproar when she celebrated her accession to Congress by telling advocacy group MoveOn that the House would “impeach the motherfucker.”

That is not currently the position of senior members of the House; Pelosi has made clear that she awaits the outcome of the Mueller investigation before deciding whether to bring impeachment proceedings. Nor would impeachment guarantee Trump’s removal: the House votes whether to impeach, but the Senate votes whether to expel and it’s hard to imagine McConnell’s Senate doing any such thing. Certainly not as matters stand.

But that’s also where things get interesting. The Democrats now control oversight and investigations, with subpoena power. On her second day, Pelosi denounced the “culture of cronyism, corruption and incompetence” in the Trump administration, including, she specified, the personal enrichment of individual cabinet members. For two years, numerous ethics scandals have passed by a Congress that barely exerted itself to shrug; now, Democrats chair the committees of jurisdiction and have the power to jail those who defy subpoenas. That power has not been exercised in almost a century, but every weapon in the congressional arsenal may be needed to stop a president who weaponises reality itself.

House Democrats’ oversight and investigatory powers are much broader than Mueller’s very specific investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. They have announced their intention to follow the money and can rigorously investigate not only Russian electoral interference, but also the Trump family’s financial ties with foreign governments, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, and the possibility that those financial interests are influencing the administration’s policy; money laundering; ethics violations; abuses of power, including profiting from the presidency; and obstruction of justice. They can investigate Trump’s personal finances, and demand his tax returns; if he refuses, they can take it to the courts. In addition, they have promised to scrutinise the legality of some of the administration’s more controversial policies, including the separation of immigrant families at the border. Should the president fire Mueller, they can reappoint him as independent counsel. Any of these investigations might seriously change the picture regarding impeachment.

The House committees can also turn over evidence they uncover to the Department of Justice for prosecution, which may change the DOJ’s position on whether to indict a sitting president. The DOJ is obeying a directive – not a law, but an internal procedural memo – stating that, in general, a sitting president should not be indicted, for the simple (and good) reason that this could usurp congressional oversight. According to the directive’s logic, if a president breaks the law, Congress should impeach and remove and then the Justice Department can decide whether to indict an ordinary citizen. But these investigations raise significant questions about whether Trump became president illegally or thanks to criminal activity; in such circumstances, according to many legal experts, including the former US Solicitor General Neal Katyal, the Justice Department is not bound to follow this “general” directive.

Donald Trump has long believed that the rules don’t apply to him, but that’s only because they haven’t been applied to him. The likes of Omar, Tlaib, Sinema, Ocasio-Cortez, and their male freshmen colleagues, will hold Pelosi to account, as well as Donald Trump – about whom we can finally stop asking when the game will be on and start asking when the game will be up.


Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, but sea-level rise is overtaking his favorite vacation spot

by Leanna Garfield

Business Insider

President Donald Trump likes to vacation at Mar-a-Lago, an estate and beach resort in South Florida that he purchased in 1985. Since being elected, he has  frequently stayed in the private quarters of the property’s 126-room mansion, dubbed his “winter White House.”

But Mar-a-Lago is under threat from climate change. That’s according to  a 2017 report by the National and Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which says that rising sea levels are increasingly damaging South Florida’s coasts.

The NOAA predicts that flooding caused by climate change will only worsen in coming years. The organization projects South Florida could see a 10- to 12-foot rise in sea levels by 2100.

Since water surrounds most of Florida, sea-level rise will affect the state (by total population) more than anywhere else in the US. Other at-risk states include New York, California, Virginia, and New Jersey, the researchers say.

In 2016, water was already  overflowing into the Mar-a-Lago property, as well as the bridges and roads needed to access it. Another  2016 paper found that, since 2006, the average annual rate of sea-level rise had tripled from 3 millimeters to 9 millimeters in South Florida.

If sea levels rise just two feet, the estate’s western lawns would completely flood, according to The AP. South Florida roads also already flood periodically during storms or high tides. And in recent years, cities like  Miami and Titusville have installed expensive pumping systems to drain the water.

Later this year, Miami Beach will begin  a $100 million flood prevention project, which includes raising roads, installing pumps and water mains, and re-building sewer connections. Many scientists say that a combination of polar melting, carbon emissions, and ice-sheet collapses could cause severe flooding  that overwhelms the city by 2100.

Scientists say that climate change will greatly contribute to future sea-level rise. As the planet warms,  land ice melts, which contributes to the expansion of oceans.

In June, the Trump administration  announced that the US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change by 2019. Established in 2015, the accord sets greenhouse-gas emission goals that signatory countries vow to meet.

After Trump’s Paris Agreement announcement, White House officials refused to answer if Trump believed in the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

January 6, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.


Conversation No. 75

Date:  Tuesday, April 1, 1997

Commenced:  2:05 PM CST

Concluded: 2:25 PM CST

GD: I was having a nice talk with Bill yesterday evening. You now, his wife is a very nice person but he’s getting to be a bore. I mean he has all kinds of lies he keeps trying to shove off on me and it’s all I can do to keep from tossing them back in his face. Carter was going to make him head of the CIA for instance. Winning the French Legion of Honor for another fib. Didn’t. But, I must say he is a sharp person. But Bill makes a very important statement today and tomorrow, forgets about it. How much does he know about the Kennedy business?

RTC: Not as much as he would like to. I’ve told you more than I ever told him. Why? Because Bill would take that football and try to make a goal with it. You know how to keep your mouth shut.

GD: A compliment. Everyone else says I can’t keep quiet.

RTC: Oh, that’s true too but I have noticed that you seem to know just what you’re saying even though it sounds like chatter.

GD: You think I might be devious?

RTC: Christ yes.  I know you’re devious, Gregory. And I am happy I am your friend. I seem to have heard rumors that your enemies have terrible problems.

GD: Nonsense. I am a true Christian, Robert. I do unto others before they do unto me.

RTC: Your friend Atwood hates you.

GD: I know. He tried to blind side me but I beat him to the punch. People like Jimmy think they can walk on water until they try it and then they drown. Well, I got the gold and he didn’t.

RTC: And his friends?

GD: Probably swimming around the Caribbean fornicating with mermaids.

RTC: More likely as crab bait.

GD: Such pessimism. Mueller was a pessimist, Robert. He was the same way. Always misinterpreting my pure Christian motivations.

RTC: I recall the loaded soup.

GD: Well, they had it coming.

RTC: Oh, I agree with that. Why didn’t you put something a little stronger into the pot?

GD: Like roach or rat poison?

RTC: Well, something like that.

GD: Mueller asked me the same thing. I have an answer for you, Robert. The same one I gave to Mueller. I only found the detergent. If there were other additives, I never found any. Would I have stuck them into the pot? Well, probably but then we’ll never know, will we? If I had, and if I got away with it, the conspiracy loonies would still be writing books about how the Illuminati were behind it.

RTC: Oh my God, don’t knock those idiots. They put up such a smokescreen over the Kennedy hit that the truth will never be seen, let alone published. Everyone has their uses, Gregory.

GD: What about Mongoloids?

RTC: Entertainment?

GD: Why not? Hire the handicapped because they’re so much fun to watch.

RTC: We used to hire the most stupid people in the Company because we could always set them up.

GD: Sounds like Oswald.

RTC: Yes, doesn’t it.

GD: Except Oswald worked for the FBI and ONI instead of you.

RTC: Notice how quickly they abandoned him.

GD: Certainly.

RTC: And then there was Jack Rubenstein.

GD: Comic relief. I wonder what happened to his dog?

RTC: The Dallas cops ate her at a barbecue.

GD: And they killed her afterwards?

RTC: We are veering into the lewd, Gregory.

GD: Sheba. A dachshund. They don’t make good eating.

RTC: You speak from experience?

GD: Ah, but with a really good sauce and a first class Burgundy, even a dog tastes pretty good.

RTC: Have you….

GD: No. I remember one time, I had a friend who worked in the city morgue in San Francisco and someone stuck a dead baby in a box and left it there. It was winter so it was pretty fresh. He was on the night shift and was drunk so he called me up and said he had a present. Not a nice person.

RTC: He gave you the poor baby? What did you do with it?

GD: Put on the back seat of someone’s car and called the police. Such excitement.

RTC: Who was the fortunate recipient?

GD: I don’t know. It was an expensive car parked near a fancy restaurant. Stirred things up a bit. The dead baby probably went back to the morgue, a bit shopworn, and the car owner and the police had a stimulating and unforgettable evening.

RTC: A monster.

GD: Oh, I know and I sleep upside down like a big bat. I wonder, speaking of dead babies, how much longer Jimmy Atwood will last? We do have a bet.

RTC: As I recall. Jim called me a week or so ago but he never said a word. Remind me to send you a thick stack of his reports from Pullach. He and the Gehlen people. My God, they hired half the Gestapo there.

GD: I knew a number of them.  I would love to stick him with that. Papers might help a bit.

RTC: Now Jim is furious so perhaps it might not be a good idea for you to poke sticks at him. He has wiped out a number of people in his life so watch him.

GD: He’d better watch me, Robert. I’ll bet he told others to do the dirty deeds. I take care of my own problems. Sure he didn’t talk about me?

RTC: Positive. He’s working on a book that will sell all of ten copies. He read your books and I know from his reports that he can’t hold a candle to you as far as literary style is concerned. I did needle him a bit when I said how well you wrote.

GD: Did you mean it?

RTC: Yes. His book will be an exercise in mendacity and self-adulation.

GD: You took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve been eating some Limburger cheese, Robert, so don’t inhale.


(Concluded at 2:25 PM CST)


American detained by Russia tried to steal thousands of dollars from U.S. while deployed to Iraq as a Marine

January 4, 2018

by Paul Sonne, Amie Ferris-Rotman and Shane Harris

The Washington Post

The Marine Corps found Paul Whelan, the American citizen detained by Russia on espionage charges, guilty of attempting to steal more than $10,000 worth of currency from the U.S. government while deployed to Iraq in 2006 and bouncing nearly $6,000 worth of checks around the same time, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.

The details of the charges against Whelan from a special court-martial two years later, which resulted in his discharge for bad conduct, add to an increasingly complex picture of the 48-year-old former Marine, whom Russian officials have accused of spying. His case grew more perplexing on Friday after Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge him as a citizen and seek consular access.

Since his arrest last week in Moscow, Whelan has rocketed onto the public radar, drawing international attention to his complex journey from the Marine Corps Reserve to a detention cell in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison. People who served alongside Whelan said he was learning Russian and traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg on vacation during the same deployment in which the Marine Corps accused him of attempted larceny.

The Marines have not provided any additional information about the circumstances surrounding Whelan’s crimes while serving in the armed forces. Russian authorities have not said what Whelan is accused of doing beyond the relatively broad charge of espionage which, if convicted, could land him between 10 and 20 years behind bars.

Whelan served as an administrative chief during in the Marines – a job akin to office management that would have given him access to certain sensitive systems, likely including those the service uses to issue orders and hand out awards.

In addition to convicting him for attempted larceny and bouncing checks, the Marine Corps also found Whelan guilty of falsely using another person’s social security number to sign in the online training system Marines access to complete courses that can advance their rank and pay. The record of conviction says Whelan “proctored” an account on the system without permission.

The Marines charged him with fraudulently opening electronic proctor accounts on the system, completing multiple examinations and grading his own examinations, which could have resulted in advancements in rank and pay. The special court-martial, however, found him not guilty of that charge.

The special court-martial also found him guilty of willfully failing to report his leave on three occasions and going absent from his unit twice, in one case for two days.

The court knocked him down two pay grades, restricted him to places of lodging, eating and worship for 60 days and discharged him from the Marine Corps for bad conduct. He appealed the ruling but the service upheld the conviction. The bad conduct discharge resulted in his rank being reduced to private after some fourteen years in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, bouncing checks is a violation of an article designed to uphold discipline and good order and prevent conduct that brings discredit to the service. Broadly speaking, the military seeks to prevent officers from having outstanding debts that could offer adversaries leverage in espionage or blackmail.

Whelan’s brother David said he had no knowledge of the judicial proceedings or convictions in the Marine Corps. In a statement issued on behalf of the family on Friday, he urged Congress and the State Department to help secure his brother’s release, and expressed gratitude to the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., for his assistance.

“Our focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home,” the statement said.

Whelan’s family has maintained he is innocent, and that the Michigan resident and former policeman was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding when he was arrested by members of Russia’s security services in an upscale hotel not far from the Kremlin.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Washington would demand Whelan’s release if his detention is not “appropriate.” Whelan was visited by Huntsman inside his cell.

Whelan’s financial problems potentially would have made him a prime target for Russian intelligence services.

Intelligence services routinely look for people in financial distress who they might recruit or blackmail. An active duty Marine traveling in Russia would have quickly caught the attention of Russian intelligence services, said Dan Hoffman, a former CIA officer who served as the chief of station in Moscow.

Hoffman emphasized that he had no knowledge of whether Whelan was recruited or approached. He said that from the moment Whelan set foot in Russia, he was likely monitored, and that the intelligence services would have developed a profile of his comings and goings, and potentially his communications. The Russian government would have known that Whelan was coming when he applied for a visa.

Whelan also had an active profile for years on the Russian social media platform VKontakte. That would have given the services a window into Whelan’s contacts in Russia.

“The Russians have a saying: ‘What makes a person breathe?’ ” Hoffman said.

The Russian government would have already known a lot about Whelan before his arrest in December, Hoffman added. “None of this was by chance. This was a chess game.”

Hoffman, like other former U.S. officials, has speculated that the Russians may want to trade Whelan for Maria Butina, a Russian woman and gun-rights activist who has pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of Russia in the United States.

Whelan’s Russian lawyer, who is a former Soviet government investigator, has indicated that he hopes his client might be traded for Butina, telling the Daily Beast that he wants to bring back “at least one Russian soul.”

Whelan began traveling to Russia at least two years before his discharge from the Marines. Those who served with him in Iraq in 2006 recalled that he was learning Russian for fun during the deployment and took a vacation to Moscow and St. Petersburg during their weeks off, when many of the Marines went home to visit family.

A now-defunct website that Whelan maintained around that time is filled with musings about the Russians he befriended, Russian cultural icons such as the stuffed animal Cheburashka and places he visited in the nation. Together, the public pages form the sort of public profile someone engaging in espionage would be unlikely to keep.

“Having grown up during the Cold War, it was a dream of mine to visit Russia and meet some of the sneaky Russians who had kept the western world at bay for so long!!” Whelan wrote.

He met some of his Russian friends through tour agencies, online language sites and social media, according to those who spoke to The Washington Post. On his website, he posted photos of young Marines he served with in Iraq and recent graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as photos of Russians he counted as friends, some of whom he said were serving in the Russian military at the time.

Any attempt by Whelan to make inroads with Russian active-duty soldiers while an active-duty Marine could potentially have put him on the radar of Russia’s security services. None of the content on his website at the time, however, suggests an awareness of such a risk.

On one page, he posted a photo of Lubyanka, the former KGB headquarters in central Moscow which is still the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, or the FSB.

“This is “Lubyanka” where the KGB has our spies locked in the basement!!” Whelan wrote.

Much of the website content is lighthearted, with photos of pets, stuffed animals and cartoons. He also details his political views, railing against American liberals.

The details of Whelan’s convictions in the Marine Corps come as Moscow copes with the diplomatic fallout of detaining a man who appears to be a citizen of four countries.

In addition to demands by the Trump administration for greater details on Russia’s claims against Whelan, three other nations are now in the mix.

Whelan also carried passports from Canada, where he was born, as well as from Britain and Ireland. Whelan obtained the two European passports through family lineage.

A person familiar with Whelan’s case said he has a total of four passports. “He collected them as a game. There was an ongoing competition with his sister to see who could get the most,” the person said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity surrounding the situation.

Both Britain and Ireland are now seeking consular access to Whelan, who is being held in a detention facility on the outskirts of Moscow.

Britain and Russia’s relationship sharply deteriorated last year after a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, was poisoned in England with a nerve agent and spent months recovering. British authorities have blamed Russia for carrying out the attack – an assertion Moscow denies.

The minimal amount of information provided by Russia – where many offices are closed until after Orthodox Christmas on Monday – has added to the intrigue. There has been no word from the Kremlin on Whelan’s arrest.

Questions have persisted about whether Whelan’s arrest amounted to retaliation for the U.S. conviction of Butina.

In December, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate U.S. conservative groups. Butina, 30, is the first Russian national to be convicted of seeking to influence U.S. policy in the run-up to the 2016 election by acting as a foreign agent.

Shortly before Butina pleaded guilty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said she was not known to any of his spy agencies. The Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to paint Butina as a political prisoner, notably by launching a wide-ranging social media campaign.

“We don’t agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News. “Because it is desperately worrying, not just for the individual but their families, and we are extremely worried about him and his family as we hear this news.”

The Washington Post’s Julie Tate contributed to this report. Ferris-Rotman reported from Moscow.


Smallpox as a weapon

January 6, 2018

by Marshall Carter, MD

The deliberate reintroduction of smallpox as an epidemic disease would be an international crime of unprecedented proportions, but it is now regarded as a possibility. An aerosol release of variola virus would disseminate widely, given the considerable stability of the orthopoxviruses in aerosol form and the likelihood that the infectious dose is very small. .Moreover, during the 1960s and 1970s in Europe, when smallpox was imported during the December to April period of high transmission, as many as 10 to 20 second-generation cases were often infected from a single case. Widespread concern and, sometimes, panic occurred, even with outbreaks of fewer than 100 cases, resulting in extensive emergency control measures.

Smallpox was once worldwide in scope, and before vaccination was practiced, almost everyone eventually contracted the disease. There were 2 principal forms of the disease, variola major and a much milder form, variola minor (or alastrim). Before eradication took place, these forms could be differentiated clinically only when occurring in outbreaks; virological differentiation is now possible. Through the end of the 19th century, variola major predominated throughout the world. However, at the turn of the century, variola minor was first detected in South Africa and later in Florida, from whence it spread across the United States and into Latin America and Europe. Typical variola major epidemics such as those that occurred in Asia resulted in case-fatality rates of 30% or higher among the unvaccinated, whereas variola minor case-fatality rates were customarily 1% or less.

Smallpox spreads from person to person, primarily by droplet nuclei or aerosols expelled from the oropharynx of infected persons and by direct contact. Contaminated clothing or bed linens can also spread the virus. There are no known animal or insect reservoirs or vectors.

Historically, the rapidity of smallpox transmission throughout the population was generally slower than for such diseases as measles or chickenpox. Patients spread smallpox primarily to household members and friends; large outbreaks in schools, for example, were uncommon. This finding was accounted for in part by the fact that transmission of smallpox virus did not occur until onset of rash. By then, many patients had been confined to bed because of the high fever and malaise of the prodromal illness. Secondary cases were thus usually restricted to those who came into contact with patients, usually in the household or hospital.

The seasonal occurrence of smallpox was similar to that of chickenpox and measles—its incidence was highest during winter and early spring. This pattern was consonant with the observation that the duration of survival of orthopoxviruses in the aerosolized form was inversely proportional to both temperature and humidity.Likewise, when imported cases occurred in Europe, large outbreaks sometimes developed during the winter months, rarely during the summer.

The patient was most infectious from onset of rash through the first 7 to 10 days of rash. As scabs formed, infectivity waned rapidly. Although the scabs contained large amounts of viable virus, epidemiological and laboratory studies indicate that they were not especially infectious, presumably because the virions were bound tightly in the fibrin matrix.

Natural infection occurs following implantation of the virus on the oropharyngeal or respiratory mucosa.The infectious dose is unknown but is believed to be only a few virions.After the migration of virus to and multiplication in regional lymph nodes, an asymptomatic viremia develops on about the third or fourth day, followed by multiplication of virus in the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. A secondary viremia begins on about the eighth day and is followed by fever and toxemia. The virus, contained in leukocytes, then localizes in small blood vessels of the dermis and beneath the oral and pharyngeal mucosa and subsequently infects adjacent cells.

At the end of the 12- to 14-day incubation period (range, 7-17 days), the patient typically experiences high fever, malaise, and prostration with headache and backache. Severe abdominal pain and delirium are sometimes present. A maculopapular rash then appears on the mucosa of the mouth and pharynx, face, and forearms, and spreads to the trunk and legs. Within 1 to 2 days, the rash becomes vesicular and, later, pustular. The pustules are characteristically round, tense, and deeply embedded in the dermis; crusts begin to form on about the eighth or ninth day of rash. As the patient recovers, the scabs separate and characteristic pitted scarring gradually develops. The scars are most evident on the face and result from the destruction of sebaceous glands followed by shrinking of granulation tissue and fibrosis.

The lesions that first appear in the mouth and pharynx ulcerate quickly because of the absence of a stratum corneum, releasing large amounts of virus into the saliva.Virus titers in saliva are highest during the first week of illness, corresponding with the period during which patients are most infectious. Although the virus in some instances can be detected in swabs taken from the oropharynx as many as 5 to 6 days before the rash develops, transmission does not occur during this period.

Except for the lesions in the skin and mucous membranes and reticulum cell hyperplasia, other organs are seldom involved. Secondary bacterial infection is not common, and death, which usually occurs during the second week of illness, most likely results from the toxemia associated with circulating immune complexes and soluble variola antigens. Encephalitis sometimes ensues that is indistinguishable from the acute perivascular demyelination observed as a complication of infection due to vaccinia, measles, or varicella.

Neutralizing antibodies can be detected by the sixth day of rash and remain at high titers for many years. Hemagglutinin-inhibiting antibodies can be detected on about the sixth day of rash, or about 21 days after infection, and complement-fixing antibodies appear approximately 2 days later. Within 5 years, hemagglutinin-inhibiting antibodies decline to low levels and complement-fixing antibodies rarely persist for longer than 6 months.

Although at least 90% of smallpox cases are clinically characteristic and readily diagnosed in endemic areas, other forms of smallpox are difficult to recognize—hemorrhagic and malignant. Hemorrhagic cases are uniformly fatal and occur among all ages and in both sexes, but pregnant women appear to be unusually susceptible. Illness usually begins with a somewhat shorter incubation period and is characterized by a severely prostrating prodromal illness with high fever and head, back, and abdominal pain. Soon thereafter, a dusky erythema develops, followed by petechiae and frank hemorrhages into the skin and mucous membranes. Death usually occurs by the fifth or sixth day after onset of rash.

In the frequently fatal malignant form, the abrupt onset and prostrating constitutional symptoms are similar. The confluent lesions develop slowly, never progressing to the pustular stage but remaining soft, flattened, and velvety to the touch. The skin has the appearance of a fine-grained, reddish-colored crepe rubber, sometimes with hemorrhages. If the patient survives, the lesions gradually disappear without forming scabs or, in severe cases, large amounts of epidermis might peel away.

The illness associated with variola minor is generally less severe, with fewer constitutional symptoms and a more sparse rash. A milder form of disease is also seen among those who have residual immunity from previous vaccination. In partially immune persons, the rash tends to be atypical and more scant and the evolution of the lesions more rapid.

There is little information about how individuals with different types of immune deficiency responded to natural smallpox infection. Smallpox was eradicated before human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was identified and before suitable techniques became available for measuring cell-mediated immunity. However, it is probable that the underlying cause of some cases of malignant and hemorrhagic smallpox resulted from defective immune responses. Vaccination of immune-deficient persons sometimes resulted in a continually spreading primary lesion, persistent viremia, and secondary viral infection of many organs. One such case is documented to have occurred in a vaccinated soldier who had HIV infection.


The discovery of a single suspected case of smallpox must be treated as an international health emergency and be brought immediately to the attention of national officials through local and state health authorities.

The majority of smallpox cases present with a characteristic rash that is centrifugal in distribution, ie, most dense on the face and extremities. The lesions appear during a 1- to 2-day period and evolve at the same rate. On any given part of the body, they are generally at the same stage of development. In varicella (chickenpox), the disease most frequently confused with smallpox, new lesions appear in crops every few days and lesions at very different stages of maturation (ie, vesicles, pustules, and scabs) are found in adjacent areas of skin. Varicella lesions are much more superficial and are almost never found on the palms and soles. The distribution of varicella lesions is centripetal, with a greater concentration of lesions on the trunk than on the face and extremities.

The signs and symptoms of both hemorrhagic and malignant smallpox were such that smallpox was seldom suspected until more typical cases were seen and it was recognized that a smallpox outbreak was in progress. Hemorrhagic cases were most often initially identified as meningococcemia or severe acute leukemia. Malignant cases likewise posed diagnostic problems, most often being mistaken for hemorrhagic chickenpox or prompting surgery because of severe abdominal pain.

Laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis in a smallpox outbreak is important. Specimens should be collected by someone who has recently been vaccinated (or is vaccinated that day) and who wears gloves and a mask. To obtain vesicular or pustular fluid, it is often necessary to open lesions with the blunt edge of a scalpel. The fluid can then be harvested on a cotton swab. Scabs can be picked off with forceps. Specimens should be deposited in a vacutainer tube that should be sealed with adhesive tape at the juncture of stopper and tube. This tube, in turn, should be enclosed in a second durable, watertight container. State or local health department laboratories should immediately be contacted regarding the shipping of specimens. Laboratory examination requires high-containment (BL-4) facilities and should be undertaken only in designated laboratories with the appropriate training and equipment. Once it is established that the epidemic is caused by smallpox virus, clinically typical cases would not require further laboratory confirmation.

Smallpox infection can be rapidly confirmed in the laboratory by electron microscopic examination of vesicular or pustular fluid or scabs. Although all orthopoxviruses exhibit identically appearing brick-shaped virions, history taking and clinical picture readily identify cowpox and vaccinia. Although smallpox and monkeypox virions may be indistinguishable, naturally occurring monkeypox is found only in tropical rain forest areas of Africa. Definitive laboratory identification and characterization of the virus involves growth of the virus in cell culture or on chorioallantoic egg membrane and characterization of strains by use of various biologic assays, including polymerase chain reaction techniques and restriction fragment-length polymorphisms. The latter studies can be completed within a few hours.

A smallpox outbreak poses difficult public health problems because of the ability of the virus to continue to spread throughout the population unless checked by vaccination and/or isolation of patients and their close contacts.

A clandestine aerosol release of smallpox, even if it infected only 50 to 100 persons to produce the first generation of cases, would rapidly spread in a now highly susceptible population, expanding by a factor of 10 to 20 times or more with each generation of cases. Between the time of an aerosol release of smallpox virus and diagnosis of the first cases, an interval as long as 2 weeks or more is apt to occur because of the average incubation period of 12 to 14 days and the lapse of several additional days before a rash was sufficiently distinct to suggest the diagnosis of smallpox. By that time, there would be no risk of further environmental exposure from the original aerosol release because the virus is fully inactivated within 2 days.

As soon as the diagnosis of smallpox is made, all individuals in whom smallpox is suspected should be isolated immediately and all household and other face-to-face contacts should be vaccinated and placed under surveillance. Because the widespread dissemination of smallpox virus by aerosol poses a serious threat in hospitals, patients should be isolated in the home or other non-hospital facility whenever possible. Home care for most patients is a reasonable approach, given the fact that little can be done for a patient other than to offer supportive therapy. In the event of an aerosol release of smallpox and a subsequent outbreak, the rationale for vaccinating patients suspected to have smallpox at this time is to ensure that some with a mistaken diagnosis are not placed at risk of acquiring smallpox. Vaccination administered within the first few days after exposure and perhaps as late as 4 days may prevent or significantly ameliorate subsequent illness. An emergency vaccination program is also indicated that would include all health care workers at clinics or hospitals that might receive patients; all other essential disaster response personnel, such as police, firefighters, transit workers, public health staff, and emergency management staff; and mortuary staff who might have to handle bodies. The working group recommends that all such personnel for whom vaccination is not contraindicated should be vaccinated immediately irrespective of prior vaccination status.

Vaccination administered within 4 days of first exposure has been shown to offer some protection against acquiring infection and significant protection against a fatal outcome. Those who have been vaccinated at some time in the past will normally exhibit an accelerated immune response. Thus, it would be prudent, when possible, to assign those who had been previously vaccinated to duties involving close patient contact.

It is important that discretion be used in identifying contacts of patients to ensure, to the extent that is possible, that vaccination and adequate surveillance measures are focused on those at greatest risk. Specifically, it is recommended that contacts be defined as persons who have been in the same household as the infected individual or who have been in face-to-face contact with the patient after the onset of fever. Experience during the smallpox global eradication program showed that patients did not transmit infection until after the prodromal fever had given way to the rash stage of illness.

Isolation of all contacts of exposed patients would be logistically difficult and, in practice, should not be necessary. Because contacts, even if infected, are not contagious until onset of rash, a practical strategy calls for all contacts to have temperatures checked at least once each day, preferably in the evening. Any increase in temperature higher than 38°C (101°F) during the 17-day period following last exposure to the case would suggest the possible development of smallpox2 and be cause for isolating the patient immediately, preferably at home, until it could be determined clinically and/or by laboratory examination whether the contact had smallpox. All close contacts of the patients should be promptly vaccinated.

Although cooperation by most patients and contacts in observing isolation could be ensured through counseling and persuasion, there may be some for whom forcible quarantine will be required. Some states and cities in the United States, but not all, confer broad discretionary powers on health authorities to ensure the safety of the public’s health and, at one time, this included powers to quarantine. Under epidemic circumstances, this could be an important power to have. Thus, each state and city should review its statutes as part of its preparedness activities.

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