TBR News December 30, 2018

Dec 30 2018

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

Washington, D.C. December 30, 2018: “Very quietly, and never on Google, various world-wide health organizations and intelligence agencies are trying, often frantically, to locate the thieves who stole smallpox virus from a German lab in 1976. If this fell into the hands of, let us say, Muslim terrorists and they dropped it in a crowded airport like Dulles, Kennedy or OHare, the results would be a world-wide eruption of a deadly disease that would kill millions and disfigure millions more. The US has some vaccine but the Russians have even more and in the event of an outbreak, would inoculate their own citizens and allies first before condescending to sell huge quantites to the US. No one knows who stole the virus but it is felt in the health community that eventually it will be used. “


The Table of Contents

  • 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 3
  • The US government deliberately made the desert deadly for migrants
  • How Nancy Pelosi signaled the end of Donald Trump’s easy ride
  • Cyber attack hits U.S. newspaper distribution
  • The Rommel Honor Dagger : An Essay in Merchandising
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Trump’s Russian connections

815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 3

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 10, 2018


“The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead. The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.”

Source: USA Today op-ed on Democrats’ Medicare for All proposals

in fact: This is simple nonsense. Democrats do not want to model the U.S. economy after Venezuela’s.


“The Democrats’ plan also would mean the end of choice for seniors over their own health care decisions. Instead, Democrats would give total power and control over seniors’ health care decisions to the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

Source: USA Today op-ed on Democrats’ Medicare for All proposals

in fact: The government would indeed have more power over health care in a single-payer system than it does at present, but “the end of choice for seniors” and “total power and control over seniors’ health care decisions” is an obvious exaggeration; the government of Canada obviously does not have total power over seniors’ decisions even though Canada has a single-payer system. The U.S. government would not, for example, be ordering people to see certain doctors or make certain care decisions.


“As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new health care insurance options that would lower premiums. I have kept that promise…”

Source: USA Today op-ed on Democrats’ Medicare for All proposals

in fact: Trump has not kept his promise to safeguard insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He has repeatedly supported bills that would weaken these protections. 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.


“Throughout the year, we have seen Democrats across the country uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.” And: “Likewise, Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care.” And: “The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised.”

Source: USA Today op-ed on Democrats’ Medicare for All proposals

in fact: Democrats “Medicare for All” proposals would not take away seniors’ Medicare benefits. The proposals would cover more things, such as dental and vision services, than are covered by Medicare at present.


“We also passed Veterans Choice. Giving our veterans the right to see a private doctor. Right? Our veterans. Forty-four years, they tried to pass it. When I first heard about it, I mean, it’s not like I was studying it for my whole life. But I heard about it three-and-a-half years ago. I said, I have an idea. Let’s — when they wait on line for 10 days, 22 days, 38 days, you have to see, months and months, why don’t we let them go see a private doctor and we paid the bill? It will solve our problem. And I told everybody: I am the most brilliant guy in the world. Who else would think — who else would think of that? So I go back to my people. I say, listen, I have this great idea. We can get these great vets to see the doctors. It’s taken — like 10 days was good. But some of them were ill, but not terribly ill. It took them so long, they would literally become terminally ill. It took them weeks and weeks to see a doctor. So I went to my people and I said, what an idea this is! They said, ‘Actually, sir, we’ve been trying to get that idea passed for 44 years.’ I’m good at getting things passed. We signed it three months ago.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: The Veterans Choice health program was created in 2014 under Obama. The law Trump signed merely modified the program.


“We just signed new legislation today, and there’s more coming, because you are being ripped off. You know, for the same pill, for the same drug, for the same company that makes it, the same package, you go to other countries, and you’ll pay half and you’ll pay less than half. It’s a rigged system. You remember what else I called rigged? I call plenty of things in this country rigged, but we’re straightening it out. But it was a rigged system. Plenty of things rigged. And to help critically ill patients access life-saving treatments, we passed something called right to try. People that are terminally ill were given no chance, no hope. We have incredible drugs in the pipeline that can cure really horrible, horrific disease. We wouldn’t let anyone use these drugs because they didn’t want to hurt them, but they’re going to die. They’re terminally ill! I said, what are we doing? And two months ago, I signed right to try. Somebody’s terminally ill, we can try. And we’ve had great success. We’ve had great success. And by the way, in all fairness, you also find out whether or not it works. Not so bad. Right to try. You know what it did? These people, if they had money, they’d travel all over the world looking for a cure. If they didn’t have money, they’d go home. There was nothing — they had no hope. No — they had no hope. Now they have great hope. We make the greatest products in the world. We make the greatest medicine, and we’d have hope. And some incredible things have already happened with right to try. They’ve been trying to pass it for 40 years. We got it passed, and that’s because of your congressmen.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Trump was exaggerating how dire the situation was before this Right to Try legislation passed. It is not true that patients had “no chance, no hope” of getting experimental medicines. Rather, they simply had to ask the Food and Drug Administration for approval first. While many patients objected to this requirement, which the Trump-backed new legislation removed, the FDA approved 99 per cent of all patient requests, the Trump-appointed head of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, testified to Congress in October 2017. The Government Accountability Office confirms: “Of the nearly 5,800 expanded access requests that were submitted to FDA from fiscal year 2012 through 2015, FDA allowed 99 per cent to proceed,” the GAO wrote in a July 2017 report. “FDA typically responded to emergency single-patient requests within hours and other types of requests within the allotted 30 days.” Further, the new law will not help the patients whose requests for experimental treatments have been rejected by drug companies themselves, which Trump himself noted was a problem. The legislation does not compel the companies to provide access.


“Did you see — did you see four weeks ago when Pfizer and Novartis and other drug companies raised the prices of their drugs very, very substantially?”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Trump pressured Pfizer and Novartis to reduce their drug prices in July, three months prior to these remarks, not “four weeks ago.” Trump has a habit of moving up the date of good news to make it sound more recent.


“Women for Trump. Remember how badly I was going to do with women? I said, am I so bad? Remember how badly? And then I got 52 percent of the vote! And everybody said he beat crooked Hillary. What happened? What — remember that? Remember they put up these phony numbers?”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Trump won a majority of white women, according to 2016 exit polls, not a majority of all women, as he was claiming here. Exit polls found that had the support of 52 per cent of white women but 42 per cent of all women.


“Hispanic American and Asian-American unemployment has always reached historic lows, lowest in history.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: The unemployment rate for 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 added almost 600,000 new manufacturing jobs. They were supposed to be gone forever.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: The economy added 378,000 manufacturing jobs between January 2017 and September 2018.


“Also at stake in this election is Medicare. Democrats support a socialist takeover of health care that would totally obliterate Medicare. Republicans want to protect Medicare for our great seniors who have earned it and who have paid for it all their lives.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Democrats’ “Medicare for all” proposals tend to be vague, but they would not take Medicare health insurance away from seniors. Rather, they would extend similar government-provided health insurance to younger people as well, and they would give current Medicare recipients additional coverage for things like vision and dental services.


“Bob Casey defends criminals while attacking our brave ICE agents. He wants to get rid of ICE.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Casey, the Pennsylvania Democratic senator, does not want to get rid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “ICE abolished? No, for sure,” Casey said in July, PennLive reported. He continued: “I hope we have ICE focused on bad guys instead of current policy where they are dealing with families and kids at the border. I don’t agree with the call to eliminate it.”


“Ninety-nine percent of the vote cast. One point left. If I lost every single vote, I won Pennsylvania by a lot. I kept saying, why aren’t they announcing Pennsylvania? I thought it must be some kind of a technical malfunction. So they didn’t do it until late in the evening. It stayed forever. I kept going, why aren’t they announcing? I’d love to win with Pennsylvania. But honestly, then what happened? Out of the blue, Donald Trump has won the state of Wisconsin. And then out of the blue, first time in decades, Donald Trump has won the state of Michigan. And then finally they announced, late in the morning, which we knew they just couldn’t do it. They couldn’t do it. They just couldn’t. Donald Trump has won the great state of Pennsylvania. They didn’t do it that way. They didn’t do it that way. They didn’t do it that way. They did it with tears flowing down their face. ‘This can’t be happening. Can this’ — did you see some of them crying?”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Television journalists were not crying when they announced Trump had won Pennsylvania.


“Well, if you look at it, when you think of it, there was collusion between Hillary, the Democrats, and Russia. There was collusion. There’s no question about it. There was a lot of collusion with them and Russia and lots of other people, by the way.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: The claim that Clinton or the Democrats colluded with Russia is simple nonsense; the word “collusion” — in common language, a “secret agreement or co-operation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose” — just does not apply to Democrats’ Russia-related activities. The accusation is based on the fact that the British ex-spy who produced a research dossier on the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia, which was funded in part by Clinton’s campaign, used Russian sources in compiling his information. That does not come close to meeting the definition of “collusion.”


“So the polls close at 8 o’clock. Eight o’clock and three seconds, Donald Trump has won…the state of Utah.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Trump’s recollection is inaccurate. Fox News, Trump’s favourite television network, did not call Utah until 11:10 p.m. Eastern time (9:10 p.m. Utah time) on election night; the Associated Press called it at 11:52 p.m. (9:52 p.m. Utah time).


“I believe in polls. Only the ones that have us up, because they’re the only honest ones. Other than that, they’re the fake news poll. Fake news. Fake news. You know they take these polls, they show them, I said, that can’t be right. What they want to do is keep you out of the voting booth. Take your wife, take your husband, go to a movie, come back, watch the results. You say, ‘You know, I love so and so, but the polls say he can’t win. Darling, let’s go to a movie tonight. We’ll go home and we’ll watch’ — and that’s what happens. They talk you out of it. They’re dishonest. just like their reporting is dishonest, their polls are dishonest.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: There is no evidence for Trump’s suggestion that pollsters have manipulated their numbers to depress the enthusiasm of Trump supporters.


“Democrats want to abolish America’s borders and allow drugs and gangs to pour into our country unabated.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Democrats do not to abolish America’s borders or to allow drugs and gangs to pour into the country unabated.


“The steel industry was dead and dying.” And: “What does it mean for our country? We can’t lose the steel industry. The steel industry was on its last legs, and now, after four months of really intensely doing what I do…it’s thriving. It is thriving. It’s amazing, actually. It’s amazing. You got to have steel.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: No expert on the steel industry believes the industry was “dead” or that it would have been nonexistent “within two years” if Trump had not imposed tariffs. The American Iron and Steel Institute said before Trump imposed the tariffs: “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.”


“One of the hottest industries right now in our country is American steel. U.S. Steel is opening and expanding seven different plants and spending a tremendous — billions of dollars doing it.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: Though Trump had been making this claim for three months, there was still no evidence at the time that U.S. Steel was opening seven plants. (Trump originally claimed it was six plants, then later claimed it was seven plants, then eight plants, then “a minimum of eight plants,” then “eight or nine plants.”) At the time Trump spoke, U.S. Steel had only announced a major development at two facilities since he introduced his steel tariffs. First it said it was restarting two shuttered blast furnaces at its plant in Granite City, Illinois, then that it was investing $750 million to revitalize a plant in Gary, Indiana.


“And we are unleashing the power of Pennsylvania shale and clean, beautiful Pennsylvania coal, beautiful, beautiful, clean coal.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: The term “clean coal” is false in itself. Even if one were to believe that there is indeed “clean coal,” a term that is the creation of industry spin, the term is not meant to be applied to all coal from a country or state, which is how Trump uses it. The phrase, the New York Times reported, “is often understood to mean coal plants that capture the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks and bury it underground as a way of limiting global warming.” As the Washington Post wrote: “Saying that the United States exported clean coal is like saying that the United States is shipping bathrobes overseas each time a shipping container full of cotton leaves an American port. Maybe it will be a bathrobe, but that’s not what we’re sending.”


“You remember the previous administration? They said, oh, you can’t bring back manufacturing jobs. Really? You can’t bring back…That was wrong. Remember they said you’d need a magic wand. Well, we’ve got — I guess we have, right — we have a magic wand. And those are our great jobs.”

Source: Campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania

in fact: The Obama administration did not say “you can’t bring back manufacturing jobs.” Rather, at a televised PBS town hall in Elkhart, Indiana in 2016, Obama said that certain manufacturing jobs “are just not going to come back” — but also boasted that some manufacturers are indeed “coming back to the United States,” that “we’ve seen more manufacturing jobs created since I’ve been president than any time since the 1990s,” and that “we actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today, than we’ve had in most of our history.” Obama did mock Trump for Trump’s campaign claims that he was going to bring back manufacturing jobs that had been outsourced to Mexico, saying: “And when somebody says — like the person you just mentioned who I’m not going to advertise for — that he’s going to bring all these jobs back, well, how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There’s no answer to it. He just says, ‘Well, I’m going to negotiate a better deal.’ Well, how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is he doesn’t have an answer.” But, again, Obama made clear that he was talking about a certain segment of manufacturing jobs, not all of them.


“And I think you probably remember a month ago when I called — at the request of Alex Azar, I called Pfizer, Novartis, a couple of others. And they had announced drug price increases — fairly substantial. And I said, ‘Can’t do that. Can’t do that. We’re going down. We’re not going up.'”

Source: Signing ceremony for Know the Lowest Price Act

in fact: Trump pressured Pfizer and Novartis to reduce their drug prices in July, three months prior to these remarks, not “a month ago.” Trump has a habit of moving up the date of good news to make it sound more recent.


“It’s (Hurricane Michael) almost the entire size of the Gulf. When you look at it, topically, it’s almost the entire size of the Gulf. And they haven’t seen that. Maybe they haven’t seen that at all. Nobody has seen that before.”

Source: Hurricane briefing with FEMA

in fact: Steven Morey, professor at Florida A&M School of the Environment and distinguished research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, said, “Satellite imagery shows the clouds associated with the feature covering about half of the Gulf. However, storm winds do not extend throughout the full extent of the visible expression of the storm. Katrina was bigger.” Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, said, “Its cloud shield certainly wasn’t as big as the entire Gulf of Mexico.” He added, “You could ballpark this to say that Hurricane Michael’s cloud shield took up roughly one-quarter to one-third of the Gulf of Mexico. Again, this is a very qualitative assessment, but it certainly wasn’t the entire Gulf.


The US government deliberately made the desert deadly for migrants

The deaths of two Guatemalan child migrants in US custody highlights the perilousness of a journey that is no accident

Decenber 29, 2018

by Natascha Elena Uhlmann

The Guardian

This month, Jakelin Caal Maquin, a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl, died less than 48 hours after being detained at a remote New Mexico border crossing. Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an eight-year old Guatemalan boy, spent his final days in custody before tragically passing on Christmas Eve. Both were brought to the United States by families seeking a better life for their children. In the United States, all they found was death.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have been quick to deflect the blame. “[Jakelin’s] family chose to cross illegally,” Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asserted. In the case of Felipe, the DHS pointed to migrant shelters in Mexico as possible sources of disease. These desperate attempts do little to obscure the full weight of US culpability.

When trying to make sense of these two tragic deaths – and while details are still emerging – one thing is clear: the journey they undertook is designed to be deadly. In the 1990s, then president Bill Clinton introduced Prevention Through Deterrence, a border security policy which closed off established migrant routes. This forced migrants like Jakelin and her father through more remote and trying terrain. Jakelin and Felipe would probably not have died had it not been for the extreme conditions that Prevention Through Deterrence forces migrants to withstand.

As the No More Deaths spokeswoman, Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, notes: “Crossing from the US border in any location, there’s no physical way as a human being to carry the kind of water you’ll need to survive those conditions for three, four days of walking.” Those who survive the immediate journey still face significant health risks if they are not immediately granted medical treatment – at present, border patrol relies on self-assessment, and, as in Jakelin’s case, the documentation is often in a language they can’t read.

Prevention Through Deterrence meant tremendous investments in surveillance and border militarization, with the aim of pushing migrants ever deeper into the unforgiving Sonoran desert. Though the border patrol denies accountability for deaths along the US-Mexico border, their very metrics for success under the policy include “fee increases by smugglers”, “possible increase in complaints”, and “more violence at attempted entries”. These children’s deaths were by no means unpredictable. Violence is built into the plan.

The immigrant advocacy group No More Deaths charges that the US border patrol uses the desert as a weapon. Armed with night-vision equipment, border patrol agents chase migrants blindly into hostile desert terrain. In the ensuing chaos, migrants fall to their deaths, or get hopelessly lost. Hundreds disappear each year, their remains too decomposed to be identified.

Prevention Through Deterrence has done little to curb migration, but it has led to an explosion in needless suffering. As accessible routes are abandoned in favor of remote terrain, what was once a straightforward journey becomes life-threatening. In 1994, the year of the strategy’s inception, there were an estimated 14 deaths alongside the US-Mexico border. Last year, a staggering 412 deaths were documented in the region. As migrants are funnelled deeper into remote areas, they face not only the capricious desert terrain, but fatigue, dehydration and a host of heat-related ailments. Seizing on an influx of vulnerable, disoriented travellers, cartels lie in wait to extort and kidnap their next victims. Stories of rape along the migrant trail are so overwhelmingly common that many take contraceptives before the journey.

Prevention Through Deterrence assumes that migrants will simply stop coming if the journey is difficult enough. But migration is as old as human history itself. While the US decries an explosion of immigrants, policymakers would do well to consider their role in perpetuating migration flows. From exploitative trade deals – Nafta put more than 1 million Mexican farmers out of work – to outright imperial aggression – see US-backed coups in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and Honduras, among others – the US is a harbinger of death and destruction across the continent. To turn away those who flee the disastrous results of our policies is victim blaming of the most vile sort.

US immigration officials have expressed regret at the passing of these children. Don’t take their word for it. Just last year, No More Deaths released video evidence of border patrol officials vandalizing water left for migrants. An unidentified agent grins at the camera while emptying water jugs, and others kick over bottles with glee. In the arid Sonoran desert, it is physically impossible to carry enough water to survive, a fact that is not lost on those who are employed to monitor the terrain day in and out. Within hours of the video’s release, a member of No More Deaths was arrested on charges of harboring immigrants. He will face 20 years in prison if convicted.

A popular immigrant refrain asserts: “We are here because you were there.” US policies of economic extraction and militarism put children like Jakelin and Felipe at risk every single day. To put an end to deaths at the border, the US must stop penalizing those who flee its very own destruction.



How Nancy Pelosi signaled the end of Donald Trump’s easy ride

In one deft performance the top Democrat in the House owned the president, having faced down Republicans’ scare tactics and attacks from her own side

December 30, 2018

by David Taylor in New York

The Guardian

Nancy Pelosi was perched on the end of a sofa in the Oval Office when the balance of power in Donald Trump’s Washington decisively shifted in her favour.

The event in early December began as a simple photo call with Trump – the first attempt at bipartisan dialogue after the midterm elections saw Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives.

The president was in domineering form, making demands about funding for his stalled border wall and contemplating shutting down the government if a budget was not passed giving him $5bn for his unfulfilled promise.

“I think the American people recognise that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything,” said Pelosi as Trump nodded. “And that we should not have a Trump shutdown.”

The president looked up and said: “A what? Did you say a Trump – ?”

After two years surrounded by loyalists and sycophants, Trump had got his first taste of what life will be like with Pelosi in control of one half of Congress. And as the cameras rolled, he quickly lost his cool, declaring he would be “proud to shut down the government”, trapped on live TV by his temper and the pincer movement of Pelosi and the top Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

Pelosi walked out of the White House into brilliant sunshine in sunglasses and a fiery red coat looking triumphant and returned to Capitol Hill to make jokes about Trump’s manhood and utter the memorable description: “It goes to show you: you get into a tickle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

The confrontation showed that Pelosi can outwit Trump. It also marked a turning point for her after an election season when some Democrats disowned her, apparently seeing her as a liability in races where Republicans spent millions of dollars trying to turn her into a hate figure to galvanise their voters.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there were more than 135,000 adverts during the midterms attacking Pelosi by name, and some Democratic candidates ran for election vowing not to vote for her as speaker if they won.

Wendy Schiller, chair of political science at Brown University, called the attack ad strategy “wasted money, pure and simple”. Republicans “mistakenly believed that voter animosity towards strong women was interchangeable, so they tried to get the voters who disliked Hillary Clinton to see Nancy Pelosi the same way and then transfer that dislike to their local Democratic congressional candidate.

“That is just way too many connections for most voters to make, and it infuriated a lot of women. It is as if the GOP did not live in the same #MeToo moment as the rest of us.”

Pelosi raised $135m for the Democratic campaign, yet when she got back to Washington celebrating a heavy victory, some in her own party said it was time to move on from her leadership.

No challenger emerged, yet a “Never Nancy” letter gained rebellious signatures and put her hopes of getting back the gavel as speaker of the House under threat.

The moment where she owned Trump in the Oval Office put a stop to all of that as she proved she could put him under pressure – and with the 2020 election in mind, hope to deliver him in a weakened state for whoever emerges as the Democratic presidential nominee.

To secure support for her speaker bid she agreed to serve no more than four years, but it was not much of a concession, given she would be 82 and presumably ready – at last – to retire.

So, on Thursday the 78-year-old will become the face of Democratic opposition to Trump in Congress.

Almost 12 years to the day since she made history as the first female speaker, Pelosi will be back, calling the plays against Trump and passing bills on Democratic priorities from gun control to reform of voter suppression laws.

Of course, those bills will be unlikely to get through the Republican-held Senate, but the strategy will help Democrats define Trump and the Republicans.

Cindy Simon Rosenthal, author of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics, published in 2007 when the California congresswoman first took the House gavel, said: “It may not result in legislation making it all the way through, but Democrats would go into the 2020 election cycle with strong campaign issues where they would portray the Republicans as the party of gerrymandering, voter suppression and unbridled campaign ethics violations, a narrative that will be useful to Democrats.”

Pelosi will probably disappoint people hoping to see impeachment proceedings against Trump. Instead she will place the emphasis on investigations by Democratic-led committees in the House to keep the Trump administration in the crosshairs.

Policy issues including family separation at the border, the rolling back of environmental protections, and the president’s handling of the aftermath of deadly hurricanes will be examined, alongside the many scandals surrounding Trump’s business conflicts, Russian election interference and the president’s possible obstruction of justice.

Rosenthal added: “She will have enough issues that are common cause with progressives to keep them together.”

Do the new generation of progressive Democrats have a point? Is she too much of a pragmatist to lead their radical agenda – and too much of an easy target for Republican rage?

It is true she is a machine politician – brought up in the deal-making politics of Baltimore where her Italian-American father was in office throughout the 1940s and 50s as congressman and then mayor.

But her deal-making and strategy delivered the votes for Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act in 2010 when the White House was wavering and preparing to water down the reforms.

She is not a great public speaker and often misspeaks, memorably triggering accusations of a lack of transparency over Obamacare by saying: “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.”

Perhaps she stands somewhere in the middle of the two cartoonish characterisations: on one side, the progressive left ready to dismiss her as a symbol of the status quo; on the other, Republicans who have branded her an extremist liberal radical feminist.

Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, said she was the best and pragmatic choice for Democrats. “In hindsight, keeping Pelosi seems pretty obvious, but while the desire for someone new and younger was great, someone with less political skill than her would not have survived this challenge.”

What is in store for Trump? “She is as tough as he thinks he is,” Cook said. “He could not have a more tenacious adversary, the combination of Pelosi and Schumer is hard to beat. They have seen it all and are both shrewd as hell.”

Their White House meeting with Trump was “an omen of things to come”, Rosenthal said.

“There was a lot in that episode that is very familiar to women in the corporate world, women in politics – where they get talked over, minimised, and men underestimate them and frankly treat them not as equals. What she demonstrated is that she is a woman who knows all those tricks and is not gonna be defeated … you know, the president is gonna have his hands full.”


Cyber attack hits U.S. newspaper distribution

December 29, 2018


A cyber attack caused major printing and delivery disruptions on Saturday at the Los Angeles Times and other major U.S. newspapers, including ones owned by Tribune Publishing Co (TPCO.O) such as the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.

The cyber attack appeared to originate outside the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a source with knowledge of the situation.

The attack led to distribution delays in the Saturday edition of The Times, Tribune, Sun and other newspapers that share a production platform in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Tribune Publishing, whose newspapers also include the New York Daily News and Orlando Sentinel, said it first detected the malware on Friday.

The West Coast editions of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times were hit as they are also printed on the shared production platform, the Los Angeles Times said.

Tribune Publishing spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said the virus hurt back-office systems used to publish and produce “newspapers across our properties.”

“There is no evidence that customer credit card information or personally identifiable information has been compromised,” Kollias said in a statement

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Most San Diego Union-Tribune subscribers were without a newspaper on Saturday as the virus infected the company’s business systems and hobbled its ability to publish, the paper’s editor and publisher Jeff Light wrote on its website.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said it was studying the situation.

“We are aware of reports of a potential cyber incident affecting several news outlets, and are working with our government and industry partners to better understand the situation,” said DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman in a statement.

Representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting By Jim Finkle; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by David Gregorio


The Rommel Honor Dagger : An Essay in Merchandising

December 30, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Many collectors seem to be drawn to technical works that are published solely to sell fakes. These gaudy books contain endless “variant” pieces, “prototypes,” “late-war production” items and many other entertaining holy relics that happen to be in the possession of either the author or one of his partners in crime.

It might prove instructive to illustrate a fictional fraud, based entirely on factual procedures.

Let us consider the “Rommel Honor Dagger.”

This would be a special, custom-made item given by Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini to German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel upon the occasion of his capture of the British North African military base at Tobruk.

The merchandiser of this piece is the fictive Lothar Sneed, America’s Biggest Dagger Dealer. Sneed stands at five foot, six inches and weighs in at three hundred and fifty pounds.

He once worked for the CIA, selling encryption machines to one country and the encryption codes to their rivals. He also sold surplus military weapons to groups supported by the private policy aims of that agency and, on the side, smuggled drugs with a reasonable profit going to his employers. After an interesting lifetime of manipulative mendacity, Sneed is now retired and makes a very large amount of money as America’s Biggest Dagger Dealer.

Sneed has a friend, Basil Colon, who publishes books on rare and unusual daggers and swords of the Third Reich period. An artifact that appears in a Colon book is an artifact that can be sold for large sums of money.

Sneed has an arrangement with a dagger manufacturer in Milan, Italy. This enterprising gentleman inherited a factory from his grandfather and the inventory contained parts and the dies to make Fascist dress daggers.

Colon did a series on rare Italian Fascist Daggers, thereby creating an interest in the collecting fraternity. Signor Stronzo has been cranking out his “official” daggers for three years and has sold almost every one of these new creation  to Lothar Sneed. Helped by the Colon books, Sneed has developed a reputation as the sole source for these daggers. Once the standard Fascist dagger has saturated the market, Sneed and Colon have decided to produce interesting, and salable, “variants” and “presentation” models.

One day, while visiting Signor Stronzo’s shop, Sneed sees a gaudy dagger in a case. It turns out to be a fancy piece manufactured to the specifications of a well-known Italian typewriter manufacturer. Unfortunately for Signor Stronzo, the manufacturer died of an infarction while servicing his sixteen year old mistress and the dagger has been unclaimed.

Colon buys it and back in the United States, he shows it to a friend of his, Wally Smegma. Wally is an expert in creating new and interesting rare pieces for the trade.

The finial of the typewriter dagger depicts a melon-breasted woman and has to go. The plotters have decided to create the “Rommel Honor Dagger” for both fun and profit.

The finial is replaced with a silver one depicting the Italian Fasces on one side and the German swastika on the other. The blade is engraved with a bad Italian inscription from Mussolini to Rommel and with a facsimile of the Duce’s signature.

Four hours in a lapidary rock-polishing drum with a handful of sawdust and some buck shot added a marvelous patina to the dagger.

The finished piece is then photographed from many angles in black and white and the next stage of the operation is launched.

The physical dagger exists but no one would buy it without a provenance.

In the elegant world of fine art, this provenance is most often achieved by inserting a fake into a commissioned coffee table book on an artist or period. This is called Salting the Mine.

Firstly, a series of original photographs of Mussolini and Rommel are purchased from Photo Luce in Italy. The black and white pictures are culled and finally, an original picture of Rommel  is carefully applied to a selected photograph of Mussolini, with another addition of the new dagger,  rephotographed and then screened.

An original German wartime newspaper is located, the front page photographed front and back and the picture of the two men and most especially the new dagger, set into the page. The whole is rephotographed and run off on newsprint at a local print shop.

The finished page, printed front and back, is placed between two sheets of glass and stuck in an attic window of the Sneed estate to age gracefully in the sun. After about a month, when the paper has turned a lovely shade of ochre, it is removed, excess portions removed and the whole glued into a photo album.

Sneed has a postman with the right appearance and he dresses him in a U.S. Army uniform of the wartime period, takes him into his back yard and poses the costumed man holding up a swastika flag in one hand and the Rommel Honor Dagger in the other. The finished photograph is soaked in tea until it attains a lovely patina of age and it too is glued into the album beside the original newspaper.

Sneed bought the album, which is genuine, at a military collector’s show. It is full of pictures of shattered German buildings and other ruins and came from the estate of a deceased warrior. The few extra blank pages in the rear now sport the picture of the bogus GI with the equally bogus dagger and authenticating newspaper clipping.

In return for his standard fee of 30%, Colon agrees to include the newly-discovered treasure in his next book. “Daggers and Edged Weapons of the Third Reich, Volume 11.” For an additional fifteen Italian Fascist High Leader’s Daggers plus three Gestapo General’s Belt Buckle guns (invented by Sneed five years ago and a standard item in his catalog of incredibly rare relics) Colon agrees to place a full color depiction of the Rommel Honor Dagger on the cover of the forthcoming book.

This absolutely guarantees instant and frantic interest on the part of the more advanced of the dagger and sword collectors and Sneed views this as a reasonable operating expense.

To actually own a piece depicted on the cover of a Colon book is a consummation devoutly to be wished by an advanced collector and this piece is no exception. The Rommel Honor Dagger is such a gaudy and generally aesthetically tasteless piece as to inflame the passions of any advanced collector and Sneed now begins his final operation.

Sneed and the dagger will appear at a prestigious military collector’s show given by himself and Colon. The dagger, now ensconced in an expensive rosewood case (which Sneed has used before and will use again), is put on display along with the doctored photo album, open to the page with the recent but aged additions.

Awed attendees to the show stand in line in front of the Sneed display tables and slowly file past the newest treasure. They are allowed no more than thirty seconds of viewing time and then must move on to let others experience the historical treasure.

The piece is not necessarily for sale, Sneed tells the gawping multitude. He might present it to a German museum as his token of respect for that now-free and democratic American-controlled republic. On the other hand, he might be persuaded to consider offers if, and only if, they are serious offers.

This is a piece, as Sneed says later during a speech to the attendees, that belongs in a really advanced collection. It rightfully belongs to someone who understands history and has the capability of truly appreciating a genuine piece of world history.

Later that evening, as Sneed held court at the local Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, an offer is made to him that he cannot refuse.

Carl Mudd, a born-again Christian latex marital-aid manufacturer from Sweetwater, Florida declares his determination to possess what Sneed refers to as “an investment in history for a discriminating collector.” His wife, Winifred, was tragically and accidentally compacted while rummaging deep inside in a dumpster behind the local Piggly Wiggly Food Mart, seeking food bargains.

The insurance company had recently settled with Mudd and he offers Sneed one hundred thousand dollars in cash and his late wife’s collection of Barbie dolls for the Rommel Honor Dagger. Sneed will accept the money with dignified mien and the dolls will end up in another dumpster.

The Rommel Honor Dagger will still appear in several books but this time, a quivering Mudd is told, the line “From the Carl Mudd Collection” can be seen beneath the pictures of his latest treasure.

And that is how the world turns.

And for ‘Rommel Honor Dagger’ one could just as easily say ‘Monet,’ ‘Rodin,’ ‘Remington’, ‘Dali,” or ‘Athenian decadrachma.’

There is, of course, truth in this jest.

The Colon books exist in fact and certainly  in spirit. These types of “reference works” are popular in the world of expensive artifacts, be they Nazi daggers or fine art, because they are very well illustrated, if nothing more than catalogs of available and expensive fakes.

The pictures are important because it is to be regretted that large numbers of the American population, in addition to being grossly overweight, are nearly incapable of reading English, let alone a foreign language, so no doubt we can expect the future to contain an increasingly large number of picture books


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

December 30, 2018

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. 53

Date: Thursday, December 5, 1996

Commenced: 2:10 PM CST

Concluded: 2:25 PM CST

GD: Good afternoon, Robert. Still coping with the cold?

RTC: The temperature or my nose?

GD: Oh, both.

RTC: I stay inside and take medicine. At my age, the cold goes away and so does the person. No, pretty much under control. How are you doing?

GD: The diabetes is under control but my son is not. If he ever told me the truth, I would fall flat on the floor. He has the unfortunate habit of knocking his girl friends up and then ditching them. Not only do I disapprove of such behavior but I am the one who has weeping and pregnant people on my front porch while he hides in the bathroom. I have other things I would rather do, I can assure you.

RTC: Well, no, such is not good. What happens with the pregnant ones?

GD: I have to pay for the abortions and I am quite opposed to abortion. It would be a mess otherwise. Of course, he will never pay me back. I will have to take him to the vet one of these days and have him neutered. Save me a lot of grief and money.

RTC: There are always problems, aren’t there?

GD: Increasingly, Robert, increasingly. Listen, you and I spoke once about the origin of AIDS….

RTC: That wasn’t us; it was the Navy if you will recall.

GD: I think we have talked about this more than once. And killing of the chink’s rice crops. Well, from a pragmatic point of view, I can see the benefit of doing that. China is coming up very fast and soon enough, she will produce goods better and cheaper than we do. That’s what was behind the First World War. The Brits had a lock on manufactured goods until the Germans caught up with them. Instead of competing, they started a war and everyone went down. I suppose starving the Chinese would be better than nuking them. Less radioactive material in the air. Still, if the Chinese get too big, too fast, they will collapse internally unless, and I stress this, unless they get rid of the ancient Communist bosses and go over to a Western style republic complete with corruption at the highest levels. With their natural business acumen, industrious nature and a rigid dictatorship over everything, something will give in sooner or later. I suppose your people will be giving them a push. Maybe internal strife, maybe something else.

RTC: Well, I am out of it now and it’s their worry. Did you ever talk to Herr Mueller about things like this?

GD: Sometimes but when I was living in Bern, I discussed these things with a very senior KGB person.

RTC: Anyone I know?

GD: First Directorate and all. Probably. Is it snowing there?

RTC: Not now. I don’t suppose….

GD: No, I would rather not. It’s funny about our counter-intelligence. They won’t talk with me even though I know more than they do about their subjects.

RTC: Oh, of course not. Tell the FBI that the CIA wants to talk with you in private and see how fast they occupy your living room.

GD: One against the other, eh? Do it all the time in business. Oh and yes, I almost forgot. A Russian publisher’s representative was chatting with me the other day and mentioned, in passing, that your agency is now full of Jews and that a number of these are keeping their diplomatic pouches crammed with our secrets. You knew that?

RTC: I believe it. Can you give me names?

GD: A pleasure. I will have a list with names and home addresses sent to you from a friend in Maryland. I know nothing about it. Would you shoot them?

RTC: Heart attacks are much easier and less ostentatious. We can’t have that, Gregory. But something from the Russians to us via you is suspect. Not that you are a problem but how do we know they won’t pick out especially effective agents and ruin them?

GD: We don’t, so watch them and see. If they visit the Israeli embassy there, why then you have some confirmation. How would I do it? Take the suspect aside and give them some very reasonable but entirely false information with some zingers included. Then, if this shows up, you have confirmation. And then the car accident or the heart attack.

RTC: Gregory, the additives are not original with you but I applaud your grasp.

GD: Why not just ship all of them down to a new CIA station on McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic and forget to fly in winter supplies. Like food and heating oil. Come spring, a tragic discovery when the snow-covered camp is dug out by rescuers who were alarmed by the lack of reports on the bowel movements of penguins.

RTC: You have a perverse sense of humor Gregory but there is something to say about that.

GD: Or send them on special missions into Arab territory and tip off the Arabs. Let them draw and quarter them without any assistance from you. A nice condolence letter, machine-signed from the director, and some plastic flowers would do nicely.

RTC: Yes and a nice star on the wall.

GD: If I were doing it, there would more stars than the Milky Way.

RTC: We have had to remove a number of bad apples from our barrels, Gregory. Not Jews generally although a few got too uppity.

GD: Do you have any black agents in the field?

RTC: Now that you mention it, we do not. But by God, we do have black waiters in the executive dining rooms. Does that sound better to you?

GD: It’s a start. I note that the Jews like to sponsor blacks so if things go wrong, they will have walking sandbags to absorb the bullets that are meant for them. You should read ‘The True Believer’ by Hoffer. Very good book. Short, sharp and very much to the point.  Speaking of landfill candidates, how are the Switzers across the street doing?

RTC: Still there. Maybe you can come up with another idea.

GD: Well a huge car bomb set off just as their Ambassador is starting on a drive to some function might make a point.

RTC: You forget, Gregory, that I live right across the street. Think of my windows.

GD: True. Well, give me some time and I can come up with a solution.

RTC: A Final Solution?

GD: Ah, there we go with the Jews again. My God, what was that sound?

RFC: I was sneezing and knocked over a lamp.

GD: I thought someone blew up the Swiss Embassy.

RTC: There you go, trying to cheer an old man up. There’s broken lamp all over the floor and maybe we can talk again later.


(Concluded at 2:25 PM CST)



Trump’s Russian connections

Donald Trump’s ties to Russia are back under the spotlight after the CIA concluded that Moscow had interfered in November’s presidential election to help the Republican candidate win

by Michael Stott and Catherine Belton

Financial Times

Yuri Dubinin

A first contact from Moscow

In 1986 Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin sat next to Donald Trump at a New York lunch and they talked about Trump Tower. “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government,” the tycoon recalled in his book Trump: The Art of the Deal. Trump flew to Moscow at Dubinin’s invitation to discuss the hotel project with the Soviet tourism agency

Mikhail Gorbachev

No glasnost at Trump Tower

The hotel never materialised but Trump aides promised something even better: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, would tour Trump Tower during a 1988 visit to New York. Trump said Gorbachev wanted to see the building because “it’s become the hottest building in New York”. But the visit didn’t happen: the Gorbachevs visited other Manhattan landmarks and Trump rushed out of his tower to greet a lookalike of the Soviet leader.

Zurab Tsereteli

Russia’s Columbus seeks the new world

Trump’s Russia connections continued under Gorbachev’s successor, Boris Yeltsin. Trump attempted in 1997 to erect a giant bronze statue of Christopher Columbus donated by the Russian government at his development on the Hudson river. Taller than the Statue of Liberty, the artwork was crafted by Zurab Tsereteli, a close friend of the Moscow mayor. It ended up in Puerto Rico after several US cities refused to accept it.

Trump’s Russia deals and links multiply

As financial headaches cramped Trump’s style in the US, the property tycoon’s organisation stepped up efforts to win Russian business

Tevfik Arif

Trump’s Russia-connected business partners

By the 2000s, corporate bankruptcies had limited Donald Trump’s access to capital markets. An FT investigation showed that the tycoon joined forces with Bayrock, a New York property developer founded by a Soviet-born newcomer to the US, Tevfik Arif, to pursue deals around the world. Their best-known collaboration was Trump SoHo, a 46-storey hotel-condominium completed in 2010.

Ilya Reznik

Coastal Miami becomes little Moscow

Throughout the 2000s, records show Russians were buying millions of dollars of Trump- branded real estate in the US, according to property records reviewed by the FT. The Trump Organisation said it did not believe Russians spent more money on Trump ventures than those from other regions. Russian real estate broker Ilya Reznik told the FT that Russian could be heard everywhere in the Trump properties on the Florida coast.

Trump Luxury Vodka

Trump Luxury vodka makes a splash in Moscow

Trump and his partners promoted their “24K Super Premium Vodka”, a luxury vodka sold in a bottle decorated with 24-karat gold, at the Millionaire Fair in Moscow in 2007. The fair lured Russian high-spenders with luxury yachts, diamond-encrusted mobile phones and entire islands for sale. The venture later went out of business.

Dmitry Rybolovlev

The oligarch who bought Trump’s mansion

Trump’s single biggest reported Russian deal to date came in 2008 when fertiliser billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev purchased the tycoon’s Palm Beach mansion for $95m. Trump boasted of the profit he made on the deal, having bought the property four years earlier for only £41m. Trump denied ever meeting the oligarch and said “he just happened to be from Russia”.

Eric Trump

Trump’s sons promote Russian business

At the same time, the Trump family were gushing with praise for Russians. While marketing Trump SoHo, the tycoon’s second son, Eric, told Russian journalists that “the best property buyers are now Russian” while Trump himself said: “I really like Vladimir Putin.” Trump’s first son, Donald Jr, told eTurboNews that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”.

Sergei Millian

The Russian middleman claiming to act for Trump

One of the people who said he brought Russian money into Trump projects was Sergei Millian, head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. His organisation said in 2009 it had “signed formal agreements with The Trump Organisation” to service Russian real estate clients and Millian bragged about winning Trump’s affection at the 2007 Millionaire Fair in Moscow. The Trump Organisation denied that Trump had any relationship with him.

Aras Agalarov

Trump’s Russian beauty pageant

Moscow property billionaire Aras Agalarov signed a $14m deal to bring Trump’s Miss Universe beauty pageant to Moscow in 2013. Trump invited Vladimir Putin, tweeting that the Kremlin chief would be his “new best friend” if he came. The Russian president instead sent a trusted envoy, Kremlin property chief Vladimir Kozhin and a “beautiful present”. At the show, Agalarov claimed he had a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

When Trump made his run for the presidency, a volley of pro-Moscow remarks and a slate of advisers with notable Russian connections rang alarm bells in Washington.

Vladimir Putin

Trump strikes a pro-Moscow tone

Trump attracted attention for multiple comments praising Vladimir Putin and his policies. Last December, Putin called Trump “talented”, a compliment Trump described as a “great honour”. This summer Trump appeared to incite Moscow to hack into Hillary Clinton’s private emails. At a 2014 press lunch, Trump claimed to have spoken “indirectly and directly” with Putin, “who could not have been nicer”. He subsequently denied ever meeting Putin

Paul Manafort

Ex-chairman of Trump’s campaign

Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort quit in August 2016 amid controversy over his work advising the pro-Moscow former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Ousted from power in 2014 amid allegations of massive embezzlement, Yanukovych fled to Russia. Ukrainian authorities found a ledger showing $12.7m in off-book payments to Manafort by Yanukovych’s party, payments Manafort has strongly denied receiving. Manafort’s interpreter had a background in Russian military intelligence, according to colleagues.

Carter Page

Trump’s former foreign policy adviser

Manafort is not the only Trump adviser to quit over Russian links. Carter Page, a former Merrill Lynch banker and adviser to Russian state energy company Gazprom, was named by Trump as a foreign policy adviser. The New York Times has reported that FBI agents examined during the summer numerous possible connections between Russians and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, including Mr Manafort and Mr Page, as well as a mysterious and unexplained trail of computer activity between the Trump Organization and an email account at a large Russian bank, Alfa Bank. Page resigned from the Trump campaign in September.

Richard Burt

The former ambassador with a Russian link

Richard Burt, an ex-US ambassador to Germany, helped draft a Trump foreign policy speech in April, while earning hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for a Russian- backed gas pipeline that would extend Putin’s leverage over Europe. Burt told the FT he was “not in any way officially involved” with Trump’s campaign, but provided “some ideas or language” for the speech. Burt advises the owners of Russia’s Alfa Group, who have close Kremlin ties.

Michael Flynn

The ex-general paid to attend a Moscow banquet

Michael Flynn, a former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, was named as a national security adviser by the Trump campaign and was nominated by Mr Trump in November to take that role in government. Like Trump, Flynn has argued for closer links with Russia. In interviews, Flynn acknowledged being paid to give a speech and attend a lavish anniversary party for the state-controlled RT television network in Moscow, where he sat next to President Putin.

The outside view

Michael D’Antonio

Author of “The Truth About Trump”

Michael D’Antonio, author of “The Truth About Trump”, believes the Republican contender is drawn to Russian oligarchs’ aggression and toughness as well as their wealth. “He’s practically Donald the Red,” he said. “He is very much focused on Russia and it certainly causes a person to wonder why.”

David Cay Johnston

Author of “The Making of Donald Trump”

David Cay Johnston, who wrote “The Making of Donald Trump”, a biography, believes the full story about Trump and Russia has yet to be told. “Every time Vladimir Putin is mentioned, Trump goes out of his way to express deep respect for him, which suggests there’s something very important which we simply don’t know,” he said

Michael McFaul

Former US ambassador to Russia

Michael McFaul, who advised the Obama White House on Russia before taking up his diplomatic post, says Trump’s policy statements on Russia are “frightening”. “Does Putin prefer that Trump would win the election? Absolutely yes,” he told the FT. “Why wouldn’t he want Trump to be president? He’s said things that support his policy.” McFaul concluded: “There’s a lot we don’t know.”

What do trump and his organisation say?

Michael Cohen

Executive vice-president and special counsel, the Trump Organisation

“The Trump Organisation does not have any properties in Russia and the press’ [sic] fascination with this narrative is both misleading and fabricated. Perpetuation of this false connection…or any connection with Russia altogether – is yet another example of the press’s liberal bias towards Mr Trump.”

Donald Trump

In the 2nd presidential debate, discussing hacking of Democratic Party systems

“Maybe there is no hacking but they always blame Russia and the reason is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I have no businesses, I have no loans from Russia.”

On December 12, Mr Trump said the CIA’s reported claims of Russian hacking to favour his election were “ridiculous”, telling Fox News: ”I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.” He also revealed that he had rejected daily intelligence briefings, in part because he was a “smart person”.









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