TBR News February 9, 2018

Feb 09 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 9, 2018:” President Trump is turning out to be a terrible mistake. He is making dangerous enemies at every turn, blowing hot today and cold tomorrow, firing or harassing Federal officials who dare to disagree with him, threatening allies, soon to be former allies, launching a missile strike on a foreign country with whom the US was not at war, threatening to cancel social security one day, changing his mind the next. He wants to massively enlarge the military and for no logical reason. There is much in Mr. Trump’s background, which if it had been known during the election, he would have lost to Clinton.”

Table of Contents

  • America: Just Another Shit-hole?
  • The Stock Market Swings Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Our Rigged Economy
  • America’s Israel chasm
  • Trump’s America will be saddled with debt – just like his bankrupted hotels
  • Pennsylvania lawmakers face Friday deadline for new congressional map
  • What’s really behind America’s objections to Trump’s military parade
  • U.S. Secretly Negotiated With Russians to Buy Stolen NSA Documents — and the Russians Offered Trump-Related Material, Too
  • Donald Trump’s Russian connections


America: Just Another Shit-hole?

Or will we get our republic back?

February 9, 2018

by Justin Raimondo


The Deep State spying scandal rolls on, with more details coming out daily. Here’s a few of the most shocking developments so far:

  • There was a second “dirty dossier” authored by the worst sleazebag in the Clinton camp, sent directly to the US State Department and from there via a convoluted route o the FBI. The dossier is said to be even sleazier than the Christopher Steele one. This was what went into the application to the FISA court to spy on the Trump campaign.
  • Michael Isikoff, former journalist, now just a receptacle for Deep State propaganda, was working with the DNC against Trump: his Yahoo piece was cited by the Obama administration in their application to spy on the Trump campaign.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued a criminal referral to the Justice Department against “former” MI6 agent Christopher Steele for lying to the Committee under oath.:

“It appears the FBI relied on admittedly uncorroborated information, funded by and obtained for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in order to conduct surveillance of an associate of the opposing presidential candidate. It did so based on Mr. Steele’s personal credibility and presumably having faith in his process of obtaining the information. But there is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one which bears on his credibility.”

  • The Grassley-Grahama (Judiciary Committee) memo corroborates and expands on the Nunes memo, showing that the FBI lied to the FISA court, fed false information to the court, and exposes Rep. Adam Schiff as a serial liar.
  • Found among the FBI coup plotters’ text messages: we must prepare talking points for then FBI-Director James Comey because President Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.” So the criminality goes straight up to the White House.

What’s interesting, in a disgusting way, is the reaction of the “left” and some “libertarians” to this truly scary development – the use of the Surveillance State to spy on and frame up political opponents. Listen to this podcast conducted by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill, who openly disdains the idea that anything untoward or illegal was going on with this kind of surveillance: he is joined by Julian Sanchez, the Cato Institute’s “privacy” expert, who openly justifies the surveillance of “suspicious” Carter Page and tells us that there was basically nothing wrong with the Obama administration spying on the Trump campaign.

It’s left to Peter van Buren, a former State Department official, to ask both of these jerks: Isn’t there something unprecedented and wrong about the involvement of the FBI/CIA/NSA in a presidential election campaign? Of course, he doesn’t get an answer to his question from either of these two jokers, although Sanchez is implicitly endorsing such interference in his later comments on Page.

By the way, when I brought up these points to Scahill, he accused me of being – wait for it! – a “racist” (!). Yes, really: see here.

These people are so tiresome, and so obviously deluded, that answering them is really beside the point. We’ll slide into tyranny with them standing on the sidelines, proclaiming their own virtue, and sucking up to @pierre Omidyar – the rabidly anti-Trump anti-Russian warmonger who finances The Intercept – until the cows come home.

It’s depressing to contemplate, but I am heartened by the work being done by Peter van Buren, whose common sense commentary and objective view of the surveillance scandal mirrors my own: he, too, sees that this isn’t about Trump. It’s about the future of our republic. It’s about not ceding power to a gaggle of unelected bureaucrats. It’s about preserving what’s left of our constitutional liberties. The Omidyars and the Kochs don’t get that: neither do their servants. Where is the American Civil Liberties Union on this issue? We haven’t heard a peep out of them.

During World War II, the ACLU and the “liberals” were all in favor of government repression: the internment of Japanese-Americans, the “Sedition Trial of 1944,” the groupthink and the censorship – it was all part of the “progressive” agenda. So don’t expect any help or encouragement from what passes for the “left” these days: they’re the enemy. We’re in this fight alone. And the stakes are high. The question is: will the US become just another shithole, with a secret police and a national security bureaucracy that holds the real power, with the ability to veto the democratic choices of the electorate?


The Stock Market Swings Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Our Rigged Economy

February 8 2018

by Kate Aronoff and Ryan Grim

The Intercept

Karl Marx used to say that unemployed people were capitalism’s reserve army. Though he didn’t invent the term, he meant that capitalism drew its strength from this army, standing at the ready to take a worker’s job if the current one didn’t like it. If unemployment levels are high enough, bosses can pay lower wages and treat workers poorly. If one of them quits, there are plenty more in reserve. But if the reserve army is depleted — if the economy is at full employment, and everybody who wants a job has one — then bosses can’t treat workers as disposable, and they can’t indulge their racism and sexism in the same way.

A boss who treats women or people of color poorly, or refuses to hire them, is at a supreme disadvantage if there’s no reserve army.

Think back to World War II, when unemployment evaporated in order to meet the demands of the war effort. Rosie the Riveter didn’t get her job as the result of a social movement on behalf of gender equity on the factory floor. She got it because factories needed bodies and had less ability to indulge their sexism. Full employment takes power out of the hands of bosses who use it to discriminate and gives power to workers to make demands — and if those demands aren’t met, they have the freedom to work elsewhere.

That theory about unemployment in a capitalist economy is relevant to how analysts are pulling apart the two-day collapse of the stock market that began Friday, and its subsequent wild swings. Market watchers have said flat-out that the crash was triggered by a new jobs report released Friday that showed that wages, nearly a decade into the recovery, might finally be starting to rise.

Now, when analysts say that the Dow Jones industrial average went up or down for this or that reason, they are often just guessing. What specifically moves a body as complex as the stock market is in some ways unknowable, but it is useful to explore the cause being ascribed to last week’s crash — rising wages — apart from its implications for the market. What it says about the way our economy is structured is much more profound.

Start with the suggestion, which seems odd on its face, that the market crashed because wages were seen to be rising. Anybody outside the financial system would immediately see wages going up as a good thing. After all, it’s what every politician in every party says they want to see happen. But for market analysts, it’s a bad thing, because it is said to be a signal that inflation is around the corner.

“Concern about inflation was most glaring on Friday, when stocks tanked after the January jobs report revealed the strongest wage gains since 2009,” reported CNN Money. “The immediate catalyst was the jobs report, which showed the strong United States economy might finally be translating into rising wages for American workers — a sign that higher inflation could be around the corner,” offered The New York Times.

And if inflation is coming, then the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates to slow down the economy and cool off the inflation. When the Fed raises interest rates, bonds become more attractive, so people move money from stocks to bonds — and the stock market dives. It becomes harder to borrow, so businesses and homeowners have less capital to throw around. Profits get squeezed by high-interest payments. And as interest rates rise, the value of older bonds, which pay out a lower interest rate, goes down. So people are losing money all over the place. All because wages started to go up.

Everything in the structure of the economy, then, is geared toward making sure that wages never rise. And for nearly half a century, this task has been accomplished. Wages haven’t budged since the 1970s.

Capitalism’s reserve army has its ranks bolstered by a mechanism known as the “inflation target” or the “inflation objective.” The Fed currently sets the target at 2 percent, meaning that it doesn’t want to see inflation higher or lower than that. What it really means is that it doesn’t want to see inflation higher than that, as the economy hasn’t hit the 2 percent target in years.

But the target itself has meaning, since any little sign of wage growth is taken to mean that inflation is around the bend, so the Fed taps the brakes to keep everything under that target. When the Fed hits the brakes, people lose their jobs. That’s not an unfortunate side effect of tighter monetary policy — it is the intended effect. But the 2 percent target, argue people who want to see real full employment, is too low. The Fed is throwing people out of work unnecessarily — or, at least, for no sound economic reason.

Political activism on the left around monetary policy doesn’t have much infrastructure, but the Center for Popular Democracy, through a group called the Fed Up Campaign, has begun to change that. Progress on that front could be seen in a tangible way last June, when then-Fed Chair Janet Yellen was asked at a press conference to respond to a letter, organized by Fed Up and signed by two dozen economists, calling for her to raise the inflation target.

She opened the door to it. “I would say that this is one of the most important questions facing monetary policy around the world,” she said. “This is one of our most critical decisions and one we’re attentive to evidence and outside thinking. It’s one that we will be reconsidering at some future time.”

Because the language Fed chairs use is so important, here’s her entire answer:

At the time that we adopted the 2 percent target back in 2012, we had a very thorough discussion of the factors that should determine what our inflation objective should be. I believe that was a well-thought-out decision. Now, at the moment, we are highly focused on trying to achieve our 2 percent objective and we recognize the fact that inflation has been running below, and it’s essential for us to move inflation back to that objective. Now we’ve learned a lot in the meantime and assessments of the level of the neutral — likely level, currently and going forward — neutral fed funds rate have changed and are quite a bit lower than they stood in 2012 or earlier years, and that means the economy has the potential where policy could be constrained by the zero lower bound more frequently than at the time that we adopted our 2 percent objective, so it’s that recognition that causes people to think we might be better off with a higher inflation objective. This is one of our most critical decisions and one we’re attentive to evidence and outside thinking. It’s one that we will be reconsidering at some future time. It’s important for our decisions to be informed by a wide range of views and research, which is ongoing inside and outside the Fed. But a reconsideration of that objective needs to take account not only of benefits — potential benefits — of a higher inflation target, but also the potential costs that could be associated with it. It needs to be a balanced assessment, but I would say that this is one of the most important questions facing monetary policy around the world in the future and very much look forward to seeing research by economists that will help inform our future decisions on this.

In plain English, Yellen said that the decision the Fed made in 2012 — before she was Fed chair — may have been the right one at the time, but evidence since then suggests the rate could be set higher. “Wage growth since the recession has been anemic and labor share of corporate income is still nowhere where it needs to be,” Jordan Haedtler, campaign manager of Fed Up, told The Intercept. “If the Fed announced that it was willing to tolerate a higher inflation target or even adopt a wage target, maybe investors would treat the recent modest uptick in wages as the good news that it is, rather than panicking.”

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, chose not to re-appoint Yellen, replacing her with Jerome Powell.

The question for Powell, who took the reins at the Fed this week, will be whether to move in the direction that Yellen had hinted or to keep the boot on the neck of wages. Even assuming there is no employer-class ideology behind the current model, the trouble is that the relationship between inflation and joblessness has become less and less clear since the model was first drawn up in 1958 by A.W. Phillips, using data from 1861 through 1957. So if the Fed can’t say that it is throwing people out of work in order to stave off inflation down the road, then why on earth is it doing it, other than simply to keep wages down on behalf of companies?

The current recovery in particular has shown that the economy can maintain significantly low unemployment — below the 5 percent “natural rate” — and not experience inflation. The term “natural rate” is itself a giveaway that the economics profession has ventured into guesswork territory; the idea that there is a “natural” unemployment rate in an economy built by people is silly on its face. It has also been disproven by events: Inflation actually kept up as unemployment spiked after the last recession, baffling the Fed. There also hasn’t been much of an empirical link between changes in the unemployment and inflation rates since the mid-1980s, as Matthew Klein of the Financial Times pointed out recently.

The Fed hasn’t been able to reliably meet its 2 percent inflation target since it was set in 2012, undershooting it for 66 out of 72 months. Any worry about inflation on the horizon is mostly speculative. Central bankers may say and even believe the opposite, but if they move to raise interest rates in the next several weeks and months — as is widely expected — doing so will mainly serve to ensure that workers don’t claim too much bargaining power.

“The link has broken between wages and inflation. It’s dishonest at this point for the Fed to be talking about higher wages as a cause of inflation,” said J.W. Mason, an economist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “But it fixes a lot of problems for them if they can make themselves think the inflation story is true.”

This has to do with something called the non-accelerating rate of unemployment, or the NAIRU. The theory is that changes to the rate of inflation can be traced back to how far the actual unemployment rate strays from a theoretical level, the NAIRU. If unemployment is lower than that rate, inflation can be expected to rise. The Fed operationalizes this theory via its dual mandate to moderate prices and maximize employment through its interest rate targets, a process which — by the logic of NAIRU — tends to treat the latter as a means to the former, maintaining the so-called natural rate of unemployment around 5 percent.

In Europe, central bankers have in recent years become more blatant about their role on this front: keeping wages from getting too high and (via interest rate targets) triggering a rise in unemployment when wages spike beyond their liking. The European Central Bank has even started to use a different, most honest term: the Non-Accelerating Wage Rate of Unemployment. In practice, they tend to mean the same thing — that only so many people can be employed before inflation rises, and the job of a central bank is to find and maintain the magic balance.

Still, there are plenty of reasons for markets to balk at high wages. In a tight labor market in which demand is high, employers have to make a better sell to workers to either stay on the job or take one in the first place, since it’s easier to find something that either pays better or is offering better working conditions. It’s also harder for companies to find people to work for them, as there are fewer people looking for jobs. In that context, bosses sweeten the deal, promising perks like higher pay, bonuses, and vacation pay — in all, shelling out more money to entice and keep the workers they need. “As all employers are doing this,” Mason said, “they’re competing with each other and bidding up the price of labor. Competition leads capitalists to act in a way that contradicts their collective interest.”

That’s where the Fed comes in, he added, to “protect businesses from their own worst impulses of giving workers higher wages.”

It’s also what we’re likely to see the Federal Open Market Committee — the Fed’s policymaking body — do over the next several weeks as it moves to raise interest rates. For the first time since the late 1990s, the share of corporate profits being devoted to wages and benefits appears to be rising consistently. It’s still not high, comparable to where it was just before the recession. But it’s enough to make shareholders nervous. “It’s not irrational if you’re somebody that receives profits to feel concerned that profits are going to workers instead. That really is happening,” Mason told The Intercept.

The response from the Fed, to “cool down” the economy by raising interest rates, could be disastrous for workers. By disincentivizing investment, higher interest rates make it less likely for firms to hire more workers. That’ll mean more people out of work overall, creating a feedback loop whereby people spend less money because their paychecks are less certain, in turn leading companies to make less stuff and hire fewer people. That all serves to give bosses the upper hand. In a tight labor market, workers can demand more since it may well be easier for them to find a new job than for their boss to find a new employee. A looser labor market flips that dynamic, raising the risks for employees of getting fired — especially so given the 40 years’ running assault on organized labor.

That’s essentially what happened in 1979, when — amid painfully high inflation — then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker moved to explode the interest rate, in large part to undermine what he and other monetary hawks saw as labor’s bloated bargaining power. As sociologist Michael McCarthy points out, the Fed was openly worrying in the late 1970s that unions were securing contracts that were too good to workers, and that businesses — per FOMC transcripts — “did not appear to be pressing as actively as they might to hold labor costs down, fearing the impact of strikes and assuming that inflation would continue.” In 1982, Volcker told Congress’s Joint Economic Committee that “progress will need to be reflected in moderation in the growth in nominal wages. The general indexes in worker compensation still show relatively little improvement,” meaning “decline.” Reagan’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers put it still more bluntly: “As we set a tighter environment, when labor and management sit down to bargain, they will have to crank in a lower rate of inflation.” Volcker tamed inflation, triggered 2 recessions and paved the way for Reagan’s all-out assault on unions.

So Carter, Volcker, and Reagan set out to suppress the power of organized labor. For that, they relied on a growing reserve army, created deliberately by government policy.

Then and now, the burden of interest rate hikes fall disproportionately on the more vulnerable workers — namely women and people of color — who constitute the vast majority of today’s working class. Some of the most densely unionized industries, like construction and manufacturing, have much higher percentages of white, male workers than bigger employers like the service industry, which now accounts for some 80 percent of jobs in the United States. This is especially troubling considering that the recovery from the last recession for workers of color has lagged dramatically behind their white counterparts, meaning — on top of discrimination in hiring and on the job — they’re already at a disadvantage when it comes to bargaining power, particularly in low-wage industries like retail and fast food.

The recent Dow Jones fluctuations have very little to do with a legitimate fear of inflation. The stock market panicked largely because CEOs and shareholders fear that they’re losing their upper hand over a workforce that’s cutting increasingly into their record profits. The Fed’s response to that may well be worse for the average American than anything that happens on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange: It may throw workers who are already hurting under the bus in the name of a stopping something — inflation — that’s nowhere to be found. There’s an outsized chance it could even trigger another recession, as more dramatic rate hikes have been known to do in the past.

Like most economic policymaking, the job of the Fed is to adjudicate who gets to hold power in the economy and society writ large, ostensibly in the public interest. If the Fed raises interest rates in the coming weeks and months, its answer will be clear.


America’s Israel chasm

January 24, 2018

by Damon Linker

The Week

In many ways, American attitudes toward the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians haven’t changed at all in 40 years. But in other ways, attitudes toward this intractable Mideast conflict have changed radically.

That’s the paradoxical finding of a new Pew poll.

On the surface, aggregate public opinion has been remarkably stable since 1978, with overall sympathy for the two sides in the conflict barely changing at all. Forty-five percent of Americans sided with Israel then and 46 percent do now. Likewise, 14 percent favored the Palestinians in the late 1970s, while 16 percent take that position today.

But the consistency of the aggregate numbers conceals a chasm opening up beneath the surface, with Republicans and Democrats moving in polar-opposite directions. Where 49 percent of Republicans sided with Israel in 1978, an astounding 79 percent do now. The percentage of Democrats supporting Israel, meanwhile, has fallen from 44 to 27 percent.

What was once a mere five percentage-point difference between the parties over support for Israel is now a 52-point rift.

The partisan polarization that’s produced a hollowing out of the ideological center in American public life on a growing number of issues has now reached the politics of the Middle East. The practical consequences are unlikely to be pretty.

For one thing, the growing gap between the parties opens the prospect of wild swings in policy from administration to administration. With the GOP’s military hawks and millenarian evangelicals firmly committed to defending the Jewish state regardless of its actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Republican presidents will be increasingly likely to follow President Trump’s lead in siding unconditionally and unambivalently with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

Critics of American policy in the Middle East have long accused the U.S. of doing precisely that, but the reality is that as recently as the administration of George W. Bush, Republican presidents aimed to be seen as honest brokers attempting to steer the parties toward a lasting peace in the form of a two-state solution. That’s one reason why Bush refrained for eight years from moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — because he and his advisers thought that this purely symbolic act would needlessly (and understandably) antagonize the Palestinians, thereby decreasing American leverage in future negotiations over a resolution of the conflict.

President Trump’s decision to break from Bush’s policy (which President Obama also upheld) and relocate the embassy reflects the administration’s abandonment of any pretense to fairness in the conflict — a change that was made possible by the lopsided support Israel enjoys among Republican voters.

What happens the next time a Democrat wins the White House, bringing drastically different views to the Oval Office? President Obama gave us a tentative and halting taste of what we will see — namely, the effort (during Obama’s first term) to use our leverage to get Israel to slow or halt the growth of settlements on occupied and contested land. Such demands will likely intensify under a future Democratic president, perhaps growing to include taking a stand against Israel at the United Nations or decreasing the amount of military aid it receives. Coming after the Trump administration’s unprecedented embrace of the Jewish state, the shift in approach will be jarring, to say the least. Especially since it will surely be followed, in turn, by a future Republican president who radically shifts course once again.

But this assumes that the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left on Israel will precisely mirror the GOP’s lurch to the right, and that is far from clear. While the Democrats have indeed become less supportive of Israel overall, the extent of the shift varies quite a lot across the ideological spectrum within the party. Whereas 35 percent of conservative and moderate Democrats continue to sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians, for liberal Democrats the percentage drops to 19 percent. Meanwhile, nearly twice as many liberals (35 percent) sympathize more with the Palestinians.

That’s a picture of a party sharply divided. Whichever way it moves — moderating slightly in comparison to the stridently pro-Israel line of the Republicans or diverging drastically from it to please the party’s increasingly anti-Israel liberal base — Democrats will face angry dissension in their ranks.

AWith the gap between the parties — and within the Democratic Party — growing ever-wider on the issue, get ready for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to erupt in electoral form within the American political system. Add it to the lengthening list of issues on which finding common ground and consensus eludes us as a nation.


Trump’s America will be saddled with debt – just like his bankrupted hotels

The Republican spending bill throws conservative principles – whatever remains of them – into the wind

February 9, 2018

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

Once upon a time, conservatives said they hated Barack Obama because of his budget deficits. They said he was destroying America and its future, which made them very angry indeed. They were so mad about all those Obama debts that they invented a new party, and named it after the revolutionaries who opposed a nasty British king.

The Tea Party was a collection of strange people, including one candidate who promised she wasn’t a witch. But the strangest thing happened after Obama moved out of the White House, and an orange man moved in. That was when conservatives all across America decided they didn’t actually hate debt and deficits after all.

That was just one of the many ways Donald Trump made everyone happy in America all over again. Another one was the stock market, which sometimes goes up and sometimes goes down. Everyone was happy when it went up, and nobody talked about it when it went down.

Donald Trump knows a lot about debt because he has created so much of it himself. He’s like a grand wizard of debt because he has magically escaped from several dark boxes of it. He also knows a few grand wizard types and thinks they are some very fine people.

Grand Wizard Trump first learned his magic debt spells when he built a palace called the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He called it the eighth wonder of the world, and it certainly was wonderful how the business went bankrupt a year after it opened. Five other Trump palaces went bankrupt the next year, but he waved his wand and everything turned out fine. For him.

How did he escape from all that debt? “On occasion,” he told Hillary Clinton on television, “we used certain laws that are there.” That certainly put her in her place.

Normal people find it hard to borrow money or run businesses after so many bankruptcies. But they don’t know the magic spells that Trump knows, and they don’t have a TV show that makes any buffoon look like a real businessman. They also don’t have Russian wizard friends who buy lots of their property at ridiculously high prices because that’s how they do something they call “laundry”.

Now we all know that cleanliness is next to godliness, which is why our sparklingly clean president could say such godly things at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

“As long as we are true to America’s founding and the example that all of these great founders have set, we can all be heroes to everybody and they can be heroes to us,” said the man who heroically gave $130,000 to his friend Stormy Daniels so she could concentrate on her movie career. Trump was very happy to be talking at the prayer breakfast. Not because of the praying or the breakfasting, but because his best friend from TV was going to be there. “Will be heading over shortly to make remarks at The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington,” he tweeted. “Great religious and political leaders, and many friends, including TV producer Mark Burnett of our wonderful 14 season Apprentice triumph, will be there. Looking forward to seeing all!”

Even the prayer people were happy to set aside their morals. They know that Trump’s kind of magical thinking is precisely what the world needs right now, otherwise everybody would get very upset at the way the planet is warming, the threat of nuclear war, and the global refugee crisis. Right now we obviously need the kind of leader who is completely ignorant about the consequences, and just lives in the moment.

Because if we don’t live in the here and now, we might start thinking about all those Trump-sized debts that will land after a corporate tax cut that blew apart the federal budget and a spending deal that now promises to do the same.

Fortunately we live in a time when Republicans have learned from his leadership and abandoned all their old ways of thinking, which they used to call principles.

Mick Mulvaney counts the coins that are left in Trump’s budget office and he used to be worried about things like debt. But that was in the olden times, when he was trying to get confirmed for this current job, one year ago.

“Our gross national debt has increased to almost $20tn. That number is so large as to defy description,” he told senators. “I believe, as a matter of principle, that the debt is a problem that must be addressed sooner, rather than later.”

Mulvaney is so old-fashioned he called Obama’s budget in 2011 “a joke” for adding to the national debt about the same amount as Trump’s tax cuts. “It’s hard to explain how detached from reality this is, to think that the country can spend another $1.6tn when it doesn’t have the means,” he told Politico.

We all need to learn to love that old Trump magic. At the opening of his newest palace in Washington DC, just before his Russian friends helped him move into the White House, Trump used his wizarding powers of prediction to tell us what today would look like. (You knew it would look great, right?)

“Today is a metaphor for what we can accomplish for this country,” he said about a hotel that would become watering hole for foreign countries looking to line his pockets. “My job is to look at undeveloped spaces and imagine what they could be,” he explained. “These are spaces that have no hope, no future … We have so many things we can do for our country.”

And he was right. Nobody but Trump could have imagined that Republicans would vote for a trillion-dollar monster after so many years fighting a religious war against Obama for precisely the same thing. Nobody but Trump could have sold the idea of debt so well to the very people who said they hated it.

This was truly an undeveloped space in American politics, and it took a visionary like Trump to make it real. Let’s hope they all live happily ever after.


Pennsylvania lawmakers face Friday deadline for new congressional map

February 9, 2018

by Joseph Ax


Pennsylvania lawmakers face a court-ordered deadline on Friday to submit a new congressional map, after the existing one was struck down for being illegally drawn to benefit Republicans in a ruling that could reshape the 2018 electoral battle for Congress.

The legislature’s Republican leaders were scrambling late on Thursday to produce boundaries that could win consensus among members as well as the approval of the state’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf.

Republican leadership staffers told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette they were considering sending a draft map to Wolf on Friday and holding a vote on it or a revised one in the coming days.

“I don’t sit here and say this is the perfect solution but we’re trying to do the best we can,” Drew Crompton, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati told the newspaper.

In a 5-2 vote along party lines, the Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the old map on Jan. 22, ruling that the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state constitution by manipulating the lines to marginalize Democratic voters.

The Pennsylvania fight is one of several across the United States over gerrymandering, in which lawmakers design legislative districts to weaken the power of the opposing party’s voters. Critics say the practice skews elections while intensifying political polarization.

Pennsylvania has long been seen by experts as one of the worst offenders. The 7th Congressional District, in particular, has been derided as “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck” for its bizarre, twisting outline.

The court gave lawmakers until Friday to submit a map to Wolf, who has until Feb. 15 to accept or reject it. Otherwise, the court will draw its own map with an independent expert.

Republicans have held 13 of the state’s 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives since the current map went into effect for the 2012 election, despite Pennsylvania’s status as a closely divided swing state.

New districts will likely increase Democratic chances to win several seats. The party needs to capture 24 seats nationwide to retake control of the House in November elections.

Republicans criticized the court’s majority for waiting until Wednesday to issue an opinion fully outlining its legal reasoning.

Republicans have also not ruled out filing a federal lawsuit challenging the court’s authority to draw its own map. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an emergency appeal from Republican lawmakers challenging the state court’s ruling.

(This story corrects eighth paragraph to show the governor’s deadline is Feb. 15, not Feb. 16)

Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Peter Cooney and Matthew Mpoke Bigg


What’s really behind America’s objections to Trump’s military parade

February 9, 2018

by Finian Cunningham


President Donald Trump’s plan to stage a mega military parade in the American capital provoked a broad swath of opposition, from conservatives and liberals alike.

Part of the objection, however, seems to stem from an unspoken embarrassment – that such a military display shatters American democratic pretensions, at home and around the world.

Surprisingly for a nation that repeatedly boasts about having the most powerful military force on the planet – and, indeed, ever in the whole of recorded history – there was scant enthusiasm this week for Trump’s reported proposal for a full-scale military parade to be held later this year along Washington DC’s Pennsylvania Avenue.

Planning details are still in the works for the proposed event, which is only being sketchily discussed at this time, and may not even materialize.

Trump is said to have been wowed by the military procession he attended in Paris last July on France’s annual Bastille Day. Ever since then the American president has been prodding his aides to stage a similar martial spectacle in the US.

America’s Independence Day on July 4 or Veterans Day on November 11 have been suggested as possible dates to hold the event, which would see columns of troops and weapons filing down the iconic avenue stretching from the Congressional government building on Capitol Hill and the president’s White House residence.

The New York Times reported with a tone of misgiving: “Tanks, jets and other killing machines painted olive-drab and tan could be rolling the routes of the nation’s capital later this year for a peacetime parade inspired by President Trump.”

But, it added: “Few lawmakers – if any – said they loved the idea of Mr Trump’s parade. Some shrugged it off. Others called it undemocratic. Many lamented the use of the military’s time and money.”

Politico reported: “Trump’s military parade draws bipartisan rebuke.” It said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle decried such an event as “a break with democratic traditions.”

Senior Democrat Representative Adam Smith is quoted as saying: “A military parade of this kind would also be a departure from the values of our constitutional democracy. A military parade like this – one that is unduly focused on a single person – is what authoritarian regimes do, not democracies.”

Other commentators focused their objections on what they said was such an event pandering to Trump’s notoriously outsized ego.

CNN pundit Chris Cillizza said: “Of course Trump wants a big shiny parade… Bigger is always better in Trump’s world. And might usually makes right. He with the biggest toys wins.”

A Washington Post commentary said that Trump’s penchant for pomp and grandiose ceremony makes him a sucker for “the sort of martial display these days more associated with single-party states and irredentist autocrats.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is well connected to the military establishment and often espouses hawkish militarist foreign policy, seemed uncharacteristically coy about the parade idea. He said: “I’m not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That’s not who we are. It’s kind of cheesy. I think it shows weakness, quite frankly.”

Politico, again, added: “Two Democratic military veterans in Congress – Reps Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Ted Lieu of California – wrote Defense Secretary James Mattis in a letter Wednesday that just because authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea hold massive military parades does not mean that we must as well.”

Some of the public’s opposition appeared to be genuinely based on sound practical reasons.

Military Times, a US publication, cited a survey it conducted among its readers showing that nearly 90 percent of them were against Trump’s idea. They reportedly objected because, they said, it was “a waste of money” or because “our troops are too busy” to participate in such a large-scale spectacle, one which presumably would take a lot of logistical planning and funding to organize.

Nevertheless, what seems to be concerning many among the political establishment is the overt American militarism that such an event would reveal.

Reading between the lines, the stated concerns from politicians and media commentators about maintaining the form of “constitutional democracy” and not being associated with “authoritarianism” are not, one discerns, primarily motivated by genuine constitutional democratic principles. Rather the unspoken concern is the embarrassment about what such a major military display in Washington DC would reveal – the fact that the United States is a massively militarized state.

It is true that big centralized military spectacles are rather rare in the US. Commentators noted that the last event of this kind that took place in Washington DC was nearly 27 years ago, back in the summer of 1991, when then President George Bush Sr held a “victory march” following the First Gulf War against Iraq.

Nonetheless, it can be fairly remarked that military culture is rife across the US in myriad daily and weekly events, from school assemblies saluting the national flag, to veterans marching through every small town jamboree, to fighter jet flyovers at football games.

Arguably, why the military in the US does not participate in annual showpieces in the capital is for the tacit reason of trying to maintain a public appearance of a constitutional democracy amid such rampant militarism endemic to its society. A big display of the kind that Trump is proposing is an awkward demonstration of just how militarized American society is.

The irony over the past week is that while many lawmakers and media outlets were squirming over Trump’s gaudy military plans, the US Congress just voted through a Budget Bill for an extra $160 billion spend on the military. The final military budget comes to some $700 billion and represents over half of the total annual federal spend.

Republican and Democrat lawmakers are wrangling over financial cuts to public services and welfare, nearly shutting down the government again from the impasse. But, evidently, politicians of all stripes, whether conservative or liberal, have no problem whatsoever about splurging $700 billion on military. That expenditure is said to be the highest level ever – exceeding even the heights of the Cold War.

This gargantuan year-on-year allocation of economic resources by the US – greater than the combined expenditure of the world’s next 10 biggest military powers, including Russia and China – is a stupendous testimony to the hyper-militarized state that is the US.

It is a self-evident corollary that the grotesque militarization of the American economy is its permanent waging of overseas wars and bellicose foreign policy.

No other nation comes close to the record of American war-making around the planet. Currently, US forces are bombing seven countries simultaneously, including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the past quarter decade since its “victory parade” in Washington DC for President Bush Sr, over a million people have been killed in American wars, and a litany of countries have been reduced to rubble or “failed states.”

The real reason why Trump’s plan for a military parade is causing such discomfit among the political class is this: they know the spectacle will only serve to illustrate starkly to the American public and the rest of the world that the United States is a rogue military regime.


U.S. Secretly Negotiated With Russians to Buy Stolen NSA Documents — and the Russians Offered Trump-Related Material, Too

February 9 2018

by James Risen

The Intercept

The United States intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives, according to sources familiar with the matter. The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Over the past year, American intelligence officials have opened a secret communications channel with the Russian operatives, who have been seeking to sell both Trump-related materials and documents stolen from the National Security Agency and obtained by Russian intelligence, according to people involved with the matter and other documentary evidence. The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package.

The CIA declined to comment on the operation. The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The secret U.S. intelligence channel with the Russians is separate from efforts by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to obtain information about Trump and his ties with Russia. Steele worked with Fusion GPS, an American private investigations firm that was first hired by Republican and later Democratic opponents of Trump to dig up information on him during the 2016 campaign.

By contrast, the more recent secret negotiations began after Trump’s election and have been conducted by U.S. intelligence officials working with intermediaries who mainly operate in Europe. When American intelligence officials initiated efforts to broker a communication channel in 2017, however, their primary objective was to recover stolen NSA documents, not to obtain material about Trump.

At the time, the NSA was desperate to recover documents that intelligence officials believed Russia had obtained through a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers. The group stole highly-secret NSA hacking tools and began releasing them on the internet in the summer of 2016. The Shadow Brokers theft of the hacking tools devastated morale at the NSA, putting its custom-built offensive cyber weapons out in the open. It was as if a bio-weapons laboratory had lost some of its most deadly and dangerous viruses. U.S. officials wanted to identify which NSA documents the Shadow Brokers had stolen so they could determine how badly the agency had been damaged by the theft.

But once the communications channel opened, the Russians on the other side offered to sell documents related to Trump along with the stolen NSA documents.

A Russian who has been acting as a go-between for other Russians with access to Russian government materials has sought payment for the materials he is offering. In an extensive interview with The Intercept in Germany, the Russian intermediary provided detailed information about the channel. When contacted by The Intercept for this story, the American intermediary declined to comment.

Even many involved in the secret communications channel between U.S. intelligence and the Russians are said to be uncertain about what is really going on with the operation. Recently, the Russians have been seeking to provide documents said to be related to Trump officials and Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, including some purloined FBI reports and banking records. It is not clear whether those documents are in possession of American officials. It is also unclear whether the secret channel has helped the U.S. recover significant amounts of data from the NSA documents believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers.

Further, it is not known whether the Russians involved in the channel are acting on their own or have been authorized by the Russian government to try to sell the materials to the United States. As a result, the Americans are uncertain whether the Russians involved are part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Moscow, either to discredit Trump or to discredit efforts by American officials investigating Trump’s possible ties to Russia, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The existence of the off-the-books communications channel, which has been a closely guarded secret within the U.S. intelligence community, has been highly controversial among those officials who know about it, and has begun to cause rifts between officials at the CIA and the NSA who have been involved with it at various times over the past year.

The CIA, which is now headed by a Trump loyalist, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, has at times been reluctant to stay involved in the operation, apparently for fear of obtaining the Trump-related material offered by the Russians, according to sources close to the negotiations. In the period in which the communications channel has been open, CIA officials are said to have repeatedly changed their views about it. They have sometimes expressed interest, only to later back away from any involvement with the channel and the intermediaries. At some points, the CIA has been serious enough about buying materials through the channel that agency officials said they had transported cash to the CIA’s station in Berlin to complete the transaction. But at other points, agency officials backed off and shut down their communications. Some people involved with the channel believe that the CIA has grown so heavily politicized under Pompeo that officials there have become fearful of taking possession of any materials that might be considered damaging to Trump.

The CIA’s wariness shows that the reality within the U.S. intelligence community is a far cry from the right-wing conspiracy theory that a “deep state” is working against Trump. Instead, the agency’s behavior seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence officials are torn about whether to conduct any operations at all that might aid Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

Many intelligence officials are reluctant to get involved with anything related to the Trump-Russia case for fear of blowback from Trump himself, who might seek revenge by firing senior officials and wreaking havoc on their agencies. For example, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence and thus the man supposedly in charge of the entire U.S. intelligence community, has said he does not see it as his role to push for an aggressive Trump-Russia investigation, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Because of the CIA’s reluctance to take an aggressive role, officials at the NSA have taken the lead on the communications channel, with a primary focus on recovering their own stolen documents. They have viewed the Trump-related material as an annoying sidelight, even as they understand that it is potentially the most explosive material to have come through the channel.

The channel has been operating in the shadows even as Mueller’s investigation has been basking in the spotlight. Last year, three former Trump campaign officials faced charges as part of Mueller’s investigation, and the special counsel continues to investigate both possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and evidence of efforts by Trump or others close to him to obstruct justice in the Mueller probe.

Over the past year, those involved with the secret communications channel have experienced a series of dramatic highs and lows. Until recently, it wasn’t clear whether the conversations would produce any materials about Trump or lead to the recovery of any NSA documents.

It took months of meetings and negotiations between American and Russian intermediaries to try to determine what documents might be available from the Russians – and at what price. Inconsistent interest in the channel by U.S. intelligence officials, particularly at the CIA, complicated the negotiations.

According to documents obtained by The Intercept that summarize much of the channel’s history, a key American intermediary with the Russians was first approached by U.S. intelligence officials in late December, 2016. The officials asked him to help them recover NSA documents believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers.

The American was able to identify a hacker in Germany who claimed to have access to some of the stolen data believed to be held by the Shadow Brokers, and who accurately provided advance notice of several Shadow Broker data releases. The hacker’s cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community broke down over his demands for full immunity from U.S. prosecution for his hacking activities—negotiations that failed largely because the hacker refused to provide his full personal identification to the Americans.

Eventually, the relationship with the hacker in Germany led the Americans to begin talks with a Russian who became a key intermediary in the channel. The Russian is believed to have ties to officials in Russian intelligence.

In March 2017, the Russian met with the American intermediary and a U.S. official in Berlin and agreed to provide the stolen NSA data from the Shadow Brokers in exchange for payment. The U.S. government used “certain messaging techniques” that the Russian accepted as proof that the U.S. government was behind the negotiations and the proposed deal, according to the documents obtained by The Intercept.

But the channel broke down several times, often over disagreements between the U.S. and the Russians over how money would be exchanged and what data was to be received. In May, 2017, U.S. officials were upset that the first tranche of data they received contained files already known to have been stolen because they had already been released by the Shadow Brokers. But the Russian intermediary continued to insist that he could provide data held by the Shadow Brokers as well as materials related to Trump officials and Russian activity in the 2016 campaign. Throughout 2017, the U.S. officials sought to limit the scope of their investigation to data stolen by the Shadow Brokers, leaving aside the materials related to Trump. U.S. officials also began to wonder whether the Russian intermediary was part of a so-called “dangle” operation involving Russian disinformation.

But by last fall, the Russian began passing information to the American intermediary that was unrelated to the Shadow Brokers, including the names of specific individuals and corporate entities allegedly tied to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The American intermediary turned the information over to U.S. intelligence for the purpose of determining the Russian’s credibility. U.S. intelligence officials continued to stress that they were only interested in recovering stolen U.S. data. Still, it was understood that if the Russian provided material related to Trump, the American intermediary would debrief U.S. officials on its content.

In December, 2017, the Russian turned over documents and files, some of them in Russian. The documents appeared to include FBI investigative reports, financial records, and other materials related to Trump officials and the 2016 campaign.

“The information was vetted and ultimately determined that while a significant part of it was accurate and verifiable, other parts of the data were impossible to verify and could be controversial,” the documents obtained by The Intercept state. It is not clear who vetted the material.

At a meeting last month in Spain, the Russian told the American intermediary of his desire to move forward with the delivery of the Shadow Brokers data as well as material related to the 2016 election. The American questioned him on the credibility of his data and told him the data he was providing on Trump officials and election activities was “unsolicited.” The Russian also expressed interest in giving the material to media outlets, which the American told the Russian he found “disconcerting.”

The Russian told the American that he had first become aware of Russian efforts targeting U.S. political activities in late 2014 or early 2015, according to the documents reviewed by The Intercept. The Russian stated that he had no knowldege of a “master plan” to cause major disruption to U.S. election activities, but the effort was generally understood as a “green light” from Russian security officials to enlist cyber-related groups in probing and harassing activities directed at U.S. targets.


Donald Trump’s Russian connections

Отчет, представленный министру Колокольцеву

Report submitted to Minister Kolokoltsev

Edited by Christian Jürs



The KGB had opened a file on Donald Trump in 1977, the year when Mr.Trump married Ivana Zelníčková, then a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelníčková was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA.

Zelníčková was born in Zlin, a town in Moravia. In the early 1970s she moved to Canada, first to Toronto and then to Montreal, to be with a ski instructor boyfriend. Exiting Czechoslovakia during this period was, the files said, “incredibly difficult.” Zelníčková moved to New York. In April 1977 she married Mr.Trump. Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992

According to intelligence files, both in Moscow and in Prague, Czech intelligence agents kept the Trumps under close surveillance in Manhattan. The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos. They opened letters sent home by Ivana to her father, Milos, an engineer. Milos Zelníčková had a functional relationship with the Czech secret police, who would ask him how his daughter was doing abroad and in return permit her visits home. There was continuing surveillance of the Trump family in the United States. At her request, and by her father’s insistence, Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., visited Milos in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,

As was the custom, the Czechs shared their intelligence product with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. Mr.Trump was of interest to Soviet intelligence for several reasons. In the first instance his wife came from a country under Soviet control and secondly during the perestroika period Trump was considered to be a good potential source as he was known to be a prominent real estate leader.  In the Czech intelligence files, communications from Ivana to her father mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. It was at this point that it appeared that Mr.Trump might embark on a political career and, if successful, be a first class intelligence asset.

Therefore, Mr. Trump was in an active file of the KGB and regarded as a highly potential agent/informant and, possibly to become a full KGB agent.

Through the offices of his wife, Mr.Trump was encouraged to consider the Soviets as a good business connection. The relationship would be known as an important “confidential contact.” doveritelnaya svyaz. доверительные отношения  (Trust relationship)

Trump biography

Donald John Trump (June 14, 1946)

He is of German/Scottish origin. One of his German relatives was an Arnold Trumpf, b, 27 October 1892 in Gifhorn and died 7, January 1985 in Garmish-Partenkirchen. Trumpf was a member of the Nazi party number 389 920 from 1 December 1930. He was a member of the SS Race and Settlement Office as an SS-Oberfürer

Trump was born and grew up in New York City. He received a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Trump took over running his family’s real estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded it to involve constructing and renovating skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. He also started various side ventures, including branding and licensing his name for real estate and luxury consumer products.

He managed the company until his 2017 inauguration as President of the United States.

Trump also gained prominence in the media and entertainment fields. He co-authored several books, and from 2003 to 2015 he was a producer and the host of The Apprentice, a reality television game show.

Trump owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015. According to the American financial Forbes magazine, he was the world’s 544th richest person as of May 2017, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion.

In 1977, Trump married his first wife, Czech model Ivana Zelníčková. They had three children: Donald Jr. (b. 1977), Ivanka (b. 1981), and Eric (b. 1984). Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump’s affair with actress Marla Maples.

In October 1993, Maples gave birth to Trump’s daughter, who was named Tiffany after the upper-class Tiffany & Company. Maples and Trump were married two months later in December 1993. They divorced in 1999, and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California.

In 2005, Trump married his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. Her original name was Melanija Knavs, born on April 26, 1970 at Novo Mesto, SR Slovenia, SFR Yugoslavia

In 2006, Melania became a United States citizen and gave birth to a son, March 20, 2006, Barron William Trump. Melania and Barron moved to the White House on June 11, 2017,

Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but his hotel and casino businesses were declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds. Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded.

Mr. Trump was quoted by Newsweek magazine in 2011 saying, “I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they’re very good for me” as a tool for trimming debt.

The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).

As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. Trump uttered “at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days” in office according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office. The Washington Post, also wrote, “President Trump is the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered… the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.”

Mr. Trump has a history of making racially-charged statements and taking actions perceived as racially motivated.

In 1975, Mr. Trump settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1973 alleging housing discrimination against black renters. In 1989, he was accused of racism for insisting that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the Central Park jogger case even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence.

He continued to maintain this position as late as 2016.

Mr.Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.

One of Mr.Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked for several years to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovich win the Ukrainian presidency.

Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials. Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump.

Members of Mr.Trump’s campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn, were in contact with Russian officials both before and after the November election In a December 29, 2016 conversation, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the recently imposed sanctions against Russia; Mr.Trump later fired Flynn for falsely claiming he had not discussed the sanctions.

Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.

In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.

In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel

In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.

By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.

Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”

In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.

Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.

Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”

In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors

During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.

In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.

Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns

A secret KGB memo under date of February 1, 1984 concerned the necessity of making an expanded use of the facilities of cooperating foreign intelligence services—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German intelligence networks.

The most revealing section concerned kompromat.

The document specifically requested any compromising information about Donald Trump, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself. Plus any other information that would compromise the subject (Trump) to his country’s authorities and the general public. Naturally the information could be used to cause him serious problems in his country if exposed.

Finally, the report mentioned that his attitude towards women was also of interest. The point of interest would be if he was the habit of having affairs with women.

Mr. Trumps’ first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin in 1986. His original position was Soviet ambassador to the U.N. Dubinin’s mission as ambassador was to make contact with America’s business elite.

There was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder. Mr. Trump was invited to meet the Ambassador. Ambassador Dubinin spoke fluent English and during the course of the luncheon Trump spoke at length with the Ambassador who proposed that Trump build a large luxury hotel, directly across from the Kremlin, in association with the Soviet government.

Mr.Trump at once became interested in the project and expressed his willingness to cooperate on such a project.

By January 1987, Mr.Trump had become a “prominent person” status and therefore Ambassador Dubinin deemed Mr.Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—was of assistance in this project.

Mr. Trump first visited the Soviet Union on July 4, 1987.

Mr. Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with his wife Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant. Ambassadpr Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow was a standard operation exercise by the KGB.

The Trump trip was orchestrated by the Intourist Agency which was under the control of the KGB. Its duty was to investigate and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union.

The Trumps were treated with great courtesy by Soviet officials and they were housed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square.

The hotel was connected to the Intourist complex next door and was under KGB control.

The Lenin suite had been fixed for electronic surveillance.

In November of 2013, the Miss Universe pageant was held iin Moscow

It was there that  Mr. Trump — then the pageant’s owner — spent several days socializing with Russia’s business and political elite and becoming acquainted with a wealthy developer whose connections his son would later seek to capitalize on. The developer, Aras Agalarov, offered to pass on information about potential rival Mrs. Clinton from Russia’s top prosecutor to help a projected Trump presidential campaign.

The contest was held at Crocus City Hall, a venue owned by Agalarov. The event would be a family affair: Agalarov’s son, a pop singer named Emin, performed on stage and his wife was a judge.

Mr.Trump remained on good and productive terms with the Agalarov family, at one point, appearing in a music video with Emin and sending him a videotaped greeting on his 35th birthday.

During his trip to Moscow on November 9-11, 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant, Mr.Trump surrounded himself with business people and those necessary to sign a deal which would bring a Trump Tower project to Moscow. These were: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov,Yulya (Yulia) Alferova,Herman Gref, Artem Klyushin, Vladimir Kozhin, Chuck LaBella, Rotem Rosen, Phil Ruffin, Alex Sapir, Keith Schiller, Roustam Tariko and Bob Van Ronkel.

At first, President Putin, who had planned on meeting Mr.Trump at the pageant, sent numerous individuals tied to the Russian construction sector to the event to discuss potential lucrative building plans and to ascertain Mr. Trump’s attitudes.

President Putin to establish a distance, stated he was unable to attend the pagent because of a last-minute visit from the King of the Netherlands.

Previous to this meeting, there had been no positive positions on the possibility that Mr. Trump, with Russian assistance and financing, might construct a luxury hotel in Moscow. Trump made several tweets thanking individuals in Moscow and bragging about his future plans. Then on November 12th, 2013 Trump posted a link to the Moscow Times, remarking that his organization was working on building a luxury hotel in Moscow “@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”

This hotel deal was finalized during Trump’s weekend stay in Moscow for his Miss Universe pageant. At the Four Seasons Hotel at Ulitsa Okhotnyy Ryad, 2, a private meeting was held between Mr. Trump and President Putin. As the President is fluent in English, no other person was present. President Putin praised the business abilities of Mr. Trump and said that he would be a “refreshing person” as President of the United States. President Putin said that his people would be pleased to support Mr. Trump and that if this support was deemed material in achieving a victory, President Putin had one request to make of Mr. Trump. President Putin said his best wish was to establish “friendly and cooperative attitudes” by both parties, firmer business contacts and an abandonment of the policy of threats to the Russian Republic. President Putin stressed that certain very right-wing groups in America had been constantly agitating aganst him and against the Russian Republic and he hoped that Mr. Trump, if elected, could ignore these few people and work with, not against the Russian Republic. Mr. Trump repeatedly assured the President that he woud be most eager to do just that and he agreed to work with various people in the United States who were friendly towards, and had connections with, the Russian Republic.

This most important conversation was recorded as a form of kompromat. And it is certain that a direct quid pro quo took place in November of 2013 between President Putin and Mr. Trump.

On June 16, 2015, Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for President

The methodology of Russian assistance:

The SVR has often sent intelligence officers to branches of the New York Public Library, and other public libraries, where they obtained access to the Internet, via library computers, without revealing their identity.

They placed propaganda and disinformation to educational web sites and sent e-mails to US media. It is a fact that the alternate internet site, WikiLeaks, is entirely controlled, out of Sweden, by the SVR and that they use this front to release genuine information to address issues they consider important to influence.

The articles or studies were generated by Russian experts who worked for the SVR. The purpose of these active measures was to whitewash Russian foreign policy, to create good image of Russia, to promote Anti-American feelings and “to cause dissension and unrest inside the US.

The materials used to support the candidacy of Mr. Trump were a series of emails from, and to, the Democratic National Committee which were perfectely genuine but selected to bring discredit on the campaign of Ms. Clinton. This material was part of a trove of such material obtained by an American domestic intelligence agent and sold to Russian interests.

In June of 2016, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his presidential chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer when they were told the Russian intelligence had acquired highly damaging information concerning Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate.

Russian property developer, Aras Agalarov had arrainged this meeting. Subsequently the information gleaned from this meeting was given to Aras Agalarov from Russian prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika.

Because the Trumps, both father and son, were not discreet, the American Central Intelligence Agency, who were subjecting both Trumps to surveillance, learned of some of the contacts with Russian government personnel and one of their internal memos spoke very disparingly of these contacts.

Then, on September 6, 2016, there was an arrainged accident in Moscow in which an oncoming vehicle was suddenly controlled to swerve across the median and collide with a State-owned BMW used by President Putin. The driver of the Presidential car was killed instantly. As the President was known to have been in China for the G20 summet meeting, the arrainged accident was not an assination attempt but meant as a clear warning to the President to abandon his activities in support of Presidential candidate Trump.

It is known that the CIA has developed the methodology of controlling the speed and direction of a moving vehicle via its on-board computer system.

Messagings from the CIA section in the American Embassy in Moscow were intercepted and decoded by Russian intelligence that clearly indicated the reasons for the arrainged accident.


Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interests

Оценка г-на Трампа как актива для интересов России


Russian intelligence has had an interest in Donald Trump since the year 1977 when we received an alert from a sister unit in Prague.

He was described as impressionable young man with large ambitions and money from his family real estate business.

His marriage to a Czech woman whose father was an element in that countries’ intelligence agency brought him to our attention and we went to some lengths to ascertain his potential value for Russian interests.

The initial impression of Mr. Trump was that he was extremely self-important and egotistical to a remarkable degree.

As our first hand knowledge of him progressed it became evident that Mr. Trump fancied himself as a man to whom beautiful women were attracted.

That they were attracted to his money is more evident.

Although it is true he is a person with whom one could establish good business contacts, Mr. Trump was, and is, an overbearing and intolerant person.

He is subject to mood-swings in that what is acceptable today is not tomorrow.

He is easily led by women to whom he is initially very attentive and once he feels he had their purchased loyalty, proceeds to turn his attentions to other women.

It was our experience with Mr. Trump that by supplying him a number of beautiful Russian women, he became besotted and was willing to agree to almost any proposal presented to him.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump is erratic in the extreme. He owes very large sums of money, for example, to the Deutsche Bank, sums he somehow forgets to pay. He also owes large sums to Russian banks but in this case, he dare not neglect to pay.

Although he and President Putin got on well together, Mr. Trump’s promises ought to be taken very cautiously.

Mr. Trump is so convinced of his superiority to others and so easy to influence that promises to one person could easily be forgotten when making identical promises to another.

His current wife, Melanija Knavs, has produced a son and this boy, quite attractive, is the idol of his mother. She has stated to one of our people that she is not happy with her marriage because of her husband’s constant, and often very obnoxious, pursuit of other women and does not want her young son to associate with his father lest he hear Mr. Trump’s constant flow of foul and obscene language or see him grab at some woman’s breasts.

She planned to divorce him and take her son back to Yugoslavia but the scandal would do so much damage to Mr. Trump’s public image that she was dissuaded from divorce by the payment of a large sum of money and promises on the part of Mr. Trump to let his wife rear and be responsible for his son.

Insofar as his use to Russian interests, this is problematical due to Mr.Trump’s disturbed personality. He does recall, however, that we released unpleasant material about Mrs. Clinton and that the same sort of material could very easily be released about him.

On the one hand, he has no problem taking Russian money for his businesses but on the other, he is susceptible to pressure from American power groups such as the Christian religious sector, Jewish groups and the military which have virtual control of current American politics and governance.




Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 9

February 7, 2018


Last year, dozens of categories of previously unclassified information about Afghan military forces were designated as classified, making it more difficult to publicly track the progress of the war in Afghanistan.

The categories of now-classified information were tabulated in a memo dated October 31, 2017 that was prepared by the staff of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko.

In the judgment of the memo authors, “None of the material now classified or otherwise restricted discloses information that could threaten the U.S. or Afghan missions (such as detailed strategy, plans, timelines, or tactics).”

But “All of the [newly withheld] data include key metrics and assessments that are essential to understanding mission success for the reconstruction of Afghanistan’s security institutions and armed forces.”

So what used to be available that is now being withheld?

“It is basically casualty, force strength, equipment, operational readiness, attrition figures, as well as performance assessments,” said Mr. Sopko, the SIGAR.

“Using the new [classification criteria], I would not be able to tell you in a public setting or the American people how their money is being spent,” Mr. Sopko told Congress at a hearing last November.

The SIGAR staff memo tabulating the new classification categories was included as an attachment for the hearing record, which was published last month. See Overview of 16 Years of Involvement in Afghanistan, hearing before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, November 1, 2017.

In many cases, the information was classified by NATO or the Pentagon at the request of the Government of Afghanistan.

“Do you think that it is an appropriate justification for DOD to classify previously unclassified information based on a request from the Afghan Government?,” asked Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Why or why not?”

“I do not because I believe in transparency,” replied Mr. Sopko, “and I think the loss of transparency is bad not only for us, but it is also bad for the Afghan people.”

“All of this [now classified] material is historical in nature (usually between one and three months old) because of delays incurred by reporting time frames, and thus only provides ‘snapshot’ data points for particular periods of time in the past,” according to the SIGAR staff memo.

“All of the data points [that were] classified or restricted are ‘top-line’ (not unit-level) data. SIGAR currently does not publicly report potentially sensitive, unit-specific data.”

Yesterday at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) asked Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis about the growing restrictions on information about the war in Afghanistan.

“We are now increasing the number of our troops in Afghanistan, and after 16 years, the American people have a right to know of their successes. Some of that, I’m sure it is classified information, which I can understand. But I also know that we’re not getting the kind of information that we need to get to know what successes we’re having. And after 16 years, I do not think we’re having any successes,” Rep. Jones said.

Secretary Mattis said that the latest restriction of unclassified information about the extent of Taliban or government control over Afghanistan that was withheld from the January 2018 SIGAR quarterly report had been “a mistake.” He added, “That information is now available.” But Secretary Mattis did not address the larger pattern of classifying previously unclassified information about Afghan forces that was discussed at the November 2017 hearing.


The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, established in 1958, is responsible for advancing the state of the art in defense science and technology. The agency’s structure, priorities and budget are discussed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Overview and Issues for Congress, February 2, 2018.

(For a lively and revealing history of DARPA, see Sharon Weinberger’s recent book The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World, Knopf, 2017.)

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

  • Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History, February 1, 2018
  • Evolving Assessments of Human and Natural Contributions to Climate Change, February 1, 2018
  • Real Wage Trends, 1979 to 2016, January 30, 2018
  • Gun Control: Concealed Carry Legislation in the 115th Congress, CRS Insight, January 30, 2018
  • Termination of Temporary Protected Status for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador: Key Takeaways and Analysis, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 2, 2018
  • U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: FY2018 Appropriations, February 5, 2018
  • The Balkans and Russia, CRS Insight, January 31, 2018
  • Iraq: In Brief, February 6, 2018
  • Al Qaeda and U.S. Policy: Middle East and Africa, February 5, 2018
  • U.S. Security Assistance and Security Cooperation Programs: Overview of Funding Trends, February 1, 2018The 2018 National Defense Strategy, CRS Insight, February 5, 2018
  • The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions, updated February 5, 2018
  • New Nuclear Warheads: Legislative Provisions, CRS Insight, February 5, 2018
  • Criminal Prohibitions on Disclosing the Identities of Covert Intelligence Assets, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 6, 2018



No responses yet

Leave a Reply