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TBR News June 16, 2018

Jun 16 2018



The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. June 16, 2018: “After taking the waters inside the Beltway, I can report that Donald the Groper is causing havoc in the nation’s capitol. White House staff members are fleeing the scene, American business interests are screaming to their bribed members of Congress about looming losses caused by the new tariffs, the Jesus Freaks are demanding a law letting them burn gays at the stake, the Attorney General is trying to find a way to compress migrant children into tiny bricks with which to feed the lions at the DC zoo and on and on. The lunatic asylum, St. Elizabeths, has closed down and it is obvious the inmates ended up either in the White House or Congress. Pay your money, take your choice. Where will all of this end? In serious civil and global protests which will allow Donald the Groper the excuse to let his overpaid military the pleasure of seeing how their automatic weapons and napalm bombs work. But remember that the Jesus Feak Blackwater people who terrorized the civil population in Iraq ended up, charred and pieces, hanging from a Baghdad bridge.”


The Table of Contents

  • Trump sets tariffs on $50  billion in Chinese goods; Beijing strikes back
  • China’s retaliatory tariffs to hit US lobsters, soybeans
  • The Israeli military said,’ the New York Times reports
  • Four Palestinians killed and over 600 injured in Gaza during continuing demonstrations along the fence with Israel 
  • The secret weapons of Hezbollah
  • “It Took Us Over a Week to Find All the Body Parts”
  • U.S. prosecutors pull encrypted messages from phones seized in Cohen raids
  • List of Trump’s accusers and their allegations of sexual misconduct


 Trump sets tariffs on $50  billion in Chinese goods; Beijing strikes back

June 16, 2018

by David Lawder and Ben Blanchard


WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said he was pushing ahead with hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports on Friday, and the smoldering trade war between the world’s two largest economies showed signs of igniting as Beijing immediately vowed to respond in kind.

Trump laid out a list of more than 800 strategically important imports from China that would be subject to a 25 percent tariff starting on July 6, including cars, the latest hardline stance on trade by a U.S. president who has already been wrangling with allies.

China’s Commerce Ministry said it would respond with tariffs “of the same scale and strength” and that any previous trade deals with Trump were “invalid.” The official Xinhua news agency said China would impose 25 percent tariffs on 659 U.S. products, ranging from soybeans and autos to seafood.

China’s retaliation list was increased more than six-fold from a version released in April, but the value was kept at $50 billion, as some high-value items such as commercial aircraft were deleted.

Shares of Boeing Co (BA.N), the single largest U.S. exporter to China, closed down 1.3 percent after paring earlier losses. Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), another big exporter to China, ended 2 percent lower.

Trump said in a statement that the United States would pursue additional tariffs if China retaliates.

Washington and Beijing appeared increasingly headed toward open trade conflict after several rounds of negotiations failed to resolve U.S. complaints over Chinese industrial policies, lack of market access in China and a $375 billion U.S. trade deficit.

“These tariffs are essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs,” Trump said.

Analysts, however, did not expect the U.S. tariffs to inflict a major wound to China’s economy and said the trade dispute likely would continue to fester.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin collecting tariffs on 818 product categories valued at $34 billion on July 6, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said.

The list was slimmed down from a version unveiled in April, dropping Chinese flat-panel television sets, medical breathing devices and oxygen generators and air conditioning parts.

The tariffs will still target autos, including those imported by General Motors Co (GM.N) and Volvo, owned by China’s Geely Automobile Holdings (0175.HK), and electric cars.

And USTR added tariffs on another 284 product lines, valued at $16 billion, targeting semiconductors, a broad range of electronics and plastics that it said benefited from China’s industrial subsidy programs, including the “Made in China 2025” plan, aimed at making China more competitive in key technologies such as robotics and semiconductors.

Tariffs on these products will go into effect after a public comment period. A senior Trump administration official told reporters that companies will be able to apply for exclusions for Chinese imports they cannot source elsewhere.

Most semiconductor devices imported from China use chips produced in the United States, with low-level assembly and testing work done in China, prompting the Semiconductor Industry Association to call the new tariff list “counterproductive.”

While many business groups and lawmakers urged the two governments to negotiate instead, there was little sign talks would resume soon.

Beijing and Washington had held three rounds of high-level talks since early May but failed to reach a compromise. Trump was unmoved by a Chinese offer to buy an additional $70 billion worth of U.S. farm and energy products and other goods, according to people familiar with the matter.

Analysts at Capital Economics said the impact of the tariffs on China’s economy would be small. Even if the U.S. duties reach the full $150 billion, they estimated it would shave well under a half-percentage point off China’s annual growth rate, which could be offset by fiscal and monetary policy actions.

“Neither side will be brought to its knees – which is one reason to think the trade dispute could drag on,” Capital Economics said. “For China’s part, its leaders will be determined not to be seen to back down to foreign pressure.”

Although shares of some tariff-sensitive companies fell on Wall Street, the stock market overall fell only modestly.

“With the announcement of the tariffs, there’s a real risk that we can see a continued increased escalation,” said Robin Anderson, senior economist at Principal Global Investors in Des Moines, Iowa. But he said that underlying strong economic fundamentals in the United States would dampen the market impact.

Trump has also triggered a trade fight with Canada, Mexico and the European Union over steel and aluminum and has threatened to impose duties on European cars.

Trump’s tariffs did gain some support from an unlikely source, U.S. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, who called them “right on target.”

“China is our real trade enemy, and their theft of intellectual property and their refusal to let our companies compete fairly threatens millions of future American jobs,” Schumer said in a statement.

The USTR official said the tariffs were aimed at changing China’s behavior on its technology transfer policies and massive subsidies to develop high-tech industries. The United States now dominates those industries, but Chinese government support could make it difficult for U.S. companies to compete.

Washington has completed a second list of possible tariffs on another $100 billion in Chinese goods, in the expectation that China will respond to the initial U.S. tariff list in kind, sources told Reuters.

U.S. soybean futures plunged 1.5 percent to a one-year low on concerns that an escalating trade fight with China will threaten shipments to the biggest buyer of the oilseed, traders said.

Beijing and Washington had held three rounds of high-level talks since early May but failed to reach a compromise. Trump was unmoved by a Chinese offer to buy an additional $70 billion worth of U.S. farm and energy products and other goods, according to people familiar with the matter.

Analysts at Capital Economics said the impact of the tariffs on China’s economy would be small. Even if the U.S. duties reach the full $150 billion, they estimated it would shave well under a half-percentage point off China’s annual growth rate, which could be offset by fiscal and monetary policy actions.

“Neither side will be brought to its knees – which is one reason to think the trade dispute could drag on,” Capital Economics said. “For China’s part, its leaders will be determined not to be seen to back down to foreign pressure.”

Although shares of some tariff-sensitive companies fell on Wall Street, the stock market overall fell only modestly.

“With the announcement of the tariffs, there’s a real risk that we can see a continued increased escalation,” said Robin Anderson, senior economist at Principal Global Investors in Des Moines, Iowa. But he said that underlying strong economic fundamentals in the United States would dampen the market impact.

Trump has also triggered a trade fight with Canada, Mexico and the European Union over steel and aluminum and has threatened to impose duties on European cars.

While China in recent months made incremental market-opening reforms in industries that critics in the foreign business community say were already planned, it has not been inclined to yield on its core industrial policies.

Reporting by David Lawder in Washington and Ben Blachard in Beijing; Additional reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler


China’s retaliatory tariffs to hit US lobsters, soybeans

China says it ‘doesn’t want a trade war’, but must ‘fight back’ after US slaps tariffs on $50bn in Chinese imports.

June 16, 2018


China has fired back against the United States in a spiraling trade dispute with President Donald Trump by raising import duties on tens of billions of dollars of US goods including lobsters, soybeans, electric cars and whiskey.

Beijing said on Saturday that it was responding in “equal scale” to Trump’s tariff rise on Chinese goods, in a conflict over China’s estimated $336bn trade surplus and technology policy that companies worry could quickly escalate and chill global economic growth.

As Trump warned of “additional tariffs” should Beijing hit back with tit-for-tat duties on American goods, China unveiled 25 percent duties on $50bn in US imports.

Trump’s new China tariffs will not initially include the full $50bn that Trump announced on Friday.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the punitive duties will apply on 818 Chinese products valued at $34bn starting July 6, with a second list of $16bn to be considered under a new review process – bringing the total possible affected import volume to $50bn.

Beijing’s countermeasures closely mirrored Washington’s, with 545 American exports, also valued at $34bn, facing punitive duties as of July 6, including agricultural products and vehicles, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The 545 products include lobsters, soybeans, electric cars, orange juice, whiskey, salmon and cigars, according to the Ministry of Finance.

China “doesn’t want a trade war” but has to “fight back strongly,” a separate statement from China’s commerce ministry said.

It said Beijing also was scrapping agreements to narrow its multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American farm goods, natural gas and other products.

Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Beijing, described Chinese officials as “furious” about what hit them.

“They are hitting back hard,” she said.

The US and China have the world’s biggest trading relationship, but official ties are increasingly strained over complaints Beijing’s industry development tactics violate its free-trade pledges and hurt American companies.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, DC, said that even within the White House, there are those who believe that a long-term trade war would be harmful to the economy.

“But Donald Trump is delivering on a campaign promise, and he believes that trade war would be good for the US, and it is a war that he can win,” Fisher said.

Europe, Japan and other trading partners raise similar complaints, but Trump has been unusually direct about challenging Beijing, and threatening to disrupt such a large volume of exports

‘US provocations’

“In this trade war, it’s the US who is playing the role of provocateur, while China plays defence,” said the Global Times, a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party.

“China is a powerful guardian and has enough ammunition to defend existing trade rules and fairness.”

Most of the products targeted by China are food and other farm goods, hitting Trump’s rural supporters hardest.

Beijing appeared to be trying to minimise the effect on its own economy by picking US products that can be replaced by imports from other suppliers such as Brazil or Australia.

Chinese regulators are also considering a tariff rise on an additional 114 products including medical equipment and energy products, the finance ministry said.

It said a decision would be announced later.

In the US state of Maine, home to most of the country’s lobster fishery, the effect of the Chinese tariff could be harsh.

Maine lobster was worth more than $430m at the docks last year, and the industry is a critical piece of the state’s economy, history and heritage.

The value of China’s American lobster imports grew from $108.3m in 2016 to $142.4m last year. The country barely imported any American lobster a decade ago.

“Anything that affects the supply chain is obviously not a great thing,” Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, told the Associated Press news agency.

“The lobstermen obviously are concerned with trade and where they go.”

China and the US are major seafood trading partners beyond just lobster, and the new tariffs would also apply to dozens of types of fish and other seafood that China imports from the US, including salmon, tuna and crab.

The US imported more than $2.7bn in Chinese seafood last year, and the US exported more than $1.3bn to China.


The Israeli military said,’ the New York Times reports

June 14, 2018

by Norman G. Finkelstein


New York Times reporter David M. Halbfinger didn’t know whether the demonstrations in Gaza were “peaceful protests or violent riots.”  So he embedded himself with Israeli snipers poised on the perimeter of Gaza concentration camp to find out (“At Gaza Protests: Kites, Drones, Gas, Guns and the Occasional Bomb,” June 8, 2018).

One might suppose if he wanted an answer to that question, the obvious place to go would be among the demonstrators.  But never mind.

According to human rights organizations, the weekly Gaza demonstrations have been overwhelmingly nonviolent.  But from day one, Halbfinger and his Times colleagues have recurrently portrayed them as armed confrontations in which Israeli snipers return the fire of protesters.  They rely on official Israeli statements that are quoted without demurral, without further investigation, and without independent corroboration from, say, human rights monitors:

The Israelis said they also exchanged fire with two gunmen across the fence (March 30, 2018);

Israel . . . said others had thrown firebombs at its soldiers . . . . Israel’s Kan Radio reported that at least eight attempts were made to plant explosives along the fence (April 7);

Colonel Conricus said there had been . . . several attempted attacks in which Palestinians hurled explosives, including a pipe bomb, at Israeli soldiers. . . . Palestinian journalists memorialized Yasser Murtaja, a colleague killed during the protests a week earlier. The Israeli military said he was an officer in the military wing of Hamas (April 13);

Israel said . . . it had repulsed several unsuccessful attempts by Hamas to have armed fighters slip across into Israel and wreak havoc . . . At least three separate squads of armed fighters “tried to use the commotion and smoke and dynamics of the riots as concealment, and then launched an attack on the fence,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.  One Israeli soldier was wounded by shrapnel from what was believed to be an explosive device, he said, and a variety of explosives were hurled at the Israelis by Palestinians. There had been “numerous shots” fired at Israeli soldiers, the army said (May 14);

The army provided new details on Tuesday about Monday’s confrontation to bolster its contention that the Gaza demonstration was no innocent protest but what commanders called a “terrorist operation” orchestrated by Hamas. Eight of the dead, the army said, were armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes who tried to storm the fence in northern Gaza and attacked Israeli forces with grenades and pipe bombs before being killed in a shootout.  A photograph showed what the military said was an Israeli battalion commander’s armored vehicle pockmarked with Kalashnikov fire.  Another three militants were killed while laying an explosive device in the south, the army said. . . . [T]he armed Hamas force in the north emerged from the crowds and attacked a patrol vehicle and five of their positions, including those of snipers perched on sand berms along the fence. They said they killed four militants in the first contact, then another four arrived in a jeep. As soon as the militants opened fire, they said, the civilian protesters fled the area. The episode ended after a 20-minute exchange of fire (May 15);

Though the protests were initially billed as nonviolent, the Israelis say they have repeatedly discovered grenades and other explosives along the fence, and that Palestinians have sometimes thrown firebombs at their soldiers, not just rocks (May 15);

On Sunday, Israel shelled an Islamic Jihad observation post in southern Gaza, killing three members of the group. The Israeli military said it was a response to an explosive being planted the night before along the security fence dividing Gaza from Israel. The bomb, hidden in a pair of wire cutters, exploded as sappers neutralized it remotely (May 29);

The latest escalation in violence occurred after weeks of deadly protests, arson attacks and armed clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel. . . . The Israeli military said that the strike had been in response to the planting of an explosive the night before along the security fence dividing Gaza from Israel (May 30);

Thousands of Palestinians took part in what the Israeli military described as violent riots at five locations along the security fence, burning tires and throwing stones. One Israeli army vehicle was fired on and Palestinians planted a grenade that exploded on the Israeli side of the fence, the military said (June 2).

If the Israeli military says it, then it must be true.  Q.E.D.

One might suppose that, if in the course of 10 weeks of protests, only one Israeli has incurred a scratch, it would give Times reporters pause.  One might also suppose that the repeated flagrant lies by Israeli officials would arouse the skepticism of Halbfinger and his Times colleagues.  One might also suppose that the Times wouldn’t report accusations against Israel based exclusively and entirely on what “Hamas said.”  But never mind.

Didn’t Halbfinger himself personally observe these violent clashes on his harrowing mission?  The headline provocatively highlights that he witnessed among the protesters “Guns and the Occasional Bomb.”

Surveying the damage caused by Gaza’s incendiary kites, Halbfinger reports sighting “vast stretches of scorched earth,” “smoldering fields,” “plumes of smoke billowing from farmland,” “hundreds of acres . . . torched,” while additionally noting that “losses to Israeli agriculture from flaming kites have been immense,” and “for Israel’s firefighters, it’s a strange, haunting, and seemingly endless new challenge.”

One might suppose Halbfinger is eyewitness to the Russian scorched-earth retreat during the War of 1812 or World War II.  Except that Israel appraised damage from the fires at around $1.4 million, or less than the average price of two homes in Brooklyn, New York (where I reside).  But never mind.

Let’s return, instead, to the “Guns and the Occasional Bomb.” Halbfinger reports that “Israel has observers watching, filming and videotaping the protests through scopes, long lenses, and cameras mounted on vehicles, drones and hovering overhead on tethered balloons.”

One might suppose Israel has collected footage aplenty of Hamas guns ablazing at the protests.  Oddly, it hasn’t posted any.  But never mind.

Didn’t Halbfinger himself see, per the Times headline, the armed protesters with his own two eyes?  Here, however, is the sum total of his eyewitness testimony:

We heard live fire several times. He [sic] also heard the loud explosion of what officers said was one of four improvised grenades or bombs thrown at Israeli troops today.

In a word, Halbfinger saw nothing, neither “guns” nor “the occasional bomb.”

The most exhaustive study to date of the protests, “Debunking Myths about the Gaza Protests,” exposes the Times’ mendacity.  The researchers found that “Although a couple of isolated violent incidents occurred far away from the perimeter fence, none of the numerous witnesses we contacted had seen even a single ‘armed protestor’ or any armed individual approaching the perimeter fence . . . . Israel has presented no credible evidence of armed protestors or armed attacks.”

Human Rights Watch reports only two instances where it is alleged (by a solitary witness) that protesters might have carried or used a pistol, while Amnesty International flatly concludes that it has “not seen evidence of the use of firearms by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers during the protests.”

David M. Halbfinger imagines this is the first time he’s embedded himself with the Israeli concentration camp guards.  He’s blissfully oblivious to the fact that he and his Times colleagues have been in bed with them all along.


Four Palestinians killed and over 600 injured in Gaza during continuing demonstrations along the fence with Israel 

June 8, 2018


Mass demonstrations along Israel’s perimeter fence with the Gaza Strip took place today for the eleventh consecutive Friday, as part of the ‘Great March of Return’. As of 20:00, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians, including one 15-year-old boy, and injured 618 demonstrators, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza. 254 of the injuries were transferred to hospitals, including 117 due to live ammunition injuries, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza. Eight are said to be in a critical condition. One Israeli soldier was also reportedly lightly injured. Today’s casualty toll was the highest since the demonstrations on 14 May, when over 60 Palestinians were killed and 2,000 injured, the highest casualty toll in the Gaza Strip in a single day since the 2014 hostilities. For cumulative casualty figures and breakdowns, as of 7 June

Between 20,000 and 30,000 people participated today in protests at the five tent camps located some 600-700 metres from the perimeter fence, the highest number in recent weeks. As in previous weeks, hundreds of demonstrators marched from the tent camps towards the fence, burned tires and threw rocks and other objects at Israeli forces, and flew paper kites and gas balloons loaded with flammable materials, which have damaged agricultural land and crops in southern Israel in recent weeks. Israel reported that a number of explosive devices and a grenade were used against their forces and that a shooting took place against an Israeli post in northern Gaza. The Israeli authorities had reinforced forces, including snipers, in anticipation of today’s protests. Yesterday, the Israeli air force dropped pamphlets over the tent camps, as well as the main cities in Gaza, warning people not to participate in the demonstrations and to stay away from the fence and also to refrain from attempting to breach or damage it.

Since 30 March, according to the MoH in Gaza, Israeli forces have killed 101 Palestinians, including 13 children, during the course of the “Great March of Return” demonstrations. In addition, 34 Palestinians have been killed during the same period in contexts others than demonstrations, including six people whose bodies are being reportedly withheld by the Israeli authorities. Five Israelis have reportedly been injured.

The large number of casualties among demonstrators since 30 March, in particular the high percentage injured by live ammunition, has raised concerns about excessive use of force, alongside calls for independent and transparent investigations of these incidents, including by the UN Secretary-General. The Israeli authorities have stated that many of the fatalities were members of Hamas and other armed groups and have stated that an investigation will review the use of force, including incidents of fatal shooting.

The Palestinian casualties have included health care workers: from 30 March to 3 June, 321 health workers and 41 ambulances have been affected, according to data provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) and the Union of Health Work Committees. Of those affected, 23 were hit by live ammunition, causing two fatalities, including a 21-year-old woman who was volunteering with the PMRS on 1 June.

Gaza’s already overstretched health sector has been struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties. Medical supplies are significantly depleted and access to healthcare for non-trauma patients is being compromised, with non-surgical wards converted to surgical wards to cope with the huge influx of trauma patients. These developments have exacerbated the already fragile situation of the health system in Gaza as a result of over 10 years of blockade, the deepening intra-Palestinian political divide, a deteriorating energy crisis, and inconsistent payment of public sector medical personnel.

Following the very high number of casualties since 30 March, as well as the extended timeframe of the demonstrations, originally planned to conclude on 15 May, humanitarian actors have revised the total financial requirements upwards to approximately US$20.8 million to support the humanitarian response to the crisis in Gaza, covering the period 30 March to 30 September 2018. Nearly $7 million in funding has already been provided; however critical gaps remain, leaving $13.9 million in new contributions still required to meet life-saving needs, in the areas of emergency healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support, and protection. This funding is required in addition to the over $ 400 million requested in the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for interventions in Gaza, which is currently only 18.7 per cent funded.

The Erez Crossing was closed in both directions with exceptions for urgent humanitarian cases. The Kerem Shalom goods crossing was also closed. The Rafah Crossing is expected to remain open through the entire month of Ramadan (which started on 17 May), allowing for the movement of passengers, including wounded people, as well as goods.


Israel and Hezbollah Are Girding for War—and the Next Round Could Be Horrific

Hezbollah has been steadily consolidating power and weapons—and some fighters maintain it played a role in shooting down an Israeli jet over Syria.

April 5, 2018

by Sulome Anderson

The Nation

Unlike urban areas of the country, the air in southern Lebanon is free from pollution. The hills are lush with early-spring growth and the entire landscape has a rugged beauty that belies the violence it has experienced. The only visible marks of war are martyrs’ posters that line the streets winding through picturesque villages—young local men lost in a decades-long conflict with the neighboring Jewish state of Israel.

Just a few kilometers away from the border, where Israel is in the process of erecting a hotly disputed wall to separate itself from the Hezbollah-controlled south, a local official and brigade leader in the Iranian-backed Shia militant group smoked a slim cigarette as he discussed the prospect of yet another round of violence. Every now and then, a villager wandered into his house, which sometimes doubles as an office, to get documents stamped, and the conversation paused until the visitor was gone.

The last major episode in the conflict took place in 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon in a retaliatory offensive unsuccessful in eradicating Hezbollah, which has been celebrating its victory over the invaders ever since. The 2006 war was an impressive win for the group, in that it successfully fought the most powerful army in the Middle East until it was forced into a cease-fire, with fewer Hezbollah casualties and more Israeli casualties than expected. Hezbollah has been consolidating power and weaponry ever since, fully funded by its Iranian benefactors and increasingly alarming its neighbor, which is better accustomed to facing the much less imposing Palestinian Hamas.

“The situation is very tense in the south and we are closer than ever to conflict,” the Hezbollah official said. “The Iranians and Hezbollah are now at the borders of Israel in Lebanon and Syria; any upcoming war will be endless.”

The official, like all the Hezbollah members interviewed for this article, asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak with foreign press. He was referring to the political atmosphere after an Israeli F-16 jet was shot down over Syria on February 10, where Hezbollah is fighting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The jet was responding to an Iranian drone’s incursion into Israeli territory when it reportedly took fire from up to four different kinds of Russian-made antiaircraft missiles and crashed in northern Israel. Israel then launched a second raid, which it claims damaged a significant portion of Syria’s air-defense systems, hitting 12 Iranian and Syrian targets.

All news coverage of the event reported that the Syrian regime fired the barrage of surface-to-air missiles, one of which hit the Israeli plane or exploded close enough to bring it down. Israeli officials and even Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, credited Syria with the decision to destroy the first Israeli F-16 since the country began using the jets in the 1980s. Analysts agreed that Syrian regime soldiers manned the position from which the surface-to-air missiles were fired.

In an official statement, Hezbollah celebrated the event, saying it marked the end of Israel’s ability to freely exploit Syrian airspace. “[This is the] start of a new strategic phase,” the statement read. “Today’s developments mean the old equations have categorically ended.”

Hezbollah-controlled media also triumphantly covered the downing of the jet. But some Hezbollah members took the celebrations further, privately claiming that their group played a role in the decision to shoot it down. They said the Iranians and Hezbollah wanted to send a message to Israel via the Syrian regime, but the group’s involvement wasn’t made public in order to avoid further escalation. According to two of these men, if it became known that Hezbollah was involved in shooting down one of its planes, Israel would look weak unless it responded forcefully to the Shia militants—and they acknowledged that neither side is ready for an all-out war yet.

Four Hezbollah members separately claimed the Shia group played a role in shooting down the jet. Their identities were individually confirmed by viewing photos and/or video taken during combat in Syria and during the 2006 war with Israel. One Hezbollah captain held up his phone to show off a picture of the Israeli plane falling from the sky, which had been turned into a meme—one of many shared on social media following the incident. “Junk F-16 parts for sale” was written at the bottom in Arabic.

We broke their wings,” he laughed. “They’ll think twice before flapping them over Syria again.”

Most analysts have said these claims must be merely bravado. But Hezbollah and its supporters certainly treated the downing of an Israeli jet as a victory for their side. Even if the Syrian Arab Army was manning the position from which the plane was shot, Hezbollah is fighting side by side with the regime. Russia, which is heavily involved in the conflict alongside the regime and Hezbollah, has been providing the Syrian government with sophisticated weapons for some time now. That raises the question of just how much advanced weaponry Hezbollah now possesses as a result of its role in the Syrian civil war—particularly in regards to surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs, which would pose a problem for Israel’s air power in a future war.

There have been reports that Russia is directly arming the Shia group, but most experts say that since the Russians are supplying the Syrian regime with advanced weaponry, some of it probably makes its way to Hezbollah indirectly. However it gets there, given the deadliness of Russia’s arsenal, the prospect of Hezbollah moving such weaponry into Lebanon has increasingly concerned Israel since the Syrian war broke out. The Jewish state has responded to this threat by reportedly striking Hezbollah weapons convoys in Syria nearly 100 times in five years. In March 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel’s air force had launched raids on Syrian-regime targets in order to destroy advanced missiles that were destined for Hezbollah.

Nasrallah claimed in a 2013 speech that the group was receiving “game-changing weapons” from the Syrian regime, so whether Russia is directly arming Hezbollah or the group is receiving gifts from its Syrian allies, it seems likely that advanced Russian weaponry is ending up in Hezbollah’s hands—but how much could be moved into Lebanon is an open question.

According to Phillip Smyth, Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank in Washington, DC, despite the number of airstrikes against the group in Syria, it seems impossible that Israel has been able to prevent every movement of Hezbollah weaponry into Lebanon. He said this has likely allowed the group to build up significant arsenals in both Syria and Lebanon—a development that could be quite dangerous for Israel in a future conflict.

“The Israelis have a very efficient air force, but they can’t get everything, so in a war, they’ll need to have air power not just in South Lebanon but also deep into sites in Syria,” said Smyth. “So what happens if [Hezbollah has] access to a longer-range, or even a medium-range, ballistic missile or another kind of advanced rocket system? Since there’s no chance [Israel] can strike all these weapons in transit, what happens if Hezbollah hits Tel Aviv?”

Uzi Rubin, a former brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force and a missile-systems analyst, said he believes Hezbollah has access to most of the Syrian regime’s arsenal. “I think there is no difference between Hezbollah and Syria,” he said. “Whatever Syria has, Hezbollah has. So it’s not important whether at this moment, it is located on Lebanese soil. Hezbollah has [the weaponry]; it’s available to them.”

In Dahiyah, a suburb of Beirut controlled by Hezbollah, a fighter in a Special Forces unit was on leave from deployment in Syria. According to him, Hezbollah has accumulated even more advanced arms than the Syrians. “We have a different set of weapons than the regime,” the fighter said. “Ours are better because we don’t depend on anti-tank and such; we count on antiaircraft, anti-ship, and long-range missiles.”

What these men said about the incident with the Israeli jet placed even more emphasis on the cunning and military prowess of the group and its Iranian sponsors. Asked about the downing of the plane, the Special Forces fighter said that although he wasn’t present, he was told the entire sequence of events, starting with the dispatch of an Iranian drone into Israeli territory, was a setup to bait the Israelis into flying into a trap. “We fired 20 or 25 [low-grade] missiles [at the jet], and among them, one sophisticated missile,” he said. “I think the Israeli air force is not as free as before to fly over Syria.”

The narrative that the Iranians, the Syrians, and perhaps Hezbollah flew a drone into Israel in order to tempt the Israelis into a trap seems far-fetched, but it has some backing by analysts who have studied the scenario. Smyth of the Washington Institute said it’s notable that the Iranians sent that drone in particular, which indicates there may have been some foresight involved.

“They didn’t just send one of these cardboard cutout things, like they would have ten years ago,” Smyth said. “It’s interesting that they sent this one, which was a copy [of an American drone] and probably launched out of the back of a truck. The other interesting factor is that they flew it over the state of Israel for a while.”

According to the IDF, the drone was shot down after traveling three or four miles into Israeli territory, and was indeed a sophisticated copy of a US drone intercepted over Iran in 2011. Iran and Syria denied that the drone violated Israeli airspace and claimed it was on a routine intelligence-gathering mission against ISIS. The Israeli government released a video of its helicopter destroying the drone, but admitted that it remained a mystery why the drone entered Israel. During an interview in Dahiyah, the leader of a small Hezbollah tank unit in Syria also claimed the drone was meant as bait in an elaborate trap. “At the same time [an advanced antiaircraft] missile was fired, many other minor missiles were also fired as a disguise mechanism,” the unit leader said.

The claims of these Hezbollah members do fit with the fact that, according to Israeli media reports, several different types of Russian antiaircraft missiles were fired at the Israeli plane—all of which vary in technological sophistication. Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese army general and lecturer on military strategy at the American University of Beirut, argued that if the Israeli jet was shot down as the result of an ambush, that would mean Iran, Syria, and possibly Hezbollah likely wanted to engineer a rewriting of the rules of engagement, not spark a full-on conflict.

“The Iranians may have wanted to draw some red lines of their own,” said Hanna. “Things are changing. Now, the Israelis will really try to calculate how they are going to go into Syria and hit a convoy of Hezbollah’s or a convoy of the Iranians.”

But most analysts were skeptical when asked about the Hezbollah members’ claims that the group was directly involved with the decision to shoot down the Israeli jet. Joseph Bahout, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, another Washington-based think tank, said the idea was ludicrous and dismissed Hezbollah members’ perception of the F-16’s destruction as a victory.

“The result is that the Israelis made raids after that,” said Bahout. “OK, [the Syrians] succeeded in shooting down an F-16, but that’s it. I mean, it stops there…the fact is that every time the Israelis overfly Lebanon to mid-Syria, there is no answer from Hezbollah. So either they can’t or they don’t want to, in order not to unveil their capacity.”

Other experts said the group has certainly built up an impressive arsenal but weren’t convinced they played a role in the downing of the Israeli jet.

“It seems unlikely,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s counterterrorism program. “What I had heard was that…it was different this time because [the Syrians] really wanted to hit something, and they shot up a whole bunch of stuff at once.” He added that although he doesn’t believe Hezbollah is militarily capable of shooting down an F-16 at this point, the fear among Israelis is that they will acquire that capacity as a result of the Syrian conflict.

Asked why these men would be claiming credit for the downing of the jet if Hezbollah was uninvolved, Smyth, who is also skeptical that Hezbollah played a major role, explained that members of the group could be using the incident as an excuse to celebrate Hezbollah’s own surface-to-air missile capacity in another war with Israel.

“In any future conflict, Hezbollah will attempt to do more than simply bloody Israel’s nose,” said Smyth. “In the realm of SAMs, this means constraining Israel’s significant ability to control the air. Air power is always a major, if not the major, game-changer in a conflict. Does bravado tie into this? Sure. It’s highly likely it does. The reason they all said it could [be] that possibly Hezbollah does have a new antiaircraft capability…with this recent incident, they might want to send a stronger signal for propaganda value.”

When pressed on exactly what type of weaponry Hezbollah has acquired, the tank unit leader in Dahiyah smiled enigmatically. “Hezbollah cares most about surprises in the next war,” he said. “We will never say exactly what we have.”

But the Hezbollah official in South Lebanon was much more unconstrained in his assessment of the group’s arsenal, though it was sometimes hard to tell truth from bravado. He sipped a glass of syrupy tea as he talked animatedly.

“As long as Hezbollah is on the ground [in Syria], Russia is giving us weapons,” he boasted. “Russia gave the maximum they could for Hezbollah. Hezbollah has T-90 light tanks in Qusayr [a city in Syria].… In addition, Hezbollah owns S-200 [surface-to-air] missiles.… The hills where we used to fight Daesh [ISIS] and Jabhat al-Nusra in the Qalamoun area and northern Baalbek are equipped with antiaircraft missiles. Now the strategy has changed; fighters are scattered everywhere, fully equipped with advanced weapons and missiles.”

The official also lent credence to another potential flashpoint in a future conflict: reports that Hezbollah and Iran have built missile factories inside Lebanon itself, an action that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has called a “red line.” The Hezbollah official said that the factories exist, but claimed they don’t have the capability to actually manufacture missiles, just improve upon the ones they have already acquired. “We only upgrade missiles here [in Lebanon], but we do not make them,” he said.

According to Levitt, that assessment makes sense. “It’s probably not true domestic production,” he said. “It’s probably just enabling Iran to ship the stuff in much smaller pieces. Then you don’t need a big flatbed truck, you know, with these big rockets.… There’s precedence for this idea of finding a way to make it easier to smuggle by just sending smaller components…but for the Israelis, that’s a real problem.”

Rubin said that regardless of capacity, if Hezbollah and the Iranians have established any type of missile factory inside Lebanon, the Israelis would consider it a very serious development.

“That could start a war,” he said. “It was announced by Netanyahu that [missile factories in Lebanon] are a red line, and I believe him. And he will have the support of the country.”

Robert Malley, former National Security Council adviser to President Barack Obama and president of the International Crisis Group, explained that given all these highly combustible components, this conflict is particularly prone to another flare-up—which would almost certainly be much more severe than the 2006 war.

“Both sides profess, and I think it is accurate, that they don’t want a war because they’ve reached a point—not of mutual assured destruction, because I don’t think Hezbollah could destroy Israel—but mutually assured heavy damage,” he said. “But that’s not always a guarantee that things won’t get out of hand…because each side has to regulate how far it can go without going too far in the eyes of the other side. Any system that is based on mutual deterrence runs the risk that one side will misread the other. Each side is constantly probing, and at one point they could make a mistake and it could trigger a reaction by their opponent which exceeds what they can accept without reacting in kind.… That’s the way unwanted wars start.”

In the south, where the impact of an “unwanted war” on Lebanese civilians would be most severe, local residents seemed unconcerned by the potential destruction a new round would bring. Israel has long accused Hezbollah of operating in civilian areas in order to maximize potential casualties, essentially using them as human shields. After experiencing several Israeli invasions in the past few decades, though, most civilians here are enthusiastic supporters of the muqawama—“the resistance,” as they call Hezbollah.

Fatimah, a local woman in her 50s officially unaffiliated with Hezbollah, said that no matter what happens, she would not leave her home. “It is my country, it is my land, and it is my ideology,” she said. “It is not about Hezbollah. Many people stayed here during the 33 days of war [in 2006]. We were living off the vegetables we grew. If we ate a chocolate bar, we did not throw the paper on the ground, because if the [Israeli] jets saw any sign of life, they would hit us.”

She smiled triumphantly. “Israeli people cannot tolerate war. They cannot endure like we do.”


The secret weapons of Hezbollah

June 16, 2018


According to the website ‘French Intelligence,’ the Hezbollah are building at least two installations in Lebanon to produce missiles and armaments. Even though this news has been circulating for a long time on Arabian websites, the french magazine provided more details about these structures, indicating the position and the kind of armaments produced.

The first structure would be near Hermel, in the Bekaa, while the second one would be positioned between Sidon and Tyre. In the first installation they would produce Fateh 110 missiles, which would be able to damage almost the entire Israeli territory, with a range of 300 km and a fair precision level. In the building placed on the Mediterranean coast, instead, they would fabricate small-caliber munitions.

The revelations made by the French magazine come in conjunction with the eleventh anniversary of the 34 days war, during which the Hezbollah clashed with Israel in July 2006. Since then, except for the Israeli raids against the Hezbollah, the border between Lebanon and Israel has been relatively quiet.

During the Syrian conflict the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) made a series of raids against Hezbollah  placements or convoy, avoiding official confirms about the nature of these missions. Some of these operations hit exponents of the Lebanese Shiite movement and high-ranking commanders operating in Syria but, according to the reconstructions made by the media and the exponents of the Idf, the core objective of this “holy war” has been preventing the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Syria to Lebanon.

According to the indiscretions provided last March by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida, the secret installations would be Hezbollah’s answer, supported by the Iranian special units (IRGC), to the Israeli raids in Syria.

Participating to the foreign and defense commissions of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) about this topic, the Idf Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, stated that it is fundamental, as much as the struggle against the Islamic State, to reduce the Iranian influence in the areas adjacent to Israel. Eisenkot claimed that the Idf, in these years, have been working so that the Hezbollah armaments, through Iran, would not reach such a high level of sophistication and precision. The head of the Idf then explained how, since the end of the conflict in 2006, the Israeli army improved it’s intelligence and operative capabilities.

The Israeli Defense Minister, Avidgor Liberman, said he is aware of the construction of the installations for Iranian armaments in Lebanon, and he added that “he knows what must be done…”.

Analogous concerns were diffused also by the Idf Head of Intelligence, Herzl Halevi, who said that he cannot ignore the fact that, at least since a year now, Iran is working towards the creation of these infrastructures for the production of armaments. Other exponents of the Israeli government, like Eran Etzion, appointed for the political planning at the Foreign Ministry, claim that the Hezbollah, with the experience gained in Syria, are preparing themselves for the third war of Lebanon against Israel, A war in which, though the military capacities of the Israeli State could massively damage the Hezbollah, they would not avoid conspicuous damages to inhabited areas and infrastructures on the Israeli territory.

Signs of increasing tensions, at least at a verbal level, come also from Lebanon, where two days ago, Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, appointed for the economic and social activities of the Hezbollah, confirmed that the movement developed new military capabilities which cannot be noticed by the intelligence of the rival countries. The war between Hezbollah and Israel, at least from a rhetorical point of view, never stopped.

Tartus naval facility.

The Russian facility at Tartus, a Syrian port on the Mediterranean has been used for delivering armaments and supplies by Russians to Hezbollah from the Russian Black Sea port in Novorossiysk (the Syrian Express). These shipments were moved from Tartus via the M1/51 highway system to Hezbollah units located in southern Lebanon. Five Russian RS-28 ‘Sarmat’ long range missiles and their lauching systems and the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system which uses four missiles to fill its performance envelope: the very-long-range 40N6 (400 km), the long-range 48N6 (250 km), the medium-range 9M96E2 (120 km) and the short-range 9M96E (40 km). Thirty-two of these systems have been supplied to Hezbollah.

All of this is anticipation of a pending action by Hezbollah against Israel.


“It Took Us Over a Week to Find All the Body Parts”

June 16, 2018

by Alex Potter

The Intercept

On April 23, the villagers of Al-Raqah, in northern Yemen, gathered to celebrate the town’s second wedding in as many days. They had walked as much as an hour from surrounding towns to sing, dance, and congratulate the 20-year-old groom, Yahya Ja’afar. The party was simple: a wedding tent constructed of thick tree branches and colored fabric, the couple’s one-room home filled with men and boys playing drums and wearing wreaths of jasmine on their heads, the women over the hill in another tent, singing and dancing alike. With the sound of the music, no one heard the warplane as it circled overhead.

“We were singing and dancing, everything was winding down. We were about to leave,” said Saleh Yahya, a 35-year-old villager. “Then, all the sudden, I was on the ground, I couldn’t hear anything. We totally lost control of our senses. There were body parts around me, I was just looking for my children.” He found one whole and alive; the other’s body was broken beyond repair.

The missile had struck around 11 p.m., killing 23 of the revelers, and wounding over 60, according to villagers who spoke with The Intercept. Most of the dead were in pieces.

“It took us over a week to find all the body parts,” Saleh Yahya said in an interview in Al-Raqah on May 6, two weeks after the strike.

Al-Raqah isn’t on most maps; it’s no more than a blip on a hillside two and a half hours from the city of Hajjah, and over an hour from any paved road. To get to Al-Raqah, one follows a rocky and nearly dry river bed, and the directions offered by locals. There are few vehicles around, other than the occasional motorcycle; anything more would break down on the rough path. This is a place for farmers, not fighters.

Yet for some reason, the wedding of Yahya Ja’afar and his bride Fatum Allam came into the sights of the 10-country coalition led by Saudi Arabia that has waged a devastating, three-year war in Yemen.

The coalition’s aim is to subdue the Houthis, a politico-religious group in Yemen that took over the government and ousted its Saudi-allied president in 2014. The coalition, supported by the U.S. military with refueling, munitions, and targeting information, has ruthlessly bombarded the country. This week, the coalition invaded the Houthi-controlled port city of Hudaydah, an attack which many fear will result in a humanitarian disaster. In all, more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in the war, the majority of them in coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations. Saudi Arabia has drawn widespread condemnation and accusations of war crimes for hitting civilian targets like homes, schools, markets, hospitals — and weddings.

The Saudis have provided no explanation for the strike on Al-Raqah (a request for comment to the Saudi embassy in Washington went unanswered.) The men in Al-Raqah say they do not carry weapons (I saw none during my visit), and fighters did not attend the wedding. In the village, all of the men wore a simple sarong and button-up shirt, nothing to hint at a military affiliation. Some insisted on showing me the inside of their houses, pointing out what little they possessed: a bed or two, bags of food, and some kitchen supplies.

According to eyewitnesses I spoke with, when the strike hit in Al-Raqah, women poured out of their celebration, screaming, looking for their children and relatives. Rescuers who had arrived to help from nearby villages told the others to run, since planes were still circling overhead. Rendered temporarily deaf from the explosion, family members ignored them and continued to pull out the bodies of their loved ones from the rubble. It was hours before ambulances arrived from Hajjah, delayed by the difficult terrain.

As we spoke at the site of the strike, Othman Ali, 35, a thin man wearing a straw hat, held his son’s hand.

“This went from a very happy day to a catastrophe,” he said. “The women are terrified. Most of them won’t come out of the house to work, and some of them when they hear a loud noise, they wet themselves.”

More villagers appeared, all eager to describe what happened, all eager for answers. Everyone I spoke with still had trouble hearing, especially the groom, Ja’afar, who survived the strike. His brother, Ali, spoke close to his ear and motioned for him to come over. We went to his parents’ home, where he and Allam now live, since their home was damaged in the strike. (Allam was initially reported killed.) Ja’afar’s speech was stilted, like someone who can’t quite hear themselves over the din of a noisy room, except that the small and plain house was completely silent.

“We only officially got married and moved in together yesterday,” said Ja’afar, as he and Allam looked away from each other shyly. “We couldn’t do it right after the strike; we were too shocked. We lay awake at night now, worrying something will happen still. You never forget something that happens on a special day.”

At the hospital in Hajjah, children who were injured in the strike awaited reconstructive surgery. Some of their fathers sat vigil at their bedsides, occasionally passing them juice or fresh mango. None of the victims could recall much of the strike, only that they were celebrating, and then they were in pain. Nearly all of them were malnourished, their bone-thin bodies unable to keep up with the metabolic demands of injury and recovery.

Nine-year-old Abdo Mohammad Ali sustained a compound arm fracture and abdominal trauma; surgeons took him away to stitch his intestines back together. Brothers Abdo and Suleiman Mohammad looked in better spirits, despite the fact one had lost a foot and the other the use of a foot, and despite that 12 members of their family died in the strike. Thirteen-year-old Hussein Hasan slept with a shawl partially covering his face, stretched out in the bed in such a manner that the shawl might have been his shroud.

His father, Hassan Saghreer, woke him up to speak, revealing the major chest and abdominal trauma that will prevent him from going home for weeks. The family’s village is two hours from the nearest health care facility. “He spent 10 days in intensive care and had many surgeries; we didn’t think he was going to survive,” Saghreer said.

Back in the village, Allam Yahya, the father of the bride, dragged a stick through the dirt, making circles in the dry earth near the remains of the wedding tent. Though the villagers have attempted to return to their normal lives, he remarked that things would never be the same again.

“We won’t have weddings anymore. Even if someone wants to have one, no one will come. It is finished,” he sighed, and walked slowly back under a tree, taking shelter from the late-morning sun.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.


U.S. prosecutors pull encrypted messages from phones seized in Cohen raids

June 15. 2018

by Brendan Pierson


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors investigating U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen have extracted more than 700 pages of messages sent using encrypted programs like WhatsApp and Signal on phones seized from Cohen, according to a court filing on Friday.

The prosecutors also said they had reconstructed 16 pages from the contents of a shredding machine taken during raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April. The prosecutors said in their filing in Manhattan federal court that they had turned the materials over to Cohen’s lawyers.

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible crimes related to his business dealings, a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters in April. He has not been charged.

The probe stems in part from a referral by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether there was any coordination between associates of Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia. Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied election meddling.

Roughly 3.7 million files were seized in the April raids and are being reviewed to determine which ones may be subject to attorney-client privilege. The review is overseen by former federal judge Barbara Jones.

At a May 30 court hearing, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood had given Cohen’s and Trump’s lawyers until Friday to finish reviewing the documents they had received from prosecutors, which at the time did not include the encrypted messages or shredded papers.

Jones recommended in a filing on Friday that the deadline for the entire review be changed to no later than June 25.

Lawyers for Cohen and Trump could not immediately be reached for comment.

Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels in separate civil litigation against Cohen and Trump, on Friday tweeted that the encrypted messages and reconstructed documents “could pose a huge problem for Mr. Cohen and ultimately Mr. Trump.”

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex with Trump in 2006 and that Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep the encounter secret shortly before his election. Cohen has admitted making the payment, but Trump has denied the encounter with Daniels.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by David Gregorio and Grant McCool


List of Trump’s accusers and their allegations of sexual misconduct

February 22, 2018

by Meghan Keneally

ABC News

One of those 16 has spoken out again recently about her claims, prompting a new denial from Trump.

Trump has vehemently denied all of the women’s accusations. In some cases, he and his team members have specifically denied individual accusations, but they have also repeatedly issued blanket denials against all the allegations, calling the women liars.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in December the accusations were “litigated” during the campaign, with U.S. voters knowing of the accusations but choosing to vote for him anyway.

Only two of Trump’s accusers have taken legal action against him, one pertaining to her sexual misconduct allegations against the president, while the other is an ongoing defamation lawsuit relating to Trump’s calling his accusers liars and alleged disparagement of the accusers during the campaign.

Here is a rundown of the individual accusations.

  1. Jessica Leeds Jessica Leeds alleged last year that Trump groped her on an airplane in the late-1970s, which the president has repeatedly denied.

Leeds went public in a New York Times article Oct. 12, 2016 – discussing an alleged decades-old interaction with Trump — four days after the release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which he described women in vulgar terms. The Times article appeared three days after the second presidential debate, during which Trump denied ever kissing or groping women without consent.

Leeds has since reiterated her accusations to ABC News and has repeated it publicly, including at a news conference in December 2017 alongside two other accusers, calling on Congress to investigate the allegations against Trump.

Trump denied the allegations made by Leeds and by Rachel Crooks, another woman who spoke to The New York Times in the same 2016 article. He said “none of this ever took place” and threatened to sue the newspaper for reporting the story. No lawsuit has been filed.

The White House has also pointed to an October 2016 New York Post article in which a British man with a questionable past, including making unsubstantiated claims about British politicians’ behavior in the 1980s, challenged Leeds’ allegations, as an example of how the claims against the president have been refuted by eyewitnesses. The man, Anthony Gilberthorpe, told the paper he had been on the same flight and saw Leeds’ being “flirtatious.” Her account, he told the Post, was “wrong, wrong, wrong.”

The interview with Gilberthorpe had been arranged by the Trump campaign, the New York Post reported.

  1. Kristin Anderson

Kristin Anderson told The Washington Post that Trump put his hand up her skirt to her underwear in the early 1990s.

After the story’s publication, ABC News spoke to a friend of Anderson, Brad Trent, who said he heard the account from Anderson the same year of the alleged incident. Trent told ABC News that Anderson had told him she was sitting next to Trump at the old China Club bar in New York where he slid his hand up her thigh and “grabbed her p—-.”

In a statement included in the Post story, then-Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks – now his communications director — disputed Anderson’s accusations. “Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity,” she said at the time. “It is totally ridiculous.”

  1. Jill Harth

At least 16 women have accused Donald Trump of varying inappropriate behavior, including allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, all coming forward with their accusations before or during his bid for the White House.

Jill Harth said she had dinner with Trump and her then-boyfriend, George Houraney, in 1992 when Trump allegedly tried to put his hands between her legs. She alleged he also tried to kiss her during a tour of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida a month later when she and Houraney were there to celebrate solidifying a business contract.

Harth filed a lawsuit in 1997 alleging that Trump groped her and sexually harassed her, but she withdrew the suit, she says, as a condition of settling a separate financial dispute with him.

Harth’s lawsuit was reported in New York’s Daily News in 1997, and LawNewz published a post on its website in February 2016 revisiting the suit. After its publication, LawNewz reported that Trump subsequently called to deny the allegations. “It’s ridiculous, I never touched this woman,” LawNewz quoted Trump as saying.

In a New York Times article published a month before the 2016 election, Harth acknowledged that, even after she had accused Trump of sexual misconduct, she briefly dated him in 1998.

The Trump campaign also released emails from 2015 in which Harth, who now owns a cosmetics company, solicited the candidate for opportunities to do his hair and makeup.  The Hill reported in December 2017 that Harth acknowledged sending the messages. That report came on the heels of another story in The Hill, which reported that after Harth publicly aired her allegations during the campaign, an unidentified donor came forward to pay the balance of a mortgage on Harth’s New York apartment.

Harth, in a statement published on the website of The Hill, said the stories were an attempt to malign her and her attorney, Lisa Bloom, characterizing the political journalism site as “an apologist for Trump and a rag for right-wing hit jobs.”

Harth told ABC News in November she stands by her allegations but doesn’t want to speak any more about Trump.

  1. Cathy Heller

Cathy Heller first spoke to The Guardian newspaper about an alleged incident she said happened at a Mother’s Day brunch at Mar-a-Lago. She repeated her claims to ABC News and said she believes it happened in 1997.

She put her hand out to say hello to Trump and he grabbed her unexpectedly and started to kiss her on the lips, Heller told ABC News. She said she pulled away and he said, “Oh, come on.” She said no but he grabbed her again and got near her lips, Heller told ABC News. She said this happened in front of her family.

The Guardian reported that Heller’s family is in a dispute with Mar-a-Lago regarding their efforts to get refunds of dues, and that Cathy Heller was a Clinton supporter who donated the personal maximum of $2,700 to the Clinton campaign.

After her story appeared in The Guardian, the Trump campaign released a statement Oct. 15, 2016, saying that it was a “false accusation.”

“There is no way that something like this would have happened in a public place on Mother’s Day at Mr. Trump’s resort. It would have been the talk of Palm Beach for the past two decades,” the campaign’s then-senior communications adviser Jason Miller said.

In late-November 2017, after Trump began questioning the veracity of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape and commented on male public figures who had lost their jobs over sexual harassment allegations, Heller told People magazine that Trump “is a hypocrite.”

“I don’t think he should be calling out anyone for sexual harassment or sexual assault, but I don’t think he can control himself,” Heller told the magazine.

  1. Temple Taggart McDowell

Temple Taggart was the 21-year-old Miss Utah when she participated in the Miss USA contest in 1997. She said Trump, who owned the pageant at the time, kissed her “directly on the lips.”

She first shared her story with The New York Times in May 2016, and Taggart, who now uses her married name of McDowell, reiterated her claims to ABC News through her lawyer, Gloria Allred. Trump denied the allegations to the Times, saying he is reluctant to kiss strangers on the lips.

“I don’t even know who she is,” Trump told NBC News in October 2016 in response to her allegations.

“She claims this took place in a public area. I never kissed her. I emphatically deny this ridiculous claim.”

McDowell, through her attorney, reaffirmed her allegations to ABC News in November but declined to be interviewed.

  1. Karena Virgina

Karena Virginia, a New York-area yoga instructor, said Trump approached her in 1998 outside the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York while she was awaiting a car service, made unseemly comments about her appearance, grabbed her arm and groped her breast.

“He then walked up to me and reached his right arm and grabbed my right arm,” she said at a news conference in October 2016. “Then his hand touched the right inside of my breast.”

Virginia, who was 27 at the time of the alleged incident, said she flinched, and Trump said, “Don’t you know who I am?”

She has since reiterated her claims to ABC News through her lawyer, Gloria Allred. Trump has never released a specific statement about her claims.

  1. 7. Bridget Sullivan

Bridget Sullivan, who was crowned Miss New Hampshire 2000, spoke publicly during the presidential campaign about how Trump came into the Miss Universe changing room while the contestants were naked.

“The time that he walked through the dressing rooms was really shocking. We were all naked,” she told Buzzfeed in May 2016.

CNN released recordings of a 2005 interview that Trump gave to radio host Howard Stern in which he talked about going backstage at pageants when the contestants were naked.

“No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. … ‘Is everyone OK’? You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that,” Trump said in the recording.

Reached in November, Sullivan declined to be interviewed. “I’ve said what I’ve needed to say,” she told ABC News.

Trump has never released a specific statement about her claims.

  1. Tasha Dixon

Former Miss Arizona Tasha Dixon says Trump walked into a dress rehearsal for a pageant in 2001 while the contestants were “half-naked’ and the women were told to “fawn all over him,” according to an interview Dixon gave to CBS Los Angeles station KCAL-TV in October of 2016.

Dixon, who says she was 18 at the time, said Trump came “strolling right in” during a dress rehearsal for the Miss USA pageant in 2001. She said it was the contestants’ introduction to Trump and that the women were naked or half-naked, in a “very physically vulnerable position.”

Dixon said she decided to speak out after hearing an old audio recording of Trump’s talking to Howard Stern about going backstage at pageants while contestants were naked or getting dressed.

Trump’s campaign team denied Dixon’s allegation.

“These accusations have no merit and have already been disproven by many other individuals who were present,” then-campaign adviser Jason Miller said. “When you see questionable attacks like this magically put out there in the final month of a presidential campaign, you have to ask yourself what the political motivations are and why the media is pushing it.”

  1. Mindy McGillivray

Mindy McGillivray told The Palm Beach Post in October 2016 that Trump grabbed her rear end while she was working as a photographer’s assistant at a 2003 event at Mar-a-Lago.

The photographer, Ken Davidoff, told the paper he vividly remembers McGillivray immediately pulling him aside to say that, “Donald just grabbed my a–.”

Then-Trump campaign spokeswoman Hicks told the paper that McGillivray’s allegation “lacks any merit or veracity.”

The photographer’s brother, Daryl Davidoff, told ABC News and other news organizations he was also at Mar-a-Lago on the night in question and doesn’t believe McGillivray’s story.

In October 2016, when reached by ABC News, Daryl Davidoff, the brother of the photographer, said he was there at Mar-a-Lago on the night in question. He confirmed that McGillivray was working for Davidoff photography, their family business, the night she says she was groped by Trump, but he also said he never heard anything about Trump’s groping anyone. He said he doesn’t believe McGillivray’s story and his brother, Ken, hasn’t worked for the family photography business for years.

Daryl Davidoff also told The Palm Beach Post he believed McGillivray had made up the story as a publicity stunt. “Nobody saw it happen and she just wanted to be in the limelight,” he told the Post.

Ken Davidoff, in response to his brother’s comments, told The Palm Beach Post that he thought his brother was trying to discredit the story in order to prevent harm to the family business.

In December 2017, McGillivray reiterated her allegations to NBC, calling for a congressional ethics investigation during an appearance on “Megyn Kelly Today.” “I think it’s important that we hold this man to the highest of standards, and if 16 women have come forward, then why hasn’t anything been done? Where is our investigation? I want justice.”

Trump has never issued a specific statement about her allegation.

  1. Rachel Crooks

Rachel Crooks, a secretary who worked in Trump’s building, told The New York Times that when she first met Trump in 2005, he shook her hand, then kissed her on the cheeks and then on the lips, while outside an elevator at Trump Tower in New York City. Crooks says she immediately told her sister in Ohio about the encounter with Trump.

Shortly after The New York Times story was published in October 2016, ABC News reached Crooks’ sister Brianne Webb, who, as reported in the Times article, told ABC News that she was the first person her sister called after the alleged incident. Crooks was very upset, Webb said, and worked up about just meeting Trump and having him allegedly kiss her directly on the mouth. Webb also said Crooks never went to the authorities.

The Trump campaign issued a lengthy statement denying the allegation that both Crooks and Leeds made in The New York Times article.

“This entire article is fiction, and for the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” then-campaign senior communications advisor Jason Miller said in the statement at the time. “To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election.”

Crooks announced this month that she is running for a seat in the Ohio state legislature, and she has continued to repeat her accusations against Trump. She was recently featured in The Washington Post, prompting Trump to respond on Twitter this week.

“A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met, is on the FRONT PAGE of the Fake News Washington Post saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet) in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security cameras running. Another False Accusation. Why doesn’t @washingtonpost report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me? One had her home mortgage paid off. Only @FoxNews so reported…doesn’t fit the

Mainstream Media narrative,” he wrote in two tweets Tuesday.

  1. Natasha Stoynoff

Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for People magazine, said Trump inappropriately touched her in 2005 when she was at Mar-a-Lago for an interview timed to coincide with the first anniversary of his marriage to Melania Trump.

Stoynoff wrote a first-person account of the alleged incident that was published in People in October 2016, saying he forced her against a wall and tried to kiss her during a break in the interview. The alleged attempted assault, Stoynoff wrote, was interrupted when Trump’s then-butler burst into the room.

The Trump campaign said the alleged incident “never happened. There is no merit or veracity to this fabricated story.” Trump himself tweeted “why didn’t the writer of this twelve year old article in People Magazine mention the ‘incident’ in her story. Because it did not happen!”

In her account of the story, Stoynoff said she later ran into Melania Trump in New York and it was a friendly encounter, though Melania Trump denied ever seeing her or having that interaction, and an attorney representing Melania Trump released a letter to People magazine demanding a retraction and an apology. People magazine said it stood by the story and did not issue a retraction.

After the publication of Stoynoff’s account, Trump’s former butler Tony Senecal also publicly refuted her allegations. “Never happened,” Senecal told ABC South Florida affiliate WPBF-TV.

A week later, People published a follow-up story quoting five colleagues and friends of Stoynoff who said the writer had told them about the alleged attack shortly after she returned from the assignment, and one friend who says she was with Stoynoff when she later ran into Melania Trump in New York City.

ABC News left several messages seeking comment from Stoynoff but received no response.

  1. 12. Jennifer Murphy

Jennifer Murphy, a contestant on the fourth season of “The Apprentice,” the reality-TV show that Trump used to host, told British magazine Grazia that Trump kissed her on the lips after a job interview in 2005. After she was fired from the reality-TV show, Murphy said, Trump followed up with her and said he wanted to offer her a job but could only do so after the finale had ended. Murphy told Grazia the alleged kissing incident took place during one of those post-show interviews.

“He walked me to the elevator, and I said goodbye. I was thinking, ‘Oh, he’s going to hug me,’ but when he pulled my face in and gave me a smooch. I was like, ‘Oh kay.’ I didn’t know how to act. I was just a little taken aback and probably turned red. And I then I get into the elevator and thought, “Huh, Donald Trump just kissed me on the lips,”‘ she told the magazine.

The Grazia article was published weeks before the election, and at the time, Murphy said, she still planned to vote for Trump.

“I don’t want him to ever feel I’m throwing him under the bus, because I’m not. … I was surprised, but then it didn’t really bother me because I didn’t feel he was being degrading, or he was being dishonest to Melania,” Murphy told Grazia.

Trump has not released any specific statement about her claims.

  1. Jessica Drake

Adult film star Jessica Drake said Trump kissed her and two other women without their consent 10 years ago.

During an Oct. 22, 2016, news conference alongside her attorney Gloria Allred, the accuser provided a picture of her with Trump.

The Trump campaign called her allegations “totally false and ridiculous” and directly addressed the picture in a statement, saying “The picture is one of thousands taken out of respect for people asking to have their picture taken with Mr. Trump.”

Drake said she met Trump at a 2006 golf tournament in Lake Tahoe and walked the course with him during the competition. She then was invited up to his hotel suite and brought two other women with her because “I didn’t feel right going alone,” Drake said during the news conference.

“When we entered the room, he grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission,” Drake said.

She went on to say that after she and the other women left, she received a call from Trump asking her to come back and have dinner with him.

“Donald then asked me ‘What do you want? How much?'” Drake said.

Allred and Drake declined to provide names of people they said could back up the story. Allred told ABC News in November 2017 that Drake does not want to speak with any media.

  1. Ninni Laaksonen

In 2006, Ninni Laaksonen competed in Miss Universe as Miss Finland. She told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that Trump squeezed her rear end after posing for a photo before an appearance on “The David Letterman Show.”

“Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt. He really grabbed my butt,” she told Ilta-Sanomat, according to a translation obtained by The Guardian.

ABC News contacted Laaksonen for comment in December 2017. She replied: “I have never commented on this, and I won’t. I wish that you respect my will to live a normal life without interference.”

Trump has never released a specific statement about her claims.

  1. Summer Zervos

During the presidential campaign, Zervos, who was a competitor on the fifth season of “The Apprentice,” came forward to allege that Trump abused his role as a potential employer, kissing her twice during a meeting at Trump Tower in New York, and later groping and kissing her in a California hotel room. Zervos said she did not report the alleged incidents to the authorities at the time.

“He grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again aggressively and placed his hand on my breast,” Zervos said at an October 2016 news conference.

Zervos has since filed a lawsuit against Trump for alleged defamation after he called her and the other women accusing him liars. The suit was filed in state court in New York, three days before Trump’s inauguration.

In the lawsuit, Zervos’ attorney wrote that while Trump said Zervos was lying, “it was Donald Trump who was lying when he falsely denied his predatory misconduct with Summer Zervos, and derided her for perpetrating a ‘hoax’ and making up a ‘phony’ story to get attention.”

Trump’s lawyers are trying to have the suit dismissed or, at a minimum, delayed until after Trump’s presidency ends. A hearing on that motion was held December 2017 in N.Y. State Supreme Court and the case is awaiting a ruling from the judge.

  1. Cassandra Searles

In June 2016, former Miss Washington Cassandra Searles shared a post on Facebook that is no longer available publicly.

The post had a picture of the group of Miss Universe contestants from 2013 with Trump in the center. In the caption of the photo, which was screen-grabbed by Yahoo, she wrote that “this one guy treated us like cattle” and “I forgot to mention that guy will be running to become the next President of United States.”

Rolling Stone reported that Searle updated her original post, adding a comment to the thread.

“He probably doesn’t want me telling the story about that time he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room,” Searle wrote, according to Rolling Stone.

ABC News has not been able to reach Searles, and Trump has not released a specific statement about her claims.

ABC News’ James Hill and Cindy Smith contributed to this report.






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