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TBR News November 30, 2018

Nov 30 2018

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

Washington, D.C. November 30, 2018: “Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based Shiite group, has fought the IDF from the early 1980s to 2000, when the IDF (Israel defense forces) was deployed in Lebanon. In 2006 the two sides clashed again, for 34 days, a war that ended in a tie but was not certainly an IDF victory.

The next round will happen when Israel believes that Iran has produced a nuclear weapon, a move which will certainly result in Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites.

Iran will retaliate with its proxies, mostly with Hezbollah.

Israel’s evaluation of the duration and cost of a war with Hezbollah, along with its other ramifications and consequences, will play a major part in Israel’s decision whether to bomb Iran or not.

Israel does not have long-range heavy bombers but the United States does, hence the constant prodding by the current Israeli government to procure an American strike on Tehran.

Meanwhile there is an ongoing tension between Israel and Hezbollah. However, the latter has suffered heavy casualties in the Syrian civil war, up to 2,000 and growing. Hezbollah will require time to recover, so it may not seek to confront Israel at the moment. Yet a miscalculation by one or both sides might ignite a war.

The IDF, one of the strongest militaries in the Middle East, outnumbers and outguns Hezbollah in both troops and weapon systems. Yet Hezbollah has quite a powerful hybrid force, which has antiaircraft and anti tank missiles, hundreds of drones and above all up to 150,000 rockets and missiles, some of which cover all of Israel. Hezbollah could fire more than a 1,000 rockets a day during a confrontation with Israel.

Israel has systems to shoot down rockets, mostly the Iron Dome. Yet Israel does not have enough of them to intercept most of Hezbollah’s rockets, so the IDF can’t rely on a defensive strategy.

IAF (Israeli air force) has mostly fighter – bombers such as F- 15/16. The IAF has been training to launch thousands of sorties in Lebanon but the IAF might not be able to stop the pounding of Israel by Hezbollah. To do that Israel needs boots on the ground i.e. to carry out a major land offensive following a massive strategic bombing by U.S. heavy bombers.”

The Table of Contents 

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 94
  • After Cohen’s guilty plea, the threads of Trump Inc are fraying
  • Donald Trump Claims Everyone Knew About Secret Russian Deal No One Knew About
  • Donald Trump Claims Everyone Knew About Secret Russian Deal No One Knew About
  • Trump biography
  • Russia-Ukraine skirmishes: Storm warning on the Black Sea
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 94

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

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

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jul 26, 2018

“Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! ”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Trump’s claim was not invented out of thin air: it was based on a Vice News article that reported that Twitter was indeed “shadow banning” some Republicans. But as numerous experts on social media and journalists who cover Twitter pointed out, the Vice article misused the phrase “shadow banning,” which is not what was actually happening. Shadow banning is when a social media service or other website makes a certain user’s posts invisible to anyone but the user, without telling the user that they have effectively been silenced. That is not what occurred on Twitter. What occurred: the accounts of some Republicans, such as party chair Ronna McDaniel and congressman Mark Meadows, were not popping up in Twitter’s auto-suggestion search box even when users were typing those people’s names, which made it harder to find them for people who did not already follow them. But Vice reported that the accounts were being properly auto-suggested to people who did follow them; they were also popping up for anyone who typed in their name and pressed the “enter key”; and all of their tweets were still visible to anyone who typed in their full account handles or found them through Google or other outside searches. In other words, they had not been shadow banned. Twitter, which says “we do not shadow ban,” wrote that it would fix a glitch that affected “hundreds of thousands of accounts,” including “some Democratic politicians.” (It did not provide their names.)

“I remember when I was growing up, Made in the USA…it was on everything. It was on everything. A country, Czechoslovakia, a long time ago, people used to take single dollar bills, and they used to paint them and paste them onto the windshield of their car, because it represented America. That’s all coming back now. That’s what’s happening. Made in the USA. Made in America. We’re proud of it again.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: We don’t know what Trump has been told by others — when he first told this story, he said it had been relayed to him by his daughter Ivanka — but there is no evidence that residents of the former Czechoslovakia ever pasted dollar bills to their car windshields, or that they are doing this again now. Michael Kraus, a Middlebury College professor of political science who has written extensively about Czechoslovakia, emailed from a visit to Prague: “If anyone had a real dollar, they would never ‘Scotch-tape it up their windshield’ — had they done so on the inside of the car, they could get into trouble with the police; had they done it on the outside, it would be stolen within minutes. Access to hard currency was strictly controlled by communist regimes, so only a nut would scotch-tape a dollar to their windshield instead of saving it for a rainy day or exchanging it for hard cash on the black market.” He added: “Did they paint real single dollar bills? Why? Does he mean that they painted dollar bills look alikes on the windshield of their car? Hard to tell. Either way, implausible. Where real dollar bills are concerned, however, I don’t know of anyone personally who did anything like this under communism or since.” Igor Lukes, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, who has also written extensively about Czechoslovakia, wrote in an email, “The quoted statement is incorrect. I was born in Prague in 1950 and lived there until 1978, when I came to the United States. With twenty-eight years as my reference point, I can state that I never saw a dollar bill during my life in Czechoslovakia. It was illegal to own hard currency. If you somehow possessed a single dollar bill, a (Deutsche Mark), or a pound sterling, you were obligated to turn it to the National Bank. After you’ve proved that you possessed the money legally, you were issued a coupon that could be used in a special store (Tuzex). To display an image of a dollar bill, never mind the real thing, would have been considered a political provocation.”

“When I met with President Obama, it sounded like he was ready to go to war with North Korea, sounded like he was ready to go to war. I said: ‘Did you ever speak to him?’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice at least speak? Did you ever speak to him?’ ‘No.’ But it sounded to me, respectfully, like he was ready to go to war.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: There is no evidence Obama told Trump or suggested to Trump anything like this; such a remark would be a total departure from Obama’s long-held views on North Korea. Obama’s office declined to comment, but Ned Price, a former special assistant to Obama and spokesperson for the National Security Council, called Trump’s remark “absolute revisionist history,” saying, “I’ve never heard anything even remotely like that coming up during that session.” Obama’s strategy of “containment and deterrence” was “predicated in part on the understanding that a military conflict on the (Korean) Peninsula would be nothing short of catastrophic,” Price said. In the past, Trump has confirmed what news outlets have reported: Obama told him North Korea was the biggest or most urgent problem he would face, not that war was inevitable.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“We were paying anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent, the cost of 29 total countries in NATO. Not anymore, not anymore, as part of our agreement.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The U.S. is not paying anywhere near 90 per cent of the “cost of NATO,” and there is no valid way to measure NATO spending that results in such a finding. According to NATO’s 2018 annual report, U.S. defence spending represented 72 per cent of alliance members’ total defence spending in 2017. Of NATO’s own organizational budget, the U.S. contributes a much smaller agreed-upon percentage: 22 per cent.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“So at the end of that meeting, they agreed that they would be paying up hundreds of billions of dollars. More money will be spent on NATO and we’re not going up, by the way. We’re not going up. We’re not going up hundreds of billions of dollars, and the head of NATO, And: “There were actually stories written about my attitude with NATO, and they didn’t say that hundreds of billions of dollars more have been agreed to be paid, and that was the whole purpose, because our country was being taken advantage of.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: Feinstein is a senior Democratic senator, and she is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But she is not the Democratic leader, even in the Senate, and she is not in charge of the Russia investigation: former FBI director Robert Mueller is leading the most important probe, and Republicans control the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is one of several congressional committees conducting related investigations.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

“Germany pays 1 per cent (of GDP on defense) and we pay 4.3 per cent.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The U.S. is spending 3.5 per cent of GDP on defence, according to an official NATO estimate released the month Trump spoke, down slightly from 3.57 in 2017.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

 

“Everybody (in NATO) was delinquent — not everybody but almost everybody.” And: “The Secretary General, Stoltenberg, great guy. He’s my biggest fan in the whole world. He said without President Trump, these people just weren’t paying their bills, and now they’re paying their bills, and they’re proud to do it.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: NATO countries were not “delinquent” or failing to “pay their bills” before Trump took office. Trump was referring to the fact that some European countries had not been meeting their pledge to spend 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence. But this 2 per cent figure was merely a guideline or target, not an ironclad commitment, and countries’ failure to meet it did not result in bills of any kind. (One could argue that Trump was using “delinquent” in a figurative sense, but he has repeatedly suggested that NATO countries owe the U.S. an actual debt, so we believe he is making a literal claim that is false.) Stoltenberg also did not say that members “just weren’t paying their bills” before Trump came along, though he gave Trump credit for creating a “new sense of urgency” that he said had led to an increase in spending.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“And if you look at NATO, it was going this way, was going down.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: Military spending by non-U.S. NATO members was going up before Trump took office — by 1.84 per cent in 2015 and 3.08 per cent in 2016, official NATO figures show.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

“Well, let me just tell you what happened with NATO. Last year, they paid $44 billion more than they ever paid before.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

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

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

“The European Union — and they understood this — was wrong. But they had barriers where they would sell their cars. We couldn’t sell cars into them, they would tax us, but we would tax them far less by the way.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: While American cars are generally not very popular in Europe, it is not true that the U.S. “couldn’t sell cars into them.” According to Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistical agency, auto imports from the U.S. to the European Union peaked at €7 billion in 2016 (about $10.7 billion Canadian at current exchange rates) and were approximately €6 billion in 2017 (about $9.2 billion Canadian at current exchange rates). According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association: “The U.S. is the third biggest exporter of cars to the EU in terms of value, representing a 15.4% share of EU imports in 2017.”

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“Last year, they lost $375 billion on trade with China and that doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property. Think of that: $375 billion.” And: “Now China is going after our soybean farmers in the hopes we will surrender our intellectual property and that they will be able to continue to make $500 billion and $375 billion off the big, fat, sloppy United States.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The U.S. has never had a $500 billion trade deficit with China. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017; it was $375 billion if you only count trade in goods, but Trump did not specify that he was doing so.

Trump has repeated this claim 51 times

“But right now, we’re doing a lot better than China, and we’re doing a lot better than any country on Earth. We’re rated number one in the world for growth and other elements, number one in the world.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The U.S. is not ranked number one in the world for economic growth. (It is not clear what Trump meant by “and other elements.”) At 2.9 per cent, the U.S. did have the fastest-growing economy of the “major seven” wealthy industrialized countries in the first quarter of 2018, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But China reported growth of 6.8 per cent and India reported growth of more than 7.5 per cent in the same quarter.

“Since China’s entry into the World Trade Organization — another disaster for us in 2001, that’s when China, it was flatlined for decades and decades and exactly with the World Trade Organization, they shot up and went through the roof.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: While China’s entry into the WTO at the end of 2001 does appear to have helped its economy, it is not true that China’s growth was stagnant (“flatlined”) for decades before its entry: its GDP growth rates for 1992, 1993 and 1994, for example, were all higher than its growth rates for 2002, 2003 and 2004, the years following its admittance to the WTO. As Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in 2008: “China has been the fastest growing economy in the world over almost three decades, expanding at 10 per cent per year in real terms.”

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“Women unemployment only reached a 65-year low, I’m sorry. I’d like to apologize – I want to apologize to all the women in the audience.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: This claim was no longer true at the time Trump spoke. It was true as of the previous month: the women’s unemployment rate for May, reported in June, was 3.6 per cent, the same as in 1953, 65 years prior. But it rose to 4 per cent in June, reported in July, which was merely the lowest since 2017 — or, if you’re only counting pre-Trump years, the lowest since 2000, 18 years prior.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“And I’m sorry women to disappoint you — this is tough, but I did win that women’s vote, didn’t I? Remember they said why would women vote for Trump? Well I don’t know, but I got more than she did, that’s pretty clever.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: Trump did not get more votes from women than Clinton did: he won a majority of white women, according to 2016 exit polls, not a majority of all women. Exit polls found that had the support of 52 per cent of white women but 42 per cent of all women.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“Asian unemployment has reached its lowest level in history.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The Asian-American unemployment rate briefly dropped to a low, 2.0 per cent, in May. But the most recent Asian-American unemployment rate at the time Trump spoke, for June, was 3.2 per cent. This was higher than the rate in Obama’s last two full months in office — 3 per cent in November 2016 and 2.8 per cent in December 2016 — and in multiple months of George W. Bush’s second term.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 tim

“The Georgetown mill in South Carolina is finally reopening after four and a half years.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The reopening mill in Georgetown, South Carolina shut down less than three years ago, in August 2015.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“Our trade deficit ballooned to $817 billion. Think of that. We lost $817 billion a year over the last number of years in trade. In other words, if we didn’t trade, we’d save a hell of a lot of money.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: The U.S. has never had a $817 billion trade deficit. The 2017 deficit was $566 billion. The 2016 deficit was $502 billion. (The 2017 deficit was $810 billion if you count only trade in goods and do not count trade in services. Trump, as usual, did not say he was doing so.) Economic experts near-universally note that buying goods from other countries is not a “loss” of money, but rather an exchange of money for goods, and that the U.S. would not “save” by abandoning all trade: its economy would be smaller, incomes would be lower, and Americans would not have access to products they desire.

Trump has repeated this claim 30 times

“I think U.S. Steel is opening up seven plants and expanding. They’re taking areas that they never thought they’d see again in these big old plants. They have a little corner of a building. And now they’re taking half the building and all of this giant building.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: Though Trump had been making this claim for a month, there was still no evidence at the time that U.S. Steel was opening seven plants. (Trump originally claimed it was six plants, then later claimed it was seven, then went up to eight.) At the time Trump spoke, U.S. Steel had only announced a major development at one facility since he introduced his steel tariffs: it said it was restarting two shuttered blast furnaces at its plant he gave this speech at, in Granite City, Illinois. Chuck Bradford, an industry analyst who follows U.S. Steel, said he was “not aware” of the company opening any other facilities. U.S. Steel told the Washington Post: “To answer your question, we post all of our major operational announcements to our website and report them on earnings calls. Our most recent one pertained to our Granite City ‘A’ blast furnace restart.”

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“If I would have said it on the campaign trail — GDP numbers will be announced tomorrow sometime. I don’t know what they are, but I — I think they’re going to be terrific. You know, when we took over it was really low, and it was heading lower, a lot lower. And it was going to be there fast. And great things have happened. So whatever those numbers are, watch for them. Somebody actually predicted today, 5.3. I don’t think that’s going to happen; 5.3. If it has a 4 in front of it, we’re happy. If it has like a 3, but it’s a 3.8, 3.9, 3.7 we’re OK. But these are unthinkable numbers. If I would have used these numbers during the campaign, the fake news back there would have said, he’s exaggerating.”

Source: Trade speech at U.S. Steel in Granite City, Illinois

in fact: Trump would not have been accused of exaggerating if he said he would preside over economic growth in one quarter of 3.7, 3.8 or 3.9 per cent. Obama had four quarters of 4.5 per cent or more.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“And, you know, as I sort of alluded, when I put Terry (Branstad) as the ambassador — such an important position — and he really likes China. He really likes China. Very interesting story. Terry told me, he said, you know, many years ago — like 38 years ago — he met a man named Xi and he came back because he was selling corn to China. But he came back, and he told his wife — this is, I think, 38 years before — he said, ‘I just met the future head of China.'”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: Branstad, the former governor of Iowa and now ambassador to China, met Xi Jinping when Xi was in Iowa — on a delegation from the province of Hebei to learn about U.S. agriculture — not when Branstad was in China. The meeting occurred 33 years ago, in 1985, not 38 years ago. (We don’t know if it’s true that Branstad immediately believed Xi could become the leader of China.)

 

“And then the employers are hiring and they’re recruiting and they’re raising wages in our country. And you know what’s happened: we have so many jobs now coming in, but they’re raising wages. The first time that’s happened in 19 years, where wages are going up.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. In June, the month before Trump spoke, average hourly earnings rose by 2.7 per cent, the same as in Obama’s last month in office, December 2016.

Trump has repeated this claim 25 times

“…You know, China is doing a little number. They want to attack the farm belt because they know those — the farmers love me. They voted for me. We won every one of the states.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: Trump did not specify what he meant by “every one of the states,” but it is not true that he won “every one of the states” with a big agricultural industry. Trump did not win all of the top 10 states for agricultural revenue, nor all of the top 10 states for number of farms. Three of the states on both lists — California (the state that generates the most agricultural revenue), Illinois and Minnesota — went for Clinton.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“And we have a very big deficit with Canada — trade deficit, although they don’t like to say that. But on one of their pieces of paper that they give out with the Canadian flag — and I love Canada, by the way. I have to tell you, I love Canada — but they have the Canadian flag — very official — it says, ‘$97.8 billion deficit that the United States has,’ or they put it down as a surplus to Canada. And I said, ‘Well, if we’re doing so well with Canada, how come it’s $98.7 billion?’ OK? That’s a lot of money.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: This is comprehensively inaccurate. Canada did not “give out” an official document with a Canadian flag that boasts of a $97.8 billion or $98.7 billion surplus; the Trump administration found this approximate figure on a chart deep in the Statistics Canada website. Second, this number is not the official trade balance number used by either the U.S. or Canada. According to Trump’s own Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. had a $8.4 billion trade surplus with Canada in 2017. According to Canadian figures, calculated differently, Canada had a surplus of its own of more than $20 billion. The Canadian figure Trump was attempting to refer to, which was actually $97.7 billion, includes “re-exports,” goods imported to Canada from other countries — say a t-shirt from China, and then shipped on to the U.S. By using this figure, Trump is double-counting that t-shirt as part of the trade deficit with China and also with Canada.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“Between NAFTA, which was a horrible deal — and we’re getting close on that. But we’re making it good. You’re dealing with closed markets. The Canadians — you have a totally closed market from so many — you know, in Canada they have a 375 per cent tax on dairy products.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: Under NAFTA, a free trade agreement, the Canadian market is very open to U.S. products. There are some exceptions, such as dairy. Even there, though, Trump exaggerates. Canada’s tariffs on most dairy products are high, but they are under 300 per cent on major products as milk and cream. Trump himself has previously used the figures “270 per cent” and “295 per cent.”

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“But we’re signing one for the vets — Choice. That’s been up for 44 years. They’ve been trying to get Choice, where you wait in line for weeks and weeks and weeks — you’re not even very sick — and by the time you get to see the doctor, you have a terminal illness. They could have taken care of it very easily if you got early. But weeks and weeks — and we got Choice. And people said you couldn’t do that, and we got it.” And: “But I believe that both — but, in particular, Choice is going to be — it’s going to make such a difference. Where — I mean they were waiting for weeks just to see a doctor. And then they’d have to come back for a second visit, and it would be four weeks later, and horrible. So we took care of that.” And: “That’s where you go and you see a doctor and the country pays — these are our vets — the country pays the doctor’s bill, which is a tiny fraction of the cost of what would happen and what has been happening. And the lines are being reduced so drastically, and the vets are now able — if they can’t see — if they can’t get immediate service, they go right outside, they get a doctor — a local doctor.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: The Choice program was first put into place under Obama. Trump’s new version has not yet come into force, but even when it does, veterans are unlikely to be allowed to see a private doctor “immediately.” At the Associated Press explained: “Under the newly expanded Choice program that will take at least a year to implement, veterans will still have to meet certain criteria before they can see a private physician. Those criteria will be set in part by proposed federal regulations that will be subject to public review. Currently, only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense. A recent Government Accountability Report found that despite the Choice program’s guarantee of providing an appointment within 30 days, veterans waited an average of 51 days to 64 days.”

Trump has repeated this claim 8 times

“Alex Acosta has come up with incredible health care plans through the Department of Labor — association plans where you associate, where you have groups and you get tremendous healthcare at a very small cost. And it’s across state lines; you can compete all over the country. They compete. They want to get it. And, Alex, I hear it’s like record business that they’re doing. We just opened about two months ago, and I’m hearing that the numbers are incredible. Numbers of people that are getting really, really good health care instead of Obamacare, which is a disaster.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: Not only are Trump’s new association health plans not doing “record business,” nobody is signing up at all yet: they are not being offered until September.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“And Obamacare is on its way out…But it’s virtually — it’s on its last legs right now.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: We’d let Trump get away with saying “Obamacare is on its way out,” since this is a predictive statement. But his assessment of the present — “it’s on its last legs right now” — is incorrect. While Trump has weakened Obamacare in several ways, most notably by eliminating the “individual mandate” that required people to obtain health insurance, the law is far from dead. Trump did not eliminate Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people, the federal and state Obamacare marketplaces that allow other uninsured people to buy insurance, or the subsidies that help many of them make the purchases. Nor did he touch various Obamacare rules for the insurance market, like its prohibition on insurers.

Trump has repeated this claim 33 times

“You said she (Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds) is phenomenal, and she really has been. You’re number one in almost every category. You’re in the top three in jobs. You’re in the top three in unemployment. You’re number-one state, I think that just came out. Number-one state.”

Source: Remarks at Workforce Development Roundtable in Peosta, Iowa

in fact: It was not clear what Trump was claiming “just came out,” but Iowa was not number one in the most important unemployment and economic rankings. Trump was correct that Iowa was third in the country for unemployment rate at the time he spoke, with a 2.7 per cent rate in June. Iowa ranked seventh in 2017, with a 3.1 per cent average unemployment rate. Iowa also ranked seventh in the country in GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018, at 2.9 per cent.

 

After Cohen’s guilty plea, the threads of Trump Inc are fraying

The spectacle of Mueller cornering Trump’s gang is fascinating to watch and essential to the rebuilding of the rule of law

November 29, 2018

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

The great unraveling has begun. Between the latest guilty plea by Donald Trump’s fixer and the breakdown of a guilty plea by his campaign chairman, the threads are fraying on the scheming enterprise that is Trump Inc.

The man pulling at the many loose ends of this loosey-goosey business is working methodically in ways that are only clear in hindsight. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is a strategic mastermind cornering a gang of simpletons watched by a peanut gallery of gawkers and hecklers.

The spectacle is both fascinating to watch and essential to the rebuilding of the rule of law. The United States urgently needs to resume its role as a global example of good government. Especially when its own government is rotten to the core.

Republicans in Congress may refuse to investigate the Trump administration, but Mueller and the courts are reaffirming that it matters when people break election laws, tax laws, lobbying laws, or lie under oath. It matters when foreign agents conspire to attack the United States by hacking into the computers of one of its main political parties.

Meanwhile our simpleton-in-chief can only sputter on the sidelines of Twitter about the many ways Mueller is plainly driving him nuts.

“Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime,” Trump tweeted while he should have been prepping for another world summit. As a matter of fact, investigations are supposed to search for crimes, but that’s beside the point for the man who can fire and hire an attorney general. He would much prefer an investigation into anyone else right now: the Grinch who stole Christmas, Hillary Clinton, the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. Anyone will do.

“After wasting more than $40,000,000 (is that possible?), it has proven only one thing – there was NO Collusion with Russia,” he tweeted barely an hour later, still stewing in his own resentment. “So Ridiculous!”

To answer the president’s questions: yes, it’s possible to spend a lot of federal dollars (see: corporate tax cuts, Trump administration). No, Mueller hasn’t cost the taxpayer a dime after all the property he seized from Trump’s campaign chairman. The only Ridiculous Thing about this is pretending that the Question of Collusion has been Answered.

But since you mentioned Collusion, Mr President, let’s yank a little more on this thread, shall we?

Michael Cohen’s bombshell of a plea deal on Thursday establishes that Trump’s personal and business lawyer was colluding with the Russian government during the presidential election of 2016 to profit from a possible real estate deal.

Cohen’s guilty plea touches on at least three criminal undertakings. He lied to Congress to cover up the fact that the wheeling and dealing continued through the campaign. He literally coordinated his efforts on Trump’s behalf with the Russian government, which was at the time engaged in a criminal conspiracy to manipulate the election through hacking. And he was securing foreign financial support for a presidential candidate. The only way this proves NO Collusion is if colluding does not qualify as collusion any more.

Normally you might describe a political figure profiting from his public office – even his potential for public office – as corrupt. But the leader of the free world prefers to describe it another way: good business.

“I was running my business while I was campaigning,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities.”

Why indeed? Why surrender private profit when you want to enter public service? What a quaint idea, enshrined into US law by something called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

We used to live in a world where America’s worst president ever was defined by his insistence that he wasn’t a crook. We now live in a world where America’s truly worst president ever insists that cash is king.

To be fair, Trump has good reason to feel victimized. Some way, somehow, he has found himself surrounded by the most dismal collection of indicted, colluding, lying aides and employees.

Imagine Trump’s surprise when he discovered that Cohen was, as he put it on Thursday, “a weak person” who is “lying very simply in order to get a reduced sentence”. Don’t you hate those weak selfish liars who pretend to be strong and helpful? It’s like saying you’re helping the depressed rust belt while slapping down tariffs that shutter its remaining factories.

Imagine Trump’s horror when he found that Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, was guilty of financial fraud and lying to prosecutors. All the poor man was trying to do was change the Republican party platform on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine, and, well, collude with the president’s lawyers. Yes, he may have also secretly met with WikiLeaks during the election. But that’s no reason to think there was actual, you know, collusion.

We can be sure that Trump is as surprised as we are that federal agents on Thursday raided the offices of a Chicago alderman who also worked on property taxes for one Donald Trump.

Truly, has there ever been a wealthy businessman so mistreated by so many people who worked so closely for him? Even his national security adviser turned out to be a liar who had close contacts with the Russians after the 2016 elections. Imagine how Trump will feel when he sees Michael Flynn sentenced in a few days’ time.

Betrayed, no doubt, in more ways than one.

Trump is right. This investigation needs to come to an end. We need to know what Mueller knows. We need to know how Trump’s honest motive to make money was honestly at the heart of everything he has done. We need to forget the pee tapes and follow the money.

Donald Trump Claims Everyone Knew About Secret Russian Deal No One Knew About

November 29, 2018

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Asked to comment on his former lawyer’s confession in federal court on Thursday that the Trump Organization had secretly negotiated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump attempted to sell the American people an outrageous lie.

Michael Cohen’s secret negotiations with Russian officials and their proxies to arrange financing and permits for a Trump Tower in Moscow, conducted as Trump was publicly heaping lavish praise on President Vladimir Putin, had never been secret at all, the president told reporters outside the White House.

“Everybody knew about it, it was written about in newspapers, it was a well-known project,” Trump claimed, falsely, about his company’s covert effort, “during the early part of ’16 and I guess even before that,” to develop a luxury skyscraper with help from Putin’s office and a former general in Russia’s military intelligence service.

In fact, the existence of such a project, which was being negotiated in secret during the entire span of the Republican primary campaign — from at least October 2015, when Trump signed a letter of intent with a Russian developer, through January 2016, when Cohen called an aide to Putin’s spokesman, until some time after Trump secured the nomination in June — was not known about or reported at the time. There was no indication in the outline of Cohen’s confession sketched out by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday as to why the proposed deal was dropped, but the timeline might offer a clue. Cohen suddenly backed out of a trip to Russia arranged by the Kremlin on the afternoon of June 14, 2016 — about three hours after the Washington Post revealed that Russian hackers had penetrated the servers of the Democratic National Committee and stolen documents related to the election.

The Moscow project only became public knowledge the following year, after Trump’s inauguration as president. It was briefly mentioned in a 2017 New York Times report about another covert scheme also involving Cohen and Felix Sater, a convicted felon, former F.B.I. informant and longtime fixer for the Trump Organization with deep ties in Russia.

More details about the Moscow tower project Trump’s company secretly pursued as he ran for president — including some of the same messages between Cohen and Sater used by Mueller to charge Cohen with lying to Congress about the deal in a 2017 statement — were revealed in subsequent reports from The Times and Buzzfeed News.

After Cohen’s confession during a surprise appearance in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold of Buzzfeed News published Sater’s screenshots of a 2016 text exchange with Cohen in which the two men agreed to accept an invitation from Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, to the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that June for a possible meeting with the Russian president. Sater also told Buzzfeed that Cohen had offered to give Putin the $50 million penthouse apartment at the top of the Trump Tower Moscow as a gift during his telephone conversation with Peskov’s English-speaking assistant that January.

Trump’s effort to downplay the seriousness of these revelations could be helped by the fact that he did speak openly about a previous attempt to strike a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow, in 2013, when he visited the city for the Miss Universe pageant and talked about a partnership with the well-connected Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, and his son Emin.

Although that effort eventually fizzled out, and the letter of intent Trump signed in 2015 was with a different Russian developer, as the secret talks progressed in 2016, the Agalarovs passed on the offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton — described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” — that led to the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer and Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his son, Donald Trump, Jr.

In his remarks to reporters on Thursday, Trump insisted, against all evidence, that the secret deal had been public all along, and claimed that Cohen’s initial statement to Congress in 2017, in which he downplayed the extent and duration of the talks, had been accurate. Trump called his former aide’s confession to the special counsel, in which he said that he had lied to Congress to protect the president, false.

“What he’s trying to do, because he’s a weak person, and not a very smart person,” Trump said, “it’s very simple, he’s got himself a big prison sentence and he’s trying to get himself a much lesser prison sentence by making up a story.”

Before leaving for the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, where he was scheduled to meet Putin — a plan abandoned after take-off — Trump avoided questions about the lie he repeated again and again during the 2016 general election campaign: that he had no business interests in Russia at all.

Trump also told reporters that while he had elected not to pursue the Moscow project in the end, there would’ve been nothing wrong with him doing so while running for president. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won,” he argued, “in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

The president elaborated on that theme in a tweet posted early Friday morning from Argentina, in which he described his secret pursuit of a business deal with officials in Vladimir Putin’s office during the 2016 campaign as “very legal & very cool.”

Attention will now turn to who else might be in legal jeopardy for lying to Congress or federal investigators about what they knew about the talks between the Trump Organization and Russian officials over the proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal. The president’s lawyers said on Thursday that Trump had submitted written answers to questions from the special counsel about his personal knowledge of the deal, and there was widespread speculation that Donald Trump, Jr. might also have lied about it during his sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Updated: Friday, Nov. 30, 7:25 a.m. EST

This post was updated to reflect the new allegation, made by Donald Trump’s business associate Felix Sater to Buzzfeed News on Thursday, that Michael Cohen offered to give Vladimir Putin a luxury apartment worth $50 million, in return for help in financing the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow, and to report that the President of the United States described his secret pursuit of a business deal with Kremlin officials as “very legal & very cool.”

 Trump biography

November 30, 2018

by Christian Jürs

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-Oberführer

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 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. Ambassador 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 against 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

 

Russia-Ukraine skirmishes: Storm warning on the Black Sea

Russian and Ukrainian naval forces have clashed in the Black Sea. Though the region lies on NATO’s weak southeastern flank, the alliance is unlikely to intervene in an area where Russian and Western interests collide.

November 29, 2018

by Volker Wagener

DW

The Black Sea is not exactly know for its turbulent waters, nor for being a geopolitical flash point. This, however, changed quite dramatically in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine — though the peninsula had originally been gifted to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. In the meantime, it has developed into a key area of Russian interests on the NATO’s southeasternmost flank.

Russia is now heavily militarizing Crimea and the Black Sea. Some 28,000 Russian soldiers are stationed on the peninsula. Russia has practically doubled its military budget over the past ten years. And Ukraine’s tiny naval fleet, based along the coast of the Sea of Azov, is under Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thumb. Already back in 2008, the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs warned that Russia was systematically increasing its military presence in the Black Sea region.

Russia’s new submarines and frigates, equipped with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles, pose a serious threat to nearby NATO states, and especially to Bulgaria and Romania.

Black Sea: Falling under Russian dominance?

In Cold War times, Bulgaria — then a staunch ally of the Soviet Union — and Romania were members of the Warsaw Pact military alliance. Today, however, a new geopolitical situation presents itself, as both Bulgaria and Romania have switched sides and joined NATO. Their Black Sea coasts, meanwhile, are NATO’s long-ignored weak spot.

Romania has long warned not to allow Russia to militarily dominate the Black Sea. As such, Bucharest has emphatically urged the deployment of NATO forces in the region, including that of a multinational naval fleet.

Sofia, in turn, rejected calls to deploy NATO forces in the region — after all, Bulgaria still maintains close cultural ties to Russia. This makes Bulgaria NATO’s weakest link. Which is compounded by the fact that Sofia relies on Soviet-era military equipment. And Russia knows the various weaknesses of the Soviet air defense systems very well. Yet Donald’s Trump’s insistence that NATO states increase their military spending has not fallen on deaf ears. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced in summer 2018 that the country would invest some $2 billion (€2.28) to modernize its armed forces.

Russia-Turkey ties too close for NATO’s comfort

NATO’s Achilles’ heel on its southeastern flank looks particularly vulnerable with respect to Turkey. The NATO state has for a long time felt that the West has never seriously deemed it a partner on equal footing. This sense of disappointment is exacerbated by the troubled relationship between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has long since sought deeper economic and military integration with the East. And has even purchased Russia’s S400 missile defense system, to the anger of NATO.

Turkey’s naval fleet, and its submarines in particular, are still superior to Russia’s armed forces, despite their modernization. But Turkey has adopted a conspicuously neutral stance towards Russia, treating it not as a potential enemy but instead as a prospective partner. This became abundantly clear when Erdogan visited his Russian counterpart Putin after Turkey downed a Russian warplane in Syria. Erdogan apologized for the incident and pledged to pay a generous compensation to the victims.

Turkey and Russia are not exactly chummy. But long gone are the times when both sides fought wars over the Black Sea region like in the 19th century.

Turkstream

Turkey and Russia pursue shared economic interests with regard to the Black Sea, much to the irritation of NATO and the EU. Last week, Putin and Erdogan agreed that the Turkstream gas pipeline will become operational in late 2019; it will direct gas straight through the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine. Which means Ukraine will lose out on a sizable chunk of gas transit fees. This, too, is another indication that Russia’s economic stranglehold over Ukraine is only increasing.

However, the new pipeline could befit Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia, as gas would be channeled from Turkey onward towards central Europe as of 2020, though talks are still ongoing. But this fact, too, does not bode well for the security of NATO’s southeastern flank.

Ukraine: Isolated and weak

Taken together, all this weakens Ukraine. Yet its president, Petro Poroschenko, will hardly receive more than moral support from the EU and NATO. His wish that NATO dispatch warships to the Crimean peninsula will most likely go unfilled. Ukraine is not part of the military alliance, which is in no hurry to admit the politically volatile country.

As it stands, Ukraine — which remains embroiled in the Donbass fighting and weakened after the annexation of Crimea — is isolated. And while Moscow’s annexation and recent actions in the Sea of Azov breached international law, Ukraine lacks the military means to assert it rights.

Power struggle could escalate

The Black Sea region, unlike the Mediterranean or the Baltic region, is no historically and culturally homogeneous area. In Cold War times, the Black Sea marked the southeastern frontier of the Soviet Union. But with Russia, Turkey and the West now vying for influence in the region, a conflict could quickly escalate.

NATO foreign ministers are set to meet in Brussels on 4 and 5 December — at which time they will certainly discuss the present Black Sea situation. But it is doubtful NATO will opt to permanently increase its naval presence in the region to counter Russia’s increasingly assertive stance.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 30, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversation No. 99

Date: Friday, August 22, 1997

Commenced: 3:17 PM CST

Concluded: 3:35 PM CST

GD: Robert, we have talked about Clinton and I have been reading about his alleged tie ins with your people and the smuggling of drugs. Anything to it?

RTC: Oh yes, much true there. Drugs are brought up from South America, for cocaine and heroin and Mexico for marijuana. They just fly it in over the border and land at a safe small airfield, unload and go back from whence they came. Arizona is popular and some ranchers there are very rich from taking in landing fees.

GD: Clinton’s involvement?

RTC: His brother is hophead and Bill does like under the counter money. So does his wife. It’s a wink and a nod type of thing.

GD: Money corrupts and big money corrupts big people.

GD: Yes, anyone is for sale.

GD: I recall the story of the man in the bar who saw a beautiful woman come in. She sat next to him and he asked her if she would spend the night with him for a thousand dollars. She said she certainly would. Then he asked her if she would drop the price to fifty dollars. When she said, in some anger, ‘what do you think I am? He replied, ‘we already know that. I’m just trying to establish the price.’

RTC:(Laughter)  I haven’t heard that one but it does fit. And don’t be fooled by Clinton. He is a large man, very smooth, a great talker and very jovial. Have you offed in a second and think nothing about it. Well, he’s done his duty and will retire, a rich man.. And he will write a book and the New York Times will rave about it.

GD: Yes, they praised Posner’s totally idiotic book on the Kennedy killing.

RTC: Oh that piece of shit. I mean both the book and the author. What an odious ass kisser that one is. Bought and paid for. And so is the Times. They print just what we tell them to print, where our operations are concerned, and kill whatever we tell them to. I have had to deal with them in the past. We toss them a few nice bones from time to time but they do as they are told, believe me.

GD: So much for freedom of the press.

RTC: (Laughter) What a joker you are, Gregory. The Jews own all the major papers in this country, and we work with them. They won’t print a negative word about Israel and on the domestic scene, they do as we ask them. In point of fact, the Jews here think they are going to own everything but in fact, they are here on sufferance. They’ve been kicked out of every country they have lived in throughout history. Mostly a bunch of swindlers, con men and the like. On sufferance. If things get bad here, the men in power, and they are not Jews, will use them as scapegoats and force them out. We don’t  need concentration camps here as long as El Al can take them back to their Mediterranean paradise. Personally, the sooner the better before they ruin the stock market with their backdoor scheming and we have another depression.

GD: They had little to do with the ’29 one, however.

RTC: Just you wait, Gregory, they’ll do it again, mark my words. Yes, Hitler was right about them. Parasites. Never create anything and attach themselves to the system like leeches.

GD: As far as Clinton is concerned, he doesn’t have to worry about the Jews because of his wife but the born again morons hate him. Old Ken Staar is from Chicago and is as crazy as they come. As a matter of fact, all of these raging twits should be shoved into the El Al baggage compartments and shipped off with the Jews. By the way, did you know that the precious wailing wall in Jerusalem is not the foundation of Soloman’s temple but was built by the Arabs about 600 AD? How ironic it is to see devout Jews licking the stones that some Arab mason pissed on hundreds of years before. And there enough pieces of the true cross floating around to build a six room house.

RTC: The relic business was booming once.

GD: Well, now they sell other things, don’t they? I rarely read the main stream press because I don’t trust Israel and the press knocks themselves out to kiss their ass. I predict that if the US doesn’t disengage over there, the frustrated Arabs will start attacking us next. Washington said it best: No entangling alliances. Of course no one will follow such a course but the time will come when they wish they had.

RTC: I’m afraid so. This is beginning to sound like a Nazi party meeting but the truth will out, won’t it?

GD: Not in the New York Times, it won’t.

RTC: Isn’t the truth what people want to believe?

GD: Or are told to believe. If you lie to people long enough, they will either come to believe the lies or will recognize them for what they are and turn on the liars. I predict both of these concepts because one always follows the other.

 

(Concluded at 3:35 PM CST)

 

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