Greetings from Bulgaria! I did my best to keep up with news in the US, but I apologize if I missed anything. I know it’s probably likely that I did miss something - if you’d like, please add articles to the comments that you think should be included in my list. It would help me and others. Thanks for reading! Housekeeping:
- Shameless plug: My spreadsheet of all departures from the Trump administration is now a website!! It is www.45chaos.com and was created with the assistance of f00d4tehg0dz - many thanks! The failed nominations section is mostly complete; I started on the empty positions list this week.
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On to the review...
Week of July 8 - 14: What We Learned in the Russia Probe
On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced that Mueller has filed indictments
against 12 Russian intelligence officers involved in hacking the DNC. The indictments include two counts of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of conspiracy to launder money using cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.
- The indictments note that Russian intelligence created and controlled DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, later blaming American hackers and a Romanian hacker respectively.
- Additionally, the indictment states the Guccifer 2.0 persona communicated with Americans about releasing the stolen DNC documents, including a person who was "in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump." It is quite possible this American is Roger Stone, who was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 prior to the election.
- The indictment alleges that Russian intelligence officers transferred the stolen documents to a third-party organization, coordinating the timing of releasing them so “they would have maximum impact during the campaign” (Business Insider’s words). It is possible this third-party organization is Wikileaks.
- The charging documents allege that a congressional candidate requested stolen documents from the Guccifer 2.0 account on August 15, 2016. The Russians complied and sent the candidate documents related to his/her opponent.
- The Russian officers used two techniques: spearphishing (emails that trick users into disclosing passwords/sensitive info) and hacking into networks to install malicious spying software. The indictment indicates that the Russian officers had access to the Clinton campaign’s analytics, meaning they could use the information to better target voters to hurt her campaign.
- To cover their tracks, the Russian officers “used a network of computers around the world that were paid for by cryptocurrency.”
Perhaps one of the most important details
contained in the indictments is: On the same day that Trump called on Russia to find 30,000 missing Clinton emails, July 27, 2016, Russian officers worked "after hours" to follow Trump's directive. They attempted to hack into a third-party provider Clinton's personal office used to host email addresses. “The indictment says July 27 was the first time they went after email accounts and domains belonging to Clinton's office.”
- Trump’s exact quote: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing...I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." Trump later said he was not serious.
Mueller’s team has contacted
at least seven people associated with Roger Stone, suggesting they are focusing on “whether any associates of Trump knew that the Russian government had hacked emails from the DNC...and provided them to Wikileaks” during 2016.
When Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last September, he stated that he could not remember calling Russian musician Emin Agalarov, who set up the Trump Tower meeting. In a new interview
, Agalarov says he does remember talking to Trump Jr.
- Agalarov’s statement: “I said, ‘Listen there’s some people that want to meet you,’ ” Agalarov told Vice. “They obviously want something that could potentially help them resolve things that you could be interested in or maybe not. If you can spare a few minutes of your time, I’d be grateful. If not, no problem. Obviously Don Jr. obviously being Don Jr. said, ‘Of course. I’ll do it if you’re asking.’”
We already knew Mueller is investigating whether officials from the United Arab Emirates set up contacts between Trump's team and Russian officials. Last week we learned
the Crown Prince of the U.A.E., Mohammed bin Zayed, told an unnamed American that Putin would be interested in striking a deal with Trump, wherein Putin would "resolve" the Syria conflict in return for Trump lifting the sanctions against Russia for their actions in Ukraine.
- In addition to the U.A.E., Israel and Saudi Arabia have also pressured the Trump administration to make the deal with Putin. It serves their interests because they want Putin's help in kicking Iranian forces out of Syria.
- The New Yorker states, "a former U.S. official recalled having a conversation after Trump’s Inauguration with an Israeli Cabinet minister with close ties to Netanyahu in which the minister pitched the American on the idea of 'trading Ukraine for Syria.'”
- This is important because Trump has made comments ahead of his meeting with Putin that he is open to making a deal with the Russian leader.
Michael Fynn appeared in court
, where Mueller’s team indicated Flynn was still cooperating on not-yet-public cases. The judge put no pressure on Mueller to wrap up the investigation, but stated that once Flynn’s cooperation is complete, sentencing can proceed more quickly than normal.
he should be moved to a jail that is closer to the Alexandria court. After the judge granted his request, Manafort changed his mind and asked to stay at the nice VIP jail he was being held. The judge denied his request to reverse the decision.
- Manafort’s previous jail allowed him to use a laptop and a phone, unheard of in most US jails. Manafort also admitted to lying in court over the phone, apparently either forgetting or not knowing that all communication on jail phones are monitored. For example, despite arguing in court that he needs more time to prepare for trial, on the phone Manafort said he has access to all his files and has “gone through all the discovery now.”
More Russian Connections
The people who benefit the most from a trade agreement Trump oversaw and applauded for generating “thousands of American jobs” actually live and work in Moscow. The $26 billion deal
between American Ethane and a large Chinese conglomerate, made in November 2017, was celebrated with a ceremony attended by Wilbur Ross and Rex Tillerson.
- Putin’s former chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, has an undisclosed stake in American Ethane and is one of the prime beneficiaries of the deal. At one point, oligarch Roman Abramovich was also an investor.
- The Russians are going through China to protect themselves from “current and potential sanctions [against Russia],” according to a Russian-Israeli businessman.
Money donated by supporters
to Jill Stein to fund a recount is actually being used by her campaign to pay her legal bills stemming from the Russia interference investigation.
- There was almost $1 million leftover after Stein terminated her recount efforts, which contributors were promised a say in how it was spent. Since then, the money has been disappearing with no accounting to donors. While some has gone to lawyers for the Russia investigation, a large amount is going to campaign staff - who aren’t campaigning. Stein’s campaign manager is now making 3x as much as he was making during the 2016 campaign.
Trump's face is being used
by Uralasbest, a Russian asbestos company, to market its products. The seal reportedly reads, “approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States." Trump has expressed skepticism that asbestos is dangerous, even tweeting that the World Trade Center would not have burned down if asbestos has not been cleaned from the towers. Uralasbest posted an image of their product on Facebook stating "Donald is on our side!” It is unclear if Trump personally gave approval for his image to be used.
Facebook allowed a Russian internet company access to collect data
on unknowing users, even after changing policy which should have stopped the collection.
FBI Agent Peter Strzok testified in a public hearing before the House. Honestly, too much happened to accurately sum up here. Suffice it to say, it was a shit show. The GOP used the hearing to push a narrative more than ask for Strzok's story. For a review of the top 7 moments, the WashPo has a great write up here
The Republican congressmen who went to Moscow for the Fourth of July have returned to the states, but with differing stories
. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) “shocked his colleagues” by saying that U.S. sanctions against Russia were not working. Johnson also downplayed Russia’s attacks on our elections.
- Kremlin media ran with Johnson’s statements, seemingly thrilled that Johnson did their work for them.
Rudy Giuliani is still representing
foreign clients, both personally and through his consulting firm, while serving as Trump’s attorney. He has never registered as a foreign lobbyist, a situation experts say could be illegal. Of particular interest, Giuliani’s firm represented a Ukrainian mayor whose party is “at the center” of the prosecution against Manafort.
On Tuesday, a global consulting firm announced
that Mike Flynn was joining their company, Stonington Global LLC. Only hours later, Flynn’s attorneys reversed course, announcing
Flynn was not in fact joining the firm.
Deputy AG Rosenstein has asked all 93 U.S. attorney’s offices to each provide up to three federal prosecutors to assist in reviewing documents of SCOTUS pick Judge Brett Kavanaugh. While it is unusual for department attorneys to help in such a task, Kavanaugh has left a voluminous paper trail in his years of public service. To properly review that many documents, Rosenstein needs more attorneys than normal.
We found out more last week about why Kennedy retired and why Kavanaugh was chosen to fill his seat. Last year, Kennedy met with Trump in a private meeting to give him a list of candidates that would be acceptable to replace him should he decide to retire, with Kavanaugh at the top of the list. The White House ‘signaled’ back to Kennedy by adding Kavanaugh to their list; see this article from November 2017 about the addition to the list, which USA Today notes “appeared to come out of the blue; no Supreme Court vacancies are known to be imminent.” Neera Tanden, president of the Centre for American Progress, argues further that “Justice Kennedy has been ruling in favour of the Trump Administration position,” which raises the question of ulterior motivations.
My twitter. Thanks for reading!
Thumb On The Scale The Trump administration wants the 2020 Census to include a question about citizenship status for the first time in 70 years. Why is this a problem?
Undocumented immigrants might be afraid to respond, even though courts have ruled that citizens and non-citizens must be counted. If immigrants are undercounted, many communities won’t get the funding or representation in Congress that they deserve. Because the Census is only conducted every 10 years, the damage would be long-lasting. This proposal is already facing legal challenges
from multiple state Attorneys General
as well as the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder. From Brian Beutler:
Part of the reason Democrats aren’t runaway favorites to capture the House in the fall is that they are still living under the gerrymandered maps Republicans drew after winning landslide majorities in the 2010 midterms, a Census year that gave them control over redistricting. This latest change to the Census is a bid to hold on to as much control over the next round of redistricting as they can, and in a way that panders to the Trumpiest faction of the GOP base. It’s antidemocratic, anti-empirical, and racist, and shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
Another Brick In The Dumb Wall President Trump now says the Department of Defense (America’s, not Mexico’s, FYI) should pay for his border wall
using tax dollars appropriated to the Pentagon for other purposes. Trump floated the plan to House Speaker Paul Ryan last week, who reportedly “offered little reaction,” which is probably what he does when the President suggests dumb ideas that Ryan is too chickenshit to oppose. Paul Ryan’s eyes must roll so hard before he fails to confront the president in private and/or in public. The truth: Trump won’t get his wall unless Congress funds it.
Right now, they don’t have the votes to do that unless Trump agrees to protect the Dreamers. If Trump could maintain interest in a topic for more than the length of a cable news segment, he would make that deal. When asked about it, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded:
“I can’t get into the specifics of that at this point.” Translation: “There’s no way for me to explain this without making myself and my boss look very stupid. I chose this life.”
Go to Hill Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress
about Facebook’s data policies and its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This is the most hotly anticipated congressional hearing since James Comey testified that he wouldn’t do anything differently(!). Zuckerberg is famous for speaking his mind, giving us all the facts, and not getting bogged down in consultant-speak, so this should be a hoot. A clip from Zuckerberg’s last interview got the “Ok, stop” treatment
on last week’s Lovett or Leave It
What Else Today Trump secured a trade deal with South Korea
—the first significant deal of its kind of his presidency. According to The New York Times
, the deal leverages Trump’s threat of steel and aluminum tariffs to allow for auto imports from American companies like Ford and General Motors, extend tariffs on South Korean truck exports, and reduce the amount of steel South Korea can export to the United States. The deal is expected to be formally announced as soon as tomorrow. Multiple groups of senators, including Chris Coons (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC)—the bipartisan sponsors of a bill to protect Robert Mueller—
seem very concerned that Trump may have the special counsel in his sights—on what was otherwise a quiet day. It may be a coincidence, or they may have learned something behind the scenes. Either way, we’ll be watching very closely. Though, let’s be honest, we watch everything very closely. No charges will be filed against the two Baton Rouge police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling in 2016
after an investigation determined that they acted in a “reasonable” and “justifiable" manner. Two cell phone videos documenting the officers’ roles in Sterling’s death prompted Black Lives Matter protests nationwide. Crooked contributor Brittany Packnett
said it best: “Alton Sterling is a victim of gun violence too. Don’t you dare stay silent.” The NRA says it receives foreign funding, but none of it goes towards elections.
The organization issued this response after reporting that suggested a Russian banker used the NRA to funnel money to the Trump campaign. Now, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
of the Senate Finance Committee is asking them to detail the media expenditures they’ve made with foreign funds in the past three years. Could be a blot on an otherwise stellar reputation. Beijing has confirmed to South Korea that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited China
in his first diplomatic trip since assuming power in 2011. As North Korea’s only notable military ally, the visit to China was expected by some
ahead of Kim Jong Un’s upcoming meeting with Trump. White House lawyers examined two large loans to Jared Kushner’s family business,
and, in the most convincing exoneration since Devin Nunes terminated the House Russia investigation, have found no ethics or criminal law violations
. In other news, Butch says Sundance didn’t do it either. The White House explained why Trump has been silent about Stormy Daniels.
“I didn’t say he punches back on every topic,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. THEY CONSTANTLY DEFEND HIS CRAZY OUTBURSTS BY SAYING HE ALWAYS HITS BACK. Par example: Donald J. Trump on Twitter: "Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?" Mitt Romney says he’s more conservative than Trump on the issue of immigration—
a reminder that Trump is a product of Republican politics, not an aberration. The city of Atlanta has been under a ransomware attack for four days,
preventing it from collecting online payments of bills and fees. Hackers are demanding a ransom of $51,000 in bitcoin. You never get the dystopia you expect. Someone made a Craigslist ad in DC seeking a lead attorney for a “difficult client”
Look No Further than the Crooked Media On Pod Save the People: “They live and die with the world ignoring their very existence.” Sen. Tammy Duckworth talks to DeRay about the gun violence that students on the South Side of Chicago endure. Listen
Did You Read That Thing? Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called for the Second Amendment to be repealed.
Stephens, a Gerald Ford nominee, wrote the dissenting opinion in Heller v. District of Columbia
, in which the Court held that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to bear arms outside of militia service for self defense. For the record, 1 in 5 Americans
agree with him.
“That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world. It would make our school children safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.” Read
On Trump's TiVo Roseanne’s getting a reboot, and now she loves Trump… Billy Eichner on Twitter: "If Roseanne is a hit they should do an I Love Lucy reboot where it turns out Lucy loves Stalin"
Enjoy As far as marketing ploys go, the Wendy’s mixtape (complete with diss tracks) has worked on me.
Ron Paul: Bitcoin could 'destroy the dollar' Just last week, Bitcoin's price hit a new high of over $1,200. But over weekend, China's central bank said they're banning the virtual currency and the price fell nearly 50 percent. The value of a bitcoin has soared this year -- from roughly $13 in January to well over $1,200 -- on hopes that the experiment in digital money will eventually become a legitimate global currency ... View the latest business news about the world’s top companies, and explore articles on global markets, finance, tech, and the innovations driving us forward. Bitcoin is worse than most other forms of money for most of the world. It has a tiny network (of people using it). Payments are final, even in cases of theft. It has a fixed supply that can't grow and contract with demand. It requires users to be very adept at technology and especially digital security. Transactions are confirmed on an indeterminate schedule. Transaction fees are based on byte ... The child actor-turned-entrepreneur-turned politician faces steep odds in launching a virtual presidential campaign with the general election only four months away, and with no clear-cut platform ...
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