Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Articles - 4.18.17 - Page 2 | FBI monitored former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on Russia - CNN Tuesday April 18th, 2017 at 4:35 PM

FBI monitored former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on Russia - CNN

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FBI monitored former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on Russia
Washington (CNN) The FBI obtained a warrant to monitor President Donald Trump's former campaign adviser, Carter Page, last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post is ...

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Betsy DeVos' brother, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, sparks headlines | WZZM13.com

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U.S. Education Secretary Besty DeVos

'Fifth Column Marching Strong' Against Trump

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A former assistant FBI director during the President Bill Clinton administration lashed out on the felonious intelligence community leaks, saying it is "disgusting" and "disgraceful" a "fifth column" is embedded working against President Donald Trump.
"From time to time there's been leaks, but nothing like today," James Kallstrom told Sunday's "The Cats Roundtable" on 970 AM-N.Y. "We have a fifth column that's marching strong against our president, marching strong against our culture and the American way.
"And it is just disgusting."
Kallstrom said the surveillance of President Trump's campaign – whether it was lawful or not – should have been "shut down" when it incidentally captured American citizens, but "political appointments at high levels" have worked to discredit President Trump.
"I hope there is an investigation, and I hope we get to the bottom of it," Kallstrom told host John Catsimatidis. "How many people had that information? Where was it disseminated? Who made the decision to release the names of American citizens?
"We need to get to the bottom of it and get to the bottom of it quickly. And that's not a political thing. It doesn't matter what party you're from. This is about America and the rule of law."
Kallstrom said the political embeds extend back to the Clinton administration.
"The Clinton people don't leave – they don't leave until they're actually physically forced out of the building," he said.
"For this group here, that's part of this fifth column, [you] have to blast them out with dynamite. They're going to do everything humanly possible to make the Donald Trump administration very difficult."
Kallstrom said most of the appointees are "patriots" but are "people who have just lost their way and just willy nilly take political sides in these things."
"It's just outrageous," he added.
"Obama handed Trump a basketful of hand grenades with the pins pulled."
Kallstrom added even FBI Director James Comey "has been very very inconsistent on things he has said publicly and things he refuses to talk about."
"The American people deserve more than that. . . . It's absolute lunacy.
"The lying is totally out of control, we have to rein this back in."
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Taibbi on Trump the Destroyer

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It's like the campaign never ended. It's the same all-Trump, all-the-time madness, only exponentially worse.
Morning, February 24th, National Harbor, Maryland, the Conservative Political Action Conference. Chin up, eyes asquint, Donald Trump floats to the lectern on a sea of applause and adulation. The building is shaking, and as fans howl his name – Trump! Trump! Trump! – he looks pleased and satisfied, like a Roman emperor who has just moved his bowels.
"Great to be back at CPAC," he says. "The place I have really ..."
The thought flies into the air and vanishes. Last year at this time, Trump was bailing on a CPAC invite because a rat's nest of National Review types was threatening a walkout to protest him. There was talk of 300 conservatives planning a simultaneous march to the toilet if the formerly pro-choice New Yorker was allowed onstage.
Whether Trump remembers this now, or just loses his train of thought, he goes silent.
"We love you!" a young woman screams, filling the void.
"I love this place!" Trump exclaims, sunnily now. He recalls the tale of his first major political speech, which was delivered to this very conference six years ago. Back then he was introduced to the beat of the O'Jays soul hit "For the Love of Money," and over the course of 13 uncomfortably autoerotic minutes flogged his résumé and declared it a myth that a "very successful person" couldn't run for president.
He starts to tell that story, when suddenly he spots something in the audience that knocks him off script.
"Siddown, everybody, come on," he says.
A lot of the people can't sit down because they're in standing-room-only sections. There's confusion, a few nervous laughs. Frowning, Trump plows ahead.
"You know," he says, "the dishonest media, they'll say, 'He didn't get a standing ovation.' You know why?"
Those of us in the dishonest-media section shoot befuddled looks at one another. Not one of us has a clue why.
"You know why? No, you know why?" he goes on. "Because everybody stood and nobody sat. So they will say, 'He never got a standing ovation.' Right?"
This makes no sense, but the crowd roars anyway. Trump leans over and pauses to soak in the love, his trademark red tie hanging like the tongue of a sled dog. Finally he turns and flashes a triumphant thumbs-up. A chant breaks out:
"U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"
Reporters stare at one another in shock. They were mute bystanders seconds ago; now they're the 1980 Soviet hockey team. One turns to a colleague and silently mouths: "U-S-A? What the f ... "
Nearby, another press nerd is frowning to himself and counting on his fingers, apparently trying to use visual aids to retrace Trump's reasoning. Was the idea that reporters wouldn't notice a standing ovation unless the crowd eventually sat down?
Helpless shrugs all around.
In a flash, Trump is launching into a furious 15-minute diatribe, bashing the "Clinton News Network" (Trump continually refers to Hillary Clinton as if the campaign were still going on) and describing the press as the "enemy of the people."
Within hours, Trump's aides will bar a group of news outlets from a White House gaggle, in a formal declaration of war against the media. The next morning, a still-raging Trump will tweet out his decision not to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner – no great loss, since the event has never not been a wretched exercise in stale humor and ankle-biting toadyism, but still. How long can he keep up this pace?
Since winning the election, Trump has declared interpersonal war on a breathtaking list of targets: the Australian prime minister, an acting attorney general, seven predominantly Muslim countries, a "so-called" federal judge, Sweden, "Fake Tears" Chuck Schumer, Saturday Night Live, the FBI, the "very un-American" leakers within the intelligence community, and the city of Paris (it's "no longer Paris"). He's side-eyed Mark Cuban, John McCain, millions of protesters, Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Cuomo, the University of California at Berkeley, ratings "disaster" Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nancy Pelosi, the "TRAITOR Chelsea Manning," Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Barack Obama and the city of Chicago, among many, many others.
There is no other story in the world, no other show to watch. The first and most notable consequence of Trump's administration is that his ability to generate celebrity has massively increased, his persona now turbocharged by the vast powers of the presidency. Trump has always been a reality star without peer, but now the most powerful man on Earth is prisoner to his talents as an attention-generation machine.
Worse, he is leader of a society incapable of discouraging him. The numbers bear out that we are living through a severely amplified déjà vu of last year's media-Trump codependent lunacies. TV-news viewership traditionally plummets after a presidential election, but under Trump, it's soaring. Ratings since November for the major cable news networks are up an astonishing 50 percent in some cases, with CNN expecting to improve on its record 2016 to make a billion dollars – that's billion with a "b" – in profits this year.
Even the long-suffering newspaper business is crawling off its deathbed, with The New York Times adding 132,000 subscribers in the first 18 days after the election. If Trump really hates the press, being the first person in decades to reverse the industry's seemingly inexorable financial decline sure is a funny way of showing it.
On the campaign trail, ballooning celebrity equaled victory. But as the country is finding out, fame and governance have nothing to do with one another. Trump! is bigger than ever. But the Trump presidency is fast withering on the vine in a bizarre, Dorian Gray-style inverse correlation. Which would be a problem for Trump, if he cared.
But does he? During the election, Trump exploded every idea we ever had about how politics is supposed to work. The easiest marks in his con-artist conquest of the system were the people who kept trying to measure him according to conventional standards of candidate behavior. You remember the Beltway priests who said no one could ever win the White House by insulting women, the disabled, veterans, Hispanics, "the blacks," by using a Charlie Chan voice to talk about Asians, etc.
Now he's in office and we're again facing the trap of conventional assumptions. Surely Trump wants to rule? It couldn't be that the presidency is just a puppy Trump never intended to care for, could it?
Toward the end of his CPAC speech, following a fusillade of anti-media tirades that will dominate the headlines for days, Trump, in an offhand voice, casually mentions what a chore the presidency can be.
"I still don't have my Cabinet approved," he sighs.
In truth, Trump does have much of his team approved. In the early days of his administration, while his Democratic opposition was still reeling from November's defeat, Trump managed to stuff the top of his Cabinet with a jaw-dropping collection of perverts, tyrants and imbeciles, the likes of which Washington has never seen.
En route to taking this crucial first beachhead in his invasion of the capital, Trump did what he always does: stoked chaos, created hurricanes of misdirection, ignored rules and dared the system of checks and balances to stop him.
By conventional standards, the system held up fairly well. But this is not a conventional president. He was a new kind of candidate and now is a new kind of leader: one who stumbles like a drunk up Capitol Hill, but manages even in defeat to continually pull the country in his direction, transforming not our laws but our consciousness, one shriveling brain cell at a time.
It seems strange to say about the most overanalyzed person in the world, but Trump arrived in Washington an unknown. His shocking victory had been won almost entirely outside the Beltway, via a Shermanesque barnstorming tour through white-discontent meccas in states like Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where he devoured popular support by promising wrath and vengeance on the federal government.
Trump didn't appeal to K Street for help, didn't beg for mailing lists or the phone numbers of millionaire bundlers, and never wrung his hands waiting for favorable reviews on Meet the Press. He was the first president in modern times to arrive in Washington not owing the local burghers.
What that meant, nobody knew, but it probably wasn't good. Leaders in both parties had reason to panic. Democrats were calling him illegitimate. Leading Republicans had abandoned Trump during the "grab them by the pussy" episode. In a true autocracy, theirs would be the first heads gored on stakes as a warning to the others. Many D.C. bureaucrats had no idea what to expect. They were like shopkeepers awaiting the arrival of a notorious biker gang.
Candidate Trump had lied and prevaricated so fluidly that it was impossible to be sure where he really stood on any issue. Was he "very pro-choice," or did he think women who got abortions deserved "some form of punishment"? Was he an aspiring dictator and revolutionary, or merely a pragmatic charlatan whose run for president was just a publicity stunt that got way out of hand?
The mystery seemed to end once Trump started choosing his team.
Some appointees were less terrifying than others. Former ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson at least pays lip service to climate change and probably has enough smarts to complete one side of a Rubik's Cube. Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin would struggle to make a list of the 30 most loathsome Goldman Sachs veterans. These and a few others were merely worst-case-scenario corporate-influence types, industry foxes sent to man regulatory henhouses.
But the rest were the most fantastic collection of creeps since the "Thriller" video. Many were blunderers and conspiracists whose sole qualification for office appeared to be their open hostility to the missions of the agencies they were tapped to run.
Trump's choice for EPA director, Scott Pruitt, was a climate-change denier who infamously zeroed out the environmental-enforcement division from the Oklahoma attorney general's office. For secretary of labor, Trump picked a fast-food titan who prefers robots to human workers (robots, he said, don't file discrimination suits!).
Trump put a brain surgeon in charge of federal housing, picked a hockey-team owner to be secretary of the Army, and chose as budget director a congressman best known for inspiring a downgrade to America's credit rating by threatening to default on the national debt.
Trump's pick for energy secretary, Rick Perry, reportedly not only admitted that he didn't know what the Department of Energy actually does, but had called for that very agency's elimination as a presidential candidate (and forgot that fact during a debate). Moreover, Trump had brutalized Perry during the campaign as a dimwit among dimwits, whose "smart glasses" affectation didn't fool anyone.
For Trump and his inner circle to name Perry to any Cabinet post at all felt like trolling, like a football team wrapping the mascot in packing tape and mailing him to Canada. But to send someone you're on record calling an idiot to run the nation's nuclear arsenal, that doesn't fit easily in any bucket: mischief, evil, incompetence – it's even a little extreme for nihilism.
Trump's lead adviser, the fast-talking Breitbart Svengali Steve Bannon, would ultimately explain the thinking behind Trump's appointments in front of the CPAC audience. "If you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason," he said. The mysterious figure described that reason as the "deconstruction of the administrative state."
This seemed to confirm the darkest theory of the Trump administration: a state-smashing revolution disguised as populist political theater. A do-nothing Cabinet could ease back on its discretionary authority to save public lands, enforce workplace protections, uphold emissions standards. It could (and soon would) stop investigating crooked police departments. It could redirect funds meant to study climate change or viral outbreaks.
Continuing a theme that dominated election season, both parties were painfully slow to accept the reality of what they were dealing with.
The early response of the Democratic leadership to Trump's picks was a shocking strategy of partial accommodation and "picking their battles."
"I call it the law of conservation of no's," says Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project, which monitors federal appointments. "The Democrats felt they could only say no to Trump so many times, that they had to hoard their political capital for one or two battles."
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Co. decided to focus their oppositional efforts on a few select targets, particularly Trump's Health and Human Services nominee, Georgia Rep. Tom Price.
An orthopedic surgeon with snow-white hair, sallow cheeks and the voice of a man complaining to a waitress, Price is probably best known for spending the past eight years leading the effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
In a classic example of Beltway-Clintonian triangular thinking, the Democrats felt that Price was their best bet to score a crossover win because of his history of favoring cuts in the popular Medicare and Medicaid programs.
After a paradigm-crushing year in which Trump won the presidency claiming vaccines were a hoax, global warming was a Chinese conspiracy and Ted Cruz's dad killed JFK, Democrats were clinging to a Nineties-era playbook that said forcing Republicans into a corner on Medicare and Social Security was still a no-lose play in American politics.
The focus on Price was another example of Democrats' inability to recognize a changed political landscape. But even before Trump came on the scene, this lack of vision doomed them.
In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada eliminated the filibuster procedure for presidential nominees. Passage of the so-called Reid Rule was widely hailed by Democrats because it solved the short-term problem of Republican obstruction of Obama.
In reality, Reid just sabotaged the future self-defense capability of the entire Senate. This was one of many examples of Democrats cheering an expansion of executive power that later left them weakened under Trump. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons was one of the first to get religion late last year, once he started to see Trump's loony nominees marching up the Hill.
"I do regret that," Coons told CNN in late November. "[The filibuster] would have been a terrific speed bump."
Still, it's not clear that Democrats would have used the filibuster, even if they had it holstered. At an early-December meeting at North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's Washington home, several prominent Democrats reportedly met over Chinese food and emerged with a crack-suicide-squad strategy for fighting Trump: Talk more about pocketbook issues and maybe take on Price.
One Democrat after another sounded notes of accommodation. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he planned to generally support Trump's picks "unless there's just something scathing coming out that I don't know about." Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii added, "We can't very well be at a fever pitch on everything."
Price sailed through hearings and was confirmed along party lines basically without a struggle, and the Democratic "resistance" looked cooked out of the gate.
Another early nominee who skated through was CIA chief Mike Pompeo, a Jesus-humping conspiracist who embraces torture and once called politics "a never-ending struggle ... until the Rapture."
A spy chief who believes in literal Armageddon apparently wasn't "scathing" enough to be "fevered" about, and 14 Democrats supported his nomination in a whopping 66-32 confirmation.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts then gave voice votes in favor of Trump's choice to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson.
Even if Carson were not an addled mystic who thinks gay rights are a Marxist plot and "hummus" a Palestinian terrorist group, putting a doctor with no economics background in charge of an agency about to take part in one of the most complex financial projects in our history – the reorganization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – seemed like madness.
Carson, through an aide, said as late as November he didn't want to take a Cabinet post because he "has no government experience," saying he didn't want to do anything that could "cripple the presidency."
Mark it down as another first in the Trump era: Politician formally announces his own incompetence in an attempt to prevent his own nomination, gets nominated anyway, and is even supported by members of an opposition party that perhaps unconsciously has begun to grade Trump's insanity on a curve – an early example of how the relentless Trump show bends our perception of reality.
Democratic members who cast early yea votes were besieged when they went back home. Warren was deluged with furious Twitter responses ("Ben Carson is ok?! Wtf is wrong with you!"), while Schumer appeared at a rally in Battery Park in Manhattan, only to be hectored: "Stop voting for his nominees!"
The Women's March also shocked Democratic leadership. Some reports called it the largest protest in our history, with as many as 4.2 million people marching in 600 different cities.
These people didn't want Democrats "picking battles" and "conserving no's" – they wanted them to hurl themselves under tank treads to stop Trump at every turn. But what really made the message sink in for Democrats was a mid-January hearing that provided one of their first up-close encounters with Trump's invasion force.
The turning point comes early on the evening of January 17th, in Room 430 of the Senate's Dirksen Building. At the center of this imposing hearing hall with majestic circular paneling, built in the Fifties to provide the Senate with a dramatic venue fit for the television age, sits the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee's first visitor from Planet Trump.
She is a mute, unassuming woman with straight blond hair, glasses and a quizzical expression, perched at attention like someone awaiting a sermon.
The nomination of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary was surely meant on some level as an insult to the Senate. The daughter of an auto-parts billionaire, DeVos is also married to the heir of the Amway fortune, which makes her something like America's reigning Queen of Suckers. Her family has given as much as $200 million to conservative causes and politicians over the years.
It has to have entered Trump's calculations that a large percentage of senators for this reason would not be able to reject her no matter what she said or did under questioning. It's exactly the sort of cruel theater in which Trump the reality-TV producer once specialized.
DeVos arrives dressed in a blazer of bright purple. (Historians will note this is the same color of the robes worn by Incitatus, the horse Caligula used to troll the Senate.) Over the next three and a half hours, she will prove to be the worst witness since William Jennings Bryan sent himself to the stand in the Scopes Monkey Trial.
A well-known charter-school advocate who had said that "government really sucks" and that public education was a "dead end" – who had neither attended public school nor sent her kids to one – DeVos is at first standoffish but predictable in her answers. But things turn surreal when Minnesota Sen. Al Franken asks her where she stands on the question of proficiency versus growth.
Do we judge schools according to how much their students know, or should we better measure how much students know relative to how much they knew before? It's the education equivalent of asking if a football coach prefers the run or the pass.
DeVos has no idea what Franken is talking about.
"I think, if I'm understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would also correlate it to competency and mastery," she says, "so that each student is measured according to the advancement that they're making in each subject area."
"Well, that's growth," Franken says. "That's not proficiency."
DeVos stammers a brief response, then freezes. She looks like a duck trying to read a parking meter.
As the hearing progresses, DeVos tires and her Sunday-school smile wilts around the edges. By the time Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut asks if guns should be allowed in schools, she's fed up.
"I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies," she says, in reference to an earlier exchange with Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi.
Murmurs shoot through the rear of the hall. The members are unaware that the hearing is trending on Twitter. The "grizzlies" line, to use an overwrought cliché, broke the Internet.
Committee Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander, a pink-faced Southerner whose own fringe presidential runs in the Nineties in some ways presaged Trump's – the difference being Alexander's populist affectation was a red-flannel shirt instead of conspiratorial xenophobia – had miscalculated in his apparent attempt to hide the hearing by scheduling it at night.
The Republicans also failed to adjust for the new Trump-era media landscape. Twitter that day boiled with hot stories. Trump's NSA communications pick, pearl-earringed Fox News blockhead Monica Crowley, had to step down over plagiarism accusations. Trump was continuing his days-long flame war with Georgia Rep. John Lewis, and blasting his approval ratings as "rigged." Some 51 members of Congress were announcing plans to boycott Trump's inauguration. And so on.
"During the day, seven crazy things were happening," a committee aide explains. "But in the evening, this was it."
When the hearing ended, ranking member Sen. Patty Murray of Washington was amazed to find out that the HELP committee had somehow become the center of the social-media universe.
"I looked down at my phone and saw all of these texts," she says now. "I was like, 'Wow.'"
A video from the hearing would garner 1.2 million hits on YouTube, beyond anything in the committee's history.
The impact of the DeVos implosion was twofold. First, the Democrats realized they could and should fight back. Second, Republicans found the downside of party-line votes. Many received a torrent of abuse from constituents who demanded they vote DeVos out.
"I have heard from thousands, truly, thousands of Alaskans who have shared their concerns about Mrs. DeVos," said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who dealt with protests outside her Alaska office and later estimated that 30,000 constituents called to complain.
Murkowski announced that she would pull her vote for DeVos, as did Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. A senator voting against his or her own party's nominee is the Beltway equivalent of an eclipse or a volcanic lightning strike – rare and frightening to the natives.
True to form, the Democrats – they have been a step behind Trump for a while now – never managed to peel off a third defector to defeat DeVos. But Republicans still suffered the indignity of needing Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie, another thing that had never before happened in the Senate's history.
The DeVos debacle impacted Trump's choice for labor secretary, Andy Puzder. The CEO of CKE Restaurants, which includes the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. chains, the lecherous and moronic Puzder made DeVos look like Robert Frost.
Earlier that week, it came to light that Puzder's ex-wife had appeared in disguise on The Oprah Winfrey Show back in the Nineties to talk about being abused. Moreover, Puzder greenlit a line of pseudo-pornographic commercials, including one that featured babes in postage-stamp bikinis opening wide to wolf down "three-way burgers." Even his name, Puzder, sounds like an unmentionable sex act.
To be confirmed, Puzder would have to run the same gauntlet of HELP committee senators: Murray, Franken, Murphy, Warren and Bernie Sanders, among others, all of whom had turned their cross-examinations of DeVos into viral hits.
If silly Betsy DeVos crashed Twitter, what would hours of live Q&A with a cleavage-obsessed multimillionaire do?
Before it came to that, four Republicans – Collins, Murkowski, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia – announced they were withholding support for Puzder's bid. Soon after, he pulled out, and Democrats for the first time drew blood against Trump. Puzder later told Fox News that the DeVos hearing "actually is what killed" his nomination.
From that point forward, there was no more "conservation of no's."
"I think before, some people might have been saying, 'Somewhere in his heart [Trump] must love the country. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt," says Murray, stressing she herself never felt this way. "But after DeVos, everyone realized, you can't give him the benefit of the doubt."
Murray adds that DeVos provided what seemed like proof of the Bannon theory of Trump's governance by self-sabotage.
"You sensed it before, but now it's jelling in people's minds," Murray says. "This was a completely different kind of administration. We had to consider that this was a really focused deconstructive effort."
In the chambers of the Senate and on social media, the battle over Trump's nominees felt like a comedy of manners. But out in the real world, there were already people staring at the business end of his presidency, and the costs were very real.
On the evening of January 28th, Munther Alaskry sits on the tarmac in a Turkish Air Lines jet in Istanbul, his wife and two young children by his side. They are on a stopover, headed for Houston. An Iraqi native, Alaskry had served in combat in Iraq as a translator alongside American soldiers dating back to 2003. He'd carried a weapon in the field, wore an American-issued uniform and been hunted by militias in his own country for more than a decade.
He applied for a visa to the U.S. in 2010 and, after nearly seven years of paperwork and interviews with practically every American security agency, was finally granted permission to immigrate in December 2016. "If that is not extreme vetting, I don't know what is," he says.
But before his jet takes off in Istanbul, a woman comes down the aisle and asks his wife for her passport. Alaskry knows instantly the game is up. He and his family are pulled off the plane and flown back to Baghdad at his expense. There is nothing to go back to. He'd sold his car and furniture. He and his wife had quit their jobs. He is also sure to be executed if the wrong people find him. They hide in his father-in-law's house.
"We had no idea what to do," he says. "We had nothing."
Trump's infamous executive order on January 27th barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries was initially taken by conservatives as proof that he was a doer, not a talker. "Man of Action Has Press, Democrats and Hollywood in a Dither," The Washington Times gushed. 
But the episode ended up being classic Trumpian ineptitude. The order was so poorly thought out that even the meanest judge couldn't ratify it. It originally included a de facto exemption for Christians, making it a glaring violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. A Bush-appointed judge, James Robart, struck it down out of the gate, and Alaskry was shortly after able to get his family to Rochester, New York. He marveled at Americans' inability to distinguish, say, an ISIL fighter from people like himself, to say nothing of his children.
"The veterans, they know," Alaskry says. "But the normal people, they do not know the difference."
A president like Trump can have an impact even if he never manages to get a single law passed, simply by unleashing stupidity as a revolutionary force. Of course, no one can draw a direct line from Trump to incidents like the one in Kansas, where one of those "normal people" shot two immigrants from India, killing one, after accosting them about their visa status. Nor can anyone say that the Trump effect caused a Sikh man with American citizenship to be shot outside Seattle by a man yelling, "Go back to your own country!"
If Trump and his supporters don't want to take credit for this exciting new era of not knowing what a Muslim is, but shooting people for being one anyway, that's OK. But Trump's executive orders were the hallmark of his first days in office, as he signed the travel ban, pledged to overturn the Dodd-Frank financial rules and ordered the construction of the so-called "Great Wall of Trump," among other things.
But in most cases these orders only announced the start of long legal battles with highly ambiguous chances for success. Take away the impact they had as symbols of action, and most of what Trump has actually done so far, concretely, is pick a team. He soon enough stopped bothering with that, too.
Afternoon, February 16th, the Senate. Up in the gallery above the dais, in the cheap seats near the ceiling where they keep the reporters, rests a copy of Robert Caro's tour de force Master of the Senate. As you sit flipping the pages of the colossal tome, reading decades-old descriptions of the very "drab tan damask walls" next to which you sit, you learn that this body, like a heavy ocean-worthy ship, was designed to withstand the most violent changes in circumstance.
Even two centuries ago, people like Jefferson and Madison understood that Americans were likely to go crazy from time to time, and so infused the Senate with awesome powers to stall and block the "transient impressions into which [people] might be led."
On the floor below, Democrats are playing out the script, furiously arguing against Mick Mulvaney, Trump's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. Emboldened by their clash with DeVos and the withdrawal of Puzder, they're finally fighting in earnest using traditional legislative weaponry. But they still have no answer for the post-factual revolution raging outside the Capitol that saddled them with a figure like Mulvaney in the first place.
The South Carolina congressman with the cropped hair and the bulldog face is one of the most disliked people on the Hill. Mulvaney orates with the charm of a prison guard and behaves as if smiling on Capitol grounds would violate the Framers' vision of limited government. He fits the Bannonite vision of revolutionary destruction, having for years led a gang of fiscal conspiracy theorists who, based on nothing whatsoever, believe that nothing bad could come from the United States defaulting on its national debt.
"I have yet to meet someone who can articulate the negative consequences [of defaulting]," he said in 2010.
Shortly after saying this, the United States' credit rating was downgraded from AAA to AA+ by Standard and Poor's, thanks in large part to congressional Republicans like Mulvaney threatening default. This episode will cost American taxpayers an astonishing $18.9 billion due to higher interest rates just on American securities issued that year. A similar episode two years later cost the economy another $24 billion, making Mulvaney and his bund of congressional "debt truthers" perhaps the most expensively stupid people ever to be elected to federal office in America.
As the Mulvaney vote nears, one Democratic senator after another stands up in the gallery to call him out. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois notes that Mulvaney once questioned whether the Zika virus caused birth defects, apparently because he didn't want the government spending money on scientific research.
"I'm not making this up," Durbin pleads.
The Republicans yawn. One of the brilliant innovations of the Trump phenomenon has been the turning of expertise into a class issue. Formerly, scientists were political liabilities only insofar as their work clashed with the teachings of TV Bible-thumpers. Now, any person who in any way disputes popular misconceptions – that balancing a budget is just like balancing a checkbook, that two snowfalls in a week prove global warming isn't real, that handguns would have saved Jews from the Holocaust or little kids from the Sandy Hook massacre – is part of an elitist conspiracy to deny the selfhood of the Google-educated American. The Republicans understand this axiom: No politician in the Trump era is going to dive in a foxhole to save scientific research. Scientists, like reporters, Muslims and the French, are out.
Most conservatives who opposed Trump over the past two years on grounds of basic logic now realize that they'll suffer if they take stands against his conspiratorial ideas on immigrants, the budget, "so-called" judges, climate change or anything else. Trump has made being the voice of reason politically dangerous. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, for instance, is already saddled with a Trump-aligned primary challenger and the enmity of Breitbart, which ran a photo of him next to an "I'm With Her" logo.
After Mulvaney squeaks through, the Democrats plunge into desperate tactics to stop the next bugbear, EPA nominee Pruitt. The drawling, devout Oklahoman represents the epitome of the Bannon ethos, failing in committee to name a single environmental regulation he supported.
To try to stop him, Dems invoke one of those senatorial stalling tactics, a rule that allows them to hold off a final vote for 30 hours, provided they keep the floor open through the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington technique of continuous debate. They stay up all night, with one member after another blasting Pruitt as the kind of man who would use a spotted owl as a dashboard ornament. But in the many rhetorical dead spots, they hit the theme of the month: Russia.
At the time, Trump's national security adviser and noted Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Gen. Michael Flynn had just resigned, after revelations that he had unreported contact with the Russian ambassador prior to Trump's inauguration. Within a few weeks, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be rolled up in a similar imbroglio.
No matter what you believe on the Russia front, the manner in which the story is being prosecuted is striking. After failing to stop nutcases like Mulvaney using conventional tactics, the Democrats forayed into the unconventional. The scandal so dominates blue-state media that Russia Wars can almost be said to be the Democrats' competing reality franchise. This show even incorporates Trump's sensational political style, cycling lurid accusations with tune-in-next-time promises of future revelations. As damaging as it's been, it's yet another example of Trump's uncanny ability to Trump-ize the world around him.
All of Trump's opponents sooner or later fall victim to the same pattern. He is so voluminously offensive that Christ himself would abandon a positive message to chase his negatives. His election so completely devastated Democratic voters that many cannot think of him except in the context of removing him as soon as possible.
A scenario under which he is impeached somehow for colluding with Vladimir Putin to disrupt last year's election seems like the needed shortcut. Unfortunately, despite a lot of lies about meetings and conversations and other curious behavior, there's no actual proof of conspiracy. The former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said there was "no evidence" of such collusion as of his last day in office.
That has put congressional Democrats in the perilous position of having to litter their Russia speeches with caveats like, "We do not know all the facts" and "More information may well surface." They're often stuck using the conspiracy-theory technique of referring to what they don't know as a way of talking about what they hope to find out.
Trump has responded to all this in a predictable manner, leveling wild counter-accusations, saying Obama had been "tapping my phones" and was a "bad (or sick) guy." Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who will either be ambassador to Mars or in a straitjacket by the end of this presidency, followed up by suggesting the government may have used a microwave oven to surveil Trump Tower during the election.
Maybe Trump didn't plan this, and it's just coincidence that where we are now – dueling accusations of criminality, investigations instead of debates, jail promised to the loser – is what politics would look like in a WWE future where government is a for-profit television program. And maybe it's not the Trump effect that has Democrats so completely focused on him instead of talking to their voters, a mistake they also made last election season.
Still, the Russia story is the ultimate in high-stakes politics. If proof emerges that Trump and Putin colluded, it could topple this presidency. But if no such evidence comes out, the gambit could massively backfire, validating Trump's accusations of establishment bias and media overreach.
In the short term, however, there's no question that Russia is bloodying Trump politically. An evening speech during the Pruitt hearings by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar hits the typical notes.
She cleverly references a trip she made to Ukraine with McCain and Graham, both owners of key votes in future legislative battles. She then goes all out rhetorically, hinting at bombshell future revelations: blackmail, betrayal, treason.
"If we are committed to ensuring that Russia's hacking invasions and blackmail do not go unchecked," she says, "we must do everything in our power to uncover the full extent of this interference in our own political system... ."
This goes on all night. Democrats stick it out until morning, only to wake up to find that two of their own caucus members from coal country have crossed over to give Pruitt their support.
Their cave-in shows that the power of Trump's base extends even to Democrats. The two senators, Heitkamp of North Dakota and Manchin of West Virginia, both face re-election in 2018 and hail from states where Trump won handily. So much for throwing their bodies under tank treads: The Democrats can't even convince their members to forget about re-election long enough to save the EPA. The ayes have it, 52-46, handing environmental enforcement to a man likely bent on a campaign of inaction, portending perhaps a return now to the good old days of the Cuyahoga River spontaneously catching fire.
As the month of February nears its end, Trump has won far more than he's lost on the nomination front. But he appears to have been scarred by this process that saw one appointee resign (Flynn), four more withdraw (Puzder, Crowley, would-be Army Secretary Vincent Viola and Navy Secretary pick Philip Bilden), and another, Sessions, caught up in scandal and forced to recuse himself from the Russia probe after possibly perjuring himself during his confirmation.
As much of a dumpster fire as it may have seemed from the outside, the rocky nomination process has actually been a honeymoon of sorts for Trump, a period when he only needed a simple majority in a 52-Republican Senate to get his people passed. Going forward, as of now, for actual legislation, the filibuster will be in play, and Trump will need 60 votes to do real damage.
"The 60-vote universe is where he's got a problem," says longtime Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg.
That theory is borne out a few weeks later, when a House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act runs into trouble in the Senate, and no fewer than eight Republicans announce their objections. The Congressional Budget Office complicates the picture by scoring the Republican bill and concluding that it would leave 14 million fewer people insured next year.
This contradicts Trump's "drinks for the house!"-style assertion that a new plan would mean "insurance for everybody." OMB head Mulvaney quickly jumps in to say the CBO is "terrible at counting" and dismisses the score as bad math. Newt Gingrich, whose continued relevance as a go-to talking head is another unfortunate consequence of this presidency, goes further, crying that the CBO should be "abolished" and replaced by "three to five professional firms." In modern American politics, every game is a blown call by the refs.
Just a month or so into Trump's administration, one of the central promises of his campaign – the killing off of the Affordable Care Act – is in trouble. Trump's inability to hold coalitions together, or really do much of anything beyond generate TV ratings, is already showing. But just as it was last year when the punditocracy told him he'd made himself unelectable, Trump's ace in the hole may be that he doesn't care. His history is that when the playing field doesn't work for him, he moves it. The Framers may have designed the government to withstand bouts of popular madness, but there are no checks and balances against the power of celebrity. A president who is both a tyrant and disinterested in governance would have blown their minds.
"At some point, he just stopped appointing people," says an incredulous Hauser, the capital watchdog, at the end of February. "He's only made 30 appointments. That means he's still got over 1,000 empty posts. Nearly 200 ambassador posts are in limbo. He named Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, but not a single judge beyond that – with over 100 empty federal seats to be filled. Nobody knows what the hell is going on."
Sources theorize that Trump's appointments slowed thanks to a combination of factors. Those include a fear of more DeVos-style blowback and an inability to find people capable of passing security clearances (at least six White House staffers reportedly had to be dismissed for this reason).
A darker explanation was offered by a ProPublica story revealing that Trump sent waves of nonpolitical appointees to the agencies in so-called beachhead teams, i.e., people sent in groups under temporary appointments of four to eight months.
These appointees did not have to be confirmed by Congress. Some are freaks and fringe weirdos on a level below even the goofballs in Trump's Cabinet. A fair number carry amorphous "special assistant" titles, making it difficult to know what their duties are.
More unnerving is the presence in the Cabinet-level agencies of a seemingly new position, "senior White House adviser."
Some Hill sources believe these new officials are reporting directly to Steve Bannon, who is fast achieving mythical status as the empire's supreme villain. On the surface, Bannon is just another vicious ex-hippie of the David Horowitz/Michael Savage school, a former Grateful Dead fan who overswung the other way to embrace a Nazistic "culture first" alt-right movement. Everyone from Time magazine (which called him "the great manipulator") to The New York Times (which called him a "de facto president") is rushing to make him into a superempowered henchman of the extreme right, a new Roy Cohn – fitting, since Cohn himself was one of Trump's first mentors. But whether he's Cohn or just a fourth-rate imitator with a fat neck is still unclear.
Rosenberg believes the anemic pace of Senate-track political nominations, coupled with this flood of unconfirmed political hires, may be at least in part a conscious strategy to try to decrease the autonomy of the agencies and increase the control of the White House, in particular the Bannon camp.
Even at Tillerson's introductory speech, Rosenberg points out, a young Trump campaign organizer and former Chris Christie aide named Matthew Mowers is seen standing next to Tillerson.
"He's like a 27-year-old kid," Rosenberg says. "Normally you would never have a young political appointee in the shot with the principal."
This sounds like Kremlinology – the days when we were forced to try to figure out who was on the outs in the Soviet Politburo by seeing who sat next to whom in photos of Red Square parades – and it fits the Soviet flavor of the news leaking out of the agencies. Congressional sources in contact with the State Department report that some "beachhead" appointees wanted to start making immediate drastic cuts, closing consulates abroad willy-nilly, without asking for information or visiting the locations.
The Trump government has been besieged with damaging leaks – everything from internal Homeland Security reports showing little risk from immigrants of "Muslim ban" countries to alleged orders to consider reopening CIA "black sites." D.C. has never seen anything like it: Reporters are able to get damaging information about the goings-on inside agencies just by cold-calling the right numbers.
The administration is so concerned with leakers within the State Department that Tillerson has supposedly banned note-taking at meetings. "The level of paranoia is off the charts," reports a former senior official.
Tillerson himself is said to have postponed some diplomatic business to focus on what is euphemistically described as "fixing" the State Department. Probably this means more weeding out of civil servants, something going on across government.
Most infamously, Attorney General Sessions – fast becoming the poster child for the Trump administration's inability to avoid stepping on its own genitalia – asked 46 U.S. attorneys to resign, including Southern District of New York chief Preet Bharara, who reportedly was specifically asked to stay on just after the election.
Some of these moves sound like Bannon's much-publicized bent toward Leninist thinking: Purge unbelievers, fill the bureaucracies with loyal dunces, concentrate power, eschew governance goals for political ones. But it's hard to say how much unanimity of purpose there could be.
When Sessions got caught up seeming to have lied to the Senate about meeting Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a video surfaced showing a scene in which Trump was reportedly raining expletives on Bannon and others over the Sessions fiasco. If all this chaos is part of a cunning plan to destroy government from within, it sure is cleverly disguised as a bunch of paranoid amateurs flailing around and turning on one another weeks into the job.
One reporter tasked with covering the appointments says the staffing issue comes down to the same question we always have about Trump: Is this a scheme to destroy government, or cluelessness? "It's just so hard to tell," he says, "where this falls on the stupid-to-evil spectrum."
While the chaos of Trump's first months has caused him problems in the Beltway, it seems not to have hurt him a lick with his fans. After the CPAC speech, Trump supporters offer their takes on the nominee battles. The consensus? The Democrats who opposed Trump's picks are a bunch of smartasses who need to lighten up.
University of Delaware student Daniel Worthington says the Democrats' grilling of DeVos really rubbed him the wrong way.
"You come off as douchey, when somebody's like, 'Oh, you don't know the difference between proficiency and growth?'" he says. "I'd be like, 'You're kind of an asshole.'"
When asked if he thinks Puzder should have been confirmed, Worthington nods.
"Yeah, we don't get Carl's Jr. up here," he says. "But I like their commercials."
Tuesday, February 28th, a joint session of Congress, the last day of Trump's first full month in office. It's less than a minute into his first major national address, and Trump is already eyeballs-deep in bull.
"Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries," he says, "remind us that ... we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms."
Just hours before, he told a group of state attorneys general that hate crimes against Jews were overblown, that "sometimes it's the reverse, to make people – or to make others – look bad."
Trump moves on to what the press will describe as an "emotional moment." He recognizes Carryn Owens, the widow of a Navy SEAL whose death Trump only hours before had blamed on both the previous administration and his generals. But on TV, Mrs. Owens sobs as Trump says her husband Ryan's name had been "etched into eternity."
The press goes wild. Van Jones of CNN, for years a fervent critic of Trump who notably called Trump's electoral victory a "whitelash," gushes that Trump "became president of the United States" during the Owens episode.
The New York Times, denounced as an "enemy of the American people" just over a week before, raves about the speech. They describe the "optimistic address" as "soothing comfort food" in which Trump "seemed to accept the fetters of formality and tradition that define and dignify the presidency."
The soft-touch treatment seems to make no sense, until one remembers that the pundit class is the cheapest of dates, and while President Trump may be a dolt, the reality-show Trump is as clever a manipulator as American politics has ever seen. Brilliantly, he's turned the presidency into a permanent campaign, one in which an ostensibly hostile news media has once again become accomplice to whatever the Trump phenomenon is, by voraciously feeding at its financial trough.
The genius of Trump has always been his knack for transforming everyone in his orbit into a reality-TV character. As a candidate, he goaded Lindsey Graham into putting a cellphone in a blender, inspired pseudo-intellectual Rand Paul to put out a video of himself chain-sawing a tax code in half, and pushed Marco Rubio into making jokes about dong size during a debate. He even managed to get into a public spat with the pope. Whatever your lowest common denominator is, Trump will bring it out and make sport of it.
The same phenomenon is now in play with the whole world. President Trump, following Bannon's lead, describes the press as an "opposition party" out to get him, and before long, they basically are. Trump accuses the Democratic National Committee of rigging the game against Bernie Sanders; new DNC chair Tom Perez, in a tweet that could play in the Borscht Belt, says Trump's weekly address was "translated from the original Russian and everything." Even before Trump trolls Sweden, Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin trolls him, running a photo of herself signing a law while surrounded by women – a parody of the already-infamous photo of Trump signing an anti-abortion executive order while surrounded entirely by men.
And when Rachel Maddow finally gets hold of a tiny slice of Trump's tax returns, instead of soberly reporting it as a small-but-intriguing piece of a larger picture, she hypes it on Twitter like the scoop of the century – exactly as Trump would have done. Social media blasted Maddow as the second coming of Geraldo Rivera opening up Al Capone's vault. Everything connected with Trump becomes tabloidized. The show is unstoppable.
Nearly two years into our relationship with Donald Trump, politician, his core schtick is no longer really a secret. The new president swings wildly between buffoon and strongman acts, creating confusion and disorder. While his enemies scramble to make sense of the outrages of a week before or yesterday or 10 minutes ago, and spend valuable energy wondering whether the man is crazy or stupid or cunning (or perhaps all three things at once), Trump continually presses forward.
We always assumed there was a goal behind it all: cattle cars, race war, autocracy. But those were last century's versions of tyranny. It would make perfect sense if modern America's contribution to the genre were far dumber. Trump in the White House may just be a monkey clutching history's biggest hand grenade. Yes, he's always one step ahead of us, and more dangerous than any smart person, and we can never for a minute take our eyes off him.
But while we keep looking for his hidden agenda, it's our growing addiction to the spectacle of his car-wreck presidency that is the real threat. He is already making idiots and accomplices of us all, bringing out the worst in each of us, making us dumber just by watching. Even if Trump never learns to govern, after four years of this we will forget what civilization ever looked like – and it will be programming, not policy, that will have changed the world.
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Taibbi: Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives

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So Michael Flynn, who was Donald Trump's national security adviser before he got busted talking out of school to Russia's ambassador, has reportedly offered to testify in exchange for immunity.
For seemingly the 100th time, social media is exploding. This is it! The big reveal!
Perhaps it will come off just the way people are expecting. Perhaps Flynn will get a deal, walk into the House or the Senate surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers, and unspool the whole sordid conspiracy.
He will explain that Donald Trump, compromised by ancient deals with Russian mobsters, and perhaps even blackmailed by an unspeakable KGB sex tape, made a secret deal. He'll say Trump agreed to downplay the obvious benefits of an armed proxy war in Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia in exchange for Vladimir Putin's help in stealing the emails of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and John Podesta.
I personally would be surprised if this turned out to be the narrative, mainly because we haven't seen any real evidence of it. But episodes like the Flynn story have even the most careful reporters paralyzed. What if, tomorrow, it all turns out to be true?
What if reality does turn out to be a massive connect-the-dots image of St. Basil's Cathedral sitting atop the White House? (This was suddenly legitimate British conspiracist Louise Mensch's construction in The New York Times last week.) What if all the Glenn Beck-style far-out charts with the circles and arrows somehow all make sense?
This is one of the tricks that keeps every good conspiracy theory going. Nobody wants to be the one claiming the emperor has no clothes the day His Highness walks out naked. And this Russia thing has spun out of control into just such an exercise of conspiratorial mass hysteria.
Even I think there should be a legitimate independent investigation – one that, given Trump's history, might uncover all sorts of things. But almost irrespective of what ends up being uncovered on the Trump side, the public prosecution of this affair has taken on a malevolent life of its own.
One way we recognize a mass hysteria movement is that everyone who doesn't believe is accused of being in on the plot. This has been going on virtually unrestrained in both political and media circles in recent weeks.
The aforementioned Mensch, a noted loon who thinks Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart but has somehow been put front and center by The Times and HBO's Real Time, has denounced an extraordinary list of Kremlin plants.
She's tabbed everyone from Jeff Sessions ("a Russian partisan") to Rudy Giuliani and former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom ("agents of influence") to Glenn Greenwald ("Russian shill") to ProPublica and Democracy Now! (also "Russian shills"), to the 15-year-old girl with whom Anthony Weiner sexted (really, she says, a Russian hacker group called "Crackas With Attitudes") to an unnamed number of FBI agents in the New York field office ("moles"). And that's just for starters.
Others are doing the same. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, upon seeing the strange behavior of Republican Intel Committee chair Devin Nunes, asked "what kind of dossier" the Kremlin has on Nunes.
Dem-friendly pollster Matt McDermott wondered why reporters Michael Tracey and Zaid Jilani aren't on board with the conspiracy stories (they might be "unwitting" agents!) and noted, without irony, that Russian bots mysteriously appear every time he tweets negatively about them.
Think about that last one. Does McDermott think Tracey and Jilani call their handlers at the sight of a scary Matt McDermott tweet and have the FSB send waves of Russian bots at him on command? Or does he think it's an automated process? What goes through the heads of such people?
I've written a few articles on the Russia subject that have been very tame, basically arguing that it might be a good idea to wait for evidence of collusion before those of us in the media jump in the story with both feet. But even I've gotten the treatment.
I've been "outed" as a possible paid Putin plant by the infamous "PropOrNot" group, which is supposedly dedicated to rooting out Russian "agents of influence." You might remember PropOrNot as the illustrious research team the Washington Post once relied on for a report that accused 200 alternative websites of being "routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season."
Politicians are getting into the act, too. It was one thing when Rand Paul balked at OKing the expansion of NATO to Montenegro, and John McCain didn't hesitate to say that "the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin."
Even Bernie Sanders has himself been accused of being a Putin plant by Mensch. But even he's gotten on board of late, asking, "What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?"
So even people who themselves have been accused of being Russian plants are now accusing people of being Russian plants. As the Russians would say, it's enough to make your bashka hurt.
Sanders should know better. Last week, during hearings in the Senate, multiple witnesses essentially pegged his electoral following as unwitting fellow travelers for Putin.
Former NSA chief Keith Alexander spoke openly of how Russia used the Sanders campaign to "drive a wedge within the Democratic Party," while Dr. Thomas Rid of Kings College in London spoke of Russia's use of "unwitting agents" and "overeager journalists" to drive narratives that destabilized American politics.
This testimony was brought out by Virginia Democrat Mark Warner. Warner has been in full-blown "precious bodily fluids" mode throughout this scandal. During an interview with The Times on the Russia subject a month back, there was a thud outside the window. "That may just be the FSB," he said. The paper was unsure if he was kidding.
Warner furthermore told The Times that in order to get prepared for his role as an exposer of 21st-century Russian perfidy, he was "losing himself in a book about the Romanovs," and had been quizzing staffers about "Tolstoy and Nabokov."
This is how nuts things are now: a senator brushes up on Nabokov and Tolstoy (Tolstoy!) to get pumped to expose Vladimir Putin.
Even the bizarre admission by FBI director (and sudden darling of the same Democrats who hated him months ago) James Comey that he didn't know anything about Russia's biggest company didn't seem to trouble Americans very much. Here's the key exchange, from a House hearing in which Jackie Speier quizzed Comey:
SPEIER: Now, do we know who Gazprom-Media is? Do you know anything about Gazprom, director?
COMEY: I don't.
SPEIER: Well, it's a – it's an oil company.
(Incidentally, Gazprom – primarily a natural-gas giant – is not really an oil company. So both Comey and Speier got it wrong.)
As Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg noted, this exchange was terrifying to Russians. The leader of an investigation into Russian espionage not knowing what Gazprom is would be like an FSB chief not having heard of Exxon-Mobil. It's bizarre, to say the least. 
Testimony of the sort that came from Warner's committee last week is being buttressed by news stories in liberal outlets like Salon insisting that "Bernie Bros" were influenced by those same ubiquitous McDermott-chasing Russian "bots."
These stories insist that, among other things, these evil bots pushed on the unwitting "bros" juicy "fake news" stories about Hillary being "involved with various murders and money laundering schemes."
Some 13.2 million people voted for Sanders during the primary season last year. What percentage does any rational person really believe voted that way because of "fake news"?
I would guess the number is infinitesimal at best. The Sanders campaign was driven by a lot of factors, but mainly by long-developing discontent within the Democratic Party and enthusiasm for Sanders himself.
To describe Sanders followers as unwitting dupes who departed the true DNC faith because of evil Russian propaganda is both insulting and ridiculous. It's also a testimony to the remarkable capacity for self-deception within the leadership of the Democratic Party.
If the party's leaders really believe that Russian intervention is anywhere in the top 100 list of reasons why some 155 million eligible voters (out of 231 million) chose not to pull a lever for Hillary Clinton last year, they're farther along down the Purity of Essence nut-hole than Mark Warner.
Moreover, even those who detest Trump with every fiber of their being must see the dangerous endgame implicit in this entire line of thinking. If the Democrats succeed in spreading the idea that straying from the DNC-approved candidate – in either the past or the future – is/was an act of "unwitting" cooperation with the evil Putin regime, then the entire idea of legitimate dissent is going to be in trouble.
Imagine it's four years from now (if indeed that's when we have our next election). A Democratic candidate stands before the stump, and announces that a consortium of intelligence experts has concluded that Putin is backing the hippie/anti-war/anti-corporate opposition candidate.
Or, even better: that same candidate reminds us "what happened last time" when people decided to vote their consciences during primary season. It will be argued, in seriousness, that true Americans will owe their votes to the non-Putin candidate. It would be a shock if some version of this didn't become an effective political trope going forward.
But if you're not worried about accusing non-believers of being spies, or pegging legitimate dissent as treason, there's a third problem that should scare everyone.
Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia's apparent hack of DNC emails an "act of war." This coupling seemed at first like political end times: as Bill Murray would say, "dogs and cats, living together."
But there's been remarkable unanimity among would-be enemies in the Republican and Democrat camps on this question. Suddenly everyone from Speier to McCain to Kamala Harris to Ben Cardin have decried Russia's alleged behavior during the election as real or metaphorical acts of war: a "political Pearl Harbor," as Cardin put it.
That no one seems to be concerned about igniting a hot war with nuclear-powered Russia at a time when both countries have troops within "hand-grenade range" of each in Syria other is bizarre, to say the least. People are in such a fever to drag Trump to impeachment that these other considerations seem not to matter. This is what happens when people lose their heads.
There are a lot of people who will say that these issues are of secondary importance to the more important question of whether or not we have a compromised Russian agent in the White House.
But when it comes to Trump-Putin collusion, we're still waiting for the confirmation. As Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters put it, the proof is increasingly understood to be the thing we find later, as in, "If we do the investigations, we will find the connections."
But on the mass hysteria front, we already have evidence enough to fill a dozen books. And if it doesn't freak you out, it probably should.
Watch illustrator Victor Juhasz discuss what it means to draw President Donald Trump.
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Michael Flynn's Immunity Request Rejected By Senate Intelligence Committee - NBCNews.com

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Michael Flynn's Immunity Request Rejected By Senate Intelligence Committee
The Senate Intelligence Committee turned down the request by former National Security AdviserMichael Flynn's lawyer for a grant of immunity in exchange for his testimony, two congressional sources told NBC News. A senior congressional official with ...

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Fbi New York field office and Trump - Google Search

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Story image for Fbi New York field office and Trump from Empty Lighthouse Magazine

Rudy Giuliani Working With Russia For Trump? Details On The ...

Empty Lighthouse Magazine-16 hours ago
He asserts that the FBI New York basically suppressed that information, and Giuliani ... He claims that the NY office is filled with Trump allies.
Story image for Fbi New York field office and Trump from Newsweek

Can FBI Director James Comey Untangle the Trump-Russia ...

Newsweek-Apr 13, 2017
At those field offices, Comey tells agents the oft-cited anecdote about ... who was his deputy U.S. attorney at the Southern District of New York, ...
Story image for Fbi New York field office and Trump from Townhall

Rolling Stone: The Speculation Over Trump-Russia Ties Is ...

Townhall-Apr 10, 2017
Rolling Stone: The Speculation Over Trump-Russia Ties Is ... to an unnamed number of FBI agents in the New York field office ("moles").
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Can FBI Director James Comey Untangle...

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Can FBI Director James Comey Untangle the Trump-Russia Allegations?

Newsweek - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
FBI Director James Comey's allies believe he's the country's best hope for exposing the truth about Russia's election tampering and possible collusion with Trump's people. Joshua Roberts/Reuters; Win ... At those field offices, Comey tells agents the ...

Comey Hopes 'Inside the FBI' TV Series Will Restore Americans' Faith in Bureau

Breitbart News - ‎Apr 13, 2017‎
... during a screening of the new series Inside the FBINew York at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Comey said Americans had become “confused” by the bureau's actions over the past year, particularly during the 2016 presidential election ...

FBI's Comey: People 'confused' by bureau's actions last year

AppsforPCdaily - ‎Apr 14, 2017‎
Now we find out that while Comey was airing all of Clinton's dirty laundry over her emails, the FBI was investigating whether Trump's people were colluding with a foreign government to steal the election as early as the spring and summer of previous ...

Fbi New York field office and Elections 2016 - Google Search

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Story image for Fbi New York field office and Elections 2016 from Empty Lighthouse Magazine

Rudy Giuliani Working With Russia For Trump? Details On The ...

Empty Lighthouse Magazine-16 hours ago
... the election -- were duplicates, and the FBI field office in New York ... There's an audio recording of Prince on the radio in November 2016, ...
Story image for Fbi New York field office and Elections 2016 from Newsweek

Can FBI Director James Comey Untangle the Trump-Russia ...

Newsweek-Apr 13, 2017
At those field offices, Comey tells agents the oft-cited anecdote about ... the election, Comey wrote to Congress saying the FBI had found new emails related to the case. ... in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the ... was his deputy U.S. attorney at the Southern District of New York, ...
Story image for Fbi New York field office and Elections 2016 from Townhall

Rolling Stone: The Speculation Over Trump-Russia Ties Is ...

Townhall-Apr 10, 2017
... suggesting such coordination occurred during the 2016 election. It's taken ... to an unnamed number of FBI agents in the New York field office ...
Story image for Fbi New York field office and Elections 2016 from New York Times

US Accuses Russian Email Spammer of Vast Network of Fraud

New York Times-Apr 10, 2017
Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times ... by Russian government hackers to meddle in the 2016 presidential election and support the ... To shut down the criminal network, specialists at the F.B.I.'s field office in Anchorage and ...
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Trump has deep ties to organized crime — federal investigators know it, and the public is catching up

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HERSHEY, PA - DECEMBER 15, 2016: President-Elect Donald Trump speaks of his relief to have won the state of Texas on Election night during his speech at the "Thank You Tour" rally at the Giant Center (Shutterstock).
As President Trump discovers the prerogative of unilaterally making war, the media gaze has turned away from the ongoing FBI, House and Senate investigation of his Russia ties to the simpler dramas of cruise missilesbig bombs, and tough but loose talk on North Korea.
Yet even “the mother of all bombs” cannot obliterate the accumulating body of evidence about his relationship with Russian organized crime figures and the not unrelated question about whether he and his entourage colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election. The story, notes Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, is “Hiding in plain sight.”
The evidence of pre-election collusion between Trump and the Russians, while growing, is far from definitive. The evidence on Trump’s organized crime ties is stronger. Says Marshall:
“If we’d never heard about Russian intelligence hacking of the 2016 election or Carter Page or Paul Manafort or Sergei Kislyak this [Trump’s organized crime connections] would seem like an extraordinarily big deal. And indeed it is an extraordinarily big deal.”
Chronologically speaking, Trump’s ties to organized crime figures came first. Mutually beneficial transactions dating back to the 1990s led to closer relations in the 2000s and culminated in the contacts during the 2016 campaign. It all began with Russians who wanted to get their money out of the country.
Hot Money
As Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):
“[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
For example, David Bogatin: In the 1990s, the FBI considered Bogatin one of the key members of a major Russian organized crime family run by a legendary boss named Semion Mogilevich. According to the late investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, Bogatin owned five separate condos in Trump Tower that Trump had reportedly sold to him personally.
Vyacheslav Ivankov, another Mogilevich lieutenant in the United States during the 1990s, also resided for a time at Trump Tower, and reportedly had in his personal phone book the private telephone and fax numbers for the Trump Organization’s office in that building.
A lot of this Russian organized crime money flowed through Cyprus, and one of its largest banks, the Bank of Cyprus. The bank’s chairman, Wilbur Ross, is now secretary of commerce. When senators considering Ross’ nomination asked about Cyprus, Ross said Trump had forbidden him from answering questions on the subject.
Not coincidentally, Illinois congressman Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, recently traveled to Cyprus to investigate, according to the Daily Beast.
“The fact that Turkey, the U.S. and Russia and other countries are really interested in Cyprus, because of its strategic location… the fact that Russians launder their money there to avoid sanctions, and the fact that key U.S. and Russia players were there—all make it really important for the Russia investigation,” Quigley explained in an interview.
Cyprus is also a focus of U.S. authorities investigating Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose curious real estate transactions in New York are drawing attention, according to the WNYC radio station:
“Nine current and former law enforcement and real estate experts told WNYC that Manafort’s deals merit scrutiny. Some said the purchases follow a pattern used by money launderers: buying properties with all cash through shell companies, then using the properties to obtain ‘clean’ money through bank loans.”
According to the Associated Press, the records of Manafort’s Cypriot transactions were requested by the U.S. Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which works internationally with agencies to track money laundering and the movement of illicit funds around the globe.
Meetings and Plans
Trump White House officials, skittish about such reports, balked when Russian banker Aleksander Torshin was scheduled to meet President Trump in February. Torshin is the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. He has cultivated Washington conservatives such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and former National Rifle Association president David Keene.
Torshin has also been targeted by a long-running Spanish police investigation into a Russian organized crime syndicate known as the Taganskaya. The White House canceled Torshin’s meeting with Trump rather than “exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin,” reported Yahoo News’ Mike Isikoff.
Also in February, Trump received a proposed peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, offered by his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and two Russians with organized crime convictions: Felix H. Sater, a business associate who once helped Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Manafort. The plan also would have lifted U.S. sanctions on Russia, a prime goal of the Putin government.
Sater pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Artemenko spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.
Big Picture
The sheer proliferation of such contact indicates, at a minimum, that Russian organized crime figures felt comfortable in the Trump milieu.
Jonathan Winer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for law enforcement in the Clinton administration, says that he was investigating Semion Mogilevich 20 years ago when “the brainy don” (as he was known) pioneered the laundering criminal proceeds through quasi-legitimate companies in the United States, especially in high-end real estate.
Winer finds it “disturbing” that Mogilevich’s associates have done business with Trump. He told a Washington conference earlier this month:
“Imagine you’re a foreign government and you want to launder money for domestic espionage operations in the United States. [High-end real estate] would be a great way to do it. It was the method used by Colombian drug traffickers all over Latin America and Miami in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a form that Russian organized crime has used… All of a sudden we’re starting to see the same kind of patterns involving some criminal people and some Russian officials showing up in current investigations with Trump properties.”
The story right now, he says, is “confusing as hell.” The key, he explains, is the pattern:
“These ties link up, coalesce, organize and resolve,” Winer says. These are “relationships that make some sense. So we need to get below what we can see on the surface and see what actually happened. … I don’t know who’s going to be indicted, but boy, do I know this: the American people needs to be to get the facts, and then justice can be done.”
Kate & Prince Williams Big Changes
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Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Said to Have Advised Trump Team

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In the very public, post-election parade of dignitaries, confidantes and job-seekers filing in and out of Donald Trump’s marquee Manhattan tower, Blackwater founder Erik Prince was largely out of sight. And yet Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with his activities.
Trump was weakest in the area where the stakes were highest -- foreign affairs. Among those his aides turned to was Prince, a man whose specialty is paramilitary security forces, and whose company is best remembered after its employees were convicted of killing Iraqi citizens, including children, in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square gun battle. Prince wasn’t implicated in the shootings. In the decade since, Prince has carved out a role as a controversial critic of U.S. policies to fight terrorism, a view often espoused by the incoming Trump administration, which was eager to ramp up its anti-terrorism policies.
Photographer: Melissa Golden/Redux
According to people familiar with his activities, Prince entered Trump Tower through the back, like others who wanted to avoid the media spotlight, and huddled with members of the president-elect’s team to discuss intelligence and security issues. The conversations provide a glimpse of Prince’s relationship with an administration that’s distanced itself from him since the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Prince had met with a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles in January.
That island encounter was the latest in a series of conversations between Trump advisers and Russians that have come to light as U.S. investigators probe allegations that Russia interfered with the presidential election.
A person close to Prince said the Seychelles meeting was arranged at the request of the United Arab Emirates. The person added that it was a private meeting and that Prince was not representing the Trump administration.
“Erik had no role in the transition,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said again when asked about Prince last week.
A Prince spokesman in London, Jonny Garfield, said the same in a statement: “Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump.” He also questioned whether Prince’s activities were being monitored. “Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”
Yet over a two to three month period around the election, Prince met several times with top aides as the incoming government took shape, offering ideas on how to fight terror and restructure the country’s major intelligence agencies, according to information provided by five people familiar with the meetings. Among those he conferred with was Flynn, a member of the transition team who joined the administration and was later dismissed, some of the people said. He discussed possible government appointees with people in the private sector, one person said. Prince himself told several people that while he was not offering his advice in any official capacity, his role was significant.

Acela Trip

The meetings occurred in Trump Tower, the administration’s transition office in Washington and elsewhere, according to people familiar with them. In one informal discussion in late November, Prince spoke openly with two members of Trump’s transition team on a train bound from New York to Washington. He boarded the same Acela as Kellyanne Conway and they sat together. Joining the conversation at one point was Kevin Harrington, a longtime associate of Trump adviser Peter Thiel who is now on the National Security Council. They discussed, in broad terms, major changes the incoming administration envisioned for the intelligence community, as recounted by a person on the train who overheard their conversation.
Conway declined to comment for this story. Harrington said through a spokesman that he recalled speaking briefly to Prince on the train ride but that was the only time he talked to him.
Prince was a generous financial backer of the Trump campaign, along with his sister, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Prince contributed at least $100,000 through a political action committee run by billionaire hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer. That PAC also funneled contributions from Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has acted as an informal liaison to the high-tech world for the White House. 
Neither Mercer nor Thiel responded to requests for comment sent to their spokesmen.

Defense Rethink

A longtime critic of government defense and security policies, Prince advocated a restructuring of security agencies as well as a thorough rethink of costly defense programs, even if it meant canceling existing major contracts in favor of smaller ones, said a person familiar with the matter.
Prince is no longer talking to those in the administration, said the person close to him, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were intended to remain private. His influence waned after Flynn was ousted as National Security Adviser in February over concerns about his own disclosures and conversations with the Russian ambassador. And Prince has no relationship with Flynn’s successor, General H. R. McMaster.
Flynn did not respond to a request for comment.
Prince’s discussions can be seen as a testament to the all-comers-welcome nature of the Trump transition, which listened to theories and suggestions from a range of supporters with conservative views.
Prince would have been among the more controversial. During the Iraq war, Blackwater landed more than $1 billion worth of government contracts to provide personal protection for visiting officials and assist with military operations and, according to Prince’s memoir, carry out covert operations for the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 2007, guards working for Blackwater, which had been running a lucrative executive protection mission for the State Department in Iraq since the start of the war, were accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in a bloody shootout on a Baghdad street corner. A year earlier, a Blackwater guard had killed a bodyguard to an Iraqi official. He was fired, sent home and never charged with a crime. Four contractors were later convicted by a federal jury in the street corner shootout and sentenced to jail. Their cases are on appeal.
These incidents prompted a grilling by lawmakers in a public hearing in 2007, wrongful death lawsuits against the company and a criminal investigation by federal authorities into the shooting. Blackwater, which had been among the most prominent military contractors in Iraq, was forced out of the country.
After years of additional investigations and lawsuits, Prince sold the firm to an investor group in 2010. Blackwater was renamed Xe Services, then Academi, and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government in 2012 over violations of arms sales rules and paid a $7.5 million fine. Prosecutors said it was the conclusion of “a lengthy and complex investigation into a company which has provided valuable services to the United States government, but which, at times, and in many ways, failed to comply with important laws and regulations.”
Prince was never charged with a crime, and he said allegations of wrongdoing were baseless. He now runs Frontier Resource Group, a Hong Kong fund with Chinese investors who see opportunities in natural resources in Africa.
More recently, Prince’s money, connections and conservative credentials have allowed him to move easily in and around Trump World. He was a guest, along with Trump, at Mercer’s Villains and Heroes holiday party last year. Prince also attended the election-night victory party at Trump Tower.
Last year, Prince was often heard on Breitbart radio, overseen by Steve Bannon, who today serves as White House chief strategist. Speaking on topics such as immigration and how to defeat terrorists, Prince laid out a three-point plan to deal with ISIS.
In the heat of the closing weeks of the presidential campaign, Prince claimed New York police found evidence of Hillary Clinton and her closest advisers committing “criminal activity,” including money laundering and “under-age sex.” The evidence was purportedly in Clinton emails seized in the investigation of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. Prince cited sources at the New York Police Department. The claim was never substantiated, nor did the police address the allegations.
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Rudy Giuliani - Google Search

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Story image for Rudy Giuliani from The New Yorker

A Mysterious Case Involving Turkey, Iran, and Rudy Giuliani

The New Yorker-Apr 14, 2017
The mysterious case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman facing federal charges in New York, has grown even stranger over the ...
Story image for Rudy Giuliani from amNY

Will the president pull a Giuliani on Bannon?

amNY-17 hours ago
And he was fired by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's buddy, although his stock ... Giuliani said nothing publicly, but retaliated by forcing the ...
What Chicago really needs
New York Post-14 hours ago
Story image for Rudy Giuliani from Salon

Rudy Giuliani's newest gig is almost too sleazy to be true

Salon-Apr 12, 2017
You might think Rudy Giuliani, the Iran hawk, would support U.S. law enforcement efforts to bring Zarrab to justice and expose the mechanism ...
Story image for Rudy Giuliani from Empty Lighthouse Magazine

Rudy Giuliani Working With Russia For Trump? Details On The ...

Empty Lighthouse Magazine-12 hours ago
This is the point where Rudy Giuliani enters the picture. Around that time, as you may remember, Giuliani was all over cable news braggin
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Will the president pull a Giuliani on...

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Will the president pull a Giuliani on Bannon?

amNY - ‎17 hours ago‎
And he was fired by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's buddy, although his stock took a dive ever since he lobbied loudly for the secretary of state job. Appointed commissioner in 1994, Bratton kept insisting it was he, not Giuliani, who deserved credit ...

What Chicago really needs

New York Post - ‎14 hours ago‎
And the NYPD continues to bring its own crime stats down, year after year — progress it's continued to deliver (with occasional setbacks) ever since 1993, when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton fundamentally changed the ...

Is Rudy Giuliani Losing His Mind?

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All summer long, Rudy Giuliani has acted as if he’s in a contest with Donald Trump to prove who the most manic 70-something from the outer boroughs really is. It started at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Giuliani raved and gesticulated about the podium like an Aztec priest offering up fresh beating hearts to Quetzalcoatl. He blamed President Obama for any and all racial division in the United States—“What happened to one America?!”—and Obama and Hillary Clinton for virtually every attack by Islamic terrorists over the past four years.
“There’s no next election. This is it! There’s no more time left to revive our great country,” he concluded apocalyptically, so overwrought that he seemed about to work himself into a stroke, barely able to get out or articulate words and simply shouting, “Greatness!” near the end of his speech.
Story Continued Below
On the campaign trail since then, Giuliani has led some of Trump’s most lunatic lines of attack, mocking Clinton for having failed a bar exam 41 years ago (and claiming it was covered up by the press); repeating the Trump camp accusations that the media are ignoring “several signs of illness by her” (“I don’t know if she goes home, goes to sleep. I think she sleeps”); insisting that Trump’s Milwaukee appeal for black people to abandon the Democratic Party was “the best speech that any Republican, at the least, has ever given” and reviving a monthslong feud with Beyoncé (Beyoncé!) by denouncing her for daring to pay tribute to Black Lives Matter at a concert. “I ran the largest and the best police department in the world, the New York City Police Department, and I saved more black lives than any of those people you saw on stage,” Giuliani bragged on Fox & Friends.
Anyone just tuning in must be wondering: What happened to “America’s mayor”? For millions of people outside New York, the lasting image of Giuliani is that of the man we all rooted for as he pushed his way through the streets of Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and told us afterward, with almost heartbreaking gentleness, that “the casualties will be more than any of us can bear.” Giuliani that day went on television not only to urge calm, but to remind New Yorkers not to take out their grief on Muslims—“We should act bravely. We should act in a tolerant way”—and just days later held an interfaith prayer service in Yankee Stadium that brought Islamic clerics together with Christians and Jews. This season in political hell, Giuliani has seemed so addled, so much the campaign tool, alternately vicious and clownish in defense of The Donald, that at one point he even stuffed his most famed accomplishment down the memory hole, insisting of the Bush presidency, “Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States.”
It might seem like this summer has marked a sad break with that old Rudy, or proved him a sellout. But if you’ve followed Giuliani’s career, in fact it’s clear he swallowed the whole Trump persona many years ago—the race-baiting, the law-and-order pose, the incessant lying used to both steal credit and avoid responsibility. What we’re seeing this summer isn’t a crackup: It’s the inevitable, supernova explosion of what long ago became one of the most toxic and overrated political careers in our history. It’s tempting to count the 72-year-old Giuliani one more addition to the Island of Misfit Toys that Trump has gathered around him—another one of the political relics who, seeking to restore relevance, have found themselves denatured by the strange public power of Trump. But a better way to see it might be as a man seizing the star turn he never quite got—grabbing time in slow stretches of the campaign to stand on the national stage and play the role that was supposed to be his, exactly the way he thinks it should be played.
What lies at the heart of Trumpism, and Rudyism, is the same, nostalgic impulse that has driven reactionary Republican populism for a half-century now—“The shining city on the hill!” as Giuliani managed to splutter at the convention, just before, “Greatness!” It’s no coincidence that Trump and Giuliani both came of age in the New York of the 1960s and ’70s, the time when the dream seemed to die, during the nihilistic, wholesale destruction of our cities.
Growing up in Flatbush, Rudy was a Democrat, like pretty much everyone he knew. Giuliani was first drawn to politics by John F. Kennedy’s run for the presidency in 1960; by 1964, when Hillary Clinton was still a Goldwater girl, he was writing in the school paper of Manhattan College in defense of civil rights and President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, and calling Barry Goldwater “an incompetent, confused, and idiotic man.” By the time he got to law school at New York University, Rudy was opposed to the Vietnam War—from which he would get three deferments, thanks to a friendly judge—and a “real RFK Democrat, a liberal, except on law and order,” according to a friend quoted in the journalist Wayne Barrett’s invaluable book on the mayor, Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani called Bobby Kennedy “irreplaceable,” “great and brilliant,” and his assassination stunned him. “He had the support of the minority community in a way no other white politician did, and he had the ability to communicate with the white middle class. There was no one else with a foot in both camps,” Giuliani said.
It was an astute assessment. Kennedy had taken the 1968 California primary, his last great race, with a coalition of working-class blacks, whites and Hispanics at the core of his campaign. His loss was, as it turned out, irreplaceable, and with his death American politics would continue to splinter along racial lines.
For a moment, it would look as though Giuliani might be the one to mend that rift. He voted for George McGovern in 1972, the same Democratic candidate a young Bill and Hill were working their hearts out to try to make palatable to the voters of Texas. With Richard Nixon’s landslide that year, though, both Giuliani and the Clintons swung right. The Clintons remade the Democratic Party in their own grasping, opportunistic image. In the 1970s, Giuliani would go to work for the Nixon-Ford Justice Department, first as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and then as associate deputy attorney general down in Washington. He switched his registration to independent sometime between 1973 and 1977, claiming he wanted to avoid any appearance of political partisanship in the cases he took up. He had apparently shaken off that concern by December 8, 1980, one month after Ronald Reagan’s election confirmed the country’s rightward shift, when he registered as a Republican just in time to be selected as the No. 3 man in the Reagan Justice Department.
“He only became a Republican after he began to get all those jobs from them,” his mother, Helen Giuliani, would say in 1988, as only moms can. “He’s definitely not a conservative Republican. He thinks he is, but he isn’t. He still feels very sorry for the poor.”
Giuliani was going to have to dangle a foot in both parties if he was to build a political career in his still overwhelmingly Democratic hometown. He wasn’t going to make it by hauling the Reagan administration’s water down in Washington, where he buried a case against a major arms supplier and argued, with a straight face, that Haitian refugees were ineligible for political asylum because “political oppression, at least in general, does not exist” under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier’s bloody regime.
By 1983, still just 39, Giuliani was back home, now in charge as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, a longtime steppingstone toward higher office. Here, Giuliani could set his own agenda, going after all of the assorted nabobs running amok in Mayor Ed Koch’s wide-open New York: the Mafia, the masters of the universe down on Wall Street, corrupt municipal officials. It made for marvelous political theater. Giuliani declared his intention “to wipe out the five families” running the New York mob, and sent three Mafia family heads up the river with sentences of more than 100 years apiece. He ended the career of venal Koch cronies, and his prosecution of the Wedtech arms procurement scandal forced the resignation of two congressman and even his own boss, Reagan attorney general Ed Meese, whom Giuliani had one of his assistant attorneys publicly call “a sleaze.”
On Wall Street, Rudy nailed Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky and reinvented the perp walk for a new era of white-collar crime, manacling together 15 white financial executives arrested on drug charges and parading them through Foley Square downtown. He had other major traders hauled out of their offices in handcuffs or clapped in jail overnight, and if there were complaints that not all these cases held up in the end, who cared? In a New York that seemed given over to special privilege at the same time that it was being engulfed by crime, Rudy Giuliani from Flatbush seemed to be a genuine, working-class hero, administering justice with rare evenhandedness, as willing to pull down executives snorting coke as gang-bangers doing crack. Incredibly, he was able to pull the support of both Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post and The Village Voice, back when it was the best investigative paper in the country.
By 1989, Giuliani seemed like a lock to displace a sagging Mayor Koch, a Democrat, who was running for a fourth term. He attacked Koch from the left on homelessness, poverty, drug rehabilitation and AIDS, and refused to play what he called “the death penalty game.” In what Wayne Barrett aptly called his “Kennedyesque” speeches, Rudy railed against “the shame of racism” in New York, promising “a government of inclusion” and an “end to alienation.” By the spring of 1989, the Wall Street Journal was openly blasting Giuliani as too liberal—a “[John] Lindsay Republican”—and Senator Al D’Amato was fuming that if he won, Giuliani would leave the party, just the way liberal Lindsay had.
Perhaps he would have—and who knows what heights an independent or Democratic Giuliani might have risen to? But in August 1989, a mob of white Bensonhurst thugs chased down and shot to death 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins, a black kid who had come to the neighborhood to see about buying a used car. Soon, Reverend Al Sharpton was leading protest marches through Bensonhurst that were met in turn by white crowds screaming racial epithets and holding up watermelons.
The city was exhausted, wrung out by one more of seemingly endless racial confrontations of the Koch years. Koch lost his September primary by almost 100,000 votes to David Dinkins, the genteel, African-American borough president of Manhattan who was seen as a unifier. The whole narrative of the race shifted, and Giuliani found himself being pounded from both right (by Ron Lauder, the cosmetics heir) and left. Hopelessly entangled in social issues like abortion and gay rights, a flailing Giuliani now vowed to bring the death penalty back to New York, and tried to attack Dinkins over assorted personal scandals, as well as his association with various black “radicals.” These belated efforts to play the race card fell short, and turned off some New York white liberals. Come Election Day, Giuliani lost in a squeaker. “The Rudy who might have been mayor had Ed Koch won the primary would not be seen again,” Barrett wrote.
Rudy learned a lesson, and it was an ugly one. Much like George Wallace vowing, “I will never be outni---red again!” after losing his Alabama governor’s race in 1958, Giuliani turned the next four years into an almost nonstop campaign of character assassination and race-baiting against Dinkins, a fight the New York Times Magazine would dub “The Race Race.” Just as Giuliani at this year’s convention sought to blame all of the country’s racial divisions on President Obama, the Giuliani of 25 years ago brazenly accused Dinkins of “playing racial politics,” “whining” and hiding “behind black victimization.” Much like Trump today, he convinced himself that he could only have been beaten by voter fraud “in black and Dominican districts,” according to Barrett—something he seemed to use to justify doing anything and everything he felt necessary to win.
The dog whistles were over. Forget the Great Society. Rudy now endorsed the policy ideas emanating from the right-wing Manhattan Institute, all of which stressed the “tough love,” bend-over-and-grab-your-own-bootstraps prescriptions adopted for the urban poor today by the Trump campaign. Giuliani now wanted the “chronic” homeless banned from shelters after 90 days. Back in 1989, he had refused to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade because its organizers refused to allow gays to march. In 1993, Rudy marched with the homophobes—and condemned Dinkins for not marching.
Nobody remembers it this way now, but the Dinkins administration compiled New York’s best record on crime since World War II, adding 6,000 more cops and enjoying a record, 36 straight months of drops in the crime rate. But for New Yorkers this was eclipsed by big headline events like the Crown Heights riot of 1991—a clash between African-Americans and Orthodox Jews that Giuliani would insist on calling a “pogrom,” implying that it was countenanced by Mayor Dinkins. The crime statistics had turned around, and quality of life was slowly but visibly improving in much of New York, but that’s not how people saw it at the time—in part thanks to Giuliani’s relentless, Trumpian campaign to tell them it was a still a cesspool.
Even once-liberal elements of the press internalized Giuliani’s apocalyptic view of his own city. Richard Cohen, in an October 1993 column in the Washington Post the month before the election, scoffed that, “Aside from the deranged, there's not a single Gothamite who thinks it has gotten better under Dinkins—no matter what his statistics say,” while the Times’ James McKinley concluded, “Mr. Dinkins will never be able to prove his policies have curbed crime.” John Taylor, in Time, conceded that New Yorkers might actually be safer, but that they felt less safe, because the crimes still going on—though he did not give a specific example—were Trumpishly hellish: “Entire families are executed in drug wars. Teenagers kill each other over sneakers. Robbers casually shoot victims even if they have surrendered wallets. The proliferation of carjackings means people are no longer safe even in their automobiles.”
With actual facts about the crime rate effectively banished from the debate, pundits could feel free to embrace the throwback notion pushed by Giuliani that America’s real urban problem was not so much poverty or racism, but black people demanding special treatment, much like their tribune in city hall. Black-scolding reached a sort of frenzy that April, when New York’s great stuffed owl of a senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, gave his famous, “Defining deviancy down” speech, in which he asked “what in the last 50 years in New York is now better than it was” back in 1943, and concluded that nothing was better, especially crime. Moynihan received almost universal adoration for these supposedly bold words, the media having failed to notice that crime was at record lows in 1943 because most of the city’s young men were off fighting something called World War II. Or that there was a deadly race riot in New York that year anyway, set off by a cop shooting a black soldier. Or that Harlem had been officially “off-limits” to visiting white servicemen, or that black people were effectively banned from all of the city’s best restaurants, hotels, colleges, hospitals, or jobs in 1943.
Whatever. The Giuliani campaign, and its attendant press corps, was as far past facts as the Trump campaign is now. The perception became the reality. Despite the yearslong decrease in crime, a 1993 New York Times poll found that 58 percent of all New Yorkers felt that it had increased since a black man became mayor. Giuliani charged that Dinkins “might as well have a ceremony in which he turned the neighborhoods over to the drug dealers. As far as I’m concerned, there is no future in surrender.”
It worked, even in some of the most progressive districts of Manhattan. Polls showed that in their 1993 rematch, Giuliani was especially “making gains among Upper West Side liberal women defecting from Dinkins on the crime issue,” according to his biographer, Fred Siegel, and this time it was Giuliani who was able to pull out a close race, taking 64 percent of New York’s white Democrats, and 77 percent of all whites.
Once in office, Giuliani didn’t really do anything. As it turned out, the man who would be Bobby Kennedy had no great vision for the city he had lived in almost all his life. Mostly, he watched as the stock market ticked up during the Clinton boom, the tourists poured into the Times Square that Koch and Mario Cuomo had rehabilitated, and the revolutionary CompStat program—instituted by Police Commissioner William Bratton, the man Dinkins had brought in—drove crime rates down. All the increased revenue, plus the dramatic lessening of the AIDS and crack crises, made managing the city easier than ever before. Even so, under the Giuliani administration, there was no real effort to keep the city’s middle class, and its small businesses from being driven out by New York’s skyrocketing real-estate prices—just huge, ineffectual tax breaks handed out to corporate giants, in the name of keeping their business in town. It was the beginning of a philosophy that has prevailed to this day in New York, in fact if not in rhetoric: the only thing to be done for the city is to fill it with more and more rich people.
Still, enough of white New York loved their shiny new city to return Rudy to office in 1997 by over 12 percentage points. People of color would increasingly feel themselves under siege, subjected to continual “stop-and-frisk” humiliations by the police and arrests for minor infractions, selectively applied. They came originally from Bratton’s adopting the philosophy of “broken windows” and “quality of life” policing, but Rudy backed them to the hilt, and gave the police permission to keep doing them even when they were ordered to cease and desist by the courts.
The same sorts of disturbing racial incidents that had marred the Koch years—and which would, years later, spark Black Lives Matter—returned. When one Abner Louima was arrested, tortured and raped with a toilet plunger in his cell by cops in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, Mayor Giuliani ordered an immediate investigation—then, months later, publicly threw out its findings. When four plainclothesmen mistook Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old, law-abiding immigrant from Guinea for someone else and demanded to see his ID, he pulled out his wallet—and they fired 41 times, putting 19 bullets in him. Giuliani called his death a “tragedy,” but refused to say it was “a mistake.” When a 26-year-old security guard named Patrick Dorismond angrily attacked a pair of undercover cops who tried to get him to buy some crack, he was shot dead, too. Far from apologizing for police killing a young black man for refusing to buy crack, Rudy defended the cops and illegally unsealed Dorismond’s minor, juvenile delinquency record from years before, explaining that he was only trying to show that the dead man “was no altar boy.” In fact, it turned out that Dorismond had gone to the same Catholic school as Giuliani. And that he was an altar boy.
When a Washington Post reporter asked the mayor about what he had done for New York’s minorities, Giuliani famously shot back, “They’re alive, how about we start with that.” Then as now, he was utterly convinced that black people, in Milwaukee or New York, are largely incapable of understanding their own best interests, and that it is only the police who can keep them alive.
Term-limited, bored and aimless after his 1997 reelection, Giuliani resorted to the time-honored New York mayoral custom of hurling brickbats at pretty much everyone. He denounced, with equal fervor, Yasser Arafat, “sacrilegious” art at the Brooklyn Museum, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, which he insisted should feel “obligated” to continue accepting his city’s garbage in light of New York’s “substantial cultural achievements.” He let an extramarital affair and his increasingly sordid family life play out in the public press. And for all that he mocks her now, when he had a chance to put everything on the line and run against Clinton for a Senate seat in 2000, he ducked the race, citing a prostate cancer scare. As accounts of his affair and his internal organs filled the tabloid covers, he devolved quickly into something of a buffoonish figure, the TMI mayor.
September 11 rescued Giuliani from inanity, made him “America’s mayor,” the term first bestowed upon him by Oprah Winfrey, at that lovely, ecumenical service for the 9/11 victims in Yankee Stadium. There was still time to restore a little of the old Rudy. He wouldn’t have been the first politician to have gone off the rails and then got hold of himself. But even when it came to his best moment, the lying and Trumpian blame-shifting wouldn’t stop.
Rudy had been in the street on 9/11 only because his emergency “command bunker,” which he alone had insisted on putting on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, was destroyed in the first minutes of the attack; Giuliani blamed the decision, falsely, on the security expert who had opposed the idea. Infinitely worse, testifying before the 9/11 Commission, Giuliani lied on the graves of the 121 firefighters killed when the North Tower collapsed, by insisting that they had refused his orders to evacuate the buildings. In fact, they had never received any order to evacuate, due to his administration’s eight-year failure to correct a malfunctioning inter-services communications system.
No one much noticed. The details of what really happened on 9/11 came out only long after Time named Rudy its person of the year for 2001. Giuliani cashed in while waiting for a moment to run for president, splitting his time between his law firm, his security firm, even his financial consulting firm. Like Trump, he could suddenly do anything; all he had to do was put his golden name on it. But much like his first mayoral run, the race ended up confounding Giuliani. His adopted party looked askance at his gay friendships, his third marriage and his increasingly erratic behavior. Giuliani pushed Bernie Kerik, New York’s police commissioner for the last 16 months of his mayoralty, to serve as interim interior minister in occupied Iraq and as U.S. secretary of homeland security—ideas that ended up as an unmitigated disaster for all concerned, and ultimately landed Kerik in prison. Giuliani was found to have taken on any number of dubious clients, including an admitted drug smuggler, the makers of OxyContin, various penny stock operations under investigation by the feds, and, ironically, the government of Mexico City, looking to reduce crime.
Despite vituperative, quadrennial speeches that roused the galleries—in 2004, Rudy actually told the Republican National Committee that he grabbed Kerik’s arm in the midst of the 9/11 attacks and exclaimed, “Thank God George Bush is president!”—Giuliani was fading, still fighting a culture war that went all the way back to his youth, and that diminished with every passing year that New York grew still safer, richer and more orderly without him. Only the rise of Trump, with his need to convince America that we are all living in a hellhole, provided Giuliani with a new forum for his particular brand of race-baiting urban demagoguery.
On television, his joy at being relevant again has been almost palpable. His big, orange, jack-o’-lantern head—is Giuliani even trying to outsquash Trump?—reduced to a caricature of slitted eyes and flashing teeth, he lisped eagerly, nearly drooling, about what a good case he would make against Clinton on her emails.
The dumbest thing F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote was that American lives have no second acts. We are nothing but second acts, endlessly repeated, and no one has scrapped for more of them than those two, shining icons of a New York that seems very far away now.
They’ve known each other a long time, Rudy and The Donald, and earlier this year Giuliani referred to Trump as a “close personal friend,” and “not the man you see on television,” but “a gentleman” and “a good father.” By February, Rudy was coyly refusing to quite endorse Trump, but already calling him “the best choice for president” in the Republican field, and telling the Washington Post, “He calls to check things out, or I’ll call him to say, ‘Donald, you’re going too far’ or ‘What you said was great’ or maybe ‘Change it a bit.’ It’s nothing formal. It’s kind of a running conversation.”
Maybe Giuliani can help Trump figure out how to win, and if he can, I suppose there will be still another second act for him, too, perhaps a stint as secretary of homeland security, or all-around eminence grise to l’orange. If that day comes, both Rudy and The Donald can go on saying how they saved us from a city and a nation they insisted were on fire, even if they had to strike the match to get it going. Rudy was never crazy, no more than Trump is himself. He was simply a restless spirit, feeding on anger, searching for another body to use.
Read the whole story
· · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Intel source: in Russia scandal, Rudy Giuliani has now flipped on Donald Trump after all 

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Last week we brought you the story of how Rudy Giuliani is in so much legal trouble that he’s been trying to get a deal in exchange for flipping on Donald Trump, but that the FBI rejected it because its Trump-Russia investigation is so far along that it doesn’t need his help (link). But now equally proven intel sources say that Giuliani has cut a deal after all, and is cooperating with law enforcement against Trump.
This latest information comes from Olga NYC, an online political pundit whose sources have a track record of being proven correct. She states that “A very reliable source has told me that R Giuliani is cooperating” (link). Scott Dworkin of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, who has a strong track record in his own right, then chimed in to point out that Olga has been “100% reliable” with her inside sources (link). So where does this leave us?
There are two possible scenarios at play here. One is that, after the FBI initially rebuffed Rudy Giuliani, it’s now circled back and given him a deal after all. This tactic is sometimes used to try motivate a suspect to be more cooperative once they’re finally given the deal they’re asking for. The other possible scenario is that after the FBI rejected Giuliani’s request for a deal, the New York State Attorney General may have instead given him a deal. The source hasn’t stated whether Giuliani’s deal was with state or federal law enforcement.
The second scenario is given credibility by the fact that Rudy Giuliani’s most well-documented legal troubles stem from his attempt at interfering with a case that the New York State Attorney General’s office is bringing against a Turkish businessman named Reza Zarrab (source: NBC News). So it makes sense that he would be seeking leniency from the State of New York, and willing to give up Trump in the process. This serves to further demonstrate how far along both the state and federal Trump-Russia investigations are progressing behind the scenes. Contribute to Palmer Report

Intel source: in Russia scandal, Rudy Giuliani has now flipped on Donald Trump after all

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Last week we brought you the story of how Rudy Giuliani is in so much legal trouble that he’s been trying to get a deal in exchange for flipping on Donald Trump, but that the FBI rejected it because its Trump-Russia investigation is so far along that it doesn’t need his help (link). But now equally proven intel sources say that Giuliani has cut a deal after all, and is cooperating with law enforcement against Trump.
This latest information comes from Olga NYC, an online political pundit whose sources have a track record of being proven correct. She states that “A very reliable source has told me that R Giuliani is cooperating” (link). Scott Dworkin of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, who has a strong track record in his own right, then chimed in to point out that Olga has been “100% reliable” with her inside sources (link). So where does this leave us?
There are two possible scenarios at play here. One is that, after the FBI initially rebuffed Rudy Giuliani, it’s now circled back and given him a deal after all. This tactic is sometimes used to try motivate a suspect to be more cooperative once they’re finally given the deal they’re asking for. The other possible scenario is that after the FBI rejected Giuliani’s request for a deal, the New York State Attorney General may have instead given him a deal. The source hasn’t stated whether Giuliani’s deal was with state or federal law enforcement.
The second scenario is given credibility by the fact that Rudy Giuliani’s most well-documented legal troubles stem from his attempt at interfering with a case that the New York State Attorney General’s office is bringing against a Turkish businessman named Reza Zarrab (source: NBC News). So it makes sense that he would be seeking leniency from the State of New York, and willing to give up Trump in the process. This serves to further demonstrate how far along both the state and federal Trump-Russia investigations are progressing behind the scenes. Contribute to Palmer Report
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Bill Palmer is the founder and editor in chief of the political news outlet Palmer Report

A Mysterious Case Involving Turkey, Iran, and Rudy Giuliani

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The mysterious case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman facing federal charges in New York, has grown even stranger over the past couple of weeks.
Zarrab, who is thirty-three, was arrested by F.B.I. agents, in Miami, last March. At the time, he was one of the flashiest and wealthiest businessmen in Turkey. He sported a pouf of black hair; owned twenty houses, seven yachts, and a private jet; was married to one of Turkey’s biggest pop stars; and counted among his friends Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s strongman President.
The U.S. government, however, believes that Zarrab masterminded a sprawling operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions that were put in place to hinder the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Zarrab’s operation—which relied on what the Turkish government claimed was a legal loophole in the sanctions—involved shipping gold to Iran in exchange for oil and natural gas, which Zarrab then sold. The scheme, according to prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, involved moving enormous amounts of cash, gas, and gold; at the operation’s peak—around 2012—Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and shipping it to Iran every day. The Obama Administration protested Zarrab’s operation, which the media dubbed “gas for gold,’’ but he carried on anyway. For the Iranians, the gold was as good as American cash, and it helped shore up the rial, Iran’s currency, whose value was collapsing.
Since last March, Zarrab has been sitting in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, in Manhattan, awaiting trial. The questions—and conspiracy theories—about him and his case, meanwhile, have only multiplied. At the time of his arrest, Zarrab was more or less living under the protection of the Turkish government, and he had every reason to believe that the U.S. government was after him. Why, then, did he fly to Miami? Zarrab told agents that he was on a family trip to Disney World. But many Turks who follow the case believe that Zarrab flew to the United States in an attempt to strike a deal with American prosecutors.
Why would he do that? It’s not clear if any deal was ever discussed, but Zarrab is probably in possession of enough evidence to implicate several senior members of Turkey’s government, whom American prosecutors say Zarrab was bribing so that he could carry on with his scheme. Zarrab, prosecutors have told a federal judge in New York, used “his tremendous wealth not only to purchase several homes, yachts and other assets, but also to buy access to corrupt politicians in Turkey.”
Zarrab’s far-flung activities first came to public light four years ago—entirely by accident. On January 1, 2013, a cargo plane from Accra, Ghana, was diverted to Istanbul’s main international airport, because of fog. When customs officials searched the plane, they found three thousand pounds of gold bars. Turkish prosecutors—who at that time still had enough independence to challenge the central government—determined that Zarrab had been paying millions of dollars in bribes to senior officials in Erdoğan’s government, and they had the businessman arrested and charged. The police themselves were stunned. “We didn’t expect this little investigation to give way to a bigger one,’’ Nazmi Ardıç, the chief of the Istanbul police department’s organized-crime unit, told me in 2015.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the Minister for the Economy, Zafer Çağlayan, accepted more than forty-five million dollars in cash, gems, and luxury goods from Zarrab. When police entered the home of Süleyman Aslan—the C.E.O. of Halk Bank, which Zarrab allegedly used to launder his money—they found shoeboxes stuffed with four and a half million dollars. (Both Çağlayan and Aslan have denied any wrongdoing.) Wiretapped phone conversations also appeared to implicate members of Erdoğan’s family.
The cargo-plane incident and subsequent investigation of Zarrab roiled Turkish politics. Erdoğan, instead of backing down, accused Fethullah Gülen, an imam and former ally living in exile in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania, of trying to mount a coup against him. It was then that Erdoğan initiated the first in a series of purges across the Turkish government, firing, transferring, or jailing thousands of police officers and prosecutors. Afterward, the charges against Zarrab were dropped, and he was released from prison. The power struggle between Erdoğan and Gülen climaxed last summer, when followers of Gülen inside the Turkish military took part in a real attempted coup against Erdoğan’s government. Erdoğan beat back the uprising, but not before more than two hundred and sixty people were killed. Since then, Erdoğan has been busy arresting and detaining anyone linked to the country’s democratic opposition, and many people who are not.
Zarrab’s arrest in the U.S. occurred a few months before the attempted coup. Since then, Erdoğan has tried to have Zarrab sprung; last year, his government asked Loretta Lynch, then the U.S. Attorney General, to release him, and Erdoğan himself raised the issue last September in a meeting with Joe Biden, then the Vice-President. Erdoğan even accused the U.S. Attorney who indicted Zarrab, Preet Bharara, as well as the judge overseeing the case, Richard Berman, of having links to Gülen, whom Erdoğan describes as a “terrorist.” Bharara and Berman, Erdoğan charged, had been “wined and dined” by Gülen’s organization.
Why does Erdoğan care so much about Zarrab? It could be that Erdoğan is just a loyal friend. But the evidence found by Turkish prosecutors in the original case against Zarrab suggests that Erdoğan himself, or his family, could be tied to Zarrab’s scheme. Perhaps Erdoğan is afraid that Zarrab, facing decades in prison, will eventually talk.
After his arrest, in Miami, Zarrab hired some of the most expensive lawyers in New York. They tried to secure a comfortable bail arrangement—and failed. They then sought to have the case thrown out entirely, and failed at that, too. For a time, it looked as though the Zarrab case was headed for trial. Then, last month, came several dramatic developments. Zarrab fired most of his lawyers and hired Rudy Giuliani, a confidant of President Trump, and Michael Mukasey, the former U.S. Attorney General. Then Trump fired Bharara, the prosecutor who indicted Zarrab in the first place. With a legal team friendly to the President in place, and a hostile prosecutor out of the way, Zarrab may be hoping for a sweet deal from the prosecution. It has since been revealed that Giuliani and Mukasey travelled to Turkey in February to meet with Erdoğan about the case—another of Zarrab’s lawyers said that they were seeking a “diplomatic solution” to the situation. Berman, the judge, has asked that Giuliani and Mukasey provide more information about their role in the case.
Finally, another new layer of mystery: last month, F.B.I. agents arrested Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy C.E.O. of Halk Bank—the same bank that prosecutors allege that Zarrab used to launder his gas-for-gold transactions—upon his arrival at J.F.K. International Airport, in New York. The case against Atilla was built on much of the same evidence—wiretapped phone conversations—that was used to charge Zarrab. (On Thursday, Atilla pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.) What was going on? Would Atilla simply fly to J.F.K. without a care, even though his former client had been arrested a year earlier in a very public case? Or was something murkier at work?
The Turkish government was not happy with Atilla’s arrest; Halk Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the country. As with almost everything that goes wrong in Turkey these days, the country’s leaders are blaming Gülen, the exiled imam in the Poconos. “The move against Halk Bank’s Atilla,’’ Binali Yıldırım, the Turkish Prime Minister, said, “is another plan and trick of the Gülen movement.”
Read the whole story
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Will the president pull a Giuliani on Bannon? - amNY

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Will the president pull a Giuliani on Bannon?
And he was fired by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's buddy, although his stock took a dive ever since he lobbied loudly for the secretary of state job. Appointed commissioner in 1994, Bratton kept insisting it was he, not Giuliani, who deserved credit ...

and more »
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Page 12

Rudy Giuliani Working With Russia For Trump? Details On The Shocking Allegations

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Donald Trump may be in new hot water now -- if a story reported by a well-known reporter is correct. The reporter, Seth Abramson, posted a mega-thread today on Twitter, with some absolutely shocking allegations. So what's he claiming happened? Is his allegation true? We've looked into it and have all of the details below.
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Seth Abramson Alleges Russia-Giuliani-FBI Collaborated

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Abramson makes the allegations based on a few premises. The first of these premises relates to Hillary Clinton's emails (yep, that again).
According to Abramson, the final tranche of Clinton emails found by the FBI -- the ones that provoked the infamous Comey announcement right before the election -- were duplicates, and the FBI field office in New York knew that.
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He asserts that the FBI New York basically suppressed that information, and Giuliani knew about it. Why would they do that? He claims that the NY office is filled with Trump allies. And instead of trying to figure out whether the emails were duplicates, which Comey asked them to do, they only analyzed the meta-data on the emails.
The unstated implication Abramson appears to be making here is that the people in the NY FBI had a hunch that these emails may be duplicates, so they avoided doing additional research to delay admitting the truth. We'll look at this more later.
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Abramson seems to make this implication because the FBI had the opportunity to get a court order to see the emails, and they made no effort to do so; they didn't even bother asking the owners of the emails for permission to look at them.

Where Did Rudy Giuliani Come in?

This is the point where Rudy Giuliani enters the picture. Around that time, as you may remember, Giuliani was all over cable news bragging about his knowledge about an 'October Surprise.' He even admitted at the time that he had information from the FBI (in NY) about this.
Abramson then makes this interesting statement:
Abramson believes that Comey figured out that the NY FBI was politicizing the situation. We'll come back to this as well.

Trump-Giuliani-Russia: More Sketchy Political Figures Enter

Here is where things get really shocking. Erik Prince enters the scene -- you may remember him from all of the civilian deaths in the Middle East involving Blackwater, a shadowy defense contractor.
Blackwater (which now has another name) was involved in countless questionable and shadowy operations for the U.S. and other governments over the last two decades. We don't have time to go through them all here, but there's plenty of information on Prince online.
There's an audio recording of Prince on the radio in November 2016, which Abramson cites. The audio recording is embedded here:
In the audio, Erik Prince, clearly suggests that has inside information and he knows the contents of Hillary Clinton's emails. However, he claims that the emails contain all sorts of illegal material -- none of which ends up being true.
Abramson makes another shocking suggestion here: that Prince did not get his information from the FBI/NYPD. Instead, he claims that Prince's statements were a carefully choreographed part of the Russian disinformation scheme. His evidence: that Russian bots immediately went out and reiterated Prince's argument.

James Comey Reenters

Comey at this point reenters and sends his letter to Congress, saying that he's found these new emails. Within days after that, he is able to go through the emails and determine they are all duplicated.
Given that the NY FBI had access to these emails for weeks, the fact that Comey was able to go through them in days does appear to suggest that the NY FBI wasn't interested in finding out the truth.
Abramson ends his tweet stream by saying that both Giuliani and Prince got favors from Trump after the election. He believes that this proves that Trump was aware of what he was doing.
He also says this:

So Is Abramson's Allegation True?

As with anything like this, there is an interesting mix in here. There are many statements that are true and easily corroborated; however, there are other assertions that are either questionable or unsupported by evidence. Let's take a look at them.
  1. The FBI New York office is filled with Trump allies who purposely suppressed (or avoided knowing about) the fact that Hillary emails were duplicates. Abramson doesn't really provide any evidence for this. There have been rumors about FBI agents disliking Clinton and Comey; however, it's something of a stretch to assume that the people who looked into this case disliked Clinton and Comey. And for FBI officials to purposely act on this would be a serious crime -- which there is no evidence for.
  2. Comey figures out that the NY FBI is politicizing the emails. This appears to be plausible, given previous statements by Comey. However, there is no solid evidence for this claim.
  3. Erik Prince worked with Russia to develop his message. This is implied in what Abramson says. There is evidence that Prince worked with Russia, and he obviously helped Trump; however, there's nothing known about the specifics of the relationship.
  4. The NY FBI dragged its feet on the emails, but Comey looked through them quickly, which is evidence for (1). Abramson uses the fact that Comey was able to look through the Clinton emails in days as evidence that the NY FBI was acting politically. That's a huge jump, without much evidence. It's possible that there were just bureaucratic issues. However, given the importance of this investigation and the simplicity of the task of checking the emails, it does seem something strange was going on.
  5. Giuliani and Prince got favors after the election -- and that is proof that Trump was part of a conspiracy to steal the election. This is an absurd logical jump. Trump didn't really give Giuliani anything good, and although he gave Prince plenty, that's not evidence of a conspiracy. Trump has given important posts to many of the random people who supported him -- many of whom have almost 0 experience in the field of their positions. Yes, Trump gave stuff to people; no, that doesn't prove a conspiracy.
So what's the upshot? There are definitely some interesting and revealing allegations in Abramson's thread. However, it's far from conclusive, and should be looked at more as a template for other research than an authoritative document.
Wanna read more on this? Check these out: The Untold Story: Trump's 'Sleepy Eyes' Insult A Jewish Slur Of Nazi Origin (more); Who Is Evelyn Farkas? Did She Really Spy On Trump? (Watch What She Says) (more); What Could You Buy With The $1B Trump Wants To Spend On 48 Mile Wall? (more); Trump & Mayflower: How Donald Trump Connects to the Mayflower Hotel (more).
And here are some more related articles: Ellen DeGeneres Pokes Fun At President Donald Trump With Children's Books (more); Watch Unhinged Donald Trump Exchange Insults With German Reporters (more); Can Rachel Maddow Go To Jail For Publishing Trump's Taxes? Law Says It's Illegal (Sort Of) (more).
A few more: Finn Jones Blames Donald Trump For Lackluster Reception For Iron Fist (more); When Did Chris Matthews Become A Journalist? The Unexpected Heroes Of The Trump Era (more).
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Rudy Giuliani Working With Russia For Trump? Details On The Shocking Allegations - Empty Lighthouse Magazine

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Rudy Giuliani Working With Russia For Trump? Details On The Shocking Allegations
Empty Lighthouse Magazine
He asserts that the FBI New York basically suppressed that information, and Giuliani knew about it. Why would they do that? He claims that the NY office is filled with Trump allies. And instead of trying to figure out whether the emails were duplicates ...

Trump has deep ties to organized crime — federal investigators know it, and the public is catching up - Raw Story

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Raw Story

Trump has deep ties to organized crime — federal investigators know it, and the public is catching up
Raw Story
Also in February, Trump received a proposed peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, offered by his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and two Russians with organized crime convictions: Felix H.Sater, a business associate who once helped Trump scout deals in ...

and more »

US won't draw red line on Korean Peninsula nuclear issue - India.com

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US won't draw red line on Korean Peninsula nuclear issue
Washington, April 18 (IANS) The White House said on Monday that it does not expect US President Donald Trump to draw a red line on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the country will continue work with China to solve it. “Drawing red lines really ...

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Why Trump Is Going to Be Unable to Hide His Deep Connections to Organized Crime Figures from Investigators - AlterNet

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Why Trump Is Going to Be Unable to Hide His Deep Connections to Organized Crime Figures from Investigators
As President Trump discovers the prerogative of unilaterally making war, the media gaze has turned away from the ongoing FBI, House and Senate investigation of his Russia ties to the simpler dramas of cruise missiles, big bombs and tough but loose talk ...

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Trump Dismissed Intelligence Briefings Before He Was Sworn In. Now He Receives Them Regularly. - Daily Caller

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Trump Dismissed Intelligence Briefings Before He Was Sworn In. Now He Receives Them Regularly.
Daily Caller
Donald Trump caused commotion in the intelligence community shortly after he won the election when he dismissed the daily intelligence briefing as repetitive and confidently said he didn't need to receive the same information every day of his presidency.

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Page 13

A Georgia Lawyer Asks: Is There Such a Thing as “Trumpism”? - Southern Political Report

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Southern Political Report

A Georgia Lawyer Asks: Is There Such a Thing as “Trumpism”?
Southern Political Report
Trumpism is the new word that was introduced to the lexicon as a consequence of the political earthquake that struck the country last November. Interestingly, according to one writer in The Atlantic, “Trumpism existed long before Donald Trump ever ...

Trump still owes the American people tax return transparency - Charleston Post Courier

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Trump still owes the American people tax return transparency
Charleston Post Courier
“President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at the protesters who took part in marches across the country Saturday to demand that he release his tax returns, declaring on Twitter that 'The election is over!' “Trump's comments followed a nationwide Tax ...

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US to renegotiate South Korea trade pact

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American businesses ‘face too many barriers’, Mike Pence says during visit to Seoul

Everything Trump has said about releasing his tax returns - WDIV Detroit

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WDIV Detroit

Everything Trump has said about releasing his tax returns
WDIV Detroit
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - So far, President Trump has refused to release his tax returns while in office, breaking with a 40-year tradition. He has claimed that ongoing IRS audits prevent him from doing so, even though such audits wouldn't restrict anyone ...

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War Cries Drown Out 'America First' - Townhall

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War Cries Drown Out 'America First'
"Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?" tweeted President Donald Trump on Easter Sunday. Earlier, after discovering "great chemistry" with Chinese President Xi Jinping over "the most ...

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Thanks, but most Trump voters do not require liberal empathy - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Thanks, but most Trump voters do not require liberal empathy
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If nothing else, the condescending attitude of Ms. Cordell toward half the nation's voters helps to explain the unexpected and overwhelming electoral victory of Donald J. Trump. The liberals-in-the-bubble refuse to acknowledge and accept the fact that ...

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