Mueller Went Looking for a Conspiracy, What He Found Was Conflict and a Cover-Up — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast

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by Katie Zavadski and Heather Vogell

On Thursday, the “Trump, Inc.” team gathered with laptops, pizza and Post-its to disconnect — and to read special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

What we found was page after page of jaw-dropping details about the inner workings of the administration of President Donald Trump, meetings with foreign officials and plots to affect our elections. But we also found rich details on how Trump ran his business dealings in Russia, itself the subject of our recent episode on his Moscow business partners.

It backed up a lot of our earlier reporting: The deal with Andrey Rozov, a relatively unknown developer whose claim to international prominence was the purchase of a building in Manhattan’s garment district, did go further than agreements with other developers. The type of development they were hoping for would need signoff from Russia’s powers that be — namely, President Vladimir Putin — potentially putting Trump in the position of owing favors to a hostile foreign power. And the deal went on longer than the Trump campaign wanted the public to know, with the then-candidate rebuffing Michael Cohen’s concerns about the accuracy of his portrayal of his relationships with Russia.

Here are a few of our takeaways:

The deal was bigger…

The Mueller report puts the terms of Trump’s most infamous Trump Tower deal side by side with a failed prior deal with the family of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov. In doing so, it proposes an answer to why Trump chose to move forward with Rozov: he offered Trump a much better deal.

In fact, Cohen said the tower overall “was potentially a $1 billion deal.” Under the terms of the agreement, the Trump Organization would get an upfront fee, a share of sales and rental revenue, and an additional 20% of the operating profit. The deal offered by the well-known Agalarov developers, in contrast, would have brought in a flat 3.5%. We’d tried to reach Rozov to talk about the deal for our earlier reporting. He never responded.

For Trump, this agreement promised to be the deal of a lifetime.

There were more Russian contacts…

The report says Cohen and Felix Sater, a fixer who brought the Trump Organization together with the potential developer for the Moscow deal, both believed securing Putin’s endorsement was key. There was also plenty of outreach from Russians, many of them offering to make that very connection.

But even as the two were figuring out how to pitch the tower plan to Putin, at least three intermediaries who claimed to have connections to the Russian president were reaching out to Trump and his associates. They promised help with Trump’s business interests and his campaign, the report says.

One was Dmitry Klokov, whom Cohen looked up online and mistakenly identified as a former Olympic weightlifter. Klokov, in fact, worked for a government-owned electric company and was a former aide to Russia’s energy minister. He told Cohen he could facilitate a meeting with a “person of interest” — that is, Putin — and also offered help creating “synergy on a government level.” But Klokov’s overtures for talks on matters beyond mere business interests were rebuffed by Cohen.

The report also clarified that it was Sater who approached the Russian developer with the idea of a Trump Tower Moscow — and later brought his pitch to the Trump Organization. This sequence of events raises new questions about whether the tower deal, which Trump had wanted for decades, was part of multiple intelligence approaches by the Russian government to Trump and his advisers at the time.

One other figure in our previous Trump Moscow episode surfaced again in the Mueller report: Yevgeny Dvoskin, a Russian national with a U.S. criminal record and alleged ties to organized crime. Dvoskin is now a part-owner of Genbank, a small Russian bank sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury. He grew up in Brighton Beach at the same time as Sater, who, in 2016, called on Dvoskin to invite Trump and Cohen to Russia for an exploratory visit. To arrange the invitation, Dvoskin asked for copies of Cohen’s and Trump’s passports, which Cohen was happy to provide. The Mueller report says that Trump’s personal assistant even brought Trump’s passport to Cohen’s office, but that it is not clear whether it was ever passed on to Sater.

Sater declined to comment for the podcast. Genbank and Dvoskin did not respond to earlier requests for comment.

And there was more cover-up…

Mueller describes continued efforts to mislead investigators and the public about the Trump Moscow deal and associates’ contacts with Russian officials. Many of the details are gleaned from Cohen’s cooperation.

Cohen confronted Trump after he denied having business ties to Russia in July 2016 and pointed out that Trump Tower Moscow was still in play. “Trump told Cohen that Trump Tower Moscow was not a deal yet and said, ‘Why mention it if it is not a deal?’” according to the Mueller report.

To maintain Cohen’s loyalty during the investigation, multiple Trump staff members and friends told him the “boss” “loves you,” according to the Mueller report. “You are loved,” another associate told him in an email. Cohen also said the president’s lawyer told him he’d be protected as long as he didn’t go “rogue.”

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Stay up to date with email updates from WNYC and ProPublica about their ongoing investigations.

The report concludes that active negotiations in Moscow continued into the summer of 2016. Cohen told Mueller’s team that the project wasn’t officially dead until January 2017, when it was listed with other deals that needed to be “closed out” ahead of the inauguration.

After admitting to lying to Congress about when the Moscow deal fizzled, Cohen told Mueller about the “script,” or talking points he’d developed with Trump to downplay his ties to Russia. He also said he believed lawyers associated with his joint defense agreement — including attorneys for the president — edited out a key line about communications with Russia from his congressional testimony. The offending line: “The building project led me to make limited contacts with Russian government officials.”

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Sarah Sanders reiterates Comey claims despite admitting to lying

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Press secretary defended past statements she made in an interview on Friday that Mueller’s team said had ‘no basis in fact’

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, has defended claims she repeatedly made to reporters in 2017 regarding Donald Trump’s firing of then FBI director James Comey – despite admitting to investigators for the special counsel Robert Mueller that they had no basis in fact.

Sanders admitted in statements to the special counsel that her repeated claims that the president fired Comey because the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in him as FBI director were “a slip of the tongue” and “not founded on anything”, according to the redacted version of the Mueller report released on Thursday.

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The GOP Doesn’t Have a Line in the Sand | Dame Magazine

Whether this country can recover and restore itself to a functioning democracy is an open question, but the answer will be “no” without a drastic change in tactics by all of us, without a recognition of the challenges we face and the nature of the Trump/Republicans’ war on democratic values. For Trump is unraveling, becoming more unhinged and erratic, more despotic, almost by the day. He is in open cognitive decline. You don’t have to be a shrink or neuropsychologist to see it. Read the transcript of any of his recent speeches: He is incoherent, free-associating, and paranoid, as he warns that his live TV appearance will be “leaked.” He mixes up words, can barely utter a complete sentence. (Don’t mock his confusion of “oranges” for “origins.”  It’s a function of dementia, not stupidity.) That cognitive decline would be scary and destabilizing enough on its own, but married to the character traits of a sociopath, it is even more dangerous. The rage and lack of capacity, the flailing, the insults, the paranoia and conspiracies, the self-aggrandizement, the raw hatred, the lies, the attacks on others, the rejection of facts, the assaults on the most basic of democratic institutions,

Source: The GOP Doesn’t Have a Line in the Sand | Dame Magazine

Man Arrested For Threatening to Kill Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Other Democrats

A Florida man was arrested today after allegedly leaving threatening voice messages for Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Congressman Eric Swalwell, and Senator Cory Booker. In a message to Tlaib, 49-year-old John Kless reportedly called the congresswoman a “Taliban bitch” and threatened to throw Omar off the Empire State Building. In his messsage to Booker, Kless repeatedly called him the n-word; to Swalwell, he promised he would be on his “death bed” along with other Democrats. Kless also took the time to voice support for President Trump. Shocker. [Miami New Times]

Source: Man Arrested For Threatening to Kill Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Other Democrats

Jeremy Hunt raises plight of Christians in Easter message

New Brit Brownshirt arising!

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Foreign secretary also defends austerity as Tory leadership race heats up

Jeremy Hunt has raised the plight of persecuted Christians around the world in an Easter message, after launching a trenchant defence of the Conservatives’ economic record following criticism from Jeremy Corbyn.

The foreign secretary, who is expected to be in the running to succeed Theresa May as Tory leader, has written 40 letters to Christian individuals and faith groups to mark the end of Lent.

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Jerusalem orders kindergartens not to let ‘minorities’ visit

The municipality’s security department sends instructions to kindergartens in the city ordering that foreigners and ‘minorities,’ a euphemism for Arabs, not be allowed onto their grounds. Anti-racism group demands the city retract the orders.

Illustrative photo of Israeli children preparing for the first day of kindergarten in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli children preparing for the first day of kindergarten in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public kindergartens in Jerusalem were ordered by the city’s Emergency and Security Division not to allow “foreigners” and “minorities” into educational facilities in a document laying out security instructions distributed to kindergartens recently.

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Under a section titled “Entry of Visitors,” the document reads: “Do not allow the entry of foreigners into the kindergarten grounds — as a rule entry is not permitted for minorities, in any such case you must notify the area security officer.”

Minorities is a semi-official and universally understood euphemism for Arabs in its Hebrew usage in Israel.

The Racism Crisis Center, a project of the Coalition Against Racism and the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, sent a letter to the Jerusalem Municipality last week arguing that the instructions were illegal and demanding that they be changed.

According to Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv, which first reported the story, the Jerusalem Municipality responded that “security protocols for educational institutions are determined by the Israel Police and the Education Ministry.”

The security instructions sent out by the Jerusalem Municipality to kindergartens in the city.

The security instructions sent out by the Jerusalem Municipality to kindergartens in the city.

The municipality told Ma’ariv that it would fix the wording of the document. Its response did not indicate whether changing the wording would alter the instructions regarding discrimination based on nationality or ethnicity.

“Minorities, even if they are citizens and residents of the state, are [considered] dangerous foreigners by default,” wrote member of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman of the Jewish-Arab Hadash party.

“The municipality said it would correct the instructions — but what else should we expect if the racist [Bezalel] Smotrich heads the Education Ministry?” Touma-Sliman wrote on Twitter.

Smotrich, an openly homophobic member of Knesset who has in the past advocated segregation, and whose parliamentary slate includes former followers of the outlawed terrorist group once led by Meir Kahane, has said that he will demand the education portfolio in the next government.

Open segregation — both official and unofficial — exists in myriad ways and places in Israel, from maternity wards to amusement parks, buses, hotels, public pools, roads, and housing.

Last year, Israel passed a constitutional measure that gives precedence to Jewish national rights in Israel without guaranteeing full equality for all non-Jewish citizens. It is believed that the legislation will be used in order to justify and uphold inherently racist and discriminatory policies and laws should they be challenged in the country’s Supreme Court.

In addition to the state-sanctioned racism and discrimination inside Israel, in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, there is an entirely different set of laws for Jewish Israelis and Palestinian non-citizen subjects. Those sets of laws and legal systems come with wildly different sets of rights, leading to increasingly common charges of an apartheid system.

The post Jerusalem orders kindergartens not to let ‘minorities’ visit appeared first on +972 Magazine.

‘This is the End of My Presidency. I’m F**ked!’ | La Prensa San Diego

Only in Trump World can someone claim victory in an investigation that concluded he tried to obstruct justice in various ways, his campaign openly welcomed the help of a foreign government to win the election, and he purposely misled the public as to his direct involvement in covering up their interactions with Russians. The report also details Trump’s reaction when he heard that a special counsel had been appointed. The report quoted then-Attorney General Jeff Session’s Chief of Staff, Jody Hunt, who took notes of the meeting. When Trump was informed by Sessions that Robert Mueller had been appointed as Special Counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign, Trump slumped back in his chair. “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” Does this sound like the words of an innocent person?

Source: ‘This is the End of My Presidency. I’m F**ked!’ | La Prensa San Diego

Lessons from History on US Border Policy

Central American migrants traveling in a group make their way to Pijijiapan, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. 

© 2018 AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

The Exodus story, which Jews will be celebrating this week with the Passover holiday, starts with the “hardened heart” of Pharaoh, who refuses to allow the Hebrew slaves to leave. Tyrants’ refusals to allow oppressed people to flee is a theme of history that continued into the Cold War era of the late 20th century and beyond. The cry of “Let my people go,” has resonated universally as a clarion call for freedom. 

President Trump’s decision to cut foreign assistance to the “northern triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras because they “were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.,” addresses this issue once again. His position demonstrates a myopic failure to see that the foreign assistance is intended precisely to alleviate the conditions of poverty, poor governance, and disrespect for human rights that cause displacement. It also ignores  a fundamental human right that has been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Rights and binding human rights treaties:  the right to leave.

Throughout history and around the world, the right to leave has been the last resort and the last hope of people facing suffering, violence and persecution. As articulated under the core human rights treaty on civil and political rights that the US itself has ratified, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own.”

“Are they willing to stop people from leaving the country?” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked of the Northern Triangle governments in an interview with Fox Business News. “We have not yet seen enough demonstration of their commitment for actually preventing these folks from crossing into Mexico.” Now, the State Department says that it is reviewing current funding to the three Northern Triangle countries and “planning to redirect” 2018 funding, “potentially up to $450 million,” to other priorities.

Can one imagine the reaction if the US president and his secretary of state had called on North Korea, China, or Russia to stop their nationals from leaving?  Or if anyone had the temerity to tell the United States not to let its citizens go?

In fact, the United States, perhaps more than any other country, has championed the right to leave. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy famously stood near the Berlin Wall and declared, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.”

Nearly a quarter century later, President Ronald Reagan standing near the same spot, called on the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to let East Germans go: “Come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” For President Trump, keeping Central Americans out of the US or keeping them in their own countries is all the same; If he could get away with building his wall on Mexico’s narrow southern border, he probably would. 

It is true that there is an asymmetry between the right to leave and the absence of a right of entry. But the right to seek asylum represents a human rights exception to the right of sovereign states to control their borders. It is appropriate for Americans to debate how best to respond to people seeking asylum at the US border. But for the US president and secretary of state to tell other countries to stop their citizens from leaving is completely out of bounds and demonstrates utter disregard for the human right of last resort. 

Colombia’s Minga Protests Demand Justice, but President Duque Isn’t Listening

Since March 10, Indigenous communities, leaders, and organizations in southwest Colombia have gathered in the Sat Tama Kiwe ancestral territory in an elevated stretch of the Pan-American Highway that connects the cities of Popayán and Cali. About 15,000 people have showed up for a Minga in Defense of Life, Territory, Democracy, Justice, and Peace. Minga […]

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