WASHINGTON — For 43 years, John Raines, a Temple University religion professor and ordained Methodist minister, lived with an explosive secret. On March 8, 1971, he and his wife, Bonnie Raines, then the parents of three young children, had joined six other conspirators in burglarizing an FBI office in suburban Philadelphia.
The cache of documents they stole revealed a sweeping campaign of intimidation by the FBI, then led by J. Edgar Hoover, against civil rights and antiwar activists, communists, and other dissenters. One now-infamous document told agents to ramp up interviews with perceived subversives ‘‘to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.’’
Calling themselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, the burglars anonymously distributed the stolen documents to newspapers including the Washington Post. On March 24, 1971, over the objections of Attorney General John Mitchell, the Post became the first publication to report on the FBI surveillance. Other news accounts followed, along with public outrage, and eventually the formation of a committee led by US Senator Frank Church, an Idaho Democrat, that uncovered widespread abuses in the US intelligence agencies.
Hundreds of FBI agents investigated the break-in but failed to identify the burglars, who, if apprehended, would have faced years in prison. Only years after the fact — long after the statute of limitations had expired — did Dr. Raines revealed his identity to Betty Medsger, the Post journalist who had broken the news of the stolen documents.
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In 2014, Medsger published a book-length account of the story, ‘‘The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.’’ In an interview, she described the actions of Dr. Raines and his wife as ‘‘one of the most powerful acts of resistance in the history of the country.’’
Her account helped make Dr. Raines, by then in the final years of his life, a hero to civil libertarians. He died Nov. 12 at his home in Philadelphia at 84. The cause was congestive heart failure, according to his wife.
Dr. Raines credited his wife with drawing him into their activism. ‘‘I was dragged along by her enthusiasm,’’ he once told the Los Angeles Times — an account she seemed to confirm, quipping that ‘‘he had more sleepless nights’’ than she did. But Dr. Raines also had a long history of civil rights work.
He had participated in the Freedom Rides to challenge segregation in interstate transit and marched in Selma, Ala., in 1965, when state troopers assaulted protesters with clubs and tear gas. He was angered by Hoover’s antagonism to the movement, and to the untouchable status the FBI director maintained.
‘‘Nobody in Washington was going to hold him accountable,’’ Dr. Raines told NPR in 2014. ‘‘It was his FBI, nobody else’s.’’
With his wife, Dr. Raines had broken into draft board offices to disrupt the Vietnam War draft. But no act of civil disobedience was as daring as the break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pa.
The Raineses were recruited by a Haverford College physics professor, William Davidon, who knew of their protest activities. ‘‘After the chin came off the floor and we started talking about it, it seemed more and more plausible,’’ Dr. Raines recalled.
The conspirators plotted the break-in from the Raineses’ attic. Bonnie Raines, who ran a day care, managed to gain entry and survey the FBI office in advance by posing as a college student seeking information about employment opportunities. In the event of their arrest and imprisonment, the couple arranged for Dr. Raines’s brother to care for their children.
The group scheduled the break-in to coincide with a boxing match in which Joe Frazier would defeat Muhammad Ali — astutely predicting that the momentous sporting event would distract neighbors of the FBI office as well as police. Without much trouble, they used a crowbar to break in, then carried out more than 1,000 files in suitcases. Dr. Raines drove the getaway car to a Quaker farm, where they donned gloves and began combing through the documents.
‘‘Within an hour, we knew we hit the jackpot,’’ Raines recalled.
The documents contained early evidence of COINTELPRO, short for Counterintelligence Program, which, the FBI later acknowledged, was ‘‘rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging First Amendment rights.’’
Among other revelations, the materials showed that the FBI had systematically surveilled and harassed African-Americans, particularly civil rights activists.
A major crackdown led to the arrest of more than 200 alleged members and associates of the international street gang, MS-13, officials announced Wednesday.
“Today I am pleased to announce the arrest of 267 MS-13 gang members and associates in conjunction of ICE’s most recent targeted anti-gang effort known as ‘Operation Raging Bull,’” Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said, NBC News reports.
The Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13, began in the 1980s in Los Angeles. Since then, the FBI said its spread to 46 states, according to the BBC. Its members—which Trump has referred to as “animals”—have also spread to Canada, Mexico, and Central America.
Suspected members of the gang MS-13 remain handcuffed under custody at Isidro Menendez Justice Court in San Salvador, on September 12, 2017. Security forces in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala on Monday and Tuesday arrested more than 1,000 suspected gang members and seized 35 properties, after discovering the gangs were using small businesses they extorted to also launder money. Marvin Reckons/AFP/Getty Images
Trump–who hopes to “destroy” the violent gang–came one step closer, as authorities announced the conclusion of the second phase of “Operation Raging Bull.” The first part of the operation involved an 18-month investigation, which led to the arrest of 53 individuals in El Salvador.
The second phase was conducted across the United States from Oct. 8 to Nov. 11. It resulted in 214 arrests—including 16 U.S. citizens and 198 foreign nationals— with alleged MS-13 ties, Reutersreports. Among the foreign nationals, 5 were legal residents. Criminal charges against them include murder, aggravated robbery, racketeering, narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses and assault, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted about the federal crackdown: “Together, we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities, and we’re going to destroy the vile criminal cartel, #MS13, and many other gangs…” he wrote, accompanied by a link to an article, as well as, a news conference video clip.
A few weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed the MS-13 a priority for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).
“Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus. I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13—not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws,” Sessions said to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Philadelphia on Oct. 23.
Despite the hundreds of arrests, there’s still more work to be done.
“This is a great operation, but we are not done,” Homan said, NBC News reports. “And we will not be done until we totally dismantle this organization. The President of the United States has made this a priority and ICE joins him in this.”
Fake news tweets and social media posts that flooded the internet leading up to the 2016 presidential election came from a Russian troll factory that works around the clock like any IT facility—except lies were pumping out to control the American mind and put Donald Trump in the White House.
The Internet Research Agency, which works on behalf of Russia inside a guarded, concrete building in St. Petersburg, has day and night shifts and hundreds of former journalists and bloggers creating thousands of posts with false and controversial information to reach certain quotas.
It was “a merry-go-round of lies,” Vitaly Bespalov, 26, who worked at the agency, told NBC News. “When you get on the carousel, you do not know who is behind you and neither you are aware of who is in front of you—but all of you are running around within the same circle.”
Early this month, Twitter testified before Congress and provided the Senate Intelligence Committee with more than 2,700 accounts tied to the agency, while Facebook identified more than 80,000 pieces of content linked to the agency. Meanwhile, Google found about $4,700 worth of search-and-display ads with dubious Russian ties.
The U.S. intelligence community has said that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin with ties to the country’s intelligence is likely financing the agency.
Bespalov, who was tasked primarily with discrediting Ukraine, said he believes the agency is linked to the Kremlin.
In his role, Bespalov said he was told to create fake social media accounts and that those of girls got more views.
“We would put name, surname, city … any photo of an attractive girl that I would have managed to find on the internet and then links … all sorts of links,” he said. “Then the girls would get blocked eventually and you would start afresh.”
Some of the agency’s fake accounts pushing pro-Russia sentiment became pro-Trump as early as December 2015, according to the U.S. intelligence community. Trump went on to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Trolls were grouped by tasks—such as blogging, commenting on posts and publishing content on social media—and separated accordingly across the floors, and had no contact with each other. Employees in the department targeting the U.S. earned between $1,300 and $2,000 per month, more than entry-level trolls who received about $1,000 per month plus bonuses.
“These troll farms can produce such a volume of content with hashtags and topics that it distorts what is normal organic conversation,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told NBC News.
Twitter users in swing states in the U.S. received more fake news than real stories in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election, and the misinformation helped Trump win become president, according to an Oxford University study.
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Kushner received emails from Sergei Millian — an alleged dossier source who was in touch with George Papadopoulos
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Roberts: Have I got a bridge in Brooklyn just for you!
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Even worse, his attempts at denial are profoundly un-American, rejecting the consensus view of his own intelligence agencies while swallowing the disinformation spread by the Russian ruler, a tyrant who has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for …and more »
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“Dear Donald: If you really believe me, if you think us Russians didn’t try to tilt the election in your favor, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. It’s in Brooklyn. Yours faithfully, Vlad.”
That note could well have been waiting for President Trump as he returned from his lengthy trip to Asia, where he continued to pursue his deranged and dangerous attempts to deny Russian involvement in last year’s election. His statements reveal a man deeply committed to a post-truth world — a place where facts and fact-finders don’t matter, and he alone, the Twitter King, gets to define reality.
Even worse, his attempts at denial are profoundly un-American, rejecting the consensus view of his own intelligence agencies while swallowing the disinformation spread by the Russian ruler, a tyrant who has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for democratic values and exceeds even Trump in assaulting his media and political critics.
Putin lies. Trump believes. And the world laughs. On what planet does this Make America Great Again?
As Sen. John McCain said: “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. … Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.”
Last January, America’s intelligence agencies issued a joint report concluding that Moscow had tried to influence the U.S. election. Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to probe those influences more deeply.
“The president was given clear and indisputable evidence” of Russia’s role, says James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, and yet Trump continues to reject that evidence, fearing it could undermine the legitimacy of his election. He fired FBI director James Comey in a failed attempt to sidetrack ongoing investigations, and during his Asia trip, returned yet again to a topic that clearly burns him to the core.
That “clear and indisputable evidence” is really an “artificial Democratic hit job,” he told reporters, adding that the intelligence chiefs who produced the report are “political hacks.” His critics are all “haters and fools” who don’t understand the importance of refurbishing relations with Russia. Putin vehemently denies any knowledge of election meddling, and Trump believes his denials.
The reaction was so negative that Trump backtracked slightly, saying he accepted the findings of the intelligence agencies, but he clearly doesn’t. His ego is so huge and so fragile that he denies any fact that contradicts his worldview.
Putin knows and exploits this character flaw. The former KGB officer is a “trained liar and manipulator,” said former deputy CIA director Michael Morell to the Washington Post, and Trump is swallowing his propaganda “hook, line and sinker.”
Trump knows Putin helped him and is grateful for the boost in defeating “crooked Hillary.” But because Putin denies the help, and Trump gratefully accepts the denial — bolstering the argument he won on his own — the president is even further in Putin’s debt. A brilliant KGB double play. And that’s what has intelligence experts so worried.
“I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump’s interest in being flattered,” former CIA director John Brennan told CNN. “And I also think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations.”
The president’s refusal to confront Putin, while eagerly embracing the Russian leader’s lies, “demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint,” says Brennan.
In Trump’s view, the “artificial Democratic hit job” is hindering his ability to forge a new relationship with Russia and solve a range of problems, including North Korea’s nuclear threat. “It’s a shame because people will die because of it,” he complained.
And normally, improving relationships with Moscow would certainly advance America’s interests. But these are not normal times. Putin has proven, over and over again, from Ukraine to Syria, that he is no friend to America or to democratic values.
“I don’t know why the ambiguity about this,” said Brennan. “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is, I think is astounding, and in fact, poses a peril to this country.”
So Donald, about that bridge …
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
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Lawmakers asked Jared Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27. | Thomas Peter/Getty Images
By KYLE CHENEY
Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about WikiLeaks and about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” and forwarded them to another campaign official, according to a letter to his attorney from the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Kushner failed to turn over the relevant documents when they asked for them last month.
Story Continued Below
“We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,” the pair wrote in a letter dated Thursday to Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.
Lowell said in a statement that he and Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, had been responsive to the requests.
“We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner’s calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request,” Lowell said, adding that he and Kushner had also told the committee they would be open to additional requests for information.
In a section of the letter titled “Missing documents,” Grassley and Feinstein said Kushner had handed over some materials but omitted communications that mentioned some of the people connected to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“If, as you suggest, Mr. Kushner was unaware of, for example, any attempts at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, then presumably there would be few communications concerning many of the persons identified,” the lawmakers wrote.
Grassley and Feinstein also alluded to documents they received from other witnesses on which Kushner was copied.
“Other parties have produced September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr. Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official,” they wrote. “Such documents should have been produced…but were not.
“Likewise,” the letter continued, “other parties have produced documents concerning a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ which Mr. Kushner also forwarded. And still others have produced communications with Sergei Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner. Again, these do not appear in Mr. Kushner’s production despite being responsive to the second request. You also have not produced any phone records that we presume exist and would relate to Mr. Kushner’s communications regarding several requests.”
They asked Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27.
According to the lawmakers, Kushner’s attorney suggested providing some documents might “implicate the president’s Executive Privilege.” In their letter, they asked Lowell to resolve those issues and produce the documents or create a “privilege log” to detail over which documents the president is asserting executive privilege.
Grassley and Feinstein also said Kushner declined to produce documents connected to his security clearance application, citing their confidentiality. The lawmakers said they intend to take Lowell up on a separate request to visit his office to review the documents in person, but they said the committee would not waive its request to obtain its own copies.
The committee is also seeking another broad group of documents about Kushner’s contacts with former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Grassley and Feinstein said they’d like all communications between Kushner and Flynn since Election Day 2016, as well as any communications that reference email hacking, Russia, the Magnitsky Act and other people or entities that have been implicated in the Russian interference scheme.
The lawmakers said they have yet to receive access to Kushner’s lengthy interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee and are seeking a copy of it from Lowell to determine “whether the transcript satisfies the needs of our investigation.”
Russia blocked the extension of the U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Washington Post reported. Russia’s representative to the Security Council vetoed a resolution that the U.S. introduced to prolong the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the U.N. probe created to find the responsible parties for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia had criticized the JIM’s latest report for blaming the Syrian government for the April sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. The investigation’s term expired on Thursday.
China reiterated its position that the U.S. and South Korea should stop conducting joint military exercises in exchange for a freeze in North Korean nuclear testing, the Post reported. The White House said President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to disagree about the proposed approach. Earlier this week, Trump said Xi had told him the freeze-for-freeze proposal would not work. In response, China insisted it still supported the proposal. Separately, North Korea’s envoy to the U.N. said it would not begin negotiations about its nuclear program unless the U.S. and South Korea end their military exercises, according to Reuters. He also said he expected the U.S. to impose more sanctions in the coming months.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump campaign to obtain Russia-related documents from several top officials, the Wall Street Journal reported. Despite the Trump campaign’s insistence that it is cooperating with the special counsel inquiry, in mid-October Mueller’s team issued an order requesting documents from at least a dozen senior campaign aides for documents and emails containing Russia-related keywords. Separately, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about Wikileaks and about a Russian “overture,” Politico reported. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein requested the emails in a letter they sent to Kushner’s attorney on Thursday.
George Papadopoulos bragged to Greek journalists last year about a phone call with Donald Trump relating to his role in the Trump campaign, Politico reported. The claims would contradict assertions from senior Trump campaign leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Papadopoulos was not an important part of the campaign. Papadopoulos also told journalists in Greece that he was authorized to represent the campaign to foreign leaders.
Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s former ambassador to the United States, said he could not name all the Trump campaign officials he has met or spoken with, CNBC reported. In an interview with a Russian news channel, Kislyak said naming all Trump officials he had interactions with would take over twenty minutes. Kisylak’s undisclosed meeting with Jeff Sessions prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation last March.
A suicide bombing in Kabul killed twelve people in a blast near a meeting for one of the country’s leading political parties, the Post reported. The Islamic State issued an unsubstantiated claim of responsibility for the bombing while the Taliban denied involvement.
Saad Hariri, the recently-resigned former Lebanese prime minister, accepted an invitation to make an official visit to France, the Post reported. After meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Riyadh, Hariri said he would visit Paris “soon.” Lebanon’s president has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. On Wednesday, Hariri said he would return to Lebanon within two days, a deadline that has now expired. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, emphasized that the French invitation was not an offer of political exile.
The Pentagon is developing plans for a ballistic missile that would violate the terms of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Journal reported. U.S. officials said the proposed design is not intended for production but rather to showcase to Russia how the U.S. would respond if Russia continues to violate the INF Treaty. Top Defense Department officials have said that the Russian-deployed cruise missile is in breach of the treaty’s terms. For its part, Russia says U.S. missile defense systems in Europe are in violation of the agreement.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the leading opposition party, consolidating power for Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the Journal. The Prime Minister’s government had sued the Cambodian National Rescue Party after accusing its leader of treason in connection with an alleged plot for a U.S.-backed coup. The Supreme Court’s action makes Cambodia a one-party state; the high court’s judges are widely viewed as allies of the prime minister, says the Journal. A European Union spokesperson said the move made Cambodia’s upcoming election process illegitimate.
A Human Rights Watch report said Myanmar’s military systematically raped Rohingya Muslim women and girls, the New York Times reported. The report, based on interviews with 52 Rohingya women and girls, said uniformed military personnel raped hundreds of people before and during attacks on Rohingya villages. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently called on Myanmar to investigate reports of atrocities committed by its security forces. A Times report from last month details, with graphic images and witness accounts, the atrocities that the military has perpetrated against the Rohingya. The U.N. has called the atrocities ethnic cleansing.
The Senate passed the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, according to Reuters. The $700 billion defense spending bill will now go to the White House for the president’s signature or veto. Trump is expected to sign the bill.
Russia’s justice ministry warned U.S. media outlets they might have to register as foreign agents under the terms of a bill that will soon go to the upper house of Russia’s parliament, the BBC reported. The ministry warned outlets associated with Voice of America and Radio Free Europe that they could face restrictions on their operations if they fail to register under and abide by new regulations. The proposed law is in retaliation for the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Russia-backed RT and Sputnik.
The State Department said the U.S. would consider removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, according to the Times. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Sudan’s removal from the list was conditional on it making further progress in cooperation with the U.S. against terrorism and on human rights issues.
The New York Times Magazine’s Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal wrote about the uncounted civilian toll of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Karen Young argued that the Saudi anti-corruption purge has overshadowed the slow progress in Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda.
Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, covering among other issues, an en banc FISC decision and the NDAA.
Daniel Byman, Sarah Tate Chambers, Zann Isacson and Chris Mirasole set the stage for their upcoming series on regulating terrorist content on the Internet.
Benjamin Wittes shared the “DMs on the DL” edition of Rational Security.
Jimmy Chalk updated Water Wars, covering Trump’s Asia trip.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices
We have now entered the second phase of the Russia probe. In the first, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, starting from scratch, gathered sufficient evidence to file felony charges against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.
Phase 1 has given Mueller leverage against higher-level targets, who must be wondering how much the special counsel already knows, and how much he’s about to learn. Careful work may, eventually, enable him to secure evidence against the greatest target of them all: the president. In this second round, Mueller is holding all the cards and has the latitude to play them when and as he chooses.
The initial charges sent a message to the White House and former Trump campaign officials, who had tried to whistle their way past the graveyard, portraying the probe as lacking in substance and likely to be short-lived. The Oct. 30 flurry demonstrated that 1) people will be going to jail for a long time and 2) the probe is unlikely to stop short of the Oval Office. No more talk of fake news.
The sophisticated charges against Manafort and Gates, in particular, also revealed to veteran observers the meticulous professionalism and industry of Mueller’s squad, which is among the most formidable prosecutorial teams ever assembled. Further bad news for Team Trump.
From the public reports of potential criminal activity, it looks as though Mueller has set his immediate sights on no fewer than nine characters in Trump’s orbit: Michael Flynn (father), Michael Flynn (son), Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Stephen Miller, Keith Schiller and Sam Clovis. And of course there are possible wild cards that have not come into general public view. (No one anticipated the Papadopoulos indictment.)
Which of these men will next be charged? That depends not only on ease of proof, but also who can be used to induce cooperation among other campaign and administration insiders. My guess is that the Flynns are next on the chopping block.
It is a safe bet, moreover, that already discussions are taking place between Mueller’s team and multiple defense attorneys over terms of possible cooperation.
For these targets, Mueller can credibly warn that if they don’t talk first, others will, and their opportunity to receive a sharply reduced sentence will disappear. They are in effect playing an excruciating game of musical chairs in which the last defendants standing will be stuck with nothing but mammoth legal fees and lifelong disrepute.
Consider, for example, Manafort’s position should Mueller next bring charges against Flynn. He and Flynn have overlapping information. Now the two are locked in something like a classic prisoner’s dilemma: If one of them agrees to cooperate, it could sharply reduce the value, and thus the reward, for cooperation by the other. That means Manafort needs to make a decision promptly about whether to talk. And he has to do so knowing that his prospects for an acquittal are slim.
The charges against Flynn, should Mueller bring them, will likely be extensive, including false statements, conspiracy, money laundering and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, all growing out of his illicit and highly profitable dealings with the Turkish government.
Flynn the elder is effectively ruined at this point. He has no professional prospects and the only upside for him would be to stay out of jail. Not so for Flynn the younger, who reputation is not yet fully tarnished. A conviction would be devastating. If Mueller charges the son, that will put immense pressure on the father — a controversial and arguably mean-spirited maneuver, but one that’s absolutely in the playbook. The most recent prominent example was the decision to charge the wife of Andrew Fastow in the Enron investigation. The man behind that decision, by the way, was Andrew Weissman, Mueller’s No. 2.
A similar dynamic arises with Donald Trump Jr., whose stumblebum flirtations with WikiLeaks and with Russian figures he believed could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton could give rise to a series of criminal charges. True, Trump Sr. appears to be hermetically self-centered, but he is in his 70s and facing, at best, a failing presidency. What will he do if he knows that his son and namesake could go to prison, forever soiling the Trump brand?
There will be future rounds of the probe in which Mueller’s path will be less smooth. In particular, his team will one day face in the courts a battery of legal and evidentiary arguments crafted by some of the country’s most sophisticated (and expensive) defense lawyers. But for now, Mueller rules.
Harry Litman, a former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, teaches at UCLA Law School and practices law at Constantine Cannon.
Los Angeles Times
The Russia probe has entered Phase 2
Los Angeles Times
From the public reports of potential criminal activity, it looks as though Mueller has set his immediate sights on no fewer than nine characters in Trump’s orbit: Michael Flynn (father), Michael Flynn (son), Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page …
Mueller Investigation Into Trump – Russia Collusion Is ‘Fair’ According To VotersThe Inquisitrall 60 news articles »
PANAMA CITY/TORONTO – In the spring of 2007, a succession of foreigners, many from Russia, arrived at Panama City airport to be greeted by a chauffeur who whisked them off in a white Cadillac with a Donald Trump logo on the side.
The limousine belonged to a business run by a Brazilian former car salesman named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who was offering the visitors a chance to invest in Trump’s latest project – a 70-floor tower called the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower. It was the future U.S. president’s first international hotel venture, a complex including residential apartments and a casino in a waterfront building shaped like a sail.
“Mr Nogueira was an outgoing and lively young man,” remembered Justine Pasek, who was crowned Miss Universe by Donald Trump in 2002 and was acting in 2007 as a spokesperson for Nogueira’s company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services. “Everybody was so impressed with Homes as they seemed to be riding the top of the real estate boom at the time,” she said.
One of those Nogueira set out to impress was Ivanka, Trump’s daughter. In an interview with Reuters, Nogueira said he met and spoke with Ivanka “many times” when she was handling the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Panama development. “She would remember me,” he said.
Ivanka was so taken with his sales skills, Nogueira said, that she helped him become a leading broker for the development and he appeared in a video with her promoting the project.
A Reuters investigation into the financing of the Trump Ocean Club, in conjunction with the American broadcaster NBC News, found Nogueira was responsible for between one-third and one-half of advance sales for the project. It also found he did business with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering and is now in detention in the United States; a Russian investor in the Trump project who was jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnap and threats to kill; and a Ukrainian investor who was arrested for alleged people-smuggling while working with Nogueira and later convicted by a Kiev court.
Three years after getting involved in the Trump Ocean Club, Nogueira was arrested by Panamanian authorities on charges of fraud and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project. Released on $1.4 million bail, he later fled the country.
He left behind a trail of people who claim he cheated them, including over apartments in the Trump project, resulting in at least four criminal cases that eight years later have still to be judged.
Nogueira, 43, denies the charges and told Reuters in an email: “I am no Angel but not Devil either.”
Ivanka Trump declined to comment on her dealings with Nogueira. A White House spokesman referred questions to the Trump Organization. Alan Garten, the organization’s chief legal officer, said: “No one at the Trump Organization, including the Trump family, has any recollection of ever meeting or speaking with this individual.”
Trump put his name to the development and stood to make up to $75 million from it, according to a bond prospectus for the project. He did not exert management control over the construction and was under no direct legal obligation to conduct due diligence on other people involved.
“I am no Angel but not Devil either.”
Still, some legal experts say the episode raises questions about the steps Trump took to check the source of any income from there. Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, said that since Panama was “perceived to be highly corrupt,” anyone engaged in business there should conduct due diligence on others involved in their ventures. If they did not, he said, there was a potential risk in U.S. law of being liable for turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.
Jimmy Gurule, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and a former under-secretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, agreed. He also said any businessman should avoid working with “anyone with a potential link to criminality” simply as a matter of good ethics.
Reuters could not determine what due diligence Trump carried out in relation to the Ocean Club project.
The White House referred Reuters questions about the Ocean Club development to the Trump Organization. Garten said the Trump Organization’s role in the project “was at all times limited to licensing its brand and providing management services. As the company was not the owner or developer, it had no involvement in the sale of any units at the property.”
He said the Trump Organization “never had any contractual relationship or significant dealings” with Nogueira.
Nine former business partners or employees of Nogueira interviewed by Reuters accused him of cheating them and his clients. Two of the nine have taken legal action against Nogueira. The cases have yet to be judged.
When first approached by Reuters, Nogueira declined to answer questions. Writing on October 4, he said in an email: “Anything I would say could also damage a lot of important and powerful people. I am not sure I should do that.”
Later, Nogueira agreed to meet. In a lengthy interview, he described his contacts with the Trump family and his role in the Ocean Club project. He said he only learned after the Ocean Club project was almost complete that some of his partners and investors in the Trump project were criminals, including some with what he described as connections to the “Russian mafia.” He said he had not knowingly laundered any illicit money through the Trump project, although he did say he had laundered cash later in other schemes for corrupt Panamanian officials.
It was not his job to check the source of money that investors used to buy units in the Trump Ocean Club, Nogueira said. “I didn’t know the money was coming from anything illegal. As long as they were doing wire transfers and not cash, I wasn’t worried about the source of it.”
Nogueira said that no one asked him about the source of funds. “Nobody ever asked me. The banks didn’t ask. The developers didn’t ask. The Trump Organization didn’t ask me. Nobody asked me: ‘Who are the customers? Where did the money come from?’”
It is unclear how much, if any, laundered money went into the Trump project.
Global Witness, an anti-corruption watchdog, says in an independently-produced report out today, that Panama in the 2000s presented particular challenges for property developers because of its then reputation for corruption.
The ultimate sources of cash for other Trump real estate projects where Trump has licensed his name have drawn scrutiny this year. In March, a Reuters review found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses had bought $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.
The buyers included politically-connected businessmen and people from the second and third tiers of Russian power. Responding to that story, Garten, the Trump Organization’s counsel, said the scrutiny of Trump’s business ties with Russia was misplaced and that the story was “overblown.”
Donald Trump’s involvement in the Ocean Club began in 2005, when local developer Roger Khafif travelled to Trump Tower in New York to pitch the idea of a Trump project in Panama. Khafif said he told the American tycoon that Trump would need only to license his name and provide hotel management. This way of doing business freed Trump from the burden of taking a stake or making a personal guarantee.
In an interview with Reuters, Khafif recalled that Trump wanted to use the Panama project as a “baby” for his daughter Ivanka, who had just joined the Trump Organization, to gain experience in the property business.
The plan was for Newland International Properties Corp, where Khafif was president and which owned the development, to finance construction with a bond underwritten by Bear Stearns, the U.S. investment bank. The bank, which collapsed in 2008, was acquired by JPMorgan, which declined to comment.
To sell the bond, the developer needed to prove it could sell the apartments. This was where Nogueira came in. The Brazilian had arrived in Panama in the mid-2000s from Spain, where he had worked as a car salesman.
He had already had a brush with the law. In September 2005, in an official notice posted on the internet, the Spanish economy ministry said it had opened proceedings to fine Nogueira for an alleged “serious violation” of the country’s money-laundering laws. The proceedings were terminated about nine months later after officials could not determine Nogueira’s whereabouts. The ministry declined to comment. Nogueira said it was a trivial incident, caused by him taking too much of his own cash through an airport.
Once in Panama, Nogueira became renowned for his friendships with politicians, his love of Aston Martin sports cars and expensive watches and, as one former associate recalled, for “never wearing the same shoes – no matter how expensive – for more than three months.”
He said he first got involved with the Trump Ocean Club project at an early sales meeting in 2006 in Panama arranged by Khafif, whom he knew already. Ivanka Trump and other real estate brokers were there, he said. He remembered listening as a minimum price of $120,000 for condominiums was discussed.
Nogueira said he stood up and said the price was at the level charged in ordinary developments. “Here, it is Trump selling. You have to give a value to that name. Make it $220,000!”
He said Ivanka replied: “Can you sell it?”
Nogueira said he asked for a week to prove himself. And within a week he managed to collect deposits on over 100 apartments, and after that Khafif made him a leading broker, working on a 5 percent commission of gross sales, he said.
Asked about Nogueira’s account of this meeting, Khafif said that “most of what he said was true.” Khafif said he remembered Nogueira meeting Ivanka “a couple of times.”
Nogueira said that in the months that followed he discussed promotion and sales with Ivanka in Panama, Miami and New York. He said he also joined a group that travelled with Ivanka on a private chartered jet to look at a potential site for another Trump project in Cartagena, Colombia.
While Donald Trump was not the owner of the Panama project, the Trump Organization participated in many details down to “choosing the furniture and fittings,” said Nogueira. Day-to-day the project was assigned to Ivanka, he said, adding: “I spoke to her a lot of times, a lot of times.” He also met Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.
Ivanka Trump did not respond to requests for comment about Nogueira. Garten, the Trump Organization’s counsel, described contact between Nogueira and the Trumps as “meaningless.” He said such meetings and events “may have been memorable” for Nogueira, but for Ivanka and the rest of the Trump family it would have been “just one of literally hundreds of public appearances they were asked to make that year.”
Ivanka and Trump’s sons appeared in public at launch events for the tower, made promotional videos for the project and managed the Trump involvement.
Nogueira said that one video was commissioned by him. Ivanka helped arrange access to Trump Tower in New York for some sequences. “In this video we made, I was talking and she was talking.”
When the Spanish-language TV channel Univision, in an article published in 2011, first noted Nogueira’s role in the Trump project, Eric Trump responded that Nogueira had been an unaffiliated salesman. “I looked and I’ve never heard the name, nor does it appear in our database. What I found out was [Nogueira] owns a real estate agency in Panama that sells apartments in our building as a third party,” he told the channel.
Asked this month about Eric Trump’s statement in response to the Univision report, the Trump Organization said the company never had any ties to Nogueira or awareness of him.
Despite being a third party, Nogueira and his partners played a major part in the Trump project’s success, according to interviews with former key staff at Homes, developers, investors and lawyers, and an analysis of Panama corporate records and other public documents.
Homes accounted for up to half of the 666 apartment sales in advance of the bond prospectus, people involved in the project told Reuters.
Eleanora Michailov, a Russian who settled in Canada, was Nogueira’s international sales director. She recalled that Nogueira handled the sale of a third of the building, about 200 apartments. Another Homes sales agent, Jenny Levy, a relative by marriage to the developer, Khafif, said she alone sold 30 apartments.
“We sold half the building, baby! Homes sold half,” Levy said in a phone interview. Nogueira said that he and his agents across the world sold between 350 to 400 apartment and hotel units.
Khafif, president and co-owner of the developer, Newland, said he was unsure of the exact number, but Nogueira had probably sold up to 300 units. “Everybody was lining up to work with him … During those days he was the hottest real estate agency in town,” he said.
Homes found a ready market in Russia. “Russians like to show off,” said Khafif, who went on several sales trips to Moscow. “For them, Trump was the Bentley” of real estate brands.
Michailov said investors in the Ocean Club were asked to pay 10 percent up front for one of the apartments; she said the average price was about $350,000. Buyers had to pay a total of 30 percent within a year, according to the bond prospectus, and Homes organized the investment by setting up Panamanian companies for customers to enter pre-sales agreements with Khafif’s company, Newland.
In 2006 and 2007, Panama corporate records show, at least 131 holding companies with various combinations of the words “Trump” and “Ocean” in their name – for example, the Trump Ocean 1806 Investment Corp – were registered in Panama for pre-sales deals, and mostly by the Homes group.
In many cases the identity of the buyers was not clear. Nogueira and other Homes staff involved said Panamanian law at that time imposed no obligation to verify the identity of owners.
But listed as director of four Trump Ocean investment companies was Igor Anopolskiy, who in 2007 was Homes Real Estate’s representative in Kiev. Police records state he was arrested in March of that year for suspected people trafficking. Released a year later on bail, he was re-arrested in 2013, and in 2014 a Ukraine court handed Anopolskiy a five-year suspended jail sentence with three years probation for offenses including people smuggling and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project.
Interviewed in Kiev, Anopolskiy blamed the case on police corruption and denied committing any crime.
It was a Colombian businessman named David Murcia Guzman who triggered Nogueira’s downfall. Murcia was indicted in November 2008 for money laundering, first in Colombia and then in the United States. Murcia was sentenced to nine years in prison in the United States for conspiracy to launder drug money. After serving six years, he is expected to be deported to Colombia, his attorney, Robert Abreu, said. Colombia’s government said Murcia will serve a 22-year prison term upon his return for offenses including money laundering.
Murcia did not get permission from U.S. authorities to respond to Reuters’ questions.
Within days of Murcia’s indictment, the spotlight turned to Nogueira. Roniel Ortiz, a former lawyer for both Nogueira and Murcia, said Nogueira had offered to wash Murcia’s money by buying apartments on his behalf. Murcia “could not take his money to a bank,” Ortiz said, so Nogueira “offered to see how he could help.”
Ortiz said he did not know how much, if any, of Murcia’s money was used in the Trump project. Nogueira said Murcia gave him $1 million to invest in Panamanian property, which Nogueira used to pay the deposit on up to ten Trump apartments among other investments. Nogueira added: “He was not a bad guy. I don’t believe everything in those charges was true.”
In 2013 Nogueira, in conversations secretly recorded by a former business partner, said he had performed money laundering as a service, moving tens of millions of dollars mainly through contacts in Miami and the Bahamas. “More important than the money from real estate was being able to launder the drug money – there were much larger amounts involved,” he said in the recording. “When I was in Panama I was regularly laundering money for more than a dozen companies.”
The recordings were heard by Reuters and authenticated by five people who know Nogueira.
Speaking to Reuters, Nogueira said he could not recall making such claims and denied laundering cash through the Trump project or handling drugs money. He said that later, after his real estate business had collapsed in 2009, he had been involved in handling cash from corrupt officials and politicians, and was involved in corrupt schemes to sell Panamanian visas.
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
In the story of Panama’s Trump Ocean Club, a high point for many of those involved was a warm, cloudless night in early 2007.
The setting was Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida. Spilling out of Lamborghinis and Porsches onto the welcoming carpet were the sales people, clients and potential clients whose acumen and cash would make it possible – within a month – to break ground on the project’s building site in Panama City.
Entertained with drinks, music and jokes from American TV celebrity Regis Philbin, the guests got to meet and greet Trump and his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka. The event was organized to celebrate a successful sales campaign – and to solicit more sales.
The Trump Organization did not comment about the party. Philbin told Reuters he couldn’t recall the event because it was 10 years ago. “I used to be with him [Trump] a lot,” Philbin said. “I was good friends with him.”
Nogueira said he was at the party and there met Donald Trump for “the first and only time.” He recalled: “They introduced me and said, ‘That’s the guy selling Panama,’ and he thanked me. We just talked for two or three minutes.”
Besides Nogueira, the guests included people involved with the project as investors or salesmen, some of Russian or former Soviet Union origin. Among them, in the delegation from Homes and wearing a dark suit, was Alexander Altshoul, born in Belarus. “Russians like their brand names,” Altshoul told Reuters, explaining why investors were attracted to Trump. “The moment was right, they were speculating. Many people hoped to get profits.”
Altshoul, who holds Canadian citizenship, was listed on the Homes company website in 2007 as a “partner” and an “owner” of the firm. He became involved in Homes after moving to Panama from Toronto and investing with family and friends in the Trump project, paying deposits on 10 apartments and one hotel unit.
Among his partners in that investment, according to Altshoul and Panamanian corporate records, was a Muscovite named Arkady Vodovosov, a relative of Altshoul. In 1998, Vodovosov was sentenced to five years in prison in Israel for kidnap and threats to kill and torture, court records state.
Contacted by telephone, Vodovosov said inquiries about his involvement with the Trump project were nonsense. “We were in Panama for a very short time, and got out of there a long time ago,” he said, declining to answer further questions.
Altshoul attended the Mar-a-Lago party with another Homes partner, Stanislau Kavalenka, recalled people who were there. Kavalenka was also a Canadian émigré from the former Soviet Union.
At different times, Altshoul and Kavalenka each faced accusations of having connections to organized crime, but the charges were dropped. In Altshoul’s case, police in Toronto filed charges in April 2007, at the time he was promoting the Trump project. He was accused of involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme, unrelated to the Panama project, that involved sending funds through Latvia. The criminal case was dropped a year later.
In a statement, the Canadian government said it was “duty bound to withdraw charges where there is no reasonable prospect of conviction or if it is not in the public interest to proceed.” It did not elaborate further on the case. Altshoul said the decision showed he was innocent.
In 2004, Canadian prosecutors had accused Kavalenka of pimping and kidnapping Russian prostitutes. That case was dropped in 2005 after the alleged prostitutes, who were the main witnesses, did not show up in court. Kavalenka’s whereabouts are unknown. He did not respond to questions about his role in the Trump project sent to him through his family in Canada.
Nogueira said Altshoul and Kavalenka had joined Homes together, first as customers and later as partners. Altshoul told him he had had some difficulties “but they were solved, and it wasn’t my problem,” Nogueira said. Nogueira also said that after he read of Kavalenka’s Toronto case on Google, Kavalenka told him: “I was running some girls. That’s how I made money. But I was cleared.”
SOLD “LIKE HOT CAKES”
In the months after the Mar-a-Lago party, the prospects for everyone involved in the Trump Ocean Club looked rosy. In the midst of a global property boom and a successful pitch, sales had exceeded all expectations.
A bond prospectus was issued in November 2007, enabling the raising of construction funds. By the end of June that year, the prospectus declared, the project had “pre-sold approximately 64 percent of the building’s condominium and commercial units,” guaranteeing receipts on completion of the project of at least $278.7 million.
Trump said later, in a promotional video ahead of the 2011 opening, that the project sold “like hot cakes.”
But not all the money collected in the pre-sales campaign would go on to fund the project. Nine former business partners or employees of Nogueira interviewed by Reuters alleged that, at the Ocean Club and at other developments, Nogueira either failed to pass on all the deposits he collected to the project’s developers, or sometimes sold the same apartment to more than one client, with the result that, on completion of the project, some clients had no clear claim on a property.
Exactly how many apartments were double-sold is unknown. Michailov said up to 10 out of 80 apartments in the Trump tower that she had sold were also sold by Nogueira to others. Lawsuits in Panama and separate written complaints seen by Reuters record at least six instances of alleged fraud by Nogueira, in the Trump project and in other Panama construction projects. Two of the complaints seen by Reuters were in the “Panama Papers,” documents from a local law firm that were leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Ortiz, the former lawyer for Murcia and Nogueira, said of the Trump-branded project: “When the building was completed and people arrived to seek out their apartments, they ran into each other – two, three people who were fighting for the same apartment.”
Complaints against Nogueira, including allegations of fraud in Trump Ocean Club sales, resulted in four criminal cases against him in Panama and culminated in his arrest on fraud charges in May 2009.
Nogueira said double-sales occurred because of changes in the building specifications or clerical error. He said he never deliberately sold an apartment twice. He said that not everyone lost money from their investments, and most who did lost out because of poor or unlucky investment decisions. “If you are looking to make easy money from speculation then you have to accept there is a risk,” he said.
Released on bail for $1.4 million, he continued to live in Panama until 2012 when, despite a ban on leaving the country, he fled to his native country, Brazil, before moving on again. Karen Kahn, a federal prosecutor based in Sao Paulo, said Nogueira is under a federal investigation for international money laundering, an inquiry triggered by several large bank transfers that arrived in his accounts from Panama.
Declining to disclose where he is living now, Nogueira agreed to meet Reuters and NBC News on November 13 at a neutral location, on condition it would not be revealed. Nogueira said an arrest warrant was outstanding against him in Panama. “Of course right now, I can be considered by the justice system to be fugitive. But there are two sides to everything.”
It wasn’t only alleged fraud that cost investors. After the global property crash of 2008, any chance of quick profit on the Trump Panama venture vanished.
By the time the Trump Ocean Club project was complete in 2011, many investors had withdrawn and lost their deposits rather than stump up the 70 percent balance. Bond holders lost, too, after Khafif’s company, Newland, defaulted on payments and the bond was restructured.
There was one person who still profited: Donald Trump.
Whatever the losses investors might suffer, under Trump’s licensing deal, detailed originally in the bond prospectus, the future U.S. president was guaranteed to receive payment. Court records from Newland’s bankruptcy in 2013 indicate Trump agreed to reduce his fee, but that he still earned between $30 million and $50 million from lending his name to the project.
The Trump Ocean Club
Reported by Ned Parker and Nathan Layne in New York and Toronto; Stefanie Eschenbacher, Christine Murray and Elida Moreno in Panama City; Stephen Grey and Tom Bergin in London; Brad Brooks in Americana, Brazil; Angus Berwick in Madrid; and Denis Dyomkin and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto. This story was reported in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (OCCRP), a non-profit journalism group: Roman Anin in Moscow and Tel Aviv, and Anna Babinets and Elena Loginova in Kiev.
Photo editing: Simon Newman
Data: Christine Murray
Design: Catherine Tai
Edited by Richard Woods and Janet McBride
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Experts are baffled as to why Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with forging peace in the Middle East and is one of President Donald Trump’s top advisors, still does not have White House security clearance nearly a year after he was appointed.
Politico cited sources Thursday who said Kushner’s clearance to handle America’s most sensitive information is still under review.
Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution, who specializes in congressional oversight of the intelligence community, said on Twitter: “The White House claim that it is ‘completely normal’ for it to take over 10 months to clear an extremely senior WH official is insane.”
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner attends bilateral meetings held by U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. Thomas Peter/Reuters
Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, was one of the president’s first appointees after he won the election a year ago. The White House told Politico that the delay is “completely normal” and that it can take more than 300 days, in some cases, to grant full security clearance. At present, Kushner has interim clearance.
Usually the most senior White House staff who will work closely with the president are prioritized with the goal of getting them clearance within 90 days, Leslie McAdoo Gordon, a security clearance lawyer, added. “Some of them get resolved in 90 days, but many of them don’t. It can take months. It can occasionally take years. You just have to work the system,” she said.
Kushner’s application has been complicated by the fact that he initially left more than 100 names off his list of foreign contacts on the security clearance application—a chargeable offense.
Some of the contacts left off Kushner’s application included meetings last December with then Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, president of the state-run Russian bank VEB.
Other experts said the length of time it has taken to get clearance for Kushner, a first time applicant with a complex business and financial background, is normal. Kushner was CEO of his family’s real estate firm Kushner Companies.
“As a general rule, with respect to clearances, when you have people who have never had one before and they have massive financial and foreign connection and a staggering amount of business interests, like some of the people accompanying Trump, it wouldn’t be unheard of,” said Mark Zaid, another security clearance lawyer.
Trump has given Kushner the responsibility of brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and restructuring the federal government. If his security clearance is revoked, he wouldn’t be able to carry out his job.
On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee confronted Kushner in a letter for not turning over documents—including some about his security clearance—that it has requested from him as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and whether it offered any assistance in the Kremlin’s election meddling efforts.
Kushner, the committee wrote, hasn’t turned over emails from September 2016 about WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” They said Kushner forwarded these to another campaign official. Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said they are open to disclosing the documents.
Key American intelligence officials produced a report early this year that found Wikileaks released thousands of emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence from the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party. Early this week The Atlantic revealed that Wikileaks was in contact with Donald Trump Jr. and pushed him to spread the email disclosures.
The committee said it believes Kushner hasn’t turned over all communication about a select list of people they have picked out as part of the investigation.
“I’m thinking that asking why Jared Kushner still has a security clearance may not capture all his misconduct,” wrote Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California on Twitter. “We really should be asking: Why is #Kushner still in the White House?”
HuffPost–15 hours ago
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In-Depth–The Daily Caller–17 hours ago
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner failed to hand over a document about a “Russian backdoor overture” to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a letter sent by committee chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) yesterday, Michael S. Schmidt reports at the New York Times.
Kushner also failed to provide documents relating to an email he was sent in September 2016 about WikiLeaks and communications he had had with Belarusian-American businessman Sergei Millian who claimed close connections to the Trumps and was the source of salacious details in a dossier based on Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow. Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.
Documents relating to Kushner’s security clearance were also requested, Kushner’s security clearance form has come under increasing scrutiny within the context of the Russia investigations. Daniella Diaz reports at CNN.
The Senate Judiciary Committee became aware of the documents through other witnesses, and a lawyer for Kushner has said that the president’s son-in-law was “open to responding to any additional requests.” The BBC reports.
Grassley and Feinstein’s letter called on Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27 and asked Kushner’s lawyer to resolve issues that might “implicate the president’s Executive privilege.” Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.
Kushner remains a person of interest in the investigations into Trump-Russia connections, according to an anonymous source familiar with the probes; investigators are keen to discover how much Kushner was involved with, or knew of, the efforts of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn or others to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia. Jonathan Landay and Patricia Zengerle report at Reuters.
The Trump campaign former foreign policy adviser Carter Page delivered a bundle of documents under subpoena to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees yesterday, Page was recently interviewed by both committees as part of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.
The former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak declined to name all of the Trump officials he had contact with, saying in an interview earlier this week that “the list is so ling that I’m not going to be able to get through it in 20 minutes.” Tucker Higgins reports at CNBC.
A worker paid by the Russian “troll factory,” the Internet Research Agency, has described how the organization churned out misinformation to meet specific quotas. Ben Popken and Kelly Cobiella report at NBC News.
The White House communications director Hope Hicks may be a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, having been part of Trump’s “inner circle” for years and been at the president’s side as the Russia scandal has unfolded. Mueller has requested an interview with Hicks but a date for questioning has not yet been revealed, Darren Samuelsohn explains at POLITICO.
The investigations into Trump-Russia connections reveal a “spectacular accumulation of lies,” from lies at confirmation hearings to lying to the F.B.I., demonstrating a lack of respect for ethics and morality which has spread to all aspects of the Trump administration. Michael Gerson writes at the Washington Post.
Trump hailed China’s decision to send a special envoy to North Korea as a “big move,” in a tweetyesterday, however the trip will be officially concerned with China’s 19th Communist Party Congress and, according to analysts, is unlikely to lead to a major breakthrough on the North Korean nuclear weapons and missile program. Ben Westcott reports at CNN.
South Korea’s unification minister dismissed the possibility of unifying the Korean Peninsula on North Korea’s terms in an interview yesterday, saying that the two-month pause in missile launches should not be viewed as evidence of a thaw in the impasse as Pyongyang had not called for a return to dialogue. Jonathan Cheng and Andrew Jeong report at the Wall Street Journal.
“So long as they stop testing, stop developing, they don’t export their weapons, there would be opportunity for talks,” the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday, noting the recent pause in North Korean nuclear and missile testing and suggesting that it may offer an opportunity for talks. Idrees Ali reports at Reuters.
The Trump administration has increased efforts to develop defense systems in the face of the North Korean threat, including cyberweapons, drones and fighter jets that would be able to interfere with a missile launch. David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report at the New York Times.
The South Korean and U.S. nuclear envoys met yesterday to discuss the North Korean threat and measures to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis, they agreed to hold more talks on the issue according to the South Korean foreign ministry. Reuters reports.
North Korea has been pursuing an “aggressive schedule” to build an operational ballistic missile submarine, according to a report released yesterday by the Washington-based 38 North monitoring group, saying that their findings were based on satellite images taken on Nov. 5. Reuters reporting.
“We will strengthen Japanese defense power, including missile defense capabilities,” the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today in response to North Korea’s “escalating provocations,” also calling on the international community to put more pressure on Pyongyang. Mari Yamaguchi reports at the AP.
Russia used its veto power at the U.N. Security Council yesterday to block the renewal of the mandate of the international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (J.I.M.) is set to expire today, the UN News Centre reports.
Russia had expressed anger over J.I.M.’s report last month which blamed Syrian government forces for the attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, saying that the report was riddled with inconsistencies. Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.
“To my Russia friends: The next chemical weapons attack will be on your head,” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said in response to the vote, while the Russian ambassador compared the “endless distortions” about the Syrian government’s role to the flawed U.S. intelligence preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The veto demonstrates that the U.S.-Russia partnership in Syria is limited and reinforces the fact that the two countries have differing objectives in the Syrian civil war, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes at CNN.
The impending defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria brings the risk of Iran’s strengthening its role in the country and region, a prospect that has caused significant concern in Israel who are anxious about Iran’s military capability, Yaroslav Trofimov explains at the Wall Street Journal.
Iraqi federal forces have recaptured the town of Rawa from the Islamic State group, retaking the last known Iraqi town held by the militants today, according to a statement by the Iraqi military. Hamdi Alkhshali reports at CNN.
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State militants in Iraq have led to many more civilian deaths than previously reported and “no one knows how many Iraqis have simply gone uncounted.” Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal provide a feature at the New York Times.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on November 12. Separately, partner forces conducted one strike against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unexpected decision to resign on Nov. 4 in a televised announcement from the Saudi capital of Riyadh – which Hariri blamed on Iran and its Lebanese Shi’ite proxy Hezbollah – has caused consternation in Lebanon and alienated Sunni Muslims who had once looked to Saudi Arabia as a close ally. Nazih Osseiran and Margherita Stancati report at the Wall Street Journal.
Hariri will make an official visit to France “soon” following an invitation by the French President Emmanuel Macron, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday. The invitation has raised further questions about Hariri’s status, including whether he was forced to resign by Saudi Arabia and whether his movement has been restricted within the Kingdom. Erin Cunningham and Suzan Haidamous report at the Washington Post.
There has been concern in Lebanon that Saudi Arabia would impose a “Qatar-style” blockade on the country, a move that would throw the Lebanese economy into chaos, and analysts have said that Iran and Hezbollah would be unwilling to make significant concessions to ease the situation, Al Jazeerareports.
Despite its aggressive actions, Saudi Arabia has little leverage to deal with Hezbollah, the Kingdom has neglected its support for the Sunni bloc in Lebanon due to distractions in other parts of the region, Erika Solomon explains at the Financial Times.
Iran is the “biggest threat to the region” and Israel would be prepared to share intelligence with “moderate” Arab states like Saudi Arabia to “deal with” the threat, Israel’s military chief Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in an interview with a Saudi newspaper yesterday, marking a closer relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel who do not have diplomatic relations, with Eisenkot adding that “there’s an opportunity to form a new international coalition in the region with President Trump.” Peter Beaumont reports at the Guardian.
Israel would have no interest in launching an attack on the Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah group in Lebanon, Eisenkot also said, Al Jazeera reports.
“China supports Saudi Arabia’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and realize greater development,” the Chinese foreign ministry quoted the President Xi Jinping as saying, not referring to particular recent events, but making the comments amid increased tension in the Middle East. Reutersreports.
The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should not expect Israel to fight a war against Lebanon on its behalf, Israel and Saudi Arabia are aligned in their view of Iran, but the Israeli government is unclear about Riyadh’s “game plan” and are wondering whether Bin Salman has the ability to execute his ambitious domestic and foreign policy agenda. Instead, the greatest threat to Israel’s stability is Iran’s growing influence and presence in neighboring Syria, and this “may be the place where a new serious military conflict may begin.” Amos Harel writes at Foreign Policy.
Saudi Arabia’s approach to Iran has been “haphazard, unsettling and counterproductive – and Iran remains one step ahead,” Emile Hokayem writes at the New York Times, explaining that Saudi Arabia’s intervention against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has seemingly ended in failure, that the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has been more successful but has led to reputational damage, and the forced resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri “is also likely to backfire.”
An explosion near a political gathering in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul killed at least 12 people yesterday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing but did not offer any evidence for their claim. Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable report at the Washington Post.
Trump’s Afghanistan policy “amounts to only a minor recalibration of policy” that will “never bring stability,” the U.S. should begin by gaining a better understanding of Afghanistan and then follow a strategy of “go local, go small, go long.” Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla write at the Wall Street Journal.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
President Trump laid an important marker on the South China Sea during his 12-day tour of Asia, directly challenging China’s actions in the disputed territorial waters and constituted a welcome message that the U.S. “has a vital national interest in keeping shipping lanes open and deterring Chinese territorial expansion,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The Trump administration has been focused on North Korea and trade to the detriment of the dispute in the South China Sea, allowing China to seize the initiative and increase its influence. Dan De Luce writes at Foreign Policy.
TRUMP ADMINSITRATION FOREIGN POLICY
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has expressed reservations about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s management of the State Department and his planned reorganization, demonstrating Corker’s increasing frustration with Tillerson, with whom he had enjoyed a warm relationship. Nahal Toosi reports at POLITICO.
Western diplomats have expressed frustration with the White House over its intransigent position in relation to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and have said that the State Department has been largely absent from discussions, meaning that their focus has been on Congress where bipartisanship has made their lobbying task more difficult. Nicole Gaouette and Michelle Kosinski report at CNN.
The U.S. would consider removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said yesterday, making the comments a month after the Trump administration formally removed decades-old sanctions against the country and reflecting an improvement in relations between Washington and Khartoum. Jina Moore reports at the New York Times.
The U.S. military has conducted preliminary research and development into building prohibited ground-based, intermediate-range missiles, with officials saying that they are carrying out the work in response to Russia’s violation of a Cold War-era pact and they hope that it would demonstrate to Moscow the kind of U.S. weapons Russia could face if it continues to pursuit its own weapons. Julian E. Barnes, Paul Sonne and Brett Forrest report at the Wall Street Journal.
A federal judge rejected an attempt to quash a war court subpoena earlier this week, marking the first civilian court victory for the military judge presiding over the U.S.S. Cole case being heard at Guantánamo Bay. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
China and Russia’s military are scheduled to hold joint antimissile exercises in Beijing next month, China’s defense ministry said today, amid concern from both countries about the U.S. T.H.A.A.D. antimissile defense system that is based in South Korea. Reuters reports.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is close to ending its assistance to WikiLeaks due to misgivings about the organization’s change in tone from holding governments and corporations to account to becoming increasingly partisan during the 2016 U.S. election and spreading other divisive messages. Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman reveal at The Daily Beast.
The Hungarian foreign ministry has accused the U.S. State Department of interfering in its election campaign, Lili Bayer reports at POLITICO.
The latest developments in Zimbabwe, following a military takeover, are provided by David McKenzie, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan at CNN.
Eric Elder, an Army reservist who came to Puerto Rico in early October to do power line work, says the work is challenging. “Every pole is different, every pole has to be looked at and dressed differently.”Greg Allen/NPR hide caption