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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News
FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide
FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide – Chicago Tribune
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The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate – Consortium News
 

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Consortium News
The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate
Consortium News
Besides forcing the removal of Strzok and Page, the text exposures also sounded the death knell for the career of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, in whose office some of the plotting took place and who has already announced his plans to retire soon and more »

FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide
 

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Veteran Chicago police Sgt. Donald Markham was shot by someone else at point-blank range in his home in 2015 before the scene was staged to appear to be a suicide, a forensic pathologist hired by the FBI concluded in a report obtained Thursday by the Chicago Tribune.

The five-page report contradicts Cook County officials’ ruling that Markham had shot himself in September 2015 after a drunken argument with his wife, Dina, also a veteran Chicago cop. The report was part of a yearlong probe by the FBI, which began after questions were raised within the Chicago Police Department about Markham’s death.

The mystery deepened last May when Dina Markham, 47, was herself found dead, submerged in a bathtub in the couple’s home in the 5900 block of North Newark Avenue. Her death, ruled an accidental drowning by the Cook County medical examiner’s office, occurred before the FBI was able to interview her.

As part of its probe, the FBI hired forensic pathologist Scott Denton to review the autopsy reports and photos from the scene of Markham’s death. Denton, a former chief interim medical examiner for Cook County, works in a private capacity in downstate Bloomington.

Denton’s report — submitted to the FBI last February — found a number of troubling aspects about the scene that led him to conclude the shooting was, in fact, a homicide, or “death at the hands of another.” Among the clues, he said, were blood patterns indicating Markham’s arms were “lifted upward after death,” the strange placement of the gun “loosely in his right hand” and a lack of small abrasions or lacerations on his index finger that typically can be seen after someone fires a gun.

“The position of his body, the blood flow pattern on his face, the blood transfer pattern on his chin and left hand under his chin, and the moved and placed appearance of the gun in his right hand are all consistent with his body having been moved after death,” Denton wrote in the report, obtained by the Tribune from the medical examiner’s office through an open records request.

The medical examiner’s office, meanwhile, has doubled down on its original ruling that Donald Markham, 51, shot himself in his own bed that night, writing in a point-by-point refutation that the FBI expert offered “creative and descriptive scenarios” that were not grounded in science.

In her nine-page rebuttal report, also made public Thursday, Chief Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar wrote that Denton’s analyses of the blood spatter and position of Markham’s body ignored scientific literature that a body often continues to move — or even convulse — after suffering a gunshot wound to the head.

The position of the gun in Markham’s hand was consistent with a well-known textbook on gunshot wounds showing that suicide victims often grip guns in a different way than they would if they were shooting at a target, Arunkumar wrote.

And while Donald Markham apparently left no suicide note, Arunkumar said that “neighbors, friends, colleagues and family members” of the Markhams all gave interviews indicating that the couple argued frequently and that “during these arguments they would express statements about killing themselves.”

Last month, the FBI held an unusual meeting with officials at the medical examiner’s office, detailing the bureau’s findings that called into question the suicide ruling. A medical examiner’s office spokeswoman said the initial Markham death investigation was then put through a review by 10 other pathologists with its office, who all agreed with the original finding of suicide.

The Tribune reported Sunday that the FBI concluded its probe into Markham’s death after that meeting and that no federal charges would be sought.

But the case is far from over. Officers and detectives who were present at the scene of Donald Markham’s death have been interviewed by prosecutors with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office as part of a parallel investigation, the Tribune has reported. Also pending is a separate probe by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who launched his own investigation early last year focusing on whether any city administrative rules or codes of conduct were violated.

Among the issues that could be problematic is why detectives waited to call the medical examiner’s office to report the death by the time they were already en route with Markham’s body. It is general practice for medical examiner investigators to go to crime scenes. And county ordinance requires that law enforcement seek permission from the medical examiner’s office before removing a body.

Another questionable decision made at the scene was the removal of a bloodstained mattress. Though Markham was transferred to the medical examiner wrapped in a bloody sheet from the bed, the mattress itself was disposed of that night by a Chicago Streets and Sanitation crew.

In her report, Arunkumar’s revealed that the FBI had also asked the medical examiner’s office to address the location of the spent shell casing from Markham’s .380-caliber Glock pistol, which was seen in crime scene photos on the bed near a blood-stained pillow.

Arunkumar responded that the location of the shell casing was “fully consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

She also took issue with Denton’s suggestion that Chicago police had influenced its findings by classifying the case early on as a suicide. If anyone was biased, Arunkumar said, it was Denton, who appeared to “backfill a justification for a determination of homicide as a manner of death when the evidence is simply not there.”

A spokesman for the Markham family, Jim Bastian, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but he told the Tribune in a statement last week that the family has believed all along that Donald Markham’s death was a tragic suicide.

Bastian acknowledged, however, that there appeared to be legitimate concerns about how Chicago police handled the investigation.

“It’s unfortunate because a lot of heartache could have been avoided,” he said.

Donald and Dina Markham had been out drinking at the Firewater Saloon in Edison Park until 1 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2015, according to statements Dina Markham gave to police. She said her husband blamed her for keeping them out so late and that a quarrel that began in the car continued as they arrived home, records show.

According to police reports, Dina Markham said she walked away from the house, and her husband eventually locked her out. About 15 minutes later, she returned to the home and was unable to get inside, according to the police reports. She then knocked on a window and asked one of her children to open the front door.

Once inside, she started searching for her car keys because she planned to sleep in her car, the report said. She entered their bedroom and saw her husband lying on his side in the bed, his back toward her. Markham said she started feeling around his pockets in search of the keys but felt moisture instead. Realizing it was blood, Markham called 911 just after 3 a.m.

On the calls, a distraught Markham begged operators to send help but was unable to answer questions about what happened.

“Please hurry!” she implored in her first 911 call. “He’s a PO (police officer). … There’s blood all over the bed.”

Officers found Donald Markham lying on the bed in the master bedroom suffering from a “contact” gunshot wound to his right temple, according to police and medical examiner’s office reports. Markham’s pistol was still in his right hand, with five bullets in the clip and one in the chamber, according to the reports.

Markham had gunshot residue on his hand, indicating he’d either fired or was close to the weapon when it was fired. Although Dina Markham was the one who reportedly found her husband’s body, her hands were never tested for gunshot residue, records show.

The medical examiner’s office did not conduct its own investigation at the scene because detectives didn’t contact the office about the death until almost 5:30 a.m., at least two hours after the incident. By then, Markham’s body was being transported to the morgue in a police wagon.

Two months later, on Nov. 13, 2015, Chicago police officially closed their investigation into Donald Markham’s death under the classification “non-criminal,” police reports showed.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

asweeney@chicagotribune.com

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

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FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide – Chicago Tribune
 

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Chicago Tribune
FBI expert concluded Chicago cop’s shooting staged to appear as a suicide
Chicago Tribune
Veteran Chicago police Sgt. Donald Markham was shot by someone else at point-blank range in his home in 2015 before the scene was staged to appear to be a suicide, a forensic pathologist hired by the FBI concluded in a report obtained Thursday by the 
FBI report: Mysterious Chicago cop death ‘is best certified as a homicide’Chicago Sun-Timesall 2 news articles »

9:21 AM 1/11/2018 Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks: FBI as he suspected it had been compromised
 

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Christopher Steele The impression by the professional intelligence officer of the closest allied service is the very serious issue and the very important matter. Investigate the FBI fully, thoroughly and deeply, if you want to understand the Trump Presidency and its origins, the Trump Russia Affair, and the history and the essence of the … Continue reading“9:21 AM 1/11/2018 – Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks: “FBI as he suspected it had been compromised”…”

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Dossier Author Targeted by Senators

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The Senate committee has been probing how the FBI handled allegations it received from a British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a series of memorandums, later collected as a dossier, alleging that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin — a claim the president has repeatedly …
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Source: Trump-Russia inquiry: transcript reveals ex-spy and FBI’s cloak-and-dagger dance | US news | The Guardian  Private investigator stopped cooperating with FBI as he suspected it had been compromised, his employer told committee The transcript from the Fusion G.P.S. founders testimony raises questions about what the F.B.I. knew at the time and Steeles role in the … Continue reading“8:25 AM 1/11/2018 – Saved Stories: Private investigator stopped cooperating with FBI as he suspected it had been compromised, his employer told committee – Trump-Russia inquiry: transcript reveals ex-spy and FBI’s cloak-and-dagger dance | US news | The Guardian “

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The Early Edition: January 11, 2018
 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

NORTH KOREA

South Korean President Moon Jae-in admitted that there were policy differences with the U.S. in terms of their approach to the Pyongyang regime in a news conference yesterday, however he also expressed guarded optimism about the future of inter-Korean relations and praised President Trump for facilitating the talks which took place Tuesday. Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The current inter-Korean talks could naturally lead to talks between the United States and North Korea for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the White House said in a statement following President Trumps phone call with President Moon yesterday. Reuters reports.

Trump would be open to talks with North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances, Trump said in the phone call, according to the White House statement. Julian Borger and Justin McCurry report at the Guardian.

I hope you let them know that there will be absolutely no military action as long as inter-Korean talks are ongoing, Trump said, according to the South Korean governments statement on the phone call. Dan Merica reports at CNN.

The U.N. Security Council has welcomed the inter-Korean talks in a statement issued yesterday, which expressed hope that the discussions would open possibilities for confidence building and trust building on the Korean Peninsula. The AP reports.

It would be detrimental to U.S. interests for the U.S. to conduct airstrikes against North Korea, such a measure would risk lives and escalation could lead to a response from China. Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) write at Foreign Policy in response to an article by Edward Luttwak.

An investigation into a Chinese businesswoman represents a test for China, revealing how far it is willing to support U.S. efforts to put pressure on North Korea. The growth of Ma Xiaohongs commercial empire has been supported by trade with North Korea and American prosecutors charged her for helping North Korea to evade international sanctions, Steven lee Myers explains at the New York Times.

IRAN

Some of Trumps top advisers have urged the president to waive sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a senior administration official, Trump has privately expressed reluctance to waive the sanctions and he will seek to make a decision today following a meeting with national security aides. Steve Holland reports at Reuters.

President Trump is expected to continue to waive the sanctions ahead of tomorrows deadline, according to sources familiar with the deliberations, but Trump is likely to add that the waiver be coupled with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities. Matthew Lee and Josh Lederman report at the AP.

A decision to re-impose sanctions could be viewed as a U.S. violation of the 2015 agreement, and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have recommended that Trump continue to waive the sanctions. Zachary Cohen, Elise Labott and Ted Barrett report at CNN.   

Irans Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has traveled to Brussels to meet with European Union officials and European foreign ministers to discuss the 2015 agreement, the E.U. has strongly supported the deal but the recent anti-government protests in Iran have complicated its position. Mehreen Khan reports at the Financial Times.

The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said today that the U.S. was right to raise concerns about Irans ballistic program and its role in the Middle East, but those concerns are separate to the particular issue of the nuclear deal. Robin Emmott reports at Reuters.

The British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is set to meet with Zarif today, where he will discuss the nuclear deal and raise the issue of the recent protests in Iran. Anabelle Dickson reports at POLITICO.

There has been no agreement within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding legislation addressing what Trump deems to be issues with the nuclear deal, the panels top Democrat Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday, adding that there have been very positive discussions with the committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and they have an understanding of the framework of issues that need to be dealt with. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

President Trump declined to commit to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 U.S. election, saying at a news conference yesterday that when you have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that youd even have an interview. Rebecca Ballhaus reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Ill speak to attorneys, Trump also said in response to the question about meeting with Mueller, adding well see what happens, his answer showing a change from his comments in June, where he said that he would be 100 percent willing to give a sworn statement to Mueller. Julie Hirschfield Davis and Nicholas Fandos report at the New York Times.

For 11 months, weve had this phony cloud over this administration, Trump added, saying that the allegations of collusion were a Democrat hoax and insisting that there has been no collusion. Jeremy Diamond reports at CNN.

Trump attacked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for her decision to release the transcript of the founder of the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S.s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week, calling Feinstein Sneaky in a post on Twitter and urged Republicans to take control of the investigation. The Fusion G.P.S. founder Glenn Simpson hired the former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele to produce a dossier on Trumps connections to Russia, Josh Dawsey and Ed OKeefe report at the Washington Post.

The transcript from the Fusion G.P.S. founders testimony raises questions about what the F.B.I. knew at the time and Steeles role in the investigation. Stephanie Kirchgaessner explains at the Guardian.

Senior Democrats in the Senate have accused Republican of engaging in efforts to discredit the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, leading to break downs in the congressional investigations, and Republicans have accused Democrats of politicizing the inquiries. Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

The cybercrime expert Ryan Dickey has been a member of Muellers team since November, according to a U.S. official, Dickeys role in the team suggests that the Mueller investigation may be focusing on computer hacking. Eric Geller reports at POLITICO.

The Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has filed a lawsuit against Trumps former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates, alleging that they misappropriated millions of dollars of his investments. Manafort and Gates have both pleaded not guilty to charges filed by Mueller as part of the Russia investigation in relation to their work while in Ukraine, Scott Patterson reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Russias threat to Western democracies has been revealed as a consequence of the investigations, report released by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday has revealed the extent of the assault on democratic institutions and the Democrats warnings must be heeded. The New York Times editorial board writes.

The full Russian- Trump- F.B.I. record should be made public, the Wall Street Journal editorial boardwrites, arguing that there should be proper transparency, including the declassification of details relating to the F.B.I.s handling of the Steele dossier.

The possible ways that presidents lawyers are preparing Trump for an interview with Mueller are set out by Bradley P. Moss at POLITICO Magazine.

SYRIA

Syrian pro-government forces have advanced into the rebel-held Idlib province and reached a rebel-controlled air base yesterday. Bassem Mroue reports at the AP.

The offensive on Idlib has led to the displacement of around 100,000 Syrian civilians, according to the U.N., Idlib was designated a de-escalation zone under a Russia-, Iran- and Turkey-brokered deal, nevertheless Syrian forces have continued their advance and Turkey has called on Russia and Iran to pressure Syria to halt the offensive. The BBC reports.

At least 85 civilians have been killed since Dec. 31 in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta near the capital of Damascus, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said yesterday, calling on all parties to respect international law. The U.N. News Centre reports.

The Turkish foreign ministry yesterday summoned the U.S. Embassys Charge dAffaires to express Turkeys discomfort with Washingtons support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, the Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia have received arms and training from the U.S., Al Jazeera reports.

The drones that recently attacked the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria were launched from a rebel-held village in the Idlib province, the Russian defense ministry held Turkey accountable for the drone attack, which was in contravention of a cease-fire agreement. Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria report at the Washington Post.

Rebel attacks on Russian military outposts in Syria have raised questions about the ability of Syrian President Bashar al-Assads ability to consolidate gains and Russias ability to protect its assets. Vladimir Isachenkov reports at the AP.

Russias representative to the E.U. has called on European states to provide financial support to rebuild Syria, the comments highlight tensions faced by European countries who seek to stem the flow of Syrian refugees but do not want to boost the Assad regime. Michael Peel reports at the Financial Times.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 58 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 29, 2017 and January 4, 2018. [Central Command]

CUBA EMBASSY INCIDENTS

Canada has no plans to withdraw diplomats who have suffered symptoms at its embassy in Cuba, a senior Canadian government official said yesterday, U.S. diplomats and personnel also reported illnesses which some have alleged may have been caused by some sort of attack. Tracey Lindeman reports at the AP.

The Canadian government said yesterday that it had no idea what caused the mysterious illnesses, Canadian citizens reported similar symptoms to U.S. Embassy employees in Cuba. Abigail Williams and Tracy Connor report at NBC News.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

A criminal investigation has been opened by Egypt in relation to a New York Times article that described a covert effort by Egyptian intelligence to try and influence public opinion in favor of Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital. Declan Walsh reports at the New York Times.

The Trump administrations reported decision to fund $125m in funds to the U.N.R.W.A. Palestinian aid agency marks an unprecedented change in policy, the administration should progress from this position by stating that U.N.R.W.A. has outlived its usefulness and that Palestinians are not refugees, following this, the administration should create a detailed plan to shift responsibility from U.N.R.W.A. to the Palestinian Authority. Alex Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky write at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Punishing Pakistan pushes it towards Americas major adversaries, the Pakistan Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan said in an interview, warning that Pakistan would move closer to China in light of the U.S. decision last week to freeze military aid to Pakistan. Saeed Shah reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The House is set to vote today on legislation renewing the National Security Agencys (N.S.A.) warrantless surveillance program today, the House is also expected to vote on a bipartisan amendment that would be seen as a victory for privacy advocates. The votea on the legislation and amendment is likely to be close, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

A U.S. military investigation has been launched after video footage was released appearing to show a U.S. soldier violating the rules of engagement while serving in Afghanistan. Wesley Morgan reports at POLITICO.

The Islamic State group have two options should they decide to come up against the United States, our allies and partners: surrender or die! the Pentagons senior enlisted adviser Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell said in posts on social media yesterday. Dan Lamothe reports at the Washington Post.

The Islamic State affiliate in Egypts Sinai Peninsula have declared on the Palestinian Hamas group, Iyad Abuheweila and Isabel Kershner explain the significance of the declaration at the New York Times.

Chinas rise has been aided by a U.S. absence of leadership, Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.

US Democrats Accuse Russia of ‘Targeting’ Balkans :: Balkan Insight
 

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Photo: Flickr/Mike Mozart

A new report produced by US Democrats says Russia is aggressively targeting countries that have taken “tangible steps” to integrate with Western institutions like the EU or NATO in order to impede integration processes.
“Georgia, Ukraine, and Montenegro are the most recent cases in a long history of Russian aggression along the periphery that stretches back generations — and, as they have drawn closer to NATO and the EU, they have been the focus of arguably the most brazen Kremlin efforts to keep them from sliding across the finish line,” the report published on Wednesday said.

According to Gallup International Association’s “Global Leaders End of Year” survey, published on Wednesday, the most popular world leader among Serbs is Russian President Vladimir Putin (81 percent). According to the B92 report, Putin is followed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (61 percent), Merkel (38 percent), and Macron and US President Donald Trump (33 percent each).

It added that Russian interference in places like Serbia is less visibly aggressive and focuses more on “cultivating sympathetic elements of society to deter government efforts to integrate with the West”.
“In addition to disinformation and the co-opting of political forces, Russia employs energy resources as a weapon to gain leverage in these countries,” it said.
The Associated Press on Wednesday called the report the first from the US Congress to “comprehensively detail Russian efforts to undermine democracies since the 2016 [US] presidential election”.
AP said the report by Congressional Democrats warns of “deepening Russian interference throughout Europe” – but added that no Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee signed the report.
The document, published on the official website of the Senate, also noted Bulgaria among the “EU members where corruption or vulnerabilities in the rule of law provide openings to erode their bonds to European values and institutions”.
It said most Russian government funding is focused on post-Soviet “swing states” such as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia, while Kremlin-supported groups also operate in the Balkans, “especially Serbia and Bulgaria”.
The part of the report about Montenegro recalls the events from the 2016 election day when authorities claimed to have quashed a pro-Russian coup.
“Russian malign influence in Montenegro has long been present and intensified in 2016 in an effort to derail the country’s NATO bid,” it said.

“This renewed focus included propaganda, support for NGOs and political parties, and culminated in an alleged Russian effort to overthrow the government following the 2016 parliamentary election,” it added.
Among the recommendations for Montenegro, the report said the United States should recognize its commitment to enter NATO, and that this case should “serve as a wake-up call for other NATO and EU aspirants, especially in the Balkans”.
“The international community should not rest on its laurels now that Montenegro is a NATO member, but should actively help the government to bolster its defenses against other soft power tools in Russia’s asymmetric arsenal,” it said.
In the case of Serbia, the report warned that Russia’s “malign influence” manifests “itself through cultural ties, propaganda, energy, and an expanding defense relationship”.
It added: “Moscow also highlights deep roots between the countries through the Orthodox Church and a shared Slavic culture”.
Despite its close relationship with Moscow, it added, Serbia has made clear that its priority is joining the European Union.
“Serbia’s desire to maintain good relations with both the EU and Russia is reflective of public opinion, but may not be sustainable, as deeper integration may mean adopting EU decisions that run counter to Russian interests,” the report warned, and added that closer ties between Serbia and the EU could result in a surge in Russian influence in the country.
“The government of Serbia has done little to prepare for this eventuality and has taken few discernable actions to defend against Russian malign influence,” it complained.
The report also underlined the energy influence Russia has on Serbia, as it provides 40 per cent of the natural gas consumed in Serbia.
The report urged Serbia to “defend itself against Kremlin interference” and the United States to re-engage with resources and send “a clear message that it is willing to spend the time and effort necessary to support those who want a democratic future in Europe”.
On Bulgaria, report said that the country, “despite pressure, remains resilient”.
“With the dedication of more diplomatic attention and resources—particularly on energy diversification, addressing corruption, and building up the democratic rule of law – the United States will be in a position to help leaders within the Bulgarian government and civil society counter Russia’s asymmetric arsenal,” the report concluded.

US Democrats have accused Donald Trump’s election team of colluding with Russia to win the US presidential election and have fiecely opposed Trump’s call for the US to establish warmer ties to the Kremlin at last in their joint struggle against Islamist terrorists.

Chinas Stealthy Advance in Balkans Should Worry EU :: Balkan Insight
 

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comment11 Jan 182018-01-11 11:06:10

While Europe focuses on the threat of Russian penetration in Eastern Europe, it is neglecting the subtler dangers than come from China’s growing influence in the region.

Vesko Garcevic

BIRN

The region is still unaware of potential risks of dealing with China. Hence, it’s not whether or not to do business with China; the question is how to make yourself able to negotiate a fair deal.

When EU officials, including foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, refer to the Balkans as a new “chessboard where the big power game can be played”, Russia, not China, seems to be on their mind.

But, whether or not they wish to recognize it, China is becoming a powerful player in the strategic chess game in the Balkans.

Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” policy is already affecting the Balkans, and its presence is visible in almost every corner of the region.

The Republicans Fake Investigations – The New York Times
 

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Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.

We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.

Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?

What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.

We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.

After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power. We did not, however, share the dossier with BuzzFeed, which to our dismay published it last January.

We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment.

It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.

Continue reading the main story

Fusion GPS Speaks | TrumP Россия
 

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1060x600-7763685d68b3f61401827c6db1372603Glenn Simpson

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the two former Wall Street Journal reports who founded Fusion GPS, have broken their silence about their role in the Trump-Russia affair.

Simpson and Fritsch penned an opinion piece in today’s New York Times. The purpose of the opinion piece was to let the public know what they spent 21 hours explaining to three congressional committees.

Most of the piece rebuts the many rumors surrounding Fusion GPS, including one big one — former British spy Christopher Steele’s sources were not paid for the information that he compiled about Trump, including the scandalous watersports-in-Moscow story.  This is big because paying sources undermines their credibility.

Simpson and Fritsch note their “dismay” that Buzzfeed published the Steele dossier in January 2017. This bothers me because Fusion GPS was shopping Steele and this dossier to every major news outlet who would listen. I guess this is the Washington game, but washing your hands in dirty water is not how you stay clean.

For Trump-Russia investigators, they did offer up a few tidbits:

  • Simpson and Fritsch told investigators to look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Trump’s businesses.
  • In Manhattan,  Sunny Isles Beach, Florida; Toronto; and Panama, they found “widespread evidence” that Trump had worked with “dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering.”

There is a lot of information packed in to those few sentences.

Simpson and Fritsch also note, as we did recently here, that Trump’s allies in Congress have dug through their bank records to tarnish the firm and punish them for bringing light into the darkness of Trump’s Russia dealings.

One person who lit up after reading this piece was Bill Browder, Putin’s self-styled enemy No. 1 who was once his biggest fan. Here he is, borrowing from the Devin Nunes “attack the client” strategy, as he vented his anger on Twitter today:

The Steele dossier, unfortunately, is a distraction. It is raw intelligence, not evidence, and was never intended to be used in a court of law. In the public’s mind, however, it has been impossibly conflated with the legitimate investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

It does Browder no credit that he stokes this confusion and allows his hatred of Fusion GPS to become grist for conservative media outlets that seek to undermine the Mueller inquiry. (“The dossier is the foundation on which the case for Russiagate, including Mueller’s investigation, is built.”)

As Browder surely knows, since he’s paid for many an investigation himself, who hired Fusion GPS doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that if Fusion GPS didn’t dish up facts, it wouldn’t be in business. Period.

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Today’s Headlines and Commentary
 

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President Donald Trump is expected to continue economic sanctions relief to Iran as part of the Iran nuclear deal, but he will impose new targeted sanctions on Iranian individuals and businesses for their involvement in Irans ballistic missile program and human rights abuses, the AP . Trump faces a deadline on Friday to extend or cancel sanctions relief for Irans central bank, which was lifted as part of the 2015 multilateral agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have recommended that Trump extend the sanctions. The administration has not yet made a final decision. Maintaining the core sanctions relief while adding new targeted measures could allow the nuclear deal to remain in place while satisfying the administrations desire to put pressure on Iran.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpsons interview with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators about the Steele dossier, the Washington Post . Simpson spoke to the committee about Fusion GPS, the firm he co-founded, and its work on the dossier. Republicans have tried to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier as a politically-motivated document. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committees chairman, had refused to release the transcript. Simpson said in his testimony that the FBI believed some of the allegations Steele shared with its investigators about the Trump campaigns ties to Russia because of other intelligence already in the bureaus possession, including information related to a person in the Trump campaign.. That person is believed to be George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser who spoke to an Australian diplomatwhose government then relayed to the FBIinformation about Russian efforts to undermine the Clinton campaign. The testimony refutes GOP talking points that say the dossier served as the basis for opening the investigation into possible collusion with the Russian government.

Separately, Michael Cohen, an attorney and business partner of Trump, filed defamation lawsuits against Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier, Politico . The dossier discusses Cohens ties to Russia. BuzzFeeds editor said in an  in the New York Times that it was the right decision to publish the dossier.

Senate Democrats released a report saying Russia conducted a broad campaign to undermine democratic institutions in Western Europe and North America using military operations, cyber attacks, and disinformation over the past 20 years, the Wall Street Journal . The 200-page report from the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Russian President Vladimir Putins goal was to undermine the transatlantic alliance. It makes 30 policy recommendations, including freezing Russian finances linked to corruption, supporting democratic institutions abroad and levying new sanctions against Russia. Senate Republicans declined to join the report.

Tillerson is opening a State Department investigation into the mysterious attacks on U.S. personnel stationed at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the New York Times . Senators told senior State Department officials that it should have opened the Accountability Review Board inquiry much earlier to look into the strange illnesses that afflicted U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba. The Cuban government has denied any responsibility for the incidents.

A bill to reauthorize surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act advanced to the House floor after the Rules Committee approved it in a 6-3 vote, Politico . The bill would renew Section 702, which is currently scheduled to expire on Jan. 19, for six more years. It is a combination of competing bills from the House intelligence and judiciary committees. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the measure is likely to pass both the House and Senate. Sen. Mark Warner, the top democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the bill would receive support in the Senate.

The Islamic State called on its fighters to attack the militant organization Hamas, saying Hamas had betrayed Palestinians by refusing to release Palestinian extremists and by participating in Palestinian elections, the New York Times . A video released from the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State, which is currently fighting Egyptian security forces in the Sinai peninsula, showed Islamic State fighters denouncing Hamas. The feud between the militant organizations makes an already unstable situation near the Sinai-Gaza border even more hostile.

Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters journalists who have been detained in the country for more than a month with violating a law protecting state secrets, the Times . The journalists were investigating mass graves in areas where Myanmars military has carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. They denied any wrongdoing. American and European diplomats in Myanmar called for the journalists release.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman and Benjamin Wittes  their analysis of polling data on government and national security matters from December 2017.

Samuel Estreicher  separation of powers issues with the Iran nuclear deal agreement.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck  a primer on the merits issues in ACLU v. Mattis.

J. Dana Stuster  the Middle East Ticker, covering the Iran protests, austerity for the royal family in Saudi Arabia and possible U.S. cuts to U.N. relief for Palestine.

Matthew Kahn  the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committees interview with Glenn Simpson.

Kahn  Lawfares resource page for documents related to FISA Section 702 reauthorization.

Kahn  the text of a speech FBI Director Christopher Wray gave on Jan. 9 about encryption and cyber security.

Vanessa Sauter  the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Alina Polyakova and Julia Ioffe about Ioffes recent piece on Putins goals.

Paul Rosenzweig  the context for the Trump administrations decision to end Temporary Protected Status for El Salvadorans.

 

 the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and  for additional commentary on these issues.  to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our  to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our .

A Jersey Shore doctor killed his wife after she threatened to expose the drug ring he ran, prosecutors say
 

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Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>Dec 20, 2017
Thousands of Russian trolls targeted national events during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to infiltrate the online conversations of millions of Americans, …. but we knew there were underground networks to spread content that would undermine Hillary,” said Emmy Bengtson, former deputy social media …

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Bess: From Russia with love … sort of

Bolivar Herald-Free Press42 minutes ago
Putin and his disciples have infiltrated numerous public and private institutions and made off with information sensitive to both our government and its citizens. They have exploited our free press, spread disinformation through social media, and have created online propaganda networks and websites.

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What does Trump think Mueller will find?

Washington PostJan 4, 2018
Trump and his top advisers were distributors of the Russian social media propaganda, retweeting and distributing it widely. And much of this happened after Trump was briefed in July by top U.S. professional counterintelligence officers who warned him of a Russian effort to infiltrate the 2016 campaign.

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American Elections Remain Unprotected

The AtlanticDec 28, 2017
Two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of its report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It detailed the activities of a network of hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole documents from the Democrati
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Twitter misses Senate deadline on Russian meddling

CNNMoney15 hours ago
Twitter missed a Senate Intelligence Committee deadline to answer questions about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and its platform, Senator Mark … testified before the committee in November on how a Russian troll army had set up accounts posing as American in an effort to influence U.S. politics.

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Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>Dec 20, 2017
Thousands of Russian trolls targeted national events during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to infiltratethe online conversations of millions of …. we knew there were underground networks to spread content that would undermine Hillary,” said Emmy Bengtson, former deputy social media director for the …

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American Elections Remain Unprotected

The AtlanticDec 28, 2017
Two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of its report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It detailed the activities of a network of hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole documents from the Democratic …
Grim dossier claim spurs speculation about possible Russian rubout
 

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A bombshell revelation made public Tuesday that “somebody’s already been killed” as a result of the publication of an unconfirmed anti-Trump dossier has sparked speculation that it was a reference to an ex-KGB agent mysteriously found dead in his car a year ago in Moscow.

The attorney for Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson told Senate investigators in a 300-page deposition released Tuesday that a murder had been carried out as a result of the publication of an unverified and salacious dossier about Donald Trump.

“Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work,” said Joshua Levy in the deposition, which was taken Aug. 22, but released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.”

– Joshua Levy, attorney for Glenn Simpson

The cryptic reference spurred a guessing game about who the unlucky person was. The best guess, at least for now, seems to be former KGB general, Oleg Erovinkin, who was found dead in the back of his car on a Moscow street in December 2016.

Oleg Erovinkin1

According to a January 2017 report in British newspaper The Telegraph, Erovinkin was a top aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister who was named repeatedly throughout the dossier. The KGB chief was also suspected at the time of helping former MI6 spy Christopher Steele compile info on Trump for the dossier.

Erovinkin and details of his death were published in the book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump win.” It alleges that the street his body was found on in Moscow was desolate with no cafes or other businesses and not much pedestrian traffic, making it an ideal spot to carry out an assassination.

“The vehicle had halted in Kitaigorodsky Proyezd – a street devoid of pedestrians and home to government buildings and an unfinished office block,” reads a line from the book detailing where Erovinkin’s body and the car were found. “It was three weeks after [Center for Information Security head Sergei] Mikhailov’s arrest, Monday, December 26. At number 9 there is a military academy named after Peter the Great. Guards turn back any errant drivers who try to enter the courtyard.”

Local media reports suggested at the time of his death that foul play was involved, but it was later claimed that his death was a result of a heart attack.

FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2017, file photo, Glenn R. Simpson, co-founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, arrives for a scheduled appearance before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has released a transcript from an interview with Simpson, the firm that commissioned a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump's ties to Russia. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion, which commissioned the dossier, was deposed in August  (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In the aftermath of his death, media reports speculated that Erovinkin was an unnamed informant for the dossier and Christo Grozev of Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria claimed in a January 2017 Haaretz article eluded to the former KGB general being the main source of information for the dossier.

“Insiders have described Erovinkin to me alternately as ‘Sechin’s treasurer’ and ‘the go-between between Putin and Sechin,’” Grozev said to the newspaper. “One thing that everyone seems to agree – both in public and private sources – is that Erovinkin was Sechin’s closest associate.”

“I have no doubt that at the time Erovinkin died, Mr. Putin had Mr. Steele’s Trump dossier on his desk. He would – arguably – have known whether the alleged… story is based on fact or fiction,” Grozev also said. “Whichever is true, he would have had a motive to seek and find the mole… He would have had to conclude that Erovinkin was at least a person of interest.”

Levy did not immediately return messages requesting information about who he was referring to.

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for <a href=”http://FoxNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>FoxNews.com</a>. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

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BuzzFeed editor ‘proud’ to have published Trump dossier

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BuzzFeed’s top editor says he’s “proud” that the organization published an uncorroborated dossierabout Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. Ben Smith writes in an opinion column in The New York Times that it’s clear “the dossier is unquestionably real news.” Smith argues that the investigation …
I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier
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Trump Russia Dossier: Fusion GPS Transcript, Glenn Simpson …
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Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies suffer big declines

USA TODAYJan 8, 2018
The unpredictable cryptocurrency market continued its wild ride to start the week, with all of the 10 most-valuable digital currencies, including Bitcoin, suffering steep declines. None of the largest digital currencies ranked by market value were spared, according to data from <a href=”http://coinmarketcap.com” rel=”nofollow”>coinmarketcap.com</a>. Bitcoin …

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Five predictions for digital currencies in 2018 — including stomach …

CNBCJan 5, 2018
One reason some analysts say bitcoin will ultimately rise further is that investors will bet on a payout from more splits in the digital currency. When some bitcoin developers decide to implement their own upgrade of the bitcoin network, bitcoin investors at the time of the split receive equal amounts of the …
The Early Edition: January 10, 2018
 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

The transcript of the Glenn R. Simpsons interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee was unilaterally made public by the top Democrat on the panel, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Simpson is the co-founder of the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S. and the transcript provides details about the commissioning of a dossier which alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele. In an op-ed for the New York Times last week, Simpson and his co-founder Peter Fritsch called on the Judiciary Committee to release the transcript, but this was met with a pushback from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Nicholas Fandos, Matthew Rosenberg and Sharon LaFraniere report at the New York Times.

The transcript of Simpsons testimony is available at Just Security.

Steele sat down for a full debriefing with the F.B.I. in September 2016 over his concerns about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that Trump could have been blackmailed over an alleged sexual escapade at a hotel in Moscow in 2013. Ken Dilanian and Mike Memoli report at NBC News.

An internal Trump campaign source reported his or her concerns about Trump-Russia connections to the F.B.I., Simpson said in the testimony, also saying that Steele severed his relationship with the F.B.I. as he was concerned based on an article that was published by the New York Times in October 2016 that agents were being manipulated by Trump insiders. Alan Yuhas, Julian Borger and Stephanie Kirchgaessner report at the Guardian.

Its political rhetoric to call the dossier phony. We can argue about whats prudent and whats not, but its not a fabrication, Simpson said in the interview, adding that Fusion G.P.S. were mostly concerned with Trumps business dealings until Steele brought back something very different. Katie Bo Williams and KJonathan Easley report at the Hill.

Somebodys already been killed as a result of the publication of the Steele dossier, Simpsons testimony claimed, declining to reveal further details because, Simpsons lawyer claimed, he wanted to be very careful to protect his sources. Brandon Carter reports at the Hill.

Feinstein said that she decided to release the transcript because the American people deserve the opportunity to see what he [Simpson] said and judge for themselves, a spokesperson for Grassley said that Feinstein made the transcript public with no agreement from committee Republicans and accused her of undermining the integrity of the committees oversight work. Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.

Speculation over the New York Times article published in October 2016 has increased following the release of Simpsons testimony, Erik Wemple explains at the Washington Post.

The key points from Simpsons interview are provided by Amber Phillips at the Washington Post.

Trumps personal lawyer Michael Cohen has filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing the Steele dossier, Cohen said that allegations against him in the dossier are provably false, including claims that Cohens wife is Russian and that her father is a leading property developer in Russia. Alex Johnson reports at NBC News.

The editor in chief of BuzzFeed News has defended his websites decision to publish the Steele dossier in an op-ed at the Washington Post, saying that a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear the dossier is unquestionably real news.

Twitter has failed to meet a deadline to provide lawmakers with further information on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner (Va.) yesterday expressed disappointment with the social media company. Ali Breland reports at the Hill.

U.S.-Russia relations would be done if Russia attempts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, the U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said yesterday in a closed-door session with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Andrew Desiderio reports at The Daily Beast.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month but the issue of North Koreas nuclear weapons program was not mentioned in the joint statement released after yesterdays inter-Korean talks, which were the first official face-to-face talks in over two years, with North Koreas chief delegate saying that the nuclear weapons were strictly aimed at the U.S. and it would be ridiculous to discuss the program. Andrew Jeong reports at the Wall Street Journal.

I am giving a lot of credit to President Trump, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a press conference today, recognizing Trumps contribution to forcing North Korea to engage in discussions, but adding that relations between the two Koreas were ultimately dependent on Pyongyangs willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.

While Moon praised Trump, he also warned that pressure on North Korea could raise tensions and bring about unintentional clashes, James Griffiths reports at CNN.

South Korea presented North Koreas agreement to send athletes to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as a significant breakthrough in bilateral relations, however it is unclear whether North Korea would engage sincerely with South Korea to further improve relations. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.

The talks between North and South Korea were a good first step in the process to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Steve Goldstein, said yesterday in response to the North and South Korea joint statement. Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom report at Reuters.

President Moon said today that he was willing to meet with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under certain conditions, saying that a summit must be committed to resolving the nuclear issue and not just for the sake of holding a summit. Bryan Harris and Katrina Manson report at the Financial Times.

The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the progress made at the inter-Korean talks and welcomed North Koreas decision to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics. The U.N. News Centrereports.

North Korea stepped up its criticism of the U.S. and Trump as the talks with South Korea took place, putting forward a message that calls on the U.S. to steer clear of the crisis and let Koreans solve the issue, however such a message would be hard for South Koreans to accept due to Seouls close relationship with Washington. Eric Talmadge provides an analysis at the AP.

The State Department has proposed a military sale of more than $133m worth of missiles and equipment to Japan to counter the North Korean threat, the State Department told Congress yesterday. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

A profile of President Moon, and a discussion of whether he has the ability to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, is provided by Paula Hancocks and James Griffiths at CNN.

The inter-Korean talks offered Kim a propaganda victory and drove a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea, President Moon faces huge obstacles in achieving reconciliation and the presence of the a U.S. military aircraft off the coast of Korea during the Olympics offers a more reliable guarantor of peace than the gestures of a young dictator who pretends to want peace even as he threatens war. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

Moon and Kim are well-placed to resolve the crisis due to their respective abilities to leverage political capital, they must now use this political capital to promote the possibility for peace. S. Nathan Park writes at Foreign Policy.

IRAN

[Trump] must realize that these extreme and psychotic episodes wont be left without a response, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said yesterday, blaming the U.S. for fomenting the recent unrest in Iran. Thomas Erdbrink reports at the New York Times.

Iran foiled the U.S., Britain and others in their attempts to overthrow the Islamic Republic, Khamenei also said, making the comments as the protests in Iran have started to wind down. Babak Dehghanpisheh reports at Reuters.

Around 3,700 people have been arrested during the demonstrations in Iran, according to an Iranian member of parliament. Al Jazeera reports.

Withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could make it difficult to make an agreement with North Korea in the future, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned yesterday, making the comments ahead of a series of deadlines that Trump faces regarding the deal and whether to continue to waive sanctions on Iran. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

The decision to whether to waive or re-impose sanctions on Iran is expected to be made Friday, the State Department said yesterday, Reuters reporting.

Trump should waive sanctions on Iran and play the long game, with the aim of fixing the nuclear deal. Michael Doran writes at the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley faces a difficult task when it comes to Iran and the nuclear deal, if she aspires to be president, she would be wise to avoid trouble with Iran that could easily backfire. Richard Gowan writes at POLITICO Magazine.

SYRIA

The Syrian army has started to advance on the rebel-held Idlib province, leading to around 70,000 civilians to flee the area. Kareem Shaheen reports at the Guardian.

Turkey today urged Russia and Iran to pressure Syria to respect the de-escalation zone in Idlib and to stop the Syrian military advance. Tuvan Gumrukcu reports at Reuters.

A spate of attacks on the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria has raised numerous questions, it is unclear who is responsible and it appears to be part of a concerted assault. Liz Sly reports at the Washington Post.

Russia appeared to suggest that the U.S. were behind the attacks in a statement yesterday, the APreports.

Russias ambassador to the U.N. yesterday expressed hope that a new round of U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva would be more fruitful and contribute to the peace initiative being held in the Russian city of Sochi. The AP reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 58 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 29, 2017 and January 4, 2018. [Central Command]

CUBA EMBASSY INCIDENTS

The U.S. are exploring a range of theories in relation to the symptoms experienced by employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba in 2016, the State Department said yesterday, 24 U.S. personnel and family members experienced mysterious illnesses in Havana and there have been speculation that they were subjected to some sort of acoustic or sonic attack. Matt Spetalnick reports at Reuters.

The State Department did not follow the law in failing to set up a review board months ago to establish what happened in Havana, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said at a hearing yesterday. Gardiner Harris reports at the New York Times.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

An Israeli man was killed by a suspected Palestinian gunman yesterday, according to Israeli military and medical officials, the man was a resident of a West Bank settlement near the Palestinian city of Nablus. Reuters reports.

The Israeli military has conducted raids near Nablus following the shooting, Al Jazeera reports.

The Swedish ambassador to the U.N. yesterday expressed concern about the Trump administrations plan to review funding for the U.N.R.W.A. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, saying that such action would have negative humanitarian implications and would be destabilizing for the region. Reutersreports.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Trump administrations nuclear posture review plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons, according to what is believed to be the final draft of the review. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Ecuador has been exploring ways for the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leave its embassy in London, the Ecuadorean foreign relations minister said, who was quoted as saying that it was unsustainable for Assange to remain at the embassy indefinitely and that the solution would require international cooperation and the cooperation of the U.K., Ryan Dube reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump has signed a memorandum calling on the Director of National Intelligence to establish a new policy on unmasking Americans in intelligence reports, Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.

Senior National Security Council official Kevin Harrington proposed withdrawing some U.S. troops from Eastern Europe to please the Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to two former administration officials. Spencer Ackerman reveals at The Daily Beast.

Trump and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are playing the same game, both are embroiled in domestic issues that involve their sons and both are pursuing illiberal agendas. Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.


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