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October 2, 2012-Elections in February or March, Sanctions May Actually be Working, Shai Agassi Fired From Company He Started
It looks like we are heading for new elections in the February or March. It appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided not to even try to pass a budget, favoring instead to call for early elections. At this moment Netanyahu's popularity is on the rise. As one political observer stated today, Netanyahu expects to run on three things: Iran, Iran, and Iran. Of course four/five months is a long time around here. And if Obama is re-elected next month, he may try to return Netanyahu's favor and assistance.
There are growing reports that the economic sanctions on Iran are finally having a very significant impact in Teheran. Professor Uzi Rabi of the Tel Aviv Universirty's Center of Iranian Studies stated today that he believes conditions are ripe for a revolt in Iran. Rabi did not predict the start of a revolt, for as he said- no one can predict when a revolt will occur. However, Rabi believes conditions are ripe. Professor Rabi also described a new rift in the Iranian leadership that has received almost no attention- a rift between the Theocratic leadership and the Revolutionary Guard. It seems the theocratic leaders are angry at the Revolutionary Guard for how their support of Assad has turned out. The Revolutionary Guard promised they would be successful as they had in been in Iraq and Lebanon. Needless to say, they have not delivered on that promise.
Speaking about Syria, the killing continues, and American policy remains terribly muddled. Jeffery Goldberg (not usually a critic of President Obama) is quite critical in this piece: Hunt for Obama's Middle East Policy Comes Up Empty
Also today, in a surprise move, the Board of Directors of "Better Place"(the electric car project) unseated their founder and chief mover, Shai Agassi. Having met him a few weeks ago, this move seems like a big mistake– unless they are planning to liquidate the venture. To date, the project has fallen very short of its projections. That being said, I do not think I have ever met a better salesman than Agassi. He seemed to be able to create "Steve Jobs-like" distortion fields around himself. Of course, when all is said and done, re-inventing the car is a larger task than re-imagining the phone. The company may go on, but its soul will not be there.
Conflicts of Interest : Biden Silent as Israel Commits War Crimes, Massacres Children
On Conflicts of Interest #110, Will Porter and Kyle Anzalone update the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces targeted a number of civilian structures in recent days, including the crowded al-Shati refugee camp – one of the most densely populated places on Earth – killing 10 people, eight of them children. Al-Jalaa Tower, a high-rise building containing offices for the Associated Press and a number of other major media outlets, was also brought down by IDF strikes, making it even harder for the international press to report from the ground in the blockaded Palestinian territory.
Naomi Klein was born in Montreal , Quebec , and brought` up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism . Her parents ulcers self-DESCRIBED “hippies”  who moved to Montreal from the US in 1967 as War Resisters to the Vietnam War .  Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein is best known for re anti-Pornography film Not a Love Story .  Her Father Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility . Her brother, Seth Klein is director of the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives .
Her paternal grandparents ulcers communists who Began to Turn Against the Soviet Union after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and had abandoned Communism in 1956. In 1942, re grandfather Phil Klein, an animator at Disney , fired was after the Disney animators’ strike , [14 ] and went to work at a Shipyard Limit download. Klein’s Father Grew up Surrounded by ideas or social justice and racial equality , but found it “s difficult and frightening to be the child of communists”, a so-called red diaper baby . 
Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis , works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s first child, sun Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. 
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
FT.com / Life & Arts – Published: January 28 2011 22:03 | Last updated: January 28 2011 22:03
Jerusalem has always driven people mad: the Jerusalem syndrome is a madness caused by the disappointment of finding that the real, messy, chaotic, angry place is not the Celestial Holy City of the imagination. One hundred visitors a year – mainly Christian pilgrims – go insane and are committed to the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre. Many emperors, conquerors, leaders, Jews, Muslims and Christians have, in their way, succumbed, losing touch with reason when it comes to Jerusalem.
In 2000, the British Journal of Psychiatry described the syndrome as a “psychotic decompensation … related to religious excitement induced by proximity to the holy places of Jerusalem”. The study warns tour guides to be aware of the danger signs in their groups and these include: an obsession with taking baths compulsive fingernail/toenail clipping preparation, with aid of hotel bed linen, of toga-like garb, always white screaming ranting procession to shrines and delivery of sermons there. Even writers about Jerusalem have been known to suffer bouts of the syndrome: my wife Santa thinks we’ve all been suffering from it in our house. She is very glad my book Jerusalem: the Biography is out.
. . .
On the subject of family, it is tempting to write Jerusalem’s astonishingly dramatic history as a succession of massacres and conquests but cities are really created by families over centuries . I found myself researching an epic family saga of dynasties – royal, aristocratic and sometimes obscure.
When I am in Jerusalem I always stay in either the American Colony Hotel in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah or the Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the guesthouse beside the Montefiore Windmill. Sir Moses Montefiore founded the Montefiore quarter and windmill (a real one he exported from Kent) in 1860, the beginning of the expansion of the Holy City from within its walls to create New Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab suburbs. It was thanks to this great-great uncle that I wrote my book: indeed our family motto is “Jerusalem”. He founded the Montefiore quarter for poor Jews but it was so dangerous to be outside the city walls that, initially, its inhabitants crept into the city to sleep.
During the 20th century, the King David Hotel was built almost next door. During the Arab Revolt of 1936-38, “the Montefiore” area came under Arab attack during 1948, Arab irregulars tried to storm it while the British, based around the King David Hotel, fired on Jewish forces and blew the top off the Kentish windmill. Now it’s one of the loveliest parts of the city outside the walls, the site of the city’s literary festival.
The American Colony has a parallel history: a mansion built at almost the same time but by the greatest Arab family, the Husseinis. Rabah Al-Husseini, its owner, sold it to a sect of American evangelist millenarians, the American colonists led by the Spafford family. They had settled there in 1888 to prepare for the apocalypse but became a much-loved Jerusalemite institution. Later they converted the house into a hotel: in 1948, Bertha Spafford, the founder’s daughter and now a Jerusalemite matriarch, tried in vain to prevent an Arab ambush, launched from the hotel grounds, of a Jewish convoy of ambulances. In the 1990s, the Oslo peace talks started there.
>Stuxnet Worm Used Against Iran Was Tested in Israel – NYTimes.com
Part 3: The Alternative—Constitutional Government
Reforming the administrative state would not mean an end to all regulation. The choice is not between the current state of unconstitutional overregulation and a Wild West of laissez-faire. What we need is responsible regulation within the constitutional framework on which this country stands.
Regulation has been prevalent in American society since the time of the Founding. Regulation has never been understood to be by definition in conflict with the principles upon which America was founded. But the administrative state eliminates the possibility of responsible regulation: both responsible in the sense of accountability and responsible in the sense of justice.
Whenever the possibility of reforming or eliminating our modern bureaucracy is brought up, the typical response is twofold: We need the expertise of the agencies in our modern, hypercomplex world, and getting rid of bureaucracy would mean a return to the anarchy of laissez-faire economics with child labor, unsafe food, and unregulated markets. At best, these responses are based on ignorance of how regulation has worked traditionally. At worst, they are dishonest and intended to demonize any attempt to challenge the status quo .
Both of these arguments are disproved by looking at the Founders’ approach to regulation. The Founders responded to an interdependent and complicated economy with regulations that were consistent with natural rights and—just as important—established through a constitutional process rather than an unconstitutional fourth branch of government.
Regulation During the Founding
Contrary to the views of many historians, there was a significant amount of regulation and administration in early America. Although it is fashionable to think that the Founders’ world was so simple that the economy did not need regulation, the Founders had to deal with a complicated economy by establishing regulations to keep it orderly.
The Founders’ government did not operate on laissez-faire principles. In fact, even the thinkers who are normally associated with laissez-faire actually opposed such an approach. Friedrich Hayek himself wrote that“there is undeniably a wide field for non-coercive activities of government and that there is a clear need for financing them by taxation…. There are common needs that can be satisfied only by collective action and which can be thus provided for without restricting individual liberty.” 
In his classic The Road to Serfdom , Hayek was even more explicit:“Probably nothing has done so much harm to the [classical] liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some [classical] liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire.”  He argued that“It is important not to confuse opposition against this kind of planning with a dogmatic laissez faire attitude”  and that“the term‘laissez faire’ is a highly ambiguous and misleading description of the principles upon which a liberal society is based.” 
Even Hayek believed that laissez-faire was not a helpful principle to insist upon as an alternative to our all-encompassing administrative state. Regulation is not necessarily harmful to liberty as long as it is understood the right way. To understand regulation the right way, we should look at how the Founders approached regulation.
By the constitutional structure established by the Founders, state and local governments had the authority to regulate for the sake of safety, health, and the preservation of morals under a broad category of powers called the“police powers.” State and local governments exercised these powers to a great extent. The regulations created by this authority were central to the day-to-day functioning of society in early America.
Some of these regulations look very familiar to us today. Inspection of goods before they could be sold on the market was common. In many states, town selectmen and other elected local officials had the power to inspect commodities such as beef, pork, fish, lumber, gunpowder, and tobacco before they could be exported from the state for sale. They would inspect the quality of these items and brand goods that had been inspected and approved. These inspections included regulations that covered packing and dimensions of containers as well as quality. They were practiced in states as different as Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, and Ohio.
Licensing of occupations was also common in early America. In Pennsylvania, innkeepers, liquor merchants, tavern owners, and others could operate only with a license. In Massachusetts, doctors could not practice without a license. Even the federal government created licensing requirements for fur traders. Common carriers such as ferries and carriages were also licensed in this way. In Illinois, every ferry keeper was required to keep a post on board that listed the maximum rates that he could charge under state law. The selling of alcohol was heavily licensed in many states, which used licensing to enact prohibition. In states such as Massachusetts and Maine, some local officials were elected based on promises to issue no liquor licenses, which ensured prohibition in those areas.
Other regulations were also common during the Founding period. Banks were regulated through charters of incorporation and could be created only after the state government granted permission. These grants of permission would be issued by the state legislatures and would often contain regulatory requirements in the charters. For example, the Vermont state legislature in 1833 chartered“The Farmer’s Bank” on the condition that it could charge no more than 6 percent interest on loans.
The basic lesson is this: In the Founders’ view, economic regulation was not fundamentally hostile to the liberty and property rights of citizens. Some regulation is acceptable and even necessary to protect a free society.
Do Regulations Violate Individual Rights?
Of course, the existence of these regulations during the American Founding does not mean that they are all necessarily legitimate. One might argue that they were holdovers from a previous era and inconsistent with the fundamental rights of liberty and property.
However, these regulations were regularly defended by thinkers and judges during the Founding period as conducive to the protection of liberty and property rights, not violations of those rights. The arguments given by the Founders in defense of regulation also explain their understanding of the limits on regulation. They help us understand which regulations are compatible with individual rights and which trample on individual rights.
Usually, the defense of regulation was offered by judges during the Founding period. This is because many of the regulations just described would be challenged in court, and the judges would offer arguments in defense of their legitimacy when deciding cases. When they defended the kinds of regulations just described, these judges offered three kinds of arguments.
The first argument was that the common good of society benefits when certain kinds of regulations are enacted. Chancellor James Kent, who served on the Supreme Court of New York and the Chancery Court of New York (hence the title“Chancellor”), wrote in one case that“slaughter-houses, operations offensive to the senses, the deposit of power, the application of steam powder to propel cars, the building with combustible materials, and the burial of the dead” may all be regulated“on the general and rational principle that…private interests must be made subservient to the community.” 
Under this argument, certain activities became“clothed” or“affected” with a public interest when they involved a threat to the safety or health of the community. Building with combustible materials or the burial of the dead involve legitimate health and safety issues that require government regulation to protect the health and safety of others. In a community where everyone has individual rights, the exercise of one person’s liberty is bound to interfere at times with the liberty of another. When—and only when—the health or safety of others is implicated in one’s action, the government has a role in regulating citizens’ actions to ensure that everyone’s liberty is preserved.
The second argument given was that the use of liberty and property has to be regulated to prevent actual injuries to others. The rule applied by courts was that“persons must use their property so as not to harm others” (the translation of the Latin phrase sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas ).
In this case, the injury to be prevented is not an injury to the community at large (as in the case of burying the dead), but a specific injury that threatens the rights of another citizen. For instance, nuisances such as barking dogs or pigsties can directly affect the value and use of the property of others. In such cases, the rights of one person to use his property (to have loud dogs or smelly pigsties) affects the rights of another person to enjoy his property. Regulation under nuisance laws, in the Founders’ view, is legitimate to deal with these cases.
The third and most interesting argument given by the Founders is that certain kinds of regulations do not hinder the exercise of liberty and property. Rather, the opposite is true: Without certain kinds of regulations, our liberty and property rights would actually be less secure. In the case of Commonwealth v. Blackington , Lemuel Shaw, a prominent judge who served as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, argued that regulations“are necessary to define, secure, and give practical efficacy to the right itself.” Laws dealing with inspections, for example,“benefit our commerce in those articles, at home and abroad,” and“all laws made with a view to revenue, to health, to peace and good morals, are of this description.” 
According to Shaw’s argument—an argument with which the Founders would have agreed—regulations dealing with inspections, public health, licensing, and the like enhance our natural rights to liberty and property. A merchant’s right to acquire property is enhanced by government regulations guaranteeing the quality of products exchanged in the marketplace. Consumers have confidence in the quality of the goods they are buying. In this view, well-crafted (and limited) regulations do not violate liberty and property rights: They expand them. The history of these regulations in early America illustrates this idea at work. Many of the inspection laws were supported by merchants, whose reputations both within the state and in other states were enhanced by the regulations.
These three arguments from the Founding in defense of certain kinds of regulations help us to distinguish between regulations that are compatible with liberty and those that are not. The modern understanding, embraced by our administrative state, claims that regulation must be all-encompassing and must govern every aspect of citizens’ lives. Its purpose, furthermore, is not to protect natural rights, but to subordinate the rights of individuals to some vague, abstract common good.
Under the Founders’ view, by contrast, regulations can be justified only if they involve actions directly affecting public health or safety in which the health of the community or the rights of other individuals are imperiled. Beyond this, the only regulation that is legitimate is regulation that enhances liberty and property rights—for example, the inspection and licensing of certain (but not all) goods and occupations.
The scope of regulation under the Founders’ approach is certainly narrower than the scope of regulation we have under the administrative state. It is also much less centralized in the federal government. But it is not a laissez-faire approach to regulation. It allows for regulations that protect and enhance individual rights.
The Alternative to the Administrative State
We see that regulation has always existed in America, even during the time of the Founding, and that certain kinds of regulations are perfectly consistent with natural rights. These regulations, however, have to be formulated and implemented in the right way. The form and structure of the government are important for ensuring that regulation does not trample on the liberties of citizens.
The Founders took care to establish institutional structures for regulating that ensured the safety of liberty. Their model provides us with a viable alternative to the administrative state and embodies three basic principles.
1. Administrative officials should exercise closely confined powers. Administrative officials should not have open-ended discretion rather, their duties should be carefully described so that they are executing the will of the legislature as much as possible. The less discretion administrators have, the better. Alexis de Tocqueville, for instance, observed in his famous book Democracy in America that in“the New England states, the legislative power extends to more objects than among us [in France]. The legislator penetrates in a way into the very heart of administration…. [I]t thus encloses secondary bodies and their administrators in a multitude of strict and rigorously defined obligations.” 
The more that administrative power is defined by legislatures, the more control the people have over the administration of law. Rather than trusting the“experts” to do what is best for them by granting wide powers to administrators, the Founding generation carefully limited administrative discretion so that it would be accountable. Today, by contrast, Congress grants wide and extensive powers to administrators who are hardly limited in their discretion by the laws that give them authority.
2. Use courts to administer the law where possible. As Cass Sunstein, a prominent law professor and former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Analysis, has explained, during the Founding era,“the United States—unlike European countries—lacked a well-defined bureaucratic apparatus.” Therefore, our regulations“could be found principally in judge-made rule of the common law. From corporate and property law to family law, judges performed the basic regulatory functions that might otherwise have been carried out by bureaucrats.” 
These common-law principles were developed by judicial precedents and applied in cases decided in the courts. Citizens could bring suits alleging torts, nuisances, and the like, which would be decided according to rules established by precedent. Courts, rather than agencies, developed many of the regulatory requirements of the state and local governments. Courts were preferable to administrators, in the Founders’ view, because of judicial adherence to the intentions of the law as opposed to administrators’ using the law as mere guidance for their own lawmaking.
As a result, despite the fact that modern courts often reverse this equation, the traditional judicial process made regulations both safe and accountable. The judicial process was safe because it afforded legal protections to individual citizens, whereas an administrator could make a summary decision without the protections of due process. It also ensured predictability, since the common law was based on precedent and the basic norms of the community,  and was accountable because private citizens and juries were intimately involved in the exercise of judicial power at the local level.
3. Decentralize power to local elected officials. Many regulations were decentralized to the local level wherever possible. This had the effect of making regulation accountable, because it was performed by people who were known by local citizens and who had knowledge of the local conditions where they lived and regulated. As Tocqueville explained, in New England,“the greatest part of administrative powers is concentrated in the hands of a small number of individuals elected each year whom they name selectmen.”  These selectmen were local citizens, known to the people of the town or township where they lived, and were elected by their fellow citizens. This ensured that administration would not be done by some external authority unknown to the citizens and unaccountable to them.
These three principles—limiting the discretion of administrators, using courts instead of agencies to enforce the law, and decentralizing administrative power to local elected officials—ensured that legitimate regulations were administered in a sound manner. Regulation would be defined as much as possible by legislatures, where the elected representatives of the people would make policy decisions. It would also follow the rule of law by involving the courts of law and would be local and accountable through decentralization.
This survey of the Founders’ approach to regulation shows that the alternative to today’s all-encompassing bureaucracy is not to abolish regulation altogether. Rather, the alternative is to make regulation and administration compatible with individual rights and liberties. The task is not to abolish regulation but to reform it so that it fits with the core principles of the Constitution: separation of powers, republicanism, and federalism.
We do not have to abandon our cherished ideals simply because modern life is complex. In fact, sticking to our principles will help us improve regulation from the unfortunate condition that it is in today.
The variables in this dataset is very straight forward, it includes the date, a classification variable as to whether the stock went up or down on that day and a 25 headline articles as they occurred on reddit.
Reddit does not update the articles as fast as the original sources or as fast as a news subscription service like Reuters, it is user created links and submissions most likely referring back to the original sources.
The label and the news headlines are reported concurrently. Following the EMH (Efficiency Market Hypothesis), the expectation is that the market market would react immediately to bad news expected to cause uncertainty or affect the overall market.
Due to the latency of reddit the purpose of this analysis is not so much to profit from this strategy, but rather to show that machines can learn from past words and phrases and can reasonably “interpret” articles to foretell the direction of the stock market.
This is quite interesting due to the fact that it is normally quite hard to predict the direction of the stock market, especially when you are only basing it off off the top 25 news articles of the day, which very seldom includes information directly relating to the stock market.
This piece of research is also interesting in that it shows that there is some prediction value contained in the headlines of articles. The benefit of training a machine to “read” articles to decide whether it will have an affect on the market, is that the machine does not have the biases that often affect investors.
As a reminder, the Label variable will be a 1 if the DJIA stayed the same or rose on that date or 0 if the DJIA fell on that date.
In this scenario we are going to split our data into a training set and a testing set. When splitting time-series information into the training and testing set it is best to define the training data from the beginning of the period and to use the data in the last part of the dataset as the test set. I will use 2014 as the cut-off point.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once the darling of the international community, but no more. He is still sometimes praised for stewarding Turkey through impressive economic growth, defanging a Turkish military establishment with a long history of meddling in national politics, and initiating a promising peace process with the country’s restive Kurdish population.
Показать полностью. But Erdogan’s achievements are now shadowed by his undeniable lurch toward autocracy. Over the last year, he has initiated a harsh crackdown against peaceful protesters, political opponents, and independent media outlets. (According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at one point, the number of journalists jailed in Turkey even exceeded the number in Iran and China.)
The worst developments of all began last December. That was when, in order to quell a perceived threat from an erstwhile ally, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, Erdogan fired thousands of prosecutors, judges, and policemen, imposed bans on Twitter and YouTube, intensified the government’s already stifling control over the judiciary, and gave the intelligence services more latitude to monitor Turkish citizens. That the Turkish electorate didn’t seem to care much about the heavy-handed repression and the wholesale gutting of judicial institutions added a degree of farce to the tragedy. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan’s party, won 43 percent of the vote in the March 28 municipal election, exceeding the 39 percent it received in the previous municipal election, though falling short of the almost 50 percent it won in the last national elections. It all seemed to confirm that, contrary to what many international observers once believed, Turkey was headed away from, not toward, democracy and the rule of law.
But that that would be the wrong way to read this latest chapter of Turkish history. Turkey is in the middle of a difficult process of institutional rebalancing, in which key political and social institutions have been shifting their allegiances away from the military and the large urban-based economic interests that have long dominated Turkish politics. In the absence of independent judicial organizations and an organized civil society, the risk has always been great that any politicians who took power during this turbulent time would abuse it. In other words, Erdogan’s drift from democracy is a lamentable, but almost predictable, stage of Turkey’s democratic transition. If Turkey is to eventually become a democracy, there is no way to avoid the occasionally painful process of making the country's institutions more inclusive — a process that the country has shown no signs of abandoning.
FROM THE OTTOMANS TO ATATURK
To understand the need for institutional rebalancing, one needs to first understand how the roots of Turkey’s present institutions began in the Ottoman Empire. The reach of the Ottoman state was limited in many ways, but the effective political power that did exist — organized mainly around military conquest and expansion — was concentrated in the hands of a narrow bureaucratic and military elite.
Apart from the elite stood the reaya, meaning “the flock.” As economic actors, these Ottoman subjects had few rights and even fewer options for political participation. Limited private-property rights prevented the emergence of economically independent landholders and merchants. And social institutions were structured so as to minimize constraints on the sultan's and the central state's power. Islamic law is supposed to allow for a religious-legal establishment, the ulema, that would constrain rulers. But the Ottoman Empire integrated the ulema into the state bureaucracy. The sultan, then, was also the most powerful representative of religious power.
Despite many attempts at reform during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Turkish rulers’ hold on the bureaucracy and the judiciary never truly relaxed. The reason was simple: the reforms weren’t intended to have that effect. The Ottoman reformers, hailing mostly from the military, were interested not in sharing power with non-elites but in strengthening the state’s existing institutions, domestically and internationally, in the face of financial, economic, and military crises. It is telling that the would-be reformers, from the later infamous Committee for Union and Progress, who organized a watershed uprising against the sultan in 1908, didn’t make a serious attempt to co-opt an existing grassroots movement opposed to the government, but instead relied on backers in the military. Once in power, these “revolutionaries” immediately turned against anyone who they thought opposed them.
The Turkish Republic was officially founded in 1923, by another group of young military officers, with Mustafa Kemal (later called Atatürk, “the great Turk”) at the helm. The Turkish Republic marked a more radical departure from the Ottoman Empire. The new rulers abolished the monarchy, modernized state bureaucracy, regulated religion, which they saw as an obstacle to their plans, and intended to industrialize Turkey. But one aspect of the Ottoman order was never challenged: state institutions and the bureaucracy remained under the command of the ruling elite, now the upper cadre of Atatürk's Republican People's Party (CHP). Once again, the elite felt that there was little need for broad-based support. In fact, Atatürk’s reforms were intended to be imposed forcefully on a population that was presumed, rightly, to be opposed to many of them.
The military and political dominance of the CHP, and the party’s willingness to use robust force if necessary, allowed the Kemalist project to succeed under one-party rule until the end of World War II. But cracks were appearing. In 1946, the Democratic Party (DP) was founded by former members of the CHP, who hoped to benefit from public discontent over the CHP’s heavy-handed rule. In 1950, when the DP swept to power with a landslide election victory, many of its deputies, and certainly its supporters, hailed from provincial cities and rural areas and had backgrounds in small-scale commerce outside the purview of the state. (This contrasted with the bureaucratic or military background of the majority of the CHP deputies.)
On May 27, 1960, Turkey woke up to the first of many military coups, putting an end to its nascent experiment with democracy. The military swiftly moved to hang Adnan Menderes, the leader of the DP.
The next 40 years brought many new political actors to the Turkish scene, including a panoply of leftist groups bent on the overthrow of the state. But the divide between the more statist CHP and the more religious parties (which picked up the DP’s mantle) remained a constant, even as the latter agreed to work with the military and generally refrained from challenging the core precepts of the Kemalist state (and, in some instances, forged even better ties with existing business elites).
It was the AKP that most faithfully, and effectively, copied the DP’s formula of religious populism mixed with free-market economics. When the AKP emerged victorious in the 2002 parliamentary elections, the battle lines with the Kemalist elite were already drawn. In April 2007, after the party gained control of the presidency, the military — which had moved against three other elected governments between 1960 and 2002 — posted a memorandum on its website threatening a coup against the AKP government. Ominously, the Constitutional Court started proceedings to shut down the AKP, because its religious outlook was allegedly in violation of Atatürk’s constitution.
But 2007 was not 1960. It wasn’t just that the AKP had deeper social networks, especially in municipalities run by its predecessor, the Welfare Party. It had also taken control of large parts of the bureaucracy and the police. Meanwhile, the military’s status within Turkish society was at an all-time low. This time, the Kemalists lost, in part because the Turkish public refused to abide the generals’ meddling. Power had successfully shifted away from Kemalist elite to a party with support from the majority of Turks, including much of the population of provincial cities and the rural heartland.
But in terms of building a true democracy, it was never going to be enough to simply loosen the Kemalist elite’s grip on existing state institutions. The institutions themselves needed to become more inclusive. Unfortunately, the AKP — in the absence of any concerted pressure from Turkey’s still feeble civil society — concentrated instead on building a political monopoly of its own. Rather than strengthening independent institutions, AKP elites set out to seize control of the state bureaucracy, the police, and the judiciary, and then tried to use those institutions for the party’s own ends. This mimicked the pattern of political development in many postcolonial societies, where new political leaders swiftly seized decisive control of the state after the colonial powers departed in a hurry. And, like those predecessors, Erdogan has not shied from flaunting his power.
Far from trying to overcome the polarization of the Kemalist era, Erdogan has cleverly decided to tap into it. He has declared that Turkey is still in the midst of an existential struggle between Black Turks (the disempowered, less educated, more conservative masses) and White Turks (the Kemalist, educated, Westernized elites). “Your brother Tayyip,” he has declared, “belongs to the Black Turks.”
The problem with this rhetoric is that, because it is half true, it resonates with the public and polarizes it further. This became quite clear last summer, when Erdogan successfully masked his repression of peaceful protests as a necessary step in the struggle of Black Turks against White Turks, and then again during this year's municipal elections. In each instance, the strategy paid off for the AKP, not only because it cemented Erdogan's popularity among his core supporters but also because the rhetoric became self-fulfilling. The outcome is that Turkey’s state and civil institutions, caught in this seemingly existential standoff, have failed to become any more inclusive.
Despite creeping authoritarianism and polarization in Turkish politics, one shouldn’t despair. From a democratic perspective, things were worse under the Kemalist elite (especially after the 1980 military coup), when Turkish society was largely depoliticized. Facing military rule allied with big business, most potential opposition forces offered no resistance. The AKP is in the midst of a very different situation today. Indeed, the party planted the seeds of its own undoing when it mobilized Turkish civil society in its initial rise to power. Even Erdogan, in his early years in government, encouraged open dialogue in society, if only to obliterate some of the red lines (on Kurds, minorities, the role of the military in society, and religious freedom, at least for his Sunni supporters) previously imposed by the Kemalist elite.
The AKP can try to mimic its Kemalist predecessors, but Turkish society is unlikely to be as pliant as it was in earlier years. Not only is the country’s urban youth more liberal, more independent, and more informed than ever before — Turkey is among the top users of both Facebook and Twitter — but also, the protests last summer made clear, it is thirstier for political participation and democracy. The judiciary, taking its cues from Turkey’s newly awakening civil society, is also no longer content to be a pushover. The Constitutional Court has struck down some of the AKP's more repressive laws and decrees. It is important to note that, in making these interventions, the Constitutional Court has not been speaking on behalf of the military-bureaucratic elite (as was its role under the CHP), but for a broader segment of the population, and thus for the rule of law and inclusive political institutions.
Although Erdogan's support among the urban and rural poor and large segments of the middle class seems solid today, it is predicated on continued economic growth and the delivery of public services to the underprivileged. Erdogan’s joy ride is over if the economy heads south (and it could — Turkey’s growth over the past six years has depended on unsustainable levels of domestic consumption and trade deficits). In that case, the opposition is likely to broaden and, having learned from experience with the AKP, will eventually begin to demand institutions that fairly represent the country as a whole.
This is not to suggest that the recent slide in Turkish governance should be viewed through rose-colored glasses. The AKP continues to repress any opposition and will surely try to gag the Constitutional Court. But the party’s efforts to monopolize power should not surprise in historical context. More than 50 years on, the process of building inclusive political institutions in many postcolonial societies is still ongoing. And it took France more than 80 years to build the Third Republic after the collapse of the monarchy in 1789.
Institutional rebalancing was never going to be a painless, easy process. For the AKP to eventually fail in its attempts to monopolize power, ordinary people and civil society will have to protest loudly. Politics has long been an elite sport in Turkey, and the elite — whether military, bureaucratic, big business, or the AKP — have looked after their own interests, not the people's. This will change only when politics encompasses a broader segment of society. The silver lining to the current trouble is that Turkey has already taken some important steps toward doing just that.
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THAILAND'S MISSING DEMOCRATS | REDS, YELLOWS, AND THE SILENT MAJORITY
Thailand is once again under military rule, following the coup on May 22. The army claims the move was necessary for restoring order after months of political protest, and that it will now be pushing through political reforms. The coup will be interpreted as a success for the antigovernment protesters who have long demanded that the old government step down and that reforms take place before a new election is held.
The most recent round of political turbulence kicked off earlier this month when Thailand's constitutional court ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the grounds that, in 2011, she had illegally transferred a senior official from the National Security Council to an inactive post. Less than seven weeks earlier, the constitutional court ruled the last general election, which she had won, invalid because the biggest opposition party, the Democrat Party, had sat it out, and because voting was disrupted in several places by anti-Yingluck activists.
In the days following Yingluck’s removal from office, an umbrella organization of anti-Yingluck protesters called the People’s Democratic Reform Council (PDRC), which overlaps with a broader movement called the Yellow Shirts, has continued to insist that the country is in need of reform — namely a crackdown on corruption — before a meaningful election can take place. Yingluck supporters, sometimes called Red Shirts, argue that what Thailand needs, above all, is increased respect for democratic institutions in general and for election results in particular.
Both sides claim that they want to strengthen democracy on behalf of the Thai people, but what do the Thai people want? As new survey data show, it isn’t necessarily what the activists have in mind. Perhaps surprisingly, given Thailand’s years of political turbulence, hard-core yellow and red activists make up a tiny portion of the country’s population, and their understandings of democracy are radically different from each other and from those of the Thai population writ large. In other words, the political unrest seems to be largely spurred by a power struggle between two elite groups rather than the Thai citizenry.
Within the span of a few decades, Thailand has experienced regime change, democratic reform, political unrest, a military coup, and a substantial reshuffling of the political boards. The story starts after the economic crisis of the 1990s, which the public partially blamed on Thailand’s social and political structures. As a response, the government decided to reform the constitution. In the first election under the new constitution, held in 2001, a new party, Thai Rak Thai, won a landslide victory and the businessman-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra became prime minister. Despite criticism of his corruption, personalist rule, populist policies, and a disregard for human rights, he easily won the next election, in 2005, as well.
Still, fears about his alleged misuse of power persisted. And, in 2006, after the sale of a telecom company owned by the Shinawatra family to a foreign investor, Bangkok erupted in widespread protests. Although the selling had been legal, it was widely considered unethical to sell out a Thai company to a foreigner. In addition, people were upset that the capital gains that the already wealthy Shinawatra family made from the sale were exempt from tax. In response, major public figures, including the media mogul and talk show host Sondhi Limthongkul, founded the anti-Shinawatra People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and organized public protests with the aim of toppling the prime minister. Shinawatra dissolved the parliament and called a snap election that he hoped would legitimize his power. Instead, all the major opposition parties boycotted the vote.
The military, which for 15 years had been increasingly divorced from politics, stepped in. The generals maintained that the military should not be involved in politics and that they would turn power over to the people as soon as possible. They banned Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party and over 100 of its leading members from politics and then drafted a new constitution, which was passed in a referendum about a year after the coup. A few days after the new constitution was passed, the military-installed government announced the date for new elections.
Thailand’s politicians got busy realigning and regrouping. Most of the Thai Rak Thai politicians who were not banned from politics decided to stand for elections as part of a newly created party, the People’s Power Party. That group won the ensuing election with a comfortable margin. Protests followed. In 2008, the courts stepped in and removed the elected prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, from power on the charge of having participated in televised cooking shows, which allegedly violated rules about conflict of interest. But the protests only intensified, and in November of 2008, yellow-clad anti-Thaksin demonstrators associated with the PAD occupied government buildings in Bangkok. When police tried to disperse the gathering, violence erupted and hundreds were injured. The PAD went on to occupy the capital’s major international airports, bringing them to a standstill for several days.
This time, the constitutional court stepped in, banning the governing party outright. After some politicians defected to the opposition party, the opposition was able to form a government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva without ever having actually won an election. Meanwhile, new parties in support of Thaksin kept popping up. In the spring of 2009, supporters dressed in red managed to suspend an international ASEAN summit before the military dispersed them. In 2010, red-shirted demonstrators occupied the streets of the commercial center of Bangkok. A military intervention ended the siege. All told, the episode killed 91, injured 1,300, and left ũ.25 billion in property damage.
With elections in 2011, a new party, Puea Thai, headed by Yingluck, Thaksin’s sister, came to power. Her first years in office were relatively calm. Against all odds, she convincingly distanced herself from Thaksin and was able to work with both the palace and the army. In 2013, however, her carefully built credibility crumbled when she pushed for a controversial amnesty bill for politically related offenses. Among other things, it would have paved the way for Thaksin’s return to Thailand.
Not surprisingly, anti-government protests struck in late 2013. Suthep Thaugsuban, general secretary of the main opposition party and former deputy prime minister, resigned his parliamentary seat and assumed the leadership of a new anti-Thaksin movement: the PDRC, which included the PAD and the Yellow Shirts, among others. The government called a snap election for February 2, 2014 to ease the conflict, but the opposition boycotted it as its supporters took to the streets. The Yingluck government consistently refused to use force against the protesters and showed remarkable restraint throughout the conflict.
In any event, the election never took place in many places in Bangkok and the South — candidates had been prevented from registering, ballot boxes and ballot papers had been stopped on their way to the polling stations, there was a shortage of election officials, and PDRC demonstrators actively prevented voters from entering polling stations. A little over a month after the election, in the face of so many irregularities, the constitutional court ruled the election invalid.
And that brings us to this month, during which the situation has rapidly deteriorated. The constitutional court issued its ruling removing Yingluck from office, but the PDRC vowed to continue their protests until the entire caretaker government fell. Protests turned more violent. The army first declared martial law without informing the government in a “half-coup,” and then took full power on May 22.
Observers, including the Thai political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak and the ASEAN expert Kitti Prasertsuk, describe the conflict between red and yellow in Thailand as one of the country’s deepest societal divisions. The Yellow Shirt movement is often understood as being primarily driven by the establishment — well-off urban people with royalist sentiments. In contrast, the Red Shirt movement is seen as a political awakening of rural Thais who are fed up with inequality. A recent survey makes it possible to compare a special sample of yellow activists with a special sample of red activists it shows that it is, indeed, evident that socioeconomic divisions run deep. Our survey data confirm that yellow activists tend to have higher incomes than red activists. Our data also show that yellow activists tend to have more typically elitist attitudes than red activists: 47 percent of yellows agree that there should be a minimum educational requirement for the right to vote, whereas 27 percent of red activists agree. In Thai politics, such limits on the right to vote are justified as ways to reduce the role of vote-buying and populism. But it is unclear whether such measures would help curb corruption. For instance, despite the fact that candidates for parliament have been constitutionally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in order to be eligible to run for office since 1997, political corruption is a continual problem in Thailand. Further, limitations on these rights are difficult to reconcile with democratic principles.
Both groups of activists also view the role of the military very differently. Among the activists surveyed, yellows are much more likely than the reds (60 percent compared with 14 percent) to agree with the statement that “the military can take over to govern the country if the government is not capable.” Evidently, the Red Shirts believe that the military takeovers have never served their purposes. Yellows are less likely, though, to trust the police. Among the yellow activists, only 21 percent somewhat trust or fully trust the police, whereas among red activists 47 percent somewhat trust or fully trust the police. The reason for this difference is simple. It was the police who dispersed the Yellow Shirt protests in 2008, whereas the army tackled the Red Shirt protests in 2010. In fact, views on the legitimate use of violence overall are highly contingent on political color, rather than on principle. Among the activists, Red Shirts are much more likely than Yellow Shirts to express the view that the use of violence to stop the Yellow Shirt demonstration in October 2008 was necessary. Correspondingly, Yellow Shirt activists are much more likely than the Red Shirt activists to believe that the use of violence in 2010 was inevitable.
The military is not the only institution that gets involved in Thai politics. The latest court decision to remove Yingluck from power was not unprecedented but, rather, one example in a string of court removals of sitting officials, including three prime ministers. The fact that court decisions have mainly ousted politicians from one side — the Red Shirt side — has resulted in accusations that courts are politically biased. Accordingly, in our survey, yellow activists trusted the courts much more than red activists: 75 percent of the yellows and 30 percent of the reds somewhat trust or fully trust the courts.
There is less difference when it comes to other rule-of-law matters. There were no significant differences between yellow and red activists for two out of three statements we posed (“Corruption is needed to develop the country” and “Corruption is acceptable”). Our respondents overwhelmingly disagreed with both. There was a difference, though, when it came to a third statement, “It is OK that politicians are corrupted if I can get a share of it.” Red activists were more likely than yellow activists to agree (although 86 percent of the red activists still disagreed). In other words, although a small fraction of the Red Shirt activists take a more lenient and self-serving view on corruption, they are still overwhelmingly against it.
Despite their high visibility on the streets of Thailand, both the Yellow Shirts and the Red Shirts constitute small minorities of the Thai population. In the random sample of our survey, most people — 85 percent — claim that they do not have political views that can be related to the red-yellow conflict. Only nine percent claim to have a red inclination and a little more than six percent claim a yellow inclination. Admittedly, political views are somewhat sensitive in Thailand, which means that there is likely some underreporting of political preference. It is clear, though, that those with strong color-oriented views constitute a small minority, and the activists within each color grouping an even smaller minority.
Those results are similar to the outcome of a survey conducted by the Asia foundation in 2010, which suggested that a solid majority of Thais are politically neutral in this sense, while two vocal minorities push for radical political change in different directions. Activists who have actually attended a Red Shirt or Yellow Shirt rally are few and far between, less than one percent of the Thai population. This does not necessarily indicate widespread political apathy: many more have attended political party rallies or claim to be interested in discussing politics. It does, however, indicate that the political conflict is, by and large, exacerbated by the activities of two vocal minority elites.
In addition, the preferences of Thailand’s silent minority do not easily align easily with those of any one group. For example, our survey data confirm that the general population has less elitist attitudes than the Yellow Shirt activists. Less than 23 percent of the large majority of the Thai population who do not identify with either the yellows or reds agree that there should be education requirements for voting, as compared to the 47 percent of the Yellow Shirt activists.
The population at large is, however, in agreement with the yellow activists in their support of military coups when the government is incapable of ruling. A full 67 percent of the Thai population who are neither reds nor yellows think that the military should be able to play this role. The police also enjoy considerable support among neutral Thais: 64 percent of that population somewhat trust or fully trust the police. A sizeable minority of the neutrals condone the use of violence against protestors as well: 27 percent when the protests in 2008 are concerned and 31 percent when the protests in 2010 are concerned. Most neutrals — 83 percent, in fact — somewhat trust or fully trust the courts, and 86 percent believe that corruption is never acceptable.
Considering the recent coup, there are, of course, some very worrying signs. Red shirt activists, with their low trust in the military, are unlikely to accept this latest blow to the electoral democracy. They have vowed to fight if political power is once again taken away from them without elections, and violence is thus a real risk. The willingness of large parts of the Thai population to support a military takeover is also not a good sign for the future of Thai democracy.
But there is also, even in the midst of yet another military coup, reason to hope. A solid majority of the population seems to not be swayed by the activists’ radicalism and considers itself to be neutral. Further, a large majority of the population does not want to restrict the popular vote, does not condone corruption or state-sanctioned violence against any of the political groups, and maintains trust in legal and law-enforcing institutions. There also seems to be strong popular support for democracy, which is cause for cautious optimism about the country’s political future once the military steps back. The main challenge for Thailand — and it is a big one — is to increase the political influence of the large neutral citizenry, rather than letting radical activists averse to any kind of compromise steer the political development to the
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TREACHEROUS TRIANGLE | CHINA, RUSSIA, THE U.S., AND THE NEW SUPERPOWER SHOWDOWN
This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in China, looking to deepen ties between his country and his neighbor to the south. The trip could mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Russian-Chinese relations, the trilateral relationship that dominated the final decades of the Cold War and is now making a comeback.
Показать полностью. After Russia’s aggression in Crimea, Moscow and Washington are locked in conflict. Beijing has thus become the new fulcrum, the power most able to play one side off the other.
It is hard to overstate just how significant the shift could be. During the Cold War, the United States capitalized on the constant, at times extreme, Sino-Soviet tension. Thanks to the United States’ closer relations with China, first illustrated during U.S. President Richard Nixon’s famous 1972 visit to Beijing, the Soviet Union feared total isolation. It consequently became more willing to accommodate U.S. demands. American leverage increased, manifesting itself in the U.S.-Soviet agreement on the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty just three months after Nixon’s trip, and in the Helsinki Accords three years later. In return for Chinese support, Washington gradually normalized its dealings with Beijing, culminating in 1979 in the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which had been suspended after the communist takeover.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the shock of Tiananmen Square marked the end of the first era of triangulation. In the post–Cold War unipolar era, the United States did not need to use a reeling Russia against an internally focused China to achieve its goals. But, thanks to China’s rise as a major power and Russia’s newfound assertiveness, trilateral dynamics are back. This time, though, the United States isn’t the dominant player.
If animosity between China and the Soviet Union defined trilateral relations during the Cold War, today it is U.S.-Russian tensions that drive the triad’s dynamics. Clashing interests, a real ideological divide, and the likely escalation of U.S. sanctions will add to the strain. Unlike U.S. President Barack Obama at the start of his first term, though, the next president will not likely attempt a “reset” with Russia, if only to avoid the domestic political blowback. Likewise, Putin has his own reasons for keeping tensions high he would like to stir up nationalism to preserve his popularity at home, especially in the face of continued economic contraction.
Between these two clashing powers lies China. As the nation in the triad with the broadest policy options, China is positioned to play Russia and the United States off each other, much as the United States did with China and Russia in years past.
Putin has hoped to convince China to use its influence to provide Russia significant economic and political support. In that, he is likely to be disappointed. For one, the two sides don’t have the same strategic goals. China wants global respect for its peaceful rise to great power status. Russia wants to challenge and undermine the West at every opportunity. Further, China sees the United States as its most important partner because of the two nations’ economic interdependence. In other words, even as China balances between the United States and Russia, it won’t risk provoking a real falling out with the United States. It will, however, drive hard bargains and extract concessions from both sides, particularly from Russia.
For example, Putin would like China to legitimize Russia’s aggressive regional stance. To this, China won’t say “no,” but it won’t say “yes” either. The last thing the country would want to do is lend public support to the principle that issues of sovereignty can be decided through referenda. The spillover effects in Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia, Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang would be too severe. What Russia can reasonably expect, though, is for China’s leaders to maintain their benign neglect, continuing to abstain on UN votes against Russia and undermining Western sanctions.
Putin has also been looking to dramatically expand Russia’s role as an energy provider to Beijing, which would create leverage for Russia in its energy dealings with Europe. And, after a decade of false starts, during the first part of Putin’s trip to China, Moscow and Beijing did ink an agreement for the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, presaging a new phase in bilateral energy relations. On this issue, Moscow’s desire to expand energy exports intersects with Beijing’s search for greater energy security. And although Russia secured some ษ billion in prepayment to finance the pipeline — very important in the face of Western sanctions — China got the better the deal. Russia will supply it natural gas at significantly lower-than-market rates, saving China tens of billions of dollars and pushing down the price of gas across Asia.
In addition to energy, China would like Russia to make it easier for Chinese firms to invest in Russia and sell to Russians. For China, Russia’s middle class economy is a huge market opportunity, especially now that Western firms have started to defer investment there. Russia, fearful of competition, has tended to restrict access to the Russian market for Chinese companies. But in the new geopolitical triangle, Russian and Chinese economic interests will converge Moscow is already loosening restrictions on Chinese investment and will likely speed up the process.
China might also ask Russia for access to Russia's most advanced military technology. Moscow has been reluctant to sell Beijing its highest-end materiel, partially out of fear that China might someday use these weapons against Russia. Russia might now be more willing to share some technology in return for strategic concessions, but such a policy shift will be gradual. And it might have spillover effects outside of the triangle, for instance driving India into the arms of U.S. arms manufacturers in its search to match China’s increased military capabilities.
Just as the United States was emboldened by its lead position in the U.S.-Russian-Chinese triad during the Cold War, so too will China's resolve increase as Russia pursues its affections. For instance, China might become less eager to liberalize its foreign investment policy, something the United States has long wanted as a way to drive down the bilateral trade deficit. With new economic opportunities to China’s north, it simply won’t be as desperate for U.S. money. And the more Russia opens up its technological storehouse, the more willing China will be to press its interests in the South and East China Seas.
Unlike during the Cold War, however, when Washington’s rapprochement with Beijing pressured Moscow to change many aspects of its global policy, the closer Russian-Chinese relationship is unlikely to change U.S. policymakers’ calculations on most major U.S.-Chinese issues. Thus, the dynamics of the new triangle will not exactly mimic the old.
A rising China supported by a desperate Russia will make for a formidable geopolitical pair. Even so, the United States will not weaken its commitments to its allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, in the face of increased Chinese confidence. It will continue to pursue its flagship regional trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And it will press China on its state-sponsored commercial espionage with increasing vigor. Unlike the Soviet Union, the odd nation out in the first triangle relationship, the United States today has the military, financial, and political strength — coupled with a global network of alliances — to stand on its own. But an emboldened Beijing will nevertheless make it harder for the United States to maintain its current position as the Pacific’s regional balancer.
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FBI HAS ACTIVE CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST ASSANGE
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains the target of “a multi-subject investigation” by the FBI, new leaks have revealed. Assange has been unable to leave London’s Ecuadorian Embassy since June 2012 amid fears he will handed over to US jurisdiction.
Four years after the whistleblowing site was founded, the FBI still has “an active and ongoing” criminal case open against Assange, court papers leaked to Australian newspaper the Age have revealed.
According to documents filed with the US District Court in Washington, DC, the “main, multi-subject, criminal investigation of the [Department of Justice] and FBI remains open and pending" making it necessary "to withhold law enforcement records related to this civilian investigation.”
In addition, lawyers from the Justice Department told the Court that there “had been developments in the investigation over the last year.”
The US Department of Justice opened an investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks in 2010 following the arrest of Private Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning). The former intelligence analyst released a treasure trove of classified military documents to WikiLeaks while he was working in Iraq. Manning has since been charged under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Assange always maintained the US authorities were preparing a criminal case against him over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified government material. However, last November the Washington Post reported, citing US officials, that it was unlikely Assange would be charged under the Espionage Act because it would mean a number of US news organizations would also have to be prosecuted.
Officials said unlike former CIA contractor Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, Assange did not leak classified information, he merely published data that had already been disclosed on WikiLeaks.
Assange argues otherwise, maintaining there is a “99.97 percent chance” he will be indicted if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The whistleblower was forced to take refuge in the embassy in June 2012 after a warrant for his extradition to Sweden was issued. Assange is wanted in the Scandinavian country for questioning over allegations of the rape and sexual assault of two women.
The WikiLeaks founder denies the accusations, claiming they are politically-motivated and that the Swedish authorities will hand him over to the Americans if he is extradited.
The London Metropolitan Police have so far shelled out 5.3 million pounds (ű million) to keep the Ecuadorian Embassy guarded 24 hours a day since Assange took refuge there.
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POPE FRANCIS' LATIN LESSONS | HOW LATIN AMERICA SHAPED THE VATICAN
Pope Francis has adorned the cover of Time, Rolling Stone, and even The Advocate, a magazine for gay news. World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have lined up to praise him. The pope’s rise to global popularity has been quick, boosted by a surprising and often blunt message of economic and social justice.
Показать полностью. Many observers have attributed that message to a self-conscious embrace of his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, the thirteenth-century Italian friar who was famous for choosing a life of poverty, and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI's perceived lack of attention to economic and social concerns. But Francis’ roots in Latin America, and the political and social currents of his home country, Argentina, have played a major role as well.
At the time of Francis’ election as pope last year, the hope was that his papacy might revive the church in Latin America, which is home to the world’s largest Catholic population, almost 500 million people, but one that has been in steep decline. According to the Latin American Public Opinion Project, in 2012, the overall percentage of Catholics in the region stood at 65 percent in the early 1980s, Catholics made up nearly 90 percent of Latin American’s population. For now, there is no hard data showing that Francis has accomplished his mission, but the early signs are encouraging. Last July, as Brazil was rocked by protests against government corruption and poverty, Francis visited — his first international trip as pope — and some three million people, including the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil, gathered for mass at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. It was the largest crowd estimated to have ever gathered there.
Francis’ popularity around the world, and particularly in Latin America, reveals something else about his papacy, one year in: his relationship with the region runs both ways. Even as he has tried to buoy the church there, his experiences in Latin America have helped transform the Roman Catholic Church as a whole, particularly when it comes to economic and social justice and support for gay rights. From the radicalism of Latin American Catholicism to a wave of social progressivism making its way through the region, often on the heels of populist, left-wing governments that have taken power in recent decades, Latin America has increasingly influenced Francis’ papacy.
Citing the “idolatry of money,” and criticizing “unfettered capitalism as a new tyranny,” Francis exhorted politicians “to guarantee all citizens dignified work, education and healthcare.”
Francis’ vigorous denunciation of poverty and inequality and calls for wealth redistribution are best reflected in his first papal pronouncement last year, Evangeli Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel, in which he urged leaders from across the globe “to fight poverty and inequality,” and called on the rich to share their wealth. Citing the “idolatry of money” and criticizing “unfettered capitalism as a new tyranny,” he exhorted politicians “to guarantee all citizens dignified work, education and healthcare.” Not surprisingly, these comments raised the ire of the U.S. right, with some commentators insisting that Francis’ comments were not only an attack on capitalism but a veiled criticism of Washington.
The pope’s critical views of capitalism are not surprising given that poverty and inequality are endemic in Latin America. According to the United Nations, Latin America dominates the ranking of the world’s top ten most unequal nations, with half of the entries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras. But Francis’ comments resemble the leftist rhetoric of many Latin American politicians, including Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. They have based their populist messages on blasting the liberal economic reforms that Washington, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank advocate and which they see as privileging market gains over social welfare and the fight against poverty.
Francis is hardly just copying these leaders in his language there appears to be a growing alliance of convenience between the pope and left-wing governments in Latin America. Many left-wing Latin American leaders have recently embraced the pope and his economic message as a way to lend credibility to their own policies and shore up support at home. Take the relationship between Francis and Kirchner in Argentina. Kirchner was openly hostile to him when he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the de facto head of the Argentinian church. They particularly butted heads during a debate over a same-sex marriage law in 2010. But now, apparently sensing that they each stand to gain from a better relationship, the ice has thawed. When Kirchner visited the Vatican in March, Francis greeted her warmly. Describing their meeting later, Kirchner said that they “spoke of social justice and of our rejection of the economies of exclusion and inequality, the economies that kill.”
Francis’ economic message has more religious, yet still expressly Latin American, roots, which are evident in the region’s most significant contribution to Catholicism: liberation theology. Liberation theology mixed Catholic thinking on social justice with Marxist critiques of capitalism. The movement’s origins lie in the 1960s, when the church, fearing that it was becoming alienated from the people, placed priests in factories and other workplaces throughout Latin America, especially in Argentina. For many priests, the experience proved transformative, leading them to the realization that the church needed a theology that would free the masses from the chains of capitalism and that would stress fighting social and economic injustice in the here and now, rather than focus on seeking salvation in the afterlife.
Liberation theology’s emergence in new Vatican language is ironic, since Francis was not among those Latin American priests who fell under the movement’s spell in its heyday. As head of Argentina’s Jesuit Society from 1973 to 1978, he sought to curb the adherence to liberation theology among Jesuit priests, reportedly helping the Argentinian military persecute two young priests associated with the movement for their activism on behalf of the poor in the slums of Buenos Aires. The Vatican has vehemently denied that charge. But at the time of his papal appointment, right-wing defenders of Francis cited this record to calm fears among conservatives that the new pope was a left-wing sympathizer.
So what explains Francis’ apparent about face on liberation theology? One popular theory is that he had secretly been a devotee of it for many years. A 2013 profile in the New York Times noted that the new pope has “an affinity” for the movement and had “studied with an Argentine Jesuit priest who was a proponent of liberation theology.” Another popular view is that Francis grew fonder of liberation theology after living through Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis, when the government defaulted on billions of its sovereign debt, impoverishing thousands and forcing Fernando de la Rúa, who was president, to resign amid violent protests. Many Argentines blamed the crisis on the privatization programs, loan obligations, and other financial reforms pushed by the IMF and the World Bank.
Whatever the case, Francis’ interest in liberation theology has spread through the Vatican. Last September, Francis met with Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian theologian who gave name to the movement with his 1971 book, A Theology of Liberation, which regarded Jesus as less of a savior than as a champion of the poor. The Vatican had also announced plans to begin the process of canonization for Archbishop Oscar Romero, a Salvadorian priest that was assassinated by the country’s military regime in 1980 and who is now revered by many as a liberation theology martyr. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has undertaken a full campaign to rehabilitate the movement in its pages, with positive press about why “liberation theology can no longer remain in the shadows.”
More surprising than Francis’ endorsement of economic populism and even liberalization theology are his views on social issues, homosexuality in particular, which suggest an even deeper Latin American influence on Francis’ papacy. On a flight back from Brazil last July, he told reporters: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” Then, in an interview in September, he called on Catholics to “get over their obsession with abortion, contraceptives, and homosexuality.” Most recently, in an interview in March, Francis insinuated that he supported same-sex civil unions and that the church would tolerate them — for economic reasons. “Matrimony is between a man and a woman,” he said. But moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.”
Francis’ approach to homosexuality stands in stark contrast to the attitudes of previous popes, including Benedict, who was known for his unbending adherence to church doctrine on issues of gender and sexuality. In no small measure, Francis’ tolerance of homosexuality is a reflection of the development of gay rights in Latin America, and of the gay rights battles that entangled Francis when he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In the last two decades, a gay rights revolution has swept through Latin America. It was born, curiously enough, in Francis’ home city. In 1996, the Argentinian capital enacted Latin America’s first gay rights legislation, a stipulation in the city’s charter that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This law was followed by a 2002 ordinance that granted same-sex couples in Buenos Aires a range of marriage-like benefits, including hospital visitation rights. The law was later expanded to other Argentinian cities and towns and paved the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage at the federal level in 2010, which 70 percent of the public supported.
Like his turn to liberation theology, however, Francis’ role in helping secure gay rights to Latin America is ironic. Before he became pope, he was mostly known for an epic war of words in 2010 with Kirchner over the same-sex marriage bill. He characterized the bill as “a destructive attack on God’s plan,” and she, in turn, branded his words “reminiscent of medieval times and the Inquisition.” But Francis’ behavior was more complicated than his rhetoric suggests. Indeed, it was marked by a pragmatism animated less by doctrine than by his engagement in everyday struggles. Once it seemed that the same-sex marriage bill was about to pass, Francis proposed a compromise in which the church would endorse same-sex civil unions. But he was unable to sell the deal to the other bishops in the Argentine Conference of Bishops. According to the New York Times, for Francis, the civil union compromise was “the lesser of two evils” and “a position of greater dialogue with society.” Following the bill’s passage, Francis met with representatives from Argentina’s leading gay rights organizations. According to the Spanish daily, El País, Francis expressed his support for same-sex civil unions to the representatives, but declined to call them marriage. At the end of the meeting, the activists gave the future pope a rosary painted with the colors of the rainbow, which he promised to use in his prayers.
As other countries in the region have moved to follow Argentina’s example, the pope has remained noticeably quiet, another sign of Francis’ pragmatic support for gays rights in Latin America. There was no comment from the Vatican when, in May 2013, Brazil became the world’s largest Catholic nation to allow same-sex marriage, which singlehandedly raised to almost 50 percent the population of Latin America that is covered by same-sex marriage protections. The Vatican said nothing when, in August 2013, Uruguay legalized same-sex marriage. The silence speaks volumes. In 2005, when Spain became the first Catholic-majority country to pass a same-sex marriage law, Benedict excoriated Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero during a trip to Spain for his support of the law. He even urged Catholic public servants to refuse to sign same-sex marriage certificates.
As Francis tries to stem the decline of the church in Latin America, his experiences in his home country and throughout the region have helped transform the Roman Catholic Church and change old attitudes. By doing so, if his popularity is any indication, Francis may well help save Catholicism in Latin America — and worldwide.
4 thoughts on &ldquo 21 Basic Truths Worth Noting Concerning the Events in DC this week &rdquo
#5 is murder , pure and simple by a coward
Shooting unarmed people is murder
Unfortunately we will never know who
No, shooting unarmed people is not murder. It is PROBABLY murder, but as the shooting of Trayvon Martin demonstrated pretty clearly, it’s not ALWAYS murder.
Intentionally shooting people who present NO THREAT, well, THAT is murder. It doesn’t matter whether or not they are armed.
You put into words what I have been thinking perfectly. Thank you!
“#12 Riots are bad, violence is bad.”
Yes, they are, but that has nothing to do with whether or not they are NECESSARY. Thankfully, the Founding Fathers understood this. They were well versed in the morality of the use of force, and no doubt many of them were familiar with Augustine and Aquinas.
Millions flow from Gaddafi’s ‘frozen funds’ to unknown beneficiaries
As factions face off in war-torn Libya, money slips through sanctions.
ix years after Muammar Gaddafi’s death, his regime’s frozen funds in Brussels are generating tens of millions of euros in interest for mystery beneficiaries, despite international sanctions.
A POLITICO investigation into €16 billion of the Libyan dictator’s assets held in Belgium discovered big, regular outflows of stock dividends, bond income and interest payments. Legal documents, bank statements, emails and dozens of interviews point to a loophole in the sanctions regime.
While Gaddafi’s wealth is meant to be held in trust for the Libyan people until the war-shattered country stabilizes, interest payments flowed from frozen accounts in Brussels to bank accounts in Luxembourg and Bahrain over recent years, documents reviewed by POLITICO show. Belgium’s finance ministry says such payments are legal.
The interest goes to accounts belonging to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the country’s sovereign fund, which was founded in 2006 to invest Gaddafi’s oil wealth. LIA now lies at the heart of a turf war between rival claimants in Libya, and it’s not clear who runs the agency or gets any of the funds sent to its accounts.
The Libyan Investment Authority’s funds are locked in at least four bank accounts managed by Euroclear, a financial institution headquartered in Brussels.
Following a NATO-led intervention that toppled Gaddafi, who died in October 2011, civil war has reduced Libya to a hydra-headed set of competing administrations governed by rival strongmen, in an environment still destabilized by Islamist militants.
Those divisions are mirrored in the battle to control LIA. Two groups purport to be the official government: a U.N.-backed one in Tripoli, and another in the eastern port of Tobruk, which is backed by the army. Both factions have appointed bosses of the sovereign fund. To complicate matters further, there are two competing chairmen in Tripoli, who are locked in disputes over who is the legitimate chief.
POLITICO contacted the investment authority’s lawyers, consultants, a former head of LIA and current claimants to be its chairman. None was able to specify which, if any, of the rival claimants to LIA was able to access the millions in interest payments from Belgium.
s anti-regime protests that started in Tunisia spread to Libya, Egypt and Syria — in a series of political upheavals across the region that came to be known as the Arab Spring — countries across the world, including the U.S. and the EU, froze the fund’s assets in accordance with a U.N. resolution in March 2011.
The U.N. sanctions targeted assets of the Gaddafi regime, including about $67 billion of LIA’s assets, primarily invested with banks and fund managers across Europe and North America. An earlier package of measures in February had introduced an arms embargo and travel bans against prominent members of the regime.
In Europe, national governments are responsible for enforcing these sanctions. The 28 EU governments held a meeting in October 2011 that interpreted the sanctions as being applicable only to the original frozen assets, not the interest earned after September 2011.
Creditors across Europe ranging from Prince Laurent of Belgium, the king’s brother, to an Italian dairy company have unsuccessfully attempted to wrest back some of the money they say is owed to them by the Libyan state from LIA coffers.
Under Gaddafi’s rule, LIA (and its LAFICO subsidiary) had become a formidable international player and purchased assets in strategic companies, especially in Italy and Britain, including in the carmaker Fiat, the soccer club Juventus, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Pearson, the then publisher of the Financial Times.
The Libyan Investment Authority’s funds are locked in at least four bank accounts managed by Euroclear, a financial institution headquartered in Brussels.
According to copies of Euroclear statements from 2013 seen by POLITICO, the frozen funds invested in shares before 2011 had risen in value to €14 billion. Those stocks included holdings in big Italian companies such as the oil giant ENI, the bank Unicredit and the engineering company Finmeccanica, among others. A further €2 billion was held in a current account, according to the statement reviewed by POLITICO that was dated November 29, 2013.
t is unclear whether other EU countries are allowing the interest to flow out as Belgium does, but officials linked to LIA said that interest flows from the fund’s assets around the world were frequent, and large.
Mohsen Derregia, who was appointed chief executive of LIA in 2012 and lasted a year in the post, confirmed in a telephone interview that interest flowed from Gaddafi’s frozen assets during his time at the helm. He said the fund received about $630 million between April 2012 and April 2013, from the combined (supposedly frozen) assets around the world. He said that he could not specify how many of those millions came from Belgium.
He was fired from his post by the government in Tripoli of then Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in the spring of 2013, he said.
Abdul Magid Breish, who served as chairman of LIA from mid-2013 until June 2017, and still claims to be the legitimate head, also said that there was nothing illegal about interest payments. Breish is now locked in legal battles to assert his claim to LIA after the Government of National Accord in Tripoli appointed its own chairman, Ali Hassan Mahmoud, in 2016.
While little has been resolved between the factions and violence still persists between militia on the ground in Libya, what is clear is that interest from LIA’s billions in Belgium is going to someone.
Belgium’s finance ministry insists that the interest payments are legal, and that no special authorization had to be given.
In an email exchange from the fall of 2013 between a Euroclear employee and the Belgian finance ministry, a Euroclear official writes that funds from these accounts had been “released” to an HSBC account in Luxembourg belonging to LIA and to several other LIA accounts at the Arab Banking Corporation, a bank headquartered in Bahrain, whose main shareholder is the Libyan Central Bank.
As part of that exchange, Philippe Cloetens, a compliance official at Euroclear, informed Belgian officials that interest and dividends worth €28 million covering a period of September 2011 to October 2013 had been credited to the HSBC account, and that funds would continue to be “released.” His email is dated December 6, 2013.
“You should note that starting in December 2013, the interest received by this account will be released once a month, as is already the case for the three other accounts blocked,” Cloetens wrote in the email.
Another email from Cloetens to a Belgian finance ministry official dated October 24, 2012 said that interest payments were “released” to the Bahrain accounts, but the sums were not given.
Cloetens referred all questions to Euroclear’s spokesperson, who said: “Euroclear’s policy is to respect and to be in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
HSBC and the Arab Banking Corporation in Bahrain declined to comment.
Belgian green light
elgium’s finance ministry insists that the interest payments are legal, and that no special authorization had to be given.
Georges Gilkinet, a lawmaker and a member of the Belgian parliament’s finance and budget oversight committee, called on Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt to explain the interest payments during a session of the assembly on September 26, 2017.
In a response during that session, Van Overtveldt justified the payments by saying they were in accordance with an “interpretation” of the sanctions’ rules by RELEX, an expert group at the Council of the EU composed of diplomats from member countries.
Muammar Gaddafi, the former leader of Libya in 2010 | Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
Van Overtveldt did not respond to Gilkinet’s questions about whether the interest was paid to Belgian companies, owners of the frozen assets or the Libyan state.
Alexandre De Geest, treasury chief at Belgium’s finance ministry, confirmed to POLITICO that the country allowed earnings from frozen Libyan assets to be paid based on the RELEX decision.
“From 16 September 2011, interests or any other earnings related to the frozen funds of the four entities [listed in sanctions], such as dividends on shares, are not frozen. This conclusion was agreed upon during the RELEX meeting of 20 October 2011 by the European External Action Service and the legal service of the Council,” De Geest wrote in an email.
He added that providing further information on the frozen assets was “prohibited” under EU law. A finance ministry spokesman also did not reply to a question on whether he knew who was claiming the money in the LIA accounts.
Despite LIA’s prominence on the international stage, it is difficult to determine who can access its various accounts.
A spokeswoman for the Council legal service agreed with the Belgian interpretation of the law — saying that the RELEX decision limited the freeze only to assets before September 16, 2011.
Didier Reynders served as finance minister at the time of the RELEX decision but a spokesman for him said that he had “no information” on the case.
De Geest said that the RELEX ruling meant that Belgium’s finance ministry did not need to grant any special license or authorization to green light interest payments from Gaddafi’s assets.
espite LIA’s prominence on the international stage, it is difficult to determine who can access its various accounts.
In the past few years, LIA has engaged in high-profile court battles with Goldman Sachs and Société Générale over investments and trades hailing from the Gaddafi era.
The London-based lawyers working for LIA in these cases declined to respond when approached by POLITICO to ask which group was currently controlling LIA or paying fees for court cases.
Derregia, who taught at Britain’s University of Nottingham business school before heading LIA, insists that none of the millions of euros of interest and dividends ever reached the Libyan people. “So far these funds have been spent on legal cases and on legal feuds within the LIA, nothing went to the people. With all that money we could have launched education and health projects for all the Libyans,” he said. “But politics, not economics or the people, are what they care about.”
“Euroclear is transacting transactions on behalf of the custodian — be it ABC Bahrain, or HSBC Luxembourg” — Abdul Magid Breish, former chairman of LIA
Enyo, a London-based law firm that represented the LIA in its proceedings against Goldman Sachs and Société Générale, referred all questions on LIA to an advisory company, Osborne & Partners. Osborne & Partners declined to “provide guidance on LIA financial or operational matters.”
LIA lost the case against Goldman in 2016, in which it claimed unsuccessfully that it had been misled into risky derivative trades by the U.S. bank. It was more successful in May 2017, when it won a €963 million settlement with Société Générale, in which LIA complained about the way the French bank handled five transactions between 2007 and 2009.
While several claimants are still battling to be recognized as the rightful head of LIA, they have agreed to create a special, temporary legal entity to “receive and manage” LIA’s affairs in the Goldman Sachs and Société Générale cases, run through BDO LLP, an accountancy and advisory firm. This “Receiver and Manager,” as recognized under British law, is intended to handle LIA’s goods and money until the disputes between the rivals are settled.
BDO LLP declined to comment.
Breish, who was forced aside as chairman last summer, told POLITICO that some of the money won in the Société Générale case was intended for litigation costs.
Chasing the money
n an interview with POLITICO, Breish said rivalries over the control of LIA created confusion in sorting out where the final payments from Euroclear transactions ended up.
He said he did not receive any such payments in his time in charge, but reckoned that other rivals to the LIA title might have done so.
“Euroclear is transacting transactions on behalf of the custodian — be it ABC Bahrain, or HSBC Luxembourg … If a dividend or interest coupon is paid, it comes through Euroclear to be settled and then it is credited to the account of the custodian, then that custodian has already accounts in the name of LIA. And that custodian will then credit these amounts. When all of these procedures are finished then the problem starts,” Breish said.
Little has been resolved between the factions and violence still persists between militia on the ground in Libya | Abdullah Doma/AFP via Getty Images
“If somebody approached, for instance, ABC Bahrain whether it is the LIA in Tripoli or LIA in Tobruk or a claimant who says: ‘I am the chairman of the LIA’ and asks them to transfer money coming from dividends on an account in a third bank … or sends a telex requesting a transfer, the custodian should say that there is an authority problem.”
However, Breish said that “there may have been some custodians who may have honored requests from this LIA or that LIA.”
POLITICO attempted to contact Mahmoud’s LIA operations in Tripoli and Malta by telephone and email, but received no reply. Joanne Benecke, an administrator for the Maltese headquarters of the LIA, declined to comment and said that the Valletta office served simply as a “LIA advisory.” She declined to provide further details about the management.
The administration in Tobruk has nominated Ali Shamekh as its chief executive of LIA. Emails and telephone calls to him, his predecessor and the regional government, the Libyan House of Representatives, in eastern Libya all went unanswered.
VIEW THE DOCUMENTS
On interest payments: E-mail exchange between the Belgian finance ministry and Euroclear explaining that interest payments were released to LIA accounts at the Arab Banking Corporation in Bahrain.
[scribd key=key-aXFU5WxWWZUnsZjs5zdA mode=scroll]
Euroclear statement: Excerpt from a 2013 Euroclear statement detailing the frozen funds belonging to the LIA. Euroclear is informing Belgian officials that interest and dividends worth €28 million (covering a period of September 2011 to October 2013) have been credited to an HSBC account in Luxembourg, and funds will continue to be released on a monthly basis.
[scribd key=key-b3odMOCkGthU9osLDhAW mode=scroll]
From the Arab Banking Corporation:Internal documents detailing LIA’s shareholdings.
October 2, 2012-Elections in February or March, Sanctions May Actually be Working, Shai Agassi Fired From Company He Started - History
First, NRA had no response.
I think all stories have been updated at this point, but every single initial article out there had quotes from the gun control groups who – wisely – wrote their planned responses in advance. Or, perhaps had the benefit of not being litigants so they could speak off of the cuff. All of those same articles initially said that NRA had no comment.
There were only a few ways that this would likely go:
- NRA wins on its terms
- NRA is allowed to proceed with bankruptcy, but would have some kind of outside oversight
From a mix of legal/PR perspective, I can understand why you wouldn’t want to say too much if the second result had come out of the case. It would have been pretty complex, so some kind of platitude about looking forward to options and working with the court would be possible.
But there isn’t a reason in the world there wasn’t a statement ready to go for dismissal. It was obvious from the judge’s question to the parties before closing that this was a very likely outcome! There was plenty of time to have a few sentences ready that also acknowledge you needed more time to fully review the ruling. But, no. NRA wasn’t ready to acknowledge the reality of their situation.
In fact, this seems to be a trend. The main NRA account on a platform used to follow my account, even as I became increasingly publicly vocal about my opposition to things they were doing. However, when I put up a request asking for recommendations for a non-NRA postal match that could make a fun, short range activity for National Shooting Sports Month since I heard from people they were not open to potentially sending money to NRA for anything that could end up seized by the NY Attorney General and given to Mike Bloomberg in the next year before the postal match even closed. Acknowledgement that NRA might not win? That’s an unfollow! Anything that isn’t 100% “Wayne’s gonna lead us to freedom!” is not allowed to be seen or discussed it seems.
Back to the court case, NRA after some time had a quote from Wayne as its only response. It makes clear they are remaining in New York and there will be no changes to anything involving members.
Which is nice since I kept pointing out to people that NRA was refusing to release any proposed bylaws for this new organization they were trying to form which means they likely weren’t going to have the same rights as members. If they didn’t want us to know about those rights, that’s usually a sign members need to be concerned. Certainly, this mindset of not wanting members to know their rights or know what’s going on follows my path of trying to get an election committee report out of the organization that has always been available to members before. Now I’m getting the run around and silence, despite being a life member.
Finally (for now), NRA has a longer statement published late last night. As John Richardson noted, it’s not at all a surprise that Wayne & Bill Brewer try to put a positive spin on a unilateral loss. It’s PR, so that is what you do. However, their statement is a joke.
One of the highlights NRA chose to pull out of the opinion is this:
“In short, the testimony…suggests that the NRA now understands the importance of compliance.”
Would you like to know what the full sentence says?
“In short, the testimony of Ms. Rowling and several others suggests that the NRA now understands the importance of compliance.”
Sonya Rowling, part of an early whistleblowing group to Wayne’s behaviors who has (shockingly) avoided being fired, was recognized by the judge:
“…the Court’s impression of her from her testimony as a champion of compliance.”
In fact, NRA is ignoring two key paragraphs where the judge specifically addresses Wayne LaPierre’s behavior – behavior he says gives the Court particular reason to be concerned about the future of the NRA:
“Some of the conduct that gives the Court concern is still ongoing. The NRA appears to have very recently violated its approval procedures for contracts in excess of $100,000. Mr. LaPierre is still making additional financial disclosures. There are also lingering issues of secrecy and a lack of transparency. For example, even after hearing testimony from several witnesses, it is still very unclear why Mr. Spray, an officer everyone seemed to hold in high regard for his talent and integrity, parted ways with the NRA two weeks into this bankruptcy case. What is clear is that Mr. Spray’s departure was precipitated by a call from Mr. LaPierre without involvement of the board of directors.
“What concerns the Court most though is the surreptitious manner in which Mr. LaPierre obtained and exercised authority to file bankruptcy for the NRA. Excluding so many people from the process of deciding to file for bankruptcy, including the vast majority of the board of directors, the chief financial officer, and the general counsel, is nothing less than shocking.”
Now I wouldn’t expect NRA to make this front and center of their press release. However, I do find it problematic that they would edit out the Court’s praise of other people’s work to undo the damage that Wayne LaPierre has done to the organization’s processes to frame it as praise for Wayne’s leadership.
As John Richardson, again, insightfully observed, the decision makes clear that Wayne’s actions and testimony are 100% the reason for the dismissal as a not in good faith filing.
Because Wayne kept it secret from so many, more weight had to be put on his testimony. Because the only people who knew about it were Wayne and the Special Litigation Committee (the Board’s officers – President, 1st VP, and 2nd VP), the judge felt like he had to focus on their testimony on the validity of the filing.
However, the leadership of the Board, it turns out, was not helpful. The Special Litigation Committee who claim to be so on top of things and know everything going on despite having to call emergency meetings to do things they legally needed to do ages ago? Yeah, this is what the Court says about their contributions to defending NRA’s bankruptcy motives:
“The Court received testimony from all three members of the Special Litigation Committee, but their testimony did not explore the reasons for filing bankruptcy in much depth.”
So that leaves just Wayne to focus on. And, folks, he was not a good witness for the NRA at all. His own attorneys admitted that quite a bit of what he said and what was disclosed about his leadership was – and this is a direct quote from the closings – “cringeworthy.”
I don’t really want to quote an entire page from the Court’s decision, but it begins at the end of page 22 and takes up all of page 23. But let’s just say that this opening of that section should tell the Board all it needs to know about Wayne’s competency to represent the organization at this stage:
“The most helpful testimony from Mr. LaPierre came during an exchange when counsel for one of the movants was attempting to discern which of the many reasons for filing for bankruptcy that have been discussed was the real driving force behind Mr. LaPierre’s decision.”
When the judge says that the most helpful testimony in ruling against you came out of a cross examination, there is almost zero chance that you’ve done a decent job representing yourself and your organization.
I’m really quite surprised that they didn’t cherry pick the bit about Wayne providing “the most helpful testimony” as an endorsement of his leadership.
So back to NRA’s statement on this whole mess. There is actually one summarized quote from Wayne that I do agree with as a positive for members! They say, “today’s decision – and the ongoing independence of the NRA – empowers the Association’s approximately 5 million members.”
However, the reason that it’s true is not for reasons NRA wants. It’s because it means the members still have the protection of the current organization’s bylaws. As mentioned above, this is a strong concern of mine that secrecy has been kept on what the organization will look like and how the rights of members will be protected.
One of the other standout features is that the release of NRA’s statement quotes Bill Brewer before it quotes the NRA’s own president. I cannot fathom where this would be appropriate protocol unless the Board has ceded all control to Bill Brewer in practice. (And there’s argument to be made that it has – Judge Hale certainly seems to have concerns.)
I did snort at one line in the release: “The bankruptcy hearing became the nation’s highest-profile legal proceeding of its kind.” Yes, but not for good reasons. And not just because it was NRA. Because it was jaw-dropping that they would file bankruptcy, publicly announce they weren’t in any financial trouble at all, and then proudly admit it was to get out from under scrutiny of an investigation that was initially just political but turned out to have very credible and damning results of wrongdoing. Being watched closely is not a good thing in this case!
In general, this public response highlights that it’s time for Wayne to go, along with most of the yes men he has put into place. This is an embarrassment to the organization, especially as anyone remotely literate can read what the judge really said.
Investigations into the Trump-Russia connection and their revelations [ edit ]
2016 and earlier [ edit ]
In November 2013, Donald Trump went to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, hosted at a property belonging to Aras Agalarov. Trump praised Agalarov on Twitter and wrote that a Trump Tower in Moscow is next. Since the early 2000s, Russian-born developer Felix Sater has been in contact with the Trump Organization. His Bayrock Group partnered with the Trump Organization on Manhattan hotel named Trump Soho. [note 4] His primary contacts are Donald Trump himself, his son Donald Trump Jr., his daughter Ivanka Trump, and Michael Cohen, who joined the Trump Organization in 2007. Trump announced he was running for President in June 2015. In September 2015, Sater arranged for a meeting with Cohen to discuss a possible project in Moscow. In a letter to Cohen, Sater wrote he wanted to "help world peace and make a lot of money." Sater allegedly has ties to organized crime. Cohen continued to communicate with Sater and other Russian contacts about the Moscow Project from then to June 2016. In July, Trump went on Twitter to deny he had any investments in Russia. ⎹]
A 2019 court filing revealed that the Russian effort to interfere in the U.S. 2016 presidential election began as early as 2014 in St. Petersburg, Russia. An organization named the Internet Research Agency (IRA) employed technologically savvy Russians for its troll farm, tasked with manipulating American public opinion using popular social media networks—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube—and homegrown techniques of deception and misinformation. The goal was to spread and exacerbate mistrust in not just political candidates but also in political institutions. The IRA secretly sent agents to various U.S. states to gather information on the various political issues on which Americans are divided, such as gun control. It purchased U.S. IT infrastructure, such as server space, in order to safeguard its true origins and purpose. Trolls were to present themselves as Americans and to make numerous fake and sock puppet accounts appearing to be associated with various political and religious activist groups. In February 2016, the order was given to "use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump— we support them)." ⎺]
In March 2016, when it became clear that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the top candidates of their respective parties, agents from the Russian military intelligence unit, the GRU, began sending malicious emails to members of the Clinton campaign, tricking them into sharing their email passwords. Within weeks, the GRU gained access to the personal email account of John Podesta, the chairman of Clinton's campaign. ⎺]
In April 2016, while traveling in Europe, Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta, who claimed he had connections with senior Russian officials interested in helping Trump win the presidency. Mufsud told Papadopoulos that Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen compromising emails. Meanwhile, Michael Cohen signed a letter of intent in order to secure a business deal of building a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen discussed the matter with Trump himself and his children and appealed to the Kremlin itself for help with securing land and financing for the project. ⎺]
Paul Manafort, who was making princely sums as a political consultant in Ukraine and Russia, saw a new business opportunity in the Trump campaign. Manafort and Richard Gates worked their way up to the highest echelons of the Trump campaign and made sure their old clients knew of their new positions. After Trump became the Republican presidential nominee, the IRA escalated its campaign to aid Trump and to undermine Clinton. The troll farm began using stolen identities and bank accounts to purchase political advertisements on social media networks. At the same time, GRU hackers began planting malicious software into the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), giving them the ability to search for and to steal what they wanted. Another group of Russian intelligence agents registered a website, DCleaks.com, that published the stolen materials. ⎺]
In May, the DNC and DCCC realized they had been hacked and hired a private cyber security firm to address the issue. But they kept quiet about it till June 14, 2016, and claimed that Russia was responsible. But by then, the website DCleaks.com was ready, and the Russians escalated their leaking campaign. They created a fake online persona named Guccifer 2.0, a supposedly "lone Romanian hacker" who took credit for the hacking and began publishing compromising materials online. This came into the attention of Julian Assange, leader of the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks, who was then living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Wikileaks emailed Guccifer asking for the documents, claiming that their release by Wikileaks would have a much higher impact. The Russians agreed. ⎺]
While Papadopoulos unsuccessfully tried to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, the Russians found a receptive audience in Donald Trump Jr., Trump's eldest son. Rob Goldstone, a British publicist for Russian singer Emin Agalarov, son of Aras Agalarov, served as the intermediary between the two sons. Goldstone arranged a meeting at the Trump Tower in New York between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, telling the former that the Russians had dirt on Clinton. Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, also attended the meeting, which took place on June 9, 2016. However, it turned out to be about the adoption of Russian children by American citizens and U.S. sanctions on Russia. ⎺]
In July 22, 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her running mate for Vice President to be Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. On the same day, Wikileaks released more then 20,000 stolen DNC emails. This immediately captured the imagination of the press. In the wake of the FBI investigation on Clinton herself, conservative pundits and Trump supporters were all too happy with the outcome. Donald Trump himself weighed in, making his famous call for Russia to find "the 30,000 emails that are missing." [note 5] Trump campaign officials reached out to Trump confidant Roger Stone, who claimed he had connections with Wikileaks. As the presidential election season entered its final stretch, Russian trolls, who had by then garnered hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, began unleashing loads of anti-Clinton and pro-Trump posts. ⎺]
In October 7, 2016, Donald Trump got entangled in a scandal after The Washington Post published a leaked video of him bragging about sexually harassing and groping women. But another load of stolen documents released by Wikileaks gave him a respite. An associate of Trump campaign chief strategist Steve Bannon sent Roger Stone a message of gratitude. ⎺]
FBI counterintelligence specialists routinely provide briefings to presidential candidates and their top aides on the threats posed to their campaigns by foreign spies because after their nominations, they begin receiving classified information, making them inviting targets. 2016 was no exception. Then-candidate Trump was warned that Russian agents could infiltrate his campaign. The FBI was at this time already aware of the contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia. Former CIA director James Brennan said his agency had observed suspicious communications between the Trump campaign and Russia, and had promptly informed the FBI. ⎻]
The FBI began investigating possible Trump-Russia collusion on July 31, 2016, a hundred days before the Election, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, as its investigation on Hillary Clinton was winding down. It was initially kept a secret so that the FBI can avoid the appearance of being lenient on Clinton and biased against Trump. Agents understood they would not be able to solve the case before Election Day and took the calculated risk that Clinton was going to defeat Trump, judging from poll results. ⎼] President Barack Obama was aware of the Russian plot, but did not want to be too public about it he did not want to be perceived as trying to tilt the scale in favor of Clinton. ⎽] It was, however, later revealed on television by none other than then-FBI director James Comey himself. [note 6]
In January 2019, the New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that it was Russian agents who attempted to interfere in the U.S. presidential election that year in order to boost candidate Donald Trump at the expense of Hillary Clinton by planting fake news stories in social media and by cyber attacks. ⎾]
2017 [ edit ]
In early January, Buzzfeed published the Steele Dossier, named after former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. ⎹] Michael Flynn was appointed Trump's chief national security adviser and became the primary contact between Trump and Russia. However, he lied to the FBI about conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the U.S., about a U.N. vote to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He wanted Russia to delay or to reject the vote and to refrain from escalating tensions. This came after the outgoing Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia for election-meddling. George Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his conversations with Mifsoud, the Maltese academic. ⎺]
Donald Trump, feeling that he could not control Comey and deeply upset by the negative media coverage, fired FBI director James Comey on May 9, 2017. ⏂] One week after Trump fired Comey for refusing to terminate the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia, Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as Special Counsel in charge of that investigation. ⏃] One day before being appointed Special Counsel, Mueller was interviewed by Trump to serve as FBI director but was not hired. If Mueller knew of his future job beforehand, he likely did not divulge this information to Trump. ⏄] [note 7] Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, citing a conflict of interest as he was part of the Trump campaign in 2016. ⏅] Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as Acting Attorney General, tasked Mueller with investigating whether or not Trump and his associates colluded with Russia and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." ⏆] [note 8] This last point gives the Special Counsel especially broad investigative powers. Rosenstein reasoned that given the "unique circumstances," it was appropriate for the appointment of a Special Counsel who is independent "from the normal chain of command" to lead the investigation, which would be protected from interference, including from the White House. This is in accordance with regulations from the Justice Department, which allow for an outside Special Counsel to be appointed for an investigation of individuals or matters that present conflicts of interest for the Department or under other "extraordinary circumstances." ⏇]
Amid the chaos, then acting FBI director Andrew McCabe order that preparations be made to make sure the evidence gathered by the ongoing FBI investigation survive further leadership changes, especially if Robert Mueller was fired and his team disbanded. ⏈]
In his testimony before Congress, Michael Cohen lied about the Trump Tower Project in Moscow. He told them it ended before June 2016. ⎺]
In a CBS interviewed aired in February 2019, Andrew McCabe, then FBI deputy director, became worried that Donald Trump would terminate the ongoing investigation into his ties to Russia and obstruction of justice right after the firing of FBI director James Comey. He and other Justice Department officials discussed how to continue the investigation in the event he was fired or reassigned, and bringing the Cabinet together to discuss removing Trump from office using the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ⏉] McCabe claimed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire during his meetings with Trump. Although the official statement from the Justice Department was that Rosenstein was being sarcastic, McCabe said he was taken seriously. ⏊]
According the transcript of a meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in May read to The New York Times by an unnamed U.S. official, Trump said he fired "nut job" James Comey in order to reduce the pressure due to the ongoing investigation into Trump's ties with Russia. Trump initially justified the sacking of Comey using a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pointing to Comey's mismanagement of the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server, but later stated that his decision to fire Comey was independent of the memo. Rosenstein confirmed this. Prior to the firing, Trump had asked Comey to halt an investigation into Michael Flynn. The Washington Post reported that during this same meeting, Trump gave classified information on ISIS to the Russians forwarded to the U.S. by a key ally, Israel. ⎿]
In September, Donald Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. When asked about the Moscow Project, he said he had known "very little" about it, but also said he and Ivanka would have known about other Moscow deals. ⎹]
In late November, aboard Air Force One, Trump said the following to reporters about his business activities:
My focus was running for president. But when I run for president, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business. I was doing a lot of different things when I was running. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it. I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities? ⎹]
2018 [ edit ]
January to July [ edit ]
In January, The Washington Post revealed, citing Dutch media reports, that the Dutch home intelligence agency AIVD, which had been infiltrating the notorious Russian hacking group 'Cozy Bear' since mid-2014, had obtained evidence of Russian interference in the United States 2016 Presidential Election and had forwarded this information to U.S. authorities. AIVD is presumably the Western intelligence agency that discovered in 2014 that it was Cozy Bear who launched a cyber attack against the U.S. State Department and notified the National Security Agency (NSA). They managed to access the computers of Russian hackers, watch them maneuver inside U.S. government computer systems, and even obtained CCTV footage of those involved. On top of that, analysts succeeded in tracking the locations of the Russian hackers down to a university building near Red Square. In that case, the Netherlands is the first ally to inform the U.S. of Russian cyber attacks. ⏌] [note 9]
In April, the FBI raided the office, residence, hotel suite, and safe-deposit boxes of Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer and personal fixer, in New York City, seizing financial records, computers, phones and privileged communications. ⏍] Despite a history of being one of Trump's most loyal aides, Cohen signaled he was willing to cooperate with prosecutors as he is himself a target of a criminal investigation for various kinds of fraud. ⏎] The loss of Cohen and his likely cooperation with law enforcement are devastating blows against Trump. On August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of bank fraud, tax fraud, and illegal campaign contributions. Cohen's illegal campaign contributions include $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels) and $150,000 to Karen McDougal as part of nondisclosure agreements on their extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump denied knowledge of the payments but later admitted he reimbursed Cohen. He insisted that it had nothing to do with his Presidential campaign. ⏏]
In May, ABC News reports that the Mueller team questioned multiple witnesses about donors to Trump's inauguration, including those with ties to Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. One of the people interviewed was Thomas Barrack, a close friend of the President. Another was Viktor Vekselberg, who allegedly directed funding to a corporate entity created by Michael Cohen to pay various women in exchange for their silence on their affairs with Donald Trump. ⏐]
By July, it is more accurate to call this a corruption probe, as Mueller both expanded the scope of his special counsel and worked with state officials to uncover all crimes involved with the Trump campaign. Trump and his inner circle is being investigated for (aggravated) identity theft, various kinds of frauds, unauthorized computer access (hacking), money laundering, accepting illegal campaign contributions, making false statements to law enforcement, failure to register as foreign agents, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy against the United States of America. ⏑] In fact, the Special Counsel investigation has resulted in 191 criminal charges against 35 individuals and three companies resulting in five guilty pleas and one sentencing. ⏒] At least one person was fined and sentenced to prison. ⏓] In fact, the investigation has become so complex that Mueller had to recruit more prosecutors for his team ⏔] they come from a variety of backgrounds, with experience ranging from the prosecution of corruption scandals, sanctions dodging, to hacking cases. ⏕] Mueller has no fewer than 17 federal prosecutors working for him. ⏇]
In mid-July, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, appointed by Trump himself, revealed that there is a broad effort by the Department of Justice to combat Russian "information warfare" waged against the United States to undermine her democracy and critical infrastructure. Indeed, the Russian attempt to influence the 2016 Election was "just one tree in a growing forest," he said. ⎽]
Roger Stone, a political agitator and Nixon fan who worked for the Trump campaign, ⏖] thought that he was the unnamed person on the July 13, 2018 indictment. ⏗] (Details below.) His associate, Jerome Corsi not only rejected a plea deal offered by the Special Counsel in November of the same year but also made preparations for a legal challenge against him. Corsi admitted he would probably be indicted by Mueller because of his links to Julian Assange and his creation, Wikileaks. Wikileaks is a potential intermediary between the Trump campaign and Russia, assuming they colluded. ⏘] Besides Roger Stone, Wikileaks has also communicated with Donald Trump Jr. ⏙] Corsi works for the far-right website Infowars, known for propagating conspiracy theories and running smear campaigns. [note 10] An email exchange between Corsi and Stone from the summer of 2016 obtained by ABC News revealed that they wanted to contact Assange about the release of information stolen by Russian intelligence, including allegedly hacked emails, in order to damage the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Stone denied this ⏚] and pleaded the Fifth Amendment. ⏛] [note 11] The Special Counsel is also interested in the links between Roger Stone and Guccifer 2.0, a Twitter persona believed to be used by one or more Russian military intelligence agents who stole the emails from the Clinton campaign and gave them to Wikileaks. It was revealed in 2018 that Stone was messaging Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter just weeks before Election Day. ⏙] ⏜]
Mueller has begun looking into Trump's tweets for evidence of the latter obstructing justice. ⏝]
August to December [ edit ]
Curiously, Trump admitted that his son, Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer for information on a political opponent, contradicting previous statements that the meeting concerned the adoption of Russian children by American citizens. Trump insisted that there was no collusion and that it was completely legal. He also denied knowing about it at the time. ⏟]
Although Trump previously said he was willing to be interviewed by Mueller's investigators in person, his lawyers advised him otherwise. One of them, Jay Sekulow questioned the need for the President's testimony and pointed out that if Mueller were to subpoena the President, the case would go to the Supreme Court because the question of whether or not a sitting President may be subpoenaed has never been tested in the courts before. ⏠]
White House Counsel Don McGahn voluntarily sat down for about 30 hours of interview by the Mueller team over nine months. He is considered one of the key witnesses in this investigation. Trump said he allowed McGahn to do so in order to end the inquiry as soon as possible. ⏡] McGahn was the main point of contact between the White House and the Mueller team. He left the White House in October. ⏢]
In November, a court filing in error suggested that the U.S. government is preparing to charge Julian Assange. It is not clear whether these charges, if any, are related to the Mueller investigation. The Justice Department made no comment. ⏣]
In September, the Mueller team reportedly stopped insisting on a personal interview and agreed to accept written answers from Trump. ⏤] Just before Thanksgiving, Trump announced he had finished answering Mueller's questions in writing. He argued that Mueller was setting up a perjury trap. ⏞]
In November, Jerome Corsi told the press that he had been questioned by Mueller's team about Nigel Farage, a politician who has been pushing for the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union (Brexit). Farage forged ties with the Trump campaign and White House through his friendship with Steve Bannon, the former editor of the far-right website Breitbart and White House chief strategist. The Guardian reported that Nigel Farage was a "person of interest" for the Mueller probe. Corsi was also questioned about Ted Malloch, an American academic living in London who has ties with Farage and who had informally advised the Trump campaign. Malloch was himself interrogated by FBI agents when he arrived in Boston's Logan International Airport on his involvement in the Trump campaign, his relationship with Roger Stone, and any meetings he might have had with Julian Assange. According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, the Mueller team has taken an interest in Aaron Backs, the top funder of the pro-Brexit campaign. ⏥]
In late November, The Guardian reported that Paul Manafort had had meetings with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2013, 2015, and 2016, when he became a key figure in Trump's presidential campaign. Wikileaks released a store of emails stolen from the Democratic Nomination Committee by Russian intelligence after Manafort met Assange in March 2016. Although it remains unclear why Manafort visited Assange, their communication is likely to be of interest to the Mueller probe. Manafort could have been a key witness and cooperator, but was accused of lying to investigators on a "variety of subject matter." ⏦]
In December, a foreign company, whose identity has been kept a secret, was fined for refusing to obey a grand jury subpoena. It appealed to the United States Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts granted a temporary freeze in the daily fine. The Court will issue its final decision the following year. An entire floor of a D.C. courthouse was closed during arguments to prevent the public from learning the identities of the lawyers involved. ⏧]
Towards the end of 2018, one could argue that the Trump-Russia investigation is moving at a rapid pace, given the number of people who were indicted or who pleaded guilty in such a short amount of time, and aspects that involve cyber security and intelligence, and the international complexity involved. Another way to gauge its progress and success is how the people in Trump's inner circles have changed their tunes, usually from defiance and confidence to diffidence and obedience. Paul Manafort thought of the investigation as "the battle to prove our innocence" but then accepted a plea deal with Mueller. Michael Cohen started out saying that he was fine with "taking a bullet for Trump" but is now fully cooperating with the Mueller team. Trump's lawyer and lead spokesperson Rudy Giuliani initially insisted, as the President did, that "there was no collusion" but has changed his line to "collusion is not a crime." Donald Trump, for this part, is becoming more and more defiant. ⏋] There have been speculations and predictions that the Mueller investigation could be ending soon, but so far, the speculations have not born fruit. ⏛]
The U.S. federal government faced a partial shutdown in late 2018. However, this did not affect the Special Counsel investigation. Employees of the Special Counsel's Office were expected to go to work as usual. ⏨]
2019 [ edit ]
January [ edit ]
In early January, the grand jury used by Mueller had its term extended by six months as its initial 18-month term was about to expire. There has been speculation that the Russia probe could be ending soon, but the judge issuing the extension made no comment. ⏪] She does not sit on the jury's confidential sessions. Mueller's grand jury began meeting in July 2017. Under federal law, the term of a grand jury may be extended for up to six months if it is "in the public interest." ⏫] By this time, Mueller's grand jury has heard dozens of witnesses and approved numerous indictments. ⏪]
Multiple news outlets reported that Rod Rosenstein was preparing to leave his job as Deputy Attorney General, sparking speculations that the Mueller was ending soon, or at least has gathered too much momentum to be stopped. It remains unclear when the exact date of Rosenstein's departure would be. While acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker assumed direct control of the probe, Rosenstein has continued to help supervise it. Historically speaking, Deputy Attorney Generals typically stay for no longer than two years, meaning Rosenstein's departure was likely not motivated by any particular events. ⏬]
According to legal experts, Robert Mueller almost certainly has Trump's tax returns, but he cannot release them unless they are relevant to a criminal case. ⏭] But perhaps the House Intelligence Committee pose a much greater threat to Trump than the Special Counsel, because they are armed with the power to investigate Trump's business ties and to issue subpoenas. Of interest is Deutsche Bank, which has a history of laundering Russian money and is the one bank willing to do business with the Trump Organization. ⏮] Regulators have raised questions about how Deutsche Bank handles transactions from Danske Bank, currently the center of a massive money laundering scandal. ⏯]
The New York Times reported in January that the FBI initiated a counterintelligence and criminal investigation after the sacking of FBI director James Comey by Donald Trump in 2016. The counterintelligence component of the probe sought to answer the question of whether or not Trump "had unwittingly fallen under Moscow's influence", advancing Russian interests at the expense of the United States the criminal part concerned with whether or not the firing of Comey constituted obstruction of justice. ⎾]
In a rare move, the Office of the Special Counsel issued a statement in mid-January disputing the accuracy of a report by Buzzfeed claiming that Michael Cohen told investigators that Trump had instructed him to lie about plans for the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith said he stood by the story and requested that the Special Counsel clarify which aspects of it he considered to be inaccurate. Trump denied the report, claiming that Cohen lied in order to "reduce his jail time" and said that the Mueller statement was "very appropriate". In court, Cohen said he had a "blind loyalty to Donald Trump" that motivated him to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds". ] Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said he would like to have Cohen testify before his committee by subpoena "if necessary." In a public statement, Cohen said he looked forward to giving "a full and credible account of the events" in February. ] Cohen was due to appear before the House on a voluntary basis in early February, before reporting to prison in March. However, he has postponed his Congressional testimony indefinitely, citing "ongoing threats against his family from President Trump." ] However, the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed his testimony behind closed doors in mid-February and Adam Schiff said he expected Cohen's presence before his Committee regardless of his decision to postpone. Schiff also said the House would release all remaining transcripts of the interviews conducted in its investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Special Counsel. ] ]
In mid-January, the Special Counsel subpoenaed three witnesses linked to Jerome Corsi to testify before a grand jury. In November 2018, Corsi rejected a plea deal that Mueller offered to him, saying that he could not plead guilty to a crime he did not commit. This deal would have allowed him to plead guilty to one count of perjury. ⏚]
William Barr, Trump's nominee to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, stated in his confirmation hearing that under him, the Special Counsel would be allowed to finish his investigation. However, he stopped short of promising to release the report that will be handed to him he said he hoped to release as much of it as possible in accordance with rules and regulations. ] Indeed, special counsels and grand juries are obligated to keep the information they obtained about an individual secret if that individual is not charged with a crime. ] Furthermore, any information that could jeopardize national security would have to be redacted. ] Barr's comment in a legal memo that the Special Counsel investigation was "fatally misconceived" has been a cause for concern. ] A bipartisan bill was introduced requiring the Special Counsel to submit a report to Congress. ]
In late January, one of Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, admitted to The New York Times and NBC that his client had been involved in discussions on the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow from the day he announced his candidacy to the the day of his electoral victory, contradicting Trump's public statements. Giuliani also said that his client might have talked to Michael Cohen before Cohen made false testimony to Congress, claiming discussions ended in January 2016. When he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Cohen told prosecutors discussions extended to at least June 2016. However, Giuliani later retracted his statements, saying he was merely talking in the hypothetical and insisted that even if Trump did talk to the Russians about his Moscow Project during his entire Presidential campaign, "it wouldn't be a crime." ⏩]
In late January, the federal appellate court in the District of Columbia upheld a daily fine of $50,000 for failure to comply with a grand jury subpoena against the unnamed foreign company that appealed to the Supreme Court last month. Chief Justice John Roberts granted a pause in the daily fine last December, but a brief decision from the Court removed that pause. The Supreme Court also refused to block the subpoena. The appellate court rejected the company's argument that it was immune from subpoenas under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and that compliance with the subpoena would violate the laws of its country of origin. ]
The Mueller team has expressed an interest in the relations between the Trump campaign and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Trump spoke at the organization's meeting in 2015, just months before announcing his Presidential bid. The NRA is already facing scrutiny for its massive spending in support of the Trump campaign, US$30 million in total, and for its ties to Russian nationals, including Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States in court, and Alexander Torshin, a former central banker who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. Both Butina and Torshin are life-long NRA members. Trump became a favorite for the NRA when he was running for President, despite his well-documented support for gun control. ]
Russian singer Emin Agalarov, said on his social media account he was "forced" to cancel his North American tour. His father, Aras Agalarov, became an associate of Trump in hosting the Miss Universe pageant in 2013. The singer's lawyer said the Mueller team was looking to question him on the ties between his family business and the Trump campaign. ]
A new poll conducted by CBS from mid- to late-January shows that more Americans now think the Russia investigation is justified. This is thanks to an increase in support for the Mueller probe from Democrats the number of Republicans who think it is politically motivated remains the same at 83%. However, just under two-thirds of Americans, including a slight majority of Democrats, believe that Democrats in Congress should focus more on passing legislation rather than investigating the President. This poll was conducted by telephone on a random sample of 1,102 adults nationwide the margin of error is about three percent. ]
The arrest and indictment of Roger Stone suggest that the Trump campaign was aware that Wikileaks was in possession of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee beforehand. In an email from October 4, 2016, Stone informed a senior Trump campaign official that Julian Assange was about to release the stolen emails. Stone communicated with Wikileaks via an intermediary, reported to be comedian Randy Credico. ] According to a court filing by Mueller's prosecutors, the FBI seized terabytes hard-drive contents from Stone's Florida home, including emails, bank and financial records. ]
By this stage in the investigation, it is evident that various individuals in Trump's inner circle are turning against each other. [note 12] Michael Cohen not only pledged his full cooperation with the Special Counsel but also urged Americans to vote for Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections in order to constrain President Trump. Rick Gates served as the star witness in the trial of Paul Manafort, in which he was convicted on several charges of fraud. Roger Stone is stepping up his efforts to insult former colleagues, including Jerome Corsi. ] Corsi for his part said he would be "happy" to testify against Stone. ]
Just before the end of the month, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said he was "fully briefed" on the progress of the Special Counsel investigation and announced that it was close to completion. But he gave no details. ]
February [ edit ]
On the first Monday of this month, federal prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed documents related to donors and financial information from Donald Trump's inaugural campaigns. In particular, investigators are for evidence of foreign money laundering, election fraud, and illegal campaign contributions. Under federal law, foreign donations to federal campaigns are illegal. Separately, investigators from the United States attorney's office in Brooklyn opened an inquiry into the possibility of inaugural officials helping foreigners donate to the Trump campaign by masking their identities using "straw donors." However, no one from the committee was accused of any wrongdoing. This new inquiry stemmed out from the investigation of Michael Cohen, who has spent more than 70 hours being interviewed by investigators from the United States attorney's office in Manhattan as well as Mueller's team. ] New York prosecutors requested interviews with executives of the Trump Organization. People close to Trump told CNN that he and his legal team viewed the New York investigations as a greater threat than the Special Counsel. ]
Tom Barrack, head of Trump's inaugural committee, confirmed he was interviewed by Mueller's team in 2017, but said he was not the target of the investigation. ]
Just twelve hours after Trump's 2019 State of the Union address, delayed for two weeks because of a government shutdown, the House Intelligence Committee voted to share the documents related to its Russia probe in 2017 and 2018 with the Special Counsel, including the full and unredacted transcripts of interviews it conducted. Chairman Adam Schiff said Mueller had already had access "to the substance of the transcripts" but could only act on them after their release. He also said his Commmittee would look beyond Trump's ties to any "foreign actors" who might have influenced him, his family, and his associates. ]
A federal judge found that Paul Manafort made multiple false statements to the FBI, the Office of the Special Counsel, and the grand jury, and voided his plea deal. Manafort remained bound by the deal and could not withdraw his guilty pleas. But the Special Counsel was liberated from his end of the bargain. ]
Michael Cohen's attorney confirmed to Reuters his client would testify in public before the House Oversight Committee, and the House and Senate intelligence committees before reporting to prison in March. However, Cohen will not talk about the ongoing investigations of the Special Counsel or federal prosecutors in New York he will only discuss his personal experience serving Trump for a decade. This announcement came right after Senator Richard Burr criticized Cohen for delaying his testimony. Cohen was recovering from shoulder surgery. ]
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed with the press that she was interviewed by the Mueller team. She said that she was "happy to voluntarily" sit for an interview and that the President urged her to "fully cooperate." ]
In mid-February, the attorney general of New Jersey subpoenaed the Trump inaugural committee. It uses similar language to the previous one by New York, but specifically asks for records pertaining to activities in New Jersey, ledgers, tax forms, contracts and "all documents related to any benefits provided to donors." ]
William Barr began his second stint as attorney general on February 15. He previously served in this capacity from 1991 to 1993. ] House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff threatened a legal fight if his committee is not satisfied with the level of access they have to the findings of the Special Counsel investigation. In particular, Schiff said he was willing to subpoena Mueller himself as well as his report. Democrats could use Mueller's findings to start impeachment proceedings. Many Republicans have come out in favor of releasing the full report. ]
A federal judge in the District of Columbia imposed a limited gag order to Roger Stone in order to ensure a fair trial and "to maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these proceedings," citing the “size and vociferousness” of crowds attracted to Stone’s court appearances and the possibility of his statements prejudicing his jurors. This order bars him from speaking on matters directly related to his trial. It also prohibits him and his lawyers from talking to reporters on they way in and out of the courthouse. ] That judge later imposed a strict gag order after Stone posted a picture of her with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun near her head on Instagram. It was later deleted. Now, Stone may not comment publicly about his case at all, although he may still raise funds for his legal defense. ]
In February 17, The Guardian reported that Robert Mueller subpoenaed Brittany Kaiser, former business development director of the data mining and political consulting from Cambridge Analytica, which became defunct after news broke that it misused Facebook data. According to Damian Collins, who chairs the British parliamentary inquiry into fake news, this is not a surprise given that Kaiser's work connected her to Wikileaks and Brexit. Collins added that it has become vital for the U.K. to start its own investigation into foreign interference. Her spokesperson said she was cooperating fully with the Special Counsel. She is the first person with links to both the Trump and Brexit campaigns known to have been interviewed by Mueller. ]
In late February, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the argument that the appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III was unconstitutional. The court also found that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision to appoint Mueller was impeccable. This legal challenge came from Andrew Miller, an associate of Roger Stone. Miller was subpoenaed by Mueller to appear before a federal grand jury. Miller's lawyer said he was considering to bring the case to a full appellate court or even to the Supreme Court. ]
In his public testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 27, Michael Cohen stated that he had arranged for the payment of hush money to an adult film actress and a Playboy model who had had sexual relations with Donald Trump then lied about it to the public and the first lady at Trump's request. He presented a copy of a check from Trump reimbursing him for paying the women. Cohen claimed that Trump considered his campaign to be a marketing opportunity and never expected to win the Republican primary election, or the general election. He recounted overhearing a conversation between Trump and Roger Stone, in which Stone informed Trump that Wikileaks was about to unleash troves of damaging documents about Hillary Clinton. However, he contended he had no concrete evidence that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Cohen also presented financial documents which he said showed Trump to be wealthier than he really was. ]
March [ edit ]
In early March, Michael Cohen returned to Capitol Hill for a closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, bringing with him additional documents to back up his claims. He pledged to continue to cooperate with investigators. ]
Shortly after Cohen's assertion that Donald Trump inflated the value of his assets in order to reduce his insurance premiums in his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, prosecutors in New York subpoenaed Trump's insurance broker, Aon. This subpoena requested a wide range of documents, but did not allege any wrongdoing. Michael Cohen agreed to cooperate with this particular probe. ]
The House Intelligence Committee reopened and expanded a probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election which the Republican majority closed in 2018. Chairman Schiff announced his committee would also be looking into Trump's overseas financial interests. The House Oversight and Reform Committee, whose jurisdiction extends to all parts of government, wants to call in people repeatedly mentioned by Michael Cohen in his testimony. Chairman Elijah Cummings requested documents related to security clearances from the White House after a New York Times report that the President order security clearance be given to his son-in-law Jared Kushner despite objections from security officials. The House Oversight Committee also voted to subpoena Trump administration officials over Trump's family-separation policy at the southern border. The House Judiciary Committee initiated an investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and has issued document requests to 81 individuals with ties to him. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is also under scrutiny. The House Financial Services Committee is focused on Deutsche Bank, which has given millions of dollars in loans to the Trump Organization over the years, and Trump's charitable foundation. It is also working with the House Intelligence Committee to investigate possible money laundering by the Russians and the Trump Organization. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is looking into ties between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, including a one-on-one meeting between them in 2018 in Helsinki, Finland, and Trump's policy toward Saudi Arabia and response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. These could be setting up the stage for impeachment. However, while some liberal Democrats have been calling for immediate impeachment, other Democrats have been more cautious. ] ]
According to a court filing unsealed in mid-March, Richard Gates was not ready to be sentenced, as he continue to be useful to the investigation. ]
Court records made public (with redactions) in late March revealed that Michael Cohen was a target of investigation starting July 2017, much earlier than previously thought. Robert Mueller's early efforts focused on possible bank fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent. ]
—William Barr quoting the Mueller report in his summary. Η]
On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final report to Attorney General William Barr. Barr informed Congress in writing he would brief them on the "principal conclusions" and restated his commitment to "as much transparency as possible." Polls show that Americans would like to see the report. Earlier this month, the House voted unanimously in favor of a non-binding resolution urging the Justice Department to make the report public. ] According to Barr's summary of the report's findings, released on the same weekend, Mueller found no evidence of any collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. Because Mueller did not really answer the question of whether or not Trump obstructed justice, Barr asserted there was no concrete evidence for it. However, Barr acknowledged that Russian officials had made an offer to assist the Trump campaign. The end of the Special Counsel probe does not mean the end of legal troubles for Donald Trump, who still faces many investigations from New York state prosecutors and from Congress. ]
Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller's report within weeks. It is reportedly 300 pages long. ] Although the Special Counsel investigation officially concluded when Robert Mueller submitted his report to William Barr, a federal prosecutor told reporters that Mueller's grand jury was continuing work "robustly." Moreover, Mueller referred several matters to other law enforcement offices. ]
April [ edit ]
The House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena the full Mueller report. Democrats are not satisfied with a redacted version, even though Barr said he was censoring classified information, details related to the grand jury, and anything else related to individuals not indicted. Although the vote will not automatically result in a subpoena, it did authorize chairman Jerrold Nadler to issue one. The vote also allowed the Committee to subpoena Trump's former strategist Steve Bannon, former Communications Director Hope Hicks, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former White House Counsel Donald McGahn and counsel Ann Donaldson. These people were likely key witnesses of obstruction of justice in Mueller's probe. ]
As part of Congressional investigations into Donald Trump and his ties to Russia, the House Financial Services Committee issued subpoenas to nine banks from the U.S. and abroad. They were JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Capital One Financial Corp., Deutsche Bank AG, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank. In particular, Deutsche Bank, which has lent Trump $340 million, is the primary target of investigation. The House Financial Services Committee focuses on possible money laundering. ]
At 11 am, local time, April 18, 2019, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report on his investigation into possible collusion between Donald Trump and Russia was released. Media outlets, journalists, and commentators quickly jumped on it, as is to be expected in a world of instant reporting. Trump's lawyer, Rudolph Guiliani appeared within half an hour of the release of the report on Fox News. ] The full text of the report is 448 pages long, with 23 pages of redacted materials. Mueller's questions and Trump's written answers are also included. This was the only instance of direct communication between the Special Counsel and the President. In an introductory passage, Mueller noted the inadequacy of the written format since his team was unable to ask follow-up questions. Mueller's team considered dozens answers to be incomplete, or imprecise. The final set of questions went unanswered. ]
Trump and members of his inner circle quickly asserted that Trump did not obstruct justice and the report exonerated him. In reality, the Special Counsel left open the possibility of obstruction of justice. He wrote in his report that his team was unable to reach that conclusion based on the available evidence and applicable legal standards. Although the Robert Mueller had to follow Justice Department guidelines which say that a sitting President should not be prosecuted, he pointed to the possibility of Trump being charged after leaving office. The purpose of the Special Counsel investigation was to "preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary material were available." The report neither implicates nor exonerates the President. ]
Mueller chose not to indict former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for perjury to Congress because of the wording and context of the questions to him. On the other hand, Mueller noted that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and other Trump staff members were in legally problematic positions for their June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, even though Mueller could not find any evidence that they "willfully" broke the law. ]
Mueller's report is now available in book form for purchase from various publishers as well as in PDF for free download from the Internet. ]
Rudy Giuliani claimed that Trump's lawyers had seen the Mueller report two days before its public release and that Trump legal team had been preparing a rebuttal to the report. ]
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the full unredacted report. Chairman Jerrold Nadler argued his committee was entitled to it and that the redacted version leaves to many questions unanswered. In response, the Justice Department called the subpoena "premature and unnecessary" but said it would "continue to work with Congress to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests." ]
May [ edit ]
Stephen Calk, CEO and founder of Federal Savings Bank of Chicago and former economic adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign, had an indictment unsealed against him in the Southern District of New York, accusing him of approving $16 million in loans to Manafort in an attempt to get a senior-level position in the cabinet. ]