A Second Korean War Could Quickly Spread Across All of Asia

Not sure I agree with this yet but it’s a chilling scenario.

Brendan Scott

 and 

Adrian Leung
August 21, 2017, 5:00 PM EDT August 22, 2017, 12:51 AM EDT
  • Northeast Asia’s geography reveals the peril of any strike
  • Great powers risk being drawn into escalating conflict
0:140:30
Burns Says War With North Korea Is Not Imminent

Nick Burns, professor at Harvard Kennedy School, discusses Trump administration dealings with geopolitical events. He speaks with Bloomberg’s David Westin on ‘Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas.’ (Source: Bloomberg)

Follow @bpolitics for all the latest news, and sign up for our daily Balance of Power newsletter.

A recent survey commissioned by the New York Times found that people who could find North Korea on a map were more likely to favor talks over military action. A glance at North Asia’s geography explains why.

More than six decades after the Korean War ended without a peace treaty, the peninsula remains bisected in a perpetual stalemate, with the U.S.-backed South Korean military lined up against more than a million North Korean troops. While tensions have occasionally flared — such as after Kim Jong Un’s weapons tests or threats of “merciless revenge” over American-led military exercises that began Monday — the two sides have so far staved off another devastating conflict.

The 250-kilometer (160-mile) border defined in a 1953 armistice lays bare one obvious peril of any confrontation: The demilitarized zone sits on the doorstep of the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

North Korea has spent decades concealing hundreds of artillery batteries along the frontier that could wreak havoc in the southern capital, according to Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for the 38 North website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Those weapons could kill thousands of people and damage scores of factories in the time it took the U.S. to project “fire and fury” across the border, as President Donald Trump has warned.

“If all of a sudden artillery rounds started plopping down in the middle of the city, hitting those high-rises, there would be panic like you would not believe,” Bermudez said. “Not only are people killed by direct explosion, they’re killed by all the debris, and they’re killed by accident. You don’t need much artillery to do that.”

After an initial exchange of fire, the danger could quickly engulf the rest of South Korea and neighboring Japan, countries that have been American allies since World War II. More than 80,000 troops are based across the two countries and the U.S. territory of Guam, which would provide key staging areas for any American-led attack.

Those U.S. bases were within reach of Kim’s bombs long before his first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4. Even if Kim still lacks the capacity to outfit those missiles with miniaturized nuclear warheads, he could cause plenty of damage with conventional and chemical weapons.

Kim would probably seek to maximize his advantage against more powerful foes by striking softer civilian targets in places like the greater Tokyo area, which is home to almost 40 million people. At the same time, North Koreans might look to escape the allied onslaught by flooding across the Yalu River to China. The region might also face environmental threats should the U.S. strike Kim’s heavy-water reactor north of the capital Pyongyang, scattering radioactive debris into the atmosphere and groundwater.

Mao Zedong’s decision to back China’s communist neighbors in North Korea was a key reason the U.S.-led United Nations forces were never able to achieve a decisive victory in the Korean War. China’s concern then — that a unified Korea could provide a springboard for attacks on its own territory — remains largely unchanged. And the world’s most populous country would be hard-pressed to remain on the sidelines if a full-fledged conflict erupted on its border.

Unlike his predecessor, Chinese President Xi Jinping commands a nuclear power with one of the world’s most advanced navies and air forces. Should China join a second Korean conflict, that firepower would make it harder for Trump to ensure the safety of the U.S. homeland — much less its bases and allies across Asia.

And don’t forget Russia, which shares borders with China, Japan and North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin is already challenging the U.S. in hotspots around the world.

The U.S. is constantly engaging with China and Russia to explain what it would do in a conflict to minimize the chance of an escalation, Bermudez said.

“It’s certainly possible to prevent superpower escalation,” he said. “Communication is the key here.”

Recess just started for Congress, and it’s not going to be much fun for Republicans

WHOOPS!

PowerPost

Recess just started for Congress, and it’s not going to be much fun for Republicans

 August 3
The Senate left town for the rest of the summer Thursday, bringing a historically unproductive period of governance to a close for Republicans, who failed to produce any major legislative achievements despite controlling Congress and the White House.

The Affordable Care Act they vowed to undo stands untouched. The sweeping tax overhaul they pledged has not materialized. A worsening relationship between President Trump and congressional Republicans threatens to create new roadblocks in September, when a looming funding crisis could shut down the government.

By their own accounts, Republicans have failed to enact the ambitious agenda they embarked upon when Trump and the GOP majorities swept into power in January. The president has fallen well short of the legislative pace his two predecessors set in their first six months on the job.

The lack of a signature accomplishment Republican lawmakers can highlight at home this month has given rise to a new level of finger-pointing and soul-searching in a party that stood triumphant eight months ago after winning back full control of the federal government.

“I think there’s a level of frustration,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said in an interview. “It’s more like a football team that knows that it can be good but is fumbling and committing too many boneheaded errors.”

On Thursday, Trump took another parting shot at lawmakers for failing to pass a health-care bill. “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!” he tweeted, a day after he grudgingly signed an international sanctions bill that the Senate passed 98 to 2.

The Senate conducted a flurry of business on what was effectively its final workday of the summer, confirming dozens of executive-branch nominees to the State Department, the Treasury Department and other agencies. In addition, two bipartisan pairs of senators unveiled legislation to prevent Trump from firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller IIIwithout cause, and a group of Republican senators released a border security plan.

But as they wrapped up their work this week, Republican senators were eager to turn the page on the sharp political and policy disagreements and constant White House chaos that stalled their endeavors.

“I think we can spend time thinking about what didn’t happen,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “[But] I don’t have enough hours in my day to do that. I’m just focused on what we’re going to be doing going forward.”

Many GOP lawmakers are still numb from last week’s failure to repeal and replace the ACA. While the House had earlier worked through painful disagreements and false starts to pass a health-care bill — and cheered with the president in a Rose Garden ceremony afterward — the Senate failed in a dramatic early-morning vote last Friday.

The breakdown of the effort to fulfill a seven-year promise left a particularly bitter taste in the mouths of Republicans departing from both sides of the Capitol. Some blamed Trump, saying he did not sell the plan aggressively enough, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for failing to deliver. Others were critical of Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who were adamant in their opposition to the health-care proposals that McConnell put together in secret. The two joined with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to kill a last-ditch bill to keep talks alive.

 Play Video 2:49
The Fact Checker’s guide to the debt ceiling
With a deadline of Sept. 29 looming and Congress nearing their summer recess, the debt ceiling is primed to be a big issue when they return. Here’s what you need to know. (Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

“We had three chairmen who went rogue on the Republican caucus and cost us this vote,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a Trump ally. Of the failed-health-care effort, he said: “That’s a problem. We spent a lot of energy on that. And we’re not done yet.”

Now, there is a tension about the way forward. Trump and some conservatives have said they are determined to keep prioritizing the repeal-and-replace effort. But Senate Republican leaders have moved on to a tax overhaul, the next big GOP target, with some planning more-modest fixes to the ACA on the side.

The tax effort, which lawmakers hope to dive deep into next month, could prove to be another tricky venture. Republicans must resolve intraparty disagreements and juggle other pressing deadlines as they pursue a broad overhaul.

McConnell is especially proud of confirming Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a feat widely hailed in the Republican Party. Congress also passed a slate of regulatory changes under the Congressional Review Act, rolling back Obama-era rules.

But when it comes to the core policy issues they campaigned on, Republicans foundered.

“I think we’ve had one of the busier legislative years,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “We just have not had a successful year as it relates to the large items.”

HOW THREE GOP SENATORS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING BY DECLARING THEIR INDEPENDENCE

From the EIN new service: what more need be said!?

HOW THREE GOP SENATORS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING BY DECLARING THEIR INDEPENDENCE

July 24, 2017

By Joe Rothstein

An uncommon reservoir of courage and fortitude was required for Republican Senators Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins to jointly announce their opposition to the Republican Senate health bill.

Yes, there was ferocious opposition to the bill from constituents and health organizations in their home states. But weighing against that was the prospect of retribution from the angry god in the White House, from fellow senators who could tank legislation they cared about, from disappointed campaign contributors, and threats that they would face well-financed opponents in their next Republican primaries.

No matter what happens from here in the health care repeal-and-replace saga, you can be sure that radical right wing Republican voters and contributors will not forget or forgive Capito, Murkowski, or Collins.

That should make it easier for these three Republican senators to take the logical next step—to leave the Republican caucus, become independents, and to provide the votes needed to flip control of the Senate to the Democrats.

Far fetched? Not really. It makes sense as both a matter of principle and political self-preservation.

Let’s start with the politics.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and the Alaska Republican party have never been a good fit. She won reelection in 2016 with only 44% of the vote, heavily supported by Democrats in a multi-candidate race. In 2010 she actually lost the Republican primary to a right-wing radical and kept her Senate seat only because Democrats voted for her as a write-in candidate that November. She could much more easily win in Alaska as an independent without a primary than as a Republican with one. She’s already proven that twice. And, it’s worth noting that Alaska’s current governor won election as an independent, defeating an incumbent Republican.

Maine Senator Susan Collins won her last Senate election by 40 points. She doesn’t run for reelection until 2020. That is, if she decides to remain in the Senate. Collins is seriously considering bailing out of the Senate in 2018 to run for governor of Maine. There’s little political risk for her to announce her independence from the Republican Senate caucus, where she’s forced to go along with a far right agenda that she wears uncomfortably. If she were to run as governor in 2018 she could do it as a Republican or as an independent. Angus King, the other Maine senator, is running for reelection in 2018—as an independent.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito announced her opposition to the Republican health bill by saying she didn’t go to Washington “to hurt anyone.” Reaction from her constituents in West Virginia has been heavily supportive. In 2016, the state voted for Trump, and on the same ballot elected a Democratic governor. Clearly, fidelity to a political party is not a lock step requirement in West Virginia.

Which brings us to principle.

These three Republican senators have demonstrated time and again that they see politics not just as a contest to win but as an opportunity to govern. All must be appalled at Trump’s attacks on our system of justice, his egregious budget that they soon will be asked to approve, his bizarre appointees who, as Republicans, they are required to confirm, and other legislation flowing from the White House and the U.S. House that have radically altered the definition of “Republican.”

Each of them comes from a state that leans heavily on financial support from Washington and would suffer severely if the current Republican agenda were enacted.

When Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter left the Republican party in 2009, Senator Chuck Schumer supported his bid to maintain his seniority and chairmanships with the Senate majority. As Democratic leader, Schumer almost certainly would do the same for Murkowski, Collins and Capito if they were to caucus with the Democrats. That precedent was set by then Democratic majority leader Tom Daschle, when Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switched from Republican to independent in 2001, tipping the Senate balance from Republican to Democrat.

By leaving the Republican caucus, declaring their independence and doing it as a group these three could immediately transform the national debate and political direction of Washington. They could put a brake on the worst excesses of the Trump administration and the Republican House. They could insist on changes in health care legislation that improve what we have, not degrade it. They could help craft legislation to redeem what Trump’s voters expect—legislation to help restore economic opportunity to those left behind.

West Virginia’s Senator Capito said she didn’t come to Washington to hurt anyone. That’s admirable, but it’s a low bar. The people’s Congress should exist to help as well as not hurt. She, Murkowski and Collins are in a position to do that. But they need to do that together, and soon.

(Joe Rothstein is a regular columnist for USPoliticstoday.com and author of the acclaimed political thriller “The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her.” Mr. Rothstein can be contacted at joe@einnews.com).

Kellyanne Conway mocks Reince Priebus to reporters during Washington party

Just a big, happy family looking to stab each others’ eyeballs out at the first opportunity.

Want a bit of pointless fun? Horrible Trump “counselor” Kellyanne Conway, known ’round television-land for her furious defense of Trump and her demands that all these people leaking bad things about the White House to reporters stop right now or face Bad Person Jail Time or whatever was caught blasting her White House co-workers in an off-the-record conversation with reporters at a Washington party.

‘She had a good/cruel riff mocking @Reince45 in WH staff meetings. “No leaks guuuys” she said, mimicking him in a dopey voice,’ Conway was heard saying, according to the alleged insider.’He should just be honest: “I’m upset because there’s someone working on a story who pronounces it RAYNSE instead of REINCE”.’ […]

‘So @KellyannePolls held court for awhile. Along with knocking @Reince45, she also made jokes about the ineffectiveness of his RNC world,’ a tweet read.

‘At one point @KellyannePolls said “Honestly, what the f*** does Marc Short do all day?”‘

While it’s important to be skeptical of anonymous Twitter accounts purporting to leak insider information about what so-and-so is doing at a Washington party (in this case, at the British Embassy), the tweeter included pictures of Conway engaged in the conversation and Politico was able to confirm her remarks. Possibly because, you know, she was speaking to multiple reporters at the time.

In response, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer emerged from his hiding place to tell Politico that no, no, she was totally making fun of the press, not poor put-upon Reince Priebus, because reasons.

Thank god that’s settled. If you can’t trust Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway to tell you the truth about potentially embarrassing situations like this, after all, who can you trust? Those are two names synonymous with prodigious truth-telling. No fibbers here. No sir. Wouldn’t dream of it.

French President Macron Wins Big in Parliamentary Vote

Something’s really happening EN FRANCE!

French President Macron Wins Big in Parliamentary Vote

Last Updated: June 12, 2017 12:25 PM

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron pick up ballots before voting in the first round of the two-stage legislative elections in Le Touquet, northern France, June 11, 2017.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron pick up ballots before voting in the first round of the two-stage legislative elections in Le Touquet, northern France, June 11, 2017.

The fledgling party of France’s new centrist president Emmanuel Macron is set for a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, as results from Sunday’s first round of voting showed it taking 28 percent of the vote.

That result for La République en Marche and its ally MoDem, which had 4 percent of the vote, puts the pair within reach of an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly with more than 400 seats in the 577-seat lower house if their success carries through a final round of voting next week.

Voter turnout, however, hit a record low, as an estimated 52 percent of the population stayed away. That’s being blamed on voter fatigue, after a long and divisive presidential campaign that saw Macron elected last month.

Macron’s spokesman Christophe Castaner called the low turnout “a failure of this election”.

“We have to take note, we have to restore trust,” Castaner, who is also minister for parliamentary relations, told France 2 television.

Still, the result is seen as a strong endorsement of President Macron. Many of those who voted for him in the presidential election, particularly left-wing voters, said they were doing so only to keep Marine Le Pen out. At the time, many of them, and those who abstained, promised to vote against the new president in the parliamentary elections. However, it is clear that a large percentage of them changed their minds.

Making his mark

In the 28 days since his inauguration, Macron has made his mark on the international stage: playing President Donald Trump at his own handshake game and winning; criticizing Russia’s Vladimir Putin while standing beside him; and jumping in with new proposals after the U.S. announced a U-turn on climate change.

Macron's La Republique en Marche party members react after the announcement of the first partial official results and polling agencies projections are announced, in Paris, June 11, 2017.

Macron’s La Republique en Marche party members react after the announcement of the first partial official results and polling agencies projections are announced, in Paris, June 11, 2017.

That has had an effect at home. After five years of Socialist Party rule, in which former president Francois Hollande failed to meet his objectives of reducing unemployment and giving a boost to the flagging economy, the French were depressed and downbeat.

Seeing the new president widely acclaimed and admired on the international stage has made voters at home sit up and take note — and decide to give him a chance.

The president needs a strong majority in order to push through his promised reforms of France’s strict labor laws, and its ailing social security system.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the result is a clear signal that the French support Macron’s plans. “France is back,” he said, noting that the president, in his first month in office, “has embodied trust, willingness and audacity.”

He continued: “Next Sunday, the National Assembly will embody the new face of our republic: a strong republic, a unified republic, a republic that listens to everyone, the French Republic.”

Unknowns headed to government seats

LREM, formed just a year ago to get Macron elected, fielded an unprecedented number of unknown candidates. Most had never held elected office and just five percent were outgoing parliamentarians. The few non-politicians who were known to the public included a woman who used to be a bullfighter, a former anti-corruption judge and a video game magnate.

“It is neither healthy nor desirable for a president who gathered only 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidentials and who was elected in the second round only by the rejection of the extreme right should benefit from a monopoly of national representation,” said Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis as results flowed in.

A woman leaves a polling station in the first round of parliamentary elections in Pau, southwestern France, June 11, 2017.

A woman leaves a polling station in the first round of parliamentary elections in Pau, southwestern France, June 11, 2017.

Cambadelis later confirmed he had been eliminated from the competition for his Paris seat, one that was previously a safe one for the Socialists.

It had been expected that the conservative Les Republicains (The Republicans) would be mobilized to form the largest bloc in the National Assembly. But Macron’s impressive performance in his first month, coupled with astute moves, including naming an LR deputy as prime minister, took the wind from their sails. The party is still expected to form the second largest bloc, with a predicted 95-125 seats.

The big losers in this first round were the Socialists, with less than 10 percent of the vote. That would give the PS and its allies just 10-25 seats in the new Assembly.

The far-right National Front party failed to capitalize on Marine Le Pen’s record score of 33.9 percent of the presidential second round vote. It scored just 14 percent Sunday.

A second round of voting takes place next Sunday. Prime Minister Philippe urged French voters to improve on Sunday’s turnout, stressing the importance of going out to vote.

NATURE CONSERVANCY!

Federal conservation funding is on the chopping block. The Administration’s budget proposal slashes funding for the air we breathe, water we drink, and our nation’s natural places. Tell Congress to protect federal conservation funding.

Will you join us and stand up for federal conservation funding?
NATURE.ORG

Trump’s first 100 days according to the group that matters most: ‘Many people’

Politics

BLOGGER’S NOTE: IT IS CLEAR FROM WHAT FOLLOWS THAT 1. THE PRESIDENT HAS ACCOMPLISHED CERTAIN THINGS HE PROMISED AND DOES HAVE SUPPORT FROM MANY, BUT FAR FROM ALL OF HIS SUPPORTERS, (I.E. FROM MANY OF THE MINORITY 45% FROM THE NOV. ELECTION, FOR EXAMPLE)  2. MANY OF TRUMP’S CLAIMS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AND FACT ARE SHEER NONSENSE, BUT NOT ALL. 3. THERE IS NOTHING REMOTELY CLOSE TO THE VOLUME OF DELUSIONAL UTTERANCES COMING FROM A CHIEF EXECUTIVE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. IF THEY WERE SPOEKN BY A FOREIGN LEADER, MUCH WOULD BE RIDICULED– AS INDEED IT IS. 4. There is just enough There for him to keep “hanging in there.”  ~ f.l. shiels
April 24 at 2:51 PM

President Trump won his election thanks in large part to the strong support of white voters without college degrees, a group that stood with Trump’s candidacy nearly from the outset and never wavered. But no group has been more supportive of Trump, on nearly every issue and comment, than “many people.”

Who is “many people”? Well, it is a group that is a lot of people, presented by Trump as evidence that he is reflecting the will of the people without going through such cumbersome details as identifying who they are or pointing to polling that backs up his claims. For example, Trump said during a debate in September 2015 that many people — most people, even — apologized to him when they discovered that his campaign-launch speech’s claims about crime perpetrated by immigrants in the country illegally was correct. Granted, studies suggest that his claims were incorrect, but who cares what a “study” says when, in contrast, many people went so far as to apologize to Trump for thinking him incorrect?

With Trump’s 100th day in office arriving this week, we figured we’d evaluate his presidency so far through the lens of what this nebulous-but-critical constituency is saying. Here, according to Trump, is what most people or many people or, at least, a lot of people are saying about his presidency and his politics.


Many people agree that there might be millions of votes cast illegally last year. (Interview with David Muir, Jan. 25.)

People loved his speech at the CIA. (Muir.)

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People loved and liked his inaugural address. (Muir.)

Many people thought that his inaugural address was optimistic. (Interview with CBN, Jan. 26.)

Many people have come out and said that Trump is correct about his claim that millions of people voted illegally last November. (Interview with Bill O’Reilly, Feb. 5.)

A lot of people say that Trump was only kidding about the wall but they are wrong. (Speech at MCCA, Feb. 8.)

A lot of people are liking Neil M. Gorsuch very much on the other side of the political aisle but they may not vote for him because of politics. (Roundtable discussion, Feb. 9.)

A lot of people consider Supreme Court picks to be one of the more important presidential duties. (Roundtable.)

A lot of people are very happy right now because of the deportations his administration has effected. (Remarks at a news conference with the prime minister of Canada, Feb. 13.)

A lot of people are happy he’s following through on campaign commitments. (News conference, Feb. 16.)

A lot of people don’t know that the Air Force One proposal involves building two airplanes. (Rally in Florida, Feb. 18.)

A lot of people think that the increase he wants to make to military spending is a lot of money. (“Fox and Friends” interview, Feb. 27.)

A lot of people understand that he said that the U.S. needed to deport criminals in the country illegally. (“Fox and Friends.”)

Many people have said that federal regulations have been catastrophic. (Comments at the White House, Feb. 27.)

Betsy DeVos has had such support from so many people. Many people were calling her and saying she will do a fantastic job. (Comments.)

A lot of people were surprised he won Michigan in last year’s election. (Roundtable discussion in Michigan, March 15.)

A lot of people thanked him for eliminating “anti-coal legislation.” (Rally in Kentucky, March 20.)

Many people and companies are into what NASA stands for. (Comments at a bill-signing, March 21.)

A lot of people don’t know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. (Speech at a National Republican Campaign Committee dinner, March 21.)

A lot of people don’t realize how good the Republican health-care bill was because they were only looking at the first phase of it. (Remarks from the Oval Office, March 24.)

A lot of people don’t know that Jeff Sessions was a U.S. attorney. (Roundtable discussion, March 28.)

A lot of people don’t know that Mar-a-Lago was built to be the Southern White House. (Roundtable discussion, March 31.)

A lot of people are saying that the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman was a P.R. person for Hillary Clinton. (Interview with the Times, April 4. “Mostly you,” Haberman replied.)

So many people are apologizing to him for having been right about Susan Rice. (Interview with Fox Business, April 11.)

A large number of people want to hear the story of how he told the president of China that he was launching missile strikes against Syria. (Fox Business.)

Many people come to see him and say they are unable to borrow from banks. (Roundtable discussion, April 11.)

Most people don’t know that he has to approve payments to insurers to cover Obamacare subsidies. (Interview with the Wall Street Journal, April 12.)

A lot of people don’t know that Italy is one of America’s largest trading partners. (Remarks welcoming the prime minister of Italy, April 20.)

A lot of people are liking the Republican health-care bill a lot because it gets better and better and better. (Prime minister remarks.)

Many people — human rights people — are talking about how Trump negotiated the release of charity worker Aya Hijazi. (Interview with the Associated Press, April 24.)

People have given Trump credit for having great chemistry with all of the world leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. (AP interview.)

A lot of people have said that his joint address to Congress was the single best speech ever made in that chamber. (AP interview.)

A lot of people don’t watch CNN any more. (AP interview.)

Here’s why Comey may have stayed silent on the Russia probe before we voted — and it should terrify Trump

On Oct. 28, 2016, four months after declining to bring a case against former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for her use of an unsecured e-mail server during her time as secretary of state, FBI director James Comey wrote a stunning letter to members of Congress, informing the legislative branch that the bureau was reviewing new documents pertinent to that investigation.

On Nov. 7, 2016—one day before the 2016 presidential election—the FBI director announced the bureau found nothing new in those documents. The following day Donald Trump, Clinton’s rival throughout the campaign, was elected president.

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The circumstances surrounding Trump’s election cannot be singularly attributed to Comey’s re-upped revelation of an FBI probe into Clinton’s emails. But one thing is certain: when voters went to the polls on Election Day, they did so under the false narrative that only one of the candidates had been the subject of a criminal investigation. In fact, in July 2016, around the same time that Comey originally declined to bring charges against Clinton, the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign’s connection to Russian operatives actively trying to influence the U.S. election.

The stark difference between FBI director Comey’s radio silence on the bureau’s continuing investigation into then-candidate Trump, and the director’s willingness to discuss the investigation into former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server raises serious questions—chief among them, why? What was behind the unwillingness to disclose an ongoing investigation into Trump’s ties to the Russian government?

According to a WhoWhatWhy exposé, published Thursday on AlterNet, the FBI declined to inform the U.S. public about ties between Trump and the Russian government for fear of exposing informants and “[jeopardizing] a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.”

A two month-long investigation by the publication revealed that FBI agents likely feared exposing an ongoing operation against “an organized crime network headquartered in the former Soviet Union.” This Russian mob “is one of the Bureau’s top priorities,” spans several decades, and is intricately linked with associates of Trump and businesses the president owns.

As the report notes, federal officials were intent on protecting an FBI source—a convicted criminal with deep links to the organized crime network—upon whom the bureau came to rely for information. Some federal officials “were so involved in protecting this source” they later became a part of his personal defense counsel; upon his conviction government attorneys urged for “extreme leniency” toward this man.

The article further reveals that among the many details Comey was unable to discuss during his Mar. 20 testimony to Congress was the fact that “for more than three decades the FBI has had Trump Tower in its sights,” monitoring its occupants’ deep ties to organized crime networks. According to the report, one former Trump Organization adviser, Felix Sater, fits the bill for the FBI’s source into the Russia-based crime ring.

Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer, is a convicted felon; in 1998, he was charged in a massive $40 million stock fraud scheme involving members of the Genovese and Bonanno families. According to the Miami Herald, shortly thereafter, Sater “began spying for the CIA” and a “was able to track down a dozen Stinger missiles equipped with powerful tracking devices on the black market.” In return for buying the missiles, Sater avoided jail time. According to WhoWhatWhy, separate legal filings on Sater’s behalf indicate “he ‘reported daily’ to the FBI for many years.”

Sater later altered his public name to Satter and became a senior adviser for Bayrock Group LLC, a real-estate development company based in New York. Through his work with Bayrock, Sater worked on Trump SoHo, and was a senior advisor to Donald Trump and The Trump Organization beginning in 2006.

In 2009, Sater was formally sentenced in the racketeering case, and was asked to pay a $25,000 fine with no prison time. The Herald notes that Sater also avoided paying the victims of his scheme, which given the scope of his conviction, is “mandatory under federal law.”

Much of Sater’s background was sealed, preventing fellow investors and clients from learning about his criminal past. Civil lawsuits brought against Bayrock charge the company with “concealing Sater’s 1998 $40 million federal racketeering conviction, and subsequent 2009 sentencing.” As investors sought to reveal Sater’s criminal background, federal agents argued that exposing it would undermine national security. As the Herald reports, at one hearing, the judge presiding the case said it had made it to the top levels “of a national law enforcement security agency. I should say agencies—plural.” The judge also dubbed Sater “John Doe” to “protect the life of the person.”

Fred Oberlander, an attorney who represented a former Bayrock employee suing the company in civil court, was provided access to highly sensitive documents involving Sater’s work as a government informant. According to WhoWhatWhy, on Feb. 10, 2012, the US Court of Appeals instructed Oberlander he could not “inform the legislative branch of the United States government what he knew about” Sater.

Oberlander’s attorney Richard Lerner, in a statement to WhoWhatWhy, said his client being forbidden from speaking with Congress “may well be the first and only hyper-injunction in American history.”

“If there are others who have been scared silent by judges who wish to nullify Congressional and public oversight, we may never know,” Lerner added. “That is frightening.”

FROM GERMANY FOR DONALD

TREMENDOUS!

Even More Countries Mock Trump with Wickedly Funny Parody Videos [Updated]

FEATURED IN VANITY FAIR: MORE TO COME

UPdate (February 6, 2:34 P.M.): The trend has officially left Europe: Just one day after Luxembourg joined in on the fun] on Sunday with a video from Eldo TV, a YouTuber named Marouane Lamharzi Alaoui has submitted his own video on behalf of Morocco.

The original post, with the new videos embedded, continues below.


By now, we all know that under Donald Trump’s administration, the United States’s guiding principle is going to be “America first”—as the president stressed in his dystopian inauguration speech. The world got the message loud and clear—and now, European countries are beginning to counter with rallying cries of their own.

The trend began with a viral parody video from the Netherlands, courtesy of the news satire show Zondag met Lubach. The clip, a faux introduction to the Netherlands that mocks Trump by imitating the president’s signature verbiage—”We’ve got the best words. All the other languages failed”—has racked up more than 16 million views on YouTube since last week.

Now, several other countries have hopped on the bandwagon, all sarcastically clamoring to come in “second” to America’s interests by making their cases in terms Trump can understand.

 

Over in Germany, the satirical late-night talk show Neo Magazin Royale offered, “This is the Oktoberfest. It’s the best beer fest God ever created. There is pee everywhere. You would love it. Just saying. Great pee. German beer pee. Or as we call it in Germany, Bud Light.”

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