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Mueller Report’s Unwritten Chapter: Why Russians Were Courting Trump World

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 17:32

 Why Russians Were Courting Trump WorldPhoto Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/GettyThe Mueller report answers lots of questions but leaves one big one lingering: Why were so many Russians so eager to ingratiate themselves with Trump World?The report is in one sense a story of meetings, pitches, and introductions that were entertained but ultimately unfulfilled. “In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offers” of Russian help, “while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away," the report says. In any case, no one broke the law with a criminal conspiracy. Special counsel Robert Mueller reaffirmed the intelligence community’s conclusions that the Russian government directed an online campaign of hacking and trolling to help Donald Trump in 2016. What’s less clear are the intentions of the many Russians who reached out to the Trump campaign offline and whether they were well-connected covert emissaries of the Kremlin or just hucksters trying to latch onto the coattails of a potential president.  Parsing the motivations of the various Russian supplicants is difficult in part because many of them were a mirror image of their counterparts in Trump World: D-listers in their own political hierarchy for whom the line between state policy and personal gain is unclear. In previous court filings and in the special counsel’s final report, prosecutors wrote that the FBI believes Konstantin Kilimnik, a former partner in Paul Manafort’s consulting business in Ukraine who had worked for the Soviet army as a translator in the 1980s, has “ties to Russian intelligence.” Kilimnik held a Russian diplomatic passport as recently as 1997, and a number of his former associates relayed their belief that the dual Russian-Ukrainian national was, at least at some point, a spy.Kilimnik, the report reveals, received not just a single briefing from Manafort on Trump campaign polling and messaging strategy in August 2016 but continuous updates via text messages from Manafort’s aide Rick Gates. In turn, Kilimnik passed along a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort himself recognized as a “backdoor” to recognizing Russia’s de facto annexation of rebel-held parts of the country. Prosecutors concluded they could “not reliably determine” why Manafort passed along the polling data. Viewed in one light, it certainly can appear as though Kilimnik, a former intelligence officer, was a mere cutout for Manafort to pass Trump campaign information to the Russian government. But prosecutors couldn’t determine what Kilimnik did with the information, and both Manafort and Gates suggested an alternate explanation for the exchange: money.Manafort had run afoul of Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian oligarch, when an investment fund  he tanked lost Deripaska millions and prompted a lawsuit. The report says Manafort had been trying to get back in his good graces ever since he’d taken a job at the Trump campaign. At the Aug. 2, 2016, meeting where Manafort had raised polling and fielded a peace plan, he also discussed the possibility that Deripaska could drop the lawsuit filed after the collapse of the investment fund. Kilimnik, in that sense, was Manafort’s way to kiss up to Deripaska again.Deripaska’s deep pockets and litigiousness may have drawn Manafort’s focus, but he’s more than just a money man. The Trump administration sanctioned him in 2018 for acting as a representative of the Russian government. His aide, Victor Boyarkin, who the report says ferried messages to Manafort via Kilimnik, is a former GRU officer whom the Treasury Department sanctioned for “providing Russian financial support to a Montenegrin political party ahead of Montenegro’s 2016 elections” shortly before Russia allegedly tried to pull off a coup in the country. Deripaska’s interest in Manafort may have not been just money either. In January 2017, the report says Manafort traveled to Madrid to meet a Deripaska aide and discuss “recreating [the] old friendship” between the two men but also “global politics.” Manafort sent an email to Trump’s incoming deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, when he got back to the U.S. three days later about “important information” he had picked up “on my travels over the last month.” Manafort claimed it was about Cuba; the special counsel’s office couldn’t say whether that was true. In any case, no one appears to have followed up.Not all of the Russians pitching the Trump campaign had sinister backgrounds in the spy world.When the special counsel’s office charged Michael Cohen with lying to Congress, it offered the tantalizing detail that he had met with someone who promised “political synergy” from the Russian government and the ability to set up a meeting with President Vladimir Putin and then candidate Trump. Stripped of his anonymity, synergy man seems a far less impressive operator. Mueller’s final report identifies him as Dmitry Klokov, the director of public relations for a Russian electrical transmission company who had once been a spokesperson for a former Russian energy minister. If he could’ve set up a Putin meeting, he didn’t try very hard—Cohen dumped him after a few phone calls.  Or Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer at the center of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016. The Trump side of that meeting’s intentions were obvious enough from Donald Trump Jr.’s exclamation of “I love it” when Veselnitskaya claimed that she had dirt on the Clintons compliments of the Russian government. Her hints at government sources have since been borne out by an indictment in New York that alleges that she lied about ghostwriting correspondence for Russian officials to send to their American counterparts. And her clients—wealthy Russians who’ve had money seized on corruption charges—have interests that dovetail directly with one of Moscow’s most pressing foreign policy priorities: the removal of sanctions against Russian nationals and companies. So was she representing her clients at that meeting or the broader interests of the Kremlin? Mueller doesn’t say, but the bait she offered—unsupported allegations about money laundering she couldn’t connect to Hillary Clinton—was far short of tempting. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

U.S. court upholds most of California's 'sanctuary' migrant laws

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 17:14

U.S. court upholds most of California's 'sanctuary' migrant lawsThe U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement, "We continue to prove in California that the rule of law not only stands for something but that people cannot act outside of it." Scores of Democrat-controlled cities and counties have adopted policies to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, making them a target for President Donald Trump.

Appeals court backs California laws to protect immigrants

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:51

Appeals court backs California laws to protect immigrantsSACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday kept in place three California laws intended to protect immigrants, continuing the state's efforts to be a national leader in opposing Trump administration policies.

Mueller Spells Out Trump’s ‘Multiple Acts’ to Undermine Russia Probe

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:40

Mueller Spells Out Trump’s ‘Multiple Acts’ to Undermine Russia Probe“We concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice," he said in his report sent to Congress on Thursday. The 448-page report summarizing Mueller’s 22-month investigation cited actions including Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and efforts to have former Attorney General Jeff Sessions take control of the investigation.

North Korea urges Trump to drop Pompeo from talks; U.S. plays down weapons test

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:38

North Korea urges Trump to drop Pompeo from talks; U.S. plays down weapons testNorth Korea's state news agency said Kwon Jong Gun, in charge of U.S. affairs at the foreign ministry, had warned that no one could predict what would happen if Washington did not abandon the "root cause" that compelled Pyongyang to develop nuclear weapons. The statement came shortly after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test of a new tactical guided weapon, North Korea's first weapon test since a summit between him and Trump broke down in late February. U.S. officials appeared to play down both developments, with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan telling reporters at the Pentagon that while there had been a test, it was "not a ballistic missile." A spokeswoman for the State Department said it was aware of the report about Pompeo and added: "The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation." Despite the summit breakdown, North Korea had maintained a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missile testing in place since 2017,and Trump has repeatedly pointed to that as an important outcome from a year of engagement with Pyongyang.

Intelsat says satellite made by Boeing fails

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 16:08

Intelsat says satellite made by Boeing failsSatellite operator Intelsat S.A. said on Thursday one of its satellites made by Boeing Co has failed due to an anomaly related to its propulsion system. The company, which disclosed a service outage on its 29e satellite on April 10, said a failure review board has been convened with Boeing to complete an analysis of the cause of the anomaly. On April 7, the 29e propulsion system experienced damage, and while working to recover the satellite a second anomaly occurred, after which efforts to save the satellite were unsuccessful, the company said.

Officials pay tribute to victims of Madeira tourist bus crash

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:56

Officials pay tribute to victims of Madeira tourist bus crashThe bus - carrying 55 tourists, a guide and a driver - veered off a steep road in the coastal town of Canico, near Madeira's capital city, Funchal, and came to a halt next to a house, which was damaged in the crash, authorities said. Portugal's public prosecutor's office opened an investigation into the accident, the cause of which authorities said they could not yet determine. Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign minister, landed in Madeira on Thursday evening with a team of doctors, psychologists and consular officials to meet those affected and thank Portugal for its help.

Banks ordered to disclose bondholder information to Puerto Rico board

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:43

Banks ordered to disclose bondholder information to Puerto Rico boardA judge on Thursday ordered banks to comply with a request from Puerto Rico's federally created financial oversight board to disclose customer information related to certain debt issued by the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth. The ruling boosts a potential effort by the board to recover billions of dollars in payments made to bondholders should a federal court hearing Puerto Rico's bankruptcy cases choose to invalidate disputed debt issued by the government and its agencies. U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Gail Dein's order said "good cause exists" to grant the board's motion, which seeks to compel banks to submit bondholder names and addresses along with Puerto Rico debt payments the bondholders received between 2013 and 2017.

Our first look at the final designs of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:43

Our first look at the final designs of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XLAs many high-profile Android flagships have still yet to be announced this year -- from Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 to the OnePlus 7 Pro -- one device that has continued to draw interest is the mid-range Pixel 3 successor that Google is supposedly prepping for launch. We've seen all kinds of leaks about the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL in recent weeks, but on Thursday, Android Headlines shared what it claims to be the first official renders of the phones.As Android Headlines notes, several renders have been floating around that were created based on leaks and reports from around the web, but these are the first official renders to make their way online. The Android blog goes as far as to say that it is confident that these renders are representative of the final product.Unfortunately, this isn't the clearest leaked product shot we've ever seen, but you can get a general idea of what the two phones are going to look like from the image. In terms of design, you won't see anything resembling that of other 2018/2019 flagships, such as notches, in-display fingerprint sensors, or a lack of bezels. In fact, at a glance, it's hard to tell the two phones apart, or to tell them from the standard Pixel 3.The one noticeable difference between the two phones is the size of the display. The Pixel 3a is expected to have a 5.6-inch display with 2220 x 1080 resolution, while the Pixel 3a XL should sport a 6.0-inch display with 2160 x 1080 resolution. If you look very closely, you can tell that the phone on the left is slightly thinner than the one on the right. Otherwise, it's honestly difficult to distinguish between the two phones.Other recent leaks suggest that the Pixel 3a could start as low as CAD 549.99 (~ $400 USD), which is significantly cheaper than the Pixel 3. Thankfully, it doesn't look like we'll have to wait long to find out the truth, as Google has hinted at a May 7th reveal date for the new phones (check the date on the renders).

Man who carried gas cans into NY cathedral charged with attempted arson

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:21

Man who carried gas cans into NY cathedral charged with attempted arsonWednesday's incident occurred two days after a massive fire severely damaged the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, causing global shock and sorrow. A New York City Police Department official said Marc Lamparello, a New Jersey resident, was charged with second-degree attempted arson, second-degree reckless endangerment and trespassing after he entered the Roman Catholic cathedral in midtown Manhattan just before 8 p.m. on Wednesday and was confronted by a security guard. As Lamparello turned to leave the cathedral, police said, gasoline spilled from the cans he was carrying, causing cathedral staff to alert police officers stationed outside the church.

Thousands of Peruvians say goodbye to ex-president following suicide

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:16

Thousands of Peruvians say goodbye to ex-president following suicideGarcia shot himself in the head on Wednesday to avoid arrest in connection with alleged bribes from Brazilian builder Odebrecht, in the most dramatic turn yet in Latin America's largest graft scandal. Friends, allies and leaders across the political spectrum paid homage to Garcia at the headquarters of his APRA party, one of Latin America's oldest political parties, and one which twice helped usher Garcia to the presidency. Vizcarra ordered flags to be flown at half mast at the country's Congress and other public buildings to honor the ex-President and former lawmaker.

In Bosnia, 'master' blacksmith had to shoe an egg

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:12

In Bosnia, 'master' blacksmith had to shoe an eggKreševo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (AFP) - To be worthy of the title of master, a blacksmith in Kresevo in central Bosnia had to perform a delicate task -- shoe an egg without breaking it. It's an Easter tradition requiring a blacksmith to decorate an egg shell by nailing on it a miniature iron horseshoe. Now Stjepan Biletic wants to have this ancient know-how recognised by UNESCO as part of the world's cultural heritage.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Preview

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 14:41

2020 Lincoln Corsair PreviewnullAll-New 2020 Lincoln Corsair Gains Interior Glamour and Tech Lincoln unveiled its all-new Corsair at the New York International Auto Show this week, replacing the MKC luxury compact SUV. But thi...

Trump Draws HBO Rebuke After Tweeting ‘Game of Thrones’ Meme

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 14:21

Trump Draws HBO Rebuke After Tweeting ‘Game of Thrones’ MemeTrump has previously referenced the hit show in his tweets, including a famous warning that “sanctions are coming” after announcing his plans to increase penalties on Iran. It was advice Trump didn’t always take.

Down in the polls, Ukraine leader begs for second chance

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 14:16

Down in the polls, Ukraine leader begs for second chanceUkrainian leader Petro Poroshenko begged for forgiveness and a second chance Thursday as polls showed him facing all-but-certain defeat three days ahead of a presidential vote. In a dramatic televised address, Poroshenko pleaded with voters to support him over Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian with no political experience who has surged ahead in the polls. What did not work out hurts the most," Poroshenko said.

The biggest revelations in the Mueller report

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 14:16

The biggest revelations in the Mueller reportKey takeaways from the 448-page, moderately redacted special counsel report.

A robot that kind of looks like Wall-E’s big brother helped save Notre Dame

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 14:11

A robot that kind of looks like Wall-E’s big brother helped save Notre DameNotre Dame was reportedly only about 15 to 30 minutes away from a fire completely destroying the historic cathedral earlier this week when Paris firefighters decided to play their last hand. Commander Jean-Claude Gallet knew it was time to send their very best firefighter into the heart of the blaze in a last-ditch effort to save the building.Needless to say, a lot was riding on Colossus, an 1,100-pound tank of a robot that can spray more than 660 gallons of water a minute, as he rumbled toward the cathedral.Colossus, manufactured by a French company called Shark Robotics, took aim at the cathedral's stone walls. According to Gallet, it was the heroically named Colossus robot -- fighting the fire from the inside that tore through the structure as the world watched in horror -- that saved the day. And made it less critical for firefighters to enter the building and risk their own lives."Time was against us, the wind was against us and we had to get the upper hand," Gabriel Plus, a spokesman for the Paris fire brigade, told The Times of London. "The priority we set was to save the two belfries. Imagine if the timber of the belfries had been weakened and the bells had collapsed. That was really our fear. In the beginning, it was not impossible to imagine that the cathedral structure could collapse."The Colossus robot, according to Shark Robotics, is 2.5 feet wide and a little more than 5 feet long. It can be controlled via joystick from as far as 1,000 feet away, it can crawl up stairs and it can withstand not only water and fire but even thermal radiation, according to the company.Lithium ion batteries also allow it to last for as much as eight hours.According to the company, Colossus is deployed with the Paris Firefighter Brigade as well as a variety of other French regional services. Its presence allowed the Paris firefighters to act quickly when they'd previously been weighing a decision they didn't know how to answer -- should they direct the firefighters on hand toward saving the roof from fire? Or focus on keeping the flames from spreading throughout the structure?Complicating matters was the fact the wind was blowing, and a police drone flying above the cathedral didn't reveal much in the way of actionable information.Reliance on the Colossus robot during this incident, of course, has already sparked talk of relying on such machines even more in dangerous settings that involves fires or other elements. Companies and individuals from around the world have already started pledging funds to help rebuild the 855-year-old cathedral, but it's certainly worth highlighting the fact that it's able to rebuilt and saved at all thanks to a quick-acting, talented firefighter that also happens to be a robot.

Trump sought to obstruct Mueller — but White House aides wouldn't do it, report finds

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 14:00

Trump sought to obstruct Mueller — but White House aides wouldn't do it, report findsBut when faced with Trump’s demands that they protect him and shut down the Russia probe, the president’s minions repeatedly disobeyed him, the report states.

Robert Mueller report: Key findings from special counsel's Trump investigation

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 13:52

 Key findings from special counsel's Trump investigationDonald Trump attempted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller after expressing fears the probe would “end” his presidency, according to the newly released Mueller report.  The order, which came just weeks after Mr Mueller had been appointed in May 2017, was among a string of incidents of alleged obstruction of justice recounted in detail by the Mueller report.  Mr Mueller, who was tasked with looking into Russian election meddling in the 2016 campaign, makes clear in the report that he was not exonerating Mr Trump over obstruction of justice.  The 448-page report was released on Thursday. The full findings are still emerging as journalists and congressmen scour the full document.  Here are the key pieces of information that have emerged so far. Russia's carried out "systematic" election meddling but Trump campaign did not cooperate The Kremlin used the Internet Research Agency (IRA) to carry out an operation to undermine the US electoral system which began in 2014. Through the IRA, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential in “sweeping and systematic fashion” to aid Donald Trump and harm Hillary Clinton, the report states. Tweets from an IRA account was quoted or retweeted by Trump campaign officials and surrogates, including Donald Trump Jnr, Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale and Michael Flynn. However while Mr Mueller found that the Trump campaign “expected" to benefit from Russia's hacking, he did not establish that the Trump campaign "coordinated or conspired with the Russian government". Trump attempted to fire Mueller When Mr Trump learned of Robert Mueller's appointment he told attorney general Jeff Sessions: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f---ed.” Mr Trump later attempted to get Mr Mueller fired, the report states. Mr Trump called the White House counsel Don McGahn and directed him to tell Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing the investigation, to fire the special counsel. On more than one occasion the president told the White House counsel "Mueller must go". Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel after FBI director James Comey was fired Credit: AP Mr McGahn refused, saying he would "rather resign" than trigger a "potential Saturday Night Massacre", a reference to President Richard Nixon's round of firings during the Watergate investigation. Mueller said Trump's answers were "inadequate" but decided not to subpoena him The special counsel said Mr Trump’s written answers, submitted instead of an in-person interview, were considered "inadequate”. But the special counsel decided not to subpoena the president because it would involve a long legal fight and "create a substantial delay" at a late stage in the investigation. Mueller investigated 11 episodes of potential obstruction by Trump Mr Mueller spells out in minute detail 11 episodes involving the president that raised questions when it came to potential obstruction of justice, including Mr Trump ordering the removal of Mr Mueller. Other incidents of alleged obstruction probed in detail included Mr Trump’s firing of James Comey, the FBI director, and his attempts to limit the Russia investigation's remit. The report states: “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.” Mr Mueller eventually decided not to come to a conclusion on whether Mr Trump had obstructed justice, instead handing the decision to the Justice Department, which in turn decided to bring no charge.  Mueller decided not to prosecute president's son The investigation decided not to prosecute the president's son, Donald Jnr, and other members of the campaign for campaign finance violations over their infamous Trump Tower meeting because they couldn't prove they had criminal intent. "Taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting," Mr Mueller states. Donald Trump Jnr Credit: Getty He added: "A prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law." The report also notes that when journalists learned that a Russian lawyer had proposed the June meeting and offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump edited Donald Jnr's response to the reporters admitting those facts. Mr Trump also repeatedly instructed officials, including communications director Hope Hicks, not to make public emails connected to the Trump Tower meeting. However, Mr Trump did not try to conceal the emails from the special counsel. Mueller looked into 'pee tape' claims from Steele dossier Mr Mueller's team looked into rumours that the Russians had taped Mr Trump watching prostitutes urinate in a Moscow hotel room in 2013. The alleged incident was mentioned in a dossier on Mr Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Mr Mueller's report states that there were tapes relating to Mr Trump's 2013 trip to Russia but it is unclear whether they refer to the alleged tapes or indeed even feature the president. Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled a dossier on Donald Trump Credit: PA The report states: "On October 30, 2016, Michael Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said, 'Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know...' Mr Rtskhiladze said 'tapes' referred to compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia. Cohen said he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving the texts from Rtskhiladze. Rtskhiladze said he was told the tapes were fake, but he did not communicate that to Cohen."

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