Tag Archives: Russia

Trump Says He Has ‘Complete Power’ to Pardon

President Trump addressed the news media in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Mr. Trump suggested on Twitter that he did not see limits to his pardon power. CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

NORFOLK, Va — President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump also responded on Saturday to an article by The Post reporting that Mr. Sessions may have discussed campaign activities and policy with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, last year, despite his public statements to the contrary. In the article, The Post cited intercepted communications between Mr. Kislyak and his home office in Moscow. Mr. Trump excoriated the newspaper and expressed no concern about his attorney general’s conduct.

 “A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post, this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions,” Mr. Trump wrote. “These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!”

The president was equating the report in The Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, to a decision by James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired as F.B.I. director, to leak contents of a memo he wrote describing a conversation he had with the president. Mr. Comey has said the memo was unclassified and therefore not illegal to disclose.

The message about the Post story was quickly followed by one assailing The New York Times. “The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi,” he wrote. “Their sick agenda over National Security.”

Mr. Trump did not specify what he meant, but he may have been referring to a Fox News report, a version of which aired about 25 minutes before the president’s tweet, about comments by a top commander at a conference on Friday.

Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, said at the Aspen Security Forum that American forces were “particularly close” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, after a 2015 raid recovered information about the militant group.

“That was a very good lead,” General Thomas said, according to the Fox report. “Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead.”

Fox reported that the general appeared to be referring to a June 2015 report by The Times that said American intelligence agencies had “extracted valuable information” from the raid. The story reported that United States forces had recovered “laptops, cellphones and other materials,” including four to seven terabytes of data. It also said that Mr. Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders had used their wives to pass information to one another to avoid electronic surveillance.

The Pentagon raised no objections with The Times before the story was published, and no senior American official ever complained publicly about it until now.

The Russian military said last month that it might have killed Mr. Baghdadi in an airstrike in Syria, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that he believed Mr. Baghdadi was still alive. The White House made no comment when asked for clarification about the president’s tweet.

Mr. Trump’s posts came shortly before he flew to Norfolk, Va., where he presided over the commissioning of the Gerald R. Ford, the nation’s newest aircraft carrier.

The Post reported that Mr. Kislyak told superiors in Moscow that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Mr. Sessions during the campaign, contrary to Mr. Sessions’s public assertions. Mr. Sessions, who was advising Mr. Trump on foreign policy at the time, met at least twice with Mr. Kislyak and failed to disclose those contacts during his Senate confirmation hearings. After news reports about them were published, he said the meetings were not related to the campaign.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Post and other news organizations that she could not comment “on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept.” She added that Mr. Sessions “never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.” She did not deny that Mr. Sessions discussed campaign or policy issues more generally with Mr. Kislyak.

The revelation of Mr. Sessions’s meetings with Mr. Kislyak in March prompted the attorney general to recuse himself from overseeing the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and any possible collusion with associates of Mr. Trump. The president has been upset about that recusal ever since and told The Times in an interview on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions had he known the attorney general would step aside.

In the interview, Mr. Trump faulted Mr. Sessions for his misleading testimony. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

In his tweets on Saturday morning, he offered no concern that Mr. Sessions had not been fully forthcoming. Instead, as he often does, Mr. Trump tried to turn attention back to his opponent from last year.

“So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes,” he wrote, referring to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the Russia inquiry. “33,000 e-mails deleted?”

He added: “What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc.”

Mrs. Clinton was investigated last year by the F.B.I. for using a private server to route official email. More than 30,000 messages that she and her team deemed personal and unrelated to her service as secretary of state were deleted. As F.B.I. director, Mr. Comey said Mrs. Clinton had acted irresponsibly but that he would not seek criminal charges against her.

The president also referenced his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who met with several Russian figures during last year’s campaign after being promised incriminating information about Mrs. Clinton.

“My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 emails!” he wrote.

The younger Mr. Trump released emails setting up the Russia meeting only after being informed that The Times had obtained them and was about to publish them itself.

By Peter Baker/NYTimes

Posted by The NoN-Confromist

Leaked NSA Document Doesn’t Prove Russia Hacked US Election

NSA document lacks “raw” intelligence in analysis to back up claims.

 The Intercept has offered a report on a “top secret” NSA document which claims Russian hacking attacks were carried out against companies involved with voter registration and voting software, which they purported amounted to Russian military intelligence attempts to undermine the 2016 election.

The report offers some new accusations of things that were said to have happened in the lead-up to the vote, in keeping with the Obama Administration’s narrative that Russia “hacked the election, but as was so often the case, the document declares that everything was done by the Russians without providing specific intelligence backing up those claims.

This centered on allegations of “spearphishing,” in which the attackers sent unsolicited emails containing infected Microsoft Word documents in hope that the targets would open the documents and in that way get infected. The report concedes it isn’t really sure how well that worked for them.

While the document has that typical lack of meat that is so common in government documents insisting that the hack took place, it is apparently an authentic one, as the FBI has subsequently captured an employee of the Pluribus International Corporation, identified as Reality Winner, for having leaked the document to the Intercept.

The complaint also claims that the top secret level of the document indicates that its release “could reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage to national security,” though again it isn’t clear that’s actually case, and the only damage here seems to be continued embarrassment at losing documents.

The criminal complaint says the Intercept contacted the government with regards to the document, and the pictures of the document showed it had a “fold” in it. Following that they conducted a probe into the six people who had physically printed the document that had the fold in it in the first place, finding that Winner had contact with the Intercept on a computer.

This adds considerable support to the authenticity of the document, which suggests that the NSA actually believes the narrative within. That this is yet another “top secret” document that offers no proper evidence to underpin its allegations, however, speaks volumes about the continued “high confidence” officials insist they have.

By Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Are We Getting the Trump-Russia Story Right?

  A caricature of President Donald Trump on sale in a shopping mall in Moscow. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP)

In the rush for daily scoops in the Donald Trump-Russia investigation, facts are hard to come by. Stories based on leaks and relying on unnamed sources can only leave the news consumer hopelessly confused.

The stories come in torrents, feeding the hunger of the 24/7-news cycle. From administration officials to those on the edge of the Trump circle, people find themselves tainted by stories linking them to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his top aides, his security police and his web of business contacts. To students of history and those of us with long memories, it’s reminiscent of the Red Scare days of post-World War II America when leaks about accused “commies” went from congressional investigators to reporters and then to newspapers and magazines.

These are the questions that should be asked by readers and viewers, no matter where they stand politically or philosophically:

Are today’s media outlets completely reliable?

Will some of their bombshells turn out to be misstated, overblown or just plain wrong?

Must we take the stories from leaks and anonymous sources by their teams of national security reporters at face value—or should we view them with the same skepticism that the reporters, themselves, are supposed to bring to their work?

I, for one, want better answers than we’ve been getting.

Our strange, secretive President Trump deserves investigation. He and his family seem entangled with Russian oligarchs tied up with Putin. The Russians could be squeezing the Trump clan, which could explain Trump’s friendliness, or at least lack of hostility, toward the Russians. It’s not a far leap to think of Trump negotiating with a tough creditor to Trump and his associates shifting the conversation to politics and policy with the Russians, welcoming their participation in the volatile American presidential election and promising to lift those sanctions.

Or perhaps the answer, as unimaginable as it seems, is that Trump is a foreign affairs visionary, as Nixon was with China, seeing his presidency as an opportunity to work with a former adversary with whom we share some interests. In that fanciful scenario, when the Trump-Russia investigation is completed, Trump and Putin will shake hands in their macho way while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

It may take years to get answers, even if special counsel Robert Mueller and Senate and House committees do a good job. Unfortunately, the years of investigation, with their inevitable leaks to journalists, especially from Congress, will take a heavy toll on democratic institutions while providing material for a steady stream of hot stories.

Robert Parry put it this way on Consortiumnews.com on May 7:

Congressional demands for personal and business information from several of Donald Trump’s campaign advisers demonstrate how the Russia-gate investigation continues to spill over into a new breed of McCarthyism infringing on civil liberties, including freedom of speech and freedom of association. … But the reality of Official Washington is that once momentum builds up around a “scandal,” someone has to get convicted of something – or all the Important People who have weighed in on the “affair” will look stupid. In Russia-gate, however, important principles about the right to dissent, the right to privacy and the right to associate freely are getting trampled.

The right to dissent was at the heart of an investigation I did for Truthdig last December on an organization called PropOrNot, short for Propaganda Or Not. PropOrNot had combed through many websites and identified more than 200 of them as being pro-Russian or unwitting tools of the Kremlin. Truthdig made the PropOrNot blacklist, as did many other sites. They ranged from progressive, like us, to one that’s alt-right. Its purpose was to identify pro-Kremlin “fake news.” I wondered how we got on the list. When I dug into the operation, I found PropOrNot had “sparse evidence indeed” that we were Kremlin collaborators. ProOrNot had an anti-Russian slant and was aimed at the dissent that makes our site and others so valuable to democracy.

The PropOrNot blacklist, whose compilers are anonymous, illustrates the danger of many stories with anonymous sources in the Trump-Russia investigation.

I’m not denying the worth of anonymous sources. I’ve used them throughout my career. Sometimes, that’s the only way of getting valuable information from an insider who doesn’t want her or his name used. But I’ve always viewed it as a last resort. My editors didn’t like the practice. Nor did I when I became an editor. Give me a name, a real person, any time.

Anonymous sources are at the heart of some of the biggest Trump-Russia stories. There has always been intense competition among the news media to be first with the news, competition to be even a few minutes ahead of a rival. The first story dominates the internet. It’s quoted by the rest of the media pack, giving the first one clicks, publicity and the acclaim of the digital world. The volume and speed of the news—coming from respected sources such as The New York Times and Washington Post—probably convince many news consumers to accept it at face value.

The chroniclers of the Trump-Russia story have been portrayed as heroes—21st century Woodward and Bernsteins—by cable television. Let The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters or the others pursuing the story get a scoop, and one of the authors will be hustled onto a cable network. Once humble reporters, they have been elevated to media celebrities, with network analyst positions, lecture appearances and maybe even a new job awaiting them.

I was taught the importance of being first in my 10 years as a reporter for The Associated Press. If you weren’t first, if the opposition beat you, you’d get bawled out. But like generations of AP reporters before and after me, I was also taught to be right, to make no mistakes. It’s better to be right than to be first. Try balancing that while reporting a big story, or a small one. It’s not easy. But we knew that to be wrong was a stain that could linger for years. It was lesson I have carried with me.

At the beginning of this column, I asked readers to consider whether some of the anonymously sourced stories, produced under heavy time pressure, were misleading or even wrong.

Rachel Maddow provided a good insight into the dangers of this process on her May 25 show. The MSNBC host was talking about an important story in the Russia affair. Numerous news outlets, including NBC, had reported that, days before he was fired, FBI Director James Comey asked for more resources for the investigation, including prosecutors and other personnel, to speed things up. His request, various news media implied, was a factor in Trump firing him. If Trump were trying to interfere with the investigation, this would be a figurative nail in the president’s coffin, possible evidence of obstruction of justice.

The Justice Department and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, denied the story.

In her broadcast, Maddow admitted the story was wrong. She said that after reporting by the MSNBC staff she concluded, “What was widely believed to have happened, actually what was widely reported to have happened in this key point of time, what we know about it, I think, is wrong, and I think we can correct this record tonight.”

She said “what went on here was something akin to a game of ‘telephone’ on Capitol Hill.” That’s a game in which something is whispered into the ear of another person, who passes it on down the line. At the end, it usually is distorted.

Maddow said MSNBC journalists had learned that Comey had conferred with Chairman Richard Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking member. Burr and Warner, she said, relayed conversation to fellow committee members.

“From there, word started to spread,” Maddow said, “and this resulted in multiple press reports that Comey had asked for more resources just days before he was fired.” Maddow, however, said that “if a request was made it was more like a nebulous thing than a direct appeal.”

Maddow concluded that if obstruction of justice is central to the Mueller investigation, “I think it is worth being very specific about what evidence we’ve got on obstruction of justice by the White House and by the president.”

Then in words that should be heeded by all journalists, she said, “Boy, is it important we get this story right.”

By Bill Boyarsky/Truthdig

The NON-Conformist

Russia to build 2 nuclear power plants in Iran

Russian experts will help the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) construct two new nuclear power plants in the country’s southern city of Bushehr, according to Iran’s Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian.

“The contract has been signed between the AEOI and Russia, and includes building two 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants, the construction of which is about to start,” said Chitchian.

can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ confirms https://www.rt.com/news/382523-russia-iran-bases-use/?utm_source=browser&utm_medium=aplication_chrome&utm_campaign=chrome#.WNoi8dXwm_U.twitter 

Photo published for Russia can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ Tehran confirms — RT News

Russia can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ Tehran confirms — RT News

Russia can use Iranian military bases for airstrikes targeting terrorists in Syria on a “case by case basis,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters.

rt.com

Russian energy major Gazprom has sealed a cooperation agreement with its Iranian counterpart for the development of local gas deposits.

During his visit to Moscow last month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani highlighted the importance of the energy sector in bilateral relations and the possible creation of a free trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union that includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US, Syrian, and Russian Airstrikes Kill Dozens of Civilians

The civilian toll of the Syrian war continues to rise, with airstrikes driving the toll today, as US, Russian, and Syrian warplanes all took to the skies, pounding targets in rebel-held parts of the country, killing at least 44 civilians across the country.

The biggest single incident was in Abu Kamal, along the Iraqi border, where US airstrikes killed at least 30 civilians, mostly women and children. The Pentagon downplayed the incident, saying they couldn’t confirm the civilian casualties, and that they’d “tried to avoid” killing any civilians.

Abu Kamal is a main border crossing between Iraq and Syria, and the Syrian side is mostly controlled by ISIS. The other strikes saw Russia killing 10 civilians in Maaret Harmeh, in Idlib Province, and four civilians were killed by Syrian government strikes in Aleppo Province.

This marks the latest in a growing number of US strikes with large civiliian tolls across Iraq and Syria, most of which never make it into official Pentagon figures, despite substantial third party evidence that they took place. The result of this is that the “official” figure is less than 10% the number killed according to NGOs.

by Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Rachel Maddow talks about Russia more than all other topics combined

Image: american news x

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow spends most of her nightly show talking about one topic: Russia, Russia, Russia.

In fact, according to a new analysis from The Intercept, which reviewed six weeks of the liberal anchor’s show, Maddow talks about Russia — and President Donald Trump’s potential ties to the Kremlin — more than every other topic combined.

The study found that Maddow’s Russia reporting (53 percent of coverage) “dwarfed” the time devoted to other headline news, such as Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration (1.3 percent), Obamacare repeal and replace (3.8 percent), the legal battle over Trump’s travel freeze (5.6 percent), progressive protests at GOP town halls (5.8 percent), and other White House news (11 percent).

“The Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which was in full swing during the six-week period, got less coverage (nearly 46 minutes) than six other individual Russia issues,” The Intercept’s Aaron Maté wrote…

More from The Blaze

Posted by Libergirl

Russia to continue Syria military op in support of Assad after ‘chemical attack’ claims – Kremlin

Moscow will continue to support Syrian Army troops in their anti-terrorism effort, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, after being asked whether Russian policy had changed following a reported chemical attack in the Idlib province.

Peskov cited the opinion of the Russian military, which said the contamination may have been caused by damage to a rebel chemical weapons storage site.

“You have heard the statement from the Russian Defense Ministry and I have nothing to add to the facts they stated. The Russian Federation and its military are continuing the operation to support the anti-terrorism operation and liberation of the country, which is being conducted by the Syrian armed forces,” Peskov said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested later on Wednesday that the Security Council should urge the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to launch a fact-finding mission, provided that full access to the incident site is allowed.

“It is crucial to call upon an OPCW fact-finding mission in charge of investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria to collect evidence of the incident under the following condition – the composition of the fact-finding mission will be submitted to the UN Security Council for approval, and it will be balanced in terms of geographical [representation],” Zakharova said, according to Interfax.

The acting Russian envoy to the UN will voice this position during an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday, which was called following the chemical incident, Peskov added.

At least 70 people, including 11 children, have been reported killed in the town of Khan Sheikhoun after a suspected chemical weapons attack on Tuesday morning. Rebels accused the Syrian government of bombing the town with chemical munitions.

The accusations have been backed by a number of Western governments.

Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, said reliable evidence would be needed to confirm the alleged use of chemical weapons, let alone establish who was responsible for it.

“We have no yet any official or reliable confirmation,” he said on Wednesday. “We will be stimulating all those who have the capacity of finding out technically what had happened.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also said there was no evidence yet to draw any conclusion on what had happened in the Idlib governorate, but stated that the Syrian government held “primary responsibility” for the situation.

READ MORE: Rebels ‘only people who benefited’ from Idlib chemical weapons attack – analyst

Amid the public condemnation of Damascus for the attack and Moscow and Tehran for their support of the Syrian government, some experts pointed out that the Syrian Army had no rational reason for using chemical weapons against rebels in Idlib.

Iran, an ally of Damascus, condemned on Wednesday any use of chemical weapons and offered help to the victims.

“We are ready to bring the victims to Iran and help them,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, as quoted by Tasnim news agency.

Earlier Turkey, an opponent and frequent critic of Damascus, reported treating dozens of victims of the alleged attack in hospitals located in the border province of Hatay, AP said.

READ MORE: ’Assad must go’ no more: US gov’t shifts priorities in Syria

The incident in Khan Sheikhoun happened days after Washington stated that ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad was no longer a priority for the US. The “Assad must go” premise was one of the cornerstones of Washington’s Syrian policy under Barack Obama. The Trump administration has been dismantling many of Obama’s policies.

From RussiaToday

Posted by The NON-Conformist