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  • The hypocrisy of Trumps jobs claims, in one chart
    Trump used to say jobs numbers were fake. Now he says the news is.
    VOX Emily Stewart Jan 30, 2019, 11:30am EST

    The way President Donald Trump talks about the health of the American jobs market has undergone a pretty dramatic shift in recent years, and not because of a major change in economic trends. Its because Trump loves moving the goalposts on his measures of success.

    The US economy has been steadily adding jobs since the Great Recession. Under President Barack Obama, the economy averaged an additional 109,000 jobs per month, and the administration oversaw 75 consecutive months of growth, the longest streak of total job growth on record.

    Under Trump, the trend has continued: The economy has kept adding jobs, and the unemployment rate is now at 3.9 percent, nearing historically low levels.

    But the way Trump talks about it, you wouldnt know it. Aaron Sojourner, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a former labor economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama and Trump, charted out the shift in Trumps talking points compared with how the US jobs market is actually doing on Twitter recently.

    The talking points changed, he wrote, not the growth trend.

    Before Trump was president, he consistently lamented that the US economy was flailing and claimed that jobs numbers were made up. But now that hes in the Oval Office, hes decided that the jobs numbers are indeed very real and the economy is doing phenomenally.

    Under Obama, the jobs numbers were fake. Now the news is.

    When Obama was president, Trump often trashed the state of the US economy and jobs market.

    He called the April 2012 jobs report terrible for adding just 72,000 jobs. (During his presidency, hes seen a month of 73,000 jobs added, and another of 14,000.) Trump often derided the Affordable Care Act for cutting into the labor market and claimed the country was losing thousands of jobs to outsourcing. On the campaign trail, he pledged to bring jobs back to America and make the economy sing again.

    And when there was good news about jobs and the economy, Trump often claimed it was fake.

    In 2017, Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post outlined at least 19 times Trump claimed US jobs numbers were made up before, of course, he was at the helm of the US economy.

    He often claimed that the unemployment rate was secretly much higher than was reported, as much as 20, 30, even 40 percent. The jobs report that came out just before the 2016 election, in which 172,000 jobs were added, he said was terrible and contained phony numbers. Even as president-elect, he said the unemployment number was totally fiction.

    Now that Trump is in the White House, hes decided the jobs numbers arent phony after all.

    Whereas before the jobs report was fake, Trump now says its the news that is or rather, what he calls the fake news for not giving him credit where he believes its due.

    Presumably, the Bureau of Labor Statistics hasnt changed its methodology for calculating job growth. Whats different is whats convenient for Trump, who has often demonstrated he has no problem bending the truth or lying in order to shape a certain narrative. When he wasnt president, he wanted to paint the economy as disastrous. Now that hes in the Oval Office, he wants voters to think everythings just fine.

    As Voxs Ezra Klein laid out last year, theres been an ongoing debate between conservatives and progressives about whether the Trump economy is a continuation of the Obama economy or whether Trump has pulled off some sort of economic miracle. Jobs growth and GDP growth under the two presidents has been pretty steady. Per Klein:

    Its hard to look at this data and argue that the Trump economy represents a sharp break with the Obama economy.

    But that argument cuts both directions. Trump hasnt unleashed an economic miracle, but he hasnt caused a crisis either. Plenty of liberals believed a Trump victory would be devastating for the economy, tanking stock markets amid fears of trade wars, nuclear wars, and political chaos. That Trump has managed to keep growth going might be a less impressive record than he claims, but its a more impressive record than many of his critics expected.

    To be sure, the president isnt the end-all, be-all when it comes to the performance of the economy. In fact, in a lot of ways, whos in the White House doesnt matter. (Except, for example, if the president orchestrates a five-week government shutdown.) For Trump, who is president does matter not in terms of what is actually happening, but instead in terms of spin.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Federal Agency Schools Donald Trump on Climate Change: Winter Storms Dont Prove That Global Warming Isnt Happening
      NEWSWEEK Alexandra Hutzler On 1/29/19 at 2:05 PM

      As areas in the Midwest experience record-low temperatures this week, Donald Trumps latest misstatement about climate change has been widely mocked by Twitter users. But now it appears that the presidents own federal weather agency is joining in.

      Winter storms dont prove that global warming isnt happening, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote on it's primary Twitter account on Tuesday morning.

      Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening.
      10:00 AM - Jan 29, 2019

      The tweet was in response to President Trumps own post about the extreme weather in the Midwest, including a polar vortex that will bring life threateningly low temperatures. The vortex could result put the region in its deepest freeze in decades.

      In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded, Trump began his tweet on Monday evening. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People cant last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming [sic]? Please come back fast, we need you.

      The statement was immediately bashed on the internet, with numerous social media users noting the presidents misspelling of global warming.

      Wisconsin congressman Mark Pocan, whose state will experience freezing temperatures this week, immediately slammed Trump as a moron for not understanding why there could be cold temperatures amid global warming.

      Only a moron would not understand global warming causes huge temperature swings, Pocan said.

      NOAAs tweet also included a link to an article on their website, titled Are record snowstorms proof that global warming isnt happening? The first sentence of the article simply reads: No.

      Not only are severe snowstorms possible in a warming climate, they may even be more likely, the agency wrote. According to the Third National Climate Assessment, there is some evidence that cold season storms in the Northern Hemisphere have become both more frequent and more intense since 1950.

      Its not the first time the president has gotten major climate change facts wrong. During a cold spell in November, Trump tweeted that the cold blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?

      In wake of a report from the global scientific community on climate change, in which they warned that countries must take rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, Trump said he believed that the climate will change back again.

      I think somethings happening. Somethings changing, and itll change back again, Trump told CBSs 60 Minutes at the time. I dont think it's a hoax, I think theres probably a difference. But I dont think its man-made.

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Concord Management and Consulting
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        Concord Management and Consulting
        Native name

        Concord Management and Consulting (Russian: ) is a member of the Concord company group, which is half owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin. Based in St. Petersburg, Russia, it owns and operates several restaurants. It is also the parent company of Concord Catering.

        The company was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin in 1995. He was the listed owner until 2009. His mother, Violetta Prigozhin, has been the listed owner since 2011.

        "North Versailles" (Russian: ) is a luxury housing development in the Lahti-Primorsky district of St. Petersburg built and managed by Concord Management and Consulting. The development closed a section of Novaya Street to the public by erecting gates with armed guards. This was controversial because city records showed the street as still a public right of way.

        Concord Management and Consulting owns 50% of LLC Megaline (Russian: ). Megaline received most of the capital construction contracts for the Russian military in 2016 in what appears to have been a rigged bidding process. Concord Management and Consulting's lawyers provided a package of amendments to the Ministry of Defense to change the laws in a way that would allow Megaline to bid for the contracts since it otherwise wasn't qualified. The amendments were submitted to the Duma by the government on February 11, 2014, and adopted on April 16, 2014.

        On June 20, 2017, The United States Treasury Department added Concord Management and Consulting to the list of companies sanctioned for Russia's military interventions in Crimea and Ukraine.

        Dmitry Utkin [ru], also under sanctions, became the CEO of Concord Management and Consulting on November 14, 2017.[2][12] Utkin is the founder of Wagner Group a private military contractor. He replaced Anastasia Sautina.

        Main article: Special Counsel investigation (2017present)
        Indictment for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections

        A February 2018 indictment by the United States Justice Department alleged that Concord Management and Consulting began operations in 2014 with the intention to financially support a group known as the Internet Research Agency which allegedly interfered with the 2016 United States Presidential election won by Donald J. Trump.

        An initial hearing was in May 2018.[15] [On Friday, November 16, The Hill reported a U.S. Federal Judge upholding Robert Mueller's indictment.]

        Hearings continued throughout the year and into 2019.

        Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

        Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2018)

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • Evidence against Russian troll farm was changed, misused to discredit investigation: Mueller
          Jeff Mordock - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - January 30, 2019

          Special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing Wednesday that evidence collected in his criminal case against a Russian troll was used in an online disinformation campaign to apparently discredit the investigation into Russian election meddling.

          Mr. Mueller made the disclosure in a court filing in his criminal case against Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company owned by oligarch with ties Russian President Vladimir Putin.

          Concord Management was indicted last year, accused of spending millions on a social media disinformation campaign to sow chaos in the 2016 election.

          Prosecutors with the special counsel office made the disclosure in a filing opposing Concords request that certain sensitive documents be disclosed as it prepares for trial.

          Concord is also asking to send that information to Russia for review by company officers an employees. But prosecutors said doing so unreasonably risks the national security interests of the United States and some materials have already been misused.

          Certain non-sensitive discovery materials in the defenses possession appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system, the filing says.

          Prosecutors said some of the confidential materials released to Concords attorneys were apparently changed and disseminated using the Twitter account @HackingRedstone, which has since been suspended.

          An Oct. 22, 2018 tweet from the account claimed it had access to the special counsels database and encouraged followers to view all the files it about the Internet Research Agency, an organization funded by Concord, and Russia collusion, according to the court filing.

          The tweet linked to a webpage listing roughly 1,000 files that had similar names structures to the materials the special counsels office provided to Concord in discovery, the filing says.

          Of the 300,000 files provided to Concord, roughly 1,000 were found on the site, prosecutors said in the filing.

          It is not clear who operated the Twitter account, but prosecutors said it was registered to a user with an internet address in Russia. The FBI found no evidence that U.S. Government servers, including those operated by Mr. Muellers team, had been hacked.

          The special counsels office does not allege Concord supplied the files to anyone. However, prosecutors said in the filing the web sites creator had access to at least some of the non-sensitive discovery produced by the government in this case.

          The fact that the webpage contained numerous irrelevant files suggests that the person who created the webpage used their knowledge of non-sensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the webpage were the sum total evidence of IRA and Russian collusion gathered by law enforcement in this matter in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation, the filing says.
          Last edited by Hannia; 31st January 2019, 18:38.

          æ, !

          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            January 27, 2019

            Letter From Arizona
            The New Language of Climate Change
            Scientists and meteorologists on the front lines of the climate wars are testing a new strategy to get through to the skeptics and outright deniers.

            PHOENIXLeading climate scientists and meteorologists are banking on a new strategy for talking about climate change: Take the politics out of it.

            That means avoiding the phrase climate change, so loaded with partisan connotations as it is. Stop talking about who or what is most responsible. And focus instead on what is happening and how unusual it isand what it is costing communities.

            That was a main takeaway at the American Meteorological Societys annual meeting this month, where top meteorologists and environmental scientists from around the country gathered to hear the latest research on record rainfall and drought, debate new weather prediction models and digest all manner of analysis on climatic mutations.

            Educating the public and policymakers about climate change at a time when elected leaders are doubling down on denying that it is happening at all or that humans are responsible for it demands a new lexicon, conference attendees told meone that can effectively narrate the overwhelming scientific evidence but not get sucked into the controversy fueled most prominently by President Donald Trump.

            The hope is to persuade the small but powerful minority that stands in the way of new policies to mitigate climate changes worst long-term effectsas well as the people who vote for themthat something needs to be done or their own livelihoods and health will be at stake.

            The new language taking root is meant to instill this sense of urgency about what is happening in ways to which everyday citizens can relatewithout directly blaming it on human activity: The spring blossoms keep coming earlier; seasonal allergies are worsening and lasting longer; extreme heat is upending the kids summer camp schedule; crops are drying up or washing away at alarming rates.

            And wherever possible, climate specialists told me, they are trying to explain the more frequent and deadly weather events in purely historical terms: These storms, these droughts, these dramatic fluctuations in temperature have previously taken placeonce a century, or even once a millennium. But they keep coming.

            Is it humans or is it not? We really need to get beyond that, Bernadette Woods Placky, an Emmy award-winning meteorologist who directs the Climate Matters program at Climate Central, told me. Climate Matters is tracking climate trends in 244 citiesincluding a steadily warming Phoenix. We are still not getting enough people to talk about it in the ways that matter to human beings in their homes, in their communities, for their family, she added. So it is making those connections in ways that really matter to people. Its a jobs story. Its an agriculture story. Connect it to the farm bill; boom!

            The strategy is being increasingly employed in more conservative regions of the country, where climate doubt still runs deepeven if there are signs of cracks in the resistance thanks to the pummeling pattern of highly unusual and costly weather events.

            They see it firsthand, Robert Mark Simpson, a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee at Martin, told me. There is a sort of acknowledgment that the climate is changing. They just dont think humans are that impactful. [They think blaming humans is] a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. economy.

            Simpson attended the conference at the Phoenix Convention Center to outline his three-year effort to educate farmers about climate change in western Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, where at some dinner tables the term remains a political curse word. Tennessee just elected a leading climate change doubter, Marsha Blackburn, to the U.S. Senate.

            Its a tall order. So, he is also trying another tack to reach the political and religious conservatives for which farming has been in the family for generations: warning that the family business might be in jeopardysooner than they might think.

            Will they be able to farm here 30 to 40 years from now?

            Another line of argument he has found to appeal to conservatives personal connection to nature.

            Many are hunters and fishermen. They are really tied to the environment, Simpson said. He finds he can reach them by trying to tap into their belief that weve been given stewardship of the Earth.

            But the political headwinds that he and others are up againstespecially in red states where political leaders are unwilling to accept the scientific consensus that human activity is playing an outsize role in the changing climatewere on display last weekend.

            As winter storms bore down on large swaths of the country, Trump took to Twitter to warn Americans to be careful and try staying in your house. Large parts of the Country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record setting cold.

            Then the climate science doubter in chief concluded: Amazing how big this system is. Wouldnt be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!

            Meanwhile, despite the Democratic takeover of the House, and a new commitment to pass climate change legislation, some leading Republican doubters are still chairing major Senate committees with jurisdiction over climate policy. That includes Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the new head of the Armed Services Committee, which just received a Pentagon report that paints a dire picture of the effects of climate change on dozens of U.S. military bases in the coming years.

            Nowhere is the challenge of convincing the doubters without being labeled a partisan or environmental zealot greater than in the ranks of broadcast meteorologists. Local TV weather experts were among the last holdouts in the scientific community to accept the consensus that humans are responsible for climate changeso much so that in 2014 then-President Barack Obama met with some of them as part of his effort to sell his environmental policy agenda.

            I think a lot of the broadcasters were concerned that there was such a political divide within the population and if they were very vocal of any aspect of climate change some subset of their audience would not view them with a level of trust, Keith Seitter, a meteorologist and the American Meteorological Societys executive director, told me.

            Now, some 600 broadcast meteorologists, out of an estimated 2,200 in the United States, are working with Climate Matters to craft new ways to tell their viewers about climate change.

            I have changed my presentation a bit, Jim Gandy, chief meteorologist for the CBS affiliate in Columbia, S.C., told me. I used to start with the science. Now I try to show them how it is changing and then I go into why it is changing. That may be a more effective approach. I share the raw data with them that has not been manipulated and it throws them for a loop.

            Even in viewing areas considered Democratic strongholds, talking about climate change can be risky.

            You have to be careful, Bob Ryan, a longtime television meteorologist in Washington who was the first network meteorologist, told me. If you get into policy you are getting into political quicksand. People dont want to be lectured to. That doesnt accomplish anything.

            So he too is in the habit of explaining related weather events in the context of how much more often they are occurring than in the past. Ellicott City has had a number of 500-year flood events in recent years, he cites as one example, referring to the Baltimore suburb.

            The American Meteorological Society is trying to encourage this approach nationwide. There has also been some very specific programs that have worked with target audienceseven in some deeply red statesabout how do we message some of the science in ways that depoliticize it, Seitter told me. If you start talking abou, We are getting more rainfall than we used to; our climate is different than it used to be, that is different than saying humans are causing it. Theyre not saying a whole lot of why on why it is changing but they are at least getting people to understand those changes are there.

            Gandy, who helped found Climate Matters in 2010, recounted a recent presentation he delivered at the Rotary Club in Columbia on the dangers of climate change and the need to take sweeping actions soon to confront it.

            In attendance was Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who hailed Trumps withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement in 2017, referring to it as an example of globalist regulatory policies which seek to hamper American business.

            Wilson remained for the entire presentation before leaving. One of Wilsons aides came up to Grandy afterward to congratulate him on the presentation, saying he very much enjoyed it.

            I dont know what he thinks about climate change, though, Grandy told me of the Wilson aide.

            That interaction, of course, highlights a fundamental question about this new lexicon of climate change: Even if opponents like Wilson can be convinced it is really happening, dont they also need to be convinced that humans are the major cause in order to adopt the right policies to address it?

            I asked Grandy that question. He believes recognition is just Step One and hopes that once doubters see climate change as the dire threat it is, it will be easier for them to get on board with the only solutions believed to be able to rein it in: phasing out fossil fuels and scaling back our carbon footprint.

            After all, he said, climate change is happening whether they like it or not. If they ignore it, it is still going to happen.

            æ, !

            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • A surprising number of Republicans want Donald Trump off the ticket in 2020
              Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
              Updated 1:56 AM ET, Wed January 30, 2019

              Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump likes to boast that he is the most popular Republican president among Republicans that has ever existed.

              "How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?" he tweeted earlier this month.

              That may be changing, at least according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that shows 1 in 3 Republican and Republican-leaning voters would like the GOP to nominate "someone other" than Trump in 2020.

              That's a BIG number -- and speaks to the fact that there remains, at least in the broader Republican Party, a significant pocket of people who have simply never come around on Trump. People who don't believe that he represents the present or future of the GOP and are in search of some sort of alternative to him in 2020.

              Who are these people? Largely who you would expect. Among those identifying as "liberal/moderate" Republicans, 49% want Trump to be renominated, while 48% want some other candidate to be the 2020 nominee. Among "very conservative" Republicans, 85% want to see Trump renominated while just 11% prefer another candidate. Overall, "conservatives" are more likely to want Trump to be renominated (74% Trump/23% someone else) than Republicans more broadly (65% Trump/32% someone else).

              This Post-ABC poll comes at a very interesting moment in both Trump's presidency and the broader debate about the future direction of the Republican Party.

              he vast majority of recent polling suggests that the just-ended 35-day government shutdown did damage to Trump's already not-so-good job approval ratings. In the Post poll, just 37% approved of the job Trump is doing. That's broadly consistent with the 41.6% average approval rating for Trump in Real Clear Politics' polling average.

              And external events continue to cloud Trump's political future. The arrest of his longtime associate Roger Stone on Friday and the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report sometime in the next few months have served to highlight Trump's very real weaknesses heading into 2020.

              Not coincidentally, there's been renewed talk of a serious Republican taking on the President in the 2020 primaries. While former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake took himself out of consideration on Tuesday morning, there are still plenty of names mentioned, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and, perhaps most intriguingly, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

              This, from a New York Times piece digging into the potential of a 2020 primary challenge to Trump, is telling:

              Mr. Trump still commands the loyalty of a passionate electoral base that has rallied to him in trying moments, and advisers believe he will have room to right himself while Democratic presidential candidates are mired in a long nomination fight. Yet they are also growing anxious that he could face a draining primary of his own next year.

              "Several prominent Trump antagonists are actively urging other Republicans to take on the president, and a popular governor, Larry Hogan of Maryland, has indicated he is newly open to their entreaties."

              In his 2019 inauguration speech, Hogan cited his father -- a Republican congressman from Maryland who cast the lone Republican vote for all three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.

              "Despite tremendous political pressure, he put aside partisanship and answered the demands of his conscience to do what he thought was the right thing for the nation that he loved," Hogan recalled.

              Then, turning to his own work in Maryland, he offered this thought, which sounds a lot like a man thinking of running for a national office:

              "While the tenor of today's national politics may have strayed from the noble example they set, I still believe that what unites us is greater than that which divides us. And to those who say our political system is too broken and can't be fixed, I would argue that we have already shown a better path forward. And if we can accomplish that here in Maryland, then there is no place in America where these very same principles cannot succeed."

              Right? Eyebrows raised and all that?

              I do think someone credible -- whether that someone is Hogan or Kasich or someone else I don't know -- runs against Trump in the 2020 GOP primaries. But even with the Post-ABC poll numbers in mind, that challenger is very, very unlikely to beat Trump.

              Yes, there is resistance in some pockets of the GOP to the President. But the most conservative voters, who tend to make up the party's most committed base, are still very much behind Trump. As is the vast majority of the GOP infrastructure, which still means something -- particularly in a primary fight.

              Simply put: There's a reason incumbent presidents just don't lose renomination all that often. And by "all that often," I mean that it has happened once -- ever. President Franklin Pierce lost his bid to be renominated as the Democratic choice for president in 1856 to James Buchanan. For all the focus on the 1980 primary fight between President Jimmy Carter and then Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, people sometimes forget that Carter, as embattled as he was, wound up winning renomination over Kennedy. (Want to read a GREAT book on that primary? Try Jon Ward's new one: "Camelot's End.")

              Now, that's not to say there isn't real value for a Hogan or a Kasich to run -- even if their chances of victory are, um, not high. The danger for non-Trump Republicans is that the President destroys any semblance of what the party used to be before he became its leader. That when Trump leaves office -- whether in 2021 or 2025 -- there is no GOP outside of Trump.

              Hogan, Kasich, and according to the Post-ABC poll, a decent number of other Republicans don't share Trump's view of the party or the country. And they have a vested interest in making sure that there is some Republican Party that has stood apart from Trump, so that when Trump is gone they can go to the public and say, "See, we all weren't -- and aren't -- like this!"

              Running against Trump -- even in a likely quixotic primary -- could well preserve the idea of Republicanism apart from Trump for whenever Trump leaves office. And for whoever does decide to take up that anti-Trump mantle, he (or she) will likely be the first among equals in the presidential primary fight that follows Trump's departure from office.

              The Point: Running isn't always only about winning. While winning a primary against Trump is possible, according to the Post-ABC poll, it's not likely. But that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • Russia to pull plug on nuclear arms pact after US does same
                Associated Press VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV 2/2/2019

                MOSCOW (AP) Following in the footsteps of the U.S., Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty but will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does so, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.

                U.S. President Donald Trump accused Moscow on Friday of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with "impunity" by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will "move forward" with developing its own military response options to Russia's new land-based cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.

                Moscow has strongly denied any breaches and accused Washington of making false accusations in order to justify its pullout.

                The collapse of the INF Treaty has raised fears of a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.

                After the U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months, Putin said that Russia would do the same. He ordered the development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized that Russia won't deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the U.S. does so.

                "We will respond quid pro quo," Putin said. "Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and will do the same. They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly."

                The U.S. has accused Russia of developing and deploying a cruise missile that violates provisions of the pact that ban production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).

                U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the treaty would terminate in six months unless Russia accepts U.S. demands that it verifiably destroy the cruise missiles that Washington claims are in violation. NATO allies have strongly backed Washington and urged Moscow to save the treaty by returning to compliance.

                But Russia has categorically rejected the U.S. claims of violation, charging that the missile, which is part of the Iskander-M missile system, has a maximum range of 480 kilometers (298 miles). Russian officials claimed that the U.S. assertions about the alleged breach of the pact by Moscow were intended to shift the blame for the pact's demise to Russia.

                Putin has argued that it makes no sense for Russia to deploy a ground-based cruise missile violating the treaty because it has such weapons on ships and aircraft, which aren't banned by the pact.

                Speaking Saturday in televised meeting with his foreign and defense ministers, Putin instructed the military to work on developing new land-based weapons that were previously forbidden by the INF treaty.

                Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that they would include a land-based version of the Kalibr ship-based cruise missile and a new hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile.

                Putin emphasized that such new weapons won't be deployed unless the U.S. does so.

                "Russia will not station intermediate-range weapons in Europe or other regions until similar U.S. weapons appear in those regions," he said.

                The Russian leader said that Moscow remains open to talks with Washington, but added that it would be up to the U.S. to take the first step.

                "Let's wait until our partners are mature enough to conduct an equal and substantive dialogue on those issues," he said.

                At the same time, Putin told his ministers that he would like to review the progress on building other prospective weapons that don't fall under the INF treaty, including the intercontinental Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and the Poseidon underwater nuclear-powered drone.

                He noted Shoigu's report that a key stage in testing of the Poseidon was completed several days ago. The drone is designed to carry a heavy nuclear weapon that could cause a devastating tsunami wave.

                The Russian leader last year unveiled an array of new nuclear weapons, including the Avangard and the Poseidon, saying that they can't be intercepted.

                Putin also noted during Saturday's meeting that he would like the military to prepare a response to the possible deployment of weapons in space.

                The Pentagon's new strategy unveiled last month calls for a new array of space-based sensors and other high-tech systems to more quickly detect and shoot down incoming missiles.

                Putin instructed the military to make sure the research and development works on new weapons don't swell military spending. He said the military must reconfigure the existing defense budget to find money for the new weapons.

                "We must not and will not be drawn into a costly arms race," he said.
                Last edited by Hannia; 2nd February 2019, 16:28.

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                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp



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                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • Is Oleg Deripaska the missing link in the Trump-Russia investigation?
                    The Russian oligarch could face greater scrutiny after disclosure that Paul Manafort discussed Ukraine peace plan with associate
                    THE GUARDIAN Peter Stone 29 Jan 2019 09.40 EST

                    A recent disclosure that Trumps campaign chairman and a key Russian business associate discussed a Ukraine peace plan in mid-2016 could signal more scrutiny of a powerful Russian oligarch by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, former prosecutors and intelligence officials told the Guardian.
                    Trump lifts sanctions on firms linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska
                    Read more

                    The timing of the talks between Trumps campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, a veteran political consultant, and Konstantin Kilimnik, his longtime aide who allegedly had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016, occurred in New York on 2 August.

                    The meeting came just days after Kilimnik met in Moscow with Oleg Deripaska, a powerful oligarch and close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Deripaska had been a major client of Manafort but had sued him over a failed business deal in Ukraine and was seeking to recoup almost $25m.

                    The Trump administration announced late last year it intended to lift sanctions on Deripaskas companies, despite strong opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress. The treasury department had imposed the sanctions on Deripaska and several of his companies in tandem with seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies they owned or controlled, and 17 Russian government officials, for malign activity which included attempting to subvert western democracies, and malicious cyber-activities.

                    The talks in New York, revealed in a recent court filing from Muellers office, came soon after Kilimnik emailed Manafort that he needed to brief him on his Deripaska meeting. Kilimnik, who worked for a decade with Manafort when he was a political consultant making tens of millions representing Deripaska and pro-Moscow Ukrainian political parties, emailed Manafort in late July that he had just spent hours with the man who gave you your biggest jar of black caviar several years ago, referring to Deripaska.

                    Kilimniks email to Manafort said that Deripaska asked him to convey several important messages from him to you.

                    Muellers new mid-January court filing was the first evidence that Manafort and Kilimnik had talked about Ukraine peace plans. The filing also stated they discussed such proposals on more than one occasion.

                    The ex-officials say the Mueller filing may signal a growing interest in Deripaskas involvement with Manafort and Kilimnik.

                    This raises the question as to whether Mueller has an ongoing interest in Deripaska in his investigation, said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in money laundering enforcement.

                    Some pro-Moscow peace plans for Ukraine have been proxies for ending the painful sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 after it invaded eastern Ukraine and Crimea, a major Kremlin goal, Zeldin noted.
                    Roger Stone indictment packed with details that may make Trump sweat
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                    Similarly, Nick Akerman, a former assistant Watergate prosecutor, said: It seems quite likely that Mueller would be focused on Deripaska too as he examines Manafort and Kilimnik.

                    Intelligence veterans say Kremlin linkages could have been at play in the back-to-back talks in Moscow and New York.

                    Deripaska is a key lieutenant and a significant oligarch in Putins oligarch system, said Steven Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russia operations.

                    Deripaska would get his marching orders from the Kremlin about what Russia wanted, including lifting of sanctions and a resolution of the situation in Ukraine that favored Russia, Hall said. It seems likely the chain of communication would have been Putin to Deripaska to Kilimnik to Manafort.

                    The Manafort connection to Deripaska is essential, Hall added. I think people really need to focus on the Manafort-Deripaska relationship. Its essentially a Trump-Putin connection.

                    Muellers revelation about the initial peace plan chat came in a heavily redacted filing documenting five alleged lies by Manafort in violation of a plea agreement to cooperate fully, after he had been convicted on multiple charges including bank and tax fraud and pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts.

                    A Manafort spokesperson declined comment.

                    Neither Kilimnik nor Deripaska responded to emails seeking comment.

                    During the 2016 election season when the FBI began looking into Russian meddling Deripaska was at least briefly turned to for help.

                    In September 2016 during a Deripaska trip to New York, FBI agents paid a surprise visit on the oligarch in an unsuccessful effort to get him to cooperate in their inquiries into Russias interference in the 2016 elections, the New York Times reported.

                    Soon after Trump hired Manafort originally to help secure the delegates to grab the GOP presidential nomination the latter emailed Kilimnik to ensure that Deripaska was in the loop about Manaforts role with the campaign.

                    In emails first reported by the Washington Post, Manafort proposed giving Deripaska private briefings on the Trump campaign, and told Kilimnik to pass the idea on to the oligarch, apparently an effort to win his favor and settle the lawsuit that Deripaska had brought against him. Manafort, Kilimnik and Deripaska have said no formal proposal was ever made and nothing came of the idea.

                    In his July emails to Manafort, which the Atlantic first reported, Kilimnik said he told Deripaska he had to run it by you first, but could come quickly provided that he buys me a ticket. Kilimnik called Deripaskas ideas about his countrys future quite interesting.

                    Manafort replied that Tuesday 2 August would work, and the two men reportedly met that day at the Grand Havana Room, a cigar bar in midtown Manhattan.

                    Kilimnik, an elusive 48-year-old with a background of training at a military intelligence school who now lives in Moscow after years in Kiev, was charged, along with Manafort, in 2018 by Mueller with witness tampering. Another Kilimnik business partner has been charged with illegally funneling $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch into Trumps inauguration fund.

                    Last year, the special counsel also stated in a court document that Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence during 2016, an allegation that Kilimnik has denied.

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                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                    • When Donny met Nancy
                      The era of divided government in Washington begins, inauspiciously
                      Will the president be able to see the wood for the subpoenas?
                      THE ECONOMIST Washington DC Jan 5th 2019

                      SINCE AMERICAS government partially shut down on December 22nd, roughly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or compelled to work without pay. Not since 2013 has a government shutdown lasted this long. None has spanned a shift in partisan control of Congress, as this one has: Republicans held both legislative chambers when Congress adjourned in December; when it convened on January 3rd, Democrats, two months after their mid-term victory, regained control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. This messy opening to a new era of divided government matters not just because federal workers are going unpaid and agencies unstaffed. It also signals an end to the congressional supineness that defined Donald Trumps first two years in office.

                      Behind the shutdown is Mr Trumps insistence on $5bn for a wall on the southern border (the one that Mexico was supposed to pay for). David Cicilline, a congressman from Rhode Island who heads the Democratic Partys messaging arm, says there is zero chance that Mr Trump will get that much money. Late last year Senate Democrats offered $1.6bn for border security, and even that much set House Democrats snarling. There is no disagreement that we need to secure our border, says Mr Cicilline, [but] we have a responsibility to appropriate funds in a cost-effective way. A wall, he argues, is a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.

                      For a time, Mr Trump seemed to agree. Shortly before the shutdown he began referring to a beautifulSteel Slat Barrier. John Kelly, his outgoing chief of staff, said that we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration. In early December Mr Trump backed off on his demand for his $5bn, suggesting he would approve a short-term continuing resolution without wall funding to keep government open. Then right-wing talk-show hosts attacked him for backing down, and he reversed course, shutting down the government and reiterating his demand for an all concrete Wall.

                      No dark sarcasm in the classroom

                      Each side believes the other will pay a greater political price. Republicans have a structural advantage: they are suspicious of government, while Democrats have styled themselves the party of good governance. But Democrats point to Mr Trump saying, during a televised meeting in December with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, I will shut down the government if I dont get my wall. They may also suspect that however loyal congressional Republicans appear in public, privately they are weary of Mr Trumps intemperance and unpredictability, and may pressure him as the shutdown drags on.

                      Some argue that what Mr Trump really wants is not the wall, but the fight over the wall. After all, if he really wanted his $5bn he could negotiate a deal with Democrats to get itperhaps by agreeing to provide DREAMers (undocumented immigrants brought to America as children) a path to citizenship. But his base prizes his pugnacity above any realistically attainable concrete achievement, and he sees attacking Democrats as weak on crime and immigration as a better strategy than compromise.

                      We have the issue, Border Security, he crowed on Twitter, two days after Christmas. He believes, not without reason, that his hawkish views on immigration won him the presidency in 2016, and remain his strongest suit. But that theory was tested in 2018, when Republican congressional candidates around the country ended their campaigns by stoking fears of, in Mr Trumps words, death and destruction caused by people who shouldnt be here. Leaving aside the fact that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than the native-born, that tactic failed. Republicans lost more seats in last years mid-terms than in any election since Watergate. Now Ms Pelosi is once again House Speaker, and Democrats are committee chairmen with subpoena power.

                      How they will use that power will quickly become clear. They have spent months preparing. Matt Bennett of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think-tank, believes the committees will fire subpoenas like machine guns...There will be full-blown investigations by the middle of January.

                      Elijah Cummings, the incoming chair of the House Oversight Committee, has already requested information about, among other things, the use of personal email for government work and payments to the Trump Organisation. Jerry Nadler, who will chair the House Judiciary Committee, plans to hold hearings on the administrations family-separation policy and Russian interference in 2016. Adam Schiff, who will head the House Intelligence Committee, wants to investigate Mr Trumps business interests. Richard Neal, who will run the House Ways and Means Committee, plans to compel the release of Mr Trumps tax returns.

                      Mr Trumps approval ratings remain stuck around 40%; unlike most presidents, he has barely tried to expand his appeal. Meanwhile, Robert Muellers investigation is grinding inexorably forward. The president cannot afford to lose his cheerleaders support now, which may explain his refusal to negotiate over the wall.

                      But that need not mean permanent gridlock. One can imagine Democrats agreeing to modestly increase border-security funding beyond $1.6bnenough to let Mr Trump save face, claim victory and reopen government. Beyond that, the parties could spend the next two years battling over immigration while finding common ground where they canon infrastructure, for instance, or prescription-drug pricing.

                      For Mr Trump, personal relationships can supersede partisan policy disagreements. He seems genuinely to respect Ms Pelosis toughness and accomplishment. He also appears fond of the cut-and-thrust with Mr Schumer, a fellow outer-borough New Yorker. But his personalisation of politics cuts the other way too. Bill Clinton was able to shrug off Republican efforts to impeach him as just business, while keeping focused on policy goals. Mr Trump, a famous counter-puncher, has shown no such ability to compartmentalise.

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                      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                      • The Trump Show, season two
                        What to expect from the second half of Donald Trumps first term
                        Thus far the president has been lucky. It may not last
                        THE ECONOMIST Jan 5th 2019

                        DONALD TRUMPS nerve-jangling presidential term began its second half with a federal-government shut down, seesawing markets and the ejection of reassuring cabinet members like Generals John Kelly and James Mattis. As Mr Trumps opponents called this a disaster, his supporters lambasted their criticism as hystericalwasnt everybody saying a year ago that it was sinister to have so many generals in the cabinet?

                        A calm assessment of the Trump era requires those who admire America to unplug themselves from the news cycle for a minute. As the next phase of the presidents four-year term begins, three questions need answering. How bad is it really? How bad could it get? And how should Americans, and foreign governments, prepare for the Trump Shows second season?

                        Mr Trump is so polarising that his critics brush off anything that might count as an achievement. Shortly before Christmas he signed a useful, bipartisan criminal-justice reform into law. Some of the regulatory changes to schools and companies have been helpful. In foreign affairs the attempt to change the terms of Americas economic relations with China is welcome, too. But any orthodox Republican president enjoying the backing of both houses of Congress might have achieved as muchor more.

                        What marks out Mr Trumps first two years is his irrepressible instinct to act as a wrecker. His destructive tactics were supposed to topple a self-serving Washington elite, but the presidents bullying, lying and sleaze have filled the swamp faster than it has drained. Where he has been at his most Trumpishon immigration, North Korea, NATOthe knocking down has yet to lead to much renewal. Mr Trump came to office with a mandate to rewrite Americas immigration rules and make them merit-based, as in Canada. Yet because he and his staff are ham-fisted with Congress, that chance is now gone. Kim Jong Un still has his weapons programme and, having conceded nothing, now demands a reward from America. Europeans may pay more into their defence budgets at the presidents urging. But America has spent half a century and billions of dollars building its relations with Europe. In just two years Mr Trump has taken a sledgehammer to them.

                        The next two years could be worse. For a start, Mr Trumps luck may be about to turn. In the first half of his term he has been fortunate. He was not faced by any shock of the sort his two predecessors had to deal with: 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the financial crisis, Syria. Electoral triumph, a roaring economy and surging financial markets gave him an air of invulnerability.

                        Even without a shock, the weather has changed. Although the economy is still fairly strong, the sugar-high from the tax cut is fading and growth is slowing in China and Europe. Markets, which Mr Trump heralds as a proxy for economic success, are volatile (see article). Republicans were trounced in the House in the mid-terms. The new Democratic majority will investigate the presidents conduct, and at some point Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will complete his report on links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

                        Over the past two years, Mr Trump has shown that he reacts to any adversity by lashing out without regard to the consequences. Neither the magnitude nor target of his response need bear on the provocation. In the past few weeks he has announced troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan. Seemingly, this was partly because he was being criticised by pundits for failing to build a southern border-wall. The Afghanistan withdrawal was later walked back and the Syrian one blurred, with the result that nobody can say what Americas policy is (though the harm will remain). Now that his cabinet has lost its steadying generals, expect even more such destructive ambiguity.

                        Moreover, when Mr Trump acts, he does not recognise boundaries, legal or ethical. He has already been implicated in two felonies and several of his former advisers are in or heading for prison. As his troubles mount, he will become less bound by institutional machinery. If Mr Mueller indicts a member of Mr Trumps family, the president may instruct his attorney-general to end the whole thing and then make egregious use of his pardon powers. House Democrats might unearth documents suggesting that the Trump Organisation was used to launder Russian money. What then?

                        Confusion, chaos and norm-breaking are how Mr Trump operates. If the federal government really were a business, the turnover of senior jobs in the White House would have investors dumping the stock. Mr Trumps interventions often accomplish the opposite of what he intends. His criticism of the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, for being too hawkish will, if anything, only make an independent-minded Fed more hawkish still. His own negotiators fear that he might undermine them if the mood takes him. Most of the senior staff who have left the administration have said that he is selfabsorbed, distracted and ill-informed. He demands absolute loyalty and, when he gets it, offers none in return.

                        How should Congress and the world prepare for what is coming? Foreign allies should engage and hedge; work with Mr Trump when they can, but have a plan B in case he lets them down. Democrats in control of the House have a fine line to tread. Some are calling for Mr Trump to be impeached but, as of now, the Republican-controlled Senate will not convict him. As things stand, it would be better if the verdict comes at the ballot box. Instead, they must hold him to account, but not play into his desire that they serve as props in his permanent campaign.

                        Many Republicans in the Senate find themselves in a now familiar dilemma. Speak out and risk losing their seats in a primary; stay silent and risk losing their party and their consciences. More should follow Mitt Romney, who marked his arrival in the Senate this week by criticising Mr Trumps conduct. His return to politics is welcome, as is the vibrant opposition to Mr Trump by activists and civil society evident in the mid-terms. Assailed by his presidency, American democracy is fighting back.

                        After two chaotic years, it is clear that the Trump Show is something to be endured. Perhaps the luck will hold and America and the world will muddle through. But luck is a slender hope on which to build prosperity and peace.

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                        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                        • 'Willful Ignorance.' Inside President Trump's Troubled Intelligence Briefings
                          TIME MAGAZINE John Walcott February 2, 2019

                          In the wake of President Donald Trumps renewed attacks on the U.S. intelligence community this week, senior intelligence briefers are breaking two years of silence to warn that the President is endangering American security with what they say is a stubborn disregard for their assessments.

                          Citing multiple in-person episodes, these intelligence officials say Trump displays what one called willful ignorance when presented with analyses generated by Americas $81 billion-a-year intelligence services. The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trumps briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible.

                          What is most troubling, say these officials and others in government and on Capitol Hill who have been briefed on the episodes, are Trumps angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts positions he has taken or beliefs he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.

                          That reaction was on display this week. At a Congressional hearing on national security threats, the leaders of all the major intelligence agencies, including the Directors of National Intelligence, the CIA and the FBI contradicted Trump on issues relating to North Korea, Russia, the Islamic State, and Iran. In response, Trump said the intelligence chiefs were passive and nave and suggested they should go back to school.

                          The intelligence officials criticizing Trump requested anonymity because the briefings they described, including the Presidents Daily Brief, or PDB, are classified. The PDB is one of the most highly restricted products produced by U.S. intelligence analysts. A select group of intelligence officials is involved in preparing these briefings. A small number of senior officials, often including the Director of Central Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence or the heads of other agencies depending on the topic, usually deliver it.

                          The reporting for this story is based on interviews with multiple officials who have first hand knowledge of the episodes they describe, and multiple others who have been briefed on them. Asked in detail about the officials concerns, senior White House and National Security Council officials declined to comment.

                          The problem has existed since the beginning of Trumps presidency, the intelligence officials say, and for a time they tried to respond to the Presidents behavior in briefings with dark humor. After a briefing in preparation for a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, for example, the subject turned to the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia. The island is home to an important airbase and a U.S. Naval Support Facility that are central to Americas ability to project power in the region, including in the war in Afghanistan.

                          The President, officials familiar with the briefing said, asked two questions: Are the people nice, and are the beaches good? Some of us wondered if he was thinking about our alliance with the Brits and the security issues in an important area where the Chinese have been increasingly active, or whether he was thinking like a real estate developer, one of the officials said wryly.

                          In another briefing on South Asia, Trumps advisors brought a map of the region from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, according to intelligence officers with knowledge of the meeting and congressional officials who were briefed on it. Trump, they said, pointed at the map and said he knew that Nepal was part of India, only to be told that it is an independent nation. When said he was familiar with Bhutan and knew it, too, was part of India, his briefers told him that Bhutan was an independent kingdom. Last August, Politico reported on presidents mispronunciation of the names of the two countries during the same briefing.

                          But the disconnect between Trump and his intelligence briefers is no joke, the officials say. Several pointed to concerns regarding Trumps assessment of the threat posed by North Koreas nuclear capabilities. After Trumps summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un last summer, the North claimed to have destroyed its major underground nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri, and Trump has gone out of his way to credit the claim.

                          The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA), which oversees the spy satellites that map and photograph key areas, had tried to impress upon Trump the size and complexity of the North Korean site. In preparing one briefing for the President on the issue early in his administration, the NGIA built a model of the facility with a removable roof, according to two officials. To help Trump grasp the size of the facility, the NGIA briefers built a miniature version New Yorks Statue of Liberty to scale and put it inside the model.

                          Intelligence officials from multiple agencies later warned Trump that entrances at the facility that had been closed after the summit could still be reopened. But the president has ignored the agencies warnings and has exaggerated the steps North Korea has taken to shutter the facility, those officials and two others say. That is a particular concern now, ahead of a possible second summit with the Kim Jong-Un later this month.

                          The briefers concerns are spread across multiple areas of expertise. Two briefers worry that a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping could produce a trade agreement that the President can trumpet but that fails to address Chinas espionage, its theft of intellectual property that ranges from circuit boards to soybean hybrids, its military buildup, and its geopolitical ambition.

                          Three other officials worry about what one of them calls precipitous troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan and a peace deal with the Taliban that in time would leave the extremist Islamic group back in charge and wipe out the gains made in education, womens rights and governance since the U.S. invaded the country more than 17 years ago.

                          For now, the briefers are heartened by the intelligence community leaders who risked Trumps ire by contradicting him in public testimony this week.

                          The danger, one former intelligence official said, is that those leaders and other intelligence briefers may eventually stop taking such risks in laying out the facts for the President.

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                          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                          • Trump inaugural committee subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for financial documents
                            USA TODAY Kevin Johnson 11:46 p.m. ET Feb. 4, 2019

                            WASHINGTON President Donald Trumps inaugural committee confirmed Monday that it had received a subpoena from federal prosecutors in New York as part of an investigation into the groups fundraising activities.

                            While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry, the committee said in a statement.

                            Owen Blicksilver, a committee spokesman, declined to elaborate on the scope of the governments request.

                            The investigation is being led by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, and represents potentially more legal trouble for the Trump administration as it continues to confront the ongoing inquiry into Russias interference in the 2016 election and other spinoff investigations.

                            A copy of the new subpoena, reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, indicated that prosecutors had sought all documents linked to the committees fundraising activities, including donors and those who provided services to the organization.

                            The committee had raised more than $100 million to host events related to Trumps inauguration.

                            The inaugural committee inquiry is separate from the investigation led by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller whose inquiry is focused on possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

                            Nevertheless, prosecutors leading the inaugural probe also are believed to be reviewing whether the committee received contributions from foreign sources, according to previous accounts by the New York Times.

                            Federal law prohibits such donations.

                            The investigation rose, at least in part, out of information seized while investigating Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney and fixer.

                            In December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for a host of crimes, including making secret hush payments before the 2016 election to women who accused Trump of having affairs and lying to Congress.

                            During April raids on Cohen's home, office, and hotel room, federal investigators discovered a taped conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who worked with the inaugural committee, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.

                            The contents of the recording are unclear but Wolkoff, according to the Journal, voiced concerns over how some of the inaugural funds were being spent.

                            Disclosure of the new subpoena also comes at a politically fraught time for Trump, who is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday and as a possible second government shutdown looms over a clash with Democrat lawmakers about funding for the presidents long-promised border wall.

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                            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                            • Why millions of people are getting hit with a surprise tax bill this year
                              An effort to make the tax bill look better ended up making it look worse.
                              VOX Matthew Yglesias Feb 6, 2019, 2:10pm EST

                              Americans who are accustomed to receiving an income tax refund tend to file their taxes early often in late January or early February when all the paperwork becomes available but this year many early filers are finding to their surprise that they actually owe money to the IRS.

                              A tweet rounding up other tweets from displeased early filers went viral because the user, @smarxist, deliberately singled out people who are mad at President Donald Trump for raising their taxes.


                              The truth is somewhat more complicated.

                              The new tax law does result in some people paying higher taxes (especially over the long term), but the specific issue here is tax refunds rather than total taxes paid. Whether you get a refund or owe extra to the IRS at filing time is a function not just of your total taxes owed, but also of how much tax is withheld from your paycheck by your employer on paydays. And the big story here is that as a result of the new tax law, the Treasury Department tweaked things so that on average taxpayers withholdings fell by more than their actual taxes owed.

                              This was all explained in a Government Accountability Office report last summer, but it turns out that many people are not regular readers of GAO reports and did not take the GAOs official advice to check their withholding status. The result? Surprise tax bills!

                              Tax withholding, explained

                              Income and payroll taxes are, in a theoretical sense, collected once a year in mid-April.

                              In practice, however, the government has employers calculate how much tax their workers are likely to owe at the end of the year. Then each pay period, companies simply forward an appropriate amount of money directly to the IRS and pay you whats left over. When you file your taxes at the beginning of the year, you compare the amount of taxes you owe to the amount of taxes youve already paid and get either a refund or a request to send more money. And historically, by design, most people around 75 percent get a refund.

                              Thats because its a lot easier for the government to pay out refunds to people who overwithheld than to run around trying to collect cash from people who underwithheld.

                              Whats more, when underwithholding does happen, its usually either because of an error or else a special situation like a person with a full-time job who also happened upon an unexpected bounty of freelance side-gigs. In fact the government hates underwithholding so much that if you primarily derive your income from freelance or self-employment work, they start charging you a financial penalty unless you pre-pay your taxes on a quarterly basis.

                              This system was, in a fun historical irony, devised in part by Milton Friedman, the famous libertarian economist, who at the time was trying to help win World War II but who wound up being an unsung hero of the post-war welfare state. And the whole thing had been chugging along pretty peacefully until then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Trump decided to shake things up.

                              How the tax law changed withholding

                              The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was largely focused on reducing taxes for rich business owners. People who are stand to inherit multi-million dollar estates got an enormous tax cut, as did people who own small businesses that generate millions of dollars in annual profits. And, of course, there was a big cut in the corporate income tax rate, with benefits largely flowing through to stock owners in a country where 80 percent of the value of the stock market is owned by the richest 10 percent of the population.

                              But there were changes for middle-class workers, too.

                              Most famously, TCJA either eliminated or curbed a whole bunch of popular tax deductions (including the home mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction) while also repealing a previously implemented phase-out of itemized deductions. Consequently, the value of most peoples tax deductions went down but some people got to deduct more. Then to compensate for these lost tax deductions, the Child Tax Credit got more generous and was also given to richer people and the standard deduction got much bigger. Individual tax rates, in turn, went down.

                              In the aggregate, this means higher taxes for a few people but lower taxes for the vast majority of Americans. It also means that virtually everyones tax situation is a little bit different from before, often in complicated ways related to the ins and outs of lost and gained deductions and credits. So everyones withholdings had to be calculated anew.

                              The bill was also extremely unpopular. But Republicans spent December 2017 assuring themselves that would change in February 2018 when the new withholdings began.

                              On January 1, Americans are going to wake up with a new tax code, Ryan said. On February 1, they are going to see withholdings go down, so they are going to see bigger paychecks.

                              Trump tweeted something similar.

                              FOX Business@FoxBusiness
                              .@POTUS: If Congress sends me a bill before Christmas, Americans will see lower taxes beginning in February. Just two short months from now.
                              807 3:21 PM - Dec 13, 2017

                              This immediately lead the eagle-eyed David Dayen at the Nation to wonder whether Trump was planning to have his acting IRS commissioner (a political person rather than a tax enforcement professional, in an unusual choice to run the agency) deliberately reduce the withholdings to exaggerate the impact of the tax cut on peoples pocketbooks in advance of the midterms.

                              Since his article 14 months ago, no clear evidence of political manipulation has emerged. But the July GAO report confirmed that this is indeed what happened both taxes owed and withholdings went down, but withholdings went down too much.
                              Treasury says the new system is more accurate

                              According to the GAOs estimates, the number of people whose withholdings are exactly right will stay roughly the same under the new system.

                              The change is that fewer taxpayers should be overwithholding and more should be under withholding in other words, fewer people will get a refund and more people will be asked to pay up.

                              Treasurys viewpoint is that this is change for the better. Under the old system, 75 percent of taxpayers were getting refunds meaning that the withholding system was poorly targeted on average. By switching to a new system in which fewer people get refunds and more people owe extra money, they will be achieving a more balanced result.

                              If this was intended to give Republicans a boost in the midterms it obviously didnt work, in part because the once-a-year tax filing process is a lot more salient than the biweekly process of automatic withholding. In fact, they are now facing a backlash from an angry public that includes millions of people who were expecting tax refunds that they are now not going to get.

                              Its actually the case that in the long run TCJA will raise many working- and middle-class peoples taxes. To conform to budget reconciliation rules, Republicans made it so the nonregressive tax cuts largely expire after 10 years while the revenue-raisers and the business tax cuts are permanent. But while this is an important (and telling) part of the tax policy debate, it doesnt represent anything thats happening this winter. People hit with a surprise request to pay extra to the IRS may feel like Trump surprisingly raised their taxes, but in most cases thats not whats happening.

                              æ, !

                              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                              • Mueller Probe Focuses On 2016 Manafort Meeting With Kilimnik
                                RFE/RL February 08, 2019 01:12 GMT

                                The U.S. special counsel's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is focusing on a meeting between Donald Trump's then-campaign chairman and a business associate who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence.

                                A court transcript unsealed on February 7 in Paul Manafort's criminal case says an August 2016 meeting between Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik goes to the "larger view of what we think is going on" and what "we think the motive here is."

                                "This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what Special Counsel [Robert Mueller's] office is investigating," Andrew Weissmann, one of the prosecutors on Mueller's team, told the judge, according to a transcript of the hearing.

                                Much of the transcript was redacted, including portions relating to Kilimnik.

                                In previous court documents, it was revealed that one of the topics discussed by Manafort and Kilimnik was a possible "Ukrainian peace plan."

                                The peace plan refers to the conflict that erupted in Ukraine in 2014, after President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country amid mass protests. The United States and Western allies hit Russia with sanctions after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula, and Moscow had sought to ease the punitive measures.

                                According to court filings, the "peace plan" was reportedly aimed at lifting the U.S. sanctions on Russia.

                                Manafort was convicted in federal court in Virginia in August of bank fraud and tax evasion connected to his work in Ukraine. He later pleaded guilty in a separate case to two counts of conspiracy.

                                Manafort has been imprisoned since June, when a federal judge said he violated his bail by reaching out to potential witnesses in his case. According to prosecutors, he and Kilimnik contacted potential witnesses in Muellers investigation, trying to tell them what to say if they were questioned -- a federal crime.

                                Mueller is investigating whether there was collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies charge mounted an influence operation to sway the vote to Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

                                Kilimnik, who was indicted last year on charges of witness tampering in Manafort's case, has denied having ties to Russian spy agencies.

                                Trump denies he colluded with Russian agents, and Moscow denies interfering in the election to help Trump.
                                With reporting by Reuters, AP, and CNN

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                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp