I’m a ‘very stable genius’ – Trending Stuff

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump slammed reports questioning his mental stability in a series of tweets Saturday morning, writing he’s a “very stable genius” after the publication of an expos about his first year as President put the White House into damage-control mode.

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence … ” Trump wrote, referring to questions raised about the mental fitness of the former President, who disclosed in 1994 that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” the President continued. “Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star … to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”

After his tweets Saturday morning, Trump told reporters at Camp David that Wolff is a “fraud” who doesn’t know him.

“I went to the best colleges, or college,” he told reporters. “I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for President one time and won. Then I hear this guy that doesn’t know me at all, by the way, didn’t interview me, said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. Didn’t exist, it’s in his imagination.”

Trump continued: “I never interviewed with him in the White House at all; he was never in the Oval Office.”

Wolff told “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie on Friday that he “absolutely spoke to the President” while working on “Fire and Fury.”

“Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record,” Wolff said. “I’ve spent about three hours with the President over the course of the campaign, and in the White House. So, my window into Donald Trump is pretty significant.”

The remarkable spectacle of Trump defending his mental stability comes after the President and some of his top officials spent the last few days countering claims in author Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury,” about Trump’s mental fitness to serve as President. The book, which went on sale Friday, also paints the picture of a President who neither knows nor cares about policy and doesn’t seem to perceive the vast responsibilities of his role.

CNN has not independently confirmed all of Wolff’s assertions.

Trump’s tweets also come after reports surfaced that a dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate received a briefing from Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee on Capitol Hill in early December about Trump’s fitness to be president.

“Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the President’s dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation,” Lee told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, “They know the concern is universal among Democrats, but it really depends on Republicans, they said. Some knew of Republicans that were concerned, maybe equally concerned, but whether they would act on those concerns was their worry.”

The briefing was previously reported by Politico. Lee, confirming the December 5 and 6 meeting to CNN, said that the group was evenly mixed, with House and Senate lawmakers, and included at least one Republican — a senator, whom she would not name.

Lee’s public comments are highly unusual given protocols from medical professional organizations — including the 37,000-member American Psychiatric Association — banning psychiatrists from diagnosing patients without a formal examination.

The White House has taken issue with the claims in Wolff’s book since excerpts of it began to surface online ahead of its publication, with press secretary Sarah Sanders calling it “complete fantasy” and an attorney for Trump sending a “cease and desist” threat to the book’s author and publisher.

Trump issued a scathing statement on his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, saying he had “lost his mind” after the book quoted Bannon making negative remarks about Trump and son Donald Trump Jr.

The book quoted Bannon as calling a June 2016 meeting between a Russian lawyer and the President’s eldest son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Trump lit into Bannon in a tweet Friday night, saying he “cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”

“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book,” Trump wrote. “He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”

Wolff reiterated his belief that it is becoming a widespread view that Trump is unfit for presidency, telling BBC Radio in an interview overnight that it’s a “very clear emperor-has-no-clothes effect.”

“The story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job,” Wolff said in the interview. “Suddenly everywhere people are going, ‘Oh my God, it’s true, he has no clothes.’ That’s the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end … this presidency.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN in an exclusive interview on Friday he’s never questioned Trump’s mental fitness, despite reports he once called Trump a “moron.”

“I’ve never questioned his mental fitness,” Tillerson told CNN’s Elise Labott. “I have no reason to question his mental fitness.”

Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

Categories CNN

Trump Says Bannon Lost His Mind After Leaving White House – Trending Stuff

President Donald Trump denounced his former top strategist, Steve Bannon, on Wednesday in a dramatic break from the man considered an architect of Trump’s populist campaign.

“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said in a statement issued after the publication of excerpts of a new book in which Bannon criticizes the president and his family. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”

Bannon has lost the access to the president that he’s enjoyed since leaving the White House in August, one person familiar with the matter said. Trump’s lawyers sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter, threatening legal action and accusing him of violating a non-disclosure agreement, ABC News reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, The Guardian published excerpts of a forthcoming book by author Michael Wolff in which Bannon predicts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will “crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV” over the president’s son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016. Bannon also called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with the lawyer, in which he expected to receive damaging information on Trump’s election opponent Hillary Clinton, “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” according to the Guardian. Bloomberg News later obtained a copy of the book.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at a briefing that Trump was “furious, disgusted” by Bannon’s remarks about his son, calling the claims “outrageous” and “completely false.”

Bannon, reached by Bloomberg News, declined to comment on the remarks published by the Guardian. Two people close to him said he wasn’t bothered by the president’s statement. They asked not to be identified discussing Bannon’s reaction.

New York Magazine also published an article by Wolff on Wednesday, based on the book, that recounts a conversation between Bannon and former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes in which the two men debated whether Trump understood the importance of his election.

“‘Does he get it?’ asked Ailes suddenly, looking intently at Bannon. Did Trump get where history had put him?” Wolff wrote. “Bannon took a sip of water. ‘He gets it,’ he said, after hesitating for perhaps a beat too long. ‘Or he gets what he gets.”’

265-Word Statement

In his 265-word statement, Trump went on to attack Bannon for some of his activities at the White House and afterward. He blamed him for the loss of a Republican Senate seat in Alabama in a special election last month and accused him of leaking to news reporters while he served as the White House chief strategist.

“Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country,” Trump said. “Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

Statement from the President of the United States:

Bannon backed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore over Trump’s preferred candidate, incumbent Senator Luther Strange, in a primary election for the Alabama seat. Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in the special election after several women accused him of sexual misconduct while they were teenagers.

Trump Jr. also declined to comment, but re-tweeted a Bloomberg News reporter’s tweet about the outcome of the Alabama election with the comment: “Thanks Steve. Keep up the great work.”

“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” Trump said. “It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

In addition to Wolff’s book, titled “Fire and Fury: Inside Trump’s White House,” Bannon was the subject of a best-selling book published last year by Bloomberg Businessweek writer Joshua Green, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.”

Green’s book has been optioned by Blumhouse Television, which has hired screenwriter Christopher Wilkinson to turn the biography into a two-part, four-hour drama.

Trump complimented Bannon when he left the White House in August, saying he “would be a tough and smart new voice at” his website, Breitbart News. “Maybe even better than before. Fake News needs the competition!”

And Bannon boasted at a private luncheon in Hong Kong in September that he spoke with Trump by phone every two to three days, according to two people who attended.

After Trump issued his statement on Bannon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign staff tweeted a GIF image of the Kentucky Republican sitting at his desk, grinning. Bannon, a populist and nationalist who considers much of the Republican establishment corrupt, has said Senate Republicans should replace McConnell and has sought to recruit people to run against McConnell’s favored candidates in Republican primaries, including in Alabama.

Wolff’s Revelations

Wolff, who New York Magazine said conducted more than 200 interviews for his book including with the president and most of his senior staff, also reported that Trump never expected to win the election and had promised his wife, Melania, that he wouldn’t be president. She “was in tears — and not of joy” on election night as it became clear Trump would beat Clinton, Wolff reported.

“The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section,” Melania Trump’s spokesman, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement. “Mrs. Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for president and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.”

Wolff reported that friends Trump phoned at night after leaving the Oval Office for the day would leak details of the conversations to reporters and that many of them consider him ignorant. Rupert Murdoch, co-chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and a close Trump confidante, called him an “idiot” — preceded by an expletive — after one such call, Wolff wrote.

Trump’s longtime friend Thomas Barrack called the president “not only crazy” but “stupid,” Wolff reported. Barrack issued a statement denying that he made the comments on Wednesday, and said he had not been interviewed by Wolff.

Wolff portrays Trump’s top three advisers at the beginning of his presidency — Bannon, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus — as consumed by infighting and frequently unable to coordinate strategy.

He wrote that a former deputy chief of staff who also left last year, Katie Walsh, was frustrated by the chaos of Trump’s White House and by the president himself, and quoted her saying that working for him was “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”

Other revelations may prove more damaging to the White House in the long-term. Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, allegedly justified a pre-election speaking engagement paid for by Russians by saying it would only present a conflict of interest “if we won.”

“This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House,” Sanders said in a statement. “Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy.”

Sanders told reporters at a briefing that Wolff never “sat down” with the president for his book and has only spoken with Trump for about five to seven minutes since he took office. She described Wolff’s access to the White House and its staff as engineered by Bannon, and said that the White House believes most other officials who spoke with Wolff “did so at the request of Mr. Bannon.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Trumps error on Jerusalem is a disaster for the Arab world and the US too

The presidents foolish move in recognising the city as the capital of Israel will have negative consequences impossible to predict, says Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University

Every time it seems Donald Trump cannot outdo himself, he does it again. Now he has announced that his administration will recognise Jerusalem as Israels capital, reversing nearly seven decades of American policy. This step will have multiple negative ramifications, many impossible to predict.

Jerusalem is the most important of the so-called final status issues that have been repeatedly deferred during the Israel-Palestine negotiations because of their extreme sensitivity. Trump has ploughed into this imbroglio like a bull in a china shop, zeroing in on the most complex and emotional issue of all those connected to Palestine.

The peace process has been at deaths door since the former secretary of state John Kerrys peace mission ended in failure in 2014. But the international community apart from the US is united in saying recognition of Jerusalem as the capital ofIsraelis disastrous for any hopes of reviving meaningful talks. The status of Jerusalem is one of the pivotal issues that diplomats and peacemakers have said must be agreed between the two parties in negotiations.

Palestinians will see Trumps announcement as the end of their hopes and demands for East Jerusalem as a capital of a future independent state. While few want a return to violence, many will feel diplomatic efforts have got them no closer to a state of their own.

The Israeli government will be thrilled. Ever since it captured (and later annexed) East Jerusalem in the 1967 six-day war, Israel has claimed the city as its eternal and undivided capital, and has longed for international recognition. Some 200,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements will also celebrate.

Jerusalem is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the entire Palestine question. It has been central to the identity of Palestinian Muslims and Christians as far back as the founding moments of both religions, and has become even more so as the conflict over Palestine has become fiercer.

The rivalry over this holy city is exacerbated by the fact that the same site the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, the Temple Mount to Jews is sacred to both. Because of its explosive nature, this is an issue that no Palestinian politician, and few Arab leaders, would dare to trifle with.

For someone such as me, whose family has lived in Jerusalem for hundreds of years, Trumps announcement does not just mean that the US has adopted the Israeli position that Jerusalem belongs exclusively to Israel. He has also retroactively legitimised Israels seizure and military occupation of Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, and its imposition of discriminatory laws on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there. The damage he has done will be permanent: the US cannot undo this recognition.

This act completely disqualifies the US from its longstanding role as broker, a position that Washington has monopolised for itself. So much for the pitiful peace plan that Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner was cooking up and hoping to impose on the Palestinians.

‘It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’ says Trump video

Trumps action signals disdain for the opinion of the whole Arab world. Whatever Arab dictators and absolute monarchs may tell the Americans they depend on, the Arab peoples are unanimous in supporting the Palestinian position on Jerusalem. Their inevitable reactions to this move will impinge on vital US interests all over the region. As secretary of defense James Mattis noted in 2013: I paid a military security price every day as a commander of [Central Command] because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.

This latest diplomatic fiasco is another instance of the administration showing utter contempt for the views of the rest of the world. Not one country recognises Jerusalem as Israels capital. There is a global consensus that until a settlement is achieved, it is illegitimate to prejudge or predetermine the outcome of negotiations. The US formally assured the Palestinians on this score in inviting them to the 1991 Madrid peace conference.

Of course, there is a lengthy American track record of bias in favour of Israel. No one should have expected fairness on this issue from them or from their boss.

It is now hard to see how a sustainable Palestinian-Israeli agreement is possible. True to Trump form, this is an entirely self-inflicted wound that will long echo in the annals of diplomacy. It will further diminish the already reduced standing of the US, complicating relations with allies, with Muslims and Arabs and with people of common sense the world over.

Trump, who was warned against this step by Arab, Middle Eastern and European leaders, has now made resolving the conflict over Palestine much harder, even as he has brought joy to his friends, and to their dangerous, extremist soulmates in Israel. Far from ushering in the deal of the century, as he boasted, with this foolish move Trump may usher in the debacle of the century. This is a sad day for international law, for Palestine, and for everyone who cares about peace in the Middle East.

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book – Trending Stuff

Former White House strategist quoted in Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, as saying: Theyre going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV

Donald Trumps former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the presidents son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as treasonous and unpatriotic, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: Theyre going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year. In it, Wolff lifts the lid on a White House lurching from crisis to crisis amid internecine warfare, with even some of Trumps closest allies expressing contempt for him.

Bannon, who was chief executive of the Trump campaign in its final three months, then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News, is a central figure in the nasty, cutthroat drama, quoted extensively, often in salty language.

He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trumps son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would incriminate rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: I love it.

The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers. They didnt have any lawyers.

Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think its all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people. Any information, he said, could then be dump[ed] down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication.

Bannon added: You never see it, you never know it, because you dont need to But thats the brain trust that they had.

Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his fathers office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.

Interactive

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed last May, following Trumps dismissal of FBI director James Comey, to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This has led to the indictments of four members of Trumps inner circle, including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges; Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In recent weeks Bannons Breitbart News and other conservative outlets have accused Muellers team of bias against the president.

Trump predicted in an interview with the New York Times last week that the special counsel was going to be fair, though he also said the investigation makes the country look very bad. The president and his allies deny any collusion with Russia and the Kremlin has denied interfering.

Bannon has criticised Trumps decision to fire Comey. In Wolffs book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced.

You realise where this is going, he is quoted as saying. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner Its as plain as a hair on your face.

Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. Theyre going to go right through that. Theyre going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.

Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: Theyre sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.

He insists that he knows no Russians, will not be a witness, will not hire a lawyer and will not appear on national television answering questions.

Fire and Fury will be published next week. Wolff is a prominent media critic and columnist who has written for the Guardian and is a biographer of Rupert Murdoch. He previously conducted interviews for the Hollywood Reporter with Trump in June 2016 and Bannon a few months later.

He told the Guardian in November that to research the book, he showed up at the White House with no agenda but wanting to find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments of the fledgling presidency.

The rancour between Bannon and Javanka Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump is a recurring theme of the book. Kushner and Ivanka are Jewish. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is quoted as saying: It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews.

Trump is not spared. Wolff writes that Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who is one of the presidents oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: Hes not only crazy, hes stupid. Barrack denied that to the New York Times.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Trump’s personal banking information handed over to Robert Mueller – Trending Stuff

Deutsche Bank, Donald Trumps biggest lender, is forced to submit documents after special prosecutor issues subpoena

Donald Trumps banking information has formally been turned over to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating whether the presidents campaign conspired with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.

Deutsche Bank, the German bank that serves as Trumps biggest lender, was forced to submit documents about its client relationship with the president and some of his family members, who are also Deutsche clients, after Mueller issued the bank with a subpoena for information, according to media reports. The news was first reported by Handelsblatt, the German newspaper.

The revelation makes it clear that Mueller and his team are investigating the presidents finances. Trumps son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, is also a client.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment, but told Bloomberg in a statement that it always cooperated with investigating authorities.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, denied the report, telling Reuters: No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Sekulows statement. But Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating the Trump campaign, said Muellers reported subpoena of Deutsche Bank would be a very significant development.

If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family, Schiff said in a statement. He was referring to a private investigators unsubstantiated allegation that the Kremlin had video proof of the presidents involvement in a salacious sex act.

Schiff also noted that the presidents son, Donald Trump Jr, has stated in the past that the Trump Organization received substantial funding from Russia and that there have been credible allegations that Russians have used the company to buy Trump properties for the purpose of money laundering.

Legal experts who are following the investigation said it showed Mueller was following the money in his search for possible links between the presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

It also indicated that any investigation into Trump personally may not be limited to the question of whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired the former FBI chief James Comey.

Instead, said Ryan Goodman, a New York law professor and former Pentagon counsel, it showed that Mueller was possibly examining whether the president could be compromised by Russian interests.

Deutsche Bank relates to the Russia collusion investigation, Goodman said.

He pointed to the banks known relationships with Russian oligarchs and its previous dealings in Moscow among reasons why Mueller would be interested in having access to Trumps bank accounts. The president was in the past loaned about $300m by the bank. His indebtedness, Goodman said, means that Mueller will want to examine if there are any connections between Russia and the presidents financial vulnerabilities.

How serious are the allegations?

The story of Donald Trump andRussiacomes down to this: a sitting president or his campaign is suspected of having coordinated with a foreign country to manipulate a US election. The story could not be bigger, and the stakes for Trump and the country could not be higher.

What are the key questions?

Investigators are asking two basic questions: did Trumps presidential campaign collude at any level with Russian operatives to sway the 2016 US presidential election? And did Trump or others break the law to throw investigators off the trail?

What does the country think?

While a majority of the American public now believes that Russia tried to disrupt the US election, opinions about Trump campaign involvement tend to split along partisan lines: 73% of Republicans, but only 13% of Democrats,believeTrump did nothing wrong in his dealings with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

What are the implications for Trump?

The affair has the potential to eject Trump from office.Experienced legal observers believethat prosecutors are investigating whether Trump committed an obstruction of justice. Both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton the only presidents to face impeachment proceedings in the last century were accused of obstruction of justice. But Trumps fate is probably up to the voters. Even if strong evidence of wrongdoing by him or his cohort emerged, a Republican congressional majority would probably block any action to remove him from office. (Such an action would be a historical rarity.)

What has happened so far?

Former foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous pleaded guilty to perjury over his contacts with Russians linked to the Kremlin, and the presidents former campaign managerPaul Manafortand another aide face charges of money laundering.

When will the inquiry come to an end?

The investigations have an open timeline.

Trump has consistently denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia and has stated that he did not have any business dealings in Russia. Since then, news has emerged that the Trump Organization sold a significant number of its properties to Russian clients and explored opening a hotel in Moscow, though the plan never came to fruition.

The president has repeatedly criticised the Mueller investigation and this weekend alleged that the FBIs reputation was in tatters. The attack followed the guilty plea of Trumps former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is cooperating with federal investigators.

Muellers investigators have, according to previous media reports, examined Russian purchases of Trump-owned apartments, the presidents involvement with Russian associates in a development in SoHo, New York, and the presidents 2008 sale of his Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch, Dmitry Rybolovlev.

News of the subpoena was not unexpected. The Guardian reported in July that executives at the bank were anticipating they would receive a formal demand for the presidents banking records and had already established informal contacts with Muellers investigators.

The development nevertheless represents a significant blow to the president.

Deutsche Bank has for months been the subject of intense scrutiny especially by Democrats on Capitol Hill because of its dealings with the president and its history of banking violations, including its dealings in Russia.

The $300m in loans, some of which may have been restructured, were extended to Trump before he became president.

He has four large mortgages, all issued by Deutsches private bank. The loans are guaranteed against the presidents properties: a deluxe hotel in Washington DCs Old Post Office building, just around the corner from the White House; his Chicago tower hotel; and the Trump National Doral Miami resort.

The Guardian reported in February that the bank had launched a review of Trumps account earlier this year to gauge whether there were any connections to Russia and had not discovered anything suspicious.

Ivanka Trump, the presidents daughter and adviser in the White House and Kushners mother, Seryl Stadtmauer, are also clients of Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank has been the only financial institution willing to lend Trump significant sums since the 1990s, a period in which other Wall Street banks turned off the tap after Trumps companies declared bankruptcy.

The German bank sued Trump in November 2008 after he failed to repay a $40m debt on a $640m real estate loan. Trump countersued and the matter was eventually settled in 2010. Trump then began doing business with Deutsches private banking business, which extended new loans despite the banks history of litigation with the onetime real estate tycoon.

The special counsels office declined to comment.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – Trending Stuff

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday and announced plans to relocate the US Embassy there, a move expected to inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace.

“Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do,” Trump said from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room.

“After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” he added.

Upending decades of foreign policy

Trump’s decision upended seven decades of US foreign policy that has resisted a recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

“Today, I am delivering,” Trump said, referencing his campaign promise.

But Trump’s move on Wednesday signaled a willingness to prioritize the fulfillment of another campaign promise over warnings from US allies in the region. The decision could also stymie the peace process and increase security risks in a region that is already on edge.

Acknowledging the concerns he fielded a day earlier from regional Arab leaders, Trump underscored his decision by reaffirming the United States’ commitment to helping Israelis and Palestinians reach a peace agreement. He also stressed that his announcement did not mark a shift in US policy on the final boundaries of future Israeli and Palestinian states.

“We are not taking a position on any of the final status issues including the final boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Trump said. “Those questions are up to the parties involved. The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides.”

Trump’s announcement was warmly received by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who seized on the opportunity to call on other countries to join the US in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The President’s decision is an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned and rejected Trump’s decision. Speaking in a televised address, the Palestinian leader said the move will aid extremist organizations to wage holy wars.

“These procedures do also help in the extremist organizations to wage a religious war that would harm the entire region which is going through critical moments and would lead us into wars that will never end which we have warned about and always urged to fight against,” he said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Trump’s decision “disqualified the United States of America to play any role in any peace process.”

“President Trump just destroyed any policy of a two-state (solution),” Erakat said in a statement. “He has taken an action to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is in total contradiction of agreements signed between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Regional ramifications

The ramifications of Trump’s decision reverberated immediately through Israel, the West Bank and the Middle East, though senior administration officials have acknowledged it will take years for the US to build the new embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump ordered the State Department Wednesday “to begin preparations to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” noting his directive would allow the State Department to begin hiring architects and building contractors to build an embassy he said will be “a magnificent tribute to peace.”

While Trump underscored his announcement with an emphasis on US commitment to a peace deal, the move appeared to signal a reduced commitment on the President’s part to achieving one. Just two months earlier, Trump said he was delaying a decision on moving the embassy to Jerusalem to give peace “a shot.”

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” Trump had said in an interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in October, one of Trump’s evangelical conservative supporters.

And Trump appeared to acknowledge Wednesday that little progress has been made in his administration’s push for peace, as Trump said “we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians” than two decades earlier.

Advisers divided

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem divided the President’s top advisers, with Defense Secretary James Mattis, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson privately arguing against unsettling the status quo, senior administration officials told CNN. Vice President Mike Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman pushed in favor of the move, the sources said.

The President’s top officials overseeing the US push for Israeli-Palestinian peace — son-in-law Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt — supported recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, but urged Trump to delay a move on the embassy, the sources said.

Trump’s announcement Wednesday notably took place without Tillerson at his side, while he was flanked by Pence, who had acted as a key liaison to the evangelical community as the decision was crafted.

The impending announcement sent US allies and US officials in the region scurrying to brace for protests and the potential for violence as a result of the announcement.

Palestinian factions called for three days of rage in response to the announcement and US officials issued security warnings for the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem.

Arab leaders in the region and French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, expressed their deep misgivings about Trump’s move in phone calls with the US President on Tuesday, urging Trump to reconsider.

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Categories CNN

Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI, is cooperating with Mueller – Trending Stuff

Washington (CNN)Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador and disclosed that he is cooperating with the special counsel’s office.

Flynn is the first person inside President Donald Trump’s administration to be reached by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The developments are a sign that the investigation is intensifying, and details revealed Friday provide the clearest picture yet of coordination between Flynn and other Trump advisers in their contact with Russian officials to influence international policy.

According to an FBI statement, Flynn communicated with then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak after being asked by a senior Trump transition official to find out how foreign governments stood on a coming UN Security Council resolution about Israel. The prosecutors did not name any transition officials.

Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is the senior official referred to in the statement of offense.

An attorney for Kushner, now a White House senior adviser, did not comment.

The White House said late Friday morning that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.

“The conclusion of this phase of the special counsel’s work demonstrates again that the special counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion,” Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, said in a statement.

In court Friday morning, Flynn’s only comments were to answer yes and no to questions from the judge. He told the judge he has not been coerced to plead guilty or been promised a specific sentence. Flynn faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines, though the judge Friday morning stressed he could impose a harsher or lighter sentence.

In a statement, Flynn said he acknowledged that his actions “were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.

“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said.

Flynn is the fourth person connected to Trump’s campaign to be charged as part of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of Trump’s team, as well as potential obstruction of justice and financial crimes.

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted last month; they pleaded not guilty. And Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for making a false statement to the FBI over contacts with officials connected to the Russian government.

Flynn’s plea agreement stipulates that he’ll cooperate with federal, state or even local investigators in any way Mueller’s office might need, according to a document filed in court Friday. He could also be required to participate in covert law enforcement operations (such as wearing a wire) if asked, or share details of his past dealings with the Trump transition and administration.

The agreement adds that Mueller’s office won’t prosecute Flynn for additional crimes they outlined in his statement of offense Friday, such as his misreported foreign lobbying filings about his work for Turkey. If other prosecutors outside the special counsel’s office, such as US attorneys or state law enforcement, wanted to charge Flynn with alleged crimes, they still could, and he’s not protected if he lies to investigators again in the future or breaks the terms of his plea agreement.

Calls made during transition

In court, prosecutors detailed calls made by Flynn in late December 2016 to the senior Trump transition team at Mar-a-Lago to discuss conversations with Kislyak. There were multiple conversations with the transition while he was having conversations with Kisyak about Russia sanctions and the Russian response.

According to a statement of offense filed in court, Flynn conducted several calls with senior officials on the Trump transition team about his discussions with Kislyak related to US sanctions of Russia.

Flynn and Trump advisers discussed US sanctions three times. The first call discussed the potential impact on the “incoming administration’s foreign policy goals,” according to the court filing, from which details were partially read during Flynn’s plea hearing.

Flynn then called Kislyak to ask that Russia not respond too harshly to US sanctions, the statement of offense said. He told a Trump transition official about that call. Russia responded by choosing not to retaliate to the sanctions.

KT McFarland was a senior transition official at Mar-a-Lago who was described as discussing with Flynn what, if anything, to communicate to the Russian ambassador about US sanctions, according to sources familiar with the matter. McFarland was not named in the document, but sources confirmed she was one of the transition officials described in the court filings.

An attorney for McFarland declined comment.

McFarland met with Mueller investigators recently to answer questions about Flynn, according to the sources.

According to the special counsel charges, McFarland and Flynn talked about the potential impact of the sanctions on the incoming Trump administration’s foreign policy and that the transition team did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

The bulk of the back-and-forth calls from Flynn to the Russian ambassador and to Trump advisers happened around December 29, while the advisers were at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

They “discussed that the members of the presidential transition team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation,” the filing said.

Flynn lied to investigators about these calls with the ambassador, according to his guilty plea and the criminal statement of offense.

The charging document states that Flynn made a false statement to the FBI when he stated that in December 2016 he did not ask Kislyak “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and Flynn did not recall the Russian ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”

The document also says that Flynn falsely said he did not ask Kislyak to delay the vote on a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.

Flynn’s other instance of lying to investigators involved what he told them about his conversations with foreign officials related to their planned UN Security Council votes on Israeli settlements.

A “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team, who sources familiar with the matter told CNN was Kushner, told Flynn on December 22 to contact officials from foreign governments about how they would vote and “to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.”

Flynn then asked Kislyak to vote against or delay the resolution, the statement of offense said.

‘This is a win for the White House’

White House allies initially tried to put a positive spin on the news.

One person familiar with the mood in the West Wing insisted top White House officials were breathing a sigh of relief.

“People in the building are very happy,” the source said. “This doesn’t lead back to Trump in any way, shape or form.” The source noted that Flynn is being charged for making false statements, but not for any improper actions during the campaign.

“This is a further indication that there’s nothing there,” the source said. “This is a win for the White House.”

A source with knowledge of the legal team’s thinking tells CNN the Flynn plea “is not going to be a problem” for the President, though it could be a problem for people who worked with Flynn. The source said legal exposure for others would depend on what they might have said to the special counsel.

Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in the 2016 general election and was the focus of the “lock her up” chant first popularized by Flynn at the Republican National Convention, declined through a spokesman to comment on Friday’s developments.

Stunning downfall for Flynn

Flynn’s lawyers have previously criticized media reports about his connection to the Russia investigation as peddling “unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo directed against him.” Flynn hasn’t spoken publicly since his ouster in February.

The charges mark yet another stunning downfall for Flynn, 58, a retired general who rose to the highest ranks of the Army over a three-decade career — only to see him fired from the military by the Obama administration before unexpectedly rising again on the heels of Trump’s election victory.

A key campaign surrogate and adviser during Trump’s presidential campaign, Flynn was tapped as Trump’s national security adviser in November 2016, a senior White House job that put him in a vital role for all of the administration’s national security and foreign policy decisions.

Though he wasn’t initially considered for the top job, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner made it clear to the Trump transition team that they wanted him there, CNN has reported.
Flynn would hold the job less than a month, resigning from the post after he misled Pence and then-chief of staff Reince Priebus about his conversations with Kislyak in which they discussed US sanctions against Russia.

Flynn is also the spark of potential trouble for the President in Mueller’s probe, as the special counsel is investigating potential obstruction of justice in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee that Trump asked him to drop the Flynn probe during a February Oval Office meeting not long after Flynn resigned as national security adviser.

Talking about sanctions

Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, which amounted to the crux of his guilty plea Friday, were the main reason for his firing shortly after Trump took office. The calls were captured by routine US eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomat, CNN has reported.

The Trump transition team acknowledged that Flynn and Kislyak spoke on the day in December 2016 that the Obama administration issued new sanctions against Russia and expelled 35 diplomats, but they insisted the conversation did not include sanctions — including denials that Pence and Priebus later repeated on national television.

Flynn resigned on February 13 after reports that he and Kislyak had spoken about sanctions and that the Justice Department had warned the White House that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

Details of how the DOJ warned the White House about Flynn’s conduct were revealed months later in stunning testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who said that she “believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians” because of the misleading denials.

Warnings before Trump took office

Flynn’s legal issues stem from foreign payments he received after he started his own consulting firm.

Flynn founded the Flynn Intel Group after he retired from the military in 2014. The Obama White House pushed him out of his role as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the military’s intelligence arm. Flynn was fired over claims he was a poor manager, though he says he was ousted by Obama administration officials unwilling to listen to his warnings about the rise of ISIS and an increasingly aggressive Iran.

Before he was named national security adviser, the FBI began investigating Flynn for secretly working during the presidential campaign as an unregistered lobbyist for Turkey, an investigation he disclosed to the Trump transition team before Trump took office.

Flynn wasn’t the only Trump associate who faced scrutiny over foreign lobbying laws — Manafort also filed a retroactive registration earlier this year for work he previously did in Ukraine.

Federal investigators were probing whether Flynn was secretly paid by the Turkish government as part of its public campaign against Fethullah Gulen, a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Erdogan blames Gulen and his supporters for plotting the failed Turkish coup last summer.

Payments from Russian businesses

Flynn has also been scrutinized for his work with Russian businesses.

In his initial financial disclosure form filed in February with the Office of Government Ethics, Flynn left off payments of thousands of dollars from RT, the Russian government-funded television network and two other Russian companies. Flynn subsequently added the payments in an amended disclosure.

Among the payouts, Flynn received $33,000 of a $45,000 speaking fee for a 2015 speech at a Moscow event hosted by RT, where he sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Flynn’s presence at the gala celebrating RT’s 10th anniversary raised eyebrows among his critics. The US intelligence community said earlier this year that the Kremlin uses RT to push propaganda on American audiences, and that the English-language channel was involved in the effort to interfere in the election.

Trump said in May that he hadn’t known that Flynn took payments from Russia and Turkey.

Flynn’s son also faces scrutiny

Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., has also faced scrutiny from Mueller’s investigation, though he was not charged on Friday.

Flynn Jr. served as his father’s chief of staff and top aide at their consulting firm, the Flynn Intel Group. In that capacity, Flynn Jr. joined his father on overseas trips, such as Moscow in December 2015 when Flynn dined with Putin at the RT gala.

The younger Flynn has a penchant for spreading conspiracy theories on Twitter. He has smeared Trump’s opponents — ranging from Clinton to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — as well as Muslims and other minorities. Most prominently, he peddled the debunked claim that a Washington pizzeria was a front for Democrats to sexually abuse children.

Flynn Jr. has remained defiant as the investigation has heated up. Days after Manafort and Gates were indicted, Flynn Jr. sent a message to his critics: “The disappointment on your faces when I don’t go to jail will be worth all your harassment.”

Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

Categories CNN

Russia funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner associate – Trending Stuff

Yuri Milners Los Altos Hills house, bought for $100m. Photograph: Google Earth

Milner said that as a management company, DST Global had sole discretion over its investment decisions. He said that he, like other investment managers, did not disclose the identities of his funders to the companies where DST Global invested. He said funders such as VTB received only basic updates on investments.

He briefly mentioned VTBs role in the Twitter investment during an interview with Forbes magazine last month. The partial disclosure appeared to have been prompted by questions put to him by the Guardian and other media partners.

It is unclear if Moscow saw a political interest in funding stakes in Facebook and Twitter, or if the acquisitions were only intended to make money. Sources familiar with the situation told the Guardian that Facebook had carried out a discreet internal review of Russian investments before its IPO in 2012, and that the review was unable to draw firm conclusions.

Karen Vartapetov, the director of sovereign ratings at Standard & Poors, said the Russian government had a strong influence on VTBs strategic and business plans even when these were not expected to be lucrative. VTB plays a very important role for government policies, including implementation of some less profitable and socially important tasks, said Vartapetov.

Russias role in exploiting Facebook and Twitter to influence the 2016 US election is an important strand of an FBI inquiry and congressional investigations. Facebook has identified 3,000 advertisements and 470 fake accounts on its network that were set up by a troll factory in St Petersburg. Details have been passed to Congress and to the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who is examining alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

VTB has a close relationship with the Kremlin and, according to analysts, has received more state subsidies than any other Russian bank. In 2009, the bank boasted that its investment banking arm was pivotal in managing the states interests.

VTB also has close ties to Putins FSB intelligence agency. The banks chairman, Andrey Kostin, is a former KGB foreign intelligence operative, it has been reported, who has received several state decorations from Putin. Milner denied knowing about VTBs ties to Russian intelligence. VTB funded 45% of the Twitter stake. The bank denies Kostin worked for the KGB.

In an email, Milners spokeswoman said: Yuri Milner has never been an employee of the Russian government. Milner said he not spoken to Medvedev nor any other Russian minister about social media, and that he and Zuckerberg had not discussed the controversy over Russian exploitation of social media.Politics is something Im very uninterested in, Milner told the Guardian.

They operate in the shadows

The Paradise Papers help to unravel complex arrangements that led Russian state money to fund investments in the US social media companies.

They involve a bewildering array of companies using similar names and acronyms, someregistered offshore in places that offer secrecy about ownership. The arrangements are legal, but have led campaigners to demand more transparency.

The trail begins in December 2005, when Gazprom Investholding began putting money into Kanton Services, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Usmanov was at the time general director of Gazprom Investholding, which the Kremlin has used to renationalise assets sold off in the 1990s.

Gazprom in effect took control of Kanton in 2009 in return for $920m. In 2011, Kanton in turn took a majority stake in DST USA II, a vehicle publicly associated with Milner. By 2012, DST USA II had bought more than 50m shares in Facebook, according to filings at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, amounting to more than 3% of the social media company.

Over the following months, ownership of DST USA II was transferred to an Usmanov company, which sold off $1bn worth of the shares in Facebook at a significant profit after the social network floated on the stock market.

The ultimate owner of Kanton was not made clear, but the company has several ties to Usmanov. An executive who dealt with Kanton on another deal, who requested anonymity to discuss private details, said: I was led to believe this was one of Usmanovs investment companies.

Milner said he knew who owned Kanton but declined to name them, citing a confidentiality agreement. He said he did not know where Usmanov and his other partners obtained funding. I had no knowledge of him using state funds to invest with us he had enough funds already from the holdings that he owned, said Milner.

Rollo Head, a spokesman for Usmanov, said in an email: To be absolutely clear, Mr Usmanov did not borrow from or use state or quasi-state funds to make investments in Facebook.

Alina Polyakova, a specialist in Russian foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said Moscow frequently used intermediaries to ensure plausible deniability for the actions of senior officials.

Russias influence over operations whether that be allocating funds for disinformation campaigns or providing financing to extremist movements, or others are intentionally opaque, said Polyakova. They operate in the shadows.

The leaked documents, together with public filings, show that VTB funded another offshore investment vehicle, DST Investments 3, which was registered on the Isle of Man, a tax haven and UK crown dependency.

VTB put about $191m into this vehicle, which bought 11m shares in Twitter in 2011. When Twitter was preparing to float on the stock market in 2013, the VTB-funded vehicle held a 2% stake in the company. The VTB-funded stake was sold in May 2014, according to Milner. Stock prices from that time indicate the sale would have returned more than $240m in profit.

In July 2014, shortly before the US imposed sanctions on Russian entities such as VTB and Gazprom over the Kremlins aggression in Ukraine, control of DST Investments 3 was transferred to Kanton, the same company tied to Usmanov that was used as a go-between in the Facebook deal.

Milner insisted VTB had been treated like his other investors, but acknowledged it was different in one respect. VTB Bank is clearly an institution controlled by the Russian government, he said.

The Russian companies denied that their funding of the investments was politically motivated.

The loans were provided for general corporate purposes, said Oleg Maksimov, a spokesman for Gazprom Investholding. A VTB spokesperson said that in 2011 the bank executed several deals in the high-tech industry, as we considered this field to have high potential but had since sold its stakes.

What are the Paradise Papers? video

Russian investor backed Kushner

The disclosure of Milners partial backing by Russian state interests may also cause difficulties for Kushner.

Milner in 2015 contributed $850,000 from his family trustto a $50m investment in Cadre, a New-York-based company that Kushner co-founded in 2014 with his brother, Joshua, and a friend of theirs from Harvard. The startup, which the Kushners claim is worth $800m, is based around an online marketplace where wealthy financiers can club together to invest in properties.

Cadre has attracted an estimated $133m of venture capital from backers including Peter Thiel, the controversial libertarian billionaire who co-founded PayPal and backed Trumps campaign for president in 2016.

Jared
Jared Kushner. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The company has already caused controversy for Kushner, after he initially failed to detail his stake in Cadre in financial disclosures to the US Office of Government Ethics. Kushner later added Cadre to revised paperwork, saying his stake in the firm was worth up to $25m.

Cadre initially said in a June press release that Milners stake in the company was held through his firm DST. A different version of the release on Cadres website said, however, that Milner himself was the investor in Cadre. The breakdown of the $50m funding was not made public by Cadre.

Milner said in an interview that he had invested in Cadre based only on the merits of the business. I just thought it was an attractive opportunity, he said.

He said he knew Joshua Kushner and had met Jared Kushner once, at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, in autumn 2016. He was very pleasant and nice, and it was sort of a cocktail-type conversation, said Milner, adding that politics was not discussed.

Cadre operates from the Puck Building in the Nolita section of Manhattan. The Kushners father, Charles, bought the building in the 1980s before being jailed for a string of crimes including 18 counts of tax evasion. The building, a red-brick Romanesque revival, was named after the 19th-century satirical magazine based there. A gilded Puck statue, wearing a top hat and tails, gazes down on staff as they arrive for work.

Muellers inquiry is believed to be reviewing Jared Kushners finances. Kushner was questioned by US senators in July about his connections to Russia. The closed-door session followed a series of explosive reports, including that Kushner had undisclosed contacts with Sergey Kislyak, then Russias ambassador to the US.

In remarks at the White House in July, Kushner said he had not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.

Kushner attended a meeting at Trump Tower in June last year at which Donald Trump Jr was expecting to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton, their Democratic opponent, which he was told had come from the Russian government. Kushner claimed he knew nothing about the meetings purpose before attending and left shortly after it began.

He has also denied reports that following his father-in-laws election victory, he proposed setting up a secure communication channel between Trumps team and Moscow to avoid snooping by the US before Trump took office. Kislyak reportedly told his superiors in Moscow, during conversations intercepted by American intelligence, that Kushner had asked for the backchannel during a meeting at Trump Tower last December.

This article was amended on 6 November 2017 to include VTBs denial that Kostin worked for the KGB.

Trump Jr. Hinted at Review of Anti-Russia Law, Moscow Lawyer Says – Trending Stuff

A Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s oldest son last year says he indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said in a two-and-a-half-hour interview in Moscow that she would tell these and other things to the Senate Judiciary Committee on condition that her answers be made public, something it hasn’t agreed to. She has received scores of questions from the committee, which is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Veselnitskaya said she’s also ready — if asked — to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Her June 9, 2016 encounter with Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort in New York plays a key role in allegations that the campaign worked with Russia to defeat Clinton.

Veselnitskaya said she went to the New York meeting to show Trump campaign officials that major Democratic donors had evaded U.S. taxes and to lobby against the so-called Magnitsky law that punishes Russian officials for the murder of a Russian tax accountant who accused the Kremlin of corruption.

‘If We Come to Power’

“Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,’’ Trump Jr. said of the 2012 law, she recalled. “I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it,” he added, according to her.

Veselnitskaya also said Trump Jr. requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign. She didn’t have any and described the 20-minute meeting as a failure.

A lawyer for Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, said the president’s son had no comment about the interview, the first time Veselnitskaya has offered details about what was discussed at Trump Tower in Manhattan. In the past, Trump Jr. has said that he had wasted his time seeing the lawyer because she provided no useful information.

The meeting took place after British publicist Rob Goldstone contacted Trump Jr. on behalf of Veselnitskaya to request it, describing her as a Russian government lawyer who had information and documents that would incriminate Clinton.

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,’’ Goldstone wrote in an email to Trump Jr. 

‘I Love It’

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,’’ Trump Jr. replied almost immediately.

Veselnitskaya says she told the president’s son she had information that Clinton’s campaign may have received some of almost $1 billion the wealthy Ziff brothers gained from Russian investments that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes.

She says she was acting in a private capacity and not as a Russian government representative. But there is evidence of an official imprimatur: She brought to the meeting a four-page talking-points memorandum in English that contained very similar information to a document she had provided to the office of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika in 2015, both of which were obtained by Bloomberg News. Alexander Kurennoy, the spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office, declined to comment.

In April last year, Veselnitskaya took part in a meeting with a visiting congressional delegation headed by Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican with close ties to Russia, that was attended by a senior prosecution official. There she raised the allegations about the Ziff brothers’ money. President Vladimir Putin has recently made the same argument.

Veselnitskaya is defending a Russian businessman in the U.S. on a money-laundering case related to the Magnitsky law. It was settled out of court this year without an admission of guilt.

Magnitsky Law

This law, which Veselnitskaya has been campaigning against, targets Russian officials in retaliation for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a tax accountant who worked for U.S.-born fund manager William Browder. His Hermitage Capital was once the biggest foreign-portfolio investor in Russia. Ziff Brothers Investments LLC invested in Russia with Browder using offshore entities, Veselnitskaya has said.

Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after uncovering what he said was a tax fraud that diverted $230 million of Russian state funds into the pockets of a handful of civil servants. The 2012 U.S. law named after him incensed the Kremlin, which then banned adoptions from Russia to the U.S., further straining ties between Washington and Moscow.

Ziff Brothers Contributions

Ziff Brothers Investments has contributed to Republicans and Democrats since the 2012 election cycle, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. It gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative and made modest donations to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

A spokesman for the Ziff family said it had no comment.

In the interview, Veselnitskaya said she sent her memo to Goldstone in advance so Trump Jr. could familiarize himself with the issues, but he seemed not to have done so. When she began laying out the case against the Ziffs, she said that he asked: “This money the Ziffs got from Russia, do you have any financial documents showing that this money went to Clinton’s campaign?”

She didn’t and the meeting quickly fell apart. Kushner left after a few minutes and Manafort appeared to have fallen asleep. “The meeting was a failure; none of us understood what the point of it had been,’’ Veselnitskaya said, adding she had no further contacts with the Trump campaign.

Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent her more than 90 questions concerning the meeting, asking whether she knows Putin, Manafort and Kushner, and requesting information about Russian hacking and interference, she said. “That I definitely don’t have!” the lawyer said. “I made up my mind a long time ago: My testimony must be honest, full and public.”

Read more: Understanding the Trump-Russia Saga – QuickTake Q&A

Taylor Foy, a Grassley spokesman, said, “We are encouraged that she is planning to cooperate and look forward to receiving the information.” He wouldn’t comment on whether the committee would comply with her request to make her answers public.

Congressional investigators prefer not to release their private interviews and documents in the middle of an investigation. There’s nothing, however, that prevents Veselnitskaya from releasing whatever she wants on her own.

Veselnitskaya and the Russian businessman she’s representing in the New York case, Denis Katsyv, recently asked for permission to enter the U.S. to attend a hearing in the case against his company, Prevezon Holdings Ltd. Prevezon still hasn’t paid a $5.9 million settlement to the U.S. because under the terms of the out-of-court agreement it committed to transfer the funds only after the Netherlands released 3 million euros ($3.5 million) belonging to it that remain frozen.

Frozen Assets

The Dutch authorities unfroze the money at the U.S.’s request on Oct. 10 but froze it again because of a separate money-laundering investigation in the Netherlands, according to U.S. court filings. Prevezon said the Netherlands started the investigation in response to a complaint from Browder.

On Nov. 3, U.S. District Judge William Pauley rejected Prevezon’s request to order the federal government to allow Veselnitskaya and Katsyv into the U.S. to attend a hearing on Nov. 9 sought by prosecutors, who may file a request to enforce the terms of the agreement.

Without “strong proof” that the government’s denial was made “irrationally or in bad faith,” the judge said there is no basis for him to interfere with a decision that sits squarely within the purview of the Executive Branch. Veselnitskaya and Katsyv have now asked to testify by phone or video. 

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Under Trump, Made in America Is Losing Out to Russian Steel – Trending Stuff

Four days after his inauguration, Donald Trump signed a handful of executive memos to advance the Keystone XL pipeline and revive the U.S. steel industry. He invited builder TransCanada Corp. to reapply for a permit denied by Barack Obama and ordered up fast-track rules forcing not only Keystone but also all new U.S. pipelines to be made from American steel. “From now on, we’re going to be making pipeline in the United States,” he said.

Made-in-America Keystone was a stunt. Most of its pipes had already been manufactured, a fact the White House grudgingly admitted when it exempted the project from any new Buy American rules a few months later. While some of Keystone’s pipes were made in the U.S., at least a quarter of them came from a Russian steel company whose biggest shareholder is an oligarch and Trump family friend. The company, Evraz North America, supplied Keystone from its steel plants in Canada and for years has lobbied in Washington against Trump-style protectionism.

Ten months after his Keystone event, Trump has yet to deliver on his pledge to boost the fortunes of American steel. Two self-imposed deadlines for trade action, one in June and one in July, have come and gone. Meanwhile, the prospect of tariffs has led to a surge of cheap foreign steel into the U.S., with imports rising 24 percent in 2017, the fastest increase in years.

As federal and congressional investigators probe Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Evraz North America shows that Russians are also involved in pressing against one of Trump’s main campaign promises. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Evraz Plc, Russia’s second-largest steelmaker. It has two factories in the U.S., in Colorado and Oregon, and four in western Canada, where it produces steel and large-diameter steel pipe. The company’s top shareholder is Roman Abramovich, a billionaire who owns 31 percent of Evraz’s stock. In 2005 he was the first oligarch allowed to sell his oil company to the state, taking in $13 billion in a deal approved by Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich’s ties to the Trumps stem from a decade-long friendship between Ivanka Trump and Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova, from whom he announced a separation in August. Jared Kushner and his brother, Joshua, invested in Zhukova’s art collection business. The Russian couple hosted Ivanka and Jared in Russia in 2014, when they shared a table at a fundraiser for Moscow’s Jewish museum. Zhukova went to the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament with Ivanka and attended Trump’s inauguration as Ivanka’s guest.

From left, Ivanka Trump and Dasha Zhukova attend the U.S. Open men’s singles final on Sept. 11, 2016, in Queens, N.Y.

Photographer: Elsa/Getty Images

Evraz won its share of the Keystone XL business in 2009 and hired a Washington lobbyist named John Stinson the next year, according to disclosures collected by Bloomberg Government and Open Secrets, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics. Over the next seven years, Stinson lobbied the House, Senate, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, earning $2.2 million for representing Evraz’s interests. He fought Buy American language in federal spending bills for transportation, water infrastructure, and defense, as well as in a bill specifically about Keystone in 2015—the same year Obama denied its cross-border permit.

According to federal disclosures, Evraz paid Stinson $100,000 in the first half of 2017 to persuade Congress and the Commerce Department to exclude its Canadian products from Trump’s steel import crackdown. Stinson declined to comment. Christian Messmacher, the company’s vice president for development, says its lobbying efforts are typical for the industry. “We, like all other North American companies, work to provide public officials with our insights on issues that affect us and our ability to provide good North American jobs,” he says.

In late May, Evraz won a contract with liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy Inc. to supply the steel pipe for a 200-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. The contract, worth an estimated $100 million, was expected to go to a Florida-based company, Berg Steel Pipe Corp., according to the American Line Pipe Producers Association. The association put out a press release in June arguing that Evraz was undercutting U.S. companies. It asked the Trump administration to act quickly on new rules and stop “Russian-owned Evraz” from “aggressively” seeking U.S. contracts ahead of any new tariffs or quotas on imports.

The Cheniere contract shows how hard it is to differentiate between foreign and U.S.-made steel. While losing out to Evraz cost Berg 216 jobs, or 42 percent of its workforce, company Vice President Jonathan Kirkland told the Mobile, Ala., in June, Berg makes pipelines using steel from Germany and France. U.S. steel supplies aren’t reliable enough, Chief Executive Ingo Riemer told the U.S. International Trade Commission last year.

In September, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the administration will defer a decision to impose tariffs on foreign steel so it can focus on tax reform. The industry is getting impatient. Steel executives have been meeting with administration officials. More than 60 steelworkers met with members of Congress on Sept. 21 to tell them of their growing frustration with the White House’s delays. “The president makes his policy decisions based on what is best for the American people,” says White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters. “Moreover, to place unrelated information about his daughter’s social engagement with the ex-wife of one of a company’s shareholders in a story about actual policy is incredibly irresponsible and misleading.”

Given the promises Trump made in the campaign, there may be political blowback if he doesn’t deliver. Although the United Steelworkers union endorsed Hillary Clinton, many of its members voted for Trump, helping him to narrow victories in states across the Midwest. “Those workers absolutely won’t forget if they are empty promises,” says Dan Simmons, president of Steelworkers Local 1899 in Granite City, Ill. “Like Elvis says, we want a little less talk and a little more action.”

BOTTOM LINE – Foreign steel imports into the U.S. are up 24 percent in 2017. As the industry grows angry at Trump’s lack of trade action, Russia’s Evraz continues winning pipeline contracts.

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