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1. News in Photos from mikenova (4 sites)
WSJ.com: World News: Queen Lays Out U.K.’s Brexit, Counterterrorism Plans in Low-Key Speech

Britains Queen Elizabeth II laid out the Conservative governments legislative agenda, in a speech that confirmed Britains negotiating aim in Brexit talks and set out the governments intention to come up with a new counterterrorism strategy.

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Day in Photos – Voice of America: June 20, 2017
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WSJ.com: World News: Queen Lays Out U.K.’s Brexit, Counterterrorism Plans in Low-Key Speech
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WSJ.com: World News: Russia Clashes With European Court Over ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ruling

Russian law that bans gay propaganda is discriminatory and encourages homophobia, the European Court of Human Rights said, in a ruling that provoked an angry rebuke from Moscow.

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WSJ.com: World News: Ukraine’s Poroshenko to Visit White House

Ukraines president is due to meet Tuesday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in a U.S. visit he is expected to use to push for more U.S. pressure on Moscow, which backs pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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WSJ.com: World News: French Growth Picking Up as Macron Pursues Change

French economic output is improving and will record its fastest growth in six years in 2017, national statistics agency Insee said Tuesday, giving President Emmanuel Macron a boost as he sets out to shake up the economy.

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WSJ.com: World News: Merkel Signals Openness to Eurozone Reform

German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time sketched out the outlines of a bargain with France on fixing the governance of Europes single currency, in the clearest sign yet that the two biggest eurozone countries are inching closer toward reconciling sharply different views on the matter.

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Day in Photos – Voice of America: June 20, 2017

A look at the best news photos from around the world.

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A U.S. fighter jet shot down a pro-Syrian regime armed drone Tuesday after it flew toward coalition troops in southern Syria, according to the U.S.-led coalition.

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WSJ.com: World News: State Department Demands Saudis Prove Terror Allegations Against Qatar

The State Department questioned the motives of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have imposed an embargo on Qatar, breaking from President Donald Trumps vocal support for those aligned against the country.

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A bill to expand sanctions against Moscow and wrest greater control over Russia policy from the White House has hit a snag in the House of Representatives after passing in the Senate last week.

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Belgian security forces shot dead a suspected terrorist who authorities said set off an explosion in the Brussels Central station Tuesday evening, but no other casualties were reported.

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WSJ.com: World News: Trump Says China Failed to Help U.S. With North Korea

President Donald Trump, under pressure to respond to the death of an American student after his detention by North Korea, said China has been unable to crack down on North Korea, pointing to a new direction for U.S. policies.

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WSJ.com: World News: Islamic State-Linked Militants Storm New Village in Philippines

Militants aligned with Islamic State stormed a village and may have taken hostages in the southern Philippines early Wednesday, police and the military said, 50 miles south of where government forces have been waging an urban war against Islamic militants for more than a month.

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WSJ.com: World News: Saudi King Salman Ousts Nephew as Crown Prince, Installs Son

The move carries far-reaching implications for the monarchy and the biggest economy in the Middle East.

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WSJ.com: World News: America’s Staunchest Ally Likes Uncle Sam, Dislikes Donald Trump

Most Australians harbor a broad dislike for U.S. President Donald Trump and see China as an economic blessing rather than a threat, according to a survey, despite concerns about espionage and political meddling by Beijing.

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The Kremlin said it was formulating various options to respond to fresh U.S. sanctions over its military interventions in Ukraine.

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WSJ.com: World News: Queen Lays Out U.K.’s Brexit, Counterterrorism Plans in Low-Key Speech

Britains Queen Elizabeth II laid out the Conservative governments legislative agenda, in a speech that confirmed Britains negotiating aim in Brexit talks and set out the governments intention to come up with a new counterterrorism strategy.

WSJ.com: World News

FB-RSS feed for Mike Nova: Russia Threatens to Attack U.S. Planes in Syria Following Assad Jet Fighter Shootdown – Breitbart https://t.co/NUvaJpnXOC via @BreitbartNews

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Russia Threatens to Attack U.S. Planes in Syria Following Assad Jet Fighter Shootdown – Breitbart

Russia threatens to treat U.S. coalition planes as hostile targets after a U.S. Navy fighter shoots down a Syrian warplane.

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mueller – Google News: PETER LUCAS: Whack Mueller before Mueller whacks you, Mr. President – Lowell Sun

PETER LUCAS: Whack Mueller before Mueller whacks you, Mr. President
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mueller – Google News: Poll: 81% of Americans Say Trump Must Not Stop Mueller Probe – Daily Beast


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Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week, building a digital defense against social engineering. So what is social engineering? Basically, it is a scammer who manipulates you into doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. There is …

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Thank you MemeRight page fans for pointing out the error in our Mueller NWO page. We don’t creat [sic] them all and strive for accuracy. While we’re no fans of the Robert Mueller who’s close buddies and in collusion with Clinton bag man James Comey, we …

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WSJ.com: World News: Russia Clashes With European Court Over ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ruling
mueller – Google News: Special Counsel Robert Mueller meets with House Russia investigators – CNN
Trump, Russia, and Those Shadowy Sater Deals at Bayrock
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Opinions: Trump exploited the cultural divide, not economic unfairness

 

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
WSJ.com: World News: Russia Clashes With European Court Over ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ruling

mikenova shared this story from 1. News in Photos from mikenova (4 sites).

Russian law that bans gay propaganda is discriminatory and encourages homophobia, the European Court of Human Rights said, in a ruling that provoked an angry rebuke from Moscow.

WSJ.com: World News

mueller – Google News: Special Counsel Robert Mueller meets with House Russia investigators – CNN

mikenova shared this story from 1. FBI from mikenova (8 sites).


CNN
Special Counsel Robert Mueller meets with House Russia investigators
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(CNN) The special counsel overseeing the Justice Department’s Russia investigation met with the leaders of the House Russia probe Tuesday evening, as the two sets of investigators figure out how to co-exist while examining into potential connections …
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Trump, Russia, and Those Shadowy Sater Deals at Bayrock

mikenova shared this story .

The special counsel’s investigation of the White House has come more sharply into focus.

Robert Mueller is examining whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice when he fired James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Washington Post recently reported. As we’ve heard for months now, there is also a probe of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin to tilt the 2016 election in the president’s favor.

But the Justice Department inquiry led by Mueller now has added flavors. The Post noted that the investigation also includes “suspicious financial activity” involving “Russian operatives.” The New York Times was more specific in its account, saying that Mueller is looking at whether Trump associates laundered financial payoffs from Russian officials by channeling them through offshore accounts.

Trump has repeatedly labeled Comey’s and Mueller’s investigations “witch hunts,” and his lawyers have said that the last decade of his tax returns (which the president has declined to release) would show that he had no income or loans from Russian sources. In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. “I am not involved in Russia,” he said.

But that doesn’t address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once leant his name in exchange for handsome fees. Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence, according to interviews with government investigators, legislators, and others in Reykjavik, Brussels, Paris and London. Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock brought Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow, and said he was pondering investing there.

“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” Trump said in that deposition. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

Kriss has sued Bayrock, alleging that in addition to laundering money, the Bayrock team also skimmed cash from the operation, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars. Sater and others at Bayrock would not comment for this column; in court documents they have contested Kriss’s charges and describe him, essentially, as a disgruntled employee trying to shake them down.

Photographer: Jeff Brown for Bloomberg

But Kriss’s assertion that Bayrock was a criminal operation during the years it partnered with Trump has been deemed plausible enough to earn him a court victory: In December, a federal judge in New York said Kriss’s lawsuit against Bayrock, which he first filed nine years ago, could proceed as a racketeering case.

(I have my own history in court with the president. Trump sued me in 2006 when I worked at the New York Times, alleging that my biography, “TrumpNation,” had misrepresented his business record and his wealth. Trump lost the suit in 2011; my lawyers deposed him and Sater during the litigation. Trump’s representatives didn’t respond to repeated interview requests for this column.)

Trump has said over the years that he barely knows Sater. In fact, Sater — who former Bayrock employees say met frequently with Trump in the Trump Organization’s New York headquarters, once shepherded the president’s children around Moscow and carried a Trump Organization business card — apparently has remained firmly in the orbit of the president and his closest advisers.

Sater made the front page of the New York Times in February for his role in a failed effort — along with Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen — to lobby former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on a Ukrainian peace proposal.

Comey was still Trump’s FBI director when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in March about Russian interference in the 2016 election. During that hearing, Comey was asked if he was “aware of” Felix Sater, his criminal history and his business dealings with the Trump Organization. Comey declined to comment.

It’s unclear whether Sater and Bayrock are part of Mueller’s investigation. But Mueller has populated his investigative team with veteran prosecutors expert in white-collar fraud and Russian-organized-crime probes. One of them, Andrew Weissmann, once led an FBI team that examined financial fraud leading to the demise of Enron. Before that, Weissmann was a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and part of a team that prosecuted Sater and mob associates for investment scams in the late 1990s.

However the Mueller probe unfolds, a tour of Trump’s partnership with Bayrock exposes a number of uncomfortable truths about the president’s business history, his judgment, and the possible vulnerabilities that his past as a freewheeling dealmaker — and his involvement with figures like Sater — have visited upon his present as the nation’s chief executive.

Zegna Suits and Luxury Cars

Sater was born in the Soviet Union in 1966 and emigrated with his parents to the heavily Russian enclave of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, when he was about eight years old. He attended Pace University before dropping out when he was 18, then found his way to Wall Street where he worked as a stockbroker.

His early years on Wall Street, according to the recollections of his one-time business partner, Salvatore Lauria, were flush. By his mid-20s, Sater was collecting expensive watches, spending thousands of dollars on Zegna suits and buying luxury cars. That all came to a brief halt in 1993 when he was sent to prison for using the stem of a broken margarita glass during a bar fight two years earlier to attack another stockbroker; Sater’s victim needed 110 stitches to hold his face together.

When Sater emerged from prison 15 months later, he found his way back into trouble. With a group that included Lauria (who admits to having had ties to organized crime figures and grew up in New York as a close friend of a prominent Mafia boss), Sater opened an investment firm on the penthouse floor of 40 Wall Street, a Trump-owned building in Manhattan. From there, according to federal prosecutors, Sater and his team set about laundering money for the mob and fleecing about $40 million from unwitting and largely elderly investors, a number of whom were Holocaust survivors.

By the time law enforcement authorities eventually caught on to the 40 Wall Street operation, Sater had fled to Russia. Lauria visited him there.

Sater “was always hustling and scheming, and his contacts in Russia were the same kind of contacts he had in the United States,” Lauria wrote in a 2003 memoir, “The Scorpion and the Frog.” “The difference was that in Russia his crooked contacts were links between Russian organized crime, the Russian military, the KGB, and operatives who played both ways, or sometimes three ways.”

Sater, who had been charged with racketeering and money laundering by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn in connection with the 40 Wall Street scam, eventually decided to return to America and face those charges. He had a card to play, however: his knowledge, gleaned from contacts in Russia, about a small stock of Stinger antiaircraft missiles loose on the black market in Afghanistan that were of interest to U.S. intelligence officials.

“We were hoping for a free ride or a get-out-of-jail-free card for our crimes on Wall Street,” Lauria wrote of Sater’s maneuvering with U.S. officials.

Sater told authorities that he could use his Russian contacts to buy the Stingers and, according to court filings in Kriss’s lawsuit and other accounts, a deal was struck in December, 1998. Sater pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and then entered into a cooperation agreement with the government that sealed court records in the case and allowed his sentencing to be postponed for 11 years. (Sater would ultimately only pay a $25,000 fine and never go to prison.)

Many years later, as part of her confirmation hearings to become President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch would note that the cooperation deal she made with Sater when she was the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn lasted for a decade — from 1998 to 2008 — and that Sater gave the government “information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.”

At some point after becoming an informant, Sater also recast himself as a real-estate savant. He made his way to a Manhattan real-estate investment firm, APC Realty, where he raised money for deals and where he met Kriss in 2000.

Kriss, a native of Miami and a business graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, was an aspiring real-estate developer who was in his early 20s when they met. He says he was initially captivated by Sater.

“Felix knew how to be charming and he knew how to be brutally nasty,” says Kriss. “He has a talent for drawing people in. He has charm and charisma. But that’s what con men do.”

After APC began to fall apart in 2002, Kriss decided to strike out on his own back home in Miami, doing real-estate deals. Sater made his way to a small Hong Kong investment bank that used him as a New York-based rainmaker for real-estate deals.

In addition to his new life as a real-estate investor and government informant, Sater owned a comfortable home in Sands Point, Long Island, a toney New York suburb that was a setting for “The Great Gatsby.” He also had a wife and three daughters and was a member of an Orthodox synagogue in neighboring Port Washington. On one occasion Sater brought his rabbi with him to meet U.S. intelligence officials in New York, where, the rabbi said, agents praised Sater’s service to the country.

When Sater received a community service award at his synagogue on another occasion, a band played “Hail to the Chief.” Sater gave an acceptance speech in which he noted that he was “not a very religious person” but that his goal in life was to “repair the world or make it a better place.”

‘Air of Success’

About a year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sater joined Bayrock, a company that marketed itself as a property developer and had opened Manhattan offices on the 24th floor of a well-known building at 725 Fifth Avenue: Trump Tower.

In late 2002, Sater phoned Kriss and invited him to consult at Bayrock, bragging about a deep-pocketed investor, Tevfik Arif, who was partnering with him in search of bigger deals.

Arif, born in Kazakhstan, was a former Soviet official who had relocated to Turkey to make his fortune. He ran several upscale, seaside hotels there that catered almost exclusively to Russians, according to Kriss, and he had also redeveloped a shopping center in Brooklyn. At one point in his post-Soviet years, Arif also reportedly took over a former Kazakh state-owned chromium producer with his brother.

Like Sater, Arif had a home in Sands Point and Kriss says that Arif brought his children there from Turkey to learn English. (Arif’s representatives declined to respond to a list of questions about his business history, including how he met Sater and brought him to Bayrock, citing ongoing litigation.)

Bayrock was initially funded, in part, with a $10 million investment transferred to the firm by Arif’s brother in Russia, who, according to Kriss’s lawsuit, was able to tap into the cash reserves of a Kazakh chromium refinery. (A spokeswoman for Arif declined to comment on that allegation.)

A marketing document Bayrock once circulated to prospective investors noted that Alexander Mashkevich, an oligarch born in the former Soviet Union, was one of Bayrock’s primary sources of funding. Mashkevich’s firm, the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, was based in Kazakhstan and elsewhere and had interests in chromium, aluminum, coal, construction, and banking. (A person close to Mashkevich, who requested anonymity because of the Kriss-Bayrock litigation, said Mashkevich never invested in Bayrock.)

Bayrock never seemed to be short of money, however. According to Kriss’s lawsuit, the team running the little development firm in Trump Tower could locate funds “month after month, for two years, in fact more frequently, whenever Bayrock ran out of cash.” If times got tight, Bayrock’s owners would “magically show up with a wire from ‘somewhere’ just large enough to keep the company going.”

Kriss says that Sater and Arif wooed him to Bayrock by offering him 10 percent of the firm’s profits. Bayrock’s Trump Tower offices gave “an air of success to it,” Kriss says. Bayrock also gave Kriss, then 28 years old, the opportunity to work with Trump.

It was Sater who initially developed the relationship with Trump, according to Kriss and court records from Trump’s lawsuit against me. Sater had made the acquaintance of three Trump Organization executives who then introduced him to their boss. When the Bayrock team met Trump in 2002, the future president was enduring a long stretch in the financial wilderness, having narrowly escaped personal bankruptcy in the early 1990s.

He eventually emerged from that mess as a pariah among big banks. He was also a determined survivor and tireless self-promoter and he parlayed those skills into recreating himself as a branding machine and golf course developer in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Kriss says that it was Arif and Sater who pitched the future president on the idea of launching an international chain of Trump-branded, mixed-use hotels and condominiums. And Bayrock got to Trump at a time when his “brand” could help get a little extra attention for a condo project, but didn’t amount to much more than that.

“Trump was trying to build his brand and Bayrock was trying to market it,” Kriss recalls. “It wasn’t clear who needed each other more. This was before the show, remember.”

The “show,” of course, was “The Apprentice.” It aired for the first time on Jan. 8, 2004, and became a sensation that vaulted Trump into reality TV stardom. In the real world, Trump’s casinos were faltering. But on reality TV, Trump posed as a successful leader and dealmaker who embodied a certain kind of entrepreneurial flair and over-the-top billionairedom — an impression that stuck with tens of millions of TV viewers.

The popularity of “The Apprentice” also gave the Bayrock-Trump partnership added zing.

“That put Bayrock in a great position once the show debuted,” Kriss says. “The show did it for Trump, man. Nobody was interested in licensing his name before that.”

The hook at Bayrock, for Trump, was an 18 percent equity stake in what became the Trump Soho hotel, a steady stream of management fees on all Bayrock projects and the ability to plaster his name on properties without having to invest a single dollar of his own.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It’s not clear how carefully Trump vetted his Bayrock partners. But his lack of concern about their backgrounds – and the potential risk to his own reputation from dealing with them – was part of a pattern. In Atlantic City, he had partnered with men with organized crime ties. Later, he and his children struck deals in Brazil and Azerbaijan with partners who had murky backgrounds or unusual legal entanglements.

Sater said in court filings that he disclosed his securities fraud conviction to members of the Trump Organization. He assumed they had told Trump, but he wasn’t sure.

“It’s not very hard to get connected to Donald if you make it known that you have a lot of money and you want to do deals and you want to put his name on it,” Abe Wallach, who was the future president’s right-hand man at the Trump Organization from 1990 to about 2002, told me in an interview. “Donald doesn’t do due diligence. He relies on his gut and whether he thinks you have good genes.”

Given Arif’s halting English, it was Sater and Kriss who interacted most frequently with the Trump family—and Sater the most often with Trump himself. Kriss says that most of his own contacts were with the elder Trump children, Don Jr. and Ivanka, and included drafting contracts and occasional nights on the town.

While Trump’s kids were involved in the back-and-forth with Bayrock, it was Trump himself who always had the final say.

“Donald was always in charge,” says Kriss. “Donald had to agree to every term of every deal and had to sign off on everything. Nothing happened unless he said it was okay to do it. Even if Donald Jr., shook your hand on a deal, he came back downstairs to renegotiate if his father told him to.”

The Trumps, Kriss says, saw Sater “frequently” and valued the relationship because “Felix demonstrated that he was loyal to them.” He says that at one point Sater was meeting with the future president in his Trump Tower office multiple times a week. Sater, according to a later court deposition, said that his business conversations with Trump in that office were wide-ranging and frequent — “on a constant basis.”

The pair had what Sater described as “real-estate conversations,” and they talked about “gathering intelligence, gathering know-how, general market discussions,” and also chatted about using Sater’s Russian connections to build a “high-rise, center of Moscow” that would be a “great opportunity, megafinancial home run.”

Although Sater socialized with Trump, “I wouldn’t call him my friend,” he said in the 2008 deposition. Still, Sater said he traveled with Trump to look at deals and was proud of Bayrock’s relationship with the famous developer. “Anybody can come in and build a tower,” he said. “I can build a Trump Tower because of my relationship with Trump.”

Bayrock and the Trumps then began laying the groundwork for domestic and international hotel-condo projects, eventually exploring deals in Turkey, Poland and Ukraine. Sater escorted Ivanka and Don Jr. on a trip to Moscow, where they looked at land for a Trump-branded hotel.

None of those overseas projects got past the planning stages. In the U.S., Bayrock and Trump projects moved forward haltingly.

In Phoenix, a one-story mall that Bayrock bought out of bankruptcy was meant to be the site of a Trump-branded tower. It became ensnared in zoning debates and then the national real-estate downturn and never got built.

Sater’s dealings in Phoenix later landed him in court with a local developer who had invested in the Phoenix project, Ernest Mennes. Mennes said in a lawsuit that when he threatened to reveal Sater’s criminal record, Sater told him that he would have a cousin “electrically shock Mr. Mennes’ testicles, cut off Mr. Mennes’ legs, and leave Mr. Mennes dead in the trunk of his car.”

In Mennes’s suit against Bayrock and Sater, he alleged that Sater also skimmed money from the Phoenix development. Bayrock and Sater settled the suit (which was later sealed and its terms left undisclosed; Sater’s lawyer, in an interview with ABC News, denied Mennes’s allegations).

The next project Trump and Bayrock pursued was the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a mixed-use hotel and condominium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Announced in 2005, it later went into foreclosure.

The third and final major project Bayrock and Trump worked on together was their most high-profile effort, the 46-story Trump Soho hotel in lower Manhattan.

Trump, Sater and Arif were all photographed together at a splashy launch party for the Trump Soho in 2007. Trump also pitched the Trump Soho on an episode of “The Apprentice,” promising that “this brilliant, $370 million work of art will be an awe-inspiring masterpiece.”

Helping Trump and Bayrock fund that masterpiece was a fresh influx of money from an Icelandic investment bank called the FL Group. Sater and Lauria, his longtime mob associate, had jointly recruited FL, introducing the firm to Bayrock and the Trump Organization. (I’ll have more on the FL Group and Bayrock in a future column; the firm’s former leaders, one of whom was later convicted of tax and accounting fraud, declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests for this column.)

Yet again, the Trump Organization — even though it signed off on the FL investment — appeared to care little about vetting a firm that came into the partnership through Sater. FL operated in a country with a porous, vulnerable banking system, and some investigators who scrutinized other Icelandic banks at the time said they suspected those banks of being conduits — unwitting or otherwise — for dirty funds from outside Iceland. (The FL Group collapsed a little over a year after it invested in Bayrock. The firm itself was never prosecuted; the leaders of a number of other Icelandic banks were prosecuted or jailed for crimes including money laundering).

Kriss said in an interview that an Icelandic competitor of the FL Group also contacted him to invest in Bayrock. When he took that offer to Sater and Arif they told him, he says, that the money behind Icelandic banks “was mostly Russian” — and that they had to take FL’s funds for deals they were doing with Trump because the investment firm was “closer to Putin.”

I thought it was a lie or a joke when they said Putin,” Kriss recalls. “I didn’t know how to make sense of it at all.”

(Kriss says he doesn’t have financial records showing that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a connection to the FL Group and that his own knowledge is purely anecdotal. A Kremlin spokesman said via email that Putin had no connection to the FL Group or Bayrock.)

‘Somebody Said That He Is in the Mafia’

Kriss says that in the wake of the FL deal he was owed a payout that could have ranged from about $4 million to $10 million, but that Bayrock reneged. When he persisted, he claims, Sater threatened him.

So Kriss says he accepted a $500,000 payment instead and then eventually quit. Sater, as it turns out, didn’t have much time left at Bayrock either.

In December, 2007 the New York Times published an article detailing some of Sater’s past run-inswith the law and some of his ties to organized crime (the article also noted that Sater had begun using “Satter” as an alternate spelling for his last name so he could try to “distance himself from his past” if people Googled him).

Two days after the Times story ran, Trump sat for a deposition with my attorneys as part of the libel lawsuit he had filed against me for “TrumpNation.” They asked him whether he planned to sever his relationship with Sater because of Sater’s organized crime ties. Trump said he hadn’t made up his mind.

“Have you previously associated with people you knew were members of organized crime?” one of my lawyers asked.

“No, I haven’t,” Trump responded. “And it’s hard to overly blame Bayrock. Things like that can happen. But I want to see what action Bayrock takes before I make a decision.” (In fact, Trump had partnered in the past in Atlantic City’s real-estate business with men he knew were mobbed up.)

Whenever he was asked in later years about his relationship with Sater, Trump routinely misrepresented it as distant. In a 2013 deposition taken as part of litigation surrounding Trump and Bayrock’s failed Fort Lauderdale project, Trump was asked again about his partnership with Sater.

“He was supposedly very close to the government of the United States as a witness or something,” Trump said. “I don’t think he was connected to the Mafia. He got into trouble because he got into a barroom fight.”

“I don’t know him very well,” Trump added, saying that he hadn’t conversed very often with Sater. “If he were sitting in the room right now I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

Trump also said that he didn’t think that questions about Sater’s background meant that he should have ended his business partnership with him: “Somebody said that he is in the Mafia. What am I going to do?”

Shortly after my lawyers asked Trump about Sater, Bayrock began discussing the best way for him to resign, according to company email and court records. By 2008, Sater had left the firm.

The Trump Soho ended in failure. It opened in 2010, but many units failed to sell and early condo purchasers sued Bayrock and the Trumps. Three years later, the Trump Soho went into foreclosure with most of its units still unsold, and a new company took control of the property. Bayrock hasn’t done another deal since then. (A spokeswoman for Bayrock attributed the failures of the Trump partnerships to fallout from the 2008 financial meltdown.)

‘He Seems to Have Unlimited Funds’

After Kriss left Bayrock, he set up his own development firm in New York and then sued Sater, Arif, Trump and Bayrock in Delaware in 2008, alleging that Bayrock was a criminal enterprise and demanding to be paid in full for his work there.

When the case moved to New York in 2010, it came with a twist. Sater had left a copy of his cooperation deal with the government – the one dating back to his Stinger missile and mob informant days – on the hard drive of his Bayrock computer. A Bayrock employee leaked it to Kriss’s attorney, who promptly filed it as an exhibit in court.

Trump was eventually dropped from the case and Sater began carpet-bombing Kriss with his own lawsuits, ultimately filing several separate actions that claimed, among other things, that Kriss has used the courts to prosecute him maliciously.

Sater also apparently kept busy outside of the courtroom.

Kriss says that about three years ago he started receiving threatening email from websites carrying versions of his name (“JKrissInfo.com,” for example). He soon discovered there were hundreds of other new websites that also contained false, disparaging information about him.

Kriss sued the anonymous authors of the websites for defamation and when the court ruled in his favor he was able to get a large portion of the sites delisted from Google. He says he also was able to use the court order to untangle the provenance of the websites, discovering that their registration tracked back to Sater’s home address in Sands Point.

Kriss says that goons once showed up at real-estate developments he was overseeing in Brooklyn, asking his employees if they knew the true story about their boss. Waves of letters questioning his bona fides have arrived at his office and in the mailboxes of every resident in two separate buildings where Kriss kept apartments.

Kriss says investors in his new company, East River Partners, have stood by him, but he’s worried that Sater’s digital vendetta may be hard to overcome. His new lawyer, Bradley D. Simon, says that he’s mystified by how Sater has managed to stay afloat all these years.

“Sater was a cooperating witness for the Eastern District of New York and he continued going on a crime rampage,” says Simon. “He’s filed all kinds of frivolous lawsuits, but that’s what he does. He seems to have unlimited funds.”

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

For his part, Sater continues to wear many hats. A couple of years after he left Bayrock, the Trump Organization hired him briefly as a consultant to prospect for real-estate deals, giving him company business cards with his name engraved on them.

More recently, Sater got enmeshed in litigation again, this time around the sale of an Ohio shopping mall — and the alleged disappearance of tens of millions of dollars — in a court case that was settled in 2013.

Sater has also entered into a war of words with his former Bayrock partner, Tevfik Arif. Sater claims, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, that Arif owes him money — and that if he isn’t paid he’ll publicize what he describes as Arif’s ties to organized crime and to tainted dealings in Kazakhstan’s metals business. (A Bayrock spokeswoman says that Sater’s claims about Arif are baseless.)

Meanwhile, Trump is mired a probe that now pivots off sensitive topics for him and his family: their money, their deals and Russia – all of which will test his promise to testify under oath to Mueller and his investigators.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Timothy L. O’Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

Voice of America: Ukraine’s Poroshenko Pledges Commitment to Democracy During US Visit

mikenova shared this story from 1. Russia from mikenova (98 sites).

U.S. President Donald Trump received his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the White House Tuesday. Poroshenko hailed the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and pledged his commitment to democracy as he sought U.S. support against Russian aggression. His visit comes as the U.S. government considers extending economic sanctions against Moscow for its role in the unrest in eastern Ukraine. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Voice of America

Eurasia Review: Thirty Percent Of Russians Now Identify As Muslims OpEd

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Thirty percent of Russians now identify as Muslims, according to a new survey by the ZoomMarket marketing agency, just 12 percent fewer than the 42 percent who say they are Orthodox Christians. Some 18 percent say they are atheists, with all other denominations in the single digits.

Thus, three percent of Russians say they are Roman Catholics, two percent say they are Protestants or Old Believers, and one percent each identify as Buddhists, Jews, Greek Catholics or Slavic pagans (mazm.ru/article/a-2013.html and znak.com/2017-06-20/42_rossiyan_schitayut_sebya_pravoslavnymi).

The most Orthodox places were Samara, where 57 percent said they were Orthodox Christians, Nizhny Novgorod and Perm (53 percent), Novosibirsk (49 percent), St. Petersburg and Krasnoyarsk (43 percent), Voronezh (41 percent).

The most Muslim places were Kazan (72 percent), Krasnodar (43 percent), Voronezh (31 percent), Yekaterinburg (29 percent), Krasnoyarsk (28 percent), and Moscow (26 percent). And the most atheist were St. Petersburg (26 percent), Voronezh and Yekaterinburg (23 percent), Krasnoyarsk (22 percent), Moscow (21 percent), and Novosibirsk (18 percent).

These figures are important for at least three reasons. First, they show just how rapidly Islam is gaining ground in Russia. Second, they cast doubt on the claims of the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate about how Orthodox Russia in fact now is. And third, they set the stage for even more changes ahead.

One indication of that: a third of all those queried said that they would vote for a religious party if one were available to them.

Eurasia Review

Reuters: World News: Germany delays decision on warships, drones as SPD wants more time

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s budget committee has postponed a decision on orders for military equipment, including Corvette warships and drones, as Social Democrat (SPD) lawmakers want more time to discuss the 13 billion euro package, a senior party member said.

Reuters: World News

Trump’s and Putin’s connections with organized crime – Google News: Trump, Russia and a Shadowy Business Partnership – Bloomberg

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Trump, Russia and a Shadowy Business Partnership
Bloomberg
With a group that included Lauria (who admits to having had ties to organized crime figures and grew up in New York as a close friend of a prominent Mafia boss), Sater opened an investment firm on the penthouse floor of 40 Wall Street, a Trump-owned

and more »

Trump’s and Putin’s connections with organized crime – Google News

Donald Trump – Google News: Once again, world leader Donald Trump turns a handshake into a pissing match – A.V. Club

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A.V. Club
Once again, world leader Donald Trump turns a handshake into a pissing match
A.V. Club
Nearly every photo op that current president and noted meatloaf enthusiast Donald Trump has taken with other world leaders has somehow been embarrassing. Each of them acts as a sort of microcosm of the ongoing tragedy that the United States somehow …
The Internet Can’t Get Over President Trump’s Panama Canal CommentTIME
Donald Trump boasts about construction of Panama Canal before being reminded it was built 100 years agoThe Independent
Donald Trump Brags About 100-Year-Old Canal He Didn’t Build to Panamanian PresidentNew York Magazine

all 92 news articles »

Donald Trump – Google News

Europe: Pro-Putin politics bots are flooding Russian twitter, Oxford-based study says

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A study of social network automation in nine countries, including Russia, China and the United States, yielded surprising findings.

Europe

Trump’s business network reached alleged Russian mobsters

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President Trump and his properties have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations and money laundering. USA TODAY

President Trump reacts after delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, 2017.(Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, POOL, EPA)

To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.

The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.

Among them:

• A member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.

•  An investor in the SoHo project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.

• Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.

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•  A former mayor from Kazakhstan was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.

•  A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.

Trump’s Russian connections are of heightened interest because of an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives to interfere in last fall’s election. What’s more, Trump and his companies have had business dealings with Russians that go back decades, raising questions about whether his policies would be influenced by business considerations.

Trump told reporters in February: “I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all.”

Yet in 2013, after Trump addressed potential investors in Moscow, he bragged to Real Estate Weekly about his access to Russia’s rich and powerful. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump said, referring to Russians who made fortunes when former Soviet state enterprises were sold to private investors.

Five years earlier, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. told Russian media while in Moscow  that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets” in places like Dubai and Trump SoHo and elsewhere in New York.

New York City real estate broker Dolly Lenz told USA TODAY she sold about 65 condos in Trump World at 845 U.N. Plaza in Manhattan to Russian investors, many of whom sought personal meetings with Trump for his business expertise.

“I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States,” Lenz said. “They all wanted to meet Donald. They became very friendly.” Many of those meetings happened in Trump’s office at Trump Tower or at sales events, Lenz said.

Read more:

Dealings with Russian oligarchs concern law enforcement because many of those super-wealthy people are generally suspected of corrupt practices as a result of interconnected relationships among Russia’s business elite, government security services and criminal gangs, according to former U.S. prosecutor Ken McCallion, as well as Steven Hall, a former CIA chief of Russian operations.

“Anybody who is an oligarch or is in any position of power in Russia got it because (President) Vladimir Putin or somebody in power saw some reason to give that person that job,” Hall said in an interview. “All the organized crime figures I’ve ever heard of (in Russia) all have deep connections and are tied in with people in government.”

FBI Director James Comey acknowledged at a  congressional hearing into Russian interference in the U.S. election March 20 that many wealthy Russians may have close ties to the Kremlin and may be acting on its behalf.

Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection to any of the individuals mentioned in this article.

However, the deals, and the large number of Russians who have bought condos in Trump buildings, raise questions about the secrecy he has maintained around his real estate empire. Trump is the first president in 40 years to refuse to turn over his tax returns, which could shed light on his business dealings.

The White House declined to comment about this article, referring questions to the Trump Organization in New York. Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, denied any transactions with people named in this article.

“The allegations … are entirely without merit,” Miller said in an email. “The Trump Organization never entered into a single transaction with any of these individuals and the condominium units were all owned and sold by third parties — not Trump.”

Trump’s privately held company works through a network of subsidiaries and partnerships that make direct connections hard to trace, particularly since he has refused to release his tax filings. In addition, some of the Trump Organization’s investors and buyers operate through shell companies and limited liability corporations that hide the identities of individual owners.

Trump and the Trump Organization signed licensing agreements for an ownership stake in properties such as Trump SoHo and Trump International Beach Resort, which bear the Trump name without requiring an investment by him. In the SoHo project, Trump received an 18% share of the profits in return for use of his name, according to a deposition Trump gave in 2007 for a defamation lawsuit he brought against an author.

The SoHo project

Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on Sept. 19, 2007 in New York. (Photo: Mark Von Holden, WireImage)

Among Trump’s partners in the SoHo project was Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant who spent a year in prison for the 1991 stabbing. He later cooperated with the FBI and the CIA for a reduced sentence after he was convicted in a $40 million stock manipulation and money-laundering scheme in New York state.

Sater was a major player in the Bayrock Group, which developed the Trump SoHo. A former Bayrock finance director and partner, Jody Kriss, referred to him as a controlling partner, but Bayrock says he was an executive, not a partner.

Sater’s criminal past was not well-known until publicly divulged in 2007. As he sought investment opportunities in Russia, he carried business cards identifying him as a senior adviser to the Trump Organization that included the company’s email and phone number.

In February, Sater introduced a Ukrainian politician pushing a pro-Russian peace proposal to Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer and former chief counsel at the Trump Organization, Cohen told NBC News.

Sater, 51, did not respond to multiple emails sent to his company or to calls seeking comment. He wrote on his company website that he made some bad decisions in the past but that he had paid his debt to society and helped the government with “numerous issues of national security, including thwarting terrorist attacks against our country.” His website was dark last week, displaying the message, “Maintenance mode is on.”

One source of financing recruited by Bayrock for the SoHo project was Alexander Mashkevich, according to a deposition by former Bayrock partner Kriss in a federal lawsuit. A Bayrock investment pamphlet lists Mashkevich as a source of financing for the Bayrock Group.  Mashkevich, a Kazakhstan mining billionaire, was accused in Belgium in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme. Mashkevich and two partners paid a fine and admitted no wrongdoing.

Federal indictments in New York, California and Illinois allege that people who bought Trump condos include felons and others accused of laundering money for Russian, Ukrainian or central Asian criminal organizations.

One indictment describes Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, who own condos in Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and Vadim Trincher, who owns a unit in Trump Tower in Manhattan, as members of a Russian-American organized crime group that ran an illegal gambling and money-laundering operation.

Money laundering was an issue for Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined $10 million in 2015 for failing to report suspicious transactions. Federal rules are designed to protect the U.S. financial system from being used as a safe haven for dirty money and transnational crimes, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, then-director of the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), said at the time. It was the largest penalty the agency ever levied against a casino since reporting requirements began in 2003, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The Trump Organization admitted that it failed to implement and maintain an effective (anti-money laundering) program; failed to report suspicious transactions; failed to properly file required currency transaction reports; and failed to keep appropriate records as required by (the Bank Secrecy Act),” FinCen said in a statement.

The statement said warnings over repeated violations went back to 2003, but it did not mention Russians.

In Los Angeles, the federal lawsuit filed in 2014 by lawyers for the Kazakh city of Almaty accuses former mayor Viktor Khrapunov of owning three Trump SoHo units through shell companies used to hide hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly looted by selling state-owned assets. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic.

The Trump SoHo project “was largely financed by illegally obtained cash from Russia and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international financial criminals and organized crime racketeers,” former prosecutor McCallion wrote on his blog in October. McCallion was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s under presidents Carter and Reagan.

Sallie Hofmeister, a public relations adviser to Bayrock, said the company “flatly denies that any of its properties were financed using illegal money, and sees no evidence to the contrary provided by Mr. McCallion or anyone else.”

The Manafort connection

A view of the Trump SoHo hotel condominium building, on Feb. 21, 2017 in New York City. The development of Trump SoHo, completed in 2010, was constructed in partnership with the Bayrock Group. (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

McCallion, as a private lawyer, also represented former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a 2011 lawsuit alleging that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, engaged in a racketeering and money-laundering scheme to hide $3.5 billion in stolen funds, much of it by buying U.S. real estate.

Manafort’s co-defendants were Dmitry Firtash, a Ukranian gas executive under federal indictment for bribery, and Semyon Mogelivich, identified by the Justice Department as head of a transnational criminal organization that posed a threat to U.S. national security. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2015 because Tymoshenko was unable to show the role of each defendant in the alleged money-laundering plot.

Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign in August, days after Ukrainian investigators alleged that secret ledgers showed $12.8 million was put aside for Manafort by the party of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2014. More details about the alleged secret payments surfaced March 20.

Manafort, who has acknowledged working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians, has denied receiving off-the-books pay and said his compensation covered campaign staff, polling and television ads in Ukraine.

Manafort also allegedly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance Putin’s interests a decade ago, the Associated Press reported March 22.

Firtash, a major donor of Yanukovych’s party, was indicted in 2013 by U.S. prosecutors in Chicago for allegedly paying officials in India $18.5 million in bribes for licenses to mine titanium ore. Firtash said he is an innocent victim of American efforts to punish political allies of Putin. His extradition from Austria to the United States was approved in February and then put on hold while an Austrian judge considers a Spanish indictment against him on charges of money laundering and organized crime.

In an interview with USA TODAY, McCallion said he spent years looking into the Trump Organization, the businesses and individuals that dealt with it, and the possibility that Trump’s real estate empire may depend on hundreds of millions of dollars from Russians.

“The FBI is always concerned if public officials can be blackmailed,” McCallion said. “It’s Russian-laundered money from people who operate under the good graces of President Putin. If these people pull the plug on the Trump Organization, it would go down pretty quickly.”

Luke Harding, author of A Very Expensive Poison, about the 2006 lethal poisoning of defected Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London, said the lawlessness in former Soviet republics like Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan explains why businessmen from those countries seek safe havens to invest their wealth.

“If you steal money in a place like Russia, you have a problem,” Harding said. “You need to convert it to rubles and dollars and put it somewhere someone can’t steal it from you. One place to do that is buy real estate in New York, Miami or London.”

Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, said not all wealthy Russians are crooks or beholden to Putin. “It’s more complicated than that,” Cohen said.

“There are oligarchs who are FOPs (friends of Putin) and there are those who lost their assets due to corruption, abuse of power, a crummy legal system and the lack of property rights,” he said. “Many of these people moved abroad, to London, New York and Florida. They are refugees from the corporate raiding Russian-style practiced for the last couple of decades.”

Some became wealthy before Putin’s rise to power “and in some cases are in hidden resentment or quiet opposition to Putin,” Cohen said. “A lot of these people run big businesses, banks, retail, oil and gas, and these are legitimate businesses that pay taxes” in Russia.

Here is a closer look at some of the Trump project investors or condo buyers with alleged ties to organized crime and the Russian government:

Felix Sater

Sater spent a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass at the Rio Grande restaurant and bar in New York in 1991.

A federal criminal complaint in New York in 1998 accused Sater of money laundering and stock manipulation but was kept secret by prosecutors because the Russian immigrant was working as a CIA informant, according to numerous published reports. Salvatore Lauria, a co-defendant, co-wrote in a 2003 book that he and Sater sought to reduce their sentences by acting as middlemen for the CIA to buy weapons that fell into the hands of mobsters after the fall of the Soviet Union. The scheme fell apart, but the relationships remained, according Lauria’s book, The Scorpion and the Frog: High Crimes and High Times.

Kriss, a former finance director for the developers, accused Sater, Lauria and Bayrock partners in a 2010 federal lawsuit of diverting millions of dollars to shell companies to avoid U.S. taxes. He also claimed they kept secret Sater’s criminal past and his guilty plea to racketeering charges while “he was aiding the prosecution of his Mafia and Russian organized crime confederates.”

Kriss alleged that while Bayrock was seeking  money from foreign investors for Trump SoHo, it considered two groups of Russians with offices in Iceland. One group offered better terms, but Bayrock rejected that and went with the FL Group, which provided $50 million in financing and was “in favor with Putin,” according to the original complaint. The lawsuit is still pending, but without that allegation.

Sater and his co-defendants denied the allegations, calling Kriss’ lawsuit a long-running extortion scheme. But many of the racketeering and fraud claims against them survived a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, according to a Dec. 2 order signed by U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield.

Sater’s criminal past came to light in 2007. That year, Trump testified in a deposition in a defamation lawsuit that he didn’t think Sater was a principal at Bayrock and that he was considering not doing business with him anymore. But Sater subsequently traveled to Russia carrying business cards identifying him as a senior adviser to Trump with a Trump Organization phone number and email address, according to photos of the card posted online by NBC, the BBC and other news organizations. In 2013, Trump said in another deposition that he didn’t think Sater was connected to the Mafia, that Sater mostly dealt “with my company, not me” and that “if he was sitting in the room right now I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

Sater told The Washington Post last year that he met one-on-one numerous times with Trump. He met alongside Donald Trump Jr. in Phoenix with local officials, and in New York he met repeatedly with Trump and his staff to talk about potential deals in Los Angeles, Ukraine and China, the Post reported.

Trump’s lawyer, in interviews with The New York Times and the Post, downplayed the relationship between the two men, saying Trump met and spoke with lots of people but his relationship was with Bayrock, not Sater. Sater did not respond to calls and emails sent to his office.

Alexander Mashkevich

Mashkevich, a Kazakh mining billionaire, was another source of funds for the SoHo project, according Kriss’ lawsuit. Bayrock’s investment pamphlet describes him in general as a source of Bayrock financing.

Investigators in Belgium accused Mashkevich and two of his Kazakh business partners of money laundering and forgery connected to the $55 million in alleged bribes they received from a Belgian company in the mid-1990s, according to the Financial Times. In 2011, all three men agreed to pay an undisclosed fine to settle the case. They admitted no wrongdoing, and the charges were dropped.

Mashkevich and principal Bayrock partner Tevfik Arif were embroiled in a case in 2010, when Turkish police alleged prostitution and human trafficking after they raided a luxury yacht that Mashkevich chartered. After police boarded the Savarona — once owned by the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk — they arrested 10 wealthy men, including Arif, a former Kazakh official. They also found nine young women from Russia and Ukraine — two were 16 years old — and “a huge amount of contraceptives,” according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Mashkevich, who was not at the scene, and Arif denied being involved in anything illegal. The women stayed silent about their involvement, according to published reports. Mashkevich was not charged with a crime. Arif was charged but acquitted, and the court file was sealed.

Peter Kiritchenko

Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman who owned two condominiums with his daughter at Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., was named in a money-laundering scheme involving former Ukraine prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko.

According to federal prosecutors in San Francisco in 2009, Kiritchenko helped Lazarenko launder millions of dollars obtained through extortion by purchasing luxury real estate in the United States and other countries. Kiritchenko was convicted of one count of receiving stolen property in California after he testified against the former prime minister. Lazarenko was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and fined $9 million after he was convicted on multiple counts of money laundering.

A federal appeals court said Kiritchenko was a “deep and willing” accomplice “in the heart of the conspiracy.”

Viktor Khrapunov

Khrapunov, a former Kazakhstan energy minister and mayor of Almaty, owns three units in the Trump SoHo through shell companies, according to lawyers for the Kazakh city who filed a 2014 federal lawsuit against him in Los Angeles. Almaty’s lawyers alleged in the lawsuit that Khrapunov used real estate in California, New York, Europe and the Middle East to hide hundreds of millions of dollars looted by selling state-owned assets. Khrapunov, who lives in Switzerland, denies the claim, saying he and his family are being targeted by a political opponent, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Anatoly Golubchik, Vadim Trincher and Michael Sall

Three Trump condo owners — Golubchik,  Trincher and Sall — were convicted in 2013 in federal court in New York of participating in an illegal high-stakes sports betting ring for a Russian-American organized crime group. The betting ring operated illegal gambling websites and catered almost exclusively to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union, according to prosecutors.

Golubchik and Sall own Trump condos in Sunny Isles Beach. And professional poker player Trincher owns a condo in Trump Tower in New York City.

Golubchik and Trincher were principal leaders of the enterprise, which included money laundering and extortion, prosecutors charged in the indictment.

The godfather of the operation was identified as Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who federal prosecutors said was a Vor, “a powerful figure in former Soviet Union organized crime” who never left Russia because he was under indictment in the U.S. for his role in allegedly bribing officials at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Sall helped launder tens of millions of dollars from the gambling enterprise, prosecutors said when they announced that all three condo owners pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Sall pleaded guilty to interstate travel in aid of an unlawful activity — illegal gambling. Golubchik and Trincher pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. Tokhtakhounov remains in Russia, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

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Saters ties to Trump raised in New York court hearing

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Lawyers suing a former business partner of Donald Trump have argued in a US court that his ties to the president are reason enough to unseal records relating to the government informant’s criminal past.

Felix Sater, a Russian-born former partner with New York property developer Bayrock, worked with the Trump Organization on projects around the world, including the Trump Soho tower in Manhattan.

The documents in question date back to 1998 when Mr Sater pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in a stock manipulation scheme that involved members of several New York mafia families.

A judge in Brooklyn federal court heard arguments on Monday to make public decades of court filings concerning Mr Sater. Lawyers for Forbes magazine and a former Bayrock executive, who has previously sued Mr Sater alleging theft, argued that records relating to his criminal past should be unsealed because of his ties to the president.

The unsealing is “important” because of “the relationship between the defendant in this case and the president of the United States”, argued John Langford, an attorney with Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, on behalf of Forbes.

Mr Trump’s business connections have drawn intense scrutiny since he announced his campaign for the presidency two years ago. But he and his organisation are not parties to the case involving the unsealing and have not been named in the litigation.

Mr Sater’s business with the Trump Organization dates back more than a decade, but he recently emerged on the political stage, reportedly attending a meeting this year with Michael Cohen, an attorney for Mr Trump, and Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, to put forward a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia.

His work as an informant has remained under seal but some details of it have been made public over the years by government officials and by Mr Sater himself.

Prosecutors have said his co-operation, over more than a decade, helped lead to the convictions of more than 20 individuals, including members of New York crime families. Loretta Lynch, the former US attorney-general, told lawmakers in advance of her confirmation that Mr Sater also provided information that was “crucial” to national security. A prosecutor said in a 2011 court filing that Mr Sater had provided US intelligence “with highly sensitive information concerning various terrorists and rogue states”.

By the mid-2000s Mr Sater had remade himself at Bayrock, which was founded by Tevfik Arif, and in 2005 he travelled with Mr Trump to Colorado to pursue a redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station. Mr Sater’s criminal history was revealed in a 2007 New York Times profile. Not long after, Mr Sater left Bayrock and it was not until 2009 that he was sentenced for the 1998 stock case.

Mr Trump, in a 2013 deposition, distanced himself from Mr Sater. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” he said.

Mr Sater was sued in 2010 by Jody Kriss, a former Bayrock finance director, who alleged he had been cheated. On Monday Richard Lerner, a lawyer representing Mr Kriss and his lawyer, said it was necessary to unseal a pre-sentencing report because he alleged it would reveal that the US government knew Mr Sater had become involved with Bayrock but failed in its obligation to notify his business associates of his criminal past.

Evan Norris, a prosecutor, opposed unsealing the pre-sentence report, saying the safety of Mr Sater and his family was “still a factor”. He said the government was asking to keep two documents under seal and redact sections of several dozen others. But he and Mr Sater’s attorney jointly agreed that 80 per cent of the court filings could be made public.

Judge Pamela Chen, who was appointed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to write a report recommending whether to unseal certain documents, did not rule after the three-hour hearing. Instead, she ordered reporters out of the courtroom to continue to hear arguments from the lawyers under seal.

Just Security: The Early Edition: June 20, 2017

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

SYRIA

Russia threatened to attack U.S.-led coalition warplanes over Syria yesterday in response to a U.S. attack on a Syrian plane for the first time in the six-year conflict on Sunday, the U.S. reacting by rerouting some flights of planes carrying out missions in Syria in an effort to minimize the risks to pilots, Dion Nissenbaum and Thomas Grove report at the Wall Street Journal.

Condemning the U.S. flagrant violation of international law, Russia warned that its forces will treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft and drones as targets if they are operating in airspace west of Syrias Euphrates River while Russian plans are on combat missions, Louisa Loveluck and David Filipov report at the Washington Post.

The Russians also said they had suspended the use of the hotline that the U.S. and Russian militaries used to ensure their aircraft did not collide in Syrian airspace yesterday in an escalation of the long-running tensions between America and Russia at a time when competing forces in Syria are converging, Michael R. Gordon and Ivan Nechepurenko report at the New York Times.

Australia suspended its airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria today as a precaution following the U.S.-Russia altercations, the AP reports.

Heavy airstrikes in the Syrian city of Deraa on the Jordanian border commenced today as a government-declared ceasefire expired, a witness and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Reuters reports.

Russia cannot confirm that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an air strike in Syria last month, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov is quoted as saying by Russia media, after Moscow said last week that it may have killed Baghdadi. Reuters reports.

New conflicts are emerging among the assortment of parties fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as the extremists begin to retreat, Philip Issa taking a look at some of the main players at the AP.

The Trump administration still has no strategy on how to deal with fresh conflicts certain to break out in parts of Syria once the Islamic State is ousted, with lawmakers and former U.S. officials warning that its apparently haphazard approach in the interim could lead to a dangerous escalation and the broadening of U.S. aims in Syria, writes Nahal Toosi at POLITICO.

Russias loud protests in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian fighter jet show it is more than ready to support a gamble by Syria and Iran that the U.S. can be induced to abandon southeastern Syria rather than risk being dragged into a war unrelated to the Islamic State, the Washington Post editorial board explaining how countering Iran and Russia in Syria requires tactical defense but also a broader strategy to create an acceptable security order in the region, which may require increasing military or economic pressure on Iran, Russia and the Assad regime, and in the meantime a clear message to Moscow that continuing to align itself with Iran in the region will forfeit any chance it has of resetting relations with Washington.

The U.S. is finding out that it cannot defeat the Islamic State by ducking the larger conflict in Syria, and while the risk of escalation is real, America cannot easily avoid it: Assad and his allies know that the Islamic States days in Syrias Raqqa are numbered and they want to assert control over as much territory as possible in the meantime, which means destroying the U.S.-backed S.D.F., writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 15 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 18. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

The KOREAN PENINSULA

American student Otto Warmbier died yesterday after returning to the U.S. from detention in North Korea last week with severe brain injury, Felicia Schwartz and Jon Kamp report at the Wall Street Journal.

North Korea is a brutal regime, President Trump said, commenting on Warmbiers death, adding that he will handle Pyongyang, the BBC reports.

High-level talks between the U.S. and China tomorrow will see the U.S. pressing China to increase pressure on North Korea to curtail its nuclear and missile programs, Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Former Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson will testify in an open hearing before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow as part of the committees probe into possible Trump-Russia collusion, Johnson having already met with Senate investigators in connection with their investigation, the Hills Morgan Chalfant reports.

Special counsel on the Russia probe Robert Mueller will meet with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to safeguard against conflicts between the committees investigation and his own, according to two congressional aides, Jonathan Landay reporting at Reuters.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn didnt record any of his interactions with foreign government officials on his application to renew his security clearance last year despite saying in a speech in the days after submitting the application that he had had extensive contacts in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, according to a letter obtained by POLITICOs Austin Wright and addressed to multiple parties from Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requesting documents related to Flynns work with Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Flynns former business partner Bijan Kian is now a focus of federal investigators looking at the lobbying work of the former national security adviser, Nathan Layne and Julia Edwards Ainsley report at Reuters.

GULF-ARAB DISPUTE

Qatar refuses to negotiate with the Arab states that have severed diplomatic and economic ties with it until they lift the blockade against it, Qatars foreign minister said yesterday, Al Jazeera reporting.

Three members of Irans Revolutionary Guard who were planning to carry out an attack on a major offshore oilfield in the Persian Gulf were arrested by Saudi Arabian forces, the Saudis said yesterday, an announcement which followed claims on Iranian state television that Saudi Arabias coast guard killed an Iranian fisherman on Friday, Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy report at the AP.

Three Iranian detained by Saudi Arabia are fishermen, not Revolutionary Guard Corps members, the head of border affairs at Irans interior ministry insisted yesterday. Al Jazeera reports.

The wall between the violent Arab world and the Arab world of glitz and globalization is breaking down in the wake of the diplomatic crisis engulfing Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt on the other, and if the safe Arab world collapses, the implications will be global, writes Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times.

 Arab N.A.T.O. A military coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, such as the one the Trump administration says it wants, is guaranteed to be a mirage by a series of contradictions at its very heart including that, where trump sees an alliance united against extremism, the Saudis see a Sunni coalition that will push back on Iran, and in any case N.A.T.O. itself is much more than a coalition of common interests: it’s an alliance of shared values, writes former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration Antony J. Blinken at the New York Times.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan security guards came under Taliban attack in Afghanistans northern Parwan province last night leaving at least eight of them dead as they were on their way to work at the main U.S. military base in the country, Bagram airfield, Rahim Faiez reports at the AP.

The Afghan government has quietly provided a breakaway faction of the Taliban with weapons, intelligence and other support in its fight against the mainstream Taliban in recent months resulting in a series of successes in parts of the country where the government has otherwise been repeatedly beaten by the Taliban, particularly Helmand, where the insurgents still control 90 percent of the territory, report Taimoor Shah, Rod Nordland and Jawad Sukhanyar at the New York Times.

Potential Trump administration responses to Pakistan-based militants launching cross-border attacks in neighboring Afghanistan include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding aid to Pakistan and possibly downgrading Pakistans status as a major non-N.A.T.O. ally, U.S. officials told Reuters Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

President Trump will meet briefly with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the White House today, Poroshenko due to be hosted by Vice President Mike Pence who will then escort him to drop-in on Trump, allowing the president to avoid standing alongside his Ukrainian counterpart to make statements about bilateral relations as per the norm for visiting foreign leaders, the visit likely to leave questions about the administrations commitment to Ukraine, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

President Trumps new policy toward Cuba is a grotesque spectacle and his country will never negotiate under pressure or under threat, Cubas foreign minister said yesterday, in Cubas first response to Trumps decision to scale back Obama-era initiatives to improve U.S.-Cuba relations announced last week, Azam Ahmed reports at the New York Times.

White House adviser Jared Kushner will travel to Israel tomorrow to join the Trump administrations chief negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Jason Greenblatt for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after which he will meet with the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, as he makes a foray into Middle East diplomacy that White House officials have said is unlikely to produce any breakthrough but which Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times point to as a potent remind of the importance attached to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace by President Trump.

THE PHILIPPINES

The push to remove Islamic State-linked militants from the Philippine city of Marawi has been renewed by Philippine forces, the aim being to wrap up the fighting before the end of Ramadan, a military spokesperson said. Al Jazeera reports.

Joint maritime patrols aimed at preventing the Marawi conflict from spreading to other parts of the region were launched by the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, the patrols agreed to over a year ago but delayed due to disputes including overlapping territorial claims, Ben Otto reports at the Wall Street Journal.

PARIS ATTACK

A car loaded with gas canisters rammed into a police vehicle on French Capital Paris Champs-Élysées avenue yesterday, leaving the driver of the car dead, France 24 reports.

A cache of weapons at the home of the attacker who was also carrying several weapons with him in the car – was discovered by police today, Reuters reports.

UK TERROR ATTACKS

Sundays terrorist attack in English capital London in which a van struck pedestrians outside a mosque was condemned by the State Department yesterday via a statement which also offered assistance to U.K. officials, Diamond Naga Siu reports at POLITICO.

The U.K. government is once again touting some of the widest-ranging plans to regulate the internet in the wake of Sundays terrorist attack, Mark Scott looking at this and similar debates popping up around the world at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An injunction on President Trumps revised travel ban was reined in by the federal judge who issued it three months ago, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson nullifying the injunction’s impact on studies and policy reviews ordered under Trumps March directive on the basis that the relevant portions of the block were too broad. Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

Top U.S. government officials cannot be held liable for the alleged unconstitutional treatment of noncitizens detained in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 4-to-2- decision that brought to an end a long-running lawsuit filed against George W. Bush administration officials. Robert Barnes reports at the Washington Post.

A review of whether a possible Russian takeover of Venezuelan government-owned petroleum company Citgo could constitute a threat to national security and a violation of economic sanctions was called for by six senators in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sylvan Lane reports at the Hill.

An investigation into allegations that somebody was illegally recording attorney-client meetings at Guantánamo Bay detention center from Sept. 2015 to April this year, prompting a warning from a general to war court defense attorneys that their privileged communications were at risk, has been ordered by the commander of the U.S. Southern Command. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

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Russia – Google News: Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law ruled discriminatory by European court – The Guardian

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The Guardian
Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law ruled discriminatory by European court
The Guardian
Human rights observers argue that this law has been broadly applied to target and intimidate the LGBT community in Russia. The court concurred, arguing that its vague terminology allowed unlimited scope for abuse. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov …
European Court blasts Russia ‘gay propaganda’ lawBBC News
European human rights court rules against Russian ‘gay propaganda’ lawReuters
European court rules in favor of Russian gay activistsABC News
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty –POLITICO.eu
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European court angers Russia with ‘gay propaganda’ ruling

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russia analysis – Google News: Russian threat to target US aircraft in Syria seen as more ‘bluster’ than real policy change – CNBC

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CNBC
Russian threat to target US aircraft in Syria seen as more ‘bluster’ than real policy change
CNBC
The U.S. downing of a Syrian government jet over the weekend marks an escalation in the long Syrian conflict, althoughRussia’s reaction Monday to view U.S. aircraft in the region as legitimate “targets” is seen more as “bluster” than anything else
Gen. Keane on Putin ‘Bluster’: Russia Won’t Shoot Down US Aircraft in SyriaFox News Insider
US Moves Jets to Ease Syria Tensions Amid Russian ThreatBloomberg
ANALYSIS: Watershed Moment Arrives In Middle East Crisis As US Downs Syrian Plane And Iran Launches Missiles At …Western Journalism
Reuters –ABC Online
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Russian Intelligence services – Google News: The Making of a Russian Spy: A Roadmap for the FBI to Resolve Russia Gate – Just Security

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The Making of a Russian Spy: A Roadmap for the FBI to Resolve Russia Gate
Just Security
Surely, FBI investigators presume Russian intelligence would not have overlooked the travel of Trump associates to Russia. The Russian special services meticulously track all Americans when they visit Russia. It’s an art form. All means of
Flashback: Russian Ambassador Visited Obama White House 22 TimesTownhall
Trump lashes out over probe into possible obstruction of justiceNormangee Star

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Russian Intelligence, organized crime and war on police – Google News: Are Russian Operatives Attacking Putin Critics in the US? – The New Yorker

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The New Yorker
Are Russian Operatives Attacking Putin Critics in the US?
The New Yorker
He also accused the F.S.B.the K.G.B.’s successor organizationof bombing a series of Russian apartment buildings, killing three hundred people, in order to win public support for a large-scale war in Chechnya. In late 2006, Litvinenko had ingested …

Russian Intelligence, organized crime and war on police – Google News

Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices: Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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The U.S. shot down a Syrian government fighter jet Sunday in the first U.S. attack on a manned hostile aircraft in over a decade, the Washington Post reports. The Pentagon says the Syrian Su-22 jet attacked U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in JaDin, southwest of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold. The Syrian and Russian governments claim the jet was attacking ISIS, but the Pentagon says the SDF was known to be in control of the targeted area. The U.S. said that it sought to de-escalate through channels with Russia, but Russia rejected that claim and called the U.S. actions a flagrant violation of international law.

The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement saying it will target aircraft west of the Euphrates River during Russian aviation missions, the Post reports. The Defense Ministry also said it is ending cooperation with the U.S. over de-confliction zones, designed to avoid similar incidents. In a speech at the National Press Club, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said he was confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the Russian Federations operations center. I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves.”

A van drove into a crowd outside of a mosque in London early Monday morning, killing one and injuring ten, in what authorities are treating as a terrorist attack, reports the BBC. The AP has live updates. Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “sickening” attack as an “attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” reports Reuters. The incident is the latest in a string of terrorist attacks in the U.K.,  including two others involving the deliberate crashing of a vehicle into pedestrians.

Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Donald Trumps legal team, asserted that the President is not under investigation for obstruction of justice on multiple Sunday news shows, reports the Post. That statement contradicted a tweet Trump sent last Friday in which the president seemed to acknowledge that he was in fact under investigation. When pressed by Fox News Chris Wallace, Sekulow conceded that he did not know with absolute certainty that Trump was not under investigation but stated that the president had not been notified of any investigation.

The New York Times reports that Jared Kushner may be reconsidering the composition of his legal team after the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel in the Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kushners attorney Jamie S. Gorelick was a partner at WilmerHale with Mueller prior to his appointment. As of now, the team remains unchanged.

A cybersecurity firm found personal information, voting records, and voting predictions for nearly 200 million Americans exposed online, says the Wall Street Journal. Most of the information is in the public record, but the predictions came from Deep Root Analytics, a conservative digital strategy firm. The Journal noted that the predictions could be exploited by rival political campaigns or foreign entities interested in influencing voter behavior.

A Philippine cargo ship crashed into the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan on Friday night, killing seven sailors, reports the Wall Street Journal. Authorities will investigate what caused the crash, why safety procedures failed, and why it took over an hour for the crew of the Philippine ship to report the collision. Maritime incidents on that scale are particularly rare, heightening uncertainty about what could have been the cause.

Reuters reports that Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, a top national security aide, will travel to Ramallah and Jerusalem this week to explore the next steps of a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Kushner and Greenblatt are also working with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Greenblatt will arrive on Monday, Kushner on Wednesday.

A breakaway faction of the Taliban in Afghanistan, popularly called the Renouncers, is receiving support from the Afghan government, the Times reports, including weapons, safe passage, and intelligence. The group is mounting a violent challenge against the mainstream Taliban

The Mexican government uses spyware to target and conduct surveillance on journalists, activists, and other members of civil society and sends personalized text messages that lure targets into installing the software, the Times reports. The spyware, which gives remote access to the phones communication, is sold by Israeli firm NSO Group to government agencies under the agreement that it will be used against criminals.

The Post looks at the series of recent challenges in the U.S. fight in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is considering sending several thousand more troops to the fight, but many are skeptical that the move would be effective given that only 8,400 soldiers currently serve there. Others have concerns about neighboring Pakistans ability to undermine the fight against the Taliban, especially though the harboring of violent groups like the Taliban-associated Haqqani Network.

The Post has published an extensive report on how the shutdown of a unique lab responsible for producing and testing the plutonium cores needed for U.S. nuclear weapons could negatively impact the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The facility, located at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was shuttered over safety concerns in 2013, many of which have yet to be resolved even after operations were partially restarted last year.

ICYMI: Last Weekend, on Lawfare

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Kim Cragin examined how the U.S. could help allies build law-enforcement capacity and how these developments could help prevent terrorism abroad and in the U.S.

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Jack Goldsmiths interview with Daniel Drezner about his new book, The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas.

Jonathan Rauch looked at Richard Nixons second-term approval rating to explain why impeaching Trump would pose significant political challenges.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices

Defense One – All Content: The United States and Russia Are Increasingly at Odds in Syria

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Colonel General Sergei Surovikin, Commander of the Russian forces in Syria, speaks, with a map of Syria projected on the screen in the back, at a briefing in the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 9, 2017.

Defense One – All Content

Are Russian Operatives Attacking Putin Critics in the U.S.?

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On a Sunday night in February, 2007, “Dateline NBC,” the news show, aired a segment about the strange case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident who died under mysterious circumstances in London. On the show, several guests argued that his death was an assassination, carried out on orders from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death.

Among the “Dateline NBC” guests who accused Putin was Paul Joyal, a former government official and an expert on Russian affairs. On a rainy night, four days later, Joyal pulled up to his house, in Adelphi, Maryland, and was attacked by two men. As he wrestled one of the men to the ground, he heard him say to his partner, “Shoot him.” The second man pulled the trigger on a 9-mm. pistol and hit Joyal in the abdomen, then pointed the gun at Joyal’s head and pulled the trigger. The pistol misfired, and then Joyal’s dog, inside his house, began to bark. His wife, also inside, turned on the lights. The two men ran off.

More than a decade later, with Russia’s covert activities in the United States facing intense scrutiny, it seems appropriate to raise the question: Was Joyal shot on the orders of the Russian state? And, more generally, does the Russian government kill people in the United States?

After months of treatment, Joyal recovered, but the crime has never been solved. The F.B.I. investigated Joyal’s attack, but he declined to share details of what it reported about its findings. Joyal told me that he believes one of Putin’s friends—“an oligarch”— arranged the shooting. Some Russia experts believe that he is right. “I think they were intending to send Joyal a message,” Paul Goble, a former senior analyst with the State Department and a friend of Joyal, told me. Goble noted that Joyal had been working to arrange for a Chechen activist to visit the United States—an effort that would have enraged the Kremlin. “He crossed a line you cannot cross.”

Russian agents have killed political opponents in Europe and the Middle East. An exhaustive investigation by a British parliamentary commission concluded that Litvinenko, the dissident, had been killed by Russian agents, “probably” on orders from Putin. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent, had accused Putin of ordering the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, a crusading Russian journalist who was murdered, in 2006. He also accused the F.S.B.—the K.G.B.’s successor organization—of bombing a series of Russian apartment buildings, killing three hundred people, in order to win public support for a large-scale war in Chechnya. In late 2006, Litvinenko had ingested polonium 210, which was likely dropped into a pot of green tea while he was meeting with two Russians at the Millennium Hotel. For twenty-two days, he suffered increasingly grotesque symptoms; first his hair fell out, then his organs failed. At last, he died. Two men were indicted in the United Kingdom for his murder, but the Russian government refused to turn them over.

Several Russian dissidents have died mysteriously in the United Kingdom. In November, 2012, Alexander Perepilichny, a Russian businessman, collapsed and died outside his home in Surrey. Perepilichny had been coöperating with Swiss authorities investigating the alleged theft of some two hundred and thirty million dollars by Russian tax officials, and he had told friends that he feared the Kremlin would kill him. An autopsy found traces in his system of gelsemium, a rare plant grown in the Himalayas that is fatal when ingested. According to Buzzfeed, a report prepared by American intelligence for Congress stated with “high confidence” that Perepilichny was assassinated on Putin’s orders.

But what about the United States? Goble, the Russia expert, told me that, during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union sometimes assassinated each other’s spies and defectors, but not inside the opponent’s country. “In Soviet times, there were very clear rules of the game,” Goble said. “We never killed anyone on their turf.” He mentioned one possible exception: Walter Krivitsky, a Soviet agent who defected to the United States, in 1938, and later revealed Stalin’s plans to sign the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany, which cleared the way for the Nazi invasion of Poland. Krivitsky was killed with a bullet to the temple, in what the police labelled a suicide but many acquainted with Krivitsky alleged was murder.

Goble thinks that Putin has disregarded the old rules. He’s not alone: a number of cases in the United States have raised suspicions. One of those is that of Mikhail Lesin, who, on November 5, 2015, was found dead in his room at the DuPont Circle Hotel, in Washington, D.C., with—according to a Washington, D.C., Police statement—“blunt force” injuries to his head, neck, torso, arms, and legs. Lesin had been a powerful figure in Russia: a former Cabinet minister and adviser to Putin, as well as the founder of Russia Today, which acts as a propaganda platform for the Kremlin in the West. Vasily Gatov, a former senior media executive in Russia and a visiting fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication, at U.S.C., told me that Lesin had accumulated a large fortune and a number of opponents during his rise. “He had a lot of enemies,” Gatov said. After being fired by Putin, in 2013, he left Russia, moved to the United States, married, and had a child. “With the birth of his baby, it was important to him to be alive,” Gatov said. If Lesin had decided to coöperate with American investigators, that would be sufficient motive for someone to try to stop him, Gatov told me. “The idea that someone would want to silence him is pretty viable,” he said.

A yearlong investigation by the United States Attorney in Washington concluded that Lesin’s death was accidental, the result of a fall and of “acute ethanol intoxication.” Lesin had been drinking for days, the report said. The case was closed. Still, the report raised suspicions: Gatov told me that, since the birth of his child, Lesin had apparently stopped drinking altogether.

Without more evidence, we can’t really know. Sometimes, deaths that seem mysterious turn out to have innocent causes. In 2010, Sergei Tretyakov, a former high-ranking Soviet spy, died suddenly, at the age of fifty-three. From 1995 to 2000, he had posed as a diplomat at Russia’s mission to the United Nations, where he oversaw covert operations in New York City. Then he defected, and, according to Pete Earley’s book on Tretyakov, “Comrade J,” handed over five thousand secret cables to American officials.

Tretyakov’s death, at his home in Florida, attracted interest from the F.B.I. and C.I.A. But, according to Dr. Russell Vega, the chief medical examiner for Sarasota County, Tretyakov did not seem to have been the object of a nefarious plot. He died by choking on a large piece of chicken. How did that happen? The autopsy showed that Tretyakov was extremely drunk at the time. “It wasn’t subtle,” Vega said.

CIA director Mike Pompeo spends 3 hours a day commuting to White House to deliver intel briefings

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Russia Threatens to Attack U.S. Planes in Syria Following Assad Jet Fighter Shootdown

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The Syrian plane was shot down by a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter after it dropped bombs near positions held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, a major American ally in Syria. The SDF reported a number of its troops were injured by a ground attack from forces loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad, and it was forced to fall back from the town of Ja’Din, a town west of the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.

The SDF reported coming under attack from the Syrian regime’s Su-22 warplane after it was pushed out of Ja’Din. The U.S.-led coalition announced that it shot down the Syrian plane “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition-partnered forces.”

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated,” the coalition stated.

According to the U.S. military, the pilot of the Syrian plane was able to eject.

“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administering terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region,” the Syrian government responded.

The Washington Post notes it was the first American downing of a Syrian jet since U.S. forces entered Syria’s civil war in 2014, the first time a U.S. plane brought down a manned hostile aircraft in over a decade, and the fourth time in a month the U.S. military has been obliged to fire on pro-regime forces.

The Post reports that U.S. commanders used a special “deconfliction channel” to contact Russia before firing on the Syrian plane, in an effort to prevent the situation from escalating, and also conducted a “show of force” to warn Syrian forces away before resorting to live fire.

Despite these measures, Russia declared the American action illegal on Monday.

“Repeated combat actions by U.S. aviation under the cover of counterterrorism against lawful armed forces of a country that is a member of the U.N. are a massive violation of international law and de facto a military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” said the Russian Defense Ministry.

Russia warned that planes from the U.S.-led coalition will be “tracked by the Russian ground and air anti-aircraft defense systems as air targets in the areas where Russian aviation is on combat missions in the Syrian sky.” The threat came up just short of promising to fire on those targets.

The Russians claimed the U.S. did not use the de-confliction hotline to warn them before shooting down the Syrian jet, and said Russian planes operating in the area could have been jeopardized. According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s statement, it will no longer participate in the de-confliction hotline.

The Associated Press notes that it made the same threat after the U.S. missile attack on a Syrian airbase in April, which would raise the question of whether anyone on Russia’s end picked up the phone, literally or figuratively speaking, when the U.S. used the de-confliction system on Sunday.

On Monday, the Syrian Democratic Forces said they will retaliate against any further attack from the Assad regime or its allies.

“The regime’s forces have mounted large-scale attacks using planes, artillery, and tanks since June 17,” an SDF spokesman said, as quoted by Reuters. “If the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate… and defend our forces.”

Reuters notes that the Syrian government has previously suggested it would focus its efforts on other parts of Raqqa during the drive to liberate it from the Islamic State, so the attack on SDF forces appears to mark a change in policy. SDF units have reportedly liberated four districts of the city from ISIS and is fighting over another three, so the Syrian attack may have been meant to stall out the SDF offensive and prevent the Kurdish-led coalition from controlling a large portion of the city.

Saved Stories – None: Just Security: The Early Edition: June 19, 2017

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

SYRIA

The U.S. shot down a Syrian government jet yesterday after it attacked members of U.S.-backed Syrian fighters leading the assault on Raqqa, the first time an American pilot has struck an Assad regime plane in Syrias civil war, the Pentagon said, Dion Nissenbaum and Raja Abdulrahim reporting at the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. should respect Syrias territorial integrity and avoid unilateral actions there, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today, according to Russian media. Reuters reports.

Iran launched missiles at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria in response to the attacks on Irans parliament and shrine in Tehran two weeks ago, it said today, warning that it would retaliate in the same way to any further attacks. The AP reports.

The Syrian government has bombed U.S.-backed Syria rebel positions southwest of Raqqa in recent days, the rebels said today, threatening to retaliate in the event of further attacks, Reuters reports.

Syrian troops and their allies linked up with Iraqi forces at a crossing point on their shared border for the first time in years yesterday, a development described as a major achievement by Assad forces in their battle against the Islamic State. Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.

Israel has been secretly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash, fuel and medical supplies for years with the aim of establishing a buffer zone of friendly forces, Rory Jones, Noam Raydan and Suha Maayeh report at the Wall Street Journal.

The eastern Syrian desert is becoming an arena for confrontation between the U.S. and Iran as demonstrated by three recent incidents in the remote desert outpost of al-Tanf where a force of American soldiers training local fighters has been repeatedly approached by convoys of Iranian-backed pro-Assad fighters, the Americans responding with air strikes, with observers and former officials increasingly worried that an unplanned, spiralling conflict could result. Julian Borger writes at the Guardian.

The U.S. is accelerating its bombing of urban areas of Syria and Iraq while relaxing oversight, investigation and accountability on civilian casualties, writes Mica Zenko, examining the question of why America is killing so many Syrian and Iraqi civilians at the New York Times.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

President Trump is not under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller tasked with looking into Russias interference in last years presidential election, one of the presidents personal lawyers Jay Sekulow insisted yesterday, contradicting a Friday tweet from Trump himself in which he stated that he was under investigation by Mueller for firing former F.B.I. director James Comey, the New York Times Michael D. Shear and Noah Weiland report.

The investigations into possible Trump-Russia collusion are only 20 percent through, Sen. Angus King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an interview broadcast yesterday, Hanna Trudo reporting at POLITICO.

There was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians, a fact the media attacked him for expressing, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes – who stepped aside from the Russian investigation in April after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating his handling of classified information – told G.O.P. donors in Orange County Saturday. David Siders reports at POLITICO.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had dinner with a Ukrainian business associate who once served in the Russian army and who is of interest to investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee examining potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia just as tensions over Russias role in the presidential election were mounting and two weeks before Manafort resigned amid reports that he had received improper payments for his political work in Ukraine, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Rachel Weiner report at the Washington Post.

President Trump has no plans to wait until Muellers investigation either condemns or clears him, instead taking the much more aggressive approach of trying to defame, discredit and delegitimize those tasked with the Russia probe, which may in the end do him more harm than good, writes Charles M. Blow at the New York Times.

GULF-ARAB DISPUTE

Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt are engaged in a publicity stunt aimed solely at attacking Qatars image and reputation, Qatar said today as the diplomatic crisis over Qatars alleged support for terrorism continues into a third week. Reuters reports.

A first group of Turkish troops arrived in Qatars capital Doha yesterday to take part in long-planned joint military exercises, Al Jazeera reports.

Tensions along the Djibouti-Eritrea border are mounting after Qatar removed its troops, who have been maintaining a buffer zone between the two sides, last week amid the ongoing diplomatic dispute with other Arab nations, France 24 reports.

While the dispute between Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. against Qatar is longstanding and remains much the same today despite the current shrill rhetoric what has changed is the opportunity presented to the Saudis and the Emiratis by their new friend in the White House to remove an obstacle in their way to dealing with two more serious adversaries: Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, writes Joost Hiltermann at the New York Times.

There needs to be clarity and honesty about the sources of terrorism among Gulf states or the biggest loser may turn out to be the fight against the Islamic State, writes the New York Times editorial board, taking a look at some of the main regional players.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban militants attacked a major police base in the eastern Afghan town of Gardez yesterday, killing at least five police officers, Sayed Salahuddin reports at the Washington Post.

A flurry of setbacks in the Afghanistan war demonstrate both the imperative of action and the pitfalls of various approaches as the U.S. plans to likely send an additional several thousand troops to the country are finalized and the Presidents strategy in Afghanistan remains unannounced, reportedly because of disagreements within the Trump administration, Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin write at the Washington Post.

Putting the cart before the horse. President Trumps Afghanistan strategy is still unknown yet the decision to send additional U.S. troops to the country has been made by the Pentagon, in a break from the tradition of civilian control over the military, and without any announcement by the president, in an abdication of his duty to announce and defend troop deployments, write Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon at the New York Times.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

U.S. diplomats have held secret talks in North Koreas capital Pyongyang and European cities with North Koreas top nuclear negotiator for over a year in an effort to free U.S. prisoners and potentially establish a diplomatic tunnel to curb North Koreas nuclear and missile programs, Jay Solomon reports at the Wall Street Journal.

American officials mugged North Koreas diplomats at Kennedy International Airport as they were returning home from a U.N. conference in New York Friday, North Korea said yesterday, adding that the incident demonstrated that the U.S. is a felonious and lawless gangster state and should be aware of the grave consequences to follow. Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.

The use of preventative diplomacy to deal with the situation in the Korean Peninsula was called for by foreign ministers from B.R.I.C.S. nations Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa according to a communique following a two-day conference in Beijing that ended today, Reuters reports.

North Korea is the biggest worry in the short term for the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) because of its nuclear advances, while Russia concerns him most in the long term, he told the Wall Street Journals Gerald F. Seib.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner intends to go to the Middle East to try to progress U.S. efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a White House official said yesterday, Carol E. Lee reporting at the Wall Street Journal.

Two almost simultaneous attacks by Palestinians on Israeli police officers in Jerusalem prompted Israel to revoke the permits of 200,000 Palestinians to enter Israel for the month of Ramadan yesterday, Ian Deitch reports at the AP.

The competing claims of responsibility for an attack in Jerusalem Friday by Hamas and the Islamic State demonstrate a major challenge in the era of global terrorism: how do countries figure out who was really responsible for a terrorist attack, when militant groups claim attacks as a key tactic for spreading fear and spurring on followers? Amanda Erickson writes at the Washington Post.

IRAQ

Iraqi forces began an assault on Mosuls Old City yesterday where remaining Islamic State fighters are expected to make a bloody last stand, Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report at the Washington Post.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi traveled to Saudi Arabia today for the first leg of a three-day tour that will also encompass Kuwait and Iran, a visit that aims to boost bilateral relations and seek closer cooperation in fighting terrorism, the AP reports.

 UK TERROR ATTACKS

One person died and ten others were injured when a man drove a van into worshippers leaving a mosque in Englands capital London last night, where police are treating it as a terrorist incident and have arrested one man whom eyewitnesses reported said he wanted to kill all Muslims. The BBCreports.

This latest attack could ultimately play into the Islamic States hands and is a scenario the militant group hoped for – particularly if the attacker turns out to adhere to right-wing ideology as a means of provoking further attacks in response, writes Rick Noack at the Washington Post.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a market town in Yemens Saada province killed at least 25 civilians Saturday, according to a local health official, Al Jazeera reporting.

Russia takes an extremely negative view of “illegitimate” extended E.U. sanctions against it for its annexation of Crimea, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said today. Reuters reports.

The first large-scale N.A.T.O. defensive drill on the Polish-Lithuanian border was carried out by U.S. and British troops in rehearsal for a potential scenario in which Russia attempts to sever the Baltic states from the rest of the alliance, Andrius Sytas reports at Reuters.

Four new measures to address the spread of terrorist material online have been introduced by Google, which has pledged better detection of extremist content and faster review, more experts, tougher standards and increased counter-radicalization work, the Press Association reports.

A collision between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a fully-loaded Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size that left seven dead over the weekend is being investigated by a U.S. Coast Guard team in Japan today, Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.

Read on Just Security »

Just Security

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Opinions: Trump exploited the cultural divide, not economic unfairness

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