3:09 PM 8/28/2017 – Putin, the price of oil, and the Weather Weapons – News Review

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Putin, the price of oil, and the Weather Weapons – GS

8.28.17 – Hurricane Harvey And The Price Of Oil

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8.28.17 – Hurricane Harvey And The Price Of Oil

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Why Russian Sanctions Haven’t Worked

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Moscow, Russia, July 31, 2017 –  The main building of the Russian Foreign Ministry.President Vladimir Putin on July 30 said the United States would have to cut 755 diplomatic staff in Russia and warned of a prolonged gridlock in its ties after the US Congress backed new sanctions against the Kremlin. (Photo credit:  ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

On the streets of Moscow things look pretty much the same as they did before the first round of sanctions were levied to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine and the Crimea: no shortages in the shops, prices in restaurants actually lower than before sanctions went into effect. Head to the outskirts of the big cites into the countryside, and aside from the occasional oligarch’s outrageously lavish dacha, you see poverty. Just as you would have seen ten, 20, 50 years ago. These are the people who never benefitted from the hey days of high oil prices and whose lives, under sanctions, also haven’t changed.

That’s because there’s been no trickle-down in post-Soviet Russian economy: those in leadership positions when Communism collapsed took what they could with permission; others took what was in front of them and sold it where they could find a market. That includes objectionable good such as weapons and uranium to objectionable clients.

As economist Andrey Movchan, director of the Economic Policy Program at Carnegie Moscow Center writes in his report, Decline, Not Collapse: The Bleak Prospects for Russia’s Economy, “By the time Russian President Vladimir Putin took power in 2000, the majority of key assets were owned either by the state or by a small group of private individuals who had obtained these assets from the state in return for political obedience and loyalty.” Movchan and I met in Moscow recently to discuss the impact of sanctions and the future of the Russian economy for this blog.

Operating Without Money

It helps to remember that not only is Russia a country that can endure hardships like no other, but it is also accustomed to operating without money. Favors and personal privilege are equally valuable, if not more desirable, commodities with which to barter. And even under Communism everyone, including the government, depended on the black market for goods and services. It was the closet things Soviet Russia had to Capitalism, during a time when private enterprise could get you sent to a gulag if you were lucky, or to a firing squad if you were not. So it should come as no shock that those best able to handle the overnight shift in economic ideology were the black marketeers who had the experience of private enterprise and lacked the average Russian’s inbred fear of acting on his or her own.

Moscow, Russia, July 31, 2017 – A view overlooking Red Square and  beyond, showing the Kremlin, the History Museum and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (gold dome). (Photo credit:  MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

There followed in the 1990s a transition period consisting of a liberal economy but no governance. Russia was a real wild east. Then-President Boris Yeltsin’s inability to manage the government led to stalemate in the state Duma (Parliament) and wanton disorder in the business world, involving not just corruption but sometimes murder. Putin’s ascent to power brought much of the mayhem to a halt and regained state control of the country’s oil production and trading business, which had been lost during the 1990s, under what then passed for “privatization.” Putin, writes Movchan, “arrested the rebellious oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003, nationalized his Yukos oil company, and ensured all other oligarchs got the message and would obey.”

By 2008, Movchan says, up to 70% of the Russian budget either directly or indirectly consisted of hydrocarbon export revenues. By 2013, no more than 10% of the country’s GDP came from the independent private sector or non-mineral-resource production. Meanwhile, Movchan writes, though inflation had been running at 6.5% in 2013 and GDP growth did not exceed 1.3%, real wages – thanks to Russia’s social policy which Movchan calls “reckless” – exceeded 11.4%.

“This was also the period when many people sold their businesses to the state. Took their money and went abroad,” Movchan claims. “That meant that the state controlled more than 70% of businesses – more than under (the last Communist leader) Mikhail Gorbachev, when the state control was 60%,” he says. “Today maybe 25% of GDP is in the hands of the private sector.”

State Secrets

Movchan says he’s loathe to accept state-generated statistics on the economy at face value because, he writes, “more than 30% of it is classified as ‘secret’. It is generally believed that the classified items in the budget are used to finance the military-industrial complex and security agencies, but there is indirect evidence suggesting that these funds may have many other uses as well. They may range from financing ‘friends of Russia’ abroad, to closing gaps in the balance of state-controlled companies and allowing top officials to make personal purchases.” Opacity, it seems, is a national characteristic rather than a fabricated Soviet-era construction.

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How oil’s become the world’s most potent weapon

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From Russia to America, and from Scotland to the Middle East, the dramatic fall in the price of oil — down by nearly half in six months — has sparked an economic crisis that threatens to shift the global balance of power in dramatic fashion.

As Russia teeters on the edge of crisis, America and Saudi Arabia are using the depressed oil market to wreak havoc on enemies such as Iran. The repercussions are being felt closer to home, too, with the North Sea oil industry described as being close to collapse.

The good news is that it’s cheaper to fill up your car at the pumps, but what does it mean for Britain’s national security?

Here, the Economist magazine’s Energy Editor EDWARD LUCAS offers a simple guide to these deeply turbulent times.

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The dramatic fall in the price of oil - down by nearly half in six months - means that is that it’s cheaper to fill up your car at the pumps, but what does it mean for Britain’s national security?
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The dramatic fall in the price of oil – down by nearly half in six months – means that is that it’s cheaper to fill up your car at the pumps, but what does it mean for Britain’s national security?

RUSSIA IN MELTDOWN

The world has become used to Vladimir Putin giving tub-thumping speeches about the glory of modern Russia. His three-hour press conference last Thursday — by turns bombastic and duplicitous as he deflected questions about his country’s teetering economy — was no exception.

Railing against the sanctions enforced by the EU and America in response to the annexing of Crimea, he warned darkly against shackling the Russian bear and tearing out its ‘fangs and claws’.

During a recent visit to Turkey, however, he was forced to adopt a very different tone, announcing in clipped and petulant terms that his country’s prized new South Stream gas pipeline to Europe would not be going ahead.

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The £25 billion pipeline across the Black Sea and the Balkans would have given the Kremlin a stranglehold on the energy supplies of a slew of European countries — Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Austria.

It would also have contemptuously demonstrated Russia’s superiority over the European Union, which had ruled the pipeline plans illegal. (The rules of the European energy market — strongly backed by Britain — say that the same company cannot own both a pipeline and the gas that runs through it because it gives them too much control over supply and pricing.)

But Putin has had to eat humble pie and cancel the whole project.

Putin, pictured, has had to eat humble pie and cancel the planned £25 billion pipeline across the Black Sea and the Balkans
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Putin, pictured, has had to eat humble pie and cancel the planned £25 billion pipeline across the Black Sea and the Balkans

Why? The collapse in the oil price across the world — down by nearly half since June — is emptying the Kremlin’s coffers.

As the third-biggest oil producer in the world, Russia is heavily dependent on a buoyant price, deriving more than half of its budget revenues from oil and gas extraction.

The kleptocrats in the Kremlin rely on oil and gas exports to sustain Russia’s bloated and bribe-ridden bureaucracy, as well as its ruthless aggression against other countries.

But the price per barrel of oil hit a five-year low of $58.50 last week, and though it has recovered slightly, it is still far too low to keep Mr Putin’s regime running at full blast, especially given the economic sanctions the West has imposed.

No wonder the value of the rouble has plummeted, causing panic buying in Russia, the movement of money out of the country and even the jacking-up of interest rates to an eye-watering 17 per cent in a bid to stop the currency sliding further. So these are very bad times for Russia, where no one has forgotten that low oil prices brought down the Soviet Union in 1991 by eviscerating its economy. Today, they could spell doom for Putin’s attempt to recreate that Soviet empire.

He has naively set out his spending plans for the next three years based on an oil price of around $100 a barrel — which now looks wildly optimistic.

But though the Kremlin is weakened, we should not count our blessings yet. For there is a danger that the Russian autocrat will lash out militarily, distracting his hard-pressed people with another foreign policy gambit aimed directly at humiliating Nato in Europe.

With that in mind, some feel that now is the time to go easy on Mr Putin. He has learned a hard lesson from this collision with reality; we should not push him too hard, the argument goes. Instead, we should offer him a face-saving deal on the situation in Ukraine, offer to lift sanctions and prevent the Russian economy from staggering over a cliff.

I disagree. Putin does not want a deal with the West. He wants to rewrite the rules of European security. Only if we accept that countries such as Ukraine are to be consigned to Russia’s control will the hard men of the Kremlin be satisfied.

That is a concession we cannot and should not make. If we concede Ukraine, we signal that might is right. What happens when Mr Putin tries his tricks on another country — perhaps our Nato allies in the Baltic states?

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As the third-biggest oil producer in the world, Russia is heavily dependent on a buoyant price, deriving more than half of its budget revenues from oil and gas extraction. Above, a board in Moscow shows a slump in the country's currency - a knock-on effect from the slide in oil prices
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As the third-biggest oil producer in the world, Russia is heavily dependent on a buoyant price, deriving more than half of its budget revenues from oil and gas extraction. Above, a board in Moscow shows a slump in the country’s currency – a knock-on effect from the slide in oil prices

THE HUMBLING OF OPEC

For all our worries over Russia, however, we in Britain should not lose sight of the humiliation of another swaggering and once-mighty force in world politics, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). When it burst on the world scene 40 years ago, OPEC terrified the wasteful West.

Over the previous decades, we had grown used to abundant oil, bought mostly from Middle Eastern producers — with little global muscle — at rock- bottom prices.

However, OPEC changed that. By restricting supply, the cartel quadrupled the oil price, from $3 to $12.

Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there. Above, the country's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Naimi 
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Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there. Above, the country’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Naimi

That is only a fraction of today’s price — but the oil crisis sparked by the rocketing cost in 1974 was enough to lead to queues at filling stations and national panics in the pitifully unprepared industrialised world.

Four decades later, Saudi Arabia has become one of the richest countries in the world, with reserves totalling nearly $900 billion.

But the rest of the world is less at its mercy than it once was. Here in Britain, our energy consumption is dropping remorselessly — the result of increased energy efficiency.

Moreover, many other nations now produce oil. And oil can be replaced by other fuels, such as natural gas, which OPEC does not control.

Also, OPEC no longer has the discipline or the clout to dominate the market, and we in Britain are among the big winners from all this, reaping the benefits of lower costs to fill up our cars and power our industries.

At its meeting in Vienna last month, the OPEC oil cartel — which controls nearly 40 per cent of global production — faced a fateful choice.

Would it curb production and thus, by reducing supplies, try to ratchet the oil price back to something near $100 a barrel — the level most of its members need to balance their books? Or would it let the glut continue?

The organisation’s 12 member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela and Nigeria, chose to do nothing, proving that its once-mighty power has withered. Oil prices subsequently fell even further.

One central problem is that several of OPEC’s members detest each other for a variety of reasons.

Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.

They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.

The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.

 The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices

The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin does not have that luxury — and the Saudis know it.

They revile Russia, too, for its military support of President Assad, and for its sale of advanced weapons to Iran.

HOW FRACKING CHANGED THE WORLD

But if geopolitics and ancient enmities are playing a big role in the price of oil, so is modern technology.

Astonishingly, America has now overtaken Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of crude oil.

That comes not from the traditional American oil industry, exemplified by J.R. Ewing in the TV series Dallas, but from fracking — pumping water and sand at high pressure into oil-and-gas-bearing shale rock.

America is a world leader in this technology. Costs are low and the geology is favourable: the regions in America where drilling is done for shale gas and oil are thinly populated — such as Oklahoma and North Dakota.

Not surprisingly, the Saudis are worried by America’s fracking revolution. And the more Westerners switch from oil to other fuels — such as gas or even solar energy — the worse it is for the nations which survive on oil exports.

The truth is that the shale juggernaut will only be slowed, not halted. In time, it will reach other countries, too, including Britain if David Cameron has his way. Above, Mr Cameron tours a shale drilling plant oil depot
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The truth is that the shale juggernaut will only be slowed, not halted. In time, it will reach other countries, too, including Britain if David Cameron has his way. Above, Mr Cameron tours a shale drilling plant oil depot

Saudis note with alarm the growth in energy efficiency. Every barrel of oil not consumed in the West is profit lost.

So they hope that a low oil price will at least slow the development of fracking in America — and it is true that a low oil price is bringing bankruptcy for the riskiest drillers in the new American exploration fields.

The truth is, however, that the shale juggernaut will only be slowed, not halted. In time, it will reach other countries, too, including Britain if David Cameron has his way .

The truth is, however, that the shale juggernaut will only be slowed, not halted. In time, it will reach other countries, too, including Britain if David Cameron has his way

Indeed, one really big question is how we use the cash windfall that comes with a dramatically lower oil price. Will we take the opportunity to improve Britain’s energy efficiency and diversify our supplies to protect against an eventual rise in the cost per barrel?

WILL THE NORTH SEA CRISIS RUIN SCOTLAND?

The most pressing issue for Britain is the fate of the North Sea basin, where costs are rising as oil and gas fields are depleting and exploration becomes more difficult.

‘It’s almost impossible to make money at these prices — it’s a huge crisis,’ the chairman of the independent oil explorers’ association said last week.

That is bleak news for the tens of thousands of workers employed in our offshore industry and their families.

But it is even worse news for the Scottish Nationalists. Their dreams of an independent Scotland were balanced precariously — ludicrously, some said — on the idea that oil and gas revenues would pay for the lavish socialist spending and bloated bureaucracy they hold dear. Now, their sums simply no longer add up.

If the oil price stays down, Scotland’s only hope is to cling tightly to the security — and subsidies — which the Union with England brings. Above, the Cleeton North Sea oil platform
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If the oil price stays down, Scotland’s only hope is to cling tightly to the security — and subsidies — which the Union with England brings. Above, the Cleeton North Sea oil platform

This week, an Office of Budget Responsibility simulation concluded that Scotland’s North Sea oil revenues would have slumped to just one-fifth of Holyrood’s forecasts within a year of independence if there had been a Yes vote in the recent referendum.

In 2012, The Economist magazine — for whom I am the energy editor — mocked the SNP’s optimistic economics with a cover story which dubbed Scotland ‘Skintland’, renaming the capital city ‘Edinborrow’.

The then SNP leader Alex Salmond said we would ‘rue the day’ that we published this ‘sneering’ piece. His party pals said we were ‘patronising and eccentric’. But we were right.

If the oil price stays down, Scotland’s only hope is to cling tightly to the security — and subsidies — which the Union with England brings.

The SNP's dreams of an independent Scotland were balanced on the idea that oil and gas revenues would pay for the lavish socialist spending and bloated bureaucracy they hold dear. Above, party leader Nicola Sturgeon
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The SNP’s dreams of an independent Scotland were balanced on the idea that oil and gas revenues would pay for the lavish socialist spending and bloated bureaucracy they hold dear. Above, party leader Nicola Sturgeon

SO WHAT OF THE FUTURE?

The good news is that, even as high-cost oil producers are being squeezed by falling prices, it is a different story for consumers.

A $40 fall in the oil price shifts some $1.3 trillion from producers to consumers each year, largely through tumbling prices at the petrol pumps.

The RAC believes that petrol could fall to below £1 per litre — a price not seen since May 2009. That will keep millions of pounds in motorists’ pockets.

But they should not spend it on champagne — at least, not yet.

Oil production still rests on some of the most ill-run and fragile states in the world. Iraq produces 3.4 million barrels a day, and Libya another million.

That is half of the total produced by America. But both countries are precariously balanced on the edge of collapse. Libya is no longer a functioning state, riven by a bloody struggle between parliamentary forces and Islamist militias.

Iraq has already come perilously close to succumbing to the fanatical fighters of the so-called Islamic State.

The big picture is that the world is changing for the better: a number of despotic regimes —notably Russia’s — that depend on looting their country’s natural resources are facing a well-deserved comeuppance.

The question is whether they accept their fate, or whether the power of black gold to spark violent upheaval will see us all sucked into conflicts that could shake the world.

  • Edward Lucas is energy editor of The Economist.
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weather weapons – Google Search

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Weather Warfare HAARP – YouTube

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Published on Aug 13, 2016

Weather War HAARP, Ekim Rrac WTF Report

“HAARP is a weather warfare weapon of mass destruction, capable of destabilising agricultural and ecological systems globally.”
“‘Climatic warfare’ potentially threatens the future of humanity, but has casually been excluded from the reports for which the IPCC received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.”

50 Miles Above Earth, Seemingly Embedded In Earth’s Ionosphere, These Massive Digital Disk Electronically Stimulate and Heat Millions of Square Miles of Earth’s Ionosphere Condensing Every Drop of Moisture From This Tainted Atmosphere.

This is happening all over the world https://www.google.com/search?q=stran…

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Weather warfare – Wikipedia

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Weather warfare is the use of weather modification techniques such as cloud seeding for military purposes.

Prior to the Geneva Convention, the United States used weather warfare in the Vietnam War. Under the auspices of the Air Weather Service, the United States’ Operation Popeye used cloud seeding over the Ho Chi Minh trail, increasing rainfall by an estimated thirty percent during 1967 and 1968. It was hoped that the increased rainfall would reduce the rate of infiltration down the trail.[1]

With much less success, the United States also dropped salt on the airbase during the siege of Khe Sanh in an attempt to reduce the fog that hindered air operations.[citation needed]

A research paper produced for the United States Air Force written in 1996 speculates about the future use of nanotechnology to produce “artificial weather”, clouds of microscopic computer particles all communicating with each other to form an intelligent fog that could be used for various purposes. “Artificial weather technologies do not currently exist. But as they are developed, the importance of their potential applications rises rapidly.” Weather modification technologies are described in an unclassified academic paper written by airforce officer-cadet students as “a force multiplier with tremendous power that could be exploited across the full spectrum of war-fighting environments.” [2]

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putin and price of oil – Google Search

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putin and price of oil – Google Search

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putin and price of oil – Google Search

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Putin Wants Higher Oil Prices – Oil Markets Daily – The United States Oil ETF, LP (NYSEARCA:USO)

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Despite what his lieutenant, oil minister Alexander Novak, said yesterday about how an oil production freeze cap is not needed, Russian President Vladimir Putin came out today saying: “It would be right to find a compromise … We think it is the right decision for global energy markets.”

As we said in our article yesterday, Russia secretly craves higher oil prices. In the game of oil politics, Novak is just a pawn in the grand scheme of things. The person really calling the shots in Russia is Putin, and his intentions have been revealed. We highly doubt that, despite what his lieutenant said yesterday, these words would slip out of his mouth accidentally. Russia’s economy is in “suffering territory.” Putin has done a remarkable job keeping his political prowess high while keeping his people content. Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on commodity prices, and with the U.S. sanctions, the one-two punch definitely delivered a blow.

Now, one could speculate whether the fall in oil prices immediately following the Russian sanctions was some type of attack on Russia. But what we know now is that Russia won’t fall like it did in 1998. Its foreign reserve is enough to survive the “lower for longer” scenario, and its oil production has actually climbed during the downturn.

Going forward, we think the recent tone shifts from the likes of Russia and Saudi Arabia point to higher oil prices. Despite our belief that a production freeze deal is slim to none, recent news coverage hints at a slight possibility of something happening this month. Looking at every single sell-side report, there isn’t a single firm that’s forecasting a potential agreement. Given that the consensus is overwhelmingly on one side, it could result in a potential price spike if some agreement does come through.

Thank you for reading our Oil Markets Daily. If you would like to read more dailies from us, please be sure to hit the follow button. For those interested on the outlook of oil prices, HFI Research publishes a weekly outlook for premium subscribers. If you are interested, please direct message us for more information.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Will Putin and Trump Bond Over Oil?

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In the early 2000s, the Russian and U.S. presidents, Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush, decided it was time their two countries had a closer relationship. The obvious place to start was the oil industry. The U.S. was importing almost twice as much crude as it produced and wanted to diversify away from Middle Eastern suppliers. Russia’s vast, untapped reserves of oil needed two things U.S. companies had plenty of: money and technology.

In October 2002 the inaugural U.S.-Russia Commercial Energy Summit convened in Houston. Over two days, members of both governments and executives from 70 oil and gas companies mingled and talked business. Eleven months later, a second summit was held in St. Petersburg, where the focus was on improving the climate for energy investment in Russia. A closer relationship seemed to be developing, but there would be no third summit.

By 2004 the Kremlin had begun nationalizing portions of Russia’s private energy sector, most notably seizing the assets of Yukos, the largest oil company. At home, U.S. drilling companies were developing fracking technology to unlock oil and gas from shale formations, and they were reluctant to share their knowledge with the Russians. “The U.S. became quite cautious, and so the basis for establishing this harmonized relationship was destabilized,” says Igor Yusufov, Russia’s energy minister from 2001 to 2004 and a key participant in the energy summits.

Yusufov, who now runs an energy investment fund, is hoping that incoming U.S. President Donald Trump will restart the high-level meetings. Trump has vowed to improve relations with Russia and has tapped former ExxonMobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state. Tillerson arguably has more Russia experience than any other U.S. executive, having negotiated a $500 billion joint venture with Kremlin-controlled Rosneft in 2011.

The potential for a new era of constructive relations between the U.S. and Russia will likely be a topic of discussion in the hallways of Davos, where the attendee list reads like a who’s who of the oil industry. A lot has changed since Yusufov was clinking glasses with then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. The U.S. is poised to become a net energy exporter in the next decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In time, American oil and gas could compete with Russian supplies, exerting pressure on global prices. Cheap energy isn’t exactly good for the Kremlin, which has been starved of revenue since the crash in oil prices.

A first step in any rapprochement would be to lift the sanctions that the Obama administration put in place in retaliation for Russia’s incursions into Crimea and Ukraine. “If he wants a better relationship with Russia, Trump can start by dropping the sanctions,” says Steven Pifer, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibilities for Russia and Ukraine from 2001 to 2004. The question is what does the U.S. get in return. “If you take the sanctions off, you have no leverage,” Pifer says. Speaking at his Jan. 11 confirmation hearing, Tillerson called sanctions a “powerful tool” but said that poorly designed sanctions can be worse than having none at all.

Carlos Pascual, who led the Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources from 2011 to 2014, says any reevaluation of the relationship with Russia will have to include the issue of cyber attacks, the situation in Syria, and Russia’s role in the Mideast. There’s also the question of whether a Tillerson-led State Department would work in concert with U.S. companies trying to exploit opportunities in Russia. Richard Morningstar says that when he was U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan from 2012 to 2014, “the State Department people and the Exxon people were like two ships passing in the night,” even though both camps were deepening their engagement on energy issues in Russia and the surrounding area.

Morningstar, who now runs the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, wonders if a Trump administration will prioritize closer ties with Russia over geopolitical issues. “Will he care what role Russia plays as a primary supplier of gas to Europe?” he asks. “There is also the question of how a potential reset with Russia flies in the face of a desire in the U.S. to sell more to Europe.”

Yusufov brushes aside talk of competition and instead emphasizes how the two countries could cooperate to stabilize a volatile oil market. “We could combine our efforts to establish prices that would be of benefit to both countries,” he says. A range of $60 to $80 a barrel would be high enough for the Kremlin to plug its budget hole and for U.S. frackers to start investing in new projects—though not so high that drivers in the U.S. would feel too much pain. “This could be the essence of the discussion of a Russian-American energy summit as it was 15 years ago,” Yusufov says.

The bottom line: U.S. and Russia may struggle to carve out room for energy cooperation now that America is also a big oil and gas producer.

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Weak Oil Prices In Future Mean A Weak Russia And Putin | HuffPost

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An Oil Crisis Is Looming; Welcome to Trump-Putin World

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In a world inundated with cheap crude oil, and with storage spots filled almost to the brim, it might seem that long lines at the gas pump and high prices per gallon are history. But long lines and high prices may come back, in the new world of Trump-Putin geopolitics.

Trump the candidate vowed to “bomb the hell” out of oilfields controlled by ISIL. He called for stealing oil from other countries, later saying he meant to reimburse America for costs of its invasion of Iraq and other Middle East military actions. During the campaign he declared “I’m good at war in a certain way”and “I love war… including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.”

Whether that was Trump’s actual intent or just red meat for his base remains to be seen, but bellicose talk can lead to war—and war is very bad for continuity of oil supply.

Cheap hydrocarbons are not a pure good. They dampen demand for renewables like solar and wind that help slow climate change.

And, of course, oil is just one form of stored sunlight. Earth holds layer upon layer of natural gas, frozen methane, and the carbon rocks we call coal as well as the liquid gold we call oil.

Economist Ross McCracken, managing editor at Platts Energy Economist, says that even with large amounts of North American shale oil the world remains dependent for oil “on an unstable Middle East. There is enough oil in the world, but supply chains will remain dominated by the geology of the Middle East and the geography of demand.”

Adding to the global glut is Iran, which—with the lifting of sanctions—resumed legally exporting oil, something it did despite United Nations sanctions with help from offshore subsidiaries of ExxonMobil, whose CEO at the time, Rex Tillerson, is about to become Secretary of State.

In addition, the shrinking territory controlled by ISIL, which has been slowly but steadily degraded through both aerial bombing and unconventional warfare to assassinate its leaders, should mean more oil flowing from Iraqi wells even as civil war continues in neighboring Syria.

Such supplies, however, are inherently unstable, contributing to the global stability problem in the Trump-Putin era and kicking off a dangerous cycle in which unstable supplies contribute to unstable politics, which in turn, further destablize supply. “Geopolitical events have figured very large in questions about oil supply and I think that will continue,” says James Hamilton, professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego who studies the industry.

Some worry about a new American war in the Middle East, a development that could serve the political aims of both Trump and Putin, with collateral damage to your pocketbook.

Trump wants to show he is a tough guy who can quickly end “radical Islamic terrorism” as well as undo the global deal to let Iran openly return to world markets. Greater U.S. military activity in the Middle East, especially in light of Trump’s attacks on the Muslim faithful, would surely foster more hatred of America and its Western allies, encouraging more young people to turn to violence. The risk for Trump is that higher oil prices could turn off his voters unless they are persuaded that sacrificing more of their money for costly fuel is patriotic.

Putin would benefit from America getting into a Middle East war that disrupts oil supplies. Petroleum firms earn almost all of the profits of large Russian companies and higher oil prices should mean bigger profits for Russian oil, which would become a more important source of power, especially for Europe.

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Putin needs higher oil prices because his weak and underperforming economy relies for hard currency almost exclusively on two exports: hydrocarbons and weapons. Hydrocarbons give him a lever over Germany and other industrial countries that need natural gas in winter. And war is, of course, beneficial to munitions makers. Many of the guns used to kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were Russian made.

And the Middle East isn’t the only place where conflict creates oil issues. Civil wars and terrorist attacks on oilfields in Nigeria and North Africa also could disrupt oil supplies, says Herman T. Franssen, president of International Energy Associates, a consulting firm with deep ties in the Middle East and a former International Energy Agency chief economist.

What’s more, the drop in oil prices since 2014, as Saudi Arabia sought to maintain its share of the global oil market, is causing economic disruption in that country, a generous welfare state.

Many Americans may not realize it, but the United States was actually the world’s top crude oil producer last year and in 2015. One reason is the developing shale-oil industry, born of the last spike in oil prices. Shale oil is extracted with a technology known as fracking, in which solvents and sand are forced into soft underground rocks to unlock relatively small carbon deposits. Fracked wells account for more than 5 million barrels a day of American oil, about a third of U.S. production.

Owners of some existing shale oil wells in the Permian Basin of Texas can probably make a profit at $25 a barrel, Franssen says. Most other areas, however, need prices at or above $54 a barrel. The Saudi oil-price cuts were intended to make American shale oil uncompetitive. Instead they spurred advances in shale-oil drilling efficiency. Even though the number of working American oil rigs has fallen from about 2,000 to under 500 in the last two years, drilling didn’t decline by three-fourths. A modern rig can drill multiple wells by cutting through rock horizontally. Unused rigs are being cannibalized for parts, reducing costs.

Trump has said he wants to keep the U.S on top and shale oil will be part of that goal. Slashing regulations is a key part of his promises to voters and that likely will include issues around the environmental cost of fracking. Trump may run into opposition, though, as earthquakes like those bedeviling Oklahoma homeowners and other damage from fracking sours some voters. Other environmental problems, such as aging, leaky oil pipelines, could also come into play.

The U.S. extracted domestic crude at the rate of 15 million barrels per day in 2015, the federal Energy Information Administration estimated. Saudi Arabia was second at nearly 12 million barrels; Russia was next at 11 million barrels; and China, fourth, at just under 5 million barrels per day.

Proven oil reserves—meaning the amount of crude in the ground that companies count as assets because it can be pulled from beneath the surface—will provide enough carbon fuel to meet the expected world demand through 2040, the federal Energy Information Administration estimated in its most recent annual energy outlook report.

That does not mean the world will run dry in 24 years. Proven reserves is an accounting measure, not a geological measure. It does not include oil yet to be discovered, oil that cannot be profitably extracted with current technology or at current prices, and other factors. That measure tells us, however, that at current world prices oil will be cheap for a very long time assuming relative peace continues.

Cheap oil is decidedly not in the interests of Russia or of those Middle East and African countries run by autocrats, dictators and kings who need oil profits to mollify their subjects and stay in power.

A major disruption of Middle East oil supplies still might not raise oil prices enough to help Russia deal with its limp economy. Trump has vowed to ease regulations so that America extracts more oil than it needs and remains the top producerSo Americans might enjoy cheap gasoline even as Europeans struggle to find enough Middle East oil to fill the tanks of their fuel-efficient cars and are forced to pay higher prices for Russian oil.

An unstable Saudi Arabia—and instability among its oil-rich neighbors—may also foster more hatred or American and the West. That, too, could lead to wars and revolutions, adding to uncertainty about oil supplies and who will control them.

So, while today oil is abundant both under the surface and in storage, that can change fast. And both Donald Trump and the leader for whom he keeps expressing his admiration, Vladimir Putin, have interests that just may come together in ways that may mean more war together with an end to cheap and reliable oil.

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Vladimir Putin pushes up oil prices as Russia signals it will cap production

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Why oil prices are sinking as gasoline soars after Harvey

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And while the storm is also expected to curtail offshore crude oil … to come back on line,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures …

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Climate researcher says CIA fears hostile nations are triggering floods and droughts

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  • CIA chiefs fear hostile nations are trying to manipulate the world’s weather
  • Academic has told of mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding
  • CIA is believed to have helped fund a major report into geoengineering

By Fiona Macrae, Science Correspondent In San Jose

Published: 19:10 EDT, 15 February 2015 | Updated: 04:11 EDT, 16 February 2015

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If it seems like it never stops raining, blame the Russians. Or even the North Koreans.

CIA chiefs fear hostile nations are trying to manipulate the world’s weather, a conference heard.

A leading academic has told how he got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding.

Professor Alan Robock, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: ‘Consultants working for the CIA rang and said we’d like to know if someone is controlling the world’s climate would we know about it?

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A leading academic revealed how he got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding. File photo
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A leading academic revealed how he got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding. File photo

‘Of course they were also asking – if we control someone else’s climate would they then know about it.’

The professor is one of many scientists from around the world are actively looking at manipulating the weather as a way of combating climate change.

Geoengineering techniques range from cloud seeding, in which chemicals are sprayed by planes trigger rainfall, to shooting mirrors into space to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth.

Professor Robock told the callers that any attempts to meddle with the weather on a large scale would be detectable.

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However, he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference in San Jose, that the weather has been weaponised in the past.

During the Vietnam War, US scientists tried to increase rainfall to hamper the enemy’s progress by spraying particles into the clouds.

And the CIA seeded clouds over Cuba ‘to make it rain and ruin the sugar harvest’.

Professor Alan Robock, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding
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Professor Alan Robock, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding

Asked how he felt when he got the call, the professor said: ‘Scared.

‘I’d learned of lots of other things the CIA had done that haven’t followed the rules and that wasn’t how I wanted my tax money spent.

‘I think this research has to be open and international, so there isn’t any question of using it for hostile purposes.’

To add to the intrigue, the CIA is believed to have helped fund a major report into geoengineering.

Published last week by the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences, the report mentions the ‘US intelligence community’ in its list of sponsors, alongside organisations such as Nasa.

Professor Robock said the CIA had told one of his colleagues it wanted to fund the report, but apparently did not want this fact to be too obvious.

He said: ‘The CIA is a major funder of the National Academies report so that makes me really worried who is going to be in control.’

He added that the tension created by any large-scale meddling in the climate could escalate to such an extent that it would end in all-out war.

The professor said: ‘If one country wants to control the climate in one way, and another doesn’t want it or if they try to shoot down the planes…if there is no agreement it could result in terrible consequences.’

Robock explains geoengineering outdoor research methods

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Is Hurricane Harvey weather warfare?, page 1

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posted on Aug, 27 2017 @ 10:39 PM

If this hurricane were artificial (and by the way, no-one has ever demonstrated that it is possible to create one) the meteorologists would be able to trace its history back to a location somewhere out at sea and spot it developing in an unnatural way. It’s not like hurricanes sneak up on you with no warning.
The natural processes creating hurricanes are well-understood, and those would be very hard to simulate. If it were at all possible. Which at present it is not.
Also, it would be a bit of a rubbish weapon, because you could only use it in the tropics, during certain weather, at certain times of the year, and once you had created it you would have to sit back and watch as it did its own thing: the best you could hope for would be that it survived at hurricane force long enough to hit some coastal development, in some nation, more or less at random.

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Hurricane Harvey: What Happened and What’s Next

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Overwhelmed by the news from Texas since Hurricane Harvey made landfall? Here is an overview of coverage by The New York Times so far.
Hurricane Harvey: Why Is It So Extreme?
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Hurricane Harvey: What Happened and What’s Next

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Hurricane Harvey and Price of oil – Google Search

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Oil falls but gasoline jumps as Harvey hits US refiners

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Oil falls but gasoline jumps as Harvey hits U.S. refiners … Monday but gasoline prices surged to two-year highs as Tropical Storm Harvey kept …

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Netanyahu Seeks Russian-American Guarantees To Counter Iran

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The Huffington PostNetanyahu Seeks Russian-American Guarantees To Counter Iran

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Netanyahu seeks Russian-US guarantees to counter Iran

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While Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu carried to Russian President Vladimir Putin in their meeting in Sochi his opposition to Iran’s continued consolidation in Syria, to shore up its sphere of influence from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, the Associated Press revealed that thousands of pro-Iranian fighters continue to advance in the Syrian desert, establishing for Tehran for the first time the precursors of its coveted corridor to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

 Netanyahu is not ignorant of the silent US-Russian consent to Tehran reaping the fruits of its investments in Syria since it intervened there six years ago, by consolidating its geographical control of the corridor dubbed the “grand prize.” Netanyahu has vowed that Israel is ready to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from making permanent its expanded military presence in Syria. But realistically, he is aligning his country to engage in future deals on Syria, especially in the context of the grand bargain between the US and Russia, and the Iranian dimension in the Arab geography and the regional balance of power.

 The benefits reaped by those who invested in the Syrian war, such as Iran, will include profits from lucrative reconstruction. However, Tehran has more extensive investments in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, with the primary aim of guaranteeing a major role for it in the future of the Middle East and in the emerging regional equations and alliances. Israel for its part is fully confident that US-Russian accords will always take into account Israeli interests, including guaranteeing its military edge and its security. But what prompted Netanyahu to meet Putin for the second time this year was his understanding that the Russian leader now holds the keys of the Middle East, with Washington’s consent.

 The Iranian expansion concerns Israel, but there is no panic. Netanyahu is reconfiguring his country’s position to be present in the deals, bargains and settlements being made in the Arab geography, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Turkey and Iran are doing the same, but the difference is that they are operating on the ground to ensure they are part of the triangle of guarantors sponsoring de-escalation alongside the key Russian player, all with an American green light. Meanwhile, the majority of Arab countries are all but absent from these arrangements, albeit they are moving to have a presence in Iraq after a long absence. The Gulf countries are preoccupied with the Yemen war and the Qatar crisis. Jordan has no standalone role in Syria at this stage, after the Gulf roles in Syria receded. Egypt is playing a Russian-ordained role in Syria, through its influence with some opposition figures.

 It is Russia that is leading on the ground, politically and strategically, with signs of American consent to its role. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is well versed in matching diplomatic tone to developments on the ground. He is a pragmatist who using his personal “charm” to influence the psychology of both friends and foes in negotiations and deal making. Today, Lavrov finds himself dealing with an issue he is loath to, that of the Syrian opposition. He is holding contacts with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to push forward efforts to form a unified opposition delegation from the so-called Cairo and Moscow opposition platforms, and the Higher Negotiations Council. The failure of the meeting of the Syrian opposition platforms in Riyadh this week is mainly due to their differences over the fate of Bashar Assad in the political process that follows the conclusion of the war. In fact, this causes more resentment by Lavrov toward the Syrian opposition, for which he has little respect save for the Moscow-based factions. Indeed, for Russia, Assad’s fate is not now a priority, but rather, the facts on the ground.

 At this juncture of the Syrian war, Russia is focusing its efforts on reaching an agreement with Turkey to establish a fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib. Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov held consultations recently with his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal to reach an agreement. Lavrov has said talks continue with Turkey and Iran regarding the situation in Idlib, but said there were “complications.” In truth, these complications are related to Iranian-Turkish knots, which vacillate between sectarian and ideological hostility, and a compulsory partnership as part of the Russian-Turkish-Iranian triangle guaranteeing cease-fires as well as efforts to contain Kurdish ambitions.

Israeli threats of unilateral action in response to Iranian expansionism are meant for public consumption only. In fact, Israel’s aims are much more strategic.

Raghida Dergham

On the ground, Russia has trained its eyes on Deir Ezzor, which it believes is a crucial battle in the war on Daesh. For its part, Iran is focused on the Syrian desert, carving out a corridor to consolidate its arc or crescent. Turkey’s priority is to prevent the Kurds from making permanent their gains in Syria close to the Turkish border.

 The Kurdish element is common to both Turkey and Iran, despite denials by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, following remarks by Erdogan suggesting a Turkish-Iranian agreement on a possible military move against the PKK and its allies inside Iran. Erdogan reportedly wants to establish a regional alliance that would include Turkey, Iran, and Iraq to contain the Kurdish ambitions.

Currently, these ambitions are represented by the insistence of Kurdish leaders in Iraq on holding a referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan Region, the timing of which has been opposed by the US. But Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, has insisted he would not postpone the vote for “a single minute,” even as US defense secretary James Mattis was affirming the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq, and US envoy to Baghdad Brett McGurk was suggesting the referendum would be catastrophic.

 Many friends of the Kurds who understand their aspirations have warned against taking the initiative to partition Iraq if they insist on holding the referendum on September 25. Others have expressed fears of the impact of Kurdish secession on the anti-Daesh strategy in Iraq. Following Mattis’s visit to Iraq, a statement issued by Barzani’s office hinted at some flexibility. A spokesman for Barzani said the referendum would not be postponed without an alternative, which could be international guarantees signed by all sides, especially the Iraqi government and the US, and even Turkey and Iran, setting another date for the referendum and pledging to respect its results.

 The positions of the Trump administration and the US superpower no doubt have an important effect. However, regional confidence in Washington is steadily declining, after it reneged on promises and pledges for the sake of immediate US interests. No one feels safe in the American wagon, be they the Kurds, Turks, Iranians or Arabs. Even Israel, the US’s spoilt child and permanent ally, finds itself compelled to engage with Russia because the climate in the US is ravaged by divisions, contradictions and inconsistency.

 Washington is the ally of the Kurds in the fight against Daesh in Syria. But as soon as Daesh and similar groups are defeated in Syria and Iraq, the Americans, Russians and international envoys claim foreign forces and militias will have no logical basis to stay behind. Thus, voila, the Syrian war and Iraqi war, they claim, will end, the land will be liberated from terrorism, and the two countries will be ready for a political process, a new constitution and power sharing. That is what they claim, but as to the reality of what they are doing, the answer is on the ground, in the Arab geography.

 Reining in or curbing Iran’s project in the Arab geography all the way to Israel’s borders was the main headline of Netanyahu’s visit to Russia, while an Israeli intelligence delegation took the same message to Washington. They both returned with reassurances based on the “logic” that the military pretext for Iranian intervention will end once Daesh is defeated, to be followed by some form of Iranian-Israeli accords guaranteed by US-Russian partnership.

 Part of these accords is currently taking shape in the Golan Heights, where Iran and its militias have been pushed back several kilometers away from the border. Israel wants to perpetuate the facts on the ground, to swallow the entire Golan and end any Syrian demand for its return, whether through negotiations or bargains. Recently, Israel’s ambassador in Moscow mocked those who still talk about returning the occupied Golan to Syria, suggesting any talk about the issue is little more than a joke to Israel.

 However, Israel wants strategic American and Russian guarantees beyond pacifying the Syrian front and the Lebanese front through expanded international peacekeeping forces that would preclude any war scenario. Israel wants guarantees based on the new Israeli notion that Iran now has borders with Israel, but not vice versa.

 Such international strategic guarantees require bilateral accords between the two strong players in the regional balance of power, Iran and Israel. And this is exactly what Netanyahu was seeking in practice when he visited Putin in Sochi, regardless of the remarks meant for media consumption about moving unilaterally to prevent Iranian expansion in the Arab geography.

• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. Twitter: @RaghidaDergham

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Chinese National Arrested in Connection with U.S. Cyberattacks

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At CIA, a watchful eye on Mike Pompeo, the president’s ardent ally

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As CIA director, Mike Pompeo has taken a special interest in an agency unit that is closely tied to the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, requiring the Counterintelligence Mission Center to report directly to him.

Officials at the center have, in turn, kept a watchful eye on Pompeo, who has repeatedly played down Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and demonstrated a willingness to engage in political skirmishes for President Trump.

Current and former officials said that the arrangement has been a source of apprehension among the CIA’s upper ranks and that they could not recall a time in the agency’s history when a director faced a comparable conflict.

“Pompeo is in a delicate situation unlike any other director has faced, certainly in my memory,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a CIA official for 23 years who served in Russia and held high-level positions at headquarters, “because of his duty to protect and provide the truth to an independent investigation while maintaining his role with the president.”

[Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault]

Trump, Russia and the opposition research firm run by ex-journalists

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What is Fusion GPS and did it receive Russian government funds as it investigated Donald Trump?What is Fusion GPS and did it receive Russian government funds as it investigated Donald Trump?(Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

What is Fusion GPS and did it receive Russian government funds as it investigated Donald Trump? (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

The Russia issue has complicated Pompeo’s effort to manage a badly strained relationship between the agency and a president who has disparaged its work and compared U.S. intelligence officials to Nazis. Amid that tension, Pompeo’s interactions with the counterintelligence center have come under particular scrutiny.

The unit helped trigger the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia by serving as a conduit to the FBI last year for information the CIA developed on contacts between Russian individuals and Trump campaign associates, officials said.

The center works more closely with the FBI than almost any other CIA department does, officials said, and continues to pursue leads on Moscow’s election interference operation that could factor in the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a former FBI director.

Pompeo has not impeded that work, officials said. But several officials said there is concern about what he might do if the CIA uncovered new information potentially damaging to Trump and Pompeo were forced to choose between protecting the agency or the president.

“People have to watch him,” said a U.S. official who, like others, requested anonymity to speak frankly. “It’s almost as if he can’t resist the impulse to be political.”

A second former CIA official cited a “real concern for interference and politicization,” saying that the worry among some at the agency is “that if you were passing on something too dicey [to Pompeo] he would go to the White House with it.”

Pompeo has attributed his direct supervision of the counterintelligence center to a desire to place a greater emphasis on preventing leaks and protecting classified secrets — core missions of the center that are also top priorities for Trump.

Trump on Russia investigation: ‘They’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want’

President Trump dismissed allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia at a rally in Huntington, W. Va., on Aug. 3. President Trump dismissed allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia at a rally in Huntington, W. Va., on Aug. 3. (The Washington Post)

President Trump dismissed allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia at a rally in Huntington, W. Va., on Aug. 3. (The Washington Post)

Having the center report to him was designed “to send a signal to the workforce that this was important and we weren’t going to tolerate misbehavior,” he said at a security conference in Aspen, Colo., last month.

CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani described the suggestion that Pompeo might abuse his position as “ridiculous.”

Executive-order guidelines prohibit the CIA from passing information to the White House “for the purpose of affecting the political process in the United States,” Trapani said. “The FBI and special counsel’s office are leading the law enforcement investigation into this matter — not CIA. CIA is providing relevant information in support of that investigation, and neither the director nor CIA will interfere with it.”

Pompeo, 53, arrived as director at the CIA just days after Trump delivered a self-aggrandizing post-inaugural speech at agency headquarters. Appearing before a wall of carved granite stars that commemorate CIA officers killed in the line of duty, Trump used the occasion to browbeat the media and make false claims about the size of his inauguration crowds.

Pompeo has worked to overcome that inauspicious start, winning over many in the CIA workforce with his vocal support for aggressive intelligence gathering, his command of complex global issues and his influence at the White House. Pompeo spends several hours there almost every day, according to officials who said he has developed a strong rapport with the president.

But Pompeo is also known for berating subordinates, aggressively challenging agency analysts and displaying the fierce partisanship that became his signature while serving as a GOP member of Congress.

When asked about Russian election interference, Pompeo often becomes testy and recites talking points that seem designed to appease a president who rejects the allegations as “fake news” conjured by Democrats to delegitimize his election win.

“It is true” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Pompeo said at Aspen, “and the one before that, and the one before that . . . ”

The phrasing, which Pompeo has repeated in other settings, casts last year’s events as an unremarkable continuation of a long-standing pattern, rather than the unprecedented Kremlin operation described in a consensus report that the CIA and other agencies released in January.

Russia’s intervention in 2016 represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort,” the report concluded. Its goal went beyond seeking to discredit U.S. democratic processes, the report said, and in the end was aimed at trying “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances.”

Pompeo has taken more hawkish positions on other areas of tension with Russia, saying that Moscow intervened in Syria, for example, in part because “they love to stick it to America.”

Almost all CIA directors have had to find ways to manage a supposedly apolitical spy agency while meeting the demands of a president. But Trump, who has fired his FBI chief and lashed out at his attorney general over the Russia probe, appears to expect a particularly personal brand of loyalty.

“It is always a balancing act between a director’s access to the president and the need to protect CIA’s sensitive equities,” said John Sipher, a former senior CIA official who also served in Russia. “Pompeo clearly has a more difficult challenge in maintaining that balance than his predecessors given the obvious concerns with this president’s unique personality, obsession with charges against him, lack of knowledge and tendency to take impulsive action.”

Pompeo has shown a willingness to handle political assignments for the White House. Earlier this year, he and other officials were enlisted to make calls to news organizations — speaking on the condition of anonymity — to dispute a New York Times article about contacts between Russians and individuals tied to the Trump campaign. Pompeo has never publicly acknowledged his involvement in that effort.

He has also declined to address whether he was approached by Trump earlier this year — as other top intelligence officials were — to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion with Russia or to intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to urge the FBI to back off its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Pompeo has, by all accounts, a closer relationship with Trump than others who did field such requests, including Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.

Pompeo was exposed to Trump’s wrath over the Russia investigation on at least one occasion, officials said. He was among those present for a meeting at the White House earlier this year when Trump began complaining about the probe and, in front of Pompeo and others, asked what could be done about it.

Trapani, the CIA spokesman, declined to address the matter or say whether Pompeo has been questioned about it by Mueller. Pompeo’s conversations with Trump “are entitled to confidentiality,” Trapani said, adding that “the director has never been asked by the president to do anything inappropriate.”

Pompeo spends more time at the White House than his recent CIA predecessors and is seen as more willing to engage in policy battles. In interviews and public appearances, Pompeo has advocated ousting the totalitarian regime in North Korea, accused the Obama administration of “inviting” Russia into Syria and criticized the nuclear accord with Iran.

Pompeo has also come under scrutiny on social issues. As part of an effort to expand chaplain services to CIA employees — which Trapani said was in response to requests from the agency workforce — Pompeo has consulted with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-gay hate group. Perkins has described that characterization as “reckless.”

When Trump came under criticism for failing to specifically condemn Nazi sympathizers taking part in protests in Charlottesville — instead lamenting violence by “many sides” — Pompeo defended the president in a CBS interview, saying that Trump’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”

Pompeo inherited an agency that had undergone a major reorganization under his predecessor, combing analysts and operators in a constellation of “centers” responsible for geographic regions, as well as transnational issues such as terrorism.

Pompeo’s alterations have been minimal. He added two centers — one devoted to North Korea and the other to Iran. All but the counterintelligence unit fall under Pompeo’s deputy on the CIA organizational chart.

Pompeo, who met with Russian intelligence officials in Moscow in May, would have been entitled to full briefings from the counterintelligence center even without making that bureaucratic tweak. But asserting more control of the unit responsible for preventing leaks probably pleased Trump, who has accused U.S. spy agencies of engaging in a smear campaign to undermine his presidency.

U.S. intelligence officials have disputed that spy agencies are behind such leaks but acknowledge broader concerns about security issues, pointing to episodes including the CIA’s loss of a vast portion of its hacking arsenal, which was obtained this year by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

A descendant of the unit led by legendary CIA mole-hunter James Jesus Angleton, the counterintelligence center is run by a veteran female CIA officer who has served extensively overseas in Europe, East Asia and Russia. She was also one of the main authors of the CIA’s internal review of a deadly suicide bombing that killed seven agency employees in Khost, Afghanistan, in 2009.

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“I think she’s wary about the administration,” said a former colleague who also described her as “someone who would not fall in line” if she suspected interference in the center’s role. Preventing the center from sharing information with the bureau would be difficult — an FBI official serves as head of the center’s counterespionage unit.

Last year, the center played an important part in detecting Russian efforts to cultivate associates of the Trump campaign. Former CIA director John Brennan testified in May that he became “worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons” and alerted the FBI.

The center has since been enlisted to help answer questions about key moments in the timeline of Trump-Russia contacts, officials said, possibly including the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. held in June with a Russian lawyer.

“Who sent her on the mission — was it Russian intelligence or on her own initiative?” a former official said, referring to the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. “Mueller can’t do anything on that without the agency.”

Julie Tate, Adam Entous and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

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CIA Staff Reportedly Worried About Pompeo As FBI Pursues Russia Probe – Talking Points Memo

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As the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election moves forward under special counsel Robert Mueller, some staff members at the CIA are concerned about Director Mike Pompeo’s role overseeing the CIA subdivision working most closely with the FBI, according to a Thursday evening report in the Washington Post.

Upon becoming CIA director, Pompeo required that the CIA’s Counterintelligence Mission Center, which has passed on information to the FBI about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and continues to aide the FBI in its probe, report directly to him.

This move has made some staffers particularly wary of Pompeo’s leadership, per the Post, as he must balance his role leading the FBI with his loyalty to Trump. The CIA director has  downplayed the Russia probe and Russia’s election interference, telling attendees at a conference in Aspen, Colorado that Russia has interfered in several U.S. elections.

Per the Washington Post:

Pompeo has not impeded that work, officials said. But several officials said there is concern about what he might do if the CIA uncovered new information potentially damaging to Trump and Pompeo were forced to choose between protecting the agency or the president.

One unnamed CIA official told the Post that there is a “real concern for interference and politicization” with Pompeo and that some staff at the CIA worry “that if you were passing on something too dicey [to Pompeo] he would go to the White House with it.”

Asked about this, CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani told the newspaper that such concerns are “ridiculous.”

“The FBI and special counsel’s office are leading the law enforcement investigation into this matter — not CIA. CIA is providing relevant information in support of that investigation, and neither the director nor CIA will interfere with it,” he told the Post.

Read the full report here.

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What Does the Special Counsel Need to Prove?

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Despite intense debate about the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, there is broad agreement that “collusion” with the Russian government is at the heart of it. Yet that term, which is used on a daily basis on cable news, has no legal meaning. Mueller’s recent moves—from subpoenaing Paul Manafort’s financial records to working with a Ukrainian hacker—make more sense if you understand how working with the Russians can be a crime.

As a legal matter, what’s significant is whether an American “conspired” with a representative of the Russian government. Conspiracy is just a legal term that means an agreement to commit a crime. An American can also commit a crime by “aiding and abetting” a criminal act committed by someone else. That means that the American knew of the criminal activity and helped make it succeed. It is also a federal crime to actively conceal a felony, even after the crime has already been committed.

The common thread underlying all of these things is that the American has to know that a crime has been committed and somehow assist in committing or concealing it. Merely working with the Russians, receiving aid from the Russians or meeting with the Russians is not enough.

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So what underlying crime could Mueller be investigating? One obvious possibility is hacking the Democratic National Committee and subsequently releasing emails from it via WikiLeaks. Hacking U.S. servers is a crime that is frequently investigated and prosecuted—I handled some of those cases myself. Anyone who agreed to take part in an effort to hack the DNC’s servers committed a crime.

Related: Will Mueller’s probe spiral into disaster?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (center) departs the Capitol after a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign, on June 21. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

An American could join a Russian conspiracy to hack U.S. servers without ever speaking to the hackers, as long as they knew about the criminal activity and agreed to play a role in it. Conspirators don’t have to know everyone or everything involved a plot—once you join a conspiracy, you’re “all in” and are liable for all foreseeable acts of the other conspirators.

For example, an American who knew about a hacking operation and agreed to distribute or use stolen material could join a conspiracy without knowing the hackers or how the hacking took place. That person could also be charged with abetting the hacking if distributing the stolen material aided in the crime.

That explains why a recent New York Times report that a Ukrainian hacker is helping the FBI with the Russia probe could be important. In order to charge anyone with a crime connected with the Russian hacking, Mueller will first need to prove that the hacking occurred. The testimony of the hacker could establish that the crime occurred, who was responsible for it and how it happened.

The more difficult thing for Mueller to prove is whether an American knowingly joined a Russian criminal conspiracy or aided in one. That’s why recent reports that Mueller is focused on Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer is unsurprising, given the emails Trump Jr. released establish that he knew Moscow wanted to help his father’s campaign and he welcomed the assistance.

As I told The New York Times, that email string is not sufficient to prove that Trump Jr. joined a conspiracy. Again, Mueller needs to prove that Trump Jr. helped commit a crime or agreed to do so.

There are other unrelated criminal acts that Mueller could seek to prove in relation to that meeting. For example, it is a federal crime to receive material that you know is stolen, as long as it is worth more than $5,000 and it crosses state or international boundaries before you receive it. It is also a crime to offer to trade an official act, like reducing sanctions, in exchange for something of value.

Another crime is receiving a “contribution” from a foreign national. But as I told The Daily Beast, violating federal campaign law is not a crime unless it is done “knowingly” and “willfully.” That could be difficult to prove in the case of Trump Jr., although perhaps not for Manafort, who has a lot of campaign experience. Indeed, Mueller could establish Manafort’s state of mind regarding meetings with the Russians. As The Washington Post reported, the GOP operative rejected potential meetings with Moscow in emails that he sent before the Trump Jr. incident. In those emails, retired Admiral Charles Kubic raised concerns that a meeting could expose attendees to legal liability. A juror could conclude that such a correspondence show that Manafort was aware of the legal risks associated with the Trump Jr. meeting before he attended it.

Expect Mueller to interview everyone who attended the meeting and review all communications surrounding it. His primary purpose would be to understand what, if anything, came from it and whether there were subsequent and related talks between the Trump campaign and people who claim to represent the Russian government.

One thing we can be sure about is that Mueller’s inquiry will last many months. The recent suggestion by White House special counsel Ty Cobb that it should wrap up by Thanksgiving is disingenuous. Any lawyer with extensive experience with federal criminal investigations—and Cobb does—knows that a complex probe like this one could take years to complete.

Renato Mariotti was a federal prosecutor in Chicago for more than nine years, prosecuting many complex financial crimes and obstruction of justice cases.

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The 20 Key Questions Mueller’s Russia Investigation of Trump Must Answer

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This article first appeared on the Just Security site.

As speculation continues to swirl about President Donald Trump’s plans to put an end to the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the ongoing congressional inquiries take on even more significance.

Several committees are investigating overlapping issues related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential involvement of the Trump campaign. Here are 20 questions they must answer as they carry out their investigations.

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Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Election

Congress must provide the American people with a full accounting of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, including through cyber operations, leaking stolen private communications, and spreading of demonstrably false facts.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty

1. What was the extent of Russian cyber operations focused on voter information held by states?

Publicly available information suggests that Russian agents attempted to penetrate “election systems” in up to 39 states and attempted to alter or delete records in the statewide voter registration database of at least one state, Illinois.

2. What was the extent of Russian cyber operations focused on infiltrating state election systems via a third party? Press reports indicate that the Russians successfully infiltrated the network of a company that sells voter registration software which would allow it to manipulate this data.

3. What was the extent of Russian cyber operations focused on obtaining the confidential communications of private parties and releasing damaging information? The theft of the emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has been publicly reported.

4. What was the extent of Russian propaganda efforts to influence the election and what methods were used? Publicly reported efforts include the release of emails stolen from the DNC and the Clinton campaign supplemented by the use of human agent and robot computer programs to spread disinformation about these emails and the use of Twitter bots to spread fake news stories about Clinton (e.g., that she had Parkinson’s disease and had murdered a DNC staffer, and that her aides ran a pedophile ring in the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor).

5. Which elements of the Russian government and intermediaries or proxies were involved in these efforts?

6. What was the purpose of their efforts? The intelligence community has concluded the Russian government intended to promote Trump’s candidacy and undermine Clinton’s campaign, an assertion that the president contests – Congress should come to a conclusion on this point.

Is it possible to gauge the impact of Russian interference in the 2016 election and could measures be put in place to do so in the future?

7. What measures should the United States take to prevent such interference in future elections? Is legislation needed to clarify that cooperation with foreign actors in elections is a criminal offense?

Trump Ties to Russia

It is critical that Congress scrutinize connections between Trump and his associates and the Russian government and associated individuals and entities, both to determine whether the Trump campaign cooperated with the Russian attempt to influence the election and whether business dealings between Trump or his associates with Russian entities create vulnerabilities or financial incentives that could be exploited to the detriment of U.S. national interests.

8. Starting from the time of the party primaries in 2015, what contacts did Trump and individuals and entities associated with the Trump campaign have with Russian individuals or entities?

Have these individuals and entities followed legal requirements with respect to such contacts (e.g., registration as foreign agent, reporting of income, and disclosure on security clearance forms) and if not, why not?

The campaign’s denials of contacts with Russians have dissolved in the face of repeated instances where close Trump associates – including Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions  – were found to have met or communicated privately with individuals who are reportedly connected to the Russian government.

9. What was the purpose of these contacts? Donald Trump Jr. released emails showing that he had enthusiastically accepted an invitation to obtain information being proffered on behalf of the Russian government that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.

Did other contacts similarly involve either offers of assistance to the Trump campaign by Russia or offers of assistance to Russia (or Russian interests) by the Trump campaign?

10. What was the extent of the Russian government’s effort to instigate the repeal of the Magnitsky Actand were Trump’s associates involved in these efforts?

11. Is there any evidence – direct or circumstantial – to suggest that Trump was aware of, sanctioned or approved, or directed contacts between his associates and Russian government proxies?

12. What is the full extent of past or existing business dealings between the president and his associates in Russia or with Russian nationals or entities?

Do any of these deals or relationships give Russia leverage over Trump or his associates – for example, if they were illegal or inappropriate, if they are continuing to provide a benefit to Trump’s businesses or associates, or if they resulted in significant debts being owed by Trump or his associates to Russia or Russian nationals?

13. What efforts did the Trump campaign or administration make that would benefit Russia and is there any indication of influence from Russia for these moves? Were moves such as removing the plank of the Republican Party platform that supported sending arms to Ukraine, attempts to try to roll back sanctions against Russia, or a reported deal to give back Russian intelligence-collecting compounds seized by the Obama administration attempts to appease Russia?

14. Is our system of checks and balances sufficiently robust to detect and prevent conflicts of interest on the part of the president or are additional measures, such as legislation requiring greater disclosure of financial information and business interests, needed?

Obstruction of Justice

Regardless of whether the president can be criminally indicted for obstruction of justice, Congress has a duty to ascertain whether he attempted to hinder or influence the FBI’s investigation of issues relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Presidential interference with law enforcement investigations is incompatible with the rule of law.

15. Did President Trump ask former FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, as indicated by Comey’s sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee and his contemporaneous record of the meeting?

Did he ask other government officials – such as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo – to intervene with Comey on his behalf?

16. Did the president ask Comey to pledge loyalty, as indicated by Comey’s sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee and his contemporaneous record of the meeting?

17. Did Comey request additional resources for the Russia investigation the week before he was dismissed; if so, was this information communicated to the White House?

18. Under what circumstances did Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Attorney General Sessions undertake to prepare their May 9, 2017 recommendation to dismiss Comey?

What was the nature and extent of their communications with the White House and the Justice Department about the recommendation, both before and after it was made?

19. Why did Trump dismiss Comey?

Was he motivated solely by Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, as administration spokespersons originally claimed, or was he at least partially motivated by Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation, as publicly stated by the president?

20. Are further measures needed to insulate the FBI or the Department of Justice from political interference?

Faiza Patel is Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. She was a senior policy officer at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

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Inside Robert Mueller’s Army

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In a secure location in southwest Washington, D.C., with access to a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility for classified material, 16 of the country’s top lawyers have passed the last several months working on an investigation that will likely be as consequential as it is secretive.

The following details—gleaned from conversations with people familiar with President Donald Trump’s legal team, as well as intelligence experts and friends of the people working for special counsel Robert Mueller—help explain the broad range of legal and counterintelligence experts he’s assembled. Mueller has essentially built his own miniature Justice Department.

Andrew Weissmann

Weissmann has spent most of his career in the Justice Department—first in the Eastern District of New York, and now at Main Justice. He’s on detail from his position overseeing fraud prosecutions to work with Mueller.

It isn’t their first tour of duty together. Weissmann was Mueller’s general counsel at the FBI for years.

A former FBI official who worked with him there told The Daily Beast that unlike many government attorneys, Weissmann rarely equivocated or dilly-dallied about decisions.

“He was not a paper tiger,” the former official said.

The former official said Weissmann argued doggedly for the FBI’s positions when officials there disagreed with the legal views of attorneys at DOJ headquarters—and was sometimes willing to raise his voice and use obscenities.

“This isn’t gonna fuckin’ stand!” Weissmann yelled at one meeting where FBI officials discussed their differences with the Justice Department, according to that source.

It’s a trait that won him fans at the FBI, and countless foes among criminal defense lawyers. Weissmann generated enormous anger for the hardball tactics he used when he ran the Enron probe—especially his prosecution of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which resulted in more than 20,000 people losing their jobs and zero convictions. One prominent white collar defense attorney vowed that Weissmann would never work in private practice because he was so despised over the Andersen case. Despite that, Weissmann made a pit stop at the private firm Jenner & Block for a few years before returning to the FBI.

James Quarles

Quarles is part of the old guard of Washington lawyers and worked on the Watergate prosecution. Besides Mueller himself, Quarles seems to deal with Trump’s legal team more than just about anybody else on the probe.

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“Ty [Cobb, one of the president’s lawyers] and I have had excellent relations with [Quarles] and Bob [Mueller], and we are very much appreciative,” said John Dowd, one of the president’s attorneys.

Along with Weissmann, Quarles is one of the most senior people on Mueller’s team. A person familiar with Mueller’s management style said it’s safe to assume Weissmann and Quarles have managerial roles on the probe.

Quarles was a partner at WilmerHale—the predominantly Democratic law firm where Mueller worked before becoming the special counsel—along with a host of other attorneys involved in the probe.

Those include Jamie Gorelick, who was second in command at the Justice Department under Janet Reno and who has represented Jared Kushner on issues related to his security clearance; and Reg Brown, also a partner at the firm, who represented Paul Manafort until about two weeks ago. (Multiple sources told The Daily Beast that Manafort is facing financial strain because of legal costs.)

Aaron Zebley

Zebley is a Mueller whisperer. He was Mueller’s chief of staff at the FBI, often acting as a go-between for Mueller and the bureau’s senior officials, according to Ron Hosko, formerly an assistant FBI director. Mueller mentored Zebley and guided him through the bureau, according to a former DOJ official.

Zebley seems to have a pretty good poker face.

“You could you be giving him your view and he could be thinking, ‘This guy’s a complete idiot’ or ‘This information is completely misshaped!’ and you’d never know,” said a former FBI official who worked with him.

Zebley accompanied Mueller when he briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee on his investigation, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Jeannie Rhee

Besides Weissmann, Rhee is the attorney whose presence on Mueller’s team has most irked the president’s allies. She previously represented the Clinton Foundation and was an official in the Justice Department’s prestigious Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the Obama administration.

A person familiar with the president’s legal team said its representatives have tried to communicate to the special counsel that they worry Rhee’s presence on the team could result in it moving in a partisan direction.

People who know Rhee say that’s laughable. John Bies, who worked alongside her in OLC, said Rhee felt deep personal responsibility for the work of the office.

“She was anxious and had a real sense of responsibility about getting it right,” he told The Daily Beast.

Rhee was also a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., where she worked on the prosecution of teachers’ union officials who embezzled millions of dollars to buy tickets to Wizards games and fur coats, according to The Washington Post. And though conservative media figures have criticized Rhee for past contributions to Democrats, she supported the confirmation of Republican Rachel Brand as associate attorney general.

Michael Dreeben

A longtime Washington attorney told The Daily Beast it’s unthinkable that Mueller would have executed the search warrant to raid Manafort’s house without the sign-off of Michael Dreeben.

On the team investigating Russian interference, Dreeben’s legend is second only to that of Mueller’s. Dreeben has spent years in the solicitor general’s office of the Justice Department and has argued before the Supreme Court more than 100 times.

Numerous Washington lawyers said he knows more about U.S. criminal law than anyone else on the planet. One attorney described him as “a demigod of the legal world, respected and feared by everyone in the realm of criminal law.”

Peter Vincent, a former senior DHS official, said Dreeben is an “absolute superstar.” Harold Koh, the top lawyer at the State Department under President Barack Obama, called Dreeben a “brilliant, brilliant lawyer.”

“He’s extremely rational, like Mr. Spock,” Koh added. “He’s not a joker.”

Bies, who has also worked with Dreeben, said the Star Trek comparison was apt “only if you recognize that Dr. Spock was half human, and has emotions in addition to rationality.”

Andrew Goldstein

Goldstein is one of a handful of New Yorkers who headed to D.C. to work on the probe. He’s on detail from his post as head of the Southern District of New York’s public corruption unit. Before taking that job—where he prosecuted New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and helped dismantle the Liberty Reserve criminal enterprise, which laundered hundreds of millions of dollars using online currency—he was a staff writer for Time magazine, where he covered the Columbine shooting.

Goldstein is the son of Jonathan Goldstein, who was the United States attorney for the District of New Jersey. President Richard Nixon nominated him for that post in 1974.

Elkan Abramowitz, a criminal defense attorney who has practiced in New York for years and has dealt with Andrew Goldstein on legal matters, said he’s widely respected.

“What really is important about him is his judgment,” Abramowitz told The Daily Beast. “He’s very temperate and solid. I would trust his judgment. For example, if he were to conclude that there was insufficient evidence, his judgment could be relied on. If he were to conclude otherwise, his judgment also could be relied on.”

Elizabeth Prelogar

Before heading to the firm Hogan and Lovells and then to the solicitor general’s office, Elizabeth Prelogar was a Fulbright scholar in Russia (and speaks Russian). Neal Katyal, who worked with Prelogar and Dreeben as acting solicitor general during the Obama administration, said she was “perhaps the best young lawyer with whom I have ever worked.”

“If I were hand-picking a team of the very best lawyers in the nation, regardless of whatever the issues in a case may be, both of them would be at the top of the list,” he added, “and I know that sentiment is shared by both Republican and Democratic lawyers alike.”

Prelogar is widely viewed as a rising star in the Justice Department.

Brandon Van Grack

Brandon Van Grack is referred to by friends as “BVG.” Josh Geltzer, who heads Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, worked down the hall from Van Grack when they were both in the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

“It would absolutely make sense that a small team like this would want him at their core because of how impossible it is not to get along with him,” Geltzer said.

Van Grack prosecuted counter-espionage cases and is on loan to the probe from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he is on the national security and international crime unit.

Van Grack has prosecuted a host of crimes that seem to provide extremely relevant experience for his work with Mueller. He’s gone after a member of the Assad-aligned Syrian Electronic Army, helped lock up an Iranian national who tried to smuggle sophisticated technology out of the U.S., and helped successfully prosecute a Michigander who tried to spy for China.

His biggest claim to fame, though—and “fame” may be too strong a word here—is his work prosecuting Ardit Ferizi, a hacker who shared a kill list with ISIS. That was the first time the Justice Department convicted a hacker for providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Rush Atkinson

Like Van Grack, Atkinson has worked in the Eastern District of Virginia on espionage cases and in the DOJ’s National Security Division. He’s on detail to the special counsel from the fraud section of the DOJ’s criminal division, where he worked under Weissmann.

Zainab Ahmad

Of the younger lawyers on Mueller’s team, Ahmad has by far the highest profile. The New Yorker profiled her earlier this year because she has successfully prosecuted 13 terrorism suspects, according to the magazine, and has yet to lose in court.

Aaron Zelinsky

Zelinsky, who went to Yale for undergrad and law school, clerked for Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee. He also worked under Rod Rosenstein when he was U.S. attorney for Maryland—two GOP-friendly résumé lines that critics of the Mueller probe never mention.

Zelinsky also worked under Koh at the State Department during the Obama administration, where he helped handle hostage negotiations. When American journalist Clare Gillis was held hostage in Libya, Koh said Zelinsky spoke with her family every night.

“The guy was mid- to late-20s, talking to a family that doesn’t know whether their daughter is alive or dead, and are eager for scraps of info,” Koh said. “And he showed tremendous discretion. He never over-promised.”

Koh said Zelinsky also had impressive foresight. At one point, the State Department determined Gillis’s captors were moving her toward Tripoli.

“Aaron comes to me and says, ‘I think we need to call NATO HQ and tell them not to bomb that road,’” Koh said.

Gillis was ultimately freed, along with fellow hostage James Foley. Foley was later taken captive in Syria and beheaded in 2014 by ISIS fighters.

Adam Jed

Jed is one of the only people on Mueller’s team who has never worked as a prosecutor. The Harvard Law graduate has held several posts in the Justice Department, most recently handling appellate litigation in the Civil Division.

“He’s a very smart careful appellate lawyer,” said Bies. “The fact that him and the other solicitor general’s office people were brought in shows Mueller’s playing the long game and thinking carefully about where things will go—not just in the investigation, but down the road when they have to litigate issues in the courts.”

One attorney who practices federal criminal defense noted that Jed has experience handling asset forfeiture, which could be useful if the probe deals with property purchased using criminal proceeds.

Greg Andres

Like Weissmann and Ahmad, Andres worked in the Eastern District of New York U.S. attorney’s office—where Judge Beryl Howell, who is overseeing Mueller’s D.C. grand jury, and former attorney general Loretta Lynch were also prosecutors. During Andres’ time in Brooklyn, he worked on organized crime cases, just like Weissmann.

Andres’ wife, Judge Ronnie Abrams, recused herself from two cases involving the Trump family because of her husband’s work.

Andres is one of the most celebrated trial lawyers currently practicing law. He prosecuted mafia figures and white collar criminals before going into private practice.

In an interview with Law360 published in May 2016, Andres said trial lawyers should always project confidence.

“Be confident, straightforward and well prepared,” he said. “Judges, juries and adversaries can sense a lack of conviction and are unforgiving with respect to overstatement or misrepresentations. Emphasize the strengths of your case but acknowledge and concede the weak facts or legal precedent. Failing to cite adverse authority or hiding bad facts can be devastating.”

In conclusion

To be sure, the most interesting parts of Mueller’s investigation are likely happening far from public view. Most of the coverage of the probe has focused on its criminal component. But Mueller’s top priority is likely a counterespionage operation, which James Comey confirmed was underway when he testified before Congress (and before his firing).

Naveed Jamali, a former double agent for the FBI who dealt with Russian espionage in the U.S., said this part of the effort won’t necessarily have to do with criminal charges or court proceedings.

“The goal with a counterintelligence operation is to detect and neutralize threats,” said Jamali, author of How to Catch a Russian Spy. “That’s it. If you apply that to the Mueller probe, anything that was used by the Russians against us during the election is a threat that has to be neutralized. That doesn’t mean that it has to be brought to court.”

Simply proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who interfered with the 2016 election on behalf of Russia and how they did it would be a significant success for the probe, he added.

“The legal part of this is so fucking boring,” he added. “This is a counterintelligence operation first and foremost.”

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CNN: Probe Investigators Find Another Email From A Trump Top Aide About A Russia Meeting

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Rick Dearborn sent an email to campaign officials with information about a person trying to connect them with Putin, CNN said.

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Thursday’s Morning Email: Government Shutdown Threat Looms Over Border Wall Faceoff

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Neither side looks ready to compromise.

Will Trump Be the Death of the Goldwater Rule?

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At his rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Donald Trump remarked, of his decision to take on the Presidency, “Most people think I’m crazy to have done this. And I think they’re right.”

A strange consensus does appear to be forming around Trump’s mental state. Following Trump’s unhinged Phoenix speech, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said on CNN, “I really question his … fitness to be in this office,” describing the address as “scary and disturbing” and characterizing Trump as a “complete intellectual, moral, and ethical void.” Last week, following Trump’s doubling-down on blaming “many sides” for white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Senator Bob Corker, a Republican of Tennessee, said that the President “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs” to lead the country. Last Friday, Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat of California, introduced a resolution urging a medical and psychiatric evaluation of the President, pointing to an “alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties.” Lofgren asked, in a press release, “Does the President suffer from early stage dementia? Has the stress of office aggravated a mental illness crippling impulse control? Has emotional disorder so impaired the President that he is unable to discharge his duties? Is the President mentally and emotionally stable?”

The class of professionals best equipped to answer these questions has largely abstained from speaking publicly about the President’s mental health. The principle known as the “Goldwater rule” prohibits psychiatrists from giving professional opinions about public figures without personally conducting an examination, as Jane Mayer wrote in this magazine in May. After losing the 1964 Presidential election, Senator Barry Goldwater successfully sued Fact magazine for defamation after it published a special issue in which psychiatrists declared him “severely paranoid” and “unfit” for the Presidency. For a public figure to prevail in a defamation suit, he must demonstrate that the defendant acted with “actual malice”; a key piece of evidence in the Goldwater case was Fact’s disregard of a letter from the American Psychiatric Association warning that any survey of psychiatrists who hadn’t clinically examined Goldwater was invalid.

The Supreme Court denied Fact’s cert petition, which hoped to vindicate First Amendment rights to free speech and a free press. But Justice Hugo Black, joined by William O. Douglas, dissented, writing, “The public has an unqualified right to have the character and fitness of anyone who aspires to the Presidency held up for the closest scrutiny. Extravagant, reckless statements and even claims which may not be true seem to me an inevitable and perhaps essential part of the process by which the voting public informs itself of the qualities of a man who would be President.”

These statements, of course, resonate today. President Trump has unsuccessfully pursued many defamation lawsuits over the years, leading him to vow during the 2016 campaign to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” (One of his most recent suits, dismissed in 2016, concerned a Univision executive’s social-media posting of side-by-side photos of Trump and Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015; Trump alleged that the posting falsely accused him of inciting similar acts.)

The left-leaning psychiatric community was shamed by the Fact episode for having confused political objection and medical judgment, and came under pressure from the American Medical Association, whose members had largely supported Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson. The A.P.A. adopted the Goldwater rule in 1973; Dr. Alan Stone, my colleague at Harvard Law School, was at the time the only member of the A.P.A.’s board to oppose the rule, as a denial of free speech “and of every psychiatrist’s God-given right to make a fool of himself or herself.” Stone, who has served on the A.P.A.’s appeals board, told me that a few members over the years have been sanctioned or warned for Goldwater-rule violations, but that the A.P.A. eventually gave up enforcing it, because of the difficulty of providing due process to the accused.

The psychoanalyst Justin Frank, a clinical professor at George Washington University, simply resigned from the A.P.A. in 2003 before publishing his book “Bush on the Couch.” He went on to write “Obama on the Couch,” and is now at work on “Trump on the Couch.” Frank says that the Goldwater rule forces psychiatrists to neglect a duty to share their knowledge with fellow-citizens. “I think it’s fear of being shunned by colleagues,” he told me. “It’s not about ethics.” Had he examined Trump, of course, he would be bound by confidentiality not to speak about him. But Frank believes that restraining psychiatrists from speaking about a President based on publicly available information is like telling economists not to speak about the economy, or keeping lawyers from commenting on legal cases in the public eye.

The A.P.A. reaffirmed and arguably expanded the Goldwater rule in March, stating that it applies not only to a “diagnosis” but also to “an opinion about the affect, behavior, speech, or other presentation of an individual that draws on the skills, training, expertise, and/or knowledge inherent in the practice of psychiatry.” The upshot is the attempted removal of more than thirty-seven thousand A.P.A. members from a key public conversation, during a moment when their knowledge and authority might aid the public in responsibly assessing the President. The other major mental-health professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with double the membership, also reconfirmed its version of the Goldwater rule. The much smaller American Psychoanalytic Association told its more than three thousand members last month to feel free to comment about political figures—a reprieve more symbolic than practical, since many members concurrently belong to the American Psychiatric Association.

Some assume that simply opting out of voluntary membership in a professional organization frees a person to speak. But versions of the Goldwater rule exist in state licensing-board standards for psychologists and physicians. Some states adopt wholesale the American Psychological Association’s ethical principles as their standard of conduct for licensed psychologists, or have provisions warning that physicians can face disciplinary action for violating a professional medical association’s code of ethics. Dr. Leonard Glass, who practices in one such state, Massachusetts, observed last month, in the Boston Globe, that even if nobody has actually lost his or her license for violating the Goldwater rule, “it is not trivial to be reported to your licensing board for an ethics violation.” This restraint on speech may violate the First Amendment, because, by speaking, practitioners stand to attract state censure, not just disapproval by private organizations. (Disclosure: As a lawyer, I have considered a potential lawsuit based on this First Amendment claim.) It is especially odd to see a muzzling of speech about political figures and elected officials when it is routine for mental-health experts in legal cases to offer opinions based on information from files, without an in-person examination—for example, to help assess how dangerous a person is.

A congressional bill introduced in April proposes establishing a commission to oversee “Presidential capacity,” laying down a path that the Twenty-fifth Amendment allows for involuntary removal of a President. Section 4 of that Amendment provides that a congressionally appointed body can determine that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Psychiatrists’ participation in this constitutional process will depend on their appetite for professional opprobrium.

After Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks about North Korea, earlier this month, Dr. Bandy Lee, a professor of psychiatry at Yale Medical School, sent her second letter about Trump to all members of Congress, warning that his “severe emotional impediments” pose “a grave threat to international security.” Four colleagues joined her this time, but, she told me, “In the beginning, I was trying to write letters to Congress members and I couldn’t get anyone to sign on, even though nobody disagreed.” Her book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” forthcoming in October, collects essays by more than a dozen mental-health experts and makes the case that the Trump Presidency is an emergency that not only allows but may even require psychiatrists to depart from the Goldwater rule. Seeking contributors, Dr. Lee was mindful that most colleagues would be nervous walking the tightrope, so she approached prominent writers who might have enough stature to withstand criticism, including Philip Zimbardo, Judith Herman, Robert Jay Lifton, and Gail Sheehy. (Next month, Dr. Lee will have a closed meeting with several as-yet-unnamed lawmakers to advise them on how Congress might convene mental-health professionals to review the President’s state of mind.)

Many Presidents in our history appear to have served while managing various forms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, social phobia, and bipolar disorder. President Ronald Reagan’s staff, for example, worried about signs of dementia. Concerned about Richard Nixon’s paranoia and heavy drinking in his last days in office, his Defense Secretary is claimed to have told the Joint Chiefs to disregard any White House military orders. But Trump is the only President to be the subject of sustained public discussion about his mental competence and fitness for office.

The Constitution contemplates, by virtue of the First Amendment, that we may freely raise concerns about elected officials, and also that in the extreme circumstance envisioned in the Twenty-fifth Amendment, medical professionals would be free to help us understand whether the President can fulfill his duties. If those who know most are the least free to speak, neither Amendment can function properly. The Goldwater rule was an overreaction to psychiatrists wielding their professional badge to do politics. Today, the profession risks protecting itself from the taint of politics by withholding expertise from a vital public debate—a situation that seems no less irresponsible.

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Hundreds of pages of new details on Trump-Russia dossier and Pee Pee Tape are on verge of being released

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Over the past year, large chunks of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier have been proven, and not one word of it has been disproven, yet the mainstream media has still continued to refer to it as “unverified” for no good reason. Now it turns out we’re on the verge of getting hundreds of pages of additional details and supporting evidence in relation to that dossier.

The Trump-Russia dossier was assembled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele at the behest of an opposition research company named Fusion GPS. It alleged that the Russian government spent years cultivating Donald Trump while also building up blackmail material on him (including the mythical “Pee Pee Tape”), and that the Trump campaign and Russia actively colluded to rig the election in Trump’s favor. Partly because the dossier was so widely and baselessly antagonized by the mainstream media, thus creating the false perception that it had been “debunked” or discredited, it’s taken until now for Congress to get around to formally addressing it. But that changed in a big way this week.

Glenn Simpson from Fusion GPS testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in what ended up being ten hours of closed hearings on Monday. The upshot is that the company firmly stands behind the research in the Trump-Russia dossier. Now the public has begun calling for transcripts of the testimony to be released. Simpson has said he has no problem with his testimony being released. Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican Chair of that committee, was asked about it during a town hall tonight.

Rachel Maddow ended up airing the relevant portion of that town hall during her MSNBC show. Grassley affirmed that he’ll have the committee vote on whether to release the transcripts, and he stated that barring any hang-ups, he doesn’t see any reason why he won’t vote “yes” himself. The committee has eleven Republicans and nine Democrats, so it would only take Grassley and one other Republican voting “yes” (along with all of the Democrats) for the transcripts to be released.

This means we’re on the verge of getting our hands on ten hours of testimony about the Trump-Russia dossier, the Pee Pee tape, and everything else alleged in it. Ten hours of testimony roughly translates to around five hundred pages of transcripts. And so unless Chuck Grassley goes back on his word, we’re about to learn what the real story is behind everything that the dossier says.


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Bill Palmer is the founder and editor in chief of the political news outlet Palmer Report

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James Clapper: Concerned by ‘Jekyll Hyde’ Trump pattern

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Story highlights

  • Clapper emphasized he was speaking as a private citizen
  • Clapper questions Trump’s “fitness” to hold the presidency following Trump’s divisive campaign rally in Arizona

Washington (CNN)Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated his concern about President Donald Trump’s ability to effectively lead the country on Wednesday night.

“What caused concern is this … Jekyll-Hyde business where he’ll make a scripted teleprompter speech, which is good, and then turn around and negate it by sort of, unbridled, unleashed, unchaperoned Trump. And that to me — that pattern — is very disturbing,” Clapper told Jim Sciutto in an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

Clapper emphasized he was speaking as a private citizen and not as a member of the intelligence community.

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.

Clapper — a CNN national security analyst — had

questioned Trump’s “fitness”

 to hold the office of the President less than 24 hours earlier. That came during a “CNN Tonight” appearance early Wednesday, following Trump’s divisive campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday night.

“I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday morning after the rally had ended.

On Monday

, Trump portrayed a more polished version of himself as he announced the United States’ new strategy for Afghanistan. But his tone shifted when he spoke to a crowd of supporters Tuesday night at

 the Phoenix campaign rally, 

where he accused the media of misrepresenting him in its coverage, among other things.

Clapper said, “I cannot make any comment about his mental health, his sanity or any of that sort of thing. All that I can comment on really is the behavior I’ve observed, and I find that worrisome.”

As Syria war tightens, U.S. and Russia military hotlines humming

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AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (Reuters) – Even as tensions between the United States and Russia fester, there is one surprising place where their military-to-military contacts are quietly weathering the storm: Syria.

It has been four months since U.S. President Donald Trump ordered cruise missile strikes against a Syrian airfield after an alleged chemical weapons attack.

In June, the U.S. military shot down a Syrian fighter aircraft, the first U.S. downing of a manned jet since 1999, and also shot down two Iranian-made drones that threatened U.S.-led coalition forces.

All the while, U.S. and Russian military officials have been regularly communicating, U.S. officials told Reuters. Some of the contacts are helping draw a line on the map that separates U.S.- and Russian-backed forces waging parallel campaigns on Syria’s shrinking battlefields.

There is also a telephone hotline linking the former Cold War foes’ air operations centers. U.S. officials told Reuters that there now are about 10 to 12 calls a day on the hotline, helping keep U.S. and Russian warplanes apart as they support different fighters on the ground.

That is no small task, given the complexities of Syria’s civil war. Moscow backs the Syrian government, which also is aided by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah as it claws back territory from Syrian rebels and Islamic State fighters.

The U.S. military is backing a collection of Kurdish and Arab forces focusing their firepower against Islamic State, part of a strategy to collapse the group’s self-declared “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq.

Reuters was given rare access to the U.S. Air Force’s hotline station, inside the Qatar-based Combined Air Operations Area, last week, including meeting two Russian linguists, both native speakers, who serve as the U.S. interface for conversations with Russian commanders.

While the conversations are not easy, contacts between the two sides have remained resilient, senior U.S. commanders said.

“The reality is we’ve worked through some very hard problems and, in general, we have found a way to maintain the deconfliction line (that separates U.S. and Russian areas of operation) and found a way to continue our mission,” Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, the top U.S. Air Force commander in the Middle East, said in an interview.

As both sides scramble to capture what is left of Islamic State’s caliphate, the risk of accidental contacts is growing.

“We have to negotiate, and sometimes the phone calls are tense. Because for us, this is about protecting ourselves, our coalition partners and destroying the enemy,” Harrigian said, without commenting on the volume of calls.

The risks of miscalculation came into full view in June, when the United States shot down a Syrian Su-22 jet that was preparing to fire on U.S.-backed forces on the ground.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those were not the only aircraft in the area. As the incident unfolded, two Russian fighter jets looked on from above and a American F-22 stealth aircraft kept watch from an even higher altitude, they told Reuters.

After the incident, Moscow publicly warned it would consider any planes flying west of the Euphrates River to be targets. But the U.S. military kept flying in the area, and kept talking with Russia.

“The Russians have been nothing but professional, cordial and disciplined,” Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the Iraq-based commander of the U.S.-led coalition, told Reuters.

DIVIDING LINE DOWN THE EUPHRATES

In Syria, U.S.-backed forces are now consumed with the battle to capture Islamic State’s former capital of Raqqa. More than half the city has been retaken from Islamic State.

Officials said talks were underway to extend a demarcation line that has been separating U.S.- and Russian-backed fighters on the ground as fighting pushes toward Islamic State’s last major Syrian stronghold, the Deir al-Zor region.

The line runs in an irregular arc from a point southwest of Tabqa east to a point on the Euphrates River and then down along the Euphrates River in the direction of Deir al-Zor, they said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, during a visit to Jordan this week, said the line was important as U.S.- and Russian-backed forces come in closer proximity of each other.

“We do not do that (communication) with the (Syrian) regime. It is with the Russians, is who we’re dealing with,” Mattis said.

“We continue those procedures right on down the Euphrates River Valley.”

Bisected by the Euphrates River, Deir al-Zor and its oil resources are critical to the Syrian state.

The province is largely in the hands of Islamic State, but has become a priority for pro-Syrian forces. It also is in the crosshairs of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters last week that there would be an SDF campaign toward Deir al-Zor “in the near future,” though the SDF was still deciding whether it would be delayed until Raqqa was fully taken from Islamic State.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by John Walcott, Toni Reinhold

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FBI probe of Clinton’s emails prompted by espionage fears, secret letters say

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peter strzok – Google Search

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Story image for peter strzok from Business Insider

A top FBI investigator has unexpectedly stepped away from special …

Business InsiderAug 16, 2017
Peter Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence investigator, is now working for the FBI’s human resources division, according to ABC. It is unclear …

Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation – Google Search

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Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from Newsweek

Lovers’ Quarrel: TrumpPutin and the World’s Most Dangerous …

NewsweekAug 10, 2017
President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake … A subsequent investigationdiscovered that around 4,000 targeted emails were …. attempts to get the Russian Embassy’s dachas reopened in May, but …

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from Tablet Magazine

October 3, 2016: Netanyahu tasks deep cover Mossad agent …

Tablet MagazineAug 7, 2017
… to Congress reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email … November 9, 2016: Netanyahu congratulates Trump on his election …

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from The Week Magazine

What happened? What happened?! You blew it, Hillary.

The Week MagazineJul 29, 2017
The point isn’t that Comey and Putin and unsavory political views played no role. … that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server, … Trump campaign collusion) hadn’t broken into John Podesta’s email …

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from IVN News

From Russia Meddling to DNC Incompetence: Where We Are and …

IVN NewsAug 11, 2017
I just finished reading “TrumpPutin, and The New Cold War” that … saying the bureau was reopeningits investigation into Ms. Clinton’s emails, …
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4 reasons why many Northeast Philly Russians still support Trump

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Across from Independence Hall, a street artist recently was drawing a poster with two men she clearly did not admire, President Trump and Vladimir Putin. They were depicted as trampling on the U.S. flag, and on the Liberty Bell between them was a sign reading, “Sold.” Above the picture the artist had written, “Stop selling us to the Russians, Trump.”

Her message reflects what many people in Philadelphia think about the accusations of collusion in last year’s U.S. election, Many, but not everyone.

The city’s Northeast section is home to a large number of Russian Americans. Along Bustleton Avenue, caviar and pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings) are sold in the supermarkets. Signs in Cyrillic letters advertise shoe stores, pharmacies, and hairdressers. Many here do not share the concerns of the street artist downtown. “Everything will be OK” is the common refrain among saleswomen in local stores when asked about Trump. “He can change the country for the benefit of the people.”

Signs on Russian-owned businesses in Northeast Philadelphia.

The word Russian for this community is not entirely correct. Many immigrants and their families came from Russia, but even more from Ukraine, or Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics. Some began arriving in the 1970s, when Moscow lifted the Iron Curtain a little bit and allowed Jews to emigrate. What connects the immigrants from all the former Soviet republics is their common history and language.

Many of them voted for Trump and continue to support him despite his low approval ratings and the turmoil of his first six months in office. As for the allegations of collusion, many Russian Americans dismiss them as part of a conspiracy, disruptive actions by Democrats and the media.

“Trump was presumed guilty and now they are trying to find proof,” says Diane Glikman, 45, host of a Russian-language program on the internet. She represents a view among many along Bustleton that Trump could succeed politically if only given a chance.

I lived in Moscow for a few years and I also know the views of many immigrants from the former Soviet Union in Germany, my home country. There, conservative views predominate among the immigrants, especially among older citizens. More than a few praise Putin as a strong leader and a counterweight to the West, a person who represents their conservative views.

None of the people I spoke to in Philadelphia praised Putin. Gary Vulakh, 57, who came from Ukraine almost 40 years ago and runs a small jewelry repair shop, calls the Russian leader a “terrorist.” Others said the ongoing Russia hacking investigation makes Putin seem stronger than he is. “He is not so powerful,” says Malvina Yakobi, 57, the editorial director of the Russian-English newspaper Philadelphia News. Few believe the Kremlin could meddle in a U.S. election. “Could they do anything like that?” Vulakh wonders. “Everything is done by the Democrats to impeach Trump.”

The Russians in Philadelphia may not fully support Trump’s friendliness toward Putin, but they still back the U.S. president overall, roughly for four reasons.

First, they wish for good relations between the United States and Russia, which they believe will promote peaceful cohabitation and bring more stability to the world.

Second, many separate Trump’s admiration for Putin from his promises on domestic issues. Russian Americans, Yakobi explains, are “the biggest American patriots.” Having escaped the repressive Soviet Union, U.S. values such as freedom and justice are of the utmost importance. So, naturally, they want their new country to succeed.

Third, they like having a successful businessman in the White House instead of just another politician.They want to see a break from politics as usual and an establishment — what Yakobi calls the “corrupted” administration of President Barack Obama — that they see as ignoring the needs of too many in the country.

Fourth, though many themselves were newcomers to the United States, they like a president who promises to stop uncontrolled and illegal immigration. “We waited five or six years to get citizenship,” says Glikman. They earned their blue passports by learning the language and working hard, even in jobs that were far below their education level. They believe, as Glikman says, that Trump “is not against immigrants when they work hard.”

Though the community often leans Republican at election time — Democrats are seen as too “socialist,” like the government many Russian Americans fled — it is not monolithic in its support for the current president. In some cases, a vote for Trump was more a vote against Hillary Clinton. As Yakobi, who came to the United States from Georgia, says, last November’s election did not leave “a great choice.” And even though the president may be a role model for achieving the American dream, not all are on board. “Even within families, there are very different opinions,” Glikman notes. “The Russian community is split up … like the rest of the country.”

Oliver Bilger is a writer for Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper who is working with the Inquirer as part of the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship Programobilger@philly.com

Published: | Updated:

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Sentencing of Disgraced Former  Congressman Anthony Weiner Postponed

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The sentencing of Anthony Weiner, the 52-year-old former NYC Congressman who fell from grace after a much-publicized sexting scandal, was postponed last Friday by a Manhattan judge.

According to a NY Post report, Weiner’s sentencing was delayed at the request of his lawyers, who asked that federal Judge Denise Cole postpone their client’s sentencing until Oct. 6. Cole partially complied, holding the sentencing (initially scheduled for September 8) off until September 25.

On May 19, Weiner confessed to sending obscene material to a teenage girl, a scandal which ruined his career, reputation, and marriage to his wife Huma Abedin, who filed for divorce following Weiner’s admission of guilt.

In a report, News 12 Westchester said Weiner’s legal team have stated they need additional time to prepare a sentencing recommendation that suits Weiner’s ongoing treatment.

In addition to his legal woes, Weiner is currently paying a heavy price for his actions in other ways.

“Nobody speaks to him. He is truly ostracized,” a source cited by Page <a href=”http://Six.com” rel=”nofollow”>Six.com</a> said. “People won’t even get on the elevator with him.”

In his confession earlier this year, Weiner expressed contrition for his actions, saying he had no excuse for his behavior.

“I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse,” he said during a May appearance in Federal Court. “I apologize to everyone I have hurt. I apologize to the teenage girl, whom I mistreated so badly.”

In an emotional plea statement in May, Weiner acknowledged that his “destructive impulses brought great devastation to family and friends, and destroyed my life’s dream of public service. And yet I remained in denial even as the world around me fell apart.”

According to a Washington Post report at the time, Weiner’s attorney, Arlo Devlin-Brown, said his client had “apologized, offered no excuses, and made a commitment to make amends.”

Devlin-Brown also said he believed Weiner had accepted “full responsibility for the inappropriate, sexually explicit communications he engaged in early last year.”

Weiner resigned in 2011 after sending an explicit photo to a minor via Twitter (usingh his Twitter account accidentally). Weiner also confessed to engaging in similar behavior with at least six other women, a fact he confessed to in 2011.

By: Yosef Delatitsky

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Mueller Uses Classic Prosecution Playbook Despite Trump Warnings

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The former FBI director leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia is taking a page from the playbook federal prosecutors have used for decades in criminal investigations, from white-collar fraud to mob racketeering:

Follow the money. Start small and work up. See who will “flip” and testify against higher-ups by pursuing charges such as tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller — himself a veteran prosecutor — has assembled a team of 16 lawyers experienced in complex criminal cases for his investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential campaign.

They even staged a dramatic early morning raid in late July on the home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — a classic shock-and-awe tactic reminiscent of raids the FBI used against four hedge funds in an insider-trading probe in 2010 and earlier against mobsters like John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family in New York.

“You’re always looking for people on the inside to testify about what goes on,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a former prosecutor who’s now managing director of consulting firm Berkeley Research Group LLC. “You go for the weakest link, and you start building up.”

Trump’s Red Line

Mueller was given a broad mandate in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate not only Russia’s interference and potential collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Now, the expanding investigation risks a showdown with Trump, who has warned that looking into his family’s real estate deals would cross a red line.

While Trump’s legal team doesn’t anticipate that Mueller will violate his mandate, it’s prepared to take action if he does, Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said in an interview. Matters that would be out of bounds include looking at Trump’s taxes or real-estate transactions of the president or his family members, Sekulow said.

“If we felt there was an issue that developed that was outside the scope of legitimate inquiry we would, in normal course, file our objections with the special counsel,” Sekulow said. “If we weren’t satisfied with the resolution we would look at going through the appropriate channels at the Department of Justice.”

People ‘Speculating’

Sekulow also said it’s “fundamentally incorrect” to assume that Mueller is conducting a mob-style investigation when it comes to Trump and his family members, at least based on what he’s seen to date.

“People are speculating on things without a full grasp of the nature of what’s taking place,” he said.

Rosenstein said on “Fox News Sunday” this month that “we don’t engage in fishing expeditions” and Mueller needs to come to him for approval to investigate any potential crimes beyond his mandate. Mueller and Rosenstein declined to comment for this story, according to their aides.

Those who have worked with Mueller said he knows how to build a case piece-by-piece.

“Mueller is no dummy,” said William Mateja, a former federal prosecutor who investigated white-collar crime and served at the Justice Department when Mueller was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “You use crimes like money laundering and tax evasion to get cooperation from people who might be in the know.”

Among the experienced prosecutors he’s recruited in that effort is Andrew Weissmann, who worked in the 1990s to dismantle crime families on racketeering charges. He squeezed lower-level mobsters to become cooperating witnesses, a tactic that eventually led to the conviction of Genovese crime boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante for racketeering in 1997. Later, Weissmann led the Enron Task Force that investigated and prosecute cases involving the defunct Houston energy trader.

Greg Andres, another team member, is a former deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division who took down Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino. He also prosecuted former Credit Suisse Group AG broker Eric Butler for securities fraud. Butler was convicted in 2009.

To be sure, Mueller’s team is using 21st century technology to investigate last year’s hacking into Democratic Party computers and moves to “weaponize” social media to influence voters.

But it’s also using time-tested methods, casting a wide net to find out “who are the true power players” with knowledge of what was happening in Trump’s campaign and during his transition to the White House, said Ronald Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“The core part of Robert Mueller’s mission is to understand whether people associated with the campaign were associated with Russians determined to influence the election results,” said Hosko, who’s now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

Trump Buildings

The investigation is examining Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial New York hotel development with Russian associates and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, Bloomberg News reported last month. Sekulow said he hasn’t seen any evidence the investigation is looking into Trump’s real-estate transactions.

Trump associates who are central figures in Mueller’s investigation include Manafort, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Michael Flynn, who was ousted as national security adviser, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the investigation. Mueller is now in talks with the White House to interview current and former administration officials, including recently departed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the New York Times reported.

“They’re looking at where are various people getting money from, and they’re going to try to figure out not only where did it come from, but who can they connect it to,” said Mateja, now a shareholder at the law firm of Polsinelli PC. “Can they connect it to Donald Trump?”

What’s not known publicly yet is whether any of those under investigation are cooperating to help Mueller build a case, Hosko said.

Pressure to Act

Mueller’s investigation is likely to continue through next year if not longer, increasing pressure on him to announce indictments against those who committed relatively small offenses and who aren’t needed to further the investigation, according to Hosko.

“The longer it drags out, the louder the complaints will get that there’s nothing that’s been proven,” he said.

The July raid on the home of Manafort, whose financial dealings and previous work for a Russian-backed party in Ukraine have come under scrutiny, was seen as an effort to get him to give up any damaging information he might have on Trump or others.

Manafort changed lawyers after the raid, announcing he would hire Miller & Chevalier, which specializes in international tax law and fraud. The move was made because Mueller’s investigation of Manafort appears to be moving beyond collusion with Russia to focus on potential tax violations, said a person familiar with the matter.

John Dowd, another Trump lawyer, called the raid a “gross abuse of the judicial process” for the sake of “shock value” — another indication that the Trump team is chafing increasingly at Mueller’s hard-charging approach.

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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The Art of the Steal: Trump Illegitimacy Is Glaring

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We have been had. The Trump campaign engaged in fraud during the 2016 presidential race to entice you to give him your vote. Most of us didn’t fall for it, but enough did in the “right” states and the numbers game known as the Electoral College gave the presidency to Donald Trump. Fraud is the knowing misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment. There is intent to deceive and the victim must justifiably rely on the lie.

On June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met at Trump Tower with Russians for the purpose of obtaining “dirt” to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Two weeks later Donald Jr. told CNN’s Jake Tapper in no uncertain terms there was no Russian meddling in the campaign. On July 24, while he was still Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that neither he nor the Trump campaign was involved with Putin and his regime.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe the email chain about and sent prior to the June 9 meeting provided to us recently by Donald Jr. himself mentions the Russian government and its favoring of Trump in the presidential election. Kushner just forgot about the meeting and didn’t mention it when he first filled out his application for a security clearance after his father-in-law won the election.

Do you think some voters relied on the strong statements of Donald Jr. and Manafort that there was no involvement with Russians and, and to paraphrase Donald Jr., the Clinton people were crazy and lower than low to intimate that? What if they had admitted the June 9 meeting back in July 2016 when asked about Russia and candidate Trump said then, as he did after the revelation in July 2017, that anyone would have taken the meeting and it was just opposition research that everybody does? Do you think he would be in the Oval Office today? Do we have fraud here?

In July 2016 the FBI began its investigation into possible ties with the Trump campaign and Russia. By September 2016 it was being discussed within the intelligence community and the upper echelons of the United States government. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear his doubts as to the accuracy of the intelligence community’s assessment that there was Russian involvement in our election. He threatened to make it a partisan issue if brought to the American people by President Obama. We, the uninformed people, went to the polls on Election Day.

If the election of Donald Trump is based on fraud and concealment, how is he the legitimate president of the United States? The swearing in of an illegitimate president-elect cannot make him legitimate. Everything he has done in the office is tainted with his illegitimacy. Our divisively partisan Republican Congress, led by McConnell and Paul Ryan, will distract, evade, and tap dance before it will impeach under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. What is the nation’s remedy for a president illegitimately elected through commission of fraud by his campaign and inaction by compliant Congressional leadership? Look to the Tenth Amendment.

The Tenth Amendment was added to appease the anti-federalists who were concerned about a too powerful overreaching federal government and it reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The power to declare an executive illegitimate is not mentioned in the Constitution, nor does the document prohibit states from declaring the commander in chief illegitimate. Impeachment, though, can occur only because of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. It says nothing about the illegitimacy of an executive who took power as the result of a fraudulent campaign.

There is one group of people who have stood up to Trump, and that is the governors. The states fought back about the travel ban and beat back the voter fraud nonsense. Several of the governors are not pleased about the health care debacle we now face. Can the states declare our executive and all he has done while illegitimately holding office null and void, and remove him along with the entire executive branch? Of course not, but that would be a swamp draining like no other.

The United States Declaration of Independence tells us governments are of men and derive power from the consent of the governed. It also says we have unalienable rights to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have been had, and we do not have to give our consent.

SUSAN SURFTONE is a musician who previously served as an FBI agent. Her latest EP is Making Waves Again.

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