Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative March 2019 news and views
Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.
Trump Banking Disclosures Near?
Palmer Report, Analysis: Maxine Waters makes stunning revelation about Donald Trump’s international finances, Bill Palmer, March 2, 2019. Donald Trump spent the past two years hurling one dishonest, vicious, and outright racist insult at Congresswoman Maxine Waters after another. That didn’t work out too well for Trump, as she’s now Chairwoman Maxine Waters, and she happens to be in charge of a House committee that has the power to dig deep into Trump’s international finances. Waters just revealed that she’s got him by the you-know-what.
Maxine Waters (shown in a file photo) appeared on the Chris Hayes show on MSNBC on Friday night and announced that her staffers are now working directly with Deutsche Bank, with regard to the series of suspicious loans that the bank has made to Donald Trump over the years.
While Deutsche Bank has made previous claims to the media that it was cooperating with investigators, this is the first time one of the investigators has publicly confirmed that the bank’s cooperation is for real. So what does this mean?
Back in early 2017, a major British newspaper reported that U.S. and UK regulators had busted Deutsche Bank for laundering billions of dollars of Russian money into the hands of clients in a handful of cities including New York City. Palmer Report pointed out at the time that this lined up rather conveniently with the “loans” that Deutsche Bank kept floating to New York City resident Donald Trump, even after he became a poor credit risk – and much of the money never was repaid.
Maxine Waters now has her hands on the Deutsche Bank records that will show precisely how and why it kept floating money to Donald Trump even after no other major bank was willing to lend him a cent. This is going to expose the money trail from the Kremlin to Trump.
Trump Blasts DOJ Appointees
Washington Post, Trump derides Mueller, mocks Democrats and Jeff Sessions at CPAC, Seung Min Kim and Brian Fung, March 2, 2019. Embraced by conservative activists at the Washington conference, the president zigzagged on a range of topics, from the 2016 campaign to immigration to trade, in a speech that stretched beyond two hours.
New York Times, White House Ambitions Cloud Democratic Hopes to Win the Senate, Glenn Thrush, March 2, 2019.
If 2020 produces an anti-Trump wave, Democrats will need plenty of candidates to recapture the Senate. But some of the party’s best only have eyes for the White House.
Democratic leaders are convinced that Steve Bullock, the popular governor of Montana, would give the party its best shot at unseating Senator Steve Daines, a freshman Republican, when he stands for re-election next year in a state that President Trump carried by 20 points. But Mr. Bullock has a bigger — if far less attainable — aspiration: running for president.
Four top-tier potential Democratic Senate candidates — John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Mr. Bullock — are seriously exploring presidential campaigns, forsaking statewide campaigns within their grasp, at least for now, for a national one that would be the longest of long shots.
A fifth potential recruit, Richard Ojeda, resigned his State Senate seat in West Virginia to run for president, only to withdraw last month — without committing to challenge Senator Shelley Moore Capito.
Love, Money & Scandal
Lauren Sanchez, Jeffrey Bezos and David Pecker (left to right, Associated Press via Fox News photos)
New York Times, How Jeff Bezos Went to Hollywood and Lost Control, Amy Chozick, March 2, 2019. The Amazon founder built the world’s largest fortune with an iron discipline. Now, a wild cast of only-in-L.A. characters have seized his narrative.
Jeff Bezos amassed the world’s greatest fortune by relying on what he has called a “regret minimization framework.” He built an $800 billion company with 14 codified principles and a brutally exacting culture. His annual salary of $81,840 has not budged since 1998.
But then Mr. Bezos went to Hollywood.
In the weeks since the Amazon founder tweeted that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing, he has gone to war with a grocery store tabloid and escalated a conflict with the president of the United States.
Amazon executives were blindsided by a sequence of events that began in early January: the announcement by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos of their divorce; the 11-page National Enquirer exposé that Mr. Bezos was romantically involved with Lauren Sanchez, a former Los Angeles TV anchor; a sensational blog post by Mr. Bezos accusing the head of the tabloid, an ally of President Trump, of attempting to extort him over a “below-the-belt selfie” and other sexts.
More U.S. Politics
New York Times, Mark Penn, Ex-Clinton Loyalist, Visits Trump, and Democrats Are Not Pleased, Annie Karni, March 2, 2019 (print ed.). As the Democratic Party has moved to the left, Mr. Penn has become alienated from the party in which he once reigned as a winning pollster.
Mark J. Penn, one of the primary architects of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, met briefly with President Trump in the Oval Office last week, according to two people in attendance.
The face-to-face meeting, the first between Mr. Trump and the onetime loyal adviser to the Clintons (shown in a file photo of a vacation in Hawaii), marked what some saw as the inevitable conclusion of Mr. Penn’s long-running political metamorphosis.
As Democrats have moved to the left, Mr. Penn, with his centrist politics, has become alienated from a party in which he once reigned as a winning pollster and is a frequent guest on Fox News and the author of op-ed articles criticizing the special counsel’s investigation as a “partisan, open-ended inquisition.” He has even adopted the president’s term “deep state” to describe people he views as Democratic operatives sabotaging the Trump administration from within the government.
In an email, Mr. Penn played down the significance of the visit. Mr. Penn added, “Despite my misgivings about the Mueller investigation, let me be clear as a lifelong Democrat under no circumstances would I work paid or unpaid for President Trump nor was this meeting about that in any way.”
Migrant Parents Washington Post, 29 parents separated from their children are testing the asylum system by asking to be let back into the U.S., Kevin Sieff, Sarah Kinosian and Carolyn Van Houten, March 2, 2019. They presented themselves at the border on Saturday as part of a high-stakes plan hatched by immigration attorneys to reunite families divided by the family separation policy.
Canadian Scandal Reaches Top
New York Times, Trudeau Promised a Fresh Approach to Politics. Now He’s Embroiled in Scandal, Catherine Porter and Ian Austen, March 2, 2019 (print edition). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) of Canada had vowed to lead in a new, open and transparent way.
Now he and his aides are accused of pressuring a former minister to drop a criminal inquiry, with elections just seven months away.
Manafort Seeks Leniency
New York Times, Manafort’s Lawyers, Saying He Learned ‘Harsh Lesson,’ Seek Lenient Sentence, Sharon LaFraniere, March 2, 2019 (print edition). Lawyers for Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, asked a federal judge in Northern Virginia on Friday to show leniency when he sentences Mr. Manafort next week, casting him as a loyal, compassionate, idealistic man who has learned a “harsh lesson.”
They said Mr. Manafort (shown in a mug shot), who has been jailed since June, had already suffered greatly for his crimes. At age 69, plagued by health problems, he poses no risk of recidivism, they said.
Their sentencing memorandum, the second they filed this week, was submitted to Judge T.S. Ellis III (right) of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va. Judge Ellis will sentence Mr. Manafort on Thursday for tax fraud, bank fraud and other financial crimes. The next week, he will be sentenced by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a related conspiracy case in United States District Court in Washington, D.C.
Advisory sentencing guidelines set Mr. Manafort’s punishment at 19 to 24 years in the financial fraud case.
U.S. Sex Traffickers
Jeffrey Epsein, left, a wealthy Harvard donor and convicted serial sexual abuser of underage girls, speaks with his friend and counsel Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, as shown in a file photo. A hearing is scheduled in New York City on whether authorities should release records.
Miami Herald, Press access may be curbed at hearing on Epstein sex abuse, Julie K. Brown, March 2, 2019 (print ed.). A court hearing on whether to unseal sensitive documents involving the alleged sex trafficking of underage girls by Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein — and the possible involvement of his influential friends — will play out in a New York City courtroom next week.
But it may happen behind closed doors, with the news media and public barred — at least in part.
An attorney for lawyer Alan Dershowitz wrote a letter to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Tuesday, asking whether the media should be excluded from the proceeding because his oral arguments on behalf of his client could contain sensitive information that has been under seal.
The appeals court had not responded to his concern as of Friday, but if the hearing is closed during his lawyer’s argument, it would represent the latest in a long history of successful efforts to keep details of Epstein’s sex crimes sealed.
Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard, constitutional law expert and criminal defense attorney, represented Epstein, who in 2008 received what many consider an unusually light sentence for sexually abusing dozens of girls at his Palm Beach mansion.
Two women — one of whom was underage — have said Epstein and his partner, British socialite and environmentalist Ghislaine Maxwell, directed them to have sex with Dershowitz, 80, and other wealthy, powerful men. Dershowitz and Maxwell have denied the claims.
Oral arguments are scheduled Wednesday to hear an appeal by the Miami Herald and other parties seeking to unseal a 2015 court case involving Epstein and Maxwell. The Herald, as part of an ongoing investigation into Epstein’s case, hopes to shed more light on the scope of Epstein’s crimes, who was involved and whether there was any undue influence that tainted the criminal justice process.
A legal brief supporting the Herald’s appeal was filed in December by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 32 other media companies, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Dow Jones, Fox News, Gannett, Politico, Reveal Center for Investigative Reporting and Tribune Publishing Co.
The case — which was settled in 2017 — involved Virginia Roberts Giuffre (right), who sued Maxwell in federal court in the Southern District of New York in 2015. Giuffre had asserted that Maxwell and Epstein trafficked her and other underage girls, often at sex parties that Epstein hosted at his homes in New York, New Mexico, Palm Beach and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maxwell called her a liar. Giuffre sued for defamation.
As the case was litigated, the judge allowed a vast trove of documents, including testimony by witnesses, to be sealed. Dershowitz, having been publicly implicated in Epstein’s crimes by Giuffre, tried unsuccessfully to get the judge to unseal a select number of documents that he says will exonerate him. Blogger Michael Cernovich also filed a motion to release a portion of the sealed documents.
The judge denied their motions in 2016, as the case was still ongoing, saying release of the documents could taint a potential jury pool.
After the case was settled, the Herald filed a more extensive motion, arguing that with the case now closed, all the documents should be made public. The motion, filed in April 2018, came as the Herald was working on an investigative series, Perversion of Justice, which detailed how Epstein and his lawyers manipulated federal prosecutors to obtain one of the most lenient sentences for a child sex offender in history.
New York Times, Behind Illicit Massage Parlors Lies a Vast Crime Network, Nicholas Kulish, Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei, March 2, 2019. It has exploded into a $3 billion-a-year sex industry that ensnares tens of thousands of mostly foreign women in a form of modern indentured servitude. Many women stay on as prostitutes in order to pay debts to smugglers, spa owners and lawyers.
She was 49, a recent immigrant and deeply in debt to a loan shark back home in China when she answered an employment ad three years ago that promised thousands of dollars a month, but offered no job description. She realized too late that she had been tricked into working at a massage parlor in Flushing, Queens, where besides kneading backs, she was expected to sexually service up to a dozen men a day.
In strip malls across the country, neon signs and brightly colored placards promise hot stones, acupuncture and shiatsu with photos of women or couples receiving relaxing shoulder rubs. But a traditionally Asian form of therapeutic relaxation with deep roots in big-city Chinatowns has spun off a different kind of massage parlor that has little to do with traditional remedies. It has exploded into a $3 billion-a-year sex industry that relies on pervasive secrecy, close-knit ownership rings and tens of thousands of mostly foreign women ensnared in a form of modern indentured servitude.
The recent arrest warrant filed against Robert K. Kraft (shown in a file photo), owner of the New England Patriots — and the solicitation charges filed against nearly 300 men in multiple jurisdictions as part of the same case — riveted national attention to a stretch of Highway 1 along Florida’s Treasure Coast dotted with strip malls, gas stations and sapphire ocean views. Across the region, parlors were empty and many frequent clients were phoning their lawyers, wondering if more warrants were going to drop.
Law enforcement officials said there were an estimated 9,000 illicit massage parlors across the country, from Orlando to Los Angeles.
The epicenter of this national underground is the bustling Chinatown in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens. Women — typically Chinese, but also Korean, Thai and East European — arrive at Kennedy International Airport, learn the trade and are sent out to places like Virginia, Iowa, Texas and Florida. Women are recruited locally through ads in Chinese-language newspapers or over the social network WeChat.
Washington Post, Ruined crops, salty soil: How rising seas are poisoning North Carolina’s farmland, Sarah Kaplan, March 2, 2019 (print edition). Of climate change’s many plagues — drought, insects, fires, floods — saltwater intrusion in particular sounds almost like a biblical curse. Rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather are conspiring to cause salt from the ocean to contaminate aquifers and turn formerly fertile fields barren.
A 2016 study in the journal Science predicted that 9 percent of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion — a percentage likely to grow as the world continues to warm. Scientists are just beginning to assess the potential effect on agriculture, Manda said, and it’s not yet clear how much can be mitigated. If farmers in coastal areas have any hope of protecting their land — and their livelihoods — the first step is to disentangle the complex web of causes that can send ocean water seeping into the ground beneath their feet.
New York Times, Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance, Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Annie Karni, March 1, 2019. President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, right, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.
Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.
The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.
Washington Post, Opinion: Trump intervened to get Kushner a top-secret clearance. Congress should investigate, Editorial Board, March 1, 2019. A president enjoys a fair amount of discretion when it comes to designating subordinates for access to the nation’s secrets. But reports that President Trump personally intervened to get his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret clearance raise serious concerns that must be investigated by Congress.
While Mr. Trump’s insular leadership style is hardly suited for the White House, nepotism is not the primary concern in this case.
The primary worry is that secrets may be shared inappropriately. Mr. Kushner’s clearance was reportedly granted despite the concerns of intelligence officials. The nature of their concern is not entirely clear, though The Post reported last year that the government had received indications that foreign governments were interested in taking advantage of Mr. Kushner’s complex family business arrangements, its financial needs and his lack of foreign policy experience.
Washington Post, Two days in July: Did Trump receive a heads-up about WikiLeaks? Rosalind S. Helderman and Manuel Roig-Franzia, March 1, 2019. Trump confidant Roger Stone denies discussing WikiLeaks with him, but Michael Cohen said such a conversation occurred in July 2016, days before the group released internal Democratic Party emails. The three men’s activities show there was a window of time in which the call could have occurred but little other information to corroborate Cohen’s claim.
If true, Cohen’s account, which he provided in sworn testimony to the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, would be a dramatic revelation — indicating that Trump misled the public about his knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans and, importantly, provided false written testimony to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Washington Post, House investigators demand ‘immediate’ compliance from White House on security-clearance documents, Rachael Bade, John Wagner and Shane Harris, March 1, 2019. The move — after reports that the president pressured aides for a clearance for son-in-law Jared Kushner — escalates the years-long fight between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration that could lead to subpoenas within days.
The move follows the revelation that President Trump interceded to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance despite concerns from intelligence and White House officials about Kushner’s contacts with foreign individuals and his failure to disclose them on his clearance application. Both of those factors ordinarily would all but guarantee that an applicant not be given access to government secrets.
Overriding those concerns, the president in May 2018 directed his then-chief of staff, John F. Kelly, left, to approve the clearance application. Kelly, who had already stripped Kushner of an interim, temporary clearance, documented the president’s intervention in a memo.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), right, in a letter to the White House on Friday, urged “full and immediate compliance” with outstanding requests the panel had made related to security clearances over the past two years.
Cummings’s staff in a Friday phone call with White House officials tried to confirm the existence of the Kelly memo and a second written by former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
Washington Post, The Fix: The denials from Trump and his daughter now look ridiculous, Aaron Blake, March 1, 2019. “The President had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance. Zero,” Ivanka Trump told ABC News last month. When ABC’s Abby Huntsman asked whether she and Kushner had received any “special treatment,” Ivanka Trump said, flatly, “No.” (She also said at the time that the delay was simply due to a backlog, which is contradicted by lots of reporting.)
New York Times, Why Trump’s Money Man Could Face Scrutiny Next, Sarah Maslin Nir, March 1, 2019. In testimony before Congress this week, Michael Cohen cast himself as a central figure in schemes that could threaten the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
But Mr. Cohen said he didn’t work alone, unexpectedly mentioning by name the involvement of another member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, Allen Weisselberg, right, more than 20 times. The revelations are set to intensify the scrutiny on Mr. Weisselberg, Mr. Trump’s unassuming 71-year-old chief financial officer, who already is a focus for federal prosecutors in New York.
On Wednesday, Mr. Cohen specifically identified Mr. Weisselberg as helping mastermind a strategy to mask reimbursements to Mr. Cohen for his payment to Stormy Daniels, the pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.
Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said after Wednesday’s hearing that he “probably will” want to call additional witnesses, including Mr. Weisselberg, to gather additional evidence about the hush-money payment.
Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you House Democrats were going to haul in Sean Hannity, Bill Palmer, March 1, 2019. When Sean Hannity (right) interviewed Donald Trump on his Fox News show last night, Hannity said something that caused Palmer Report to predict that he would be hauled in to testify before one or more House committees. Sure enough, one of the House Democrats just confirmed that we were correct.
Sean Hannity said this to Donald Trump last night about Michael Cohen: “I can tell you personally, he said to me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn’t tell you.” Oops. Hannity (right) just outed himself as being, at the least, a material witness in a criminal scandal.
After Sean Hannity’s program aired last night, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline tweeted “Sean Hannity is now volunteering himself as a witness. I look forward to his testimony.” This is a big deal considering that Cicilline sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which is one of the committees currently investigating Donald Trump’s scandals.
New Roger Stone Trouble
Palmer Report, Commentary: Judge Amy Berman Jackson just took Roger Stone’s head off, Bill Palmer, March 1, 2019. Earlier today, Palmer Report examined why Judge Amy Berman Jackson (right) hasn’t yet revoked Roger Stone’s bail and thrown him in jail, even though he’s said a few different things that are at least slightly in violation of his gag order. Our conclusion: she was waiting for him to do something bigger before locking him up, so there would be no doubt that her decision was warranted. This evening, Jackson appears to have finally decided enough is enough.
Judge Jackson posted a new filing today expressing her exasperation over the fact that Roger Stone has a new book coming out any day now – which is apparently about the criminal case against him – and that she’s just now finding out about it. Jackson is reading Stone the riot act, pointing out that he could and should have brought up his upcoming book during his recent hearings involving his gag order.
Judge Jackson is demanding that Roger Stone explain his book stunt by this Monday, March 4th. The question is whether she’ll revoke Roger Stone’s bail on Monday, which would result in Stone either being thrown in jail or placed under house arrest.
Trump, Kim Shorten Summit
“The table was set and food prepared for a working Trump-Kim lunch that now won’t happen.” — CNN’s Jim Sciutto
Washington Post, Leaders fail to reach agreement to dismantle N. Korea’s nuclear weapons, Philip Rucker, Simon Denyer and David Nakamura, March 1, 2019 (print edition). North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had said he was ready in principle to denuclearize. But talks broke down over economic sanctions. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” said President Trump.
Washington Post, Analysis: Dispute over sanctions leaves Trump and North Koreans in free fall, March 1, 2019 (print edition).
Washington Post, Trump leaves Hanoi empty-handed at a tough point in his presidency, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, March 1, 2019 (print edition). The summit underscored the limits of the president’s ability to translate the charisma and hustler instincts that made him a wealthy real estate star into the more nuanced realm of international diplomacy.
President Trump flew for 20 hours to this bustling Vietnamese capital determined to earn a place in history as the American statesman whose personal charm overcame decades of intransigence and erased the North Korean nuclear threat.
But the self-proclaimed master dealmaker left Hanoi on Thursday empty-handed and humbled by his failure to coax an erratic and reclusive dictator into giving up his arsenal.
North Korean President Kim Yong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump exchanged greetings at a summit last June (White House photo by Shealah Craighead).
Washington Post, Trump defends Kim over death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, Josh Dawsey, March 1, 2019 (print edition). President Trump on Thursday defended North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, whose family says he was “brutally tortured” while imprisoned in North Korea and died in 2017 after being flown back to United States in a coma. He is shown as a prisoner at a news conference.
The president condemned the “brutality of the North Korean regime” following Warmbier’s death at 22 years old, but he took a softer stance toward Kim at the conclusion of their second summit.
“I don’t believe he would have allowed that to happen,” Trump said. “It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.”
Washington Post, Otto Warmbier’s family pushes back at Trump, blaming Kim’s ‘evil regime’ for son’s death, David Nakamura and Susan Svrluga, March 1, 2019. The family issued a statement a day after President Trump said he took the North Korean leader “at his word” that he was not responsible.
Washington Post, Contradictory accounts emerge from collapsed Trump-Kim summit, Both sides cite sanctions as cause for breakdown, but details differ, Philip Rucker, Simon Denyer and David Nakamura, March 1, 2019 (print edition). In a rare news conference, North Korea’s foreign minister said the country sought only partial sanctions relief in exchange for denuclearization. President Trump had said, “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
Strategic Culture Foundation, Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc. (MIAMI), Wayne Madsen (left, syndicated columnist, author of 16 books and former Navy intelligence officer), March 1, 2019. The city of Miami, Florida may have started out as a retirement mecca for winter-worn pensioners from northern climes. However, after the beginning of the Cold War and US military and Central Intelligence Agency intervention in Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guyana, the Bahamas, and other Western Hemisphere nations, Miami became a refuge for exiled wealthy businessmen escaping populist revolutions and elections in South and Central America and spies. The retirement and vacation capital of the United States quickly became the “Tropical Casablanca.”
Now home to thousands of limited liability corporations linked to the CIA, as well as private military contractors, sketchy airlines flying from remote Florida airports, the interventionist US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and exiled oligarchs running destabilization operations in their native countries, Miami – or MIAMI, “Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc.” – serves as the nexus for current Trump administration “regime change” efforts.
The latest example of Miami being a hive of CIA operatives came after five Americans, one Serbian permanent resident of the United States, and another Serbian national, were arrested by the Haitian National Police in Port-au-Prince with weapons, advanced communications devices, drones, and other military hardware amid anti-government protests linked to CIA regime change operations.
The government of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant is under US pressure to sever its diplomatic and financial links with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who the Trump administration is attempting to replace with Juan Guaido, a CIA agent-of-influence and US puppet.
The Americans and Serbs were subsequently transferred to Miami on the authorization of Haitian Justice Minister Jean Roody Aly, who was assured by the Donald Trump administration that the seven men would be criminally tried by the United States. Once in Miami, the US Attorney’s Office in Miami, which takes its orders from the CIA-friendly Attorney General, William Barr, declined prosecution of the men but “debriefed” them, a term usually applied to intelligence agents who are caught and expelled by foreign authorities.
The decision by the Haitian administration to release the seven men has resulted in a political firestorm in Port-au-Prince, with the Haitian Senate demanding answers about the role Moise played in ordering the Central Bureau of the Judicial Police of Haiti to release the individuals, described by Prime Minister Céant as “mercenaries” and “terrorists.”
Southfront, US-Proclaimed ‘Venezuelan President’ Announces Another Humanitarian Aid Provocation, Staff report, March 1, 2019. On February 28th, the rival resolutions on Venezuela by US and Russia were both blocked at the United Nations Security Council. The US proposal received the necessary 9 votes but was vetoed by Russia, China and South Africa.
The US draft resolution called for the holding of new elections and a recognition of self-proclaimed interim President Guaidó. Nine voted in favour (Germany, Poland, Peru, US, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Kuwait), three against (Russia, China, South Africa) and there were three abstentions (Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire).
The Russian draft received 4 votes in favor – from Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea. The resolution called for a dialogue between the Government and the opposition, in line with the Montevideo mechanism – a forum for talks, launched by Mexico and Uruguay earlier this February. It received 7 votes against (Germany, Poland, Peru, US, United Kingdom, France, Belgium) and 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kuwait).
Separately, in statements posted by TeleSUR’s Madelein Garcia, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez claims that the Venezuelan military has been battling “unprecedented aggression by the fiercest empire of the US.” He also claimed that “everything is supported by lying, manipulation” and is a “perverse aggression to break the institutionality and seize power.”
He also said that in total 109 National Guard members have defected and they were promised $20,000 for crossing the border and joining the opposition’s side.
Investigative Leads From Cohen
New York Times, Opinion: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing, Caroline Fredrickson (president of the American Constitution Society), March 1, 2019 (print edition). Too many representatives chose to bloviate instead of interrogate — except for one.
Consider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (shown at left). She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.
These questions were not random, but, rather, well thought out. Like a good prosecutor, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. She asked one question at a time, avoided long-winded speeches on why she was asking the question, and listened carefully to his answer, which gave her the basis for a follow-up inquiry.
As a result, Mr. Cohen gave specific answers about Mr. Trump’s shady practices, along with a road map for how to find out more. Mr. Cohen began his testimony calling Mr. Trump a “con man and a cheat;” In just five minutes, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually helped him lay out the facts to substantiate those charges.
Unfortunately, too few of her colleagues followed suit. In his testimony, Mr. Cohen claimed numerous ethical breaches and criminal acts on the part of the president, many for which Mr. Cohen himself apparently served as main actor.
All of these areas offered fruitful avenues for exploration. But instead of asking probing questions and eliciting damning evidence from Mr. Cohen, too many committee members chose to make a speech.
Washington Post, How a HUD official turned the Michael Cohen hearing into a reality TV audition, Tracy Jan, March 1, 2019. Lynne Patton (shown standing above between two Republican members of Congress) pursued a part in a “docu-series” last year. Her silent role at the Cohen hearing has further elevated her profile, bringing intense media scrutiny as well as opportunity.
Her cameo appearance at the Michael Cohen hearing — a bit of stagecraft intended to dispel accusations of racism against President Trump — provoked an instant backlash from black politicians and the public.
In an Oct. 18, 2018, memo to officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Patton sought ethical and legal guidance on potentially participating in a “docuseries” about black Republicans, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Washington Post, House Democrats explode in recriminations as liberals lash out at moderates, Mike DeBonis, March 1, 2019. House Democrats exploded in recriminations Thursday over moderates bucking the party, with liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatening to put those voting with Republicans “on a list” for a primary challenge.
In a closed-door session, a frustrated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, lashed out at about two dozen moderates and pressured them to get on board. “We are either a team or we’re not, and we have to make that decision,” Pelosi said, according to two people present but not authorized to discuss the remarks publicly.
But Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), left, the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election.
Triggering the blowup were Wednesday’s votes on a bill to expand federal background checks for gun purchases. Twenty-six moderate Democrats joined Republicans in amending the legislation, adding a provision requiring that ICE be notified if an illegal immigrant seeks to purchase a gun.
U.S. Troop Pullout
New York Times, Where Terrorism Is Rising and the U.S. Is Leaving, Eric Schmitt, March 1, 2019. President Trump has ordered most American troops to withdraw from Syria. He wants to bring home thousands more from Afghanistan. Now hundreds of United States commandos and other forces are leaving West Africa — despite an onslaught of attacks from an increasingly deadly matrix of Islamist fighters.
The shift has unnerved African commanders in Burkina Faso and neighboring nations in the Sahel, a vast sub-Saharan scrubland increasingly racked by bombings, massacres, kidnappings and attacks on hotels frequented by Westerners. It is a region in which most Americans were unaware of United States military involvement until four Army soldiers were killed in a deadly 2017 ambush in Niger by Islamic State fighters.
Moon of Alabama, Opinion: The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finished. A long simmering scandal did him in, B, March 1, 2019. Between 2001 and 2011 the Canadian construction and engineering company SNC-Lavalin bribed officials in Libya with tens of millions to get contracts in that country. In 2015 the company was charged by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. It tried to avoid a trial and argued instead for a negotiated settlement since it had cleaned shop by changing its chief executive officer.
In 2016, SNC-Lavalin admitted that some former executives had illegally arranged donations of more than C$80,000 to Trudeau’s Liberal Party from 2004 to 2011.
The company had revenues of some C$10 billion in 2018. Some 9,000 of its 52,000 employees work in Canada. The headquarter and 3,400 of its employees are in the province of Quebec where the Liberals need to pick up votes in October’s federal election to keep their majority.
During the fall of 2018 Trudeau (right) and his allies tried to press the attorney general, a Canadian aboriginal, to overturn the decision of the director of public prosecutions, to apply the new law and to thereby drop the criminal charges against SNC. She would not do that. In January Trudeau fired her from the justice minister and attorney general job and gave her a minor position as veteran’s minister. Under solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidences Wilson-Raybould could not speak out about the issue.
On February 7 the scandal leaked from anonymous sources. Five days later Wilson-Raybould resigned as veterans minister. She hired a retired Supreme Court judge as her lawyer, to advise her on what she could say. On February 18 Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s friend and principle secretary, was made the fall guy. He resigned even while he denied that he tried to influence the attorney general. Under pressure, the House of Commons Justice Committee invited Wilson-Raybould to testify. Trudeau had to wave some privilege which allowed her to finally speak out about her time as attorney general.
#MeToo: Ryan Adams
New York Times, Ryan Adams Tour Is Canceled Weeks After Allegations Emerge, Alex Marshall, March 1, 2019. Ryan Adams’s planned tour of Britain and Ireland, due to start March 30 in Dublin, has been canceled, two weeks after allegations of sexual misconduct against the singer-songwriter emerged.
On Friday, SJM Concerts, the tour’s promoter, issued a statement saying the tour had been canceled and that full refunds would be issued to ticket holders by Monday.
On Feb. 13, The New York Times reported allegations that Mr. Adams, right, had repeatedly manipulated and harassed women in the music industry, offering to jump-start their careers only to pursue them sexually and in some cases retaliate if they spurned him.
The F.B.I. began an investigation into one of the allegations: That Mr. Adams exchanged sexually explicit images with an underage teenager.
U.S. Pressure On China, Iran
Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou is now held in Canada for possible extradition to the United States on a claim of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Washington Post, Canada to proceed with extradition case against Huawei executive facing U.S. charges, Emily Rauhala, March 1, 2019. The decision paves the way for a legal battle that will pit Canada against China and could complicate the relationship between both countries and the United States.
Washington Post, Billionaire casino magnate and GOP funder Adelson undergoes cancer treatment, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, March 1, 2019. The health of Sheldon Adelson, right, one of the Republican Party’s most prolific financiers, raises questions about how the growing influence of his wife, Miriam, may affect the family’s giving, said those familiar with their political donations.
Adelson reportedly has not been at his company’s offices in Las Vegas since around Christmas Day.
Adelson, 85, and his wife, Miriam, 73, have spent heavily over the years to boost GOP candidates and outside groups. They are two of President Trump’s most generous backers, having spent $20 million to support his candidacy in the 2016 election.
NBC News, GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening Rep. Omar to a terrorist rocks W. Virginia capitol, Dareh Gregorian, March 1, 2019.”We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state,” the House speaker said. Angry arguments broke out in the West Virginia statehouse on Friday after the state Republican Party allegedly set up an anti-Muslim display in the rotunda linking the 9/11 terror attacks to a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota.
One staff member was physically injured during the morning’s confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments.
The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.
“‘Never forget’ – you said. . .” read a caption on the first picture. “I am the proof – you have forgotten,” read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab. Omar tweeted about the incident later on Friday.
“No wonder why I am on the ‘Hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and ‘Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations,” she wrote.
The display was set up as part of “WV GOP Day,” which the party advertised on Facebook as a day when “Republicans Take the Rotunda.”
Several Democrats objected to the display, and reportedly got into an argument with the House’s sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman, after she allegedly made an anti-Muslim remark.
Del. Mike Angelucci, D-Marion, charged Lieberman had said “all Muslims are terrorists.” He said that was “hate speech.”
“I am furious, and I don’t want to see her representing the people of this great state in the House again,” Angelucci said of Lieberman, who became the state’s first female sergeant at arms last year. Speaking to West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Lieberman denied she’d made the comment. By the end of the day she had submitted her resignation “effective immediately,” officials said.
The outrage continued on the House floor, where Del. Mike Pushkin, a Democrat, took aim at the display. “It’s ugly, it’s hateful and there’s absolutely no place for it in American politics,” Pushkin said, according to WVNews. “Not in the country that I love. Not in the state that I love. We all give up our time during this time of year to come up here and serve our constituents because we love this state. Well, I love everybody in the state no matter what they look like, who they pray to, who they love. I’m tired of it. It disgusts me.”
Pushkin, who’s Jewish, added, “I’m proud to live in a country that somebody can come into this country with absolutely nothing and wind up in the halls of Congress representing the state of Minnesota.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw issued a statement saying his office is investigating what happened. “As we began today’s floor session, we had a series of incidents occur in and outside of our Chamber that absolutely do not reflect the character and civility the people of this state demand of their public servants. Leadership of the House of Delegates is currently working to investigate these incidents to learn firsthand the factual basis of what occurred, and will respond with appropriate action,” the statement said.
“The West Virginia House of Delegates unequivocally rejects hate in all of its forms.”
The House is made up of 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats.