Posts Tagged ‘Jared Kushner’

The Unresignation of Saad al-Hariri

November 23, 2017
LEBANONPOLITICSHARIRI
Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri greets his supporters upon his arrival at his home in Beirut on November 22, 2017.

AFP/Getty Images

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has returned home and withdrawn his resignation, ending a nearly three-week national emergency.

By JOSHUA KEATING

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Countries.

Hariri had unexpectedly resigned on Nov. 4 during a trip to Saudi Arabia, citing threats against his life and decrying Iranian influence. It was widely assumed that the kingdom’s leaders, namely the increasingly assertive Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, had pressured him to step aside. Hariri is a dual Saudi-Lebanese civilian and ally of Riyadh, but his patrons have been increasingly frustrated with him over his cooperation with Iran-backed Hezbollah. When Hariri didn’t return home and was out of touch with officials back in Beirut, Lebanese officials accused Saudi Arabia of detaining him. Both the Saudis and Hariri deny that this is what was happening.

After two mysterious weeks in Saudi Arabia, Hariri flew to France earlier this week, where he met with President Emmanuel Macron, before heading home. Lebanese President Michael Aoun had never formally accepted Hariri’s resignation, given the weird circumstances, and Wednesday the two agreed to indefinitely postpone it to allow for more dialogue.

The episode set Lebanon teetering on the edge of crisis, and this dramatic reversal of events should restore stability, by the standards of Lebanese politics anyway. What it means for Saudi Arabia is less clear. In his dealings with Hezbollah, Hariri may now be more hemmed in, but it also looks like the Saudis, who had accused the Lebanese government of waging war against them by failing to curb aggression by Hezbollah, are backing down.

If the kingdom did miscalculate, it may be partly the Trump administration’s fault. Trump has given his full backing to the Saudi government and the crown prince in particular, and Trump seemed to have swallowed the Saudis’ Iran-centric worldview hook, line, and sinker during his recent visit to Riyadh. The Lebanon intervention came amid other moves by the prince, including the arrest of several members of his family on corruption charges and an escalation of the brutal and disastrous war in Yemen. The Washington Post reported last week that “some U.S. and foreign officials worry that strong support for Saudi Arabia by President Trump and presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner may have helped motivate Riyadh to overplay its hand.” Kushner made a personal visit to Saudi Arabia last month and reportedly stayed up until 4 a.m. several nights with the prince discussing strategy.

Unfortunately for the Saudis, America’s ruling family doesn’t have the same level of control over its country’s foreign policy. The State Department, Pentagon, and CIA all reportedly expressed alarm that the prince was behaving recklessly. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned all parties against “using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country.”

(One might hope that the U.S. national security establishment would apply a bit more pressure on the Saudis to halt the U.S.-backed war that’s killing thousands of Yemeni civilians and has the country on the brink of an epochal famine.)

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Trump personally backed the Saudi-led blockade on Qatar last summer, but the State and Defense departments remained neutral on the conflict—Qatar hosts a major U.S. military base—and there was little actually change in U.S. policy.

To be fair to the crown prince, U.S. foreign policy can be pretty inscrutable these days even for those of us in Washington. I can only imagine how confusing it appears from Riyadh.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/11/22/lebanon_s_prime_minister_unresigns_did_saudi_arabia_blow_it.html

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Mueller Investigating Kushner’s Efforts to Combat UN Resolution Condemning Israeli Settlements

November 22, 2017

In the lead-up to the vote on the resolution, there were speculations that Russia could veto it, thus protecting Israel after the Obama administration decided to abstain

Amir Tibon (Washington, D.C.) Nov 22, 2017 8:07 AM
Haaretz

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Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor and closeup

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey, Washington, D.C., U.S., November 21, 2017. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON – Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, is reportedly examining actions taken by Jared Kushner against a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Mueller is looking into efforts made by Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, against the resolution, which passed in December 2016, during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations.

The UN resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank was proposed by Egypt, and the Obama administration controversially decided not to veto it. Israeli officials reached out at the time to the Trump transition team, asking the president-elect to try and exert influence over different countries to block the resolution.

Trump, in turn, attacked the resolution on his social media accounts and called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, requesting he reverse his country’s support of the resolution.

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In the lead-up to the vote on the resolution, there were speculations in the Israeli media that perhaps Russia could veto it, thus protecting Israel from the lack of a veto by the Obama administration. Eventually, however, Russia voted in favor of the resolution, as did all the 14 other members of the UN Security Council, except the U.S., which chose to abstain.

Trump took to Twitter following the vote, writing, in reference to his slated inauguration date: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

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The White House, in turn, blamed the passage of the resolution on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policies. “If we didn’t see acceleration in settlement activity and wouldn’t hear that kind of rhetoric from the Israeli government then maybe the U.S. would have taken take a different view,” then-Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.

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Netanyahu, for his part, called the resolution “crazy,” accused the Obama administration of carrying out an underhanded, anti-Israel maneuver and assured the Israeli public that the resolution would be overcome.

Amir Tibon
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.824264

Saudi-Iran dispute unlikely to take Israel to war: analysts

November 17, 2017

AFP

An Israeli soldier stands guard in a tank in the town of Metula along Israel's border with Lebanon on November 16, 2017

An Israeli soldier stands guard in a tank in the town of Metula along Israel’s border with Lebanon on November 16, 2017

A rare interview given by a top Israeli general to a Saudi-owned news site has raised speculation of joint military action against Iran and its allies, but analysts say it appears unlikely.

Though Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, they share a common enemy in Tehran, with both seeking to limit the Islamic republic’s expanding influence in the Middle East.

Tensions between the Saudis and Iran have intensified in recent weeks, with Riyadh-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepping down over what he called Iran’s grip on his country.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which is dominant in Lebanon, is also a great enemy of Israel — with which it fought a war in 2006.

Hezbollah and Iran have accused Saudi Arabia of pressing Israel to launch attacks against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of meddling in Yemen by supporting Huthi rebels against the Riyadh-backed government.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah is an arch-foe of Israel, with which it fought a war in 2006

Iranian-backed Hezbollah is an arch-foe of Israel, with which it fought a war in 2006

In this context, comments by Israel’s military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot to Elaph, a British-based news website founded by a Saudi businessman, caused a stir on Thursday.

Eisenkot said Israel and Saudi were in “total agreement” that Iran was the greatest threat to the Middle East, adding that the Jewish state was “ready to exchange experience with the moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence information to face Iran.”

Eisenkot pointed out that while Saudi Arabia and Israel had no formal relations, the two states had never directly been to war.

– Quiet could shatter –

Speculation about a formal Israeli-Saudi alliance has been fuelled by the election of US President Donald Trump, a vociferous critic of Iran.

Eisenkot said Trump’s victory had created an opportunity for a “new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat.”

The rise to power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has led to a more forthright Saudi foreign policy

The rise to power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has led to a more forthright Saudi foreign policy

The rise to power of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also led to a more forthright policy, as he looks to militarily confront what he sees as Iranian influence across the region, including in Yemen.

Trump’s first foreign trip took in Riyadh and Israel and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has reportedly formed a bond with Prince Mohammed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also spoken repeatedly and with pride about growing rapprochement with “moderate Arab states” without naming them, although he is assumed to be referring to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies.

Israel has been alarmed by Iran’s nuclear activities and the danger that Tehran, militarily engaged in Syria, will establish a new front near Israeli borders.

The Jewish state closely monitors the demarcation lines with Syria and Lebanon, beyond which Hezbollah is located.

An Israeli army vehicle drives along the border fence between Lebanon and Israel near the northern Israeli town of Metula on November 16, 2017

An Israeli army vehicle drives along the border fence between Lebanon and Israel near the northern Israeli town of Metula on November 16, 2017

On Thursday, from a vantage point near Metula, the northernmost Israeli town flanked by Lebanon on three sides, an Israeli tank’s cannon tracked to and fro.

“Hezbollah is here, we see it and its activities day and night,” Lieutenant Colonel Elad Efrati, who commands a battalion guarding the northernmost 25 kilometres of the frontier, told AFP.

“The relative quiet here is deceptive. On the other side Hezbollah and the Lebanese army are gathering information on our forces non-stop.”

“This relative quiet could shatter in an instant.”

– Spiral of events –

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday accused Riyadh of asking Israel to bomb Lebanon, calling it “shameful.”

But Eisenkot said Israel had no intention of “initiating” a conflict with Hezbollah.

Analysts agreed that while there was no Israeli willingness for a new war, in such a volatile region, events can quickly spiral out of control.

“For many years now Saudi Arabia and Israel have found themselves figuratively in the same trench versus Iran,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, of Israel’s Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies.

“But now that the conflict has been dialled up Israel is trying not to be pulled in. It needs to operate on its own terms.

“Israel will not be dragged into a war on behalf of Saudi Arabia.”

Writing in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, defence correspondent Amos Harel warned that in the complex dance of military and diplomatic brinksmanship, accidents can happen.

“Vigorous Saudi actions are fuelling tensions in an arena where Israel and Hezbollah are often only two mutual missteps away from war.”

Karim Bitar of the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Affairs took a similar view.

“There is a combination of very disturbing factors,” he said. “We have Saudi impulsivity backed by an American president who is equally impulsive.”

Harel wrote that twice in the past Riyadh had counted on Israeli military action, first hoping it would hit Iran’s nuclear sites and then wanting intervention against the forces of Assad.

“Both times it was disappointed,” he said.

burs-scw/mjs-jod/dr

Leak Reveals Ties Between Trump Administration and Russia, Implicating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner

November 6, 2017

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PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY LYNE LUCIEN/THE DAILY BEAST

By 

The so-called Paradise Papers have revealed secrets of politicians worldwide, including new links between the Trump administration and Russia.

A new trove of more than 13 million leaked documents implicates top officials and associates of President Donald Trump—as well as foreign politicians—in shady business relationships tied to offshore financial accounts.

In at least two cases, the documents highlight top administration officials’ previously undisclosed connections to Russia and Kremlin-linked interests.

The so-called Paradise Papers were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the same publication that obtained the “Panama Papers.” Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the new documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which led a global effort of 96 media organizations from 67 countries to pore through the records. The findings were published on Sunday.

The documents show that many of the wealthy individuals Trump brought into his administration have worked to legally store their money in offshore havens where they would be free from taxation in the United States. Trump has promised repeatedly to “drain the swamp,” in condemning the idea that well-connected individuals in Washington, D.C., preserve their own interests at the expense of the rest of the country.

Among the Trump administration officials implicated in the leaks is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who according to the documents concealed his ties to a Russian energy company that is partly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s judo partner Gennady Timchenko and Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov. Through offshore investments, Ross held a stake in Navigator Holdings, which had a close business relationship with the Russian firm. Ross did not disclose that connection during his confirmation process on Capitol Hill.

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Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross seated next to President Donald Trump. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI

“In concealing his interest in these shipping companies—and his ongoing financial relationship with Russian oligarchs—Secretary Ross misled me, the Senate Commerce Committee, and the American people,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement on Sunday. He characterized Ross’ financial disclosures as a “Russian nesting doll, with blatant conflicts of interest carefully hidden within seemingly innocuous companies.”

Ross has been linked to Russian interests before; in 2014, he poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bank of Cyprus, an institution regarded by financial watchdogs as a haven for Russian money laundering. Ross’ fellow investors included a pair of Russian oligarchs, including Dmitry Rybolovlev, the man who bought a Trump property in Palm Beach for $95 million, even though it was valued at less than $60 million. Ross became a vice chair of the bank, along with a reported former KGB officer. Former Deutsche Bank executive Josef Ackermann was installed as chairman. Deutsche Bank—one of Trump’s biggest creditors—subsequently paid hundreds of millions to settle disputes that it shipped $10 billion or more to Russia in suspect loans.

Top White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is also implicated. The documents reveal that Russian tech leader Yuri Milner invested $850,000 in a startup called Cadre that Kushner co-founded in 2014.

Milner has long had a reputation in Silicon Valley as a big-league investor; his firm at one point owned major chunks of both Facebook and Twitter. But Milner was never considered particularly Kremlin-connected. These new documents call that reputation into question. The investing arm of Gazprom, the state-backed energy company, financed a share of Facebook worth up to $1 billion; a Kremlin-owned bank invested $191 million into a Milner firm, and some of that money was then injected into Twitter.

Despite Milner’s investment in his startup, Kushner said in July that he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting that he never “relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Representatives for Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), the chairman and vice chairman of the committee, did not immediately return requests for comment. Kushner, who still has a stake in Cadre, did not previously disclose the firm’s other business ties.

The top adviser is already ensnared in the Russia investigations as questions continue to swirl about his meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Kushner attended the meeting alongside Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, who was indicted last week by the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, in connection with his lobbying work for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and top economic adviser Gary Cohn are all mentioned in the documents. But some lower-level appointees have more egregious connections to offshore interests—in some cases, directly related to industries they are tasked with regulating.

Randal Quarles, who was confirmed just last month to be vice chairman for supervision at the Federal Reserve, has financial connections to a bank based in Bermuda that is being probed by U.S. officials under suspicion of tax evasion. A Federal Reserve spokesman told The Guardian that Quarles divested from the bank when he assumed his position at the U.S. central bank.

It isn’t just American officials who are implicated in the document dump. A substantial portion of Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate—around 10 million pounds—resides in offshore accounts based in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Some of the money has been invested in companies with allegedly shady business practices.

A significant number of the leaked documents came from a law firm based in Bermuda called Appleby, which helps its clients set up offshore financial accounts with the goal of avoiding taxes on certain assets. Appleby has maintained that “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients.”

—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman

https://www.thedailybeast.com/massive-leak-reveals-new-ties-between-trump-administration-and-russia-implicating-commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-and-jared-kushner

Related:

See also UPI Report:

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/11/05/Leaked-papers-show-commerce-secretary-hid-ties-to-Putin-cronies/3361509913537/?utm_source=fp&utm_campaign=ls&utm_medium=2

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For Donald Trump, Jared Kushner’s Campaign and White House Advice Has Caused Too Much Trouble

November 3, 2017

Schweizer said it would be terrific news if confirmed that Congress is finally investigating Hillary Clinton and Uranium One, calling what has come from the Mueller investigation so far something of “a clown show.” He also questioned Mueller’s seeming ability and desire to go after anything from any time, as opposed to a more limited investigation.

When the subject of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump came up, Schweizer was less than impressed.

“What is the constituency right now for Jared Kushner,” said Schweizer, “what is the power base he has? The base of supporters for Trump who were his core supporters don’t like him because he has different views on a lot of policies that they do. And I think Jared Kushner was hoping that more establishment figures in Washington would embrace him because perhaps he could soften who Trump was.”

Schweizer also questioned his judgment, saying, “His judgment has been found lacking. Not only was he the one that was pushing for the firing of Jim Comey, remember, he was the one that pushed for Paul Manafort to be hired in the 2016 election.”

Schweizer said ultimately all that brought Trump was a lot of trouble.

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

http://www.breitbart.com/radio/2017/11/02/schweizer-faults-jared-kushners-bad-judgment-for-trumps-troubles/

Trump White House Gets Ready For Impeachment — Trump Said To Have Lost Trust in Jared Kushner

November 3, 2017
After Monday’s indictments, the president blamed Jared Kushner in a call to Steve Bannon, while others are urging him to take off the gloves with Robert Mueller.
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside his daughter, Ivanka Trump (L) and her husband, Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner (R) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017.
By SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

Until now, Robert Mueller has haunted Donald Trump’s White House as a hovering, mostly unseen menace. But by securing indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates,and a surprise guilty plea from foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Mueller announced loudly that the Russia investigation poses an existential threat to the president. “Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.”

The first charges in the Mueller probe have kindled talk of what the endgame for Trump looks like, according to conversations with a half-dozen advisers and friends of the president. For the first time since the investigation began, the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream. According to a source, advisers in the West Wing are on edge and doing whatever they can not to be ensnared. One person close to Dina Powell and Gary Cohn said they’re making sure to leave rooms if the subject of Russia comes up.

Trump, meanwhile, has reacted to the deteriorating situation by lashing out on Twitter and venting in private to friends. He’s frustrated that the investigation seems to have no end in sight. “Trump wants to be critical of Mueller,” one person who’s been briefed on Trump’s thinking says. “He thinks it’s unfair criticism. Clinton hasn’t gotten anything like this. And what about Tony Podesta? Trump is like, When is that going to end?” According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far. Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call. When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.” (The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.)The consensus among the advisers I spoke to is that Trump faces few good options to thwart Mueller. For one, firing Mueller would cross a red line, analogous to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during Watergate, pushing establishment Republicans to entertain the possibility of impeachment. “His options are limited, and his instinct is to come out swinging, which won’t help things,” said a prominent Republican close to the White House.

Video: Trump Impeachment: A Serious Possibility?

As Mueller moves to interview West Wing aides in the coming days, advisers are lobbying for Trump to consider a range of stratagems to neutralize Mueller, from conciliation to a declaration of all-out war. One Republican explained Trump’s best chance for survival is to get his poll numbers up. Trump’s lawyer Ty Cobb has been advocating the view that playing ball will lead to a quick resolution (Cobb did not respond to a request for comment). But these soft-power approaches are being criticized by Trump allies including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, who both believe establishment Republicans are waiting for a chance to impeach Trump. “The establishment has proven time and time again they will fuck Trump over,” a Bannon ally told me.

In a series of phone calls with Trump on Monday and Tuesday, Bannon told the president to shake up the legal team by installing an aggressive lawyer above Cobb, according to two sources briefed on the call. Bannon has also discussed ways to pressure Congress to defund Mueller’s investigation or limit its scope. “Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told me. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”

Bannon’s sense of urgency is being fueled by his belief that Trump’s hold on power is slipping. The collapse of Obamacare repeal, and the dimming chances that tax reform will pass soon—many Trump allies are deeply pessimistic about its prospects—have created the political climate for establishment Republicans to turn on Trump. Two weeks ago, according to a source, Bannon did a spitball analysis of the Cabinet to see which members would remain loyal to Trump in the event the 25th Amendment were invoked, thereby triggering a vote to remove the president from office. Bannon recently told people he’s not sure if Trump would survive such a vote. “One thing Steve wants Trump to do is take this more seriously,” the Bannon confidant told me. “Stop joking around. Stop tweeting.”

Roger Stone believes defunding Mueller isn’t enough. Instead, Stone wants Trump to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in approving the controversial Uranium One deal that’s been a locus of rightwing hysteria (the transaction involved a Russian state-owned energy firm acquiring a Canadian mining company that controlled a large subset of the uranium in the United States). It’s a bit of a bank shot, but as Stone described it, a special prosecutor looking into Uranium One would also have to investigate the F.B.I.’s role in approving the deal, thereby making Mueller—who was in charge of the bureau at the time—a target. Stone’s choice for a special prosecutor: Rudy Giuliani law colleague Marc Mukasey or Fox News pundit Andrew Napolitano. “You would immediately have to inform Mueller, Comey, and [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein that they are under federal investigation,” Stone said. “Trump can’t afford to fire Mueller politically. But this pushes him aside.”

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Trump Said To Have Lost Trust in Jared Kushner
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BY JTA
 NOVEMBER 2, 2017 12:24

 

Trump blames Kushner for decisions that have led to a probe into connections between his campaign and Russia, according to a ‘Vanity Fair’ report.

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner . (photo credit:REUTERS)

 WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump believes his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is giving him bad advice, according to a Vanity Fair report.

The report Wednesday, citing sources “briefed on Trump’s thinking,” said Trump has confided in two right-wing provocateurs, Roger Stone and Stephen Bannon, that he no longer trusts Kushner. Bannon for the first eight months of Trump’s presidency was his top strategic adviser and reportedly clashed frequently with Kushner.

 

According to the article, Trump blames Kushner for decisions that have led to a probe into connections between his campaign and Russia, among them the firing of his first national security adviser, Mike Flynn, for not revealing the extent of his ties with Russian officials; and the firing of James Comey, the FBI director, who said he was investigating the ties.
Those events were among the factors that led the Justice Department to name a special counsel to run the probe, Robert Mueller. On Monday, Mueller announced his first arrests in the case.
The White House did not provide comment to Vanity Fair, but Trump later Wednesday called The New York Times to say he was not upset by the Mueller investigation.
“I’m not under investigation,” he told the newspaper.
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Jared Kushner travelled unannounced to Saudi Arabia to discuss Middle East Peace

October 30, 2017

 

Kushner’s unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia aimed to continue discussions over peace in the Middle East, White House official tells CNN

Image Credit: AFP
Jared Kushner
Published: 11:18 October 30, 2017

IANS

Washington: US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner travelled unannounced to Saudi Arabia last week to continue discussions over peace in the Middle East, a White House official told CNN.

Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Jason Greenblatt, special representative for international negotiations, joined Kushner on the trip, the official said on Sunday.

Kushner travelled commercially, leaving Wednesday and returning Saturday evening.

However, the official did not give details of who Kushner met in Saudi Arabia.

Last week’s trip marks the third time Kushner has visited Saudi Arabia since Trump’s Inauguration Day on January 8.

He travelled with a presidential delegation in May and also visited in late August.

In May, Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal between the US and Saudi Arabia, which was primarily brokered through Kushner.

In August, both Powell and Greenblatt were with Kushner on a Middle East tour aimed at addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump says giving peace a chance before U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem

October 8, 2017

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast on Saturday that he wanted to give a shot at achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians before moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In June Trump signed a temporary order to keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, despite a campaign promise he made to move it to Jerusalem.

In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the TBN program “Huckabee,” Trump noted his administration was working on a plan for peace between the two sides.

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” he said.

“If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it’ll lead to ultimately peace in the Middle East, which has to happen,” he said.

Asked if there was a timeframe for the embassy move, Trump said: “We’re going to make a decision in the not too distant future.”

Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Diane Craft

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A billboard calls on US President Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post

Washington- US President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast on Saturday that he wanted to give a shot at achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians before moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In June, Trump signed a temporary order to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv, despite a campaign promise he made to move it to Jerusalem.

In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the TBN program “Huckabee,” Trump noted his administration was working on a plan for peace between the two sides.

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” he said.

“If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it’ll lead to ultimately peace in the Middle East, which has to happen,” he said.

Asked if there was a time frame for the embassy move, Trump said: “We’re going to make a decision in the not too distant future.”

Hours before going on air, Trump took to Twitter to promote the show and his appearance on it, inviting his followers to watch him make an appearance on Huckabee’s show as his very first guest. The fact that Huckabee managed to snag such an important guest for the first episode of his show was criticized by many, seeing as the former governor’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, currently serves as White House Press Secretary.

Many in Israel were looking forward for the president to make good on his campaign pledge and move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital, but were disappointed to discover that Trump was backtracking on his promise as the first months of his presidency and his key Israel visit both went by without significant progress towards a move.

Trump’s decision to halt the embassy relocation was perceived as a stinging blow, despite the fact that has sent officials from his administration with increasing frequency in recent months to attempt to accelerate the stagnant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Both Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who serves as a shadow diplomat in the White House in charge of US-led peace efforts, and US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt visited the region numerous times in the past six months to negotiate with government officials in Israel as well as Palestinian Authority representatives.

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Trump-I-want-to-give-peace-a-shot-before-I-even-think-of-moving-embassy-506905

Trump aid Kushner registered to vote as a woman: report — Plus: Does Trump White House Have a Hillary Email Problem?

September 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Senior presidential adviser and his boss’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been registered to vote as a woman for the last eight years, US media reported

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner, has been registered to vote as a woman for eight years, US media reported.

Voter information records held by New York show the presidential adviser — whose portfolio includes everything from seeking peace in the Middle East to reining in the opioid crisis in the United States — was registered as “female.”

The screenshot, published by Wired, is not the first time the young statesman has fallen foul of bureaucracy.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, also filled out paperwork for his White House security clearance wrongly and had to refile it repeatedly, CBS reported.

Prior to 2009, Kushner’s New Jersey voter registration noted his gender as “unknown,” according to The Hill news site.

Kushner, the scion of a wealthy property-owning family, is one of a number of Trump’s inner circle previously found to have been registered to vote in more than one state during last year’s election, the Washington Post has reported.

Others include ex-White House press secretary Sean Spicer and ex-lead strategist Stephen Bannon.

Multiple registrations were pointed to by the president as a sign of purported widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. Trump said millions of people illegally cast votes for Hillary Clinton but has never substantiated his claim.

Kushner — a person of interest in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the US election — has also recently been accused of using private email accounts to conduct government business.

Trump’s insurgent presidential campaign was galvanized by supporters’ demands that Clinton be jailed for her use of private email servers while Secretary of State.

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Does Trump’s team have a Clinton email problem?

Attorney: Kushner used private email account to talk to WH officials 01:28

Story highlights

  • Douglas Cox; Use of private email accounts by members of President Trump’s administration poses questions similar to some asked about the Hillary Clinton emails

Douglas Cox is a professor at the City University of New York’s School of Law. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

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(CNN) — Hillary Clinton has called the use of private email for official business by multiple senior Trump White House advisers — reportedly including Jared Kushner, Stephen Bannon, and Reince Priebus — the “height of hypocrisy.” While there are both legal and factual distinctions between the two situations, Clinton’s criticism is valid. Comparing the two situations is appropriate and may become more so as the facts further develop.

Douglas Cox

While the Federal Records Act applied to Clinton’s emails, the comparable Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of records of the president and his advisers. Presidential records include almost any material related to the president’s activities whether they are documents, texts, tweets, recorded conversations, or emails. While “personal” documents are excluded from the definition of presidential records, the exception is narrowly confined to communications of a “purely private” nature.
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The Presidential Records Act also specifically prohibits the president and his advisers from using a “non-official” email account to send a presidential record, unless they copy the message to their official email account or forward it to the official account within 20 days.
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While Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell has asserted, “All non-personal emails were forwarded to his official address,” he did not specify whether this was done within the law’s time limit or belatedly in response to this controversy, or who determined which of his private emails were “non-personal.” Just as with Clinton, the public is being asked to trust that senior government officials who used private email for official business nevertheless both preserved all relevant emails and properly distinguished between personal and official records.
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This is trust the public should not have to give. The purpose of the Presidential Records Act, originally passed in 1978 as a reaction to the Watergate scandal, was to establish public ownership over presidential records and to take them out of the hands of individuals with an incentive to destroy or conceal incriminating documents.
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The use of private email by senior Trump White House advisers creates an unacceptable risk that the activities of the Trump White House will not be properly documented, ongoing investigations by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller will be undermined, and the historical record will be damaged.
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The other risk of private email, highlighted throughout the Clinton controversy, is that classified or sensitive information might be maintained outside of government control. While there is not yet any public evidence to suggest that the private emails of Trump advisers contained classified information, it would be premature to conclude that there was none.
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Given the heightened sensitivity of communications related to the presidency, any assertion that dozens, if not hundreds, of emails sent between senior White House advisers did not contain any information that would be redacted as classified strains credulity.
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His lawyer’s carefully worded statement that Kushner’s private emails “usually” were “forwarded news articles or political commentary” does not diminish the possibility of classified information. Former White House chief of staff John Podesta once described how even news articles often became stamped as classified in the White House on the basis that mere presidential interest in a news article could constitute strategic, sensitive information. Also, recall that one of the classified emails featured in the Clinton controversy reportedly resulted from an employee forwarding a newspaper article on the use of drones.
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Presidential records, unlike federal records at the State Department, are not immediately subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Given this, assertions that the private emails in the Trump White House contained no classified information may have a longer shelf life than similar assertions by Clinton, but they are not necessarily any more credible.
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While Clinton’s exclusive use of private email and a private server may have been larger in scale, the Trump White House’s “occasional” use of private email must also be placed in the context of a larger pattern of evading records laws.
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This includes former chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s reported desire to limit the White House “paper trail,” the apparent use of encrypted messaging apps by White House staff that automatically deleted communications, the continuing deletion of presidential tweets, and an ongoing lawsuit against Trump for violations of the Presidential Records Act.
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Join us on Twitter and FacebookFurther, while Clinton’s claims that she initially believed that her use of private email was consistent with the law and State Department policy was at least plausible, the Clinton email controversy itself renders any assertions by Trump advisers that private email use about official business was appropriate effectively unbelievable.

In the end, drawing any final conclusions or comparisons will require more facts. A congressional request is seeking such facts about the extent of private email usage by the Trump White House and its compliance with the law.
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While many believe Clinton’s emails were overemphasized during the campaign, and while possible violations of the Presidential Records Act may be dwarfed by other Trump White House investigations, the use of private emails by Trump advisers deserves the same level of scrutiny as Clinton’s emails. Those who led chants of “Lock her up!” are not entitled to special leniency in the application of the law.
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Maureen Dowd: Now That We Know More, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg Look Scary

September 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.

But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.

All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated.

Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.

But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.

Finally on Thursday, speaking on Facebook Live, Zuckerberg said he would give Congress more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia. As one Facebooker posted: “Why did it take EIGHT MONTHS to get here?”

Hillary is right that this $500 billion company has a lot to answer for in allowing the baby-photo-sharing site to be turned into what, with Twitter, The Times’s Scott Shane called “engines of deception and propaganda.”

Robert Mueller’s team, as well as House and Senate investigators, are hotly pursuing the trail of Russian fake news. On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security told 21 states, including Wisconsin and Ohio, that Russian agents had tried to hack their elections systems during the campaign.

As Vanity Fair pointed out, Mueller’s focus on social media during the campaign could spell trouble for Jared Kushner, who once bragged that he had called his Silicon Valley friends to get a tutorial in Facebook microtargeting and brought in Cambridge Analytica — Robert Mercer is a big investor — to help build a $400 million operation for his father-in-law’s campaign.

Some lawmakers suspect that the Russians had help in figuring out which women and blacks to target in precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Senator Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into Russia’s intervention in 2016, has a suspect in mind. “Paul Manafort made an awful lot of money coming up with a game plan for how Russian interests could be pushed in Western countries and Western elections,” Heinrich told Vanity Fair.

ProPublica broke the news that, until it asked about it recently, Facebook had “enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of “why jews ruin the world.”’”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s C.O.O., apologized for this on Wednesday and promised to fix the ad-buying tools, noting, “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us.”

The Times’s Kevin Roose called this Facebook’s “Frankenstein moment,” like when Mary Shelley’s scientist, Victor Frankenstein, says, “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”

Roose noted that in addition to the Russian chicanery, “In Myanmar, activists are accusing Facebook of censoring Rohingya Muslims, who are under attack from the country’s military. In Africa, the social network faces accusations that it helped human traffickers extort victims’ families by leaving up abusive videos.”

The Sandberg admission was also game, set and match for Elon Musk, who has been sounding the alarm for years about the danger of Silicon Valley’s creations and A.I. mind children getting out of control and hurting humanity. His pleas for safeguards and regulations have been mocked as “hysterical” and “pretty irresponsible” by Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, whose project last year was building a Jarvis-style A.I. butler for his home, likes to paint himself as an optimist and Musk as a doomsday prophet. But Sandberg’s comment shows that Musk is right: The digerati at Facebook and Google are either being naïve or cynical and greedy in thinking that it’s enough just to have a vague code of conduct that says “Don’t be evil,” as Google does.

As Musk told me when he sat for a Vanity Fair piece: “It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”

In July, the chief of Tesla and SpaceX told a meeting of governors that they should adopt A.I. legislation before robots start “going down the street killing people.” In August, he tweeted that A.I. going rogue represents “vastly more risk than North Korea.” And in September, he tweeted out a Gizmodo story headlined “Hackers Have Already Started to Weaponize Artificial Intelligence,” reporting that researchers proved that A.I. hackers were better than humans at getting Twitter users to click on malicious links.

(Musk also tweeted that it was a cautionary tale when Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay, had to be swiftly shut down when Twitter users taught her how to reply with racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic slurs, talking approvingly about Hitler.)

Vladimir Putin has denied digital meddling in the U.S. elections. But he understands the possibilities and threat of A.I. In a recent address, the Russian president told schoolchildren, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Musk agreed on Twitter that competition for A.I. superiority would be the “most likely cause of WW3.”

On Thursday, touring the Moscow tech firm Yandex, Putin asked the company’s chief how long it would be before superintelligent robots “eat us.”

Zuckerberg scoffs at such apocalyptic talk. His project this year was visiting all 50 states, a trip designed by former Obama strategist David Plouffe, which sparked speculation that he might be the next billionaire to seek the Oval Office.

As Bloomberg Businessweek wrote in a cover story a few days ago, Zuckerberg has hired Plouffe, other senior Obama officials and Hillary’s pollster. He has said he is no longer an atheist and he changed Facebook’s charter to allow him to maintain control in the hypothetical event he runs for office.

Yep. Very scary.