Posts Tagged ‘Russians’

Hundreds of Thousands of Polish Catholics are Expected on Saturday to “Pray the Rosary Together on Our Borders For World Peace”

October 6, 2017



© AFP / by Maja Czarnecka | A poster promoting the “Rosary to the Borders” initiative fixed in a Warsaw church

WARSAW (AFP) – Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

 The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup and outdoor

Praying the Rosary by Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

– ‘Spiritual barrier’ –

Organisers hope one million people will show for the event. The railways are offering tickets for a symbolic 1 zloty (27 cents, 23 euro cents) to around 40 destinations on the border.

Those who are unable to attend can instead catch the event live on ultra-Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja.

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said.

But for the nationalist Catholic activist Marcin Dybowski, it is clear “that a religious war between Christianity and Islam is once again underway in Europe, just like in the past.”

“Europe has been invaded by Islam, which doesn’t respect our mores, our civilisation. The (terrorist) attacks leave behind hundreds of victims. Europe only makes a show of protecting borders,” he said.

Dybowski, an editor of religious books, is behind the Rosary Crusade for the Motherland, a religious and political initiative bringing together ultra-Catholic nationalists.

“The reality is that there are no borders. (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel opened them up to a large extent,” he told AFP.

“Poland is in danger. We need to shield our families, our homes, our country from all kinds of threats, including the de-Christianisation of our society, which the EU’s liberals want to impose on us,” he said.

“Austria and Hungary built barbed-wire walls against refugees. We’re using prayer to create a spiritual barrier against the dangers of terrorism.”

by Maja Czarnecka
Saturday is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

Between War and Acceptance, a Third Way on North Korea

October 2, 2017

Analysts say deterring and containing Pyongyang would be Trump administration’s best bet

President Donald Trump with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a luncheon in New York last month.
President Donald Trump with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a luncheon in New York last month. PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Trump administration now finds itself in a remarkable position: Nobody in the world knows where it stands on the most dangerous international issue of the day, and nobody is sure who speaks for the administration on that issue.

That’s the situation that emerged on Sunday, when President Donald Trump openly contradicted his own secretary of state on the approach the administration is taking with North Korea and its nuclear program. Rex Tillerson, speaking after a visit with Chinese leaders, said the U.S. has direct lines of communication with North Korea; within hours, Mr. Trump tweeted that his secretary of state is “wasting his time trying to negotiate.”

The resulting confusion would be risky under any circumstances. Yet the most ominous part of the exchange actually lies elsewhere, in the implication that Mr. Trump now sees only what Sen. Bob Corker, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referred to Sunday as a “binary choice”: capitulation to North Korea or military conflict with potentially catastrophic consequences.

In fact, there is a third way, one that a variety of analysts from across the ideological spectrum have begun pointing to as a way out of the binary-choice box. It is a strategy called “deterrence and containment”: Deter the North Koreans from ever using their weapons against the U.S. and its allies, and contain Pyongyang in its box until sustained pressure brings about either a change of heart or a change of regime in the rogue nation.

This isn’t a novel approach, because it was the basis for perhaps the most successful national-security strategy in American history. Precisely 70 years ago this summer, American diplomat George Kennan wrote a famous article for Foreign Affairs magazine outlining the basis for a strategy of containment of the Soviet Union, which came to pose a much larger nuclear threat.

As tensions rise around the Korean peninsula, American leaders have been openly discussing what was once unthinkable: A military intervention in North Korea. If this were to happen, here’s how specialists on North Korean security see things playing out.

For the first time in almost a decade, Wall Street Journal reporters traveled to Pyongyang on a tightly controlled reporting trip in September. Here is an early look at some exclusive footage from North Korea. Video/Photo: Paolo Bosonin/The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Kennan, a staunch foe of Communism with on-the-ground experience in the Soviet Union, wrote in 1947 that the U.S. had little hope of good relations with the Soviets in the short term, given Moscow’s conviction it had both right and might on its side. But he also argued that the Soviet system, with its combination of paranoia and the resulting suppression of its citizens, carried the seeds of its own demise.

“This would of itself warrant the United States entering with reasonable confidence upon a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world,” Mr. Kennan wrote.

Mr. Kennan wasn’t advocating that the U.S. stand idly by, but rather that it actively work to keep the Soviets in a box, while also seeking to undermine Communism internationally and to “influence” internal Soviet developments. His writing implied he thought this strategy might be necessary for 10 to 15 years. In fact, it took half a century, but ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed without a shot being fired.

The differences between the Soviet Union then and North Korea now are enormous, of course, starting with the question of whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can be counted on to respond rationally to pressure. Still, the parallels exist as well: a hostile and paranoid foreign power, its population kept under tight control, posing a military threat while a military confrontation risks horrific consequences.

Flash forward to today, and Michael J. Mazarr and Michael Johnson, senior researchers at the nonpartisan Rand Corp., write: “Contain, deter and transform. Not a radical solution, but one that has worked before—and an approach that holds out the hope of preserving U.S. interests while avoiding war.”

Jeffrey A. Bader, former Asia specialist on the National Security Council staff in the Obama administration now at the Brookings Institution, argues for an “assertive policy of deterrence and containment.” He writes that they are “not appealing options” and were attacked during the Cold War as “passive, immoral and defeatist.” But, he argues, “in fact they were none of those then, and would be none of those now.”

As Mr. Bader suggests, the contain-and-deter option hardly implies simply sitting back and watching. It would require significant buildup of American and allied missile-defense systems, a larger American military presence on land and at sea in Asia, a robust effort to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically and efforts to undermine the North Korean regime internally and externally.

There are, of course, skeptics. “To be sure, this may be the only option left, but many who are advocating the policy don’t seem to be thinking through its military requirements and possible regional consequences,” writes Daniel Blumenthal of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The approach also led, he notes, to costly proxy wars.

Still, the deter-and-contain idea at least shows there remains ample middle ground between capitulation and war.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

Russians posed as Muslim organization to sway US voters

September 28, 2017

By Chris Perez
The New York Post

No automatic alt text available.

The Russian government tried to influence the 2016 presidential election by masquerading as an authentic US Muslim organization on social media and posting incendiary memes about Hillary Clinton — while simultaneously using other accounts to send Islamophobic messages to right-wing users, a report says.

Sources tell The Daily Beast that the Kremlin-backed internet trolls created a fake Facebook group called “United Muslims of America” and then used it to stir the proverbial pot for months.

While the Russians’ use of imposter accounts is well noted, this is one of the first known instances where they impersonated an actual organization.

The real “United Muslims of America” is a California-based nonprofit that claims to have promoted interfaith dialogue and political participation for more than 30 years. It is “not functional” at the moment, though, and is in the middle of an organizational rebuild.

The group has hosted events with numerous members of Congress in the past — including Democrats Andre Carson and Eric Swalwell. The lawmakers are both members of the House intelligence committee that is currently investigating President Trump’s ties to Russia.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the United Muslims of America is one of many organizations that was unfairly targeted by Russia in their attempt to influence the 2016 Presidential election,” Carson told the Daily Beast.

While using the imposter UMA account, the Russian trolls reportedly posted countless messages and memes aimed at smearing Clinton’s name, as well as other politicians.

One claimed that the Democratic nominee “created, funded and armed” al-Qaeda and ISIS, while another said John McCain was the true founder of the Islamic State.

The account also posted a photo showing a whitewashed, blood-drenched Moammar Gadhafi — which applauded him for not having a “Rothschild-owned central bank.”

Another post, which was watermarked with the UMA logo, falsely alleged that Osama bin Laden had been a “CIA agent.”

“Russia knows no ends and no limits to which groups they would masquerade as to carry out their objectives,” Swalwell told the Daily Beast.

Throughout the campaign, much of the content that was posted on the account remained apolitical — but the influx of fake news was likely enough to sway voters.

Positive portrayals of Islam were ultimately aimed at Muslim audiences, while the Islamophobic messages were meant for right-wing users.

One post from August 2016 promoted an anti-immigrant rally in Idaho, saying: “We must stop taking in Muslim refugees!”

A message from June 2016, following the deadly Orlando nightclub massacre, asked people to attend an event titled, “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims!”

According to the Daily Beast, the fake UMA page wrote that Clinton was “the only presidential candidate who refuses to ‘demonize’ Islam after the Orlando nightclub shooting.” It added that “with such a person in White House (sic) America will easily reach the bright multicultural future.”

Sources told the outlet that the Russian government also used the account to buy Facebook advertisements to reach its target audiences.

In order to hide their operation, the trolls reportedly used the URL “” — as opposed to the real UMA’s URL, which is “”

They wound up amassing more than 260,000 followers before the account was eventually deactivated by Facebook last month as part of the company’s public acknowledgement of Russia’s network activity.

The Daily Beast managed to uncover some of its content, including a number of posts that were made on Instagram and Twitter.

The Russians reportedly used the handles “muslims_in_usa” and “muslim_voice” to promote political rallies for Muslims and post more inflammatory memes. The accounts have since been suspended, as well.


Russian Jets Strike U.S.-Backed Forces in Eastern Syria: SDF

September 25, 2017

BEIRUT — U.S.-backed Syrian militias said Russian warplanes struck their positions in Deir al-Zor province on Monday, near a major natural gas field they seized from Islamic State in recent days.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, has been fighting Islamic State on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river with U.S.-led jets and special forces. The SDF on one hand, and Syrian troops with Russian air power on the other, have converged on Islamic State in separate offensives in Deir al-Zor.

Spokesman Mustafa Bali said the attack on Monday “by land and air” had wounded SDF fighters.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Russian Occupation of Crimea Marked by Grave Human Rights Violations — Arbitrary arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture

September 25, 2017

Sept. 25, 2017, at 5:13 a.m.

Image result for Russia, Crimea, photos

GENEVA (Reuters) – Russia is committing “grave” human rights violations in Crimea, including its imposition of citizenship and by deporting prisoners, a U.N. human rights report said on Monday.

“Grave human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, and at least one extra-judicial execution were documented,” the report said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Kremlin says not involved in Russia-linked Facebook ads

September 22, 2017


© AFP/File | Facebook has agreed to hand over all information about Russian-linked ads on its site the US Congress

MOSCOW (AFP) – The Kremlin on Friday distanced itself from the controversy over Russia-linked Facebook ads which may have influenced last year’s US election, saying Moscow had nothing to do with them.

“We don’t know who places ads on Facebook and how,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“We have never done it and the Russian side has never had anything to do with it.”

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the company would pass on to Congress details about Russia-linked ads that inflamed tensions around last year’s presidential election.

Earlier this month, Facebook said some 470 Russia-linked fake accounts spent a total of about $100,000 between June 2015 and May 2017 on ads that touted fake or misleading views and played on divisive social and political themes like race, gay rights, and immigration.

The ads were linked to a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, a secretive outlet in Saint-Petersburg which has been christened the “troll farm” by Russian media because its employees blogged and left comments under fake online identities.

A congressional investigation will focus on how the messages in the ads were manipulated by Russian interests.

The investigation is the latest development in a string of probes into possible Russian meddling in the election and whether it could have swung the vote in US President Donald Trump’s favour.

US intelligence agencies say Putin himself directed the intervention and Senate and Justice Department investigators have been chasing links between the Trump campaign and Moscow for evidence of collusion.

Moscow has denied all allegations of meddling in the vote.

North Korea and its missiles: what next? — No signs of calming down

August 31, 2017


© KCNA VIA KNS/AFP | North Korea’s latest missile launch has ramped up tensions in the tinderbox region

SEOUL (AFP) – Tensions between North Korea and the United States are spiking again in the aftermath of Pyongyang’s latest weapons test, when it lobbed an intermediate range missile over northern Japan.The long-running face off between the little-understood regime in Pyongyang and the United States has intensified since the start of Donald Trump’s unorthodox presidency, and shows no signs of calming down.

Here are some questions and answers on the volatile situation:

– What has happened? –

In the last two months, Pyongyang has carried out its first two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) apparently bringing much of the US mainland into range.

It has also threatened to send a salvo of missiles to “envelop” the US Pacific territory of Guam, which is home to significant US military facilities and which it sees as a beachhead for invasion.

US President Donald Trump has issued apocalyptic warnings of raining “fire and fury” on the North, saying Washington’s weapons were “locked and loaded”, while his administration has repeatedly said military action was an “option on the table”.

Tuesday’s firing of a missile over Japan — which Pyongyang called a “curtain-raiser” for further launches — was seen as an escalation by the regime because of its trajectory.

The North says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against invasion by the United States, and its possession of an ICBM enhances its deterrent, by enabling it to threaten US cities as well as South Korea and Japan, both of them US allies.

– What will the North do next? –

Leader Kim Jong-Un has called for Pyongyang to carry out more missile tests into the Pacific Ocean, and there is no reason not to take him at his word.

Pyongyang has a long history of steadily pushing back boundaries.

Last year it fired a missile that came down in Tokyo’s exclusive economic zone — waters extending 200 nautical miles from Japan’s coast. At the time it provoked consternation and condemnation, but there were several repetitions in the following months.

Analysts say the North’s next escalation could be to fire multiple missiles over Japan simultaneously. It could also look to demonstrate its capabilities by sending one further than the 2,700 kilometre distance Tuesday’s missile travelled — Guam is around 3,400 kilometres from the North.

But the flight path of Tuesday’s missile appears to have been carefully chosen not to go anywhere near Guam and risk provoking a physical response — KCNA went as far as declaring: “The drill had no impact on the security of the neighbouring countries.”

– Is US military intervention possible? –

Experts caution that military intervention in North Korea remains unlikely — at least for now.

Still, the Pentagon has 28,500 troops in South Korea and detailed plans for a potential conflict with the North. It has spent decades rehearsing with South Korean counterparts, including in the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises which were ending Thursday.

Options range from limited surgical strikes on nuclear targets to a pre-emptive “decapitation” attack to take out Kim and other senior leaders.

But North Korea also has decades of experience in tunnelling — it dug passages under the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) after the Korean War — and both its atomic arsenal and conventional artillery are believed to be well underground, protected from attack.

A first strike would be highly unlikely to destroy all its nuclear weapons, and it has massed artillery within range of Seoul, home to 10 million people just 55 kilometres (30 miles) from the DMZ — giving it the ability to inflict mass casualties even with just a conventional response.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, many agree with his former chief adviser Steve Bannon, who told The American Prospect: “There’s no military solution, forget it.”

– What about China and more sanctions? –

In August the UN Security Council passed a seventh set of sanctions against the North over its weapons programmes, including bans on the export of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood.

The measures were approved unanimously — including by Moscow and Beijing, the North’s sole major ally, but their effectiveness hinges largely on China, which accounts for 90 percent of trade with North Korea but is suspected of failing to enforce past UN measures.

The US has repeatedly tried to press China into taking a harder line on North Korea, but Beijing fears a collapse of Kim’s regime.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed this week to increase pressure on the North.

That could also include unilateral moves by Japan and the US — Washington last week sanctioned 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting the North’s nuclear programme.

Beijing and Moscow both back a mutual freeze in which the North stops missile tests and the US and South Korea halt joint military exercises.

But that would leave the North with capabilities seen as unacceptable by Washington, which says the proposal would reward bad behaviour.

– How about talks? –

The message out of Washington is a little muddied.

After the latest launch, Trump tweeted: “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!”

But soon afterwards Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters: “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions,” and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has repeatedly said he hopes to persuade Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table.

Pyongyang insists its weapons are not up for negotiation, and analysts say it is enhancing its military capabilities to strengthen its position in any future talks with the US — it has shown no interest in discussions with Seoul.

Through the 2000s, six-party talks among China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the US appeared to draw Pyongyang, then under the rule of Kim’s father Kim Jong-Il, towards a possible slowdown in its programme, but that process collapsed in 2009.

The North has carried out five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and says it has mastered both miniaturisation and re-entry technology to fit a working warhead onto a missile.

Questions remain about those and other issues, but Professor Koh Yu-Hwan at Dongguk University in Seoul told AFP that this week’s launch was “a clear message” the North would not talk until it had nuclear-tipped missiles that could reach the US.

Having such a weapon, Pyongyang believes “will give the North the upper hand in any negotiations”, he said.

Libyan Military Strongman Haftar Visiting Russia

August 12, 2017

MOSCOW — Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar was due to arrive in Moscow on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, RIA news agency reported, citing a Russian negotiator.

Haftar is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, told RIA. It was not immediately clear what the pair would be discussing.

At the end of July, Haftar and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj committed during talks in France to a conditional ceasefire and to elections, but a Italian naval mission aimed to help the country curb migrant flows has fueled tension this month.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

It has rejected a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is struggling to assert authority over an array of armed factions which have been competing for control since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has held talks with Russian officials before and in January he was given a tour of a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The head of the U.N.-backed government visited Moscow in March, and the Kremlin said then it wanted to help repair the damage it said had been done by Western involvement in the country.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Jared Kushner Releases Details on Previously Undisclosed Meeting With Russian Ambassador

July 24, 2017

President’s son-in-law and adviser spoke with ambassador Sergei Kislyak at event at Washington hotel

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

FILE – In this Monday, July 17, 2017 file photo, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak arrives at the State Department in Washington to meet with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, a prominent figure in the controversy over Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has ended his assignment in Washington. The Russian Embassy in Washington announced on Twitter that Kislyak’s tenure ended on Saturday, July 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)


July 24, 2017 6:00 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, on Monday released details of his contacts with Russian officials and businesspeople in the two years since Mr. Trump launched his presidential campaign, including a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in April 2016.

In the newly disclosed April encounter—shortly before Mr. Trump would become the Republican party’s effective nominee—Mr. Kushner met ambassador Sergei Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kushner said he was introduced to Mr. Kislyak and three other ambassadors by Dimitri Simes, the publisher of a foreign-policy magazine who was hosting the event, at a reception held directly before it.

A spokesman for Mr. Kushner had previously denied that the two met privately at that event. A White House spokesman said Monday that the statement doesn’t contradict the previous denial because the two met at a reception, not one-on-one.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“The ambassadors…expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election,” Mr. Kushner wrote in his statement. “Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”

Mr. Trump, who gave a speech addressing foreign policy at the event, also greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to a VIP reception held before the event, The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2016. Mr. Kushner’s account makes no mention of Mr. Trump being present at the reception. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also attended the event, and said in sworn testimony before a Senate panel last month that he couldn’t recall whether he had a passing encounter with Mr. Kislyak there.

To underscore the brief nature of the interaction, Mr. Kushner referenced an email he wrote on Nov. 9 after the campaign received a note of congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin. “What is the name of the Russian ambassador?” Mr. Kushner asked in an email to Mr. Simes, an American born in Moscow, saying he wanted to verify that the Putin note was real.

The meeting with Mr. Kislyak was revealed in an 11-page statement Mr. Kushner prepared for congressional committees probing allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign. Later Monday, he is set to hold a private interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will mark his first time speaking with congressional investigators.

“I had no improper contacts,” Mr. Kushner wrote in the statement. “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.”

Following Mr. Trump’s victory on Election Day, the White House repeatedly denied that there had been any contacts between his campaign and Russian officials. “It never happened,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Associated Press in November. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

Since then, it has emerged that several members of Mr. Trump’s campaign—some of whom now serve in his administration—did have contact with Russians. They include Mr. Sessions, former national security adviser Mike Flynn and the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.

Congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing a criminal probe for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as whether Trump associates colluded in that effort.

Mr. Trump and his campaign aides have denied any collusion, and the president has said he questions the U.S. intelligence agencies’ consensus that Moscow sought to intervene during the campaign—a charge that Russian officials have denied.

The revelations of the Russia meetings come at a time when Congress is considering legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia as retribution for its interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak PHOTO: CAROLYN KASTER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The bill, which already passed the Senate on a rare and overwhelming bipartisan 98-2 vote will pose a test for the president, who has expressed skepticism about the intelligence community’s assessment of Moscow’s role in the campaign, from hacking Democratic emails to promoting fake news. The White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Sunday said Mr. Trump was likely to support the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has summoned Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for three months in 2016, and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, to a hearing on Wednesday, along with Russia sanctions activist Bill Browder and Glenn Simpson, the founder of a political intelligence firm in Washington called Fusion GPS. Mr. Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee on Friday.

Mr. Simpson’s attorneys have said they are prepared to fight the subpoena. The Judiciary Committee said Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Manafort are providing documents to the committee and are still negotiating the terms of their testimonies.

The new meeting disclosed on Monday come on top of three previously confirmed meetings Mr. Kushner has held with Russians.

In June 2016, Mr. Kushner met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Mr. Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. in a meeting arranged by the younger Mr. Trump. Emails the president’s son released earlier this month showed the meeting was held to discuss allegedly damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton they were told was being offered by the Russian government in support of the elder Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

In an email to the younger Mr. Trump dated June 3, 2016, a British publicist said that a top Russian prosecutor had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

The younger Mr. Trump responded: “[If] it’s what you say I love it.”

Mr. Kushner disclosed the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya earlier this year in a required form to obtain a security clearance, according to a statement by his attorney, Jamie Gorelick. Mr. Kushner initially filed a disclosure that didn’t list any contacts with foreign government officials, but the next day submitted a supplemental disclosure saying that he had engaged in “numerous contacts with foreign officials.”

Mr. Kushner has since submitted information about “over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition,” Ms. Gorelick said. That information hasn’t been publicly disclosed.

White House officials also said earlier this year that Mr. Kushner met in December with Messrs. Kislyak and Flynn. Mr. Flynn resigned in February as national security adviser after it was disclosed he misled officials about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Mr. Kushner subsequently had aide Avraham Berkowitz handle another meeting requested by Mr. Kislyak, during which the ambassador sought to arrange a meeting between Mr. Kushner and Sergei Gorkov, the head of Vneshekonombank, or VEB, the officials said. Mr. Kushner’s meeting with Mr. Gorkov took place in December at a location other than Trump Tower, a senior administration official said.

In 2014 the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Russian development bank, naming entities and individuals operating in Russia’s economy following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. The Treasury Department sanctions prohibit specified financial contacts with the bank and others on the list.

The White House’s account of that December meeting has differed from that of VEB, which said its leadership met with Mr. Kushner in his capacity as the head of the real-estate firm Kushner Cos. A senior administration official said earlier this year that Mr. Kushner didn’t know the bank was under sanction and “wasn’t there to discuss business.”

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at

If Trump Really Loves America, He’ll Resign

July 15, 2017

Handcuffed by Ego

Image may contain: 1 person, standing


By John Francis Carey

Donald Trump Jr. “took a meeting” with a Russian government attorney and a group working to defeat Hillary Clinton.

At least, that’s what he thought, according to his email records.

No other facts are relevant.

Republican commentator Charles Krauthammer says it may be bungled collusion but it’s still collusion.

Meanwhile, the healthcare bill is going nowhere fast, there is no tax overhaul plan, and no infrastructure spending plan has been passed and funded.

The stock market is going great but the Wall Street Journal reports that the gains in the stock market haven’t translated very much into the real economy. Manufacturing is still slow, jobs have been made but the future is unclear, retail is not doing well and optimism for the U.S. economy is slipping.

“Hopes for a prolonged period of 3% GDP growth sparked by Trump’s victory have largely vanished,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment survey.

We are in a tough spot in North Korea — maybe on the brink of war. American troops remain involved in wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, along with the occasional bombing in Somalia or someplace else.

The nation needs the full attention of the Commander in Chief.

Trust in any White House policy with regard to Russia is now under assault. China is watching closely as Donald Trump looks more and more to them as a temporary stand-in president under siege and perhaps just hours or days from incapacitation due to lack of public support.

Xi Jinping can watch CNN, too.

Never in the history of the nation has a “resistance movement” dogged a U.S. president from within. Never have the media been so emotionally transfixed upon who said what in the White House, in Air Force One, on the trip and the rest. Never have we seen so many leaks and unnamed sources. Committees of Congress are questioning former Directors of National Security and the FBI, plus a long list of lesser notables. Doubt reigns.

Then, somewhere in the bowels of the FBI, there’s Robert Mueller III, lingering like the hangman.

It sounds like a bad movie. The perfect storm in Washington D.C.

But it’s real: offering three plus years of gridlock — or worse.

Doctor Charles Krauthammer has called Donald Trump “pathological” — and more than once.

Nobody has to have a medical degree to see, watch and judge for themselves.

Donald Trump’s treatment of Jeff Sessions is a lesson in bad behavior and maybe even ego-driven illness.

But there is a way out. There is always a way to do what is in the best interests of the people of the United States. There is always a way to do what’s right for the sake of the nation. There is always gain in uniting the nation and ending the foul stench — of just about anything.

Donald Trump will have to resign. His pride will refuse to entertain the notion, of course.

But the alternatives may sway him.

The best part of the Trump Presidency may be over. Many achievements already won can be maintained under a new Republican President. Maybe a healer can even start the process of moving us past…

If President Trump decides to stay, and fight a war of a 10,000 tweets all the way to impeachment — as his ego will tell him to do — his place in history will be destroyed.

If some sort of medical intervention comes to pass, his legacy, and maybe even his business empire, will be destroyed forever.

Plus, no matter what happens, enemies around the globe will be gloating at the prospect of the U.S. on the brink of ungoverned and ungovernable for the next year or two.

Putin’s evil master plan has already succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

As Trump stands today, to many he’s the rock star of the age that got into the White House in a kind of miracle of populism. The dream of “Making America Great Again” is a good one and could be preserved, and maybe even fulfilled in some ways, if he resigns.

If he stays, ignoring the advice of national solons who tell him he should resign “for the good of the nation,” the historians will rip him to shreds as a selfish, ego driven megalomaniac that really doesn’t or didn’t care if American ever became Great Again. He will be seen as one who only cares about schmoozing with Mrs. Macron in the Eiffel Tower and sending insulting tweets to the Mayor of London.

Now who should lay all this out for Donald Trump? Who can engineer the intervention?

My first thought is for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, two brothers from different mothers.

But more importantly, two men who have worked in the Oval Office to serve the American people.

Two former presidents. Two men in Trump’s same unique club.  They have to make the case to their successor in the Oval Office.

But the only people Donald Trump really trusts are those in his inner circle: Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and Ivanka. They got him where he is. They will have to play a role in getting him out.

Otherwise, they will all become a part of a long, painful, ego-fueled national nightmare.

And nobody will be better for it.

In the meantime, we await Mr. Mueller.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Mr. Carey has written commentary for The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and other newspapers.



What Robert Mueller Learned From Enron

Robert Mueller, foreground, arriving at the Capitol for a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June. Credit Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

It seems safe to assume that nobody read Donald Trump Jr.’s damning emails with a Kremlin-connected lawyer more closely than Robert Mueller.

Mr. Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, will surely be looking into the now infamous meeting, including the president’s son; the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort.

As he does, will Mr. Mueller be able to build a case that goes all the way to the top?

That could depend on what lessons he learned from overseeing the task force that investigated one of the biggest fraud cases in American history: the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

In December 2001, Enron filed what was then the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Just weeks later, Mr. Mueller, then the F.B.I. director; Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson; and the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Michael Chertoff, formed the Enron Task Force, an elite team of F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors assigned to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the Houston-based energy trader. Andrew Weissmann, who recently joined Mr. Mueller’s Russia team, later led the task force.

The Enron team was patient and learned from its investigative and trial mistakes. After its yearslong run, it set a high-water mark for complex, high-profile financial inquiries, successfully indicting and imprisoning almost all of the company’s top executives.

Early on, the Enron team also won a jury conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, Enron’s auditor, on an obstruction-of-justice charge. That experience could prove valuable as the Russia team investigates — among many possible routes — whether President Trump obstructed justice when he fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director.

Prosecuting the Enron executives went slowly. Not until 2006 did a jury find the former chief executive, Jeffrey K. Skilling, and the former chairman and chief executive, Kenneth L. Lay, guilty. (Mr. Lay died before sentencing.)

The frauds Enron was accused of were audacious. The company had hidden debt in a complex web of off-the-books companies and had faked its profits. Yet prosecutorial success was not inevitable. Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay pleaded ignorance, blaming lower-level employees and arguing they had relied on the advice of their attorneys and auditors. The government did not have damning emails or wiretap evidence from either man. Prosecutors may face a similar challenge with Mr. Trump, who tweets but reportedly does not use email.

The Enron team got off to an auspicious start, with the Department of Justice providing adequate prosecutorial resources. Mr. Mueller helped recruit talented prosecutors and investigators from around the country and then got out of their way.

He and other top Justice Department officials then gave their team political cover. Enron and its executives were particularly close to the Bush family and top Republican officials. Early on, the team interviewed White House officials about their recollections. Republican political operatives voiced displeasure, but the team persisted.

The task force conducted its investigations effectively, flipping lower-level employees to build cases against the top bad actors. The Enron team made aggressive and risky moves. For example, it shocked Houston high society by charging the wife of Andrew Fastow, the chief financial officer, with tax evasion to put pressure on him. It worked. Mr. Fastow began to cooperate with the government. (His wife pleaded guilty.) Every prosecutor knows this strategy works, but for various reasons today, few put in the painstaking work needed to penetrate the sophisticated legal defenses of highly paid executives.

As it proceeded, the task force weathered relentless attacks. First, critics charged it was moving too slowly. Later, white-collar defense lawyers accused the team of intimidating witnesses and overzealously charging executives. The legal establishment particularly criticized the prosecution of Arthur Andersen. The government won at trial in 2002, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict three years later on a narrow issue involving jury instructions.

Despite its successes, the Enron Task Force emerged with a mixed legacy thanks to its trial losses and reversals from higher courts. Among them, the Supreme Court reversed part of the Skilling verdict.

Today, many Justice Department officials have learned the wrong lessons from the Enron experience, accepting the idea that the task force was overzealous. Even Democratic appointees like Mary Jo White, President Obama’s chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Lanny Breuer, his assistant attorney general for the criminal division, came to believe the prosecution of Andersen had been a mistake.

Drawing the wrong lessons has consequences. In subsequent years, the Justice Department did not assign prosecutors to work solely on financial crisis cases. While the Bush Justice Department had acted quickly to create the Enron Task Force, the Obama department allowed plans to create a similar task force, after the banking collapse of 2008, to die amid bureaucratic infighting.

It was no surprise, then, that the Justice Department never put any top bankers from the biggest banks in prison after the financial crisis. Forgetting what went right with the Enron prosecutions has contributed to a problem that still plagues the Justice Department: It has lost the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives from the largest corporations.

Today Mr. Mueller’s team is operating in an even hotter kitchen than the Enron Task Force did. The president has repeatedly called the investigation “a witch hunt,” and rumors abound that he could fire Mr. Mueller any day. A Trump ally, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has grumbled conspiratorially that the former F.B.I. director was the “tip of the deep state spear” aimed at the president.

But the Enron Task Force may have given Mr. Mueller a hide thick enough to protect him from those attacks. More than that, Enron honed skills he’ll need now in the Russia investigation, which may well touch on money laundering, secrecy havens, complex accounting maneuvers, campaign finance violations — and multiple lies.

As I talked with Mr. Mueller’s former Enron Task Force colleagues in recent weeks, it became clear to me that he believes the Enron team was successful — and understands why. That means his special counsel team will probably move more slowly than people anticipate. But it might also shock people with its aggressive investigative and prosecutorial tactics. If Mr. Trump and his advisers committed crimes, Mr. Mueller will find them.