Friday, May 26, 2017

Leaky, Leaky

Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch once close to President Trump’s former campaign manager, has offered to cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but lawmakers are unwilling to accept his conditions, according to congressional officials.

  NYT
That's crap.
Senate and House panels turned him down because of concerns that immunity agreements create complications for federal criminal investigators, the officials said.

[...]

Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who is a member of the inner circle of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, recently offered to cooperate with congressional intelligence committees in exchange for a grant of full immunity, according to three congressional officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

[...]

Mr. Deripaska’s offer comes amid increased attention to his ties to Paul Manafort, who is one of several Trump associates under F.B.I. scrutiny for possible collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign.
Seriously, how much can the US do to him? Is he not a Russian citizen?

Another question: Is Trump going to make it to mid-terms?

Dear, Trumpettes...

Despite repeated efforts by President Trump to curtail refugee resettlements, the State Department this week quietly lifted the department’s restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States.

[...]

The State Department’s decision was conveyed in an email on Thursday to the private agencies in countries around the world that help refugees manage the nearly two-year application process needed to enter the United States.

[...]

The result could be a near doubling of refugees entering the country, from about 830 people a week in the first three weeks of this month to well over 1,500 people per week by next month, according to refugee advocates. Tens of thousands of refugees are waiting to come to the United States.

  NYT
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Leaky, Leaky

The White House is burning.

The Reagan defense.
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn.

[...]

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

[...]

The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

  WaPo
Imagine the scrambling going on though.
To some officials, it also reflects a staggering naivete.

[...]

“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”
No shit. Our national security is at risk with these dumbshits in the White House. Who knows how much has already been compromised.
The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.

[...]

Russia would also have had reasons of its own to reject such an overture from Kushner. Doing so would require Moscow to expose its most sophisticated communications capabilities — which are likely housed in highly secure locations at diplomatic compounds — to an American.
And an idiot.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Don't Pull Your Head Out of the Sand Yet

If spent fuel at one of the dozens of US nuclear sites sets alight, it “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident [in Japan],” researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists warned in their study published in the May 26 issue of Science magazine.

[...]

[T]he hypothetical fire would result in contamination of an area larger than New Jersey and force mass relocations.

[...]

The researchers say that this frightening scenario can be avoided if spent fuel is not housed in the pools which are used at almost all US nuclear plants to store and cool used radioactive material. Instead, it would be safer to transfer it to dry storage casks after it is cooled in pools for around five years, they say. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) previously considered such measures, but decided they would be too costly.

  RT
It might be a tad more costly if one caught fire.
The NRC previously said the transfer of spent fuel, which could reduce the threat of radioactive releases by 99 percent, would require additional spending of $50 million per pool. An accident would result in $125 billion in damages and radioactive contamination would not go beyond 50 miles of the site, according to the NRC, in sharp contrast to the researchers' estimates. The NRC also said that the consequences would be dealt with within a year, while the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents have shown much worse effects, with the areas still deserted.

[...]

The study blames the NRC for downplaying the potential consequences and risking millions of Americans’ lives to favor nuclear industries.

[...]

"Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry's wishes.”

The researches also stressed that a nuclear disaster could be brought about by a large earthquake or terrorist attack, the possibility of which was excluded by the NRC.

They have called on the agency to take action to reduce the potential danger by enhancing the monitoring of the pools and increasing water levels in case of a breakdown. If the NRC does not act, the researchers say Congress should step up.
Seriously? You don't think Congress is beholden to nuclear industry money?

If you haven't and you can, watch "Command and Control" now streaming on Netflix and see how safe you feel. It's not about nuclear power plants, but it is about the cavalier attitude and incompetence of government agencies in charge of dangerous materials.

 ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Counter Leak

Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email was fake -- created by Russian intelligence -- but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.

[...]

The Russian intelligence at issue purported to show that then-Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation. The intelligence described emails between then-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a political operative suggesting that Lynch would make the FBI investigation of Clinton go away.

[...]

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.

[...]

Comey did not let on to lawmakers that there were doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to sources familiar with the briefings. It is unclear why Comey was not more forthcoming in a classified setting.

Sources close to Comey tell CNN he felt that it didn't matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods. There were other factors behind Comey's decision, sources say.

  CNN
First of all, shouldn't we hear this from Comey himself before we decide it's true? And if Comey denies it, then where will we be?

This whole thing is going to get so muddied that nobody will be able to figure anything out. Like the accounting books at an insurance firm where I once worked.
Multiple US officials tell CNN that to this day Russia is trying to spread false information in the US -- through elected officials and American intelligence and law enforcement operatives -- in order to cloud and confuse ongoing investigations.
They don't even need to waste their time and money. We'll do all that on our own.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Shakeup the White House

Trump is actively discussing major changes in the White House, including a shakeup of his senior team, after spending much of his free time during his overseas trip weighing the Russia investigation and the political crisis it poses for him, according to several senior administration officials and outside advisers.

[...]

[R]evisions on the table include a new filter of the president’s social-media habit and fewer scheduled press briefings, officials and allies said.

[...]

One major change under consideration would vet the president’s social media posts through a team of lawyers, who would decide if any needed to be adjusted or curtailed. The idea, said one of Mr. Trump’s advisers, is to create a system so that tweets “don’t go from the president’s mind out to the universe.”

  WSJ
Filter the Rooster? It'll never happen.
Trump aides have long attempted to rein in his tweeting, and some saw any type of legal vetting as difficult to implement. “I would be shocked if he would agree to that,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign aide.
We all would be.
Other changes under discussion include removing communications director Mike Dubke and installing Sarah Sanders as the main spokesman instead of Mr. Spicer. Another consideration is scaling back on daily press briefings.
Those changes wouldn't surprise me one bit.
One White House official said that Mr. Spicer, parodied by comedian Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live,” has taken on an unwanted celebrity status that threatens to undercut his effectiveness as a spokesman.
No, it threatens to make him more of a celebrity than his boss. That won't do.

Is all this just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

 ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Separate State and Church

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam's holy month of Ramadan, two U.S. officials said, apparently breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years.

[...]

When asked by Reuters to comment on Tillerson declining a request to host an Eid al-Fitr event in July for Ramadan, a State Department spokesperson said: "We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world."

[...]

If Tillerson avoids hosting one this year, that could send a message "that it is not as important to this administration to engage with Muslims," said former U.S. diplomat Farah Pandith, who served in the Bush and Obama administrations and helped plan Ramadan events at the White House and State Department.

  Reuters
You know what? Good on Tillerson. I don't know what his reasoning is, but there shouldn't be any recognition of anything religious by the arms and offices of the United States government. They should stop having those prayer breakfasts and Easter and Christmas events. None of these things is proper.
Tillerson issued a statement on Friday to mark the start of Ramadan, which he called "a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection."

"Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate," he said.
He shouldn't even have done that.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Trump Must Go

So says....the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

[...]

Trump is a miserable politician.

[...]

Trump is also a miserable boss.

[...]

He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

[...]

Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other - and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.

  Der Spiegel
Continue reading.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

America Has Lost Its Way

Airwars and FP reached out to all 12 non-U.S. members of the coalition to ask which were responsible for the 80 deaths. The responses ranged from outright denials of involvement (Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Britain); to no response (Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates); to several ambiguously worded statements.

Despite these statements, Airwars and FP confirmed that every coalition member identified as responsible for any of the 80 deaths were informed by U.S. officials of their assessed involvement. The allies have known for months if not longer of these findings, according to U.S. officials — but those nations responsible chose not to admit it when questioned by Airwars and FP.

[...]

U.S. officials’ efforts to release information about casualties caused by their partner nations, however, came at a cost. As the result of a deal struck among the coalition partners, civilian casualty incidents included in monthly reporting will not be tied to specific countries. That means the United States will in the future no longer confirm its own responsibility for specific civilian casualty incidents either — a move toward greater secrecy that could deprive victims’ families of any avenue to seek justice or compensation for these deaths.

[...]

Going forward, a total tally of coalition strikes that resulted in civilian casualties will always be included in reports. However, the United States will no longer identify the strikes that were carried out by its own forces. This is due to a concern that allies responsible for civilian deaths could be identified by a process of elimination.

  Foreign Policy
Really? How? The only one it would eliminate would be the US.
“We will just say ‘Coalition,’ and we won’t say if it was U.S. or not,’ confirmed Centcom Director of Public Affairs Col. John Thomas.
Sounds more like the US is getting a pass. Especially since we are far and away the country with the most civilian deaths to account for.
The coalition has so far admitted to killing 352 civilians since 2014, including the 80 or more non-combatants slain by U.S. allies. However, this may just by the tip of the iceberg: That figure is still roughly 10 times lower than Airwars’s own minimum estimate of 3,500 civilian fatalities in the air campaign. That tally is the result of monitoring carried out by our team of researchers, and does not include incidents that are contested or are currently backed by weak evidence.

Leaky, Leaky: Trump Circle of Jerks: Carter Page

When the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” pressed Trump on air in mid-March to name people with whom he spoke about foreign affairs, the candidate’s response only seemed to underscore his lack of serious advice.

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” he said.

[...]

By late March 2016, when Trump appeared before The Post’s editorial board, he was prepared to brag about his new foreign policy team.

“I can give you some of the names,” Trump said after Post Publisher Frederick J. Ryan Jr. asked about his advisers.

Second on the list of five read aloud by Trump: “Carter Page, PhD.”

[...]

[W]hen Carter Page, an international businessman with an office near Trump Tower, volunteered his services, former officials recall, Trump aides were quick to make him feel welcome.

He had come with a referral from the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, New York state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, who had conveyed Page’s interest to the campaign, Cox said.

[...]

A top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, then employed what campaign aides now acknowledge was their go-to vetting process — a quick Google search — to check out [Page]. He seemed to have the right qualifications, according to former campaign officials — head of an energy investment firm, business degree from New York University, doctorate from the University of London.

[...]

But what the Google search had not shown was that Page had been on the FBI’s radar since at least 2013, when Russian officials allegedly tried to use him to get information about the energy business.

[...]

A thorough vetting of Page might have revealed several red flags. Page had spent three years working in Moscow, for instance, and he held stock in the Russian company Gazprom, meaning that he could have a personal financial stake in the future of U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia.

[...]

In June, Page stunned a group of foreign policy luminaries during a private meeting at Blair House with the visiting prime minister of India by going off-topic to declare that Putin was a stronger and more reliable leader than President Barack Obama, according to people who were in the room. Page also promised that U.S.-Russian relations would improve if Trump were elected. Page has denied this account, blaming it on his political enemies.

[...]

Page had previously drawn the attention of the FBI after he had conversations in 2013 with a man posing as an executive with the New York branch of the Russian development bank Vneshecon­ombank. The man was later convicted of being a Russian spy, and FBI recordings included discussions among Russian operatives about their attempts to recruit Page.

[...]

Over the summer, the FBI convinced a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of Russia.

[...]

In his defense, Page in recent weeks has sent a series of meandering letters to investigators. He has quoted Maroon 5 lyrics, cited the writings of George Orwell and said he is being persecuted because of his Catholic faith.

  WaPo
Oy, vey.

Here's something I missed at the time:
In early March 2016, more than 70 conservative national security experts signed an open letter opposing Trump’s candidacy, calling him “fundamentally dishonest.”
They could have added fundamentally ignorant.  Note that Trump had to read the list of his policy advisers in that Post interview.  He probably had no input in choosing them or care who the hell they were.  When push comes to shove in the Russia collusion aspect of the investigation, he'll be able to pull the Alzheimer-Reagan defense: I didn't know, or I forgot.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.