William Taylor Was Skeptical Of Trump. Then Came His “Nightmare Scenario” In Ukraine

A straight-shooting, no-nonsense career US diplomat who was hesitant to return to Ukraine for the Trump administration now appears to have been a voice of reason as two fellow diplomats discussed pressuring Ukraine’s new president to dig up dirt that might help …Trump’s reelection campaign.

…They say he’s a tell-it-like-it-is extrovert who puts matters of state before politics.

… Sondland and Volker told an aide to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that an official White House visit to meet Trump and the delivery of $391 million in critical military aid was dependent on him launching and publicizing investigations into a gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter worked, and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections.

…“Are we now saying that security assistance and [White House] meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor texted to Sondland on Sept. 1, after the Ukrainians had learned that the US was withholding the military aid and Trump had backed out of a trip to Poland, where he was supposed to meet with Zelensky. “Call me,” Sondland replies.

The text messages pick up on Sept. 8, when Sondland says he’s held multiple conversations with Zelensky and Trump.

In that exchange, Taylor says, “The nightmare is [the Ukrainians] give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)”

William Taylor Was Skeptical Of Trump. Then Came His “Nightmare Scenario” In Ukraine


Trump Told Russian Officials He Was Unconcerned by Moscow’s Election Interference: Report

Trump made the comments to  …in the same May 2017 meeting where he came under fire for revealing highly classified information that exposed an intelligence source on the Islamic State. 

…[Trump] told Lavrov and Kislyak he was unfazed by Moscow’s election interference because America has done the same thing in other countries. He also reportedly said the firing of ex-FBI Director James Comey got rid of “great pressure” on him.

The remarks prompted officials to restrict access to a memo about the meeting to only a “few officials with the highest security clearances” to keep his comments from the public

Trump Told Russian Officials He Was Unconcerned by Moscow’s Election Interference: Report


Siberian shaman arrested after traveling nearly 2,000 miles to ‘exorcise’ Putin – CNN

Speaking in a video on his Instagram account, Gabyshev called Putin “a beast, a fiend of hell, the son of Satan,” and said the purpose of his trip to Moscow was to “exorcise” the Russian leader.

Amnesty said armed and masked law enforcement officials “encircled” Gabyshev’s camp near the village of Vydrino, in the Russian republic of Buyratia, and “took away the shaman” on Thursday.

…Yakutia’s Ministry of Health said on Friday that Gabyshev had been sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he would undergo tests. [Ouch. that cannot be good.]

Siberian shaman arrested after traveling nearly 2,000 miles to ‘exorcise’ Putin – CNN



Trump Is Recklessly Endangering the Lives of America’s Spies

… Trump disclosed Israeli intelligence relating to an ISIS plot to bomb U.S.-bound airplanes using laptops. …[He] placed that source in grave danger of being uncovered by ISIS, and Israel reportedly had him or her quickly removed.

…Specific information regarding the Russian troll farm used to disrupt the 2016 election and leading to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of more than a dozen Russian intelligence officers, for example, must have come from U.S. spies in Russia—and the Kremlin knew it.

…After all, Trump had no hesitation tweeting out classified imagery of Iran’s rocket program. Would he go so far as to share the identity of a U.S. spy?

…Under the conditions created by Trump, it is hard to imagine that any sane person would want to spy for the United States—and that is a terrifying prospect for the safety of this country.

I’m a Former U.S. Double Agent, and Trump Is Recklessly Endangering the Lives of America’s Spies | Opinion


Russia’s Putin Offered Trump Hypersonic Weapons: ‘I Told Donald, We Can Sell You Some’

“the issue was raised as to how and in what way it would be possible to count Russian modern weapons, including the hypersonic missile systems, into the common agreements, considering that so far not a single country in the world possesses these weapons, not even the U.S.,” as quoted by the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

“I told Donald the following: ‘If you want, we can sell you some and this way we will balance everything out. But truth be told, they are saying that they will soon produce it themselves,” Putin remarked.

Russia’s Putin Offered Trump Hypersonic Weapons: ‘I Told Donald, We Can Sell You Some’


In succession clue, Kazakh leader’s daughter elevated after his resignation

Kazakhstan took a step closer to a carefully choreographed dynastic succession on Wednesday as the daughter of its long-serving ruler was named to a post that put her in line for the presidency a day after her father stepped down.

…New President Tokayev nominated the 78-year-old leader’s 55-year-old daughter Dariga as speaker of the senate, meaning she would automatically become president if Tokayev were to leave office before an election next year.

…Another extended family member, Nazarbayev’s nephew Samat Abish, is also regarded as a candidate after his meteoric rise through the ranks of state security, where he has held the No. 2 post since 2015. Abish, however, keeps a low public profile.

The head of state security, Karim Masimov, although not a family member, is also close to Nazarbayev, having served as chief of staff and twice as prime minister. The present prime minister, Askar Mamin, was Masimov’s school classmate.

Some analysts believe there could be a collective succession, a troika- or politburo-style arrangement, after Kazakhstan amended its constitution in 2017 to reduce presidential powers in favor of lawmakers and the cabinet.

In succession clue, Kazakh leader’s daughter elevated after his resignation | Reuters


Kleptocracy Is on the Rise in America

During the Cold War, the KGB had developed an expert understanding of the banking byways of the West, and spymasters had become adept at dispensing cash to agents abroad. That proficiency facilitated the amassing of new fortunes. In the dying days of the U.S.S.R., Palmer had watched as his old adversaries in Soviet intelligence shoveled billions from the state treasury into private accounts across Europe and the U.S. It was one of history’s greatest heists.

…Eighteen years before Special Counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation into foreign interference in a U.S. election, Palmer warned Congress about Russian “political donations to U.S. politicians and political parties to obtain influence.” What was at stake could well be systemic contagion: Russian values might infect and then weaken the moral defense systems of American politics and business.

…Newspaper articles in the fall of 1999 showed how billions in Russian money, some of it seemingly tied to an alleged crime boss, had landed in the Bank of New York. These sums startled Bill Clinton’s administration, which readied tough new anti-money-laundering bills, designed to stiffen banking regulations. 

…For all the new fastidiousness of the financial system, foreigners could still buy penthouse apartments or mansions anonymously and with ease, by hiding behind shell companies set up in states such as Delaware and Nevada. Those states, along with a few others, had turned the registration of shell companies into a hugely lucrative racket—and it was stunningly simple to arrange such a Potemkin front on behalf of a dictator, a drug dealer, or an oligarch. …Procuring a library card requires more identification in many states than does creating an anonymous shell company.

…Birkenfeld described how he had ensconced himself in the gilded heart of the American plutocracy, attending yacht regattas and patronizing art galleries. He would mingle with the wealthy and strike up conversation. “What I can do for you is zero,” he would say, and then pause before the punch line: “Actually, it’s three zeroes. Zero income tax, zero capital-gains tax, and zero inheritance tax.” Birkenfeld’s unsubtle approach succeeded wildly, as did his bank. As part of an agreement with the Justice Department, UBS admitted to hiding assets totaling some $20 billion in American money.

…The defining document of our era is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. The ruling didn’t just legalize anonymous expenditures on political campaigns. It redefined our very idea of what constitutes corruption, limiting it to its most blatant forms: the bribe and the explicit quid pro quo. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion crystallized an ever more prevalent ethos of indifference—the collective shrug in response to tax avoidance by the rich and by large corporations, the yawn that now greets the millions in dark money spent by invisible billionaires to influence elections.

…In 2017, Reuters examined the sale of Trump Organization properties in Florida. It found that 77 of 2,044 units in the developments were owned by Russians. But that was likely an incomplete portrait. More than one-third of the units had been sold to corporate vehicles, which can readily hide the identity of the true owner. As Oliver Bullough remarks, “They might have belonged to Vladimir Putin, for all anyone else could know.”

Kleptocracy Is on the Rise in America – The Atlantic


The NRA Welcomed Maria Butina—Even As She Worked to Arm Anti-American Thugs Abroad – Mother Jones

Butina wasn’t just a gun rights fan who attended American University, romanced a veteran Republican operative, and pitched US-Russian collaboration at NRA conventions.

…In the immediate aftermath of the invasion and annexation in March 2014, Butina denounced retaliatory sanctions by the Obama administration and traveled to Crimea to promote the arming of pro-Russian separatists. Her efforts there included pledging support to a leader of a militia group that violently seized a Crimean news outlet it deemed “pro-American” and swiftly repurposed for a Kremlin propaganda operation.

…Butina’s role in Crimea raises additional questions about why the NRA—known historically for its hawkish “freedom loving” image—spent years getting close with a Russian national who was doing work hostile to US national security interests.

…In America, she enthused about gun rights and international friendship. But in Moscow, she used fervently nationalistic rhetoric to endorse the takeover in Crimea and called for backing Russian separatists fighting elsewhere in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians throughout the region, she said, were being culturally oppressed—a theme long pushed by Putin’s regime.

…During an audience Q&A at a political conference in Las Vegas, she asked about foreign policy. Specifically, she wanted to know whether the candidate at the podium might back off from “damaging” US sanctions against Russia.

The answer Donald Trump gave Butina was yes.

The NRA Welcomed Maria Butina—Even As She Worked to Arm Anti-American Thugs Abroad – Mother Jones


Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovych found guilty of treason

A Ukrainian court has found the former president Viktor Yanukovych guilty of treason for his efforts to crush the 2014 pro-western demonstrations that eventually toppled his government.

Yanukovych was also charged with asking Vladimir Putin to send Russian troops to invade Ukraine after he had fled the country.

The verdict came almost five years after Yanukovych was overthrown, and could serve as an important symbolic conclusion to the events of 2014. More than 100 people were killed, many by sniper fire, on Kiev’s Maidan Square in clashes between protesters and police.

The charges will have little real effect on Yanukovych, 68, who has lived in exile in the Russian city of Rostov since fleeing Ukraine under armed guard nearly five years ago.

Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovych found guilty of treason | World news | The Guardian


Trump-appointed judge defends Mueller, scolds lawyer for Russian firm

Friedrich described the lawyer’s attacks against the special counsel as “meritless.”

…”I thought your brief was inappropriate and unprofessional and ineffective,” Friedrich told Dubelier. “You have undermined your credibility in this courthouse.”

“Knock it off,” added Friedrich.

…In court Monday, Dubelier defended the filing and accused Friedrich, a Trump appointee, of not being impartial.

…Concord Management was one of three companies charged last February with carrying out a multimillion-dollar social media disinformation campaign designed to sow discord among U.S. voters and boost Donald Trump’s campaign.

Mueller’s team said the funding for the effort was provided by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, one of the wealthiest men in Russia and a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s.

Trump-appointed judge defends Mueller, scolds lawyer for Russian firm


Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come

For the past 14 months, Yasinsky had found himself at the center of an enveloping crisis. A growing roster of Ukrainian companies and government agencies had come to him to analyze a plague of cyberattacks that were hitting them in rapid, remorseless succession. 

…For decades they warned that hackers would soon make the leap beyond purely digital mayhem and start to cause real, physical damage to the world. In 2009, when the NSA’s Stuxnet malware silently accelerated a few hundred Iranian nuclear centrifuges until they destroyed themselves, it seemed to offer a preview of this new era. 

…A hacker army has systematically undermined practically every sector of Ukraine: media, finance, transportation, military, politics, energy. Wave after wave of intrusions have deleted data, destroyed computers, and in some cases paralyzed organizations’ most basic functions.

…Russian troops promptly annexed the Crimean Peninsula in the south and invaded the Russian-­speaking eastern region known as Donbass. Ukraine has since then been locked in an undeclared war with Russia, one that has displaced nearly 2 million internal refugees and killed close to 10,000 Ukrainians.

From the beginning, one of this war’s major fronts has been digital. 

Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come | WIRED


World’s oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea

Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the world’s oldest intact shipwreck at the bottom of the Black Sea where it appears to have lain undisturbed for more than 2,400 years.

The 23-metre (75ft) vessel, thought to be ancient Greek, was discovered with its mast, rudders and rowing benches all present and correct just over a mile below the surface. A lack of oxygen at that depth preserved it, the researchers said.

…“This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

…They said the finds varied in age from a “17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, through Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae, to a complete ship from the classical period”.

World’s oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea | Science | The Guardian