July 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


U.S. intelligence intercepted Russian officials talking about meetings with Trump associates before the campaign started (The Week, 7/12/17)

U.S. intelligence overheard Russian government officials discussing President Trump even before he'd declared he was running for office, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Such conversations were intercepted in spring 2015 and apparently referred to "meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers." Trump has sold properties in Russia and produced the Miss Universe pageant there in 2013. The Journal noted it's unclear whether the conversations were at all tied to Trump's plans to run for president.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 PM


'Jared Kosher' is Fox's accidental name for Kushner (JTA July 13, 2017)

On Fox News' morning show "Fox & Friends" Wednesday, a typo on the ticker referred to Jared Kushner -- President Trump's senior adviser and Jewish son-in-law -- as "Jared Kosher."

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 PM


Rouhani leads Iran's return to wheat exports (Maysam Bizaer, July 12, 2017, Al Monitor)

In 2004, under the presidency of Reformist Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), Iran marked self-sufficiency in wheat production for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Khatami administration also formulated a 10-year plan that outlined initial steps to reduce imports, and envisioned strategies aimed at sustaining production in times of drought. The plan, however, was put aside under the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) and the country once again became reliant on imports to meet domestic needs, buying over 25.7 million tons of wheat during his two terms in power. 

But things began to change when President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013. His government has been taking a series of measures over the past four years to not only reduce imports significantly, but also to boost production to a level that has enabled Iran to achieve self-sufficiency once again. With a record high output of 14 million tons last year, Iran has become an exporter of the strategic product; in June, the country sold wheat abroad for the first time in years.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


The gap between white and black unemployment in America is at a record low (Akin Oyedele, Jul. 7, 2017,Business Insider )

The gap between the black and white unemployment rates in the US shrunk to a record low in June. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of jobless African Americans in the labor force fell to 7.1%, the lowest level since April 2000. It was 1.5 percentage points down from a year ago, and it helped create the smallest gap between white and black employment on record.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Natalia Veselnitskaya, Lawyer Who Met Trump Jr., Seen as Fearsome Moscow Insider (NEIL MacFARQUHAR and ANDREW E. KRAMER, JULY 11, 2017, NY Times)

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. last year to discuss possible compromising material on the Democrats, has been widely depicted as a one-issue activist consumed with getting Congress to repeal sanctions against Russian businessmen. [...]

The [Katsyv] family's trust in Ms. Veselnitskaya was rewarded in May, when she helped Denis P. Katsyv, Pyotr's son, fight the money laundering claims in New York brought by the Manhattan federal prosecutor at the time, Preet Bharara. Mr. Bharara tangled with Ms. Veselnitskaya several times and protested at one point that she had been charging the government for a $995-a-night room at the Plaza Hotel.

The case was settled two months after Mr. Bharara was dismissed by President Trump. [...]

It was Ms. Veselnitskaya's desire to get the United States to reverse the Magnitsky Act that prompted her to seek a meeting with the Trump campaign, she said Saturday in written responses to questions from The New York Times. On Tuesday, her office withdrew the promise of an interview. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


State Department spent more than $15,000 for rooms at new Trump hotel in Vancouver (Amy Brittain July 12, 2017, Washington Post)

The State Department spent more than $15,000 to book 19 rooms at the new Trump hotel in Vancouver when members of President Trump's family headlined the grand opening of the tower in late February. [...]

Last week, the outgoing head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., told CBS News that he believes there is "an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency."

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Trump Jr. just defined 'disgraceful' (John Podhoretz, July 11, 2017, NY Post)

Yes, upon being informed in June 2016 he might soon be in receipt of information from the Russian government damaging to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. responded with the words, "I love it."

He didn't call the FBI to say he had evidence the Russian government was seeking to interfere with the presidential election of 2016. No, he said, "I love it" -- and set up a meeting with the shady Russian lawyer who, he was told, might share dirt with him.

He didn't steer the Trump campaign away to shield it from the stain of a potentially scandalous encounter with an operative working for Vladimir Putin. No, Trump Jr. brought the campaign's chairman, Paul Manafort, and his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, into the meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


Russian Oligarch Who Plotted to Aid Trump Was Named in Private Intelligence Dossier (Robert Mackey, July 11 2017, The Intercept)

While Donald Jr. and Veselnitskaya now maintain that she provided no useful intelligence on Hillary Clinton at the meeting, the Agalarovs seem to have secured a place in American political history by brokering the meeting.

But that family name, and the contours of the plot described in the email, were already well-known to Christopher Steele, the former British spy who spent much of last year compiling a private intelligence dossier on what sources in Russia described to him as a Kremlin operation to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. [...]

Steele reported that at least two sources said that information of some kind on Clinton had been provided to the Trump campaign by Russia. One of those sources, described as "a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow" reported in June 2016, "that this Russian intelligence had been 'very helpful.'"

One of Steele's sources also claimed that the theft of emails from Democratic officials, later provided to WikiLeaks, "had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team."

Stolen emails were not mentioned in the plot to help Trump described to Donald Jr. by Goldstone, but it was just three days after the June 9 meeting with Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, first revealed that he had obtained what turned out to be emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee.

Later in his report, Steele said that two sources in another Russian city, St. Petersburg, claimed that Trump had illicit sexual encounters there during another trip. Both of those sources claimed that a business associate of Trump, Aras Agalarov, "will know the details."

Among those entirely unsurprised by the revelation that Agalarov was named at the center of a plot to help the Russian government help Trump was Alexey Navalny, the opposition activist who hopes to run against Putin in the 2018 Russian presidential election.

Writing on his blog, Navalny called the idea of a Putin-Chaika-Agalarov-Trump pipeline "very plausible."

As Navalny noted, Agalarov seems to be close to Chaika and spoke out loudly in his defense in 2015, when Navalny's anti-corruption foundation produced a damning investigative report accusing the prosecutor of having abused his position to make his children rich.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 AM


Trump Talk Aside, Auto Manufacturing and Automation Are Booming in Mexico (Amy Guthrie  July 12, 2017, MIT Technology Review)

When Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency in November with a promise to lure back manufacturing jobs, Sean Patton trimmed his sales projections for 2017. Patton is head of business development for Genesis-ICESA Systems, a family-run automation integrator based in Mexico's Bajío region. His company largely caters to the country's burgeoning automotive industry, a big exporter to the United States.

Midway through 2017, however, it looks as if Mexico's automotive engine can't be stalled: the industry is anticipating its eighth consecutive year of record-high production and exports. And in a bid to stay competitive, the Mexican car industry is embracing ever more automation. Genesis-ICESA, which has installed more than 500 robots since its founding in 1974, has seen its bookings double in the first half of 2017 over the number for the first half of 2016, putting the company on track for its best year ever. "It's going to be a very good year for robotics," says Patton.

Just as U.S. manufacturers are increasingly turning to robots take on work once done by humans, so too is Mexico heading toward a future of increasingly automated factories. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


'Crude' history made as India poised to buy its first ever cargo of US oil (Gaurav Sharma, July 12, 2017, IB Times)

A remarkable development is in the pipeline, as India - the world's third largest consumer of crude oil - is poised to buy its first ever cargo from the United States, Indian officials confirmed to IBTimes UK on Wednesday (12 July). [...]

In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed legislation that ended a crude oil export ban dating back to 1975. 

Trade, the WoT and the Heritage health plan.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


White House aides feeling 'helpless' as Trump Jr. scandal blossoms : As West Wing staff grapples with the latest Russia controversy, the president is fuming about the negative coverage. (TARA PALMERI and JOSH DAWSEY 07/11/2017, Politico)

White House aides feel blindsided by the bombshell revelations around Donald Trump Jr.'s campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer, while the president is using his relatively light schedule to watch TV and fume about the latest scandal, according to interviews with half a dozen White House officials and advisers.

Unlike prior Russia-related controversies, the White House is not minimizing the political ramifications of Trump's eldest son's decision to meet with the Kremlin-linked lawyer after being offered information that he was told would "incriminate" Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

But top West Wing aides are exasperated by their limited ability to steer the damage control and the risk that more damaging news has yet to emerge.

One Trump adviser said the White House was "essentially helpless" because the conduct happened during an "anything goes" campaign that had few rules. [...]

There's also tension inside the White House as Vice President Mike Pence's communications team issued its own statement, appearing to distance Pence from the president. Some West Wing aides felt particularly bruised by the line that he's "not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket," seeing it as an admission of guilt on the part of the campaign, according to a White House official.

These guys are just awesomely bad at this.  First Kushner leaks that the emails exist, to try and get at Junior, after his legal team discovers them, apparently not realizing he's implicated himself.  Then Donald releases them all, apparently either mistaking them for exculpatory or just to bring Kushner down with him.  Wait'll the feds start offering deals....

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Election Law Expert Robert Bauer on What Don Jr.'s Emails Mean for the President (Lily Carollo, 7/11/17, New York)

Campaigns seek out damaging information about their opponents all the time. What makes this Donald Trump Jr. situation unique? 

The law specifically prohibits soliciting or accepting anything of value from a foreign national. When we talk about information, which is a very general term - we could be talking about research reports, polling data, a cache of emails -- they have value. The election laws pick up, for this particular prohibition, and in other provisions as well, contributions that consist of something in kind. Something that is not acquired with cash, something that is received in the form that somebody else procured and paid for it.

The word collusion has been thrown around a lot to describe the Trump campaign's possible relationship to Russia. Legally, what does that mean?

Collusion, I think, is a shorthand. It means some sort of conspiracy, conniving, collaboration. In election law there's a term called coordination and that essentially captures circumstances in which a campaign has found somebody to spend money on its behalf. The campaign is a beneficiary of an arrangement by which somebody might, for example, advertise on behalf of the campaign, or purchase goods and services to be delivered to the campaign. If a candidate is a party to that understanding, then in effect it's really no different than the campaign getting money directly from the donor. It's benefiting with its understanding, its consent, and its request. It's benefiting from the expenditure of the fund. And so it's treated as a contribution like any other because the spending was coordinated. And that's where the term coordination comes from. [...]

There are two categories of laws that may apply not just to Trump Jr., but to the Trump campaign and Russia's relationship as a whole: federal election laws and criminal conspiracy laws. Is that correct? 

Yeah, and the conspiracy laws connect to the election laws. Because you would have a conspiracy, presumably, should the evidence ultimately support it, to violate the campaign-finance laws. So, the conspiracy would not be free-floating and independent, it would tie directly into the violation of the campaign laws.

With conspiracy laws, the crime is the agreement itself to commit a crime. It doesn't matter whether that effort succeeds or is ever carried out.

That's correct.