Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Czer, Jun 30, 2017.
Acting AG Matthew Whitaker was spotted at Trump's hotel hours after testifying to Congress about his oversight of the DOJ
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC just hours after testifying to Congress about his oversight of the Justice Department, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported.
The news raised eyebrows among some who have criticized Whitaker for getting cozy with President Donald Trump while also overseeing an FBI investigation into Trump.
The hotel Whitaker went to is also at the center of a lawsuit against Trump alleging that he's violating the Constitution's emoluments clause, which prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts or other payments from foreign entities.
It's unclear why Whitaker was at the Trump International Hotel. Shortly before appearing at the Republican hot-spot, he appeared on Capitol Hill to testify to the House Judiciary Committee about his role at the Justice Department, special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, and his relationship with Trump.
The president often derides the Russia investigation and has accused the special counsel of going on a politically motivated "witch hunt" against him and his associates.
When Trump tapped Whitaker to be acting attorney general last year, Democratic lawmakers raised concerns that he did so in an effort to sideline Mueller's investigation. Whitaker, for his part, has a long history of publicly criticizing Mueller and the Russia probe, and he once mused about financially gutting the investigation to hamstring prosecutors.
On Friday, however, Whitaker said the investigation "is proceeding consistent with the regulations that outline why the appointment happened, consistent with [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein's appointment."
The comment stood in stark contrast to Trump's and his allies' claims about the special counsel.
Whitaker also testified that he did not brief Trump, senior White House staff, or third party individuals about matters related to the Mueller probe. He was less forthcoming when asked whether he shared any of his personal opinions or criticisms of Mueller with Trump, his legal team, or any other associates prior to being appointed acting attorney general.
"I can assure this committee that before appointing me to this position, the president did not ask for, and I did not provide, any commitments, promises concerning the special counsel's investigation, or any other investigation —" Whitaker began, before Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren cut him off.
"That's not the question I asked, sir," Lofgren said, before saying her time was about to expire.
After being pressed, Whitaker replied that he did not discuss his opinions about Mueller with Trump or any other White House officials or allies when he was a private citizen.
Norway: GPS jamming during NATO drills in 2018 a big concern
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Norwegian Intelligence Service says GPS signal disruption as seen during major NATO drills in Norway last year “is of particular concern” for the military and “is also a threat to civil aviation in peacetime.”
The intelligence agency said Monday in its annual report that the signal jamming “represents not only a new challenge” for NATO members, but saying Russia’s ability to projects its power “in peace, crisis and war will increase.”
Norway and Finland have protested against the incident during NATO’s Trident Juncture drills between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7, with Oslo saying Russian forces on the Arctic Kola peninsula were behind the GPS interference. Moscow denies any involvement.
The GPS jamming isn’t believed to have caused any accidents.
my opinion is the conservatives are pulling a netanyahu, pulling right and the centrists are joining because of capitalism
PRO-ISRAEL LOBBY CAUGHT ON TAPE BOASTING THAT ITS MONEY INFLUENCES WASHINGTON
February 11 2019
A debate about the power in Washington of the pro-Israel lobby is underway, after Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., responded sharply to reports that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was targeting both Omar and fellow Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan.
Omar quoted rap lyrics — “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” — to suggest McCarthy’s move was driven by the lobby’s prolific spending. Asked specifically who she was referring to, Omar responded, “AIPAC!”
The debate over the influence of pro-Israel groups could be informed by an investigation by Al Jazeera, in which an undercover reporter infiltrated The Israel Project, a Washington-based group, and secretly recorded conversations about political strategy and influence over a six-month period in 2016. That investigation, however, was never aired by the network — suppressed by pressure from the pro-Israel lobby.
In November, Electronic Intifada obtained and published the four-part series, but it did so during the week of the midterm elections, and the documentary did not get a lot of attention then.
In it, leaders of the pro-Israel lobby speak openly about how they use money to influence the political process, in ways so blunt that if the comments were made by critics, they’d be charged with anti-Semitism.
avid Ochs, founder of HaLev, which helps send young people to AIPAC’s annual conference, described for the reporter how AIPAC and its donors organize fundraisers outside the official umbrella of the organization, so that the money doesn’t show up on disclosures as coming specifically from AIPAC. He describes one group that organizes fundraisers in both Washington and New York. “This is the biggest ad hoc political group, definitely the wealthiest, in D.C.,” Ochs says, adding that it has no official name, but is clearly tied to AIPAC. “It’s the AIPAC group. It makes a difference, it really, really does. It’s the best bang for your buck and the networking is phenomenal.” (Ochs and AIPAC did not immediately return The Intercept’s requests for comment.)
Without spending money, Ochs argues, the pro-Israel lobby isn’t able to enact its agenda. “Congressmen and senators don’t do anything unless you pressure them. They kick the can down the road, unless you pressure them, and the only way to do that is with money,” he explains.
He describes a fundraiser for Anthony Brown, a Democrat running for Congress in Maryland, as typical. “So we want the Jewish community to go face to face in this small environment, 50, 30, 40 people, and say this is what’s important to us. We want to make sure that if we give you money that you’re going to enforce the Iran deal. That way, when they need something from him or her, like the Iran deal, they can quickly mobilize and say look we’ll give you 30 grand. They actually impact,” Ochs tells the reporter.
Such a claim is not so different from what Omar was describing, and for which she was roundly condemned. In the wake of Omar’s tweets, the Washington Post, for instance, reported: “The American Jewish Committee demanded an apology, calling her suggestion that AIPAC is paying American politicians for their support ‘demonstrably false and stunningly anti-Semitic.’” (On Monday, Omar apologized for her tweets but insisted that AIPAC and other lobbyist groups are harmful to U.S. politics.)
In the censored documentary, Ochs went on to describe a fundraiser hosted by Jeff Talpins, a hedge fund giant, as similar, as well. “In New York, with Jeff Talpins, we don’t ask a goddamn thing about the fucking Palestinians. You know why? Cuz it’s a tiny issue. It’s a small, insignificant issue. The big issue is Iran. We want everything focused on Iran,” Ochs says. “What happens is Jeff meets with the congressman in the back room, tells them exactly what his goals are — and by the way, Jeff Talpins is worth $250 million — basically they hand him an envelope with 20 credit cards, and say, You can swipe each of these credit cards for a thousand dollars each.”
Ochs explains that the club in New York required a minimum pledge of $10,000 to join and participate in such events. “It’s a minimum commitment. Some people give a lot more than that.”
AIPAC, on its own website, recruits members to join its “Congressional Club,” and commit to give at least $5,000 per election cycle.
Eric Gallagher, a top official at AIPAC from 2010 to 2015, tells the Al Jazeera reporter that AIPAC gets results. “Getting $38 billion in security aid to Israel matters, which is what AIPAC just did,” he notes at one secretly recorded lunch. “Everything AIPAC does is focused on influencing Congress.”
The film, called “The Lobby,” was produced by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit, and features hidden-camera footage obtained by the reporter, who posed as a Jewish pro-Israel activist from Britain who wanted to volunteer with The Israel Project.
Outfitted with a luxury apartment in Dupont Circle, the reporter hosted multiple gatherings and otherwise socialized broadly within the pro-Israel community, winning the confidence of senior officials, who divulged insider details, many of which have been leaked and created international news.
A companion version of the film, which looked at the Israel lobby’s influence in the United Kingdom, did make it to air and was the subject of intense controversy. It exposed a plot by an Israeli embassy official in the UK to “take down” pro-Palestinian Members of Parliament, leading to his resignation.
That film, however, included a snippet of footage from the United States. Officials here quickly realized that they, too, had been infiltrated. In the UK, the Israel lobby lodged an official complaint claiming the series was anti-Semitic, but the UK’s communications agency rejected the claim, finding that “the allegations in the programme were not made on the grounds that any of the particular individuals concerned were Jewish and noted that no claims were made relating to their faith.”
Pro-Israel officials in the United States, rather than file an official complaint, exerted political pressure. A bipartisan group of 19 lawmakers wrote to the Justice Department requesting an investigation into “the full range of activities undertaken by Al Jazeera in the United States,” and suggesting that the organization be made to register as a foreign agent. Ultimately, Qatar bent to the pressure, and killed the documentary.
Paul Krugman expects a global recession this year, warns 'we don't have an effective response'
11 Feb 2019
Most economists, as well as some the world's business elite, agree that economic growth is slowing but policymakers have expressed some hope for a soft landing rather than an outright recession.
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, Paul Krugman said there are good reasons to be skeptical about this scenario.
There is a significant chance the world economy is headed for a recession in 2019, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.
Market participants are increasingly worried about the prospect of a serious economic downturn in the coming months, with a long-running U.S.-China trade war souring business and consumer sentiment.
Most economists, as well as some the world's business elite, agree that economic growth is slowing but policymakers have expressed some hope for a soft landing rather than an outright recession.
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, Krugman expressed skepticism about this scenario.
When asked whether investors should expect to see a recession in the coming months, Krugman replied: "I think that there is a quite good chance that we will have a recession late this year (or) next year."
Krugman is a professor emeritus of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. He won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his work on economic geography and identifying international trade patterns.
Everybody has a bad 'track record' with growth forecasts
Krugman said it was unlikely that just "one big thing" would prompt an economic downturn. Instead, a range of economic headwinds would increase the likelihood of a slowdown.
He highlighted President Donald Trump's tax cut stimulus as one area of concern, saying the program was "not very effective." Krugman also warned it was "starting to look like the bubble may be deflating" when it comes to tech growth.
Citing a broad lack of preparedness among economic policymakers, Krugman said: "The main concern has always been that we don't have an effective response if stuff slows down."
"The place that looks really close to recession right now is the euro area," he added.
Late last week, the European Commission sharply downgraded its forecast for euro zone economic growth in 2019 and 2020.
The Commission said euro zone growth will slow to 1.3 percent this year from 1.9 percent in 2018 and is expected to rebound in 2020 to 1.6 percent.
The estimates were markedly less optimistic than the EU executive's previous forecasts, released in November, when Brussels expected the 19-country currency bloc to grow 1.9 percent this year and 1.7 percent in 2020.
The news exacerbated fears that a global economic downturn is spreading to Europe.
"By the way, my track record for this is bad — as is everybody's. No one is good at calling these turning points," Krugman said.
This guy is a curse
i saw it you have to
America's Effort to Isolate Iran Will Backfire
John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are pushing Trump down a proven path of failure.
February 12, 2019
As the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution comes to an end in Tehran, Secretary Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton are busy gathering an anti-Iran coalition in Warsaw to crush Iran’s clerical rulers once and for all. But there is nothing innovative about the Pompeo-Bolton plan. In fact, Washington has been down this path numerous times before and it has invariably led to failure—even when much of the world was on America’s side. The question is not whether Bolton and Pompeo will succeed or not, but what they will push Donald Trump to do once their failure is clear for all to see.
America was on top of the world in 1991. The Soviet Union had collapsed, and America had become the sole superpower of the world. It had an unparalleled ability to shape both global and regional orders. After it defeated Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War, it moved to establish a new-security architecture for the Middle East through the Madrid conference. Though the gathering is most known for its efforts to resolve Arab-Israeli tensions, the second track of the conference focused on region-wide security issues.
All major regional states were invited except one: Iran.
Though Madrid wasn’t aimed at creating an anti-Iran coalition, it nevertheless set the foundation for a policy of uniting the region to contain Iran. As Israel turned in favor of making peace with the Palestinians under the new Rabin-Peres Labor government, it demanded that Washington sanction and weaken Iran in order to give Israel the space to risk making peace with the Arabs. Israel played a critical role in convincing the Clinton administration to adopt the policy of Dual Containment in 1993—the idea that the new order in the region would be based on the dual containment of Iran and Iraq, while centered on Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. According to Kenneth Pollack, who served as an Iran analyst with the CIA at the time, the policy was “designed to reassure Israel that the U.S. would keep Iran in check while Jerusalem embarked on the risky process of peacemaking.”
Iran was infuriated. It came out of the Iraq-Iran war weak, isolated and exhausted. The eight-year war with Saddam Hussein had devastated the country and the promises of the revolution were as distant then as they are today. Rather than becoming the leader of the Muslim world, Iran was shunned and marginalized.
Determined to save the revolution, President Hashemi Rafsanjani shifted strategy. Instead of violently exporting the revolution, he was going to turn Iran into a stunning economic success whose model other countries in the Islamic world would seek to emulate. This necessitated, however, improved relations with the West as Iran was in desperate need of investments and technology.
Rafsanjani made several attempts to lower tensions with the United States, including granting the American oil company Conoco a contract to develop one of Iran’s largest oil fields, but Washington was not interested. “We weren’t interested in creating a new opening towards Iran,” Clinton envoy Dennis Ross told me in 2004. “We were interested in containing what we saw as a threat.”
Rebuffed by Washington, Tehran shifted its focus towards sabotaging the American-Israeli plan to contain and isolate Iran. The weakest link in the American strategy, Tehran assessed, was the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. If it was blocked, Washington’s goal of marginalizing Iran would also fail.
It was at this point that Tehran began to heavily support Palestinian rejectionist groups that used violence and terror against Israel in the hope of collapsing the Oslo process. Despite Washington’s long-standing accusations of Iranian support for terror, it was still taken by surprise.
“What the Iranians did was to outsmart us by taking on the peace process. And they became very aggressive supporters of Palestinian terrorism,” Martin Indyk, the brainchild behind “dual containment” told me.
Washington eventually began to understand the critical strategic flaw in its policy of dual containment—by rejecting Iranian overtures and aiming to create a broad coalition to contain Tehran, the United States was giving Iran strong incentives to sabotage all of America’s policies in the Middle East. According to Indyk, the Iranians had “every incentive to oppose” the peace process.
“Our strategy was to, on one hand, use the engine of peacemaking to transform the region and on the other hand contain the [Iranians] through sanctions and isolation,” he said. “The two were symbiotic. The more we succeeded in making peace, the more isolated they would become. The more we succeeded in containing them, the more possible it would be to make peace. So they had an incentive to do us in on the peace process in order to defeat our policy of containment and isolation. And therefore, they took aim at the peace process.”
Though Iran’s actions strengthened Washington’s case for isolating the country, the end result was nevertheless one that deeply frustrated the United States: The peace process was leading nowhere, and Iran had strengthened its hand in the region by positioning itself as the leader of the rejectionist camp.
By the time George W. Bush entered office, dual containment had already run its course. The Bush team was no longer interested in containing Iraq and Iran; they wanted to overthrow their regimes and turn them into pliant pro-American states. Iran was, together with Iraq and North Korea, put in Bush’s Axis of Evil.
Realizing they were next on Bush invasion list, Tehran once again acted to sabotage America’s plans in the Middle East. By 2005, it was increasingly clear that the Iraq invasion was an abysmal failure and that America couldn’t take on Iran until it first had extracted itself from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush had no choice but to shift towards a containment policy once again.
But it was too late. With the Saddam and Taliban regimes removed, Iran was unleashed. Its influence in the region was fast growing and despite the efforts to isolate it over its nuclear program, Tehran’s nuclear advances continued unabated. Iran had less than 150 centrifuges and no stockpile of enriched uranium in 2003. By the time Bush left office, Iran had more than 8,000 centrifuges and 1,500 kilograms of low enriched uranium—enough to produce one nuclear bomb.
Once again, Washington’s efforts to build an international coalition to contain Iran had failed spectacularly.
Washington only (temporarily) abandoned the goal of excluding Iran from the regional order through the Iran nuclear deal. Through the deal, Washington was now encouraging trade with Iran and actively seeking to include Iran in regional security dialogues. It was a massive shift that ended almost four decades of American efforts at containing Iran.
Obama only opted for this path after recognizing that Iran’s prolonged isolation was neither possible nor necessarily helpful. Even at the apex of its power, the United States had failed to contain Iran—even when it had much of the international community on its side. European governments had been seeking to convince Washington of this for decades. “No one believes Iran can perpetually be put in a straightjacket,” Germany’s U.S. Ambassador Peter Wittig told me in 2015. More importantly, Obama realized that continuing on the failed path of isolating Iran eventually would bring the United States into open confrontation with Iran.
Perhaps this is why Bolton and Pompeo are pushing Trump down this proven path of failure. If isolating Iran failed at the unipolar moment, it simply cannot succeed today when the United States is much weaker, Iran is much stronger, and most of the world worry more about Trump’s impulsiveness and unpredictability than about what remains of Iran’s revolutionary fervor.
But the failure of the anti-Iran coalition can still pave the way for the war with Iran Bolton has long been dreaming of.
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