Three Things: Russia and China Spying, Kavanope

[NB: Yes, it’s Rayne, not Marcy. Check the byline.]

Huge news earlier today related to spying. Really big. MASSIVE.

And a MASSIVE cover-up pawned off on the feeble-minded as a ‘complete investigation‘ into Dr. Ford’s and Deborah Ramirez’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.

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Bloomberg published an epic piece of investigative journalism this morning about China’s spying on U.S. businesses by way of tiny chips embedded in server motherboards. The photos in the story are just as important as the must-read story itself as they crystallize a challenge for U.S. intelligence and tech communities. Like this pic:

That tiny pale obelisk to the right of the penny represents one of the malicious chips found in affected Supermicro brand motherboards shipped to the U.S. market — nearly as small as the numbers in the date on the coin. Imagine looking for something this puny before a machine is turned on and begins to launch its operating system. Imagine trying to find it when it is sandwiched inside the board itself, embedded in the fiberglass on top of which components are cemented.

The chip could undermine encryption and passwords, making any system open to those who know about its presence. According to Bloomberg reporters  Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley, the chips found their way into motherboards used by Apple and Amazon.

Information security folks are scrambling right now because this report rocks their assumptions about the supply chain and their overall infosec worldview. Quite a few doubt this Bloomberg report, their skepticism heightened by the carefully worded denials offered by affected and relevant parties Apple, Amazon, Supermicro, and China. Apple provided an itemization of what it believed Bloomberg Businessweek got wrong along with its denial.

I’ll have more on this in a future post. Yes, indeedy.

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A cooperative, organized response by Britain, The Netherlands, U.S., and Canada today included the indictment of seven Russians by the U.S. for conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money. The Russians have been identified as members of a GRU team organized out of a facility in Moscow, working on hacking and a disinformation influence campaign focused on anti-doping entities and non-Russian Olympic athletic competitors.

Note the underlined bit in this excerpt from the indictment (pdf) — the last indictment I copied with similar wording was that of Evgeny Buryakov and his two comrades, the three spies based in New York City who worked with “Male-1”, now known to be Carter Page. Who are the known and unknown? Persons who have flipped or co-conspirators yet to be named?

The UK released a statement as did the Canadians, and Netherlands issued a joint statement with the UK about the entirety of spying for which this GRU team is believed to be responsible, including an attempt to breach the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) facility analyzing the Novichok nerve agent used to poison the Skripals in the UK as well as chemicals used against Syrians.

Cryptocurrency news outlets report concerns that this indictment reveals the extent of USDOJ’s ability to trace cryptocurrency.

An interesting coincidence took place overnight as well — Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Karapetyan died last night when an unauthorized helicopter flight crashed northeast of Moscow. Karapetyan had been linked this past January to Natalia Veselnitskaya and an attempt to recruit Switzerland’s top investigator as double-agents. But Karapetyan had also been involved in Russia’s response to the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the aftermath of the Skripals’ poisoning in the UK.

What remarkable timing.

One might wonder if this accident had anything to do with the unusual release of GRU personnel details by the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice during their joint statement today.

By comparing the released identity documents, passports, automobile registrations and the address provided when cars were rented, the identities of a total 305 GRU agents may have been identified by bellingcat and The Insider including the four out of the seven men wanted by the U.S. for the anti-doping hackingas well as attempted breach of OPCW.

The identity of the four GRU agents accused of targeting the OPCW was cinched by a taxi receipt in one agent’s pocket from a location on the road next to the GRU’s facility in Russia. Four agents also had consecutive passport numbers.

What remarkably bad opsec.

~ 1 ~

As for the impending vote on Brett Kavanaugh:

– Senator Heidi Heitkamp is voting her conscience — NO on Kavanaugh.
– Senator Joe Manchin is now the lone Dem holdout; he says he’s still listening but hasn’t seen anything incriminating from Kavanaugh’s adulthood. (Gee, I wonder why.)
– Senator Bob Menendez didn’t mince words. He said “It’s a bullshit investigation.” (He should know what a thorough investigation looks like).

And the beer-loving former Yale frat boy had an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal which pleads with us to lose all intelligence and believe that he is really very neutral. I am not even going to link to that POS which has re-enraged women all over the country.

GTFO.

Continue calling your senators to thank them for a NO vote on Kavanaugh so that they aren’t hearing right-wing demands alone. Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. Sic ’em.

Three Things: CRC—What? An Indictment, Plus Shut Downs Ahead

[NB: As always, check the byline. / ~Rayne]

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation process is an 800-pound gorilla in the media, as is the potential for the obstructive removal of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General. They suck up enormous amounts of mental wattage, sitting wherever they want to sit.

Here are three things which are in some way related and worth more of our attention, whatever is left after the gorillas are done with it.

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CRC: One degree from Manafort

Thomas Fine went prowling around FARA filings, landing this juicy find (pdf):

Yes, Creative Response Concepts, Inc., the same firm for which Ed Whelan has worked, registered in 2005 as a foreign agent for Viktor Yanukovych — the same Yanukovych for which Paul Manafort also worked as an illegal foreign agent. CRC was paid $10,000 by Potomac Communications Group, for which Aleksei Kiselev worked. Kiselev also worked for Paul Manafort to assist Yanukovych.

What a small, small world.

Should note CRC’s registration was after the fact — they were contracted for April-October 2003. Why so late?

(Thanks to @JamesFourM for the PCG-Kiselev-Manafort link.)

~ 2 ~

Indictment yesterday related to Trump Towers…in Azerbaijan

Didn’t see this until late last night: DOJ indicted Kemal “Kevin” Oksuz (pdf) on one count of hiding or falsifying material facts and four counts of making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics. The filings were related to a Congressional trip to Azerbaijan ultimately paid for by State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), the wholly state-owned national oil and gas company of Azerbaijan.

Oksuz is now a fugitive.

Ten members of Congress and 32 staffers traveled in 2013 to attend a U.S.-Azerbaijan convention in Baku after Azerbaijan had asked Congress for an exemption from sanctions on Iran for a $28 billion natural gas pipeline project. The members and staffers were later cleared as it appeared they believed the trip’s funding was provided by Oksuz’s nonprofit organization.

Personally, I think those members and staffers needed a rebuke. Nonprofits don’t print money; they rely on money from donors. Follow the money to the donors before accepting a trip and incidentals. It’s not rocket science.

Worth keeping in mind the Trump International Hotel & Tower built in Baku, overseen by Ivanka Trump, which burned in late April this year — an amazing two fires, same day. What are the odds?

~ 1 ~

Shutdowns Ahead: U.S.-Canada and U.S. Government?

Doesn’t look like negotiations between the U.S. and Canada are going to make this Saturday’s deadline. No idea what will happen after that. We all know the Trump administration has been at fault; how could anybody screw up a long-term peaceful relationship like U.S.-Canada, our second largest trading partner after China, without deliberate bad faith? Without the intent to screw over another NATO member’s economy?

And the U.S. government itself faces a budget deadline. If the “minibus” budget bill isn’t signed by midnight this coming Sunday we’re looking at a shutdown and it appears the bottleneck may be Trump. The jerks at Breitbart are fomenting to encourage a shutdown by insisting Trump refuse to sign the bill — they’re just plain malicious, thinking not at all about the impact on fellow Americans or the economy.

Putin must be laughing his ass off at how easily the GOP’s white nationalist base has subverted U.S. and NATO stability by giving up control to a mobbed-up, golf-addicted, attention-deficient wig.

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Don’t miss Marcy’s interview on Democracy Now in which she talks about Rod Rosenstein’s status and the Kavanaugh confirmation process.

Treat this like an open thread — have at it.

p.s. A note on site operations: Please be sure to use the same username and email address each time you log into the site. It makes it easier for community members to get to know you. Deliberate sockpuppeting is not permitted.

Legal Ethics in Trumplandia

Warning: this post may be considered uncivil.

I was a public servant for 6 ½ years. I was an assistant in the Tennessee State Attorney General’s office beginning in mid-1977, and became Securities Commissioner in the Insurance Department in mid-1980. In that time I dealt with a number of interesting ethical issues, directly and indirectly. Where do we draw the line between defending the constitutionality of a questionable statute? Should we intervene in a specific case for public policy reasons? Should we defend a lawsuit against a state employee?

Particularly difficult questions arose when suits were filed alleging systematic violations of law or human rights. The Alcoholic Beverage Commission was being bribed into approving liquor licenses, for example. A worse case involved guards sexually assaulting juvenile detainees. I won’t discuss these cases even now, but I learned the importance of making decisions as a lawyer that kept my conscience clear.

It must be like this every half-hour nowadays for career Department of Justice lawyers. The ignorant policy decisions, the incompetent drafting, the table-pounding public statements on top of difficult questions of constitutional law and statutory interpretation must make for situations that are fascinating, difficult, and even funny in a bizarre way. I don’t have a problem with career lawyers defending the policies of this or any administration. I do question some of their arguments. For example, in the Muslim Ban cases they argued that public statements made as candidate and as President aren’t relevant, which seems ridiculous, but SCOTUS disagrees with me so I was wrong. Or something was wrong. But anyway, I know this must be exhilarating for those people, and I hope they are finding the pleasure that I can see from a distance in the kinds of issues they face.

That doesn’t apply to the Child Snatching Case. Or, as the normalizing media call it, the Child Separation Policy. The facts of the matter are not seriously disputed. As a matter of policy, every person deemed to have entered the US illegally is charged with a crime. That includes people lawfully seeking asylum. Their children are snatched from their arms and sent thousands of miles away. The parents are jailed. The kids are kept in cages before transfer, often to horrifying profit-making entities where care is minimal. Some of the kids are drugged without their consent or that of their parents. The government doesn’t know where the kids are or how to reunite them. Some of the parents were deported without their children. The policy of referring all immigrants for prosecution may have been dropped recently.

The policy was put into effect secretly, with no notice, in the Summer of 2017, and the government formally admitted it April 6, 2018. At least 2,000 thousand children were snatched. Here’s a short history from the New Yorker.

The ACLU filed suit February 26, 2018 on behalf of a Congolese woman who sought asylum for herself and her 7 year old daughter who were separated pursuant to the policy. DOJ lawyers entered an appearance March 23, and filed a motion to dismiss April 6. The ACLU filed an amended complaint, and then a request for a preliminary injunction. The DOJ lawyers objected. A hearing was held in June, and a preliminary injunction entered June 26. It became clear at that point that the Trump Administration couldn’t find kids, didn’t know which kid went with which parent, and didn’t have any way to find the parents who had been deported without their children.

Buzzfeed has done a good job reporting on this case. Here’s a report by Adolfo Flores on the July 7 hearing that clarified the sickening state of the records and the failure of the Trump Administration to protect the children. Here’s Zoe Tillman’s report on the status as of July 9. Apparently one family that was separated were US citizens.

This policy punishes parents, many of whom are innocent, without due process. All of the children are damaged, and they are all innocent of any wrong-doing. The punishment is cruel and unusual in the sense normal people use those words.

The policy, if this unplanned and undocumented perversion can be called a policy, was imposed by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He says it was designed to deter families from illegal entry, but that is an easily disproved lie. It couldn’t work if it wasn’t public. It couldn’t work if entry is legal, as in the case of those seeking asylum. And it could never work against the children. This people who designed and approved this policy are sadists. They’re just the latest version of US monsters, like the torturers, the liars who ginned up the Iraq War, and the armchair warriors who send out the bombers and cruise missiles as the mood or politics strikes them. We have no recourse against them. They are beyond the reach of law or conscience. They are beyond accountability.

The people who are carrying out this policy are the only people who could have ended it. They didn’t. They are complicit and each one bears a share of guilt.

That includes the lawyers who defended the case. Assuming a minimum degree of competence, I speculate that the DOJ lawyers in the ACLU case knew about the policy and had some idea of the scope of the damage by mid-March. They certainly knew about the policy and its purpose by the date of the public announcement, April 6, the day they filed the motion to dismiss. They then chose to continue to litigate rather than work to terminate of this inhuman policy and stop the damage, and failing that, to resign noisily, They had choices; hard choices to be sure because the policy was designed by their political boss, Jeff Sessions, but still choices.

The effect of their decision to continue litigating is that the life of the policy was prolonged for months and more children were snatched. Other workers were put in a position where they may have felt they had no choice but to enforce the policy. The government and its private contractors continued to abuse the parents and especially the children. The resources of charitable organizations and others working on this disaster were depleted. Surely the lawyers didn’t need the money or the job that badly.

They may still have a conscience. If so, I hope it eats at them all their lives. I hope they have to explain their actions to their children. I hope the memory of toddlers screaming for their moms and dads comes to them in the night and gives them sweats. It’s a fair price to pay for the damage they have done to thousands of children and their parents.

Putin Just Set Up Trump To Be Humiliated by the Most Loathed Man in the World

Shot

“So what do you think I should do about North Korea?” he asked Putin in their November 2017 telephone call, according to U.S. officials. Some of those officials saw the request for advice as naive — a sign that Trump believes the two countries are partners in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Other officials described Trump’s query as a savvy effort to flatter and win over the Russian leader, whose country borders North Korea and has long been involved in diplomacy over its nuclear program.

Chaser

Angry Mom: Hey Attention Deficit Media, Catch a Clue!

I don’t even have a real post for this. I am so goddamned angry right now. Apparently the news media needs a recap on priorities.

There are thousands of children kidnapped by this administration, being trafficked under the guise of immigration control and border protection, shoved into all manner of care situations.

They don’t have anything to give them comfort; they are being permanently damaged at the cellular level by the stress they’ve been placed under by a heartless, thoughtless, incompetent bureaucracy.

There is no assurance so far that they are being tracked in any way.

There is no assurance they are not being abused.

Their parents are worried sick and equally damaged by these kidnappings, with no assurance they will ever be reunited with their children.

All for a misdemeanor offense of crossing a border in order to file for asylum.

The administration is making zero effort to address the root problems causing these refugees when they could be talking bilaterally with Mexico and Central American countries — they are simply not acting in good faith in any way.

The White House wants to rob Peter to pay Paul, expecting Defense Department to domestic policing.

We’re looking at executive-sanctioned kidnapping. Child abuse. Genocide by separation. Violation of Posse Comitatus Act. Possible human trafficking to unknown entities outside of government custody.

And the goddamned news media is chasing Trump’s human shield — the illegal immigrant who became legal by sleeping with a rich white dude — because of her idiotic attire. Be fucking best, indeed.

PAY ATTENTION, DAMN IT.

Where are the girls, the babies, all of the children? Where are the sick ones? And where are the dead ones?

Democratic elected officials have been trying to get answers, but they are denied access. A bipartisan group of mayors was refused access today in Texas. There’s too little coverage of this systematic denial preventing us from knowing what’s been done in our name with our tax dollars.

Do your damned jobs, media, and catch a clue. Quit chasing a deliberate distraction. There is nothing going on in or around that cheap women’s jacket which will solve the massive human-caused humanitarian disaster under way.

____

Use this as an open thread. Emphasis on media failures under the Trump administration, please.

Angry Mom: Hiding the Trumpian Genocide’s Records

When I think can’t get any angrier at this miserable excuse for governance, the Trump administration proves there isn’t a limit to how low they will go.

Sleazy, unlawful executive action without adequate oversight followed by a fog of obfuscation and prevarication is bad enough. The administration will now double down now to hide what it’s done and hope like hell nobody notices.

It doesn’t help that members of Congress, journalists, and the public still haven’t grasped the true nature of the crimes before them.

The Trump administration hasn’t merely ignored or broken existing U.S. laws on handling of asylum seekers. See 8 U.S. Code § 1158:

(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

(2) Exceptions
(A) Safe third country
Paragraph (1) shall not apply to an alien if the Attorney General determines that the alien may be removed, pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement, to a country (other than the country of the alien’s nationality or, in the case of an alien having no nationality, the country of the alien’s last habitual residence) in which the alien’s life or freedom would not be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and where the alien would have access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary protection, unless the Attorney General finds that it is in the public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the United States.

(B) Time limit
Subject to subparagraph (D), paragraph (1) shall not apply to an alien unless the alien demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the application has been filed within 1 year after the date of the alien’s arrival in the United States.

There’s more but the key part in boldface above. The “zero tolerance” approach to border protection violated this code. Asylum seekers do not have to apply from outside the country; they can apply once inside the country. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see anything here that indicates asylum seekers are suddenly not eligible to apply for asylum because they crossed the border.

And nothing in the entirety of 8 U.S. Code § 1158 indicates the government may take custody of asylum seekers’ minor children with or without force.

Note also where the asylum seekers may apply — they are NOT limited to designated ports.

DHS Secretary Nielsen’s claim that border crossers had not applied through ports of entry is a lie because it wasn’t required of them.

What happens to the children appears to fit the description of kidnapping (18 U.S. Code § 1201), including section (a)(3), an “act against the person is done within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States as defined in section 46501 of title 49” for those children who are flown by aircraft to other destinations in the U.S. out of their parents’ physical custody. It’s no wonder carriers like United Airlines and American Airlines wrote and published letters yesterday telling DHS to stop using their services for moving the children across the country.

The conditions in which many of the children have been placed also appear to be abusive; based on the children seen so far there are reports of not enough food, sedation, restraints, disruption to sleep habits, etc.

But that’s not the end of it. The entire separation of children from their families appears to be genocide under The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which the U.S. has signed (1948) and ratified (1988):

Article 2
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious
group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about
its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

We have not yet seen evidence of child deaths, but section (b) is likely and (e) of Article 2 is definite — the children are now in custody of the United States government and disbursed to others’ care.

Wednesday’s executive order does nothing to remedy the situation. It doesn’t even stop the separation of children from families due to its murky wording. It exacerbates the problem by foisting some of the responsibility on the military, placing the Defense Department at odds with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S. Code § 1385) as the EO expects the military to perform a domestic function — DHS’ border patrol and immigration services — which is not in response to a natural disaster.

(Oh, this is definitely a disaster, but it is human made.)

Ordering the military to provide assistance also draws defense resources away from where they may be needed, potentially creating security risks.

And yet this is not enough insult. DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) last year if it could change its record retention practices, according to The Memory Hole:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has asked for permission to destroy all its documents about the deaths of detained immigrants in custody 20 years after a case is “closed.” (Deaths in ICE custody are almost always investigated by ICE itself. A minority are investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General. [report])

Similarly, ICE wants to destroy all its documents about sexual assaults of detained immigrants in custody. The time frame is 20 years after a case is “closed.” (Again, ICE almost always investigates itself in these cases. The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General investigates around 1% of complaints/reports. [article]) NARA argues that this information is “sensitive,” implying that documents containing the identities of victims and the accused should not be kept indefinitely. ICE itself did not offer this (or any) justification.

Thankfully The Memory Hole followed up and asked for status on ICE’s request, to which NARA replied:

No final action has been taken on this schedule. NARA appraisal staff have reviewed the comments received, and held several meetings with ICE records management and program staff regarding the records being scheduled.

Proposed changes to the schedule are being reviewed internally by NARA stakeholders for internal concurrence, after which NARA will inform ICE of the required changes. NARA will then publish a follow-up Federal Register notice responding to the public comments we received. This notice will be open for public comment for 15 days from the date of publication.

But it is not yet impossible that records related to the current human-made disaster affecting thousands of children may be destroyed prematurely, depriving them of justice.

There’s simply no way that ICE should be allowed to change its records retention given the scale of the separated families disaster. And yet I have a horrible, angry feeling the Trump administration will do whatever it can to hide its role in this genocidal activity along the U.S. southwest border.

EDIT — 5:45 P.M. EDT —

I meant to add one more thing to this post. It’s imperative I add this now that the White House has tried to change the subject by using FLOTUS as a human shield with a target literally painted on her back. Do not be derailed by their bullshit. Keep asking:

Where are the girls?

Where are the babies?

Where are ALL the bodies???

Angry Mom: I See Dead Children

I see dead children.

There is no way to reconcile what the Trump administration has done — seizing children from their parents, some so young they are still breastfeeding — and the facilities they’ve established to house them without coming to the conclusion there are dead children.

@Asher_Wolf explains the situation in this Twitter thread, beginning with this tweet:

Only people who’ve never had or cared for infants and children would not know this already. If you are a parent you know this; you’ve already had to keep a child cool, calm, hydrated which can be challenging while traveling even under the best conditions.

The circumstances which drove these refugees to the border for asylum placed these children under enormous stress, unrelieved by travel across Central America and Mexico, worsened by heat across the southwest. Add the stress of interception and detention by Border Patrol on top of separation from parents — these children and babies are extremely vulnerable.

Stuff them in cages inside buildings not built to specifications for human occupation, or warehouse them in goddamned tents in unrelenting summer heat, with who knows how many qualified personnel to care for them.

There are reports some children have not received adequate food. Have they received enough water and other fluids? If they can’t feed themselves, have personnel offered the infants and toddlers enough bottles?

Looking at the best infant and child mortality rates in other countries, there would be several deaths. This is the U.S., though, which is the worst among the top 20 wealthiest countries. Looking at the recent history of refugees fleeing Syria and other parts of the middle east for EU states, there are likely more deaths than normal. We must face this truth and begin to account for all the children, alive or dead.

But so far no facilities with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers have been opened to members of Congress or journalists. Only boys have been seen on camera. Where are the girls? Where are the children under five years of age?

Journalists have asked where they are.

REPORTER: A couple of questions. One, why is the government only releasing images of the boys being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?

NIELSEN: I don’t know. I’m not familiar with those particular images so I would have —

REPORTER: Do you know where they are? Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the young toddlers are?

NIELSEN: We have children in D.H.S. care both, but as you know, most of the children after 72 hours are transferred to H.H.S. So I don’t know what pictures you’re referencing but I would have to refer you to H.H.S.

REPORTER: We’ve seen images of boys but we just haven’t seen any of the girls, any of the young toddlers and you’re saying they are being well cared for. So how could you make that claim if you don’t know where they are?

NIELSEN: It is not that I don’t know where they are. I’m saying that the vast majority of children are held by Health and Human Services. We transfer them after 72 hours.

 I don’t know what pictures you’re speaking about. But perhaps they’re —

REPORTER: Pictures have been released to the public, they’ve been aired all over national television.

NIELSEN: O.K., by D.H.S. or H.H.S.?

REPORTER: By [inaudible] .H.S.

NIELSEN: So let’s find out from H.H.S. I don’t think there is anything other than [cross talk] the pictures —

REPORTER: [cross talk] released by your department. I mean, they’ve have been aired all over national television throughout the day, the kids being held in the cages. We’ve only seen the boys.

NIELSEN: I will, I will look into that. I’m not aware that there’s another picture. Yes.

That DHS Secretary Nielsen can’t offer a coherent answer when asked is ridiculous and absolutely unacceptable.

That the entire administration cannot offer a consistent response to any questions is doubly so.

None of this assures me they aren’t hiding something behind all this prevarication. At this point the lack of a unified response to questions is deliberate; they’ve had ample time to get their shit together. The inconsistency itself might be a means to create a smoke screen, forcing journalists, Congress, and the public to track and compare their answers rather than storm the facilities and get the truth.

Right now, on the face of it, this administration is hiding children’s bodies, alive and possibly dead.

I don’t care about Trump’s bullshit kabuki gesture that he’ll sign something about the families separation policy. I don’t care who they point to within the administration to blame for this willful humanitarian disaster, this ethnic cleansing, this genocide waiting full disclosure, though the buck ultimately stops at the desk in the Oval Office. Until they show us otherwise and account for every single tiny human being which they have taken and for whom they are acting in parents’ or guardians’ stead, I see dead children.

On the Eve of the June 9 Trump Tower Meeting Anniversary, Putin Tells Trump to Keep His Campaign Promises

I’ve long argued that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump engage in a kind of signaling, perhaps fueled by some kind of back channel.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at the last few days of public statements. First, in an interview recorded Thursday, Putin was asked whether he was beginning to prepare for a summit with Trump. Among other things, Putin said that Trump knows how to listen even in spite of what the reporter cued as “domestic pressure,” and fulfills his campaign promises. Putin said Trump promised to improve Russian-American relations but the ball was in the American court. (This WaPo story on the interview may have better translations of the Russian.)

Two short clarifications on the events of the last week, and I understand that there is very little time. Recently, on the air of “Vesti on Saturday”, information appeared with reference to The Wall Street Journal, which, in turn, referred to sources in the White House that the Americans had begun training – as they say, at an early stage – to Trump’s meeting with you . Have you started this training?

“This was discussed from the very beginning, after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President of the United States.” And we from the very beginning responded to this, that we believe that such personal meetings are expedient, and not only possible. We met with the President of the United States at international venues. Of course, this does not give an opportunity to give due attention to Russian-American relations. In general, I think this meeting is useful. The only question is that the domestic political situation in the United States allows this.

– And how to deal with them, given that Trump is largely hostage to the domestic political process? Even if you meet and agree, they will let him carry out what you potentially negotiate?

“The experience I have with the President of the United States suggests that, despite the fact that his actions are often criticized, especially recently, including in the international arena and in the sphere of the economy, after all this experience tells me that he is a thoughtful man, he knows how to listen and responds to the arguments presented by the interlocutor. All this gives me reason to believe that dialogue can be constructive.

– Recently he received the closest allies: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Macron. And the meetings, especially with Macron, were caress in the flesh, embraces, almost kisses and so on. And then it takes literally a week and a half, and it was worthwhile for the Europeans to raise their voice, including, I think, because of this, what you call sanctions, in particular, increased tariffs for aluminum and steel , is introduced . Are not you afraid of such “affectionate” embraces of Americans who now say: let’s prepare a meeting, and then you will meet with Trump, you will be exposed to such conditions. Or with you this will not work?

– The fact is that this does not pass with anyone. And the relationship between the leaders of states should be acceptable, civilized. But this does not preclude the adoption of decisions that this or that leader consider important and expedient for his country. It is possible to treat differently the decisions that are made in the United States, including the US president. You can criticize. Indeed, there is much that deserves criticism. But there is one circumstance about which I have already spoken: Trump fulfills his promises given to them during the election campaign.

– With one exception: to improve Russian-American relations.

– One of the promises is to improve Russian-American relations. I hope that this too will take place. In any case, we are ready for this. The ball, I believe, on the American side, on the American court.

On Friday, Trump said that Russia should be readmitted into the G-7, just before he premised leaving the G-7 early based on whether the other countries capitulate on tariffs.

Q (Inaudible) G6-plus-one?

THE PRESIDENT: It may be. You can call it anything you want. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It used to be the G8 because Russia was in it. And now Russia’s not in it.

Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I’d think Putin is probably going, “Man, I wish Hillary won.” Because you see what I do. But, with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend, and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting. They should be a part of it.

You know, whether you like it or not — and it may not be politically correct — but we have a world to run. And in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in. Because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.

Q Mr. President, why did you decide to cut (inaudible) short?

THE PRESIDENT: Say it? What?

Q You’re leaving a little early from the summit. Why did you decide (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: I may leave a little bit early. It depends on the timing. But I may leave a little bit early. And it depends what happens here.

Look, all of these countries have been taking advantage of the United States on trade. You saw where Canada charges our dairy farmers 270 percent tariffs. We don’t charge them, or if we do, it’s like a tiny percentage. So we have to straighten it out.

We have massive trade deficits with almost every country. We will straighten that out. And I’ll tell you what, it’s what I do. It won’t even be hard. And in the end, we’ll all get along.

But they understand. And you know, they’re trying to act like, “Well, we fought with you in the war.” They don’t mention the fact that they have trade barriers against our farmers. They don’t mention the fact that they’re charging almost 300 percent tariffs. When it all straightens out, we’ll all be in love again.

Trump acted like a sullen toddler throughout the G-7, agreed to the communique, then backed out, blaming Justin Trudeau, ostensibly for publicly saying Canada would adopt retaliatory tariffs in response to Trump’s steel tariffs. (Trudeau had spoken most forcefully against readmitting Russia). On leaving, he reiterated his support to readmit Russia, even in spite of their actions in Crimea.

Q Mr. President, David Herszenhorn with Politico Europe. Just to come back to Russia for a second. Something that happened that got them kicked out of the G8 was the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Do you think that Crimea should be recognized as Russian (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, you have to ask President Obama, because he was the one that let Crimea get away. That was during his administration. And he was the one that let Russia go and spend a lot of money on Crimea, because they’ve spent a lot of money on rebuilding it. I guess they have their submarine port there and such. But Crimea was let go during the Obama administration. And, you know, Obama can say all he wants, but he allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude. So you’d really have to ask that question to President Obama — you know, why did he do that; why did he do that. But with that being said, it’s been done a long time.

Q But you would allow Russia back into the G8 with Crimea still (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: I would rather see Russia in the G8 as opposed to the G7. I would say that the G8 is a more meaningful group than the G7, absolutely.

As Putin was leaving the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, after making comments about Trump’s trade wars hurting Europe, Putin again said he was ready to meet, though said it is important that the summit be “filled with specific content.”

Question: Mr President, there is real drama unfolding around the G7 summit in Quebec and inside the G7 itself: disagreements over Russia’s possible return, over tariffs, and more controversy. In this regard, how do you assess the proposal made by Trump and the Italian Prime Minister on Russia’s return to the format, given that the purchasing power parity in the SCO is actually higher than in the G7?

Vladimir Putin: As for Russia’s return to the G7, or G8 – we have never withdrawn from it. Our colleagues refused to come to Russia at some point for well-known reasons. We would be happy to see everyone in Moscow, they are welcome. That is first the first thing.

Second. As for the efficiency and volume of the economy, indeed, the purchasing power parity (this is IMF data) of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is already higher than in the G7 countries. Yes, it is, the PPP is higher.

True, the seven are still richer in per capita income, as they say, but the SCO economies are larger, and their population is much larger, too – half the world’s population.

As for the various difficulties in the negotiation process within the G7, I need to take a look at this, I do not know the details. Of course, this is also of interest, these are the largest economies in the world.

We can see that there are internal problems there. Well, it happens. You know, when I look at our debates in the EAEU, we also have disputes and do not unanimously sign everything at the same time. I think this is common practice. It is necessary to deal with this calmly and without any irony.

I would draw attention to one more circumstance, which, in my opinion, is more significant than any emotional outbursts. What do I mean? As far as I know, the President of the United States said the US is considering the possibility of regulating the additional supply of automotive equipment in the US market.

This is a serious matter. This can really hurt the economic interests of so many countries, above all European, of course. Well, let us see how things will really unfold. This is of significant importance for the entire world economy.

[snip]

Question: There have been reports that Austria is ready to host the US-Russia summit between you and Donald Trump. Can you confirm this? Perhaps you discussed this when you were in Austria? And when will you meet with Trump? Everyone is looking forward to it. Many problems have accumulated.

Vladimir Putin: The President of the United States has repeatedly said that he considers this meeting expedient, and I agree that this is indeed the case. I can reiterate, in our last telephone conversation he expressed his concern about the threat of a new round of the arms race. I agree with him.

But to discuss this specifically, our respective foreign ministries need to work, and experts need to work very closely together. Personal meetings are certainly necessary as well. As soon as possible. As soon as the American side is ready, this meeting will be held immediately, depending on my work schedule.

About the location. We did not talk about this in detail, but many countries are willing to render such assistance to us, including several European countries, Austria among them. I have not heard anything else. But I think this is a technicality. What is important is that the meeting, if it takes place, is filled with specific content.

Given the way Trump blew up the G-7, I really wonder whether Putin has a greater threat over Trump than we know — something far, far greater than the goddamned pee tape. Trump has always seemed anxious to reassure Putin that he, himself, is not under investigation (indeed, that seemed to be one reason Trump raised the Comey firing at the May 10, 2017 meeting with Sergei Lavrov). It’s almost as if, as Robert Mueller gets closer and closer to Trump, Putin raises the stakes as well.

And this weekend, after Putin demanded that Trump keep his campaign promises, Trump made havoc of a key alliance.

Whatever Putin has over Trump, Trump appears more afraid of Putin than he is of Mueller.

Open Thread: Russia, Russia, Russia! and Everything Else

This is an open thread launched while current events still unfold. It may offer an overview for folks still acquainting themselves with the news about Rex Tillerson, Russia, and the UK.

By now you likely know Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. Like Sally Yates on the travel ban and James Comey about his firing, Tillerson was blindsided; he found out he was terminated from a Trump tweet. Take note of Marcy’s post on Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, and his sketchy replacement, deputy CIA director Gina Haspel.

Trump may have fired Tillerson because of this response to the poisoning in the UK of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter this past week.

Notice the response attributes the poisoning to Russia but makes no mention of the U.S. role as a NATO member and any response required by that membership. The response doesn’t even name Skripal.

Tillerson’s statement followed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s demand before Parliament yesterday that Russia explain the poisoning of Skripal, setting a two-day deadline.

The poison used is believed to be an extremely powerful nerve agent Novichok developed by the former USSR.

Russia’s point persons, Sergei Lavrov as Russia’s foreign minister, and Maria Zakharova, his spokesperson, as well as Russian parliament member Andrei Lugovoi have pushed back on May’s attribution and demands while demanding samples of the nerve agent found in Skripal’s poisoning.

NATO’s Article 5 obligates member nations to defend other NATO members in the attack on any NATO member:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

On May 25 last year at a visit NATO’s new headquarters during Trump’s first trip to Europe, Trump avoided continuing U.S. commitment to Article 5. It wasn’t until five weeks later during a speech in Poland that Trump reaffirmed Article 5, saying,

… To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated — not merely with its words but with its actions — that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment …

Many articles speculate Tillerson’s firing is the culmination of more than a year of tensions between Tillerson and Trump, including at least one episode during which Tillerson is said to have called Trump a moron (a “fucking moron” according to some). However the immediacy of the termination suggests Trump wanted to remove Tillerson before he could support Theresa May once the two-day deadline has passed.

It’s worth noting that Trump has yet to enforce sanctions on Russia established by bipartisan legislation on a nearly unanimous basis.

It’s also worth noting the GOP majority of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence abruptly terminated its investigation of Trump-Russia only yesterday afternoon, without providing any notice to the Democratic minority members.

Do read Marcy’s post about Pompeo; bring anything non-Russia comments here to this thread.

Shorting the US-DPRK Meeting [UPDATED]

[NB: Update at the bottom. / ~Rayne]

At 5:08 pm ET / 7:08 am Tokyo / 6:08 am Shanghai / 1:08 am Moscow time, Trump tweeted:

Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!

At 7:49 pm ET / 9:49 am Tokyo / 8:49 am Shanghai / 3:49 am Moscow time, Press Secretary Sanders tweeted:

[email protected] greatly appreciates the nice words of the S. Korean delegation & Pres Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet w/ Kim Jong Un at a place & time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of NK. In the meantime all sanctions & maximum pressure must remain

The stock market in Tokyo looked like this in response:

And Shanghai’s stock market looked like this:

Chinese investors have been bullish this week; the news about Trump meeting Kim Jong-un hasn’t really fazed them yet though if someone in the SSE Index knew about the announcement early enough, they could have made money shorting an index fund.

Japanese investors aren’t happy, which was predictable. It took them a bit to digest the news but they don’t appear comfortable. If someone knew about the announcement early enough, they could have made some money in the Nikkei using shorts.

Barring any other big news with international impact, I think we’ll see similar reactions as the sun rises over successive markets in the west. Again, somebody could probably make some money.

Call me cynical, but I think this anticipated US-North Korea meeting is just another means for making somebody cash.

Like investors with cash positions after dumping steel and aluminum bets last week — wouldn’t be surprised if they shorted Asian index funds overnight, and maybe EU and US funds in the morning local time.

UPDATE — 1:40 PM EST —

Note the markets at 9:30 am ET / 2:30 pm London / 3:30 pm Paris and Frankfurt / 5:30 pm Moscow time:


I proved I would be complete fail at shorting in US markets if I wasn’t immersed in market news; I missed the impending release of jobs data which skewed the NYSE. The FTSE (London), CAC 40 (Paris), and DAX (Frankfurt) all waited patiently to see what the NYSE would do on open. I suspect the difference between European market upticks and NYSE open time I’ve indicated is due to early trading in the U.S.; some brokerage accounts allow trades an hour or two before open.

In hindsight I wonder if the Hang Seng didn’t react like Tokyo because of a more closed market and less open media?

How interesting, though, that MICEX (Moscow) looked more like the Hang Seng throughout its day, hmm?

And imagine what one could do if they had advance indication of U.S. employment figures. If only all this was as harmless as watching Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy try to short orange juice futures on the CBOE in Trading Places (video excerpt, 1983).

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