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herding cats

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Member since: Mon Nov 18, 2013, 02:56 PM
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Investigators on the Trump-Russia Beat Should Talk to This Man

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it was commencing an investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign that would include an examination of connections between Russia and the Trump camp. And a veiled but public exchange between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the committee, and FBI Director James Comey during a hearing on January 10 suggested the FBI has collected information on possible ties between Trump associates and Russians and may still be probing this matter. So with subpoena-wielding investigators on this beat, here's a suggestion: The gumshoes ought to talk to an American from Belarus named Sergei Millian, who has boasted of close ties to Trump and who has worked with an outfit the FBI suspected of being a Russian intelligence front. If they haven't already.

Millian, who is in his late 30s and won't say when he came to the United States or how he obtained US citizenship, is an intriguing and mysterious figure with a curious connection to Trump. He is president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA (RACC) and the owner of a translation service. The RACC, a nonprofit that Millian started in Atlanta in 2006 and that has survived on shoestring budgets, advocates closer commercial ties between Russia and the United States and assists US firms looking to do business in Russia. In 2009, the group called for the US Congress "to foster necessary political changes to produce a healthier economic environment" and grant permanent normal trade relations status to Russia. Its website notes that it "facilitates cooperation for U.S. members with the Russian Government, Russian Regional Administrations, U.S. Consulates in Russia, Chambers of Commerce in Russia, and corporate leaders from CIS countries."

The Russian-American Chamber of Commerce's 2011 tax return reported the group was based in an apartment in Astoria, Queens, where Millian lived—though the group's letterhead that year listed a Wall Street address—and that year it brought in only $23,300 in contributions and grants and $14,748 in program revenue. The tax return noted that the chamber "successfully hosted four universities from Russia in New York City" and hosted a trade mission from Belarus. In 2015, Millian received a Russian award for fostering cooperation between US and Russian businesses.

On his LinkedIn page, Millian notes he is also the vice president of an outfit called the World Chinese Merchants Union Association, a group that has only a slight presence on the internet and that seems to have an address in Beijing. According to a LinkedIn post published by Millian in April 2016, he met that month in Beijing with a Chinese official and the Russian ambassador to the Republic of San Marino to discuss industrial and commercial cooperation between China and Russia.


In the 2016 interview, Millian asserted that Trump would be good for Russia if elected president. Trump, he noted, would improve US relations with Russia and lift economic sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia. He said Trump was interested in doing business in Russia: "I don't want to reveal position, but he is keeping Moscow in his sights and is waiting for an appropriate time." Millian added, "In general Trump has a very positive attitude to Russians, because he sees them as clients for his business. Incidentally, he has done many projects with people from the Russian-language diaspora. For example, Trump SoHo in New York with billionaire Tamir Sapir." (Sapir, who died in 2014, was an American billionaire real estate developer from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.)


Sergei Millian, left, pictured with Donald Trump and Jorge Perez Millian's Facebook page

Donald Trump's Hotel Bans Press For The Inauguration, Raising First Amendment Concerns

President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel is banning reporters from its premises during inauguration week, according to Politico’s Daniel Lippman. The move underscores the incoming president’s personal hostility toward the press and raises First Amendment issues, as the hotel space is leased by the president-elect from the federal government.

Throughout the 2016 campaign and into the transition, Trump has made his hostility to the press a centerpiece of his political strategy. Trump declared war on the press, which included mocking specific reporters as “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time.” He retreated to softball interviews during the final weeks of the campaign with largely friendly interviewers, Fox News, and fringe media. Since the election, Trump has lashed out at The New York Times several times for its “BAD coverage.” Trump’s own incoming press secretary also admitted that he threatened to remove a journalist who was trying to ask the president-elect a question, and prominent Trump supporter and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich applauded the threat, calling it “a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” for proper behavior.

Moreover, as Politico notes, Trump’s D.C. hotel is under “a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.” Given that arrangement, a blanket ban on the press raises First Amendment concerns. Trump’s D.C. hotel has also been an ethical sticking point during Trump’s transition, as some in Congress have raised concerns about a conflict of interest between the president-elect’s business interests and his administration’s influence over the General Services Administration.

From Politico’s January 18 article:

The Trump International Hotel in Washington is banning the media from its premises during inauguration week.

“Media is not allowed in this week in respect of the privacy of our guests,” Patricia Tang, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing wrote in an email.

A POLITICO reporter attempted to enter the hotel Wednesday morning for a previously scheduled breakfast meeting but was stopped at the door. He then identified himself as a journalist and was told “media” was not allowed.

President-elect Donald Trump and his three adult children own the project after winning a 2012 bid to redevelop D.C.’s Old Post Office. They have a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.

A POLITICO reporter attempted to enter the hotel Wednesday morning for a previously scheduled breakfast meeting but was stopped at the door. He then identified himself as a journalist and was told “media” was not allowed.


I found a bit more on this story today.

Reached for comment by CNNMoney, Tang made it clear at the outset that she didn't want to wade further into the matter.

"We really don't have any comment," she said by phone. "I mean, we gave all we're going to say, which is that we protect the privacy of our guests."

In his own story about the encounter, Lippman pointed out that Trump and three of his adult children have a 60-year lease on the hotel with the federal General Services Administration, the result of a winning bid to redevelop D.C.'s Old Post Office.

That lease stipulates that the public should enjoy access to the building's historic areas "subject to such reasonable rules and time restrictions as Tenant may formulate from time to time and as approved in writing by Landlord," although there is an exception for public safety.
When CNNMoney tried to ask whether a ban on the press might violate the hotel's lease, Tang grew agitated.

"Sir, you're not listening to what I'm saying. I'm hanging up now," she said, and then did so.


California Woman Wearing Headscarf Attacked As 'Hijab Wearing B*tch'

Vandals targeted a California woman who wears a headscarf for health reasons in a Monday attack, smashing the rear window of her car and leaving a note that read "Hijab Wearing Bitch."

After returning from a hike in Fremont, California, Nicki Pancholy found the rear window of her car broken, her purse stolen, and a note that read “Hijab Wearing Bitch. This is our nation, now get the F— out,” according to a report by Bay Area news site SFGate.

Pancholy told SFGate that she has lupus and wears a bandanna to protect her scalp from the sun. She said that she is not Muslim but was "scared" to return to the area after the attack.


Welcome to Trump's America.

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