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herding cats

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Member since: Mon Nov 18, 2013, 03:56 PM
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Flynn apologizes to Pence: report

Source: The Hill

National security adviser Michael Flynn has apologized after reportedly discussing U.S. sanctions with Russias ambassador before President Trump entered office, according to a new report.

Flynn directed most of his remorse to Vice President Mike Pence, USA Today said Monday, after Pence defended him and told CBS last month that Flynn never spoke about sanctions during his calls to Russia.

USA Today said it confirmed the Flynn-Pence phone call with a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Flynn now admits he may have discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, but cannot be 100 percent certain, the official added.
Reports emerged last week that Flynn spoke with Kislyak about U.S. sanctions against Russia before Trumps Jan. 20 inauguration.

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/319304-flynn-apologizes-to-pence-report



This might be a real moment. I just saw this on Twitter.

Bradd Jaffy‏ @BraddJaffy

Spicer just read a statement on Flynn: The President is evaluating the situation...



https://mobile.twitter.com/BraddJaffy/status/831265131392806915

Mar-a-Lago member posted images of the national security discussion on Facebook.

“HOLY MOLY !!! It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan. The Prime Minister Abe of Japan huddles with his staff and the President is on the phone with Washington DC. the two world leaders then conferred and then went into another room for hastily arranged press conference. Wow.....the center of the action!!!”



Mar-a-Lago is hardly a secure situation room

By the looks of his Facebook feed, Richard DeAgazio is a big fan of President Trump’s. Witness his Facebook feed on anti-immigrant protests in Italy, courtesy of the Russian propaganda network RT, the photo of Bill Clinton with a woman that he spuriously identifies as the former president’s new girlfriend, and a caricature of Barack Obama in a sombrero.

But Mr. DeAgazio did the current president no favors with his fanboy posts from Mar-a-Lago this weekend in a public dining room as the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and the president of the United States scrambled to respond to a North Korean ballistic missile test.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/us/politics/donald-trump-administration.html

A US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone

Two weeks ago, Sidd Bikkannavar flew back into the United States after spending a few weeks abroad in South America. An employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Bikkannavar had been on a personal trip, pursuing his hobby of racing solar-powered cars. He had recently joined a Chilean team, and spent the last weeks of January at a race in Patagonia.

Bikkannavar is a seasoned international traveller — but his return home to the US this time around was anything but routine. Bikkannavar left for South America on January 15th, under the Obama Administration. He flew back from Santiago, Chile to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 30th, just over a week into the Trump Administration.

Bikkannavar says he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the CBP agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar’s phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn’t know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device.

The JPL scientist returned to the US four days after the signing of a sweeping and controversial Executive Order on travel into the country. The travel ban caused chaos at airports across the United States, as people with visas and green cards found themselves detained, or facing deportation. Within days of its signing, the travel order was stayed, but not before more than 60,000 visas were revoked, according to the US State Department.



http://www.theverge.com/2017/2/12/14583124/nasa-sidd-bikkannavar-detained-cbp-phone-search-trump-travel-ban

The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins - New York Observer

Read what a Jared Kushner owned publication put out today.

The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins

Intelligence Community pushes back against a White House it considers leaky, untruthful and penetrated by the Kremlin

In a recent column, I explained how the still-forming Trump administration is already doing serious harm to America’s longstanding global intelligence partnerships. In particular, fears that the White House is too friendly to Moscow are causing close allies to curtail some of their espionage relationships with Washington—a development with grave implications for international security, particularly in the all-important realm of counterterrorism.

Now those concerns are causing problems much closer to home—in fact, inside the Beltway itself. Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.

That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues.

That’s Mike Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who now heads the National Security Council. Widely disliked in Washington for his brash personality and preference for conspiracy-theorizing over intelligence facts, Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for managerial incompetence and poor judgment—flaws he has brought to the far more powerful and political NSC.

http://observer.com/2017/02/donald-trump-administration-mike-flynn-russian-embassy/


I edited the headline for accuracy.

Deutsche Bank Remains Trumps Biggest Conflict of Interest Despite Settlements

Deutsche Bank is Trump’s largest lender. While the troubled bank has settled several of the charges against it, it’s still undergoing scrutiny by the Justice Department and other federal regulators, and is being overseen by six independent monitors, making conflicts of interest inescapable.

If you measure President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest by the amount of money at stake, or the variety of dicey interactions with government regulators, one dwarfs any other: his relationship with Deutsche Bank.

In recent weeks, Deutsche Bank has scrambled to reach agreements with American regulators over a host of alleged misdeeds. But because the president has not sold his company, the bank remains a central arena for potential conflicts between his family’s business interests and the actions of officials in his administration.

“Deutsche poses the biggest conflict that we know about in terms of dollar amounts and the scale of legal exposures,” says Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor and author of “Too Big To Fail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.” In trying to clear up its outstanding regulatory troubles, the bank “may have tried to do its best to avoid the appearance of impropriety but it may be impossible for them to do so.”

Deutsche is Trump’s major creditor, having lent billions to the president since the late 1990s even as other American banks abandoned Trump, who frequently bankrupted his businesses. While the president hasn’t released his tax returns, he has made public some information about his debts. According to these incomplete disclosures and reports, the Trump Organization has roughly $300 million in loans outstanding from the bank. Trump continues to own the business, although he has turned over day-to-day management to his sons.

https://www.propublica.org/article/deutsche-bank-trump-conflict-of-interest-despite-settlements?utm_campaign=sprout&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=1486843946

NATO says it sees sharp rise in Russian disinformation since Crimea seizure

Source: Reuters

NATO accused Russia of escalating a disinformation campaign since the Kremlin's 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region, saying Russian websites such as Sputnik and RT had posted false stories, the alliance's spokeswoman said on Saturday.

There is increasing concern among senior NATO and European Union officials over Russia's ability to use television and the Internet to spread what they say is fake news.

The defense alliance of 28 democracies says it has recorded more than a score of Russian myths in the last two years which it has attempted to knock down with factsheets, interviews, rebuttals and videos.

"NATO has been dealing with a significant increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014," spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in an email.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-media-idUSKBN15Q0MG?il=0

Intel community, Trump administration turning on Mike Flynn

Mike Flynn’s already tense relationships with others in the Trump administration and the intelligence community are growing more fraught after reports that the National Security Adviser breached diplomatic protocols in his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

On Friday, one of Flynn’s closest deputies on the National Security Council, senior director for Africa Robin Townley, was informed that the Central Intelligence Agency had rejected his request for an elite security clearance required for service on the NSC, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

That forced Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer who had long maintained a top secret-level security clearance, out of his NSC post, explained the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.

One of the sources said that the rejection was approved by Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo and that it infuriated Flynn and his allies.

Both sources said that the CIA did not offer much explanation for why Townley’s request for so-called “Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearance was rejected. But the sources said that Flynn and his allies believe it was motivated by Townley’s skepticism of the intelligence community’s techniques — sentiments shared by Flynn.

<>

One person close to Trump said that, within the White House, Flynn is regarded by some as waging “a jihad against the intelligence community.” This person said Flynn is blamed by some people around Trump for trying to turn the new president against the intelligence community during the campaign and transition period, when Trump was openly skeptical about U.S. intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the election to try to help his campaign and damage that of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.


http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/mike-flynn-nsa-aide-trump-234923


This WH has as many leaks as it has drama.

Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets get only US questions at Trump-Japan press event

President Trump only chose media outlets owned by conservative mogul Rupert Murdoch to ask questions during Friday’s joint press conference with Japanese President Shinzo Abe.

The White House typically says in advance which outlets will be allowed to ask questions of the world leaders during such events, most often on a rotating basis.


Trump called on reporters from the New York Post and Fox Business Network, two outlets that are owned by Murdoch's News Corp. No other American reporters were called on during the press conference.
The Post’s Daniel Halper, who published a book critical of Trump's presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, in 2014, asked Trump about his reaction to a federal court's ruling on Thursday that kept his travel ban inactive. Halper also asked Abe about his response to Trump’s decision to drop out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multi-country trade deal that included Japan.

<>

This week, the Financial Times reported that Murdoch sat in on Trump’s interview with The Times of London, which is also owned by News Corp. Murdoch has reportedly sought a closer relationship with Trump after initial skirmishes between Trump and Murdoch's Fox News during the Republican primary.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/318971-rupert-murdoch-owned-outlets-get-only-us-questions-at-trump-japan


I posted this here earlier today about the WSJ, another Murdoch publication.

Conflict Over Trump Forces Out an Opinion Editor at The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial features editor has left the paper following tensions over the section drifting in a pro-Donald Trump direction.

News of the departure of Mark Lasswell, who edited op-eds for the Journal, comes as the paper’s internal tensions over Trump have begun to spill into public view. The reliably hawkish, pro-trade, small government conservative Journal op-ed page has been challenged by the rise of the populist, nationalist Trump movement. The Journal’s opinion pages have been a showcase for the intra-right divide over Trump, featuring Trump-sympathetic writers like Bill McGurn alongside anti-Trump columnists such as Bret Stephens. Lasswell appears to be a casualty of that divide, and his dismissal a victory for the pro-Trump faction on the editorial staff.

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Lasswell was in effect phased out over a period of months from the paper. He took a book leave during the election following conflict with his boss Paul Gigot, the editorial page director, about the extent to which the page should run material sympathetic to Trump.

<>

According to a source close to Lasswell, the relationship between Lasswell and Gigot broke down in June when Gigot blocked Lasswell from publishing op-eds critical of Trump’s business practices and which raised questions about his alleged ties to Mafia figures. Lasswell asked Gigot for a book leave for the remainder of the election. Gigot, who had been critical of Trump, took a “sudden turn” on the candidate, the source said. In a note to staff on July 5, Gigot announced Lasswell’s leave. The note reads in part:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/conflict-over-trump-forces-out-an-opinion-editor-at-the-wall-street-journal/516318/


Trump is handling his four senior advisers like they're on The Apprentice

<>

Trump has at least four senior officials vying for alpha status in the West Wing: Conway; Reince Priebus, his chief of staff and nominally the person in charge; Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, who has been the architect of Trump’s early actions; and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and enforcer.

“Trump famously pits this one against the other,” a top White House official said, recounting the events of the day. “He’s like, ‘So and so is amazing, maybe smarter than you!’ He’ll just tease us.”

To stay on top, being by the President’s side is crucial. Priebus, for example, has a deputy, Katie Walsh, who previously worked with him at the Republican National Committee and who has taken on many of the responsibilities of a traditional White House chief of staff so that Priebus can remain glued to Trump. The situation has irritated the anti-Priebus faction. “Reince is a glorified bodyman,” one longtime Trump adviser said. “I don’t see how he has time for his responsibilities.”

Conway’s lack of clearance for high-level national-security discussions was increasingly leaving her out of the inner circle. Trump frequently asked Conway why she wasn’t in meetings, and Conway had to explain that she was waiting for her top-secret clearance. All that was left, for her to gain the access that her male rivals have, was to finish the training yesterday. But her comments about Ivanka pulled her off track.

<>
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kellyanne-conways-battle-for-trumps-favor


White House considers rewriting Trumps immigration order

Source: Washington Post

The White House is considering rewriting the executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, according to officials, indicating the administration may try to restore some aspects of the now-frozen travel ban or replace it with other face-saving measures.

The deliberations come after a panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declined Thursday to immediately reinstate President Trump’s controversial directive. Officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions, said the White House and Justice Department are also mulling whether to ask the full 9th Circuit or the Supreme Court to intervene. Government lawyers could alternatively wage a legal battle in the lower courts to address more squarely whether Trump’s directive violates the constitution.

Still, the White House’s options appear increasingly limited. The 9th Circuit judges indicated some of the administration’s proposed concessions — which presumably could turn into rewrites — don’t go far enough. Government lawyers also cannot undo Trump’s own campaign trail comments about wanting to stop all Muslims from entering the country and his assertion after taking office that Christians would be given priority. That is potentially compelling evidence that even a watered-down order might be intended to discriminate, said Leon Fresco, the deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation in President Barack Obama’s Justice Department.

“The problem is this is such a bad case for the government to be making these arguments,” Fresco said.

It is not clear exactly in what ways the White House might rewrite the order, and doing so would not automatically render moot the various lawsuits across the country.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/white-house-considers-rewriting-trumps-immigration-order/2017/02/10/ddcf5a6a-efb5-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.516f6553bf1e
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