Russian troll factory paid US activists to help fund protests during election

Investigation in RBC newspaper determines Russians posing as Americans made pays to activists to help with the organisation of protests and events

Russian trolls posing as Americans built pays to genuine activists in the US to help fund protest motions on socially divisive issues, according to a new investigation by a respected Russian media outlet.

On Tuesday, the newspaper RBC published a major investigation into the work of a so-called Russian “troll factory” since 2015, including during the period of the US election campaign, disclosures that are likely to set further spotlight on alleged Russian meddling in the election.

The existence of the troll factory, which has a history of spamming Russian and English blogs and comment forums, has been reported on by many outlets including the Guardian, but the RBC investigation is the first in-detail look at the organisation’s activity during the election period.

RBC said it had identified 118 accounts or groups in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that were linked to the troll factory, all of which had been blocked in August and September this year as part of the US investigation into Russian electoral meddling.

Many of the accounts had already been linked to Russian disinformation efforts in western outlets, but RBC said its sources at the troll factory had provided screenshots of the internal group administration pages of some of the groups, as proof the latter are run away from Russia. It also spoke to former and current employees of the troll factory, all of whom spoke anonymously.

Perhaps the most alarming component of the article was the claim that employees of the troll factory had contacted about 100 real US-based activists to help with the organisation of protests and events. RBC claimed the activists were contacted by Facebook group administrators concealing their Russian origin and were offered financial help to pay for transport or print expenses. About $80,000 was expended during a two-year period, according to the report.

The main topics covered by the groups run from Russia were race relations, Texan independence and handgun rights. RBC counted 16 groups pertaining to the Black Lives Matter campaign and other race a matter that had a total of 1.2 million subscribers. The biggest group was entitled Blacktivist and reportedly had more than 350,000 likes at its peak.

Last month, CNN also reported that US authorities believed the Blacktivist Facebook group and Twitter account were the work of Russian impostors.

The infiltration of American social networks by Russian trolls and bots appears to be the conclusion of an operation that began by targeting the Russian-language internet space, grew to encompass specific comments pages of western newspapers and blogs, and eventually seems to have led to the creation of whole Facebook communities designed to look like they are run by ordinary Americans.

Two years ago, the Guardian spoke with two people who worked at the” troll farm “. They would clock on at the building on Savushkina St each morning, turn on a VPN connection to disguise their place, and expend their days inhabiting fake personas on Russian social networks.

These profiles would post dozens of innocuous contemplations on traveling or baking, and then occasionally fill them out with politicised entries that mirrored Kremlin talking phases. Generally, the posts were either in kudo of President Vladimir Putin or about the “chaos” and “degeneration” of Europe, often with homophobic or racist undertones.

The Internet Research Agency, one of the companies believed to run the trolling operations, has long been rumoured to be a project of Evgeny Prigozhin, a shadowy industrialist known as” Putin’s chef”, who ran Putin’s favourite eatery in St Petersburg and later won billions of dollars worth of state catering contracts. A number of semi-legitimate news aggregating websites appear to be run by the same people as the troll operations.

Google has said Russian spies expended tens of thousands of dollars on targeted ads on YouTube, Google and Gmail, according to reports. Last month, Facebook released a statement saying it had detected $100,000 of ad spending on about 3,000 ads that it linked to 470 “inauthentic” accounts that it had linked to Russia. The company later clarified that the ads focused on” divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum “.

The company estimated that about 10 million Americans watched the ads, but interestingly also specified that only 44% of the impressions took place before last November’s election, constructing the Russian campaign look more like an attempt to sow general chaos rather than a narrowly focused electoral drive.

” The chore wasn’t to supporting Trump ,” one of the factory’s employees told RBC.” We raised social issues and other problems that already existed in the US, and tried to shine as bright a light as possible on them .” The employee said that because Clinton was part of the current regime, she was also a target.

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Pence follows Trump order and walks out of 49ers-Colts after players kneel

VP leaves NFL game after about a dozen San Francisco players kneel, before Trump corroborates walkout was planned and says he is proud

Vice-president Mike Pence left the 49 ers-Colts NFL game in Indianapolis on Sunday in a schemed stoppage, after about a dozen San Francisco players kneeled during the course of its playing of “the member states national” anthem.

Pence announced his deviation from the Lucas Oil Stadium on Twitter. A White House statement follow, with a tweet from President Donald Trump which corroborated the stoppage was not spontaneous.

” I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country ,” Trump wrote.” I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen .”

Protests of the anthem by NFL players, almost all African American, began last year when the then 49 ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest against racial injustice and police brutality. 49 ers players have been prominent among those kneeling this season and could have been expected to kneeling on Sunday.

Nor was Pence scheduled to take up the whole game. Us air force Two was due to take off from Indianapolis International Airport at 4pm on Sunday, in order for the vice-president to attend a political fundraiser in Los Angeles. The Colts-4 9ers game kicked off at 1pm ET and finished after 4.30 pm, after going to overtime.

At a rally in Alabama last month, Trump launched aggressive criticism of players and the NFL. Though Kaepernick had kneeled to protest unpunished police killings of African Americans, the president and the White House insisted that protesting the anthem showed disrespect to the flag and to American troops, veterans and first responders.

Senior administration figures including Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were deployed to say that in this instance, freedom of speech did not apply. In answer, large numbers of players knelt, teams co-ordinated actions and owners criticised Trump’s terms.

Though debate continued about the meaning of the protests, until Pence’s walkout the issue had seemed to be receding from public view.

Players and some NFL writers guess Kaepernick, who took the 49 ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, has been blackballed by the league. On Sunday, CBS reported that he said he would not protest the anthem if he ever returned. The reporter then recanted the narrative and Kaepernick tweeted a quote attributed to- but not coined by– Winston Churchill:” A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its gasps on .”

Members
Members of the San Francisco 49 ers kneel during the course of its playing of the national anthem. Photograph: Michael Conroy/ AP

Many commentators have also accused the president of seeking to use the NFL protests as a distraction from his own political woes.

Trump has recently been criticised for his response to the catastrophic effect of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, for his approach to North Korea, and over his relationship with secretary of state Rex Tillerson. On Sunday, the president was embroiled in an embarrassing exchange of insults with Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and a senior is part of Republican leadership.

The New York Times reported in September that attacking protesting NFL players was ” a calculated attempt to shore up” Trump’s political base.

In the statement issued by the White House, Pence said:” I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem .”

The statement then seemed to allude to Pence’s visit to Las Vegas on Saturday, when he gratified survivors and first-responders from the mass shooting at a music celebration last week in which 58 people were killed and virtually 500 injured.

It read:” At a period when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their fortitude, resolve, and resilience , now, more than ever, we should rally around our flag and everything that unites us .”

The White House released a picture of Pence and his wife stand for the anthem at the stadium in Indianapolis, with their hands on their hearts.

Pence’s Las Vegas visit mean he missed an unveiling of a statue of the great Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning on Saturday. Manning’s jersey was retired on Sunday.

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Ivana Trump: I talk to Donald regularly despite ‘insane’ divorce

Mother of Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric, preparing to publish a memoir discussing her marriage, says her daughter could be president one day

Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, has said her daughter Ivanka could run for chairperson, and that she and Trump now speak regularly and have a warm relationship despite the “insane” circumstances of their notorious divorce.

Ivana Trump was married to Donald Trump from 1977 to 1992 and is the mother of three of the president’s children, Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric. Next week she will publish Raising Trump, a book on her matrimony and her life.

She knew her marriage was over, she writes, soon after a day in December 1989 when a” young blonde female approached me out of the blue and said’ I’m Marla and I love your spouse. Do you ?’ I said’ Get lost. I love my husband .’ It was unladylike but I was in shock .”

In 1990, Trump’s affair with Marla Maples spawned an infamous New York Post headline:” Best Sexuality I’ve Ever Had “. In 1993, Trump married Maples, who is the mother of his daughter Tiffany. He is now married to Melania Trump, the mother of his son Baron.

The Associated Press bought an early transcript of Ivana Trump’s book, in which she writes glowingly about her matrimony and her prominent role at the Trump Organization. She also writes about the ache Trump’s affair with Maples caused her and her children. Donald Jr did not speak to his father for a year after the split.

” I can only shake my head at how it insane it was ,” Ivana writes.” I couldn’t turn on the television without hearing my name .”

The divorce came under scrutiny during the 2016 election, when it was reported that Ivana once signed a sworn deposition alleging Donald had raped her. She sought to clarify that the accusation, which Trump has all along been denied, was not intended in a” literal or criminal sense “. Trump’s lawyer amplified the issue, however, by suggesting to a reporter there was no such thing as marital rape.

In her book, Ivana writes that she and the president are now on warmer terms, speaking about once a week. She encourages him to keep using Twitter, she says.

In a CBS News interview this week, Ivana said she was offered the post of diplomat to the Czech Republic but turned it down because she already had” a perfect life “. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the ambassadorship post.

Much of the book is spent recounting Ivana Trump’s childhood in Europe, her burgeoning modeling career in New York and Trump’s courtship. At their first session, she writes, Trump secured her and friends a table at a hot Manhattan restaurant, paid the check and chauffeured her back to her hotel in a giant Cadillac.

” My instincts told him that Donald was smart and funny an all-America good guy ,” she writes.

Her children also contribute passages to the book and Ivana muses that her former husband may not be the only Trump to call the White House home.

” Maybe in 15 years, she could run for chairman ?” she writes about Ivanka.” First lady? Holds no appeal for me personally. First Mother? That could run .”

Ivanka is among the most high-profile figures in the Trump administration, a senior consultant to her father. But she has struggled to assert herself, appearing to hold little if any influence on his actions.

Most recently, she and her husband, Jared Kushner, another top aide to the president, have been at the center of controversy over their use of private email accounts for government business. Republicans including the Trumps claimed Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state disqualified her from the presidency.

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, requested the coming week that the FBI review whether Ivanka and Kushner exchanged classified information through their personal accounts.

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The Trump-Russia dossier: why its findings grow more significant by the day

As US officers analyse potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, the series of reports by the former UK intelligence official Christopher Steele are casting an ever darker darknes over the president

Nine months after its first appearance, the situated of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown-up darker as time has gone by.

It was reported this week that the document’s author, former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators working for the special advise on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are, meanwhile, asking to see Steele to make up their own intellect about his findings. The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff, said that the dossier was ” a very important and useful guide to help us figure out what we need to look into “.

The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional researchers has far-reaching implications.

Originally commissioned by a private firm as opponent research by Donald Trump’s Republican and then Democratic adversaries, they quote a range of unnamed sources, in Russia and the US, who describe the Kremlin’s cultivation over several years of the man who now occupies the Oval Office– and the systematic collusion of Trump’s associates with Moscow to help get him there.

The question of collusion is at the heart of the various investigations into links between Trump and Moscow. Even a senior Republican, Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted this week it was an open question.

Burr said his committee needed to talk Steele himself to assess the dossier properly and recommended him to speak to its members or staff. According to an NBC report on Friday, Steele had expressed willingness to meet the committee’s leaders.

In his remarks this week, Burr said his committee had come to a consensus in supporting the conclusions of a US intelligence community appraisal in January this year that Russian had conducted a multi-pronged campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, in Trump’s favour.

It is a finding that echoes the reports that Steele was making seven months earlier. Trump has called the assessment a “hoax”, but there is no sign the three agencies that came to that conclusion, the CIA, FBI and NSA, have had any second thoughts in the intervene months.

” Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken[ the Steele] reports seriously since they were first published ,” wrote John Sipher, a former senior officer in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service on the Just Security website.

Christopher
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer who compiled the reports. Photo: Victoria Jones/ PA

” This is not because they are not fond of Trump( and many admittedly are not ), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methodology and the nature of raw intelligence reporting .”

Sipher emphasised the “raw” nature of research reports, aimed at conveying an accurate account of what sources are saying, rather than claiming to be a definitive summary of events. There are spelling mistakes and rough edges. Several of the episodes it described remain entirely unverified.

But as every passing month brings more leaks, revelations in the press, and more progress in the investigations, the Steele dossier has generally gained in credibility, rather than lost it.

Trump Tower meeting

One of the more striking most recent developments was the disclosure of a meeting on 9 June 2016 in Trump Tower involving Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with a Russian lawyer closely tied to the government, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

After the meeting was first reported on 8 July this year, the president’s son claimed( in a statement dictated, it turned out, by his father) that it had been about adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

The next day that was exposed as a lie, with the publication of emails that made it clear that Veselnitskaya was offering injury material on Hillary Clinton, that an intermediary setting up the session said was ” part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump “.

If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer ,” Donald Trump Jr responded.

Just 11 days after that meeting- but more than a year before it became public- Steele quoted information sources as saying that” the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his squad valuable intelligence on his foes, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton”, for several years.

A subsequently report, dated 19 July 2016, said:” Speaking in confidence to a countryman in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership .”

The report said that such contacts were handled on Trump’s end by his then campaign director, Paul Manafort, who participated in the 9 June Trump Tower session.

Manafort has denied taking part in any collusion with the Russian nation, but registered himself as a foreign agent retroactively after it was revealed his firm received more than $17 m running as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party. He is a subject of special attorney Robert Mueller’s investigation and in July the FBI raided his home in Virginia.

Other key protagonists in the Steele dossier have surfaced in subsequent revealings and investigation. Two of them, an Azeri-Russian businessman Araz Agalarov and his son Emin, are described in emails released by Donald Trump Jr as offering to serve as intermediaries in passing on damaging material on Clinton and is reported to have help set up the Trump Tower meeting.

Carter Page

Another key figure in the Steele dossier is Carter Page, an energy consultant who Trump named as one of his foreign policy advisors. Steele’s sources describe him as an “intermediary” between Manafort and Moscow, who had met a Putin lieutenant and head of the Russian energy giant, Rosneft, and a senior Kremlin official, Igor Diveykin.

Donald
Donald Trump and his son, Donald Jr. Photo: Jewel Samad/ AFP/ Getty Images

Page denied meeting either human on his trip-ups to Moscow, which he has said were for business purposes and not connected to his role in the Trump campaign.

Nonetheless, he has become a focus of investigation: it was reported in April that that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued an order last year for his communication to be monitored. To obtain the order, researchers would have to demonstrate” probable cause” to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. Page has said he welcomed the news of the order as it demonstrated he was being made a scapegoat of the investigation.

Elsewhere, a Steele memo in September 2016 mentions a “Mikhail Kulagin” who had been withdrawn from the Russian embassy in Washington because of his” heavy participation in the US presidential election operation “.

There was no envoy of that name at the mission, but there was a Mikhail Kalugin; five months ago, it emerged that he had left the embassy in August 2016.

McClatchy reported he was under investigationfor his role in Russia’s interference in the campaign. The BBC reported that the US had identified Kalugin as a snoop.

Facebook

More lately, there has been a slew of revelations about the role of disinformation spread by Russians and other eastern Europeans posing as Americans on social media. The New York Times reported that hundreds and possibly thousands of Russian-linked fake accounts and bots on Facebook and Twitter were used to spread anti-Clinton narratives and messages.

Facebook disclosed that it had shut down several hundred accounts that it believes were fabricated by a Kremlin-linked Russian company to buy $100,000 in ads that are typically promoted racial and other divisive issues during the campaign.

This week, Facebook handed over to Congress 3, 000 ads bought by a Russian organisation during the campaign, and it was reported that many of those ads, some of them Islamophobic, were specifically targeted on swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Steele memo from August 2016 states that after Russia’s hand had been discovered in the hacking of Democratic party emails and passing them to WikiLeaks for publishing, another boulevard of influence would be explored.

The memo says” the tactics would be to spread rumours and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content “.

The
The Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who fulfilled Donald Trump Jr and other campaign figures. Photograph: Yury Martyanov/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Russian official alleged by Steele’s sources to be in charge of the operation, Sergei Ivanov- then Putin’s joint chiefs of staff- is quoted as saying:” The audience to be targeted by such operations was the educated youth in America as the PA[ Russian Presidential Administration] assessed that there was still a chance they could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump as a protest against the Washington establishment( in the form of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton ).”

The Steele dossier said one of the aims of the Russian influence campaign was to peel off voters who had supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and nudge them towards Trump.

Evidence has since emerged that Russians and east Europeans posing as Americans targeted Sanders advocates with divisive and anti-Clinton messages in the summer of 2016, after the primaries were over.

Unsubstantiated claims

There are other details in the Steele dossier that have echoed in subsequent news reports, but there are also several claims and accounts for which no supporting evidence has emerged.

The startling claim that Trump was filmed with prostitutes while staying at a Moscow hotel in November 2013, when he was staging the Miss Universe contest there, has not been substantiated in any way.

Nor has the allegation that Trump’s lawyer and vice-president of the Trump Organisation, Michael Cohen, travelled to Prague in August 2013 to conspire with a senior Russian official. In a letter to the House intelligence committee, Cohen said he never went to Prague and took issue with a string of other claims in the dossier.

It has however emerged that Cohen was involved in investigating a real estate deal in Moscow for the Trump Organisation while the campaign was in full swing. He has been summoned to appear in open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee later this month.

The Steele dossier, its writer and the firm who hired him, Fusion GPS, have become favoured targets for Trump’s loyalists on Capitol hill. They point to the fact that the genesis of the documents was a paid commission to find damaging facts about Trump.

But the dossier has not faded from view. Instead, it appears to be growing in significance as the investigations have gathered pace.

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Rex Tillerson says he won’t quit but doesn’t deny calling Trump a ‘moron’

US secretary of state pledges loyalty to the president and shrugs off report he called Trump a moron in White House meeting as petty nonsense

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has denied he has considered abdication and pledged allegiance to Donald Trump in the wake of a report that he had called the president a “moron”.

” There has never been a consideration in my intellect to leave. I serve at the appointment of the president and I’m here as long as the president supposes I can be useful to achieving his objectives ,” Tillerson said at a hastily arranged press appearance on Wednesday.

But he did not deny the report on NBC News on Wednesday morning that he had derided Trump as a “moron” in a meeting of White House national security officials and members of the cabinet. Instead, he shrugged off research reports as” petty nonsense” and issued a river of kudo for the president.

” He loves his country. He sets America and Americans first. He’s smart. He demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they have done the job he has asked him to do ,” Tillerson said.

Moments after his statement, CNN also reported that he had called Trump a moron and that Trump had been made aware of it.

After Tillerson’s appearance, the state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, held a separate press conference and denied Tillerson had called the president a moron, insisting:” He never said that .”

For those who wanted him to resign, Nauert said:” Go ahead and keep pushing, because that will only enhance its resolve .”

The secretary of state said he had not talked to the president on Wednesday morning before making his statement, saying Trump was on his route to Las Vegas. But the president was clearly watching Tillerson, tweeting within a few minutes.

” The NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec Tillerson and VP Pence. It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA !” Trump wrote.

After Tillerson’s statement, a NBC correspondent put out a tweet quoting MSNBC anchorwoman Stephanie Ruhle as saying:” My source didn’t just say he called him a moron. He said he called him an f-ing moron .”

The report by NBC News is the latest in a long series of snapshots of an administration in near constant crisis, largely as a result of the erratic and abrasive character of the president. In its first nine months it has been dogged by abdications, gaffes, failed legislative initiatives, and scandals, to a degree unmatched by any administration in modern US history.

Trump has openly disparaged his own top officials, such as the us attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and repeatedly contradicted and undercut Tillerson- most recently when the secretary of state was in China to explore ways of containing the Northern korean nuclear crisis.

Tillerson mentioned said there were channels of communication between Washington and Pyongyang. Soon afterwards, Trump went on Twitter to say the secretary of state was ” wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man[ Trump’s nickname for Kim Jong-un ]”.

” Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done !” he tweeted.

Speculation on whether Tillerson would resign has swirled around Washington throughout the summer, and apparently for good reason.

Tillerson was in Texas for his son’s wedding in late July, when Trump addressed the Boy scout of America, an organisation Tillerson once operated and is passionate about.

The president’s address stimulated little allowance for the fact he was addressing an audience of adolescents and Trump spent much of it scoring political phases against his competitors and boasting about his election success more than eight months earlier.

Tillerson threatened not turning now to Washington, according to NBC quoting three unnamed sources” with direct knowledge of security threats “. The report said the defence secretary, James Mattis, and retired General John Kelly, who would subsequently become White House chief of staff, helped talk him out of resigning to the purposes of national stability.

When Tillerson did return to Washington, Mike Pence, the vice-president, is reported to have arranged a meeting with him to advise him on how to get on with Trump.

Tillerson’s spokesman, RC Hammond, said Tillerson did not consider ceasing over the summer and did not call the president a moron. He told NBC he was unaware of Tillerson’s meeting with Pence.

Pence’s office also denied the NBC report.

” The vice-president can also confirm that, as the secretary of state made clear, at no time did he and the secretary ever discuss the prospect of the secretary’s abdication from the administration ,” Pence’s office said.

Asked about his reaction to the day’s furore around Tillerson, the Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker said:” I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that assistance separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much .”

Earlier this year, Tillerson admitted that he did not want to be US secretary of state and only took the job because his wife persuaded him to do it.

Tillerson had not met Donald Trump before being summoned to Trump Tower after the election, ostensibly to talk to the president-elect” about the world” and his experiences as an oil company CEO. He was ” stunned” to be offered the job of secretary or nation, he said.

” I didn’t want this chore. I didn’t seek this job ,” Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review( IJR) in March.” My wife told me I’m supposed to do this .”

Twitter users seized upon the row to recirculate a cartoon that Trump originally posted in 2014.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

An interesting cartoon that is circulating. pic.twitter.com/ OPG2R 2ytkr

October 22, 2014

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‘Close to genocide’: San Juan mayor’s dire appeal to US for Puerto Rico relief

Carmen Yuln Cruz makes direct call to Donald Trump: I am begging you to take charge and save lives. Enough is enough

The mayor of San Juan lashed out at Trump administration on Friday, decrying its relief attempt in the wake of hurricanes Jose and Maria and saying if it doesn’t solve the logistics” what we we are going to see is something close to a genocide “.

” We are dying here ,” Carmen Yulin Cruz said at a press conference, speaking with tears in her eyes.” I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday we are in difficulty .”

Cruz appealed immediately to the president, saying:” So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of … America. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough .”

The situation in Puerto Rico remains dire as residents face shortages of food, water and gasoline. The electric grid was severely damaged by the two cyclones, leaving many without power and reliant on gas-powered generators. The hurricanes crippled the island’s already weakened garbage and water treatment plants while fallen trees and strewn rubble block roads and cellphone service remains limited.

Trump and administration figures have sought to emphasise local is supportive of their efforts to send aid.” Fema[ Federal Emergency Management Administration]& First Responders are doing a GREAT chore in Puerto Rico ,” the president wrote on Thursday in a typical tweet.” Massive food& water delivered .”

On Friday he claimed:” Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello merely stated:” The administration and the president, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered …” Rosello has praised the federal government’s relief endeavor, but he told MSNBC:” The reaction still is not where it needs to be, certainly it’s not .”

Trump has complained that the coverage of “the governments response” has been unfair. But he has faced criticism for creating the issue of the country’s debt crisis as it reels from the impact of two hurricanes.

On Friday, the president praised the relief endeavour , noting that 10,000 federal workers had been sent to the island along with ships bringing food and water.

” All appropriate departments of our government from homeland security to defense are engaged fully in the disaster ,” he said in a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington.” And the response and recovery endeavor probably has never been find for something like this .”

Referring to logistical challenges facing sending aid to the US territory, he said:” This is an island, surrounded by water, big water, ocean water .”

Puerto Rico, he said, was ” totally and regrettably unable” to manage the crisis on its own.” They are running so hard ,” he said.” But there’s nothing left. It’s been wiped out. The houses are largely flattened .”

Trump again referred to the island’s debt crisis, saying it would have to work with federal authorities to determine how to pay for a massive recovery attempt compounded by” the tremendous quantity of existing debt already on the island “.

He tweeted earlier:” The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding !”

A
A US Marine and a local resident work to clear a tree from the main road in Ceiba, Puerto Rico. Photograph: U.S. Navy/ Getty Images

In her conversation with reporters in San Juan on Friday afternoon, Cruz gestured to two large binders filled with newspaper and said:” Fema asks for documentation, I think we’ve given them enough documentation. They had the gall this morning … of asking me:’ What are your priorities, mayor ?’

” Well, where have you been? And I have been very respectful of the Fema employees. I have been patient but we have no time for patience anymore.

” So, I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.

” They were up the task in Africa when Ebola came over. They were up to the task in Haiti[ after the earthquake of 2010 ]. As they should be. Because when it comes to saving lives we are all part of one community of shared values.

” I will do what I never guessed I was going to do: I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy .”

Continuing to cry, Cruz said:” I am done being polite, and I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake.

“… I’m asking members of the press to send a mayday bellow. We are dying here. If we don’t solve the logistics, we are going to see something close to a genocide .”

Earlier in the working day, Cruz was strongly critical after acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke said the relief attempt in Puerto Rico was a” good news story “.” Dammit, this is not a good news story ,” Yulin Cruz told CNN.” This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death tale .”

Cruz implored Duke to visit the ravaged island.” This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water ,” she said.” When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story … I’m sorry. That really upsets me and frustrates me .”

On Friday, Duke traveled to the US territory in a visit schemed before her commentaries depicted criticism. She clarified her remarks at a press conference, explaining that she entailed she was encouraged by the coordination among federal agencies, local government and first responders.

” Clearly the situation here in Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane is not satisfactory ,” Duke said.” But together we are getting there and the progress today is very very strong.

” The chairperson and I will not be fully fulfilled, however, until every Puerto Rican is back home, the power is back on, clean water is freely available, schools and hospitals are fully open and the Puerto Rican economy is working .”

Trump is due to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

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Big winner under Trump’s tax plan for ‘everyday Americans’: Donald J Trump

The president has claimed he wont benefit from the White House plan to cut taxes for hardworking Americans. Heres whats wrong with that assertion

Donald Trump has outlined plans for the biggest overhaul of the US tax system since the Ronald Reagan era. The cuts were aimed at” everyday hardworking Americans”, Trump told the crowd in Indiana on Wednesday. But even a cursory look at the still developing plan shows the biggest beneficiary is likely to be … Donald Trump. Here’s why.

Rich working person

” My plan is for working person and my plan is for jobs ,” Trump said.” I don’t benefit. Very, very strongly I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth .” Wrong! as Trump would say.

Trump has proposed cutting the tax rate of so-called ” pass-through” businesses to 25%. Pass-through industries don’t pay tax as businesses but pay at the rate of taxation paid by the owner. The highest rate they currently pay is close to 40%.

Most business are pass across, but 96% of businesses already pay less than 25% tax and merely 4% of them currently pay the highest rate of taxation. Those industries are the ones controlled under high net worth someones, hedge fund administrators, corporate lawyers and rich people who structure their businesses as partnerships or limited liability companies. Trump himself controls 500 pass-through businesses.

Kansas passed a similar taxation cut in 2012 and it almost broke the bank. The cuts had to be reversed as the state’s coffers dried up.

” Trump is carving out a special loophole for his own businesses and calling it a small-business taxation cut ,” said TJ Helmstetter of the group Americans For Tax Fairness.

Trump has also proposed cutting the alternative minimum tax( AMT ). The AMT is widely disliked because of its intricacy but its basic aim is good. The idea is to make sure that very rich people are not able to avoid paying any tax at all by using the abundant loopholes available to their armies of accountants. AMT was the reason Trump had to pay $ 31 m in taxes in 2005, according to documents given to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Well, he won’t have to worry about that any more if he gets his way.

Rich dead people

Trump- and the Republican party- have been keen to do away with the estate tax for years. The so-called ” death tax” hurts American families, Trump has said on numerous occasions. Sure. But only rich ones. The taxation is currently set at 40% on estates worth $5.49 m for an individual or $10.9 m for a couple. It only affects 0.2% of the US population.

It will cost $ 240 bn to remove the estate tax over 10 years- roughly the same quantity as the Trump administration’s plans to cut food stamps would save.

Who pays for it ?

The Trump tax plan will have to be paid for somehow. The government debts is now more than $20 tn and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget calculates the scheme will add between$ 3tn and$ 7tn to the national debt over the next decade. Where does that fund come from? The Trump administration has proposed$ 5tn in cuts to non-military spending, meaning schools, Medicaid healthcare, social security systems, disability insurance.

If the scheme is passed- and that’s a big if- America’s middle class will be paying for these tax cuts for generations to come.

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Roger Stone: Trump adviser denies Russia collusion during 2016 election

Political dirty trickster makes combative appearance before House intelligence committee: There is one trick that is not in my suitcase and that is treason

Roger Stone, a longstanding consultant to Donald Trump, made a combative appearance at a closed session of the House intelligence committee on Tuesday to repudiate allegations of collusion.

He told journalists later that his former business partner, Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman, expected to be indicted soon. Stone said he expected Robert Mueller, the special counsel analyse links between the Trump campaign and Moscow, to “manufacture” a charge against Manafort in an attempt to force him to” bear false witness against the president “.

As for his own hearing, Stone said that nothing he was asked built him “uncomfortable” and that he had answered all the questions put him but one.

He refused to tell the committee the identity of a journalist who was his intermediary with the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange– and who Stone says was the source of his advance knowledge of what WikiLeaks was planning to publish during the campaign on the Democratic presidential competitor, Hillary Clinton, and a senior Democratic official, John Podesta.

The ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, confirmed that Stone had refused to answer one important question, though he declined to elaborate, adding that the committee would consider subpoenaing him if he did not return of his own accord.

Roger
Roger Stone speaks to the media after answering questions from the House intelligence committee. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/ EPA

Before his appearance, Stone made clear he would deny all allegations of collusion with Russia during the presidential election.

” While some may label me a dirty trickster, the members of this committee could not point to any tactic that is outside the accepted norms of what political strategists and consultants do today. I do not engage in any illegal activities on behalf of my clients or the causes in which I support ,” Stone said in a prepared statement.” There is one’ trick’ that is not in my container and that is treason .”

After the hearing, he dismissed the committee’s inquiry as a political witchhunt.

” It’s entirely a political exercising ,” he said.” They stimulate the charges against you in a public forum to maximize coverage for their Senate campaign or their re-election but then they are allow you to respond behind closed doors and they won’t even permit the release of the transcript. It truly puts you at an extraordinarily unjust[ dis] advantage .”

The intelligence committee discourages witnesses from making public statements about its hearings, but Stone clearly enjoyed his time in the spotlight, describing the attention of journalists to his clothes , noting:” English tailoring is always better than Italian tailor, at the least for my body shape .”

On the eve of his appearance, he told New York magazine:” I elected not to go with one of my gangster suits .”

He said his last appearance before Congress had been in 1973, when he was 19 and testified to the Senate Watergate committee about what he had done for the Nixon re-election campaign.

He admitted then to “trafficking in the black arts” of politics but denied doing anything illegal.

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NFL players kneel for anthem in unprecedented defiance of Trump

Ravens and Jaguars players lead protest in London and owners voice solidarity before president says his attack on protests over racial injustice has nothing to do with race

NFL players staged an unprecedented wave of protest on Sunday, beginning at Wembley Stadium in London, as Donald Trump maintained his attack on players who kneel in protest against the national anthem.

It was a climactic day for a motion that began with a single backup quarterback kneeling before a pre-season game 13 months ago and had now been prompted a nation to wrestle with questions of free speech and racial justice.

Colin Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49 ers, kneeled in an attempt to provoke debate over race and police barbarism. He is now without a squad but active players have followed his example. This weekend, the protest spilled into baseball: the Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneeled during the course of its anthem before a game against the Texas Rangers.

Early on Sunday, shortly before his own treasury secretary insisted he was not picking a fight, Trump doubled down on his bellicose remarks at a rally in Alabama on Friday night. The president recurred his challenge to NFL team proprietors and encouraged fans to stop attending until the owners take action.

” If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag& Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend !” Trump wrote on Twitter.” NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away since they are love our country. League should back US .”

Later, at an impromptu media scrum as he headed back to Washington from his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Trump was asked if he was inflaming racial tensions by criticising protesting players who are almost all black.

” This has nothing to do with race ,” he said.” I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag .”

Cleveland
Cleveland Browns players stand and kneel before their game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Photo: Thomas J. Russo/ USA Today Sports

Wembley staged the day’s first game. Around 25 players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens kneeled. The Guardian’s Sean Ingle reported that no white players appeared to kneel but” many players, coaches and even the Jaguars’ proprietor Shahid Khan connected limbs instead as they stood, presenting unity for their black team-mates against Trump “.

Later, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, several Miami Dolphins wore black T-shirts supporting Kaepernick before facing the New York Jets. During the anthem, the Dolphins locked limbs. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to remain in the tunnel before their game against the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

” We’re not going to play politics ,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS.” People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feelings the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his team-mate who chooses not to .”

Dozens more players either kneeled or locked arms before the 1pm kickoffs. Trump tweeted:” Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked limbs is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings !”

The reveals of protest were not confined to the teams. Musicians performing the anthem also took knees at Falcons-Lions in Detroit and Seahawks-Titans in Nashville, where both teams bided off the field.

Trump constructed his initial remarks at a Friday night rally for the Republican senator Luther Strange.” Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL proprietors, when someone disrespects our flag, to say,’ Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired !'” he said.

He also complained about regulations introduced to improve safety in the NFL, which has a serious problem with head injuries.

The president’s statements and his withdrawal on Saturday of a White House invitation to the NB-Achampion Golden State Warriors prompted a remarkably strong reply. NBA great LeBron James called the president a “bum” while Buffalo Bills NFL running back LeSean McCoy called him an “asshole”.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed disappointment with the “divisive” comments while the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a close friend of Trump, was among squad owners to side with their players. In a statement, Kraft said he was ” deep disappointed” by Trump’s remarks.

” There is no greater unifier in this country than athletics, and unfortunately , nothing more divisive than politics ,” Kraft said.

In London, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said of his players and coaches:” We respect their demo and support them 100% .” Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, a stockholder in Arsenal, released a statement affirming his belief in his players'” freedom to peacefully express themselves “.

The
The Pittsburgh Steelers sideline is nearly empty during the course of its playing of the national anthem at Soldier Field. Photo: Kiichiro Sato/ AP

White House officers played defense. Treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin told CNN Trump was responding to” the NFL saying people should be able to decide what they want to do and disrespect the United States flag “.

” He thinks this is about respect for the military and so many people who set their lives at risk and what the country stands for … players have the right to free speech off the field. On the field “its about” respect for lots of people .”

Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, told Fox News Sunday players had” a first amendment right” to protest but added:” NFL owneds also have a right to fires those players .”

The Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner addressed the issue on the NFL Network.

“[ The flag is] a emblem of the ideals of our large country: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all ,” he said.” The anthem: it’s a reminder to us of those things. The president of the United States, his role is to uphold and to fight for the rights of every person, every American. And so when I heard the comments, I was so disappointed because I believe[ Trump’s] commentaries are completely contradictory to what the flag represents.

” We have this narrative that these protests are contradictory to our flag and contradictory to our military. I don’t see them that route. I ensure them as complementary to the ideals to the flag, to the military and what they fought for.

” I have not heard one player that has not been more than grateful to our military. This isn’t about that at all. It’s about standing up for the ideals of the flag .”

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Donald Trump defied at Wembley as Jaguars and Ravens kneel for anthem

Around 25 players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens took a knee during the singing of the US national anthem at Wembley Stadium on Sunday

Twenty-seven players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens took a knee during the singing of the US national anthem at Wembley Stadium on Sunday as the protest against the US president, Donald Trump, intensified. It was the most ever in a single NFL game.

Trump had increased his criticism of NFL players on Saturday , not only is recommended that fans of the sport should” refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag& Country” but also urging any players who took a knee to be fired or suspended.

” NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN ,” he added.” Boring games yes, but many stay away since they are love our country. League should back US .”

However Trump’s testy demands were ignored by more than 80,000 fans at Wembley as well as a great number of players from the Jaguars and Ravens, who took a knee. The Guardian counted around 12 players from the Jaguars and 14 from the Ravens. There did not appear to be any white players taking a knee. However many players, coaches and even the Jaguars’ owned Shahid Khan connected limbs instead as they stood, proving unity for their black team-mates against Trump.

The Ravens’ players and coaching staff were also supported by their owner Steve Bisciotti, who said:” We respect their demo and support them 100% .”

The NFL’s rules encourage but do not involve players to stand for the playing of the anthem. Several team owners have issued statements over the past 24 hours condemning Trump’s comments as divisive and supporting their players’ ability to express themselves.

The latest came on Sunday morning from the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who said he was ” profoundly disappointed” by the president’s views.

Kraft, who has previously called Trump a very good friend when the Patriots visited the White House in April, said in a statement:” There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately , nothing more divisive than politics.

” I suppose our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal ,” he added.” Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in accordance with the arrangements that they feel is impactful .”

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