Saturday, October 21, 2017
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Obama-era Gangsterism: "undercover witness was threatened by Justice officials when he tried to disclose some of the information in a lawsuit during last year's election"
Senate seeks to interview FBI informant in Russian nuclear bribery case
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sought permission to interview an FBI informant who helped agents uncover a major corruption scheme by Russian nuclear officials seeking to aggressively expand their American business under the Obama administration.
The undercover witness, who has not been publicly identified, spent nearly five years helping agents build a case that resulted in one of Russia's top nuclear industry officials in the United States, a Russian financier and an American trucking executive to plead guilty in 2015 to charges related to a racketeering scheme that prosecutors said involved bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering.
The informant possesses information about the extent of Russian efforts to curry favor inside the United States that he has been prevented from disclosing to the courts and Congress because he signed an FBI nondisclosure statement, his lawyer Victoria Toensing told The Hill on Tuesday.
The undercover witness was threatened by Justice officials when he tried to disclose some of the information in a lawsuit during last year's election, forcing him to withdraw his legal action, the lawyer alleged.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa), sent a letter Wednesday night to Toensing seeking to interview her client, saying he was troubled that the Obama administration in 2010 approved the Uranium One deal giving Moscow control over 20 percent of America's uranium supply when the FBI knew of corruption inside the Russian nuclear industry.
"It appears that your client possesses unique information about the Uranium One/Rosatom transaction and how the Justice Department handled the criminal investigation into the Russian criminal conspiracy," Grassley wrote. "Such information is critical to the Committee’s oversight of the Justice Department."
The senator specifically cited the earlier story by The Hill in his letter, saying among the issues he hoped to explore with the undercover was whether any political pressure was exerted during the probe.
While the FBI developed evidence as early as 2009 that an official with Russia's state-controlled Tenex nuclear company had engaged in the kickback scheme, Justice officials did not bring charges until 2014.
During the five year gap, the Obama administration approved the controversial uranium deal and made other decisions favorable to Russia's ambitions to expand its nuclear business inside the United States.
Posted by Deuce ☂ at 10/19/2017 05:48:00 AM
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow
Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.
The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.
The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.
When this sale was used by Trump on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said she was not involved in the committee review and noted the State Department official who handled it said she “never intervened ... on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.”
In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. Before then, Tenex had been limited to selling U.S. nuclear power plants reprocessed uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons under the 1990s Megatons to Megawatts peace program.
“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.
The Obama administration’s decision to approve Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One has been a source of political controversy since 2015.
That’s when conservative author Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times documented how Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and his charitable foundation collected millions in donations from parties interested in the deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.
But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.
Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered.
Spokesmen for Holder and Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The Justice Department also didn’t comment.
Mikerin was a director of Rosatom’s Tenex in Moscow since the early 2000s, where he oversaw Rosatom’s nuclear collaboration with the United States under the Megatons to Megwatts program and its commercial uranium sales to other countries. In 2010, Mikerin was dispatched to the U.S. on a work visa approved by the Obama administration to open Rosatom’s new American arm called Tenam.
Between 2009 and January 2012, Mikerin “did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire confederate and agree with other persons … to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of an article and commodity (enriched uranium) in commerce by extortion,” a November 2014 indictment stated.
His illegal conduct was captured with the help of a confidential witness, an American businessman, who began making kickback payments at Mikerin’s direction and with the permission of the FBI. The first kickback payment recorded by the FBI through its informant was dated Nov. 27, 2009, the records show.
In evidentiary affidavits signed in 2014 and 2015, an Energy Department agent assigned to assist the FBI in the case testified that Mikerin supervised a “racketeering scheme” that involved extortion, bribery, money laundering and kickbacks that were both directed by and provided benefit to more senior officials back in Russia.
“As part of the scheme, Mikerin, with the consent of higher level officials at TENEX and Rosatom (both Russian state-owned entities) would offer no-bid contracts to US businesses in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to some offshore banks accounts,” Agent David Gadren testified.
“Mikerin apparently then shared the proceeds with other co-conspirators associated with TENEX in Russia and elsewhere,” the agent added.
The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.
Both men now play a key role in the current investigation into possible, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle. McCabe is under congressional and Justice Department inspector general investigation in connection with money his wife’s Virginia state Senate campaign accepted in 2015 from now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a time when McAuliffe was reportedly under investigation by the FBI. The probe is not focused on McAuliffe's conduct but rather on whether McCabe's attendance violated the Hatch Act or other FBI conflict rules.
The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year.
Its many twist and turns aside, the FBI nuclear industry case proved a gold mine, in part because it uncovered a new Russian money laundering apparatus that routed bribe and kickback payments through financial instruments in Cyprus, Latvia and Seychelles. A Russian financier in New Jersey was among those arrested for the money laundering, court records show.
The case also exposed a serious national security breach: Mikerin had given a contract to an American trucking firm called Transport Logistics International that held the sensitive job of transporting Russia’s uranium around the United States in return for more than $2 million in kickbacks from some of its executives, court records show.
One of Mikerin’s former employees told the FBI that Tenex officials in Russia specifically directed the scheme to “allow for padded pricing to include kickbacks,” agents testified in one court filing.
Bringing down a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme that had both compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering would seem a major feather in any law enforcement agency’s cap.
But the Justice Department and FBI took little credit in 2014 when Mikerin, the Russian financier and the trucking firm executives were arrested and charged.
The only public statement occurred a year later when the Justice Department put out a little-noticed press release in August 2015, just days before Labor Day. The release noted that the various defendants had reached plea deals.
By that time, the criminal cases against Mikerin had been narrowed to a single charge of money laundering for a scheme that officials admitted stretched from 2004 to 2014. And though agents had evidence of criminal wrongdoing they collected since at least 2009, federal prosecutors only cited in the plea agreement a handful of transactions that occurred in 2011 and 2012, well after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s approval.
The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.
The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with serious national security implications had been uncovered.
On Dec. 15, 2015, the Justice Department put out a release stating that Mikerin, “a former Russian official residing in Maryland was sentenced today to 48 months in prison” and ordered to forfeit more than $2.1 million.
Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told The Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin’s case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.
“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview.
Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.
Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee during the time the FBI probe was being conducted, told The Hill that he had never been told anything about the Russian nuclear corruption case even though many fellow lawmakers had serious concerns about the Obama administration’s approval of the Uranium One deal.
“Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by U.S. regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them,” he said. “The Russian efforts to manipulate our American political enterprise is breathtaking.”
This story was updated at 6:50 p.m.
Posted by Deuce ☂ at 10/18/2017 12:41:00 AM
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
US military rushes to defuse looming crisis in Kirkuk after Iraqi army advances
US commanders actively trying to mediate between two sides in the oil-rich city after forces loyal to the government in Baghdad seized control on Monday
US military commanders are scrambling to stop a conflict escalating between two forces they arm and train, after the Iraqi army seized the contested, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, from Kurdish peshmerga.
The Pentagon sought to play down the scale of clashes between the two sides, after forces loyal to the central government in Baghdad rapidly took over nearly all the cityon Monday, and Kurdish forces abandoned their positions, retreating to nearby oilfields. Video footage showed streams of Kurdish refugees leaving Kirkuk in cars.
Baghdad’s move came three weeks after a referendum on Kurdish independence included the ethnically diverse oil city – a contentious move that Baghdad viewed as an effective annexation.
The peshmerga withdrawal delivered decisive military and political gains to Baghdad and a devastating blow to the Kurdish region’s de facto president, Massoud Barzani, who had staked much of his legacy on the referendum and aimed to use it as a stepping stone to consolidate Kurdish autonomy.
Col Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, described the takeover, as “coordinated movements, not attacks” and said an exchange of fire that is reported to have resulted in several casualties was “an isolated incident”.
“We have not seen levels of violences suggested in some of the media reports,” Manning said, urging both parties to focus on the “common threat” of the Islamic State. “This is certainly not helpful and again we encourage both sides to not fight each other.”
He added that US commanders in the region were active in trying to mediate between the two sides in the city.
“Coalition leaders at all levels are engaging with their counterparts in the Iraqsecurity forces to encourage dialogue and de-escalation,” Manning said.
Speaking at the White House, Donald Trump said: “We don’t like the fact that they are clashing, but we’re not taking sides.”
... but what did Trump say in 2015?
But the US embassy in Baghdad declared its support for Iraq’s reassertion of sovereignty in Kirkuk. “We support the peaceful reassertion of federal authority, consistent with the Iraqi constitution, in all disputed areas,” the embassy said in a statement.
The confrontation with Kurdish forces is a serious threat to US efforts to focus its allies’ efforts against Isis, an effort in which Kurdish forces have been Washington’s most effective partner.
There was also concern in Washington over the role of Iran in the move into Kirkuk. The Iraqi army advanced alongside mostly Shia Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), which are Iranian-backed.
“I am especially concerned by media reports that Iranian and Iranian-backed forces are part of the assault. Iraqi forces must take immediate steps to de-escalate this volatile situation by ceasing their advances,” Senator John McCain said in a written statement.
“The United States provided equipment and training to the government of Iraq to fight Isis and secure itself from external threats – not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments, which is a longstanding and valuable partner of the United States.”
Manning said the Pentagon had been assured by the Iraqi government and security forces that they would use US equipment “in accordance with US law and our bilateral agreements”.
“If we receive reports that US-origin equipment is being misused or provided to unauthorized users, we engage the Iraqi government in conjunction with the US embassy to address any confirmed issues – up to the highest levels, if necessary,” Manning added.
He also said he was not aware of any direct Iranian involvement in the Kirkuk operation though the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds force, Gen Qassem Suleimani – and PMU officials loyal to Iran’s supreme leader – are reported to have directed the offensive.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior foreign policy adviser to the Iranian supreme leader, praised the Iraqi army’s move to capture Kirkuk, framing it as a blow to Israel’s strategic ambitions.
“With the defeat of the Kurds in Kirkuk, Barzani’s conspiracy against the region’s security was foiled. Barzani’s aim and Israel’s covert aim were to seize Kirkuk’s oilfields to serve the Israeli interest. In the Kurdistan region, they raise the flag of Israel and this means if Kurds gain independence in Iraq, we will share a border with Israel,” Velayati said, according to the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news.
The Kirkuk governor, Najmladin Karim, has gone into hiding according to a former state department official, David Philips, who spoke to Karim on Sunday night at the time of the offensive.
“This was an attack by Shia militias under an Iranian commander,” Philips, who is now director of Columbia University programme on peace-building and rights. “The PMU is an entirely Iranian construct,” he added. “This operation was about Iran against Kurdistan.”
Philips pointed out that the US special envoy for the anti-Isis coalition, Brett McGurk, was in Baghdad over the weekend for talks with the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi.
“I would like to know what he and Abadi talked about,” he said. “The long history of links to the Kurds didn’t seem to matter when it came to crunch time.”
In a statement on Monday, Abadi said: “We have only acted to fulfil our constitutional duty to extend the federal authority and impose security and protect the national wealth in this city, which we want to remain a city of peaceful coexistence for all Iraqis.”
Kirkuk was seized by the Kurds in the summer of 2014, after Iraqi forces fled their positions following an Isis attack on nearby Mosul. At the time, peshmerga units beat Isis militants in a race to control installations and oilfields.
Ever since, Erbil has tried to strengthen its claim on the city, which comprises Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and is the epicentre of regional oil production.
Kurdish officials had set up a pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey, through which they had been selling crude oil – amid bitter opposition from Baghdad.
The withdrawal of Kurdish forces underscores a deep rivalry between two political blocs in Iraqi Kurdistan, which came to a head in the past three days as Iraqi forces and allied Shia units stalked Kurdish forces from south of the city.
Some leaders of the PUK bloc, based in the region’s second city, Sulaymaniyah, had viewed the referendum as a partisan move by Barzani to consolidate domestic control. The veteran leader had instead insisted that the ballot represented a defining moment in Kurdish history, which he hoped would transcendhelp overcome longstanding disunity.
Divisions, however, were on stark display, as the peshmerga units capitulated, shocking even members of the two feuding parties. The general command of Kurdistan’s peshmerga slammed the PUK for what it described as a “major historic betrayal”.
In contrast, Iraqi leaders, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Haidar al-Ameri, both senior commanders of the Popular Mobilisation units – a conglomerate of largely Shia forces, arrived in Kirkuk mid-afternoon to witness the Iraqi flag being raised at the governor’s office.
The decision to hold the ballot had drawn strident criticism from Iran, Turkey, Baghdad and the US. Baghdad and Tehran have blockaded the Kurdish north for the past two weeks, closing air space and partially suspending trade.
Shia units pressed into Kirkuk’s southern outskirts early on Monday and civilians started leaving the city en masse. Aziz Ahmed, an aide to the Erbil-based security tsar, Masrour Barzani, said rival security officials of the PUK bloc, had “betrayed Kirkuk and [the people of] Kurdistan, conceded to Iran and withdrew from frontlines without a fight”.
Peshmerga units loyal to Barzani remain in control of two oilfields north of Kirkuk and said they had no intention of surrendering them. But the remaining Kurdish forces appear to have little chance of holding back a bigger and better armed foe, should the central government choose to attack.
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If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.
Posted by Deuce ☂ at 10/17/2017 05:46:00 AM
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Why you were smart to have supported Trump instead of pissing away your vote on Clinton or Christ on a Harley
THIS IS THE GREATEST INDICTMENT OF THE LYING DEMOCRATS, OBAMA AND HILLARY CLINTON, AND THEIR US MEDIA & NEOCON ENABLERS:
Posted by Deuce ☂ at 10/15/2017 10:15:00 PM
Austrian 'whizz-kid' in election triumph
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Austria's Foreign Minister and leader of the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) Sebastian Kurz talks with journalists in Vienna, Austria, on October 15, 2017
Austria's Foreign Minister and leader of the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) Sebastian Kurz talks with journalists in Vienna, Austria, on October 15, 2017 (AFP Photo/ALEX HALADA)
Vienna (AFP) - Austria's political "whizz-kid" Sebastian Kurz was on course Sunday to become Europe's youngest leader, potentially in coalition with the far-right after its best result in almost 20 years.
Kurz's conservative People's Party (OeVP) won 31.7 percent of the vote, followed by Chancellor Christian Kern's Social Democrats (SPOe) on 26.9 percent, projections that were broadly in line with preliminary results showed.
Close behind was the nationalist Freedom Party (FPOe) on 26.0 percent, twice that of their allies the Alternative for Germany (AfD) last month and close to its all-time record of 26.8 percent in 1999 under then-leader Joerg Haider.
Kurz, 31, nicknamed "wunderwuzzi" ("whizz-kid"), took over the OeVP in May and managed to attract supporters in droves by depicting himself as a breath of fresh air, talking tough on immigration and vowing to slash taxes and red tape.
"I promise I will fight for great change in this country. It's time to establish a new political style and a new culture in this country," Kurz said Sunday.
But to form a government, Kurz will have to enter a coalition with one of the other parties.
The most likely partner is seen as the populist FPOe of Heinz-Christian Strache, 48, although this is far from guaranteed.
"We are waiting for the final result," Kurz said.
"If the president tasks me with forming a government, I will seek talks with all parties. I want change, and that requires partners."
Another option for Kurz would be a new "grand coalition" with the SPOe, but after 10 acrimonious years governing together -- ended early by Kurz in May -- this is seen as less likely.
An even more remote possibility in the wealthy EU member of 8.75 million people is a tie-up between the FPOe and the SPOe Social Democrats, whose campaign suffered a string of mishaps.
"We want to assume responsibility. This can be in many different forms," SPOe leader Kern said Sunday.
- Stolen thunder -
In December, the FPOe almost won the presidency and topped opinion polls in the midst of Europe's migrant crisis.
But since taking over the OeVP in May and re-branding it as his personal "movement", Kurz has stolen some of Strache's thunder.
As foreign minister, the rosy-cheeked Kurz claims credit for closing the Balkan migrant trail in 2016 that saw hundreds of thousands of migrants trek into western Europe.
He wants to cut benefits for all foreigners, even from the rest of the EU, reduce bureaucracy and stop the EU having too much say in national affairs -- in common with Strache.
"Large parts of our manifesto have been adopted by other parties," Strache said ruefully Sunday. "That shows that we are the ones who are in the lead when it comes to issues."
The last time the FPOe entered government, in 2000 under Haider, who praised Hitler's "orderly" employment policies, Austria was ostracised in Europe.
But there would not be the same backlash now, owing to the "normalisation of the far-right in Europe since then," said expert Pepijn Bergsen at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
"The FPOe is a different party," finance student Marcus Kronberg, 23, told AFP at the OeVP's election party.
"There was nothing to be ashamed of as an Austrian. I have no problems with (a FPOe coalition) and I hope Brussels will see things the same way."
- EU headache -
But the FPOe in government would still pose a fresh headache for Brussels as it struggles with Brexit and the rise of nationalists in Germany, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere.
Like AfD, French National Front chief Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands -- who both congratulated Strache on Twitter on Sunday -- the FPOe has stoked concerns about a record influx of migrants into Europe.
The party was founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s -- Strache flirted with neo-Nazism in his youth -- and is ambivalent at best about the EU. In an alliance with President Vladimir Putin's party, Strache wants EU sanctions on Moscow lifted.
Vienna will hold the EU's presidency in the second half of 2018, just when Brussels wants to conclude Brexit talks.
"The Freedom Party as a government partner will not make a good impression in Europe (and) Kurz is aware of that," commented Der Standard newspaper.
Ulrike Lunacek, whose Green party may miss out on entering parliament for the first time since 1986, said Sunday the FPOe in government would put Austria "on an anti-EU course".
Late Sunday, a few hundred anti-fascist demonstrators held a protest outside parliament.
Posted by Deuce ☂ at 10/15/2017 06:55:00 PM
Saturday, October 14, 2017
New documents of Clinton/ Loretta Lynch Meeting: FBI, under Obama and Comey, was hiding documents from Congress, a collusion and criminal conspiracy between the FBI and Obama DOJ
Fired FBI Director James Comey has broken the sacred trust of the American people. Comey was hired to lead the FBI to protect the American people. Instead, he chose to lie, interfere in the democratic process, and break the law.
FBI still stalling:
Posted by Deuce ☂ at 10/14/2017 06:21:00 AM