Why the #MeToo movement should be ready for a backlash

Emily Yoffe writes: In the final five years of his presidency, Barack Obama’s administration undertook a worthy and bold challenge: the elimination of sexual assault on campuses. In fact, Obama’s team had a much more ambitious goal in mind. Vice President Joe Biden, the point person for the campus initiative, said at the end of his term that the administration was seeking “to fundamentally change the culture around sexual assault”—everywhere. New rules of sexual engagement between college students were written at the directive of the administration, but top Obama officials said they wanted these to be applied in the workplace and beyond. “You’re going to change the workplaces you work in,” Tina Tchen, director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said at a 2016 event honoring campus sexual assault activists. “You’re going to raise your sons and daughters differently.”

They expected this transformation to take years. But with the daily toppling of powerful men who have committed sexual violations in Hollywood, the media, Congress and more, these changes have become seismic. The silenced have been given voice, and their testimony has resulted in the swift professional demise of perpetrators. Shocking descriptions of the behavior of powerful men have shown that it’s not universally understood that it’s unacceptable to display one’s genitals at work or to sexually abuse colleagues.

We now have an opportunity for profound reform, for women and men to join together to treat each other with dignity and respect. But as this unexpected revolution unfolds, we should also keep in mind the dangers of creating new injustices in the service of correcting old ones.

For that, it’s useful to look at how reforms played out on campus, where, unfortunately, many of the Obama administration’s good intentions went awry. Among the principles and polices that have become entrenched at schools—and are now spilling out into the wider world—are the beliefs that accusers are virtually always telling the truth; that the urgency to take action is more important than fair procedures; that we shouldn’t make distinctions between criminal acts and boorishness; and that predatory male behavior is ubiquitous. These beliefs have resulted in many campus cases in which the accused was treated with fundamental unfairness, spawning a legal subspecialty of suing schools on behalf of these young men. Examining what happened on campuses shows where the politics and social rules of interaction between the sexes might be headed—and how to avoid making the same mistakes on a larger scale. [Continue reading…]

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Emails dispute White House claims that Flynn acted independently on Russia

The New York Times reports: When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions.

But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia.

While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic “hoax” any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

It is not clear whether Ms. McFarland was saying she believed that the election had in fact been thrown. A White House lawyer said on Friday that she meant only that the Democrats were portraying it that way.

But it is evident from the emails — which were obtained from someone who had access to transition team communications — that after learning that President Barack Obama would expel 35 Russian diplomats, the Trump team quickly strategized about how to reassure Russia. The Trump advisers feared that a cycle of retaliation between the United States and Russia would keep the spotlight on Moscow’s election meddling, tarnishing Mr. Trump’s victory and potentially hobbling his presidency from the start. [Continue reading…]

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Kushner is said to have ordered Flynn to contact Russia

Eli Lake writes: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday for lying to the FBI is alarming news for Donald Trump. But the first person it’s likely to jeopardize will be the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Two former officials with the Trump transition team who worked closely with Flynn say that during the last days of the Obama administration, the retired general was instructed to contact foreign ambassadors and foreign ministers of countries on the U.N. Security Council, ahead of a vote condemning Israeli settlements. Flynn was told to try to get them to delay that vote until after Barack Obama had left office, or oppose the resolution altogether.

That is relevant now because one of Flynn’s lies to the FBI was when he said that he never asked Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, to delay the vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. The indictment released today from the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller describes this lie: “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.”

At the time, the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements was a big deal. Even though the Obama administration had less than a month left in office, the president instructed his ambassador to the United Nations to abstain from a resolution, breaking a precedent that went back to 1980 when it came to one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.

This was the context of Kushner’s instruction to Flynn last December. One transition official at the time said Kushner called Flynn to tell him he needed to get every foreign minister or ambassador from a country on the U.N. Security Council to delay or vote against the resolution. Much of this appeared to be coordinated also with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose envoys shared their own intelligence about the Obama administration’s lobbying efforts to get member states to support the resolution with the Trump transition team. [Continue reading…]

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Mueller’s Russia probe may now include Flynn’s DIA tenure

Buzzfeed reports: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to be under investigation for his activities while he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, according to a letter the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The disclosure suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking more broadly than previously thought at Flynn, whom President Donald Trump fired in February after 24 days as his top security adviser.

Mueller’s investigation previously has been reported to include a probe of Flynn’s activities after he was ousted from the DIA in 2014 and traveled to Russia, lobbied for the Turkish government, and joined Trump’s presidential campaign. Until now, however, there has been no indication that Mueller was looking into Flynn’s two-year tenure as head of the nation’s leading producer of foreign military intelligence.

The DIA suggested otherwise in a Nov. 15 letter to BuzzFeed News that denied a reporter’s three-year-old request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations, and other records related to his work as the agency’s director. The letter to reporter Jason Leopold says that releasing Flynn’s records could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.” [Continue reading…]

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Battle for control of consumer agency heads to court

The New York Times reports: The battle over who will lead the federal government’s top consumer financial watchdog agency is now headed to court.

The extraordinary fight, which intensified on Sunday night, adds to the uncertainty over the fate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a regulator created in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of nearly a decade ago. It encapsulates dueling visions of how the American financial system could be regulated, as President Trump moves to loosen regulation created under the Obama administration to rein in the financial industry.

Leandra English, the deputy director of the bureau who was set to become its temporary chief, filed a lawsuit late Sunday night to block Mr. Trump’s choice of someone else from taking control of the agency on Monday morning.

Mr. Trump has been seeking to install his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, as the agency’s acting director. The bureau had been a “total disaster” and needed new leadership to “bring it back to life,” Mr. Trump has said on Twitter. Mr. Mulvaney has been openly hostile to the consumer bureau, calling it a “sad, sick” joke and supporting legislation to eliminate it.

At stake is the immediate future of the consumer bureau — one of the last holdouts, within the federal government, against Mr. Trump’s efforts to strip away business regulations. While Mr. Trump can appoint his own director, confirmation could take months and slow down Republican efforts to defang the agency. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: The top lawyer for the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has concluded that President Donald Trump has the authority to name its acting director, three sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday, rejecting an effort by her former boss at the agency to name his immediate successor.

The office of CFPB General Counsel Mary McLeod has prepared a memo concurring with the opinion of the U.S. Justice Department that Trump has the power to appoint his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, as temporary leader of the federal watchdog agency, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One source said the memo would be sent to CFPB staff on Monday. [Continue reading…]

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FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for U.S. nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One

The Hill reports: An FBI informant gathered extensive evidence during his six years undercover about a Russian plot to corner the American uranium market, ranging from corruption inside a U.S. nuclear transport company to Obama administration approvals that let Moscow buy and sell more atomic fuels, according to more than 5,000 pages of documents from the counterintelligence investigation.

The memos, reviewed by The Hill, conflict with statements made by Justice Department officials in recent days that informant William Campbell’s prior work won’t shed much light on the U.S. government’s controversial decision in 2010 to approve Russia’s purchase of the Uranium One mining company and its substantial U.S. assets.

Campbell documented for his FBI handlers the first illegal activity by Russians nuclear industry officials in fall 2009, nearly an entire year before the Russian state-owned Rosatom nuclear firm won Obama administration approval for the Uranium One deal, the memos show.

Campbell, who was paid $50,000 a month to consult for the firm, was solicited by Rosatom colleagues to help overcome political opposition to the Uranium One purchase while collecting FBI evidence that the sale was part of a larger effort by Moscow to make the U.S. more dependent on Russian uranium, contemporaneous emails and memos show.

“The attached article is of interest as I believe it highlights the ongoing resolve in Russia to gradually and systematically acquire and control global energy resources,” Rod Fisk, an American contractor working for the Russians, wrote in a June 24, 2010, email to Campbell. [Continue reading…]

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The catastrophe of Saudi Arabia’s Trump-backed intervention in Yemen

Nawal Al-Maghafi writes: In the main hospital in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah this August, the malnutrition ward overflowed with patients. In the corridor, a man sat on the floor, with two children beside him whose ribs protruded under their pale skin. Inside the makeshift ward, every bed held two skeletal children. Saleha, a mother in her thirties, sat on the corner of a bed with her nine-year-old daughter, Fateena, on her lap. The child appeared thin and weak, and gasped for air. She urgently needed tests, according to doctors, but the hospital’s labs were overwhelmed. Saleha told me that the local hospital in her village was closed. It took the family three days of hitchhiking with strangers most of the way to reach the city, on the west coast of Yemen, and its hospital. “The war has really taken its toll on her,” Saleha told me, pointing to her daughter. “Now she just lays there until her body seizes again.” The staff of the government-run hospital said that they hadn’t been paid for months. “We are hungry, but we might as well come to work than starve to death at home,” one doctor told me. “We can’t go to war on the frontline but this is our way of fighting against the aggression, by saving people.”

On Thursday, the heads of three United Nations relief agencies called on a nine-nation military coalition led by Saudi Arabia to end a tightened blockade it imposed on Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile into Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last weekend. “Closure of much of the country’s air, sea and land ports is making an already catastrophic situation far worse,” a joint statement issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund, World Food Program, and World Health Organization, said. “The space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance is being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families.”

The U.N. officials said that more than twenty million people, including more than eleven million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance; at least 14.8 million lack basic medical care, and a cholera outbreak has infected more than nine hundred thousand. Yemenis are caught in a nearly three-year conflict that began as a domestic power struggle and evolved into a brutal proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, killing more than ten thousand people and shuttering more than half of the country’s medical facilities. Saudi armed forces, backed by more than forty billion dollars in American arms shipments authorized by the Trump and Obama Administrations, have killed thousands of civilians in air strikes. They have also blockaded the country to varying degrees for two years and intermittently prevented journalists and human-rights researchers from flying into the country. [Continue reading…]

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America’s constant if confused role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen

Iona Craig writes: Along with a coalition of regional nations, Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen since March 2015 in an effort to push back Houthi rebels, whose political alignment to Iran has been cited as the pretext for the campaign. And from the get-go, the U.S. has helped.

In the first year of the bombing campaign, the U.S. government authorized the sale of 2,800 guided bombs to Saudi Arabia that were equipped with the MAU-169L/B computer control group, according to the Defence Security Cooperation Agency. That transaction was a mere fraction of more than $100 billion in arms sold to the Kingdom under then-President Barack Obama. Those sales were suspended in December, 2016, due to growing concerns over civilian casualties, but that stand didn’t last long under President Donald Trump, who signed a deal during his visit to Riyadh in May, pledging nearly $110 billion in future weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Yet it’s not just weapons sales that tie the U.S. to Yemen’s war: The U.S. continues to provide political and logistical support to Saudi Arabia’s campaign, most notably the refueling of Saudi coalition fighter jets used in daily bombing runs.

For Yemenis, the results have been disastrous: Coalition airstrikes have punished Yemen’s civilians, and its children specifically, destroying hospitals, schools and vital infrastructure. In total, Saudi-led airstrikes are responsible for over 60 percent of civilian deaths in Yemen’s war, according to the United Nations, leading many human rights organizations to accuse the U.S. of taking part in potential war crimes. [Continue reading…]

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Fox News poll: Obama is more popular than Trump in Alabama

The Hill reports: A new Fox News poll shows former President Barack Obama is more popular in Alabama than Donald Trump.

The poll, conducted from Monday to Wednesday and released Thursday, shows Obama with a 52 percent favorability rating in the state, compared to Trump’s 49 percent.

Trump won Alabama by 28 points in the 2016 presidential election, while Obama lost the state by about 22 points in 2008 and 2012.

Obama had a 45 percent unfavorable rating in the poll, while Trump had a 48 percent unfavorable rating. [Continue reading…]

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Donna Brazile: I considered replacing Clinton with Biden as 2016 Democratic nominee

The Washington Post reports: Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

In an explosive new memoir, Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chair to initiate the process of removing Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City.

Brazile writes that she considered a dozen combinations to replace the nominees and settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters to defeat Republican Donald Trump. But then, she writes, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

Brazile paints a scathing portrait of Clinton as a well-intentioned, historic candidate whose campaign was badly mismanaged, took minority constituencies for granted and made blunders with “stiff” and “stupid” messages. The campaign was so lacking in passion for the candidate, she writes, that its New York headquarters felt like a sterile hospital ward where “someone had died.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump team drawing up fresh plans to bolster U.S. nuclear arsenal and widen opportunities for its use

The Guardian reports: The Trump administration is working on a nuclear weapons policy that is intended to mark a decisive end to the era of post-cold war disarmament, by bolstering the US arsenal and loosening the conditions under which it would be used.

A draft of the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was presented in September at a White House meeting between Donald Trump and his top national security advisers. Congress and US allies have been briefed on the progress of the new draft.

The document is still being debated with a target for completion by the end of this year or the beginning of next. Among the new elements under consideration are a low yield ballistic missile intended primarily to deter Russia’s use of a small nuclear weapon in a war over the Baltic states; a sea-launched cruise missile; a change in language governing conditions in which the US would use nuclear weapons; and investments aimed at reducing the time it would take the US to prepare a nuclear test.

Trump has frequently voiced his intention to build up the US arsenal. According to one report, he was outraged at a meeting with military leaders in July when he was shown a downward sloping graph of the US weapons stockpile since the cold war, and had to be talked out of ordering a tenfold increase.

The White House denied the report but it has repeatedly made clear it aims to adopt a more aggressive nuclear stance.

“You can … be assured that our administration is committed to strengthen and modernise America’s nuclear deterrent,” Mike Pence, the vice-president, said on Friday on a morale-boosting visit to Minot air force base in North Dakota, home to Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and B-52 strategic bombers.

“History attests the surest path to peace is through American strength. There’s no greater element of American strength, there’s no greater force for peace in the world than the United States nuclear arsenal.”

Like much else about Trump’s presidency, the new policy is aimed at erasing the legacy of his predecessor. Barack Obama began his administration with a major speech in Prague in April 2009, committing the US to disarmament and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons globally.

A year after the speech, the US and Russia signed the New Start agreement, restricting both sides to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and bombs, down by about 30% from previously agreed limits.

However, the “Prague agenda” petered out. Aspirations to cut the strategic stockpile by another third, unilaterally if necessary, were abandoned in the face of congressional resistance, North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons programme and worsening relations with Russia. [Continue reading…]

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Unpacking Uranium One: Hype and law

Paul Rosenzweig writes: The latest instance of “what-aboutism” is the House Republican decision to open an investigation of the Uranium One transaction—the allegation that Hillary Clinton transferred control of 20% of America’s uranium mining output to a Russian company, in exchange for substantial contributions to the Clinton Foundation from the executives of that same Russian company. Perhaps fearing future revelations of Trump’s closeness to Russia, the evident purpose of the investigation is to establish a “Hillary too” counterpoint. Based on what is currently in the public record, little, if anything about the allegation is plausible. In this post, I want to summarize the legal context and known facts regarding the transfer and put the allegations of impropriety in context. (I focus exclusively on the transfer and the U.S. government’s approval of it. I am not, in this post, considering the evidence—such as it is—of donations to the Clinton Foundation. My reasoning is simple: if there is no “quo” to be given, the question of a “quid” is moot.) [Continue reading…]

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‘Our democracy is at stake,’ Obama says on Virginia campaign trail

Politico reports: “It is time.”

Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor, finished his own speech, said those words, and the crowd of more than 7,000 erupted. Then U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” from all the way back in the 2008 campaign started playing, and Barack Obama made his return to the campaign trail here Thursday night.

Fresh from New Jersey after making an appearance for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate there, Phil Murphy, his own former ambassador to Germany, Obama uncorked. He argued that this year’s elections are an existential moment that should — if Democrats do what he’s kept telling them to do, without much success — vote — be the start of reasserting an American politics and society that turns away from what’s embodied by President Donald Trump.

“We need you to take this seriously. Our democracy is at stake,” Obama said. “Elections matter. Voting matters. You can’t take anything for granted. You can’t sit this one out. It’s up to you. And if you believe in that better vision not just of our politics, but of our common life, of our democracy, of who we are; if you want that reflected in our government, if you want our kids to see our government and feel good about it, and feel like they’re represented and if you want those values that you are teaching your children reinforced … then you’ve got to go out there.”

As former President George W. Bush did earlier Thursday in a surprisingly forward speech in New York, Obama kept to not mentioning Trump’s name, but left no question who he was talking about. [Continue reading…]

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Bill Clinton sought State’s permission to meet with Russian nuclear official during Obama uranium decision

The Hill reports: As he prepared to collect a $500,000 payday in Moscow in 2010, Bill Clinton sought clearance from the State Department to meet with a key board director of the Russian nuclear energy firm Rosatom — which at the time needed the Obama administration’s approval for a controversial uranium deal, government records show.

Arkady Dvorkovich, a top aide to then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and one of the highest-ranking government officials to serve on Rosatom’s board of supervisors, was listed on a May 14, 2010, email as one of 15 Russians the former president wanted to meet during a late June 2010 trip, the documents show.

“In the context of a possible trip to Russia at the end of June, WJC is being asked to see the business/government folks below. Would State have concerns about WJC seeing any of these folks,” Clinton Foundation foreign policy adviser Amitabh Desai wrote the State Department on May 14, 2010, using the former president’s initials and forwarding the list of names to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team.

The email went to two of Hillary Clinton’s most senior advisers, Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills.

The approval question, however, sat inside State for nearly two weeks without an answer, prompting Desai to make multiple pleas for a decision. [Continue reading…]

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America has become dispensable in Iraq

Emma Sky writes: “When the fighting breaks out between Arabs and Kurds, whose side will the Americans be on?” This was the message that Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP), instructed his chief of staff to have me convey to senior U.S. officials in Baghdad in 2010. I was serving as the political adviser to General Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Nuri al-Maliki, then the prime minister of Iraq, and Barzani, concerned by rising tensions between Arabs and Kurds ahead of the 2010 national elections in Nineveh province, had asked General Odierno for help in preventing conflict. We had devised a system of joint check points to facilitate cooperation between the Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and the U.S. forces, and to ensure all forces remained focused on defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq.

A key part of the plan was to ensure freedom of movement for Atheel Nujaifi, Nineveh’s Sunni Arab governor, who had been elected the previous year on an agenda to roll back the gains the Kurds had made in the province since 2005. Determined to test the new security arrangements at the earliest, Governor Nujaifi decided in early February 2010 to make a trip to the town of Tel Kaif, in a part of the province which the Kurds lay claim to. Over Kurdish objections, the U.S. forces decided that the visit should go ahead. In response, the Kurds brought down reinforcements and tried to prevent the trip from taking place. Crowds of Kurds gathered to block the governor’s convoy; in the resulting melee, shots were fired. The Iraqi police detained 11 Kurds for incitement, and on suspicion of attempting to assassinate Governor Nujaifi.

I was awakened at 2 a.m. by a phone call from Murat Ozcelik, the influential Turkish ambassador to Iraq. He had received a report from Ankara that the Kurds had invaded Mosul, the largest city in Nineveh province. I investigated and soon discovered that there had been no invasion; instead, Kurdish forces had kidnapped a number of Arabs in Nineveh in retaliation for the arrest of the Kurds. President Barzani was furious. Every time he turned on his television, he saw footage of American tanks in a Kurdish village, and F-16s flying overhead. The Kurds had been highly supportive of the United States—not a single U.S. soldier had been killed by a Kurd. So why, he asked, had the Americans behaved this way towards Kurds?

Back in 2010, we did not need to answer Barzani’s question. We could mediate a deal whereby the kidnapped Arabs were swapped for the Kurds accused of attempting to assassinate the Governor of Nineveh. We had close relations with the Turks, and convinced them to back off. For once, everyone seemed happy with this solution, and things calmed down. We were the indispensable ally.

And then we weren’t. And Iran was.

Iran increased its influence during the negotiations to form a government in Iraq after the tightly contested 2010 elections. Iraqiyya, led by Ayad Allawi, won 91 seats; Maliki’s bloc, the State of Law, came in second with 89 seats. After much heated internal debate, Vice President Joe Biden determined that Washington would support the incumbent, insisting that Maliki was “our man,” an Iraqi nationalist, and would permit a contingent of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq post-2011 when the security agreement expired. But despite considerable arm-twisting, the United States could not convince its allies to support a second term for Maliki. Sensing an opportunity, Qassim Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council, pressured Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential and anti-American Shia cleric, to support Maliki on the condition that all U.S. troops would pull out of Iraq and that Sadrists would be given government positions.

Thus it was that Iran ensured Maliki remained as Prime Minister. The Obama administration, in its rush for an exit from Iraq, gave up the American role of “balancer,” of moderator, of protector of the political process, withdrawing its soft power along with its hard.

Secure in his seat for a second term, Maliki pursued a series of sectarian policies. He accused Sunni politicians of being terrorists, forcing them to flee the country; he reneged on his promises to the Sunni Awakening leaders who had fought against al-Qaeda in Iraq; and he arrested Sunni protestors en masse. This created the conditions that enabled ISIS to rise from the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq and proclaim itself the defender of Sunnis against the Iranian-backed sectarian regime of Maliki. [Continue reading…]

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FBI informant blocked from telling Congress about Russia nuclear corruption case, lawyer says

The Hill reports: An American businessman who worked for years undercover as an FBI confidential witness was blocked by the Obama Justice Department from telling Congress about conversations and transactions he witnessed related to the Russian nuclear industry’s efforts to win favor with Bill and Hillary Clinton and influence Obama administration decisions, his lawyer tells The Hill.

Attorney Victoria Toensing, a former Reagan Justice Department official and former chief counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday she is working with members of Congress to see if they can get the Trump Justice Department or the FBI to free her client to talk to lawmakers.

“All of the information about this corruption has not come out,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “And so my client, the same part of my client that made him go into the FBI in the first place, says, ‘This is wrong. What should I do about it?’”

Toensing said she also possesses memos that recount how the Justice Department last year threatened her client when he attempted to file a lawsuit that could have drawn attention to the Russian corruption during the 2016 presidential race as well as helped him recover some of the money Russians stole from him through kickbacks during the FBI probe. [Continue reading…]

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FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

The Hill reports: 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.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions. [Continue reading…]

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Courts thwart administration’s effort to rescind Obama-era environmental regulations

The New York Times reports: The rapid-fire push by the Trump administration to wipe out significant chunks of the Obama environmental legacy is running into a not-so-minor complication: Judges keep ruling that the Trump team is violating federal law.

The latest such ruling came late Wednesday, when a federal magistrate judge in Northern California vacated a move by the Department of Interior to delay compliance with rules curbing so-called flaring, a technique oil and gas companies use to burn off leaking methane. Flaring is blamed for contributing to climate change as well as lost tax revenues because the drilling is being done on federal land.

It was the third time since July that the Environmental Protection Agency or the Interior Department has been found to have acted illegally in their rush to roll back environmental rules. And in three other environmental cases, the Trump administration reversed course on its own after lawsuits accusing it of illegal actions were filed by environmental groups and Democratic state attorneys general.

The legal reversals reflect how aggressively Mr. Trump’s critics are challenging the administration’s efforts to rescind regulations enacted during the Obama administration, not only related to the environment, but to immigration, to consumer protection and to other areas. [Continue reading…]

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