PutinTrump.org: AMERICAN VALUES ARE ON THE LINE

PutinTrump.org: ANALYSIS

Oct 11, 2016 — Republicans’ national security reasons to #DumpTrump

Their words reveal their anguish. “The Republican Party is another family to me.”  And “I’m an American before I’m a Republican.”  “I can’t look my children in the eye and tell them I voted for Donald Trump.” And finally: “This is not my party.”

They are lifelong Republicans – stalwart conservative leaders who have devoted their careers to the GOP. One after another, just a few to start, and now dozens. They have wrestled with their decisions and finally have declared they cannot vote for their party’s nominee. Some will vote for Hillary Clinton; others will look for a third-party or write-in option. But they have all stated publicly they will not cast votes for Trump.

Trump has given his party many reasons to abandon him – including his racist and misogynistic language, and now his crystal clear voice on an “Access Hollywood” videotape released last week.

But a long list of Republicans also are convinced that Trump is a grave national security risk – a concern heightened by his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his demonstrated ignorance about global-security threats such as Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and its military intervention on behalf of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Here are a few of these foreign-policy-minded conservatives, saying in their own words why they can’t vote for Trump:

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush:

“The only way you can be comfortable about Trump’s foreign policy, is to think he doesn’t really mean anything he says. That’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be in. Our security depends on having good relationships with our allies. Trump mainly shows contempt for them. And he seems to be unconcerned about the Russian aggression in Ukraine. By doing this he tells them that they can go ahead and do what they are doing. That is dangerous.”

Source: Der Spiegel

Donald Gregg, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush:

“We now have a person at the top of the Republican ticket who I believe is dangerous, doesn’t understand the complex world we live in, doesn’t care to, and is without any moral or international philosophy.”

Source: Politico

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush:

“Trump’s sense of loyalties are misplaced. Some of our NATO allies sent troops overseas, at the same time he is defending Russia and trying to dismiss what is widely acknowledged to be Russian intrusions into the databases of our political parties and political figures.”

Source: Bloomberg

Retired Virginia Sen. John Warner, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and World War II veteran:

In response to some of Trump’s comments on the military: “We have today the strongest military in the world. No one can compare with us. No one should have the audacity to stand up and degrade the purple heart … or talk about the military being in a state of disaster. That’s wrong. … You don’t pull up a quick text, like ‘National Security for Dummies.’ That book hasn’t been published.”

Source: Politico

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina:

“I also cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief.”

Source: The Hill

Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for president in 2012, former governor of Massachusetts:

”Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while he has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.”

Source: Politico

“I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”

Source: Wall Street Journal (paywall)

Adam Kinzinger, Illinois representative and former Air Force pilot:

“I’m a Republican because I believe that Republicanism is the best way to defend the United States of America. … [Trump] throws all of these Republican principles on their head.”

Source: CNN

Response to Trump’s comments on NATO: “It’s utterly disastrous. And you have allies right now, I mean I have friends that, you know, serve in parliament in places like Estonia, that every day worry about the Russians deciding that this is the time to reannex and take them back. And comments like this are not only ill-informed, they’re dangerous.”

Response to Trump’s comments on the military: “I call it a narcissistic foreign policy from Donald Trump, and it’s the idea that, you know, the world needs us. If we’re going to be in Korea or we’re going to have troops in Germany, they need to pay us for this. As a military soldier, a pilot, I’m offended by the idea that I’m some kind of a protection racket that has to be paid to protect our allies, or I’m some kind of a mercenary force.”

Source: Politico

Robert Gates, CIA Director under President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama:

“The only thing longer than the list of hostile Russian actions abroad is the list of repressive actions inside Russia to stifle dissent and strengthen Mr. Putin’s security services-run state. Mr. Putin will continue to behave aggressively until confronted and stopped. … neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump has expressed any views on how they would deal with Mr. Putin (although Mr. Trump’s expressions of admiration for the man and his authoritarian regime are naive and irresponsible). …

At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.”

Source: Wall Street Journal (paywall)

George Will: Conservative pundit for 40 years

Responding to Trump’s comments indicating he was apparently unaware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “It is, surely, somewhat noteworthy that someone aspiring to be this nation’s commander in chief has somehow not noticed the fact that for two years now a sovereign European nation has been being dismembered.”

Source: The Washington Post

Excerpt from a letter signed by 50 Republican national-security advisers who served under administrations from Presidents Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.

“From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.

Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. …

In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends.”

Source: The New York Times

Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:

“I have been a Republican as long as I can remember. Joining the Grand Old Party seemed like a natural choice for someone like me who fled the Soviet Union as a boy and came to Los Angeles with his mother and grandmother in 1976. …

There has never been a major party nominee in U.S. history as unqualified for the presidency. The risk of Trump winning, however remote, represents the biggest national security threat that the United States faces today.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

Oct 10, 2016 — Round 2 and Trump’s denial: ‘I don’t know Putin’

Republican Donald Trump admitted he has avoided paying taxes for many years, and he dismissed his horrific language about women caught on tape as simply “locker-room talk” during a more controlled performance in the second presidential debate Sunday night.

And when it came to the critical national-security issues that we are watching closely at PutinTrump.org, Trump developed a sudden case of amnesia about his oft-repeated praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as well as his own business dealings with Russian oligarchs. He also flatly denied the U.S. intelligence community’s charges that Russia is attempting to interfere with the U.S. election by cyber hacking – and even contradicted his running mate on the best approach to Russia in dealing with ISIS.

Here’s what Trump said in Sunday night’s debate and what the record actually shows in response:

Statement 1: “I don’t know Putin.”

Politifact called Trump on this back in August when he first started to distance himself from the Russian strongman. Here are some direct quotes from Trump over the past three years:

“I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.” (MSNBC, 2013)

“…I own Miss Universe, I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.” (National Press Club address, 2014)

And of course Trump has repeated time and again that he believes Putin is a “stronger leader” than President Obama.

Statement 2: “I think it would be great if we got along with Putin so we could fight ISIS together.”

Last week, during the vice presidential debate, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence was singing a completely different tune on the threat Putin represents: “And the small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America – the greatest nation on Earth – just withdraws from talks about a cease-fire while Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense system in Syria.”

On Sunday night, when moderator Martha Raddatz reminded Trump of Pence’s strong words on Russia, Trump said: “He (Pence) and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.”

Statement 3: “ … she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.

In July, Trump explicitly invited Russia to hack into American systems to find emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s servers – and he hit the missing-email issue hard again in Sunday’s debate. His dare came amid questions around the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Also in July, Trump refused to call on Putin to stay out of the election, “I’m not going to tell Putin what to do. Why would I tell him what to do? Why do I have to get tough on Putin? I don’t know anything other than that he doesn’t respect our country.”

On Friday, the U.S. government officially accused Russia of hacking the campaign in order to influence the election. “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” said a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence. “. . . These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” The DNC had previously reported that its investigation had pointed to Russian hackers.

And hacks into two state election systems have been tracked to servers in Siberia, confirmed by the owner of the servers.

Statement 4: “I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there.

As pointed out last month on PutinTrump.org, there is an abundance of evidence of Trump’s business dealings with Russian investors and oligarchs. Slate has reported extensively about Trump’s relationships with Russian investors going back two decades. And even Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has bragged: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

A recent ABC News investigation suggests Trump’s business ties with Russia are vast, potentially in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Up next: As the campaign intensifies over its final four weeks, look for Trump to continue to be at odds with his running mate about the Russian threat, or try to forget or fudge his positions on Russia and his relationship with Putin. The final face-off between the presidential candidates will be Wednesday, Oct. 19, in Las Vegas.

Sources: The Washington Post, Politifact, CNN, The New York Times, Slate, ABC News, The Independent

Oct 6, 2016 — Trump, taxes and the Russians: What we don’t know

How deep are Donald Trump’s financial ties to Russia? And how entangled are his business interests with Vladimir Putin’s Russian nationalist interests?

The public needs to see Trump’s full tax returns in order to know the answers – a reasonable expectation because every other presidential candidate since Gerald Ford has released tax returns. Expect the issue of Trump’s refusal – and the question about what he’s hiding – to come up again when Trump and Hillary Clinton face off in Debate No. 2 on Sunday night.

The New York Times began to shine a light into the dark hole that has been Trump’s tax returns when it published a portion of Trump’s 1995 tax records last weekend. These showed nearly a billion dollars in losses that year, which “could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income tax for up to 18 years.” This suggests zero paid in taxes despite potentially earning a billion dollars in income to support his opulent lifestyle.

Trump has claimed that his 92-page financial disclosure form – with its extensive small-print details on assets and income – reveals enough about his financial empire.  But Politifact argues Trump’s tax returns would show much more: For example, we still don’t know Trump’s “effective tax rate, the types of taxes he paid, and how much he gave to charity, as well as a more detailed picture of his income-producing assets.”

Beyond those unanswered questions lie Trump’s financial connections with Russia.

A recent ABC News investigation suggests Trump’s business ties with Russia are vast, potentially in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Trump has said, “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia,” but he has never said Russians have no investments in him or his real estate developments.

Writing in The Hill in August, columnist Patrick Tomlinson suggested that Trump won’t release his full tax returns because he may be in hock to some very questionable people:

“…it is well known that most of the major U.S. based banks haven’t done business with Donald Trump in a very long time. He’s proven to be a bad bet, with multiple bankruptcies on his record, failed casinos, and a history of screwing over vendors and other small businesses…

“As a result, Trump would need loans to take advantage of new opportunities as they present themselves. Loans that his diminished reputation and sketchy repayment history has made difficult to obtain. For the last twenty years, Trump’s go-to has been German-based Deutsche Bank, but even that relationship has soured as Trump has burned them on several occasions and the bank has faced its own pressures and troubles from outside their relationship.

“So where does a cash-poor billionaire go when they need a quick payday loan,” Tomlinson asks? Russian oligarchs or the mafia, he suggests.

Fox News contributor George Will told an interviewer that Russian oligarchs are the most likely sources of his funds: “Perhaps one more reason why we’re not seeing his tax returns – because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, it’s probably the reasonable surmise.”

That’s also what some members of Congress believe, as quoted in The Guardian: “It’s likely those tax returns will show major income for Trump and his family from Russia – from Russian business interests, from Russian oligarchs,” said Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut. “It will show that the decisions he will make on whether to turn on or off sanctions against Russia could have a multimillion-dollar impact on his wealth. That’s not embarrassing, that’s disqualifying.”

Exactly how much money Trump has taken in from Russian sources, and how much he owes Russians in return, will never be fully known until more of his tax returns are leaked to the press, or the candidate releases them. It is unprecedented that candidate Trump refuses to do so.

This is more than an issue of financial disclosure; it’s an issue of national security. Does Trump’s pro-Putin foreign policy – questioning NATO and calling for an end to sanctions against Russia (imposed because of their takeover of the Crimea region in Ukraine) – come from his national security convictions or because these have an impact on his wealth?  Is his motivation to cozy up to Putin a financial one with a conflict of interest? Or, is this actually a principled stand, even though it goes against 70 years of bipartisan foreign policy consensus?

Candidate Trump could end the speculation and settle this central question – how much is he beholden to the Russians? – simply by releasing his full tax records.

Next up: We’ll be watching Sunday night as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet for their second presidential debate. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politifact, ABC News, The Hill, The Wall Street Journal (paywall), The Guardian

Oct 5, 2016 — Trump’s praise for Putin gets no defense from Pence

Russian leader Vladimir Putin may not literally be on the U.S. presidential ticket, but he was on stage over and over in Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate. Democrat Tim Kaine raised the issue of Donald Trump’s praise for Putin early on, and questioned whether Trump’s tax returns would reveal compromising business interests tied to Russia.

Throughout the debate, Kaine challenged Republican Mike Pence to defend Trump’s words on Putin, as well as other policy positions. Pence didn’t do it.

Instead, Pence sidestepped the Putin-Trump connection, choosing to reinforce traditional Republican Party foreign policy values. He even vowed that a President Trump would show “strength” in response to an aggressive Russia. Here are highlights from the debate on the critical foreign policy and national security issues we’re watching at putintrump.org.

PUTIN’S INVASION OF UKRAINE:

What was said in the debate:

Kaine: Hillary Clinton has gone toe-to-toe with Russia. … She went toe-to-toe with Russia and lodged protests when they went into Georgia. And we’ve done the same thing about Ukraine, but more than launching protests, we’ve put punishing economic sanctions on Russia that we need to continue.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, didn’t know that Russia had invaded the Crimea.

Pence: Oh, that’s nonsense.

What the record shows: In August, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right?”

NATO:

What was said in the debate:

Kaine: … Donald Trump’s claim … that NATO is obsolete and that we need to get rid of NATO is so dangerous.

Pence: That’s not his plan.

What the record shows: Trump has criticized the 28-nation-strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization for months, telling The New York Times in July that he was “prepared to walk” away from treaties like NATO if other nations didn’t increase their payments – a position that is very much in Putin’s interests. Pence contradicted Trump in July, and by the first presidential debate, Trump was changing his tune and saying he was “all for NATO.”

HARD LINE OR SOFT LINE ON PUTIN?

What was said in the debate:

Kaine brought up Trump’s praise for Putin over and over, to which Pence muttered “Oh, come on.” When Pence finally mentioned Putin directly, his words were in sharp contrast to his running mate’s:

Pence: And the small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America — the greatest nation on Earth – just withdraws from talks about a cease-fire while Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense system in Syria …. We’ve just got to have American strength on the world stage. When Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, the Russians and other countries in the world will know they’re dealing with a strong American president.

What the record shows: Trump’s flattery for Putin is well-documented. On Pence’s point specifically – that Trump would be a tougher on Russia – Trump said exactly the opposite in his July 28 news conference: “Why do I have to get tough on Putin? I don’t know anything other than that he doesn’t respect our country.”

So, how did Pence do?

Even as he contradicted Trump’s words on Putin’s interests, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza notes that Pence looked extremely comfortable in the debate spotlight, perhaps making a case for himself as a GOP presidential contender in 2020 or 2024. “Win or lose in 24 days, Pence did himself real good in the eyes of the Republican world on Tuesday night.’

Next up:

Trump and Clinton face off again Sunday, Oct. 9 – this time in a town-hall-style debate. Will Trump attempt to back away from more of his pro-Russian statements, as he did with NATO in the first debate? We’ll be watching.

Sources: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The GuardianCNN

Oct 3, 2016 — VP debate: Pence on Putin, NATO and Russian hackers

Even GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence has been at odds with Donald Trump on matters of national security – most notably over the importance of the NATO alliance to the United States, as well as the role of Russia in the hacking of American officials’ emails. And yet the Indiana governor is also on record defending Trump’s praise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, even as Pence himself calls Putin a bully.

Tuesday night it will be Pence in the spotlight as he faces off with Democrat Tim Kaine in the lone vice presidential debate. Will Pence continue to defend Trump’s admiration for Putin? Will he contradict Trump on critical questions around cyber security? Here’s a quick recap of Pence’s take on these national security concerns since he joined the GOP ticket in July:

NATO:

Trump has criticized the 28-nation-strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization for months, telling The New York Times in July that he was “prepared to walk” away from treaties like NATO if other nations didn’t increase their payments. The day after that interview Pence outright contradicted Trump in an interview on the PBS NewsHour, declaring that if Trump were elected, “he would absolutely stand by our allies and treaty obligations.”

Perhaps Trump listened to his VP candidate? By the Sept. 26 presidential debate, Trump had flipped his position, saying he was “all for NATO.” NATO officials are skeptical, saying they can’t plan for Trump “because his position keeps shifting.”

What to watch for in Tuesday night’s debate: If the question of support for NATO comes up, expect Pence to attempt to reassure the world that Trump will uphold the alliance.

Russian hackers:

In July Trump literally invited Russia to hack American systems to search for 30,000 missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. Trump’s invitation came as part of a discussion around the hack into the Democratic National Committee’s email system, which was likely instigated by the Russian government, U.S. intelligence officials say.

Pence, however, quickly condemned the cyberattack: “The FBI will get to the bottom of who is behind the hacking. If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

In the first presidential debate, Trump refused to acknowledge that Russia is the prime suspect in the DNC email attack.

The issue of cybersecurity gained new urgency last week when the Department of Homeland Security revealed that election systems in more than 20 states have been targeted by hackers. Previously, hacks into two state election systems had been linked to Russian hackers.

What to watch for Tuesday night: Pence has mostly steered clear of the DNC email hacking issue in recent weeks. If asked the question directly, expect him to stand by his previous statement condemning Russia interference in U.S. elections, which is still posted on the Trump campaign website.

Praise for Putin:

Trump has been remarkably consistent about his admiration for the Russian leader, but Pence has been struggling with this issue over the last month. At one moment he agrees with Trump, saying it’s “inarguable” that Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama. The next moment, he calls Putin “a small and bullying leader.”

What to watch for Tuesday night: Whatever Pence says about Putin, expect the Indiana governor to twist the question into a defense of Trump as a strong leader for the U.S. and to claim that Trump would be a president in the style of President Ronald Reagan – an argument he repeated in USA Today on Friday in a response to that editorial board’s scathing declaration that Trump is “unfit for the presidency.”

There is deep irony in Pence’s comparison, because Reagan was famously tough on Russia: As Hoover Institution fellow Michael McFaul puts it: “On foreign policy, there are almost no parallels whatsover. Aside from a pledge to increase military spending, Trump’s national security policies have nothing in common with Ronald Reagan’s.”

On debate night, putintrump.org will be watching the VP candidates and their responses on critical national security issues. Get the latest from us on Twitter and Facebook.

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Sources: The New York Times, PBS, The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, New York Post, USA Today

Sep 30, 2016 — NATO, no … NATO, yes: Trump’s reversals only confuse

Because Donald Trump’s campaign brand is based on his saying whatever he wants whenever he wants, regardless of facts, he changes his tune with abandon. This was clear in the first presidential debate when 84 million viewers saw him get outfoxed by a more fact-based opponent.

Switching positions or softening rhetoric is a hallmark of Trump’s campaign. As NBC has pointed out, he mixes facts with exaggerations and outright falsehoods so many times it’s hard to keep track. NBC created a list that “features 124 distinct policy shifts on 20 major issues, tracking only his stated views since he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.”

Perhaps nowhere is this all-over-the-map style more troubling than in Trump’s statements about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which he has repeatedly denigrated in interviews.  During the debate, however, he seemed to make a U-turn on support for NATO – at first repeating his notion that America’s bedrock alliance might be “obsolete.” Later, he shifted, saying he is “all for NATO,” much to the relief, if not the continued confusion, of U.S. allies in Europe.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton said, “ I want to assure our allies that we have mutual defense treaties. The U.S. would honor its commitments to U.S. treaties and allies.”

Trump has said America’s NATO allies have to meet a 2 percent GDP threshold for defense spending, or he suggested the U.S. might not come to their aid when attacked, and he alluded to this again during the debate. (NATO’s Article V says an attack against one member is an attack against all, and members have an obligation to defend each NATO member whatever their level of defense spending).

Trump’s skepticism about NATO and his reversals have raised alarms in the former Eastern Europe, countries that border an increasingly aggressive Russian Federation. Trump’s remarks are “both dangerous and irresponsible,” said Ojars Kalnins, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in Latvia’s parliament. “This won’t be good for NATO unity or the security situation. In principle, he is saying the U.S. will not fulfill its promises or obligations.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reacted to Trump’s comments in the first debate, telling the Wall Street Journal (paywall): “NATO has played a key role in the fight against terrorism for many, many years,” despite Trump’s criticism that such action only came after Trump raised this issue. “To share intelligence among allies is one of the tools we use in the fight against terror,” Stoltenberg said. “But this is something planned and discussed for along time and is not a result of the U.S. election campaign.”

Republican stalwarts like former Virginia Senator John Warner – a World War II veteran and past chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee – are deeply concerned that the next president “have a very firm and fundamental understanding” about America’s responsibilities in the world. “We are, like it or not, the leader of the free world,” Warner, who has endorsed Clinton, was quoted as saying in the Washington Post.  “You don’t pull up a quick text like National Security for Dummies …”

“When I recall what the opponent [Trump] has said about the military, I shake my head,” Warner said, recalling the placard on the wall in Marine boot camp in 1945: “Loose lips sink ships. Got that Trump? Loose lips sink ships.”

Trump’s Loose Lips can undermine alliances, frighten allies and embolden adversaries. It is worth noting that even with all of his many policy reversals, Trump continues to be a staunch admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he has throughout his campaign. That bromance and his business dealings in Russia are despite Putin’s recent aggressive military and political activity: annexing the Crimea, bombing in Syria, and threatening to take over more of the Ukraine. Are the Baltic States next?

No, NATO is not obsolete. And a strategic alliance is more than a business deal.

Sources: NBC, The Washington Post, The Independent, Business Insider, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal (paywall), New York Magazine

Sep 27, 2016 — Round 1: Trump sidesteps questions on hacking and NATO

State-sponsored cyber-espionage infiltrating the U.S. election process. The integrity of America’s 70-year NATO alliance. These were the urgent national security concerns we expected would come up in the first Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton presidential debate – and the candidates stayed true to form in their responses Monday night. The facts behind these two critical issues matter to American security.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was specific in her condemnation of foreign hacking by state actors such as Russia, and unequivocal in her support for the 28-nation-strong NATO alliance. Donald Trump tried to deflect responsibility for recent election-related cyber attacks away from Moscow, saying he doubted that Russia was behind them. He also repeated his assertion that NATO was “obsolete.”

Instead of addressing the concerns, Trump sought to dodge most of the specifics on both of these issues. Here is a recap of some of the critical national security issues we’re watching at putintrump.org.

Cyber Attacks:

Moderator Lester Holt raised this question about cyber security: “Our institutions are under cyber attack, and our secrets are being stolen. So my question is, who’s behind it? And how do we fight it?”

In her response, Clinton pointed to President Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation:  “The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia. There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee.”

She went on emphasize that the U.S. has the capacity to respond to cyber attacks: “And the Russians need to understand that. I think they’ve been treating it as almost a probing, how far would we go, how much would we do. And that’s why I was so — I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is just unacceptable.”

For his part, Trump steered clear of his often-repeated support for Vladimir Putin. Instead, he said it was not clear who was behind the latest cyber attacks. “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”

According to The New York Times, United States intelligence officials disagree: This most recent round of attacks, they concluded with “high confidence,” indeed originated from Russia.

And, as The Washington Post reported, the cyber security firm Crowd Strike, which investigated the breach, also determined that Russian government hackers penetrated the DNC – a fact, the Post points out, that Trump must surely know. “Trump, who has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, is going against the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community and private researchers in asserting that it’s unclear who hacked the DNC, as well as other political organizations.”

NATO Alliance:

When the debate turned to the 28-nation NATO alliance — what Clinton called the longest military alliance in the history of the world — Trump was initially critical: “…Many of them aren’t paying their fair share…we’re defending them, and they should at least be paying us what they’re supposed to be paying by treaty and contract.”

“Just to go down the list,” Trump said later, “we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune. That’s why we’re losing — we’re losing — we lose on everything…We’re a country that owes $20 trillion. They have to help us out.”

Trump went on to repeat something he said he feels strongly about: “NATO could be obsolete, because…they do not focus on terror…I’m all for NATO. But I said they have to focus on terror.”

According to the New York Times, Trump was correct in asserting that many NATO countries do not contribute their full share to NATO — a complaint that Mr. Obama and a former secretary of defense, Robert Gates, have also voiced. But he was wrong about NATO failing to fight terrorism. NATO was in Afghanistan starting in 2003 — part of the battle against Al Qaeda.

Politico corrected another fact from Trump: how much of NATO’s budget is paid for by the U.S.:

“We pay approximately 73 percent of the cost of NATO. It’s a lot of money to protect other people…Trump is wrong…The United States pays just over 22 percent of the cost of NATO’s spending. Trump is confusing the numbers. President Barack Obama has also urged other NATO member-states to up their defense spending.”

Clinton’s response was aimed at statements by Trump that have alarmed NATO members and other allies. Trump has suggested the U.S. might not respond, for example, if Russia pounced on the Baltic states that are members of NATO unless they were paying their fair share of the alliance.

‘NATO as a military alliance has something called Article 5,” Clinton said Monday night, “and basically it says this: An attack on one is an attack on all. And you know the only time it’s ever been invoked? After 9/11, when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side.”

She returned to the point about honoring the NATO alliance later: “Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.”

Looking ahead:

National security issues are expected to be an even bigger focus in the next presidential debate scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 9, moderated by Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sources: The New York Times, The Washington PostPolitico

Sep 26, 2016 — Debate No. 1: National security questions to watch for

“Securing America,” one of the scheduled topics in tonight’s presidential-candidate debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is also one of the top concerns for PutinTrump.org. We expect that either moderator Lester Holt or the candidates themselves will raise two key issues under this theme – and the responses will be worlds apart.

Here’s what we’re looking for, and the kinds of answers we are likely to hear:

1) Emails, cyber crime and the election. While we expect that questions around Clinton’s emails and servers during her time as Secretary of State will be raised in the debate, the security questions around her emails have already been vetted by Congress and the FBI, and no charges were filed. A far more serious risk should be discussed tonight: the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, as well as electoral systems in Arizona and Illinois.

The FBI is just beginning to investigate the Russian hacking and subsequent leaks of stolen emails from the DNC and officials such as former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell. It is believed that this unprecedented Russian interference into the U.S election is on behalf of Trump. The FBI has high confidence that Russia is behind the stolen emails.

Trump has explicitly welcomed hacking by a foreign state. According to the New York Times, Trump said “he hoped Russian intelligence services had successfully hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, and encouraged them to publish whatever they may have stolen, essentially urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyber espionage against a former secretary of state.” Trump has suggested that additional hacked email revelations will emerge before the Nov. 8 election.

During the debate, Trump will either repeat his pro-hacking statements or try to deny what he said and distance himself from his previous often-repeated statements in praise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and inviting more hacking. In that case, he makes a clear flip-flop on his position. No matter his response, Trump’s position on Russian interference in the U.S. election, as well as his flattery of Putin, raise critical national security questions, and moderator Holt should hold Trump to account.

For Clinton’s part, she has called Russian interference in U.S. elections “a threat from an adversarial foreign power.” Expect her to stay firm to this position in the debate: Cyber espionage and Russian hacking has no place in the U.S. election and should be appalling for all citizens.

2) NATO. We agree with The New York Times, which says Trump should be asked about NATO:

“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the alliance between the United States and 27 other countries, including the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Article 5 of its charter explicitly states that an attack on one member should be considered an attack on all. You have praised President Vladimir V. Putin, vowing to fashion better relations with Russia. But if, as he did in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin intervened militarily in one of the Baltic States, would you favor invoking NATO’s Article 5 and sending forces to counter Russia?”

Trump has implied that he might not honor the long-standing U.S. commitment to NATO members. And he has said his response to a possible Baltic invasion by Russia won’t be an automatic “we’ll protect you.” Instead, Trump’s actions would depend on whether or not the NATO member is current on its defense spending commitments. Such an approach would cripple speedy action by the NATO alliance, much to the delight of Putin.

Trump will either have to backtrack, and finally support NATO – a clear flip-flop – or stick with his position along lines that favor Putin and Russia’s national interests.

Clinton has consistently said the U.S. should honor its commitment to NATO members. NATO came to the aid of the United States after 9/11, after all. Such a clear posture of deterrence has largely kept the peace in Europe and the alliance strong for nearly 70 years.

Conclusion:

Tonight, look for Trump is likely to resort to outright denials of his previous statements or to flip his positions entirely. Either way, where does Trump really stand on the issues that most impact U.S. security? What would he actually do in office? In terms of the most important questions around “Securing America,” voters can’t trust anything he says.

Sources: CNN, Bloomberg, The New York Times, Business Insider

Sep 23, 2016 — “THE REAL POWER OF PUTIN”: A STUDY OF THE STRONGMAN

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has made it clear that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “stronger leader” than President Obama, repeating that claim in the Sept. 7 forum on national security. Former U.S. intelligence officials have responded by saying that Trump’s proposed policies read like a “Kremlin wish list” and declare this embrace of Putin disqualifies Trump from serving as our nation’s commander-in-chief.

Trump is clearly drawn to Putin’s authoritarian style and his 82 percent approval rating – a rating that the New York Times points out is inflated because many of Putin’s opponents have been exiled, imprisoned or in some cases even killed. So, it’s worth taking a closer look at Putin’s Russia.

In the Sept. 29 issue of the New York Review of Books, University of Pennsylvania professor Benjamin Nathans dives into a deep discussion around “The real power of Putin,” offering a reading list of nine books that trace Putin’s journey from a young lieutenant colonel guarding the KGB mansion in 1989 Berlin to a president who has eliminated regional elections of governors, annexed neighboring Crimea and steadily consolidated his power. Authors include several veteran journalists, scholars and political scientists.

Nathans argues that in the U.S., the admiration between Trump and Putin should be the least of our worries:

“More significant—and more alarming—than any mutual flattery between the two autocratic figures, however, have been the financial ties between the Trump camp and a range of Putin’s allies. Paul Manafort, who resigned as Trump’s campaign manager on August 19, previously sold his services to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian leader whose ousting in February 2014 led to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, as well as to Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate and Putin confidante who was banned from entering the United States. Carter Page, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisors, formerly worked for Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom. Trump himself, after his hotel and casino business went bankrupt in 2004, benefited significantly from infusions of capital that originated with Russian oligarchs.”

And Nathans offers this take on the advantage Putin sees in supporting Trump:

“For Putin, Trump represents not just a man with whom the Kremlin can do business, but potentially the most useful among the cohort of ultra-nationalists, including Nigel Farage in Britain, Marine Le Pen in France, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, who are leading the latest assault on globalization, neoliberalism, and the Western alliance system—this time from within.”

Sources: The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, Politifact, The New York Times

Sep 20, 2016 — THE DANGERS OF PUTIN-TRUMP: AN ABUNDANCE OF EVIDENCE

Trump’s views on Russia, NATO and the United States’ responsibilities in the world go against 70 years of bipartisan foreign policy consensus. On putintrump.org, we are raising questions about Trump’s policy pronouncements and providing answers for the vast numbers of American voters we believe share our national security concerns.

We have been compiling the most important news articles and opinions on the Putin-Trump connection – and the danger it poses – for interested citizens and voters of all political parties. These are some of the alarming details the editorial team has learned so far about the Putin-Trump relationship:

We are following the money trail from Russia to Trump:

Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign banks and interests – but one of the bigger unknowns about Donald Trump’s finances, without benefit of his tax returns, is how much direct or indirect investment in his business empire comes from Russian oligarchs and other former Soviet sources. What is known is that Russian money has kept some of his various development entities afloat. Read more

Trump’s campaign staff has extensive ties to Russia:

Former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort has been linked to undisclosed cash payments of nearly $13 million from the pro-Russian political group, the Party of Regions, in the Ukraine. Read more

And he’s not the only one. Several other top Trump advisers, past and present, have strong ties to Russia’s elite. Read more

Russia is believed to be interfering with the U.S. election process:

Russian government hackers are widely believed to be behind the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee’s email system, which led to the release of 20,000 private emails just before the Democratic National Convention. Trump then invited the Russian cyber-thieves to do even more, to dig into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server to find supposedly missing emails. In effect, Trump was asking the Russians to become a player in the U.S. presidential election – on his behalf – an invitation that has been widely condemned. And two states’ election systems have also reportedly been targeted by hackers. Read more

Trump campaign rhetoric is already having an impact in Russia and Ukraine:

The Trump-Clinton race has become summer’s “must-see TV” in both Russia and Ukraine – and Trump’s campaign is actually having a tangible effect on the ground in both countries. Read more

All of this has voters and national security experts worried:

Donald Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin, and Putin’s clear preference for Trump in the U.S. Presidential election, is setting off alarms with American voters of Eastern European ancestry. Read more

And 50 senior Republican national security officials signed a letter declaring that Donald Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” Read more

If you are concerned, too, learn more about the putintrump.org project – and keep watching this space. Through Election Day Nov. 8, the editorial team will continue to gather, analyze and share the reporting that journalists around the world are doing on the Trump-Putin connection and the danger that poses. You can also keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter.

And most important: Remember to vote.

Sep 7, 2016 — FOLLOW THE MONEY FROM RUSSIA TO TRUMP

One of the bigger unknowns about Donald Trump’s finances, without benefit of his tax returns, is how much direct or indirect investment in his business empire comes from Russian oligarchs and other former Soviet sources.

What is known, is that Russian money has kept some of his various development entities afloat and that may be one reason for his extremely favorable treatment of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian policies since the start of Trump’s campaign. Writing in Slate about “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer collected the history of what he called Trump’s slavish devotion to Russian leaders and investors going back more than two decades:

“Russians helped finance his projects in Toronto and SoHo; they snapped up units in his buildings around the world – so much so that he came to target them, hosting cocktail parties in Moscow to recruit buyers. (His tenants included a Russian mobster, who ran an illegal poker ring in the Trump Tower and accompanied Trump to the staging of the Miss Universe contest in Moscow.) Even when he built a tower in Panama, he narrowcast his sales efforts to draw Russians, as the Washington Post has reported. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., bragged. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports many U.S. banks have shunned Trump, but not the Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, which is a well-known conduit for money from Russian oligarchs, according to The New Yorker.

The Journal: “Other Wall Street banks, after doing extensive business with Mr. Trump in the 1980s and 1990s, pulled back in part due to frustration with his business practices but also because he moved away from real-estate projects that required financing, according to bank officials. Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are among the banks that don’t currently work with him. At Goldman Sachs Group Inc., bankers “know better than to pitch” a Trump-related deal, said a former Goldman executive.”

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo concluded, “it is an open secret on Wall Street that none of the big banks will do business with Trump because he’s not trustworthy.

Trump’s most recent financial disclosure as a candidate, released in May 2016, shows that he owes at least $250 million to banks (Wall Street Journal blog Moneybeat). He has multiple loans of more than $50 million apiece from the German bank, according to an investigation by Mother Jones. That raises other questions:

“Two of those megaloans are held by Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany but has US subsidiaries. And this prompts a question that no other major American presidential candidate has had to face: What are the implications of the chief executive of the US government being in hock for $100 million (or more) to a foreign entity that has tried to evade laws aimed at curtailing risky financial shenanigans, that was recently caught manipulating markets around the world, and that attempts to influence the US government?”

Russia has strategically supported right-wing populist and authoritarian parties in Eastern and Western Europe that tend to support Russian interests. This financial support could potentially prove disruptive to NATO cohesion and the Western consensus against an expansionist Russia. Among those getting Russian help are the French National Front and Marine Le Pen, former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary, among some 15 right-wing political parties that are believed to have Russian support of one kind or another.

The New York Times has reported: “The Kremlin’s goal seems to be to sow division, destabilize the European Union and possibly fracture what until now has been a relatively unified, if sometimes fragile, consensus against Russian aggression.” Russian support for Trump fits right in with this pattern.

Foer concludes in Slate:

“A Trump presidency would weaken Putin’s greatest geo-strategic competitor. By stoking racial hatred, Trump will shred the fabric of American society. He advertises his willingness to dismantle constitutional limits on executive power. In his desire to renegotiate debt payments, he would ruin the full faith and credit of the United States. One pro-Kremlin blogger summed up his government’s interest in this election with clarifying bluntness: ‘Trump will smash America as we know it, we’ve got nothing to lose.’ ”

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright told Business Insider: “Vladimir Putin could not dream up a better presidential candidate than Donald Trump to help him move his grand vision forward.”

Albright, who supports Hillary Clinton, listed some of the reasons why the Kremlin would favor Trump: “Donald Trump, beyond just praising [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, has defended his most unacceptable behavior and proposed a series of pro-Kremlin policies,” adding that Trump would be open to easing sanctions on Russia and recognizing the country’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. “He has stoked European disunity, celebrated Brexit, and casually predicted the break-up of the European Union,” Albright said. “[He] even encouraged Russian espionage in a US election.”

Sources: SlateWall Street Journal (paywall)The New Yorker, Talking Points Memo, Mother JonesThe New York TimesBusiness Insider

Aug 23, 2016 — TANGIBLE IMPACT IN UKRAINE, RUSSIA

The U.S. election is still 76 days away, but the Trump-Clinton race has become summer’s  “must-see TV” in both Russia and Ukraine – and Trump’s campaign is actually having a tangible effect on the ground in both countries, Politico reports:

In short, the rhetoric in the U.S. election campaign – especially Trump’s – is already altering policy in the region, hardening Moscow’s attitude toward Ukraine and at the same time frustrating and confusing the Ukrainians who want to stand up to Putin. This is partly because the U.S. campaign is happening against the backdrop of rising tensions between Kiev and Moscow. Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko put his army on combat alert after Putin accused him of sending “saboteurs” into Crimea. State television showed footage of the Russians capturing the suspects under a full moon. Russian intelligence claimed that the Ukrainian military had killed a Russian officer and soldier. Kiev called the allegation “a fantasy.” …

Many Ukrainians, torn by their own political scandals and conflicts, say they’re shaken by the level of discourse in the United States, whose democracy many Ukrainian revolutionaries once saw as their compass. The GOP nominee’s laissez-faire attitude toward Ukraine’s future is a particular contrast to the two previous Republican standard-bearers, Mitt Romney and John McCain, both of whom made strident statements in support of Ukraine’s independence and opposed Putin’s aggression.

And on Russian state television, twists and turns in the U.S. campaign are reported through a “pro-Trump lens”:

Every new Trump attack on President Barack Obama or Clinton is also regularly broadcast, as if the state media wants to say, “See, did we not tell you exactly that for years?” Trump’s latest attack line—that Obama created ISIS—is especially popular in Putin’s Russia, where the state-controlled media would have you believe that Russia’s brave leader is alone in fighting malign forces in Syria.

Sources: Politico

Aug 23, 2016 — RUSSIAN MEDDLING IN U.S. ELECTION ALARMS VOTERS

Donald Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin, and Putin’s clear preference for Trump in the U.S. Presidential election, is setting off alarms with American voters of Eastern European ancestry, according to the Washington Post. This is especially critical in and around Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Detroit and all of Wisconsin, areas Trump needs to win. Voters there and elsewhere are worried, the Post says, because:

  • Trump has suggested that America will only conditionally live up to its obligations under the NATO charter and questioned the value of the alliance.
  • He’s said he’ll look into whether Putin should be allowed to keep Crimea, which he annexed with complete disregard for international law. “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said this month.
  • Just three weeks ago, Trump pleaded directly with the Russian government to find and release tens of thousands of Clinton’s private emails. Asked whether Russian espionage into the former secretary of state’s correspondence would concern him, he replied: “No, it gives me no pause.
  • Trump’s campaign chairman until last Friday, Paul Manafort, orchestrated the ill-fated political comeback of Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and is closely linked with other Putin cronies.
  • At the Republican National Convention last month, the Trump campaign stripped the party platform of language calling for the United States to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to resist Russian belligerence.

Sources: Washington Post

Aug 19, 2016 — MONEY FOR MANAFORT

Paul Manafort has resigned as Trump’s Campaign Chairman after a staff shakeup. That may be because of an Aug. 14 The New York Times investigation linking Manafort to undisclosed cash payments of nearly $13 million from the pro-Russian political group, the Party of Regions, in the Ukraine. Manafort was a consultant for former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych for five years before he was ousted from power and fled to Russia. The payments came to light through an investigation by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Manafort later denied ever receiving any off-the-books cash payments or having ever worked for the Ukraine or Russian governments. The Times reports:

Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.

In addition, criminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles, including a palatial presidential residence with a private zoo, golf course and tennis court. Among the hundreds of murky transactions these companies engaged in was an $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable television assets to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin. …

“He understood what was happening in Ukraine,” said Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev. “It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption.”

Source: The New York Times

Aug 18, 2016 — A HIDDEN PATH FOR MONEY, INFLUENCE

The Associated Press unearths more details about the trail of Russian money linked to Trump‘s now former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort in a story revealing Manafort assisted Ukraine’s pro-Russia governing party in funneling money to two Washington lobbyist firms via a nonprofit organization. This path sidestepped U.S. Justice Department rules requiring lobbyists to disclose that they represent foreign leaders or political parties.

The AP reports:

“Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump’s campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.

People with direct knowledge of Gates’ work said that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president’s political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.

The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych’s party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych’s government.

That lobbying included downplaying the necessity of a congressional resolution meant to pressure the Ukrainian leader to release an imprisoned political rival.

The lobbying firms continued the work until shortly after Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014, during a popular revolt prompted in part by his government’s crackdown on protesters and close ties to Russia. …

Gates told the AP that he and Manafort introduced the lobbying firms to the European Centre nonprofit and occasionally consulted with the firms on Ukrainian politics. He called the actions lawful…”

Source: The Associated Press

Aug 17, 2016 — RUSSIAN INVESTMENTS IN TRUMP

Trump says he doesn’t have investments in Russia, but that’s not the whole story. It appears that Russians have big investments in Trump’s developments. Trump claims he doesn’t know where the money comes from, but it is clear he has sought to capture the enormous amounts of capital pouring out of the former Soviet Union. By his own admission, The Financial Times says, Trump “has agreed to serve as the public face of a murky business.”

The paper describes one relationship this way:

“During the first decade of this century, Donald Trump began doing business with an unlikely partner — Bayrock, a New York property developer founded only a few years before by a Soviet-born newcomer to the US named Tevfik Arif.

The Republican presidential nominee and Bayrock were both based in Trump Tower and they joined forces to pursue deals around the world — from New York, Florida, Arizona and Colorado in the US to Turkey, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Their best-known collaboration — Trump SoHo, a 46-storey hotel-condominium completed in 2010 — was featured in Mr Trump’s NBC television show The Apprentice.

Yet when Mr Trump testified under oath in 2011 about his relationship with Mr Arif’s company, he confessed that he found his partners puzzling. Mr Trump said he knew what they did. But he said he was unsure of exactly who they were. …

Mr Trump’s Bayrock blind spot gains significance in the context of this year’s presidential race. Mr Trump has taken a stance on Russia that is at odds with US political orthodoxy — praising President Vladimir Putin’s leadership skills and saying he would consider lifting sanctions imposed on Russia after its 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. Critics have asked whether Mr Trump’s business interests might be colouring his policies.”

Source: The Financial Times (paywall)

Aug 8, 2016 — ONE LETTER WITH 50 SIGNATURES: OUR NATIONAL SECURITY AT RISK

 In a letter released Aug. 8, 50 senior Republican national security officials declared Donald Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” The letter is signed by Michael Hayden, a former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency; John Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence and former deputy secretary of state; Robert Zoellick, a former deputy secretary of state; and two former secretaries of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. Among the signatories, some reportedly will vote for Hillary Clinton, and some say they will not vote – “but all agree Trump is not qualified and would be dangerous.” The New York Times summarizes the letter: 

The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States’ moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has “demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding” of the nation’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values” on which American policy should be based. And it laments that “Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”

“None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans “have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us.”

Source: The New York Times

Jun 17, 2016 — “MONEY POURING IN FROM RUSSIA”

A deeply reported story in the Washington Post describes Trump’s 30-year history of business dealings with Russian oligarchs and government officials. These dealings began in the 1980s when there was still a Soviet Union. Trump’s many business deals and activities include bringing the Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow in 2013. Of more serious consequence has been heavy Russian investments in Trump’s properties and businesses, as acknowledged by Trump’s son Donald Jr. Maybe that’s why Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man Trump thinks he can do business with. Meanwhile, the Post says that most American political and national security leaders see Putin as “a pariah who disregards human rights and has violated international norms” and who remains a top geopolitical threat to America’s national security interests.

The Post:

“Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.

‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’ Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. ‘We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.’

The dynamic illustrates the extent to which Trump’s worldview has been formed through the lens of commerce rather than the think tanks, government deliberations and international diplomatic conferences that typically shape the foreign policy positions of presidential candidates.

It also reflects Trump’s willingness to see world leaders through his own personal connections. In a Republican Party in which an ability to stand up to Putin has been seen as a test of toughness, Trump’s relationship with the Russian leader is instead one of mutual flattery.”

Source: The Washington Post

TRUMP IS SEEN AS PUTIN’S PUPPET

One thing intelligence operatives, foreign and domestic, can agree on: Vladimir Putin is exercising his KGB skillset to manipulate Trump for Russia’s interests.

“[Putin] played this perfectly, right? He saw that Donald Trump wanted to be complemented. He complimented him. That led Donald Trump to then compliment Vladimir Putin and to defend Vladimir Putin’s actions in a number of places around the world. And Donald Trump didn’t even understand, right, that Putin was playing him. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.” – Former CIA Acting Director, Michael Morell

Alexander Konovalov, president of the Moscow-based Institute for Strategic Assessments, has said Putin, “understands that Clinton is a real politician, and it would be more difficult to get her to believe what he wants.”

Sources: NBC News | USA Today

DNC EMAIL HACK

Russian government hackers are widely believed to be behind the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee’s email system, which led to the release of 20,000 private emails just before the Democratic National Convention. Trump then invited the Russian cyber-thieves to do even more, to dig into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server to find supposedly missing emails. In effect, Trump was asking the Russians to become a player in the U.S. presidential election – on his behalf – an invitation that has been widely condemned.

As Foreign Policy Magazine reported, “Trump’s appeal to Russia to spy on the nation’s former chief diplomat is startling and unprecedented, to say the least. He’s appealing to a country now accused of trying to sway a U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump, a candidate of whom Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has spoken highly. Trump has done the same, and has also said some Baltic members of NATO might be on their own if Russia decide to invade.”

Evidence for the Russian hack includes:

  • Russian language settings were found within metadata of hacker’s computer.
  • Motherboard, an online tech magazine, published an interview with supposedly lone hacker Guccifer 2.0 where the hacker switched from English, to Romanian, to Russian, and then promptly cut his interview off. Motherboard had a linguistics specialist review the interview, finding Guccifer 2.0’s Romanian answers were not that of a native Romanian speaker as well as “the syntax of several of his English lines echoed Russian sentence constructions.”
  • Second linguistic analysis provided to New York Times by cybersecurity firm Taia Global confirmed Guccifer 2.0’s Russian identity.

Source: The New York Times 

CAMPAIGN STAFF ON RUSSIAN PAYROLLS

Did you know that a number of Trump’s top advisers, past and present, have strong ties to Russia’s elite?

  • Michael Caputo, former adviser: Contracted to improve Putin’s image in 2000
  • Carter Page, former adviser: Ran the Moscow branch of Merrill Lynch, which included advising Russian energy giant Gazprom.
  • Paul Manafort, now former Campaign Chairman and Convention Manager
    • 2005 : Manafort was officially hired as an adviser for Rinat Akhmetov, one of the Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen.
    • 2006 : Akhmetov introduces Manafort to Viktor Yanukovych, to be hired as an election campaign adviser (2007-2012). As consultant for Ukraine’s pro-Russian ruling political party, Manafort’s name was listed on secret records showing he received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments, according to the New York Times.
      • In those 5 years, Manafort never registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department. A requirement to “insure that the U.S. Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws.”
    • Trump used to stand for a harsher watch on Russia in Ukraine, but after Manafort stepped in, he changed his opinion of Crimea and Putin’s occupation. The campaign also changed the GOP party platform removing language that had called for arming Ukraine against further Russian incursions. The gutting of this platform plank is contrary to the view of most GOP foreign policy leaders.

Sources: Washington Post 1 2 | Politifact | Politico | United States Department of Justice – FARA

PutinTrump.org: OPINIONS

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@NoPutinTrump — NoPutinTrump: 2016 Election Night Tweets

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