Nel's New Day

May 4, 2019

DDT: Week 119 – Master Liar at Work

After publicly telling 5,000 lies in his first 601 days, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doubled this total to 10,111 in just 226 more days, upping his average of 8 lies a day to almost 23 days in little more than the past seven months. Some days he did better—for example, the 45 lies in a telephone interview with Sean Hannity on April 25 and 24 lies in one speech to the NRA. His best record may have been the 61 false claims in a campaign rally on April 27. DDT’s tweets help his average too: 171 false or misleading claims in three days between April 25 and 27. April was his best month thus far! Twenty-percent of lies are about immigration, thanks to the 160 times he falsely claimed that his border wall is being built. The WaPo “Bottomless Pinnochios” have reached 21 with claims earning Three or Four Pinocchios repeated at least 20 times. More of his lies.

DDT shared lies with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in their hour-long talk. Despite the Mueller report facts, DDT, who had no visual contact with Putin, proudly pointed out that Putin “smiled” about the “no collusion” between Russia and DDT. He said they would denuclearize North Korea despite North Korea’s continued testing of weapons. DDT also failed to talk to Putin about his interference in the 2016 election, but DDT is satisfied that Putin won’t be a problem in 2020—because Putin said he wouldn’t.

They may have talked for the first time since Russia opposed DDT’s attempted coup to depose Venezuela’s democratically elected president, Nicholas Maduro. DDT said that Putin told him that “he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela.” That statement contradicts DDT’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that Russia had actually “invaded” Venezuela. Pompeo added that “the Russians have people working over there in the hundreds” and that the Russians persuaded Maduro to stay in Venezuela instead of going to Havana.

Like Putin, DDT, who cares nothing about human rights in other parts of the world including the United States, also lies about human rights as the reason to replace Maduro with U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó. To make his desired regime change, DDT greatly increased sanctions against Venezuela in addition to earlier ones punishing the nation. He also covertly sent weapons to support Guaidó last February. Eric Prince, founder of the Blackwater mercenaries and brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, wants to provide 5,000 mercenaries to Guaidó.

Members of CODEPINK and Popular Resistance are living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. to protect it from a possible invasion and coup by U.S.-backed opposition forces. Expelling people from the embassy would violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that “the premises of the mission shall be inviolable.” U.S. agents cannot enter the embassy without the Maduro government’s permission, and the U.S. has a duty to protect the embassy against, intrusion, damage, and disturbance of the peace. The embassy is “immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.”

Until he talked with Putin, DDT was in complete accord with national security adviser John Bolton to overthrow the existing leadership not only in Venezuela but also in Cuba and Nicaragua. Threats with “a full and complete” embargo” toward Cuba if it fails to “immediately” stop supporting the Maduro government were preceded by DDT’s blocking Nicaragua’s bank loans. U.S. GOP presidents historically intervene in these three countries—Eisenhower in 1960 and Reagan who tried but failed to overthrow Daniel Ortega’s socialist government in Nicaragua. George W. Bush followed with a failed coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Bolton wants to eradicate “communism and socialism in this hemisphere,” and DDT sees the half-million voters born in the three countries to be pivotal in Florida for the 2020 election. U.S. corporations want Venezuela’s oil, the biggest reserve in the world.

After his conversation with Putin and Guaidó’s failure to accomplish his coup this week, DDT’s enthusiasm for overturning Maduro seems to have dampened. Gone is DDT’s strong support for Bolton and Pompeo’s military action in Venezuela, and back is DDT’s typical waffle position of “all options are on the table.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who wants touch military action, will have to reverse his position—again.

DDT selects his officials for their abilities to lie, and AG Bill Barr is a prime example. This past week’s attention focused on Barr’s lying under oath in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Mueller investigation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress. Barr’s connection with the secretive conservative extremist Catholic group Opus Dei, developed in Franco’s Spain during the 1930s, provides support for his “ends justify the means” approach, recently demonstrated by his comfort with lying during testimony. Like Barr, the organization prizes wealth and power at the expense of those more disadvantaged while it uses politics to further its personal advancement and destroy justice and democracy.

Barr was forced to admit that Mueller’s investigation discovered DDT’s implication in a felony with the case referred to the Southern District of New York. The case concerned crimes of hush payments that violated campaign finance laws.

The day after the redacted Mueller report was released to the public, White House lawyer Emmet Flood wrote AG Bill Barr criticizing Mueller for explicitly stating that his investigation did not “exonerate” President Trump on allegations of obstruction of justice and accusing Mueller’s report of making “political” statements. Flood’s full letter is here.

Lies from DDT’s associates also created problems in Mueller’s investigation as he noted in the report. Campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn faced criminal charges for their lies, and others, such as Donald Trump, Jr., couldn’t be questioned. Other witnesses, like Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Sergei Millian, left the country. DDT himself displayed an abysmally poor memory in the few answers he gave to Mueller.

In lying about how President Obama was at fault for the Russian involvement in the 2016 election, DDT again brought to light House Speaker Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) refusal to work with the president in this issue. McConnell had already taken drastic steps to block Merrick Garland from being considered for the Supreme Court for several months, and he promised scorched earth if President Obama went public with the knowledge that Russia was working to elect DDT.

Republicans may deny the possibility of climate change, but the EPA has published a report telling people how to plan for climate change’s catastrophes. Despite the EPA ban of using these terms of “climate change” or “a changing climate,” the report used them 29 times. Communities should assume “the worst-case scenario” as they adapt to the “debris-related impacts of climate change,” according to the report. Concerns are chemical and industrial release along with gas emissions.

Because of the firefighters’ support of Joe Biden’s candidacy, DDT sent 58 attack tweets or retweets in an hour early Wednesday morning.  He lied about everything that he had done for the firefighters.

Once again, this week was Infrastructure Week. Supposedly DDT agreed with Democratic congressional leaders Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dick Schumer (D-NY) that $2 billion was a good number for the nation to rebuild its crumbling bridge, roads, and other parts of the infrastructure. DDT first called the public-private partnerships of last year recommended by economic adviser Gary Cohen as “so stupid.” GOP opposition, however, will likely scuttle the deal: acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has already told people that the idea is too expensive and doomed for failure. McConnell also opposes the deal, and Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) asked how “we are going to pay for this.”

Raising gas taxes by 35 cents would raise only one-fourth of the needed amount, and tax increases would be necessary for the remainder. Republicans want to keep giving taxes from the poor and middle-class to the wealthy so that won’t work. DDT will probably follow the same as pattern as he did with immigration—agree with Democrats and then call off the entire deal.

When DDT is lying, his comment and speeches devolve into derangement, like his enactment of the Paris massacre during his talk at the NRA convention. Or his graphic lying description of how Democrats “execute babies” at his Wisconsin speech.

DDT looks good with the dropping unemployment rate. The bad news is for blacks, the college-educated, and involuntary part-time workers. Increase came in temp help, and local government jobs almost tripled. Wage increases match the inflation rate. The raw numbers are good, the reality not so much. Like the stock market going up because tax cuts for corporations permit them to buy more stocks.

Farmers’ personal income fell by the most in three years during the first quarter of 2019 from the ongoing trade war. Other factors included low commodity prices and the climate change disasters such as the Midwest spring floods. Earnings dropped by $11.8 billion in the quarter, just shy of the $12 billion that DDT promised to pay them out of taxpayers’ pockets. DDT’s 2020 budget cuts reduce federal subsidies for crop insurance and small growers from 62 percent of premiums to 48 percent with limits on growers making less than $500,000 annually. In January, he told farmers that his trade deals “are going to get you so much business, you’re not even going to believe it.”

Coming soon: “Make America Worse.”

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

 

March 5, 2019

Life for DDT Gets Worse

Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) run of bad news started with the midterm elections putting the House under Democratic control. In just the last week, he’ faces a world of public investigations, his North Korea summit blew up, his highly knowledgeable former fixer Michael Cohen dished him, and Republicans come out against him, most recently opposing his national emergency. Before that, he failed with government shutdown, trade war with China, and signature “tax reform” bill that gave him bad press, and the new NAFTA doesn’t look good. Robert Mueller’s report may arrive soon, and the House might get DDT’s tax returns. His one good day with all those problems came during his two-hour speech to CPAC, but his appearance, ostensibly stoned, has been ridiculed more than any other “performance” he has given.

On top of that, Jane Mayer’s lengthy—and highly specific—report on DDT’s dependence on Fox network for his information and Fox network’s operation similar to state-owned propaganda media went viral. He even reinforced reporting on the day that the New Yorker essay was published by tweeting about Fox programming at least five times using quotes by hosts Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Tucker Carlson and guests Devin Nunes and Ari Fleischer. Fox may have told him to lash out at requests for documents from the House Judiciary Committee to 81 people and organizations in Trumpland the day after he said he would cooperate with the investigation. Here are the names; only daughter Ivanka is missing—for now.

DDT tweeted that House Democratic committee chairs are going “stone cold CRAZY” and claims that the people investigating are all “innocent,” seemingly putting Cohen into that mix. Added to DDT’s fury is the investigation into security clearances that he gave his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka after intelligence vetting turned them down and White House officials refused to push for them. DDT lied about giving them clearances, and Ivanka Trump told ABC News that her father had “no involvement” regarding the clearances. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Don Beyer Jr. (D-VA) have referred Kushner to the DOJ for investigation because of his false statements on security clearance applications and in public interviews.

Using a 1924 law, the House Ways and Means Committee plans to request DDT’s tax returns. He said he would order Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to refuse, but the law does not permit refusal. Last week, Cohen surmised that the returns are not being audited, the reason that DDT always gave for not releasing them. Cohen explained the reason for DDT not releasing his taxes:

“What he didn’t want is to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit, and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on. I presume that he is not under audit.”

Steve Moore, DDT’s economic adviser during the 2016 campaign, said he advised DDT to “never, ever, ever, ever release his tax returns.” He said that people didn’t care about DDT’s taxes, but a Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of respondents think DDT should release the returns and Congress should investigate if he doesn’t. Reasons for examining them include conflicts of interest, inappropriate business relationships and/or influence by foreign governments, and the impact of DDT’s 2017 tax cut legislation on his personal finances.

Cohen’s testimony may have been the impetus for New York insurance regulators to subpoena Aon, Trump Organization’s insurance broker, for DDT’s possible fraud from misrepresentation of assets. The materials are due in two weeks.

At the recent summit in Hanoi, DDT said he believed promises from North Korea President Kim Jong-Un and stopped two large-scale military exercises. Kim didn’t know anything about the torture of U.S. resident Otto Warmbier and he wouldn’t do any testing of weapons, according to DDT. Less than a week after DDT returned, U.S. military analysts and South Korean intelligence officials report that before the summit North Korea started rebuilding facilities in Tongchang-ri to launch satellites into orbit and test engines and other technologies for its intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea may have other fuel-making facilities as well as fissile materials, nuclear warheads, and missiles in secret locations.

While DDT was being kindly toward Kim, North Korean hackers continued to attack sites such as water utilities, oil and gas companies, and “critical infrastructure companies” in the U.S. and among U.S. allies. Most of the U.S. attacks were against banks and fossil fuel companies near Houston. After over four days of blaming Kim for the summit’s failure, DDT used the Democratic scheduling of Cohen’s testimony before the House as his excuse for failing. That won’t work after people find out that no one can take Kim “at his word.”

Since getting back to the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lied about what was said at the summit. National security adviser John Bolton, who gave up over $1 million a year to worry about being DDT’s next punching bag, explained DDT’s comment: “It doesn’t mean that [DDT] accepted as reality; it means that he accepts that’s what Kim Jong Un said.” Yet DDT was clear about believing Kim:

“I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it.”

“I did speak about it, and I don’t believe that [Kim] would’ve allowed that to happen.

The conservative Eugene Register-Guard ran this headline, “Adviser: Trump ‘Gave Nothing Away’ in North Korea Talks,” skipping the word “Says” after “Advisor”—as in “Advisor Says.” Bolton repeatedly said that DDT “gave nothing away. That’s what matters, not my view.” At least he didn’t out and out lie like Pompeo; he just kept answering questions about DDT with “that’s his view.”

A setback for people who believe that Cohen lied is DDT’s payment to him for hush money to Stormy Daniels about her affair with DDT. The New York Times has copies of six of the eleven checks that DDT or his trust wrote while he was in the Oval Office. DDT’s defenders claim that the checks could have been for other purposes, but others close to DDT maintain that he will run for a second term so that he can’t be indicted on this and other crimes. The checks were signed by either DDT or his son Donald Trump Jr. and his company CFO Allen Weisselberg, who will be testifying before the House Oversight Committee. Payments to Cohen were for Daniels to keep her story quiet ($130,000) and for Cohen to control polls to inflate DDT as a businessman ($50,000), to “gross up” ($180,000), to offset Cohen’s taxes for the payments ($180,000), and to provide a bonus ($60,000). DDT said he didn’t know about the payment a month before his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that DDT reimbursed Cohen.

Former Trump Organization executive vice president Barbara Res said that Weisselberg, to be called for testimony, knows of at least five other hush money conspiracies to hide DDT’s affairs. DDT may have signed the checks.

Republicans are upset about DDT’s administration’s coverup probe into the torturing and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even DDT’s sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called it “worthless.” Others described it as “miserable,” “a waste of time,” and “a sham.” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) called DDT “in violation of the Magnitsky Act,” the law that requires investigation into the people responsible for the murder. All this happened in the days before DDT wants the Senate to confirm his latest nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

For almost four years, DDT has fought an off-shore wind power farm near one of his Scotland golf courses because he doesn’t like its appearance. DDT now not only lost his lawsuit in July 2015 but also is now required to pay all legal fees. After other legal challenges, he also agreed to relocate some of the housing at the golf course which has been in the red for at least four years. DDT’s newer Scottish golf course at Turnberry also lost millions of dollars in 2017.

DDT is even in trouble regarding his school records. The headmaster at New York Military Academy was told to bury DDT’s academic records. DDT’s father sent him there for five years because he needed more discipline. The headmaster said that he couldn’t give the records to an influential alumnus as ordered, but he “moved them elsewhere on campus where they could no be released.” The school briefly closed in 2015 because of bankruptcy but reopened after its purchase by a Chinese investor.

Fordham confirmed Cohen’s claim that the school had been threatened about their revealing his grades. DDT bragged that he “was first in my class” at Wharton but doesn’t appear on the dean’s list or any other that would record the top 50 percent of students academically.

DDT, who promised to erase the trade deficit and started a trade war to do it, increased the deficit by 20 percent–$100 billion—since he was inaugurated and added punitive tariffs.

More people believe Cohen than believe DDT, 50 to 35 percent. The man who Jim Jordan, ranking GOP on the House Oversight Committee, called a “pathological liar” has more credibility than the leader of the free world. In addition, two-thirds think that DDT committed crimes before he was elected, and a higher percentage of people believe that he has committed crimes since then than those who think he has not.

Things aren’t going well for DDT.

December 22, 2018

DDT: Week 100 – Not Very ‘Positive’

Day One of GOP/Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) government shutdown: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) who fought to close down the government said that workers without paychecks is “actually part of what you do when you sign up for any public service position.” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said, “Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?” He’s talking about 78 percent of fulltime workers.

The House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), demanded that the FBI vet over 3,400 pages of transcripts of investigation into the DOJ, including former FBI director James Comey, within two days, but the FBI said that the shutdown kept it from meeting that deadline. Materials cannot be released without an evaluation for classified, sensitive, or personally revealing information. Goodlatte, retiring this year, is single-handedly holding up a bill, unanimously passed in the Senate, to hopefully lower the incredibly high rate of violence against Native American women. He complained that states with high percentages of this population would receive grants for this purpose.

Failing to get an agreement on the CR today, the Senate adjourned and took their paychecks home for Christmas, leaving 800,000 government workers, over half of them still working, without pay.

Yesterday, DDT told reporters:

“We have had a very busy two or three days. It’s been very positive.”

Some of these “positive” events:

DDT’s pullout from Syria worsened—if possible—after Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIS, Brett McGurk, quit because he disagrees with DDT’s decision and statement about ISIS being defeated.

DDT’s shutdown of the government after conservative media goading and the chaos that he’s causing by pulling troops out of the Middle East with no plan made even stalwart Republican legislators at least raise eyebrows, especially after his Defense Secretary resigned in protest.

A senior Justice Department ethics official concluded that acting DOJ AG Matt Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian scandal, but Whitaker refuses to ask for an official ethics decision. The DOJ has notified Congress of Whitaker’s refusal.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified that she has no idea how many immigrants have died in custody under her watch. In a hearing about the death of a 7-year-old girl while in DHS custody, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said, “There have been at least 12 deaths under your watch,” Jayapal said. Nielsen also lied again that “we do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told Nielsen that his committee plans to do its job of “meaningful oversight,” beginning in January. Note that Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) tried to save Nielsen by comparing the situation to Robert Mueller separating Paul Manafort from “his two beautiful children”—who happen to be 30 years old.

Nielsen said later that asylum seekers will be kept in Mexico instead of allowed to enter the U.S. This decision may not hold up in court after two judgments the past week. The D.C. appeals court struck down DDT and DOJ policies that refused asylum to victims of domestic and gang violence, and Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices to block DDT’s attempts to turn asylum seekers from the border. The ruling supported the decision of U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who DDT called an “Obama judge,” that DDT’s new rules were illegal.

Latest nominee for DOJ AG William Barr sent an unsolicited 20-page memo to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and Assistant AG Steven Engel last summer giving arguments against Robert Mueller’s right to investigate DDT for potential obstruction of justice and refuting the government’s ability to even question DDT. Barr also sent the memo to DDT before he was appointed.

In a tweet announcing the signing of the farm bill, DDT provided the clip of himself singing the Green Acres theme song at the 2005 Emmys, a performance not to be missed. When the final bill failed to punish some food stamps recipients who did not have jobs, DDT planned an executive order to eliminate legal waivers that would take food from almost 800,000 people, a decision that may be determined illegal.

Instead of going free for giving up information after lying to the FBI, former national security adviser Michael Flynn has another 90 days to tell more secrets after an irritated judge accused him of selling out his country for pushing Turkish interests in the U.S. during DDT’s campaign and blaming the FBI for his lies because they didn’t tell him it was a crime. Flynn’s business partner Bijan Kian has been charged as an illegal agent of Turkey and conspiracy in his efforts to get a Turkish cleric extradited from the U.S., an 80-year-old man who would certainly killed if he were sent to Turkey after living in the U.S. for almost 20 years. DDT said that he would “take a look” at the man’s extradition, obviously not concerned about killings after his indifference to the torture and dismemberment of longtime U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi royalty.

A conservative Texas judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, bad news for DDT and Republicans because 53 percent of people have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act. People voted Democrats into the House to keep their health care. Approval in a November KFF Health Tracking Poll:

  • 82 percent – Young adults stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26
  • 82 percent – Health insurance exchanges for small businesses and people to shop for insurance and compare prices and benefits
  • 81 percent – Financial insurance premium help to low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs
  • 81 percent – Gradually closure of the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” so people will no longer be required to pay the full cost of their medications
  • 79 percent – No out-of-pocket costs for many preventive services
  • 77 percent – State expansion of existing Medicaid programs to cover more low-income, uninsured adults (now in three-fourths of the states)
  • 65 percent – No denial of coverage because of a person’s medical history

Republicans were in the majority in all of the above.

DDT’s sort-of lawyer Rudy Giuliani contradicted his boss by saying DDT knew that fixer Michael Cohen was negotiating with Russia for a Trump Tower in Moscow long after DDT said it had stopped ten months before his election, perhaps after June 2016, the date that Cohen gave. A letter of intent from DDT to move forward with his negotiations four months into his campaign has also emerged. Giuliani claimed that DDT knew nothing about it, but  DDT signed a letter of intent four months into his campaign for the project.

Documentation proves that DDT also broke his pledge to have no new business deals while he is in the Oval Office by acting as partner in the development of a proposed beachside resort in the Dominican Republic. Taxpayers provide the high costs of business trips for travel and security by DDT’s children in a business that opens up opportunities for more money laundering on the part of the Trump Organization.

DDT’s charitable foundation, called “a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests” by the New York AG, has been closed with any assets distributed under court supervision. The AG office is now pursuing a lawsuit to prevent DDT and his three oldest children from membership on boards of any other New York charities and force the payment of $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who made her first appearance since November to declare that the FBI “ambushed” Flynn, also attacked Comey on her official government Twitter account, an ethics issue. After his second six-hour House hearing, Comey, a Republican until 2016, exhorted Republicans:

“At some point someone has to stand up and face the fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement but stand up and speak the truth.”

Instead of the spending spree called the “Santa rally,” the Dow Jones’ seven-percent fall had its worst week since 2008—the year of George W. Bush’s recession—and dropped to the same number as 15 months ago. The Standard & Poor, down 11.4 percent thus far this month, is headed toward its worst December since 1931. DDT is blaming the Federal Reserve, but long time Republicans are blaming DDT. Crude oil plunged 11 percent during the past week for its worst weekly performance in three months.

DDT tweeted that he was negotiating with Democratic leaders about the shutdown for a bipartisan deal and announced a “large group” for a White House lunch but invited only GOP lawmakers and officials, primarily immigration hardliners. Conservatives keep repeating the wall as DDT’s promise but avoid the other promise that Mexico would fund the project.

This NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was taken before DDT’s “positive” busyness this past week:

  • 71 percent: DDT regularly makes “misleading” statements.
  • 62 percent: DDT has not been honest and truthful about Russia.
  • 60 percent: Lawmakers should make compromises to reach consensus on legislation.
  • 54 percent: Disapprove of the job that DDT is doing; negative feelings about DDT.
  • 50 percent: Mueller’s investigation has provided more doubts about DDT’s presidency.
  • 33 percent: The country is headed in the right direction.

Who should take the lead in country’s policies? Trump – 19 percent; GOP – 21 percent; Democrats – 48 percent.

The funniest news of the week: Funds raised by an online campaign We the People Will Fund the Wall—up to $14 million for 241,601 donors for 2/3 of a mile—will end up in the general fund for “general use” or “budget needs,” according to law. These funds are controlled by congressional appropriations. With this law, funds may be returned because GoFundMe prohibits “not using funds for their stated purpose.” Brian Kolfage, creator of the funding project has a background of sites with conspiracy theories. Another GoFundMe site has been introduced called “Ladders to Get over Trump’s Wall.”

If necessary, the money will be donated to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a Texas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.

May 26, 2018

DDT’s Problems with Russia

Filed under: Russia — trp2011 @ 11:45 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Monday is the day that people are to celebrate Memorial Day—instead of the actual day of commemoration on May 30—so that people can have a three-day weekend and forget the day’s meaning. The tradition of honoring those who died in the service of the country goes back to Civil War days, and the purpose of the day now is to remember those who died to preserve freedom—and presumably—the U.S. Constitution in the United States. Toward that end, the blog posts for the next few days will catch up on events that threaten to take rights from the people of the U.S. and those in which people are fighting back.

Despite raising issues with China and North Korea, Russian news still fills the media. Except for a breakdown from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) regarding James Clapper’s interviews about Russia throwing the election to him, DDT has been quiet. For example, he made no comment about the investigation from a five-country coalition team concluding that the Russian military fired the missile hitting the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 and killed all 298 people on the plane.

DDT also failed to comment about the news that intermediaries for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko paid $400,000 to DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen Michael Cohen in exchange for a meeting between Poroshenko and DDT last year. Cohen has more problems with his former business partner, Evgeny “Gene” Freidman (aka the “Taxi King”), reaching a plea deal for his false tax returns. The Soviet immigrant managed taxis owned and controlled by Cohen when he failed to remit the 50-cent-per-ride tax to the state. Freidman is a position to know Cohen’s wrong-doings. And then there’s the discovery that Cohen met Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in Trump Tower less than two weeks before Trump took office. Head of the Russian investment firm Renova Group, Vekselberg co-founded Columbus Nova that paid over $1 million to Cohen’s Essential Consultants with $400,000 going to Cohen to arrange a meeting with DDT. The meeting was one of two before the third meeting between Vekselberg and Cohen on Inauguration Day.

News in May also came from House Republicans, especially Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), trying to cover up DDT’s Russian involvement in direct contrast to results from the Senate Intelligence Committee. The results of that investigation agreed with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help then-candidate Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The chair of the Senate committee, Richard Burr (R-NC), released the conclusion that “there is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.

John Bolton, new national security adviser, isn’t concerned: he eliminated the cybersecurity coordinator position on the National Security Council.

One person who claimed that she didn’t know if Russia wanted to help DDT win the presidential election is Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, looking like a “dumb blonde” (right) during congressional briefings about election security. DDT’s angry words toward Nielsen have continued for months, including one time in front of the entire cabinet, and Chief of Staff John Kelly is no longer defending her as DDT blames Nielsen for higher numbers of people cross the Mexico border. Nielsen hasn’t been silent about DDT, complaining that he fails to understand the nuances of immigration law While DDT accuses her of being a George W. Bush Republican, not a compliment. DDT wants instant results for

Special investigator Robert Mueller has started zeroing in on Roger Stone, former campaign staffer and longtime friend of DDT, who talked about his prior knowledge regarding WikiLeaks hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Subpoenas have been issued to Stone’s social media director and Twitter specialist Jason Sullivan and John Kakanis, Stone’s driver, accountant and operative. Jeffrey Yohai, Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law, has also cut a deal with Mueller regarding the criminal probes, including those surrounding DDT’s one-time campaign chair. Former DDT campaign adviser Sam Nunberg predicted that Stone will be indicted for “some stupid financial thing.” Mueller’s investigation has brought 19 indictments and five guilty pleas.

DDT’s major ploy to stop Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling with the presidential election was to demand that the DOJ investigate the FBI and DOJ that may have “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”  Pundits were split between whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had caved in to DDT by asking the DOJ inspector general to review the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for any political motivations during the campaign or whether he was stalling. By searching for “anyone” who might have infiltrated or surveilled “participants in a presidential campaign,” Rosenstein may also investigate infiltration into Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

DDT is incensed because FBI agents sent an informant to talk to two DDT campaign advisers after the evidence that they had connections with Russians during the campaign. The FBI also got a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor former DDT campaign aide Carter. The FBI had good cause to investigate DDT’s campaign for communication with Russians. Rachel Maddow pointed out some people connected to Russian intelligence: Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and others who were aware. Some of these people have already pled guilty to these communications after lying to the FBI. Other ties with Russia come from DDT’s family members, friends, and business associates. These connections are over a year old; a newer article lists more. At least 15 blanket denials of contact have proved false, and Mueller’s indictments reveal at least 75 contacts between DDT’s team and Russia-linked operatives amid consistent denials.

The purpose of the FBI is to look for crimes, and it discovered that DDT’s campaign was connected to Russian meddling in the election, causing the FBI to investigate the situation. DDT’s accusation that the FBI wanted an “October surprise” to defeat him in the election was bogus because the agency didn’t release any of their information before he was elected. Hillary Clinton, however, did suffer from FBI’s “investigation.” DDT’s attacks are on organizations that protected him immediately before the election while exposing false, damaging information about DDT’s opposition, Hillary Clinton.

In protecting DDT, the RNC has paid almost $500,000 in legal fees to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and others in the ongoing Russia investigations.

Donald Trump, Jr. is also  in hot water after the release of the  2,500 page transcript from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the June 9, 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower intended to obtain information from the Russians that would cost Hillary Clinton the presidential election. The documents provide testimony from five people who attended the meeting: Donald Trump, Jr.; Rob Goldstone; Irakly (Ike) Kaveladze, an employee of the Agalarovs; Rinat Akhmetshin, the consultant; and Anatoli Samochornov, the interpreter for Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.  Also released were notes from a meeting that Manafort took on the phone, and Veselnitskaya’s written answers to its questions. Jr. keeps saying that he didn’t tell his father about the meeting, but evidence indicates that he might be lying.

The discovery that Jr. had another secret meeting at Trump Tower eight weeks later on August 3, 2016 with an Israeli social media manipulation specialist, an emissary for two Arab princes, and a private security contractor for the Middle East. Erik Prince, former head of Blackwater and brother to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, arranged the session on August 3, 2016. Emissary George Nadar told Jr. that the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were enthusiastic to help DDT win the election, and Israeli Joel Zamel said his company could give an edge to DDT’s political campaign. Nadar went on to frequently meet with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, who was promoting a secret plan to destabilize Iran with private contractors. After the election, Nadar paid Zamel money, as much as $2 million, at least partly for Zamel’s participation in social media campaigning. U.S. law forbids the involvement of foreign governments or people in U.S. elections. Zamel’s companies also have links to Russian oligarchs and president Vladimir Putin.

If that isn’t enough trouble for Jr., the FBI have recordings from the Spanish police between Jr. and Alexander Torshin, an official at Russia’s Central Bank with close ties to the NRA, and Alexander Romanov, a Russian who was convicted of money laundering. Those conversations are connected to Torshin’s meeting with Jr. at the NRA convention in May 2016. Spanish prosecutor José Grinda said, “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.” Torshin was one of 17 Russians sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, and documents show that donors may have used the NRA to help DDT and his campaign.

Yet DDT and far-right Republicans keep claiming that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” DDT’s tweets today continue to rant about Russia with the same tired lies that he always uses. His demands that the DOJ and FBI must turn over everything to him about the investigation into him along with his claim that he is control of those agencies is an erosion into democracy and fails every person who died to protect the United States.

 

September 16, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-four – Loss of Supporters and More

People have been asking what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) could do to make his supporters turn on him. Now we know: make friends with Democrats. After two weeks of supporting (sort of) “Chuck and Nancy,” as he calls Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), DDT supporters have started to burn their hats. [visual] The last straw for them was his possible protection of hard-working people who were involuntarily brought to the United States and had undergone “extreme” vetting.

Last week people discovered about the hacking of records for 143 million people from consumer credit reporting agency Equifax. Since then, it’s been discovered that three senior executives sold shares for almost $1.8 million after the hack. They said that they didn’t know about the hacking. The company was aware of the flawed security system over two months before the hacking and didn’t make the public aware for a month after the event. The revelation caused a 13-percent drop in the value of the shares. Equifax was hired a year ago for $10 million to “help the SSA manage risk and mitigate fraud for the mySocialSecurity system, a personalized portal for customers to access some of SSA’s services such as the online statement.” DDT can take pride in having the most disastrous hacking thus far in history.

DDT bragged he had the biggest hurricane in history—until someone mentioned climate change. He changed his statement to “we’ve had bigger storms than this,” ignoring history because both Harvey and Irma broke several records.

After the nation’s worst deluge in Hurricane Harvey and the strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic with Irma, DDT identified the nation’s real emergency—the need for tax cuts. Perhaps he imagined that people across the nation cried out for swift action in helping billionaires and corporations. DDT’s desperate tweet to Congress:

“With Irma and Harvey devastation, Tax Cuts and Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!”

Bush/Cheney used the excuse of tax cuts for all problems—high gas prices, uninsured people, sluggish economy, strong economy, etc. DDT will be trying to persuade everyone that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will build new homes, operate shelters, and clean up chemical spills that huge companies left in flood areas.

After new DDT friends Sen. “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. “Nancy” Pelosi (D-CA) met with him at a private White House dinner, they reported that he would accept protection for DACA recipients, giving work permits to people involuntarily brought into the U.S., without a demand for the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Republicans were incensed, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that DDT didn’t make that agreement. The following day, DDT “clarified” his agreement with Chuck and Nancy:

6:11 am (Twitter): “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”

8:26 am (reporters): “[T]he wall will come later.”

11:06 am (reporters): “Very important is the wall. We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed because without the wall I wouldn’t do anything… It doesn’t have to be here but they can’t obstruct the wall if it’s in a budget or anything else.”

4:18 pm (reporters): “[I]f the Democrats aren’t going to approve it [money for the wall], then we’re not going to do what they want… DACA now and the wall very soon, but the wall will happen.”

DDT’s response to the tragic attack in London this past week before anyone knew the source:

“These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

He either released classified information about the attack or was just blathering as usual. No matter which, he again alienated the UK; their officials called DDT’s tweet “unhelpful.”

DDT’s MO for the past months has been alienating democratic allies and sucking up to autocratic dictators. This week he hosted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently the subject of a DOJ corruption probe regarding misappropriations of billions of dollars from a government fund he controlled. In exchange, Razak and his large contingent dropped their money at the DDT-leased Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Without occupancy currying DDT’s favor, the hotel would increase its 56-percent vacancy rate in an area that has almost 50 percent less. At least he gets $18,750 per night for the “Trump Townhouse” suite. Being elected has made money for DDT. Unfortunately, it’s unconstitutional.

Attempts to discover government expenditures at DDT’s property began with only one short report, the federal payment of $1,092 for a room at Mar-a-Lago for two nights during DDT’s visit in March with “National Security Council as the occupant.”

Michael Flynn, DDT’s former national security advisor, may have lobbied on behalf of foreign countries to build 40 nuclear reactors across the Middle East while paid by the White House. Backers said that the Gulf Arab states would fully fund the project. Flynn also failed to report payments from Russian entities. Flynn’s son, Michael Jr., is also being investigated by Robert Mueller as part of the Russian interference in the 2016 election. A man who showed up at a Washington pizza place with a rifle because Jr. had spread the lie that it was a front for Hillary Clinton’s sex trafficking. He also smeared Clinton aide Huma Abedin with the lie that she was connected to the Muslim brotherhood and pushed the falsehood that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a closet gay man who abuses cocaine. DDT fired Flynn Jr. before his father was shown the door. Mueller is also targeting Paul Manafort’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai.

The Office of Government Ethics briefly permitted Russia—and anyone else—to anonymously donate to legal defense funds for White House staffers. Public outcry forced OGE to reinstate the ban.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, a Ronald Reagan appointee, blocked DDT’s rules to keep funding from so-called “sanctuary” cities in a nationwide preliminary injunction against the DOJ. AG Jeff Sessions had said that a grant to local law enforcement for training and supplies applies only “to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48-hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is again opposing DDT after his vote against the ACA “repeal and replace”—this time objecting to DDT’s ban on transgender military members. In backing the bipartisan bill to block DDT’s ban, McCain explained its rationale:

“When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country. Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve — including those who are transgender.”

One reason for selling off public land is to make money for the government. Auctioning off oil drilling rights on approximately 7,000 acres of a bird habitat to avoid endangered species garnered the government $14,837. That pays for 0.005 percent of one DDT’s trip to Mar-a-Lago. “America” is for sale.

DDT’s DOJ is reversing a program to improve trust between law enforcement and communities. Sessions, who supports DDT’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, wants to “fulfill my commitment to respect local control and accountability.” The purpose of the rescinded program was to determine any systemic problems in troubled police departments. Sessions has already told federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible given military equipment to state and local police.

It has come to light that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, worth about one-half billion dollars, wanted taxpayers to pick up the tab for his honeymoon transportation by letting him take a government jet to Scotland, France, and Italy. Mnuchin has been called the “foreclosure king,” even foreclosing on a 90-year-old widow who owned his company $.27. He and Louise Linton weren’t permitted the plane that would have cost $25,000 an hour, and they are being investigated for using a government plane to watch the eclipse in Kentucky. DDT explained about his request that his administrative officials “had to give up a lot to take these jobs.”

Senators unanimously passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and asking DDT to “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.” The resolution also asks AG Jeff Sessions and DHS to investigate “all acts of violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism” by white supremacists, white nationalists or associated groups and prevent them “from fomenting and facilitating additional violence.” The House passed the joint resolution with a voice vote. DDT signed the resolution after he had a talk with the only GOP black senator, Tim Scott (R-SC). (Two of the GOP House members are black.) According to DDT, he told Scott:

“[Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and I] had a great talk yesterday. I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said.”

DDT’s use of “other side” for people opposing the neo-Nazis whenever he talks about Charlottesville (VA) begs the question: does he identify with the white supremacists against the “other side”? Called a “white supremacist” by ESPN host Jemele Hill, DDT trashed the network and called for an apology from Hill. At least DDT didn’t go as far as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who said that the white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA) were actors hired by liberals to make neo-Nazis look bad.

And there’s more—later!

May 18, 2017

DDT: Ten Days in May

Sally Yates’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8 about Russian interference in the election should have been the high point of last week. Many people were riveted to the screen as the former acting AG calmly parried the hostile questions from GOP members who asked why she didn’t do everything that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) requested. But between new events and revelations, this day was only the first of ten explosive days for the United States and its attempts to retain democracy. [Time magazine has detailed articles about the Russian connection.]

May 8, 2017 – Senate Hearing: Yates explained that she notified the White House about Michael Flynn’s lies regarding his Russian communications because they left him open to blackmail. She did that a full 18 days before he was fired—ostensibly for lying to VP Mike Pence. Yet when she told DDT’s top lawyer, Don McGahn, about Flynn, he asked her why it mattered if one White House official lies to another. Throughout the hearing, Republicans cared only about how the media discovered Flynn’s discussions with the Russian ambassador. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Yates if she had leaked that information because DDT had told senators to ask her that. She said no. Then they suggested that President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, had provided the leak, but there is no evidence that this happened. Although the hearing was about Michael Flynn, Republicans persistently asked Yates about her not defending DDT’s travel ban, the reason he gave for firing her. Yates held her ground when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) criticized her judgment and reminded him that she had promised him in her confirmation hearings that she would act independently of the president, then Barack Obama.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also testified, at one point stating that he knew nothing about any collusion between DDT and the Russians during his campaign. DDT tried to use his statement to say that Clapper testified that there was no collusion, but Clapper said that was not true. Sen. John Cassidy (R-LA) awkwardly demanded to know if Clapper had ever leaked unclassified information.

May 9, 2017 – Comey Firing: All the buzz about the Senate hearing disappeared the following day when DDT fired FBI Director James Comey. Over the weekend, DDT had become increasingly angry about Comey’s congressional appearance discussing the FBI’s investigation into DDT’s campaign ties with Russia, and he gathered a small group, including VP Mike Pence and McGahn, to prepare talking points. Comey discovered he was fired while glancing at a television screen in Los Angeles. Initially, DDT said that he fired Comey for the way he had treated Hillary Clinton and done it on the advice of DOJ AG Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, but throughout the week that story unraveled. By Thursday he told journalist Lester Holt that he decided to do it on his own because of that “Russian thing.” In his firing letter to Comey, DDT claimed that the FBI director had told him that DDT wasn’t under investigation, another piece that was a lie as was the false statement about Rosenstein making the recommendation to fire Comey.

Comey’s firing covered up news about the subpoenas issued by a federal grand jury in Alexandria (VA) to Flynn’s associates. More widely spread through the media was Press Secretary Sean Spicer shouting “turn the lights off” to journalists as he stood amid the White House bushes.

May 10, 2017 – The Russians in the White House: A meeting between DDT and  with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov [left] and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak was chronicled only by a photographer from a Russian state-owned news agency. U.S. journalists were banned. DDT said that he met with them because Putin had asked him and he didn’t know how to say no. He also said that he didn’t know the photographer was from the Russian agency. It was five days later that the media discovered DDT gave highly classified information about ISIS threats in Iraq and Syria to the Russians that had obtained from another country. The reason may have been pure bragging. He prefaced it by saying, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

May 11, 2017 – Changes in DDT’s stories: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified that, unlike DDT’s claims, Comey had “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.” DDT had claimed that a reason for firing Comey was the lack of trust among FBI agents. On the same day as DDT’s interview with Lester Holt, the New York Times reported on DDT asking for a personal loyalty pledge from Comey at a dinner on January 27 that the FBI director refused to give. The Senate Intelligence Committee also subpoenaed documents from Flynn because he wouldn’t give them voluntarily.

May 12, 2017 – Threats and financial issues: DDT sent a (slightly) veiled threat about Comey and “tapes,” unleashing a media storm regarding the possibility that DDT has taped conversations. Again Spicer cannot answer any of these questions. A letter from DDT’s outside lawyers states that “with a few exceptions” totaling about $100 million, Trump’s tax returns from 2005 “do not reflect” any “income from Russian sources,” “debt owed by you or [The Trump Organization] to Russian lenders,” “equity investments by Russian persons or entities,” or “equity or debt investments by you or [The Trump Organization] in Russian entities.” This is after DDT’s statement that he has no financial connections to Russia. The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which specializes in combating money-laundering, will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

May 13, 2017 – Humor: DDT gives the graduation address at conservative evangelical Liberty University, and Saturday Night Live skewers DDT.

May 14, 2017 – Mother’s Day: DDT plays golf four states away from his wife, Melania, and son Barron.

May 15, 2017 – The Russian connection: The news about DDT giving away classified information hits the media, and denials flow. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and the White House denied the entire story along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell. But on the day of the conversation,Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, called directors of the CIA and the NSA and requested that DDT’s comments to be deleted from internal memos. That night his communications people—Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Saunders, and Michale Dubke—were in such a loud screaming fit in the Cabinet that staffers turned up the television sets to keep journalists from hearing. Sen. James Risch (R-ID) epitomized much of the GOP supportive spin:

“The minute the President speaks about it to someone, he has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process.”

May 16, 2017 – Changing stories, lies revealed: McMaster repeated that he was in the room with DDT and the Russians and reversed his story: yes, DDT did reveal the information, but it was “wholly appropriate.” In addition, DDT hadn’t been briefed and “wasn’t even aware where this information came from.” He had to admit it because DDT tweeted that he certainly did give Russia this information—and that he has every right to do this. McMaster said that the big problem was the leakers. Israel, the country that had provided the information to the U.S., didn’t concur. Worried since January that DDT would pass on their classified information, Israel feared that information leaked to Russia would move on to Iran. As always when DDT causes chaos for the nation, Russia is triumphant about the disaster.

Information emerges that Comey had left a paper trail of his conversations with DDT, including when DDT asked him to stop the investigation into Flynn. DDT also asked Comey to put journalists in prison for publishing classified information.

May 17, 2017 – New sheriff in town: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. His action elicited another flurry of furious DDT tweets including more impugning of the Clintons. Sources are now saying that Flynn himself told DDT’s transition team, headed by Mike Pence, that Flynn was under investigation before DDT appointed him to be National Security Adviser.

May 18, 2017 – Today: At this time, Flynn has failed to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee for documents connected to its investigation regarding Russia’s interference in the presidential election. He may be following the request he got on April 25 from DDT to “stay strong.” Like DDT, Flynn is crying “unfair” about the investigation despite a new revelation that he and other DDT campaign advisers were in contact with Russian officials at least 18 times during the last seven months of the campaign. In another scandal, Flynn told Susan Rice, then National Security Adviser, in mid-January to call off plans to use Kurdish forces to retake Raqqa from ISIS. Flynn may have been acting without any involvement from the DDT transition team but pleased Turkey, his undisclosed client at the time. DDT approved the Raqqa plan later after Flynn was fired. Some congressional members have used the term “treason” to describe Flynn’s making a military decision for the U.S.  while acting in behalf of a foreign nation that was paying him.

Tomorrow, DDT heads off to the Middle East for a nine-day trip. What can go wrong?!

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