Nel's New Day

January 10, 2023

Biden’s Classified Documents, GOP, Brazil, Ukraine

Republican legislators and other allies of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) are filled with joy after President Joe Biden’s lawyers reported the discovery of ten classified documents in Biden’s office between 2017 and 2020, his hiatus between vice president and president. Lawyers immediately gave the documents to the National Archives, which hadn’t realized they were missing. The DOJ is reviewing the materials. Key differences between Biden and DDT having classified documents:

  • The FBI didn’t need involvement, including a warrant, to retrieve the documents in Biden’s office.
  • Materials were located in an office Biden used while he was an honorary professor for the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Lawyers notified the National Archives on the same day as the discovery of documents in Biden’s office; the agency took them the next day.
  • Biden’s documents were turned over to the DOJ for review.
  • Federal agents were required to search DDT’s Mar-a-Lago estate and other locations to find sensitive government materials and spent months finding them, some of them in unsecured locations.
  • DDT had far more documents of varying classification degrees, some of them at the highest sensitive level. Some of them described the nuclear capability of a foreign military’s military and top-secret U.S. operations shared with a select few government officials. Documents in Biden’s office didn’t contain nuclear secrets.
  • Instead of handing over the documents, DDT kept claiming they were his and even went to court in his attempt to keep them.

To politicize the discovery of the documents in Biden’s office, Republicans are demanding a national security damage assessment in what Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) called “Republican hypocrisy at its finest.” Republicans found that the 320 documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago “will not be a priority.”

The reputation of the GOP, however, is suffering from one of its freshman House members of the House, New York’s George Santos. In addition to Santos’ many other lies, one of his staffers tried to dupe donors by impersonating new Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) chief of staff, Dan Meyer. The new GOP rules in the House have gutted the ethics committee, and Santos called this decision “fantastic.” 

In the midst of Santos’ glee, two Democratic House members from New York, Ritchie Torres and Dan Goldman, filed an official ethics complaint with the committee about misleading voters regarding “his ethnicity, his religion, his education, and his employment and professional history, among other things.” The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission; it alleges wide-ranging campaign violations including Santos’ “straw donor campaign” that helped him evade campaign finance limits.

A few GOP House members have questioned whether Santos should be seated on committees, especially those with sensitive intelligence, but GOP leadership claims the problems are being addressed “internally.”

Another black mark against the new GOP leadership of the House is the silence regarding the attempted coup in Brazil. World leaders have condemned the far-right insurrection orchestrated by supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s losing ex-president, but Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been silent about the violent protest to what the attackers called a stolen election. Virulently opposed to immigrants from south of the border, Republicans are also silent about Bolsonaro hiding out in a Florida hospital while DDT’s staunch supporter Steve Bannon echoes the lie about a “rigged and stolen” election and promotes unrest in Brazil.  

Although Brazilian insurrectionists imported the ideology of the attempted coup from the U.S., that has been somewhat ineffective in punishing the perpetrators, the government in Brazil took direct action during and immediately following the event unlike U.S. officials two years ago. No one was arrested when rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol, and Capitol Police were not given any assistance for hours while legislators were hiding in the building. In Brasilia, at least 1,200 attackers were arrested at the event, and a senior judge on Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the arrests of two security officials accused of colluding with the rioters. U.S. judges delivered harsh speeches and mostly lenient sentences, and U.S. GOP legislators, many of them re-elected to the House, continue to exude sympathy to the convicted insurrections for over two years of their sedition.

Brazil’s Justice Minister Flavio Dino is investigating the financing behind his country’s insurrection whereas U.S. GOP legislators tried to block any investigation and now declare retribution against the nine members of a House committee who uncovered information about the January 6 insurrection.  

A big difference between U.S. and Brazilian insurrections is that the purpose of riots on January 6, 2021 in the U.S. was to block government business, specifically the election of a U.S. president. The inauguration of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was eight days before the insurrection, and Brazil does not have the U.S. process of counting electoral votes to formalize the president’s election which was interrupted by the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Supreme Court dragged its decisions on the U.S. insurrection, but the highly conservative court finally decided Texas went too far when the state refused to grant Areli Escobar, a prison on death row, a new trial. Despite the Texas prosecutors agreeing for a new trial, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ignored the prosecutors’ position when it refused a new trial. An audit by the Texas Forensic Science Commission found fault with the DNA lab’s work—failures to follow scientific protocols, bias, contaminated samples, and inadequate training. The Supreme Court making the unanimous decision for Escobar’s review in the lower court hasn’t given up its conservative reputation, however, to be hostile toward death row prisoners: it refused an execution stay for two different appeals from Texas prisoners to be executed. The high court also didn’t order a new trial; it just told the lower court to take another look at the evidence.

Updates about Ukraine:

Russia claimed it killed 600 Ukrainian troops with “retaliatory” missile strikes on their barracks in Kramatorsk, Donetsk province, but Ukraine, Western reporters, and Russian pro-war military bloggers called Russia’s claim a lie and simply propaganda. Reuters reported “no obvious signs that soldiers” lived in the barracks and “no sign of bodies or traces of blood.” CNN reported “no visual evidence that shows these two buildings were badly hit or that there has been mass deaths on the scale claimed by Russia.”

Almost 11 months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, its artillery fire has drastically reduced from a wartime high, down by 75 percent in some places. Reasons may be new tactics or rationing artillery rounds because Russia has low supplies. At the same time, Western allies continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, supplies, and training. In the past two months, the mercenary Wagner Group, has lost thousands of fighters and complains it is running low on combat vehicles, artillery shells and ammunition. The leader blames the problem on “internal bureaucracy and corruption.” Of about 50,000 mercenaries—80 percent of them convicts–over 4,100 have been killed and another 10,000 wounded. About 90 percent of the dead are convicts.

Captured inmates say many of the recruited prisoners are “completely insane” and that deserters and troops not following orders are publicly executed. Many Russian prisoners on the front line in Ukraine are drug addicts, “very different from ordinary mercenaries,” according to reports. The first group of prisoners has been released in Russia after their six-month tour and told not to drink too much, do drugs, rape women, or kill.

Earlier this month, Ukraine scored hits on a Russian weapons depot. As Russia’s supply of new ammo disappears, it resorts to 40-year-old degraded artillery shells. Russia can apparently no longer carry out heavy bombardments with massive artillery fire and rocket fire as it did earlier in the invasion. A new Russian strategy may be building up defense fortifications.

According to the head of Britain’s armed forces, about 50,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since its president, Vladimir Putin, began the invasion, and almost 1,700 tanks were destroyed. In addition, about 4,000 of its armored fighting vehicles have been destroyed.

The Wagner group claims it took over the eastern salt mining town of Soledar, but Ukraine responded that its soldiers are fighting on.

Ukraine is only one of the seven most pressing threats in 2023 as identified by 500 government officials in the annual Preventive Priorities Survey. The others are a confrontation between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, a cyberattack hitting U.S. critical infrastructure; economic collapse and social unrest within Russia because of its war, North Korea testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, Israel’s right-wing government taking action against Iran’s nuclear weapon, and possible natural disaster and social unrest in Central American causing more migration to the U.S. The map shows other hot spots. 

January 5, 2023

Third Day of House Speaker Election Chaos; Ukraine Update

Filed under: Legislation,War — trp2011 @ 10:57 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

In the five ballots for House Speaker on the third day, the votes for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 212, and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), 200, stayed the same as yesterday while Vicky Spartz (R-IN) continued to vote “present” and another 20 members voted for “others.” The only difference came from those who didn’t vote for Byron Donalds (R-FL): Matt Gaetz (R-FL) picked Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) in his first two votes of the day, and Josh Brecheen (R-OK) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) chose Kevin Hern (R-OK) starting with the second ballot on January 5. Hern had voted for McCarthy but said he wouldn’t mind being Speaker. For the ninth ballot, Boebert nominated Hern, who received three votes when Gaetz joined Boebert and Brecheen. Donalds’ 17 votes and Spartz’s “present” vote left McCarthy and Jeffries with their usual votes because Hern voted for McCarthy.

After these three votes, the House moved on to the tenth ballot—same status for both Jeffries and McCarthy with Spartz’s “present.” The change came with a movement to Hern, seven votes, while 13 members stayed with Donalds. In the 11th ballot, Hern kept the seven votes, and Donalds lost one to Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), nominated  by Gaetz who also voted for him. These eleven ballots make the number of votes for House Speaker the highest since 1856 with its 133 ballots. Only 14 Speaker elections have required multiple ballots in the 127 Speaker elections since 1789. Thirteen of them were before the Civil War, and, until the 118th Congress, only seven required over nine ballots.

McCarthy had one victory today: he managed to get the House to adjourn with a vote of 219 to 213 before he lost a 12th ballot. The House reconvenes at noon on January 6, the second anniversary of the GOP insurrection at the Capitol. One Republican joined all Democrats in opposing the adjournment. The freshman congressional retreat with trainings and policy discussion planned for this weekend was postponed.

Before the January 5 ballots, McCarthy made more concessions to the recalcitrant 20 when the first set of concessions lost him a vote. The biggest rule change he promised was to allow one House member to force a vote ousting the Speaker from his former concession of lowering the number to five. He also promised to put more conservative Freedom Caucus members onto the House Rules Committee that debates legislation before it moves to the floor. Another McCarthy promise was to relent on allowing floor votes for term limits on members and enact specific border policy legislation.

Thus far, McCarthy’s concessions have done no good; several of the non-McCarthy 20 have said they will not support him. McCarthy may also lose moderates who formerly pledged they would never support a rules package giving one House member the power to vacate a Speaker.

Another concession came from McCarthy’s super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) , which promised to not participate in open House primaries for safe Republican seats. The conservative Club for Growth, originally in opposition to McCarthy, made the same promise. Earlier concessions included no more remote votes and markups, a custom beginning with the pandemic; the ability to zero out a government official’s salary; 72 hours for lawmakers to a read bill before it comes to the floor; and a new select commit to investigative the “weaponization” of the Justice Department and the FBI. Any elected Speaker must comply with McCarthy’s concessions, weakening the position and the House itself.

During the 2022 election cycle, CLF spent almost $260 million to help reelect Republicans including members voting against his speakership bid. Top donors were business billionaires, giving them power over the GOP. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted:

“It is creepy that dark money super PACs are explicitly part of the negotiation regarding who becomes speaker of the United States House.”

Federal law blocks candidates from coordinating with super PACs; in this case, their action benefits McCarthy, possibly breaking the law. Club for Growth, that has switched opposition to McCarthy after his latest concessions, receives dark money from the Koch network and other right-wing forces.

DDT is pleased with the standoff, saying it will make the position of House Speaker “BIGGER & MORE IMPORTANT.”

The lack of a House Speaker for at least three days has stymied all House action: members can’t be sworn in or paid. and House rules cannot be passed. Without rules by January 13, staffers will also receive no pay. No elected representative is privy to national security matters and cannot see top-secret information or discuss these issues with national security officials because they lack clearance until sworn in. Most distressing to Republicans is that they cannot begin their oversight of the Biden administration.

McCarthy’s idea for getting enough votes is to lower the current 217 votes, Spartz already voting present, to a much lower number by more members also voting present. Democratic candidate Jeffries has received 212 votes. If ten Republicans vote present and McCarthy can’t come up with 212 votes, the Democrat could become House Speaker in a chamber with a GOP majority.

George Santos, new representative from New York who McCarthy kept in Congress for his vote despite serious ethical problems, has reached another low in lying. On his website, he stated he voted “nay” on the Omnibus bill passed on December 23, impossible because he and all other House members cannot be sworn in until a Speaker is elected. In addition, the Omnibus bill was passed in the 117th Congress; Santos can’t vote until the 118th Congress. He also claimed to have voted on four other bills during last year’s session. 

The GOP search for House leaders has come up with questionable choices. Bryon Donalds was touted by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) because the nominee for Speaker is Black and his large size would intimidate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Missing from the description is his background as a youth, arrested on a marijuana charge dropped through a pretrial diversion program. Later he pled guilty to a felony bribery charge in a plot to defraud a bank, a charge later expunged. He was also part of the “Freedom Force,” a Republican group that lobbied for federal funding for a cobalt plant started by a GOP consultant who had run the Conservative Leadership PAC and led by a firm netting almost $1 million from GOP campaigns. In 2021, Donalds was refused membership in the Congressional Black Caucus and voted to overturn Joe Biden’s election. He also supported Florida’s voter suppression laws.

Steve Scalise (R-LA), already second in House GOP leadership who may be considered for Speaker, has a history of white supremacy. In 2002, Scalise accepted a speaking engagement at a white supremacist conference, but Scalise said he only vaguely recalled his speech and didn’t know that it was a white nationalist group. A journalist reported that Scalise “told him he was like David Duke without the baggage.”

Updates from the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

The U.S. and Germany are sending armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, and both countries will train Ukrainian forces on their use. France will send light tanks. Russia has moved its long-range bombers farther from Ukraine after they and medium bomber aircraft were damaged in two attacks by Ukraine last month. Long-range planes can still fire cruise missiles into Ukraine, but the range increases the maintenance stress on the planes. Sixty percent of Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsky region largely held by Russia was destroyed by Russian shelling.

Russia has pardoned the first recruits for its Wagner mercenary group after six months fighting in Ukraine. Last month, the group received infantry rockets and missiles from North Korea. Wagner has 50,000 troops in Ukraine, 40,000 convicts serving prison sentences when they were enlisted.

Ukraine started 2023 by shooting down dozens of Iranian attack drones fired by Russia and killing dozens of Russian soldiers in a rocket strike on a vocational school used as an ammo dump in the occupied city of Makiivka, in Donetsk province. Russia declared the strike killed 89 of their soldiers, but Ukraine and Russian war correspondents said hundreds of Russian troops were killed, possibly 1,200. A day later, Ukraine destroyed another huge Russian ammo dump near Svatove.

Ukraine has also become skilled at shooting down the drones, reporting that it downed all 80+ exploding drones sent by Russia, some of them with antiaircraft guns and small-arms fire. Other methods are surface-to-air missiles.

Military analysts report that Ukraine’s success comes from its use of HIMARS, howitzers, and other long-range artillery along with Russian blunders. Russia blames its troops for giving away their location by using cellphones, but Ukraine and Russian military bloggers accuse their commanders. Russia lacks transport vehicles to distribute new conscripts, leaving the concentrated groups vulnerable to Ukranian attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to hold a unilateral cease-fire for Orthodox Christmas from noon January 6 through January 7. He said he was following a request from the church leader, Patriarch Kirill. He called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do the same, but Zelensky said Putin’s order would increase the death toll. “Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses respites at war to continue the war with renewed vigor.” Ukraine celebrated its Christmas on December 25.

 

January 2, 2023

Politics in 2023

Ukraine started 2023 by shooting down 45 Iranian-made Sahed drones fired by Russia and attacked the occupied Donetsk region, hitting a building in Makiivka where Russian ammunition was stored. Foreign conflicts will form challenges as autocrats try to destroy democracies: China’s military drills around Taiwan, Iran’s support of Russia, North Korea’s missiles, the Taliban’s draconian rule in Afghanistan, gang takeover in Haiti, and ISIS franchises spreading throughout Africa. About half the world’s democracies are in decline, and societies growing polarized don’t trust elections.

While the U.S. worries about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons, his invasion strengthened NATO, an alliance of 30 nations. In Iran, young women, even teenagers, have mobilized protests for a 22-year-old woman dead because she didn’t cover her hair, the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is old and sick.

In the U.S. the GOP, with a weak majority of five in the House but still not controlling the Senate, is highly polarized between the different factions from the ultra-conservative QAnon believers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to the bipartisan group with Democrats. The leadership’s agenda, as displayed by the GOP majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) pretends to help “hardworking families” but only blocks abortion, release of gas from emergency reserves, and immigration. Their obsessions focus on Hunter Biden’s laptop, a replace for Hillary Clinton’s emails which went nowhere, and impeaching any Democrats who offended any Republicans.  

In wooing voters for the Speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has made more promises such as removing metal checks to enter the chamber, allowing guns to be smuggled inside, and create select committees on a wide number of subjects from the source of Covid to “the Weaponization of the Federal Government.” Covid topics also include “the impact of school closures on American children” and the development of vaccines and corresponding federal mandates. House Republicans want to remove the IRS of additional sources provided by Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, providing safety for the wealthy to not be audited for tax fraud. Other goals are legislation to zero out a government official’s salary, cut specific government programs, and fire specific federal employees.

On Day One, the Republicans plan to remove the right for congressional staffers to unionize. New House leaders have ignored the Congressional Accountability Act requiring legislation to remove implemented rights. Another GOP aim is to gut the independent, nonpartisan House ethics office established 15 years ago to review misconduct allegations against chamber members and their staffers. Representatives benefitting from this action include McCarthy, Jim Jordan (OH), Andy Biggs (AZ), and Scott Perry (TX) who ignored subpoenas from the House January 6 investigative committee.

Newly-elected New York representative George Santos, who already expanded the party’s scandals, could benefit most from the loss of the ethics committee. Within the past weeks, Santos’ news leaking daily shows that almost everything he ran on was a lie—his schooling, work history, religion, mother’s death, etc. Brazilian authorities may charge him for using a stolen checkbook and false name to make purchases in the country, and the sources of his finances are being investigated. Santos also faces investigations from federal prosecutors in New York, New York’s AG’s office, the Nassau County DA’s office, and the Queens DA office. Several Santos’ campaign disbursements were for $199.99, a penny under the requirement for receipts.

Santos’ problems might have been kept under wraps if the current time had distracting news, as happened before the election. Now, the media wants to know how his income changed from $55,000 in 2020 to $1 million to $5 million in 2022 as reported by his campaign filings. Another mystery is where he got the $700,000 he lent his campaign. His almost $100,000 expenditures for campaigning in his urban district of 254.8 square miles also raised questions. Even Santos’ ex-boyfriend said that the elected representative is lying and that the boyfriend had to pay Santos’ bills. Santos never went to work, according to the boyfriend.

GOP House members are staying silent because Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) badly needs Santos’ vote for his losing campaign to become Speaker of the House. (The election is on January 3, and the House cannot operate until a Speaker is elected.) Santos also represents a swing district in a blue state where a reelection could change the Republicans’ majority to four in the House. The Republicans say that Santos deserves a “second chance.” This philosophy means that the GOP will support any potentially criminal or morally decrepit representative to retain control.

More polarity between GOP factions came from anger at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for supporting the $1.7 trillion spending package instead of closing down the government or blocking a vote on the budget until 2023. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) blames McConnell for the GOP failure in the 2022 midterms because of McConnell’s “terrible” record. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) also condemns McCarthy to avoid accepting blame for the poor quality of candidates DDT selected.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel may not be back for a fourth term after the failures of the past three electoral terms. Election conspiracy theorist and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell wants the job and said he is calling all 168 RNC committee members. He said he is investigating how Ron DeSantis won Dade County in Florida “because it’s a deviation.” Lindell said. He blames all the problems on the voting machines. “They gotta go,” he said.

Issues for 2023:

Selection and Retention of House Speaker: This is a huge problem with the slim majority of five Republicans. More later.

Control of the House GOP, Extremes or Moderates: The far-right Freedom Caucus has 30-40 members; moderate Republican Governance Group, over 40 members; and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, about 100 members. The remaining 100+ members are in the more moderate New Democrat Coalition and “centrist” leaning right Blue Dog Coalition, and dozens are in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus with equal numbers from each political party.

Raising the Debt Limit: After increasing the debt limit over 100 times, the House conservatives are threatening to refuse this year to blame the Democrats’ spending, despite the $7.8 trillion that DDT added to the debt. Some Republicans want to reduce “entitlement” (Social Security and Medicare funding among others) in exchange for the debt ceiling increase.

Accomplishments in Divided Government: Must pass legislation—the coming year’s annual appropriations, defense authorization, Farm Bill, and Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization—will get through, hopefully without a government shutdown. A fix to a possible recession could be addition to the Child Tax Credit in exchange for business tax breaks giving companies more tax breaks.

A Shift of Leadership at the Federal Reserve: Not likely. Jerome Powell is determined to drop inflation to two percent although some believe he’s using the wrong process to do it.

Biden’s Run for Reelection: His second-year successes, including the lack of Republicans elected during the 2022 midterms for both state and national offices, may calm Democrats. No one hates Biden except for rabid Republicans who hate all Democrats, unlike the response to DDT, another potential president candidate in 2024. Even if DDT loses the primary, he’s still regarded as the GOP leader.

Ron DeSantis’ Run for Election: Every vile action the Florida governor has taken as pointed toward a DDT-esque push toward candidacy and desire to lead the MAGAs. DDT has threatened to leave the GOP if it doesn’t choose him for the presidential candidate.

DDT’s Possible Indictment: If the DOJ’s investigator, Jack Smith, comes through as special counsel probing DDT’s part in theft of classified documents and the January 6 insurrection, a prosecution may throw the 2024 elections in extreme flux. Most congressional Republicans have publicly defended DDT, creating problems for non-DDT candidates and disturbing the possibility of moderate Republicans to run for congressional positions. This led to a GOP majority of only five House members after the 2022 elections instead of the customary practice of the president’s opposing party adding tens of additional members from midterms. DDT also faces a criminal investigation in Georgia which could present the biggest charges after he tried to overturn the state’s election in 2020.

Judicial Response to Biden’s Administrative Agenda: The power of businesses and the number of DDT/GOP judges may block control on tech mergers and acquisitions, surveillance and data security, and classification of workers as employees instead of independent contractors.

The U.S.-China Relationship: Republicans will focus on China more than Ukraine with their desire to opposed authoritarianism in other countries, especially China. Biden has already started export controls of advanced computing chips and semiconductors, and both parties want him to expand the export control list as well as screening China’s outbound investments, preventing China from access to U.S. user data from TikTok, and changing DDT’s tariffs on China. The less conservative goal is commercial ties with China in industries not posing concerns to national security.

After the GOP turned two governors over to the Democrats in 2022, three Southern states will elect governors in 2023: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Two are Democrats, and Mississippi’s Tate Reeves is a Republican. That party is a shoe-in for Mississippi’s governor. Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards is term-limited, and Republicans are lining up to take the position. Andy Beshear (Kentucky), who has high support, will likely run again.

Public knowledge of DDT’s tax returns may increase his liability, especially after he has shown himself to not be successful in business endeavors despite his claims to the contrary. The documents show his heavy losses except for his inherited assets and his fraudulent endeavors. He paid little in taxes, didn’t donate his salary in 2020 as he promised, and brought in $78 million of revenue from 16 foreign countries including $6.5 million from China. DDT paid more in foreign taxes than in the U.S. but told moderator Chris Wallace during the first 2020 presidential campaign that he paid millions of dollars during his first term. (The exchange is here.) With only one person beginning an audit of DDT’s taxes in 2019, violating the U.S. mandate that a president’s taxes be audited every year, his returns show the inequity of the U.S. tax code.   

And the direction of the Supreme Court may create chaos. But that’s a very long story. Meanwhile, there is room for optimism in 2023 unless the Republicans climb out of chaos, which is unlikely because they are so full of hate that they could destroy themselves.

October 27, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 245

Russian President Vladimir Putin has one last chance to win his invasion of Ukraine—a GOP congressional takeover on November 8. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested that the House would pull funding for the war if he becomes speaker. They would destroy Ukraine’s courageous struggle to keep its democracy at the same time that its troops are retaking land Russia started to occupy since its attack on February 24, 2022. Putin’s conscription attempts are bad to terrible, and men dragged onto the battle field are poorly equipped and badly trained. While Russian propaganda proposes Ukrainian genocide, the Russian attacks on Ukrainian power stations removing electricity from a million people has only increased Ukrainian resolve.

In the past, Republicans have exhibited friendship with Putin and Russia, and recent votes against aid for Ukraine has shows that continued Russian support by far-right congressional members. In a New Yorker interview with Isaac Chotiner, columnist Christopher Coldwell gave reasons for this GOP fondness for the brutal country trying to annihilate Ukrainians. The GOP sees Putin as an ally in their culture wars and the shared contempt for international institutions. They also admire Putin’s “macho nativist authoritarianism” and have been swayed by his trolling propaganda to influence U.S. elections in the past eight years.   

Fortunately, for Ukraine, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-CA) opposes McCarthy’s position. McConnell called on President Joe Biden to expedite military aid to Ukraine and promised GOP senators will work to ensure “timely delivery of needed weapons.” There was no mention of McCarthy, but the difference was obvious.

Another reason for the far-right extremist attachment to Putin is his similarity to Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) and their similar goals. Maureen Dowd wrote:

“They would rather destroy their countries than admit they have lost. They have each created a scrim of lies to justify lunatic personal ambition. And while it should be easy to see through these lies, both cult-of-personality leaders are able to con and bully enough people to remain puissant.”

The strongmen who went into Ukrainian apartments with rifles and forced the occupants to vote in favor of the sham referenda annexing eastern Ukraine oblasts bear an alarming resemblance in dress and manner to the men stalking the Arizona ballot drop boxes.

Conservatives permiting Russia to overcome Ukraine and move across Europe will have the same danger as conservatives’ supporting Germany in the leadup to World War II. With other members of “America First,” Charles Lindbergh, the hero of many people in the U.S. for making the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, urged people to join Germany to preserve “our inheritance of European blood.” In 1940, editors of the conservative Wall Street Journal wrote that “our job today is not to stop Hitler [who had] already determined the broad lines of our national life at least for another generation.”

Famous U.S. manufacturers supported Germany’s efforts in his prewar preparations. In 1938, Henry Ford opened an assembly plant in Berlin to build “troop transport-style” vehicles for the German military, and both Ford and his chief executive received the Nazi Grand Cross of the German Eagle for “distinguished service.” GM built the “Blitz” truck in Berlin, used for German army blitzkreig attacks on Poland, France and the Soviet Union.   GM and Ford converted their Axis plant to production of military aircraft and trucks, building almost 90 percent of the armored “mule” 3-ton half-trucks and over 70 percent of the Reich’s medium and heavy-duty trucks which served as “the backbone of the German Army transportation system.” Ford provided access to huge quantities of raw materials, especially rubber, and GM gave Hitler the synthetic fuel technology. All the dealings were “extremely profitable.”

Eighty years later, blatant anti-Semitic attacks by leaders such as Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, and rapper Kanye West have resulted in the highest levels of harassment, vandalism, and violence toward Jews since the 1970s. Russians are donating millions of dollars to U.S. politicians—including DDT—through straw donors. Putin capitalized on U.S. political divisions with the statement that the West is divided into “traditional, mainly Christian values” and another—“aggressive, cosmopolitan, neocolonial, acting as the weapon of the neoliberal elite.”

The UN objected to a Russian argument that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cannot report to the Security Council regarding allegations Moscow is using Iran-made drones in Ukraine, violating a 2015 resolution. Tehran denies it supplied the drones, but they have been filmed in attacks. Russia also accused the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany of trying to exert influence over Guterres to investigate this use of drones. In addition, Russia may be advising Iran on ways to suppressing open demonstrations after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not following Iran’s dress code.

Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s power stations and other key infrastructure, according to the White House. Russians may need the Iranians to train them how to use their drones. Zelensky said that Russia had ordered 2,400 drones from Iran.

A senior Russian foreign ministry official threatened the U.S. and its allies with targeting their commercial satellites in return for their involvement in the Russian war against Ukraine. He may have been referring to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, used by Ukrainian soldiers for communications, and synthetic aperture radar satellites tracking Russian troop and tank movements. The official made the same threat last month but may not have followed through because taking this action is difficult. In addition, Russians threaten to blow up a hydroelectric power plant in the Kherson region.

Russia also calls for the “de-Satanization” of Ukraine, a lie one step lower than their earlier goal of “de-Nazification” and reminiscent of the QAnon conspiracy theories in the U.S. Russian soldiers’ strategy to defeat Ukrainian civilians is to capture, torture, and then kill them in organized brutality throughout Russian occupied territory.

Ukraine is advancing on occupying Russian forces in Kherson despite heavy fighting. A Russian military blogger wrote, “I don’t exclude the surrender of Kherson [by the Russians].”

A recent discussion about nuclear-laced “dirty bombs” has been exacerbated by Russia’s letter to the UN with the evidence-free accusation that Ukraine plans to use them. While he spreads these lies, his military had an exercise of tests capable carrying nuclear warheads involving land, sea, and air. Videos of launches were published along with the defense minister’s claim that the tests were successful.

Earlier this week, Ukraine pushed back Wagner Group mercenaries operated by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Bakhmut, Donetsk, and seized a key highway in Luhansk. Prigozhin admitted slow progress amid “fierce enemy resistance.” Sergei Surovikin (aka General Armageddon), Russia’s new commander of the invasion in Ukraine known for his brutality, used the word “tense” in trying to retake southern and eastern Ukrainian regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin had claimed to annex through his coercive faux referenda. Russian troops are in danger of being pinned against the western bank of the 1,367-long Dnipro River bisecting Ukraine from north to south.

About trying to keep Kherson, Surovikin said, “The situation in this area is difficult.” He blames Ukraine for shelling infrastructure and residential buildings which Ukraine said was done by Russian military. Russians struggle to obtain supplies from the east because Ukrainians bombed the main bridge across the Dnipro and decided to ferry materials and equipment from the west bank of the Dnipro River to the eastern bank toward Russia. 

Syrian war crimes investigators may join crime victims in Ukraine to put Russian President Vladimir Putin into prison because he has used the same people, weapons, and tactics in both countries’ atrocities. In the command hierarchy, Putin is responsible for the crimes and its prosecution. Russia never agreed to be called up in the International Criminal Court, but Ukrainan courts or those in third countries could prosecute him. The U.S. could also declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism or support calls from Baltic states for an international tribunal to hold Putin and Russia accountable for the separate international crime of aggression used to prosecute Nazi criminals at Nuremburg. Putin’s international crimes have no statute of limitations.

A new shadow government in Belarus is planning to form a coalition with Ukraine to reduce Russia’s expansion after concerns that Russia will also invade Belarus. Taking Belarus allows Putin to move onto attacking Western Europe. Russia is sending about 9,000 troops and hundreds of armored vehicles for possible deployment.

In his latest escalation to the invasion, Putin has declared martial law in the four Ukrainian areas he annexed although he doesn’t occupy all the territory. He also ordered an “economic mobilization” in eight regions adjoining Ukraine, including Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. In Russia, he gave additional powers to leaders of its 80+ regions to protect critical facilities, maintain public order and increase production in support of the war effort.

U.S. F-16 warplanes intercepted two Russian bombers within the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. It is a perimeter where air traffic is monitored beyond the border of national airspace to provide additional reaction time in case of hostile actions. A Russian jet also crashed into an apartment in Yeysk, a port town about 25 miles from Ukraine, while it was on a training mission. The death toll is at least 14, including three children.  

October 17, 2022

Week’s News – October 9-16, 2022

Breaking news since yesterday’s post on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: 

  • Russia hit a key energy facility near Kyiv, seriously damaging it and seizing the property. 
  • President Vladimir Putin said that of his 29 targets for this weekend, seven weren’t damaged but would be taken out gradually.
  • Police and military officers are grabbing men off Moscow streets, even those disabled, as well as in apartment building lobbies, and throughout places of business including cafes and restaurants. Not fitting Putin’s announced criteria Putin, they will be forced into the Russian army.
  • Iran publicly denies contributing weapons to Russia but has secretly agreed to send more weapons shipments, including more “kamikaze” drones and surface-to-surface missiles, for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Iran has one of the largest and most diverse arsenals of short- and medium-range missiles in the Middle East although they tend to have reliability problems. Among other attacks today, Russia used these drones on Kyiv.
  • A religious argument may have been why two men from Tajikistan killed 11 other volunteers at a Russian military training. Tajikistan, home to the killers, is Islam; Russian is largely Christian.

After Florida areas were hard hit by Hurricane Ian, Gov. Ron DeSantis eased his own voting restrictions such as extending time for voter registration and early voting days, adding drop boxes for ballots, and allowing voters to submit mail-in ballots from addresses not in voting records—but only in Republican areas. He gave no help to regions with a majority of Democratic voters and claimed he’s using advice from supervisors of elections and written requests from the GOP counties.

Bexar County (TX) Sheriff Javier Salazar certified that the 49 migrants who Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard with Florida money provided by the federal government are victims of a crime. As such, they can get a special visa allowing them to stay in the U.S. otherwise not available to them.

According to a federal judge, DDT-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy harmed mail delivery with his changes in 2020 and placed orders to stop him from doing it again. A lawsuit charged DeJoy with higher rates of mail not being delivered on time impacting states’ abilities to stop the spread of COVID and a reliable alternative to in-person voting. DeJoy’s demands removed postal boxes, cut back on the number of mail sorting machines, and hindered the extra postal trips that would have cost overtime as DDT objected to mail-in ballots. These changes were made without consulting the overseeing regulator agency.

The ruling came out the day before backlash to Deloy’s hiking postcard and stamp prices as part of his proposed 10-year plan to change mail operations. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has not approved the price increases. People ask why the postal service is the only government agency that needs to make a profit, DeJoy’s voiced reason for slashing jobs, closing postal facilities, and raising prices.

Elon Musk thought he could escape problems by offering to go through with his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, but federal authorities are investigating his conduct in the takeover. Attorneys for Musk revealed a “privilege log” of withheld documents, and an October 6 court filing requests an order to share the materials. The FTC is monitoring whether Musk failed to comply with the antitrust reporting requirement related to investor’s intentions of a passive or active shareholder. A trial will be scheduled in November if the deal doesn’t meet the October 28 deadline.

Tesla’s stock prices have badly suffered from Musk’s erratic behavior since he decided to control Twitter. Its latest price drop brought the current value to $204.99 last Friday, almost exactly half the value almost a year ago on November 4–$409.97–$640 billion vanished. Columnist Wolf Richter reports that Tesla shares are “still ridiculously overvalued… Tesla is not a car company, it’s a religion.”

In Alex Jones’ latest civil trial, a Connecticut jury ordered him to pay almost $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to 15 plaintiffs, relatives of eight victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting victims. A request had been only $550 million. The judge already ruled that Jones was guilty of defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. Jurors will determine how much money he owed each of the plaintiffs.

After the verdict, Jones cheered and begged for donations on his program. He told his audience, “They want to scare us away from questioning Uvalde or Parkland. We’re not going away. We’re not going to stop.”

Major U.S. health insurance companies have made up to $25 billion in profits by fraudulently billing the federal government for nonexistent healthcare changes through the 64 million people using a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, almost half the people eligible for Medicare. Companies—including UnitedHealth, Humana, CVS Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Cigna—falsely report patient ailments, and most of them have been accused of fraud in court. Of the top ten companies, only Centene has not been accused of any fraud. Three companies were accused of paying doctors or nurses more for recording additional diagnoses.

Journalist Natalie Shure explained the scam:

“Privatized Medicare plans cherry-pick healthier enrollees, fudge medical records to make them look as sick as possible, coax doctors into tacking on extra sham diagnoses to bill for, and pay themselves a profit on top of it.”

Shure added that the companies also refuse to provide additional treatment for these allegedly sick patients subscribing to MA. Almost 80 percent of U.S. House members, many of them taking donations from insurance companies, signed onto a letter “to protect the [MA] program from policies that would undermine” its stability. Critics have stated that the MA program is designed to completely privatize Medicare, allowing private insurance companies to extend the fraud for additional billions of dollars. The MA program costs more money per patient than those enrolled in Medicare.

GOP governors tried to look virtuous for their conservative constituents by not pardoning people for simple possession of cannabis, but they made big bucks after the private prison industry ponied up big campaign donations. Major recipients are Greg Abbott (TX), Bill Lee (TN), and Asa Hutchinson (AR). Private prison corporations even report that their profits need harsh drug laws. Florida Republicans also get a large share of private prison industry donations. Thus far, however, Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) praised Biden for his pardoning people federal convicted of simple Cannabis possession.

Conservatives are so delighted about the revelation that the president of moderate Brookings Institution secretly lobbied for Qatar’s government that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants to join Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in proposing a bill requiring think tanks to disclose donors paying for lobbying. The measure likely won’t pass become right-wing think tanks would block it because they would suffer more than others. Center-left groups such as Brookings already share much of its donation sources, but the Heritage Foundation, for example, claims under two percent of its income is from corporations. The Cato Institute is far more libertarian than Heritage, and the Claremont Institute has a strong MAGA bent.

The proposed law would not have affected John Allen at Brookings because his lobbying for Qatar was finished before he took over Brookings and would be covered by the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Grassley said, “Congress, the executive branch, and the American people deserve to know who’s influencing research and public policy in our country.” He may have to change his mind if conservatives attack the bill. At the age of 89, Grassley is only three points ahead of his opponent, the tightest election he has faced since he started running for office in 1958, 64 years ago.

About 200 same-gender Chinese couples have been married in Utah, thanks to a legal loophole from a combination of two state laws. The state doesn’t have residency or citizenship requirements for marriage licenses, and Utah County permits international marriages online. China does not recognize the marriages, but the couples have an essence of a legal union.

Ben Sasse wants to move from the Senate to heading up the University of Florida because he doesn’t like conflict. Students and faculty, however, are already protesting his arrival because of his LGBTQ discrimination and urging the school’s board of trustees to reject him. He tried to claim that marriage equality is the “law of the land,” reminiscent of the lies that Supreme Court justices used to get confirmed. Sasse’s employment will be formally considered on November 1.  

How crazy are DDT’s supporters? Denis Molla burned down his own camper two years ago so that he could blame the antifa. Now the 30-year-old Minnesota man is sorry because he faces up to four years in prison. He pled guilty to wire fraud after trying to cheat an insurance agency and GoFundMe donors of over $300,000. His lawyer said Molla is “a wonderful husband and father.” (Right: Image of Molla’s handiwork; check for Molla’s anti-left graffiti on his garage door.)  

After Kingsview Asset Management CIO Scott Martin claimed on the Fox Business Neil Cavuto show that he spent $28 for a Taco Bell lunch, his host was stunned—and so were the humorous Twitter responses. Kingsview might want to reconsider keeping Martin as the “chief information officer.”

October 8, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine – Day 228

The speaker of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, called an explosion on the 12-mile Kerch Bridge linking Russia and Crimea an “act of war,” and the nation’s investigative committee is looking into it as a criminal case. The first assumption was that a truck blew up the bridge, but others believe it required more explosives under the bridge. Seven fuel tanks ignited a train heading toward the Crimean Peninsula, and two bridge lanes collapsed. Three people thus far died. Ukrainians did not take credit although they celebrated, and Russia is still not declaring Ukrainian sabotage. Because the truck was coming from the Russian side, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak suggested that Moscow was involved.

The disaster will cause more problems with Russia’s supply chain to the war front in Ukraine. Supplies for troops in southern Ukraine are now being sent on the 25-mile route along the Sea of Azov and on ferries across the sea. Russia built the road and rail bridge in 2018 at a cost of £2.7 billion after the Kremlin violated international law in 2014 by annexing Crimea from Ukraine. The explosion occurred hours after other explosions in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv from missile strikes in the city’s center. Blasts started fires at a medical institution and a non-residential building.

The Ukrainian Postal Service will issue new stamps featuring the damaged Kerch Strait bridge and an envelope with the image of Crimea breaking handcuffs with Russia.  

Hours after the explosions, light traffic resumed on the bridge, and the railway where oil tankers caught fire also reopened. Other events in the invasion:

After Russian missile shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest plant in Europe has lost all external power and relies on emergency diesel generators for necessary electricity for reactor cooling. The European Union “condemns in the strongest possible terms” Russia’s attempted seizure of the power plant after Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree putting it under Russian state control.

Putin announced that Air Force General Sergei Surovikin would oversee the entire invasion of Ukraine, the first time that one person is completely in control, after Putin fired commanders of two in five Russian military regions. The UK Ministry of Defense said, “Surovikin’s career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality.” He was added to the EU sanctions list in February 2022.

Russian media accused Ukrainian forces of shelling a printing house in the separatist-held city of Donetsk.

Ukrainians have reclaimed large swathes of territory, forcing Russian troops to abandon long-held positions.

Russian TV talk shows, presenters, and studio guests discuss increasing doom and gloom about the Russian invasion.

In September, exports from Ukraine jumped by 23 percent from August to their highest level since the war started in February, helped by an internationally brokered deal allowing shipment of grain from Black Sea ports.

Ukrainian police found bodies of 534 civilians and evidence of torture in recaptured territory, mostly in mass burial sites.

Two released U.S. prisoners from the Ukrainian invasion detail the brutal treatment by Russians during the 104 days they were in captivity.

Members of Putin’s inner circle at the Kremlin are using Russia’s losses in Ukraine to undermine defense chief Sergei Shoigu. Officials are giving Putin ways to change his failures or staying low to hold on power and avoid punishment. Chechens Yevgeny Prigozhin, previously the Kremlin caterer known as “Putin’s chef,” and leader Ramzan Kadyrov are heading the charge against Shoigu. Putin has a pattern of pitting underlings against each other to stop them from uniting against him.

Other critics of the Russian military, openly criticizing the draft, are state TV propagandists Margarita Simonyan and Vladimir Soloviev, who accuse Russia of recruiting Russians unfit for service. Investigative journalist Yevgenia Albats, who left Russia for her reporting, said her contacts estimate at least 70 percent of tope officials are opposed to the war. She added that “the higher you go, the more desperation you feel. There is general understanding now that the war can’t be won.”

Much has been said about Russians fleeing across borders of countries west of the country to avoid conscription, but two men took a boat across the Bering Sea to Alaska and are now seeking asylum. They were sent to Anchorage for vetting and processing under U.S. immigration laws. In other reverberations of Putin’s promise to recruit an additional 300,000 soldiers for his war, those fleeing Russia could number 261,000 between the ages of 16 and 40, according to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The number could be higher; the Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan, which shares a border with Russia, reported 200,000 in that country alone.

New recruits, according to social media postings, are being left in desolate fields without supplies, given rusty old rifles, or ordered to buy their own food and equipment. They also say they are sick with fevers. Told they would be sent to Ukraine the next day, new conscripts, who have no uniforms, said they would not go without training. Most men were issued a summer uniform as temperatures move toward freezing, a bag, a mug, a spoon, and a small thermos. One of them said:

“That’s all. No dry rations, bulletproof vests, helmets, or flasks. The uniforms were mostly the wrong size. So were the boots. The guns jam after every reload. These are weapons from the ’70s and ’80s.”

One new unwilling conscript is municipal deputy Dmitry Baltrukov, 43, who complained that the war in Ukraine has killed thousands of Russian soldiers and damaged the country’s economy. He has no military experience, required for conscripts. After his protest to the war, he and his fellow councilors of Smolninskoye were fined 44,000 rubles (£675).

Two organizations and an individual, “symbols of resistance and accountability” during the Russian war on Ukraine, have received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize:

Ales Bialiatski, an imprisoned Belarusian human rights advocate, helped initiate the Belarus democracy movement in the mid-1980s and founded Viasna, originally supporting jailed demonstrators and now adopting a broad human rights focus. His involvement in demonstrations led to his imprisonment since 2020.

Memorial, a Russian human rights organization, was created in the former Soviet Union to remember victims of communist oppression before becoming the country’s largest human rights organization.

Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), a Ukrainian human rights organization, was formed in 2007 to advance Ukrainian human rights and democracy and now works to document Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians.

Ukraine’s counteroffensives have broken through Russian lines on two fronts in more areas that Putin claims belong to Russia after his sham referenda. Earlier this week, Ukrainian forces took back at least 10 villages in the Kherson region. A cargo train in Ilovaisk in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region was also hit by a “powerful explosion.” The offensive caught Russia by surprise.

With Ukrainian gains, Russia no longer fully controls any of the four provinces it claims to annex. Russia occupies only about 30 percent of the Zaporizhzhia region and released the head of the nuclear plan after abducting him. Ukraine was close to liberating all the Kharkiv region. Once again, Russian forces are reportedly fleeing.

Ukraine is trying to bring back 32 illegally adopted children from Russia forcibly removed from their parents who “want them back.” Russia has deported at least 7,343 children to its country; another 236 are still missing since the invasion beginning on February 24, 2022. Ukrainian social services found 5,391 children and returned 55 home. According to Zelensky, Russia forcibly deported over 1.6 million Ukrainians, “many of them … abused and intimidated.”

 Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) accused the U.S. of “almost forcing” Putin to invade Ukraine, following other accusations about how President Joe Biden has handled diplomatic relations with Russia. On Real America’s Voice, DDT said that The Biden administration’s “rhetoric” before the invasion led to Putin’s actions. With no evidence, he said, “They actually taunted him” and called it “dumb.” DDT bragged about his working relationship with both Putin and Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky—who he tried to blackmail in a telephone call that led to his first impeachment. Immediately before the invasion, DDT said that Putin was a “genius” for moving troops into Ukraine to “declare a big portion of Ukraine independent.” In March, DDT pushed Putin to release information about Hunter Biden’s alleged business dealings in Russia.

At his Minden (NV) rally, DDT claimed the world will be destroyed if Ukraine doesn’t agree to a deal with Russia. One of the first two women in line at the rally said, “I love Putin” and supports both Putin’s war and Viktor Orbán. Does MAGA want Russia to annex the U.S.?   

September 30, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine – Day 218

Although he didn’t cite anyone, Russian president Vladimir Putin finally admitted that mistakes were made in his mobilization of 300,000 new recruits to kill more people in his invasion of Ukraine—such as summons to “fathers of many children, or people suffering from chronic diseases, or who those who are already past conscription age.” Nevertheless, people still protest or flee the country, and even his own official supporters, including his state TV hosts, criticize him. By now, over 200,000 Russians have fled the country with about 98,000 of them going into Kazakhstan. Carlines at the Georgia border were over ten miles long, about a two-day wait, despite Putin’s warning to men not to leave the country. Russia plans a station there to serve summons to “citizens of the mobilization age” and is sending forces and armored vehicles to Georgia and other borders such as Kazakhstan and Mongolia to block Russian men from these escapes.  

Putin has also victoriously announced his sham referendum election of about 98 percent win to annex four areas after he either killed or drove off hundreds of thousands of people who might have opposed the annexation. Between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians may have been forcibly deported to Russia, many of them children. Putin also benefited from sending in armed men with ski masks into homes or placing them at polling stations to mark ballots for people. Russian Parliament will also vote for formal annexation. One consequence could be conscription of Ukrainians within these areas into the Russian army, already in existence in Luhansk and Donetsk which have been controlled by Russia and its proxies since 2014.

Russian newspapers also spread propaganda in referenda areas, trying to create a feeling of normalcy and unity amid the demolished homes and infrastructure, looted stores, and struggling civilians lacking provisions. Cellphone and internet service from the West had been mostly cut. The newspapers were found when Ukrainians took back Izyum. Ukrainians also found ten letters from Russian soldiers in Izyum begging to be dismissed. Dated August 30, they drew a picture of depressed troops desperate for rest and concerned about health and morale because they don’t receive medical care. The ten authors may have banded together to draft the letters which were abandoned as troops fled the city.

Patriotic pageantry was front and center at the gilded Grand Kremlin Palace in Putin’s announcement of the annexation in violation of international law, claiming 40,000 square miles of land, or about 15 percent of all Ukrainian territory. Putin launched the ceremony with long, angry threats about nuclear attacks and promises to “protect” the newly annexed lands “with all the forces and means at our disposal.” Even Italy’s newly-elected far-right prime minister Giogia Meloni said the annexation has no “legal and political value” and that Putin’s move again demonstrated his ” Soviet-style, neo-imperialist vision that threatens the security of the entire European continent.” She called for Western unity.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky responded by a post on Telegram announcing Ukraine is formally applying for “accelerated accession” into NATO. The annexation effectively eliminates a diplomatic resolution to Putin’s war in Ukraine, and Putin will be challenged with his claim to territory that he doesn’t control. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he didn’t know the boundaries of Russia’s new “territory.” He added, “It has to be liberated.” President Joe Biden announced a new round of sanctions against government, military officials, and their families. Some of them restrict Russian access to key technologies and other materials to fuel its war effort.

On the same day, Russia faced new setbacks near Lyman as Ukrainian forces “semi-encirled” the eastern city, a critical logistic route. The thousands of Russians trapped in Lyman are part of the 752nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment with a tradition of being cut off, surrounded, and almost destroyed since 1994. Ukrainians’ strategy has been to destroy Russian supply dumps and command centers, starving battalions and disrupting their leadership. East of Kharkiv, Russians abandoned their tanks and fighting vehicles to flee into separatist Luhansk Oblast. Ukrainians split to circle the Russian troops with no way out by the end of the week.

Russia is attempting a partnership with Saudi Arabia after its Kingdom Hold Company invested over $600 million in Russia’s three largest energy companies last spring after sanctions from the West. In the summer, Saudis doubled the amount of fuel oil buying from Russia to free up its own crude for export at elevated prices before they guided OPEC members to reduce output targets in last month to raise global oil prices and give both Russia and Saudi Arabia more profits. Saudis have turned from the U.S. since its fracking production threatens the power of OPEC and Russia.

High-profile Russians keep dying, many in mysterious or bizarre ways. Ten days ago, the former head of a Russian aviation research institute died by falling down stairs. It was announced as “an accident,” but an unnamed source told the newspaper that he fell “from a great height” down several flights of stairs.

The deaths started in January, a month before Putin invaded Ukraine, with first of four men tied to Gazprom, the energy giant owned by Gazprom, the others dying in February, April, and July. Early deaths appeared to be suicides.

  • A Russian billionaire also died in February, again regarded as suicide in addition to a 43-year-old CEO of an energy development company who died of a stroke.
  • March’s death was of a businessman, owner of the medical supply company Medstorm.
  • The second death in April was of a former executive at Novatek.
  • The dead businessman in August was an outspoken Putin critic, supposedly falling in his apartment.
  • Four other high-placed Russians died in September, the first one an energy executive who “fell out of a window” on September 1 after his company, Lukoil, criticized the war six months earlier. Another Lukoil executive had an apparent heart attack on the grounds of a Moscow shaman in May. The aviation director for the same company as February’s death washed up over 100 miles from where he “suddenly fell” from his speeding yacht.  
  • The last September death was of the editor-in-chief of the Russian state newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, who supposedly had a stroke and suffocated on his way to lunch.

Timelines and further details about the 16 deaths.  

Sweden and Denmark are investigating leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe. The simultaneous “unprecedented” damage in three lines 70 yards under the surface of the Baltic Sea sparked the possibility of sabotage. One pipe is a major source of gas for Europe with Russia stopping the flow; the other one was blocked by sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine. Blasts were detected a few miles from the pipelines before the disruption. The attacks on the pipeline are seen by Western countries as precursors to other physical and cyber sabotage of their infrastructures. 

Fox network’s Tucker Carlson is leading the charge that Biden ordered the pipeline to be blown up and has joined the MAGA people’s new mantra, “Blame America First.” He said Putin would have to be a “suicidal moron” to blow up the pipeline. Biden has not directly blamed Russia for the leaks but accused Putin of “pumping out disinformation and lies” and asserted that the leaks are a result of sabotage. At the same time, Putin is blaming “Anglo-Saxons” for the explosions, which Biden does not believe. Russia’s state company Gazprom is the majority shareholder in #1 and the sole owner of #2.

Russia’s denial of the explosions and blame for the U.S. match its false claim that it didn’t shoot down a Malaysian airline over Ukraine with a missile battery in 2014. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) DDT is also offering to “head up [a] group” to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid further escalation for his war.

Denmark, Norway, and Poland have celebrated the opening of the Baltic Pipe which will transport natural gas from the Norwegian shelf through Denmark and the Baltic Sea to Poland. The goal is to create more independence from Russian energy. Poland has been cut off from Russian gas supplies since April for not paying in rubles. The pipe should benefit other Baltic states as well as the Danish market.

As Putin puts all his energy into destroying Ukraine to remove its sovereignty, Biden is moving into his turf of mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict with national security adviser hosting “direct and constructive talks” between his counterparts of the two countries. The “road map” to further peace negotiations leads to a meeting in a few days between the countries’ foreign ministers. Both countries had been part of the Soviet Union which dissolved in 1991.

September 23, 2022

Vladimir Putin Smells of Desperation

Three days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin broadcast a seven-minute speech for the 1160th anniversary of the country’s statehood announcing a mobilization of 300,000 recruits and the use of nuclear weapons “to defend the country.” The speech was scheduled for 8:00 pm the night before, and he made his audience wait. His decree stopped short of a national draft and calling he invasion a war. To place the blame on the military, he said:

“I find it necessary to support the proposal of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff on partial mobilization.”

Putin’s statements were in response to Ukraine’s surprise counteroffensive that recaptured 3,500 square miles near the eastern city of Kharkiv.

At this week’s UN meeting, President Joe Biden denounced Putin’s “brutal, needless war” and urged world leaders to hold Russia accountable for trying to extinguish “Ukraine’s right to exist as a state.” Other countries equally criticized Russia’s war and his threats of mobilization and a nuclear strike. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters that Putin’s behavior were “acts of desperation.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated the false claim that Kyiv oppressed Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and called Zelensky a “bastard” before he walked out of the UN Security Council meeting.

A hidden part of the mobilization decree stated that the Ministry of Defense can call up one million people, but Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s press secretary, said that was a lie. Yet officials starting mobilizing men before the order and with no directives. Before Putin’s speech, officials pulled students out of classes, went to homes at midnight, and took men into their 50s and others who have never served in the military. A disproportionate percentage of forced conscripts are ethnic minorities, already a disparate percentage of the fighting force and casualties in Ukraine.

Putin’s actions demonstrate a desperate man. Russia is conscripting anti-war protesters as soon as they are arrested, punishing those who refuse by a 15-year prison sentence. Putin offers freedom to convicts if they fight on the front lines. Employees of Surgutneftegas, a Russian oil and gas company in Western Siberia, received lists of people required to show up for a two-week “training session,” and men in several cities have received notices to attend the “training.” Conscripting ignores the guidelines—age, prior experience, number of children, etc. Except in Moscow, reserve servicemen without mobilization orders or a summons cannot leave their district or city.

Russian media announced a run on airline ticket sales after the speech as people left the country. One carrier charged up to $16,000 for a ticket to Dubai, and Russian news announced all planes to visa-free countries were sold out. Those who couldn’t get tickets created miles-long traffic jams at checkpoints to borders with Finland, Mongolia, and Georgia. Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan has seen a large number of arrivals from Russia. Finland plans to eliminate entry from Russia, and the Czech Republic will not issue humanitarian visas to Russian citizens fleeing mobilization. Chatrooms provide updates about availability of border crossings.

A Moscow millionaire temporarily back into the country from Italy said he was afraid he would be stranded in Russia although he isn’t in the military reserve. Spiking internet searches include “how to leave Russia” and “how to break an arm at home.”

Russian Parliament passed a law this week defining “voluntary surrender” as a crime with a sentence of up to ten years. New penalties have been set for mutiny, “using violence against a superior,” and stealing while in uniform. Conscripts have no release time, and all legislation signal poor morale. The call-up for conscripts cannot create Russian air superiority with the country’s loss of 55 combat aircraft—at least four in the past two weeks—and ground forces cannot counter Ukraine’s superior Western-supplied missile artillery which Russia cannot destroy because they cannot find the locations. Intercepted phone calls of Russian contract soldiers show their intent to leave the army at the end of their enlistment. Forcing them to stay until they’re killed or wounded may cause them to refuse to fight, even with penalties. Newly mobilized soldiers may have no basic training.

Russia lacks training or supplies for the hundreds of thousands Putin plans to mobilize. His army looks weak, sanctions created problems for both him and his trading partners who are becoming less tolerant, and Central Asian leaders snubbed him at a summit in Uzbekistan last week. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rebuked him for the invasion, and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed “concerns and questions.” The Russian abuse of Ukrainian civilians even caused North Korea to back off, issuing a statement that they didn’t provide any weapons to Russian and have no intention to do so in the future.   

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged Putin to end the war and return all invaded lands, including Crimea, to Ukraine. Alla Pugacheva, a Soviet-era pop star with millions of mainstream followers, proclaimed her patriotism and her opposition to the war. Pro-war nationalist bloggers on social media continue to criticize the war. Protectors high in the security services or heavily armed mercenaries may keep Putin from blocking or arresting the critics.

Across 42 cities, almost 1,400 people were detained just on September 21, some as far away as Novosibirsk in remote Siberia.  The anti-mobilization petition, launched by anti-war activists, has already been signed by over 340,000 people. Protesters have set military registration and enlistment offices on fire and blocked a federal highway.

Putin hopes that four referenda in the Russian-separatist east—Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia—will help his support and nuclear threats create fear. Yet these areas don’t have full Russian military occupation. Zaporizhzhia still has a Ukrainian political administration, and Kherson is returning into Ukrainian control. In Donetsk, the city of Lyman is almost encircled by Ukrainian forces. Officials, however, ban people from leaving some occupied areas until the vote was completed

Lasting four days, they start today. Armed groups go to homes, demanding people tell them how they will vote before marking their ballots and taking them. The election has no independent observers. Yuriy Sobolevsky, the displaced first deputy council chairman of Kherson region, told people in the area to not open their doors. The sham referenda are illegal under international law, but Putin will announce his win in all four districts within a week. Turkey, India and China all indicated disapproval of the referenda.

A strategy of Russia is denial. On August 9, Ukraine’s military hit the Saki air base in Crimea. The next day, deputy chair of the Russian security council Dmitry Medvedev removed his threat on Telegram that any attack in Crimea would precipitate a “judgment day” response “very fast and hard.” The Russian Ministry of Defense denied that an attack occurred at the air base, calling it an “accident,” and didn’t acknowledge the total rout of Russian forces in Kharkiv when Ukrainians reclaimed up to 3,500 square miles of land in the past three weeks as frightened Russian soldiers ran away. [Great interactive maps here!] The Kremlin called it a “regrouping.”

Ukraine has begun artillery strikes against military targets in Russia and Russian officials in cities and towns along the Ukrainian border. Russia is quickly closing schools and evacuating. One hit was at the Russian 3rd Motorized Rifle Division base near Valuyki, nine miles north of the Russian border, one of the dozens of small Russian settlements used as military staging grounds. Russians are unnerved by nighttime explosions, destroyed homes, and some casualties. Ukraine promised not to use U.S.-provided weapons.

Russia and Ukraine had its largest prisoner swap since Russia’s invasion. In exchange for 215 Ukrainian fighters, Russia received 55 Russian prisoners and Viktor Medvedchuk, the father of Putin’s goddaughter. Medvedchuk had been arrested in Ukraine for high treason. Of the 215 returned to Ukraine were 108 members of the Azov Battalion defending Mariupol and its Azovstal steelworks for 80 days, including five military commanders who will stay in Turkey until the war ends. Many of the released prisoners showed signs of brutal torture.

Ten international prisoners received by Ukraine included five British citizens, two U.S. foreign fighters, and people from Croatia, Sweden, and Morocco. Believed to be the first U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine, the two rescued men had been living in Alabama before they volunteered to fight. They disappeared in June near Kharkiv, months before the successful Ukrainian counteroffensive freed the northeastern city from Russian occupation.

Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan tweeted that returning the Ukrainians shows Putin’s “denazifying Ukraine was just a bluff” and his mobilization will inspire “a huge apolitical part of the population” to angrily oppose the war. Giczan said that 9/21/22 may be marked as a key day “in the fall of Putin’s Russia.” He also stated that Putin’s release of the Azov command for his personal friend is “an even bigger blow to Russian nationalists than the Kharkiv retreat because it undermines Putin’s rationale for the invasion.

Putin may not have lost, but right now every day gets worse for him.

September 12, 2022

Ukraine’s Progress, DDT Stalls

The 9/11 post about Ukrainian’s counteroffensive to the Russian invasion showed hope that continues. Disguised as locals, abandoned Russian troops fled Zaliznychne, 37 miles east of Kharkiv, on stolen bicycles and cars or any other way they could, leaving their weapons behind. Soldiers pled for rescue with unit commanders, but they were told “you’ve on your own.”

Investigators came from Kharkiv to collect civilian bodies shot by Russians, some lying exposed for months. One investigator repeated vomited over a guardrail as officers picked up the remains of bodies rotting on the floor of a gravel elevator at an asphalt plant which Russians used as a sniper tower.

The day after Russia reported leaving the Balakliya and Izyum area, its Defense Ministry briefing showed forces retreating behind the Oskil River on the eastern edge of the Kaharkiv region. By Sunday, Ukraine reported taking back over 1,100 square miles of territory while advancing to the east, south, and north, penetrating Russian lines up to 42 miles in some places. The report added that Ukrainians “captured more territory in the past five days than Russian forces have captured in all their operations since April.” Later Zelensky added that Ukraine had taken back 3,600 square miles and over 40 settlements since the beginning of September.

Russia still holds about one-fifth of Ukraine and continues heavy shelling in several regions, but Ukrainian soldiers hope this weekend is a turning point. Ukraine’s Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the nation could not negotiate a peace deal permitting Russian an occupying presence anywhere in Ukraine, even in those such as Crimea and the eastern regions controlled by Russia or Russian-backed separatists for eight years. At the Yalta European Strategy summit in Kyiv on Saturday, Reznikov said, “The point of no return has passed.” Later he told Russia that Ukraine was “not refusing the talks” when Russia planned another round of sham referendums to annex occupied territories, but added that the longer the delay, “the more difficult it will be to negotiate.”

Chechen republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who sent his own fighters to Ukraine, said he would have to contact Moscow leadership for an explanation without immediate changes in Russia’s actions in the invasion. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t give details about his plans but said they “won’t be standing still.”

Refusing to acknowledge a rout, Russia claimed they were regrouping its troops for deployment. Even Russian social media users scoffed at this weak excuse, calling the pull-out “shameful.” Hawkish Russian war bloggers have turned against Putin, calling the war a “catastrophe.” On state television, a former Duma member blamed unnamed “people who convinced President Putin that the special operation would be effective and swift, that we won’t be hitting the civilian population . . . that the Ukrainians will surrender and run away and ask to join Russia.” He clearly favored peace negotiations to end the “war” instead of using Putin’s term “special operation.” On Saturday, Putin had time to open a new Ferris wheel in Moscow, the largest in Europe. People were stuck as high as 460 feet over the ground, and the wheel closed for “calibration.”  

According to Ukrainian officials, the Russian military has stopped sending new units into Ukraine:

“The current situation in the theatre of operations and distrust of the higher command forced a large number of volunteers to categorically refuse the prospect of service in combat conditions.”

Ukrainians have no place for all their Russian prisoners of war they have captured.

 Energoatom, operator of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, is shutting down the last working reactor at the Russian-controlled plant which had powered the crucial cooling system. It will be cooled and transferred to a safer state after Russians continued its shelling of the area. Shelling can still disconnect the grid, forcing the plant to use emergency diesel generators to avoid a nuclear meltdown, but only ten days of diesel fuel remains. 

Sunday, Russian missile strikes against power stations and other infrastructure left tens of thousands of people with no electricity and running water for several hours. The Kharkiv called the power outage “revenge by the Russian aggressor for the successes of our army at the front, in particular, in the Kharkiv region.” The outages were not related to the reactor shutdowns at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/12/trump-classified-special-master/    A new filing by Deposed Donald Trump’s (DDT) legal team argues that the documents marked classified aren’t really classified. Like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the attorneys claimed the situation was a “document storage dispute.” The filing is in response to the DOJ’s request that the over 100 classified documents, including military and nuclear secrets of a foreign government, be exempted from the examination. Yet DDT’s lawyers wouldn’t lie under oath to declare that DDT had declassified the documents. They just claim that prosecutors are overstating any national-security concerns and said the government was not being fair.  

While DDT’s Judge Aileen Cannon tries to protect him, the DOJ issued about 40 subpoenas to obtain more information on DDT and his associates regarding the 2020 election and January 6 insurrection. Several of the subjects are still close to DDT including former White House social media director Dan Scavino. Last week, the DOJ seized phones from top advisers Boris Epshteyn and Roman who helped submit fake electoral votes from swing states won by President Joe Biden in 2020. Some of the subpoenas are related to DDT’s fraudulent donation scheme from his Save America PAC falsely claiming the money would to go the non-existent court cases to put DDT back into the White House. At least one subpoena asked for information about members of the executive and legislative branches taking part in blocking the presidential election election. Several congressional members have already been identified

DDT’s filing based its entire legal argument on a reading of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) (1978) which states that the National Archives “shall” become the custodian of presidential records. DDT’s team claims that he doesn’t have to return the classified documents because the law does not state “must.” After the Supreme Court ruled in Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno (1995) that “shall” could mean “may,” much to the surprise of the entire legal world which had defined “shall” as “must,” Congress passed the Plain Writing Act in 2010, requiring the word “must” for mandatory. Originalists, however, must accept the word “shall” as “must” because the PRA was passed 17 years before the Supreme Court ruling.  

According to a new memoir by Geoffrey Berman, fired because he wouldn’t voluntarily resign as the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, former AG Bill Barr is a liar, a bully, and a thug. And stupid.

In Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department, to be published this week, Berman gave a firsthand account of how Barr tried to orchestrate the prosecution of DDT’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and the Halkbank investigation about Turkish bankers and government officials helping Iran circumvent the Iran nuclear deal. Berman had been Barr’s adversary during the presidency of George H.W. Bush when Barr protected Bush from legal problems by suggesting that the president pardon the conspirators of the Iran-Contra scandal along with more sleazy actions.

To protect DDT, Barr took “point person” for the Halkbank investigation that was run out of New York. At one meeting, Barr raised his voice when he asked Berman, “Who do you think you are to interfere?” Berman had refused to give people in the case a non-prosecution agreement without disclosing the move and said it would be a “fraud on the court.”

Barr used the same words over the appointment of Audrey Strauss as Berman’s deputy. Berman let himself be fired rather than resign so that she could take over Berman’s position instead of Barr appointing his own person. Another contentious issue between the two men was Berman’s refusal to sign a letter attacking former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, criticizing the mayor’s COVID restrictions to religious services.

Berman’s refusal led Barr ask him for a meeting where Barr said he wanted to “make a change in the southern district.” Berman turned him down and didn’t know if he could be removed by anyone other than judges who appointed him on an interim basis or by a Senate confirmation of a successor. Barr offered Berman more money by leading the DOJ civil division before he threatened to fire Berman before he asked Berman if he wanted to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, “not [Barr’s] to offer.”

Barr said he’d talk to Berman again but issued the press release saying Berman was “stepping down.” Berman followed up with his own press release, stating he hadn’t resigned, and showed up for work the next day. Barr released a letter stating that DDT had fired Berman.

Oddly enough, Barr has made many anti-DDT comments both on television and in interviews with the House January 6 investigative committee—that the 2020 election was legal, DDT has no right to the classified documents, the DOJ has enough information to indict DDT, etc. Yet Barr’s reputation  will follow him.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), running for another six-year term, accused Democrats of having “infilitrated” life in the U.S. by going to church, attending college, and having jobs. He said “this entire election is … fighting for freedom.” (I know: it doesn’t make sense!) 

September 11, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 200, DDT’s ‘Special Master’

Russian lawmakers in both St. Petersburg and Moscow called for President Vladimir Putin to be removed from power, dangerous because dissent results in prison or—even worse—being killed. They not only called for Putin’s removal but also a charge of high treason for the invasion. Deputy Dmitry Palyuga of the Smolninsky District Council in St. Petersburg called Putin’s decision “detrimental to the security of Russia and its citizens.” Smolninsky councilors had urged Putin to stop the war in March. Moscow lawmakers accused Putin of sending “our country back into the Cold War era.” Police told the lawmakers they face legal charges “due to actions aimed at discrediting the current Russian government.” 

Ukrainian successes caused Russia to pull out of two formerly occupied areas in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region. The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops will be regrouped to the Donetsky region in eastern Ukraine and repeated its goal “to liberate Donbas” which it keeps violating by destroying all of Ukraine, trying to take over the entire country.

The Institute for the Study of War estimates Ukraine has taken back 965 square miles in its eastern counteroffensive. More Russian positions can be collapsed around Izyum by severing Russian ground lines of communication north and south of town. According to Ukraine, Russians have no food or fuel for troops in the area. The military claimed only 386 square mils this week. Kzyum is an important command and supply hub.   

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian counteroffense forced invading Russian troops to evacuate from a city they occupied, Kupiansk. As part of the counteroffensive, Ukraine took over the northeastern railway hub in the city, trapping thousands of Russian troops.According to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine retook the eastern town of Balakliia near Kharkiv. Video showed Russians had abandoned trucks, artillery, and ammunition. A pro-Russian official told Russian state television that the city remains in Russian control.

Russian forces will be stretched between that area and the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southeastern Kherson region. A major Russia objective is to keep Crimea. Yet Ukrainian troops have also had some success in cutting off and isolating Russian troops west of the Dnipro River while attacking Russian supply lines. 

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War theorize that Russians are struggling after redeployment in the face of Ukraine’s “tactical surprise.” Russian military bloggers suggest the surprise “is likely successfully demoralizing Russian forces.” Britain added the eastern advance on Bakhmut in Donbas to possibility Ukrainian successes.  

On the scary side, Russia won’t stop shelling the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warns the risk of a nuclear accident has “significantly increased” because of the ongoing fighting. It might force the shutdown of the last of six reactors, setting a chain of events to intensify the nuclear crisis. The plant not only provides electricity for consumers but also feeds the plant’s grid to protect the safety and cooling systems. Water must be constantly pumped through the cores with pumps requiring electricity for a long time during a cool-down. Depleted fuel and/or damaged generators can cause a meltdown.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he thought power lines were deliberately targeted to cause these problems. Another problem is the strain on the plant’s almost 1,000 operators living in a nearby town where water, sewage, and electrical supplies are disrupted by the same fighting that damages the lines around the plant. The Moscow Times reported that Russians killed two power plant staff members by beating them and abused dozens of others in a regime of personnel harassment.

The mayor of Energodar, location of the power plant, reported that electricity and water were restored to his city after the IAEA team inspected Zaporizhzhia.

The U.S. has sanctioned Iranian firms for their drone transfers to Russia, both in manufacturing and transportation. Russian strategies:

  • Drones attacking Ukrainian forces from so high in the sky that targets cannot hear the vehicles buzz.
  • Tanks leaving newly built cement shelters to fire on Ukrainian targets before going back under its cover for protection from mortars and rockets.
  • Counter-battery radars permitting Russian forces to target Ukrainian artillery.
  • Hackers taking over Ukrainian drones.

Turkey plans to build a drone factory in Ukraine. The Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 drone, popular in Ukraine, has helped destroy many Russian artillery systems and armored vehicles. Russia has complained to Turkey about its sale of drones to Ukraine.

While Ukraine fights for democracy, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) fights against it. In Florida, his appointed judge Aileen Cannon is mulling over the DOJ appeal to DDT’s request that a “special master” examine all seized documents from Mar-a-Lago because, as the judge ruled, DDT is above the law. The appeal asks that the intelligence community—including the FBI and DOJ—examine all classified materials and continue with an investigation while the special master examine the other documents for non-existent executive and attorney-client privileges.

If the DOJ had not appealed, the judge might have given DDT highly sensitive classified documents because the court treated DDT’s request as the return of property, documents with such danger if exposure that the government had to make a full-scale intelligence community damage assessment. DDT not only mishandled the documents that the FBI found but also may have passed some of them to other people, even foreign governments. The appeal was also vital because the FBI is not separate from the intelligence community and must help with the review, as the FBI pointed out in the appeal because the DDT-appointed judge didn’t understand the government hierarchy. She said only the Office of National Intelligence, of which the DOJ and FBI are part, could evaluate the classified documents.

According to Alan E. Kohler, assistant director of the FBI Counter Intelligence Division, FBI work is vital to find what happened to items such as those missing from dozens of empty folders with classified markings that the FBI located during the search at Mar-a-Lago. Kohler explained that the use of grand jury subpoenas, search warrants, and other criminal investigative tools” could be necessary and “could lead to evidence that would also be highly relevant to advancing the FBI’s criminal investigation.” Judge Aileen Cannon blocked these steps by the FBI. Kohler noted:

“The FBI is the only IC [(Intelligence Community)] element with a full suite of authorities and tools to investigate and recover any improperly retained and stored classified information in the United States.”

The judge may be considering her way out of her mistakes: she ordered parties to consider the government motion for relief on the classified documents in their filing for the recommendations for special masters and the order of operations. Part of the DOJ request for a stay is permission to continue using the classified documents in its criminal investigation in addition to an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. That strategy of parallel legal actions can save time.

Friday, both DDT and the DOJ each submitted two names for the judge-mandated special master:

DOJ: two retired federal judges, former US district court judge Barbara Jones, who previously served as a special master; and Thomas Griffith, a former US appeals court judge for the DC Circuit and a lecturer at Harvard Law School. Jones examined materials seized with warrants from Rudy Giuliani’s home and office and from Michael Cohen. Both men were DDT’s lawyers when DOJ investigated them. 

DDT:  former U.S. district court chief judge Raymond Dearie, one of four judges who authorized a wiretap on former DDT’s 2016 campaign aide Carter Page; and former Florida deputy attorney general Paul Huck. Appointed by Ronald Reagan, Dearie is a senior judge after he retired in 2011 and served seven years on the FISA court. Huck now has his own law firm but was a partner at the Jones Day law firm representing DDT’s 2016 campaign and a contributor to the conservative Federalist Society. DDT’s newest lawyer, Chris Kise, worked with Huck in the Florida AG’s office. Huck’s wife, a judge on the 11th Circuit Court where DOJ is filing an appeal, was on DDT’s short list to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court.

The judge makes the choice for the special master.

In addition to disagreeing on the identity of the special master, the two parties also failed to reach consensus on most of the key issues connected to the scope of the work and the responsibility for the added expense.

Disagreements:

DOJ: special master should not review documents with classified markings or subject them to executive privilege; DDT: all documents should be reviewed.

DOJ: the agency wants to review proposed protection designations before documents goes to the special master; DDT: documents retain designations to protect the process.

DOJ: the agency wants to see DDT’s lawyers’ categorizations before sending documents to the special master to save time if they agree; DDT: the special master should review all the seized materials.

DOJ: the plaintiff should pay for the cost of the special master’s work; DDT: the costs should be evenly divided.

DOJ: The deadline should be October 17; DDT: he should have a 90-day window for examining the materials after details have been worked out.

Agreements:

The 21-day period for reviewing and objecting on the special master’s eventual recommendations should be shortened.

The special master should be able to have help from a support staff.

Thus Ukraine fights for democracy, and the former leader of the U.S. fights against democracy.

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