You are browsing the archive for 2018 December 04.

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Roger Stone pleads the 5th in the Senate's Russia probe right after Trump is accused of witness tampering

December 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Roger Stone will not be responding to requests for information from Congress.


On Tuesday, President Donald Trump's embattled former campaign adviser Roger Stone sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee indicating he refuses to provide any of the documents the lawmakers requested or to appear for an interview.

“On the advice of counsel, Mr. Stone will not produce the documents requested by you in your capacity as Ranking Minority Member of the Judiciary Committee,” stated the letter, which was submitted to ranking Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) by Stone's attorneys. “The requests, as previously stated to staff, are far too overbroad, far too overreaching, far too wide-ranging both in their all-embracing list of persons to whom the request could relate with whom Mr. Stone has communicated over the past three years, and the 'documents concerning' imprecision of the requests.”

“Mr. Stone's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy,” the letter concluded.

The letter comes just a day after Trump praised Stone on Twitter for refusing to cooperate with investigators in the Russia probe, saying, “Nice to know that some people still have 'guts!'” Some commentators, including conservative lawyer George Conway, blasted the remark as possible witness tampering.

Obviously, invoking the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate oneself is not evidence of guilt. But one person who certainly seems to think otherwise is Trump, who at a rally in September 2017 proclaimed, “The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

Stone has been a key focus of special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating whether and how Stone communicated with pro-Russia vigilante “transparency” crusader Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign. Stone appeared to have advanced notice when Assange's organization WikiLeaks dropped a trove of emails stolen …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'They’re throwing a fit': The GOP’s desperate power grabs show how weak the party has become

December 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, Independent Media Institute

Even with voting rights victories, partisan ambushes may lie ahead.


As the dust refuses to settle from the 2018 midterms, there are stubborn reminders that there really are two Americas when it comes to voting and elections.

This week, Republican-majority legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin—both created by GOP-led extreme gerrymanders in 2011—are trying to rush through legislation to strip power from Democratic statewide winners of executive branch offices in November.

In Wisconsin, the GOP wants to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general over how public benefit programs can be run, and on how regulations can be implemented—the fine print of governing. In Michigan, where voters elected a Democratic governor, attorney general and secretary of state, it’s even worse, as GOP legislators want to limit the attorney general’s power to litigate (and to create a new legislative power to do so) and to pre-empt campaign finance regulation.

“They lost and they’re throwing a fit,” was how Jon Erpenbach, a Wisconsin Democratic state senator, put it to the New York Times.

But that’s not quite correct. In many otherwise purple states, the GOP has been rejecting political norms—such as respecting popular vote outcomes—and grabbing power in any manner it can for years. The Wisconsin and Michigan moves echo what North Carolina Republicans have pursued since 2016 after that also GOP-gerrymandered state elected a Democratic governor, where its legislature targeted gubernatorial powers, state election boards and even its state judiciary.

The latest Republican bullying doesn’t make Democrats the political party of angels—as amply demonstrated in their post-2016 presidential reforms (where, instead of adding more national convention delegates to reflect a growing diversity, they sidelined loyalists for the first vote to nominate 2020’s candidate). But what’s going on in some GOP-led states is especially troubling because it shows a brazen partisan disregard for election results.

The power grabs in Wisconsin and Michigan are making headlines this week, but they are not alone. Only last week did Georgia’s losing Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, file a federal suit that detailed an …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Unbought and Unbossed': Why Shirley Chisholm Ran for President

December 4, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The Democratic National Convention was a tense scene in July of 1972. The gathering in Miami came just one month after burglars had broken into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate. The candidate who won the presidential nomination would be the one to take on President Richard Nixon, whom most people didn’t yet suspect of orchestrating the break-in. And for the first time, one of the candidates for the Democratic challenger was a black woman.

Shirley Chisholm had long been known for breaking barriers. Four years before, she’d become the first black U.S. Congresswoman in history as a Representative of her New York district. When she launched her primary campaign in January of ‘72, she became the first black person to seek the presidential nomination from one of the two major parties (the first woman was Margaret Chase Smith, who sought the Republican nomination in 1964). Her slogan was: “Unbought and Unbossed.”

Shirley Chisholm campaign poster.

From the beginning, white male journalists and politicians didn’t take her bid seriously. Norman Mailer called her campaign “quixotic” in the Wall Street Journal, writing that “few politicians, black or white, believe it.” Chisholm’s strongest supporters were black women, but she struggled to win support from black men and white women. Many of them endorsed Senator George McGovern because they felt he was more likely to win against Nixon. (McGovern won the nomination and lost to Nixon in a landslide.)

Chisholm was realistic about her chances, and winning wasn’t necessarily her goal, says Anastasia Curwood, a professor of history and African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky who is writing a biography about Chisholm.

“She ran to win, but she knew she wouldn’t win,” she says. “Her object was to create a coalition and then influence the eventual nominee at the convention.” Chisholm hoped that once she reached the convention, she could could use her coalition of delegates to negotiate with the winning candidate in favor of rights for women, black Americans and Native people.


Shirley Chisholm oannouncing her entry for Democratic nomination for the presidency, at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York in January 1972.

Her opponents were all white men, but there was one in particular who stood out in relation to her: George Wallace, the former governor of Alabama who famously called for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The circle of corruption: Here’s where things stand with 5 Trump-tied figures caught in Robert Mueller’s probe

December 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Trump has surrounded himself with shady figures.


No matter how much President Donald Trump’s obsequious carnival barkers at Fox News scoff at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-related investigation, there is no question that Mueller and his team have uncovered an abundance of major crimes—from obstruction of justice to tax evasion to bank fraud. Trump himself has not been charged with anything, but the phrase “flock of felons” (which veteran television journalist Dan Rather has used to describe some of president’s allies) easily applies to Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates and other Trump associates who have been caught up in Mueller’s investigation and either confessed to major crimes or been convicted of them. And Mueller’s Russiagate probe moves along with week, with sentencing memos expected for Manafort as well as Michael Flynn (former national security advisor in the Trump Administration).

Here is where things presently stand with several Trump associates, allies or former allies who have been caught up in Mueller’s investigation.

1. Michael Flynn

In December 2017, Michael Flynn flipped on Trump, agreed to cooperate fully with Mueller’s investigation, and admitted to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And this week, Mueller is expected to file a sentencing memo on Flynn. The memo could offer some insights on how valuable a witness Mueller considers Flynn to be in his investigation.

2. Paul Manafort

Most of the Trump associates who have flipped on Trump and agreed to a plea deal with Mueller’s office have been highly cooperative—from Michael Flynn to George Papadopoulos (a foreign policy advisor for Trump’s 2016 campaign) to Michael Cohen to Rick Gates, who was a Trump campaign aide and became the prosecution’s star witness in Paul Manafort’s trial during the Summer of 2018. In September, Manafort (who served as Trump’s campaign manager before Kellyanne Conway joined the campaign) agreed to a plea deal with Mueller in order to avoid a second trial (the summer trial had resulted in eight convictions for crimes ranging from tax fraud to bank fraud).

But in late November, Manafort’s plea deal with Mueller fell apart: the special counsel …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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CIA Director Gina Haspel finally addresses key senators in closed-door briefing on Jamal Khashoggi killing

December 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The CIA's findings reportedly contradict Trump's favored line.


CIA Director Gina Haspel held a closed-door briefing today in Washington, DC, addressing several senators on the killing of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who attended the briefing, underscore the divide between some GOP senators and the Trump Administration on the murder of Khashoggi—who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.

The Saudi government has maintained that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, was killed during a kidnapping attempt and a rogue operation gone wrong—and that MBS himself did not order the killing. But according to reports, CIA intelligence implicates MBS and indicates that Khashoggi’s killers were likely acting on direct orders from the Saudi crown prince.

Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Graham explained, “I went into the brief believing that it was virtually impossible for an operation like this to be carried out without the crown prince’s knowledge. I left the briefing with high confidence that my initial assessment of the situation is correct.”

The South Carolina senator continued, “Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, and the relationship is worth saving—but not at all cost. We’ll do more damage to our standing in the world and our national security by ignoring MBS than dealing with him. MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I think the behavior before the Khashoggi murder was beyond disturbing, and I cannot see him being a reliable partner to the United States.”

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was equally convinced that MBS played a key role in Khashoggi’s murder—telling reporters after the briefing, “If the Crown Prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes.” And when a reporter asked Corker if it would be a murder conviction, he replied, “Yes.”

Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, however, have all asserted that there is no real proof that Khashoggi’s killing was …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Disturbed': Hundred of former Justice Department officials sign letter explaining why AG Matthew Whitaker's appointment is so troubling

December 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The appointment remains a black eye on the department.


The government watchdog group Protect Democracy is reporting that more than 400 former attorneys or officials for the U.S. Justice Department have signed a statement saying that they are “disturbed” by the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.

After the 2018 midterms, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and announced that Whitaker was taking over the position for the time being. Whitaker has been a vocal critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The letter stated, “Because of our respect for our oaths of office and our personal experiences carrying out the Department’s mission, we are disturbed by the President’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker to serve as Acting Attorney General…. Mr. Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate, his qualifications to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer have not been publicly reviewed, and he has not been fully vetted for any potential conflicts of interest.”

The letter goes on to say, “While we know that there are thousands of dedicated public servants now at the Department who will do their utmost to protect its mission and reputation, it falls to all of us to ensure that the Department’s role in maintaining the rule of law is not undermined or tainted.”

Before Trump chose Whitaker, he had been serving as Sessions’ chief of staff. Trump has yet to announce a permanent nominee for attorney general.

One of the attorneys who signed the letter was Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor who has had much to say about Russiagate during her appearances on MSNBC and CNN.

Related Stories

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Source: ALTERNET

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Al Qaeda

December 4, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

The global terror network founded by Osama bin Laden, has been responsible for thousands of deaths on 9/11 and several other deadly attacks across the globe.

Before September 11, 2001, many Americans knew little of al Qaeda or its founder, Osama bin Laden. But the roots of the militant Islamist network, whose name is Arabic for “the Base,” date back to the late 1970s and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Since declaring a holy war on the United States, Jews and their allies, al Qaeda has been found responsible for nearly 3,000 deaths on 9/11, and numerous other deadly attacks around the world. The global terror network has been linked to radical groups across the Middle East and beyond.

Bin Laden and the Origins of Al Qaeda

During the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War in Afghanistan, in which the Soviet Union gave support to the communist Afghan government, Muslim insurgents, known as the mujahideen, rallied to fight a jihad (or holy war) against the invaders. Among them was a Saudi Arabian—the 17th child (of 52) of a millionaire construction magnate—named Osama bin Laden, who provided the mujahideen with money, weapons and fighters.

Along with Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar, preacher and mentor of bin Laden, the men began to grow a large financial network, and when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, al Qaeda was created to take on future holy wars. For Bin Laden, that was a fight he wanted to take globally.

Azzam, conversely, wanted to focus efforts on turning Afghanistan into an Islamist government. When he was assassinated in a car bombing in Pakistan in 1989, bin Laden was left as the group’s leader.

How Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda Planned 9/11 (TV-14; 3:07)

The Al-Qaeda Network

Exiled by the Saudi regime, and later stripped of his citizenship in 1994, bin Laden left Afghanistan and set up operations in Sudan, with the United States in his sights as enemy No. 1. Al Qaeda took credit for the attack on two Black Hawk helicopters during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993, as well as the World Trade Center Bombing in New York in 1993, and a car bombing in 1995 that destroyed a U.S.-leased military building in Saudi Arabia. In 1998 the group claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and, in 2000, for the suicide bombings against the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How a Scandal Over a Diamond Necklace Cost Marie Antoinette Her Head

December 4, 2018 in History

By Una McIlvenna

The Diamond Necklace Affair reads like a fictional farce, but it was all true—and would become the final straw that led to demands for the queen’s head.


Marie Antionette, Queen of France.

It is a story whose characters and actions are so implausible that at times it seems like the wild invention of a work of fiction. But the Diamond Necklace Affair was a scandal that was all too responsible for the eventual execution of Marie Antoinette—the last Queen of France before the French Revolution.

Most shocking, perhaps, is that the Queen was totally unaware of the elaborate scam.

It all began with a dubious “countess”—Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy—the self-styled “Comtesse de la Motte,” who passed herself off as a descendant of the former French royal family, the Valois, but whose links to nobility were fairly dubious. Realizing that her husband’s paltry income would never fund the extravagant lifestyle she desired, La Motte thought she could win the favor of the queen herself, who, hearing of La Motte’s shady background, refused to meet her.

Undaunted, La Motte took a lover, Rétaux de Villette, a soldier who served with her husband, and also, in 1783, became the mistress of the prestigious Cardinal de Rohan. The cardinal, who had been French ambassador to Vienna a few years earlier, had fallen foul of Marie Antoinette’s mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, and wanted nothing more than to win back royal approval. La Motte saw her chance.

READ MORE: Did Marie Antoinette Really Say ‘Let Them Eat Cake’?

She discovered that the jewelers Charles Auguste Boehmer and Paul Bassange were trying to sell off an extraordinarily expensive necklace that had originally been designed for Madame du Barry, the mistress of the former king Louis XV. The necklace was worth an estimated 2,000,000 livres (roughly $15 million today). At the death of the King, the necklace was unpaid for, and the jewelers were facing bankruptcy. They had already tried to sell it to the current king, Louis XVI, but the Queen refused, saying “We have more need of Seventy-Fours [ships] than of necklaces.”

La Motte, an inveterate con-artist, persuaded the cardinal that she enjoyed the Queen’s secret favor. On hearing of this, Rohan resolved to use her to regain the Queen’s goodwill. La Motte encouraged the cardinal to begin writing to the Queen, and claimed to pass on the letters to her. In reality, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Hostage Terry Anderson freed in Lebanon

December 4, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1991, Islamic militants in Lebanon release kidnapped American journalist Terry Anderson after 2,454 days in captivity.

As chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Anderson covered the long-running civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). On March 16, 1985, he was kidnapped on a west Beirut street while leaving a tennis court. His captors took him to the southern suburbs of the city, where he was held prisoner in an underground dungeon for the next six-and-a-half years.

Anderson was one of 92 foreigners (including 17 Americans) abducted during Lebanon’s bitter civil war. The kidnappings were linked to Hezbollah, or the Party of God, a militant Shiite Muslim organization formed in 1982 in reaction to Israel’s military presence in Lebanon. They seized several Americans, including Anderson, soon after Kuwaiti courts jailed 17 Shiites found guilty of bombing the American and French embassies there in 1983. Hezbollah in Lebanon received financial and spiritual support from Iran, where prominent leaders praised the bombers and kidnappers for performing their duty to Islam.

U.S. relations with Iran–and with Syria, the other major foreign influence in Lebanon–showed signs of improving by 1990, when the civil war drew to a close, aided by Syria’s intervention on behalf of the Lebanese army. Eager to win favor from the U.S. in order to promote its own economic goals, Iran used its influence in Lebanon to engineer the release of nearly all the hostages over the course of 1991.

Anderson returned to the U.S. and was reunited with his family, including his daughter Suleme, born three months after his capture. In 1999, he sued the Iranian government for $100 million, accusing it of sponsoring his kidnappers; he received a multi-million dollar settlement.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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“Irish Godfather” killed by car bomb in St. Paul, MN

December 4, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

“Dapper Dan” Hogan, a St. Paul, Minnesota saloonkeeper and mob boss, is killed on this day in 1928 when someone plants a car bomb under the floorboards of his new Paige coupe. Doctors worked all day to save him–according to the Morning Tribune, “racketeers, police characters, and business men” queued up at the hospital to donate blood to their ailing friend–but Hogan slipped into a coma and died at around 9 p.m. His murder is still unsolved.

Hogan was a pillar of the Twin Cities underworld. His downtown saloon, the Green Lantern, catered to (and laundered the money of) bank robbers, bootleggers, safecrackers and all-around thugs. He was an expert at defusing petty arguments, keeping feuds from getting out of hand, and (the paper said) “keep[ing] the heat out of town,” which made him a friend to many lawbreakers and a valuable asset to people (like the crooked-but-well-meaning police chief) who were trying to keep Minneapolis and St. Paul from becoming as bloody and dangerous as Chicago.

Hogan and the police both worked to make sure that gangsters would be safe in the Twin Cities as long as they committed their most egregious crimes outside the city limits. If this position made him more friends than enemies–“his word was said to have been ‘as good as a gold bond,’” the paper said, and “to numbers of persons he was something of a Robin Hood”–it also angered many mobsters who resented his stranglehold on the city’s rackets. Police speculated that some of his own associates might have been responsible for his murder.

As the newspaper reported the day after Hogan died, car bombs were “the newest form of bomb killing,” a murderous technology perfected by New York gangsters and bootleggers. In fact, Hogan was one of the first people to die in a car bomb explosion. The police investigation revealed that two men had entered Dapper Dan’s garage early in the morning of December 4, planted a nitroglycerine explosive in the car’s undercarriage, and wired it to the starter. When Hogan pressed his foot to that pedal, the bomb went off, nearly severing his right leg. He died from blood loss.

The first real car bomb–or, in this case, horse-drawn-wagon bomb–exploded on September 16, 1920 outside the J.P. Morgan Company’s offices in New York City’s financial district. Italian anarchist Mario Buda had planted it there, hoping to kill Morgan …read more

Source: HISTORY