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Saudi Arabia Finally Admits Jamal Khashoggi Is Dead — But Its Response Is Still Deeply Troubling

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Their account of the renowned Washington Post reporter's death is still dubious.


In a major new development, the government of Saudi Arabia has officially confirmed that Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after entering a Turkish consulate on October 2, has been killed.

The news came at a curious moment; it was just past 1 a.m. Saudi time when a prosecutor from the kingdom made the announcement on state TV.

Reuters reports that the Saudi government is blaming Khashoggi's death on a fight that “broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate,” and so far 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested in connection with the killing.

But everything about this announcement is suspect. The worry is that Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States who has criticized the regime and crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, was assassinated as political retaliation. Turkish sources claim to have evidence that Khashoggi was in fact excruciatingly tortured and cut to pieces with a bone saw while he was still alive.

The confirmation of Khashoggi's death is unlikely to relieve tensions and outcry, as the whole incident represents a terrible blow to the free press. But the abandonment of pretense is a concrete step that the United States should use to pursue accountability to the fullest possible extent.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Key GOP Operative with Ties to Trump Campaign May Have Had 'Advance Knowledge' of WikiLeaks' Email Dumps: Report

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Wall Street Journal found that the Mueller team is pursuing information about Peter Smith.


The Wall Street Journal has doggedly pursued a strand of the Russa investigation that has largely flown under the radar as other avenues of investigation such as President Donald Trump's financial ties to Moscow and Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine garnered more attention. But a new report from the paper on Friday reveals that it not only the Journal that's been paying attention — Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has zeroed in on the curious case of GOP operative Peter Smith as well.

Smith, who died shortly before the Journal first began reporting on his actions in 2017, was conducting a wide-ranging effort in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election to track down Hillary Clinton's emails. Along the way, he developed a relationship with disgraced Trump campaign aide and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 

And now, the Journal says there is evidence that could tie Smith to WikiLeaks' dispersal of stolen emails from Hillary Clinton's Campaign Chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.

“Investigators also have evidence that the late GOP activist Peter W. Smith may have had advance knowledge of details about the release of emails from a top Hillary Clinton campaign official by WikiLeaks, one person familiar with the matter said,” the Journal wrote.

The article also says that the investigators have pursued related lines of inquiry, including examining Trump ally Roger Stone's and conservative pundit Jerome Corsi's connections with WikiLeaks.

New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait explained the significance of these potential connections:

If true, this would mean that Smith wasn’t merely attempting to get ahold of stolen Clinton emails. He got through to WikiLeaks and was, in some form, a channel of collusion between the hackers and the Trump campaign.

Flynn long ago started cooperating with Robert Mueller. So if Flynn discussed any of this information with Trump during the campaign, the special counsel probably knows about it.

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CNN Threatened With Lawsuit After Reporting GOP Candidate's Gross Comments About Women

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Andrew Kaczynski reported on Rep. Jason Lewis' prior comments as a talk radio host. Lewis' former broadcaster is now threatening to sue CNN.


This week, a new report from Andrew Kaczynski of CNN's KFile revealed yet another round of shocking comments made by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) during his days as a right-wing talk radio host. In the clips, from a show in November 2011, Lewis mocked women who feel traumatized by sexual harassment in the workplace.

“I don't want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?” said Lewis, his voice breaking at times into a mocking pitch. “How many women at some point in their life have a man come on to them, place their hand on their shoulder or maybe even their thigh, kiss them, and they would rather not have it happen, but is that really something that's going to be seared in your memory that you'll need therapy for? You'll never get over? It was the most traumatizing experience? Come on! She wasn't raped.” He also argued that sexual harassment law was a violation of the First Amendment.

Incredibly, the story has now drawn a legal threat. On Thursday, Lewis' former broadcaster, Genesis Communications Network, sent a “cease and desist” letter to CNN, threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit for use of material from Lewis' old shows.

For their part, neither CNN nor Kaczynski are backing down, and nor do they have any reason to. The threat is completely baseless; “fair use” law in the United States allows the use of snippets of copyrighted work without the permission of the owner, in the context of commentary, criticism, or parody.

Lewis' campaign has declined to comment on the matter.

The radio program, in which Lewis styled himself “America's Mr. Right,” was a known part of his resume when he was first elected to Congress in 2016 — he used the show to help launch Michele Bachmann's failed presidential bid. But the show has become a matter of increased controversy as journalists have gone back through his commentary, which is full of toxic and inflammatory rhetoric.

As …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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These Despicable Trump Supporters Are Engaging in a Cruel Smear Campaign on Behalf of Saudi Arabia Against Jamal Khashoggi

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The president's fans always find a way to sink lower.


Some Republicans have been very outspoken over the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2 and was allegedly tortured and killed by a Saudi hit squad. Sen. Lindsey Graham has called for the U.S. to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia,” describing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as a “wrecking ball” who is terrible for U.S./Saudi relations. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio declared that there will be a “complete revolt against our policies with Saudi Arabia” on Capitol Hill if MBS ordered the murder of a U.S.-based journalist. President Donald Trump, however, has been reluctant to criticize the Saudi royal family—repeatedly noting they have denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance. And some of Trump’s sycophants are so determined to carry the president’s water that they have responded to all the outrage by defaming Khashoggi, including Pajamas Media Co-Founder Roger L. Simon and Fox News’ Harris Faulkner.

In an October 16 article that ran with the headline “Trump Takes the Right Position (Again) on Khashoggi,” Simon jumped through hoops to defend Trump’s anemic response to Khashoggi’s disappearance. According to Simon, Trump is “being smart not following the herd”—the herd being the long list of people, both left and right, who are horrified by allegations that Saudi agents, acting on orders from Crown Prince Mohammed, lured a Washington Post columnist to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, tortured him, murdered him and dismembered the body with a bone saw.

According to Simon, Khashoggi’s disappearance is no great loss. The Pajamas media co-founder wrote, “The disappeared so-called journalist— actually a lifelong activist for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that sought, and still covertly seeks, world domination through the likes of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri—is scarcely someone to be admired, even with his Washington Post byline.”

Simon added, “Mr. Bezos, please explain why a man with this history is writing for your newspaper.” The Bezos he is referring to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Priti Gulati Cox, Stan Cox, Independent Media Institute

Central Americans fleeing mortal danger may now be forced into deciding between having their children either incarcerated for years or taken away from them.


From the early days of the Trump administration, the White House and Justice Department have obsessively sought to separate asylum-seeking parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The American people and the courts have mounted fierce resistance to this sadistic practice, but Trump’s men will not be deterred.

Separation continues despite having been officially forbidden by the courts. Last week, the White House announced a desire to revive explicit separation, potentially through this policy described by the Washington Post:

“One option under consideration is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice—stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody.”

That’s a Sophie’s choice, but the authorities are using a less emotional, more technocratic term: “binary choice.”

So Central Americans fleeing mortal danger back home and facing murderous cartels in Mexico may now be forced into deciding between having their children either incarcerated for years or taken away from them, perhaps never to be seen again. They cannot take solace in the possibility that “other relatives… can seek custody.” Even now, relatives applying to become guardians of seized children are themselves being subjected to investigation and possible deportation.

All this is happening to refugees even though they set out on their arduous, dangerous journey simply to claim their rights to asylum hearings as provided under U.S. law. For months, immigrants seeking safety through the legally prescribed mechanism—by presenting themselves at official U.S. border crossings and requesting asylum—have been turned away by border patrol agents (recently supported at some locations by Mexican agents).

Such refusals are contrary to federal law and have the predictable effect of pushing asylum seekers into covert crossings elsewhere. That exposes them to arrest, and if they have children, to separation.

The “binary …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Embattled Trump Cabinet Official Misspent Thousands of Taxpayer Dollars and Violated Department Policy: Report

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Cabinet has faced a deluge of corruption scandals.


Will Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke be the next of President Donald Trump's Cabinet officials to go?

The latest reason to think Zinke may face the same humiliating fate as former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was revealed Thursday in a new report from the Washington Post. It said that an internal investigation has found that Zinke misspent government funds in violation of federal policy.

The report explains:

The Interior Department’s watchdog found that Zinke violated department policy by allowing his wife to travel in government vehicles and instructing his security detail to drive an associate to the airport.

The decision to take an unarmed security detail on his overseas vacation cost taxpayers $25,000, the report found.

Zinke was already facing scrutiny this week when it was announced that he was replacing the department's inspector general — a career official — with a political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This appeared to be a blatant effort to remove an independent and potentially critical force within the agency and replace her with a toady. Around a dozen investigations of potential misconduct were already looming over Zinke at the time of the announcement.

The department backtracked on Thursday, calling the previous day's announcement “100 percent false information,” the Post reported.

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Ex-Republican Steve Schmidt Unleashes on 'This Vile Age of Trumpism' in Epic Rant Linking the President's Policies to Slavery

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

It was a powerful condemnation of the moral failings of our times.


Fear continues to be the force President Donald Trump thinks will be key to maintaining his stranglehold on American political power. In the latest iteration of this tactic, he's trying to whip up concern about a caravan of immigrants making its way from Honduras in an effort to seek asylum in the United States.

In response to Trump's baseless and dangerous fearmongering, former Republican Steve Schmidt, who used to serve on GOP presidential campaigns before Trump's takeover of the party, laid out why the president's reaction is so despicable. 

“These are vulnerable people fleeing some of the most violence-ravaged places on Earth,” said Schmidt on “Deadline: White House” Thursday. “And why do they walk for 2,000 miles? Because of the power of an idea. That idea is this place. America. A place where people are free. And they are safe.”

He continued: “And the idea that when a mother — through suffering, through abuse, through risk and sometimes death all around them — when they reach the border and they see a uniform with an American flag. And they are no longer safe. But that baby is ripped away and put into an internment camp? This is a moral outrage that harkens to the worse excesses in the history of the country. To the separation of families at the slave auction blocks, to the separation of Native American families. It is a moral outrage.”

Host Nicolle Wallace added: “As Laura Bush said: the Japanese internment camps.”

And then Schmidt turned to address Democrats, who he argued haven't done enough to stand up to Trump.

“This is the failure of the Democratic Party to address this as a small issue, not as a profound stain on our national honor,” he said. “As a profoundly un-American policy. And to frame the question for the country in this vile age of Trumpism: What is it that we are? Who are we as a people?”

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Two Top Trump Aides Blew Up in a 'Profanity-Laced' Shouting Match as Midterm Election Pressure Rises: Reports

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump has said the White House is a “well-oiled machine.”


Just another day inside a “well-oiled machine”: According to reports from both CNN and Bloomberg, President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton engaged in a “profanity-laced” argument Thursday.

Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs reported that the source of the shouting match wasn't clear but linked it to the coming midterm election.

CNN was more specific, attributing the rift to an increase in crossings at the U.S-Mexico border.

While that report noted that heated arguments in the West Wing aren't unusual, “a source familiar with the clash equated it with a falling out.”

Discussion of potential resignations emerged — in particular, the potential departure of Kelly — but it appears everyone is committed to staying put for now.  According to CNN, though, it appears Bolton got the better of the argument when Trump took his side.

According to Bloomberg, it was not clear if the president overheard the actual shouting, but he was informed of the dispute.

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Internet Scorches Jared Kushner After Report Finds He Callously Dismissed Concerns About the Alleged Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Kushner has been a major player in the alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia.


White House officials — up to and including President Donald Trump — continue to bungle the response to the reported murder of Washington Post journalist and United States resident Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi government. But one of the key figures in the Saudi-U.S. alliance is receiving particular scrutiny for his role, or lack thereof, in the response: Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.

Kushner was already facing blowback for his close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be implicated in the plot against Khashoggi. But a new report from the New York Times Thursday contained a few damning details that are triggering even more ire:

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, has been urging the president to stand by Prince Mohammed, according to a person close to the White House and a former official with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Kushner has argued that the outrage over Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing will pass, just as it did after other Saudi errors like the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon and the killing of a busload of children in Yemen by a Saudi airstrike.

Online observers began expressing scathing responses as soon as the report was published:

It's clear the situation has blown up well beyond the White House's ability to contain it, and the bungled and morally abhorrent response from the country's leadership is nothing short of an international scandal. Whether any of the pushback and outrage …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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This is Trump's Pathetic Excuse for Having Not Yet Visited a Military Base in a Combat Zone

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Rozsa, Salon

Reminder that Donald Trump received five deferments during the draft.


President Donald Trump, despite presenting himself as a champion of America's soldiers and veterans, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he is too busy to visit a military base in a combat zone like Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary,” Trump told the Associated Press. “I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. I mean, this is the greatest economy we’ve ever had, best unemployment numbers. Many groups are, you know, we’ve never even been close to these numbers. I’m doing a lot of things. I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly.”

He added, “Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years. I just got them a substantial pay raise. ‘They’ meaning our military people. I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it. I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.”

@gretawire: PresObama is not busy talking to Congress about Syria..he is playing golf …go figure”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2013

Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2014

Later during the interview, Trump returned to the theme that he had been a staunch ally of the military, although he did so as part of a broader response to a question about the budget deficit.

“Excuse me. No. 1, I had to take care of our military. I had no choice but to do it, and I want to take care of our military,” Trump told the Associated Press. He later elaborated, “We had to do things that we had to do. And I’ve done them. Now we’re going …read more

Source: ALTERNET