The Russian Connection: A Family Affair

Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has a new unpaid job. He will now be in charge of everything as head of he newly created Office of American Innovation, which will now free Trump to golf as much as he wants. He will head a “SWAT” team of former business executives to overhaul government from top to bottom.

However, Kushner has another problem that he created himself. He has volunteered to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Senate committee has apparently seen hard evidence that might support the charge of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. They now want to talk to Kushner about the previously undisclosed meeting that was arranged by the ambassador with the head of a Russian bank that is on the sanctions list.

The encounter at Trump Tower also included the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned from the Trump administration after misleading vice-president Mike Pence about the nature of his discussions with Kislyak.

Late on Monday a Russian bank under western economic sanctions over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine also disclosed that its executives had met Kushner during the election campaign. [..]

Executives of Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a roadshow last year, Reuter reported late on Monday, citing an emailed statement from the bank. Meetings took place “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies”. VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates.

There was no immediate comment from Kushner.

According to the Reuters report, US officials said that Kushner met in December with Sergei Gorkov, chairman of Vnesheconombank. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meetings, saying nothing of consequence was discussed.

Gorkov was appointed head of VEB in early 2016 by Vladimir Putin. He graduated from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia’s internal security agency. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland, according to the bank’s website.

The Vnesheconombank was placed on the sanctions list by President Barak Obama after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and meddling in the politics of the Ukraine. The bank also hosted a spy ring at it’s New York City office:

A Russian citizen whom US authorities accused of posing as a banker while participating in a New York City spy ring that sought to collect economic and other intelligence pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge on Friday.

Evgeny Buryakov, 41, admitted guilt in federal court in Manhattan less than a month before he was set to face trial for failing to register as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to act as an agent without notifying US authorities.

Buryakov, who worked at Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, was arrested in January 2015 as US authorities unveiled charges against him and two other Russians, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy. [..]

US prosecutors have said the trio conspired to gather economic intelligence on behalf of Russia, including information about US sanctions against the country, and to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources.

The prosecutor in that case was former US Attorney Preet Bharara.

As Marcy Wheeler points out, this meeting is getting closer to quid pro quo:

NYT raises the possibility that Kushner discussed his efforts to fund one of his family’s business in NYC, though Hope Hicks claimed it — and the sanctions — did not come up.

But consider how this meeting might interact with another known Kislyak conversation, the multiple calls with Flynn on December 29 after Obama imposed hacking related sanctions. In context, that conversation was about the hacking sanctions, not the more onerous Ukraine ones. But if Kushner had just met with a sanctioned bank and discussed those sanctions, that could change Kislyak’s understanding of what Flynn was saying.

One mistake of a lot of the frenzied speculation is a focus on changing US policy towards Ukraine, a focus not borne out by the public evidence. The result of that focus is to ignore what the Christopher Steele dossier makes clear was the real Russian goal, unsurprisingly: the lifting of the Ukraine-related sanctions.

There still is no evidence that’s what happened at this meeting that Kushner succeeded in hiding from people within the White House. But if it did, then it might amount to far more than all the smoke swirling around Manafort, Page, and Stone.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow gives her perspective on Kushner’s new responsibilities and background on Gorgov, the former Russian spy-turned-bank-official.

The Breakfast Club (Self-Help)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

An accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant; Former President Dwight Eisenhower dies; The Spanish Civil War ends; Maria von Trapp of ‘Sound of Music’ fame dies; Singer Reba McEntire born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

George Carlin

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March Madness: 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Regional Finals (Round of 8)- Day 2

7:00 ESPN Oregon-UConn

UConn, Have you been reading? Sorry Ducks.

9:00 ESPN South Carolina-FSU

No pick, just cannon fodder.

Special Prosecutor? Sure.

I don’t necessarily buy into the notion that ‘Russian Influence’ was a desicive factor in the 2016 election, for one thing the demographics that spelled Democratic defeat were Women, African-Americans, and Latinos (check the changes from the Obama victories). This is not particularly surprising if you recognize 2016 was a “Change” election and one candidate represented that and the other… not so much.

Nor is there any evidence whatever for ‘Russian Hacking’ in the sense of actually tampering with the ballots. I’m not saying it’s not possible because it has certainly been demonstrated in theory, simply that the logistics make it unlikely. If by ‘Hacking’ you mean exposing the actual factual and poorly protected email of the Democratic National Committee it has the advantage of being decidedly possible though at this point is not proven. Do I feel sorry for the DNC? No more than I do for Sony when it’s hack exposed that they had a written company policy to pay female Actors less than male Actors for the same work.

And if they sought to release them in a way that was beneficial to their interests, what do you expect? The United States has been interfering in other countries’ elections since at least the 1890s (Spanish-American War? Phillipines? Cuba? Bueller?). We sent an Army to Russia after the Revolution to crush the Reds and restore the Romanovs. Who’s the exceptionally special snowflake now?

The modern “Red Scare McCarthyism” does frighten me a little, not the least because Russia is one of very few countries that could contemplate a Nuclear First Strike should they feel sufficiently existentially threatened. If you’ve forgotten how that works I suggest you watch Dr. Strangelove again.

More disturbing and proximate is the willingness of the Institutional Democratic Party to blame all their ills on outside influences and racism, and abject denial that 30 years of explicitly Neo Liberal Policy Failure have anything to to do with their current electoral woes. They seem content to push more Identity Politics for the 99% while delivering Economic gain only for the top .01%. Explain to me why I should vote for them again?

There is a fruitful area of inquiry into the Trump relationship with Russia and that’s Public Corruption and Perjury. There is little doubt that Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, and other Trump Administration officials perjured themselves in their confirmation hearings. They should be impeached and go to jail. For the Donald himself there’s that little matter of the emoluments clause which is a straight up violation of Article II, not even buried in some obscure Amendment or treaty (also law of the land by the way).

Devin Nunes is making it very hard for Republicans to claim they can run an impartial investigation on Russia
By Amber Phillips, Washington Post
March 27 at 2:01 PM

We still don’t know who gave Nunes the surveillance information or its significance to the committee’s broader investigation into Russia’s meddling. Nunes publicly said if the president’s name did show up in surveillance, it had nothing to do with Russia. He also told CNN that the president didn’t even know Nunes was at the White House Tuesday.

But here’s what anyone trying to follow the twists and turns of this Trump-Russia-wiretapping story is left with: A top Republican congressman and Trump ally was at the White House the day before he released information that appeared to somewhat defend the president on his defenseless wiretapping claims.

What’s more, the congressman released this secret information to the president — whose circle is under investigation by the FBI for alleged ties to Russia — before sharing it with his own committee members.

From there, it’s not a stretch for a reasonable person to consider whether Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, wants to protect the president. And from there, it’s not a stretch to question the impartiality of the investigation Nunes is leading in the House on Russia meddling in the U.S. election.

And that, say ethics and national security experts, is where the real damage in Nunes’s White House trip lies.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he didn’t think Nunes had created a perception problem with all this: “You can’t ask someone to do a review of the situation and then create an interference because they’re reviewing the situation,” he said, referring to the fact Nunes probably had help from a White House official to review the classified documents in a secret room.

But Congress, by its nature, was already at risk of appearing motivated by partisanship as it looked into these very critical questions. At the very least, Nunes just opened up the door for people to believe the worst about Congress: that its members put politics above all else.

There’s no immediate sign that Republican leaders would be on board with any of those investigative alternatives. They’re already looking into something their president would rather they leave alone — Russia. Neither House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) nor Nunes immediately responded to a request for comment about the latest Nunes revelations.

Ryan has repeatedly said that Congress’s own intelligence committees are perfectly up to the job of impartially investigating Russia, wherever it leads.

But Nunes is making it that much harder for Republicans to argue that.

I also agree that this should investigated as thoroughly as Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI! or a consensual blowjob.

The Breakfast Club (Fools On The Hill)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Martin Luther King Jr.’s son meets James Earl Ray in prison for assassinating his father; Comedian Milton Berle dies; the FDA approves Viagra; Quentin Tarantino is born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think.

Milton Berle

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Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert – The WERD: Screw Unto Others

The WERD: Screw Unto Others

March Madness: 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Regional Finals (Round of 8)- Day 2

2:20 CBS Florida-South Carolina

Ugh, who cares? Gonzaga!

5:05 CBS Kentucky-North Carolina

Yeah, Kentucky must go.

March Madness: 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Regional Finals (Round of 8)- Day 1

12:00 ESPN Notre Dame-Stanford

Sibling rivalry. Muffet must go.

7:30 ESPN Baylor-Mississippi State

Both Dangerous. Mississippi State is an unknown quantity. Baylor has already lost to UConn.

The Breakfast Club (Banjo Band)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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AP’s Today in History for March 26th

Israel and Egypt sign a peace treaty; Bodies of Heaven’s Gate cult members are found in Calif.; The first U.S. team to win hockey’s Stanley Cup; ‘Funny Girl’ opens on Broadway; Singer Diana Ross born.


Breakfast Tune Rock And Roll Banjo Band


Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

Trump-Russia inquiry endangered after lawmaker’s ‘peculiar midnight run’
Julian Borger, The Guardian

The House intelligence committee investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged links with Moscow looks in danger of unravelling as a result of the unexplained behaviour of its chairman, Devin Nunes, a former Trump adviser.

Such behaviour reportedly includes an unexplained disappearance from an Uber ride with a staffer on Tuesday night, described by his Democratic counterpart as a “peculiar midnight run”.

The investigation subsequently appeared to stall, with Nunes calling off a critical hearing scheduled for Tuesday 28 March, at a time when his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Adam Schiff, said he had seen more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia. …

Arab airlines using Trump’s bans for marketing
Al Jazeera News

Arab airlines are using witty marketing and satire to respond to the recent US and UK ban on carry-on electronic goods on inbound flights from Arab countries.

The decision, introduced on Tuesday, bars passengers on flights originating in eight Arab countries from carrying any electronic device larger than a mobile phone.

Laptops, e-readers, cameras, tablets, printers, electronic games and portable DVD players are affected by the ban – which applies to direct flights to the United States – but they may still be stowed in the hold in checked baggage.

The indefinite US ban targets 10 airports and nine airlines, including Turkish Airlines and the major Gulf carriers: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, as well as the Jordanian state airline, Royal Jordanian.

Some of the companies have been quick to respond, with lighthearted humour, using the ban as a marketing opportunity.

The United Arab Emirates flagship carrier, Emirates Airline, posted a video on social media with the slogan “let us entertain you”.

Ohio nightclub shooting leaves one dead, 14 wounded; shooter at large
Caleb Hughes, Reuters

Gunfire erupted inside a packed nightclub in Cincinnati, Ohio, early Sunday morning, killing at least one person and injuring 14, and police said they were still looking for the shooter.

The motive was unclear, but Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate said on Twitter that “there are no indications this incident is terrorism related.”

The shooting took place around 1 a.m. when hundreds of people were inside the Cameo Nightlife club, which the Cincinnati Police Department said has had “multiple problems” in the past.

“At this point it’s unclear exactly what instigated the shooting,” Captain Kimberly Williams said at a televised briefing. “Just a lot of chaos when the shots went off.”

The shooting comes less than a year after a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. …

Transgender protections hang in the balance with healthcare’s future cloudy
Molly Redden, The Guardian

In the spring of 2016, Elijah Fischer called his insurance company to ask if his plan would cover a double mastectomy. A 27-year old Floridian and trans man, Elijah had mostly completed his gender transition, except he still had feminine breasts.

“I look down, and it’s not me,” Elijah recalled feeling. He felt foreign to himself. With summer approaching, he dreaded another season of avoiding the beach and kayaking with his wife, Brianna.

So it was a relief when his insurer, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, approved the surgery right away.

“Oh wow,” the couple said to each other, Brianna recalled. “That was easy. That was fantastic.”

In reality, it was just the start of a battle with Anthem that would stretch for more than nine months. The company backtracked, and revealed that Elijah’s policy specifically excluded “services and supplies related to sex transformation”. There were fraught phone calls and fine print before finally, Elijah contacted the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about filing a discrimination claim.

His case, he felt, was clear-cut. There is a federal law that bans insurers from discriminating against someone on the basis of gender. In practice, the government has said, this means an insurance company cannot cover a therapy or a procedure in one situation but refuse when the patient is trans. For example, since Eljiah’s Anthem plan covers mastectomies for women in many cases, the carrier ought to cover the same surgery for Elijah. …







Something to think about over coffee prozac

Idaho woman says she crashed because she saw a sasquatch

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho woman told police she crashed into a deer because she was distracted by a sasquatch in her rearview mirror.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports ( ) that the 50-year-old Tensed woman was driving south on U.S. Highway 95 on Wednesday when she struck a deer near Potlatch.

The woman told Benewah County Sheriff’s officials that she saw a sasquatch chasing a deer on the side of the road while driving. She says she checked one of her mirrors to get a second look at the beast and when she looked up, the deer ran in front of her.

Sheriff’s officials marked the incident as a vehicle versus deer collision but did not report any evidence of Bigfoot.

March Madness: 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Regional Finals (Round of 8)- Day 1

6:09 TBS Gonzaga-Xavier West Region

Xavier is the only true underdog left, but Gonzaga has been waiting for years. I’ll give this one to TMC.

8:49 TBS Kansas-Oregon Midwest Region

The only team I hate more than Kansas is Kentucky (actually Florida and South Carolina are pretty reprehensible too). Anyway, Go Ducks!

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