Tag Archives: Trump

Why are Talks about Russian Orphans Such a Big Deal?

As the media circus concerning the actions of President Trump, his cabinet, and connections to Russia unfold, many people are questioning the significance of one key factor: namely, Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, which supposedly resulted in a discussion about Russian orphans.

What exactly do these Russian orphans have to do with any of the politics going on right now?

Although the idea of Russian orphans may seem completely unrelated, when you connect the dots, the story creates a real-life thriller so complex that it would seem as if Steig Larsson has been writing our reality! I assure you that while everything may seem incredible, sometimes real life is far stranger than fiction.

How Did We Get to Talks about Russian Orphans?

In some of the latest developments concerning investigations into Russia and their involvement with the 2016 election and our current presidency, news has come out that Donald Trump Jr., along with Paul Manafort, (President Trump’s campaign chairman during the election), and Jared Kushner, (President Trump’s son-in-law), all attended a private meeting at Trump Towers with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

According to the Washington Post, as well as other reliable media sources, the meeting between Trump Jr., his associates, and the Russian lawyer were set up via email through a third-party, Rob Goldstone, who has known connections to Russia.

You can read a copy of the annotated emails by following this link. You can also learn more about how Goldstone is connected to the Trumps via this article in Wired .

In a nutshell, the emails implicated that Goldstone’s Russian connections had illegally obtained information about Hillary Clinton that would damage her reputation during the 2016 election. Trump Jr. clearly acknowledged that he wanted to acquire this information, which led to the meeting.

Since being questioned about that meeting, Trump Jr. first denied it, then later admitted to everything and claimed that the meeting had completely slipped his mind, since it was only 20 minutes and not much was discussed. He claimed that all that was discussed was Russian orphans.

As of August 1, 2017, allegations are being made that Trump Jr.’s statement about what occurred during the meeting may have been “dictated” by President Trump, according to both the Washington Post and the BBC . If President Trump was involved with creating his son’s statements, many have already surmised that such suspicious activity on top of everything else could lead to impeachment trials.

Okay – But What about the Russian Orphans?

The idea of Trump Jr. and his colleagues talking to some Russian lawyer about orphans seems bizarre in and of itself. How do you get from emails offering condemning material about Hillary Clinton to a 20 minute conversation about Russian orphans?

To understand this strange twist, you need to know about Bill Browder and The Magnitsky Act.

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On July 25, 2017, Bill Browder released to The Atlantic his remarks on his upcoming hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The hearing, which took place on July 26th, can be viewed here .

In case you aren’t aware, Browder is a financier and the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, which was one of the biggest firms advising Russia on investments prior to Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in Russia.

You can read Browder’s full remarks from The Atlantic article here . While I encourage everyone to read his story, it is a long piece, so I have prepared take away points to summarize:

  • Before Putin came to power, corrupt oligarchs were in power in Russia.
  • Browder was trying to expose the corruption, as was Putin.
  • While Browder and Putin were not friends, they had mutual goals.
  • Putin eliminated his competition and became the President.
  • Browder alleges that Putin came into power by eliminating the oligarchs and stealing $230 million.
  • Browder was trying to prove that Putin had stolen the money.
  • As a result of his investigations, Browder was kicked out of Russia.
  • Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was acting as Browder’s man on the ground to find out information about the corruption and to put pressure on the Kremlin.
  • Magnitsky was forcibly taken into custody by Putin’s regime in November 2008.
  • Magnitsky was detained (imprisoned) for almost a year.
  • During that time, he was tortured, deprived of sleep, starved, beaten, and received little to no medical care.
  • Magnitsky was told that if he signed documentation stating that he had stolen the money on Browder’s behalf, he would be set free.
  • Magnitsky refused to perjure himself and never signed any such documents, which is why the torture lasted for so long.
  • During his detainment, Magnitsky filed almost daily complaints with the Russian governments through his lawyer, documenting the whole sordid affair.
  • Magnitsky died in a detention facility in 2009 directly as a result of being beaten and receiving no medical attention.
  • No one was punished for this gross injustice!!!
  • Browder took it upon himself to do what he could to seek justice for Magnitsky.
  • While Putin could protect his followers in Russia, Browder knew that most of Putin’s money and the money of his underlings were in the West.
  • Browder knew he needed to hit them where it would hurt, their wallets.
  • Browder presented his findings and information about what happened to Magnitsky to government committees all around the world.
  • In 2012, The Magnitsky Act was signed into law in America.

Alex Horton provided a thorough explanation of The Magnitsky Act in this article from The Washington Post. In the article, Horton summarized the effects of the law as follows:

“The Magnitsky Act was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2012 as a retaliation against the human rights abuses suffered by Magnitsky. The law at first blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the United States, froze any assets held by U.S. banks and banned their future use of U.S. banking systems. The act was expanded in 2016, and now sanctions apply to 44 suspected human rights abusers worldwide.”

The government officials described above were those who had helped Putin rise to power, and who Putin was protecting. Before the act was signed into law, Browder implied that Putin’s protection also gave these government officials small fortunes. By implementing The Magnitsky Act, the government officials would no longer be able to access these fortunes promised to them by Putin, thus reducing his power and his support.

Browder has acknowledged that he feels more should be done to punish those responsible for what happened to Magnitsky, but given the levels of corruption in Russia, Browder also realized that creating the law was his only course of action to get some form of justice for his fallen friend.

Still Wondering about the Russian Orphans?

Okay – we’re really at the part about the orphans. (Thanks for sticking with me!)

In Browder’s statement in The Atlantic, he makes the following comment concerning what happened after The Magnitsky Act went into effect:

“Putin was furious. Looking for ways to retaliate against American interests, he settled on the most sadistic and evil option of all: banning the adoption of Russian orphans by American families.” (Browder)

Starting to connect the dots, yet? Let me help you make a few more connections.

After The Magnitsky Act was signed into law, Putin was in a difficult spot. Especially since information exposed in the Panama Papers, according to Browder, could implicate Putin and make him subject to The Magnitsky Act himself, which would freeze an immense amount of his fortunes. Therefore, Putin used his fortune, his political influence, and the Russian government to try to have the act repealed.

The Russian government and their associates have tried discrediting Browder’s story, and they have been lobbying for support in the U.S. to repeal the law. All of their attempts have proven fruitless thus far, according to Browder.

The group of Russians who were trying to repeal the act here in the U.S. were working on behalf of two Russian government officials, Denis and Pyotr Katsyv, a father and son team. Their lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, proved a major force in their lobbying efforts.

Does her name look familiar?

That’s because Veselnitskaya is THE SAME LAWYER who had the meeting with Donald Trump Jr.!!!!

“Russian Orphans” as Possible Code for Talks of Dismantling The Magnitsky Act

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The 20 minute conversation about Russian orphans, in my own personal opinion, was probably a discussion about what would be expected of Trump Jr. and his father, should they accept potential assistance from Russia.

In my imaginings of the meeting, I picture the lawyer explaining or implying that if Trump came into power, particularly as a result of whatever incriminating information about Hillary Clinton was being offered to Trump Jr., as described in his emails, and should Trump gain the presidency, he would be expected to repeal this act and the sanctions connected to it.

While I do not know for a fact if my opinion and analysis described in the above paragraph is accurate, the players involved and the presented evidence do make one suspicious of everyone’s intentions.

After all, why would a lawyer who’s been working for the people lobbying for the repeal of the act suddenly be talking to Trump Jr. about Russian orphans? And, if the meeting between Trump Jr. and the lawyer was set up under the belief that Trump Jr. would be receiving damning documents about Clinton, why else would the lawyer bring up the topic of Russian orphans if she did not hope to lobby for the support of the Trumps in dismantling the act?

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What to Say (Cite) When Conservatives Say Obama ALSO Banned Muslims

Background

We have seen a barrage of articles praising and chastising Trump for his recent executive order effectively banning people from 7 mainly-Muslim countries from visiting the United States. There have been countless protests at airports against this executive order. Political leaders have made their opinions against Trump’s executive order known, and other societal leaders have also spoken out against Trump’s order.

In response to all the protests, conservatives have been making statements that liberals are hypocrites, because they did not accuse Obama of being a bigot or anti-Muslim when Obama supposedly “did the same thing” and “banned Muslims.”

I saw the following video claiming these conservative viewpoints posted on various social media boards within the past 24 hours:

The video was promoted by Infowars.com, which was founded by radio host Alex Jones, who is noted  as the leading conspiracy theorist in the nation, according to the New York Magazine.

Infowars.com has an obvious conservative slant, which already makes me suspicious of anything they post. Furthermore, the news headlines used in the video were predominately also published on pro-conservative and anti-liberal sites, including Fox News.

In case you’re unfamiliar with which news sources are slanted, the following graphic provides a rather clear guide:

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Going Beyond the Anger and into the Debate

When I saw the Infowars.com video, I admit at first I was angry, because I am more liberal than not. After I got over the anger, I started wondering about Obama and these allegations, since I’m a critical thinker and thinking is what I do. I could not say whether or not the video was completely wrong, because I simply did not know the facts.

When I saw this video, it was in the middle of my work day, and I really didn’t have the time to do the research right then and there. I told myself I would check into it later.

At some point I did take a break from my day to read “Trump has fired the acting attorney general who ordered Justice Dept. not to defend president’s travel ban,” which was written by Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Mark Berman, and posted in The Washington Post on January 30, 2017.

The information in this article is impressive, and there are some major quotes in it that truly struck a chord with me. I shared this article on my Facebook feed, citing the following quote and my response to it:

“She has to be asked to resign immediately,” Terwilliger said. “Look, the executive branch of our government is unitary. There’s only one boss, and that boss has spoken. If some subordinate official thinks that his direction is illegal, than the choice is to resign.”—This quote implies a dictatorship, not a democracy. WTF!

Some of my conservative associates and family members – yes liberals have these connections – made some disparaging comments about the article I had shared. To continue the discussion with them, I would have to make the time to do the research, which is what I did this morning.

My mostly liberal friends and associates have urged me to turn my multiple responses into one, easily shareable post, which I now give all of you to review, share, and discuss.


 

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As to claims about Obama’s executive order doing the same thing, I believe this comparison is faulty.

Obama did not unilaterally ban Muslims. Obama’s ban was in direct response to Iraqi terrorists who were living in Kentucky. These terrorists had lied about their past terrorist connections, and it was found that they were directly involved in bombings, as proven with fingerprint evidence.

In response to that, Obama banned visas for Iraqi refugees for a period of six months. During that period, however, there were still Iraqi refugees being allowed into the country, but due to what happened in Kentucky, the visa process became far more in-depth as a means of national security.

In comparison, whereas Obama’s executive order was direct and specific as a response to an immediate threat, Trump’s order is broad, vague, and neither he nor his supporters have yet to show any evidence as to why they are completely banning individuals from entering the country who have not been directly connected with acts of terror.

Trump has stated that he is simply continuing with the policies from the previous presidency, namely Obama’s. This is a gross overgeneralization on Trump’s part.

According to Trump’s executive order, the countries listed in his executive order are “countries designated pursuant to Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated Appropriations Act.” This references the policies of the Obama administration.

Prior to Obama’s policy, citizens from a designated 38 countries, (including the 7 Trump has listed), were permitted to enter the United States without a visa for a limited period of about three months. After Obama’s act, and after the Kentucky incident, citizens from these 38 designated countries who had ALSO recently traveled into Iraq were not allowed the luxury of being able to travel into the U.S. without completing the visa process.

Therefore, due to suspicion of proven terrorism, those traveling in and out of certain countries had to go through the proper channels. This is not the same as completely banning them and stopping them from entering the country, as is happening with Trump’s executive order. Obama’s administration merely made the process of entering the country take longer to verify that those entering the country were not doing so under false pretenses or with connections to terrorists.

You can verify the facts for these above statements by checking out Linda Qiu’s article, “Why comparing Trump’s and Obama’s immigration restrictions is flawed,” or Eugene Kiely’s article, “Trump’s Faulty Refugee Policy Comparison.”

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My comment on dictatorship was in direct response to the quote by Terwilliger that was from the original Zapotosky, Horwitz, and Berman article listed above.

Let me say that it is not the job of the U.S. President to make all the decisions and all of us to say yes to those decisions. The president has a lot of authority to make executive orders, amongst other powers he or she possesses. Nevertheless, the Senate and Congress, on behalf of the citizens of the country, have the right to oppose, argue, and debate whether the laws or executive orders set by the president are in the best interest of the country and whether they uphold the principles for which this country stands.

For Terwilliger to say “(t)here’s only one boss, and that boss has spoken. If some subordinate official thinks that his direction is illegal, than the choice is to resign,” implies that there is no due process, that checks and balances do not matter, and that whatever the “boss” says is the only thing that will happen. That is NOT what this country is built on. Also, the Attorney General is the HEAD of the DOJ, and not some “subordinate official.”

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As to comments about the Attorney General (AG) not doing her job, and analogies about what would happen if, for example, a nurse did not administer meds ordered, because he or she had a difference in opinion about those meds, well, frankly, analogies like these are unfair, as they do not reflect the reality of the situation or adequately compare job duties fairly.

According to WhiteHouse.gov, the AG is part of the executive branch and is head of the Department of Justice. Per their information,

“(t)he mission of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

Therefore, as head of the DOJ, the AG’s job is to make sure that any laws created by the president or by Congress stay consistent with current policies, that they are lawful, that they do not in and of themselves commit crimes, and that these laws maintain safety. The AG’s job is to act as a system of checks and balances and verify that his/her superiors are acting in accordance with policies, laws, and that they are meeting the standards of the country.

The AG is quality and consistency control.

In contrast, a nurse’s job is to follow the orders of his/her superiors, although if those orders were immediately life-threatening, a nurse would have the right to say something and not administer the medication/treatment.

Likewise, if the laws created by Congress or by any order of the president were threatening to the legal system or to the standards of the country, the AG is REQUIRED to point that out.

Sally Yates’ decision to order the lawyers within the DOJ not to defend or support Trump’s executive order was because the broad nature of the executive order did not meet the criteria for being completely lawful, as per the policies of the DOJ. In addition, the lack of evidence that would have provided reasons for targeting individuals from those countries has not been fully provided.

In other words, she was doing her job.

It seems rather clear that the Trump administration’s continual use of the label “a leftover of the Obama administration” in reference to Yates blatantly dismisses and ignores the fact that she was doing her job. Instead of acknowledging that fact, it is my opinion that they used it as an excuse to expedite her removal from the DOJ.

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Furthermore, as explained in this article posted in The Washington Post, an executive order “is not the president creating new law or appropriating new money from the U.S. Treasury — both things that are the domain of Congress.” Thus, any of the orders or memorandums the president creates are what the president wants the country to do and what the president believes need to be the top priority. It is still the job of Congress, especially the DOJ, to verify if these orders are valid, lawful, worth pursuing, worth discussing, etc.

Lastly, let’s address comments about the number of executive orders, and how conservatives believe that Obama made the most orders of all presidents.

The “American Presidency Project,” funded and operated by UC Santa Barbara, provides an excellent table that clearly shows the number of executive orders given by each president.

As you can see from this link, the president who made the most executive orders was actually Franklin D. Roosevelt, with a total of 3,721. Here is a listing of presidents between 1981 and 2016 with the total of executive orders they made during their single or double term presidencies:

  • Ronald Reagan = 381
  • George Bush Sr. = 166
  • William “Bill” Clinton = 364
  • George W. Bush = 291
  • Barack Obama = 276

By these numbers, conservative presidents over the past 35 years have created 838 executive orders, and liberal presidents have created 640.

I have not found a confirmed number for the amount of orders signed by Trump as of January 31, 2017, as most places only update these numbers on a monthly basis, and Trump has only been president for 11 days.