Analysis: Indictment Makes Trump’s Hoax Claim Harder to Sell The New York Times WASHINGTON — He brushed it off as a hoax. He mused that it might be China, or a guy from New Jersey, or “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.” He said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had assured him it wasn’t true. And, he added, “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”President Trump has never stopped belittling the charge that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. But on Friday, with the indictment of 13 Russians for orchestrating a vast, well-funded operation to interfere in the election, those denials collided with a mountain of evidence arrayed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.For Mr. Trump, who has tried to discredit Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, it was a direct assault on the version of reality that he has sought tirelessly to create.By laying out a meticulous case for how Russia tried to tip the electoral scales toward Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Mueller has made it much harder for the president to dismiss the investigation as mere politics. He may also have made it harder for Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller himself, since, as some Democratic lawmakers argued, that would look like an attempt to help Russia further undermine American democracy.Before the charges were announced, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, briefed Mr. Trump and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, and handed over a copy of the indictment, according to a person briefed on the matter. Mr. Mueller was not present at the briefing.On Friday afternoon, after Mr. Trump left Washington for his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, the White House issued a defiant statement claiming that the investigation had uncovered no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.“It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions,” the president said in a statement.In a tweet, Mr. Trump played up Mr. Mueller’s assertion that the Russian operation had begun in 2014, well before he declared his candidacy. “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he wrote.Far from being rattled, Mr. Trump was elated, according to his advisers, because he viewed it as evidence that Mr. Mueller now knows who the malefactors are — and they do not include him or members of his team. (The indictment refers to campaign officials who met or communicated with Russians, but says they were “unwitting.”)Yet Mr. Trump sidestepped the fact that he has stubbornly denied Russia’s interference, even after two assessments by the nation’s intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled. Last November, during a trip to Asia, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Putin had told him that Russia did not meddle, and that he was inclined to believe him.“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said. “I think he is very insulted by it,” he added, “which is not a good thing for our country.”Mr. Trump went so far as to suggest that the heads of the intelligence agencies at the time of the 2016 election — John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director — were less trustworthy than Mr. Putin.“I mean, give me a break — they’re political hacks,” he told reporters. “You have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar, and he’s proven to be a leaker, so you look at that.”Still, the response on Capitol Hill was resounding — at least concerning the gravity of Russia’s actions — and it could narrow Mr. Trump’s room for maneuver as he tries to limit the political fallout from the investigation.“The Russians engaged in a sinister and systematic attack on our political system,” the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, said. “It was a conspiracy to subvert the process, and take aim at democracy itself.”The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said the indictment was “further proof that Vladimir Putin directed a campaign to interfere with our elections, with the goal of tipping the outcome.” He called on Mr. Trump to immediately reverse his decision not to impose sanctions against Russia that were recently passed by Congress.Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, argued that any attempts to remove Mr. Mueller or Mr. Rosentein “will have to be seen as a direct attempt to aid the Russian government in attacking American democracy.”Mr. Trump has not hesitated to put Mr. Mueller’s future in jeopardy. Last July, he threatened to dismiss the special counsel if his investigation ranged too far afield from Russia’s campaign meddling. In an interview with The New York Times, he complained that Mr. Mueller’s office was rife with conflicts of interest and that the investigation had crossed a red line.A month earlier, several officials said, Mr. Trump actually gave an order to fire Mr. Mueller but backed down after Mr. McGahn threatened to resign rather than carry it out.Mr. Trump’s strategy for dealing with charges of Russian meddling has not varied much since the campaign: deny, obfuscate, play down and, since Election Day, blame it on Democrats bitter after Hillary Clinton’s defeat.In May, Mr. Trump told Lester Holt, the NBC News anchor, “This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”In September, he tweeted that “the Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” PolitiFact called Mr. Trump’s denial of Russian meddling its 2017 “Lie of the Year.”Since taking office, Mr. Trump has often expressed concern that the charges undermine the legitimacy of his presidency. He has told associates that if he accepts the premise of Russian meddling, it will call into question the idea that he won the election on his own merits.That fear drove many of Mr. Trump’s most incendiary tweets and statements throughout his first year in office, especially about the size and breadth of his electoral victory. The day after his inauguration, Mr. Trump ordered his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to insist that his inaugural crowd was the largest in history, which it demonstrably was not.In news conferences, on Twitter and at rallies, he has called the Russia investigation “fake news” and repeatedly predicted that Mr. Mueller’s investigation will end without finding much.Mr. Mueller’s indictment does not settle the overarching question of whether Mr. Trump or any of his campaign associates colluded with Russia. For now, the president has seized on that as evidence of his innocence.But as Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, put it, “The indictment leaves open the vital question of whether Americans, including any associated with the Trump campaign, knowingly played a role in Russia’s active-measures campaign.”That seemed a likely avenue of inquiry for an investigation that is casting a lengthening shadow on Mr. Trump’s presidency.Get politics and Washington news updates via Facebook, Twitter and the Morning Briefing newsletter.
Russians charged with meddling in 2016 presidential race ERIC TUCKER •13 Russians charged with meddling to help Trump in election13 Russians charged with meddling to help Trump in electionYahoo News VideoScroll back up to restore default view. WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary indictment, the U.S. special counsel accused 13 Russians Friday of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, charging them with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.The federal indictment, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that sent Trump to the White House. It also marks the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the outcome.The Russian organization was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the indictment says. He is a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman with ties to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.Trump quickly claimed vindication Friday, noting in a tweet that the alleged interference efforts began in 2014 — „long before I announced that I would run for President.””The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he tweeted.But the indictment does not resolve the collusion question at the heart of the continuing Mueller probe, which before Friday had produced charges against four Trump associates. U.S. intelligence agencies have previously said the Russian government interfered to benefit Trump, including by orchestrating the hacking of Democratic emails, and Mueller has been assessing whether the campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.The latest indictment does not focus on the hacking but instead centers on a social media propaganda effort that began in 2014 and continued past the election, with the goal of producing distrust in the American political process. Trump himself has been reluctant to acknowledge the interference and any role that it might have played in propelling him to the White House.The indictment does not allege that any American knowingly participated in Russian meddling, or suggest that Trump campaign associates had more than „unwitting” contact with some of the defendants who posed as Americans during election season.But it does lay out a vast and wide-ranging Russian effort to sway political opinion in the United States through a strategy that involved creating Internet postings in the names of Americans whose identities had been stolen; staging political rallies while posing as American political activists and paying people in the U.S. to promote or disparage candidates.While foreign meddling in U.S. campaigns is not new, the indictment for an effort of this scope and digital sophistication is unprecedented.”This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday. „The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”The 13 Russians are not in custody and not likely to ever face trial. The Justice Department has for years supported indicting foreign defendants in absentia as a way of publicly shaming them and effectively barring them from foreign travel.The surreptitious campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian troll farm that the indictment says sought to conduct „information warfare against the United States of America.”The company, among three Russian entities named in the indictment, had a multimillion-dollar budget and hundreds of workers divided by specialties and assigned to day and night shifts. According to prosecutors, the company was funded by companies controlled by Prigozhin, the wealthy Russian who has been dubbed „Putin’s chef” because his restaurants and catering businesses have hosted the Kremlin leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries.Prigozhin said Friday he was not upset by the indictment.”Americans are very impressionable people,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s state news agency. They „see what they want to see.”Also Friday, Mueller announced a guilty plea from a California man who unwittingly sold bank accounts to Russians involved in the interference effort.The election-meddling organization, looking to conceal its Russian roots, purchased space on computer servers within the U.S., used email accounts from U.S. internet service providers and created and controlled social media pages with huge numbers of followers on divisive issues such as immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement.Starting in April 2016, the indictment says, the Russian agency bought political ads on social media supporting Trump and opposing Clinton without reporting expenditures to the Federal Election Commission or registering as foreign agents. Among the ads: „JOIN our #HillaryClintonForPrison2016” and „Donald wants to defeat terrorism … Hillary wants to sponsor it.””They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump,” the indictment states.The indictment details contacts targeting three unnamed officials in the Trump campaign’s Florida operation. In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. The indictment doesn’t say if any of them responded, and there’s no allegation that any of the campaign officials knew they were communicating with Russians.Two of the defendants traveled to the U.S. in June 2014 to gather intelligence on social media sites and identify targets for their operations, the indictment alleges. Following the trip, the group collected further intelligence by contacting U.S. political and social media activists while posing as U.S. citizens. They were guided by one contact to target „purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida,” prosecutors say.Cruz and Rubio ran against Trump in the Republican primary; Sanders opposed Clinton in the Democratic primary.According to one internal communication described by prosecutors, the specialists were instructed to „use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump_we support them).” And according to one internal review, a specialist was criticized for having a low number of posts criticizing Clinton. The person was told „it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts.The indictment also asserts that the posts encouraged minority groups not to vote or to vote for third parties and alleged Democratic voter fraud.Ahead of a Florida rally, the Russians paid one person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform. But they also organized some rallies opposing Trump, including one in New York after the election called „Trump is NOT my president.”The Russians destroyed evidence of their activities as Mueller’s investigation picked up, with one of those indicted sending an email in September 2017 to a family member that said the FBI had „busted” them so they were covering their tracks.That person, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, wrote the family member, „I created all of these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”__Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Desmond Butler, Raphael Satter and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report._Online: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4380517-Russia-probe-indictments.html
Exposed: Why China Would Lose a War against AmericHarry J. Kazianis •Harry J. Kazianis Security,All of the reasons why. Exposed: Why China Would Lose a War against AmericaWhen it comes to a war with the U.S. how well would Beijing be able to use all that stuff? The real question seems pretty simple: yes, China is certainly developing all the military and technology goodies to field a potent force. However, how well can it operate all that equipment in the pressure filled situation of a war? Sure, Beijing is certainly developing a world-class military, but can its soldiers operate all that equipment competently? Just how well trained are they? You can have the best military in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, well, you get the idea.Let’s not mince words: a U.S.-China war would be hell on earth. It would likely start World War III. Millions— maybe billions— of people would die if nuclear weapons were ever used in such a conflict. The global economy would likely face ruin— that’s what happens when the world’s biggest economic powers start shooting at each other. Thankfully the chances are remote it will ever happen. Yet, the threat of such a conflict remains thanks to the many different pressure points in the U.S.-China relationship. Forget the challenge of ISIS, Ukraine, Syria or whatever the flavor of the moment is. The U.S.-China relationship— and whether it remains peaceful or not— is the most important challenge of our time. Period.Several days ago I examined in a short piece on these digital pages how China could do great damage to U.S. and allied military forces in a war. Thanks to over twenty years of large scale investments, the PRC has gone from being a third-rate military that could project very little offensive punch to arguably the second most powerful military machine on the planet. And with an emphasis on weapons systems that embrace anti-access/area-denial military doctrine (A2/AD), China seems to be developing the tools it needs if war with America did ever come to pass. Beijing’s motto these days: be prepared.(This first appeared in 2015.)This article examines the challenges China would face against the U.S. in a conflict–but in a very broad, top-down, and practical sort of way. This time I will avoid the fun but sometimes easy to pick apart scenario-style type of analysis. While Beijing certainly has the tools to get the job done when it comes to a war with Washington, the challenges China would face in such a conflict would be immense— and many of them could be quite basic. The PRC would be going to war against the premier military power on the planet— some would argue the most lethal fighting machine of all time. In this essay we will review some of the important foundational reasons why many argue, quite convincingly, that the U.S. would very well defeat China in a war.(Recommended: Exposed: China’s Super Strategy to Crush America in a War)A Great Mystery: Just How Good Is China’s Military Anyway?Yes, Beijing keeps cranking out those whizz-bang high-tech weapons of war like sausages. China has those shiny, new carrier-killer missiles that everyone is always fretting about (including yours truly.) Its building aircraft carriers, 5th generation fighters, multiple types of cruise missiles, nuclear and ultra quiet diesel submarines, drones, mines and so on.It all looks really good— at least on paper. When it comes to a war with the U.S. how well would Beijing be able to use all that stuff? The real question seems pretty simple: yes, China is certainly developing all the military and technology goodies to field a potent force. However, how well can it operate all that equipment in the pressure filled situation of a war? Sure, Beijing is certainly developing a world-class military, but can its soldiers operate all that equipment competently? Just how well trained are they? You can have the best military in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, well, you get the idea.(Recommended: Five American Weapons of War China Should Fear)Opinions are mixed on this for sure. Ian Easton from Project 2049, in a piece for The Diplomat, reminds us of the possible capabilities, nature, and mission of the PLA— and its certainly not all about America:The state of “software” (military training and readiness) is truly astounding. At one military exercise in the summer of 2012, a strategic PLA unit, stressed out by the hard work of handling warheads in an underground bunker complex, actually had to take time out of a 15-day wartime simulation for movie nights and karaoke parties. In fact, by day nine of the exercise, a “cultural performance troupe” (common PLA euphemism for song-and-dance girls) had to be brought into the otherwise sealed facility to entertain the homesick soldiers…(Recommended: Wake Up, America: China Is a Real Threat)Easton continues:While recent years have witnessed a tremendous Chinese propaganda effort aimed at convincing the world that the PRC is a serious military player that is owed respect, outsiders often forget that China does not even have a professional military. The PLA, unlike the armed forces of the United States, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and other regional heavyweights, is by definition not a professional fighting force. Rather, it is a “party army,” the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Indeed, all career officers in the PLA are members of the CCP and all units at the company level and above have political officers assigned to enforce party control. Likewise, all important decisions in the PLA are made by Communist Party committees that are dominated by political officers, not by operators.So how much would the above impact the much-needed rapid reaction time essential to make quick decisions once the bombs begin to drop in a war with America? Is China up to the challenge? While the above exercise in 2012 could be just one isolated incident, the idea of the PLA being a “party army” is a very important reality. What does this all mean in a war with America? Your guess is as good as mine.How Good Can Beijing Fight “Jointly”?There is no better way to make a modern military even more deadly than to fight “jointly.” Sharing intelligence and waging war by coordinating your forces across multiple domains (think air, sea, space, cyber and land) is the best way to achieve hard fought military objectives and is the ultimate force multiplier. It is something America and many other great powers are putting a lot of time, energy and resources into.China is also working towards such a goal. And while sources vary on how well Beijing could wage a major joint operation against a determined foe— especially against the U.S.— many have their doubts. In a recent report by the RAND Corporation titled “China’s Incomplete Military Modernization” the authors have some serious doubts when it comes to Beijing’s joint warfighting capabilities:Many Chinese strategists identify the inability to conduct integrated joint operations at the desired level of competence as the central problem China faces as it aspires to project combat power beyond its land borders. Indeed, Chinese sources highlight several problems that contribute to the PLA’s shortcomings in the area of joint operations and suggest that there is still a large gap between China and developed countries’ militaries, especially the United States.In the same paragraph, the authors of the study also discuss issues with training, reinforcing my earlier point:PLA publications also highlight continuing shortfalls in training, despite years of effort to make training more realistic and more valuable in terms of addressing shortcomings and improving the PLA’s operational capabilities. In addition, the publications point to persistent challenges in combat support and combat service support functions and forces, as reflected by frequent discussions of shortcomings in logistics and maintenance capabilities that appear in PLA newspaper reports and journal articles.Can They Innovate?When it comes to military technology, keeping ahead of the curve is key. America seems to crank out new defense tech all the time. The question over the long-term for China will be how well it can keep up in the tech game. Specifically, can Beijing develop advanced military systems indigenously? This might be the biggest challenge for China when we look out over the long term (10-20 years in the future) in a conflict with America.We all know China has a great track record of, well, permanently “borrowing” the designs of many of the world’s best combat systems. However, one can only gain so much by playing copy cat. Even a copy needs to be reverse engineered— and sometimes that isn’t easy. A poor copy would do China no good on the battlefield. Over the next decade Beijing will need to develop ingeniously many of the world’s most sought after pieces of military hardware and other intricate systems that make them go— things like jet engines— that are not easy to produce with precision and that they currently struggle with. China will also need to get good at maintaining and improving world class equipment under the worst of conditions. While it might not be sexy, innovation and keeping ahead of the curve would pay dividends in a war against America when we look out over the long term. Only time will tell if Beijing is up to the challenge.The Last Time China Fought a Major War Was the Year I was Born: 1979 The best way to get good at anything is too actually go out and do it— and do it a lot. The challenge for China is that you can wargame all you want but unless you have experienced actual combat there will always be a learning curve. And the curve for China is steep: Beijing has not not fought a major war since its roughly one month skirmish with Vietnam in 1979.Now, while knowledge from a conflict thirty-five years ago might not translate into success against America in a war, having little to no combat experience could pose some challenges for China. Washington going into any conflict with Beijing would certainly have a decisive advantage when it comes to war fighting. While the conflicts America has fought over the last twenty-five years were not A2/AD battle royals, the last few decades has offered the U.S. military the capability to test out new systems and tactics, fix things that aren’t working when it comes to combat operations, and make important adjustments for future scenarios. For example, the U.S. did not need to send F-22s into Syria, however, the opportunity to learn on the battlefield and gain experience is of vital importance and likely the main reason for doing so. And it is one area that would have to be considered a major advantage in a battle against China. Parting Thoughts: Does America Have the Edge?Sometimes the best way to approach a problem is too look at it from multiple angles; not just from your typical scenario of move, countermove. What are the actual weaknesses of the different players when it comes to effectively waging war against a modern and determined foe on a practical level? The above demonstrates not only some of the basic challenges China would have over the short and long term in a fight with America but also clearly illustrates a much greater dilemma— creating a military that (at least on paper) can take on America. That isn’t to say China couldn’t do it, for I am on record that Beijing could do incredible damage to American and allied forces in a fight, and maybe even win depending on the situation. What I am saying: America has one heck of a head start in such a contest.
Man who sued ex-Seattle mayor on sex abuse claims found dead Associated Press 2 Kings lead World past US in Rising Stars gameSEATTLE — A 47-year-old man who sued former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray over sexual abuse claims that effectively ended Murray’s political career was found dead Friday in a motel room.Delvonn R. Heckard died in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. The cause and manner of Heckard’s death are pending.Auburn Assistant Police Chief Bill Pierson said police and fire medics responded to a room at the Auburn Motel early Friday for the apparent drug overdose of a middle-aged black male, The Seattle Times reported .Pierson, who declined to identify the man as Heckard, said medics unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate the man. Police interviewed a witness and found „some type of medication in the room, as well as some illicit drug paraphernalia,” he said.Heckard had been in recovery for addiction to cocaine and other drugs when he sued Murray in April, alleging Murray had repeatedly paid him for sex in the late 1980s when he was a teenager.After Heckard filed his lawsuit, two other men claimed Murray sexually abused them when they were teens in Portland, Oregon, in the 1980s.Murray denied the claims and then a fourth man came forward, also claiming Murray paid him for sex when he was a teenager.Murray was in his first mayoral term when he resigned in September after his cousin, Joseph Dyer, became the fifth man to publicly accuse Murray of child sexual abuse decades ago.Murray has denied all of the allegations.Heckard said last year that his father’s death and his attempts at sobriety caused him to come forward with his accusations against Murray. While the lawsuit developed, he participated in counseling and recovery programs and attended classes at Seattle Central College. He planned to become a chemical-dependency counselor, he said.Heckard had dropped and then refiled his lawsuit, adding the city as a defendant, claiming the city had enabled Murray to use his political office to slander Heckard and others for months as the mayor denied the allegations. The city settled with Heckard in late December for $150,000.Heckard was the only accuser to take legal action to date.”A hero died today,” Heckard’s lawyer, Lincoln Beauregard, tweeted Friday.