Report: UAE linked to illegal influence in 2016 US election

Adviser to UAE crown prince allegedly funnelled over $3.5m in illegal campaign contributions, New York Times says.

An indictment links the United Arab Emirates to illegal campaign donations [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
An indictment links the United Arab Emirates to illegal campaign donations

A federal indictment unsealed in the United States details how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sought influence in the campaigns of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to a report by the New York Times.

The indictment, which was released this week by the US Department of Justice, accuses businessman George Nader of funnelling more than $3.5m in illicit campaign donations through fellow businessman Ahmad Khawaja.

Khawaja has also been charged with acting as a conduit for Nader’s illegal contributions.

The donations sought to attain “favour” and “potential financial support” in Washington for an unnamed foreign government , at first with Democrat Clinton and her allies, and then with Trump after he unexpectedly won the election, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper said that a close-reading of the 64-page indictment makes it clear that the government in question is the United Arab Emirates, where Nader runs a business and advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

While lobbyists with foreign clients regularly make contributions to US political campaigns, critics told the newspaper that the alleged scheme detailed in the indictment is one of the most brazen attempts by a foreign government to buy foreign influence during a campaign in recent memory. Rarely, the newspaper noted, has a head of state been so closely linked to allegedly evading campaign finance laws.

Nader had previously testified last year during the Federal Bureau of Investigations inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He is in jail in the US on charges related to the possession of child pornography.

‘Baklava’, ‘Our Sister’, and ‘HH’

The federal indictment detailed that Nader and Khawaja, in messages, often referred to the back-channel donations as “baklava”, candidate Clinton as “Our Sister” or “the Big Lady”, and the UAE crown prince by the initials “HH” for his His Highness.

Leaked documents show Saudi, UAE bid to influence Trump

“Will send you a note on the matter as per HH instruction,” Nader wrote in a text message in late June 2016, which also described a million-dollar payment of “baklava”, according to the report.

Several exchanges quoted in the indictment also show Nader reassuring Khawaja about the delivery of large sums of money to pay for donations.

“Fresh hand made Baklva on the way designed especially for that private event at your house later this month! First tray on the way!” Nader wrote in a message in July 2016. “Once you taste it and you like the choices more on the way soon.”

The messages also indicated that Nader kept the crown prince abreast of his efforts.

“Traveling on Sat morning to catch up with our Big Sister and her husband: I am seeing him on Sunday and her in Tuesday Sir! Would love to see you tomorrow at your convenience. . . for your guidance, instruction and blessing!” Nader wrote in June 2016 to an Emirati official who appears to be the crown prince, the New York Times report said.

A representative of the Emirati embassy in Washington declined to comment to the newspaper.

Petition: Investigate US Rep. Devin Nunes for complicity in the Ukraine affair.

Nunes.jpgThe House Intelligence Committee has submitted its report of the Trump impeachment inquiry—and it is definitive, detailed & utterly damning.

But what’s also noteworthy is how Rep. Devin Nunes—the ranking Republican on that committee—was directly involved in all aspects of the scheme he was pretending to investigate. He was more than just a Trump apologist. He is a Trump accomplice.

We already knew that in November 2018, Devin Nunes traveled to the Ukraine with three aides—where he allegedly met with corrupt former prosecutor Viktor Shokin for the express purpose of supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory against Joe Biden.

Now, the committee’s 300-page report shows that in April 2019, Nunes spoke with indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas—who was tasked by Trump to investigate the Biden’s activities in Ukraine. And we also now know that Nunes had talks with Rudy Giuliani, right when he was orchestrating the move to oust the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine.

The fox was guarding the henhouse. Devin Nunes was more than just a partisan Republican, eager to defend Trump for political expediency. He was actively involved in enabling Donald Trump’s abuse of power, which should get the president impeached.

Sign the petition: Impeaching Donald Trump is not enough. We need to investigate Rep. Devin Nunes, for his outrageous complicity.

Click to AUTOMATICALLY sign the petition
Our message to the House Ethics Committee:
I am deeply disturbed at reports that Rep. Devin Nunes traveled to the Ukraine to help Trump dig up dirt on Joe Biden. It seems likely that he is doing more than just defending the President, but has instead abused his role on the House Intelligence Committee to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections.

Keep fighting,
Paul Hogarth, Daily Kos

Trump administration moves to eliminate food stamps for 700,000 of his constituents. (He’s a Christian.)

The US Department of Agriculture has finalised a rule tightening work requirements for government food assistance.

Emma Goldman Quote: “Ask for work. If they don’t give you ...
With the implementation of a new work requirement rule, the US government could potentially take food assistance away from nearly 700,000 Americans 

The administration of United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it will make it harder for states to keep men and women in the country’s food stamp programme, a move that is projected to end benefits for nearly 700,000 people.

Trump has argued that many Americans receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment. The programme provides free food to 36 million Americans.

More:

Three million could lose food stamps under new Trump proposal

New US rule would target immigrants who use public benefits

Food prices are skyrocketing, and economists are worried

The administration has finalised a rule that tightens guidelines on when and where states can waive limits on how long certain residents can receive benefits. The changes will move more “able-bodied” adults into the workplace, said US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“States are seeking waivers for wide swaths of their population[s], and millions of people who could work are continuing to receive SNAP benefits,” he told reporters.

The US generally limits the amount of time that adults can receive food stamps when they are aged 18-49 and who do not have dependents or disability benefits. The limitations are usually three months within a 36-month period unless the adults meet certain work requirements.

States can apply for waivers to this time limit due to tough economic conditions. However, counties with an unemployment rate as low as 2.5 percent have been included in waived areas, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that runs SNAP.

The USDA is stiffening guidelines defining where recipients can reside to be eligible for waivers and standards for demonstrating whether an area has enough jobs to justify a waiver.

The US unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October.

“We need everyone who can work to work,” Perdue said.

But critics say the moves will hurt poor Americans.

“This is an unacceptable escalation of the administration’s war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets to make ends meet,” said US Congressional Representative Marcia Fudge, an Ohio State Democrat.

The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after the US Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.

The latest rule will take effect next year and save the government $5.5bn over five years by removing about 688,000 people from the food stamps rolls, said Brandon Lipps, a USDA deputy undersecretary.

“For those impacted, it will mean less nutritious meals or meals that are skipped altogether,” said Cassie Ramos, policy associate for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Apple changes Crimea map to meet Russian demands

Apple iPhoneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Apple has complied with Russian demands to show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory on its apps.

Russian forces annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, drawing international condemnation.

The region, which has a Russian-speaking majority, is now shown as Russian territory on Apple Maps and its Weather app, when viewed from Russia.

But the apps do not show it as part of any country when viewed elsewhere.

Apple Weather app lists Crimea as part of RussiaImage copyrightAPPLE WEATHER
Image captionThe Apple Weather app now lists Crimea as part of Russia
Apple Map showing CrimeaImage copyrightAPPLE MAPS
Image captionApple Maps does not show a border between Crimea and Russia

The State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, said in a statement: “Crimea and Sevastopol now appear on Apple devices as Russian territory.”

Russia treats the naval port city of Sevastopol as a separate region.

The BBC tested several iPhones in Moscow and it appears the change affects devices set up to use the Russian edition of Apple’s App Store.

Apple had been in talks with Russia for several months over what the State Duma described as “inaccuracy” in the way Crimea was labelled.

The tech giant originally suggested it could show Crimea as undefined territory – part of neither Russia nor Ukraine.

But Vasily Piskaryov, chairman of the Duma security and anti-corruption committee, said Apple had complied with the Russian constitution.

He said representatives of the company were reminded that labelling Crimea as part of Ukrainian territory was a criminal offence under Russian law, according to Interfax news agency.

“There is no going back,” Mr Piskaryov said. “Today, with Apple, the situation is closed – we have received everything we wanted.”

He said Russia was always open to “dialogue and constructive co-operation with foreign companies”.

Apple has not yet commented on the decision.

Google, which also produces a popular Maps app, does not show Crimea as belonging to either Russia or Ukraine on its maps.

However, it uses the Russian spelling of Crimean place names, rather than the Ukrainian spelling, on its maps in Russia.

Most of the international community, including the EU and the US, does not recognise the annexation of Crimea to Russia.

The loss of Crimea is a deep wound for Ukrainians. Shortly after the peninsula was annexed in early 2014, a separate conflict broke out in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions when separatists moved against the Ukrainian state.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending its troops to the region and arming the separatists.

Moscow denies this but says that Russian volunteers are helping the rebels. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The BBC does not show Crimea as part of Russia on its maps, but shows a dotted line to mark disputed territory.

Giuliani assures Trump Ukraine ‘insurance’ comment was a joke

Giuliani said he had ‘insurance’ if Trump turned on him in the impeachment inquiry into their Ukraine dealings.

Rudy Giuliani assured the president he was only joking about 'insurance' if 'thrown under the bus' [Julio Cortez/AP]
Rudy Giuliani assured the president he was only joking about ‘insurance’ if ‘thrown under the bus’ [Julio Cortez/AP]

US President Donald Trump‘s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called the president this week to reassure him he was joking when he told media outlets he had “insurance” if Trump turned on him in the Ukraine scandal at the heart of an impeachment inquiry into the president, Giuliani’s lawyer said on Wednesday.

The lawyer, Robert Costello, said Giuliani, “at my insistence”, called Trump “within the last day” to emphasise he had not been serious when he said he had an “insurance policy, if thrown under the bus”.

More:

“He shouldn’t joke, he is not a funny guy. I told him, ‘Ten thousand comedians are out of work, and you make a joke. It doesn’t work that way,'” Costello told Reuters News Agency.

Giuliani has already said he was being sarcastic when he made the comments. Trump, too, has brushed them off, telling reporters in the Oval Office this week that “Rudy is a great guy.” The White House declined to comment on Costello’s remarks.

WATCH

Has the Trump impeachment inquiry divided Americans even further?

Giuliani has emerged as a central figure in the Democrat-led House of Representatives impeachment inquiry against Trump. It is probing whether the president, for his personal political gain, pressed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and his son, Hunter.

Several witnesses have testified that Giuliani, working in an unofficial capacity, led a shadow foreign policy on behalf of the president. His work, which blurred what was considered government objectives, rankled some Trump administration officials, according to testimony.

Giuliani and his associates also led a successful campaign to remove the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who also testified at the inquiry.

Trump, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday, sought to distance himself from Giuliani’s activities on Ukraine, saying he had not directed him to work on Ukraine matters.

“No, I didn’t direct him but he is a warrior,” Trump told O’Reilly, adding Giuliani “possibly saw something” and “he’s done work in Ukraine for years.”

Costello declined to comment on what directions Trump had given Giuliani on Ukraine, citing attorney-client privilege.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday the former New York City mayor privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials during the same period he was working on behalf of the president, although he did not finalise any deals.

Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Disclosure of Trump’s Financial Records

H2 supreme court temporarily halts disclosure trump financial records

The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling that would have required President Trump’s accounting firm to release his financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The Supreme Court will now decide whether it will hear the case — which could set a major precedent about the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch.

Moveon.org: HAPPENING NOW: WE’RE AT ALL SIX OF SUSAN COLLINS’ OFFICES ACROSS MAINE

download (2)I’m Caleb, an organizer working with MoveOn on impeachment here in Maine (you may have heard from me or my colleague Bonnie last week!).

As I send you this email, right now, Mainers from Caribou to Portland are at all six of Senator Susan Collins’ Maine offices demanding that she uphold her oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution” and that she hold Trump accountable by supporting his impeachment and removal.

Sen. Collins is home this week—so she has no excuses for not meeting with us.

If you weren’t able to join us in person today, can you help by flooding her district offices with calls?

Give her a call at your closest district office: 

  • Senator Susan M. Collins
    • Augusta, ME: 207-622-8414
    • Bangor, ME: 207-945-0417
    • Biddeford, ME: 207-283-1101
    • Caribou, ME: 207-493-7873
    • Lewiston, ME: 207-784-6969
    • Portland, ME: 207-780-3575

You can say something like this: No one is above the law. Please support the impeachment inquiry in the House and vote to convict and remove Trump in the Senate. There is already overwhelming evidence of Trump’s crimes and corruption, and you need to uphold your oath to support and defend the Constitution!

Then, let us know how the call went.

Here’s why it’s so important that we keep up the pressure on Collins today:

Last week, Sen. Collins, along with Mitt Romney and other Republican senators, met with Trump at the White House—in the middle of ongoing impeachment hearings.1

Collins has used the excuse that she’s acting as a “juror” in Trump’s trial in the Senate to justify her silence on Trump’s crimes. But have you ever heard of a juror holding private meetings with a defendant?2

It’s clear that, right now, Collins isn’t planning to be an impartial juror. She’s meeting with Trump behind closed doors but, so far, has refused to meet with her constituents who support impeachment and removal. Let’s change that.

As we show up at Collins’ offices all across the state today, it’d be really helpful if you could pile on by calling in. Click here to get a number and script; then, let us know how the call went.

Thanks for all you do.

–Caleb, Bonnie, Brian, Anne, and the rest of the team and the rest of the team

P.S. Check out MoveOn’s Facebook page to watch and share a livestream of our office visit in Portland!