In the United States, the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues. While Senator Bernie Sanders has been temporarily sidelined due to surgery, War Hawk Joe Biden continues to flounder as desperation hits in.
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(A) circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine's massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies ...
Prominent friends and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., say he should cut back on his relentless campaign pace and speak openly about his recent heart attack when he returns to the campaign trail, urging a shift toward a more personal and less hectic campaign than he has run so far.
The comments reflect what supporters describe as a deeply personal decision with big implications for Sanders’s candidacy: how the 78-year-old democratic socialist, viewed by many of his backers as the leader of a movement, should proceed after a health scare that has sidelined him for days and raised questions about whether he can - or should - maintain the punishing demands of a presidential campaign.
“I would be very open about the experience he had,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a national co-chair of the Sanders campaign who made his pitch to the senator in a brief telephone conversation last week. “I think it can show a resilience, a sense of empathy and a sense of vulnerability.”
Sanders supporters privately acknowledge concern that the heart attack could give voters second thoughts about the candidate, who would be the oldest president in history if elected. In an effort to move beyond the setback, some hope he can seize on the event to transmit a softer side that’s eluded him.
The goal, said Khanna, would be to “make a very human connection.” He said he texted the senator’s wife, Jane Sanders, last week to tell her that this could be Sanders’s “FDR moment,” referring to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose battle with polio is sometimes said to have contributed to his empathy for the less fortunate.
The sensitivity of dealing with the heart attack has been evident since the episode occurred. The campaign did not immediately disclose the heart attack, initially saying only that Sanders had experienced chest pains and had two stents inserted in an artery.
Advisers and friends also say Sanders should consider easing his breakneck campaign pace. Sanders has been sprinting across the country, holding multiple events per day, maintaining a speed that has surpassed his top rivals.
“If I were giving him advice, I would tell him just slack up a little bit,” said former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who visited Sanders in a Las Vegas hospital last week. “Even if he slacks up a little bit, he’s campaigning more than anybody else.”
Sanders spent Monday recuperating at home in Burlington, Vermont. On a conference call with staff, he reiterated that the movement he has been leading is not about him, a theme he often hits in campaign speeches.
“If there’s anything that this event kind of tells us, it is the importance of what our message is in this campaign. And our message is ‘Us, not me,’ ” Sanders said, according to a person with knowledge of his remarks.
Campaign officials have signaled that he is not expected to return to the trail until the Oct. 15 debate near Columbus, Ohio. That makes the debate a critical event for the campaign, as Sanders will face considerable scrutiny from voters and rivals sizing up his health and vitality.
“Bernie is raring to go, and his campaign staff has been trying to hold him back until the debate,” said Ben Cohen, who co-founded Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and serves as a national co-chair of the campaign. “The plan is for the debate to be his reentry into the race.”
People with knowledge of the situation said there had been a period of uncertainty about the campaign’s future in the immediate aftermath of Sanders’s hospitalization for chest pains last week. The campaign suspended an Iowa ad buy and made reassuring calls to supporters during those first hours.
But in recent days, the campaign has shown determination to move full speed ahead. The Iowa ad touting Sanders will be on the airwaves starting Tuesday.
The campaign rolled out a new policy proposal Monday aimed at curtailing the role of money in politics. It would eliminate big-dollar fundraising for all federal elections, enact a constitutional amendment to declare that campaign contributions are not speech and end corporate contributions to the party conventions.
Surrogates campaigned for Sanders in the key early states over the weekend, a strategy the campaign plans to continue. Cohen said he plans to campaign for Sanders this weekend in New Hampshire.
The campaign is also aggressively calling voters. After establishing a goal of making a million calls in the early primary states over the past 10 days, it beat that goal by 300,000 calls, the campaign said.
Sanders and his allies have also used his heart attack to call attention to his push to enact a Medicare-for-all universal health-care system. They note that while Sanders was fortunate to have access to good doctors and treatment, many Americans do not.
And Sanders has already begun showing a more personal side of himself. When he left the hospital on Friday, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his wife, Jane, smiling and waving. When he returned to Burlington, reporters there noted Sanders saying he was “happy to be home” before walking inside where family was waiting.
On Monday, he and Jane took a walk in the rain, and he joked with reporters he said should get paid more for working in the drizzle.
Early this year, when he launched his second campaign for president, advisers encouraged Sanders to speak about his participation in the civil rights movement and his modest upbringing in Brooklyn. He mentioned those things at early campaign stops. But as time went on, they faded from his stump speeches.
“He’s somewhat reticent to talk about his own … life experiences,” said Cohen. “But I think it’s helpful for him to do that and it’s certainly only a decision that he can make, but I do think this is an opportunity for him to talk.”
Sanders has been trailing former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in many recent polls, sparing him the pressure that can face the front-runner. His Democratic rivals have either wished Sanders well or brushed aside questions about his physical fitness for office. President Donald Trump and his allies have been preoccupied with the impeachment inquiry.
These external events have led some Sanders allies to conclude that he does not have to rush back onto the national stage.
“The next months are going to be dominated by the impeachment inquiry, not the presidential race,” said Khanna. “His volunteers can do a lot of the work and he just needs to focus on recovering.”
In a sign of how the Sanders movement has charged ahead without him on the trail, a video created by a supporter arguing that he’s been criticized unfairly by the media had received 6 million views as of late Monday.
As Sanders recovers, his campaign has taken steps to reassure staffers and supporters, scheduling calls and other outreach to keep allies focused.
“The campaign reached out to me to let me know that he was doing fine. They gave me the details, which made me feel really comfortable,” said Deb Marlin, an Iowa small-business owner who has endorsed Sanders.
Reid recalled spending 30 to 45 minutes with Sanders on Thursday. They reminisced about their work in the Senate and talked about health care, Reid said. As for the next debate, Reid said Sanders ought to take things slowly before then.
“He should take it easy until then,” said Reid. “As far as I understand, that’s what he’s going to do.”
KYIV, Ukraine – As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.
Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.
Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.
But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.
It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.
But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
On Friday, according to the news site Axios, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” regarding Biden. Axios cited a source saying Trump said Perry had asked Trump to make the call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”
While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, was not advancing anyone’s personal interests. She said his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country’s energy sector and create an environment in which Western companies can do business.
Perry was asked about the AP’s reporting on Monday while in Lithuania, where he was meeting with officials from Ukraine and other eastern European countries to discuss energy security and cooperation. He said any suggestion that he tried to force a management change at Naftogaz was a “totally dreamed up story.”
“We get asked for our recommendations about people who are experts in areas, various areas,” Perry said. “Folks who have expertise in particular areas. Obviously having been the governor of the state of Texas, I know a lot of people in the energy industry.”
The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogaz, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine. For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.
Ukraine, a resource-rich nation that sits on the geographic and symbolic border between Russia and the West, has long been plagued by corruption and government dysfunction, making it a magnet for foreign profiteers.
At the center of the Naftogaz plan, according to three individuals familiar with the details, were three such businessmen: two Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.
Parnas and Fruman have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to Republicans, including $325,000 to a Trump-allied political action committee in 2018. This helped the relatively unknown entrepreneurs gain access to top levels of the Republican Party – including meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.
The two have also faced lawsuits from disgruntled investors over unpaid debts. During the same period they were pursuing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coordinating with Giuliani to set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials and push for an investigation of the Bidens.
Sargeant, his wife and corporate entities tied to the family have donated at least $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and PACs over the last 20 years, including $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, according to federal and state campaign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Florida state GOP, and gave nearly $14,000 to Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.
In early March, Fruman, Parnas and Sargeant were touting a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, formerly known as Kiev.
Going back to the Obama administration, the U.S. Energy Department and the State Department have long supported efforts to import American natural gas into Ukraine to reduce the country’s dependence on Russia.
The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrainian executive was attending an energy industry conference in Texas. Parnas and Fruman told him they had flown in from Florida on a private jet to recruit him to be their partner in a new venture to export up to 100 tanker shipments a year of U.S. liquefied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest distributor, according to two people briefed on the details.
Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support, according to the two people who said Favorov recounted the discussion to them.
These conversations were recounted to AP by Dale W. Perry, an American who is a former business partner of Favorov. He told AP in an interview that Favorov described the meeting to him soon after it happened and that Favorov perceived it to be a shakedown. Perry, who is no relation to the energy secretary, is the managing partner of Energy Resources of Ukraine, which currently has business agreements to import natural gas and electricity to Ukraine.
A second person who spoke on condition of anonymity also confirmed to the AP that Favorov had recounted details of the Houston meeting to him.
According to Dale Perry and the other person, Favorov said Parnas told him Trump planned to remove U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with someone more open to aiding their business interests.
Dale Perry told the AP he was so concerned about the efforts to change the management at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he reported what he had heard to Suriya Jayanti, a State Department foreign service officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focuses on the energy industry.
He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov’s account, dated April 12, which was shared with another current State Department official. Perry recently provided a copy of the April memo to AP.
Jayanti declined to provide comment. Favorov also declined to comment.
On March 24, Giuliani and Parnas gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with Healy E. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign adviser who once served as deputy communications director for Giuliani’s presidential campaign and as a communications official during the George W. Bush administration.
She is now listed as the CEO of 45 Energy Group, a Houston-based energy company whose website describes it as a “government relations, public affairs and business development practice group.” The company’s name is an apparent nod to Trump, the 45th president.
This was a couple of weeks after the Houston meeting with Favorov, the Naftogaz executive. Giuliani, Parnas and Baumgardner were there to make a business pitch involving gas deals in the former Soviet bloc to a potential investor.
This time, according to Giuliani, the deals that were discussed involved Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.
“I have not pursued a deal in the Ukraine. I don’t know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obviously,” said Giuliani, reached while attending a playoff baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. “There is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.”
During this meeting, Parnas again repeated that Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, would soon be replaced, according to a person with direct knowledge of the gathering. She was removed two months later.
Giuliani, who serves as Trump’s personal lawyer and has no official role in government, acknowledged Friday that he was among those pushing the president to replace the ambassador, a career diplomat with a history of fighting corruption.
“The ambassador to Ukraine was replaced,” he said. “I did play a role in that.”
But Giuliani refused to discuss the details of his business dealings, or whether he helped his associates in their push to forge gas sales contracts with the Ukrainian company. He did describe Sergeant as a friend and referred to Parnas and Fruman as his clients in a tweet in May.
As part of their impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have subpoenaed Giuliani for documents and communications related to dozens of people, including Favorov, Parnas, Fruman and Baumgardner’s 45 Energy Group.
Baumgardner issued a written statement, saying: “While I won’t comment on business discussions, I will say this: this political assault on private business by the Democrats in Congress is complete harassment and an invasion of privacy that should scare the hell out of every American business owner.”
Baumgardner later denied that she had any business dealings in Ukraine but refused to say whether the replacement of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed.
Sargeant did not respond to a voice message left at a number listed for him at an address in Boca Raton.
John Dowd, a former Trump attorney who now represents Parnas and Fruman, said it was actually the Naftogaz executives who approached his clients about making a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Perry to get the Energy Department on board.
“The people from the company solicited my clients because Igor is in the gas business, and they asked them, and they flew to Washington and they solicited,” Dowd said. “They sat down and talked about it. And then it was presented to Secretary Perry to see if they could get it together.
“It wasn’t a shakedown; it was an attempt to do legitimate business that didn’t work out.”
THE ENERGY SECRETARY
In May, Rick Perry traveled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. government representative at the inauguration of the county’s new president.
In a private meeting with Zelenskiy, Perry pressed the Ukrainian president to fire members of the Naftogaz advisory board. Attendees left the meeting with the impression that Perry wanted to replace the American representative, Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy representative who served in the Obama administration, with someone “reputable in Republican circles,” according to someone who was in the room.
Perry’s push for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to change its supervisory board was first reported by Politico.
A second meeting during the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, included Ukrainian officials and energy sector people. There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.
Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, according to photographs reviewed by AP. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said he was floored by the American requests because the person had always viewed the U.S. government “as having a higher ethical standard.”
The Naftogaz supervisory board is supposed to be selected by the Ukrainian president’s Cabinet in consultation with international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union. It must be approved by the Ukrainian Cabinet. Ukrainian officials perceived Perry’s push to swap out the board as circumventing that established process, according to the person in the room.
U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said Perry had consistently called for the modernization of Ukraine’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business there. She said Perry delivered that same message in the May meeting with Zelenskiy.
“What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” Hynes said Saturday. “That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist.”
Hynes said the Ukrainian government had requested U.S. recommendations to advise the country on energy matters, and Perry provided those recommendations. She confirmed Bleyzer was on the list.
Bleyzer, whose company is based in Houston, did not respond on Saturday to a voicemail seeking comment. Bensh also did not respond to a phone message.
Perry has close ties to the Texas oil and gas industry. He appointed Bleyzer to a two-year term on a state technologies fund board in 2009. The following year, records show Bleyzer donated $20,000 to Perry’s reelection campaign.
Zelenskiy’s office declined to comment on Saturday.
In an interview Friday with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Perry said that “as God as my witness” he never discussed Biden or his son in meetings with Ukrainian or U.S. officials, including Trump or Giuliani. He did confirm he had had a conversation with Giuliani by phone, but a spokeswoman for the energy secretary declined to say when that call was or whether the two had discussed Naftogaz.
In Lithuania on Monday, Perry said he could not recall whether Bleyzer’s name was on the list provided to Zelenskiy. But Perry confirmed he had known Bleyzer for years and called him “a really brilliant, capable businessman.”
“I would recommend him for a host of different things in Kyiv because he knows the country,” Perry said of Bleyzer. “He’s from there. So, why not? I mean I would be stunned if someone said that would you eliminate Michael Bleyzer from a recommendation of people you ought to talk to about how to do business in the country, whether they’re knowledgeable. It’d be remarkable if I didn’t say, `Talk to Michael.“’
WASHINGTON – They may have his back on impeachment, but some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies are suddenly revolting against his decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria.
On Monday, one chief Trump loyalist in Congress called the move “unnerving to the core.” An influential figure in conservative media condemned it as “a disaster.” And Trump’s former top NATO envoy said it was “a big mistake” that would threaten the lives of Kurdish fighters who had fought alongside American troops for years.
Trump’s surprise move, which came with no advance warning late Sunday and stunned many in his own government, threatened to undermine what has been near lockstep support among Republicans. It also came against the backdrop of a congressional impeachment inquiry in which the backing of Republicans in the Senate is the president’s bulwark against being removed from office.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been among Trump’s most vocal defenders, called the Syria decision “a disaster in the making” that would throw the region into chaos and embolden the Islamic State group.
“I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is,” Graham told Fox News. “I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has shrugged off the key allegation in the impeachment inquiry – that Trump pressured foreign powers to investigate a top Democratic rival – tweeted that Trump’s shift on Syria is “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”
And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has been more willing than many Republicans to condemn Trump’s calls for foreign intervention in the 2020 election, called the Syria move “a terribly unwise decision” that would “abandon our Kurdish allies, who have been our major partner in the fight against the Islamic State.”
A more frequent Republican Trump critic, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, cast Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal.”
“It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster,” Romney tweeted.
Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s hand-picked ambassador to the United Nations, also cast the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Iraq as a betrayal of a key ally.
“The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake,” she wrote on Twitter.
Former Rubio aide Alex Conant highlighted the risks ahead for a president whose political future depends on Republican support.
“For Trump to make a very controversial move on Syria at the exact moment when he needs Senate Republicans more than ever is risky politics,” Conant said, noting the significance for many Senate Republicans of the United States’ policy in northern Syria, where Kurds would be particularly vulnerable to a Turkish invasion.
“They’re not just going to send out a couple of tweets and move on,” Conant said. “At the same time, the White House is going to need these guys to carry a lot of water for them.”
While a number of Republicans criticized Trump’s decision, one of their most important leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was sanguine, offering little concern about Syria or impeachment during an appearance at the University of Kentucky.
“There are a few distractions, as you may have noticed,” McConnell said. “But if you sort of keep your head on straight and remember why you were sent there, there are opportunities to do important things for the country and for the states that we represent.”
After the appearance, McConnell issued a statement warning that Trump’s proposed withdrawal “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”
“As we learned the hard way during the Obama Administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal,” McConnell said.
Outside government, leaders of conservative groups backed Trump.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent evangelical leader, said Trump was simply “keeping his promise to keep America out of endless wars.”
He suggested Trump could easily reengage in the region if the decision backfires.
“The president has got to do what’s best for the country, whether it helps him with this phony impeachment inquiry or not,” Falwell said in an interview.
Former Trump campaign aide Barry Bennett noted that the president has been talking about reducing troop levels in the Middle East since before the 2016 election.
“I understand that they don’t like the policy, but none of them should be shocked by the policy,” Bennett said. “He’s only been talking about this for four or five years now. I think he’s with the vast majority of the public.”
Still, the backlash from other Trump loyalists was intense.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a member of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, called it a “misguided and catastrophic blow to our national security interests.”
And on Fox News, a network where many rank-and-file Trump supporters get their news, host Brian Kilmeade said it was “a disaster.”
“Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?” Kilmeade said on “Fox & Friends.”
Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the controversy reminds him of former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ decision to resign late last year after Trump announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria.
“Ultimately, Trump reversed himself,” Aliriza said. “The question is whether he will actually reverse himself again in view of the opposition from Capitol Hill led by several of his closest allies.”
WASHINGTON – As the U.S. warned allies around the world that Chinese tech giant Huawei was a security threat, the FBI was making the same point quietly to a Midwestern university.
In an email to the associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, an agent wanted to know if administrators believed Huawei had stolen any intellectual property from the school.
Told no, the agent responded: “I assumed those would be your answers, but I had to ask.”
It was no random query.
The FBI has been reaching out to universities across the country as the U.S. tries to stem what American authorities portray as the wholesale theft of technology and trade secrets by researchers tapped by China. The breadth and intensity of the campaign emerges in emails obtained by The Associated Press through records requests to public universities in 50 states.
Agents have lectured at seminars, briefed administrators in campus meetings and distributed pamphlets with cautionary tales of trade secret theft. In the past two years, they’ve requested emails of two University of Washington researchers, asked Oklahoma State University if it has scientists in specific areas and asked about “possible misuse” of research funds by a University of Colorado Boulder professor, according to the emails.
The emails reveal administrators routinely requesting FBI briefings. But they also show some struggling to balance legitimate national security concerns against their own eagerness to avoid stifling research or tarnishing legitimate scientists. The Justice Department says it appreciates that push-pull and wants only to help separate the relatively few researchers engaged in theft from the majority who are not.
Senior FBI officials told AP they’re not encouraging schools to monitor researchers by nationality but instead to take steps to protect research. They consider the briefings vital since they say universities haven’t historically been as attentive to security as they should be.
“When we go to the universities, what we’re trying to do is highlight the risk to them without discouraging them from welcoming the researchers and students from a country like China,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official.
The threat, officials say, is genuine. A University of Kansas researcher was recently charged with collecting federal grant money while working full-time for a Chinese university, and a Chinese government employee was arrested in a visa fraud scheme allegedly aimed at recruiting U.S. research talent. The Justice Department launched last year an effort called the China Initiative aimed at identifying priority trade secret cases and focusing resources on them.
“Existentially, we look at China as our greatest threat from an intelligence perspective, and they succeeded significantly in the last decade from stealing our best and brightest technology,” said top U.S. counterintelligence official William Evanina.
The most consequential case this year centered not on a university but on Huawei, charged with stealing corporate trade secrets and evading sanctions. The company denies wrongdoing. Several universities including Illinois, which received the FBI email last February, have begun severing ties with Huawei.
But the government’s track record hasn’t been perfect.
Federal prosecutors in 2015 dropped charges against a Temple University professor earlier accused of sending designs for a pocket heater to China. The professor, Xiaoxing Xi, is suing the FBI. “It was totally wrong,” he said, “so I can only speak from my experience that whatever they put out there is not necessarily true.”
Richard Wood, the then-interim provost at the University of New Mexico, conveyed ambivalence in an email to colleagues last year. He wrote that he took seriously the concerns the FBI had identified to him in briefings, but also said “there are real tensions” with the “traditional academic norms regarding the free exchange of scientific knowledge wherever appropriate.”
“I do not think we would be wise to create new ‘policy’ on terrain this complex and fraught with internal trade-offs between legitimate concerns and values without some real dialogue on the matter,” Wood wrote.
FBI officials say they’ve received consistently positive feedback from universities. The emails show administrators at schools including the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Nebraska requesting briefings, training or generally expressing eagerness for cooperation.
Kevin Gamache, chief research security officer for the Texas A&M University system, told the AP that he values his FBI interactions and that it flows in both directions.
“It’s a dialogue that has to be ongoing.”
The vice president for research and economic development at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas welcomed the assistance in a city she noted was the “birthplace of atomic testing.
“We have a world-class radiochemistry faculty, our College of Engineering has significant numbers of faculty and students from China, and we have several other issues of concern to me as VPR. In all of these cases, the FBI is always available to help,” the administrator wrote to agents.
More than two dozen universities produced records, including symposium itineraries and a 13-page FBI pamphlet titled “China: The Risk to Academia” that warns that China does “not play by the same rules of academic integrity” as American universities.
Some emails show agents seeking tips or following leads.
“If you have concerns about any faculty or graduate researchers, students, outside vendors … pretty much anything we previously discussed – just reminding you that I am here to help,” one wrote to Iowa State officials in 2017.
In May, an agent sent the University of Washington a records request for two researchers’ emails, seeking references to Chinese-government talent recruitment programs.
Last year, an agent asked Oklahoma State University if it had researchers in encryption research or quantum computing. The University of Colorado received an FBI request about an “internal investigation” into a professor’s “possible misuse” of NIH funds. The school told the AP that it found no misconduct and the professor has resigned.
Though espionage concerns aren’t new, FBI officials report an uptick in targeting of universities and more U.S. government attention too. The FBI says it’s seen some progress from universities, with one official saying schools are more reliably pressing researchers about outside funding sources.
Demers, the Justice Department official, said espionage efforts are “as pervasive, as well-resourced, as ever today.
“It’s a serious problem today on college campuses.”
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's Kurds accused the U.S. of turning its back on its allies and risking gains made in the fight against the Islamic State group as American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of an expected Turkish assault.
U.S. President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to stand aside — announced by the White House late Sunday — infuriated Kurds, who stand to lose the autonomy they gained in the course of Syria's civil war.
The Kurdish force pledged to fight back, raising the potential for an eruption of new warfare in Syria. "We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people" against Turkish troops, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against IS in Syria.
As many as 300,000 people could immediately be driven from their homes in northeast Syria if Turkey launches its offensive, the International Rescue Committee warned Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as terrorists and a threat to his country as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Ankara has been demanding a "safe zone" stretching the length of northern Syria along Turkey's southern border to be patrolled by Turkish troops and their allied Syrian forces. That would put a significant portion of Syria's Kurdish population under effective Turkish control.
Erdogan on Monday said American troops have started pulling back following his conversation with Trump the night before. He did not elaborate on the planned Turkish incursion but said Turkey was determined to halt what it perceives as threats from the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The SDF issued a sharp condemnation of the American move. "The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey," it said.
A U.S. official confirmed that American troops were already moving out of the security zone area, which includes the Syrian towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That official was not authorized to speak for the record and was granted anonymity to comment.
A video posted by a Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of American armored vehicles apparently heading away from the border area of Tal Abyad.
America's rivals, including Iran, Russia and the Syrian government, stand to gain from a U.S. troop withdrawal from the oil-rich region in the north. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: "US is an irrelevant occupier in Syria — futile to seek its permission or rely on it for security."
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow realizes Turkey's need to ensure its security, but noted that "it's necessary to respect Syria's territorial and political integrity." Peskov wouldn't comment on whether the U.S. withdrawal could push the Kurds to seek a dialogue with Damascus.
Russia and Iran have helped Syrian President Bashar Assad reclaim control over most of the country following a devastating eight-year civil war.
Abdulkarim Omar, a senior official in the Kurdish self-rule administration, said they had been expecting the U.S. decision to withdraw and have made preparations for it. He didn't elaborate. But he warned that securing facilities holding IS militants would be jeopardized if an offensive begins because forces would be deployed there.
"We have been flexible even in dealing with Russia, which may play a role in the political resolution. We were flexible even in regards to Damascus," he said. "But what happened today is illogical."
The Kurdish-led SDF has been the main U.S.-backed force in Syria in the fight against IS. In March, the SDF captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by IS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
The U.S. and Turkey had been working on a compromise "security mechanism" for the border region that the Kurds had hoped would avert any Turkish offensive. Since August, joint U.S and Turkish aerial and ground patrols had started in a 125-kilometer (78-mile) zone. The SDF had cooperated, removing fortifications from the areas and withdrawing with heavy weapons.
But vital details of the mechanism were still being worked out, and Ankara had repeatedly expressed its impatience, threatening an attack.
Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, tweeted that his group had not been not expecting the U.S. to protect northeastern Syria. "But people here are owed an explanation regarding the security mechanism deal and destruction of fortifications," he said.
Major column by Mohamad Bazi at THE GUARDIAN:
Thursday, October 3, 2019. Even Joe Biden's friends in the press denying anything wrong took place demonstrates that Joe did something wrong and meanwhile the protests continue in Iraq.
In the United States, the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination continues. While Senator Bernie Sanders has been temporarily sidelined due to surgery, War Hawk Joe Biden continues to flounder as desperation hits in.
I will put the integrity of my whole career in public service to this nation up against President Trump's long record of lying, cheating, and stealing any day of the week.
Twitter has since removed the video featuring Nickelback’s song “Photograph” for copyright reasons that President Trump tweeted on Wednesday. This, as the president accused Joe Biden of abusing his power to help his son. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing, @kwelkernbc reports.
As President Trump vows to pull back from military involvement in the Middle East, his Republican allies are condemning him for abandoning allies and emboldening regional enemies. In a tweet Mr Trump said "if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey". We speak to Washington correspondent Simon Marks.
President Trump says the US will pull back from military involvement in the Middle East and leave it to others "to figure the situation out". In a series of Twitter messages, the President defended his decision to withdraw US forces from Northern Syria to make way for Turkey to create a buffer zone south of their border. The planned military operation by Turkey would sweep away America's Kurdish allies near the Syrian border. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish groups to be terrorists and says he will not give any timescale for millitary action. The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams told Morning Report this could represent a significant shift in US policy, if it all happens as Mr Trump says it will.
Casting herself as an environmental expert, Judd attacked Palin for "casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife." The video shows a wolf being shot, writhing in pain, with an ominous soundtrack throbbing and menacing photos of Palin flashing across the screen. "Riddled with gunshots, biting at their backs in agony, they die (pause for quiver) a brutal death," Judd enunciates slowly as wolf squeals punctuate the video.
Defenders of Wildlife assails Gov. Palin for proposing a $150 bounty for every wolf killed by aerial hunters. She's cruel and bloodthirsty, and she must be stopped!
It's a compelling black-and-white storyline. But like the world Judd inhabits, this plot is make-believe.
Fact is, the policy is intended to protect other animals -- moose and caribou -- from overpopulation of wolves. Alaskans rely on caribou and moose for food. Not all Americans care to live on environmentally correct starlet diets of tofu salad and Pinkberry yogurt.
Neither Palin nor the aerial hunters in those scary low-flying planes that have Judd quivering promote the program out of malice and animal insensitivity. On the contrary, they are the true compassionate conservationists. The bounty helped state biologists collecting wolf age data and provided incentives to reduce the wolf population when wildlife management efforts had fallen behind. This is about predator control. But to liberal, gun-control zealots thousands of miles away, it's all heartless murder.
Federal law makes specific exceptions to aerial hunting for the protection of "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life or crops." Targets are not limited to wolves. And, as Alaska wildlife officials note, the process is tightly controlled and "designed to sustain wolf populations in the future."
No matter. As Judd proclaimed, "It is time to stop Sarah Palin."
On a deadly serious note, Judd's selective concern for savagery is not lost on longtime observers of the activist entertainer's political forays. A militant, pro-choice feminist, Judd lashed out at the Republican ticket during the campaign: "[A] woman voting for McCain and Palin is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders." Yet, not a peep has been heard from Judd about the serial predators of Planned Parenthood who have been caught on tape urging young girls to cover up statutory rape to facilitate abortion procedures. And she won't be starring in any YouTube ads decrying grisly late-term abortion procedures.
In a starlet's world, "senseless savagery" only applies to the poster pet of the month.
Profit, not politics: What some Trump allies did in Ukraine.
With the Syrian Democratic Forces preparing for attacks by Turkish troops in northern Syria, fighters are being moved to the border, leaving a limited number of guards to keep watch over thousands of Islamic State prisoners, a commander told NBC News.The Syrian Democratic Forces are the United States' Kurdish allies in the region, and General Mazloum Kobani Abdi told NBC News that the ISIS prisoners are now a "second priority," due to the White House's Sunday announcement that U.S. troops will "no longer be in the immediate area," paving the way for a Turkish operation. Mazloum said this is a "very big problem," as there are about 12,000 prisoners -- 10,000 from Syria and Iraq, and 2,000 from other countries.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers Kurdish forces to be terrorists. Despite being the opposition, Mazloum told NBC News "one of the options that we have on the table" is to partner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight against Turkey. He is hopeful that the American public will call on Trump to reverse course, so it doesn't have to come to this, saying, "The people who fought with you against international terrorism, against ISIS, are under risk right now and they are facing a big battle alone."
Officials scramble to understand implications of US move as Kurds face prospect of invasion alone
Kurdish forces in Syria have said the fate of tens of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters and their families is uncertain, after US forces began a sudden withdrawal from the Turkish-Syrian border, leaving their Kurdish allies to face the prospect of a Turkish invasion alone.
The effects of the shock retreat continued to reverberate through the region on Monday as Turkish forces massed near the border with the Kurdish stronghold of north-eastern Syria.Continue reading...
A 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden urged politicians Monday at a South Dakota appearance to listen to indigenous people on climate change. Greta Thunberg spoke at a rally in Rapid City that attracted hundreds of people. "Indigenous peoples have been leading this fight for centuries," Thunberg said.
The sudden US troop withdrawal from Syria has left its Kurdish allies in the lurch. As a Turkish offensive looms, the risk of devastating consequences, including IS resurgence, has Brussels and much of Europe concerned.
House Democrats are so afraid Trump allies will expose the whistleblower that they might mask their voice and face when they testifyCache
The Associated Press reported Monday that a circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted their connections to President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as they sought to install new management at the top of Ukraine's state-owned gas company last spring. The intervention was happening while Giuliani was pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Source: www.dailykos.com - Monday, October 07, 2019
GOP Strategist Blasts Trump Over Withdrawal of US Forces from Northern Syria: ‘Toddler-Level Geopolitical Mistake’Cache
Source: www.mediaite.com - Monday, October 07, 2019
One of the hand grenades Trump is juggling with is labelled Fox. According to <a href="https://God.blue/splash.php?url=H_PLUS_wyNfIRiRn7KTSX_SLASH_UYUrP5TyEzPKJ8Bg_SLASH_5FS8nzZa4EzWisHYCg0Nqti9xGUWHvE5zFMJULVOTpUoQoyVS4r2x2yHvBPTiPx7Fs_PLUS_kflcJ7rNUWmj_SLASH_GRVqaOFeSqiGE_PLUS_lweJiKIbP3sBJC2wSfAcp3M57_SLASH_p29lRt6Tp7gN2Zc88tHU0trYRdDkinpE69NSsLfsB2uUWHIzfiCkwhcfpo8Q_EQUALS__EQUALS_; rel="nofollow">Gabriel Sherman</a> of <i>Vanity Fair</i>, "according to four sources, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future."
Since Fox News is Trump's key link to his base, being dropped by the Murdochs is an existential threat. Their calculations are not the same as Mitch's, but both are allies of convenience only, not conviction or fealty.