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"The Savages Were in the Way": California's History of Genocide

Truth-Out - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00

When the US seized California in 1846, its military officers and elected officials had the opportunity to reinvent the framework within which colonists and Native Americans interacted, a framework which had already led to tens of thousands of Indigenous deaths. Instead, they intensified existing anti-Native discriminatory policies and created a genocidal catastrophe.

The Cross of Calvary monument at the Spanish mission of San Francisco Javier. During the era when Spaniards, Russians and Mexicans colonized the region, around 62,600 Indigenous American deaths occurred at or near California's coastal region missions. The death rate only increased under US rule. (Photo: Kirt Edblom)

History professor Benjamin Madley has written the first comprehensive investigation of the catastrophe that befell California's Indigenous population from 1846 to 1873: a catastrophe that was entirely man-made. An American Genocide catalogs the killing of tens of thousands of Native people during those years, and proves just how complicit the Californian and United States government were in the slaughter. Order this important book by donating to Truthout today!

Today, California is the most populous state in the US. But its history includes the deliberate mass murder of Indigenous people in the 1800s. In this excerpt from An American Genocide, Benjamin Madley argues that this organized catastrophe qualifies as genocide.

As the sun rose on July 7, 1846, four US warships rode at anchor in Monterey Bay. Ashore, the Mexican tricolor cracked over the adobe walls and red-tiled roofs of California's capitol for the last time. At 7:30 am, Commodore John Sloat sent Captain William Mervine ashore "to demand the immediate surrender of the place." The Mexican commandant then fled, and some 250 sailors and marines assembled at the whitewashed customs house on the water's edge.

As residents, immigrants, seamen, and soldiers looked on, Mervine read Commodore Sloat's proclamation: "I declare to the inhabitants of California, that although I come in arms ... I come as their best friend -- as henceforth California will be a portion of the United States, and its peaceable inhabitants will enjoy the same rights and privileges as the citizens of any other portion of that nation." As the USS Savannah's sailors and marines hoisted the Stars and Stripes to a chorus of cheers, three ships of the US Pacific Squadron fired a sixty three-gun salute. The cannons' roar swept over the plaza to the pine-studded hills above the bay before echoing back over the harbor. The first hours of conquest were relatively peaceful, but a new order had come to California. The lives of perhaps 150,000 California Indians now hung in the balance.

The US military officers who took control of California that July under martial law had the opportunity to reinvent the existing Mexican framework within which colonists and California Indians interacted. Instead, these officers reinforced and intensified existing discriminatory Mexican policies toward these Indians. The elected civilian state legislators who followed them then radically transformed the relationship between colonists and California Indians. Together with federal officials, they created a catastrophe. 

Yet, the California Indian population cataclysm of 1846-1873 continued a pre-existing trajectory. During California's seventy-seven-year-long Russo-Hispanic Period (1769-1846) its Indians had already suffered a devastating demographic decline. During the era when Spaniards, Russians, and Mexicans colonized the coastal region between San Diego and Fort Ross, California's Indian population fell from perhaps 310,000 to 150,000. Some 62,600 of these deaths occurred at or near California's coastal region missions, and, in 1946, journalist Carey McWilliams initiated a long debate over the nature of these institutions when he compared the Franciscan missionaries, who had held large numbers of California Indians there, to "Nazis operating concentration camps." Today, a wide spectrum of scholarly opinion exists, with the extreme poles represented by mission defenders Father Francis Guest and Father Maynard Geiger, on the one hand, and mission critics Rupert and Jeannette Costo -- who called the missions genocidal -- on the other. However one judges the missions, Russo-Hispanic colonization caused the deaths of tens of thousands of California Indian people.

Under US rule, California Indians died at an even more astonishing rate. Between 1846 and 1870, California's Native American population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. By 1880, census takers recorded just 16,277 California Indians. Diseases, dislocation, and starvation were important causes of these many deaths. However, abduction, de jure and de facto unfree labor, mass death in forced confinement on reservations, homicides, battles, and massacres also took thousands of lives and hindered reproduction. According to historical demographer Sherburne Cook, an often-quoted authority on California Indian demographic decline, a "complete lack of any legal control" helped create the context in which these phenomena were possible. Was the California Indian catastrophe just another western US tragedy in which unscrupulous individuals exploited the opportunities provided in a lawless frontier?

The organized destruction of California's Indian peoples under US rule was not a closely guarded secret. Mid-nineteenth-century California newspapers frequently addressed, and often encouraged, what we would now call genocide, as did some state and federal employees. Historians began using these and other sources to address the topic as early as 1890. That year, historian Hubert Howe Bancroft summed up the California Indian catastrophe under US rule: "The savages were in the way; the miners and settlers were arrogant and impatient; there were no missionaries or others present with even the poor pretense of soul saving or civilizing. It was one of the last human hunts of civilization, and the basest and most brutal of them all." In 1935, US Indian Affairs commissioner John Collier added, "The world's annals contain few comparable instances of swift depopulation -- practically, of racial massacre -- at the hands of a conquering race." In 1940, historian John Walton Caughey titled a chapter of his California history "Liquidating the Indians: 'Wars' and Massacres." Three years later, Cook wrote the first major study on the topic. He quantified the violent killing of 4,556 California Indians between 1847 and 1865, concluding that, "since the quickest and easiest way to get rid of [the Northern California Indian] was to kill him off, this procedure was adopted as standard for some years."

In the same year that Cook published his groundbreaking article, Nazi mass murder in Europe catalyzed the development of a new theoretical and legal framework for discussing such events. In 1943, legal scholar Raphael Lemkin coined a new word for an ancient crime. Defining the concept in 1944, he combined "the Greek word genos (tribe, race) and the Latin cide," or killing, to describe genocide as any attempt to physically or culturally annihilate an ethnic, national, religious, or political group. The 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide more narrowly defined genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such," including:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Genocide Convention thus provides an internationally recognized and rather restrictive rubric for evaluating possible instances of genocide. First, perpetrators must evince "intent to destroy" a group "as such." Second, perpetrators must commit at least one of the five genocidal acts against "a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." The Genocide Convention criminalizes the five directly genocidal acts defined above and also other acts connected to genocide. The Convention stipulates that "the following acts shall be punishable," including:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide.

Finally, the Convention specifies that "persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated . . . shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."

In US criminal law, intent is present if an act is intentional, not accidental. The international crime of genocide involves more, comprising "acts committed with intent to destroy" a group "as such." International criminal lawyers call this specific intent, meaning destruction must be consciously desired, or purposeful. Yet, specific intent does not require a specific motive, a term absent from the Genocide Convention. Under the Convention's definition, genocide can be committed even without a motive like racial hatred. The motive behind genocidal acts does not need to be an explicit desire to destroy a group; it may be, but the motive can also be territorial, economic, ideological, political, or military.

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The decimation of California’s Indigenous population through state-sanctioned mass murder.

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Moreover, the Convention declares that "genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law." If the action is deliberate, and the group's partial or total destruction a desired outcome, the motive behind that intent is irrelevant. Yet, how does a twentieth century international treaty apply to nineteenth-century events? 

The Genocide Convention does not allow for the retroactive prosecution of crimes committed before 1948, but it does provide a powerful analytical tool: a frame for evaluating the past and comparing similar events across time. Lemkin himself asserted that, "genocide has always existed in history," and he wrote two manuscripts addressing instances of genocide in periods ranging from "Antiquity" to "Modern Times."

Genocide is a twentieth-century word, but it describes an ancient phenomenon and can therefore be used to analyze the past, in much the way that historians routinely use other new terms to understand historical events. Indeed, Lemkin planned chapters titled "Genocide against the American Indians" and "The Indians in North America (in part)," but he died before he could complete either project.

Copyright (2016) by Benjamin Madley. Excerpts from the 2017 paperback edition are not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, Yale University Press. 

Firing Robert Mueller Could Be a Lot Harder Than You Might Think

Truth-Out - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
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White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders says he won't do it.

Last Monday, she was asked: "Is the President going to rule out, once and for all, firing [Special Prosecutor] Robert Mueller." 

"There's no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel," she replied.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn), fresh off warning that the President might start World War III, can't imagine he'll do it.

Last Tuesday, a reporter cornered the president's harshest Senate critic in a hallway and posed the following: "There are stories that the President is thinking about firing Mueller. Do you think that's appropriate?"

The tired-looking Corker replied: "I can't imagine there's any truth or veracity to the president thinking that he would consider firing Mueller. ... Hopefully the question being asked is a question about something that cannot possibly be reality."

Yet, all last week the President reportedly "seethed" in his third-floor private residence as he watched cable television reports of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's first indictments. Firing Mueller, the AP reported, is 

Indeed, as far back as July, Trump mused about firing Mueller. In a New York Times interview, Trump was asked if he would fire the special counsel if he started looking at subjects unrelated to the Russia probe, such as his finances.

"I would say yeah," Trump first replied. Then he added more forcefully, "I would say yes."

But suppose the president decided to ignore the advice of Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of the Russia probe, and John Kelly, his chief of staff, and decided to fire Mueller?

Just for fun, let's see how a Trump move to fire Mueller could play out.

His first call would be to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Sorry, Mr.President," Session might begin. "No can do. I recused myself from this investigation, remember? Surely you recall saying you never would have hired me as attorney general if you had known I would recuse myself. Why don't you try Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general? He's the one in charge of Mueller. Hold on while I find his number."

So Trump would then call Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, a career Justice Department official, summa cum laude graduate of Penn, and former Harvard Law Review editor.

"Mr. President, as I explained in Senate testimony in June, 'I am not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders.' The special counsel can only be fired for good cause. With all due respect sir, you've put nothing in writing that proves good cause exists to dismiss the special counsel.

"Moreover, as I'm sure your lawyer can tell you, I have been interviewed as part of the investigation into the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. So I feel like I need to decline your order

At this point, the call likely ends in one of two ways: either Rosenstein is fired or he quits.

Next up on Trump's phone tree: the third highest-ranking official at Justice, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, a Harvard Law School graduate and former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"Mr. President, as I'm sure you know, I can only fire Bob Mueller for 'misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.' And the law also says that the Special Counsel must be informed 'in writing of the specific reason for his or her removal.'

'Sir, if I may speak freely, why don't you have your lawyers draw something up, and I'll take a look at it?"

At this point, Brand would probably be fishing in her purse for her office keys to hand to Justice Department security on her way out.

Trump, increasingly anxious because he might miss the  opening of Sean Hannity would then reach out to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a former Justice Antonin Scalia clerk and University of Chicago Law School graduate.

"Well, you see Mr. President, I've got a problem here," Francisco might say. "Before you brought me into the Solicitor General's office, (thanks for that, by the way), I worked for Jones Day in DC where I was a partner with your White House Counsel, Don McGahn. And sir, you know how hard it is to unwind all these partnership things -- I have money tied-up in the firm. And your 2020 campaign paid Jones Day $800,000 in the third quarter alone. I need to call the department's ethics director, Cynthia Shaw. Can I get back to you in a few days? Oh also, do you have anything in writing why there's good cause to fire him?"

Now here is where things get even stranger. According to a March 31 Executive Order on Justice Department succession, the next three officials in line are the US Attorneys for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Eastern District of North Carolina, and the Northern District of Texas.

So the president's next call is to Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente has had a wild ride in the Trump administration. He was appointed to his current post by President Obama. But when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired in February for refusing to defend the President's travel ban, Boente was named to replace her. He served as Acting Attorney General for ten days before Jeff Sessions was sworn in. 

Boente then served as Acting Deputy Attorney General, the no. 2 post, for 75 days until Rod Rosenstein took over. Then Boente was one of 46 US Attorneys in March who Sessions ordered to resign. Yet, Trump rejected his resignation. Now, Boente is serving as acting head of the Department's National Security Division until Trump's nominee is confirmed. A 33-year Department veteran, Boente is known for his mild manner and intense devotion to work.

"Dude, don't you read the papers? I announced my resignation Friday before last. I'm sticking around until you guys name a successor. Anyway, permit me to remind you that I was the guy who worked with Jim Comey investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's lobbying deals. I empaneled grand juries that subpoenaed his business records. Those grand juries are now being run by Mueller. And you want me to fire the guy?"

It is now 8:54 p.m. Only six minutes left before Hannity.

On to Robert "Bobby" Higdon, Jr., the Trump-appointed US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Higdon spent nearly 25 years as a federal prosecutor, working in both North Carolina's Eastern and Western districts. Yet, his record is hardly unblemished. He led the campaign finance fraud prosecution of former North Carolina Sen. and presidential candidate John Edwards, which resulted in an acquittal on one charge and the dismissal of the remaining five after a hung jury. (Full disclosure: I worked as Edwards' Senate legislative director.)  

In 2013, Higdon was removed as head of the Eastern District's criminal division after two federal appellate judges delivered a blistering critique of the section, saying that it had frequently withheld evidence and failed to correct false trial testimony.

Higdon was sworn-in as US Attorney October 10.

People behave unpredictably in unprecedented circumstances. It's entirely possible Higdon may prove no more malleable than the other recipients of the president's calls. As Trump himself likes to say: Stay tuned.

Union Rights Were the Difference Between NFL Players Kneeling for the Anthem and Bowing to Trump

Truth-Out - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
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At a September 22 political rally, President Donald Trump kicked off a kerfuffle by calling on the National Football League (NFL) to fire players taking a knee during the National Anthem. "Wouldn't you love," said the president, "to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired!'"

The NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) responded immediately in support of the players. As protests continued, Trump kept blasting away. Debate raged on for weeks about free speech, race, social justice, patriotism and more. Altogether overlooked, however, were the players' union rights that effectively render Trump's demand worthless.

Ground Rules

The NFL and the NFLPA are co-equal parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that sets wages, rules and working conditions. The union is the workers'accredited representative, while the employer manages the workplace with policies that don't violate the CBA or the law.

In general, union workers are not "at will" employees like nonunion workers. If disciplined (warned, suspended or terminated), they may resort to the CBA's grievance procedures, including neutral and binding arbitration. The employer must show just cause for discipline by proving that the worker breached a policy that was reasonable, known and consistently applied -- and that discipline was reasonable and proportional.

There is no way Club owners could do that. Neither the CBA nor employer policies prohibit protest, and there is no egregious conduct at issue -- such as theft or attacking another worker -- that would warrant discipline on its face. Consequently, amid swirling controversy, the NFL and NFLPA met and agreed to uphold existing policy in the NFL's game operations manual that players "should" stand during the Anthem. In other words, it's optional.

The deal stopped any question of discipline in its tracks and promised mutual efforts toward addressing the sociopolitical issues that gave rise to the protests. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had threatened players after consulting with Trump, had no "just cause" for discipline based on rules, policies or conduct.

Make no mistake. This is all about collective bargaining. The parties affirmed a "past practice," which, in a union workplace, can be just as binding as a CBA rule. If the NFL had unilaterally changed the policy -- and especially if a protesting player got fired, as Trump insisted -- the door would swing wide open to a union grievance and potential arbitration, dragging out more controversy the parties wanted to avoid.

Union defense

Contract language limits discipline even more. A review of the current CBA, found online and confirmed with an NFLPA spokesperson, signals game over for the Trump-Jones threat.

Article 42, Section 2(a):

All Clubs must publish and make available to all players at the commencement of preseason training camp a complete list of the discipline that can be imposed for both designated offenses ...and for other violations of reasonable Club rules.

The Cowboys' training began July 24, weeks before Trump's demand and Jones' subsequent capitulation. The Cowboys provided no confirmation that a Club rule about protest had been duly listed.

Article 46, Section 4:

The Commissioner's disciplinary action will preclude or supersede disciplinary action by any Club for the same act or conduct.

The CBA and past practice indicate that the NFL Commissioner has the final say on what discipline a Club may pursue. Commissioner Roger Goodell was not disposed -- before or after the joint meeting -- to discipline protesting players. All but one Club owner, Jerry Jones, agreed.

Article 49, Section 1:

There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.

Given rules, policy and practice, it could be argued that curbing protests initiated by players of color over government mistreatment of people of color violates this section. Furthermore, the reference to NFLPA "activity" reflects longstanding labor law protecting workers' rights to participate (or not) in "concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection."

Trump repeatedly pressured owners to fire protesters in violation of the CBA. "Concerted activities" have blossomed with displays of solidarity among players -- and even some management. They take a knee, lock arms, or raise a fist. And some, as they always have, choose to stand, which is their right.

Holding the Line

On October 29, protest reached the "boiling point," Deadline reported.

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair's comment comparing players to "inmates running the prison" instantly "caused an uproar in a league where 70 percent of players are black and already protesting perceived injustice," Deadline observed. In response, players planned the biggest protest yet.

Word circulated that joint meetings to address social justice concerns had been cancelled.

Jones -- still agitated and agitating -- had reportedly organized a Club owners' conference call to discuss ousting Goodell. He also cut lineman Damontre Moore, who had raised his fist during the Anthem. The Cowboys said it was merely a roster move.

Moore joins Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er who started the protests and then got zero job offers after becoming a free agent. Kaepernick's lawyer filed a grievance alleging collusion between the Clubs and the NFL in violation of CBA Article 17, appropriately titled, "Anti-Collusion."

As it stands now, no player has been officially disciplined for protesting, and the policy, practice and CBA are intact.

Trump's Medicaid Chief Endorses Work Requirement Schemes

Truth-Out - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a meeting on healthcare reform in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, June 05, 2017. (Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images)   Your support is crucial to keeping ethical journalism alive! Donate now to keep our writers on the streets, covering the most important issues and beats.

States that want to force Medicaid recipients to get a job before qualifying for healthcare have an ally in the Trump administration, according to remarks made on Tuesday by the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Speaking to the National Association of Medicaid Directors, Seema Verma gave a nod to the several states across the country that had hoped to enact Medicaid work requirements only to be shot down by the Obama administration.

"Those days are over," Verma said in prepared remarks.

"Believing that community engagement requirements do not support the objectives of Medicaid is a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration," she added.

Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, and Wisconsin are all seeking to implement work requirements on the low-income public health insurance program. The proposals would require non-disabled Medicaid recipients to get a job or engage in community service in order to receive health care benefits.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that about 60 percent of non-elderly, non-disabled Medicaid recipients are currently employed.

More than half of the states seeking waivers also accepted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, in which the federal government footed most of the bill for expanding the program's reach to 11 million more people who make below $16,600 annually.

Verma suggested work requirements were an appropriate response to the expanded Medicaid population.

"The thought that a program designed for our most vulnerable citizens should be used as a vehicle to serve working age, able-bodied adults does not make sense," she claimed, noting that the Obama administration "fought state led reforms that would've allowed the Medicaid program to evolve to meet the needs of these new individuals."

New York Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson, who was on hand to hear Director Verma's speech, told The Washington Post that her remarks were "completely reprehensible."

"Shocked, appalled would be the two primary reactions I have," he added.

Kentucky's Medicaid chief Stephen Miller, however, said his state was "right in sync" with Verma. Miller told the Post he expects his Kentucky's work requirement waiver to approved "soon."

Robert Mueller Is Moving Toward Donald Trump

Truth-Out - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00

Robert Mueller's opening salvo was just the tip of the iceberg. As the special counsel moves toward criminally charging Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others, both the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr., could find themselves in Mueller's crosshairs as the investigation into the conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act continues.

Special counsel Robert Mueller (Center) leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017, at the Capitol in Washington, DC. The committee meets with Mueller to discuss the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)   Support your favorite writers by making sure we can keep publishing them! Make a donation to Truthout to ensure independent journalism survives.

Last week's indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime associate Richard Gates, together with the guilty plea by former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, sent shock waves through the White House.

It turns out that since July, Papadopoulos has been serving as a "proactive cooperator." Special counsel Robert Mueller filed a document in federal court that says, "Defendant has indicated that he is willing to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election." Papadopoulos was likely wired for sound during conversations with administration officials whom he may implicate in criminal conduct.

But Mueller's opening salvo was just the tip of the iceberg. As the special counsel moves toward criminally charging Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and others, even the president could find himself in Mueller's crosshairs.

NBC News reported on November 5 that Mueller has enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Flynn and his son, Michael G. Flynn. Father and son worked together in Flynn Intel Group, a consulting and lobbying group.

Mueller is reportedly investigating Michael T. Flynn for money laundering and lying to federal agents about overseas contacts. The special counsel is also exploring whether Flynn tried to assist in removing a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from the United States to Turkey in return for the payment of millions of dollars, two officials told NBC News.

Trump Fired Comey to Protect Flynn

Recall that in February, Trump pressured then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn. That happened the day after Trump fired Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn's contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States.

Trump warned Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Comey testified, "I took it as a direction" that "this is what he wants me to do.... [I] replied only that '[Flynn] is a good guy.'"

According to Comey, the president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and others to step out of the Oval Office before he requested that Comey drop the "open FBI criminal investigation" of Flynn for "his statements in connection with the Russian contacts, and the contacts themselves."

Two weeks earlier, the president had twice demanded "loyalty" from Comey, who testified that Trump told him, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." Pressed by Trump, Comey said he finally assured the president he would get "honest loyalty" from the FBI director.

When Comey didn't halt the investigation of Flynn, Trump fired the FBI director. The next day, Trump boasted to Russian officials in the Oval Office, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," adding, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

The day after boasting to the Russians, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt, "When I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself ... this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Philip Allen Lacovara, former Justice Department deputy solicitor general and counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, wrote in The Washington Post:

Comey's statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey's job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president's requests, all followed by the president's own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.

Mueller Could Pressure Flynn to Incriminate Trump

If Mueller charges Michael T. Flynn, that could strengthen the obstruction of justice case against Trump. In fact, once Mueller secures a grand jury indictment of the two Flynns, it's quite possible that the special counsel will pressure the elder Flynn to become a "proactive cooperator" in exchange for lenient treatment of his son and even himself.

Trump has gone to great lengths to protect Flynn, likely because the latter has information that would incriminate the president. It took Trump 18 days to fire Flynn after learning of his lies to Pence. Trump leaned heavily on Comey to look the other way in the Flynn investigation and fired Comey when he refused to let Flynn go.

It was the firing of Comey that led to the appointment of special counsel Mueller.

Trump Jr. and Others in Mueller's Crosshairs

Flynn is not the only official whose family members could be implicated in the Russia investigation; Trump himself faces the same predicament. In June 2016 Donald Trump Jr., Kushner (Trump's son-in-law) and Manafort met at Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin. Trump Jr. arranged the meeting with the expectation of receiving negative information the Russian government supposedly had about Hillary Clinton.

British publicist and former tabloid reporter Rob Goldstone had told Trump Jr. in an email exchange that the Russian government had "some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary," adding, "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Seventeen minutes later, Trump Jr. replied, "If it's what you say I love it."

Trump Jr. insisted that nothing of substance came from the meeting with Veselnitskaya. But five days later, DCLeaks released internal documents from the Clinton campaign for the first time. And one week later, WikiLeaks published numerous hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. Additional disclosures of hacked data continued to emerge until the presidential election.

Even if the meeting and the release of DNC documents were unrelated and nothing substantive came from that meeting, Trump Jr. and possibly Manafort and Kushner could be liable for attempted violation or conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Moreover, new information has come to light that could increase Trump Jr.'s criminal liability. On November 6, Bloomberg reported that Veselnitskaya made explosive statements about Trump Jr. in a Moscow interview. The Russian lawyer claimed that before the election, Trump Jr. indicated to her that if his father became president, the Magnitsky Act -- a US law that froze some Russian officials' access to real estate and to money they had kept in Western banks -- could be reconsidered. The act also banned these officials from entering the United States. Russia retaliated for the Magnitsky Act by halting US adoptions of Russian children.

After the June 2016 meeting became public, in damage control mode, Donald Trump crafted a statement for his son to deliver. It said,

It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.

NBC News reports that Trump Jr. is "under scrutiny by Mueller." It's quite possible that Mueller is investigating both Trump and Trump Jr. for conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. In this case, the president could potentially be named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Kushner and former Trump adviser Carter Page are also under scrutiny by Mueller, according to NBC News. And Sessions has been called to testify before Congress again for lying about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Donald Trump should be very worried.

The Greatest Threat to Both Koreas? Donald Trump’s Mouth.

Antiwarblog - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:57

In policy terms, the Trump administration has approached North Korea largely the same way the Obama administration has – with a heavy reliance on sanctions, appeals to China, and occasional threats.

As John Feffer explains in this short video, the primary difference is that Trump’s threats have been far more alarming, raising concerns in South Korea and beyond that war is a real possibility, despite the fact that experts universally regard it as the worst possible option. These threats are especially dangerous on a peninsula where U.S. wartime actions left an indelible impression on both sides of the DMZ.

There remains, however, a diplomatic alternative, which the Obama administration never seriously pursued. Can Trump change course?

Video by Victoria Borneman and Peter Certo.

John Feffer is director of Foreign Policy In Focusand the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands..Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus. Originally published in Inside Sources.

Where are Europe's Fault Lines?

Charles Hugh Smith - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 22:56
Beneath the surface of modern maps, numerous old fault lines still exist. A political earthquake or two might reveal the fractures for all to see. Correspondent Mark G. and I have long discussed the potential relevancy of old boundaries, alliances and structures in Europe's future alignments.Examples include the Holy Roman Empire and the Hanseatic League, among others.In the long view, Europe has cycled between periods of consolidation and fragmentation for two millennia, starting with the Roman Empire and its dissolution. Various mass movements of tribes/peoples led to new political structures and alliances, and a dizzying range of leaders rose to power and schemed their way through an equally dizzying array of wars, alliances and betrayals.Regardless of the era or players, security is a permanent priority: this includes defensible borders, alliances to counter potential foes, treaties to end hostilities and whatever is necessary to secure access to resources and trade routes.When consolidation served these priorities, then fragmented polities either consolidated by choice or by conquest. When smaller polities served these priorities, then imperial structures fragmented into naturally cohesive territories that were unified by language, culture and geography.Security is also economic, as people support structures that keep their bellies filled and enable social stability and mobility.For the sake of argument, let's say that the European Union is the high water mark of consolidation, and the next phase is fragmentation. Where are Europe's natural fault lines? Much has changed in the past 600 years, but geography hasn't changed, and that defines some basic security threats.German Army Prepares For "Break-Up Of European Union" Or WorseThe Germans are making contingency plans for the collapse of EuropeNation-states may appear permanent, but history suggests nothing is as permanent as we might reckon. Polities that were brought into an Imperial orbit but retained their identity and geographic boundaries may be last one on, first one off.In other cases, old fault lines were merely blurred rather than erased.Brexit is a one-off in some regards, but if we add Catalonia, we discern the possibility of reversion to older borders and configurations. Could Italy fragment into three polities, North, Rome and the South? The idea seems absurd, but the history of modern states is based on much older structures--structures that made sense then and might once again make sense.Insecurity feeds fragmentation. Once borders are no longer secure and social stability and mobility decay, people naturally start looking around for solutions, and configurations based on language, geography and culture start looking attractive if the current arrangement is seen as decreasing security rather than increasing it.Empires tend to fail when the centers of power become self-absorbed in political struggles while the prosperity and security of the imperial lands decline. If we view the EU as a modern-day iteration of Empire, it's not terribly surprising that the decay of social stability and mobility are fraying the forces holding the Empire of the willing together.Here are two maps of the Holy Roman Empire, the first circa 962 AD, and the second circa 1555. It seems the bonds between Eastern and Western Europe aren't as strong as the forces of geography, language and shared security interests binding the polities within the Western and Eastern blocs.I'm not making any predictions here, just noting that not all boundaries are lines on a map. Beneath the surface of modern maps, numerous old fault lines still exist. A political earthquake or two might reveal the fractures for all to see.

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U.S., AT&T at odds over CNN in Time Warner deal

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 22:14
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. antitrust regulators and AT&T Inc sparred on Wednesday over whether the wireless carrier would be required to sell Time Warner Inc's CNN cable network as a condition of approval of its deal to buy the media company.

UN labour body drops case against Qatar of migrant worker abuse

MiddleEasteye - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 22:12
Language Undefined

Qatar has committed to far-reaching reforms, including workers' freedom to leave country, change jobs

Trump to talk trade and North Korea with Chinese leader Xi

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:37
BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea and trade will likely top the agenda when U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping sit down for formal talks on Thursday, a day after Trump warned Pyongyang of the grave danger of developing nuclear weapons.

Trump to talk trade and North Korea with Chinese leader Xi

Reuters US Politics - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:37
BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea and trade will likely top the agenda when U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping sit down for formal talks on Thursday, a day after Trump warned Pyongyang of the grave danger of developing nuclear weapons.

Kevin Spacey to be cut from upcoming movie 'All the Money in the World'

MarketWatch Market Pulse - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:25

Kevin Spacey's scenes in the upcoming film "All the Money in the World" will be cut out, and Christopher Plummer will take over his role in reshot scenes, Deadline reported late Wednesday. The unprecedented move comes after a mounting number of sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey, dating back decades. Last week, Spacey was fired from the Netflix Inc. series "House of Cards," which will produce a final season without him. "All the Money in the World," from Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams and is directed by Ridley Scott, and has generated awards buzz. It is scheduled to open Dec. 22, and Deadline reported that is still the target date. Spacey reportedly spent eight to 10 days shooting his scenes, and reshoots with Plummer are expected to start immediately. Plummer will take over Spacey's role as J. Paul Getty, the billionaire oil tycoon who refused to pay ransom after his grandson was kidnapped in 1973. Another film starring Spacey, "Gore," a biopic on novelist Gore Vidal that just wrapped production, has been canceled by Netflix.

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Senate panel sets November 28 confirmation hearing for Fed chair nominee Powell

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 20:47
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Banking Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Nov. 28 for Jerome Powell, President Donald Trump's nominee for chairman of the Federal Reserve, the committee said in a statement on Wednesday.

Senate panel sets November 28 confirmation hearing for Fed chair nominee Powell

Reuters US Politics - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 20:47
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Banking Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Nov. 28 for Jerome Powell, President Donald Trump's nominee for chairman of the Federal Reserve, the committee said in a statement on Wednesday.

From Terrorism to Tourist Haven to …?

Who What Why - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 20:24

On the 30th anniversary of the terrorist bombing that turned the tide of opinion toward peace, Northern Ireland is in danger of turning back to violence — because of Brexit. The region of Britain that gained the most from European Union (EU) membership could suffer the most from the majority’s decision to leave.

At issue is the border between Northern Ireland — still a part of the Britain and thus part of Brexit — and the Republic of Ireland, which would remain in the EU. While the overall result of the Brexit referendum was to leave, the population in Northern Ireland voted 56.8% to stay.

Over the past 25 years of hard-won peace, Northern Ireland has recovered from the financial depression that accompanied the violence and has thrived, due in no small part to a great amount of EU financial support.

The lack of a credible plan for the border between Brexit Britain and the EU Republic of Ireland could plunge Northern Ireland back into the violent uncertainty of its recent past. The muddle over the border also threatens to hold up exit negotiations between the EU and Britain.

When the 1916 Republican Easter Uprising led to freedom for the Republic of Ireland from British rule, the six mainly Protestant counties in the north remained British, creating Northern Ireland. This separation led to decades more unrest and violence in the cities and the southern border area of Northern Ireland. That ended when the two sides signed the Good Friday Agreement, which went into effect in December 1999.

Those who remember the grim days of car bombings and sectarian killings from the 1970s through the 1990s may find it hard to believe that Northern Ireland was recently named the best area in the world to visit by Lonely Planet.

This astonishing turnaround resulted, in no small part, from Britain’s and Ireland’s membership in the EU. A key to implementing the Good Friday Agreement was the Schengen agreement, which allows goods and people to move across EU borders without checkpoints.

Northern Ireland is the part of the UK that has benefitted most from membership of the EU; it remains unclear what practical effects Brexit will have on those living in the region. An estimated 30,000 commuters cross the border in both directions to work every day. How would a new ‘Brexit’ border affect this? What would it even look like? Will there be physical barriers and checks at all 200 crossing points? And, if there are, what would happen if one of these checkpoints were to be attacked? Would the British army once again start patrolling the squiggly 210-mile line that separates Northern Ireland from Europe?

The EU head of Brexit negotiations says talks cannot begin until this issue is resolved. But planning is not being taken seriously by Westminster, with Prime Minister Theresa May promising a “soft border” without any concrete plans.

This has produced a furious reaction from Martina Anderson, a Member of the European Parliament for Northern Ireland, who said May could stick her plan for a border “where the sun doesn’t shine.” Anderson served 13 years in jail as a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Mirroring other election results around the world, the last British election further polarized the political makeup of Northern Ireland. The moderate SDLP party was wiped out, losing all its seats in Parliament. Seven pro-United Ireland Sinn Féin party candidates were elected by border constituencies to represent them in Westminster, and 10 right-wing Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs were elected by constituencies in the far north and east.

To add insult to potential injury for Northern Irish border dwellers, May has clung to power and tipped a divided Parliament in her favor by making a pact with the far-right DUP. To demonstrate against British rule in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin MPs abstain from taking seats in Westminster, which plays into May’s favor as there are seven fewer votes against her fragile majority.

The southern border of Northern Ireland is a far cry today from the terrorized land it was 30 years ago, when a large bomb ripped through the respectful dignity of a Remembrance Sunday veterans’ parade in the small border community of Enniskillen. Twelve people — 11 civilians and one policeman — lost their lives, crushed by a building brought down by the blast. One victim died after 13 years spent in a coma. Sixty-three men, women and children were injured.

The IRA claimed responsibility and said that the loss of so many civilian lives had been a mistake, as they had been aiming for British soldiers parading to the event. No one has been brought to justice for the attack, which drew condemnation even from the IRA’s gun-runner-in-chief, Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi.

The bombing, born from the IRA’s desire to exact revenge for a Royal Ulster Constabulary attack on Catholic mourners at an IRA funeral, led to more violent reprisals, following the well-worn pattern of the conflict. But the shocking nature of the bombing at Enniskillen, the widespread condemnation of the carnage and in particular the graceful forgiveness shown in the immediate aftermath by grieving future peace-campaigner Gordon Wilson — who was injured and lost his daughter Marie in the blast — were the catalysts that brought the cycle of revenge killings to an end. Eleven years of hard work and compromise led to the ratification of the Good Friday Agreement — the foundations of which are rooted in EU law.

There was little coverage in the media of what might happen if the UK were to leave the EU, in particular what would happen to the peace accord within Northern Ireland. Indeed, few paid attention when two ex-prime ministers, Sir John Major and Tony Blair, reached across the aisle to warn that there would be grave problems.

Murals decorate both Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods of Northern Ireland, serving as a reminder of a violent past. Photo credit: Borja García de Sola Fernández / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

EU President Donald Tusk signaled his concern as far back as April, saying that “before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past.” Still later in the year chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said he was “worried” about the British government’s unspecific proposals for the border when it released its long-awaited Brexit position paper. “Creativity and flexibility can’t be at the expense of the integrity of the single market and customs union,” he said. “This would be not fair for Ireland and it would not be fair for the European Union.”

Despite such calls for clarification, May’s government has so far not released an amended plan.

Some in Ireland have called for “Irexit” — that is, for all of Ireland to remain aligned with the UK as opposed to Europe. Sinn Féin and its supporters hope Brexit will eventually lead to a united Ireland. But, if history is anything to go by, there will be an angry few who fight against this outcome tooth and nail, and the disarray could lead the region down the same path as has already been walked — with deadly results.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from UK flag (Unknown / Wikimedia), Republic of Ireland flag (SKopp / Wikimedia) and Peace Line, Belfast (Ross / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 2.0).

The post From Terrorism to Tourist Haven to …? appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

House panel drops effort to force testimony on Trump 'dossier'

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 19:16
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional panel on Wednesday dropped attempts to force the founder of a firm that hired a former British spy to compile a dossier of links between the 2016 Trump election campaign and Russia to testify under oath, a lawyer for the firm said.

Democrats working on independent Russia probe

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 19:03
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee have been undertaking their own investigation, without Republicans, on what they term "Russia's malign influence around the world," a spokesman for the Democratic side of the committee said on Wednesday.

Democrats working on independent Russia probe

Reuters US Politics - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 19:03
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee have been undertaking their own investigation, without Republicans, on what they term "Russia's malign influence around the world," a spokesman for the Democratic side of the committee said on Wednesday.

Tax-cut debate in U.S. Congress swings to Senate bill

Top Reuters News - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 18:47
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate tax-cut bill, differing from one in the House of Representatives, was expected to be unveiled on Thursday, complicating a Republican push to overhaul the federal tax code.

Tax-cut debate in U.S. Congress swings to Senate bill

Reuters US Politics - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 18:47
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate tax-cut bill, differing from one in the House of Representatives, was expected to be unveiled on Thursday, complicating a Republican push to overhaul the federal tax code.