Ukraine, Russia and Trump Associates

 President Trump on his way to Charleston, S.C., on Friday. Although he has expressed hope that the United States and Russia can work together, it is unclear if the White House will take a privately submitted peace proposal for Ukraine seriously. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times


President Trump on his way to Charleston, S.C., on Friday. Although he has expressed hope that the United States and Russia can work together, it is unclear if the White House will take a privately submitted peace proposal for Ukraine seriously. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.

Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

At a time when Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by American intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and Congress — some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.

 

Donald Trump’s Connections in Ukraine

 

Andrii V. Artemenko

Ukrainian politician with a peace plan for Ukraine and a file alleging that its president is corrupt.

Felix H. Sater

Russian-American businessman with longstanding ties to the Trump Organization.

Michael D. Cohen

Trump’s personal attorney, under scrutiny from F.B.I. over links with Russia.

Paul Manafort

Former Trump campaign manager with pro-Russian political ties in Ukraine now under investigation by the F.B.I.

The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.

But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.

“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sater said they had not spoken to Mr. Trump about the proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy. Mr. Cohen is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an F.B.I. counterintelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials; he has denied any illicit connections.

The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts: Mr. Sater, 50, a Russian-American, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Mr. Artemenko spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.

Before entering politics, Mr. Artemenko had business ventures in the Middle East and real estate deals in the Miami area, and had worked as an agent representing top Ukrainian athletes. Some colleagues in Parliament describe him as corrupt, untrustworthy or simply insignificant, but he appears to have amassed considerable wealth.

He has fashioned himself in the image of Mr. Trump, presenting himself as Ukraine’s answer to a rising class of nationalist leaders in the West. He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the Republican National Convention, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

“It’s time for new leaders, new approaches to the governance of the country, new principles and new negotiators in international politics,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 27. “Our time has come!”

Read more of this article in the New York Times.

Protecting Trump costs 8 times more than Obama

Schumer says it costs $500,000 per day for nearly 200 police officers to protect Trump Tower. Photograph: Derek R Henkle/AFP/Getty Images

Schumer says it costs $500,000 per day for nearly 200 police officers to protect Trump Tower. Photograph: Derek R Henkle/AFP/Getty Images

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has ramped up pressure on Donald Trump and the federal government to accept the mounting costs of protecting the president, the first family and their extended entourage.

Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, inserted himself into the debate on Sunday, saying it costs $500,000 per day for nearly 200 police officers to protect Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which houses the Trump family business headquarters and serves as the home of the first lady, Melania Trump, and the couple’s son, Barron. The senator estimated the cost could rise to as much as $183m annually.

At current estimates, even a four-year Trump administration could be heading for a billion dollars in taxpayer-borne costs – an eight-fold increase of the $97m Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, estimates it cost to protect Barack Obama over the two terms of his administration.

The estimated costs of guarding Trump Tower have varied from $1m a day (during daily protests before the inauguration) to around $100,000 for the first lady and Barron, 10, who are staying in New York until at least the end of the school year.

Schumer urged Trump to include the costs in the federal budget, noting that New York City has only been reimbursed $7m of $35m requested for the cost of protecting the tower for the period between election day and the Inauguration.

“It’s simply unfair to have New York City taxpayers alone bear the burden of NYPD protection at Trump Tower. President Trump: this is your protection, so I challenge you to put these costs in your upcoming federal budget and make a commitment to reimburse New York City,” Schumer said during a press briefing at his Manhattan office.

In contrast, the cost of protecting former president Obama during his four trips to the city last year came to just $4.1m. The costs of protecting the Obama family home in Chicago over the same pre-inauguration period in his presidency was estimated at $2.2m.

Senator Schumer’s comments come as the full costs of protecting the first family in the lifestyle that it is accustomed are only just starting to be understood.

Last week, officials in Palm Beach said the cost of hosting the president at his Mar-a-Lago estate amounted to $60,000 a day for police overtime.

Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago for nearly 16 days, from 16 December to 1 January as president-elect, and has visited his private resort home on three consecutive weekends this month, driving up the costs to an estimated half-million dollars.

Kirk Blouin, the town’s director of public safety, told the Sun-Sentinel that the municipality was “overwhelmed”.

Trump’s frequent trips to his self-styled Winter White House in Florida are burdening local businesses. While Air Force One lands at Palm Beach, Lantana, the small airport near Mar-a-Lago, is closed for business during the president’s trips. A banner-flying company operating from there told the Chicago Tribune it has lost more than $40,000 in contracts.

Schumer said he would cooperate with Palm Peach counties in trying to claw back the costs, adding that the cost of protecting the president in Florida was “an additional and unusual expense”.

“We have not had a president with an auxiliary White House,” he added.

Additional costs are also mounting for protecting the Trump children in their daily lives and on their frequent business trips abroad.

Last week, Eric Trump and his brother, Donald Trump Jr, traveled to Dubai to open a Trump-branded golf course. Estimates compiled by the Washington Post, put the cost of Secret Service hotel bills alone in excess of $16,000. Meanwhile, Eric Trump’s trip to visit a Trump-brand condo tower in Uruguay cost an estimated $100,000 in hotel bills.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

CN develops technology that could make bitumen transportation safer

cnrailoilpuck

Canadian National Railway Co. is hoping something the size of a bar of soap – an oil puck – can help clean up some of the problems of shipping oil by rail and ship.

Canada’s largest railway filed a patent for a new technology on Friday that turns bitumen – the heavy crude produced at the oil sands – into a mostly solid dry good, by mixing and wrapping it with polymer. In the event of an accident, the packets would not explode, leak, or sink in water, the railway believes.

“It’s still early days, so there’s a lot of work still to do. First and foremost, we want to perfect the pellet in terms of its shape, its size and the exact composition of polymer that we use in it,” said Janet Drysdale, vice-president of corporate development at CN. The pellets, currently in round form, will eventually be produced as flat squares or rectangles, so that they are stackable as a dry good.

“We want to do the studies that will prove that it will float in fresh water, salt water, how it behaves in cold and in heat. All of that will be validated with additional lab work.”

The polymer-infused crude, which resembles thick jelly if the soap-sized tablets are cut open, is designed to be much less flammable. “It’s pretty thick stuff,” said Ross Chow, vice-president of InnoTech Alberta, a provincially funded organization that worked with CN on the patent.

Success of the invention will depend on whether oil-sands producers and refiners are willing to adopt the technology at a cost that is roughly equivalent to shipping bitumen with diluent now, CN says.

The tablets wouldn’t prevent accidents like the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, which killed 47 people when an oil train exploded in the Quebec town, since that accident involved highly volatile light oil that resembled gasoline. The technology hasn’t been developed for lighter forms of oil, but it could make shipping bitumen and other heavy oil products safer, CN believes.

Once the pellets reach a refinery, heating separates the bitumen and polymer mixture, along with their polymer casing. The tablets are also designed to absorb the weight of being stacked on each other. “It has to handle a lot of different forces,” said James Auld, senior manager of corporate development at CN.

Read the complete article in The Globe and Mail here.

Trump’s first month of lies – video

with narration by , Source: Guardian/Reuters/Getty Images/CNN/Fox News

In his first month as president, Donald Trump made numerous false statements on subjects that ranged from the extremely petty – such as crowd sizes – to those of national and international significance. The Guardian examines his most egregious falsehoods and considers what to do about a serial liar in the White House,

Source: The Guardian news web site.

Trump cites non-existent terror attack

Donald Trump appeared to invent a terrorist attack in Sweden during a campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday, inviting questions that he may have confused the Scandinavian country with a city in Pakistan.

With thousands of supporters gathered in an aircraft hangar in Melbourne, Florida, Trump used his speech to talk about migration in Europe and linked it to terror attacks in Brussels, Nice and Paris. He then added Sweden to the list, incorrectly stating that an attack had happened there on Friday. More fake news by Trump.

Trump told supporters: “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.”

“Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.”

The source of Trump’s remark is unclear, but it came after Fox News aired an interview with film-maker Ami Horowitz, whose latest documentary examines whether high crime rates in areas of Sweden is linked to its previous open-door policy on people fleeing war and persecution.

According to the 2016 Swedish Crime Survey, crime rates in Sweden have stayed relatively stable over the last decade, with some fluctuations. In 2015, there were 112 cases of lethal violence in Sweden, an increase of 25 cases compared with 2014, but assaults, threats, sexual offences, car theft, burglary and harassment all reduced compared to the previous year – as did anxiety about crime in society.

Read more of this story on The Guardian news site here.

Why Trump’s travel ban didn’t include a 9/11 terrorist country

Donald Trump’s failed Muslim ban involved no countries with terrorist connections to 9/11. We now know why Trump failed to include in the Muslim ban one country with ties to the terrorist attack on 9/11. It begs the question of Trump and ethics.

I wrote in an earlier article that hijackers in the September 11 attacks were 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda. Yet 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt and Lebanon.[1]

None of those countries were mentioned in Trump’s original attempt at a Muslim ban. We now know why one of those countries in particular, the United Arab Emerates, wasn’t mentioned in the travel ban.

Eric Trump (second from left) and Donald Trump Jr. (second from right) attended an an invitation-only ceremony Saturday to formally open the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai.

Eric Trump (second from left) and Donald Trump Jr. (second from right) attended an an invitation-only ceremony Saturday to formally open the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai.

Billionaire Hussain Sajwani’s DAMAC Properties partnered with the Trump Organization to build the golf course at the heart of a development of villas and apartment blocks called DAMAC Hills. Among them are some 100 Trump-branded villas selling from 5 million dirhams ($1.3 million) to over 15 million dirhams ($4 million).

Ties between the Trumps and Sajwani remain strong. One of the Trump Organization’s subsidiaries received from $1 million to $5 million from DAMAC for running the golf club, according to a U.S. Federal Election Committee report submitted in May.

Sajwani and his family also attended a New Year’s Eve celebration at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where Trump referred to them as “the most beautiful people from Dubai.”

Trump days later told journalists that DAMAC had offered the Trump Organization $2 billion in deals after his election, something DAMAC also confirmed.

The Trump Organization has said it won’t make new foreign deals while its namesake is president. A previously planned Trump-branded golf course designed by Tiger Woods is still being built by DAMAC further down the road.

It would appear that $2 billion in deals after the election between Trump’s companies and a country with terrorist ties to 9/11 keeps you off any Muslim travel ban.

It would certainly would appear to go against Trump’s assertion of no new deals while he is president.

As Trump would say, “No problem I can see”. That’s the problem. Donald doesn’t see the chaos going on in the White House, doesn’t see the chaos his idiotic travel ban caused, and doesn’t see the problem with tweeting threats to foreign countries.

Trump chastised Obama and Clinton for notifying foreign powers in advance of any potential event like retaliation or military action. Now Trump is doing exactly the same thing on Twitter. If Trump does it then it’s okay. If anyone else does it, then it’s bad.

Read more in ABCnews article here.