Domestic Terrorism – Charlottesville, Virginia

18 U.S. Code § 2331 – Definitions

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that —

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

There is much press coverage of POTUS’s response to the incidents centered on the fact that:

  1. he hasn’t labeled the running down of pedestrians  terrorism,
  2. condemned the racism aspect of the Unite-The-Right rally to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee Sculpture in Emancipation Park nor the Friday night march on University of Virginia.
  3. or the clashes with the anti-fa and other counter-protestors.

I use the term incidents to cover:
1) The Friday night tiki-torch parade
2) T
he Saturday Unite-the-Right Rally
3) The violent clashes between Unite-the-Right and Anti-fa protesters (Friday & Saturday)
4) The running down of pedestrians using a car


This map, from Vox, show the sites of the various incidents.

charlottesville_map
Credit: Javier Zarracina/Vox

Friday & Saturday Clashes

Friday Night

Vox reports:

A group of some 100 white nationalists marched on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, VA, Friday night carrying tiki torches and chanting Nazi slogans including “Sieg heil” and “blood and soil” and giving the Nazi salute.

The march was a prelude to a larger planned “Unite the Right” rally on Saturday to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a park in Charlottesville. Leaders of the “alt-right” are scheduled to speak before an audience of hundreds of right-wing activists.

At one point during Friday night’s rally, a brawl broke out when demonstrators — nearly all white men — surrounded a small group of counterprotesters who were peacefully surrounding a statue of Thomas Jefferson at the center of campus. Counterprotesters reported being hit with pepper spray by marchers; according to the Washington Post, one counterprotester also used a “chemical spray” against marchers. “They completely surrounded us and wouldn’t let us out,” local activist Emily Gorcenski told the Guardian.

I believe, based on the lack of police presence at the Jefferson Statue, that his was an unsanctioned march.  Police arrived after the altercation started, based on one report.

A more detailed timeline an map of march from Nameless Field (~9:00 PM)  to Thomas Jefferson Statue on UVA campus (~9:10), normally a 10 minute walk:

Base on several article I believe the major clashes involved verbal altercations and pepper spray being used vice physical attacks with sticks or punching.  I could find no reports of hospitalization or images of ambulances on scene.  Likewise no reports of arrest.

The iconic picture that saturated the internet:

TikiTorch
Nothing will strike fear in the hearts of far left more than white guys marching with backyard Tiki Torches.

Aside to the planners of his march, you need a new image consultant, backyard Tiki Torches ARE NOT manly or fearsome.  Can you envision the classic Frankenstein Torch-Wielding Mob with backyard Tiki Torches?

Frankenstein

I guess you could have done worst, paper cups with candles or sparklers.


Since there were no arrest, there is no prima facie case that this was domestic terrorism. Certainly the elements:

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;


The counter-protestors surrounded at the campus Robert E. Lee statue certainly felt intimidated.

FridayMarch

But it was not more intimidating than situations that have occurred at other protest.


C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

were present, but it would be difficult, if not impossible to show:

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
and
(B-ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(B-iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

Therefore I conclude that the Friday night march was not Domestic Terrorism.

Were the marchers an amalgamation of racist groups?  yes.

Are their views contrary to mainstream American values? yes.

Do they have the right to free speech? yes, just like fringe groups on the left of the political spectrum who hold anarchist views that are also contrary to mainstream American values.

Are all who oppose the removal of statuary of civil war figures racist?  No, some of us see it as a form of revisionist history.  Remember, Arlington National Cemetery was Robert E. Lee’s home, and other civil war related national monuments such as Ft. Sumter which is the site of southern victory in the first battle of the civil war.

If the basis for removal of the statuary is slave ownership, then the scope is larger than the civil war era figures.   Do we go into public cemeteries and remove Civil War related icons?   The other argument I have heard is these were traitors, in which case we certainly need to remove the Benedict Arnold Monument in Stillwater, New York.  Do we expand it to all racism and remove all statues of those involved in the Indian wars?

That said, as a states right advocate I also believe local government have authority over public lands in their jurisdictions, if they legally decide to remove edifices from public land, that is their prerogative.


I have noticed on FB that the revisionist history belief appears to be my generation (possibly of southerner heritage), while the hateful edifice/triators belief appears to be the following generation.   Not a scientific poll.


Saturday Rally

It should be noted that the Unite-The-Right organization had a permit to rally in protest a City decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue.  The legality of the removal is under court review.

The City attempted to relocate the rally, but the relocation was appealed by the ACLU and district Judge Glen Conrad agreed, ruling that “Kessler has shown that he will likely prove that the decision to revoke his permit was based on the content of his speech.”

The two sides, I will identify them as Unite-The-Right and Anti-fa, are an amalgamation of groups/factions, and in my opinion there are elements of both that are looking for or expecting violent confrontation, note headgear and sticks on both sides. 

Scuffles

That said, there were reports of clashes, both sides claiming to having been attacked.  There was enough violence that the police to declare the rally an unlawful gathering at 11:36 AM and Virginia Governor declared a State of Emergency at 11:38 AM Saturday Morning.  There were reports of minor injuries on both sides, but no reporting of hospital admissions as a result of the skirmishes.

Injuries

To the best of my knowledge, only three arrest were made.  All those arrested were from outside the area:

  1. Troy Dunigan, 21, of Chattanooga, Tenn., was charged with disorderly conduct,
  2. Jacob L. Smith, 21, of Louisa, Va., was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery,
  3. James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Fla., was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.  The Tampa Tribune reports:

[O’Brien said his arrest was] not related to the rally, called “Unite the Right” by its organizers. He said he was given a misdemeanor citation and sent on his way for an incident in which police thought he was breaking into his own car after he lost his car keys. A photo of the citation provided by O’Brien had an issuance time of 6:38 p.m., hours after the demonstration.

“I voluntarily disclosed the weapon and was issued a misdemeanor citation,” O’Brien said. “I do not know why the State Police have stated what they did.”

O’Brien has a blog which indicated that he was at the rally, earlier in the day.  The “blog espousing white nationalist beliefs and encouraging violence against the political left.”

If we eliminate Mr. O’Brien from the list we have two arrested for violence.  Given the state of emergency declaration and law enforcement presence either the violence was not a pervasive as being reported or law enforcement was lax in making arrest.

It should also be noted that there was zero property damage Friday night or Saturday morning.

My view on this being Domestic Terrorism is the same a Friday nights march.

There is no prima facie case that this was domestic terrorism. Certainly the elements:

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

were present, but it would be difficult, if not impossible to show:

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

and

(B-iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

Therefore I conclude that the Saturday Rally was not Domestic Terrorism.

Were the marchers an amalgamation of racist groups?  yes.

Were there elements on both sides that were prepared for and spoiling for a confrontation? Yes.

Are their views contrary to mainstream American values? yes.

Do they have the right to free speech? yes, just like fringe groups on the left of the political spectrum who hold anarchist views that are also contrary to mainstream American values.

Are all who oppose the removal of statuary of civil war figures racist?  No

Saturday Car Runs Down Pedestrian

CNN provided this summary of events, [times added]:

  • Counterprotesters met white nationalists and other right-wing groups at the site of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” event hours before the rally was set to start.
  • Clashes broke out, and police began to disperse crowds.
  • Local officials declared the rally an “unlawful assembly,” and the governor declared a state of emergency [11:38 AM].
  • About two hours later [1:13 PM], a gray Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters walking down a street in downtown Charlottesville.
  • The driver slammed the car in reverse and fled the scene backward. The suspected driver was arrested later that afternoon.

There is certainly a prima facie case that the car driven into the crowd of counter-protesters following the cancellation, via a declaration of unlawful assembly, of the Unite-the-Right rally was an act of Domestic Terrorism.  The elements, acts dangerous to human life, violation of the criminal laws, and intimidate or coerce a civilian population, all appear to be present and the act appears to be intentional, which distinguish it from a tragic accident.

Trump’s Tweets

Friday, August 11th

In my review of @realDonaldTrump I found no Charlottesville related tweets.

Saturday, August 12th

Prior to 11:38 State of Emergency Declaration

In my review of @realDonaldTrump I found no Charlottesville related tweets.

Between 11:38 and 1:13 Auto Running Down of Pedestrians

In my review of @realDonaldTrump I found no Charlottesville related tweets.

After 1:13 Auto Running Down of Pedestrians

Trump1-23
Tweet at 1:23, 10 minutes after Auto Plows into counterprotesters.

[Link to Video]

Trump2-19
Tweet at 2:19, 2 hrs. 6 min. after auto plows into counterprotesters

[Video Link]

Trump2-49
Tweet @ 2:49, 2 hrs. 36 min. after auto plows into counterprotesters

[Video Link]

Trump3-50
Tweets @ 3:50 & 4:25

Whitehouse Press Release

Monday, August 14 @12:38 PM

I just met with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed one innocent American and wounded 20 others.  To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable.  Justice will be delivered.

As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.  It has no place in America.

And as I have said many times before:  No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God.  We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence.  We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.

Racism is evil.  And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal.  We are equal in the eyes of our Creator.  We are equal under the law.  And we are equal under our Constitution.  Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.

Two days ago, a young American woman, Heather Heyer, was tragically killed.  Her death fills us with grief, and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers, and our love.

We also mourn the two Virginia state troopers who died in service to their community, their commonwealth, and their country.  Troopers Jay Cullen and Burke Bates exemplify the very best of America, and our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and every member of American law enforcement.

These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation.  In times such as these, America has always shown its true character:  responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice.

As a candidate, I promised to restore law and order to our country, and our federal law enforcement agencies are following through on that pledge.  We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear.  We will defend and protect the sacred rights of all Americans, and we will work together so that every citizen in this blessed land is free to follow their dreams in their hearts, and to express the love and joy in their souls.

What Would Have Happened

What if the news organizations had agreed to cover the Unite-The-Right Rally with one pool news van and the counterprotesters had boycotted the rally.

My speculation a 60 second report on the nightly news and page 3 in the daily newspaper.

 

 

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Tracking Down The North Korean Threat To Guam.

A ranking US senator (Lindsey Graham) said the US should launch a preemptive strike on North Korea

If you Google – “North Korea” +Guam – you will get 42 M results.  The “Top Stories”

Guam
The first 20 results:

Gaum2

It wasn’t until the 18th & 20th result that any direct reference to the North Korean threat appeared.

CNBC (18 above):

North Korea said on Wednesday it is “carefully examining” a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles, just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump told the North that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury”.

A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency, said the strike plan will be “put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment” once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

In another statement citing a different military spokesman, North Korea also said it could carry out a pre-emptive operation if the United States showed signs of provocation.

 

New York Magazine (20 above):

First of all, let’s be clear that North Korea is not threatening to nuke Guam. What the regime has said it is doing is preparing a plan (which it now claims will be ready within days) to launch a series of Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japanese territory and into the sea 30 to 40 kilometers off the coast of Guam (just outside its territorial waters but well within its exclusive economic zone) in an “enveloping fire.” Such a launch would not do any damage to U.S. citizens or military assets, but would demonstrate that the island is within range of the Hwasong-12, which Pyongyang claims is capable of delivering a nuclear payload. That might well cause panic among the U.S. public — a psychological warfare win for North Korea.

 

The hyperlink (within days) in the New York Magazine story actually leads to a CNN report that has specific details.

The intermediate-range missiles would be fired east and over Japan before landing around 30 to 40 kilometers (18 to 25 miles) off the coast of the tiny island if the plan is implemented, according to state-run KCNA. Guam is more than 3,000 kilometers from North Korea

After more research I found this Telegraph (UK) article:

The statement from North Korean General Kim Rak Gyom said North Korea would produce a plan to fire four Hwasong-12 rockets more then 2,000 miles over Japan to “hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam”.

The plan would be presented to leader Kim Jong-un who would make a decision on whether to proceed. The statement added: “We will keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the US.”

Wikipedia provides this bio for General Gyom:

Lt. Gen. Kim Rak-gyom is the head of North Korea’s Strategic Rocket Forces. Along with Ju Kyu-chang, he was elected to the Workers Party of Korea’s Central Military Commission in April 2012.   Wikipedia

So the actual threat is:

North Korea’s missile command will develop a plan to test fire four unarmed ICBMs downrange to land in international waters near Guam.

I can almost guarantee that the US has contingence plan in place targeting strategic targets in North Korea, with both conventional and nuclear weapons.  How is it that this North Korean “plan” has brought us to the brink of a preemptive strike?

 

 

Answer – Which one is a Bouv.

Dogstar
Gypsy (left) and Konna (right)

This picture was posted on a Bouvier FB site, with the caption Which one is a Bouv.

It may have been a trick question.

It could be two bouvs, two Black Russians or one each.

Good Luck.

Gypsy (left) is a 120 lb, female Black Russian Terrier, Konna (right) is a 90 lb (slight) male Black Russian Terrier.

Truth-In-Legislation

Repeal and Replacement of the ACA (Obama Care) mean repeal of the FULL 974 pages of the ACA and its associated regulations and creation of a NEW nationwide INDIVIDUAL HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE.

It does not mean nibbling around the edges using budget reconciliation.   Republicans, you and your Think Tanks have had seven year to draft and agree upon  a bill to repeal the full Affordable Care Act and draft a bill creating  a replacement.  In that time you have produced zilch.

The American people want an nationwide individual health insurance marketplace that provide the same level of coverage, deductibles, copays and at cost similar to the Federal Employee Health Benefit program, which was your health insurance program at the time the ACA was enacted.

Let’s also take a look at the health care that you avail yourself to via The Office of Attending Physician, U.S. Congress.  All American’s would love to have access to an urgent care health facility for $611 per year premium, no deductible, no copay.

In addition to an Individual Health Insurance Marketplace, which cover pre-existing conditions, based on community rating vice medical underwriting, with no hidden subsidies to the insurers.  It appears that the majority of American’s want:

  1. Medicaid expansion – This should be a stand alone bill.  It should be FULLY paid for each year, it can not add to the deficit.  If you can not  find cuts to existing programs to fund Medicaid Expansion you MUST raise taxes to cover it.
  2. A new welfare program to subsidize individuals with income above the Medicaid threshold, via means testing, covering at the low end; premiums, copay and deductibles and from there via a sliding scale of support up to the income threshold.  As with Medicaid Expansion this should be a standalone bill and  MUST be FULLY funded each year out of revenues, not via borrowing.  The payments to insurers should be via vouchers or payment cards, ala SNAP, not the tax code.

It also appears that funding of opioid treatment, related law enforcement and regulations is a priority, for a portion of the population.  These should be three independent bills, again fully funded out of current revenue, even it that means increased taxes.  The American people are not children who must be shielded from the reality of the cost and impacts of government programs.

Palm Beach Estate Sale

The Property

The Abe Goldman estate, Maison de L’Amitie, a six acre property with 475 feet of beachfront, located a 515 North County Road, in Palm Beach County was bought at a bankruptcy auction in 2004 by The Trump Organization.

photos-medleyphoto-810767
Credit Palm Beach Daily News
photos-medleyphoto-810763
Credit Palm Beach Daily News
PalmBeach
Credits Palm Beach Daily News

The purchase price was reportedly $41.35 M.  Bankruptcy sale prices are typically 25% – 50% of Fair Market Value.

The Trump Organization renovated the property and sold it in 2008.  The carrying cost for the property, in taxes alone were steep, the year before he sold it, the property’s tax bill totaled $980,033

The Sale

The property was bought for a reported $95 M, $30 M less than the $125M asking price, by County Road Property LLC, represented by Robert Brody, the buyer’s lawyer, a West Palm Beach Attorney.  The property was listed by Lawrence Moens, and the buyers agent was Carol Digges of Brown Harris Stevens.  Mr. Moens was the third agent to list the property [1], after Dolly Lenz and Cristina Condon.  Ms. Lenz reportedly brought in a $90 M offer that was rejected.  She is quoted as saying “If you didn’t target the Russian billionaires then you shouldn’t be in business. That’s the obvious group.” (ibid).

Trump paid all closing costs and brokerage commissions, including $665,000 in documentary stamps, sources say.

The ownership of County Road Properties is disputed [2].  In June 2008 [Dmitry]Rybolovlev confirmed he was behind the buying entity, County Road Property LLC. “This acquisition is simply an investment in real estate by one of the companies in which I have an interest,” Rybolovlev said through a spokesman for Uralkali, his fertilizer company. Rybolovlev added that he didn’t plan to live in the United States.”  He later, in a divorce motion denied ownership “Mr. Rybolovlev has not purchased or managed any real estate in Florida for investment purposes, either directly or indirectly,” according to a motion recently filed in Elena’ case.

The Current Status

After years of vacancy, under the management of David A. Lifson, of Crowe Horwath LLC,  the property was condemned and demolished [3].  County Road Properties LLC recently subdivided the property and is selling  it as three parcels, one has sold for $34 M.

 

PalmBeachNow
Credit Google Earth

 

Trump bought it for $6.6 million per acre in 2004, Trump sold it for $15.2 million per acre, with improvements, in 2008, and now (Nov 2016) County Road Properties  sold part of it for $12.6 million per acre as unimproved land. [4] 

The Purported Buyer

The New York Times in 2012 reported:

 Trusts linked to Mr. Rybolovlev and his eldest daughter, Ekaterina, 22, spent more than $180 million in the past four years to acquire a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., and a penthouse at 15 Central Park West in New York.
The Manhattan apartment, previously owned by the wife of the former Citigroup chairman Sanford I. Weill, stands empty with nary a lamp in it, said Tetiana Bersheda, Mr. Rybolovlev’s lawyer. His daughter, who bought it in February through a trust set up by her father for her and her heirs, plans to stay in the 6,744-square-foot residence later this year while finishing up her degree at Harvard University Extension School. “With the permission of the trustees,” Ms. Bersheda said, “she is planning to do some light decoration.”

The Florida house, with its 475 feet of frontage on the Atlantic Ocean, was in “unlivable” condition when Donald Trump sold it, Ms. Bersheda said. Only Ekaterina has been back since the purchase for a few days early last year, when she spoke to a developer about demolishing and rebuilding. She stayed in the pool house.

It turns out that the trustees overseeing the Florida house decided not to do anything with the property after Elena Rybolovleva, 45, made a claim on the property after filing for divorce.

Blumberg reports on his art investments:

Dmitry Rybolovlev sold three works for an estimated $100 million loss and stands to lose even more in upcoming auctions.

Rybolovlev—whose fortune totals about $9.8 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index—invested about $2 billion in 38 works, from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso. They were procured privately by Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, better known for creating a network of tax-free art storage warehouses in Singapore and Luxembourg.

Rybolovlev was among new buyers from Russia, China and other emerging economies who drove an unprecedented expansion of the art market in the past decade. Booming wealth created a network of collectors hungry for trophies by top modern and contemporary Western artists and willing to pay almost anything. Between 2003—the year Rybolovlev met Bouvier—and 2014, global sales more than tripled to $68 billion.

Since then, the market has contracted, and some of the art world’s most expensive pieces have been resold for less than their purchase price, mired in lawsuits and investigations.

G-20 State Dinner Myth vs Fact

The Venue [1]

The Elbphilharmonie (also English: Elbe Philharmonic Hall) is a concert hall in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, Germany, on the Grasbrook (de) peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world.

The Elbphilharmonie has three concert venues. The Great Concert Hall can accommodate 2,100 visitors whereby the performers are in the center of the hall surrounded by the audience in the vineyard style arrangement. The acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota who installed about 10,000 individually microshaped drywall plates to disperse sound waves. The Great Concert Hall contains a pipe organ with 69 registers built by Klais Orgelbau. The Recital Hall is intended for the performance of recitals, chamber music and jazz concerts; it can hold an audience of 550 people.  In addition, there is the Kaistudio that allows for 170 visitors and is intended to serve educational activities. Likely the site of the dinner, which followed the concert, likely held in the Recital Hall.

The Cast

The G20 Heads-of-State, their spouse, one translator each and the wait staff.

Seating

Heads-of-State and their spouses were separated, Melania Trump was seated to the left of Vladimir Putin and right of Argentine President Mauricio Macri.  While Donald was seated, on the opposite side of the table, to the left of Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

seating
Putin upper circle, Trump lower circle. credit NBC News

Translators had chairs arranged along the walls behind their principles.  When needed they would move into position between their principle and their conversation companion.  It is widely reported that Putin and Melania didn’t need a translator because they shared a common language, German.  This photo tends to disprove that assertions, it appears that the translator is an active participant in the pre-dinner conversation between Melania and Putin.  Putin’s translator would have been Russian/English as he was seated next to Melania.

PutinTranslator
Melania and Putin in pre-dinner conversation, obviously using services of translator. credit Daily Mail/Reuters

TrumpSeat

POTUS, lower left, was seated between the wife of Argentinian President Juliana Awada on his left and Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe on his right.  His translator, who spoke Japanese, is seated directly behind him.

Timeline

The dinner took place after the concert, which began at 8:00 PM, one report has the dinner still underway at 10:40 PM.

The Source

Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk consultancy firm, Eurasia Group, reportedly broke the story of the meeting, even though he was not present, his source has not been reported.  In a note to his clients, Bremmer reportedly wrote:

Halfway in [the dinner], Trump gets up from his seat, sits next to Putin, and spends roughly an hour talking privately and animatedly with the Russian president, joined only by Putin’s own translator. … Several notable pieces here. One, that Trump didn’t bring in his own translator — a breach of national security protocol Trump likely wouldn’t be aware of, but that significantly advantages the meeting towards Putin.

I find this scenario difficult to believe; getting up in the middle of a State Dinner and either having Melania or the individual on Putin’s right move, which wasn’t reported.  Tthis would have been noticed by others at the meeting, unless it was at the end of the meal when people were moving around being social.

The image of Putin, Trump and Putin’s translator huddle at the table, out-of-earshot of others (reported elsewhere), half way through a State Dinner is hard to conjure.  It should be easy to verify, I am sure an enterprising reporter could find someone on the wait staff to confirm the story, as it would have disrupted the flow of serving the remainder of the meal.  Likewise the Senate can call the translator, presumably a government employee, for verification.  A simple yes/no question; “Did POTUS get up from his place at the table and sit with Putin, for an hour, midway through the meal?, without all of the normal grandstanding that goes on in the Senate hearing.

The White House version:

The White House confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke at a dinner for G-20 leaders and their spouses. But a White House official appeared to dispute that the discussion lasted an hour, saying the two only spoke “briefly” near the end of the dinner.

We have a difference of when, midway vs near the end and length, hour vs briefly.  I can envision a meeting after desert, as the dinner is breaking up, when POTUS had come over to talk with FLOTUS.  But, at that point, in the evening, an hour meeting is very implausible.

Myth 1 – “Only the Russians will have a transcript” [2]

There is no transcript, the meeting was NOT recorded, Putin and his translator could have contemporary notes or recorded debriefing, written or recorded after the meeting.  I would hope (expect) that POTUS has the same.

Myth 2 – “Secret Meeting”

It is hard to hold a secret meeting in a room with 80 – 100 witnesses.  Undisclosed, or unreported OK, but secret, not hardly.  Vanity Fair reported it as a “private encounter”, private is hard to come by in a room with 80 – 100 people.  Likewise his conversation with others at the dinner have not been “disclosed” nor reported.

Myth 3 – “Strange … no national security official was present”

Given that the only three US representatives were POTUS, FLOTUS and a (State Department ?) translator it would have been impossible for a national security team member to be there.  Again, there is no reportage nor scandal or national security concerns relative to any other “encounters” POTUS had at the dinner.

The Smoking Gun

The E-mails

The Atlantic posted a transcript of the e-mail chain between Donald Jr. and Rob Goldstone, the smoking gun being [emphasis mine}:

On June 3, 2016 at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best

Rob Goldstone

Note Bene! – There is no such position as Crown Prosecutor of Russia, anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Russian history would realize that there would be no reference to the Russian monarchy in modern day Russia.  It is a British term, so we can infer that the effects of the “telephone game” are showing, the message is getting farther from the original (truth) with each retelling.  In this case. 1) the source, 2) possible surrogate, 3)Aras, 4) Emin and finally 5) Rob Goldstone.

The e-mail chain continues culminating  with:

On [Tuesday] Jun 7, 2016, at 4:20 PM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Don

Hope all is well

Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday [June 9th].

I believe you are aware of the meeting — and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday [June 9] works for you?

I assume it would be at your office.

Best

Rob Goldstone


On Jun 7, 2016, at 5:16 PM, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

D


On June 7, 2016, at 5:19PM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Perfect… I won’t sit in on the meeting, but will bring them at 3 pm and introduce you etc.

I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.

best

Rob


On Jun 7, 2016, at 18:14, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.


Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 10:34 AM

To: Donald Trump Jr.

Subject: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Good morning,

Would it be possible to move tomorrow meeting to 4pm as the Russian attorney is in court until 3 i was just informed.

Best

Rob


On June 8, 2016, at 11:15, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Yes Rob I could do that unless they wanted to do 3 today instead … just let me know and ill lock it in either way.

d


From: Rob Goldstone

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 11:18 AM

To: Donald Trump Jr.

Subject: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

They can’t do today as she hasn’t landed yet from Moscow 4pm is great tomorrow.

Best

Rob


From: Donald Trump Jr.

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 12:03PM

To: Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort

Subject: FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices.

Best,

Don

The Cast

In order of appearance:

  • Rob Goldstone – 56 year old British  music publicist and former tabloid journalist, who lives in New York.  He claims to have been publicist for BB King, Richard Branson, EMI Music Publishing, TLC, HMV Music, The Hard Rock Café, Steinway & Sons and Best Buy.  His firm OUI 2 Entertainment, based in NY City.  He became associated with The Trump Organization via his representation of  the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.
  • Emin – Emin Agalarov, 37 year old, US educated, Russian-Azerbaijani singer-songwriter and businessman, Vice President of Crocus Group (owned by his father). He writes and performs songs in English and Russian.  In June of 2016 he was preparing for a tour that began with a performance in Red Square on June 12th.
  • Crown Prosecutor – ambitious reference, possibly a Russian Official and the source of the “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” or Natalia Vladimirovna Veselnitskaya the Russian attorney who met with Donald Jr.
    The Atlantic identifies the analogues Prosecutor General of Russia as Yury Chaika, a Presidential appointee (Vladimir Putin).To round out the speculation it could have also been a lower level Federal Prosecutor or a surrogate for any of these.

    Or to use the British term Rob could have just been being a poser [1], inflating his importance via the term Crown Prosecutor.

  • Aras – Aras Iskanderovich Agalarov [2], [3], 61 year old President of Crocus Group, op. cit., who sponsored the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant and later negotiated with The Trump Organization, Alex Sapir and Rotem Roser to build a Moscow Trump Tower.
  • RhonaRhona Graff, Vice President, Assistant to the President
    Trump Organization, does not appear to have played a part, maybe Rob just name dropping, being more of a poser.
  • Don – Donald Trump Jr. DJT’s son and campaign advisor.
  • Russian government attorney – Base on her attendance at the meeting Natalia Vladimirovna Veselnitskaya,  age estimate to be about 45 based on graduation date, she is a lawyer in private practice who founded her own law firm Kameraton Consulting in 2003 specializing in corporate and property arguments in court after serving in Federal Prosecutor office for 3 years. Most of her clients are businesses, including  the Russian Businessman Denis Katsyv.  She reported graduated from Moscow State Legal Academy in 1998.She reportedly is divorced from a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow area, her only apparent link to Russian Government, other than her work for the prosecutor’s office, where she reported worked on legislation.According to Homeland Security she was visiting the US on a Business (B1/B2) visa at the time of her meeting with Donald Jr.

    Is this another case of Rob being a poser, referring to her as a government attorney?

  • Two people –  Natalia Vladimirovna Veselnitskaya (see above) and Rinat Akhmetshin, age 50, a naturalized, 2009, US citizen from Russia.  He served in Russian Army as a 19 year old draftee from 1986 – 1988, has stated that he was responsible for law enforcement and some counterintelligence matters in the Baltics.  He has been described in filings from various law suits, by opposing parties as “a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer.” and “a former member of the Russian military intelligence services (GRU).”It is unlikely that a 19 year old draftee would be an officer, more likely and enlisted, equivalent to US private or corporal.  This photo would seem to confirm an enlisted grade.
    Rinat
    Rinat Akhmetshin, center, on a training exercise in Russia while he was in the Soviet Army service in the 1980s. Credit via Rinat Akhmetshin in NY Times

    An acquaintance claims that Akhmetshin “openly described his years as an officer in the Soviet GRU, the military intelligence arm, serving in Afghanistan.”  he goes on to say “The original NBC News reports suggested that Akhmetshin’s intelligence past somehow has rolled forward until now, putting Russian spies in the same room with Donald Trump, Jr. Nothing I picked up in numerous intense reporting experiences with Akhmetshin over the years — in the former U.S.S.R. and the U.S. — suggested any current such relationships.”

    Many news outlets and blogs are referring to Rinat as a former spy, evidently not realizing the difference between counter-intelligence and intelligence.  Counter intelligence units are spy hunters while intelligence units are spys/spy-masters.

    He appears to be linked to Natalia via  Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, set up by one of Natalia’s clients Denis Katxyv.

Note: It appears based on subsequent reporting that Natalia’s posse expanded to four.

  • Paul Manafort – 68 year old political consultant, lobbyist and lawyer, chairman of DJT’s campaign from March 2016 to August 2016, when he resigned because of questions regarding his consulting work in the Ukraine.
  • Brother in law (sic) – Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump.
  • Russian attorney – Natalia again, this time without any link to the Russian Government.  Rob no longer being a poser.

The Meeting

Who was in the room:

  1. Donald Jr.
  2. Paul Manafort – reportedly was texting on his phone for most of the meeting.
  3. Jared Kushner – reported left after 7 – 10 minutes.
  4. Natalia Veselnitskaya
  5. Rinat Akhmetshin
  6. Rob Goldsmith, at least for introductions per e-mail, unclear if he stayed.
  7. Anatoli Samochornov, an Ex-State Department contract translator, reportedly hired by Natalia.  Potentially the most important witness, as he has no potential legal jeopardy, and if translating have been a party to the whole conversation.
  8. CNN reports “a representative of the Russian family who had asked Goldstone to set up the meeting. The source did not provide the names.”Two obvious choices, 1) a representative of Aras Iskanderovich Agalarov or 2) a unknown party, who was the source and not the Crown Prosecutor of Russia and possibly not affiliated with the Russian Government.This would also be a very important witness, but if foreign national unlikely to appear.

The meeting reportedly lasted 20 minutes, there was some “evidence” disclosed but evidently discounted by Jr., the remainder of the meeting was a discussion of adoption of Russian babies in the US.

The meeting evidently came to light when Jared updated his SF-86 subsequent to his initial January submission and reported a contact with Natalia and it was leaked to the NY Times.

Kushner’s attorneys provided the FBI with an amended SF-86 form — used to obtain a security clearance — on June 21 to list the meeting with the Russian lawyer from a year earlier after discovering the email chain while preparing documents to turn over to the Senate intelligence committee. The change was the third time Kushner has amended his SF-86 form.

Note, the relevant SF-86 question (Sec. 19, pg 59),  re: contacts with foreign nationals is “Do you have, or have you had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven years with who you, or your spouse, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation.”  IMHO a 20 – 30  minute business meeting, which he left, does not rise to the level of “close and/or continuing contact

What Was Discussed?

CNN reports:

Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya and Goldstone have said the meeting centered on the Magnitsky Act — a 2012 US law that imposed sanctions on Russian individuals — and the retaliatory Kremlin-imposed ban on adoption of Russian children by American citizens.

Continuing with Jr.’s original statement re: Hillary info:

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information,” Trump Jr. said in a statement last Sunday. He added that Veselnitskaya’s “true agenda” was to discuss the Magnitsky Act and the adoptions dispute.

Was There “Collusion”?

Certainly a prima fascia case of intent to collude, if there was such a charge, can be made based on the first e-mail’s  “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.” passage.  But there is no statute for collusion;

“But unlike obstruction of justice — which is clearly defined in the United States Code — there is no specific statute for collusion.”  [PBS]

Certainly it puts the Administration in the position of making a false statement relative to Russian Contacts, this was clearly a campaign meeting with Russians with the intent to get dirt on Hillary.

Did it result in any actions, no.

Should Donald Jr. have been savvy enough to not take the meeting and  refer Goldsmith to a surrogate, oppo research team or PAC, yes.

Will the Dems on the  Senate and House committees and press have a field day with this, yes.

Will the most important witness, in my opinion, Mr. Samochornov, be called before Congress to testify publicly, unlikely.

Will Mueller investigate this, most likely.

Will he find criminal activity or intent via campaign finance statutes, perjury or other crimes, To Be Determine, likely in 2 or more years.