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FOREIGN POLICY: RUSSIA, N KOREA, NSC, UN...

(including Mueller's Trump-Russia Investigation and Indictments)

12/1/17: Should Mueller be fired, please click here to join immediate protests. (If you're in NYC, and want to be alerted, text 'follow nycmueller' to 40404)

It all looks as if the world is preparing for war. --Mikhail Gorbachev (Time, 12/16/16)

7/20/17 thread from an attorney regarding Trump's ability to pardon self and co-conspirators

All of Trump's deleted tweets in one place

dashboard.securingdemocracy.org: a tracker of Russian propaganda aimed at US citizens via Twitter, in real time

(See also Preventing (Nuclear) War)

(scroll down to "Take Action" for immediate steps)

UPDATES 12/4: Trump's tweets over the weekend implicate him as obstructing justice. He is now saying he didn't write them, but his attorney did, which would mean disbarment. KellyAnne Conway says she was with Trump "all day," providing him an alibi, much like one does in a murder trial. (Excellent analysis) 12/1: Michael Flynn pleads guilty. Summary of what happened today, and what it means. 11/12: Trump, on his Asia trip, meets with Putin for "a few minutes." The AP reports: "The Kremlin issues a statement saying the leaders had reached agreement on a number of principles for the future of civil war-torn Syria." Journalists were kept out of all APEC meetings. 11/6: Former Trump advisor Carter Page testifies he went to Moscow, met with Russians in June, 2016 (UK Telegraph). 11/5: Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary, shares business ties to Putin's immediate family, and concealed them (NBC News) 10/30: It's revealed that, on 10/5, Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, George Papadopolous (supervisor in campaign=Jeff Sessions), pled guilty to making false statements and impeding the Mueller investigation (NBC News). Here is the text of his stipulation and plea agreement, from lawfareblog.com [the FBI interview where Papadopolous lied about his Russia contacts came on the same day, 1/27, Trump asked Comey for a loyalty pledge). Paul Manafort and his associate, Rick Gates, are charged with conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, being unregistered foreign agents, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (NBC News), and have surrendered to custody. Both pled not guilty. 10/27: Mueller Grand Jury approves first charges in Trump-Russia. Charges are sealed. "Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday." (CNN) 10/25: Trump-Russia investigators gathering documents from estate of GOP operative (ABC News) 10/24: Interactive Timeline: Everything we know about Trump-Russia (Bill Moyers) Older Updates.

LEARN: Concerned about the relationship between Trump, the Trump campaign, Trump Administration, and Russia? Catch up with (1) Lawfareblog's analysis of the 10/30 indictments. (1) Interactive Timeline: Everything we know about Russia and Trump, from Bill Moyers, updated (10/24/17); (2) Anyone...With a Pulse: How a Russia-friendly adviser found his way into the Trump campaign (5/25/17, Hamburger & Helderman, Washington Post), and (3) The Kushners, the Saudis and Blackstone: Behind the Recent Deals (Melby & Yu, Bloomberg, 5/25/17). Other summaries are here: (1) Politico's 7 charts of Trump Administration/Campaign ties to Russia; (2) and an excellent 3/8/17 summary of the situation, by Rep. Swalwell (D-CA15), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee; (3) The web of relationships between Team Trump and Russia (Bump, Washington Post, 3/3/17) (also see "Russian blackmail," below). Here is an enlightening twitter thread by strategic analyst, Eric Garland, which details the Administration situation regarding Russia at the moment (scroll up until you get to “THREAD,” then read down). Also, check out the XX Committee blog, written by John Schindler, the national security columnist for the New York Observer, former professor at the U.S. Naval War College, and a former counterintelligence officer and intelligence analyst at the NSA. The House of Representatives' and Senate's Intelligence Committes, as well as the FBI and intelligence teams of our allies, are all investigating the Trump Administration's ties to Russia and role in Russian interference with our election and hacking of our voting registration systems in several states (note that minorities across the country reported being unable to vote, as they were not listed on the voting rolls; see Voting Rights section to take action).

What are Trump’s general views on foreign policy? ontheissues.org has information from “every political leader on every issue.” Here’s what it found. What can we look forward to? Like most everything else right now, it’s not clear. So far, Trump appears to have no coherent foreign policy, but rather reacts impulsively to provocation, and "relies on" his generals to make decisions the President and relevant cabinet members typically make.

Trump believes (as Marco Rubio pointed out) that the conflict between Palestine and Israel needs a real estate deal, and that he alone can bring peace to the Middle East. He is heading to Israel in late May. On 1/21/17, Trump said he believes we should have “taken the oil” from Iraq during the Iraq War (which is a violation of international law). Two days later, when asked in the press briefing on 1/23 if he could “unequivocally state that this administration will not send more troops into Iraq to, as the President has put it, ‘take the oil,'" Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump’s been very clear that he doesn’t believe in signaling such future, even potentially catastrophic, actions to the citizens he represents. Trump has made this claim about taking oil from Iraq ever since 2007. Politifact fact-checking Trump's position on 9/9/16: "What Trump seems to be advocating here would be a fundamental violation of international law embodied in numerous international agreements and in recognized principles of customary international law," said Anthony Clark Arend, a Georgetown University professor of government and foreign service. Because Trump "doesn't believe" in signaling his future actions, even actions of war, to the American people (or Congress, as required by the Constitution)--and demonstrated that with his actions in Syria--it's best to watch legitimate news sources and UpholdTheseRights closely.

Beating the drums of war (with Iran)? 2/3/17

STATE DEPARTMENT. Rex Tillerson, our Secretary of State, inexplicably prefers not to talk to the Press. He is the first Secretary of State not to hold regular press conferences or to answer questions from the press. The New York Times recently reported that State employees have been instructed not to make eye contact with Tillerson. Each year, the State Dept. releases (to great fanfare) its Human Rights Watch, a report on human rights violations around the world. This year? Hardly a whisper. (Recall that Rex Tillerson, as CEO of Exxon, was given the Order of Friendship honor by Putin. Would Putin like to disappear, make invisible, defang the U.S. State Department?)

Rubio was particularly critical of Secretary Rex Tillerson's reluctance to call out human rights abuses during his Senate hearings, though he would eventually vote to confirm the former ExxonMobil executive. While Tillerson ran the oil company, he had frequent contacts with the Russian government to negotiate extraction rights, which led some to speculate that his State Department might be more tolerant of the Kremlin. --Fenwick, Patch, 3/3/17

UNITED NATIONS. Representative Mike Rogers, R-AL,introduced a bill in the House, euphemistically called the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017” (is this a monarchy?). The bill proposes that the United States terminate its membership in the UN, that the UN remove its headquarters from the US, and that the US stop participating in the World Health Organization—a disaster for international relations on all three fronts. However, snopes.com, a great fact-checking site, notes that this bill has been introduced every year for the past 20 years, and languishes in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs without ever coming to a vote.

NATO. Trump has repeatedly said he plans to pull America out of NATO, an alliance largely responsible for European-American stability since World War II, until they “pay their share.” Tillerson's recent comments to NATO underline that, while upholding the US commitment to NATO. The lack of complexity in his thinking belies his naivete regarding the purpose of NATO, which is to ensure bad actors, like Russia, don’t move against and invade smaller countries, like the Baltics or Ukraine/Crimea (which is beginning now). Yes, it is in America’s interest to have thriving, functioning democracies across Europe–and some things are more important than money.

TRUMP-RUSSIA: RUSSIAN BLACKMAIL. Perhaps Trump doesn’t understand that without NATO’s presence on the Baltic States’ borders, Russia is likely to continue its annexation of neighboring countries, including its long-desired Ukraine, and Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are once again in danger, as they were from the USSR decades ago. But perhaps Trump does understand that. Perhaps because he and his advisers could be, or are being (e.g., Flynn), blackmailed by Putin--a concern raised by our own US intelligence agencies--Trump intends to strengthen our relationship with Russia in order to avoid some catastrophe to his and his family's personal and/or business lives. Of course, his tax returns would shed light on the nature and extent of any payments received from any foreign government for any reason, including Russia. He's stated he will never release them, the first modern POTUS not to do so, despite Congressional pressure. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is suing to have his visitor logs released (who, exactly, is visiting him in the White House, and why?)–he's the first in modern history to refuse to do so.

Intelligence agencies’ investigations into intercepted communication between Trump’s team and Russia, and the Special Counsel investigation and indictments on Russian interference are revealing more. Despite pressing issues on many fronts, sustained action is more important than ever to ensure the Special Counsel investigation proceeds unimpeded by Trump. On 5/17, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate. (Note that the law allowing for an "independent, special prosecutor" expired in 1999; a Special Counsel is the best we can do, and have!) Note that, despite initial conficting news reports, those who authored the Special Counsel rules in 1999 clarified that Robert Mueller can be fired at any time by Trump. Read more about this situation from PBS. Should Trump move to fire him, see #3, below. Mueller has assembled a Grand Jury, which is examining evidence, and has issued subpoenas regarding Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians (BBC), and Manafort and Flynn's Russian activities. Indictments were issued on 10/27 against Trump Campaign Chair Manafort, his associate, Graves, and Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor Papadopolous pled guilty to lying to the FBI and impeding an investigation. Although the news about the investigation appears to be tightly controlled, distractions are coming fast and furious; the latest being how Hillary Clinton "paid for" the Steele dossier on Trump--as if candidates don't regularly do opposition research on opponents every election cycle. Note how headlines are about Clinton, although text states clearly the dossier was commissioned by a GOP primary candidate ("When Fusion approached Elias, it had already been doing research work on Trump for a client during the GOP primary" The Guardian, 10/25/17).We can hurry the process along (see “Take Action,” below)!

SELECTIVE SERVICE AND THE DRAFT. If Russian aggression towards Ukraine continues, Russia invades Estonia, China feels compelled to "defend" the South China Sea, Trump continues with his plan to put American boots on the ground in Syria, and/or Iran retaliates for Trump's "on notice" warning, or war breaks out in North Korea, we could find ourselves in yet another war. In that case, it's likely the draft will be reinstated. On October 24, Trump quietly signed an Executive Order authorizing the the departments of defense and homeland security to recall Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve troops to active duty (a "back-door" draft) to report to the Secretary of Defense.

As it stands now, all 18-year-old men must sign up with the Selective Service, or face penalties (like being denied student loans, security clearance, and government jobs). Selective Service registration makes implementing a draft system in the event of a large-scale war or national emergency easier and quicker. Still, “no one has been drafted into the military since 1973—and indeed the last enlisted man drafted into the military retired years ago.” (Korte & Vanden Brooke)

It’s unlikely there will be a draft unless we enter a large-scale war. On 1/12/17, Russia said US [NATO] troops arriving in Poland pose a threat to its security:

Few at NATO seriously believe that war with Russia is likely but there have been dangerous developments, with escalation on both sides, including a buildup of Russian troops. Russia alarmed Poland and other eastern European states by moving nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its naval base at Kaliningrad in the autumn. (MacAskill, The Guardian)

On the other hand, North Korea's, Iran's, and Russia's recent missile tests, the Pentagon's reported willingness to put U.S. soldiers on the ground in Syria, Tillerson's recent comment he's willing to consider "all options," including a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, and Sen. Graham's early December request to the Pentagon to pull all US military dependents out of South Korea, all point to troubling developments.

TAKE ACTION

(1) Please note: should we embroil ourselves in, or create, a domestic or international crisis, no one will be paying attention to the Russian influence on our elections, or to Trump's ties to, or possible blackmail by, Putin. WE MUST, and must pressure Congress to do so (see #3, below). On the Trump Administration's ties to Russia:

(a) Call your representative and demand an outside, independent commission to investigate Russian influence in the 2016 election (one not vulnerable to possible firing of the Special Counsel!).

b) In addition to Eric Garland's and Seth Abramson's (see above), read Adam Kahn’s twitter feed. (You can do this even if you don’t have twitter, by searching on @Khanoisseur using your web browser.) He’s doing excellent investigative journalism, even though he’s not a journalist. His work is thought-provoking and widely read.
(c) Any person or organization can file a Freedom of Information Act request. Do so. Ask for Trump’s tax returns, which could easily put our minds at rest about his business dealings/kickbacks received from/debts owned to Russia. Mueller is said to have them...
(e) Thank Reps. Crowley, Conyers, Thompson, Lowey, Schakowsky, & Raskin for standing up to demand Jeff Sessions recuse himself from investigations involving Russian interference in our democracy! Contact your House representative (see #3) and call for them to join in the fight to have Sessions fired from his post as our chief legal officer.

(2) Be watchful. Read the genuine journalistic press (see the Fake News section for who they are and aren’t, and how to tell). In the first 100 days of his administration, Trump had the most goodwill from Congress he will likely ever have, and most presidents push their biggest legislative changes in their first year in office. So far, Trump has ONLY had a "tax bill" passed by the Senate, which is likely to be challenged in the courts. In particular, attend to the administration’s statements and press reports about NATO, the UN, UN peacekeepers, troop movements.

(3) Immediately contact your representatives if something changes and concerns you. It’s up to us! Remember, as the Indivisible Guide notes, members of Congress are MOST concerned about their own re-election. All House members and 8 GOP Senators are up for re-election in 2018, with 22 GOP Senators up for re-election in both 2020 and 2022. If they get the sense people will vote based on their position on an issue, they will listen! It really does take only a handful of phone calls on a given topic from a representative's own constituents to influence that member of Congress. You have two House Representatives (depending on where in your state you live) and two Senators (which are the same for your entire state’s population). Find their number here: https://www.nationalpriorities.org/take-action/contact-your-representative/. When you call, remind them, politely, that the midterm elections take place in 2018, and you are keeping track of all Congressional votes. If you call outside your own district, tell them you'll be phoning their voters prior to the next election. Remember, the most effective actions you can take are (in descending order): phoning your representatives’ offices (and if lines aren't answered, write and send letters via the mail to flood their offices), visiting in person, writing op-eds/letters to the editor of news outlets, participating in town halls, protesting.

For more actions, see Stop Trump section. Other, less urgent things you can do anytime:

(4) Learn about countries outside the United States. Americans’ world geography knowledge is lacking. Here are ten ways you can improve US international relations. Learn a foreign language. Fewer Americans speak another language than do citizens of smaller countries, where it is common to come into regular contact with others speaking a variety of languages. Words and phrases used or not used in various languages give you a window into understanding how their culture thinks and their cultural priorities. If you travel there or meet a traveler here from there, knowing even a few words of another’s language builds a bridge. Given Trump's rude, offhand, hostile, attacking behavior toward our closest allies (Canada, the UK, Germany, and Australia, so far), kindness goes a long way.

(5) Traveling internationally? Concise information on cultural etiquette for almost all countries around the world. To avoid misrepresenting your country’s intentions and attitudes, and to present yourself in the best possible light, this is extremely helpful and fascinating information.

(6) Considering traveling internationally, but not sure where you want to go? U.S. News’ 2016 “best countries” rankings provides information on each country, lists on best countries for women, for adventure, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, and so on. Overall, the U.S. is behind Germany, Canada, and the UK, but it’s #14 in Quality of Life. Germany is #1 and it’s also “one of the world’s most popular migration destinations,” so clearly immigration doesn’t make a country less “great.” (also see LGBTQ Rights: Take Action)

(7) Consider corresponding with an adult pen pal in a part of the world that interests you and/or you are concerned about. Pen pals are becoming increasingly popular again, and there’s nothing like getting to know a country intimately from someone who lives there! Try apenpals.com.

Our standing in the world, 2014-2017, from Pew Research Center:


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