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Trump Expected to Return Spy Compounds in US to Russia

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Congress Should Try to Stop This

President Donald Trump is moving to return two spy compounds in the U.S. to the Russian government. In a sweeping act of retaliation over Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, last December President Barack Obama ejected 35 Russian intelligence operatives and ordered the shuttering of Russian spy compounds in Maryland and New York. 

In early April “the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg,” the Washington Post reports. 

But as with all things in the Trump administration, which is not guided by policy, that position was quickly altered.

“Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate,” the Post adds.

The Russian Embassy in the U.S. actually tweeted this demand to have it returned to them last week:

The spy compounds are known as diplomatic compounds. One, in Riverdale, New York “is the residential compound for most of the diplomats of the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan,” the Daily Beast reported in January. That one was not shuttered in December by the Obama administration, but its strategic value to the Russians cannot be overstated. What goes on there?

Spying. Lots of it.

“Riverdale was sold to the Soviet Union, [author Pete] Earley writes, ‘without realizing how strategic its location was for spying,'” the Daily Beast article states.

“The high-rise was built on a steep hill that was one of the tallest points in the city. Concealed under wooden boxes on the building’s flat roof were dozens of antennas designed to snatch signals and conversations from New York City’s airwaves,” Earley wrote. 

At Riverdale, Post Impulse is situated on the 19th floor and accessible only to SVR officers who, according to Earley, use “the rooftop stations to survey a swath of 40 miles, intercepting police broadcasts, cellphone calls, and other communications throughout Manhattan and much of Long Island and New Jersey. Over time, the SVR and GRU [Russian military intelligence] had been able to identify and lock onto signals from every law enforcement operation in the area. They used the signals to keep track of the location of FBI agents and other officers. If the Russians saw that several FBI agents were in the same vicinity as one of their SVR officers, they knew he was being followed,” and thus avoid dangles and other assorted headaches of espionage in the tri-state area.

The Washington Post reports that “concessions to Moscow could prove controversial while administration and former Trump campaign officials are under congressional and special counsel investigation for alleged ties to Russia.”

Congress should try to stop this.

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'ABSOLUTE MASTERCLASS'

Texas AG Ken Paxton’s office “dysfunctional” with child porn and shady political dealings

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is running for a third term in office while facing civil and criminal fraud charges for allegedly handly sketchy trade deals, giving office positions to donors, and trying to overturn the 2020 election.

However, a new Associated Press (AP) story paints Paxton’s office as highly political and dysfunctional.

Paxton’s office botched “Operation Fallen Angel,” an investigation that indicted six men on allegations of forcing teen girls to “exchange sexual contact for crystal methamphetamine.” Paxton’s office largely dropped the charges because they lost track of their key witness.

Another prosecutor said he quit Paxton’s office in January after supervisors pressured him to withhold evidence in a murder case, the AP wrote.

Eight of Paxton’s top deputies quit or were fired in autumn 2020 after they went to the FBI to accuse Paxton of using his office to help a donor who had employed a woman that Paxton admitted to having an extramarital affair with. The FBI’s investigation is ongoing.

The AP story notes that Paxton gave a senior role to a California attorney who gave him $10,000 to fight his 2015 securities fraud indictment. Paxton also hired Tom Gleason, a former police officer whose father donated $50,000 to Paxton’s legal defense. Gleason was given a job advising Paxton on child exploitation as well as Medicaid and voter fraud.

Gleason was fired less than two months into his new job. Paxton’s office didn’t explain why, but “three people with knowledge of the matter” told the AP that, during a work presentation at the agency’s Austin headquarters, Gleason played a video of “a man raping a small child” to highlight the difficult work facing child abuse investigators.

“It was met with outrage and caused the meeting to quickly dissolve,” the AP wrote. “Afterward, Paxton’s top deputy, Brent Webster, told staff not to talk about what happened.”

The AP also wrote that before Texas’ March primary elections, Amber Platt, a deputy over criminal justice cases, held a meeting asking lawyers in Paxton’s offices about which upcoming cases that would best help his reelection chances.

Despite all this, Paxton has a five-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Rochelle Garza.

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'BRUTAL'

Russia is torturing civilians in camps around eastern Ukraine

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The Russian military has established 10 torture sites in the eastern city of Izium, Ukraine, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Torture is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Eight men died killed under torture in Russian custody, the AP wrote. All but one were civilians.

Russian forces captured Andriy Kotsar, tied him up, and threw him for several days in a trench covered with wooden boards. They beat his legs and arms and smashed his knees with a hammer. They then took his ID and passport so that he would find it hard to prove his identity, get help, or escape.

Russian forces captured him two more times after that. The torture was worse both times, Kotsar said.

“Russian torture in Izium was arbitrary, widespread, and absolutely routine for both civilians and soldiers throughout the city,” the Associated Press investigation found. The torture included waterboarding and electrocution, among other pain-inducing methods.

Mykola Mosyaky, a 38-year-old Ukrainian soldier, was handcuffed, thrown in a pit of dirty water, and hung by the wrists until his skin went numb.

“They beat me with sticks. They hit me with their hands, they kicked me, they put out cigarettes on me, they pressed matches on me,” he stated. “They said, ‘Dance,’ but I did not dance. So they shot my feet.”

Dr. Yuriy Kuznetsov, an emergency room physician in Izium, said that Ukrainians are showing up to his hospital with torture-related injuries, including “gunshots to their hands and feet, broken bones and severe bruising, and burns.” The victims never say how they got their injuries, worried about retaliation if they do.

A father and son who were both tortured said they could hear women’s screams every night as Russian soldiers raped them in a nearby garage.

Russians showed one local woman the body of her battered, unconscious soldier husband, pressuring her to provide information that she knew nothing about.

At least 30 bodies taken from a mass grave in the city showed “visible marks of torture,” including “bound hands, close gunshot wounds, knife wounds, and broken limbs.”

“[Torture] serves three purposes,” said Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch. “Torture came with questions to coerce information, but it is also to punish and to sow fear. It is to send a chilling message to everyone else.”

On September 30,  Russia held sham referendums in the eastern Ukrainian territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. While the referendums sought to cede the territories to Russia, their outcomes were pre-determined by Russia as a way to basically lay claim to the territories.

The U.S. called the referendums illegal and also authorized an additional $12 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of the referendums, “Recently, someone somewhere held pseudo-referendums, and when the Ukrainian flag is returned, no one remembers the Russian farce with some pieces of paper and some annexations. Except, of course, law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. Because everyone who is involved in any elements of aggression against our state will be accountable for it. And I thank everyone who brings these moments of victory closer, who returns the Ukrainian flag to its rightful place on Ukrainian land.”

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'APPARENTLY INEBRIATED'

Supreme Court refuses to protect Mike Lindell from a billion dollar defamation lawsuit

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The Supreme Court just started its new term, and among its first act, it refused to hear an appeal from Mike Lindell — the conspiracy theorist, supporter of former President Donald Trump, and MyPillow CEO — who wanted the court to throw out a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against him.

The lawsuit was filed by Dominion Voting Systems, a manufacturer of voting machines, to litigate against Lindell for his repeated claims that their machinery played a role in “stealing” the 2020 election from Trump. He made his claims on Fox News and various media and social media outlets.

In response to Dominion’s lawsuit, Lindell filed a countersuit accusing the voting machine company of using the court system to “silence Lindell’s and others’ political speech about election fraud and the role of electronic voting machines in it.”

His countersuit also accused the company of “waging lawsuit warfare on private citizens…under the auspices of ‘defending election integrity’…[rather than] fixing their notoriously and demonstrably insecure voting machines.” The lawsuit said the company had “embarked on a concerted, collective enterprise to extort silence from their dissenters or bring financial ruin on any and all who persist in speaking their minds.”

In August 2021, Lindell held a public “cyber symposium” which, he said, would show undeniable proof about how voting machines helped steal the 2020 election.

Rob Graham, a cyber expert who attended the symposium, said, “[Lindell] gave us experts NOTHING today, except random garbage that wastes our time.” Graham said the Lindell had promised to give cyber experts who attended the symposium “packet captures from the November 2020 election could be unencrypted to reveal evidence of voter fraud.” Graham said those packets were never provided.

Fox News refused to run advertisements about the symposium. Lindell was accused of using the symposium as nothing more than to try and maintain relevance and continue the narrative about the “stolen election.”

Several months after the 2020 election, Lindell claimed that Trump would return as president by August. 2021 Lindell said this would occur either through Supreme Court rulings or “two other bonus pathways” involving vote audits in states that Trump lost in 2020.

Lindell said that once the Supreme Court considers his evidence of voter fraud, the justices will unanimously rule 9-0 in favor of allowing Trump to become president once again.

Lindell was wrong.

 

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