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Feb 16, 2019

U.S. Vice President Calls On Europe To Abandon Iran Nuclear Deal

3 minutes

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has called on European allies to renounce a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
"The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people," Pence said on February 15 at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. "The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal."
Under the agreement, major world powers agreed to provide sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.
The United States withdrew from the agreement last year and began reimposing sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump has said the agreement was "fatally flawed" because it did not address Iran's ballistic-missile program or Iran's alleged state sponsorship of terrorism.
The other signatories to the agreement -- France, Germany, Britain, the European Union, Russia, and China -- have all been working to save the agreement.
Pence's comments came just moments after German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the agreement in her comments to the Munich conference. She called the pact an "anchor" that allows the West to exert pressure on Tehran.
Pence also urged NATO members to boost defense spending to levels previously agreed.
Pence also called on Europe to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the leader of his country.
"All of us must stand with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy is fully restored," Pence said.
Guaido declared himself president of Venezuela in January after President Nicolas Maduro refused to hold early elections.
The U.S. vice president also warned of a security threat from the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, saying it "provides Beijing's vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment."
"America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems," Pence said.
Commenting after Pence's speech, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the TASS news agency that the United States did not take into consideration the consequences of many of its international actions.
"The end of the speech makes it clear that the U.S. side is aimed at pursuing its agenda, mindless of any expenses, any devastating consequences for the global security system," he said.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, TASS, and AFP
Source: RFERL

Moscow Court Orders American Financier Held In Custody Pending Trial

3-4 minutes

A Moscow court has sanctioned the arrest of a prominent American investment-fund manager who is accused of large-scale fraud.
The Basmanny district court on February 16 remanded Michael Calvey, founder of the Baring Vostok investment company, to custody until April 13 pending trial.
A defense lawyer told Interfax that Calvey would appeal the court's decision.
Calvey was detained in Moscow the previous day along with three other Baring Vostok employees, former Vostochny Bank CEO Aleksei Kordichev, and PKB General Director Maksim Vladimirov. All six defendants have now been remanded to custody.
At the February 16 hearing, Calvey -- who denies any wrongdoing -- told the court that he would cooperate with the investigation and asked to be placed under house arrest. The court, however, ruled that he should be confined under the same terms as the other defendants.
After the hearing, Ivan Melnikov, head of the Moscow public monitoring commission, said he had been informed that Calvey would be quarantined for a medical examination for a period which "by law is maximum 10 days."
Quarantined suspects are held in solitary confinement while they are examined by doctors and psychologists, Melnikov said.
The charges stem from a long-running dispute between Baring Vostok and Vostochny Bank shareholders. Baring Vostok owns 52.5 percent of the bank. Prosecutors accuse the defendants of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($37.5 million) by persuading Vostochny Bank shareholders to approve a share deal at an unrealistically low price.
Kirill Dmitriyev, head of Russia's sovereign-wealth fund, was quoted by Reuters as saying he would personally vouch for Calvey, saying that he and his team were highly professional and committed to ethical standards.
German Gref, head of Russia's Sberbank, said on February 15 that Calvey was "a decent and honorable man who has done much to bring investment into our country."
Bernard Sucher, a U.S. investor and entrepreneur who worked in Moscow for two decades, told RFE/RL that Calvey "helped pioneer private equity in Russia and is viewed around the world as its unofficial leader."
"He's a good man, and the news that he has been detained for any reason at all is astonishing," Sucher said.
Founded in 1994, Baring Vostok is one of the largest private-equity firms in Russia and the former Soviet Union, according to the firm's website. It manages more than $3.7 billion in assets. It is particularly active in the technology sector and owns a stake in the Yandex search engine.
Before founding Baring Vostok, Calvey worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Salomon Brothers. He is a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, D.C.
With reporting by Reuters, Meduza, RBK, and Interfax
Source: RFERL

Keiser Report Video | Keiser Report: Permanent QE (E1346)

How President Trump came to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall.

By Matt Zapotosky

President Trump talks to reporters in the Rose Garden about declaring a national emergency to build a wall along the southern border. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Matt Zapotosky
National security reporter covering the Justice Department
President Trump knew that lawmakers were unlikely to ever give him the billions of dollars he wanted to build a wall on the southern border, so in early 2018, he gave aides a directive: Find a way to do it without Congress.
It was hardly an easy assignment. The White House had some flexibility to spend money the way it wanted, but could not move the necessary billions at will. Trump could declare a national emergency, but White House attorneys repeatedly warned him the risk of failure in court was high.
On Friday, Trump did it anyway. Stepping to a microphone in the Rose Garden, the president told reporters he was invoking his powers to declare a national emergency, then acknowledged what his lawyers had been warning him: He will get sued and, at least initially, will probably lose.
The remarkable moment, people familiar with the matter say, marked the culmination of months of heated internal deliberations between the White House Counsel’s Office, the Justice Department, the Office of Management and Budget, lawmakers and the president over how to fund the wall.
Trump — who had vacillated on whether the dramatic step was the right one — told reporters that he was deeply frustrated his wall hadn’t been funded earlier in his administration and was setting that right.
“But we’re stepping up now,” Trump said. “We’re getting it done.”
The announcement was greeted immediately with promises of legal action from states, lawmakers and advocacy groups. Inside the Justice Department’s civil ­division, lawyers braced for what has become a grim reality in the Trump administration: They would be in court again soon, fighting an uphill battle.
White House lawyers, including White House Counsel Pat ­Cipollone, had repeatedly warned Trump of the legal risks of proceeding. On Friday, some White House lawyers were frustrated — and still skeptical of the commander in chief’s rationale, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“Look, I expect to be sued,” Trump said in the Rose Garden, adding later that “they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling, and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win in the Supreme Court.”
Building a wall on the southern border was a cornerstone of Trump’s presidential campaign, and even before Democrats took control of the House, he had stewed over his inability to make it a reality. The tension came to a head in a March meeting in the White House residence, when Trump learned that his aides had secured only $1.6 billion for border fencing in an omnibus spending bill.
Trump fumed to then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that the funding was a fraction of what he would need and threatened not to sign the measure, according to two people with knowledge of the conversation.
“We gave you what you wanted!” Ryan shot back, the people said.
Swearing profusely, Trump said that was not true and asked Ryan who had relayed such a message. Ryan said it was Trump’s own aides who negotiated the bill, including Marc Short, then the White House legislative affairs director, the people said.
Around that time, aides put out a statement saying the president would sign the bill. That sent Trump into a rage. At one point, he declared the aides did not represent him and the statement should be rescinded, the people said. He was eventually convinced by his equally angry chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to sign the measure — although he remained furious with Ryan and his own team.
Soon thereafter, Trump told aides he had to find a way to get his wall without Congress.
While the emergency declaration was controversial internally, it was not without its supporters, people familiar with the matter said. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was a particularly aggressive advocate, having initially formulated the idea in his role as director of the Office of Management and Budget and presented the president with a lengthy memo describing how it would work, the people familiar with the matter said.
As is normal in cases of national emergency, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel also reviewed the declaration for “form and legality,” and ultimately gave its blessing, people familiar with the matter said.
The legal defense of the declaration, though, is expected to be difficult. White House and Justice Department lawyers are planning to challenge in particular the legal standing of those who plan to sue, and they are contemplating ways to keep the case out of courts that might be unsympathetic to the administration’s position, officials said.
The administration told surrogates on a call Friday morning that they are looking for ways to stop California, in particular, from bringing a lawsuit. Such a suit would likely come in the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, where the Trump administration has seen a series of legal defeats.
Mulvaney told reporters Friday that the declaration would give Trump access “to roughly $8 billion worth of money that can be used to secure the southern border,” and that the dramatic step was necessary because Congress wouldn’t act.
Trump did sign a spending bill Friday that averted a second government shutdown over the border wall standoff, though the deal included less than a quarter of the money Trump had wanted for the wall. For a time, his signature seemed in doubt.
After a briefing from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and others Thursday on details of the final deal, Trump suggested he would not sign — which potentially would have caused another shutdown.
Trump was persuaded to stay on board, but he said he would also declare a national emergency, something Republican leaders had urged him to avoid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the president he would encourage others to support the emergency declaration so the president would sign, according to people familiar with the conversations.
“President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday. “I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our homeland security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations.”
Trump argued in the Rose Garden that declaring an emergency was necessary because narcotics were pouring across the border. “We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs,” he said. But he also seemed to undercut his own case on the urgency of the problem.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time, I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” he said.
An ACLU lawyer responded on Twitter: “keep talking mr president.”

Opinion | The Trump Organization’s latest wreck may be its most humiliating yet

By David Von Drehle

Renovation was underway in December at a former Rodeway Inn in Clarksdale, Miss., to convert it to a Trump “American Idea” hotel. The project has since been shutdown. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The adult sons of President Trump showed up at the State of the Union address Feb. 5 wearing beards worthy of the 19th century. Don Jr.’s was so dark and satiny it looked like a mink was dozing on his face; Eric’s gave him the tawny approachability of a gospel singer in Branson, Mo. (Son-in-law Jared Kushner can join the club when — if? — his peach fuzz sprouts.)
Why the new looks? Considering the trajectory of the family business they run, maybe the boys are trying to go incognito. Or maybe, like the hirsute Smith Brothers, they are hoping to diversify into cough drops. News goes from bad to worse for the Trump Organization, whose founder embarked on a novel brand-building exercise in 2015 — he called it “running for president” — and turned it into a 10-car pileup of canceled partnerships, red ink, government investigations and lawsuits.
The latest wreck may be the most humiliating so far. Citing the toxic political climate that has so unfairly attached to his race-baiting, conspiracy-mongering, dictator-coddling, deficit-spending dad, Eric Trump announced this week that the company is bailing out of its only active U.S. initiative — the un-Trumpian development of a few modest hotels in the eternally struggling Mississippi Delta.
Not that there’s anything wrong with limited ventures in scrappy communities. These projects, free now of unsightly presidential baggage, are admirable, and risky, efforts to build the local economies of places such as Cleveland and Greenville in the heart of historic blues country.
The Trump Organization’s erstwhile partners are brothers also, raised like the Trumps in an entrepreneurial family. Dinesh and Suresh Chawla were brought to the United States by their refugee father, and like many others in the Indian diaspora, the family plunged into the hard work of small-town hospitality. It’s a low-margin, labor-intensive, glitz-free line of honorable work, which has made some folks wonder how the Trumps stumbled into it.
As the younger Trumps explained shortly after Dad’s unplanned victory, the idea was to make some dough in regions of the country where the Trump name remained popular. At the time, residents of Trump-branded condos in New York were demanding the removal of the family name from their buildings, and partner hotels from SoHo to Toronto to Panama City to Rio de Janeiro were cutting loose from the man who got the world talking about “American carnage.”
Yet the boys steered clear of the Trump brand even in MAGA country. They chose the name “Scion” for their mid-market, boutique-style property in Cleveland, Miss., where Delta State University and a museum dedicated to the Grammys have not been enough to prevent a 20 percent decline in population since 1990. For their budget hotels, they dreamed up the name “American Idea.” Even so, the Trump connection evidently proved poisonous to their partnership with the Chawlas.
We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in Presidential harassment and wasting everyone’s time,” Eric Trump said in a prepared statement announcing the end of the family’s participation.
Hard data on the family-owned Trump Organization is difficult to come by — though congressional committees, federal prosecutors and citizen lawsuits are all ferreting furiously. By all accounts, the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is doing big business down the street from the Oval Office, catering to groups hopeful of impressing the president. But anecdotal evidence from elsewhere suggests a cloudy picture.
In Indonesia, where a local media mogul is building Trump-brand resorts on Java and Bali, the Muslim majority has been outraged by the president’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. “It’s becoming a political liability to have closer relations with Trump,” former Indonesian ambassador to the United States. Dino Djalal told Bloomberg Businessweek. In Scotland — his mother’s native country — Trump is wildly unpopular, which may explain why his golf development northwest of Aberdeen has been downscaled, and his resort at Turnberry is deep in the red.
“When politics are over, we will resume doing what we do best, which is building the best and most luxurious properties in the world,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a statement, adding that “the interest in the Trump brand has never been stronger.” But the interest that his father has stirred up is unlikely to settle any time soon.
President Trump has forever altered his brand. It no longer stands for luxury or opulence; it represents wedge issues and incitement. His daily assaults on his enemies, real and imagined, ensure that for Trump, politics will never be over. And for his heirs, business will never resume as before.
Days after the State of the Union, news broke that the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan — Donald Trump’s first real estate triumph — is headed for the scrap heap, set to be torn down. His empire may be bound in the same direction.