Watchdogs say an unknown amount of Russian dark money funneled through the National Rifle Association helped Donald Trump win the presidency.
The NRA is claiming they only received a few donations from Russia, but refuses to allow its books to be audited.
Robert Maguire is an investigator with the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs opensecrets.org. He said the dark money loophole that allows nonprofits to take limitless donations without reporting the source means we can’t really tell how much foreign money was spent in the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s safe to assume that what we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg,” Maguire said. “The problem is that there’s no way to track that.”
But that figure does not include large payments from U.S. subsidiaries of companies owned by Russian oligarchs. Investigators have found such payments went to others in Trump’s orbit.
Direct foreign funding of American campaigns is illegal and could be politically toxic.
Maguire said the problem is that it might also be invisible.
And he pointed out that in the 2016 presidential race, the NRA spent three-times what it had supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 – and the money came just as big GOP donors were distancing themselves from Trump.
“The NRA spent more money than it has in any previous cycle,” Maguire said. “Without the NRA stepping into that vacuum, it would have severely impacted the chances that he would have won the election.”
Maguire said the NRA got what it paid for. After the Parkland shooting, Trump said he might back some gun-control measures – until the National Rifle Association got involved.
“The NRA in a matter of weeks had two private meetings with the president,” Maguire observed; “and we saw those sort of initiatives kind of fade away.”
John Bolton Ordered Staff to Report Trump and Guiliani Because of Illegal Ukrainian “Drug Deal.”
The New York Times is reporting that, responding to the Ukraine scandal, Trump aide John Bolton warned “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everyone up.”
Seems he was fired because he would have no part of President Donald Trump’s off-the-books shadow government Ukraine extortion scandal. Bolton also apparently implicated both the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvany.
“I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton told senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs Fiona Hill to tell White House lawyers, The New York Times reports in a bombshell article late Monday night.
Bolton, who resigned from the Trump administration hours before President Trump tweeted he had fired him, instructed Hill “to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council that Mr. Giuliani was working with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on a rogue operation with legal implications,” Hill told House of Representatives investigators on Monday.
EMERGENCY: Turkey Holding US Nukes Hostage
The military situation near the Turkish border in Syria remains in flux, with allegiances shifting quickly amid uncertainty of how everything will shake out. But the fast-moving developments also have drawn attention to a lesser-known fact of US foreign policy:
The Pentagon has about 50 tactical nuclear weapons stored in Turkey at its Incirlik Air Base, reports Business Insider. The big question: Is it still safe to keep them there now that US-Turkey relations are fraying? Related coverage:
- Under review: Officials in the State and Energy departments have begun “quietly reviewing” plans to evacuate the weapons, reports the New York Times. “Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages,” writes David Sanger. “To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.
- In vaults: The bombs have been stored in underground vaults at Incirlik since the 1960s, per a backgrounder in the New Yorker. That goes back to the days when Incirlik turned into a crucial Cold War base. The story says the vaults “hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than 25% of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile.”
This intervention has precipitated an all-new crisis in the region, prompted the start of at least a tactical withdrawal of U.S. forces from much of the country amid concerns they could be caught in the fighting, and led to calls for an arms embargo and major sanctions on the Turkish government.
Matt Gaetz Caught Spying for Trump
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was reportedly booted from a closed-door interview of President Donald Trump’s former top Russia aide, Fiona Hill.
According to CNN’s Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Rajuand others, Rep. Gaetz, known as a vociferous defender of President Trump and his agenda, was ejected just before the proceeding began.
“Matt Gaetz emerges from closed-door interview with Fiona Hill saying he was kicked out by House Democrats [because] he’s not a member of the three committees conducting the interview,” Raju reported just before 11 a.m. Monday morning. “He said he consulted with the House parliamentarian, who ruled that he could not be there.”
Hill was testifying in front of the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees as part of their impeachment inquiry into Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and subsequent efforts to conceal the content of the conversation. Hill was subpoenaed by the committees.
Rep. Gaetz is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and does not sit on any of the committees that subpoenaed Hill. Gaetz, as you’ll see, was quick to point out that House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) claimed to have begun an impeachment inquiry before Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) backed one and before the three other committees got involved.
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