Anne Applebaum, “Red Famine”

A columnist for The Washington Post and author of the Pulitzer-winning Gulag, Applebaum has been writing about Russia since the 1990s. Her fifth book is a detailed study of Stalin’s 1929 policy of agricultural collectivization, which set off the worst famine in European history. Some five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. Of these, roughly three million were Ukrainians, and Applebaum definitively shows that they died due to deliberate government policy. Drawing on newly opened archives and personal accounts not previously translated, Applebaum substantiates the stories that Stalin suppressed Ukrainian uprisings by closing the borders, stopping food shipments, and letting the rebellious peasants starve.

 

(32 min): wrote about the Ukranianism of American politics with Paul Manafort

Search out far left and far right. They don’t invent, but they do fund.

Question: how do we divide people.

38:12
[Stalin] writing in private you know what he
writes to Kaganovich and these other
sidekicks he believes his ideology and
one of the things that’s important about
them about the Bolsheviks is they
believed that Marxism wasn’t just some
kind of theory and it could be money
they believed that it was a science and
it was true
and it’s even more common
because it’s science and it’s true and
we define what it is and that means that
whatever we’ve said you know is true
and
this is this is how things are going to
be and if it doesn’t work out in reality
the way we thought it was going to then
somebody else is responsible and who’s
responsible saboteurs wreckers kulaks
enemies of the people enemies of the
state you know and I actually believe
now that a lot of the you know a lot of
the violence the kinds kind of cycles of
violence you have in the Soviet Union
1932 and 33 you had the famine a few
years later you had the purges of 1937
and you have cyclical violence and
that’s almost always a response to
policy failure
you know it hasn’t worked
the revolution hasn’t brought prosperity
and made us happy there has to be a
reason for it
okay you know let’s find the let’s find
the the parasites who are sucking the
blood of the revolution and get rid of
them
and so that was you know and so the
so so your point you know your logical
point okay well look this agricultural
policy hasn’t worked let’s change it
that’s not how they thought you know it
wasn’t let’s change it love wheat you
know it’s not our policy that needs to
change it’s you know
the people in reality that has to adjust
our way of thinking and anyways I said I

Trump Makes Clear He’s Ready for a Fight He Has Long Anticipated

Impeachment, he insists, will be “a positive for me.”

He knew it was coming. It almost felt inevitable. No other president in American history has been seriously threatened with impeachment since before his inauguration. So when the announcement came on Tuesday that the House would consider charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors, President Trump made clear he was ready for a fight.

He lashed out at the opposition Democrats, denouncing them for “crazy” partisanship. He denounced the allegations against him as “more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage.” And he proclaimed that even if the impeachment battle to come will be bad for the country, it will be “a positive for me” by bolstering his chances to win a second term in next year’s election.

The beginning of the long-anticipated showdown arrived when Mr. Trump was in New York for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, creating a surreal split-screen spectacle as the president sought to play global statesman while fending off his enemies back in Washington. One moment, he talked of war and peace and trade with premiers and potentates. The next, he engaged in a rear-guard struggle to save his presidency.

Mr. Trump gave a desultory speech and shuffled between meetings with leaders from Britain, India and Iraq while privately consulting with aides about his next move against the House. Shortly before heading into a lunch with the United Nations secretary general, he decided to release a transcript of his July telephone call with the president of Ukraine that is central to the allegations against him. In effect, he was pushing his chips into the middle of the table, gambling that the document would prove ambiguous enough to undercut the Democratic case against him.

By afternoon, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared to announce the impeachment inquiry, the president retreated to Trump Tower, his longtime home and base of operations, to contemplate his path forward. A telephone call between the president and speaker failed to head off the clash, and now the two are poised for an epic struggle that will test the limits of the Constitution and the balance of power in the American system.

“We have been headed here inexorably,” said Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment scholar at the University of North Carolina. “The president has pushed and pushed his powers up to and beyond the normal boundaries. He’s been going too far for some time, but even for him this most recent misconduct is beyond what most of us, or most scholars, thought was possible for a president to do.”

Long reluctant, Ms. Pelosi finally moved after reports that Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading Democratic candidate for president, while holding up $391 million in American aid to Ukraine. Democrats said leaning on a foreign power for dirt on an opponent crossed the line. Mr. Trump said he was only concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

Mr. Trump now joins only Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton in facing a serious threat of impeachment, the constitutional equivalent of an indictment.

Mr. Nixon resigned when fellow Republicans abandoned him over Watergate, but Mr. Johnson and Mr. Clinton were each acquitted in a Senate trial, the result that seems most likely at the moment given that conviction requires a two-thirds vote, meaning at least 20 Republican senators would have to break with Mr. Trump.

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Mr. Nixon and Mr. Clinton both were privately distraught over facing impeachment even as they waged vigorous public battles to defend themselves. Undaunted, Mr. Trump appeared energized by the confrontation, eager for battle. Confident of his position in the Republican-controlled Senate, he seemed almost to assume that the Democrat-controlled House would probably vote to impeach and that he would take his case to the public in next year’s election.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, an ally of the president’s, said Mr. Trump could afford to feel secure. He predicted the same thing would happen to Ms. Pelosi that happened to him in 1998, when he led a party-line impeachment inquiry of Mr. Clinton and paid the price in midterm elections, costing him the speakership.

Just as the public recoiled at the Republican impeachment then, Mr. Gingrich said, it will reject a Democratic impeachment now. Instead, he said, it will give Mr. Trump and the Republicans a chance to focus attention on Mr. Biden.

“This is the fight that traps the Democrats into an increasingly unpopular position — I lived through this in 1998 — while elevating the Biden case, which involves big money,” Mr. Gingrich said. “It is a win-win for Trump.”

His point on the popularity of impeachment was a critical one. Until now, at least, polls have shown that most Americans do not support impeaching Mr. Trump, just as they never embraced impeaching Mr. Clinton. And although how the latest allegations might ultimately change public opinion remained unclear, a new survey by Reuters and Ipsos released on Tuesday night suggested that support for impeachment had actually fallen since the Ukraine revelations, with just 37 percent in favor, down from 41 percent earlier this month.

Mr. Trump, though, has never been as popular as Mr. Clinton. During the 13-month battle that stretched from 1998 into 1999 over whether Mr. Clinton committed high crimes by lying under oath about his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky, Mr. Clinton’s approval rating was generally in the mid-60s and even surged to 73 percent in the days after he was impeached.

Mr. Trump does not have the same reservoir of good will, never having had the support of a majority of Americans in Gallup polling for even a single day of his presidency. His approval rating currently stands at 43 percent. But he has the support of 91 percent of Republicans, giving him reason to assume the party’s senators will stick with him.

Brenda Wineapple, author of “The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation,” said there were times when a stand on principle was worth it even with a short-term cost. “Some defeats can ultimately be victories — but often only in the long or historical view,” she said. “The Johnson impeachment ultimately failed,” she said, but in the end, she added, the system worked.

At this turning point in his presidency, Mr. Trump began the day in New York toggling between world affairs and political survival. Even before he took the rostrum at the United Nations to deliver a subdued, boilerplate speech, he sought out reporters to push back on the suggestion that he used American aid to leverage Ukrainian cooperation with his investigation demand.

Mr. Trump asserted that he blocked the aid to Ukraine because European countries have not paid their fair share. He pointed to the fact that the money was eventually released as evidence that he did nothing wrong. What he did not mention was that European countries have chipped in $15 billion for Ukraine in the last few years and that he released the American aid only after senators from both parties threatened punitive legislation if he did not.

What he also did not say was that he had changed his explanation for withholding the money from just a day before. On Monday, he linked his decision to block the aid to his concerns about corruption in Ukraine, citing Mr. Biden as an example. By emphasizing instead his overall concern about foreign aid, he was advancing a rationale less tied to his demand for an investigation.

I’m leading in the polls and they have no idea how to stop me,” Mr. Trump said. “The only way they can try is through impeachment.”

In fact, Mr. Trump is trailing Mr. Biden and other Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in most polls, which is why Democrats assert he was so intent on obtaining dirt from Ukraine on the former vice president.

Either way, as stunning as the day’s developments were, the only real surprise was how long it took to get here. Mr. Trump’s critics began discussing impeachment within days of his election because of various ethical issues and Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. By last year’s midterm election, Mr. Trump repeatedly raised impeachment on the campaign trail, warning that Democrats would come after him if they won the House.

They did win, but the drive to impeachment stalled when the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, produced a report that established no criminal conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia while refusing to take a position on whether the president obstructed justice during the investigation.

As it turned out, Ukraine, not Russia, proved to be rocket fuel for the semi-dormant effort. Now, more than two and a half years later, the battle is on.

Trump Defends Conversation With Ukraine Leader

President calls for Kiev to investigate Biden as whistleblower complaint prompts congressional probe

WASHINGTON—President Trump defended a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart as “totally appropriate” and reiterated his call for Kiev to investigate his potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden, as lawmakers look into the president’s and his lawyer’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to undertake such a probe.

Mr. Trump declined to say whether in a July conversation he had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to have his government investigate Mr. Biden, the former vice president and now Democratic presidential candidate. But, Mr. Trump told reporters Friday: “Somebody ought to look into that,” referring to Mr. Biden.

Any probe of Mr. Biden centers on the then-vice president’s efforts to seek the ouster of former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who had investigated a private Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Group, of which Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a board member.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has accused Mr. Biden of acting to protect his son, even though Mr. Shokin had already completed his investigation of Burisma Group before he left office. Mr. Biden has said he sought Mr. Shokin’s ouster because he wasn’t doing enough to investigate corruption.

Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor general, told Bloomberg News in May he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son.

Mr. Trump, during an event at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said he didn’t know the identity of the whistleblower. But he also accused the whistleblower of partisan motivations and said his conversation with Mr. Zelensky “couldn’t have been better.”

Asked whether the whistleblower complaint involved the July call with Mr. Zelensky, the president said: “I really don’t know.”

Michael Atkinson, the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community, met Thursday morning with the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-session. Mr. Atkinson declined to tell lawmakers the substance of the complaint or if it involves the president, but he did say it involves more than one episode and is based on a series of events, according to multiple people who attended or were briefed on the meeting.

Huge Trove of Leaked Russian Documents Is Published by Transparency Advocates

A group of transparency advocates on Friday posted a mammoth collection of hacked and leaked documents from inside Russia, a release widely viewed as a sort of symbolic counterstrike against Russia’s dissemination of hacked emails to influence the American presidential election in 2016.

Most of the material, which sheds light on Russia’s war in Ukraine as well as ties between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church, the business dealings of oligarchs and much more, had been released in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere, sometimes on obscure websites. There were no immediate reports of new bombshells from the collection.

But the sheer volume of the material — 175 gigabytes — and the technical challenges of searching it meant that its full impact may not be felt for some time. The volume is many times greater than the total known material stolen by Russian military intelligence from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign nearly three years ago.

The Turning Point of 2008

At first glance, the Georgian war ten years ago this month and the global financial crisis that erupted the following month seem unrelated. But this is to neglect the deeper currents driving the confrontation in the Caucasus.

The absorption of post-communist Europe into the West was not simply a matter of velvet revolutions. What Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, called “new Europe” – the post-communist NATO allies and European Union members – depended on hundreds of billions of dollars in investment. The loans came from the same European banks that helped fuel the US real-estate boom and inflate the even bigger housing bubbles in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain. The most extreme real-estate inflation in the world between 2005 and 2007 was on NATO’s Eastern frontier in the Baltics.

.. But it was not only the Soviet Union’s former satellites that benefited from the debt-fueled global boom. The authority and power of Putin’s regime, too, was (largely) a function of globalization – specifically, the huge surge in oil prices. In 2008, it seemed that Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, benefiting from unprecedented growth in emerging-markets demand, led by China, might soon become the world’s largest corporation.

.. The EU insists on the innocence of its model of integration. The goal is peace, stability, and the rule of law, not geopolitical advantage, its senior representatives guilelessly maintain. Whether or not they truly believe it, the EU’s new post-communist members saw it differently. For them, NATO and EU membership were part of an anti-Russian package, just as they had been for West European countries in the 1950s.

.. Although Ukraine, too, applied for NATO membership in 2008, it did not provoke Russian intervention. But the war in Georgia split the Ukrainian political class three ways, between those who favored alignment with the West, those who favored Russia, and those who preferred a policy of balance. These tensions were further exacerbated by the impact of the financial crisis.

No part of the world economy was hit harder by that crisis than the former Soviet sphere. When global lending imploded, the most fragile borrowers were cut off first. Followed closely by a collapse in commodity prices, it dealt a devastating shock to the “transition economies.”

.. As one of the world’s largest oil and gas exporters, Russia was one of the worst affected. But after the humiliation of the financial crises of the late 1990s, Putin had seen to it that Russia was armed with substantial dollar reserves – the third largest after China and Japan. Reserves of $600 billion enabled Russia to ride out the storm of 2008 without external help.

The same was not true of its former satellites. Their currencies plunged. Interest rates soared. Inflows of foreign capital stopped. Some found themselves turning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help.

In fact, the impact of the 2008 crisis split Central and Eastern Europe. The political leadership of the Baltic states toughed it out, accepting savage austerity to continue on their path toward euro membership. In Hungary, the governing parties were discredited, opening the door to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s illiberal regime.

.. But no country in the region was strategically more important, more fragile politically, or worse hit economically than Ukraine. In a matter of weeks, Ukraine was dealt a devastating one-two punch by the war in Georgia and the financial crisis. This opened the door to the successful presidential candidacy of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych in 2010

and set in train desperate financial negotiations with the IMF, the EU, and Russia, culminating in the crisis of 2013. Given current talk of trade wars, it bears recalling that it was an argument over Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU that led to Yanukovych’s overthrow and an undeclared war with Russia.

.. The events of August and September 2008 taught two painful and deeply disconcerting lessons. First, capitalism is prone to disasters. Second, global growth did not necessarily strengthen the unipolar order. Truly comprehensive global growth breeds multipolarity, which, in the absence of an overarching diplomatic and geopolitical settlement, is a recipe for conflict.

Today all eyes are on Asia, the rise of China, and its growing influence across Eurasia, Africa, and Latin America. But Putin’s Russia continues to be a spoiler. So we should not forget the Georgian crisis of August 2008, when it first became obvious how dangerous the new global economic dispensation might become.

At Prayer Breakfast, Guests Seek Access to a Different Higher Power

 With a lineup of prayer meetings, humanitarian forums and religious panels, the National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus.

But there on the guest list in recent years was Maria Butina, looking to meet high-level American officials and advance the interests of the Russian state, and Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukranian opposition leader, seeking a few minutes with President Trump to burnish her credentials as a presidential prospect back home.

Their presence at the breakfast illuminates the way the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power.

The subculture around the breakfast was thrust into the spotlight last week with the indictment of Ms. Butina, who was charged with conspiring to act as a Russian agent. Her goals, prosecutors said, included gaining access to the breakfast “to establish a back channel of communication” between influential Russians and Americans “to promote the political interests of the Russian Federation.”

.. Ms. Butina’s spy-thriller-like tactics hint at the more widespread, if less sensational, international maneuvering that pervades the prayer breakfast, and the lucrative opportunities it creates for Washington’s corps of lobbyists and fixers, according to more than half a dozen people who have been involved in peddling access around the event.

.. Ahead of Mr. Trump’s first appearance at the breakfast last year, some of the people said, foreign politicians clamored for tickets, with some offering to pay steep fees to get into the event and the myriad gatherings on its sidelines.

One lobbyist, Herman J. Cohen, offered what he billed as an exclusive invitation to last year’s breakfast, and three days of meetings around it, to an African leader for $220,000.

.. “It’s an opportunity,” Mr. Cohen said of the event. “If I go to the prayer breakfast, I have a good chance of maybe shaking the president’s hand or talking to him for two minutes.”

“In a way, it bypasses protocols,” he added, “but in a way, it is taking advantage of people being present in the same venue.” Such invitations to foreign leaders, he said, are “very useful to them back home.”

.. Some describe the gathering as similar to the World Economic Forum, except that Jesus is the organizing principle. The eclectic guest list has included the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the singer Bono and the former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, as well as the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

.. With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.

.. “You can’t just invite wonderful, exciting, great people,” said Mr. Hall. “Jesus, when he went to dinner, he went to dinner with everybody.”

Michael Cohen, ‘Ultimate Trump Loyalist,’ Now in the Sights of the F.B.I.

During the presidential campaign, Michael D. Cohen got a Google alert for a breaking story: “Russian President Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump as ‘Talented’ and ‘Very Colorful.’”

For most American politicians, that article in December 2015 would hardly have been welcome news. But Mr. Cohen, whose role as personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump has been firmly rooted in the transactional world of his boss, saw opportunity. He emailed an old friend who had been talking about seeking Kremlin support to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and sent him the article.

“Now is the time,” Mr. Cohen wrote. “Call me.”

.. Mr. Trump values few things more than loyalty, but secrecy is one of them. For years, to keep the circle of people involved as small as possible, he chose to have Mr. Cohen serve as his legal attack dog from a perch inside Trump Tower in Manhattan instead of having outside counsel deal with his problems, according to two people familiar with their relationship.

.. In private, Mr. Cohen has compared himself to Tom Hagen, the smooth consigliere to the mafia family in the movie “The Godfather.”

.. The lawyer seemed to relish his reputation as Mr. Trump’s “pit bull” and embraced an aggressive — some say bullying — approach to solving problems.

.. he never got a senior administration job, which people who know him say he expected

.. Another payment that the F.B.I. is said to be investigating, for $150,000, was made by American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer.

.. Mr. Trump, who was from Queens, and the Bronx-born Mr. Pecker viewed themselves as outsiders looking in at an elitist Manhattan establishment.

.. Several people close to A.M.I. and Mr. Cohen have said that the lawyer was in regular contact with company executives during the presidential campaign, when The Enquirer regularly heralded Mr. Trump and attacked his rivals.

.. A.M.I. had shared Ms. McDougal’s allegations with Mr. Cohen, though the company said it did so only as part of efforts to corroborate her story, which it said it could not do.

.. The Times reported that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was looking into$150,000 donation to Mr. Trump’s charitable foundation from a Ukrainian billionaire that was solicited by Mr. Cohen during the 2016 campaign.

.. Mr. Mueller has examined Mr. Cohen’s postelection role in forwarding to the administration a Ukraine-Russia peace proposal pushed by a Ukrainian lawmaker.

.. Mr. Cohen wasted no time, arranging for Mr. Trump to sign a letter of intent for the Moscow tower deal. But the project seemed to stall in the coming months.

Rather than let it go, Mr. Cohen reached out directly to Mr. Putin’s press secretary in January 2016, asking for assistance. Later, he asserted that his effort was unsuccessful.