Barack Obama microphone gaffe: 'I'll have more flexibility after election'
President Barack Obama was caught on microphone telling Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after November's election to deal with contentious issues such as missile defence.
Mr Obama says: "On all these issues, but particularly missile defence, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space."
Mr Medvedev replies: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you …"
Mr Obama retorts: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility."And Mr Medvedev finishes: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]."
In response, Obama mocked Romney’s statement: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because…the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
In the 2012 President campaign, the Obama Administration trotted out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to poo-poo Mitt Romney's assertions about Russia. She told CNN at the time, "It's somewhat dated to be looking backwards," playing off President Obama's remarks that Romney was stuck in a "Cold War mind warp."
But Hillary Clinton has started comparing the Russians to the Nazis. An attendee of a $1,500-per-plate fundraiser where Clinton spoke said, "She talked about how what Putin is doing now is similar to what Hitler did, essentially providing these ethnic Russians in the Crimea region access back to Russia."
Drawing contrasts between President Barack Obama and comments Romney has made on the campaign trail in 2008 and this year, Biden attacked the former Massachusetts governor for being “one of a small group of Cold War holdovers,” for naming Russia as a major threat to the United States and at times referring to Soviets.
“I don’t know whether it’s a slip of the tongue or a mind-set … Everybody slips. I never do, but everyone does,” Biden said in a self-deprecating nod to his own gaffes.
Mr. Romney has also called into question Mr. Obama’s policy to Russia. Republicans have said the administration has been naïve with Moscow, and granted too many concessions.
Mr. Kerry fired back, criticizing Mr. Romney for opposing the New START treaty which limited U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal and said the former Massachusetts governor had the “preposterous notion that Russia is our ‘No. 1 geopolitical foe.’”
“Folks: Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska; Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV,” Mr. Kerry said, referencing a cold war era movie about a boxing match between Rocky Balboa and a Russian boxer.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Rachael Maddow both mocked Obama’s then-opponent, claiming he was merely trying to copy Ronald Reagan.
“He read about Reagan’s private, outside-the-CIA cabal of team-B zealots who were telling him that Russia had all the stuff they didn’t have so he could justify a giant defense budget,” Maddow said.
“I don’t know what decade this guy’s living in,” Matthews said. “Is he trying to play Ronald Reagan here, or what?”
So it's very interesting to now hear Hillary going to town on Russia, although it seems she felt Russia was a threat in 2012 as she compared them to the Nazis behind closed doors but lied and pretended they weren't a threat to harm Romney and for political points. Hillary lie for political points? I'm as shocked as you.
Anyway, a lot of this started in the campaign when Trump accepted Putin's compliment that he was smart. Hillary, as I have done a post before, decided to proclaim that Donald Trump loves dictators.
They went into overdrive with the Wikileaks dump, blaming Russia for the negative things coming out on the Democrats.
Ah, but of course. Hillary has ZERO ties to Russia:
The headline on the website Pravda trumpeted President Vladimir V. Putin’s latest coup, its nationalistic fervor recalling an era when its precursor served as the official mouthpiece of the Kremlin: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.”
The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.
But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.
At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.
Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
Soon, Uranium One began to snap up companies with assets in the United States. In April 2007, it announced the purchase of a uranium mill in Utah and more than 38,000 acres of uranium exploration properties in four Western states, followed quickly by the acquisition of the Energy Metals Corporation and its uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas and Utah. That deal made clear that Uranium One was intent on becoming “a powerhouse in the United States uranium sector with the potential to become the domestic supplier of choice for U.S. utilities,” the company declared.
Still, the company’s story was hardly front-page news in the United States — until early 2008, in the midst of Mrs. Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, when The Times published an article revealing the 2005 trip’s link to Mr. Giustra’s Kazakhstan mining deal. It also reported that several months later, Mr. Giustra had donated $31.3 million to Mr. Clinton’s foundation.
Before Mrs. Clinton could assume her post as secretary of state, the White House demanded that she sign a memorandum of understanding placing limits on the activities of her husband’s foundation. To avoid the perception of conflicts of interest, beyond the ban on foreign government donations, the foundation was required to publicly disclose all contributors.
To judge from those disclosures — which list the contributions in ranges rather than precise amounts — the only Uranium One official to give to the Clinton Foundation was Mr. Telfer, the chairman, and the amount was relatively small: no more than $250,000, and that was in 2007, before talk of a Rosatom deal began percolating.
But a review of tax records in Canada, where Mr. Telfer has a family charity called the Fernwood Foundation, shows that he donated millions of dollars more, during and after the critical time when the foreign investment committee was reviewing his deal with the Russians. With the Russians offering a special dividend, shareholders like Mr. Telfer stood to profit.
His donations through the Fernwood Foundation included $1 million reported in 2009, the year his company appealed to the American Embassy to help it keep its mines in Kazakhstan; $250,000 in 2010, the year the Russians sought majority control; as well as $600,000 in 2011 and $500,000 in 2012. Mr. Telfer said that his donations had nothing to do with his business dealings, and that he had never discussed Uranium One with Mr. or Mrs. Clinton. He said he had given the money because he wanted to support Mr. Giustra’s charitable endeavors with Mr. Clinton. “Frank and I have been friends and business partners for almost 20 years,” he said.
The Clinton campaign left it to the foundation to reply to questions about the Fernwood donations; the foundation did not provide a response.
Mr. Telfer’s undisclosed donations came in addition to between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in contributions, which were reported, from a constellation of people with ties to Uranium One or UrAsia, the company that originally acquired Uranium One’s most valuable asset: the Kazakh mines. Without those assets, the Russians would have had no interest in the deal: “It wasn’t the goal to buy the Wyoming mines. The goal was to acquire the Kazakh assets, which are very good,” Mr. Novikov, the Rosatom spokesman, said in an interview.
Amid this influx of Uranium One-connected money, Mr. Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow in June 2010, the same month Rosatom struck its deal for a majority stake in Uranium One.
The $500,000 fee — among Mr. Clinton’s highest — was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin that has invited world leaders, including Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, to speak at its investor conferences.
Renaissance Capital would not comment on the genesis of Mr. Clinton’s speech to an audience that included leading Russian officials, or on whether it was connected to the Rosatom deal. According to a Russian government news service, Mr. Putin personally thanked Mr. Clinton for speaking.
Chalk it up to a small world or to a tangled web, but Uranium One, the Russian-owned uranium mining company at the center of a recent scandal involving the Clintons and a close Canadian business partner, has lobbied the State Department through a firm co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman.
Senate records show that The Podesta Group has lobbied the State Department on behalf of Uranium One — once in 2012, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, and once in 2015.
Uranium One paid The Podesta Group $40,000 to lobby the State Department, the Senate, the National Park Service and the National Security Council for “international mining projects,” according to a July 20, 2012 filing.
Which is exactly what Sberbank, Russia’s biggest financial institution, did this spring. As reported at the end of March, the Podesta Group registered with the U.S. Government as a lobbyist for Sberbank, as required by law, naming three Podesta Group staffers: Tony Podesta plus Stephen Rademaker and David Adams, the last two former assistant secretaries of state. It should be noted that Tony Podesta is a big-money bundler for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign while his brother John is the chairman of that campaign, the chief architect of her plans to take the White House this November.
Sberbank (Savings Bank in Russian) engaged the Podesta Group to help its public image—leading Moscow financial institutions not exactly being known for their propriety and wholesomeness—and specifically to help lift some of the pain of sanctions placed on Russia in the aftermath of the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine, which has caused real pain to the country’s hard-hit financial sector.
It’s hardly surprising that Sberbank sought the help of Democratic insiders like the Podesta Group to aid them in this difficult hour, since they clearly understand how American politics work. The question is why the Podesta Group took Sberbank’s money. That financial institution isn’t exactly hiding in the shadows—it’s the biggest bank in Russia, and its reputation leaves a lot to be desired. Nobody acquainted with Russian finance was surprised that Sberbank wound up in the Panama Papers.
Although Sberbank has its origins in the nineteenth century, it was functionally reborn after the Soviet collapse, and it the 1990s it grew to be the dominant bank in the country, today controlling nearly 30 percent of Russia’s aggregate banking assets and employing a quarter-million people. The majority stockholder in Sberbank is Russia’s Central Bank. In other words, Sberbank is functionally an arm of the Kremlin, although it’s ostensibly a private institution.
Certainly Western intelligence is well acquainted with Sberbank, noting its close relationship with Vladimir Putin and his regime. Funds moving through Sberbank are regularly used to support clandestine Russian intelligence operations, while the bank uses its offices abroad as cover for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service or SVR. A NATO counterintelligence official explained that Sberbank, which has outposts in almost two dozen foreign countries, “functions as a sort of arm of the SVR outside Russia, especially because many of its senior employees are ‘former’ Russian intelligence officers.” Inside the country, Sberbank has an equally cosy relationship with the Federal Security Service or FSB, Russia’s powerful domestic intelligence agency.
Ukraine has pointed a finger at Sberbank as an instrument of Russia’s aggression against their country. In 2014, Ukraine’s Security Service charged Sberbank with “financing terrorism,” noting that its branches were distributing millions of dollars in illegal aid to Russian-backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv’s conclusion, that Sberbank is a witting supporter of Russian aggression against Ukraine, is broadly supported by Western intelligence. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official with extensive experience in Eastern Europe.
In addition, Ukrainian intelligence has alleged that the FSB collaborated with Sberbank in the bombings of two of the bank’s branches in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in June 2015. The attacks caused no casualties but got major coverage in Russian state media as “proof” of Ukraine’s instability and violent anti-Russian nature. Although the notion that Russian spies would plant bombs as a provocation, what the Kremlin terms provokatsiya, may sound outlandish to those unacquainted with espionage, in fact Russian spies have been doing such things since tsarist times. What I’ve termed “fake terrorism” is a longstanding Kremlin core competency, and it can only be pulled off with logistical support, including with finances.
Predictably, Sberbank has blown off the Panama Papers revelations as nothing of consequence, but the fact that they are an arm of the Kremlin and they do plenty of shady things in many countries is a matter of record. As is the fact that the Podesta Group is their lobbyist in America.
Among the Sberbank subsidiaries that the Podesta Group also represents are the Cayman Islands-based Troika Dialog Group Limited, the Cyprus-based SBGB Cyprus Limited, and the Luxembourg-based SB International. As reported this week by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a consortium of journalists exploring the Panama Papers leak, Sberbank and Troika Dialog are used by members of Mr. Putin’s inner circle to shift public funds into sometimes questionable private investments. In other words, this is top-level money laundering of a brazen kind. As the OCCRP stated plainly, “Some of these companies were initially connected to the Troika Dialog investment fund, which was controlled and run by Sberbank after the bank bought the Troika Dialog investment bank. Troika and Sberbank declined to comment.”
Adding to shadiness of all this, the Podesta Group is playing along with the useful charade that Sberbank is simply a private financial institution, rather than the state-owned bank that it is, since that would require the lobbyists to register as agents of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
A program overseen by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of the "reset" with Russia wound up enhancing Russia's military technology and funneling millions of dollar to the Clinton Foundation, according to a new report by investigative journalist Peter Schweizer and the Government Accountability Institute he heads.
The report says both the U.S. Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that the program, intended to support Russia's version of Silicon Valley, was exploited to improve Russia's military capability.
The "innovation city" of Skolkovo on the outskirts of Moscow was center of the program. Its stated purpose was "identifying areas of cooperation and pursuing joint projects and actions that strengthen strategic stability, international security, economic well-being, and the development of ties between the American and Russian people."
Instead, the FBI warned several American technology companies in 2014 that Skolkovo "may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation's sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application." Indeed, it was.
Regarding Hillary and Bill Clinton, the report says: "Many of the key figures in the Skolkovo process – on both the Russian and U.S. sides – had major financial ties to the Clintons. During the Russian reset, these figures and entities provided the Clintons with tens of millions of dollars, including contributions to the Clinton Foundation, paid for speeches by Bill Clinton, or investments in small start-up companies with deep Clinton ties."
The new report said a Russian government fund sent $35 million to "a small company with Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta on its executive board, which included senior Russian officials. John Podesta failed to reveal, as required by law on his federal financial disclosures, his membership on the board of this offshore company."
Key players in a main component of the reset — a Moscow-based, Silicon Valley-styled campus for developing biomed, space, nuclear and IT technologies called “Skolkovo” — poured tens of millions of dollars into the Clinton Foundation, the report by journalist Peter Schweizer alleges.
As the Obama administration’s top diplomat, Hillary Clinton was at the center of US efforts on the reset in general and Skolkovo in particular, Schweizer argues.
Yet, “Of the 28 US, European and Russian companies that participated in Skolkovo, 17 of them were Clinton Foundation donors” or sponsored speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Schweizer told The Post.
“It raises the question — do you need to pay money to sit at the table?”
In one example cited by Schweizer, Skolkovo Foundation member and then-Cisco CEO John Chambers donated between $1 million and $5 million in personal and corporate cash to the Clinton Foundation, the report says.
But Skolkovo wound up making America less safe, Schweizer argues, because it shared advanced US technology that Russia can develop for both civilian and military applications, a concern raised already by Army and FBI officials.
Many of Skolkovo’s research projects involved “dual-use” technologies, meaning they would have both civilian and military uses, the report said, citing one in particular — a hybrid airship called an “Atlant” developed at the Skolkovo Aeronautical Center.
“Particularly noteworthy is Atlant’s ability to deliver military cargoes,” including “radar surveillance, air and missile defense and delivery of airborne troops,” the Skolkovo Foundation bragged in a document Schweizer cites.
However, as involvement in Skolkovo by Clinton cronies increased, so, too, did the danger for the technology coming out of the Russian tech mecca to be used for Russian military purposes.
In 2014, the FBI issued what it called “an extraordinary warning” to several technology companies involved with Skolkovo. “The [Skolkovo] foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application,” warned Lucia Ziobro, the assistant special agent at the FBI’s Boston office. She added: “The FBI believes the true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by the government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive, and emerging technology from the companies.”
Still, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta sat on the executive board of a small energy company called Joule Unlimited. Joule, too, received the FBI letter warning about Skolkovo. Other Joule board members included senior Russian officials. According to the GAI report: “Two months after Podesta joined the board, Vladimir Putin’s Rusnano announced that it would invest up to one billion rubles into Joule Unlimited, which amounts to $35 million. That represents one-fifth of the entire amount of investment dollars Joule collected from 2007 to 2013.”
Rusnano, which former Russian education and science minister and current science advisor to Vladmir Putin Andrei Fursenko describes as “Putin’s child,” was founded by Putin in 2007.
The GAI investigative report says it’s unclear how much, if any, money Podesta made. The reason: Podesta was on the board of three Joule entities, but only listed two on his disclosure; the most important entity, Joule Stichting, he did not list. “Podesta’s compensation by Joule cannot be fully determined,” reads the report. “In his 2014 federal government disclosure filing, Podesta lists that he divested stock options from Joule. However, the disclosure does not cover the years 2011-2012.”
Why Podesta failed to reveal, as required by law on his federal financial disclosures, his membership on the board of this offshore company is presently unknown.
“But the flows of funds from Russia during the ‘reset’ to Podesta-connected entities apparently didn’t end with Joule Energy,” the report states. According to the GAI report, Podesta’s far-left think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), took in $5.25 million from the Sea Change Foundation between 2010-2013.
Who was funding Sea Change Foundation? According to tax records, Sea Change Foundation at the time was receiving a large infusion of funds from a mysterious Bermuda-based entity called ‘Klein, Ltd.’…Who owns Klein? It is impossible to say exactly, given corporate secrecy laws in Bermuda. But the registered agent and lawyers who set up the offshore entity are tied to a handful of Russian business entities including Troika Dialog, Ltd. Leadership includes Ruben Vardanyan, an ethnic Armenian who is a mega oligarch in Putin’s Russia. Vardanyan also served on the board of Joule Energy with John Podesta.
Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump's campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine's then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.
People with direct knowledge of Gates' work said that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president's political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.
The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych's party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych's government.
That lobbying included downplaying the necessity of a congressional resolution meant to pressure the Ukrainian leader to release an imprisoned political rival.
The lobbying firms continued the work until shortly after Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014, during a popular revolt prompted in part by his government's crackdown on protesters and close ties to Russia.
Among those who described Manafort's and Gates's relationship with the nonprofit are current and former employees of the Podesta Group. Some of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details about the work and because they remain subject to non-disclosure agreements.
Gates told the AP that he and Manafort introduced the lobbying firms to the European Centre nonprofit and occasionally consulted with the firms on Ukrainian politics. He called the actions lawful, and said there was no attempt to circumvent the reporting requirements of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The heads of both lobbying firms told AP they concluded there was no obligation to disclose their activities to the Justice Department. Manafort did not directly respond to AP's requests to discuss the work, but he was copied on the AP's questions and Gates said he spoke to Manafort before providing answers to them.
The founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, Tony Podesta, is the brother of longtime Democratic strategist John Podesta, who now is campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The head of Mercury, Vin Weber, is an influential Republican, former congressman and former special policy adviser to Mitt Romney. Weber announced earlier this month that he will not support Trump.
After being introduced to the lobbying firms, the European nonprofit paid the Podesta Group $1.13 million between June 2012 and April 2014 to lobby Congress, the White House National Security Council, the State Department and other federal agencies, according to U.S. lobbying records.
The nonprofit also paid $1.07 million over roughly the same period to Mercury to lobby Congress. Among other issues, Mercury opposed congressional efforts to pressure Ukraine to release one of Yanukovych's political rivals from prison.
One former Podesta employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement, said Gates described the nonprofit's role in an April, 2012 meeting as supplying a source of money that could not be traced to the Ukrainian politicians who were paying him and Manafort.
In separate interviews, three current and former Podesta employees said disagreements broke out within the firm over the arrangement, which at least one former employee considered obviously illegal. Podesta, who said the project was vetted by his firm's counsel, said he was unaware of any such disagreements.
A legal opinion drafted for the project for Mercury in May 2012, and obtained by AP, concluded that the European Centre qualified as a "foreign principal" under the Foreign Agents Registration Act but said disclosure to the Justice Department was not required. That determination was based on the nonprofit's assurances that none of its activities was directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized by Ukraine's government or any of the country's political parties.
The Podesta Group's CEO, Kimberley Fritts, said the two lobbying firms had coordinated on the legal conclusion that disclosure was not necessary to the Justice Department.
"If counsel had determined FARA was the way to go, we would have gladly registered under FARA," she said in a statement to the AP. She said the nonprofit provided a signed statement affirming its independence from Ukraine's government.
People involved in the lobbying project offered contradictory descriptions of how it came about.
Podesta told the AP his firm worked closely with the nonprofit and with Gates simultaneously. But Podesta said Gates was not working for Yanukovych's political party and said Manafort was not involved.
"I was never given any reason to believe Rick was a Party of Regions consultant," said John Ward Anderson, a current Podesta employee who attended the meeting, in a statement provided by his firm. "My assumption was that he was working for the Centre, as we were."
Gates, in contrast, told AP he was working with Manafort and that both he and Manafort were working for Yanukovych's party.
Pointing to Manafort's involvement, Weber told AP that Manafort discussed the project before it began in a conference call with Podesta and himself.
The director of the European Centre, Ina Kirsch, told the AP her group never worked with Manafort or Gates and said the group hired the Washington lobbyists on its own. She said she had met with Manafort twice but said neither Manafort nor Gates played a role in its lobbying activities.
The center has declined for years to reveal specific sources of its funding.