The many paths from Trump to Russia

TRUMP’S ASSOCIATES

Jared Kushner Michael Flynn Paul Manafort Carter Page Roger Stone Jeff Sessions JD GordonDonald Trump Jr. Michael Cohen Michael Caputo Erik Prince Rex Tillerson Wilbur Ross Betsy DeVosFelix Sater Aras & Emin Agalarov Alfa Bank Vitaly Churkin

Jared Kushner

Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, who married Trump’s daughter Ivanka in 2009. He was a confidant to Trump during the campaign and now serves as a senior adviser to the President. Kushner gave closed-door interviews in July to Senate intelligence committee staff and House intelligence committee members as part of their Russia investigations. He says he “did not collude” with Russia and that all of his actions during the campaign “were proper.”

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UN: On third anniversary of ‘Islamic State’ attack on Yazidis, genocide continues

In August 2014, “Islamic State” militants launched what the UN calls a genocidal campaign against the religious and ethnic minority in northern Iraq. Despite the ouster of IS, the Yazidis’ ordeal is far from over.

Traumazentrum im Irak (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Martins)

A United Nations human rights committee investigating violations of international law in Syria said Thursday that Yazidis continued to face atrocities at the hands of “Islamic State” (IS) militants – and the world isn’t doing enough about it.

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WorldLink: Helping victims of Islamic State

“The genocide is ongoing and remains largely unaddressed, despite the obligations of States party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 to prevent and to punish the crime,” the OHCHR commission wrote in a statement to mark the anniversary of IS launching an assault on the Yazidis of the Sinjar region in northern Iraq near the Syrian border.

Read more: From the Sinjar mountains to Germany’s Rhineland: a Yazidi refugee’s story

The Yazidis, a religious community whose belief and practices span thousands of years, are reviled as infidels by IS. During the assault, their militants killed and kidnapped thousands of Yazidis, forcing many to flee their home region. The images of stricken survivors trapped on Mount Sinjar in its aftermath prompted the US to launch airstrikes against IS in Iraq.

Boys missing, girls enslaved

Three years on, thousands of Yazidi men and boys remain missing and IS continues to subject about 3,000 Yazidi women and girls in Syria to horrific violence, including daily rapes and beatings, the commission said, adding that it had received reports of IS fighters trying to sell enslaved Yazidi women and girls as international forces close in on its stronghold of Raqqa.

The commission called for everyone fighting against IS to work toward rescuing Yazidi captives and for the international community to recognize that IS was committing genocide against Yazidis and they should be brought to justice.

Sinjar and the region surrounding it had been home to about 400,000 Yazidi people before the IS onslaught began. IS has been driven out of the area but only about 1,000 Yazidi families have returned to Sinjar city. That’s because various groups including Kurdish and Shiite forces which drove out IS are vying for control of the area, making it difficult to guarantee security and advance reconstruction efforts.

Read more: A town in ruins: Sinjar liberated from IS

“The lack of services and political problems are preventing families from returning,” Jalal Khalaf, the director of the mayor’s office in Sinjar, told Reuters.

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Psychologist helps IS victims in Iraq

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FBI arrests ‘WannaCry’ ransomware thwarter Marcus Hutchins on hacking charges

The cyber researcher widely heralded with derailing the worldwide “WannaCry” ransomware attack has been arrested in the US. British national Marcus Hutchins was detained after attending hacking conferences in Las Vegas.

UK Marcus Hutchins a.k.a. MalwareTech (picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Augstein)

Court documents unsealed Thursday showed Hutchins, who is known under the online alias “Malware Tech,” was indicted on charges of creating malware to attack banks.

Hutchins gained international renown for detecting a “kill switch” which effectively shut down the WannaCry global ransomware attack in May. He was detained by the FBI in the US state of Nevada on charges unrelated to WannaCry.

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How hackers can boost cybersecurity

An indictment filed on July 12 in a Wisconsin court accused him and another individual of making, advertising, distributing and profiting from a malware code known as the Kronos Trojan between July 2014 and 2015. Kronos malware is used to steal online banking and credit card data which could be used to steal money from bank accounts.

Read more: What is ransomware?

The arrest, originally reported on the security website Motherboard, occurred as Hutchins was preparing to fly back to the UK after attending the major Def Con and Black Hat hacker security conferences, which were held in Las Vegas last week.

His Twitter feed indicated he was at an airport Wednesday preparing to fly home.  A court hearing was scheduled for him in Las Vegas for Thursday afternoon, Reuters reported.

US digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was “deeply concerned” about Hutchins’ arrest and was attempting to reach him.

EFF is deeply concerned about security researcher Marcus Hutchins’ arrest. We are looking into the matter, and reaching out to Hutchins.

Several other members of the hacking community were also expressing their concern via Twitter. It was unclear whether Hutchins had a lawyer.

Hutchins became famous in the cyber security community for his apparent role in thwarting WannaCry, which infected hundreds of thousands of computers in 150 countries, causing disruptions at factories, hospitals, shops and schools.

 

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Major fire engulfs Dubai Torch Tower skyscraper

A blaze has broken out in Dubai’s 86-story Torch Tower, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings. Authorities have said the building was successfully evacuated and that no injuries had been reported.

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Major fire engulfs Dubai Torch Tower skyscraper

Flames shot up the side of Dubai’s Torch Tower in the early hours of Friday morning, sending plumes of smoke into the air and debris crashing to the ground.

Fire services were called onto the scene to fight the blaze and evacuate the building in Dubai’s popular Marina neighborhood. Authorities said they had “successfully evacuated” the 352-meter-high building and that no injuries had been reported.

Read more: Dubai’s bid to cash in on climate change

The Dubai government’s media office tweeted after the blaze: “Fire at the Torch Tower has been brought under control. Cooling operations are underway.”

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Dubai Civil Defence:Fire at the Torch Tower has been brought under control. Cooling operations are underway. No inures have been reported.

A spokesperson for Dubai police told local media that the fire broke out on the ninth floor of the building at around 1 am local time (2100 UTC). Video footage uploaded onto social media showed the flames spreading up the side of the building, engulfing what is believed to be around 40 stories into flames.

Fires have engulfed several high-rise towers in the United Arab Emirates, including a 63-story luxury Dubai hotel on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Even the Torch Tower, one of the world’s tallest buildings, had previously caught fire back in 2015, prompting hundreds of residents to evacuate. There were no casualties reported in that blaze either.

Safety experts have warned that the high rate of fires is likely due to a popular type of cladding used on buildings, which can be highly flammable.

After at least 80 people were killed in a  deadly tower block fire in London in June, the British government called for more thorough testing on cladding systems and ordered that towers believed to be a fire risk be completely evacuated.

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Dubai: Skyscraper fire leaves city covered in smoke

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Justice Dept., Under Siege From Trump, Plows Ahead With His Agenda

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department in July. He has been the subject of President Trump’s rage recently because of his recusal in the Russia inquiry. CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is at the Justice Department by 6:15 a.m., when he exercises on a treadmill near his fifth-floor office, showers in an adjoining bathroom, microwaves instant oatmeal and hand-washes the bowl, then prepares for a daily 8:20 a.m. meeting with his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.

The televisions in both of their offices are nearly always dark, and neither man has a Twitter account.

That does not mean they have missed the public criticism from President Trump, who was infuriated when Mr. Sessions recused himself from the government’s Russia investigation and when Mr. Rosenstein, who now oversees it, appointed Robert S. Mueller III as the inquiry’s special counsel.

Yet even as the Justice Department has been under siege by Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein have sought to tune out the noise as they remake the department into the one that is most powerfully carrying out the president’s agenda.

“We value the independence of the Justice Department,” Mr. Rosenstein said in an interview this week. The employees, he said, have been conditioned to “ignore anything that’s said by people outside of the department.”

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Mr. Rosenstein added, “Nobody is directing us and nobody is going to direct us about which cases to pursue.”

But even if developing headlines are not rippling through the department in real time — “I’ve made a point of telling my people they should not be monitoring the breaking news,” Mr. Rosenstein said — the attacks by Mr. Trump, including his firing of the acting attorney general and the F.B.I. director, as well as calls to investigate a political opponent, have reverberated loudly. All the same, Mr. Sessions is carrying out the president’s conservative agenda with head-turning speed, roiling critics on the left and leaving some career staff members within the department disoriented by the sea change.

“Sessions as attorney general has been everything conservatives could have dreamed of and liberals could have feared,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

In the last six months, the attorney general has rolled back Obama-era policies on gay rights, voting rights, and criminal justice and police reform while advancing his own fight against drugs, gangs and violent crime. The scope of the work goes far beyond the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

“If you just read the media stories, you get a very narrow view of what the Department of Justice is doing,” Mr. Rosenstein said in an interview on Wednesday. “That’s not the way I see it.”

Mr. Sessions has mandated that prosecutors be as tough as possible in charging and sentencing all crimes, including drug offenses that carry stiff mandatory minimum prison sentences. He has expanded the ability of the police to seize people’s assets, irrespective of whether they may have been convicted of a crime or even charged. And as he presses a hard-line immigration agenda, he has dispatched additional federal prosecutors to border districts to prosecute immigration cases and has ordered cities and states to fall in line with federal immigration authorities or else face cuts in federal funding.

On Thursday, Mr. Sessions attached new conditions to local partnerships focused on reducing crime, requiring so-called sanctuary cities like Baltimore to honor federal requests to detain people suspected of being undocumented immigrants if they wanted to participate. On Friday, Mr. Sessions is expected to announce several investigations into leaking, a priority for the president, who has denounced the stream of information out of his administration.

Mr. Trump’s most loyal constituencies praise Mr. Sessions as the cabinet member most effectively delivering on the president’s promises. “We’re heartened by his no-nonsense approach to criminal justice,” said James O. Pasco Jr., the former executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police and now a senior adviser to that organization’s president. “He’s using the bully pulpit to show his support for law enforcement and make cities safer.”

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Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who now oversees the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Although it will take time for the full effects of the new policies to be seen, legal experts said, changes have already taken root.

Brett Tolman, a former United States attorney in Utah during the administration of George W. Bush, said Mr. Sessions’s policies on criminal charging and sentencing had already drastically affected some of his clients in federal cases not just limited to drugs. In conversations with assistant United States attorneys around the country, Mr. Tolman said, the prosecutors cited Mr. Sessions’s directives in refusing to negotiate in situations they previously would have.

“There is a definite difference in the mentality of the Department of Justice, and you see it already,” said Mr. Tolman, who previously worked as counsel to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. Mr. Tolman praised past bipartisan progress on criminal justice reform and said Mr. Sessions was out of step: “This is the 1980s and ’90s mentality, and an absolute 180-degree reversal from what we’ve learned.”

Mr. Sessions has not loudly promoted the changes. In travels around the country, he has rarely spoken with the press as public attention has centered on the government’s Russia inquiry. Mr. Sessions recused himself from the investigation in March after his own undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador became public. He left in charge Mr. Rosenstein, who in turn appointed Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel.

Mr. Sessions’s recusal has gnawed at the president, who has said he would have chosen a different attorney general had he known Mr. Sessions would step away from the inquiry — something Mr. Sessions did in keeping with the guidance of the Justice Department’s ethics lawyers. Mr. Trump, who considered Mr. Sessions a loyalist, has called the recusal “unfair to the president” and chastised Mr. Rosenstein for appointing Mr. Mueller.

Even as Mr. Trump’s new chief of staff, John F. Kellyassured Mr. Sessionsthis week that he was not at risk of being fired, Mr. Trump has issued no such reassurance.

Beyond personal attacks, the president has taken broader swipes at the department for how it has defended his travel ban, which aimed to close the nation’s borders to travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries. He has also called for criminal inquiries into Hillary Clinton while calling the Russia investigation a “witch hunt.”

The tension between the Justice Department’s leadership and the president, however, has made some career prosecutors and senior officials — including supporters of the administration’s agenda — uneasy, according to more than two dozen current and former Justice Department officials.

Since May, Mr. Rosenstein has addressed an array of Justice Department staff members, from the public integrity section in Washington to field offices of federal prosecutors in Nevada and South Carolina, seeking to deliver a simple message: Business as usual.

As the Justice Department operates with only a handful of officials confirmed by the Senate — including Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosenstein and Christopher A. Wray, the new F.B.I. director — the administration has sought to put in place other permanent leadership. Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions have spent some Saturdays this summer meeting with United States attorney candidates to recommend to the president to replace the 46 United States attorneys Mr. Trump forced out this spring. As of Friday, the administration had made 32 nominations, which Mr. Rosenstein cited as “an illustration that we’re moving fairly quickly.”

Others say the vacancies have certain divisions on autopilot. Prosecutors are less likely to take risks or act with a broader sense of strategy, said Kerry B. Harvey, a former United States attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky during the Obama administration.

“When you have a long period of time where you don’t have presidential appointees, the day-to-day work gets done but it tends to be somewhat directionless,” Mr. Harvey said, adding that “it’s ironic the president’s comments seem to be calculated to weaken the Department of Justice’s ability to implement his agenda.”

But as the department presses on with the administration’s agenda, its officials have not wholly turned a blind eye to their place in protecting established government norms.

Among the paintings that Mr. Rosenstein selected to decorate his conference room at the Justice Department is a portrait of Edward H. Levi, appointed attorney general by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 after the department’s credibility had been eroded by President Richard M. Nixon, whose firing of the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, led to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973.

“That right there,” Mr. Rosenstein said, motioning to the portrait of Mr. Levi. “That’s the post-Watergate A.G.”

John Kelly Quickly Moves to Impose Military Discipline on White House

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John Kelly, Trump’s New Chief of Staff

John F. Kelly brings decades of military experience to the White House and a willingness to challenge the president.

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and SARAH STEIN KERR on Publish DateAugust 3, 2017. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

WASHINGTON — In his six months as Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly often described the White House as one of the most dysfunctional organizations he had ever seen, complained to colleagues and allies about its meddling, incompetence and recklessness, and was once so angry he briefly considered quitting.

Now as President Trump’s chief of staff, he is doing something about it — with a suddenness and force that have upended the West Wing.

Mr. Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence. He listens in on conversations between cabinet secretaries and the president. He has booted lingering staff members out of high-level meetings, and ordered the doors of the Oval Office closed to discourage strays. He fired Anthony Scaramucci, the bombastic New Yorker who was briefly the communications director, and has demanded that even Mr. Trump’s family, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, check with him if they want face time with the president.

On Wednesday, his third day on the job, he delivered a message about respecting chains of command, backing the decision of Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to dismiss Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Kushner ally and staff member on the National Security Council. It was a move Mr. Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, had long opposed, according to two administration officials.

Whether Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general, will succeed in imposing military discipline on the faction-ridden White House remains in doubt; Mr. Trump has never been known to follow anybody’s direction, in Trump Tower or the White House. But Mr. Trump has never encountered anyone quite like Mr. Kelly, a combat veteran whose forceful management style and volatile temper are a match for the president’s.

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“He’d basically look at me and say, ‘I think that proposal is four-letter-word nuts,’” said Leon E. Panetta, who as defense secretary made Mr. Kelly his chief military aide. “John is the kind of guy who will look you in the eye and tell you what the hell he is thinking. The real question is whether the president will give him the authority he needs to do the job.”

People close to Mr. Kelly said he resisted weeks of entreaties by the president, beginning in May, before finally agreeing to replace Reince Priebus out of a sense of soldierly duty. That he understands the sobering realities of his new deployment could be seen in his unsmiling mien while sitting next to Mr. Trump for a photo opportunity this week.

Among Mr. Kelly’s immediate challenges: brokering peace between warring factions in the West Wing; plugging leaks about internal activities; establishing a disciplined policy-making process; and walling off the Russia investigations.

Mr. Kelly, 67, has told his new employees that he was hired to manage the staff, not the president. He will not try to change Mr. Trump’s Twitter or TV-watching habits. But he has also said he wants to closely monitor the information the president consumes, quickly counter dubious news stories with verified facts, and limit the posse of people urging Mr. Trump to tweet something they feel passionately about.

He has privately acknowledged that he cannot control the president and that his authority would be undermined if he tried and failed. Instead, he is intent on cosseting Mr. Trump with bureaucratic competence and forcing staff members to keep to their lanes, a challenge in an administration defined by tribal loyalties to power players like Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bannon.

“Several times I’ve been on phone conversations with the president over the last couple of days and General Kelly has been on those conversations as well,” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Thursday when asked if Mr. Kelly was making a mark.

The Trump White House is a judge-a-book-by-its-cover workplace, and staff members have been struck by Mr. Kelly’s bearing: tall, stern and commanding a respect Mr. Priebus never did. People close to Mr. Kelly said they expected him to methodically assess his new staff before making more drastic changes — and he has told people that he wants to improve morale before attacking the organizational chart.

Mr. Kelly has not been shy about letting Mr. Trump’s staff members know when they screwed up, ripping into West Wing aides during the chaos surrounding the president’s original travel ban when he was at the Department of Homeland Security. While he supported the broad policy goals, he was furious that he and his sprawling agency’s staff were caught off guard by a directive that was conceived and carried out by inexperienced aides in the White House, according to several longtime Trump advisers.

People close to Mr. Kelly said he also bristled repeatedly at efforts by Mr. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the president’s senior adviser, to install people they liked in his department. Mr. Kelly eventually won pitched battles over who would become director of Customs and Border Protection and head of the Secret Service, officials said. But Mr. Bannon has had a longstanding alliance with Mr. Kelly, supporting many of his other appointments.

In May, Mr. Kelly considered resigning after Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, telling Mr. Comey in a phone call that he was thinking about doing so to protest the president’s actions, according to a former law enforcement official familiar with the conversation.

A senior White House official briefed on the exchange by Mr. Kelly said he never threatened to quit, but confirmed that he called Mr. Comey.

Days later, Mr. Kelly objected strenuously to the decision by Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trump’s Homeland Security adviser in the White House, to take control of the response to a global cyberattack — a role traditionally played by Mr. Kelly and his department’s cybersecurity division.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Kelly is viewed with a mix of admiration for his long military service and disappointment that he has been too willing to embrace and defend Mr. Trump’s more controversial policies, especially on illegal immigration.

In closed-door meetings with House members in March, Democrats questioned Mr. Kelly about aggressive immigration sweeps at churches and hospitals. The frustration grew as Mr. Kelly disputed that such sweeps were happening, even in the face of enlarged photos showing a Homeland Security vehicle parked on the grounds of Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.

“He’ll push back hard,” said Representative Lou Correa, Democrat of California, who presented the photographic evidence to Mr. Kelly during the meeting.

The next month, Mr. Kelly offered a taste of his blunt approach, telling lawmakers they could “shut up” if they did not like the laws his department was charged with enforcing.

“He’s never come to Capitol Hill and blown smoke to senators and congressmen,” said Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army officer who is close to Mr. Kelly.

Dealing with Mr. Trump’s family, especially Mr. Kushner, will not be so simple.

In an interview in May, Mr. Kelly came to the defense of the president’s son-in-law, who has an office in the West Wing as a White House adviser, against charges that he had tried to set up an inappropriate communications channel with Russia. He called Mr. Kushner “a great guy, a decent guy.”

In discussions with Mr. Trump about moving to the White House, Mr. Kelly also insisted that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, who is also a White House adviser, report to him. They both agreed, in part because they wanted to see Mr. Priebus ejected as quickly as possible, and in part because they recognized Mr. Trump’s presidency needed to be professionalized.

A lingering personnel question gave Mr. Kelly a chance to assert his position at the top of the West Wing. Aides said the ouster of Mr. Cohen-Watnick was intended as a show of confidence from Mr. Kelly to Mr. McMaster. Mr. Kushner did not object to the decision, and had conceded that Mr. McMaster was going to fire his friend three weeks ago, according to a person close to the Trump family.

Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, who has known Mr. Kelly for two decades, said the fact that the president agreed to have family members report to the new chief of staff was “a really important first step.”

“The question is, does it last?” he added. “But it sends a powerful signal to the rest of the people in the White House.”

Mr. Gates, who was also Mr. Kelly’s boss as defense secretary, recalled the times he sat with Mr. Kelly at the Pentagon across a small conference table once used by Jefferson Davis when he was secretary of war. Mr. Gates would tell Mr. Kelly what he was planning to do and Mr. Kelly would say, “You could do it that way.”

What that really meant, Mr. Gates said, was “that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my entire life.” Mr. Kelly would then offer another — often better — option, Mr. Gates said.

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Mr. Panetta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff before he went to the Pentagon, said he urged Mr. Kelly to buy a “big bottle of Scotch” when he agreed to take the job.

A White House spokeswoman did not know if he had gotten around to buying one yet, but said the new chief of staff preferred Irish whiskey.

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