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US launches new sanctions against North Korea targeting dozens of shipping companies

President Donald Trump has called the new set of sanctions the “largest ever” targeting North Korea. The move comes as Trump’s daughter Ivanka is in South Korea for the end of the Winter Olympics.

A Hong Kong-flagged ship called the Lighthouse Winmore which allegedly violated UN sanctions by transferring oil to a North Korean vessel (picture-alliance/AP/Yonhap/H. Min-woo)

The US Treasury Department announced a new raft of sanctions on Friday in an attempt to target entities linked to North Korea’s shipping and trade sectors.

The latest sanctions are directed at one person, 27 shipping companies and 28 vessels, according to a statement posted by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Read moreNorth Korea earned $200 million from banned exports: UN

The sanctioned entities include companies with headquarters in North Korea, as well as ones based out of other countries, including China.

Watch video01:16

North Korea using Berlin to flout nuclear sanctions

Read moreUS claims North Korea canceled secret meeting at Winter Olympics with Mike Pence

US officials told the Reuters news agency that Washington had been speaking to partners in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan, South Korean and Singapore, over how to crack down on ships suspected of violating sanctions on the North.

The plan could see US Coast Guard ships deployed in the region to stop and search vessels.

Trump threatens phase two

South Korea welcomed the new round of sanctions.

“New US sanctions will alert those who are illegally trading with North Korea and therefore bolster the international community to carry out resolutions from the UN Security Council,” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said.

US President Donald Trump, who said the measures were “the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country,” appeared to threaten military action against North Korea if the sanctions failed.

“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go phase two,” Trump said. Without elaborating further, he added: “Phase two may be a very rough thing, may be very, very unfortunate for the world.”

Depriving the North

The sanctions are Washington’s latest attempt to cut off “illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on North Korea in the last year in order to deprive the reclusive state of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The most significant recent international round of sanctions (despite Trump’s “largest ever” claims on Friday) targeted supplies of oil in particular, although shipping companies were suspected of helping Pyongyang defy the limitations. Oil is a particularly precious commodity in a country without a reliable electricity grid, with rural businesses often reliant on generators for power.

Ivanka Trump meeting with Moon Jae-in

The latest US sanctions come just days before the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, with North Korean officials set to attend.

Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka, a senior adviser to the president, will also attend the closing ceremony. She held closed-door talks earlier on Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Read moreNobel Peace Prize for Korean hockey team?

Trump said she would use her presence at the end of the Olympics to emphasize the US commitment to a “maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized.”

Watch video02:00

North Korea invites South Korean president to Pyongyang

In a possible attempt to reassure Washington, Moon said that South Korea was the “last” country that would be willing to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear state. He added that any talks about improving relations between the two countries must also include talks on nuclear disarmament.

Read moreMajority of South Koreans favor North Korea ‘friendship’

Moon praised the Winter Olympics for helping to open up dialoguebetween the countries, which are still technically at war.

“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games has served as an opportunity for us to engage in active discussions between the two Koreas and this has led to lowering of tensions on the peninsula and an improvement in inter-Korean relations,” Moon said.

South Korea’s Presidential Blue House said that there were no official opportunities for the US and North Korean officials to meet, suggesting that a run-in between Pyongyang’s delegation and Ivanka Trump was unlikely.

amp,dm,rs/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Trump administration to open U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May. Palestinians criticize move as illegal and irresponsible

Trump administration to open U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May. Palestinians criticize move as illegal and irresponsible
A view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Oded Balilty / Associated Press)

 

Accelerating controversial plans, the Trump administration will open a small U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, a State Department official said Friday.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved preliminary security plans for a limited contingent, including the ambassador, David Friedman, and a skeleton staff, to move into a section of the American Consulate in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem, said Steven Goldstein, the under-secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

“The goal is to open a small footprint in May, and, over time, open a more full embassy by the end of 2019,” Goldstein said in an interview.

The May 14 date — the date Israel originally declared independence — significantly accelerates the schedule for transferring the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, where it always existed along with the rest of the world’s diplomatic missions, to the disputed holy city of Jerusalem. (According to the Hebrew calendar, Independence Day this year will be celebrated on April 18.)

President Trump in December announced he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordering the embassy transfer, reversing decades of U.S. and international policy and enraging the Arab world and many allies.

While Israel claims Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, Palestinians also claim the eastern part of the city as their capital in a future independent state.

The status of Jerusalem was to be decided in final peace talks. The Palestinians now contend that the U.S., once the broker of such talks, has disqualified itself as a mediator by taking Israel’s side.

The move has been celebrated in Israel, which has long had its ministries, parliament and government offices in Jerusalem. But it generated a wave of furious, weekly protests in Palestinian territories.

Vice President Mike Pence, visiting Jerusalem last month, gave the first sign that the embassy transfer was being accelerated, when he announced to the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, that the move would take place by the end of 2019.

U.S. officials say the 2019 deadline would see a substantial annex of the consulate in Jerusalem becoming the embassy. A new building to house a full embassy, however, will still take several years to establish, the officials said.

Israel Katz, the Israeli minister of intelligence, congratulated the Trump administration in a tweet Friday. “There is no greater gift than that!” he said. “The most just and correct move.”

Majdi Khaldi, diplomatic advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, decried the “unfortunate announcement” that he described as “illegal, irresponsible and unacceptable to Palestinians.”

Trump’s move, Khaldi said in an interview, “gave the Israelis a pretext to say that Jerusalem is unified under Israeli rule,” contravenes international law and will impede peace efforts.

“It cancels any peace offer,” Khaldi said.

Trump, speaking at the White House on Friday alongside visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, reiterated a claim he has made that his administration is making “great progress” on promoting peace in the Middle East. Several former ambassadors to Israel say, in fact, peace has never been further away.

Jerusalem, a 6,000-year-old city, was divided for 19 years, from the date of Israel’s 1948 founding until the war of 1967, when Israel seized the eastern half of the city from Jordan.

The embassy move is scheduled to take place on the date marking Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, which Palestinians call Naqba Day, or the day of the catastrophe.

State Department lawyers, meanwhile, were examining whether it is legal to accept private donations to fund a diplomatic mission, following a proposal by Las Vegas casino magnate and pro-Israel hawk Sheldon Adelson to pay for the new embassy.

Adelson is a major contributor to the Republican Party, a loyal supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owner of a popular tabloid in Israel. Trump’s Jerusalem decision was seen in part as a gesture to Adelson as well as to evangelical Christians, a key component of the president’s base of political support.

However, Goldstein said there were “no formal talks” between the State Department and any private citizen for financing the embassy, and no formal requests made to the State Department for such an arrangement.

Trump has promised the “ultimate deal,” a final agreement on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and placed the negotiations under the direction of his 37-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

None of the parties to possible future negotiations, however, has seen any part of the plan that the Trump administration periodically declares is imminent, and the Palestinian Authority cut off all contact with the United States following Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.

Daniel Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Obama, agrees that the embassy belongs in Jerusalem but that the Trump administration has failed to give the proper assurances especially to the Palestinians.

“Before May 14, the administration should do what it failed to do in December: describe this decision in the context of a broader, credible plan for two states, including a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem,” Shapiro said.

Staff writer Wilkinson reported from Washington and special correspondent Tarnopolsky from Jerusalem.

tracy.wilkinson@latimes.com

Courtesy: L A Times

Rick Gates, former top campaign aide to Trump, pleads guilty in Russia investigation

Rick Gates, former top campaign aide to Trump, pleads guilty in Russia investigation
Former Trump aide Rick Gates, left, and his lawyer, Tom Green, depart the federal courthouse in Washington on Feb. 14. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

 

Richard W. Gates III, who helped lead President Trump’s campaign after making millions of dollars advising Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin government, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy against the United States and lying to the FBI, becoming the latest former Trump aide to admit wrongdoing in the sprawling Russia investigation.

He is expected to face about 18 months in prison under terms of a plea deal and has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The plea, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is unusual because it indicates that Gates lied to Mueller’s team and the FBI as recently as Feb. 1, when he already was negotiating with prosecutors about the raft of criminal charges he was facing.

Gates, 45, is the fifth person to plead guilty in the Mueller probe, and the first to confess to more than one criminal charge.

The development comes a day after Mueller filed a new indictment with 32 charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and other allegations against Gates and his former business partner, Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign manager for three months in 2016, including at the tumultuous Republican National Convention.

Gates, who served as Manafort’s deputy, is expected to testify against Manafort if his case goes to trial. It’s not clear what else he can provide prosecutors, but Gates continued to serve as a senior advisor to the Trump campaign after Manafort stepped down in August 2016, helped organize Trump’s inauguration, and had access to the White House as an outside advisor in the early weeks of the administration.

None of the charges against Gates and Manafort cite Russian meddling in the presidential election, which was the impetus for Mueller’s investigation, but the alleged tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy extended through 2017 and thus overlapped with the pair’s work in the top ranks of the Trump campaign, according to court documents.

In a statement Friday, Manafort continued to assert his innocence.

“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” he wrote. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

Gates’ guilty plea marks an emphatic fall for the married father of four. The son of a career Army officer, Gates had maintained an appearance of wealthy prestige while living in an upscale neighborhood of Richmond, Va.

The Times reported Sunday that Gates was about to plead guilty in a deal negotiated by his lawyer, Thomas C. Green, and two prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres, who serve on Mueller’s team.

A person familiar with the negotiated plea said Gates can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the special counsel’s investigation. If Gates were convicted of all the earlier charges, he could have faced years in prison.

Before Gates appeared with Green to formally admit his guilt, he had become briefly distraught at taking that final step, according to people familiar with the case. However, as of Wednesday, Gates assured Green that he would stand behind the negotiated deal, a person involved with the investigation said.

The charge of lying to the FBI stems from his account of a dinner discussion on March 19, 2013, between Manafort and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), who has been a strong advocate for better U.S. relations with Russia.

Three weeks ago, as he was negotiating his plea deal, Gates told the FBI that Manafort and an unnamed lobbyist had told him they didn’t talk to Rohrabacher about Ukraine.

But, according to a court filing Friday, Gates had helped Manafort prepare a report that “memorialized for Ukraine leadership the pertinent Ukraine discussions that Manafort represented had taken place at the meeting.”

Last year, Manafort and Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and a partner in the Mercury Public Affairs firm in Washington, filed belated reports to the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, listing the Rohrabacher meeting as part of their lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine government interests.

Rohrabacher acknowledged to The Times last year that he had discussed Russian and regional issues at what he called “a nice little dinner” at the Capitol Hill Club. Three days after the meeting, Manafort contributed $1,000 to Rohrabacher’s reelection campaign.

Rohrabacher declined to comment when contacted by a reporter on Friday. “I can’t do any interviews off the cuff,” he said, before hanging up. Weber and Mercury Public Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs said Friday that Ukraine only came up “in passing” because the men “reminisced and talked mostly about politics.”

“As the congressman has acknowledged before, the meeting was a dinner with two longtime acquaintances — Manafort and Weber — from back in his White House and early congressional days,” Grubbs said in an email. “It is no secret that Manafort represented [former Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine. We may only speculate that Manafort needed to report back to his client that Ukraine was discussed.”

The Podesta Group, a firm with high-level Democratic connections, also last year reported doing lobbying work for the Ukraine interests under Manafort’s direction. Tony Podesta, whose brother John Podesta was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, left the firm after the initial indictment of Manafort and Gates last year.

Gates and Manafort initially were charged with a dozen counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in October, and they pleaded not guilty to those charges.

In the latest indictment, prosecutors painted a detailed picture of how Manafort and Gates used offshore accounts to stash millions of dollars and illegally funneled the money into the United States to purchase real estate and finance luxury lifestyles.

Their income dried up after political unrest forced Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, to flee to Russia in 2014, and the indictment says they turned to fraud to obtain more than $20 million in loans.

The special counsel’s office has proved adept at securing cooperation from top figures in Trump’s orbit.

Former White House national security advisor Michael T. Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 to lying to investigators about his communications with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition. He admitted to discussing sanctions that former President Obama had implemented to punish Moscow for meddling in the campaign.

There have been other guilty pleas as well.

George Papadopoulos, a former campaign foreign policy advisor, pleaded guilty to lying last year. He had falsely denied contacts with Russians who claimed to have “thousands of emails” on Hillary Clinton,

In addition, Alex van der Zwaan, a former lawyer at a prominent law firm who worked on a report on behalf of Ukraine’s pro-Russia government, pleaded guilty on Tuesday. He lied to investigators about his communications with Gates.

Times correspondent Sarah D. Wire contributed to this story.

Twitter: @chrismegerian

 

Courtesy: L A Times

White House locked down after vehicle strikes security barrier

White House locked down after vehicle strikes security barrier
A Secret Service officer rushes past reporters after a vehicle rammed into a security barrier near the White House on Friday in Washington, D.C. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

 

The White House is on lockdown Friday after a passenger vehicle struck a security barrier.

The U.S. Secret Service tweets that the vehicle “did not breach the security barrier of the White House complex.”

The agency adds that the female driver of the vehicle was “immediately apprehended.”

Witnesses saw a commotion on the White House grounds as security officers responded.

President Trump is hosting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the White House. Turnbull is remaining at the White House as the incident is being investigated.

The Secret Service says no law enforcement personnel were injured in the incident.

Courtesy: L A Times

Mueller charges Manafort & Gates with laundering over $30mn in Ukraine lobbying income

Mueller charges Manafort & Gates with laundering over $30mn in Ukraine lobbying income
US special counsel Robert Mueller has filed a new indictment against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, which appears unrelated to the 2016 US presidential election.

The 32-count indictment filed on Thursday at the federal court in Washington, DC charges Manafort and Gates with laundering more than $30 million in funds they earned from lobbying work in Ukraine, which ended in 2014.

Other charges include sixteen counts of fraudulent individual tax returns, as well as failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and misrepresenting more than $10 million in income, from Cyprus-based companies, as loans.

An federal a grand jury in Virginia has filed a 32-count indictment charging ex-Trump campaign chiefs Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III with federal tax and bank fraud allegations.

Mueller’s original indictment against Manafort and Gates, filed in October 2017, contained twelve counts, seven of which were “failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.” The rest referred to money-laundering, tax evasion and false or misleading Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) statements.

Manafort and Gates worked as lobbyists for various governments in Ukraine from 2006 to 2015 and conspired to shield the income derived from the work from being taxed by the US government, according to the indictment.

“In total, more than $75,000,000 flowed through the offshore accounts. MANAFORT, with the assistance of GATES, laundered more than $30,000,000, income that he concealed from the United States Department of the Treasury (Treasury), the Department of Justice, and others,” the indictment reads.

Gates himself was accused of obtaining $3 million from the offshore accounts, and of concealing them from Treasury.

President Donald Trump has maintained that charges against Manafort and Gates have nothing to do with his campaign, which Manafort managed between June and August of 2016.

Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed special counsel in May 2017, after Trump fired James Comey from the FBI top job and Democrats accused him (Trump) of obstructing the probe into their claims that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

A grand jury in Virginia has filed a 32-count indictment charging ex-Trump campaign chiefs Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III with federal tax and bank fraud allegations.

Courtesy: RT

Major biblical discovery: Archaeologists may have found the Prophet Isaiah’s ‘signature’

Archaeologists in Israel say that they have found a clay seal mark that may bear the signature of the Biblical Prophet Isaiah.

The 2,700-year-old stamped clay artifact was found during an excavation at the foot of the southern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. In ancient times a seal stamp, or bulla, was used to authenticate documents or items.

“We found the eighth-century B.C.E. seal mark that may have been made by the prophet Isaiah himself only 10 feet away from where we earlier discovered the highly-publicized bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah,” said Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in a statement.

MYSTERIOUS POOL AND FOUNTAIN DISCOVERED AT ANCIENT CHRISTIAN SITE IN ISRAEL

Dr. Mazar led the team that the found the seal mark linked to the Biblical prophet. The artifact was found among undisturbed Iron Age remains outside an ancient royal bakery.

Dinant, Belgium - October 16, 2011: Stained glass window depicting the prophet Isaiah in the cathedral of Dinant, Belgium.

Stained glass window depicting the prophet Isaiah in the cathedral of Dinant, Belgium. (iStock)  (Jorisvo)

The half-inch wide oval-shaped piece of clay is inscribed with the name Yesha’yah[u] (Isaiah) in ancient Hebrew script. This is followed by the word nvy, the end of which is slightly damaged. As a result, experts do not know whether the word ended with the Hebrew letter aleph. That letter “would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” explained Dr. Mazar. “The absence of this final letter, however, requires that we leave open the possibility that it could just be the name Navi.”

“The name of Isaiah, however, is clear,” she added.

DRONE FINDS MYSTERIOUS ANCIENT STRUCTURE AT ISRAELI MILITARY TRAINING GROUND

Isaiah’s close relationship with King Hezekiah is described in the Bible’s Second Book of Kings.

“If it is the case that this bulla is indeed that of the prophet Isaiah, then it should not come as a surprise to discover this bulla next to one bearing King Hezekiah’s name given the symbiotic relationship of the prophet Isaiah and King Hezekiah described in the Bible,” said Dr. Mazar.

The seal mark is just the latest fascinating archaeological in Israel. Earlier this month, for example, experts revealed that they had uncovered a rare multicolored Roman mosaic featuring three toga-wearing figures during excavations in the ancient city of Caesarea.

ANCIENT INSCRIPTION UNEARTHED IN JERUSALEM, THRILLING ARCHAEOLOGISTS

In January, archaeologists announced the discovery of a large 1,500-year-old pool and elaborate fountain at the site of an ancient church near Jerusalem.

Last November, new evidence dated Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Roman era, matching historical records.

Archaeologists also uncovered a stunning 1,500-year-old Christian mosaic in the ancient Mediterranean coastal city of Ashdod-Yam, now part of the modern city of Ashdod.

LOST ROMAN CITY THAT WAS HOME TO JESUS’ APOSTLES FOUND, SAY ARCHAEOLOGISTS

Other finds include the skeleton of a pregnant woman, dating back 3,200 years, in Israel’s Timna Valley, at a place once called King Solomon’s Mines.

In October 2017, archaeologists in Jerusalem announced that they have uncovered a new section of the Western Wall that has been hidden for 1,700 years.

Also in 2017 an ancient Greek inscription was found on a 1,500-year-old mosaic floor near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Some experts also believe they have found the lost Roman city of Julias, formerly the village of Bethsaida, which was the home of Jesus’ apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.

A paper describing the discovery of the ancient seal that may be linked to the Prophet Isaiah has been published in the Biblical Archaeology Review.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Courtesy: Fox News

Judge Andrew Napolitano: Mueller’s Russian indictments are only the beginning – Americans could be next

Last Friday, a federal grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C., indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian corporations for conspiracy and for using false instruments and computer hacking so as to influence the American presidential election in 2016. The indictment alleges a vast, organized and professional effort, funded by tens of millions of dollars, whereby Russian spies passed themselves off as Americans on the internet, on the telephone and even in person here in the U.S. to sow discord about Hillary Clinton and thereby assist in the election of Donald Trump.

Though an indictment is a charge only, it presumably relies on hard evidence of a wide and deep Russian project — so wide and so deep that it could only have been approved and paid for by the Kremlin. President Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, characterized the allegations in the indictment as “incontrovertible.” The New York Times reported over the weekend that its Russian sources have now revealed that more than 1,000 people in Russia were involved for over three years.

The project was run out of an office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, which also houses the Kremlin’s favorite caterer, a company owned by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close friends. The techniques outlined in the indictment include using false and fictitious names, bank accounts and websites; organizing rallies and marches in the U.S.; making thousands of phony web posts; and aggressively revealing embarrassing data about Clinton.

The Russian work even included the orchestration of a few pro-Clinton rallies so as to deflect suspicion away from all these new pro-Trump entities that appeared to have come out of nowhere.

Though Donald Trump told folks as far back as 2011 of his interest in running for president and though Clinton ran in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and 2016, as well as in the general election in 2016, the Russian scheme appears to have materialized at some point in 2014.

It is a felony for foreign nationals to participate in American federal elections, and it is a felony for any Americans knowingly to assist them.

The dates are important because we know from the revelations of Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency, the federal government’s domestic spying apparatus, began its pursuit of capturing all electronic data on everyone in the U.S. in 2001 and succeeded in mastering the capture of all keystrokes, telephone calls and digital traffic by 2005. We also know that the NSA traffic proceeds through FBI computers and that the CIA keeps constant tabs on Russian spies in Russia and elsewhere.

Why didn’t the CIA or the NSA or the FBI pick this up?

That is the $64,000 question that the indictment does not address, and we may never know the answer to it. If the purpose of all the warrantless spying — in direct contravention of the Constitution, no less — is to keep the country safe from foreign assault, whether by bombs in a subway or by guns in an office building or by hacking into computers, why didn’t our 60,000 domestic, and God only knows how many foreign, spies catch this Russian interference?

One answer is information overload. By spying on everyone all the time, the spies have too much data through which to sift, and they miss the evidence of coming terror — just as they did with the killings in Orlando, in San Bernardino, at the Boston Marathon, on a New York bike path and even recently at a school in Florida, all of which were preceded by internet chatter that would have tipped off a trained listener to the plans of the killers.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts to uncover the Russian interference are not a “hoax” or a “witch hunt” as President Trump has argued. They are serious and professional efforts that have now borne fruit. But Mueller was not appointed until after the election — after the Russians ran unchecked through our computer systems and the American marketplaces of ideas.

The joke in the D.C. legal community this week is, “We all want a front-row seat at the arraignments of the Russians.” That’s a joke because a defendant must be physically present at his arraignment, meaning — since the Kremlin will surely not send its indicted spies here — no arraignments will occur. And no trials will occur.

These folks the grand jury indicted could be lured to other countries and arrested or even kidnapped there, but that would be very dangerous and would most likely invite violent retaliation. Even if these defendants ended up in a federal courtroom by murky or illegal means, that would not impair their prosecution.

However, because the American intelligence community has done similar “disinformation” projects in foreign countries (though not on this scale), these defendants and these indictments will go nowhere.

That leaves a question: Why would Mueller seek indictments of folks he knows he cannot prosecute?

He did so for a few reasons. One was to reveal the scope of the unlawful activity that he has found. The American people are entitled to know what went on under our noses and who knew about this and looked the other way. As well, this indictment gives credibility to Mueller’s work.

The other reason for the indictment is to smoke out any American collaborators. He has identified American collaborators, but not by proper name, and the Department of Justice has said — not in the indictment, in which case it would be bound by what it says, but in a press statement, which binds no one — that the American collaborators were unwitting dupes of the Russians. My guess is that Mueller’s American targets are under electronic and visual surveillance and that he is listening to their (premature) sighs of relief.

It is a felony for foreign nationals to participate in American federal elections, and it is a felony for any Americans knowingly to assist them.

This is not the end of these indictments related to the 2016 election. It is the beginning.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

Courtesy: Fox News

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