Today’s Flynn Story: More Questions Than Answers

Stuff that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit together always catches a scientist’s eye. Today’s Michael Flynn story has caught my eye. There is a fairly straightforward story on the surface: Flynn had a business deal involving Russians. He is reported, by one whistleblower, to have texted a business associate during the inauguration to say that the sanctions on Russia would be coming off soon, so they would be able to make a gazillion dollars. The New York Times and NBC broke the story this morning, and Politico, McClatchy, and Reuters have followed.

If that is what Michael Flynn discussed with the Russians, it is at least dishonest, and probably illegal. Read More

Steele Dossier Claims Updated

In February, I published a breakdown of the claims in the Steele dossier in table form, so that they might be more amenable to analysis.

I have now updated that breakdown with material relevant to the claims. My objective is not to prove or disprove the material in the Steele dossier, but rather to provide evidence that has surfaced. What I have collected is not exhaustive, and it is more detailed for some claims than for others. I have used primarily major news sources.

Overall, there is much support for the claims of the dossier. Not surprisingly, there is much less information about interactions within the Kremlin than other claims. Other material that sometimes has been hailed as supporting the dossier’s claims does not fully connect all the parties or actions.

So here it is, a work in progress.

 

Top photo: Journalists outside Christopher Steele’s offices shortly after his identity was made public.

 

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.

Links – Thanksgiving 2017

I know very little about Zimbabwe’s politics, but these sources seem reliable.  Zimbabwe’s clean slate: What brought Mugabe down, and why he didn’t see it coming.  Robert Mugabe’s Inner Circle Implodes. It’s good to see that this hasn’t exploded into a civil war, but it’s not over yet.

Negotiate with North Korea, chapter 3745. Long read on how North Korea may be tracking its missile tests. It’s important to get as much data as possible out of each test, but there need to be receiving stations for the data. Top photo from here. Read More

Ruthenium-106 Over Europe

In September, a cloud of ruthenium-106 spread over Europe. Ruthenium-106 is used in nuclear medicine, and it is extracted from used nuclear reactor fuel. The amounts were tiny – one of the things about radioactive materials is that they can be detected at very, very low concentrations.

There are many atmospheric sampling stations around Europe, and their readings were mapped. The top graphic is the result. The center of the cloud was between the Ural Mountains and the Volga River. The amounts over Europe were not dangerous to health, but the amounts closer to the source might have been. Ruthenium was no longer detected in France after October 13. Read More

Weekend Links – November 11, 2017

With Trump today saying that he’ll take Vladimir Putin’s word over that of the US intelligence agencies, here’s a reminder of how Republicans used to talk about Russia and the Soviet Union.

Ruthenium-106, an isotope used in cancer therapy, was detected over Europe in September. The distribution measured suggests it came from the Mayak plant in Russia, where nuclear fuel is reprocessed. The amounts over Europe were not dangerous and have mostly gone below detection limits. Read More

Talking to North Korea

Donald Trump has said, a couple of times now, that he would sit down and negotiate with Kim Jong Un. But he has also said that North Korea must unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons before that will happen. Some of his advisors have said similar things. North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons in order to talk to the United States; working toward a freeze in its development of nuclear and missile technology would be a reasonable first goal for the United States, with nuclear disarmament a far future vision. Read More

Halloween Links

On Donald Trump and Russia: One of the better timelines I’ve seen derived from the Manafort/Gates indictments and the Papadopoulos plea. Profiles of people you will be hearing more about:

More than 90 American nuclear scientists say that we need to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place. An Iranian analyst says that Donald Trump requested a meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations meeting in September, but Rouhani turned him down. This has not been confirmed, but it’s something to watch for. Update (11/1/17): Confirmed by the State DepartmentRegime change probably wouldn’t end Iran’s nuclear program. Read More

Opposition Research From The Top

The New York Times has knowledge of some very interesting documents and conversations. The sources in this article are as noteworthy as the news.

The news is that the opposition research that Natalia Veselnitskaya brought to a June 2016 meeting with Trump campaign officials including Donald Jr. was coordinated with the Russian prosecutor general Yuriy Chaika. The allegations in that opposition research have now been endorsed at the highest Russian levels.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeated her charges at length last week at an annual conference of Western academics. A state-run television network recently made them the subject of two special reports, featuring interviews with Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Chaika.

The allegations are that that Ziff Brothers Investments, an American firm, evaded tens of millions of dollars of Russian taxes in an illegal Russian investment. Investors behind the company are major donors to Democratic candidates including Clinton. Ziff Brothers also invested in funds managed by William F. Browder, whom Russia has just accused of murder and sent a warrant for his arrest to Interpol, who rejected the warrant.

Browder was the driving force behind the Magnitsky act, named for a lawyer who worked for him and who died in a Moscow jail after exposing a Russian fraud scheme. The Magnitsky Act freezes the Western bank accounts of sanctioned Russian officials.

Max Bergmann, a former State Department official, points out that Devin Nunes and Fox are also currently pushing these allegations. He also points out the question of sources.

The key paragraph on sources is this one:

But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.

Which interviews and records are these? From a grand jury? From the Mueller investigation? From a Russian source? The last brings up the question of whether that source might be one of the sources for the Steele dossier.

If it is the last, that would be one more reason for the Trump camp to have mounted this week’s attack on the Steele dossier. And the uproar about the Uranium One sale, to cover this news.

 

Photo: Natalia Veselnitskaya, Getty Images, from the Times article

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.

The Nuclear Chain of Command

Donald Trump has been musing about nuclear war since the 1980s, and now he’s bringing our fears to life with his tweets against North Korea. Also, playing the role of a decisive and serious executive, he told the military back in July that he wanted to increase the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons back to the maximum we had during the Cold War. That seems to have been the trigger for Rex Tillerson to call him a moron. Tillerson wasn’t wrong.

As always with Trump, it’s a good idea to have the facts before us. So here are some.

A president launches nuclear missiles via an electronic briefcase (“the football”) that is always at his side, carried by a service member at the O4-O5 level. That’s a major – lieutenant colonel or lieutenant commander – commander. The services rotate, and both male and female service members have been in this role. One of them made the news back in the spring of this year when he allowed Mar-a-Lago patrons to take selfies with him. Their role is to be unobtrusive and to follow orders. Read More