News Releases

Foreign Influence in U.S. Politics

JONATHAN MARSHALLnewrelease17
He is an award-winning journalist and author of five books on international affairs and national security. Marshall has recently published a series of articles on the influence of foreign money in American politics, featured on ConsortiumNews. He states: “The combination of lax enforcement and tremendously high stakes — including billions of dollars in foreign aid, arms sales, and economic sanctions — has led to intense foreign lobbying in the United States, some of it financed with recycled U.S. aid.”

On Russia’s influence in American politics, Marshall writes: “Russia-gate has focused attention on requirements for U.S. citizens acting as ‘foreign agents’ to register with the Justice Department, but these rules have been sporadically or selectively enforced for decades.”

In “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets,” Marshall cites evidence that “the Saudi government now employs 14 lobbying firms, at an estimated cost of well over $1.3 million a month, more than it spent in all of 2000. Their hired guns include Podesta Group, co-founded by Tony Podesta, one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, and his brother John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s national campaign chairman in 2016; BGR Group, whose name partners include the former head of the Republican Party; and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi. …

“In its quest for influence,” Marshall adds, “Saudi Arabia takes no chances and spares no expense. Since the 1940s, when their country became an oil superpower, the Saudis have handed out vast sums of cash on a bipartisan basis to powerful and soon-to-be powerful Americans.”

On Israel’s influence in American politics Marshall states: “Unlike most other foreign lobbies, the pro-Israel lobby draws much of its strength from grass-roots support. With little organized opposition, it can influence Congress more readily than better-funded business lobbies that face stiff competition. However, the single biggest source of its power is not voters — only a tiny percentage make Israel their top political priority — but campaign funds.

“Hillary Clinton’s pandering to the pro-Israel lobby during the 2016 election — promising AIPAC that she would take relations with Israel ‘to the next level’ and that she would meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her first month in office — reflected her financial dependence on pro-Israel funders. Chief among them was billionaire donor Haim Saban, a hawkish Israeli-American who famously said, ‘I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.’”

However, Marshall also notes that: “As Israel pursues ever more extreme policies grounded in ethnic and religious nationalism, the pro-Israel lobby has become increasingly aligned with the Republican Party.”

Marshall’s articles also examine political lobbying by Turkey, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

Bombing Syria: * Impeachable * Carve-Up Agenda

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The New York Times reports: “Russia Warns U.S. After Downing of Syrian Warplane.”

This afternoon at the National Press Club, Joint Chiefs Chairman and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked a question submitted by the Institute for Public Accuracy: “What’s the legal justification for targeting Syrian government forces?” He claimed: “We are there and have legal justification under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, we are prosecuting a campaign against ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria.” See video.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “Gen. Dunford is totally incorrect. The AUMF passed after 9/11 has indeed been used to justify the bombing campaign purporting to target ISIS, but it cannot possibly be used to justify targeting the Syrian government. Those attacks are in fact clearly illegal and impeachable.

“Many have put forward dubious arguments for impeaching Trump — or arguments that they would never apply to a Democratic president. Similarly, some threatened Obama with impeachment and are not doing so now that Trump is engaging in exactly the activity they threatened Obama about. Hypocrisies and hypocrites abound.

“If we care about the rule of law, the most striking thing about Trump is his flagrant violation of the War Powers Clause of the Constitution in this targeting of the Syrian government. Now, the U.S. has been violating international law in terms of its drone assassination program and various bombing campaigns, like the one purporting to target ISIS in Syria. Many of these activities are justified by attempts to invoke the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the 9/11 attacks. A decade and a half after those attacks, that rationale is international legal nonsense, but it exists.

“In contrast, the targeting of forces of or allied with the Syrian government has no justification whatsoever. It is obviously impeachable — Obama’s people say they were afraid of impeachment for exactly this [see below]. But pro-war Democrats don’t raise it because it would put a constraint on the war-making capacities of the U.S. president — while they pretend to care about the rule of law.

“Many of the U.S. attacks on Syria have been around the so-called ‘de-confliction zones.’ These zones are de facto partitions of Syria in violation of its territorial sovereignty and political independence. This goes back at least to the Pentagon just after 9/11 telling retired General Wesley Clark that they wanted to target Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.

“Israeli strategic interests are obviously served by a breakup of Syria; as is the case for much of the U.S. establishment. The Saudis are clearly on board. The Russians, rhetoric aside, are likely simply looking for some scraps. The big losers are the Syrians and most of the other people of the region.”

See recent report in the Financial Times: “Syria de-escalation deal stirs fears of carve-up by foreign powers.” Also, see new report from the Wall Street Journal: “Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels.”

Earlier this year, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government:

Rhodes: “The only country in the world that was prepared to join us [in attacking the Assad government] was France. And we had no domestic legal basis. We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment.”

Politico: “Really? Was the prospect of impeachment actually a factor in your conversations?”

Rhodes: “That was a factor. Go back and read the letters from Boehner, letters from the Republican members of Congress. They laid down markers that this would not be constitutional.”

House Speaker John Boehner wrote to Obama in 2013: “It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

Boyle was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release in 2013 along with former Rep. Paul Findley: “* Key Author of War Powers Act: ‘Obama has no Authority to Attack Syria’ * Impeachment.”

Anti-Muslim Terrorism

newsrelease16The Washington Post reports, “A van plowed into a group of Muslim worshipers as they were leaving prayers at a pair of north London mosques early Monday, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others in what is being called a ‘terrorist attack.’ Witnesses said the driver of the vehicle was heard shouting that he wanted to kill Muslims.”

AP reported from Virginia about an attack that took place just hours before: “Muslim Teen Killed After Leaving Mosque.”

ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is an investigative reporter whose work has been published by the Washington Post, The Nation, and the Guardian. Recently, he wrote two articles on right-wing and anti-Islamic extremism for the Intercept, “Playing Cops: Militia Members Aids Police in Arresting Protester at Portland Alt-Right Rally” and Raw Story, “Anti-Sharia rallies brought out pro-Trump thugs — internet radicalized and spoiling for violence.”

He said today: “The killings in London and Virginia highlight the growing threat of far-right violence in the West. While the media obsessed last week over Bernie Sanders’ responsibility in the shooting of a Congressman, there have been no fewer than five murders linked to white supremacist and alt-right supporters since Donald Trump was elected. We see a pattern with these attacks. Government officials and news outlets are swift to label an attack carried out by a Muslim as terrorism, but they are slow to label attacks perpetrated by far-right extremists as terrorism, as shown by the London attack. In other instances, the attack is never called terrorism. That is the case of Jeremy Christian, the Portland-area man who allegedly knifed two men to death after they came to the aid of two women of color, one wearing a hijab, as Christian threatened and assaulted them. He was a known white supremacist and had been filmed at an alt-right rally weeks earlier throwing Nazi salutes and yelling, ‘Die Muslims,’ but that is apparently not enough evidence for the two murders to be investigated as or deemed a possible terror attack.

“While the victims of terrorism are spread across the population … it is Muslim communities that bear the brunt of terrorism, particularly in countries destabilized, bombed, or invaded by Western forces.

“There is evidence of a dramatic jump in hate crimes and incidents coming initially after Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015 and then again after he was elected in November 2016. While some individuals in the West carry out deadly attacks in the name of Islam, there are others who kill in the name of Christianity, white supremacy, racism, and Islamophobia. But usually only the former is labeled or even investigated as terrorism.”

Nader on Amazon Buying Whole Foods

The Verge reports: “Amazon is buying American supermarket chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, the online retail giant announced today. The acquisition is technically happening as part of a merger agreement that will see Amazon pick up the supermarket’s net debt and purchase its stock at $42 per share. The brick-and-mortar stores will continue to operate under the Whole Foods brand once the deal is complete, which is expected to happen later this year, but is subject to approval by regulators and the supermarket’s shareholders.”

RALPH NADER, @RalphNader
Nader is a consumer rights advocate, attorney, and former presidential candidate. His recent works include Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, and the 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed. Nader is not currently available for interviews.

Today his office released the following statement: “With every move of this Goliath, Amazon is inviting a thorough anti-trust investigation by the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission. This company is breaking records for destroying Main Street and hollowing out communities through such mechanisms as predatory pricing, and for many years in the past, avoiding state sales taxes.”

For more information, contact at the Center for Study of Responsive Law: Evan West, west at csrl.org

For background on Amazon, see: “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox

 

Va. Attack: Media Slamming Sanders, Ignoring Russia Obsessing

newsrelease15ADAM JOHNSON, ahubbardjohnson at gmail.com, @adamjohnsonnyc
Johnson just wrote the piece “With Sleazy Innuendo, NYT Lays Virginia Attack at Bernie Sanders’ Feet” for the media watch group FAIR.

Johnson writes: “New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor (6/14/17) started with a false premise and patched together a dodgy piece of innuendo and guilt-by-association in order to place the blame for a shooting in Virginia on ‘the most ardent supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders.’ …

“Left unmentioned in the piece were two entirely relevant pieces of context that would mitigate the burden of responsibility for Sen. Sanders and provide alternative theories of the crime. The first is Hodgkinson’s history of domestic violence — a common factor in most mass shootings (CounterSpin, 6/17/16). …

“The second — and perhaps most salient, given the tone of the piece — was Hodgkinson’s obsession with President Trump as a pro-Russian ‘traitor.’ His Facebook was filled with content calling Trump a ‘traitor,’ including a petition insisting ‘Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy’ and ‘It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.’

“Since Hodgkinson’s political leanings are being probed as somehow responsible for the shootings, it’s curious why the New York Times decided to highlight his pro-Sanders stance and not his obsession with Trump as treasonous pro-Russian agent — an accusation that Sanders has not aggressively pressed and, indeed, has sometimes been on the receiving end of. Why ‘Attack Tests Movement Sanders Founded’ and not ‘Attack Test Democrats’ Trump-as-Russian-Agent Inquiry’? Why note Hodgkinson’s support for Sanders but not his love for Rachel Maddow, more than half of whose show, one study found, is dedicated to the Russia/Trump story?

“The answer is that the former is easy — and convenient — to smear, whereas the latter implicates a whole host of powerful institutions: the Democratic leadership, most major media and, above all, the New York Times itself, which has published, and thus legitimized, the most extreme and irresponsible fringe of the Russia/Trump dot-connectors in the form of Louise Mensch (FAIR.org, 3/31/17).”

Islamophobia

SUE UDRY, sue at rightsanddissent.org, @defenddissent
Udry is executive director of Defending Rights and Dissent, a national civil liberties organization. The group just put out a release this morning: “Witnesses at Senate Raise Serious Concerns for Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Groups,” which states: “On Wednesday, June, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled ‘Ideology and Terror: Understanding the Tools, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism.’ …

“The HSGAC hearing is a thinly veiled attempt to bring the anti-Muslim protests staged in various cities over the past weekend into the Senate. HSGAC Chair, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), has invited Ayann Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and John Lenczowski to spew their oft-debunked theories of ‘creeping Sharia’ and a ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative that are the staple of the Islamophobia industry. Their written testimony submitted for the record does not address crime, violence, or terrorism, instead, all three assert that the real threat is law-abiding Muslims in our society.

“In giving a platform to these three, HSGAC is helping to fuel fear and suspicion of Muslims at a time when hate crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim are increasing.”

Congress Fails to Stop Arms to Saudi as it Bombs Yemen

newsrelease 14The Washington Times reports: “Senate preserves Trump arms deal with Saudi Arabia.” The vote was 53-47.

Rand Paul was a leading sponsor of the legislation against the arms sales. See video clips of his comments on Twitter and the full debate on C-SPAN.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818 Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-Canadian-American, is a doctoral candidate and instructor at Harvard University. See her interview on Public Radio International’s “The World”: “Will U.S. stop arming Saudi attackers in Yemen?”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org, @K8Gould Legislative representative for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Gould said today: “Despite the Saudi government and the world’s largest weapons manufacturers paying K Street lobbyists to descend on Capitol Hill, opposition to the Saudi-led war in Yemen is on the rise. Slick advertising and Saudi-funded lobbying campaigns did not get a slam dunk on the Senate floor. This is proof positive that grassroots citizen advocacy — whether in calls, emails, letters to the editor or visits with congressional offices –matters.

“This vote should mark the beginning, not the end, of congressional action to stop the bombardment and starvation of millions of Yemenis. Our nationwide network will be urging members of Congress to continue to press the Trump administration, the Saudi government and the world to end to the war and famine, and to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the crisis in Yemen. As a faith community, we categorically reject the Saudi strategy of starving civilians to gain leverage at the negotiating table.”

FCLN notes: “S.J.Res. 42, originally introduced by Senators Paul, Murphy and Franken, is a resolution of disapproval for the $550 million sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that replenishes stockpiles of weapons the kingdom is using in its war in Yemen.”

DUP Deal Highlights British Anti-Catholicism, Threatens Peace in Ireland

newsrelease13The British Independent reports: “Ireland’s Prime Minister Warns Theresa May Over Deal with DUP.” President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass — who was United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland — tweeted: “With DUP going into govt (which all but precludes govt role in talks) & Brexit, pol future of Northern Ireland suddenly highly uncertain.” Jonathan Powell, chief British negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007 recently wrote: “May’s Deal with the DUP Threatens 20 Years Hard Work in Ireland.”

While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was derided for alleged ties to “IRA terrorists” during the campaign, OpenDemocracy.net reports: “Theresa May’s new partners in government have strong historical links with Loyalist paramilitary groups.” The Washington Post reports in: “This minor party holds the trump cards in the British Parliament. What is the DUP?” that: “It is associated with anti-Catholic evangelical Protestantism.” Also see: “Orange Order asks DUP to put Drumcree March on Wishlist in May Talks.”

Fr. SEAN Mc MANUS, seanmcmanus6 at mac.com
Fr. Mc Manus is founder and president of the Irish National Caucus. He said today: “Theresa May making a deal with the DUP to buttress her minority government highlights the anti-Catholic basis of law in Britain that is continuously overlooked.

“If a person is not acutely aware the British government has used (since the Reformation) anti-Catholicism as one of its main weapons of oppression in Ireland, then that person is woefully ignorant of both Irish history and British history. And if one does not realize that anti-Catholicism is still deeply rooted in a significant section of the Unionist/Loyalist/Orange/Protestant community today, then that person does not understand the problem in Northern Ireland. Since the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, Unionist/Loyalist/Orange/Protestant leaders have made it perfectly clear that their allegiance is not just to the British Crown, but to ‘Protestant succession to the British throne’ — constitutionally mandated by the anti-Catholic section of the act of Settlement, 1701, that bars a Catholic from being monarch. And if one wishes to ignore or cover-up this state-sponsored sectarianism, then he/she loses all credibility — like ignoring if there were a provision in the United States constitution barring a black person from being president.

“But, it was not the Orange Order or the Unionist Party that enacted the Act of Settlement, which provides the ideological underpinnings of sectarianism and anti-Catholicism in the north — it was the British Parliament. Thus it is the British government that is ultimately responsible for the continuation of sectarianism and anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland — because both sectarianism and anti-Catholicism are enshrined, justified and mandated by the de facto British Constitution.”

Mc Manus is author of My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland … And The Holy Land. His articles include “The Orange Order Personification of Anti-Catholic Bigotry.”

Background: While British law mandates the monarch not be a Catholic, there’s no explicit prohibition regarding the prime minister. Still, Tony Blair converted to Catholicism only after leaving office. The Guardian reported in 2007: “Tony Blair has converted to Roman Catholicism, sources close to the former prime minister said today. … The move comes after years of speculation that Mr. Blair, whose wife Cherie and four children are Catholic, would convert from Anglicanism after he resigned as prime minister in June.”Also see: “After 30 years as a Closet Catholic, Blair Finally Puts Faith Before politics.”

In 2000, the Guardian newspaper tried and failed to change the Act of Settlement, 1701. See: “A Challenge to the Crown: Now is the Time for Change,” which stated: “The act, passed at a time of widespread fear of Catholics, lays down that only Protestant heirs of Princess Sophia, granddaughter of James I, may take the British throne. Neither Catholics, nor those who marry a Catholic, nor those born out of wedlock, may remain in the line of succession. The act remains the crucial cornerstone of the British constitution, exercising an extraordinary hold over the monarchy…”

The act was changed in 2013 to allow the monarch to marry a Catholic, see from Channel 4: “Can the Heir to the Throne Marry a Muslim? Or Another Man?”

“Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World”

5b308b2d015542708acb3be1b601d310-5b308b2d015542708acb3be1b601d310-0Huffington Post reports: “41 Human Rights Groups Urge Senate To Block Trump’s Saudi Arms Deal.” A Senate vote on the arms sale is currently expected Tuesday.

See from Ben Norton at AlterNet: “Emails Expose How Saudi Arabia and UAE Work the U.S. Media to Push for War.”

“Democracy Now” reports this morning: “Cholera Death Toll Tops 859 in War-Torn Yemen as U.S.-Backed Saudi Assault Continues.”

STEPHEN KINZER, kinzer.stephen at gmail.com, @stephenkinzer
Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and a columnist at the Boston Globe. He just wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World,” which states: “Saudi Arabia has been working for decades to pull Indonesia away from moderate Islam and toward the austere Wahhabi form that is state religion in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis’ campaign has been patient, multi-faceted, and lavishly financed. It mirrors others they have waged in Muslim countries across Asia and Africa.

“Successive American presidents have assured us that Saudi Arabia is our friend and wishes us well. Yet we know that Osama bin Laden and most of his 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and that, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a diplomatic cable eight years ago, ‘Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.’

“Recent events in Indonesia shine a light on a Saudi project that is even more pernicious than financing terrorists. Saudi Arabia has used its wealth, much of which comes from the United States, to turn entire nations into hotbeds of radical Islam. By refusing to protest or even officially acknowledge this far-reaching project, we finance our own assassins — and global terror.”

Kinzer spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. His books include Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq and most recently The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.

Left-Right Alliance to Break Up the Banks

bankersprinsForbes reports: “The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Financial CHOICE Act, a Republican-led financial reform effort aimed at rolling back the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, enacted under President Barack Obama.” The Washington Post reports: “Trump, who has complained about tight lending practices, has ordered three reviews of banking rules, the first of which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to deliver as soon as [this] week.”

NOMI PRINS, via Jaime Leifer, jaime.leifer at hbgusa.com, @nomiprins
Prins is a former Wall Street executive. Her books include All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She just wrote the piece: “Dear President Trump: Breaking Up (Banks) Isn’t So Hard to Do — Glass-Steagall or Another Economic Meltdown?” for Tom Dispatch.

She writes: “In 1933, when the Glass-Steagall Act was passed, it helped break up the biggest banks of the day and for good reason: they had had a major hand in triggering the most disastrous economic depression our country ever experienced. … It ensured that the investment bank and the commercial bank would no longer cohabit. …

“Then legislators, lobbyists, bankers, and regulators started to chisel away at the wall separating those two kinds of banks. By November 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act totally. The abusive marriages of gamblers and savers could once again be consummated. And who doesn’t remember the result: the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that led to taxpayer-funded bailouts, subsidies, loans, and sweetheart fraud-settlement deals. …

“Under President Obama, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law. The Act sought to limit the ability of big banks to trade the riskiest types of securities. Through inclusion of something called the ‘Volcker Rule,’ Dodd-Frank prohibited the trading of securities (even if with many loopholes). What it didn’t do was actually break up the big banks again. That meant another 1933 still awaited its moment.

“Then along came the bizarre 2016 presidential election campaign during which, strangely enough, Democrats and Republicans found one issue on which they had some common ground: the banking system. Key figures in both parties agreed that it was time to stop the investment bank and the commercial bank from commingling. Bernie Sanders ran on a campaign to break up the banks — and so did Donald Trump. At an October campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump even stated, ‘It’s time for a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall.’ …

“The Democratic National Committee platform offered a similar message. ‘Banks,’ it said, ‘should not be able to gamble with taxpayers’ deposits or pose an undue risk to Main Street.’ … The Republican National Committee wasted even fewer words making the point in their platform: ‘We support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which prohibits commercial banks from engaging in high-risk investment.’

Prins notes that when recently questioned on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin replied, ‘We never said we were in favor of Glass-Steagall. We said we were in favor of a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall. It couldn’t be clearer.’ Which, of course, couldn’t have been murkier. …

“Fortunately, current legislation is circulating in Congress that would promote the long-term stability of the financial system by restoring Glass-Steagall for real. H.R. 790 (‘Return to the Prudent Banking Act of 2017’) is one of two reinstatement bills in the House of Representatives. It has 50 co-sponsors from both parties and its passage is being spearheaded by Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.). The second bill, H.R. 2585, sponsored by Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), bears a close relationship to Senate bill S.881 (the ‘Twenty-First-Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2017’), sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and nine cosponsors including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell, and Angus King (I-Maine). Either of the bills, if enacted, would do the same thing: break up the banks.”

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