Trump- July – Oct 2018

(CNN)President Donald Trump, facing scrutiny for hush money payments to a porn star and a former Playboy model, pleaded with evangelical leaders for political help during closed-door remarks on Monday, warning of dire consequences to their congregations should Republicans lose in November’s midterm elections.

“This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It’s a referendum on so much,” Trump told the assemblage of pastors and other Christian leaders gathered in the State Dining Room, according to a recording from people in the room.
“It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence,” Trump said, describing what would happen should his voters fail to cast ballots. “The level of hatred, the level of anger is very unbelievable.”
Evangelicals have provided a solid block of support for Trump, even amid the scandals involving alleged sexual affairs. After news of those purported encounters emerged, his standing among white evangelicals did not slip. But inviting the leaders to the White House only days after the President was newly implicated by his longtime personal lawyer’s guilty plea underscored the degree to which Trump is trying to keep his supporters on his side.
“You have to hopefully get out and get people to support us,” Trump said. “If you don’t, that will be the beginning of ending everything that you’ve gotten.”
Trump will need to maintain that support if he hopes to help Republicans stay in power on Capitol Hill or win re-election himself in 2020. On Monday, he touted the steps he’s taken to promote religious liberty, such as loosening restrictions on political speech from the pulpit, which previously could jeopardize religious institutions’ tax-exempt status.
The remarks from an attendee’s recording offered a more dire view of the upcoming vote than Trump has projected in public. He often trumpets an upcoming “red wave” of Republican victories, downplaying suggestions that Democrats are poised to exploit his divisiveness and retake the House or Senate.
Trump didn’t mention a “red wave” on Monday, instead acknowledging that midterms often present new presidents with a turnout challenge.
“The polls might be good, but a lot of them say they are going to vote in 2020, but they’re not going to vote if I’m not on a ballot,” he said. “I think we’re doing well, I think we’re popular, but there’s a real question as to whether people are going to vote if I’m not on the ballot. And I’m not on the ballot.”
That’s a problem Trump said the evangelical leaders could help solve by galvanizing their congregations and followers to vote.
“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote. Because if they don’t — it’s November 6 — if they don’t vote, we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time,” he said.
“You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve gotten,” he added. “Little thing: Merry Christmas, right? You couldn’t say ‘Merry Christmas.’ ”   Source
August 3, 2018
Report: Trump commission did not find widespread voter fraud
PORTLAND, Maine — The now-disbanded voting integrity commission launched by the Trump administration uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud, according to an analysis of administration documents released Friday.In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who are both Republicans and led the commission, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the documents show there was a “pre-ordained outcome” and that drafts of a commission report included a section on evidence of voter fraud that was “glaringly empty.”“It’s calling into the darkness, looking for voter fraud,” Dunlap, a Democrat, told The Associated Press. “There’s no real evidence of it anywhere.”Republican President Donald Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election after making unsubstantiated claims that between 3 million and 5 million ballots were illegally cast. Critics, including Dunlap, reject his claims of widespread voter fraud.The Trump administration last month complied with a court order to turn over documents from the voting integrity commission to Dunlap. The commission met just twice and has not issued a report.

Dunlap’s findings received immediate pushback Friday from Kobach, who acted as vice-chair of the commission while Pence served as chair.

“For some people, no matter how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit that there’s a problem,” said Kobach, who is running for Kansas governor and has a good chance of unseating the incumbent, Jeff Colyer, in the Republican primary Tuesday.

“It appears that Secretary Dunlap is willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” Kobach said in a statement released by his spokesman.

Kobach said there have been more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, and that the commission presented 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election in 20 states.

“Had the commission done the same analysis of all 50 states, the number would have been exponentially higher,” Kobach said.

In response, Dunlap said those figures were never brought before the commission, and that Kobach hasn’t presented any evidence for his claims of double voting. He said the commission was presented with a report claiming over 1,000 convictions for various forms of voter misconduct since 1948.

Pence’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Dunlap said he is unsure whether the administration has released all relevant documents, and said the matter is in litigation. He said he was repeatedly rebuffed when he sought access to commission records including meeting materials, witness invitations and correspondence.

He released his findings on a website.   Source



July 13, 2018
Where Did Donald Trump Get Two Hundred Million Dollars to Buy His Money-Losing Scottish Golf Club?

Between meeting the Queen of England and Vladimir Putin, President Trump will spend this weekend at Turnberry, the golf course he bought in 2014 and rechristened Trump Turnberry. This property has not received the attention it deserves. It is, by far, the biggest investment the Trump Organization has made in years. It is so much bigger than his other recent projects that it would not be unreasonable to describe the Trump Organization as, at its core, a manager of a money-losing Scottish golf course that is kept afloat with funds from licensing fees and decades-old real-estate projects.

No doubt, the President will be excited to visit. After buying the property for more than sixty million dollars, he then spent a reported hundred and fifty million pounds—about two hundred million dollars total—remaking the site, adding a new course, rehabbing an old one, and fixing up the lodgings. It is possible, though, that he will have some harsh words for his staff. The Turnberry has been losing an astonishing amount of money, including twenty-three million dollars in 2016. The Trump Organization argued that these losses were the result of being closed for several months for repair. However, revenue for the months it was open were so low—about $1.5 million per month—that it is hard to understand how the property will ever become profitable, let alone so successful that it will pay back nearly three hundred million dollars in investment and losses.

This is the first edition of a weekly column in which I hope to expose, explore, and analyze the financial activity of our President and his associates—including his family, his political appointees, and business partners—and make the case for greater transparency. We know, of course, that the Trump Organization has worked with some truly questionable business associates, that it has run afoul of anti-money-laundering laws, and that its most high-profile business expansion—a line of three- and four-star hotels—has all but collapsed. But, for all the coverage of Trump’s finances, there is so much we just don’t know. And Trump Turnberry offers a tantalizing and maddeningly incomplete glimpse into the ways in which our President makes and spends money.

President Trump has proclaimed himself the “king of debt,” a proud master of “doing things with other people’s money.” So it was quite surprising when Jonathan O’ConnellDavid A. Fahrenthold, and Jack Gillum revealed in a Washington Post story in May that Trump had abruptly shifted strategies and begun spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund projects. In the nine years before he ran for President, the Post reported, the Trump Organization spent more than four hundred million dollars in cash on new properties—including fourteen transactions paid in full. In fifteen years, he bought twelve golf courses (ten in the U.S., one in Ireland, and a smaller one in Scotland), several homes, and a winery and estate in Virginia, and he paid for his forty-million-dollar share of the cost of building the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.—a property leased to Trump by the U.S. government. But his largest cash purchase was the Turnberry, followed by tens of millions of dollars in additional cash outlays for rehabbing the property.

Using what appears to be more than half of the company’s available cash to purchase Trump Turnberry makes no obvious sense for any business person, but especially for Donald Trump. It is a bizarre, confounding move that raises questions about the central nature of his business during the years in which he prepared for and then executed his Presidential campaign.

While Trump has portrayed himself as uniquely aggressive in his use of debt, borrowing money is central to any real-estate business. By borrowing money, developers increase their profits when successful, reduce their losses when they fail, and are able to diversify their holdings to increase the likelihood of success. By 2014, Trump was seen by lenders as a high-risk bet because he had so many bankruptcies and so few successful projects. But, if he had used the three hundred million dollars he spent on Turnberry as a pledge, he could have surely received several hundred million in loans at a competitive rate. With, say, a billion dollars total, he could have invested in projects around the world. Instead, he chose to put nearly all of his available cash in an old, underperforming course in a remote corner of Scotland.

We know so little about the internal finances of the Trump Organization’s activities elsewhere that it is hard to understand where all of the money spent on Turnberry came from. Through the public disclosures required of someone running for and becoming President, many media outlets have tried to re-create a model for Trump’s business, recognizing that, by his own frequent admission, he often exaggerates his worth. Forbes came up with a figure of a net worth of just over three billion dollars, with less than two hundred million in available cash. This is an astonishing sum, of course.

However, the portfolio of assets that Trump owns does not suggest that he would have so much money that he can casually spend a few hundred million on a whim. Much of his wealth is tied up in properties that lose money or are not especially profitable. A comprehensive analysis by the Wall Street Journal, in 2016, concluded that Trump brought in about a hundred and sixty million dollars in income a year. (“The income number is wrong by a lot,” Trump said, though he provided no details.) With that money, Trump had to pay for his business, his taxes (if he paid any), his personal life style, and that of his family. His Boeing 757 alone cost more than ten thousand dollars per hour of use, not to mention the dozens of staffers at his various properties, the clothes and food and jewelry of a status-conscious family, and countless other expenses that could easily eat up all of that income. There simply isn’t enough money coming into Trump’s known business to cover the massive outlay he spent on Turnberry.

In congressional testimony, Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Christopher Steele to report out the document that became known as the Steele dossier, wondered aloud if the money really was Trump’s. If so, why would he have spent it in this location and not elsewhere? (A recent report by R&A, the world’s leading golf organization, shows that there is far more opportunity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—where golf is growing quickly—than in Scotland, the country most oversupplied with courses, clubs, and resorts.)

We don’t know. We can’t, until we learn far more about Trump’s internal finances. It can’t be dismissed, out of hand, that there is an innocent explanation for the Trump Turnberry purchase. Eric Trump told the Post that Trump had “incredible cash flow,” and that none of the cash used to purchase the fourteen properties in full came from outside investors or from selling off other assets. Perhaps Trump actually did make far more than we know. Perhaps he sees something in the business of golf that others have missed, and he has a vision for how to turn the money-losing property into a thriving concern. Or, as some have suggested, he may have become sentimental and wanted a deeper connection to his mother’s Scottish roots.

There is another way to view the investment in Trump Turnberry. Even before the financial crisis of 2008, Trump found it increasingly difficult to borrow money from big Wall Street banks and was shut out of the rapidly growing pool of institutional investment. Faced with a cash-flow problem, he could have followed other storied New York real-estate families and invested in the ever more rigorous financial-due-diligence capabilities required by pension funds and other sources of real-estate capital. This would have given him access to a pool of trillions of dollars from investors.

Instead, Trump turned to a new source of other people’s money. He did a series of deals in Toronto, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, and Georgia with businesspeople from the former Soviet Union who were unlikely to pass any sort of rigorous due-diligence review by pension funds and other institutional investors. (Just this week, the Financial Times published a remarkably deep dive into the questionable financing of Trump’s Toronto property.) He also made deals in India, Indonesia, and Vancouver, Canada, with figures who have been convicted or investigated for criminal wrongdoing and abuse of political power.

We know very little about how money flowed into and out of these projects. All of these projects involved specially designated limited-liability companies that are opaque to outside review. We do know that, in the past decade, wealthy oligarchs in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere have seen real-estate investment as a primary vehicle through which to launder money. The problem is especially egregious in the United Kingdom, where some have called the U.K. luxury real-estate industry “a money laundering machine.” Golf has been a particular focus of money laundering. Although the U.K. has strict transparency rules for financial activity within the country, its regulators have been remarkably incurious about the sources of funds coming from firms based abroad. All we know is that the money that went into Turnberry, for example, came from the Trump Organization in the U.S. We—and the British authorities—have no way of knowing where the Trump Organization got that money.

The goal of laundering money is to take the proceeds of a criminal activity—government corruption, tax fraud, drug trade, or many others—and to disguise its origin. Many oligarchs in the former Soviet Union who made their money by expropriating the state’s wealth want to move their money into a more stable nation with greater rule of law. This presents a challenge: How can one insert illegally obtained funds into a system that requires due diligence? The answer, quite often, is to use shell companies to disguise the flow of funds. Although we cannot say that Trump himself knowingly engaged in money laundering, we do know with certainty that much of his business in the past decade was in the industries most known for money laundering, in the locations most conducive to money laundering, and with people who bear the key hallmarks of money launderers.

President Trump will spend the weekend playing golf at his newest and most financially confounding major project. The President has refused to release his tax returns or to provide anything other than the barest minimum of required financial disclosure. His business is an odd one, hurtling from real-estate development to casinos to licensing to golf to roadside motels, with no obvious logic. We know far too little about how he has made and spent his money, and much of what we do know is troubling. There are countless ways for a President, his family, his Cabinet, and his associates to profit from the Presidency. There are also realistic fears about past business partners using their knowledge to unduly influence the President and his policies. Congress has the power to uncover much of what we would want to know, but is declining to do so. We still don’t know if the Mueller investigation will focus on questionable transactions that don’t clearly and directly involve Russian influence during the campaign. In short, it is up to us, citizens and journalists, to do what we can to unravel the financial entanglements of the President, to make sense of the seemingly insensible.

In this case, the questions are simple. Did Trump take a turn, in the midst of his years-long frenzy of overseas deals with questionable partners, toward the sentimental use of his own cash to fund a hopeless money pit? Or has Trump’s business practice stayed constant? Did he purchase and rehabilitate Turnberry, as he did so much else, with other people’s money?   Source

July 11, 2018
Russian Company Brands Asbestos with Trump’s Face

Uralasbest asbestos with Trump seal

The world’s largest producer of chrysotile asbestos is now marketing its signature product with President Donald Trump’s image, according to a recent Facebook post from the Russian mining company Uralasbest.

On June 25, the company, which operates a giant asbestos mine in the Ural Mountains in Western Russia, posted photos of its asbestos on palettes wrapped in plastic and stamped with a seal of Trump’s face in red ink.

A message of support for Trump and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt accompanied the photos.

In an English translation provided by the Environmental Working Group, the Russian mining company praised Trump for his outspoken support of asbestos. A loose translation generated by Facebook backs that interpretation.

“Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos ‘100% safe after application,’” the translated post reads.

Before resigning as the head of the EPA last week, Pruitt led a push to exclude legacy uses of asbestos from the upcoming evaluation of the toxic mineral under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

Asbestos, known for its durability and resistance to heat, was used extensively in the U.S. for much of the 20th century. It is now infamous for its link to serious respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

The fibrous mineral is regulated but not banned in the United States. According to a 2017 study by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and EWG, the U.S. imported an estimated 705 metric tons of raw chrysotile asbestos in 2016.

Trump-Asbestos History Runs Deep

Trump has long been critical of the push to ban asbestos in the U.S., often publicly praising the toxic mineral.

In a 2005 U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing, Trump called asbestos “the greatest fireproofing material ever made.” In a 2012 tweet, he blamed the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 on the lack of asbestos in the buildings.

Donald J. Trump


.@dubephnx If we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t (cont) 

His 1997 book “The Art of the Comeback” criticized anti-asbestos law and claimed asbestos is “100 percent safe, once applied.”

“I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented,” Trump wrote in his book.

While asbestos is relatively safe when left intact, it becomes deadly when disturbed during renovations or demolitions. Aging buildings containing asbestos materials also pose a risk to human health, and disasters, such as fires and hurricanes, can release toxic fibers in the air.

Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos for commercial uses, but the World Health Organization notes “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis.”

According to a recent study by the International Commission of Occupational Health, occupational asbestos exposure led to diseases that killed 39,275 people within the U.S. and more than 222,000 people throughout the world in 2016.  Source

July 9, 2018
Trump Still Distorting NATO Spending

President Donald Trump continues to wrongly claim that the United States is paying as much as 90 percent of the cost of operating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In reality, the U.S. share of the commonly funded NATO budget is currently just over 22 percent, according to the most recent figures from NATO.

Trump’s complaints about NATO spending are actually based on how much the U.S. spends on its own defense compared with what other member nations spend on theirs.

Still, the U.S. share of total defense spending by all alliance members in 2017 was an estimated 67 percent, according to inflation-adjusted figures from NATO.

Trump’s most recent criticism of NATO came in a series of morning tweets on July 9, just days before he attends a two-day summit in Brussels with other NATO leaders.

He wrote that it “is not fair, nor is it acceptable” that “The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country.”

Donald J. Trump


The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits…….

Donald J. Trump


…Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment. On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!

As we have written before, Trump is conflating NATO’s direct and indirect spending to claim that the U.S. “is paying for 90% of NATO.”

In direct costs, the U.S. currently pays about 22 percent of NATO’s “principal budgets” that are funded by all alliance members based on a cost-sharing formula that factors in the gross national income of each country. The principal budget categories include the civil budget, the military budget and the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP).

“Direct contributions are made to finance requirements of the Alliance that serve the interests of all 29 members — and are not the responsibility of any single member — such as NATO-wide air defence or command and control systems,” NATO says. “Costs are borne collectively, often using the principle of common funding.”

NATO says its military budget for 2018 is €1.325 billion (or about $1.55 billion). Its civil budget is €245.8 million (or about $289 million). And the ceiling for the NSIP is €700 million (or about $822 million). That means the U.S. share for all three combined would be around $590 million, at most.

Direct spending may also include other “joint funding” projects that are arranged by participating NATO countries, but that are still overseen politically and financially by NATO. Those programs “vary in the number of participating countries, cost-share arrangements and management structures,” NATO says.

Trump, however, is referring to so-called indirect spending, which is the amount that the U.S. and other NATO countries willingly spend on their own defense budgets.

The 90 percent figure cited by Trump is still too high, according to NATO estimates.

In a June 27 update on spending, NATO said: “Today, the volume of the US defence expenditure effectively represents some 67 per cent of the defence spending of the Alliance as a whole.” That disparity “has been a constant,” NATO says, and has only grown since the U.S. began increasing its defense spending after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

All together, the 29 alliance members spent an estimated $917 billion on defense in 2017, and the U.S. portion was about $618 billion.

(NATO says those figures are based on 2010 constant prices and exchange rates. In current prices and exchange rates, the U.S. share would be roughly 72 percent of total defense spending by the alliance.)

Either way, that still isn’t how much the U.S. “is paying for NATO,” as Trump has repeatedly described it.

As NATO said in its June update: “This does not mean that the United States covers 67 per cent of the costs involved in the operational running of NATO as an organisation, including its headquarters in Brussels and its subordinate military commands, but it does mean that there is an over-reliance by the Alliance as a whole on the United States for the provision of essential capabilities, including for instance, in regard to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air-to-air refuelling; ballistic missile defence; and airborne electronic warfare.”

On the other hand, Trump is right that many countries in the international security alliance come “nowhere close to their 2% commitment.”

In 2006, NATO members agreed to try to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense spending. In 2014, they agreed again to aim to meet that standard by 2024.

But in March, NATO said that only four nations met that guideline in 2017: the U.S. (3.57 percent), Greece (2.36 percent), Britain (2.12 percent) and Estonia (2.08 percent). Poland, at an estimated 1.99 percent of GDP, was just shy of the goal.

Trump is pushing for other countries to spend more on their own defense, while taking credit for some increases that have already occurred.

“While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more,” he wrote on Twitter.

There was an estimated 4.87 percent increase in total defense spending by Canada and European allies in 2017, marking the third straight year that defense spending by those countries increased, according to NATO. That was after several years of declines in spending by those countries.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Politico EU’s Confidential podcast this month that he expects eight nations will cross the 2 percent threshold in 2018, which he said was up from three countries in 2014.

Share The Facts
Donald Trump
President of the United States
“By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment.”


July 9, 2018
Trump Misleads on NATO Spending

President Trump repeated his criticism that other NATO countries spend less than their fair share of the cost of the defense treaty. That’s not how the alliance works.

Donald J. Trump


The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits…….

Donald J. Trump


…Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment. On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!


This is misleading.

As a candidate and as president, Mr. Trump has said that NATO member countries have failed to pay their debts to the organization. His claim misrepresents how NATO functions and conflates several different measures of the alliance’s military spending.

In May 2017, The Times’s Peter Baker examined similar claims the president made last year:

NATO has a budget to cover common civilian and military costs, and some NATO-owned assets are also commonly funded when they are used in operations. The United States pays 22 percent of those costs, according to a formula based on national income. None of the NATO allies are in arrears on these contributions.

Mr. Trump is referring imprecisely to a goal NATO has set for each member to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year. He is correct that only five of the 28 members currently meet that goal, and they are the United States, GreeceBritainEstonia and Poland.

According to the most recent estimates from NATO, the United States spent $618 billion on its own defense last year after adjusting for inflation — or 3.57 percent of its G.D.P. That’s not quite 4 percent, as Mr. Trump said.

Collectively, defense spending by all NATO members in 2017 came to $917 billion. That means the United States’ spending represented 67 percent of the total.

It is true that the United States spends more than any other NATO member — both in total cost and as a percentage of G.D.P. — on its owndefense. It also contributes the most to NATO’s shared costs.

But all other nations pay their portion of the group bill.

In his Monday tweets, Mr. Trump also again exaggerated the United States’ trade deficit with the European Union by $50 billion. It is $101 billion.

Sources: NATO, The New York Times


June 18, 2018

Russia’s state-run media channel Russia 24 wants everyone to know that President Donald Trump belongs to Moscow.

Responding to reports that Trump told world leaders at the G-7 meeting in Canada last week that Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula is Russian because everyone there speaks Russian, the hosts of the Russian version of 60 Minutes victoriously declared that “Crimea is ours, Trump is ours.”

View image on Twitter

Julia Davis@JuliaDavisNews

‘s state TV:
Participants discuss @BuzzFeed report that Trump told G7 leaders “Crimea is Russian, because everyone who lives there speaks Russian.” They interpret it as Trump’s recognition of Crimea’s status.
The hosts triumphantly declare: “Crimea is ours, Trump is ours!”

Russia was kicked out of the G-8, an intergovernmental political group of the world’s most developed economies, in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The international community considers Russia’s annexation of Crimea illegal.

During a tense meeting with world leaders at the G-7 meeting in Canada last week, Trump questioned why the international community cared about Crimea and advocated on behalf of Russia being readmitted to the group. Sources told Buzzfeed News that Trump grilled world leaders about why they were backing Ukraine over Russia, allegedly calling Ukraine corrupt. He also publicly blamed former President Barack Obama for having “allowed” Russia to annex Crimea.

“President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country and didn’t respect Ukraine,” Trump said during a recent press conference.

Russia has been trying to exert its authority over the Crimean Peninsula, an area of land that extends into the Black Sea between Russia and Ukraine, for hundreds of years. The peninsula was first annexed by Russian Empress Catherine the Great in 1783 and did not rejoin Ukraine until 1954, shortly after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The area has been home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the 1700s.

The majority of the population in Crimea is ethnic Russian and speaks the Russian language. The peninsula also has sizable Ukrainian and ethnic Tatar populations.

In 2014, about 95.5 percent of voters in Crimea supported joining Russia in a referendum. Moscow has since used that referendum to justify its annexation of the territory. Opponents called the Crimean referendum illegal, with some claiming the results were illegitimate because people who supported a union with Ukraine refused to participate.

Russia recently completed the construction of a bridge that joins mainland Russia with Crimea. The companies of several Putin-linked oligarchs, all of which are under international sanctions due to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, built the bridge.

Neither Trump nor the White House have denied that the U.S. president made the comments about Crimea. Speaking on the Russian version of 60 Minutes, Russian politician Oleg Morozov said that Trump’s refusal to deny having made the comments demonstrated that “Ukraine means nothing to him.”

The comments were made as special counsel Robert Mueller investigated whether the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Members of the U.S. intelligence community have determined that Russia attempted to interfere in the election in order to help Trump win.  Source


June 26, 2018
Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu.

Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace. Modifications to the 5 MWe plutonium production reactor’s cooling system appear complete, but a less-than-normal cooling water discharge from the outfall pipe makes a determination of the reactor’s operational status difficult. The status of the Radiochemical Laboratory—used to separate plutonium from spent fuel rods—remains uncertain, although the associated Thermal Plant has likely continued operations, and a small non-industrial building of an unknown purpose has been newly erected near the cooling tower. Construction continues on support facilities throughout other operational areas of Yongbyon, especially at the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR), where the new engineering office building appears externally complete and a small building similar to the one observed at the Radiochemical Laboratory has been erected.

Continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize. The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.

The 5 MWe Reactor

Modifications to North Korea’s 5 MWe reactor’s secondary cooling loop, which began in March, appear externally complete. A newly in-filled water channel (that includes a newly installed probable weir for controlling water flow) now leads to the pump house from the Kuryong River. (Figure 1) Determining the operational status of the reactor is particularly difficult at this time. Although a small water discharge is visible from the cooling water outfall pipe going into the river, that discharge is less than has been observed previously when the reactor was fully operational. It may simply be that this is all the water needed at this time to carry away the heat from the residual radioactivity in the reactor, if the reactor is currently shut down. Additionally, unlike last February, no visible steam is being vented from the generator building that would confirm that the reactor is operating, but we cannot rule out that this is simply due to the time of year and insufficient image resolution. (Figure 2)

Figure 1. Close-up of new cooling water pump house and in-filled water channel.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

Figure 2. Overview of the 5 MWe reactor.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

The Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR)

The four-story engineering office building at the ELWR is now externally complete, with a newly installed concrete driveway leading directly from the building’s entrance to the reactor’s main entrance. (Figure 3) The necessary infrastructure for reactor operations at the ELWR appears externally complete, but there is no visible evidence yet to suggest that operations have begun.

A new small building with a bluish roof has also been erected near the main construction support yard, where only a foundation was previously visible. The purpose of this small non-industrial type building is unknown, but the building appears similar to one that is also newly erected at the Radiochemical Laboratory.

The Kuryong River reservoir that provides cooling water for the Yongbyon reactors appears to be at its intended design levels, and the river seems to be flowing through the diversion sluiceway of the reservoir dam at capacity. It should also be noted that dredging of the riverbed continues upstream of the reactor area; downriver, other earth movements are ongoing.

Figure 3. New engineering office building externally complete and new small building erected at the ELWR.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

The Radiochemical Laboratory

The operational status of the Radiochemical Laboratory (the reprocessing plant used to separate plutonium from spent fuel from the 5 MWe reactor) remains uncertain given the lack of visible vapor coming from the cooling tower. Nonetheless, the site seems active. A large truck is parked near the spent fuel reception building and two trucks are also visible in the motor pool. Another vehicle is outside the security perimeter wall heading south along the access road.

A small blue-roofed building has been erected at the location where we had previously noted a new foundation just north of the cooling tower. (Figure 4) The building appears identical in size and design to the one described above near the ELWR. (Figure 5) Although it is not absolutely clear what role these buildings might serve, they are non-industrial in design, and could have some kind of hospitality role for senior officials.

Figure 4. Small blue-roofed building at the Radiochemical Laboratory.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

Figure 5. New buildings at the ELWR and Radiochemical Laboratory appear identical in size and design.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

At the associated Thermal Plant, the coal bins appear to have been somewhat depleted, suggesting operations at the Thermal Plant have continued. But given the lack of other operational indicators at the Radiochemical Laboratory—for instance, it is difficult to discern whether or not there is any smoke rising from the smokestack on this image—it is also unclear what operations are being conducted. (Figure 6)

Figure 6. Coal bins appear to be somewhat depleted since early May 2018, no obvious smoke plume observed.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

Uranium Enrichment Plant

The increased roof staining at the northwest corner of the cascade halls, as shown in Figure 7, indicates continued operations at the Uranium Enrichment Plant. The staining is caused by the deposition of water vapor coming from the six cooling units associated with gas centrifuge operations. (Figure 7)

Figure 7. Operations continue at the Uranium Enrichment Plant.

Pleaides © CNES 2018, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact

The Radioisotope Production Facility

Since late 2017, two new buildings have been constructed in the southwest corner of the Radioisotope Production Facility near the end of the rail yard line serving that facility. At least one of these new buildings could be intended to store rail-delivered chemicals to support operations in the main production building, as over the past month, a below-grade pipeline has also been completed that connects them with the main production building, thereby providing a possible means for transferring such chemicals. (Figure 8) Little is known about this facility other than it was constructed in 2015, with various modifications since then. However, it is presumed to be a radioisotope production facility based on the internal layout and features observed remotely during its construction.

Figure 8. Pipeline connecting new buildings and main production building recently completed at the Radioisotope Production Facility.

Total Page Visits: 1136 - Today Page Visits: 1