The Underreported Stories You’ll Need To Know Going Into This Week
A week can pass you by in the blink of an eye, or slow to a daunting crawl. But in the age of Donald Trump, one thing is certain…there will be news. Each day brings with it an allure of ridiculousness and anxiety, which can result in stories being buried or drowned out by noise.
Here are the important stories that didn’t get enough attention. Here are the underreported:
Michael Flynn was fired last month as Trump’s national security advisor and had his security clearance revoked. This occurred after it was revealed he discussed lifting US sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, then subsequently lied about it. Before his firing, he sat in on classified intelligence briefings with President, and also candidate, Trump. The problem is, Michael Flynn is a foreign agent, and the Trump transition team was aware of it.
Michael Flynn collected nearly $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015, including money for his appearance at the Russian propaganda network RT’s (Russia Today) anniversary. He was also paid more than half a million dollars to lobby for the Turkish government while he was working on Trump’s campaign and attending intelligence briefings.
Once Flynn became national security advisor, he stopped receiving payments but then went on to help craft Trump’s Turkey policy. The conflicts of interest couldn’t be more obvious.
The most important component of this story is the fact the Trump transition team was told Michael Flynn may need to register as a foreign agent and it raised no alarms. They still allowed Flynn to come on board as Trump’s national security advisor and attend classified national security briefings.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump’s transition team was notified of Flynn’s status and responded by saying, “That wasn’t the role for the transition. This was a personal matter, it’s a business matter.”
This month, Michael Flynn finally registered as a foreign agent.
The bottom line here is this: President Trump and his administration knowingly allowed a foreign agent to participate in meetings where the United State’s most classified national security secrets were discussed.
Senate Intelligence Committee Asks Former Trump Advisor Roger Stone To Preserve Russia-Related Records
Former Trump campaign advisor, and longtime confidante, Roger Stone confirmed to CNN that the Senate Intelligence Committee asked him to preserve any records that could be related to their investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
Roger Stone is of interest because of his communications with Russian affiliated entities during the course of the election. During a full blown meltdown on Twitter, Stone lashed out at people using vulgar language and also admitted to the long suspected back channel between him and Wikileaks Founder, Julian Assange.
This isn’t the first time Stone has bragged about his relationship with Assange. In October, Roger Stone boasted about being in regular contact with Assange, through “mutual friends.” This boast appeared to be validated by his eerie knowledge of upcoming Wikileaks centering around Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails. Several months before it occurred, Stone tweeted about an October surprise involving Podesta, that would disrupt Clinton’s campaign.
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
Stone also admitted to speaking to Guccifer 2.0, the online persona believed to be a front for Russian intelligence officials and behind the hacks on the DNC.
Here’s an excellent thread that breaks down the full timeline.
You ready to take a little trip down memory lane with our good friend Roger Stone and his buddy Guccifer 2.0? <thread>
Last week, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said that Roger Stone’s communications were part of their “ongoing investigation.”
Senator John McCain said that Roger Stone needs to testify. We concur.
The House Intelligence Committee’s hearing is on March 20th. The Senate’s is on March 30th.
Trump Administration Rolls Back Protections For People In Default On Student Loans
On Thursday, an Obama-era guidance, that prevented student loan debt collectors from charging higher interest fees on borrowers in default status, was revoked. Outlined in a “Dear Colleague” letter, the Trump Administration asked agencies to ignore the guidance put in place by their predecessor’s administration.
According to The Washington Post:
The Education Department is ordering guarantee agencies that collect on defaulted debt to disregard a memo former President Barack Obama’s administration issued on the old bank-based federal lending program, known as the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. That memo forbid the agencies from charging fees for up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on the loans, if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within 60 days of default.
High Tension In North Korea
The “Hermit Kingdom,” that is North Korea, continues to make headlines with reports of a new engine aiding in their development of intercontinental ballistic missiles to Japan having it’s first ever evacuation drill in lieu of North Korean missiles. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, began a six day long tour of Asia. However on Thursday, after an ambiguous, and seemingly incompetent, attempt at diplomacy with Asian nations over North Korea, Tillerson proclaimed “the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed.” And that it was time “to exchange views on a new approach.”
After Tillerson’s comments, North Korean diplomats held a frantic news conference at their Bejing Embassy. In this news conference they talked openly of a nuclear war with the United States, and a vow to continue with their nuclear efforts “in self-defense.”
North Korea already possesses an alarming nuclear stockpile, and experts have noted that it is completely within reality to assume that North Korea has the technological capability to strike the US on the mainland. Because of this, the United States is moving forward with the installation of THAAD systems in both South Korea and Japan — and potentially domestically.
But if that alone doesn’t make your hair stand on end, perhaps this will — Tillerson has said that “all options are on the table” including a preemptive strike. Something that should be especially alarming to those living in Seoul, South Korea. A city with 20 million people, and that North Korea’s artillery already has it’s sights on.
The US Brought Criminal Cyber Charges Against Russian Government Officials For The First Time
On Wednesday, the US indicted two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in the 2014 Yahoo hack that compromised 500 million user accounts. This marked the first time the US has ever brought criminal cyber charges against Russian government officials. WIRED reports:
FSB (Russian Intelligence Agency) allegedly hired the hackers to target US and Russian government officials, diplomats, military, Russian journalists, financial sector employees and activists; Yahoo’s a particularly valuable target not just for its email records but because it also owns large platforms like Flickr and Tumblr. As added incentive, FSB allowed the two hackers to do what they wanted with the half a billion Yahoo accounts they stole, which led to pursuits like selling credit card numbers and rampant spamming.
The two spies were Igor Sushchin and Dmitry Dokuchaev, members of the FSB. The two hackers were, Alexsey Belan and Karim Saratov.
These indictments do nothing to soften the already rocky relationship between Russia and the US.
New Approach To ISIS: The US Could Double Its Forces In Syria
The US military has reportedly drafted plans that would involve the deployment of up to 1,000 troops to northern Syria. The move is meant to bolster the offensive to take the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa.
The proposal claims these troops would be in an advisory role, but the likelihood of them getting into combat is high given the contentious situation in the region. With multiple sectarian groups involved in the conflict, as well as the Russia-backed Assad regime, things could get complicated real fast.
If approved by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and President Donald Trump, the move would double the number of US troops there, and would be a strategic shift in the US approach to Syria. This is all part of the administration’s new military centered approach.
This escalation comes as ISIS continues to lose ground. ISIS has lost almost a quarter of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria over the past year.
The important thing to note about this is the fact that the White House seems to be taking a “hands off” approach to strategy, allowing the military to handle the details. This is in stark contrast to the way the Obama administration handled things. Buzzfeed News reports:
The manner in which the deployments — the first known of conventional forces to Syria — was undertaken marked a stark contrast to the Obama administration. Then, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the war against ISIS, had to get sign-off from the White House about the precise number of troops and weapons he wanted to use. With the current deployment, the Trump administration has just left it to him to determine what he needs in Syria. That is, it appears the administration signed off on the ground combat missions but so far has left the details of how to carry out that mission — including those details the Obama White House demanded — to the commander.