Bernie Sanders Admits if Democrats Take Over Congress, Taxes on Employers Will Go Up

With the GOP tax bill set to cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is making it clear that would not be the case if Democrats took control of Congress.Image result for Bernie Sanders Admits if Democrats Take Over Congress, Taxes on Employers Will Go Up

Speaking with “Face the Nation,” Sanders was asked if the tax rate on employers would go up if Democrats could have it their way.

“I think we’re going to take a very hard look at this entire tax bill and make it a tax bill that works for the middle class and working families,” Sanders responded.

When pressed for an answer, Sanders admitted the tax rate would have to go up on companies.

“Absolutely, yes. In my view, absolutely,” he said.

CNN reported the Dow Jones jumped more than 200 points when it was announced the corporate tax rate was dropping down to 21 percent. It eventually reached 24,850, which is a record.

Democrats have been accusing the GOP of using the tax bill to only help the rich. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tried to criticize the tax bill by pointing out it “caps the mortgage interest deduction at $750,000 for new mortgages.”Image result for Bernie Sanders Admits if Democrats Take Over Congress, Taxes on Employers Will Go Up

Many quickly pointed out that would only hurt people who are wealthier than most middle-class families.

Stocks surged Monday after Wall Street got its early Christmas present — a bill that would cut taxes for many businesses and that could be signed by President Trump before the holiday.
The Dow climbed more than 200 points in early trading, or about 1%, and was above 24,850, a record high.

The Dow is up more than 25% in 2017, led by blue chips Boeing (BA), Caterpillar (CAT), Apple (AAPL), Visa (V), McDonald’s (MCD) and Walmart (WMT). All those stocks have soared at least 40%.

And the Nasdaq, home to hot tech stocks like Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOGL) owner Alphabet, topped 7,000 on Monday for the first time. It is up 30% this year.

The S&P 500 also rose by about 1% and hit an all-time high. All three indexes closed at records on Friday in anticipation of the release of the tax bill by Republican congressional leaders.

The biggest boost for Corporate America would be the slashing of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. That could boost profits significantly for big banks, according to a report from Goldman Sachs.Image result for Bernie Sanders Admits if Democrats Take Over Congress, Taxes on Employers Will Go Up

Financial stocks, unsurprisingly, were among the biggest gainers Monday. JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC) each rose more than 1% shortly after the opening bell.

Businesses would also be charged a one-time low tax rate on foreign profits of 15%. That’s an incentive for multinational firms to bring back cash sitting in lower-tax countries.

Related: Here’s what is in the GOP’s final tax plan

The hope is that this cash will be used to boost dividends and stock buybacks, build new plants in the United States and hire more workers.

The House is expected to vote on the tax bill Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to vote either Tuesday after the House or Wednesday. The bill is expected to pass on party lines.

Stocks have been rallying all year because of strong economic growth and hopes that President Trump would roll back regulations to help stimulate the economy.

Related: No bears here! Market on the verge of making history

Even though Trump’s effort to repeal Obamacare failed in Congress, many investors had remained optimistic that Trump would strike a deal with lawmakers on taxes.Image result for Bernie Sanders Admits if Democrats Take Over Congress, Taxes on Employers Will Go Up

And that’s one of the main reasons that the Dow is inching closer to the 25,000 milestone, after already having passed the 20,000, 21,000, 22,000, 23,000 and 24,000 levels this year.

The main criticism that Democrats have for the tax bill supported by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump is that it will only help the rich. In one case, Bruce Bartlett, a former policy adviser to former President Ronald Reagan, said it’s going to treat poor families so badly it’s “akin to rape.”

On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tried to criticize the GOP’s tax bill and ended up showing how it doesn’t help people who are well off. In a tweet, she complained, “The Republican tax bill caps the mortgage interest deduction at $750,000 for new mortgages”:

She went to use counties such as San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz as examples of where people would be disadvantaged by the bill if it becomes law. Those counties are among richest in the United States.

People have been voicing their confusion at how she thinks this helps Democratic talking points:

 

Country Stars Warned About Bashing Trump But They Didn’t Listen, Now Look What Happened!

Another celebrity ego-stroking awards show took place Wednesday night and like all other celebrity gatherings to honor each other, they centered the show around bashing President Donald Trump. This is expected in liberal Hollywood since stage presence always seems to present the opportunity to cause political chaos in front of the entire country. However, red-blooded Americans had hoped for more respect out of their favorite country music stars who don’t typically go down this liberal path of trashing the president.Image result for Country Stars Warned About Bashing Trump But They Didn’t Listen, Now Look What Happened!

The hosts of the 51st Annual Country Music Awards (CMA) were warned about bringing politics into their awards presentation and they didn’t listen. Now, they’re suffering some massive consequences for it making the entire show about poking fun of our president.

It’s one thing for liberal actors and rappers to make their awards show about hating on Trump since their face base agrees with their disrespectful views. The same can’t be said for the majority of country music fans who are typically conservative and support our president and appreciate what he’s done to make America great again, as he promised he would. With total disregard for who was watching and the CMA executives orders, hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood suggested Trump’s a cheater in a song performance and put on skits poking fun of some things he’s done in the public eye.

They may have thought they were pretty clever but they aren’t laughing now, just 48 hours after making idiots of themselves on stage at our president’s expense.

 

The duo started the show wearing eclipse sunglasses, referencing the time Trump ditched a pair to look directly at the August solar eclipse, reports Daily Mail.

Afterwards, the stars sang a rendition of Underwood’s hit 2005 song “Before He Cheats” with the lyrics rewritten to mock Trump.Image result for Country Stars Warned About Bashing Trump But They Didn’t Listen, Now Look What Happened!

“Right now he’s probably in his PJs, watching cable news, reaching for his cell phone,” Paisley sung, before Underwood joined in: “It’s fun to watch it, that’s for sure, ’til little ‘Rocket Man’ starts a nuclear war, maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets.”

The duo’s antics came despite a memo the Country Music Association sent to the media prior to the show, requesting that journalists avoid discussing “the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like” in their reporting on the show, according to the Nashville Scene.

Paisley didn’t just go against the Association’s request with his anti-Trump antics, he was quick to condemn it as well and do what he wants. Stars always think they are above the rules and we’ve seen what that has done to the NFL. Now, the country music industry could soon face the same fate, or at least these two singers for starters.

“Paisley and Underwood warned they would pull off such jokes ahead of time despite the Country Music Association’s desire to make the show apolitical, insisting that they weren’t making political statements,” According to ABC News.

“We’ve always said that we want to make fun of things that are funny,” Underwood defiantly announced before the show. “It’s not about any political party or any person or any anything. It’s just about making fun of things that are funny.”

Just as furious fans have turned every football game off, they did so to the CMAs in an immediate reaction to their insulting acts to the man they voted for and are proud of.Image result for Country Stars Warned About Bashing Trump But They Didn’t Listen, Now Look What Happened!

Opposing Views caught some of the reactions that filled the Internet as real-time ratings for the awards show began to drop from the mass exodus of offended country fans.

“Well even the #cmaawards has to open up by mocking the President,” wrote one person on Twitter. “Time to find something else to watch that won’t involve politics.”

“So very disappointing that the CMAs brought politics to the show,” said a commenter in Daily Mail’s comments section. “I won’t watch again, nor support you with my money.”

As Trump supporters publicly expressed their views, liberals were quick to condemn them in support of the show’s sickening message.

“Mocking?” one commenter questioned of an accusation a former fan made of the hosts’ act. “Hardly. It was all in fun and it was funny, unlike the nonsense you see out of the idiots in Hollywood. There was nothing mean-spirited about it.”

“That was a tasteful and funny satirical performance!” added another. “Nothing wrong at all!”

“Happy to see Country Music artist speaking out about this vile, atrocious administration!” commented another. Country music fans are the ones hurt the most by these awful policies handed out by original! Impeachment coming soon!”

It’s disturbing that not a single awards show in the eight years Barack Obama was president ruthlessly mocked him, as almost every one of them in the past 10 months of Trump’s presidency has. There would be outrage for days if the tables were turned on this. These country stars didn’t listen to the warnings from their show association, but more importantly, they didn’t learn from the fallout of the NFL from pissed patriots and now their industry could soon pay a similar price.

Opposing Views reports.
Country Music Awards hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood poked fun at President Trump during the Country Music Association’s 51st annual awards show on Nov. 8 (video below).

The duo started the show wearing eclipse sunglasses, referencing the time Trump ditched a pair to look directly at the August solar eclipse, reports Daily Mail.

Afterwards, the stars sang a rendition of Underwood’s hit 2005 song “Before He Cheats” with the lyrics rewritten to mock Trump.

“Right now he’s probably in his PJs, watching cable news, reaching for his cell phone,” Paisley sung, before Underwood joined in: “It’s fun to watch it, that’s for sure, ’til little ‘Rocket Man’ starts a nuclear war, maybe next time he’ll think before he tweets.”

The duo’s antics came despite a memo the Country Music Association sent to the media prior to the show, requesting that journalists avoid discussing “the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like” in their reporting on the show, according to the Nashville Scene.

According to ABC News, Paisley quickly publicly condemned the Country Music Association’s memo.Image result for Country Stars Warned About Bashing Trump

Paisley and Underwood warned they would pull off such jokes ahead of time despite the Country Music Association’s desire to make the show apolitical, insisting that they weren’t making political statements.

“We’ve always said that we want to make fun of things that are funny,” Underwood said before the show. “It’s not about any political party or any person or any anything. It’s just about making fun of things that are funny.”

Nevertheless, their jokes still offended many. Some even turned off the show in protest.

“Well even the #cmaawards has to open up by mocking the President,” wrote one person on Twitter. “Time to find something else to watch that won’t involve politics.”

“So very disappointing that the CMAs brought politics to the show,” said a commenter in Daily Mail’s comments section. “I won’t watch again, nor support you with my money.”

However, others defended the hosts.

“Mocking?” shot back another commenter. “Hardly. It was all in fun and it was funny, unlike the nonsense you see out of the idiots in Hollywood. There was nothing mean spirited about it.”

“That was a tasteful and funny satirical performance!” added another. “Nothing wrong at all!”

Some even mocked Trump themselves while supporting Paisley and Underwood.

“Suddenly I like country music especially Brad and Carrie,” exclaimed one. “You know things are bad for the Orange buffoon when country stars start hating on him. Must say I did not see this coming!”

“Happy to see Country Music artist speaking out about this vile, atrocious administration!” commented another. Country music fans are the ones hurt the most by these awful policies handed out by orangina! Impeachment coming soon!”

BREAKING: 50 Congressional Members QUITTING After SICK ‘Megastory’ Exposes Them ALL – This Is HUGE

Washington’s current climate of constant accusations and scandal has left the nation somewhat taken aback at the reality of what is going on behind closed doors, funded by the hard-working taxpayers. That disgust is followed quickly by the frustration of not knowing which accusations are true, and which are paid positions, used to manipulate the results of elections.

While we, the people, try and sort out who is truly in Washington to carry out the will of the people, and who is trying to turn their congressional offices into their own personal harem, many on the hill are just as confused as we are, trying to figure out which of the people they’ve worked alongside are predators, and which might be sticking around for a while.

One recent report from Politico has Washington insiders scrambling. The report claims that a news organization might be releasing the names of up to 50 lawmakers who have been involved in a scandal that could end their career. As if that weren’t bad enough, not only will those elected officials be affected, but everyone on their staff, as well as anyone else who’s close to them:

“The details change almost daily, but the rumor won’t die: A credible news organization is preparing to unmask at least 20 lawmakers in both parties for sexual misconduct.

Washington is also gripped by uncertainty over whether the nationwide awakening to workplace misconduct might be manipulated into a political weapon. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) went to law enforcement after being targeted last week by a forged harassment complaint against him, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) last month parried a false accusation of misconduct posted on Twitter.”Image result for BREAKING: 50 Congressional Members

“You want to have a welcome environment to report abuse — you don’t want to deter victims,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview. “But you’ve got to have enough due process and scrutiny to make sure it’s accurate.”

“I think this environment is pretty crazy right now,” Graham added, and “what happened to Sen. Schumer is a concern to a lot of us.”

Just this month, five members of Congress have been forced to resign or retire after being accused of sexual misconduct: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) also called it quits after graphic text messages sent by him were posted online.

The raft of accusations and departures is prompting uncomfortable conversations all over the Capitol.

Aides in one Democrat’s office were summoned recently to a meeting organized by a fellow staffer and asked whether they’d ever heard of an accusation against their boss, according to a source in the room. Other press secretaries have asked their bosses about any personal skeletons, wanting to unearth possible sexual landmines [sic] before they detonate in the media.”

What Democrats want and what the people want might be a little different in this case. Washington isn’t Vegas, and we would be better off if more people remembered that. You shouldn’t go looking for free money, and what happens there doesn’t stay there. The accountability standards aren’t all that high, and yet those who promised to serve the people of their constituency still can’t seem to live up to it, in many cases.Image result for BREAKING: 50 Congressional Members

Those who have perpetrated these crimes are obviously sweating it out right now, and with good reason, but those who’ve done nothing wrong shouldn’t have anything to fear, and yet the false accusers are almost as plentiful as those with a real grievance:

“What no one on Capitol Hill knows for sure is where legitimacy begins and ends. Part of the reason that the rumor about 20 or more lawmakers being unmasked as sexual harassers has proved so durable is that, after the recent wave of resignations, it feels both shocking and believable.

The speculation about a harassment story started more than a month ago, even before Conyers became the first lawmaker connected to harassment allegations. Sometimes POLITICO is named as the media outlet behind the story, but CNN and The New York Times are occasionally called the central players in the speculation.

By last week, The Washington Post was the organization, and the number of members had grown more grandiose.

‘I am hearing The Post has a list of 40-50, evenly split between the parties, that have had sexual harassment charges,” one lobbyist texted POLITICO.

Since the speculation began, members and aides from both parties in recent weeks have buttonholed reporters to try to gauge what they’re working on regarding sexual harassment — and, perhaps, to put their own minds at ease that no one is dogging them. In the past week alone, at least four lawmakers have asked POLITICO whether the bombshell story is real.

The atmosphere in Congress has reached the point that one Republican leadership staffer told POLITICO she worries that members might think the worst if they’re called into Speaker Paul Ryan’s office.”Image result for BREAKING: 50 Congressional Members

America is finally feeling the results of its acceptance of the “if it feels good, do it” doctrine, and it’s not a good feeling. What started out as the activities of the morally desolate has finally become acceptable by anyone who thinks they can get away with it, and it has bread a culture of predators and victims.

Alexis de Tocqueville said a long time ago that “America is great because America is good; and if America ever ceases to be good, she will no longer be great.” We are at a turning point, and if we can change the way our lawmakers view morality, we might be able to turn back to greatness. If not, the future is bleak.

The details change almost daily, but the rumor won’t die: A credible news organization is preparing to unmask at least 20 lawmakers in both parties for sexual misconduct.

Speculation about this theoretical megastory is spreading like wildfire across Congress and beyond, a lurking bad-press boogeyman that’s always described as on the verge of going public. And it’s far from the only worry that’s seeped into the collective psyche of Capitol Hill, where members and aides are now perpetually bracing for the next allegation to drop.

Washington is also gripped by uncertainty over whether the nationwide awakening to workplace misconduct might be manipulated into a political weapon. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) went to law enforcement after being targeted last week by a forged harassment complaint against him, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) last month parried a false accusation of misconduct posted on Twitter.

Lawmakers and aides are consumed by one simple question: Who’s next? That and, in this turbocharged news cycle of the Trump presidency, can actual misdeeds be distinguished from false smears?Image result for BREAKING: 50 Congressional Members

“You want to have a welcome environment to report abuse — you don’t want to deter victims,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview. “But you’ve got to have enough due process and scrutiny to make sure it’s accurate.”

“I think this environment is pretty crazy right now,” Graham added, and “what happened to Sen. Schumer is a concern to a lot of us.”

Just this month, five members of Congress have been forced to resign or retire after being accused of sexual misconduct: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) also called it quits after graphic text messages sent by him were posted online.

The raft of accusations and departures is prompting uncomfortable conversations all over the Capitol.

Aides in one Democrat’s office were summoned recently to a meeting organized by a fellow staffer and asked whether they’d ever heard of an accusation against their boss, according to a source in the room. Other press secretaries have asked their bosses about any personal skeletons, wanting to unearth possible sexual land mines before they detonate in the media.

The pervasive apprehension that’s taken hold risks adversely affecting some women’s careers. One Republican aide told POLITICO that she is advising members not to be alone with any women — whether they’re female staffers or female reporters.

“Members who have high-profile elections coming up or just are really out front on a particular issue are now feeling like they may be targets,” said Kristin Nicholson, a veteran Democratic chief of staff who last month organized a letter signed by more than 1,500 former aides urging an overhaul of Congress’ harassment policies.

“The idea that something like that [Schumer forgery] could potentially get through and cause some harm before it’s discounted is causing some fear,” Nicholson said.Related image

Beyond the hoaxes targeting Schumer and Blumenthal, apparently legitimate misconduct claims have become tinged with suspicion about possible political motivations. A Twitter account linked to GOP political consultant Roger Stone, a frequent confidant of President Donald Trump, raised eyebrows last month by forecasting the first harassment allegation against Sen. Al Franken before it emerged.

Stone later denied any advance knowledge of the first in a series of stories that ultimately pushed Franken to resign. Two of the accusations came from self-described Democrats. Still, that hasn’t stopped some supporters of the popular Minnesota Democrat from continuing to whisper about a broader conservative campaign to topple Franken.

The false sexual misconduct allegation that hit Blumenthal gained momentum on Twitter among some conservatives before The Daily Beast debunked it. Asked last week about the incident, Blumenthal said: “What most concerns me about that hoax and others like it is that it degrades the courageous and brave women and men who come forward to complain of sexual harassment and assault.”

The attempted smearing of Schumer took the form of a forged court complaint shopped around to reporters working on sexual harassment stories. The false complaint was flagged on social media by pro-Trump figures before the New York Democrat’s asked the Capitol Police to investigate.

Media outlets that received a copy of the forged Schumer complaint reported only on the attempted hoax, just as The Washington Post exposed a woman who leveled false sexual accusations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore last month at the behest of a conservative organization known as Project Veritas.

But lawmakers and aides have no guarantee, beyond media organizations’ diligence, that false allegations won’t slip through.

“Sadly, it looks like this may be something we have to look at” in preparing candidates for next year’s elections, said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the head of Senate Democrats’ campaign committee for next year’s midterms. Van Hollen underscored, however, “We obviously need to hold people accountable where there are legitimate claims.”

What no one on Capitol Hill knows for sure is where legitimacy begins and ends. Part of the reason that the rumor about 20 or more lawmakers being unmasked as sexual harassers has proved so durable is that, after the recent wave of resignations, it feels both shocking and believable.

The speculation about a harassment story started more than a month ago, even before Conyers became the first lawmaker connected to harassment allegations. Sometimes POLITICO is named as the media outlet behind the story, but CNN and The New York Times are occasionally called the central players in the speculation.

By last week, The Washington Post was the organization, and the number of members had grown more grandiose.

“I am hearing The Post has a list of 40-50, evenly split between the parties, that have had sexual harassment charges,” one lobbyist texted POLITICO.

Since the speculation began, members and aides from both parties in recent weeks have buttonholed reporters to try to gauge what they’re working on regarding sexual harassment — and, perhaps, to put their own minds at ease that no one is dogging them. In the past week alone, at least four lawmakers have asked POLITICO whether the bombshell story is real.

The atmosphere in Congress has reached the point that one Republican leadership staffer told POLITICO she worries that members might think the worst if they’re called into Speaker Paul Ryan’s office.

“It’s this way not just in Congress, but in all kinds of industries: men thinking back on the kind of behaviors they didn’t think about at the time but might be construed as harassment or inappropriate,” said Nicholson, the veteran Democrat who now serves as director of the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University.

“It’s hitting everyone, even people who are not bad actors, because you just have no idea.”

 

Obama Reportedly ‘Let Hezbollah off the Hook’ to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

Former President Barack Obama’s supposedly scandal-free administration reportedly worked to protect the terrorist group Hezbollah in order to safeguard the controversial Iran nuclear deal.Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

To do that, the Obama White House allegedly thwarted Drug Enforcement Administration efforts centered on the Iran-backed terrorist outfit, according to an extensive report Politico published Sunday, by placing a series of roadblocks in its way.

“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” Defense Department illicit finance analyst David Asher said. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

The DEA effort, which started in 2008, was called “Project Cassandra.” It tracked Hezbollah’s trafficking of drugs and weapons, its money laundering, and other criminal activities, some of which were carried out in the U.S.

But the Obama administration allegedly obstructed the operation:

Project Cassandra members say administration officials also blocked or undermined their efforts to go after other top Hezbollah operatives including one nicknamed the “Ghost,” allowing them to remain active despite being under sealed U.S. indictment for years. People familiar with his case say the Ghost has been one of the world’s biggest cocaine traffickers, including to the U.S., as well as a major supplier of conventional and chemical weapons for use by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his people.Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

Former administration officials insisted there were no political motivations behind the derailment of Project Cassandra. Instead, the ex-staffers said, it was about slowing down Iran’s nuclear development and improving relations with the Middle Eastern country.

However, just after Obama announced the advancement to the Iran deal in January of 2016, officials working on Project Cassandra said they were reassigned. Each time the U.S. got closer to finalizing its agreement with Iran, Asher said, more of the DEA project “went away.”

“So much of the capability, whether it was special operations, whether it was law enforcement, whether it was [Treasury] designations — even the capacity, the personnel assigned to this mission — it was assiduously drained, almost to the last drop, by the end of the Obama administration,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden went on “CBS This Morning” and made a bizarre claim about former President Barack Obama: He said he didn’t even have “a hint of scandal.”

The hosts asked him about the relationship he had with President Obama, and he responded by saying he has never known any president with so much “integrity.”Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

He stated:

“I’ve served with eight presidents, and I’ve gotten to know four of them very well. I’ve never met any president that has more character, more integrity and more backbone than this guy does. … And eight years, not a hint, not a hint of scandal.”

Well Mr. Biden, have I got a list for you. Here are some of the scandals that occurred under Obama’s watch:

State Department Private Email Server
Obama’s first secretary of state created a private email server. Hillary Clinton used the privately owned server instead of her government email during her four years under the Obama administration.
Operation Fast and Furious
The ATF under Obama lost around 1,400 guns after it tried to track them to Mexican drug cartels. Two of the guns were found at the scene of the shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
IRS Abuse
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative opponents during the application process to become tax exempt by putting them through intense scrutiny. Two hundred ninety-six applications from conservative nonprofit groups were flagged, including 75 that had “tea party” or “patriot” in their names.Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal
Benghazi
Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three others were killed during a U.S. diplomatic attack. Initially, the Obama administration claimed the attack was not a terrorist attack but, instead, was triggered by a reaction to an anti-Muslim film. However, emails later revealed they knew it was a premeditated terror attack.
Veterans Affairs
Over 40 U.S. veterans died because they were waiting to be seen by doctors at a Phoenix VA facility. According to a report, 1,700 veterans were forced to wait months to be seen.
“Not a hint, not a hint of scandal,” he said.

How Hezbollah turned to trafficking cocaine and laundering money through used cars to finance its expansion.
In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.

They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

They followed cocaine shipments, tracked a river of dirty cash, and traced what they believed to be the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.

The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.

“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher
David Asher
Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise., who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

The untold story of Project Cassandra illustrates the immense difficulty in mapping and countering illicit networks in an age where global terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have merged, but also the extent to which competing agendas among government agencies — and shifting priorities at the highest levels — can set back years of progress.Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

And while the pursuit may be shadowed in secrecy, from Latin American luxury hotels to car parks in Africa to the banks and battlefields of the Middle East, the impact is not: In this case, multi-ton loads of cocaine entering the United States, and hundreds of millions of dollars going to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization with vast reach.

Obama had entered office in 2009 promising to improve relations with Iran as part of a broader rapprochement with the Muslim world. On the campaign trail, he had asserted repeatedly that the Bush administration’s policy of pressuring Iran to stop its illicit nuclear program wasn’t working, and that he would reach out to Tehran to reduce tensions.

The man who would become Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and then CIA director, John Brennan
John Brennan
Obama’s White House counterterrorism adviser, who became CIA director in 2013., went further. He recommended in a policy paper that “the next president has the opportunity to set a new course for relations between the two countries” through not only a direct dialogue, but “greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system.”

By May 2010, Brennan, then assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, confirmed in a speech that the administration was looking for ways to build up “moderate elements” within Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is a very interesting organization,” Brennan told a Washington conference, saying it had evolved from “purely a terrorist organization” to a militia and, ultimately, a political party with representatives in the Lebanese Parliament and Cabinet, according to a Reuters report.

“There is certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what they’re doing,” Brennan said. “And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.”

In practice, the administration’s willingness to envision a new role for Hezbollah in the Middle East, combined with its desire for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program, translated into a reluctance to move aggressively against the top Hezbollah operatives, according to Project Cassandra members and others.

Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayad
Ali Fayad
(aka Fayyad). Ukraine-based arms merchant suspected of being a Hezbollah operative moving large amounts of weapons to Syria. , a suspected top Hezbollah operative whom agents believed reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq, was arrested in Prague in the spring of 2014. But for the nearly two years Fayad was in custody, top Obama administration officials declined to apply serious pressure on the Czech government to extradite him to the United States, even as Putin was lobbying aggressively against it.

Fayad, who had been indicted in U.S. courts on charges of planning the murders of U.S. government employees, attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to acquire, transfer and use anti-aircraft missiles, was ultimately sent to Beirut. He is now believed by U.S. officials to be back in business, and helping to arm militants in Syria and elsewhere with Russian heavy weapons.

Project Cassandra members say administration officials also blocked or undermined their efforts to go after other top Hezbollah operatives including one nicknamed the ‘Ghost
The Ghost
One of the most mysterious alleged associates of Safieddine, secretly indicted by the U.S., linked to multi-ton U.S.-bound cocaine loads and weapons shipments to Middle East.,” allowing them to remain active despite being under sealed U.S. indictment for years. People familiar with his case say the Ghost has been one of the world’s biggest cocaine traffickers, including to the U.S., as well as a major supplier of conventional and chemical weapons for use by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his people.

And when Project Cassandra agents and other investigators sought repeatedly to investigate and prosecute Abdallah Safieddine
Abdallah Safieddine
Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran who allegedly oversaw the group’s “Business Affairs Component” involved in international drug trafficking., Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran, whom they considered the linchpin of Hezbollah’s criminal network, the Justice Department refused, according to four former officials with direct knowledge of the cases.

The administration also rejected repeated efforts by Project Cassandra members to charge Hezbollah’s military wing as an ongoing criminal enterprise under a federal Mafia-style racketeering statute, task force members say. And they allege that administration officials declined to designate Hezbollah a “significant transnational criminal organization” and blocked other strategic initiatives that would have given the task force additional legal tools, money and manpower to fight it.

Former Obama administration officials declined to comment on individual cases, but noted that the State Department condemned the Czech decision not to hand over Fayad. Several of them, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were guided by broader policy objectives, including de-escalating the conflict with Iran, curbing its nuclear weapons program and freeing at least four American prisoners held by Tehran, and that some law enforcement efforts were undoubtedly constrained by those concerns.

But the former officials denied that they derailed any actions against Hezbollah or its Iranian allies for political reasons.

“There has been a consistent pattern of actions taken against Hezbollah, both through tough sanctions and law enforcement actions before and after the Iran deal,” said Kevin Lewis, an Obama spokesman who worked at both the White House and Justice Department in the administration.

Lewis, speaking for the Obama administration, provided a list of eight arrests and prosecutions as proof. He made special note of a February 2016 operation in which European authorities arrested an undisclosed number of alleged members of a special Hezbollah business affairs unit that the DEA says oversees its drug trafficking and other criminal money-making enterprises.

Project Cassandra officials, however, noted that the European arrests occurred after the negotiations with Iran were over, and said the task force initiated the multinational partnerships on its own, after years of seeing their cases shot down by the Justice and State departments and other U.S. agencies.

The Justice Department, they pointed out, never filed corresponding U.S. criminal charges against the suspects arrested in Europe, including one prominent Lebanese businessman formally designated by the Treasury Department for using his “direct ties to Hezbollah commercial and terrorist elements” to launder bulk shipments of illicit cash for the organization throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

A former senior national security official of the Obama administration, who played a role in the Iran nuclear negotiations, suggested that Project Cassandra members were merely speculating that their cases were being blocked for political reasons. Other factors, including a lack of evidence or concerns about interfering with intelligence operations could have been in play.

“What if the CIA or the Mossad had an intelligence operation ongoing inside Hezbollah and they were trying to pursue someone . . . against whom we had impeccable [intelligence] collection and the DEA is not going to know that?” the official said. “I get the feeling people who don’t know what’s going on in the broader universe are grasping at straws.”

The official added: “The world is a lot more complicated than viewed through the narrow lens of drug trafficking. So you’re not going to let CIA rule the roost, but you’re also certainly not going to let DEA do it either. Your approach to anything as complicated as Hezbollah is going to have to involve the interagency [process], because the State Department has a piece of the pie, the intelligence community does, Treasury does, DOD does.”

Nonetheless, other sources independent of Project Cassandra confirmed many of the allegations in interviews with POLITICO, and in some cases, in public comments.Image result for Obama Reportedly 'Let Hezbollah off the Hook' to Protect His Controversial Iran Deal

One Obama-era Treasury official, Katherine Bauer, in little-noticed written testimony presented last February to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, acknowledged that “under the Obama administration … these [Hezbollah-related] investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.”

As a result, some Hezbollah operatives were not pursued via arrests, indictments, or Treasury designations that would have blocked their access to U.S. financial markets, according to Bauer, a career Treasury official, who served briefly in its Office of Terrorist Financing as a senior policy adviser for Iran before leaving in late 2015. And other “Hezbollah facilitators” arrested in France, Colombia, Lithuania have not been extradited — or indicted — in the U.S., she wrote.

Bauer, in an interview, declined to elaborate on her testimony.

Asher
David Asher
Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise., for one, said Obama administration officials expressed concerns to him about alienating Tehran before, during and after the Iran nuclear deal negotiations. This was, he said, part of an effort to “defang, defund and undermine the investigations that were involving Iran and Hezbollah,” he said.

“The closer we got to the [Iran deal], the more these activities went away,” Asher said. “So much of the capability, whether it was special operations, whether it was law enforcement, whether it was [Treasury] designations — even the capacity, the personnel assigned to this mission — it was assiduously drained, almost to the last drop, by the end of the Obama administration.”

With much fanfare, Obama announced the final agreement on implementation of the Iran deal on Jan. 17, 2016, in which Tehran promised to shelve efforts to build a nuclear weapons program in exchange for being released from crippling international economic sanctions.

Within months, task force officials said, Project Cassandra was all but dead. Some of its most senior officials, including Jack Kelly
John “Jack” Kelly
DEA agent overseeing Hezbollah cases at Special Operations Division, who named task force Project Cassandra after clashes with other U.S. agencies about Hezbollah drug-terror links., the veteran DEA supervisory agent who created and led the task force, were transferred to other assignments. And Asher himself left the task force long before that, after the Defense Department said his contract would not be renewed.

As a result, the U.S. government lost insight into not only drug trafficking and other criminal activity worldwide, but also into Hezbollah’s illicit conspiracies with top officials in the Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan and Russian governments — all the way up to presidents Nicolas Maduro, Assad and Putin, according to former task force members and other current and former U.S. officials.

The derailment of Project Cassandra also has undermined U.S. efforts to determine how much cocaine from the various Hezbollah-affiliated networks is coming into the United States, especially from Venezuela, where dozens of top civilian and military officials have been under investigation for more than a decade. Recently, the Trump administration designated the country’s vice president, a close ally of Hezbollah and of Lebanese-Syrian descent, as a global narcotics kingpin.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah — in league with Iran — continues to undermine U.S. interests in Iraq, Syria and throughout wide swaths of Latin America and Africa, including providing weapons and training to anti-American Shiite militias. And Safieddine, the Ghost and other associates continue to play central roles in the trafficking of drugs and weapons, current and former U.S. officials believe.

“They were a paramilitary organization with strategic importance in the Middle East, and we watched them become an international criminal conglomerate generating billions of dollars for the world’s most dangerous activities, including chemical and nuclear weapons programs and armies that believe America is their sworn enemy,” said Kelly, the supervisory DEA agent and lead coordinator of its Hezbollah cases.

“If they are violating U.S. statutes,” he asked, “why can’t we bring them to justice?”

Kelly and Asher are among the officials involved in Project Cassandra who have been quietly contacted by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, who said a special POLITICO report April 24 on Barack Obama’s hidden Iran deal concessions raised urgent questions about the need to resurrect key law enforcement programs to counter Iran.

That won’t be easy, according to former Project Cassandra members, even with President Donald Trump’s recent vow to crack down on Iran and Hezbollah. They said they tried to keep the project on life support, in hopes that it would be revived by the next administration, but the loss of key personnel, budget cuts and dropped investigations are only a few of many challenges made worse by the passage of nearly a year since Trump took office.

“You can’t let these things disintegrate,” said Kelly. “Sources evaporate. Who knows if we can find all of the people willing to testify?”

Derek Maltz
Derek Maltz
Senior DEA official who as head of Special Operations Division lobbied for support for Project Cassandra and its investigations., who oversaw Project Cassandra as the head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division for nine years ending in July 2014, put it this way: “Certainly there are targets that people feel that could have been indicted and weren’t. There is certainly an argument to be made that if tomorrow all the agencies were ordered to come together and sit in a room and put all the evidence on the table against all these bad guys, that there could be a hell of a lot of indictments.”

But Maltz said the damage wrought by years of political interference will be hard to repair.

“There’s no doubt in my mind now that the focus was this Iran deal and our initiative was kind of like a fly in the soup,” Maltz said. “We were the train that went off the tracks.”

Project Cassandra had its origins in a series of investigations launched in the years after the 9/11 attacks which all led, via their own twisted paths, to Hezbollah as a suspected global criminal enterprise.

Operation Titan
Operation Titan
A joint investigation with Colombian authorities into a global money-laundering and drug-trafficking alliance between Latin American traffickers and Lebanese operatives., in which the DEA worked with Colombian authorities to explore a global alliance between Lebanese money launderers and Colombian drug trafficking conglomerates, was one. Operation Perseus, targeting Venezuelan syndicates, was another. At the same time, DEA agents in West Africa were investigating the suspicious flow of thousands of used cars from U.S. dealerships to car parks in Benin.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the U.S. military was probing the role of Iran in outfitting Shiite militias with high-tech improvised explosive devices known as Explosively Formed Penetrators, or EFPs, that had already killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.

All of these paths eventually converged on Hezbollah.

This wasn’t entirely a surprise, agents say. For decades, Hezbollah — in close cooperation with Iranian intelligence and Revolutionary Guard — had worked with supporters in Lebanese communities around the world to create a web of businesses that were long suspected of being fronts for black-market trading. Along the same routes that carried frozen chicken and consumer electronics, these businesses moved weapons, laundered money and even procured parts for Iran’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

As they pursued their investigations, the DEA agents found that Hezbollah was redoubling all of these efforts, working urgently to raise cash, and lots of it, to rebuild its south Lebanon stronghold after a 2006 war with Israel had reduced it to rubble.

Dating back to its inception in the early 1980s, Hezbollah, which translates to “Party of God,” had also engaged in “narcoterrorism,” collecting a tariff from drug dealers and other black-market suppliers who operated in territory it controlled in Lebanon and elsewhere. Now, based on the DEA’s extensive network of informants, undercover operatives and wiretaps, it looked like Hezbollah had shifted tactics, and gotten directly involved in the global cocaine trade, according to interviews and documents, including a confidential DEA assessment.

“It was like they flipped a switch,” Kelly told POLITICO. “All of a sudden, they reversed the flow of all of the black-market activity they had been taxing for years, and took control of the operation.”

Operating like an organized crime family, Hezbollah operatives would identify businesses that might be profitable and useful as covers for cocaine trafficking and buy financial stakes in them, Kelly and others said. “And if the business was successful and suited their current needs,” Kelly said, “they went from partial owners to majority owners to full partnership or takeover.”

Hezbollah even created a special financial unit that, translated into English, means “Business Affairs Component,” to oversee the sprawling criminal operation, and it was run by the world’s most wanted terrorist after Osama bin Laden, a notoriously vicious Hezbollah military commander named Imad Mughniyeh
Imad Mughniyeh
A Hezbollah mastermind who oversaw its international operations and, the DEA says, its drug trafficking, as head of its military wing, the Islamic Jihad Organization., according to DEA interviews and documents.

Mughniyeh had for decades been the public face of terrorism for Americans, orchestrating the infamous attack that killed 241 U.S. Marines in 1983 in their barracks in Lebanon, and dozens more Americans in attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that year and an annex the year after. When President Ronald Reagan responded to the attacks by withdrawing peacekeeping troops from Lebanon, Hezbollah claimed a major victory and vaulted to the forefront of the Islamist resistance movement against the West.

Over the next 25 years, Iran’s financial and military support for Hezbollah enabled it to amass an army with tens of thousands of foot soldiers, more heavy armaments than most nation-states and approximately 120,000 rockets and ballistic missiles that could strike Israel and U.S. interests in the region with devastating precision.

Hezbollah became an expert in soft power, as well. It provided food, medical care and other social services for starving refugees in war-torn Lebanon, winning credibility on the ground. It then evolved further into a powerful political party, casting itself as the defender of poor, mostly Shiite Lebanese against Christian and Sunni Muslim elites. But even as Hezbollah was moving into the mainstream of Lebanese politics, Mughniyeh was overseeing a secret expansion of its terrorist wing, the Islamic Jihad Organization. Working with Iranian intelligence agents, Islamic Jihad continued to attack Western, Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, and to conduct surveillance on others — including in the United States — in preparation for future attacks.

Hezbollah mostly left the United States alone, in what was clearly a strategic decision to avoid U.S. retaliation. But by 2008, the Bush administration came to believe that Islamic Jihad was the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, capable of launching instantaneous attacks, possibly with chemical, biological or low-grade nuclear weapons, that would dwarf those on 9/11.

By funding terrorism and military operations through global drug trafficking and organized crime, Mughniyeh’s business affairs unit within Islamic Jihad had become the embodiment of the kind of threat the United States was struggling to address in the post-9/11 world.

The DEA believed that it was the logical U.S. national security agency to lead the interagency effort to go after Mughniyeh’s drug trafficking networks. But within the multipronged U.S. national security apparatus, this was both a questionable and problematic assertion.

Established by President Richard Nixon in 1973 to bring together the various anti-drug programs under the Department of Justice, the DEA was among the youngest of the U.S. national security agencies.

And while the DEA had quickly proven itself adept at working on the global stage — especially in partnerships with drug-infested countries desperate for U.S. help like Colombia — few people within the U.S. government thought of it as a legitimate counterterrorism force.

In the final years of the Bush administration, though, the DEA had won the support of top officials for taking down two major international arms dealers, a Syrian named Monzer al-Kassar and the Russian “Lord of War,” Viktor Bout
Viktor Anatolyevich Bout
Vladimir Putin’s arms dealer, known as the “Lord of War.” Convicted of conspiracy to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombian narcoterrorists.. And thanks to supportive Republicans in Congress, it had become the beneficiary of a new federal law that empowered its globe-trotting cadre of assault-weapon-toting Special Operations agents.

The statute allowed DEA agents to operate virtually anywhere, without permission required from other U.S. agencies. All they needed to do was connect drug suspects to terrorism, and they could arrest them, haul them back to the United States and flip them in an effort to penetrate “the highest levels of the world’s most significant and notorious criminal organizations,” as then-Special Operations chief Maltz
Derek Maltz
Senior DEA official who as head of Special Operations Division lobbied for support for Project Cassandra and its investigations. told Congress in November 2011.

As they crunched the massive amounts of intel streaming into the DEA’s Counter Narco-Terrorism Operations Center in Chantilly, Virginia, the agents on Operation Titan
Operation Titan
A joint investigation with Colombian authorities into a global money-laundering and drug-trafficking alliance between Latin American traffickers and Lebanese operatives., Perseus and the other cases began to connect the dots and map the contours of one overarching criminal enterprise.

n Feb. 12, 2008, CIA and Israeli intelligence detonated a bomb in Mughniyeh
Imad Mughniyeh
A Hezbollah mastermind who oversaw its international operations and, the DEA says, its drug trafficking, as head of its military wing, the Islamic Jihad Organization.’s car as he was leaving a celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Iranian revolution in Damascus, Syria. He was killed instantly. It was a major blow to Hezbollah, but soon after, wiretapped phone lines and other U.S. evidence showed that his criminal operation was busier than ever, and overseen by two trusted associates, according to interviews with former Project Cassandra officials and DEA documents.

One was financier Adham Tabaja
Adham Tabaja
Lebanese businessman, alleged co-leader of Hezbollah Business Affairs Component and key figure directly tying Hezbollah’s commercial and terrorist activities.. The other, the interviews and documents reveal, was Safieddine, the key link between Hezbollah — which was run by his cousin, Hassan Nasrallah and his own brother Hashem — and Iran, Hezbollah’s state sponsor, which saw the group as its strategic ally in defending Shiite Muslims in the largely Sunni Muslim states that surrounded it.

Investigators were also homing in on several dozen key players underneath them who acted as “superfacilitators” for the various criminal operations benefitting Hezbollah, Iran and, at times, their allies in Iraq, Syria, Venezuela and Russia.

But it was Safieddine, a low-key, bespectacled man with a diplomatic bearing, who was their key point of connection from his base in Tehran, investigators believed.

The Colombia and Venezuela investigations linked him to numerous international drug smuggling and money laundering networks, and especially to one of the biggest the DEA had ever seen, led by Medellin-based Lebanese businessman Ayman Joumaa
Ayman Saied Joumaa
Accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S. with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money..

Joumaa
Ayman Saied Joumaa
Accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S. with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money.’s network rang alarm bells in Washington when agents discovered he was working with Mexico’s brutal Los Zetas cartel to move multi-ton loads of cocaine directly into the United States, and washing $200 million a month in criminal proceeds with the help of 300 or so used car dealerships. The network would funnel huge amounts of money to the dealerships to purchase used cars, which would then be shipped to Benin, on Africa’s west coast.

As the task force investigators intensified their focus on Safieddine, they were contacted out of the blue by Asher
David Asher
Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise., the Defense Department official, who was at Special Operations Command tracking the money used to provide ragtag Iraqi Shiite militias with sophisticated weapons for use against U.S. troops, including the new and lethal IED known as the “Explosively Formed Penetrator.” The armor-piercing charges were so powerful that they were ripping M1 Abrams tanks in half.

“Nobody had seen weapons like these,” Asher told POLITICO. “They could blow the side off a building.”

Asher’s curiosity had been piqued by evidence linking the IED network to phone numbers intercepted in the Colombia investigation. Before long, he traced the unusual alliance to a number allegedly used by Safieddine in Iran.

“I had no clue who he was,” Asher recalled. “But this guy was sending money into Iraq, to kill American soldiers.”

“I had no clue who he was. But this guy was sending money into Iraq, to kill American soldiers.”

— David Asher on Abdallah Safieddine.
Thanks to that chance connection, the Pentagon’s then-head of counternarcotics, William Wechsler, lent Asher and a few other Defense Department experts in tracking illicit money to the DEA to see what they might find.

It was a fruitful partnership. Asher was accustomed to toiling in the financial shadows. During his 20-plus years of U.S. government work, his core expertise was in exposing money laundering and schemes to avoid financial sanctions by rogue nation states, terrorist groups, organized-crime cartels and weapons proliferation networks.

Usually, his work was strictly classified. For Project Cassandra, however, he got special dispensation from the Pentagon to build networks of unclassified information so it could be used in criminal prosecutions.

Asher and his team quickly integrated cutting-edge financial intelligence tools into the various DEA investigations. With the U.S. military’s help, agents translated thousands of hours of intercepted phone conversations from Colombia in Arabic that no one had considered relevant until the Hezbollah links appeared.

When the translations were complete, investigators said, they painted a picture of Safieddine
Abdallah Safieddine
Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran who allegedly oversaw the group’s “Business Affairs Component” involved in international drug trafficking. as a human hub of a criminal enterprise with spokes emanating from Tehran outward into Latin America, Africa, Europe and the United States via hundreds of legitimate businesses and front companies.

Safieddine did not respond to requests for comment through various intermediaries including Hezbollah’s media arm. A Hezbollah official, however, denied that the organization was involved in drug dealing.

“Sheik Nasrallah has confirmed lots of times that it is not permitted religiously for Hezbollah members to be trafficking drugs,” the official said. “It is something that is preventable, in that we in Islam have things like halal [permitted] and haram [prohibited]. For us, this is haram. So in no way is it possible to be done.”

The accusation that Hezbollah is involved in drug trafficking, the representative said, “is part of the campaign to distort the image of Hezbollah as a resistance movement against the Israelis. Of course, it is possible to have Lebanese people involved in drugs, but it is not possible for them to be members of Hezbollah. This is absolutely not possible.”

Asked about Safieddine’s role in the organization, the official said, “We don’t usually expose the roles everyone plays because it is a jihadi organization. So it is a little bit secret.”

Safieddine’s cousin Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, has publicly rejected the idea that Hezbollah needs to raise money at all, through drugs or any other criminal activity, because Iran provides whatever funds it needs.

Safieddine himself, however, suggested otherwise in 2005, when he defiantly refuted the Bush administration’s accusations that Iran and Syria supplied Hezbollah with weapons. Those countries provided “political and moral” support only, he told Agence France-Presse. “We don’t need to arm ourselves from Tehran. Why bring weapons from Iran via Syria when we can procure them anywhere in the world?”

“We don’t need to arm ourselves from Tehran. Why bring weapons from Iran via Syria when we can procure them anywhere in the world?”

— Abdallah Safieddine to Agence France-Presse in 2005.
Safieddine may have been right. Agents found evidence that weapons were flowing to Hezbollah from many channels, including networks that trafficked in both drugs and weapons. And using the same trafficking networks that hummed with drugs, cash and commercial products, agents concluded, Safieddine was overseeing Hezbollah efforts to help Iran procure parts and technology for its clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“Hezbollah operates like the Gambino crime family on steroids, and he is its John Gotti,” said Kelly, referring to the infamous “Teflon Don” crime boss who for decades eluded justice. “Whatever Iran needs, Safieddine is in charge of getting it for them.”

“Hezbollah operates like the Gambino crime family on steroids, and he is its John Gotti.”

— Jack Kelly on Abdallah Safieddine.
The Bush administration had made disrupting the networks through which Iran obtained parts for its weapons of mass destruction programs a top priority, with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate personally overseeing an interagency effort to map out the procurement channels. A former Justice Department prosecutor, Zarate understood the value of international law enforcement operations, and put DEA’s Special Operations Division at the center of it.

But even then, other agencies were chafing at the DEA’s role.

A SERIES OF ROADBLOCKS
Much of the early turbulence stemmed from an escalating turf battle between federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies over which ones had primacy in the global war on terrorism, especially over a so-called hybrid target like Hezbollah, which was both a criminal enterprise and a national security threat.

The “cops” from the FBI and DEA wanted to build criminal cases, throw Hezbollah operatives in prison and get them to turn on each other. That stoked resentment among the “spooks” at the CIA and National Security Agency, who for 25 years had gathered intelligence, sometimes through the painstaking process of having agents infiltrate Hezbollah, and then occasionally launching assassinations and cyberattacks to block imminent threats.

Further complicating the picture was the role of the State Department, which often wanted to quash both law-enforcement actions and covert operations due to the political backlash they created. Hezbollah, after all, was a leading political force in Lebanon and a provider of human services, with a sincere grass-roots following that wasn’t necessarily aware of its unsavory actions. Nowhere was the tension between law enforcement and diplomacy more acute than in dealings with Hezbollah, which was fast becoming a key part of the Lebanese government.

Distrust among U.S. agencies exploded after two incidents brought the cops-spooks divide into clear relief.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, a DEA agent’s cover was blown just as he was about to become a Colombian cartel’s main cocaine supplier to the Middle East — and to Hezbollah operatives.

A year later, under Obama, the State Department blocked an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force from luring a key eyewitness from Beirut to Philadelphia so he could be arrested and turned against Safieddine
Abdallah Safieddine
Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran who allegedly oversaw the group’s “Business Affairs Component” involved in international drug trafficking. and other Hezbollah operatives in a scheme to procure 1,200 Colt M4 military-grade assault rifles.

In both cases, law enforcement agents suspected that Middle East-based spies in the CIA had torpedoed their investigations to protect their politically sensitive and complicated relationship with Hezbollah.

The CIA declined to comment on the allegation that it intentionally blew the cover of a DEA agent or any other aspect of its relationship with Project Cassandra. The Obama State Department and Justice Department also declined to comment in response to detailed requests about their dealings with Hezbollah.

But the tensions between those agencies and the DEA were no secret. Some current and former diplomats and CIA officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, portrayed DEA Special Operations agents as undisciplined and overly aggressive cowboys with little regard for the larger geopolitical picture. “They’d come in hot to places like Beirut, want to slap handcuffs on people and disrupt operations we’d been cultivating for years,” one former CIA case officer said.

“They’d come in hot to places like Beirut, want to slap handcuffs on people and disrupt operations we’d been cultivating for years.”

— Former CIA case officer on how the DEA operated.
Kelly
John “Jack” Kelly
DEA agent overseeing Hezbollah cases at Special Operations Division, who named task force Project Cassandra after clashes with other U.S. agencies about Hezbollah drug-terror links. and other agents embraced their swashbuckling reputation, claiming that more aggressive tactics were needed because the CIA had long turned a blind eye to Hezbollah’s criminal networks, and even cultivated informants within them, in a misguided and myopic focus on preventing terrorist attacks.

The unyielding posture of Kelly, Asher
David Asher
Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise. and their team also rankled some of their fellow law-enforcement agents within the FBI, the Justice Department and even the DEA itself. The more Kelly and Asher insisted that everyone else was missing the drug-crime-terror nexus, the more others accused them — and their team out at Chantilly — of inflating those connections to expand the task force’s portfolio, get more funding and establish its importance.

After a few years of working together on the Hezbollah cases, Kelly and Asher had become a familiar sight in the never-ending circuit of meetings and briefings in what is known as the “interagency process,” a euphemism for the U.S. national security community’s efforts to bring all elements of power to bear on a particular problem.

From outward appearances, the two made an unusual pair.

Kelly, now 51, was a streetwise agent from small-town New Jersey who cut his teeth investigating the Mafia and drug kingpins. He spent his infrequent downtime lifting weights, watching college football and chilling in cargo shorts.

Asher, 49, speaks fluent Japanese, earned his Ph.D. in international relations from Oxford University and has the pallor of a senior government official who has spent the past three decades in policy meetings, classified military war rooms and diplomatic summits.

Both were described by supporters and detractors alike as having a similarly formidable combination of investigative and analytical skills, and the self-confidence to match it. At times, and especially on Project Cassandra, their intensity worked to the detriment of their careers.

“It got to the point where a lot of people didn’t want to have meetings with them,” said one FBI terrorism task force supervisor who worked often with the two. “They refused to accept no for an answer. And they were often given no for an answer. Even though they were usually right.”

An early flash point was Operation Titan
Operation Titan
A joint investigation with Colombian authorities into a global money-laundering and drug-trafficking alliance between Latin American traffickers and Lebanese operatives., the DEA initiative in Colombia. After its undercover agent was compromised, DEA and Colombian authorities scrambled to build cases against as many as 130 traffickers, including a Colombian cartel leader and a suspected Safieddine associate named Chekry Harb, nicknamed El Taliban.

For months afterward, the Justice Department rebuffed requests by task force agents, and some of its own prosecutors, to add narcoterrorism charges to the drug and money-laundering counts against Harb, several sources involved in the case said. Agents argued that they had evidence that would easily support the more serious charges. Moreover, Harb’s prosecution was an essential building block in their larger plan for a sustained legal assault against Hezbollah’s criminal network.

Its centerpiece would be a prosecution under the Racketeer Act
RICO case
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act increases the severity of penalties for crimes committed in as part of organized crime., a powerful tool used by the Justice Department against sophisticated international conspiracies, including the Mafia, drug cartels and white-collar corporate crimes. A RICO case would give the task force the ability to tie many seemingly unconnected conspiracies together, and prosecute the alleged bosses overseeing them, like Safieddine, participants say.

It would also allow authorities to seize potentially billions in assets, they say, and to use the threat of far longer prison terms to wring more cooperation out of Harb and others already charged or convicted.

After the Justice Department’s final refusal to bring narcoterrorism charges against Harb, Kelly sent an angry email to the DEA leadership warning that Justice’s “obstruction” would have “far reaching implications including threats to our National Security” given Hezbollah’s mushrooming criminal activity.

Of particular concern: A 25–year-old Lebanese man that Kelly described as the network’s “command and control element,” according to the email.

The young man was not only in contact “with Joumaa
Ayman Saied Joumaa
Accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S. with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money. and some of the other top drug traffickers in the world” but also “leaders of a foreign [country’s] black ops special forces; executive leadership of Hezbollah; and a representative of a company which is most likely facilitating the development of WMDs.”

“We should also not forget,” he added, “about the 100’s of used car companies in the states — some of them owned by Islamic Extremists — which are part of this network.” In interviews, former task force officials identified the young man as Safieddine
Abdallah Safieddine
Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran who allegedly oversaw the group’s “Business Affairs Component” involved in international drug trafficking.’s son, and said he acted as his father’s liaison in Beirut.

All of that information was shared with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies — and the White House — via the DEA’s Chantilly nerve center. But by early 2009, Obama’s national security team batted down Project Cassandra’s increasingly urgent warnings as being overly alarmist, counterproductive or untrue, or simply ignored them, according to Kelly, Asher, Maltz and other participants in and out of government.

By following the money, though, Asher had become convinced that the task force wasn’t overhyping the threat posed by Hezbollah’s criminal activities, it was significantly underestimating it. Because Hezbollah’s drug trafficking was bankrolling its Islamic Jihad military wing and joint ventures with Iran, as Asher would later testify before Congress, it represented “the largest material support scheme for terrorism operations” the world had ever seen.

As proof, Asher
David Asher
Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise. would often bring PowerPoints to interagency drug and crime meetings, showing how cash reserves of U.S currency in Lebanon had doubled, to $16 billion, in just a few years, and how shiny new skyscrapers were popping up around Beirut, just like Miami, Panama City, Panama, and other cities awash in drug money.

Privately, Asher began to tell task force colleagues, the best way to take down the entire criminal enterprise — especially such a politically sensitive one as Hezbollah — was to go after its money, and the financial institutions assisting it. Their first target would be one of the world’s fastest-growing banks, the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank and its $5 billion in assets.

BLOCKED EFFORTS, MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Asher knew how to successfully implode the financial underpinnings of an illicit, state-sponsored trafficking network because he’d already done it, just a few years earlier, as the Bush administration’s point man on North Korea. In that case, he used the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act to cut off Pyongyang by going after Banco Delta Asia, a Macau-based bank that made illicit financial transactions on behalf of the North Korean regime.

In Beirut, Asher and his team worked with an Israeli intelligence operation to penetrate the Lebanese bank’s inner workings and diagram its Byzantine money flows. They gathered evidence showing how Joumaa
Ayman Saied Joumaa
Accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S. with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money.’s network alone was laundering $200 million per month in “bulk proceeds of drug sales” through the bank and various money exchange houses, according to Justice and Treasury department documents.

Much of the freshly laundered cash, the records show, was then wired to about 300 U.S. used-car dealers to buy and ship thousands of vehicles to West Africa.

Task force agents also documented how Safieddine was a financial liaison providing Hezbollah — and, of potentially huge significance, Iran — with VIP services at the bank, including precious access to the international financial system in violation of U.S. sanctions, according to those records.

By then, the task force was working closely with federal prosecutors in a new Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit out of the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York. The Manhattan prosecutors agreed to file criminal charges against the bank and two senior officials that they hoped to turn into cooperating witnesses against Hezbollah and Safieddine, several participants said.

Federal authorities filed a civil action against the bank in February 2011 and later seized $102 million, ultimately forcing it to shut down and sell its assets without admitting wrongdoing. But the Justice Department never filed the criminal charges, and also stymied investigations into other financial institutions and individuals that task force agents targeted as part of the planned RICO
RICO case
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act increases the severity of penalties for crimes committed in as part of organized crime. case, they say.

The Obama White House said privately that it feared a broader assault on Lebanese financial institutions would destabilize the country. But without the threat of prison time, complicit bank officials clammed up. And without pressure on the many other financial institutions in Lebanon and the region, Hezbollah simply moved its banking business elsewhere.

Soon afterward, Kelly said, he ran into one of the unit’s top prosecutors and asked if there was “something going on with the White House that explains why we can’t get a criminal filing.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” the prosecutor replied, according to Kelly. “Right now, we have 50 FBI agents not doing anything because they know their Iran cases aren’t going anywhere,” including investigations around the U.S. into allegedly complicit used-car dealers.

“Right now, we have 50 FBI agents not doing anything because they know their Iran cases aren’t going anywhere”

— Jack Kelly on what a Justice Department official told him about the chilling effect of Obama’s rapprochement with Iran.
Justice Department officials involved, including then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and other prosecutors, declined requests to discuss the bank case or others involving Hezbollah.

That October, Asher helped uncover a plot by two Iranian agents and a Texas-based Iranian-American to hire Mexican cartel gunmen to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador in a crowded Washington cafe. A month later, prosecutors indicted Joumaa, accusing him of working with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and Colombian and Venezuelan suppliers to smuggle 85 tons of cocaine into the U.S., and laundering $850 million in drug proceeds.

Task force agents hoped those cases would win them the political support needed to attack the Hezbollah criminal network and its patrons in Tehran. Instead, the opposite appeared to be happening.

DEA officials weren’t included in the Justice and FBI news conference on the assassination plot, and claim it was because the Obama White House wanted to downplay the drug-terror connection. And Joumaa’s indictment didn’t mention Hezbollah once, despite DEA evidence of his connections to the group dating back to 1997.

By the end of 2012, senior officials at the Justice Department’s National Security and Criminal divisions, and at the State Department and National Security Council, had shut down, derailed or delayed numerous other Hezbollah-related cases with little or no explanation, according to Asher, Kelly, Maltz and other current and former participating officials.

Agents discovered “an entire Quds force network” in the U.S., laundering money, moving drugs and illegally smuggling Bell helicopters, night-vision goggles and other items for Iran, Asher said.

“We crashed to indict” the elite Iranian unit, and while some operatives were eventually prosecuted, other critically important indictments “were rejected despite the fact that we had excellent evidence and testifying witnesses,” said Asher, who helped lead the investigation.

In Philadelphia, the FBI-led task force had spent two years bolstering its case claiming that Safieddine had overseen an effort to purchase 1,200 military-grade assault rifles bound for Lebanon, with the help of Kelly and the special narcoterrorism prosecutors in New York.

Now, they had two key eyewitnesses. One would identify Safieddine
Abdallah Safieddine
Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran who allegedly oversaw the group’s “Business Affairs Component” involved in international drug trafficking. as the Hezbollah official sitting behind a smoked-glass barricade who approved the assault weapons deal. And an agent and prosecutor had flown to a remote Asian hotel and spent four days persuading another eyewitness to testify about Safieddine’s role in an even bigger weapons and drugs conspiracy, multiple former law enforcement officials confirmed to POLITICO.

Convinced they had a strong case, the New York prosecutors sent a formal prosecution request to senior Justice Department lawyers in Washington, as required in such high-profile cases. The Justice Department rejected it, and the FBI and DEA agents were never told why, those former officials said.

Justice Department officials declined to comment on the case.

Kelly had been searching for an appropriate DEA code name to give to collaborating agencies so they could access and contribute to task force investigative files. He found it while reading the Erik Larson book “In the Garden of Beasts,” in which the former U.S. ambassador to Germany named his U.S. speaking tour about the growing Nazi menace after the famous mythological figure whose warnings about the future were unheeded.

Now the project had its name: Cassandra.

STANDING DOWN ON HEZBOLLAH
After Obama won reelection in November 2012, the administration’s pushback on Hezbollah drug cases became more overt, and now seemed to be emanating directly from the White House, according to task force members, some former U.S. officials and other observers.

One reason, they said, was Obama’s choice of a new national security team. The appointment of John Kerry as secretary of state was widely viewed as a sign of a redoubled effort to engage with Iran. Obama’s appointment of Brennan — the public supporter of cultivating Hezbollah moderates — as CIA director, and the president’s choice of the Justice Department’s top national security lawyer, Lisa Monaco
Lisa Monaco
Lisa Monaco replaced John Brennan as the White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser., as Brennan’s replacement as White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, put two more strong proponents of diplomatic engagement with Iran in key positions.

Another factor was the victory of reformist candidate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran that summer, which pushed the talks over a possible nuclear deal into high gear.

The administration’s eagerness for an Iran deal was broadcast through so many channels, task force members say, that political appointees and career officials at key agencies like Justice, State and the National Security Council felt unspoken pressure to view the task force’s efforts with skepticism. One former senior Justice Department official confirmed to POLITICO that some adverse decisions might have been influenced by an informal multi-agency Iran working group that “assessed the potential impact” of criminal investigations and prosecutions on the nuclear negotiations.

Monaco was a particularly influential roadblock at the intersection of law enforcement and politics, in part due to her sense of caution, her close relationship with Obama and her frequent contact with her former colleagues at the Justice Department’s National Security Division, according to several task force members and other current and former officials familiar with its efforts.

Some Obama officials warned that further crackdowns against Hezbollah would destabilize Lebanon. Others warned that such actions would alienate Iran at a critical early stage of the serious Iran deal talks. And some officials, including Monaco
Lisa Monaco
Lisa Monaco replaced John Brennan as the White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser., said the administration was concerned about retaliatory terrorist or military actions by Hezbollah, task force members said.

“That was the established policy of the Obama administration internally,” one former senior Obama national security official said, in describing the reluctance to go after Hezbollah for fear of reprisal. He said he criticized it at the time as being misguided and hypocritical.

“We’re obviously doing those actions against al Qaeda and ISIS all the time,” the Obama official said. “I thought it was bad policy [to refrain from such actions on Hezbollah] that limited the range of options we had,” including criminal prosecutions.

Monaco declined repeated requests for comment, including detailed questions sent by email and text, though a former White House subordinate of hers rejected the task force members’ description of her motives and actions.

The White House was driven by a broader set of concerns than the fate of the nuclear talks, the former White House official said, including the fear of reprisals by Hezbollah against the United States and Israel, and the need to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East.

Brennan also told POLITICO he was not commenting on any aspect of his CIA tenure. His former associates, however, said that he remained committed to preventing Hezbollah from committing terrorist acts, and that his decisions were based on an overall concern for U.S. security.

For their part, task force agents said they tried to work around the obstacles presented by the Justice and State Departments and the White House. Often, they chose to build relatively simple drug and weapons cases against suspects rather than the ambitious narcoterrorism prosecutions that required the approval of senior Justice Department lawyers, interviews and records show.

At the same time, though, they redoubled efforts to build a RICO
RICO case
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act increases the severity of penalties for crimes committed in as part of organized crime. case and gain Justice Department support for it.

Their ace in the hole, Kelly and Asher said they told Justice officials, wasn’t some dramatic drug bust, but thousands of individual financial transactions, each of which constituted an overt criminal act under RICO. Much of this evidence grew out of the Lebanese Canadian Bank investigation, including details of how an army of couriers for years had been transporting billions of dollars in dirty U.S. cash from West African car dealerships to friendly banks in Beirut.

The couriers would begin their journeys at a four-star hotel in Lome, Togo, lugging suitcases stuffed with as much as $2 million each, Kelly said. And the task force was on the tail of every one of them, he said, thanks to an enterprising DEA agent who had found a way to get all of their cellphone numbers. “They had no idea what we were doing,” Kelly said. “But that alone gave us all the slam-dunk evidence we needed” for a RICO case against everyone involved in the conspiracy, including Hezbollah.

The couriers were lugging suitcases stuffed with as much as $2 million each, and the task force was on the tail of every one of them.

Such on-the-ground spadework, combined with its worldwide network of court-approved communications intercepts, gave Project Cassandra agents virtual omniscience over some aspects of the Hezbollah criminal network.

And from their perch in Chantilly, they watched with growing alarm as Hezbollah accelerated its global expansion that the drug money helped finance.

Both Hezbollah and Iran continued to build up their military arsenals and move thousands of soldiers and weapons into Syria. Aided by the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, Iran, with the help of Hezbollah, consolidated its control and influence over wide swaths of the war-ravaged country.

Iran and Hezbollah began making similar moves into Yemen and other Sunni-controlled countries. And their networks in Africa trafficked not just in drugs, weapons and used cars but diamonds, commercial merchandise and even human slaves, according to interviews with former Project Cassandra members and Treasury Department documents. Hezbollah and the Quds force also were moving into China and other new markets.

But Project Cassandra’s agents were most alarmed, by far, by the havoc Hezbollah and Iran were wreaking in Latin America.

A THREAT IN AMERICA’S BACKYARD
In the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Washington’s focus was elsewhere, Hezbollah and Iran cultivated alliances with governments along the “cocaine corridor” from the tip of South America to Mexico, to turn them against the United States.

The strategy worked in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, which evicted the DEA, shuttering strategic bases and partnerships that had been a bulwark in the U.S. counternarcotics campaign.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez was personally working with then-Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah on drug trafficking and other activities aimed at undermining U.S. influence in the region, according to interviews and documents.

Within a few years, Venezuelan cocaine exports skyrocketed from 50 tons a year to 250, much of it bound for American cities, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime statistics show.

And beginning in 2007, DEA agents watched as a commercial jetliner from Venezuela’s state-run Conviasa airline flew from Caracas to Tehran via Damascus, Syria, every week with a cargo-hold full of drugs and cash. They nicknamed it “Aeroterror,” they said, because the return flight often carried weapons and was packed with Hezbollah and Iranian operatives whom the Venezuelan government would provide with fake identities and travel documents on their arrival.

From there, the operatives spread throughout the subcontinent and set up shop in the many recently opened Iranian consulates, businesses and mosques, former Project Cassandra agents said.

But when the Obama administration had opportunities to secure the extradition of two of the biggest players in that conspiracy, it failed to press hard enough to get them extradited to the United States, where they would face charges, task force officials told POLITICO.

One was Syrian-born Venezuelan businessman Walid Makled, alias the “king of kingpins,” who was arrested in Colombia in 2010 on charges of shipping 10 tons of cocaine a month to the United States. While in custody, Makled claimed to have 40 Venezuelan generals on his payroll and evidence implicating dozens of top Venezuelan officials in drug trafficking and other crimes. He pleaded to be sent to New York as a protected, cooperating witness, but Colombia — a staunch U.S. ally — extradited him to Venezuela instead.

The other, retired Venezuelan general and former chief of intelligence Hugo Carvajal, was arrested in Aruba on U.S. drug charges. Carvajal “was the main man between Venezuela and Iran, the Quds force, Hezbollah and the cocaine trafficking,” Kelly said. “If we had gotten our hands on either of them, we could have taken down the entire network.”

“If we had gotten our hands on either of them, we could have taken down the entire network.”

— Kelly on the extradition of a top Venezuelan official and a drug kingpin.
Instead, Venezuela was now the primary pipeline for U.S.-bound cocaine, thanks in part to the DEA’s success in neighboring Colombia. It had also become a strategically invaluable staging area for Hezbollah and Iran in the United States’ backyard, including camps they established to train Shiite militias.

And at the center of much of that activity was the Ghost
The Ghost
One of the most mysterious alleged associates of Safieddine, secretly indicted by the U.S., linked to multi-ton U.S.-bound cocaine loads and weapons shipments to Middle East., another suspected Safieddine associate so elusive that no photos of him were said to exist.

Project Cassandra agents came to regard the Ghost as perhaps the most important on-the-ground operator in the conspiracy because of his suspected role in moving drugs, money and munitions, including multi-ton loads of cocaine, into the United States, and WMD components to the Middle East, according to two former senior U.S. officials.

Now, he and Joumaa
Ayman Saied Joumaa
Accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S. with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money. were living in Beirut, and Project Cassandra agents were so familiar with their routines that they knew at which cafe the two men gathered every morning to drink espresso and “discuss drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons,” one of the two former officials said.

The Ghost was also in business with another suspected Safieddine associate, Ali Fayad
Ali Fayad
(aka Fayyad). Ukraine-based arms merchant suspected of being a Hezbollah operative moving large amounts of weapons to Syria., who had long been instrumental in providing weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, including through the deadly IED network that had killed so many U.S. troops, the former officials believed.

Now, they had information that Fayad, a joint Lebanese and Ukrainian citizen, and the Ghost were involved in moving conventional and chemical weapons into Syria for Hezbollah, Iran and Russia to help President Assad crush the insurgency against his regime. Adding to the mystery: Fayad served as a Ukrainian defense ministry adviser, worked for the state-owned arms exporter Ukrspecexport and appeared to have taken Bout
Viktor Anatolyevich Bout
Vladimir Putin’s arms dealer, known as the “Lord of War.” Convicted of conspiracy to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombian narcoterrorists.’s place as Putin’s go-to arms merchant, the former officials said.

So when Fayad’s name surfaced in a DEA investigation in West Africa as a senior Hezbollah weapons trafficker, agents scrambled to create a sting operation, with undercover operatives posing as Colombian narcoterrorists plotting to shoot down American government helicopters.

Fayad was happy to offer his expert advice, and after agreeing to provide them with 20 Russian-made shoulder-fired Igla surface-to-air missiles, 400 rocket-propelled grenades and various firearms and rocket launchers for $8.3 million, he was arrested by Czech authorities on a U.S. warrant in April 2014, U.S. court records show.

The Fayad sting — and his unprecedented value as a potential cooperating witness — was just one of many reasons Project Cassandra members had good cause, finally, for optimism.

Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump’s First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

Despite the media’s tumultuous relationship with President Donald Trump, and with the GOP-led tax reform on the verge of passing, Trump’s first year in office isn’t without significant victories, according to Byron York at The Washington Examiner.Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

Here are Trump’s most significant first-year accomplishments (assuming tax reform passes):

1. Cut corporate and individual tax rates.

The bill is expected to pass and will give Trump and the GOP their largest legislative victory. The legislation will be the most significant tax overhaul since 1986, and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

2. Repealed the Obamacare individual mandate.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) fulfilled a GOP promise when he amended the tax bill to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. This will allow people to choose not to sign up for health insurance without the threat of a financial penalty.

3. Appointed a highly respected conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court.Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

Trump’s replacement of Antonin Scalia, a justice dedicated to upholding the original meaning of the Constitution, with another cut from the same cloth, Neil Gorsuch, was a huge win for conservatives.

4. Appointed a one-year record number of judges to the circuit courts.

The Senate Thursday confirmed Trump’s 12th federal appeals court nominee. The federal courts have a huge hand in on policies conservatives care about, such as gun rights and religious freedom. The federal courts have stymied some of his policy objectives this year, such as his executive order to limit travel from eight Muslim-majority countries.

5. Got rid of reams of unnecessary regulations.

Trump’s policy of cutting two regulations for every one implemented has wreaked havoc on the regulatory state since taking office.

6. Supported the fight against ISIS.

Trump’s policies against ISIS have driven them out of Iraq, where they once had a stranglehold on strategic outposts and cities. Iraq declared victory over ISIS on Dec. 9, a huge step in helping to stabilize the region.

7. Approved pipeline projects and new oil drilling.

The Keystone Pipeline project was rejected by President Barack Obama in 2015, and Trump promised to reverse course during the campaign.Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

The proposed pipeline may provide a large boost the U.S. energy industry and create tens of thousands of new jobs.

This Thanksgiving, Americans in general — and free-market conservatives in particular — have plenty for which to be grateful. And much of it would be absent had the White House’s current occupant not become president on November 8, 2016. The day after Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, Princeton University economist Paul Krugman called Trump’s victory “the mother of all adverse effects.” He predicted “very probably . . . a global recession, with no end in sight.”

• The Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 all hit record highs on Tuesday. The Wilshire 5000 Index calculates that some $3.4 trillion in new wealth has been created since President Trump’s inauguration and $5.4 trillion since his election. Fueled by the reality of deregulation, expectations of lower taxes, and a new tone in Washington that applauds free enterprise rather than excoriate it, the economy is on fire.

• Atop the second quarter’s 3.1 percent increase in real GDP, and 3.0 in 3Q, the New York Federal Reserve Bank predicts that 4Q output will expand by 3.8 percent. This far outpaces the feeble average-annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent on President Obama’s watch. Meanwhile, the IMF expects global GDP to rise by 3.5 percent this year. So much for a Trump-inspired “global recession.”

• Unemployment is at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low. New unemployment claims in September were at their most modest since 1974. Goldman Sachs on November 20 “lowered our unemployment rate forecast to 3.7 percent by end-2018 and 3.5 percent by end-2019.” According to the Wall Street powerhouse’s chief economist Jan Hatzius, “Such a scenario would take the U.S. labor market into territory almost never seen outside of a major wartime mobilization.”Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

• American companies have been expanding operations here rather than shipping jobs overseas. Corning, for instance, announced a $500 million investment in new U.S. production, launching 1,000 positions. • Foreign firms have been unveiling facilities and creating jobs in America. Insourcing is now a thing. Taiwan’s Foxconn will spend $10 billion on a new Wisconsin electronics plant with 3,000 new employees. During Trump’s recent visit to China, Beijing agreed to invest $84 billion in new energy projects in West Virginia.

• If the Senate cooperates, Santa Claus will deliver $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, including a dream-come-true 43 percent reduction in corporate taxes, from a 35 percent rate to 20 percent, well below the global average of 22.5 percent. This major blow for international competitiveness should turbocharge the economy even further.

• Obamacare remains alive, alas, largely due to the flaccid leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R., Ky.) and his inability to control a handful of Republican prima donnas. (As of November 2, the House had passed 394 bills; 308 of them — 78 percent — are moldering in McConnell’s inbox.) However, the GOP may make Obamacare voluntary. Junking the individual mandate will emancipate Americans from this unprecedented attack on our freedom and, as an added bonus, make $318 billion available for deeper tax cuts.

• U.S. energy production is on the upswing. After languishing under Obama, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines are under construction. Jobs to be created: 42,000.Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

• Obama’s War on Coal is gone with the wind.

• Trump wisely extricated America from the bogus Paris “global-warming” deal.

• Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” a $993 billion act of economic self-sabotage, now rots — with Communism — atop the ash heap of history.

• For every new regulation that Trump has imposed, 16 have been erased.

• The FCC has begun to dismantle Obama’s “Net Neutrality” takeover of the Internet, which functioned marvelously, thank you, before his needless e-power-grab.

• Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is on the bench, along with 13 constitutionalist lower-court judges. At this stage in Obama’s presidency, the Senate had confirmed just seven of his district- and circuit-court nominees.

• President Trump signed legislation to ease the firing of incompetent and corrupt officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs. So far, according to the White House, the VA has sacked more than 500 such undesirables, suspended 200, and demoted 33. Trump also has endorsed bills that give embattled vets greater choice in health care beyond the largely ruinous, highly toxic, single-payer VA medical system.

• Trump has revitalized ties with America’s NATO allies, who finally have begun to pay their fair share for collective security — as their heretofore disregarded commitments require.

• The president of the United States movingly and eloquently defended Western Civilization in a stirring speech in Warsaw, arguably his best in office.

• Trump urged Arab and Muslim leaders to “drive out” militant Islam in a milestone address in Riyadh.

• To that end, U.S.-assisted forces have driven ISIS from an expansive caliphate with many square miles of land to a horrid idea with a shrinking grasp on a few sand dunes, soon to be pried from their filthy fingers.

• With Trump aboard, Air Force One flew the first direct flight ever between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

• Trump stood steadfastly by Israel at the Western Wall and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama’s cold-shoulder policy toward Israel is finished.Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

• Asian heads of state were impressed with Trump last week. Soon after he left China, the Chinese government agreed to Trump’s request and released three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting and destined, most likely, to long prison sentences.

• Just after Trump returned to America, China sent a delegation to talk some sense into North Korean madman Kim Jong-un.

• Pyongyang is as strongly sanctioned as it has been in ages, in part thanks to the U.N. Security Council’s U.S.-led unanimous votes to that effect.

• The State Department this week returned North Korea to the official list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. George W. Bush excused North Korea from that deadly distinction, to little positive effect.

• The disastrous Iran nuclear deal soon may be shredded — as it should be. For now, Trump has declared Iran no longer in compliance with the agreement, flimsy as it is.

• Guantanamo Bay remains open for business, and Obama’s “catch and release” policy toward its militant-Islamic detainees ist kaput.

• Under this president, illegal-alien border crossings are down 41 percent on the southern frontier, versus January through October 2016, under Obama.Image result for Amidst Controversy and Mayhem, Trump's First-Year Accomplishments Are Many

• ICE has arrested 97,482 illegal aliens under President Trump, as of October 27, up 43 percent year-on-year. Of these 52,169 (53.5 percent) have been expelled — up 30 percent. Among those arrested, the White House reports, 70 percent were convicted criminals.

• Rather than ridicule vote fraud, as Democrats routinely do, President Trump appointed a commission to investigate shenanigans at the polls and how America’s entire system of casting ballots can be made tamper-proof. Vice President Mike Pence chairs this panel. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R., Kan.) co-chairs.

• The Education Department’s due-process-crushing Title IX “guidance letter” on sexual harassment on college campuses is null and void.

• The Trump administration is giving green lights to school-choice efforts across America.

• The Justice Department is investigating Harvard University for possibly violating the civil rights of Americans of Asian descent who argue that they are being rejected in favor of less qualified applicants of other ethnicities.

Donald Trump Had ENOUGH! Just Signed a 5-Year Ban….This is HUGE!

President Trump has been in office for less than a year, and he is more determined than ever to make sure his agenda to make America great again does not fail.Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, suit and text

After the Supreme Court ruled that President Trump’s travel ban was indeed constitutional, he is not wasting any more time and pushing through more initiatives to strengthen our country.

Over this past weekend, Trump took his presidential pen and signed an executive order to help restore sincerity and honesty in Washington, which has the left screaming foul.

Now, this is how you drain the swamp.

President Trump is making good on his campaign promises, and the left cannot stand it.

First, Trump scored a significant win when the Supreme Court reinstated the travel ban and then shortly after that he officially recognized Jeresulam as the capital of Israel, which had leftists melting like snowflakes in July.Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, suit and text

As these fragile liberals are still recovering from a massive dose of #MAGA, Trump used that momentum to sign into action another executive order to drain the swamp.

In another effort to keep more of his campaign promises, Trump ended backroom deals and put government employees on notice in his latest executive order.

President Donald Trump fulfilled an essential portion of his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, by banning administration officials from ever lobbying the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government and imposing a separate five-year ban on all lobbying activities.

Trump has said individuals who want to aid him in his mission to “Make America Great Again” should focus on the jobs they will be doing to help the American people, and not to be thinking ahead to their future income they could rake in by peddling their influence after serving in the government.

This new ban that Trump signed supersedes the one that Barack Obama signed in 2009, that banned anyone from lobbying the government for a period of two years after leaving the government.Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, suit and text

Though what makes Trump’s ban better than Obama’s is that the new ban closes up all the “loopholes” that the former ban allowed.

Soon after making that monumental move, Trump went on to sign two more executive orders that show just how serious Trump is about making our country great again.

Here is more from Breitbart:

President Donald J. Trump signed three new executive actions on Saturday afternoon, including a five-year lobbying ban, reorganization of the National Security Council, and a plan to defeat the Islamic State.

Regarding the lobbying ban, Trump said:

So this is a five-year lobbying ban, and this is all of the people — most of the people standing behind me will not be able to go to work.Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, suit and text

It’s a two-year ban now and it’s got full of loopholes and this is a five-year ban. So you have one last chance to get out. Good, I had a feeling you were going to say that.

This was something, the five-year ban, that I have been taking a lot about on the campaign trail.

Ahead of the signing, a senior administration official indicated that the lobbying ban included not only a five-year ban on administration officials but a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying for a foreign country.

After signing the document to reorganize the National Security Council, the President said, “This is the organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, you know pretty much what it represents, it represents a lot, and also a lot of efficiency and I think a lot of additional safety.

People have been talking about this for a long time, like many years.”
President Trump signed the ISIS plan, after which he said, “This is the plan to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in other words, ISIS. I think it’s going to be very successful. That’s big stuff.”Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, suit and text

The White House senior administration official also said ahead of the signing that the executive action regarding ISIS would give military leaders 30 days to compile and present a report to the President on a strategy to defeat ISIS.

The President responded to questions about Friday’s executive order on immigration after signing each of the three executive actions, stating, “It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared.

It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

President Trump is doing precisely what the American people sent him to Washington D.C. to do, and that is to bring integrity back to the government.

Under the Obama administration, everything was sold off to the highest bidder which did not serve the American people, but only helped fatten the lobbyist’s pocketbooks, and that is about to endImage may contain: one or more people, people sitting, suit and text

Thank you, President Trump, for putting the American people first and doing your best to make America great again!

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BREAKING News On Barrack Obama’s SICK Ritual After Every Terror Attack On Americans – This ENDS It For Him!

While Barack Hussein Obama was in office, America saw an record number of terror attacks. Many of these deadly ambushes were disguised as something other than what the issue really was, much to conservatives’ frustration that terrorist were being protected more than the American people.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

While it was clear that Obama was reluctant to call a spade a spade, we now know that the issue was much deeper and more disconcerting than that, with a disturbing habit he had after every terrorist attack involving citizens on his watch. This was no coincidence.

Reports are now starting to become known that Republican lawmakers had said they had heard additional stories about political bias and interference within the FBI on the eve of the much-awaited testimony which was given by FBI Director Christopher Wray this past Thursday.

Republican Congressman from Florida, Ron DeSantis stated Wednesday that he had interviewed a recently retired FBI supervisor who advised him of the fact that he was ordered by Deputy Director Andrew McCabe not to call the 2012 Benghazi attack an act of terrorism in order to not affect the outcome of the 2012 election between President Barack Hussein Obama and the Republican Candidate Mitt Romney.

He added that the agent had found the instruction concerning because his unit had gathered undisputable evidence showing that a senior al Qaeda leader had indeed planned out and directed the attack.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

He also made very clear the fact that the information had been given to then President Obama, but instead of doing what an American President should do and take steps to stop it, he decided to ignore the information which resulted in the death of our Ambassador and three Navy Seals.

Allen West Reports:

FBI is STILL protecting Hillary; makes SHOCK decision on emails

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, the key word being justice. However, we must begin to ask ourselves, if we’re honest, whether there are two definitions of justice in America?

I’m not talking about the politicized progressive, socialist “social justice” rhetoric. I’m referring to a simple understanding of the rule of law, and the blind prosecution of those who violate it. When gazing upon Washington, D.C., and the FBI, it appears that the swamp wins again.

As reported by Townhall.com,

The FBI has denied a Freedom of Information Act request seeking a series of emails belonging to former Democrat presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. In their rejection of the request, the FBI cited a “lack of public interest” for their decision.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

A lack of public interest?

Like the American people, other than those chuckleheads at liberal progressive media outlets, are interested in “Russian collusion”? Let me understand something: Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state of the United States, and somehow her emails, which are the property of the American people, are deemed to not be of “public interest”?

How can it be that a government official can destroy tens of thousands of emails, computer hard drives and communications equipment and, well, it’s just fine? I suppose the new normal is that everyone that has a top-level security clearance can have a non-secure computer server in their personal residence and transmit classified information of the government of the United States on said server?

Doggone it, why did I have to undergo all those annual handling-of-classified-information briefings and sign forms of responsibility for those years in the Army? Oops, forgot, justice is different for “deplorables” and those not part of the American elite class.

There are some who can openly admit to Russia that they’ll have more “flexibility” after reelection … and that’s not deemed improper collusion or even questioned. Some can conduct a uranium deal with Russians and get personal financial benefit … and that’s not collusion and isn’t to be questioned.

We have individuals who abandoned Americans to die and then lied about it — but don’t question that. As a matter of fact, according to some, this is also “not of public interest.” No, it’s just not in the interest of those elites who sneer and look down their noses at the common American serf.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

Just look at the elites who are showing such utter disdain toward the people of Texas and their suffering from storm Harvey. We’ve seen the cartoons from Politico and France’s Charlie Hebdo, along with the insidious and disgusting claims by the progressive, socialist Left seeking to leverage Harvey as a case for climate change.

And let’s not forget the University of Tampa professor who tweeted that this was “karma” for the people in Texas for voting for Donald Trump. At least he got justice by getting fired, but some liberal institution will hire him and welcome him with open arms. And by the way, just a little factoid: Harris County (Houston) voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

We must realize that anyone who committed one-tenth of the actions of Hillary Clinton would be charged, tried and sentenced. How can we live in a country where there are two levels of justice?

And I haven’t even brought up Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and her obstruction of justice in the case of her IT worker, who made millions of dollars from taxpayer funds. She sought to withhold his computer hardware — which doesn’t belong to her, but to the American people.

In this case, too, I suppose, there’s a “lack of public interest.” Who are the people at the FBI making this determination?Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

It’s was the same when we watched former FBI Director James Comey make a determination in the case of Hillary Clinton that was outside his scope of duties. Where is the special prosecutor looking into the secret conversations of Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch on a tarmac in Arizona?

Where was the special prosecutor for Benghazi, Fast and Furious and Hillary Clinton’s uranium deal with Russia? Where is a special prosecutor looking into who’s funding the black-clad domestic terrorist organization Antifa?

Don’t try and blow sunshine up my butt and not tell me they aren’t a subversive organization enacting violence and destroying property … masked and hooded thugs aren’t allowed in America.

Then again, the Democrat party started one white-hooded and masked group, previously; looks like they just changed colors, but the objective is still coercion, intimidation and violence. Somehow, I suppose that investigating Antifa “lacks public interest.”

Justice is no longer blind; it peeks out to see who’s being investigated and, if they’re part of the elite class, they get a pass.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

At the same time, those not belonging to this accepted class are told to obey and succumb to selected enforcement — kinda like sanctuary cities, counties and states who place the lives of Americans at the mercy of criminal illegal aliens. That’s what the new face of justice looks like.

Bradley Manning can be set free, but Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance remains imprisoned. The former is a traitor who released more than 700,000 pieces of classified information. The latter stood, faced and killed the enemy. You tell me who’s making the decisions on what’s “justice”?

So, Bradley Manning and Hillary Clinton expose classified information, but can just laugh it off and continue to walk freely because someone determined that there was a “lack of public interest” in their criminal activities. I find it truly disconcerting that, much like the Roman god Janus, justice in America has two faces.

This whole effort comes just days after President Trump took to Twitter to lash out at the FBI and their corruption.

Trump was rightly angered by the news that an FBI official who had been working with special counsel Robert Mueller had sent anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton texts to his girlfriend.

Mueller was then forced to remove the married FBI agent from his team. Who are these people who we have working at the FBI?Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

President Trump and his political allies, which includes Congressman DeSantis have made the case that the FBI has taken a much more forceful approach when investigating President Trump than they did when Crooked Hillary Clinton was being probed for her use of a private email server set up in her guest bathroom while she was secretary of State.

Please share if you agree the FBI needs to be investigated and disbanded…

Judge Who Struck Down Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban Just BUSTED In Sleazy Sexual Scandal With Disturbing Twist

Isn’t it grand seeing the Swamp drain its self?Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

This new movement that is sweeping the nation taking aim at holding powerful men accountable for sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault has now named a prominent Liberal jurist as a serial harasser. It’s now being reported that six former far left liberal Ninth Circuit clerks and externs are now saying that the liberal Judge Alex Kozinski subjected them to sexual comments and unwelcome situations.’

One of the former Kozinski clerks, Heidi Bond, who was his clerk between 2006 and 2007 has gone on the record with allegations that on multiple occasions the judge summoned her alone to his chambers in order to show her pornography which was unrelated to any case before the judge. He then asked if the images turned her on. Bond recounts at least three different instances of being shown porn by her boss and says the experiences were shocking. She has also written an extremely disturbing first-person account of her experiences of clerking for Judge Kozinski where she also details Kozinski isolating her from her co-clerks to discuss his sexual history.

The Washington Post Reports:

Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct

Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, pictured in 2003. Six women — all former clerks or externs in the 9th Circuit — alleged to The Washington Post in recent weeks that Kozinski, now 67, subjected them to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

A former clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski said the powerful and well-known jurist, who for many years served as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually.

Heidi Bond, who clerked for Kozinski from 2006 to 2007, said the porn was not related to any case. One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where “some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed.” Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman.

Bond is one of six women — all former clerks or more junior staffers known as externs in the 9th Circuit — who alleged to The Washington Post in recent weeks that Kozinski, now 67 and still serving as a judge on the court, subjected them to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments. She is one of two former clerks who said Kozinski asked them to view porn in his chambers.

In a statement, Kozinski said: “I have been a judge for 35 years and during that time have had over 500 employees in my chambers. I treat all of my employees as family and work very closely with most of them. I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done.”

Kozinski provided the statement after The Post called and emailed a spokesman with a detailed list of the allegations this story would include. After the story posted online, the judge told the Los Angeles Times, “I don’t remember ever showing pornographic material to my clerks” and, “If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried.”Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, more women and men have come forward against a growing list of well-known male figures. (Erin Patrick O’Connor, Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)
When Bond was clerking, Kozinski was on the precipice of becoming chief judge for the 9th Circuit — the largest federal appeals court circuit in the country, handling cases for a large swath of the western United States as well as Hawaii and Alaska. The other people who alleged that Kozinski behaved inappropriately toward them worked in the 9th Circuit both before and after her, up to 2012.

Bond said she knew that she was to come to the judge’s office when her phone beeped twice. She said she tried to answer Kozinski’s inquiries as succinctly and matter-of-factly as possible. Bond was then in her early 30s and is now 41.

If the question was about photoshopping, Bond said, she would focus on minor details of the images. If Kozinski asked whether the images aroused her, Bond said, she would respond: “No, this kind of stuff doesn’t do anything for me. Is there anything else you need?” She said she recalled three instances when the judge showed her porn in his office.

“I was in a state of emotional shock, and what I really wanted to do was be as small as possible and make as few movements as possible and to say as little as possible to get out,” Bond said.

Bond, who went on to clerk for the Supreme Court and now works as a romance novelist writing under the name Courtney Milan, and another clerk, Emily Murphy, who worked for a different judge on the 9th Circuit and is now a law professor, described their experiences in on-the-record interviews. The other four women spoke on the condition that their names and some other identifying information not be published, out of fear that they might face retaliation from Kozinski or others.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Kozinski, who served as the chief judge on the 9th Circuit from 2007 to 2014, remains a prominent judge, well known in the legal community for his colorful written opinions. His clerks often win prestigious clerkships at the Supreme Court.

Murphy, who clerked for Judge Richard Paez, said Kozinski approached her when she was talking with a group of other clerks at a reception at a San Francisco hotel in September 2012. The group had been discussing training regimens, and Murphy said she commented that the gym in the 9th Circuit courthouse was nice because other people were seldom there.

Kozinski, according to Murphy and two others present at the time who spoke to The Post, said that if that were the case, she should work out naked. Those in the group tried to change the subject, Murphy and the others present said, but the judge kept steering the conversation toward the idea of Murphy exercising without clothes.

“It wasn’t just clear that he was imagining me naked, he was trying to invite other people — my professional colleagues — to do so as well,” Murphy said. “That was what was humiliating about it.”

Murphy, who was 30 at the time of the incident and is now 36, provided The Post with a 2012 email showing that she told a mentor about what had happened at the time. Two of Murphy’s friends who were present at the time of the encounter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also confirmed her account.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Bond, similarly, provided emails showing that she told a friend what had happened at least as of 2008. The friend, fellow romance novelist Eve Ortega, provided the same emails. She confirmed that Bond had told her years ago that Kozinski made inappropriate sexual comments and showed her porn.

Kozinski has previously been embroiled in controversies related to sexually explicit material.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the judge had maintained an email list that he used to distribute crude jokes, some of them sexually themed, and that he had a publicly accessible website that contained pornographic images.

A judicial investigation ultimately found that Kozinski did not intend to allow the public to see the material and that, instead, the judge and his son were careless in protecting a private server from being accessible on the Internet.

Anthony J. Scirica, then the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, wrote at the time that Kozinski’s “conduct exhibiting poor judgment with respect to this material created a public controversy that can reasonably be seen as having resulted in embarrassment to the institution of the federal judiciary.”

According to Scirica’s report, Kozinski said that he used the server to keep a variety of items he received by email, including TV commercials, video clips, cartoons, games and song parodies.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Of the sexually explicit files, Kozinski testified: “Some I thought were odd or funny or bizarre, but mostly I don’t have a very good reason for holding onto them. I certainly did not send them to anyone else or ask anyone to send me similar files,” according to Scirica’s report.

Kozinski also testified that he “does not visit and has no interest in pornographic websites,” according to Scirica’s report. He separately apologized for any embarrassment he had caused in maintaining the email list and said he had stopped sending the jokes.

Bond said the images Kozinski showed her seemed to come from his private server, because he pulled them from a site containing the term “kozinski.com.”

The other Kozinski clerk who said the judge showed her porn declined to provide specifics out of fear that Kozinski would be able to identify her. Bond said the judge also showed her a chart he claimed he and his friends from college had made to list the women with whom they had had sexual relations.

Bond said that either Kozinski or his administrative assistant reached out to her around the time of the news reporting on his private server, asking whether she would be willing to defend his character. She wrote to Ortega about the inquiry in 2008, according to emails the women shared with The Post, and Ortega responded that it “sounds like a very bad idea to me.”

“I know he brought you into his office to show you porn, I know he made sexual innuendos to you. I know this because you told me so in DC, and you even used the words sexual harassment,” Ortega wrote. “You said you would warn off other women thinking of clerking for him. And if there’s a woman out there he harassed worse than you, do you really want to be pitted against her? Because that’s what it would be. I’m worried that this is what he’s asking you to do — to be the female, intelligent face of his defense and make whoever it is accusing him look like a stupid slut, and then he hopefully never has to actually address those allegations.”Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Kozinski was born in Romania to Holocaust survivors in 1950, and the family fled the communist state when he was a boy. Decades ago, long before he was a federal judge, he appeared on the television show “The Dating Game,” planting a kiss on a surprised young woman who selected him for a date. He is married and has three sons.

Kozinski was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He is an atypical federal appeals court judge — authoring irreverent opinions and not shying, as many of his colleagues do, from media appearances.

He styled one opinion in 2012 not as a traditional concurrence or dissent, but instead as “disagreeing with everyone.” He famously wrote during a trademark dispute between the toy company Mattel and the record company that produced the 1997 song “Barbie Girl”: “The parties are advised to chill.”

In more recent years, Kozinski wrote that using lethal injections to impose the death penalty was “a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments,” and he told the Los Angeles Times, “I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go.”

The Post reached out to dozens of Kozinski’s former clerks and externs for this report. Many of those who returned messages said that they experienced no harassment of any kind and that their experience — which entailed grueling work into the wee hours of the morning every day — was a rewarding one. They noted Kozinski’s wry sense of humor.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Those who talked to The Post about negative experiences said that they thought his behavior went beyond bad jokes or that they felt personally targeted.

A former Kozinski extern said the judge once made a comment about her hair and looked her body up and down “in a less-than-professional way.” That extern said Kozinski also once talked with her about a female judge stripping.

“I didn’t want to be alone with him,” the former extern said.

A different former extern said she, similarly, had at least two conversations “that had sexual overtones directed at me,” and she told friends about them at the time. One of the friends, also a former extern, confirmed that the woman had told her about the remarks — though both declined to detail them for fear of being identified.

One former 9th Circuit clerk said she was at a dinner in Seattle, seated next to Kozinski, when he “kind of picked the tablecloth up so that he could see the bottom half of me, my legs.” She said Kozinski remarked, “I wanted to see if you were wearing pants because it’s cold out.” The former clerk said she was wearing pants at the time. The incident, she said, occurred in late 2011 or early 2012.

“It made me uncomfortable, and it didn’t seem appropriate,” said the former clerk, who worked for a different judge.

All of the women The Post interviewed said they did not file formal complaints at the time. Bond said Kozinski had so vigorously stressed the idea of judicial confidentiality — that what is discussed in chambers cannot be revealed to the outside — that she questioned even years later whether she could share what had happened with a therapist, even though she had already talked with Ortega about it.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Bond said Kozinski worked his clerks so hard that “there was no thought that I could see him as anything other than in complete control,” and she feared that not leaving with a good recommendation from him might jeopardize her career.

“I did think about walking away and concluded I just didn’t know what I would do if I did,” Bond said.

The other former Kozinski clerk who said the judge asked her to watch porn in his chambers said she both feared what he might do and knew that a complaint was unlikely to strip him of his influence.

“I was afraid,” the former clerk said. “I mean, who would I tell? Who do you even tell? Who do you go to?”

Murphy said she discussed what had happened with the judge for whom she was clerking, and he was supportive of her filing a complaint. But because the complaint would first go to Kozinski himself, then be referred elsewhere, Murphy said she chose not to proceed. The judge, Paez, declined to comment for this report through a representative.

As a judge, Kozinski has addressed the topic of sexual harassment in important ways. In 1991, he joined an opinion that decided such cases should be judged from the perspective of the victims, using what was then called the “reasonable woman” standard. The opinion, written by then-Judge Robert R. Beezer, noted pointedly, “Conduct that many men consider unobjectionable may offend many women.”

Beezer died in 2012. Kozinski himself wrote about sexual harassment in 1992, commenting on how legal remedies could come with unforeseen consequences.

He wrote that men “must be aware of the boundaries of propriety and learn to stay well within them,” while women “must be vigilant of their rights, but must also have some forgiveness for human foibles: misplaced humor, misunderstanding, or just plain stupidity.”

He acknowledged, though, that the problem of harassment was a real one.

“But who knew, who understood, that it was quite so pervasive,” Kozinski wrote. “Apparently most women did, while most men did not. It was the best-kept secret of modern times.”

Now that’s sick, but then again, what else can we expect from a judge from the infamous 9th circuit court who is known for its radical far left agenda leanings. No wonder the 9th circuit wants Muslims Refugees in this nation, they act the same way their judges act.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

It seems that for every right-wing leaning man who is accused of sexual misconduct there are at least 100 liberal men accused of the same, or worse. This whole time all these institutions where being run as brothels and not one person in the outside world even knew. They tell us how to think and what is and isn’t moral while at the same time their stench of immorality is off the charts.

Please share if you agree this Judge needs to be in prison….

BREAKING: Vonn Out Of Olympics Less Than 24 Hrs After Trashing Donald Trump – Her Career Is Officially Over

The last 48 hours have been particularly rough for Olympic alpine skier Lindsey Vonn.Image may contain: 3 people, closeup

Ever since she decided to use her public platform to slam our president, she’s suffered the recourse of that really bad decision. She should have learned from the immense fallout in the NFL but refused to.

Now, Donald Trump has just gotten the ultimate revenge on the athlete who could be forcibly removed from the 2018 Olympics. Her goals of coming home with another gold medal have just been shattered by her own doing and it didn’t take too long to realize the ramifications.

It’s strange how athletes have no problem using Trump to bring attention to themselves by making such bold public statements, for how much they hate him. What’s even odder, is that they never seem to learn their lesson and can’t stop themselves from slandering him, regardless of the massive ramifications.

The latest “victim” of this stupidity is Vonn who just got what she earned when she opened her mouth and said, “Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,”  according to CNN.Image may contain: 3 people, closeup

Less than 24 hours after a boycott of her sponsors was initiated, Vonn suffered a bigger, devastating blow.

Reuters reports:

American Lindsey Vonn was injured after finishing the World Cup Super G race in St Moritz on Saturday while Switzerland’s Lara Gut crashed halfway down the course.

Vonn, four-times overall World Cup champion and the finest woman skier of her generation, fell to the ground grimacing as she slowed down after the finishing line and she staggered away with what appeared to be either a hip or back injury.

Vonn spent just under an hour in the medical treatment tent before being escorted to a waiting car and driven away. The 33-year-old walked the few metres to the car with great difficulty.

An ambulance was initially called but was not needed.Image may contain: 3 people, closeup

The U.S. team said on Twitter that Vonn “compressed her back on the fifth gate, skied through pain but didn’t have the power to push. She was evaluated by the physio and doctor in the tent. Further information to come.”

It’s an unfortunate injury that could prevent her from participating in the winter Olympics, which some are seeing as nearly instant karma for coming out and attacking Trump in her initial interview.

Vonn is no stranger to pain and recovery, having just spent the last couple years rehabilitating, training, and getting in condition for this Olympic competition after enduring major injuries from her last race.

This is the second blow to the Gold Medalist this week, suffered in the immediate aftermath of her tactless remarks about President Trump.

Fans are already responding to the comments in the same way they did to the National Anthem kneelers in the NFL. A trending hashtag #BoycottUnderArmour has already picked up a lot of steam since she made her anti-Trump statements.Image may contain: 3 people, closeup

We’ve already seen that this is more than words. Pro-Trump Americans will adamantly stand by our president and do exactly as they say they will – boycott a brand, a sport, an event, and anything else that condones anti-American attitudes.

“So UnderArmour wants to attract more #BoycottUnderAmour attention with Lindsey Vaughn? Ok you got it! #BoycottUnderArmour,”  another user by the name “The Warden” posted.

If Red Bull, Under Armour, Hershey’s, and a list of other big brands she represents want to save their good names, they better get this alpine skier to leave politics out of the sport.

It’s not going to end well for her or these sponsors if she continues down this steep path, nor is it worth wasting everything she’s worked hard at accomplishing to say such disgusting things. It’s truly astounding these talented athletes are willing to risk so much just to say something stupid.

Let’s also not forget that Vonn is really not in a position to criticize others who she considered to be morally depraved, as one commenter on Breitbart’s story pointed out:

“Nude photo shooting Lindsey who dated drug-addled philandering Tiger Woods now appoints herself a paragon of American virtue?

You want to shoot your mouth off and enter politics baby, run for office. You want to suck my tax dollars on the Olympic team and represent me… you keep your mouth shut and focus on skiing, maybe you can win a medal for a change??”Image may contain: 3 people, closeup

The Olympics is a time and a place where Americans come together and root for the same team.

That should have been the message that Vonn shared going into the games, instead of a divisive one. It’s proof that despite their claim of Trump being the divider, they are truly the ones preventing opposing sides from mending as they perpetuate the hate.

Share if you like this story and leave a comment below.

Olympian Lindsey Vonn Issues Nasty Ultimatum To Donald Trump And Gets Worst News Of Her Life 24Hrs Later!

The winter Olympics is just around the corner and we’re already learning that the games aren’t going to go happen without being an anti-Trump affair.Image may contain: 2 people, hat and closeup

These athletes should have taken not of the devastating impact mixing politics with sports had on the National Football League, but instead decided to ruin it for themselves and everyone else. Heading off the anti-Trump attacks is the 33-year-old Gold Medalist skier, Lindsey Vonn.

It’s didn’t take Vonn too long to receive her “prize” for disrespecting the president. Just a few short hours after refusing to represent the president of the country she’s competing for, she got the worst news of her career.

It’s strange how athletes have no problem using Trump to bring attention to themselves by making such bold public statements, for how much they hate him.

What’s even odder, is that they never seem to learn their lesson and can’t stop themselves from slandering him, regardless of the massive ramifications.Image may contain: 2 people, hat and closeup

The latest “victim” of this stupidity is Vonn who just got what she earned when she opened her mouth and said, “Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,”  according to CNN.

Vonn just slipped down the biggest downward slope of her career that’s become all too familiar in the sports industry. Just like sponsors in the NFL fled in droves after major profit losses caused by protesting players, this Olympian is starting to feel the pain of making divisive statements where they don’t belong.

After doubling down on her tasteless remark by adding, “I want to represent our country well,” Vonn explained. “I don’t think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that,” one of her biggest sponsors realized what a liability to their business she is.

Fans are already responding to the comments in the same way they did to the National Anthem kneelers in the NFL. A trending hashtag #BoycottUnderArmour has already picked up a lot of steam since she made her anti-Trump statements.

We’ve already seen that this is more than words. Pro-Trump Americans will adamantly stand by our president and do exactly as they say they will – boycott a brand, a sport, an event, and anything else that condones anti-American attitudes.Image may contain: 2 people, hat and closeup

“She is washed up and unlikely to even make the team. Attention seeking snowflake just like so many other social media stars. When she fails she’ll blame being bullied, and probably @realDonaldTrump as the reason #BoycottRedBull #BoycottUnderAmour #lindsey vonn @lindseyvonn,” one Twitter user posted on the social site.

“So UnderArmour wants to attract more #BoycottUnderAmour attention with Lindsey Vaughn? Ok you got it! #BoycottUnderArmour,”  another user by the name “The Warden” posted.

If Red Bull, Under Armour, Hershey’s, and a list of other big brands she represents want to save their good names, they better get this alpine skier to leave politics out of the sport.

It’s not going to end well for her or these sponsors if she continues down this steep path, nor is it worth wasting everything she’s worked hard at accomplishing to say such disgusting things. It’s truly astounding these talented athletes are willing to risk so much just to say something stupid.

Breitbart has more on how she plans to trash Trump:Image may contain: 2 people, hat and closeup

Though Vonn traveled to the White House several times during Barack Obama’s presidency, including a visit accompanying then-boyfriend Tiger Woods to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2014, do not expect her to accept Donald Trump’s congratulations in-person after the 2018 games.

When asked whether she would accept an invitation to the White House should she win in Pyeongchang, Vonn offered a blunt “Absolutely not.”

Let’s also not forget that Vonn is really not in a position to criticise others who she considered to be morally depraved, as one commenter on Breitbart’s story pointed out:

“Nude photo shooting Lindsey who dated drug-addled philandering Tiger Woods now appoints herself a paragon of American virtue? You want to shoot your mouth off and enter politics baby, run for office.

You want to suck my tax dollars on the Olympic team and represent me… you keep your mouth shut and focus on skiing, maybe you can win a medal for a change??”

The Olympics is a time and a place where Americans come together and root for the same team. That should have been the message that Vonn shared going into the games, instead of a divisive one.Image may contain: 2 people, hat and closeup

It’s proof that despite their claim of Trump being the divider, they are truly the ones preventing opposing sides from mending as they perpetuate the hate.

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