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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"Democrats invite teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg to testify before Congress"

by Josh Siegel

September 12, 2019 02:28 PM

Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, 16, is testifying before Congress next week at the invitation of House Democrats.

Thunberg will appear Sept. 18 before a joint hearing of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

She is among a group of young climate activists Democrats invited to testify at the hearing, entitled "Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis."

Thunberg is best known for founding an international movement called Fridays for Future, in which students skip school on Fridays to participate in demonstrations demanding action to combat climate change.

Last month she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in an emissions-free solar-powered boat, instead of flying, to New York City ahead of her speech on Sept. 23 at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

“We’re at the point where an entire generation has grown up in the climate crisis,” said Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, chairwoman of the Select Climate Crisis Committee.

“They know the science, they know the stakes and they know how to rise to the challenge."

"We need to rise with them." ... e-congress

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"Dow ekes out 8th straight gain as stocks remain in striking distance of record highs"

By Chris Matthews and Mark DeCambre

Published: Sept 13, 2019 4:22 p.m. ET

The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out an eighth-straight gain Friday, while the blue chip index and the S&P 500 remain within striking distance of fresh all-time highs as Sino-American trade tensions ease and central banks support risk taking with economic stimulus measures.

How did the major benchmarks perform?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 37.07 points, or 0.1%, at 27,219.52, but the S&P 500 fell 2.18 points, or 0.1%, to 3,007.39, and the Nasdaq Composite Index retreated 17.75 points, or 0.2%.

For the week, the Dow rose 1.6%, the S&P 500 added 1% and the Nasdaq advanced 0.9%

Friday’s action left the Dow 0.5% from its record at 27,359.16 hit on July 15, while the S&P 500 was also 0.5% from its all-time high at 3,025.86 set on July 26.

The Nasdaq ended the day 1.9% from its all-time closing high at 8,330.21 also hit on July 26.

What drove the market?

Retail sales grew faster than expected in August, up 0.4%, and were up 4.1% year-on-year, the U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday.

The rise was driven entirely by purchases of new cars and trucks though, as retail sales ex-autos were flat.

Strong demand for big-ticket items like automobiles suggests the U.S. consumer remains confident about his future prospects.

“This morning’s number was above expectations but more importantly it’s the sixth straight month of positive growth for retail sales which is a really encouraging,” wrote Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade Financial in an email.

“With holiday spending on the horizon and inflation at bay, we could continue to see momentum in the retail sector."

"A healthy consumer can help inject some energy into other sectors of the economy.”

“That said, trade tensions are a key focal point and rising tariffs between the US and China could threaten this critical indicator," Loewengart added.

Softening trade tensions between the U.S. and China, with the hope of formal negotiations restarting early next month, and easy-money policies being undertaken by global central banks have all helped to momentarily quell many investors’s fears that a near-term recession will grip the U.S. economy.

Beijing made further concessions to the U.S. on international trade on Friday, adding agricultural products like soybeans and pork to the list of imports exempted tariffs.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank on Thursday cut its deposit rate from -0.4% to -0.5%, while announcing it would restart open-ended purchasing of long-term government bonds at a pace of €20 billion a month in an effort to further reduce long-term interest rates.

The Federal Reserve will deliver its monetary policy statement, with further rate cuts widely expected, on Sept. 18.

Thus far, stability, if not outright strength, in the economy has been part of the recipe for rising market prices and bond yields, reflecting a reduction in anxiety about the outlook.

Indeed, gains for equities have come as the 2-year Treasury note saw its sharpest weekly yield rise since 2009 and the 10-year Treasury had its largest weekly climb in rates since 2013, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

U.S. consumers grew more confident in September, according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, which came in a 92.0 versus the August reading of 89.8.

Which stocks were in focus?

Shares of Broadcom Inc. fell 3.4% after the chip maker announced fiscal third-quarter earnings late Thursday that beat analyst expectations, though its outlook for the annual revenue was below what Wall Street expected.

Apple fell 1.9% after Goldman Sachs lowered its price target on the grounds that the company’s recently announced TV+ trial period would impact margins.

Shares fell Friday.

How did other markets trade?

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note extended its weekly gain on Friday, adding 11 basis points to 1.894% from 1.789% late Thursday.

This week saw the biggest bond market sell off in several years.

In commodity markets, the price of crude oil fell 0.3% to $54.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while gold prices fell 0.8% to $1,495 an ounce.

The U.S. dollar, meanwhile, slumped 0.1% lower relative to a basket of leading rivals, extending its weekly loss of 0.2%.

In Asia overnight Thursday, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 1% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.1%.

European shares edged mostly higher Friday, with the Stoxx Europe 600 closing 0.3% higher. ... latestnews

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"2-year Treasury yield logs biggest weekly rise since 2009"

By Sunny Oh

Published: Sept 13, 2019 3:59 p.m. ET

Treasury yields rose sharply on Friday after signs that U.S. consumer spending remained strong and on receding trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

For the week, yields have seen a searing climb as bond-market traders retreated from their bullish positions on long-term government bonds which had reaped significant gains last month.

What are Treasurys doing?

The 10-year Treasury note yield rose 11.2 basis points to a six-week high of 1.901%, pushing its weekly rise to 35 basis points, its largest such move since June 2013.

The 2-year note rate climbed 7.8 basis points to also a six-week high of 1.801%, contributing to a weekly rise of 27 basis points, its largest such move since June 2009.

The 30-year bond yield picked up 11.1 basis points to 2.374%, marking its biggest daily rise since November 2016.

The long bond’s yield rose 35 basis points this week, its biggest such increase since November 2016.

Bond prices move inversely to yields.

The German 10-year government bond yield rose 9.3 basis points to negative 0.45%, from their record low of negative 0.72% last set a week ago.

What’s driving Treasurys?

Hopes for an easing of tensions on U.S.-China trade were bolstered after the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said that Beijing would exclude American agricultural products from tariff increases on U.S. imports.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he was willing to consider an interim trade deal with China.

In equities markets, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average inched closer to their all-time highs.

Investors continued to feel the tremors from the European Central Bank’s pronouncements on Thursday after the central bank issued a full stimulus package that ranged from interest-rate cuts to an open-ended commitment to buying 20 billion euros of bonds every month.

Analysts, however, took notice of the lack of consensus within the ECB policy making committee over the recent measures.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.4% in August far above the 0.1% increase expected by MarketWatch polled economists, and were up 4.1 for the year.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for September rose to a reading of 92, from 89.8 in the prior month.

Looking ahead, investors will watch for the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting starting from next Tuesday, where the U.S. central bank is expected to carry out a quarter point rate cut.

What did market participants’ say?

“The bond market may have been a bit overbought on the long-end last month, but this sudden shift into optimism on the prospect of a trade deal getting struck and the ability of the Fed to create a steeper curve — I don’t think that’s sustainable."

"It’s got to take much better data for long-end Treasury yields to break out of this range,” said Karissa McDonough, chief fixed income strategist at People’s United Advisors. ... 2019-09-13

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"Retail sales get big lift from auto purchases as consumers drive U.S. economy forward"

By Jeffry Bartash

Published: Sept 13, 2019 10:25 a.m. ET

The numbers:

U.S. retail sales got a big boost in August from purchases of new autos and building supplies, but most other stores reported weak or declining receipts in a sign that consumers trimmed spending toward the end of summer.

Retail sales rose 0.4% last month, the government said Friday, but sales were flat excluding new cars and trucks.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a small 0.1% increase in sales after a big 0.8% increase in July spurred in part by Amazon Prime Day.

What happened:

Sales jumped 1.8% at auto dealers to mark the biggest gain in five months.

The relatively robust level of car sales suggest consumers are still confident in the economy.

Purchases of big-ticket items usually wane when the economy slows or Americans become worried about their jobs.

Sales rose almost as much for Internet retailers and home and garden centers such as Home and Lowe’s.

Internet stores evidently suffered little letdown after a burst of sales in July when Amazon held its annual Prime Day and rivals tried to keep pace with their own deals.

Sales at gas stations fell almost 1% in August as the summer driving season came to a close, but that’s a good thing for consumers.

The less they have to spend on gas, the more they can save or spend on other goods and services.

Other retailers did not fare as well.

Restaurants, department stores and clothing retailers also posted sales declines of around 1%.

And sales dipped at groceries and home-furnishing stores.

Big picture:

The economy has slowed in 2019 partly because of the trade war with China and its depressing effects on the rest of the world.

Consumers are the ones keeping the good times going, buoyed by rising incomes and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.

Spending soared in the spring and it was fairly strong overall in the first two months of the third quarter.

The economy is still growing around 2% and there’s little sign of imminent recession — assuming the trade war doesn’t get any worse.

What they are saying?

“After an exceptionally strong reading in July, sales growth slowed markedly in the past month, but still came in at a solid clip that is consistent with moderate economic growth,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

“The slowdown in retail sales for August was expected after the stronger gains in July,” said Nationwide Chief Economist David Berson.

Market reaction:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were mixed in Friday trades.

Stocks have been rising in anticipation of the Fed cutting interest rates.

Talk of a potential truce of sorts in the U.S.-China trade war has also helped.

The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.83%, extending a recent upturn. ... 2019-09-13

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"Oil logs a weekly loss amid worries about rise in supplies"

By Myra P. Saefong and Mark DeCambre

Published: Sept 13, 2019 3:15 p.m. ET

Oil futures finished lower on Friday, with both U.S. and international benchmark crude posting sizable weekly falls as worries about the prospect of rising inventories appeared to overshadow a U.S.-China tariff detente.

“Fears of an expanding supply glut are gaining momentum amid continued uncertainty around U.S.-China trade policy, Brexit, and U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports,” said Robbie Fraser, senior commodity analyst at Schneider Electric.

“While the two former items represent more general economic risks, the latter has come into focus this week following the sudden departure of U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has long been known as a foreign policy hawk,” he said in daily report.

Bolton’s “departure raises the chances of more direct U.S.-Iranian dialogue, which could ultimately allow some shuttered Iranian barrels to move back into the global market.”

West Texas Intermediate crude for October delivery fell 24 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $54.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange — for a roughly 3% weekly decline, according to Dow Jones Market Data, tracking the front-active contract.

November Brent crude shed 16 cents, or 0.3%, to $60.22 a barrel on the ICE Futures, with prices marking a weekly fall of 2.1%.

“[President Donald] Trump could lift sanctions as a goodwill gesture heading into negotiations, or he could negotiate an end to sanctions during a grand summit with the Iranians,” wrote Robert Yawger, director of energy at Mizuho USA, in a daily research report.

“Either way, the timing could not come at a much worse time than now as the price of crude oil hangs in the balance.”

The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, or JMMC, which monitors compliance with output reductions set by an OPEC+ agreement that began at the start of this year, on Thursday “underscored the critical need for continued commitment” to the pledged production cuts.

It said compliance with the cuts stood at 136% in August.

Meanwhile, signs of cooling animosities between Beijing and Washington, representing the largest economies in the world and big consumers of crude, have been a focus for oil traders because that conflict has threatened to hurting the global economy and damage demand for crude.

China made further concessions to the U.S. on international trade on Friday, adding agricultural products like soybeans and pork to the list of imports exempted tariffs, as prospects for at least an interim deal to resolve the two year old trade dispute improve.

However, U.S. rig-count data from Baker Hughes implied a slowdown in drilling rig activity.

The data revealed that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil declined by five to 733 this week.

That marked a fourth straight weekly decline.

Rounding out action on Nymex, October gasoline ended little changed at $1.5531 a gallon, with prices down 1.3% for the week.

October heating oil fell 0.4% to $1.8778 a gallon, for a weekly loss of 1.2%.

Natural-gas futures saw their October contract climb by 1.6% to $2.614 per million British thermal units, settling up 4.7% for the week.

The Energy Information Administration on Thursday reported a smaller-than-expected weekly rise in U.S. supplies of the fuel.

Supply increases over the next few weeks are “likely to be challenged to rise much above normal, as production levels stall amid pipeline maintenance, while demand from power generation and exports holds strong,” said Christin Redmond, commodity analyst at Schneider Electric. ... latestnews

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"Nikki Haley blasts government’s budget deficit: ‘We don’t have an endless bank account’"

By Victor Reklaitis

Published: Sept 13, 2019 1:40 p.m. ET

Count Nikki Haley among those saying they’re worried about runaway spending in Washington, D.C.

The Trump administration’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday tweeted “This can’t continue” in response to news that the federal government’s budget deficit topped $1 trillion in August.

Another Twitter user then suggested that she was about to leave the Republican Party, in a reference to how the GOP has overseen the recent increased spending, while constraining tax revenue.

Haley responded that she wasn’t quitting the party and put the blame on U.S. lawmakers with the following line, as she steered clear of mentioning her old boss, President Donald Trump:

‘Congress needs to understand we don’t have an endless bank account.'

'With a strong economy we should not be rising debt at these levels.’

- Nikki Haley, the Trump administration’s former ambassador to the UN

Haley bowed out as ambassador to the UN at the end of last year, appearing to leave on good terms with the president and with her reputation relatively intact.

Her departure sparked lots of speculation about her next steps, and the former South Carolina governor seemed to make an effort last month to knock down chatter that she might become Trump’s vice president, replacing Mike Pence.

Haley also made waves last month for saying it was “unnecessary” for Trump to mock an attempted break-in at a Democratic congressman’s Baltimore home. ... latestnews

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"'If you did your job, we'd be in school': Greta Thunberg joins White House climate protest"

Max Cohen, USA TODAY

Published 11:44 a.m. ET Sept. 13, 2019 | Updated 1:20 p.m. ET Sept. 13, 2019

After calling out politicians for climate inaction on "The Daily Show" this week, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is protesting Friday outside the White House to demand the U.S. government address the affects of climate change.

The 16-year-old Swede is joined by youth activists in the protest, which marks the start of Thunberg's six-day stay in Washington, D.C.

Along with dozens of other youth protesters, Thunberg chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go" as the activists marched outside the White House.

The students held a variety of homemade signs, including "Make Earth cool again," "Save the ice caps" and "If you did your job, we would be in school."

Just before 1 p.m., Thunberg briefly spoke to a crowd that had swelled to more than 100.

“I’m so incredibly grateful for every single one of you,” she said

“Never give up."

"We will continue,” she said amid loud cheers.

“See you next week on Sept. 20!”

Next Friday, Thunberg is organizing a worldwide climate strike that encourages students to step out of class to protest.

New York City Public Schools has said it will excuse absences for students joining the protest with parental consent.

In August, Thunberg captured global attention when she set off from Plymouth, United Kingdom, on a zero-emissions boat voyage across the Atlantic.

Thirteen days later on Aug. 24, she arrived in New York City and went on to hold a protest outside the United Nations headquarters.

Thunberg's celebrity status has grown in recent months.

On Wednesday, Thunberg joined Trevor Noah on his Comedy Central late-night show, where she said her decision to embark on a boat trip was motivated by the massive impact aviation has on carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

Citing that 200 species go extinct every day, Thunberg said the world is in the midst of a mass extinction and she reiterated that the impacts of climate change were being felt now.

Thunberg urged people to get informed on climate exchange and to push for a political movement to stop the world's destruction.

“What we should do as individuals is to use the power of democracy to make our voices heard and to make sure that the people in power actually cannot continue to ignore this," Thunberg told Noah. ... 310243001/

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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:40 p


"Greta Thunberg To U.S.: 'You Have A Moral Responsibility' On Climate Change"

Heard on All Things Considered

Bill Chappell, Ailsa Chang

September 13, 2019·3:23 PM ET

Greta Thunberg led a protest at the White House on Friday. But she wasn't looking to go inside — "I don't want to meet with people who don't accept the science," she says.

The young Swedish activist joined a large crowd of protesters who had gathered outside, calling for immediate action to help the environment and reverse an alarming warming trend in average global temperatures.

She says her message for President Trump is the same thing she tells other politicians: Listen to science, and take responsibility.

Thunberg, 16, arrived in the U.S. last week after sailing across the Atlantic to avoid the carbon emissions from jet travel.

She plans to spend nearly a week in Washington, D.C. — but she doesn't plan to meet with anyone from the Trump administration during that time.

"I haven't been invited to do that yet."

"And honestly I don't want to do that," Thunberg tells NPR's Ailsa Chang.

If people in the White House who reject climate change want to change their minds, she says, they should rely on scientists and professionals to do that.

But Thunberg also believes the U.S. has an "incredibly important" role to play in fighting climate change.

"You are such a big country," she says.

"In Sweden, when we demand politicians to do something, they say, 'It doesn't matter what we do — because just look at the U.S.'"

"I think you have an enormous responsibility" to lead climate efforts, she adds.

"You have a moral responsibility to do that."

Thunberg is known for promoting school strikes among students concerned by climate change.

On Aug. 20, 2018, she skipped school to protest by herself outside Sweden's parliament.

"I handed out fliers with a long list of facts about the climate crisis and explanations on why I was striking," she said in a Facebook post.

She's since inspired student protests in dozens of countries.

Her notoriety has grown steadily, thanks to the clear terms in which she speaks about why people — particularly young people — must pay attention to Earth's climate.

She gave a TED Talk about the issue last November; one month later, she made a powerful speech at a U.N. climate change conference in Poland.

"You are not mature enough to tell it like it is."

"Even that burden, you leave to us children," Thunberg, who was then 15, told the grownups at the conference, in a video that's been watched millions of times online.

Asked when she became so passionate about climate change, Thunberg says it started before she was 10 years old, during a school lesson that, as she recalls, made the entire class very sad.

"We saw these horrifying pictures of plastic in the oceans and floodings and so on, and everyone was very moved by that."

"But then it just seemed like everyone went back to normal," Thunberg says.

"And I couldn't go back to normal because those pictures were stuck in my head."

"And I couldn't just go on knowing that this was happening around the world."

She began researching the issue, reading about climate science and asking questions.

Her sense of activism grew gradually — and at a time when she says she was dealing with depression.

At the time, Thunberg was 11.

"How I got back from that depression was by telling myself I can do so much good with my life instead of just being depressed," she says.

She became an activist, attending marches and talking to people inside the environmental movement.

When the pace seemed too slow, she hit on the idea of a school strike, and a new movement was born.

But Thunberg is quick to note that much work remains to be done.

"Even though this movement has become huge and there have been millions of children and young people who have been school striking for the climate," Thunberg says, "the emission curve is still not reducing ... and of course that is all that matters."

In the past, Thunberg also has spoken about being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome — and how that has helped her.

"My diagnosis helps me helps me see things a bit more clearly sometimes," she says.

"When everyone else seems to just compromise and have this double moral that's, 'Yeah. That's very important, but also I can't do that right now and I'm too lazy and so on.'"

"But I can't really do that."

Thunberg continues, "I want to walk the talk, and to practice as I preach."

"So that is what I'm trying to do."

"Because if I am focused on something and if I know something and if I decide to do something, then I go all in."

"And it seems like others are not doing that right now."

"So yeah, it has definitely helped me."

Thunberg has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the U.S., she plans to lead protests ahead of next week's U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Her arrival in Washington helped kick off that plan.

"Protect our future!" young demonstrators chanted as they marched across the grass north of the White House.

One girl held a sign reading, "Make Earth Cool Again."

The only things that seemed to slow Thunberg were the many admirers and journalists that thronged around her on the sidewalks around the White House.

The crowd was repeatedly asked to move back, and the diminutive Thunberg was able to inch along, pausing occasionally to acknowledge a question or comment from passers-by.

"Thank you, Greta!" several onlookers shouted.

Another yelled out, "We're all here for you — and the climate!"

After the protesters marched around the White House to the lower portion of the Ellipse, Thunberg delivered a short speech, speaking through a megaphone to tell the crowd she's grateful for their support and proud of them for coming to the march.

"This is very overwhelming," Thunberg said, noting the large turnout.

"Never give up," she told the protesters, adding, "See you next week, on Sept. 20."

The international protest that's planned for next Friday will likely be large.

New York City's public school system recently announced that it will excuse the absences of any students who participate in the climate strike.

"Students will need parental consent," the school system said, adding, "Younger students can only leave school with a parent."

And if students elsewhere need an excused-absence note, Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo has written a letter to more than 30,000 schools, urging them to allow their students to join the climate strikes.

Thunberg says that along with boosting people's awareness of the dangers of climate change, she wants them to use their voting power to elect leaders who will work to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.

When asked what her parents think of her activism and the demands on her time, Thunberg says, "Of course they are concerned that I am doing all this and and that I am not going to school."

The young activist adds, "I think they also see that I am happier now than I was before, because I'm doing something meaningful."

She's taking a gap year away from school to focus on her burgeoning youth movement.

Noting her parents' concerns about living a very public life and being out of school, Thunberg says, "I think they support me in at least some way."

"They know that what I am doing is morally right." ... ate-change

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Post by thelivyjr » Sat Sep 14, 2019 1:40 p


"What Spy? Kremlin Mocks Aide Recruited by C.I.A. as a Boozy Nobody"

By Andrew Higgins

Sept. 11, 2019

MOSCOW — He drank too much, abandoned his sick, aged mother and — in Russia’s own account of the man portrayed in the United States as a highly valued spy burrowed deep into the Kremlin — he had no contact whatsoever with President Vladimir V. Putin.

Just hours after The New York Times and other American news outlets this week detailed how an unnamed Russian informant helped the C.I.A. conclude that Mr. Putin ordered and orchestrated a campaign of interference in the 2016 United States election, Russia fired up its propaganda machine to provide an entirely different picture of the same man, who the state-controlled news media identified as Oleg B. Smolenkov.

Instead of a superspy who saw Mr. Putin regularly and became “one of the C.I.A.’s most valuable assets,” he is now being presented by Russian officials, state-controlled news outlets and pro-Kremlin newspapers as a boozy nobody with no access to Kremlin secrets.

No American official has ever claimed the C.I.A.’s source was part of Mr. Putin’s inner circle.

But nevertheless, if Mr. Smolenkov, now aged 50, was the informant, he had a position of interest to the C.I.A.: an aide to a senior official close to Mr. Putin.

Anyone in that position could have provided a vital flow of information to the United States government.

Dmitri Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, told journalists on Tuesday that Mr. Smolenkov had been fired several years ago from a modest position in the Kremlin “that did not belong to the category of senior posts.”

This job, he added, “did not provide for any contacts with the president at all.”

Mr. Peskov said he could not confirm whether Mr. Smolenkov is indeed the alleged C.I.A. informant extracted from Russia in 2017 and described American news media accounts of the informant’s escapades as “pulp fiction.”

The C.I.A. declined to comment and The New York Times was not able to independently confirm that Mr. Smolenkov was indeed the spy extracted by the United States.

Much of what the Russian government was putting out through state-controlled media amounts to disinformation, said current and former American officials.

The information about Mr. Smolenkov, they said, could not be trusted.

Playing down the importance of a rival’s recruits is as much part of spycraft as exaggerating the importance of those recruited by one’s own side.

“It’s pretty standard practice to magnify your own intelligence triumphs and minimize those of your rivals,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security system at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.

This is partly just an effort to control embarrassing publicity.

But, he added, “the hope — probably vain — is to cast doubt in the minds of the other side’s intelligence managers and consumers of the real value of the source’s insights.”

Whether the former Kremlin official was as valuable as the Americans describe him or as derelict as the Russians now claim is a question of paramount importance.

On his bona fides rests an issue at the heart not only of Washington’s relations with Moscow but also American politics: just how accurate was the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion, made public in a declassified report in January, 2017, that Mr. Putin personally “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” and developed “a clear preference for President-elect Trump?”

The informant extracted from Russia in 2017, whoever it was, had proved vital to the intelligence assessment about Moscow’s interference campaign.

The informant’s reports in 2016 detailed Mr. Putin’s intentions and orders, and led to the C.I.A.’s declaration with “high confidence” that the hack of the Democratic National Committee was the work of the Russian government.

For the Obama administration, the inside source’s testimony was critical; it gave them what they were missing, an understanding of the role of the Russian leadership in this new, innovative attack on the American democratic process.

It was the spy’s testimony that described a coordinated campaign that Mr. Putin himself ordered, as a public intelligence report, released in January, 2019, detailed.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, on Wednesday lashed out at reports of Mr. Smolenkov providing inside information to the C.I.A. on Russian election meddling, saying this was impossible “because there was no meddling.”

He condemned what he described as “the piling up of one lie on top of another and the multiplication of slander about us.”

Mr. Ryabkov’s boss, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, also weighed in, mostly to distance himself from Mr. Smolenkov.

“I never saw him, never met him and didn’t follow either his career or his movements."

"And I don’t want to comment on rumors,” the foreign minister said.

Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of the information policy committee in the Russian Parliament’s upper house, accused the United States of leaking information about its Russian informant as part of an effort to revive “its old story about ‘Russian interference in the election.’”

He did not name Mr. Smolenkov but mocked him as someone who “supposedly knew everything about everyone.”

He concluded: “The story is muddy, the goal is clear.”

Frants Klintsevich, a member of the defense and security committee of the upper house, said on his Facebook page that American news media reports of the extracted spy were “a routine attempt to discredit American President Donald Trump,” and said there was “no question of any American informant having worked ‘inside the Russian leadership.’”

Born in Ivanovo, a depressed former textile manufacturing center northeast of Moscow, Mr. Smolenkov seems to have joined the Russian Foreign Ministry straight out of college in the early 1990s.

But his duties, according to Russian accounts, involved less high diplomacy than lowly administrative tasks like money transfers.

He worked for a time at the ministry’s Second European Department, which handles relations with Britain, Baltic states and parts of Scandinavia.

Sent to Washington around 15 years ago to work in the Russian embassy there, he appeared in diplomatic lists as a “second secretary” and was listed as being accompanied by his then wife, Regina.

(He subsequently remarried a woman 16 years his junior, Antonina, who also worked in the Russian bureaucracy.)

While in Washington, the family rented a house in Norfolk, Va., but it is not clear whether the diplomat lived at this address, which is several hours’ drive from the capital.

Mr. Smolenkov worked under the Russian ambassador at the time, Yuri Ushakov, a seasoned diplomat who later became Mr. Putin’s diplomatic adviser in the Kremlin.

It is not clear where or when the C.I.A. recruited its informant, though it was decades ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

If Mr. Smolenkov was the spy, his tour of duty in Washington would have given the agency ample opportunity to cultivate him further.

Mr. Ushakov is precisely the kind of official close to Mr. Putin the agency was interested in.

Since 2012, Mr. Ushakov, now 72, has served as Mr. Putin’s foreign policy aide in the Kremlin.

And Mr. Ushakov has been involved in every major confrontation between Russia and the West in recent years — from the incursions into Ukraine to the annexation of Crimea to the confrontations over arms control with the U.S.

RIA-Novosti, a state-controlled Russian news agency, quoted an unnamed former colleague as saying Mr. Smolenkov’s duties at the embassy revolved around menial tasks like buying automobiles for the embassy car pool and goods for its shop.

The colleague also said Mr. Smolenkov “often” drank and a “bit more than usual,” which is saying something in the context of Russia’s diplomatic corps.

Another former associate said Mr. Smolenkov complained about his foreign ministry salary being too low.

After returning to Russia, Mr. Smolenkov appeared in a 2010 civil service ranking as a “third class” official serving as an adviser to the government.

He left the government bureaucracy around 2012 and joined the presidential administration, a separate system, as an aide and then “chief adviser” to Mr. Ushakov, the former ambassador to Washington.

He had an office in Old Square, a tightly guarded complex of buildings used by many of Mr. Putin’s officials down the road from the Kremlin.

Mr. Galeotti, the Russian security expert, said that Mr. Smolenkov’s position, though fairly lowly, would probably have granted him “considerable access.”

That said, he added, the “Russians operate ‘compartmentalized intelligence’ based on need-to-know, and I’d be skeptical he’d have any sight of operational materials.”

As in many governments, Russia’s foreign policy professionals have wary relations with their country’s intelligence services, particularly the military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., which has been accused of spearheading Moscow’s election meddling.

This makes it highly unlikely, experts say, that Mr. Smolenkov or even Mr. Ushakov would have had detailed knowledge of a secret program to disrupt American democracy hatched by Russia’s spies.

Mr. Smolenkov’s known curriculum vitae is so thin that it has prompted speculation on Russian social media that rather than providing the C.I.A. with secret inside information he merely acted as a “courier” to the Americans for information obtained by a more highly placed agent who has yet to be exposed.

But such speculation could itself be disinformation, as there is no easier way to thwart the operations of a country’s intelligence apparatus than planting seeds of suspicion of hidden traitors.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the C.I.A. became paralyzed by an endless hunt for turncoats driven by James Jesus Angleton, the agency’s deeply paranoid counterintelligence chief.

The Russian and American accounts of Mr. Smolenkov’s activities diverge so sharply that even the manner of his escape from Russia is clouded by contradiction.

United States officials describe a secret operation in 2017 to “exfiltrate” — spy talk for extract — him to safety.

Russia, though, has detailed a far more mundane exit, saying Mr. Smolenkov took his second wife and their three children on holiday to Montenegro, a popular tourist destination for Russians on the Adriatic coast, and then traveled on to the United States, where he bought a house under his own name in Virginia for $925,000 in 2018.

The only certainty is that he and his family disappeared.

Russian opened a murder case after they vanished but closed it when no bodies could be found.

In the fall of 2017, friends of his son, Ivan, exchanged anxious messages on VKontakte, a Russian social networking site.

“Is he dead or what?” asked one of Ivan’s friends.

When this drew flippant responses, the friend tried again: “Seriously, what has happened to him?”

“God only knows,” replied another friend.

Reporting was contributed by Oleg Matsnev from Moscow, and Julian Barnes and David E. Sanger from Washington.

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 12, 2019, Section A, Page 6 of the New York edition with the headline: Moscow Mocks Russian Aide Recruited by the C.I.A. as a Boozy Nobody. ... emlin.html

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Post by thelivyjr » Sun Sep 15, 2019 1:40 p

Transcript of Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee

By Washington Post Staff

July 24, 2019


ARMSTRONG: Mr. Mueller, how many people did you fire - how many people on your staff did you fire during the course of the investigation?

MUELLER: How many people...

ARMSTRONG: Did you fire?

MUELLER: I’m not going to discuss that.

ARMSTRONG: You fired - according to inspector general’s report, attorney number two was let go and we know Peter Strzok was let go, correct?

MUELLER: Yes, and there may have been other persons on other issues that have been either transferred or fired.

ARMSTRONG: Peter Strzok testified before this Committee on July 12, 2018 that he was fired because you were concerned about preserving the appearance of independence.

Do you agree with this testimony?

MUELLER: Say that again if you could?

ARMSTRONG: He said he was fired at least partially because you were worried about - concerned about preserving the appearance of independence with the special counsel’s investigation.

Do you agree with that statement?

MUELLER: And the statement was by whom?

ARMSTRONG: Peter Strzok at this hearing.

MUELLER: I am not familiar with that.

ARMSTRONG: Did you fire him because you were worried about the appearance of independence of the investigation?


He was transferred as a result of instances involving texts.

ARMSTRONG: Do you agree that - do you agree that your office did not only have an obligation to operate with independence but to operate with the appearance of independence as well?

MUELLER: Absolutely.

We strove to do that over the two years.

ARMSTRONG: Andrew...

MUELLER: Part of that was making certain that...

ARMSTRONG: Andrew Weissmann’s one of your top attorneys?


ARMSTRONG: Did Weissmann have a role is selecting other members of your team?

MUELLER: He had some role but not a major role.

ARMSTRONG: Andrew Weissmann attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party.

Did you know that before or after he came onto the team?

MUELLER: I don’t know when I found that out.

ARMSTRONG: On January 30, 2017, Weissmann wrote an email to Deputy Attorney General Yates stating, “I am so proud and in awe regarding her disobeying a direct order from the president.”

Did Weissmann disclose that email to you before he joined the team?

MUELLER: I’m not going to talk about that.

ARMSTRONG: Is that not a conflict of interest?

MUELLER: Not going to talk about that.

ARMSTRONG: Are you aware that Ms. Jeannie Rhee represented Hillary Clinton in litigation regarding personal emails originating from Clinton’s time as Secretary of State?


ARMSTRONG: Did you know that before she came on the...


ARMSTRONG: Aaron Zelbley, the guy sitting next to you, represented Justin Cooper, a Clinton aide who destroyed one of Clinton’s mobile devices, and you must be aware by now that six of your lawyers donated $12,000 directly to Hillary Clinton.

I’m not even talking about the $49,000 they donated to other democrats, just the donations to the opponent who was the target of your investigation.

MUELLER: Can I speak for a second to the hiring practices?


MUELLER: We strove to hire those individuals that could do that job.


MUELLER: I have been in this business for almost 25 years, and in those 25 years I have not had occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation.

It is not done.

What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity.

ARMSTRONG: But that’s what I’m saying, Mr. Mueller.

This isn’t just about you being able to vouch for your team.

This is about knowing that the day you accepted this role you had to be aware no matter what this report concluded half of the country was going to be scheduled - skeptical of your team’s findings, and that’s why we have recusal laws that define bias and perceive bias for this very reason.

28 United States code 5218 specifically lists not just political conflict of interest but the appearance of political conflicts of interest.

It’s just simply not enough that you vouch for your team.

The interest (inaudible) demand that no perceived bias exists.

I can’t imagine a single prosecutor or judge that I have every appeared in front of would be comfortable with these circumstances where over half of the prosecutorial team had a direct relationship to the opponent of the person being investigated.

MUELLER: Let me one other fact that I put on the table, and that is we hired 19 lawyers over the period of time.

Of those 19 lawyers, 14 of them were transferred from elsewhere in the Department of Justice.

Only five came from outside, so we did not have...

ARMSTRONG: And half of them had a direct relationship, political or personal, with the opponent of the person you were investigating, and that’s my point.

I wonder if not a single word in this entire report was change but rather the only difference was we switched Hillary Clinton and President Trump.

If Peter Strzok has texted those terrible things about Hillary Clinton instead of President Trump, if a team of lawyers worked for, donated thousands of dollars to, and went to Trump’s parties instead of Clinton’s, I don’t think we’d be here trying to prop up an obstruction allegation.

My colleagues would have spent the last four months accusing your team of being bought and paid for by the Trump campaign and we couldn’t trust a single word of this report.

They would still be accusing the president of conspiracy with Russia and they would be accusing your team of aiding and embedding with that conspiracy, and with that I yield back.


"Democrats outline impeachment hearings as moderates wary"

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler tried to clear up confusion within his caucus about impeachment on Thursday as the committee approved guidelines for impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump.

Nadler says there's no uncertainty about what his committee is doing: It's an impeachment investigation, no matter how you want to phrase it.

Some of Nadler's fellow Democrats — including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — have stumbled over how to explain what they're doing, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been reluctant to echo the committee's assertions that they are in the midst of an impeachment probe.

At a news conference after the committee vote, Pelosi was on the defensive.

She said she supports what the committee is doing, and "I salute them for that work."

She said, though, that when she travels the country, "people are saying it's good to be careful about how we proceed."

Impeachment has divided Democrats who control the House.

Democrats on Nadler's committee, including some of the most liberal members of the House, have been eager to move forward with the process.

But moderates, mostly first-term lawmakers who handed their party the majority in the 2018 election, are concerned about the committee's drumbeat on impeachment and the attention that comes with that continued action.

Given those divisions, Nadler and Pelosi have been talking about impeachment very differently.

While Nadler has been clear that his committee is moving ahead, Pelosi is reluctant to mention the "I'' word and has repeatedly said the strategy is to "legislate, investigate and litigate."

In private meetings, she has urged caution and told the caucus that the public isn't there yet on impeachment.

At the same time, she has signed off on the committee's moves.

Pressed on whether there were mixed messages coming from leadership and the committee, she wouldn't answer.

"I have said what I am going to say on the subject," Pelosi said.

Nadler, too, declined to answer a similar question.

"I'm not going to get into that," he said after the committee's vote.

At the hearing, he was forceful about the Judiciary panel's path.

"Some call this process an impeachment inquiry."

"Some call it an impeachment investigation."

"There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature," Nadler, D-N.Y., said earlier as he opened the meeting.

"But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy."

"We have an obligation to respond to this threat."

"And we are doing so."

The confusion was highlighted Wednesday when Hoyer, D-Md., indicated to reporters that there was not an impeachment investigation — and then issued a clarification saying he thought the question was "in regards to whether the full House is actively considering articles of impeachment, which we are not at this time."

Like Pelosi, he said he supported the committee's work.

As the committee said it would move ahead, several freshman lawmakers met with Nadler on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the path ahead.

"It's sucking the air out of all the good stuff that we're doing, so that's our concern," said Florida Rep. Donna Shalala, who attended the meeting.

She said very few constituents in her swing district asked her about impeachment over the August recess.

With lawmakers divided, it's unclear whether the impeachment process will ever move beyond the committee's investigation.

The committee would have to introduce impeachment articles against Trump and win approval from the House to bring charges.

The Republican-led Senate is unlikely to convict Trump and remove him from office.

Still, the committee has persisted in advancing the impeachment issue, partly to bolster two lawsuits against the Trump administration as the White House has repeatedly blocked witness testimony and document production.

The suits say the material is needed so the committee can decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

The resolution the committee approved along party lines would allow the committee to designate certain hearings as impeachment hearings, empower staff to question witnesses, allow some evidence to remain private and permit the president's counsel to officially respond to testimony.

The committee says the resolution is similar to procedural votes taken at the beginning of the impeachment investigations into Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

"Under these procedures, when we have finished these hearings and considered as much evidence we are able to gather, we will decide whether to refer articles of impeachment to the House floor," Nadler said in his opening statement.

The first hearing scheduled under the new impeachment rules is with onetime Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Sept. 17.

Lewandowski was frequently mentioned in special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which the committee has been investigating.

According to Mueller's report, Trump asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that he limit Mueller's inquiry.

In addition to Mueller, the committee is investigating the spending of taxpayer money at the president's hotels and properties and hush money payments Trump made to kill potentially embarrassing stories.

Nadler said all of those investigations will inform the decision on whether to vote on articles of impeachment.

Republicans expressed their frustration with the entire process before the committee voted on Thursday.

They say the committee cannot be in impeachment because the House has never voted to open an official inquiry.

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, said the committee "has become a giant Instagram filter ... it's put in there to look like something, but it's really not."

Collins says Democrats are trying to have it both ways.

"My colleagues know very well they don't have the votes to authorize impeachment proceedings on the House floor, but they want to impeach the president anyway," Collins said in a statement released during the hearing.

"So, they are pretending to initiate impeachment." ... P17#page=2

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