Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Last Call For The Man From Interpol

It's strange enough that the Chinese head of Interpol suddenly resigned last month, vanished for three days, and the resurfaced as a detained "guest" of Beijing's government.  But now the Russians are suddenly in the driver's seat to replace him as the new head of the world's biggest police agency, and as Magnitsky Act activist Bill Browder writes, Vladimir Putin appears to be pulling off a bloodless international coup under everyone's noses.

Early last month, the wife of Meng Hongwei, a Chinese national and the president of Interpol, reported that her husband had disappeared on a trip to China. Three days passed before the Chinese government admitted detaining him and placing him under investigation. Following that, Interpol received a notice of Meng’s resignation. Whether he wrote it or not is unknown.

Last Saturday, news began circulating that a Russian official is the front-runner to replace Meng as president of Interpol. At first, I thought this must be a joke. Russia has demonstrated some of the most criminal tendencies of any country in the world. Its agents used a military-grade chemical weapon in an attack in Salisbury in Britain. Russian missiles murdered 298 innocents on Flight MH17 over Ukraine. And the Kremlin’s operatives have interfered with elections in the United States and Europe. Russia shouldn’t even be on the list of countries that could provide a leader for Interpol.

Later this week, Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai will decide who becomes Interpol’s next president. The vote will take place on Wednesday, and the choice is between the Russian interior ministry officer Alexander Prokopchuk and Interpol’s current interim president, a South Korean named Kim Jong Yang.

No one should want to see a Russian elevated to this post, but I have a particular personal interest in seeing that it doesn’t happen.

In 2012, I succeeded in advocating for the U.S. government to pass the Magnitsky Act, named after my colleague Sergei Magnitsky, who was imprisoned by Russian authorities after exposing high-level corruption, and who died in detention after being beaten and denied medical care. This law allows the United States to freeze the assets and ban visas for Russian human rights abusers. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embarked on a vendetta against me. This has taken a number of forms, including death threats and plans for illegal renditions. But one of the most pernicious has been Moscow’s repeated attempts to misuse Interpol to try to have me arrested and extradited back to Russia, where they will likely torture and kill me.

Moscow first attempted to use Interpol to go after me in May 2013 with a request for an Interpol Red Notice. Interpol rejected this, stating that the Russian request violated Interpol’s constitution, since it was obviously politically motivated. Several months later, the Russians tried again to get a Red Notice for me — and once again, it was rejected.

After two explicit rejections, one might think Russia would give up trying to use Interpol to have me arrested. Instead, the Russians altered their tactics.

In October 2017, the Canadian Parliament unanimously passed its own version of the Magnitsky Act. In response, Putin’s government went after me using something called an Interpol “diffusion notice.” This was also an Interpol arrest warrant, but one that required far less oversight than a Red Notice.

Again, Interpol intervened, declaring it politically motivated.

Then, in May of this year, I was actually arrested in Madrid. I’d been invited there by a senior Spanish prosecutor to give evidence against Russian organized crime and money laundering taking place in Spain and connected to the Magnitsky case. I was arrested at my hotel by Spanish National Police, and released from custody only after Interpol intervened.

In reaction to the Madrid incident, Russia’s most senior law enforcement officer, Yuri Chaika, gave a news conference in Moscow, saying: “We will redouble our efforts to get Bill Browder. . . . He should not sleep peacefully at night.”

On Monday morning, the Russian government went one step further. Officials in Moscow held a news conference at which they absurdly accused me of murdering Sergei Magnitsky himself and described me as the leader of a “transnational criminal group” who needed to be apprehended.

In total, Russia has tried to use Interpol seven times to have me arrested. If there ever was a case for why Russia should not have any authority at Interpol, I am that case.

Bill Browder won't make it to 2019 as a free man if Alexander Prokopchuk is voted in as head of Interpol, that much seems certain.  Interpol is used to help hunt down criminals, not political dissidents, reporters, and whistleblowers, but if Putin gets his hands on Interpol, he will use it to do just that.

Turkey has also been using Interpol as its personal dissident arrest squad since Ergodan consolidated power in the failed coup attempt against him in July 2016, issuing piles of "red notices" to round up political enemies. 

Up until now, Interpol has been resisting this sort of clearly political behavior.  But unless you believe Bill Browder is an international terrorist who killed Sergei Magintsky and is really the dastardly mastermind behind all of Putin's recent European assassinations of former Russian agents, Putin getting full control of Interpol will be a complete nightmare.

Something Trump of course won't bat an eyelash at.

The Orange Doesn't Fall Far From The Rotting Tree

Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s practices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. Trump attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her “Crooked Hillary” for using a personal email account as secretary of state.

Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. Trump said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

The White House referred requests for comment to Ivanka Trump’s attorney and ethics counsel, Abbe Lowell.

In a statement, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, acknowledged that the president’s daughter occasionally used her private email before she was briefed on the rules, but he said none of her messages contained classified information.

“While transitioning into government, after she was given an official account but until the White House provided her the same guidance they had given others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her personal account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,” he said in a statement.

Mirijanian said Ivanka Trump turned over all her government-related emails months ago so they could be stored permanently with other White House records.

And he stressed that her email use was different than that of Clinton, who had a private email server in the basement of her Chappaqua, N.Y., home. At one point, an archive of thousands of Clinton’s emails was deleted by a computer specialist amid a congressional investigation.

“Ms. Trump did not create a private server in her house or office, no classified information was ever included, the account was never transferred at Trump Organization, and no emails were ever deleted,” Mirijanian said.

Sounds like we need a House Committee or three to investigate that, yes?

Of course, the real problem is America's enemies were certainly reading Ivanka's emails and she was a security threat, with clearance.  She violated public records acts, and if she sent anything remotely classified, she broke national security acts as well.  And yes, she did discuss official WH business over this unsecured domain.

And hey, who was running that domain, anyway?  If the Russians or Chinese had an ounce of competence, they layered that up with back doors and got all kinds of stuff from it.

Of course the President's daughter won't face any consequences for this.  That would involve quite a bit of prison time and loss of clearance for any of the rest of us, but we're not Ivanka.

Besides, she will go to prison over her Russian money laundering.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

Once again the GOP supermajority in Ohio's House has passed another doomed "heartbeat bill" as with the last couple of years, unable to get enough of a margin to beat a guaranteed veto by Gov. Kasich.  This time around though they're considering a new bill, one that would criminalize all abortions and miscarriages in the state.

There’s been a lot of attention given to the contentious “Heartbeat Bill,” which bans abortion at the point that a fetal heartbeat can be detected, since it passed the Ohio House earlier this week. But Republican lawmakers are considering another bill during this lame-duck session that would ban abortions entirely.

HB 565, which was introduced in March, would allow criminal charges against both doctors and pregnant women seeking abortions. It would characterize an “unborn human” as a person under Ohio’s criminal code, meaning abortions could be punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty.

There are no exceptions even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life.

Jaime Miracle with NARAL Pro Choice Ohio says the bill would punish both women and doctors. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are spending money on advertisements opposing the bill.

“This could criminalize women who have miscarriages that might seem suspicious to somebody or could criminalize in-vitro fertilization procedures that might end up with an embryo," Miracle says.

This is all cover for the heartbeat bill, which is headed for the Ohio Senate, and an eventual date for incoming Gov. Mike DeWine's desk.  DeWine has said in the past that he will sign the bill into law, setting up the endgame for Roe v. Wade in a Supreme Court battle that could very well be the end of safe abortions for most women in the US.

It's the fight they've wanted for years and will almost certainly get in 2019 or 2020.


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