Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|Is Vladimir Putin really the evil genius behind Donald Trump? – Toronto Star|
|Russia edges in as key power broker with North Korea – Nikkei Asian Review|
|Who’s an Oligarch? Rich Russians Fret Over US Sanctions Label – Bloomberg|
|Little peace, and our strength is ebbing: A report from the Reagan National Defense Forum. – National Review|
|James Comey, Sally Yates and Eric Holder defend FBI after Trump’s Twitter attack – Washington Post|
|Michael Flynn Investigation Sparks Concern About a Politicized FBI – LifeZette|
|Michael Flynn shouldn’t have lied about doing the right thing|
James S. Robbins, Opinion columnist Published 6:00 a.m. ET Dec. 4, 2017
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn(Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, epa)
On Friday, President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about a perfectly legal conversation he had during the presidential transition with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn should not have lied, and why he chose to remains a mystery, but the substance of the single-count indictment against Flynn shows that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has strayed far from its original purpose.
We have come down quite a way from the hyperventilation about Russia “hacking the election” a year ago. What happened to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s claim, later promoted by Hillary Clinton, that there were 1,000 Russian agents planting anti-Hillary fake news stories in key swing states? Or that Russians had delivered Wisconsin to Trump? All the conspiracy theorists have so far are a few Facebook ads that can’t credibly be shown to have changed even one vote.
Flynn was fully in his rights making the call to Kislyak. Despite the best efforts of the anti-Trumpers, it is still not illegal to talk to Russians. Even Democratic former CIA director and Defense secretary Leon Panetta said it was a “stretch” to say these contacts broke the law.
The dust-up seems mainly to be about the decorum of presidential transitions. Days after the 2016 election, the Trump team cautioned the Obama administration against pursuing new and damaging foreign policy initiatives that did not align with Trump’s priorities.
“I don’t think it’s in keeping with the spirit of the transition,” one of president-elect Trump’s national security advisers told Politico on Nov. 10, 2016, “to try to push through agenda items that are contrary to the president-elect’s positions.”
The Trump transition team feared, for good reason, that the lame-duck Obama administration was poisoning the well with Russia, and pursuing spiteful anti-Israel policies on the way out the door. Trump asked Flynn, his soon-to-be national security adviser, to open a semi-official channel to Russia through its ambassador to discuss future cooperative efforts against the Islamic State and the United Nations vote on an anti-Israel resolution. As lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued, “Not only was that request not criminal, it was the right thing to do.”
The phone call to Kislyak, and any other such contacts with foreign officials, should be viewed in that context. This was not, for example, on the level of colluding with shadowy Russian intelligence contacts to create disinformation to try to swing the election, as the authors of the Clinton-connected Trump smear dossier did.
There was ample precedent for the president-elect to put out feelers to foreign leaders.
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
An erroneous ABC News report that Trump had dispatched Flynn to make contact with Russia before the election appears to have caused a massive stock market selloff. The report was corrected, and reporter Brian Ross was suspended. The important takeaway of ABC’s fake news outbreak is that since the Trump team’s outreach to Russia took place after the election, it implies there were no channels to Moscow before the fact. This puts a stake in the heart of the collusion theory.
A CNN analyst speculated that instead of outright coordination, there was an implicit quid pro quo for Russia getting Trump elected. This might be called the “grasping at straws” gambit.
On Sunday, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., resurrected the notion that Trump obstructed justice by firing then-FBI Director and Bible scholar James Comey. But again, this is a weak and constitutionally suspect narrative.
The real obstruction might be found in the Mueller investigation itself. The legitimacy of the FBI witch hunt against Trump was further damaged by reports that leading FBI investigator Peter Strzok, who had spearheaded the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s sketchy home-brew email server, was demoted because of anti-Trump texts he exchanged with co-worker Lisa Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
This is hardly an unbiased investigation. If the type of process crime that Flynn was nailed for is all the Mueller team can come up with, it is time to move on.
James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant to the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins.
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|If Michael Flynn’s ‘crime’ is all Robert Mueller has, it is time to move on – USA TODAY|
|Russia-Trump: President criticised for attacking FBI – BBC News|
|Kremlin says Flynn didn’t influence Putin’s decision to not retaliate against US sanctions – NBCNews.com|
|How Donald Trump needs to exit the White House – Washington Post|
|Mueller Is Moving Quickly Compared To Past Special Counsel Investigations – FiveThirtyEight|
|8:47 AM 12/4/2017 Dear Mr. Clapper|
(From a “rank and file” and the very ordinary citizen) Dear Mr. Clapper: To say that the FBI is the “premier law enforcement organization in the world” implies the same underlying logic as to say that “Mr. Clapper is the most perfect gentleman in the world”. Both statements might very well be true, to put the … Continue reading“8:47 AM 12/4/2017 – Dear Mr. Clapper…”
|The Early Edition: December 4, 2017|
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.
Trumps former national security advisor Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I. on Friday and said that a senior Trump transition official told him to make contact with Russia. A brief by special counsel Robert Mueller alleged that Flynn willfully and knowingly made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations to F.B.I. agents when interviewed in January, and also alleged that Flynn had lied about the nature of his phone calls with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016 regarding further sanctions on Moscow and a U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements. Jenna McLaughlin reports at Foreign Policy.
The very senior transition official referred to in the Flynn plea agreement is the presidents son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to a member of Trumps transition team speaking on the condition of anonymity, the AP reports.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies, Trump tweeted at the weekend, the presidents message seemingly contradicted his previous assertions that he had fired Flynn in February because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence over whether he had spoken to Kislyak about sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration. Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt and Michael D. Shear report at the New York Times.
Trumps personal lawyer John Dowd said yesterday that Trump was aware in late January that Flynn had probably given F.B.I. agents an inaccurate account of his call with Kislyak and that this had been the same misleading account that Flynn had provided Vice President Pence, Dowd also confirmed that he had drafted Trumps controversial tweet about firing Flynn. Carol D. Leonnig, John Wagner and Ellen Nakashima report at the Washington Post.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin had not been influenced by Flynn, the Kremlin said today, Reuters reports.
Legal experts were bemused and concerned by the tweet apparently composed by Dowd, with the tweet suggesting that Trump took part in the obstruction of justice, however Dowd said that the tweet was a mistake and that he was sorry to have misled people. The Guardian reports.
The F.B.I.s reputation is in Tatters worst in History! Trump tweeted yesterday, as part of a series of tweets directed at the F.B.I. accusing the agency of bias, the presidents comments drew condemnation from an array of figures. Trump also accused the former F.B.I. Director James Comey of lying about his role in the investigation into Flynn, Michael D. Shear reportS at the New York Times.
Emails between trop transition officials suggest that the Trump transition team were keen to improve relations with Russia and that Flynn was not a mere rogue actor, an email from transition adviser K.T. McFarland discussed how sanctions imposed by the Obama administration would make it harder for Trump to reach out to Moscow. Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Scott Shane report at the New York Times.
An National Rifle Association (N.R.A.) member discussed setting up a back-channel meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in an email to Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn in May last year, saying that he would try to make first contact during the N.R.A.s annual convention. The N.R.A. members outreach followed a few days after a similar suggestion by an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and the meetings appear to involve Alexander Torshin the deputy governor of the Russian central bank and a key figure in Putins political party, Nicholas Fandos reports at the New York Times.
Mueller removed a high-ranking F.B.I. agent from his team in the late summer due to his potential anti-Trump bias, Peter Strzok had previously been in charge of running the investigation into Hillary Clintons use of a private email server. The revelation was seized on by the president who tweetedyesterday: Now it all starts to make sense! Del Quentin Wilber and Paul Sonne report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Flynn plea agreement includes the possibility of participation in covert law enforcement activities and this may prove to be an important issue as it could include wearing a concealed wire or the recording of telephone conversations with other potential suspects. Marcia Chambers and Charles Keiser set out the potential significance of the section eight of the deal at the Guardian.
You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigation at your own peril, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Trump, constituting one of the voices from an array of Democratic and Republican lawmakers expressing concern about the presidents comments. Roberta Rampton and Karen Freifeld report at Reuters.
The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) said yesterday that Mueller may be constructing an obstruction of justice case that could implicate the president, Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.
The five key takeaways from Flynns guilty plea are provided by Morgan Chalfant at the Hill.
The significance of Flynns guilty plea is analyzed by eleven legal experts at POLITICO Magazine.
The documents filed by Mueller provide a number of interesting insights, including Muellers intention to do away with extraneous issues such as Flynns connections to the Turkish government and that there are more revelations to come. Barbara McQuade provides an analysis at The Daily Beast.
A timeline setting out what is known about Flynns phone calls with Russia, and conversations regarding Obama-era sanctions on Moscow, are provided by Gregor Aisch, K.K. Rebecca Lai and Karen Yourish at the New York Times.
Flynns plea does not shed more light on what happened during the 2016 presidential campaign, Flynn may be cooperating with prosecutors and may have more information to divulge, however it pays to wait for the evidence, the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues.
The question is who might now be swept up in the investigation? The New York Times editorial boardwrites, saying that the plea struck by Mueller shows that Flynn is part of a larger cooperation deal that suggests he has valuable information to share and the obvious candidate to be considered in the probe is Kushner.
The plea reveals that Flynn was being guided by senior transition officials in his calls to Kislyak regarding Obama-era sanctions on Russia and the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, and as the investigation develops it is of the utmost importance that Mr. Mueller be able to continue unimpeded in his work. The Washington Post editorial board writes.
Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role in a foundation that funded an illegal Israeli settlement, the revelations come following indications that a senior adviser attempted to influence a U.N. Security Council vote condemning West Bank settlements. Chris Riotta reports at Newsweek.
Trump is expected to announce a plan on Wednesday that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital but would not move the U.S. Embassy there for now, according to sources familiar with the matter, the move intended to strike a compromise between a pledge made by Trump during the presidential campaign and the need to maintain the peace progress. Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis report at the New York Times.
Abbas warned against recognizing Jerusalem as Israels capital and other leaders have joined in condemning such a plan, the Arab League leader Ahmed Abul Gheit saying that nothing justifies this act it will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence, and Jordans Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi saying that he had spoken to the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the dangerous consequences of recognizing Jerusalem. Peter Beaumont reports at the Guardian.
Kushner spoke at the Saban forum on the Middle East yesterday to discuss a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, saying that he was optimistic that there is a lot of hope for bringing a conclusion, despite acknowledging the many obstacles to achieving the ultimate deal. Annie Karni reports at POLITICO.
Trump is still looking at a lot of different facts regarding the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital, Kushner said yesterday, adding that Trump would make the announcement when has made a decision. Reuters reports.
A peace deal between Israel and Palestine would be necessary to counter Irans expansionism and Islamist extremism, Kushner also said yesterday, saying that an agreement was essential to stability of the region. Karen DeYoung and Loveday Morris report at the Washington Post.
An insight into the debates within the Trump administration over recognizing Jerusalem as Israels capital is provided by Anne Gearan at the Washington Post.
A private meeting between the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has caused anxiety across the region, according to officials who have heard Abbass version of the meeting. Bin Salman advocated a plan that was more in favor of Israel than that which has been put forward by the U.S., and the reports of their discussion have led to some speculating that the Crown Prince has been trying to ingratiate himself with President Trump, consequently sowing suspicion about Trumps efforts to negotiate a peace deal, Anne Barnard, David M. Halbfinger and Peter Baker report at the New York Times.
The issue of Jerusalem is the most sensitive and volatile issue in the Israel-Palestine negotiations and should be avoided, such a move would not be worth the trouble and would further complicate the peace process. Aaron David Miller writes at CNN.
The U.S. and South Korea began five days of military exercises today, amid increased tension on the Korean Peninsula, however the U.S. military said the joint maneuvers were not in response to any incident or provocation. Andrew Jeong reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. and South Korea are creating a situation that a nuclear war may break out any moment, North Korean state media said today in response to the large-scale joint military exercises, Brad Lendon and Taehoon Lee report at CNN.
The U.S. is in a race to address the North Korea threat, the White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said yesterday, the BBC reports.
The U.S. should take the example of Israel if it seeks to stop North Koreas aggression, looking particularly to Israels efforts to undermine the financial resources of its enemies. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner reports at the New York Times.
Unconfirmed reports have emerged that Yemens former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in fighting today, Reuters reporting.
The alliance between supporters of Saleh and the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels seems to have broken down, the two sides having taken aim at each other in street battles in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa over the past few days. The AP reports.
Saleh offered on Saturday to turn a new page in ties with the Saudi-led coalition if it stopped attacking Yemen, making the comments amid increased violence between Salah supporters and the Houthis. Reuters reports.
The Saudi-led coalition welcomed Salehs offer of talks, saying in a statement yesterday that the decision would free Yemen of militias loyal to Iran. The BBC reports.
The cause in the apparent breakdown in the alliance remains unclear, with some pointing at Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and other allies for turning Saleh against the Houthis. Ali Al-Mujahed and Kareem Fahim report at the Washington Post.
An analysis of the breakdown in the Houthi-Saleh alliance is provided by Faisal Edroos at Al Jazeera.
The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday urged the parties to the conflict in Yemen to stop all ground and air assaults, Reuters reporting.
The TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
The Trump administration is scheduled to release its first national security strategy within the next few weeks, according the White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster the strategy would set out the administrations terms for working with other nations. Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson refuted reports that he would be leaving his post and be replaced by C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo, saying on Saturday that people need to get better sources. Jeff Mason reports at Reuters.
Diplomats across the world have expressed concern about reports that Tillerson is set to leave the Trump administration, with some longing for stability in U.S. foreign policy and others worried about further unpredictability should he depart. Robin Emmott and Noah Barkin report at Reuters.
Syrian and Russia jets bombed the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the Syrian capital of Damascus, killing at least 27 people and injuring dozens, aid workers and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports at Reuters.
The politics of rebuilding Syria raises a plethora of issues, including whether the U.S. and the West should provide funds to reconstruct areas, thereby consolidating Syrian President Bashar al-Assads power. Somini Sengupta provides an analysis at the New York Times.
C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo sent a letter to Irans Maj. Gen Qassem Soleimani and Iranian leaders about Irans aggressive behavior in Iraq, Pompeo said at a panel on Saturday, saying that the letter communicated that the U.S. would hold him and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control. Reuters reporting.
The Islamic Republic of Iran will definitely not negotiate on defense and missile issues, Irans foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi said today, responding to comments from French officials and the French President Emmanuel Macron on Irans ballistic missile program. Reuters reports.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called on Pakistan to do more to combat terrorism, saying today during a visit to Pakistan that he wants to work with the U.S. to address the problems. Lolita C. Baldor reports at the AP.
The Pakistani government seems to be capitulating to hardline Muslim groups prompting questions about the long-term capability of the government to counter religious extremism. Pamela Constable explains at the Washington Post.
Qatars Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani stated that he would attend the annual summit of Gulf Arab heads of state this week, amid increased tensions in the Gulf following the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain in June. Reuters reports.
The dynamics behind the decision to isolate Qatar were to allow Saudi Arabia to deflect attention from the simmering tension inside their own insular borders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes at the New York Times.
It is unclear whether the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) summit would help to resolve the Gulf crisis, Farah Najjar and Linah Alsaafin explain at Al Jazeera.
The death toll from Octobers attack in Somalias capital of Mogadishu has risen to 512, according to the committee investigating the attack which has been blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab terrorist group. The AP reports.
National Security Agency (N.S.A.) employee Nghia Hoang Pho pled guilty to violating the Espionage Act on Friday, Pho took his work home and looked at sensitive files while using anti-virus software from the Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post.
The U.S. has withdrawn from negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with migration, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley saying on Saturday that Americas immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
The leader of the Talibans special forces branch was killed last week by Afghan forces, according to Afghanistans National Directorate of Security, Reuters reporting.
The lawyers for Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker who has been confined to quarters after being found guilty of contempt of the war court at Guantánamo Bay have called for a federal judge to cancel his conviction, arguing in a court filing that the conviction that arose out of the U.S.S. Cole case could lead to a series of career-damaging or career-ending consequences. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
The French President Emmanuel Macron called for the demilitarization of Iraq on Saturday, particularly the Iran-backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.), Michel Rose and Ahmed Aboulenein report at Reuters.
The key takeaways from the trial of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab are provided by Benjamin Weiser at the New York Times, Zarrab has been charged over a conspiracy to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran and the Turkish government has denounced the U.S. justice system for pursuing the case.
|Clapper pushes back on Trump: FBI is premiere law enforcement organization in world | TheHill|
|Clapper pushes back on Trump: FBI is premiere law enforcement organization in world – The Hill|
|In pre-dawn Twitter message, Trump issues a fresh denial about intervening in Flynn investigation|
President Trump issued a fresh denial Sunday that he asked former FBI director James B. Comey to halt an investigation into the conduct of his dismissed national security adviser Michael Flynn. I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn, Trump said in a pre-dawn message on Twitter. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie! […]
|McMaster: National security team not missing a beat because of Trump controversies|
H.R. McMaster, President Trumps national security adviser, said Sunday that the administration’s controversies including his predecessors guilty plea and rumors of Secretary of State Rex Tillersons departure arent affecting its ability to work with U.S. allies on key issues. McMaster was pressed during an appearance on Fox News Sunday about those and other […]
|DOJ And FBI Threatened With Contempt Of Congress For ‘Hiding’ Info On Anti-Trump FBI Investigator – The Daily Caller|
|4:02 AM 12/4/2017 The FBIs reputation is in Tatters worst in History! New FBI Director Chris Wray needs to clean house.|
Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Comey, whom Trump fired in May, the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters worst in History!” He vowed to “bring it back to greatness.” The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI Director Chris Wray “needs to clean house.” AP … Continue reading“4:02 AM 12/4/2017 – The FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters worst in History!” New FBI Director Chris Wray “needs to clean house.””
|We do need the comprehensive, in-depth, objective investigation, reassessment, and reevaluation of the FBI M.N.|
In my humble opinion, we do need the comprehensive, in-depth, objective investigation, reassessment, and reevaluation of the FBI from the times of its inception and establishment: its actions, inactions, and mis-actions, its place and role in the society, and its future roles, not in a “police” state or the “deep” state, but in a free and … Continue reading“We do need the comprehensive, in-depth, objective investigation, reassessment, and reevaluation of the FBI – M.N.”
|Trump, Defending Himself After Flynn Guilty Plea, Says F.B.I. Is in Tatters|
But on Sunday, the president condemned Mr. Comey as a liar, saying that “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn” and that Mr. Comey had harmed the bureau and its employees. He also accused the bureau’s agents of spending years pursing a “phony and dishonest” investigation into the email server of his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Trump’s fury at those investigating him stunned even those with fresh memories of his repeated attempts over the past year to disparage intelligence agencies, the State Department and other parts of his government. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the frenzied nature of the president’s tweets suggested that he knew that Mr. Mueller was building an obstruction of justice case against him.
“I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets,” Ms. Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Eric H. Holder Jr., who was President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, responded to the president’s tweets with one of his own defending the bureau. “You’ll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Penn Ave right now,” Mr. Holder wrote.
As he sought to discredit the Russia inquiry, which he has long called a political “witch hunt,” Mr. Trump on Sunday seized on reports that Mr. Mueller had removed a veteran F.B.I. agent because he sent text messages that appeared to express views critical of Mr. Trump.
In several tweets, the president harshly criticized the agent, Peter Strzok, who had previously helped lead the 2016 investigation into whether Mrs. Clinton had mishandled classified information on her private email account. Mr. Strzok is considered one of the bureau’s most experienced and trusted counterintelligence investigators.
“Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE,’” Mr. Trump said in his 10th tweet on Sunday, which by the early evening had been retweeted more than 24,000 times. “Now it all starts to make sense!”
Most presidents enter the Oval Office with an instinct to defend and promote the integrity and capabilities of the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Mr. Trump arrived with a different compulsion, fueled by a belief that intelligence and law enforcement officials were stoking questions about the legitimacy of his election victory.
By suggesting — as he has before — that the F.B.I. and other agencies are motivated by politics, Mr. Trump again embraced the kind of suspicions that feed conspiracy theories about a “deep state” operating with a secret bias against him.
Still, even though Mr. Trump’s attacks on government agencies are now a familiar theme, former F.B.I. officials and veteran observers of the agency said they were surprised at the ease with which the president sought to defend himself by attacking the reputations of Mr. Comey, Mr. Mueller, Mr. Strzok and the 35,000 people who work at the F.B.I.
Robert E. Anderson Jr., a former top spy hunter at the bureau, said the president’s comments would have a dispiriting effect on F.B.I. morale, especially among those who are not involved in political investigations.
“You’ve got men and women working tirelessly in every corner of this world to protect the United States and its people,” Mr. Anderson said. “When he says what he says, it’s an insult and it’s degrading to the men and women who are sacrificing their lives to protect this great nation.”
Mr. Anderson also came to the defense of Mr. Strzok, calling him “one of the most methodical, most meticulous, hard-working counterintelligence experts in the entire United States intelligence community.” Mr. Anderson said Mr. Strzok “never displayed political bias.”
The president retweeted a Twitter post urging Christopher A. Wray, the current F.B.I. director, to “clean house” at the agency. In a statement on Sunday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had directed Mr. Wray to “review the information available on this and other matters and promptly make any necessary changes.”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly described the F.B.I. as an agency in turmoil, often blaming Mr. Comey — a “showboat” and a “grandstander” — for losing support among rank-and-file agents. He cited such supposed turmoil when he fired Mr. Comey in May. But several years of internal employee surveys by the F.B.I. undercut that claim, showing that employees gave Mr. Comey high marks for his leadership.
And since taking over four months ago, Mr. Wray has repeatedly praised the bureau’s work force. In a speech in October, Mr. Wray described the bureau’s employees as “outstanding and dedicated.”
“I wake up every day fired up to come to work — to be part of this extraordinary group — and to see where we can go next,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s efforts to shift attention away from Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea began Saturday night, when he assailed the Justice Department for its handling of the Clinton email investigation and questioned the department’s dedication to living up to its name.
“Many people in our Country are asking what the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and ‘acid washed’ 33,000 Emails?” he wrote, referring to messages that Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers had deemed unrelated to her government work. “No justice!”
In another tweet Saturday night, Mr. Trump accused the F.B.I. of destroying Mr. Flynn’s life for his lying to agents, while letting “Crooked Hillary Clinton” off easy for what he said were her own lies to agents. “Rigged system, or just a double standard?” he said.
But Mr. Trump appears to remain especially fixated on Mr. Comey, who testified before Congress in June that the president had asked him to drop the inquiry into Mr. Flynn’s activities one day after Mr. Trump had fired Mr. Flynn. Mr. Comey declined to do so, and the president fired Mr. Comey several months later.
“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters — worst in History!” Mr. Trump wrote. “But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”
The tweet drew a sharp rebuke from Mr. Holder. “The FBI’s reputation is not in ‘tatters,’” Mr. Holder wrote on Twitter. “It’s composed of the same dedicated men and women who have always worked there and who do a great, apolitical job.”
|Met Opera Suspends James Levine After New Sexual Abuse Accusations|
But now the Met — the nation’s largest performing arts organization and one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses — finds itself in the position that Hollywood studios, television networks and newsrooms have confronted in recent weeks, answering questions about what it knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against one of its stars, and what actions it did and did not take.
Mr. Gelb said allegations about Mr. Levine had reached the Met administration’s upper levels twice before, to his knowledge.
One was in 1979, when Anthony A. Bliss, who was then the Met’s executive director, wrote a letter to a board member about unspecified accusations about Mr. Levine that had been made in an unsigned letter.
“We do not believe there is any truth whatsoever to the charges,” Mr. Bliss wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, which said the Met had spoken “extensively” with Mr. Levine and his manager. “Scurrilous rumors have been circulating for some months and have often been accompanied by other charges which we know for a fact are untrue.” (Mr. Bliss died in 1991, and there is no record of the original, unsigned letter, so the specific accusations against Mr. Levine in it remain unclear.)
Anthony A. Bliss, then executive director of the Met Opera, wrote this letter to a Met board member who had received anonymous accusations about James Levine, the music director at the time.
And then in October 2016, after Mr. Levine had stepped down from his position as music director, Mr. Gelb said he was contacted by a detective with the Lake Forest Police asking questions about Mr. Pai’s report.
Mr. Gelb said that he briefed the board’s leadership and that Mr. Levine denied the accusations. The company took no further action, waiting to see what the police determined. Then, on Saturday, the Met decided to investigate Mr. Levine after media inquiries about his behavior with young men.
Mr. Gelb said that the Met had appointed Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm who was previously a United States attorney in New Jersey and Illinois, to lead its investigation.
The men coming forward now said that some of the abuse started years ago, at the beginning of Mr. Levine’s career, and that this sort of behavior had been widely rumored in music circles.
Mr. Brown, the former bass player in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, said that he had been surprised in the summer of 1968 when Mr. Levine made him principal bass at Meadow Brook, given that Mr. Brown was only 17 and had just finished his junior year of high school, while other players were older and more experienced. He said that he was initially flattered when Mr. Levine, the conductor of the school’s orchestra and the director of its orchestral institute, began to invite him to his dorm room late at night.
At their third meeting, Mr. Brown said, Mr. Levine began talking about sex.
“At that point I think it was basically a combination of fatigue and being young that allowed me to go to the bed — it was the bottom bunk — and have him masturbate me,” Mr. Brown said. “And then, almost immediately, he asked for reciprocation. And I have some very, very strong pictures in my memory, and one of them was being on the floor, and he was on the bottom bunk, and I put my hand on his penis, and I felt so ashamed.”
“The next morning I was late to rehearsal,” said Mr. Brown, who had been raised a Christian Scientist and recalled that he had received little sex education. “I was in a complete daze. Whatever happens when you get abused had happened, and it wasn’t just sexual.”
At their next meeting, Mr. Brown said, he told Mr. Levine that he would not repeat the sexual behavior, and asked if they could continue to make music as they had before.
“And he answered no,” Mr. Brown said, adding that Mr. Levine hardly looked at him for the rest of the summer, even while conducting him. “It was a terrible, terrible summer.” (That fall, after he returned for his senior year of high school, at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Mr. Brown told his roommate about Mr. Levine’s sexual advances at Meadow Brook, the roommate confirmed in an interview.)
Mr. Lestock, the teenage cello student at Meadow Brook, said in a telephone interview that he had a similar experience that summer in Mr. Levine’s dorm room.
“During the discussion, he suggested that I take my clothes off, because this would be natural and honest and expand my outlook on the world,” Mr. Lestock said. “My initial response included the word ‘no.’ I was not interested in that. But he ignored that, and pursued the point, and convinced me to let him masturbate me.”
Mr. Levine at that point was also an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra, and was surrounded by a tight-knit clique of musicians who were awed by him and followed him as his career took off. Mr. Lestock joined that group, whose members studied music together, traveled together, ate together, and sometimes lived together. But he said that over the years he was sometimes subjected to humiliating sexual encounters with Mr. Levine.
At one point in Cleveland, where he moved in 1969 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he said that Mr. Levine encouraged the members of the group to put on blindfolds and masturbate partners they could not see. They did, Mr. Lestock said.
“This was the extent to which he had control,” Mr. Lestock said. Another member of the group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to guard his privacy, said that he had also taken part in a blindfolded masturbation session.
A few years later, in a hotel near the Ravinia Festival, Mr. Lestock said that Mr. Levine caused him physical pain, telling him that he should “expand” his “range of emotions” and pinching him — repeatedly and hard — on his legs.
“Once I started to break down and cry, he continued to try to hurt me,” Mr. Lestock said of Mr. Levine, who was music director of Ravinia from 1973 through 1993.
But Mr. Lestock said he felt powerless to leave. “If I had left the group at the point, I would have had no career, no income, no friends, and have been totally alone in the world,” he said. After following Mr. Levine to New York in the early 1970s, Mr. Lestock, who is now 67, eventually left the group, and music.
Mr. Pai said that he first met Mr. Levine when he was four years old and his parents took him backstage after a Ravinia concert. In 1985, when Mr. Pai was 15, he said, Mr. Levine gave him a ride home and began holding his hand in an “incredibly sensual way.” The following summer, he said, Mr. Levine touched his penis in a hotel room near the festival, beginning what he described as years of sexual encounters.
“I was vulnerable,” said Mr. Pai, who is 48. “I was under this man’s sway, I saw him as a safe, protective person, he took advantage of me, he abused me and it has really messed me up.”
He said that the relationship continued for years and that his feelings were complicated: He shared a copy of a Western Union Mailgram he had sent to Mr. Levine at the Salzburg Festival in 1988 that contained the postscript “P.S. I love you.” But Mr. Pai came to realize that, in those early years, he had been too young to give consent.
Speculation about Mr. Levine’s private life has occasionally come into public view. In 1987, Mr. Levine dismissed talk of wrongdoing in an interview with The Times, saying that “both my friends and my enemies checked it out and to this day, I don’t have the faintest idea where those rumors came from or what purpose they served.”
A decade later, more rumors circulated in Germany, when politicians and media outlets debated his appointment to become the music director of the Munich Philharmonic, beginning in 1999. In an interview in The Times in 1998, Mr. Levine declined to respond to the speculation.
“I’ve never been able to speak in public generalities about my private life,” he said.
Officials at Ravinia, where Mr. Levine is scheduled to begin an ongoing annual residency next summer, said on Sunday that they first learned of the accusations through the media this weekend. “Ravinia finds these allegations very disturbing and contrary to its zero-tolerance policies and culture,” Allie Brightwell, its media manager, said in an email. “Ravinia will take any actions that it deems appropriate following the results of these investigations.”
The Boston Symphony Orchestra, which Mr. Levine led from 2004 through 2011, said in a statement Sunday that it had conducted “a personal and professional review of all aspects of James Levine’s candidacy” before naming him its music director, and that it had never been approached during his tenure with accusations of inappropriate behavior.
For the three men, unburdening themselves after decades has meant delving back into some of their most painful memories.
Sitting in his home in St. Paul, Mr. Brown looked over old documents from Meadow Brook, including a program for a starry concert performance of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” featuring Cornell MacNeil, Roberta Peters and Jan Peerce in which he played under Mr. Levine’s baton. He said his abuse had left scars for years.
“I’m still trying to figure out why it’s so incredibly emotional, and sticks with you for your whole life,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s shame, a lack of intimacy and sheltering yourself from other people.”
|Sex cases put spotlight on sex addiction, but is it real?|
Is sex addiction a true addiction, a crime, or a made-up condition used by misbehaving VIPs to deflect blame or repair tarnished images?
A tide of high-profile sexual misconduct accusations against celebrities, politicians and media members has raised these questions – and sowed confusion. Sex addiction is not an officially recognized psychiatric diagnosis, though even those who doubt it’s a true addiction acknowledge that compulsive sexual behavior can upend lives.
Either way, there is an important distinction, sometimes blurred, between a mental condition and a crime. Some men who have been accused of assault or other sexual crimes have sought treatment for sex addiction or other unspecified conditions. But compulsive behavior is very different from a crime, and the vast majority of people who suffer from sexually compulsive behavior do not harass or assault others.
There’s “an extremely fine line between addict and offender” and sometimes the two overlap, said psychologist Leah Claire Bennett of Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services, a rehab center that offers sex addiction treatment in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Despite pressure from some therapists, sex addiction was not included in the most recent edition of the manual that psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illness. “The reason is very simple,” said Dr. Charles O’Brien, a University of Pennsylvania psychiatry professor involved in the manual’s 2013 update. There is no rigorous scientific proof that compulsive sexual behavior affects the brain in the same ways that have been shown with addiction to drugs or alcohol, he said.
“There’s an overuse of the word ‘addiction,’” O’Brien said. “There are many treatment programs. That doesn’t make it a disorder.”
Still, some skeptics don’t dispute that compulsive sexual behavior can become a serious problem. The issue for some is whether it amounts to mental illness, or whether it might result from a different psychiatric condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Robert Weiss, a California-based sex addiction therapist, said the condition involves unrestrained compulsive sexual behavior without regard to consequences. Sometimes that leads to illegal behavior.
The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals says sex addiction affects from 2 percent to 5 percent of the general population but that only 10 percent of those with this addiction engage in criminal sexual behavior. Most patients and sex offenders are men.
Some treatment programs won’t admit patients accused of rape and other violent sex crimes, referring them to centers or therapists who specialize in treating sex offenders.
Addiction treatment at Pine Grove, The Meadows in Arizona and other high-profile residential rehab centers can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Despite country club-like settings, there’s nothing cushy or indulgent about sex addiction therapy, Weiss said.
Pine Grove requires daylong sessions including group therapy daily for up to three months. Some centers use 12-step programs similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but they don’t require swearing off sex for good. Some use brain “retraining” exercises, or sharing stories about bad behavior with a roomful of strangers.
Some centers use equine therapy. Weiss says that interacting with horses can help patients recognize problems sometimes associated with sex addiction, including overly aggressive, controlling behavior.
The New York Post published a photograph last year that it said showed former New York congressman Anthony Weiner riding a horse as part of treatment at a Tennessee sex addiction rehab center. Weiner was sentenced in September for sexting with a teenager. He said at the time that he was undergoing therapy and had been “a very sick man for a very long time.”
Weiss and other therapists say sex addicts are never cured, but they can learn to manage their behavior and avoid triggers, including avoiding jobs and circumstances that could lead to a repeat of problem behavior.
L.J. Schwartz, a former real estate adviser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says a nearly 30-year addiction to sex almost ruined his life.
Schwartz says his addiction included having sex with strangers at adult bookstores or masturbating there while watching porn nearly every chance he got; working as a stripper; and phone sex. He was never arrested but says his behavior endangered his job and marriage.
“There’s no pleasure derived from sex addiction; it’s pain,” Schwartz said.
He says a 12-step program helped him resist his compulsions and he now works as a recovery coach for other patients.
But hard evidence that treatment works is lacking. “There’s not a lot of data,” Bennett acknowledged.
“We have a lot of anecdotal evidence. We can see the change in people,” she said. She said Pine Grove plans a long-term study to measure the benefits.
Whether treatment can repair tarnished images is uncertain.
“The accusations levied against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and others for sexual assault, harassment and abuse have created righteous outrage and concerns that ‘sex addiction treatment’ is being used to excuse their offensive behavior,” the addiction professionals institute said in a recent statement.
Whether any of these men have a diagnosed mental condition has not been publicized.
A representative for Weinstein confirmed that he is receiving treatment and has been taking his recovery and sessions seriously. But the representative declined to specify Weinstein’s condition or the treatment he is receiving for it. A former publicist for Spacey said he also is seeking unspecified treatment.
Bennett said some people do use sex addiction as an excuse, “but that’s not who we’re treating here at Pine Grove. These people’s lives are in shambles. They’ve been traumatized throughout their lives. They have huge psychological wounds and are using very maladaptive ways of coping.”
Actor David Duchovny voluntarily sought rehab for sex addiction in 2008 while starring on Showtime’s “Californication.” Married to actress Tea Leoni at the time, he had been dogged by cheating rumors. His career never stalled. He returned to “Californication” for the remainder of its run and has continued to appear in high-profile roles.
When sex addiction may have contributed to criminal behavior, a trip to rehab could bolster a defense attorney’s argument that the accused person has changed, said Samuel Pillsbury, a professor at Loyola School of Law in Los Angeles. But it’s a less effective strategy for violent crimes, he said.
“It’s very difficult for me to imagine a prosecutor deciding, ‘Oh, he’s in rehab, I’ll drop the charges or I’ll reduce the charges significantly,’” Pillsbury said. “But it could have an effect on sentencing.”
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