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Who are the key players in the Russia/Trump saga?

Published: Monday, March 13, 2017 @ 4:56 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 11:57 AM

What You Need to Know: Paul Manafort

Here are some of the key players in the Trump-Russia story.

Paul Manafort

Manafort was the chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign, but resigned in August 2016 after revelations surfaced about his work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to The Associated Press, Manafort “helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy.” A U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent any foreign leaders or political parties. The New York Times reported that Manafort spoke to Russian intelligence officials last year via telephone calls that were monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. Manafort has denied that he spoke with the Russians. Manafort has also been linked to handwritten ledgers that list cash payments of $12.7 million by Manafort’s name. 

Michael Cohen

Cohen is Donald Trump’s personal attorney. According to a New York Times report, Cohen was involved with a peace plan for the Ukraine and Russia that involved the U.S. removing sanctions on Russia in return for Russia ending its support of pro-Russia separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine. In addition to having sanctions removed, the deal would allow Russia to cement its control over Crimea. Russian annexed Crimea in 2014. The Times story claims that Cohen delivered the peace plan to Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who was forced to resign last month. Cohen told The Washington Post that he did not deliver a plan to Flynn, but that he had met with businessman Felix Sater and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko in New York in January and talked about a peace plan for the Ukraine for “about 15 minutes.” Artemenko said that the plan was, indeed, delivered to the White House.

Michael Flynn

Flynn was Trump’s national security adviser – for three weeks. He was forced to resign when it became known that he misled Vice President Mike Pence on conversations Flynn had with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. U.S. intelligence sources said that Flynn talked with Kislyak about sanctions placed on Russia by former president Barack Obama in late December. Flynn also worked for “Russia Today,” a state-owned TV show. He was paid for a visit he made to Russia to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Russia Today, and could be in trouble for that visit if it was not approved by the Defense Department and the State Department. Flynn was registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent prior to Election Day. He was registered for $530,000 worth of lobbying work that may have aided the Turkish government. The AP reported that the Trump transition team was told that Flynn likely needed to register as a foreign agent before taking top national security role.

Sergey Kislyak

Kislyak is the Russian ambassador to the United States. He spoke with Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, in December about sanctions that had been brought against Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election that, eventually, led to Flynn's resignation. Kislyak also met with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (now attorney general) on at least two occasions. Sessions says he barely remembers what was said and that the meetings were brief. He did not disclose the meetings during his confirmation hearing in response to a question about what he would do if someone in Trump’s campaign had had contacts with Russian officials. Sessions recused himself from any potential investigation into Russian meddling with the election and ties with Trump’s campaign. CNN reports that Kislyak, in an October speech to the Detroit Economic Club, “denied meeting with Donald Trump or campaign officials during the course of 2016 presidential election, but acknowledged that he met with members of Congress and others who approached him at events.”

Carter Page 

Page was a foreign policy adviser to Trump in the early days of his campaign. Page is the head of an investment company known as Global Energy Capital. He was publicly accused by then-Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of being a link between Trump and the Russian government. Page has also been accused of being a go-between for the Trump campaign and high-level Russian officials. Page was in Moscow for three days in mid-July, and according to reporter Michael Isikoff, and intelligence sources claim he met with Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian state oil company. Sechin is said to have been working on a plan to have Western sanctions against the company lifted. Page has denied ;he met with any government officials while in Russia last July. He has criticized US sanctions on Russia as "sanctimonious expressions of moral superiority.”

Andrii V. Artemenko

Artemenko is a Ukrainian politician who opposes Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and claims to have evidence of Poroshenko’s corruption. He has crafted a plan for peace in Ukraine with himself as president, and Politico has reported that Artemenko met with Trump attorney Michael Cohen and businessman Felix Sater, a business partner of Trump’s, to discuss that plan. 

Felix Sater

According to The New York Times, Sater, a real estate developer and adviser to the Trump Organization, met with Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko and Michael D. Cohen in New York in January to discuss sanctions against Russia. The story said that Sater was given the letter, which proposed the deal to lift sanctions by withdrawing Russian forces from eastern Ukraine, to Trump attorney Michael Cohen to be delivered to Michael Flynn, the then-national security adviser to the president.

Igor Sechin

Sechin is the head of Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft. According to reporting by Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff, a U.S. intelligence source said that Sechin was desperate to have Western sanctions against him and Rosneft lifted, so he arranged to meet with Carter Page, head of Global Energy Capital. Isikoff reported that Sechin offered Page the brokerage of a 19 percent stake in Rosneft in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia. Page has denied this report. 

Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, was the first sitting senator to endorse Trump. He appeared with Trump at some campaign stops and was rumored to be under consideration for vice president. During 2016, Sessions met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, at least twice. Sessions said that the meetings were in line with his duties as a senator, and that nothing about Russia’s potential involvement with the 2016 presidential election was discussed. Sessions did not disclose those meetings during his confirmation hearings in response ;to an indirect question about Russia’s involvement in the election. Sessions recused himself from any potential investigation into Russian meddling with the election and ties with Trump’s campaign.

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime friend of Trump’s and was an informal adviser to his campaign. According to several media reports, Stone is being investigated by the FBI about whether he had inappropriate contact with Russian officials. Stone told CBS News that he suspects he is being investigated, and said, “Sure, they’ll get my grocery lists, they may get the emails between my wife and I, but here’s what they won’t get -- any contact with the Russians.” Despite saying in a speech that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he claims did not know Wikileaks was going to publish emails stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. This week, The Smoking Gun reported that Stone was “in contact with the Russian hacking group that U.S. intelligence officials have accused of illegally breaching the Democratic National Committee’s computer system” and Podesta’s email account.

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5-year-old claims teacher taped mouth, tossed lunch

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 8:17 AM

FILE PHOTO (PenMac/Morguefile.com license: https://morguefile.com/license)
PenMac/Morguefile.com
FILE PHOTO (PenMac/Morguefile.com license: https://morguefile.com/license)(PenMac/Morguefile.com)

A little boy from Michigan says his teachers put tape over his mouth and threw away his lunch and he says he was told not to tell anyone about what happened.

Abdul Dannaoui said it happened back on March 26 at Highview Elementary School, WXYZ reported.

He said it didn’t happen only once either. Abdul told his parents and WXYZ that he has been prevented from eating lunch and his snack up to 10 times. 

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m emotionally heartbroken. Disappointed. That’s his second home. That’s how they treat a child with asthma?” his mother Hoda said to WXYZ.

School officials told WXYZ that the taping incident happened at Great Start Readiness Program at Cherry Hill Baptist Church and that it was a substitute teacher assistant who scotch-taped Abdul’s mouth shut. The person no longer works at the school.

The Dannaouis have filed a police report and are considering legal action against the district, WXYZ reported.

They say a second adult was in the room at the time. That teacher is still working for the district. The family’s attorney, Nabih Ayad, told WXYZ, “One of the teachers was discharged. But, they kept the other teacher who said don’t tell your mom or dad, and even gave him a bracelet to entice him not to tell anyone.”

Abdul is changing schools after the incident.

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Victim pays IRS impostor $4,000 in iTunes gift cards

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 7:23 AM



WSOCTV.com
(WSOCTV.com)

A victim of a common scam was too embarrassed to go on camera, but his mother, Lisa Thomas, was not. She wanted others to know his story.

Like usual with this con, an alleged scammer called, said he was an IRS official, told the victim he owed money, and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t pay right away.

“They wanted him to go to Target and purchase iTunes gift cards. $4,000 worth. $100 each,” Thomas told WSOC.

And he did. “Because he heard jail. I’m going to jail,” she said. “He has learned a valuable, costly, very expensive lesson.”

>> Read more trending news 

Viewers tell WSOC almost daily that an IRS imposter calls. WSOC called the alleged scammer back. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

Jason Stoogenke: “Obviously you’re not with the IRS.”

Stoogenke: “How much money are you trying to scam out of people?”

Caller: “Just $8,000 sir.”

Stoogenke: “So you’re trying to scam $8,000? You’re admitting that to me right now?”

Caller: “uh huh. Uh huh.”

Stoogenke: “I’m a TV news reporter and I’m going to put you on the air.”

Stoogenke: “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

Caller: “Go [expletive] yourself.”

Stoogenke: “Maybe you should stop scamming people.”

Caller: “No. Why should I?” 

Stoogenke: “Honestly, how often does this work?” 

Caller hangs up.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says victims in the state lost $85,930 to this scam since this time last year. 

The IRS will not call you, threaten to arrest you, and ask you to pay over the phone using any kind of gift card or prepaid debit card.

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Amazon now offers in-car package delivery

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 7:42 AM

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Amazon

Can’t wait until you get home to open that package you ordered? You’re in luck: Amazon announced Tuesday that it is now offering in-car package delivery.

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Atlanta a hot spot for sugar daddies willing to pay college tuition

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:51 PM

Stephanie, a junior in college, says she is empowered by the relationships she’s forged on the dating site SeekingArrangement.com. She says her sugar daddy helps pay her tuition and affords her the opportunity to experience the finer things of life she could not otherwise afford.
Photo: Contributed via The Atlanta-Journal Constitution
Stephanie, a junior in college, says she is empowered by the relationships she’s forged on the dating site SeekingArrangement.com. She says her sugar daddy helps pay her tuition and affords her the opportunity to experience the finer things of life she could not otherwise afford.(Photo: Contributed via The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

We’ve known for some time that Atlanta is considered a hub for sex trafficking.

But who knew metro Atlanta is also known for having an abundant number of, ahem, sugar daddies — older men seeking the companionship of college-age women?

>> Read more trending news 

According to SeekingArrangement.com, Georgia ranks sixth in the country, behind places like Arizona, Philadelphia and New York. Over the past few years, the website has touted its growing numbers to news publications around the country.

In Georgia, according to folks at the website, the vast majority of these young women providing companionship to older men attend big state colleges such as Georgia State, the University of Georgia and Georgia Southern (in that precise order), with a few at Spelman College and elsewhere.

“Students are tired of being told by the government that secondary education is important, and then being slapped with outrageous student loans and staggering interest rates,” said Brandon Wade, founder and CEO of SeekingArrangement.com. “The value of a degree is undeniable, but students can’t leave their futures in the hands of officials any longer.”

Today more than 2 million students across the country — 3 million worldwide — have signed up to find wealthy benefactors who can help offset college costs, said Wade.

RELATED | Many Georgia students feel overburdened by rising college costs

Each year, almost 44 million Americans rack up student loan debt or they graduate with no full-time jobs in their chosen careers.

>> Read more trending news 

Among them are Jessica and Stephanie, local college students introduced to me through an email exchange arranged by SeekingArrangement.com. Both agreed to talk about their experience, but neither wanted to use her last name because their parents are not aware of the arrangement. I met Jessica in person. Stephanie and I spoke by phone.

I found them both to be articulate, ambitious young women. Neither saw their arrangement as anything out of the ordinary — just an agreement between two consenting adults. There was a line, however, that both said they were unwilling to cross: marital infidelity.

Stephanie, 21, was working at a popular sports bar when a colleague told her about Seeking Arrangement, and they posted their profiles to the site.

“I really didn’t think I was going to follow through, but I actually met someone,” said Stephanie, who is enrolled in an online program at the University of South Carolina. She eventually matched with a 46-year-old cybersecurity expert, who takes her on vacation trips and shopping sprees and makes weekly deposits to her bank account.

“I know a lot of people think it’s prostitution, but it’s totally different,” she said. “This is a real relationship. We communicate every single day. I care about him. He takes care of me like men are supposed to. He thinks I’m funny. He tells me I’m beautiful. What girl wouldn’t want that?

“I’m going to college, and I’m making money,” she added.

RELATED | Why Women’s March hat moniker strikes me wrong

Ironically, Jessica, a 22-year-old theater major who had her pick of six colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania, Florida A&M, and Spelman, first heard about the site while overhearing her mom tell a friend about a magazine article she’d read about Seeking Arrangement. But the concept itself, Jessica said, came to her in a song titled “Suga Mama” by R&B singer Beyonce.

When she isn’t studying or in class, Jessica makes time for her sugar daddy, a 45-year-old Atlanta business consultant, who pays her tuition and gives her a biweekly allowance.(GRACIE BONDS STAPLES / GSTAPLES@AJC.COM)

“That you could have a mutually beneficial relationship with someone of high status that would help with expenses intrigued me,” Jessica said.

In the scheme of things, that hardly matters. Language and naming have power and are symbolic.

“Even the terms sugar daddies and sugar babies have an incestuous and infantilizing echo,” said Deborah Cohan, a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. “Young women can try to convince themselves that they are calling the shots in these situations, but is this the way women want to become empowered?”

It’s unfortunate, Cohan said, when women perceive few options for economic freedom.

“The owners and operators of these sites and the participants want to make the case that this is a choice, and a viable one, but it strikes me as the epitome of a choiceless decision,” she said.

RELATED | Prosecutors: Backpage.com made millions in prostitution ads

As a professor at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, Cohan sees this firsthand. USC’s main campus is near Hilton Head, home to the annual Heritage golf tournament. “Every year I have students who tell me that as exotic dancers this is their big week to make money to pay for tuition and that as a result they want to be excused from classes,” she said. “Is this the way we want young women to have to exist in their earliest employment and earliest intimate relationships and connections?

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“And moreover, what does this mean for men, for how they think about power, control, and sexuality and women in general?”

Jessica went on a half-dozen dates before she settled on an arrangement with a 45-year-old Atlanta business consultant, who pays her tuition and gives her a biweekly allowance of $2,000.

She says they dated six months before they ever touched. One of those dates was to get the results of an HIV test before beginning a sexual relationship.

On average, Jessica sees her benefactor three times a week, mostly on weekends. In that time, she’s discovered she likes the fact that he grew up in a two-parent home like herself and attends church.

“He’s kind of an introvert,” Jessica said. “He really treats me like a lady.”

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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