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Jake Sullivan, Biden’s Adviser, Long a Figure of Fascination


Michael_Novakhov
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WASHINGTON xe2x80x94 Jake Sullivan, President Bidenxe2x80x99s national security adviser, married Margaret Goodlander, now counsel to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, in a 2015 wedding that seems set in a distant Democratic utopia. Mr. Biden would soon retire as a popular vice president, Donald J. Trump was considered a sideshow, and Hillary Clinton was the president in waiting.

Guests at the Yale campus that weekend included a former president (Bill Clinton), a former secretary of state (Mrs. Clinton), a future secretary of state (Antony J. Blinken) and a Supreme Court justice (Stephen G. Breyer). The many former bosses on hand had pegged the golden-boy groom as an ideal national security adviser in the coming Clinton White House xe2x80x94 which, at 40, would have made him the youngest person to hold the job.

That prediction proved largely true, if erroneous in its electoral assumption about 2016 and premature by an interlude long enough for the White House to turn over twice, China to strengthen, a pandemic to rage and the difficulties of the job to grow considerably.

So it was on Aug. 26 that Mr. Sullivan, presiding over a briefing on Afghanistan in the White House Situation Room, saw Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the militaryxe2x80x99s Central Command, turn ashen after being handed a sheet of paper.

The general xe2x80x94 connected via video from Kabul, where the evacuation of civilians was underway xe2x80x94 told the room that four American service members at the airport had been killed in an apparent bombing, three were near death, and dozens more were injured. There were gasps around the table as Mr. Biden winced and stared straight ahead for a few long seconds.

xe2x80x9cThe worst that can happen has happened,xe2x80x9d the president finally said, according to participants in the meeting.

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It fell to Mr. Sullivan, who ran this daily confab and was seated at the presidentxe2x80x99s immediate left, to power through his hourlong agenda. The death toll eventually rose to 13 U.S. service members.

Washington has long been captivated by fallen star narratives. This has made Mr. Sullivan a figure of fascination in recent months, something between sympathy and schadenfreude. His daily mission of managing a sprawling national security apparatus through simultaneous crises and headaches xe2x80x94 growing tensions with China, healing a rift with France over a nuclear submarine deal, cyberattacks xe2x80x94 has made Mr. Sullivan the face of a foreign policy team that has endured criticism from many directions, most pointedly over Afghanistan.

xe2x80x9cA stunning disaster from beginning to end,xe2x80x9d Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, called the withdrawal in an interview, extending his critique to include the Biden administrationxe2x80x99s foreign policy record in general. xe2x80x9cAnd if I were the president right now, I would think seriously about changing quite a few people around me.xe2x80x9d

Mr. Romney did not single out Mr. Sullivan, though many have, including Brett Bruen, the director of global engagement in the Obama White House, who wrote an opinion article in USA Today calling for him to be fired.

Supporters of Mr. Sullivan see two structural complications to his role. For starters, he is in a position of enormous responsibility but circumscribed authority. Condoleezza Rice, a national security adviser and secretary of state under President George W. Bush, described the job in her memoir as xe2x80x9crarefied staff.xe2x80x9d Mr. Sullivan is also a product of Washingtonxe2x80x99s insular foreign policy establishment, a cohort whose traditional support for muscular U.S. foreign policy interventions has fallen out of favor across the political spectrum in the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

xe2x80x9cBidenxe2x80x99s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of Americaxe2x80x99s decline,xe2x80x9d Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, tweeted after Mr. Biden named his team last November.

The question is whether Mr. Sullivan, 45, lauded as a xe2x80x9conce-in-a-generation intellectxe2x80x9d by Mr. Biden and xe2x80x9ca potential future presidentxe2x80x9d by Mrs. Clinton, can recover from a messy year of foreign policy predicaments.

Mr. Sullivan has told colleagues that he is determined not to have his tenure defined by the bloodshed in Afghanistan. The crisis has receded somewhat since August, allowing him to focus on trade policy, energy prices and an international supply chain that has helped fuel the spike in inflation.

Sign Up for On Politicsxc2xa0xc2xa0A guide to the political news cycle, cutting through the spin and delivering clarity from the chaos.

Mr. Bidenxe2x80x99s recent trip to Europe, which Mr. Sullivan was heavily involved in planning, allowed the White House to bank some solid accomplishments, including a global deal to set minimum corporate tax rates and a climate agreement to reduce methane emissions. White House officials were relieved after the international uproar over the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Mr. Sullivan operated on an average of two hours of sleep a night for the duration of the three-week crisis in Afghanistan in August. He would mull over each long day during late-night walks home from the White House xe2x80x94 his Secret Service detail trailed him xe2x80x94 and often continue his meditations at home on a rowing machine. He declined to be interviewed for this article.

xe2x80x9cThere was no point that I sent an email to Jake at 2 or 3 in the morning during those weeks where he didnxe2x80x99t respond immediately,xe2x80x9d said Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

She pointed out that Mr. Sullivan did not have the luxury of focusing on one powder keg at a time. xe2x80x9cWhile to the rest of the world there was one searing crisis unfolding in Afghanistan,xe2x80x9d Ms. Power said, xe2x80x9cJake was at the same time responsible for spearheading U.S. policy on everything from cyberattacks and an earthquake in Haiti to terrorist threats.xe2x80x9d

The most common defense of Mr. Sullivan over Afghanistan was that Mr. Biden was determined to get out, and fast, and it is the national security adviserxe2x80x99s role to carry out the presidentxe2x80x99s wishes. By most accounts, Mr. Sullivan supported the pullout and, according to multiple officials, asked many questions about its haste, particularly the abrupt closing in July of the Bagram Air Base.

The unruly and tragic withdrawal prompted much rebuke, not least from allies who complained that they had not been consulted. Mr. Sullivan has pushed back hard on this, insisting that allies were kept informed at every step and suggesting that they were upset with Mr. Bidenxe2x80x99s conclusion. xe2x80x9cI think the real issue is that many allies disagreed with the result of the decision,xe2x80x9d Mr. Sullivan told reporters in Brussels in June.

Ultimately, though, the situation in Afghanistan reflected the reality of a job that often involves more damage control than decision-making. xe2x80x9cThe national security adviser is a classic high-responsibility position with limited actual power,xe2x80x9d said John Gans, a foreign policy historian and the author of xe2x80x9cWhite House Warriors,xe2x80x9d about the history of the National Security Council.

Brent Scowcroft, who was a national security adviser to Presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush, would marvel at the variety of issues that fell under the national security umbrella. Mr. Scowcroft, who died last year, held the job decades before national security advisers had to worry much about things like climate change, ransomware attacks or Twitter.

xe2x80x9cIxe2x80x99ve told this to Henry Kissinger,xe2x80x9d Mrs. Clinton said in an interview. xe2x80x9cIn a world of social media and billions of cellphones, he could never have snuck off to China.xe2x80x9d

Colleagues characterize Mr. Sullivan as ambitious and intense, but not in the obnoxious manner of a Washington type. xe2x80x9cThe highest compliment that I can pay a person is that theyxe2x80x99re a good human being,xe2x80x9d Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in an interview. xe2x80x9cI believe that Jake is a good human being.xe2x80x9d

A lean former marathon runner, Mr. Sullivan wears sagging gray suits that (he insists) once fit him. Friends describe him as polite, curious and Midwestern in temperament, with strong allegiance to his native Minnesota.

xe2x80x9cReject cynicism,xe2x80x9d he said in a commencement address at the University of Minnesota School of Public Affairs in 2013. xe2x80x9cReject certitude. And donxe2x80x99t be a jerk. Be a good guy.xe2x80x9d

Mr. Sullivan has been known to dabble in eclectic hobbies, such as competitive speed walking. He once played on a curling team in St. Paul.

He grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of Minneapolis, one of five high-achieving siblings. His mother was a teacher and a librarian, and his father worked on the business side of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Mr. Sullivan attended Yale, Oxford (on a Rhodes scholarship) and Yale Law School, and was a clerk for Justice Breyer. He became one of Mrs. Clintonxe2x80x99s closest advisers when she was secretary of state, stayed on in the Obama administration as national security adviser to Mr. Biden when he was the vice president, and rejoined Mrs. Clinton as the senior policy adviser on her 2016 campaign for president.

Mr. Sullivan told colleagues that he felt a burden of the responsibility for Mrs. Clintonxe2x80x99s loss to Mr. Trump, but he was not surprised by the result. He had grown alarmed that the mood in the country was dark and anxious, and that voters seemed more receptive to Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s xe2x80x9cAmerica Firstxe2x80x9d message than the Clinton campaign had appreciated.

xe2x80x9cHow do we solve for this basic and growing division in our society that gets to issues like dignity and alienation and identity?xe2x80x9d Mr. Sullivan asked in a talk to Yale Law School students in 2017, as reported by The Washington Post. xe2x80x9cHow do we even ask the question without becoming the disconnected, condescending elite that we are talking about?xe2x80x9d

In a strange turn of events, some critics of Mr. Bidenxe2x80x99s foreign policy say it includes certain hallmarks of the Trump administration. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in Foreign Affairs that the Afghanistan withdrawal was xe2x80x9cAmerica-first unilateralism in practicexe2x80x9d and that Mr. Biden xe2x80x9cdid so in a Trumpian way, consulting minimally with others and leaving NATO allies to scramble.xe2x80x9d

White House officials bristle at comparisons to the Trump administration. They say that while previous presidents have gotten the United States into long and disastrous conflicts (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan), Mr. Biden pulled the country out of one, no matter how turbulent the process. It is an assertive foreign policy, they acknowledge, but they say it comes with a softer touch and humbler words.

When allies raised concerns, the administrationxe2x80x99s answer was not xe2x80x9cgo jump in a lake,xe2x80x9d Mr. Sullivan told reporters in Brussels last month. He made clear that he was drawing a contrast with xe2x80x9chow other previous American administrations might have responded.xe2x80x9d

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Ukraine: Blinken and Russia’s Lavrov meet amid tensions over Ukraine


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Blinken said he and Lavrov would report the details of their meeting back to President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin and that the two presidents “may have the opportunity to speak directly in the near future.”

Until then, he said it’s Russia’s responsibility to defuse the growing tension about its military movements and disinformation targeting Ukraine.

“It’s now on Russia to deescalate the current tensions by reversing the recent troop buildup, returning forces to normal peacetime positions, and refraining from further intimidation and attempts to destabilize Ukraine,” Blinken said at a press conference at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit.

US officials tell CNN that plans for a conversation between Biden and Putin haven’t been finalized, but that work has been underway to set up a call as Russian troops amass at the Ukraine border.

Biden told reporters last week he would “in all probability” speak to Putin soon about the situation in Ukraine. He has said direct communication with Putin is the best way to avoid conflict between the two countries.

‘Deep concerns’

The last publicly announced phone call between Biden and Putin came in July, about a month after their in-person summit in Geneva.

Blinken and Lavrov met on the sidelines of the OSCE summit. Their 30-minute conversation did not yield a concrete path forward, but both sides agreed to continue diplomatic conversations, a senior US State Department official told reporters traveling with the top US diplomat.

Blinken also held a bilateral meeting earlier Thursday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, at which the top US diplomat reiterated Washington’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and its independence.”

In remarks to the press after meeting with Lavrov, Blinken said he had “made very clear our deep concerns and our resolve to hold

Russia

responsible for his actions, including to work with European allies to impose severe costs and consequences on Russia, if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.”

The meeting comes a day after Blinken issued

the most forceful US warning yet

to Russia about any attempt to destabilize or invade Ukraine. Blinken had warned that there will be “severe consequences” for any Russian military action in Ukraine and that the US would “respond resolutely, including with a range of high impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.”

Blinken did not lay out the “serious consequences” he has threatened if Russia invades Ukraine, according to the senior US State Department official.

The official, who described Blinken’s meeting with Lavrov as sober and professional, said the meeting resulted in an agreement to continue diplomatic conversations and that the US was able to make clear their concerns about the Russian military buildup.

According to the State Department, Blinken “addressed Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, including its military movements near Ukraine’s borders” and “reiterated the United States’ call for Russia to pull back its forces and return to a peacetime posture” and to adhere to the 2015 Minsk agreements — an effort to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine — and a ceasefire in the Donbas region.

The Minsk Protocol was written by Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE with France and Germany mediating. On Thursday, Blinken said he told Lavrov that the US was ready to get involved and had already offered to do so with Ukraine’s top diplomat.

“And as with Foreign Minister Kuleba, I also made clear The United States is prepared to work with both parties to support a diplomatic resolution through implementation of Minsk agreements in any way that we can,” he said.

Combat troops

Pentagon spokesman Ned Price said in his readout that Blinken “underscored that the best path forward is diplomacy in conjunction with the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, a process the United States is willing and ready to support.”

The US and NATO say Russia is increasing the number of combat troops near its border with Ukraine, while the Kremlin has repeatedly denied that Russia plans to invade Ukraine and sees NATO support for the country as a threat on Russia’s western border.

In his own remarks to the press after meeting with Blinken, Lavrov stressed that although Russia does “not want any conflicts” with NATO over Ukraine, it maintains the “right to choose ways to ensure its legitimate security interests.”

“And let’s not forget, of course, the proclaimed principle of indivisibility and security, including in the OSCE, in the NATO Council of Russia, which says that no one has the right to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others,” he said, also adding that “the further advance of NATO to the East will definitely affect the fundamental interests” of Russia’s security.

NATO chief: Russia will pay high price if they invade Ukraine
NATO chief: Russia will pay high price if they invade Ukraine

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02:03

The United States, meanwhile, warned again that there would be “serious consequences” if Russia engages to “pursue confrontation” with Ukraine.

On Thursday, Blinken told summit attendees that the US holds “deep concerns about Russia’s plans for renewed aggression against Ukraine.”

This aggression would “move us in exactly the opposite direction,” Blinken said, stressing “it’s simply not in anyone’s interest.”

He added that “the best way to avert the crisis is through diplomacy,” calling on Russia to abide by the Minsk peace agreements. The interpretation of Minsk and other core OSCE documents emerged as a sticking point between the two countries, with Lavrov saying it “is clear” that the US and Russia interpret them in “different ways.”

Blinken criticized Russia’s adherence to the Helsinki Final Act, a multilateral agreement dating back to 1975. That non-binding diplomatic accord recognized the inviolability of national borders created after World War II and the importance of noninterference in a nation’s internal affairs, but Russia also saw it as implicitly recognizing its hegemony in Eastern Europe. Blinken said Russia “continues to violate the Helsinki principles and repeatedly obstructs the work of this organization.”

Despite the accusations, the two officials recognized the importance of dialogue, with Lavrov acknowledging “the importance of our two states for global stability and for security, including in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

Price said Blinken raised the cases of two Americans detained in Russia — Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed — “and underscored the priority we attach to their prompt release.”

“The Secretary and the Foreign Minister noted the importance of continued coordination on issues in the bilateral relationship and where interests are aligned, including when it comes to blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The OSCE summit comes on the heels of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Latvia that was dominated by concerns over recent events in Belarus and Russia’s intentions in Ukraine.

Speaking Wednesday after the meeting in Latvia, Blinken said the US and its NATO partners were prepared to impose costs for further Russian aggression against Ukraine and were preparing for “all contingencies” as Russia continues to make troubling moves.

While Blinken hasn’t detail what those penalties will be, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a Wednesday interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto that the alliance has “a wide range of options: economic sanctions, financial sanctions, political restrictions.”

Putin called Wednesday for specific agreements that would rule out any further NATO expansion eastwards and deployment of its weaponry close to Russia’s borders.

On Tuesday, the Russian President said NATO military expansion close to Russian borders and any deployment of missile systems in Ukraine would be crossing a “red line.”

CNN’s Alex Marquardt reported from Stockholm, Jennifer Hansler reported from Washington, Niamh Kennedy from London and Anna Chernova from Moscow. CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Michael Conte, Kevin Liptak and Nicole Gaouette contributed from Washington.

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Путин и Памфилова обсудили тему иноагентов | В России | Политика


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Full text of Pope Francis’ speech at the ceremony with Cypriot authorities


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Mr President of the Republic, Members of Government and of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Religious and Civil Authorities, Illustrious Representatives of Society and the World of Culture, Ladies and Gentlemen, I greet you most cordially and I am most pleased to be present among you. I thank you, Mr President, for the welcome you have offered me in the name of the entire population. I have come as a pilgrim to a country geographically small, but historically great; to an island that down the centuries has not isolated peoples but brought them together; to a land whose borders are the sea; to a place that is the eastern gate of Europe and the western gate of the Middle East. You are an open door, a harbour that unites. Cyprus, as a crossroads of civilizations, has an innate vocation to encounter, favoured by the welcoming character of the Cypriot people.

We have just paid homage to the first President of this Republic, Archbishop Makarios, and by that gesture, I wished to render homage to all its citizens. His name, xe2x80x9cMakariosxe2x80x9d, reminds us of the opening of Jesusxe2x80x99 Sermon on the Mount: the Beatitudes (cf. Mk 5:3-12). Who is makarios, truly blessed, according to the Christian faith to which this land is inseparably bound? Everyone can be blessed, and blessed are above all the poor in spirit, those who have experienced suffered in their lives, those who live in meekness and mercy, all those who without pretense practice justice and are peacemakers. The Beatitudes, dear friends, are the perennial charter of Christianity. When they are lived out, the Gospel becomes youthful and fills society with fresh hope. The Beatitudes are the compass that, in every latitude, indicates the routes that Christians must take in the voyage of life.

Precisely from this place, where Europe and the East meet, there began the first great inculturation of the Gospel on this continent. I am deeply moved to be able to retrace the steps of the great missionaries of the early Church, particularly Saints Paul, Barnabas and Mark. So here I am, a pilgrim in your midst, to walk with you, dear Cypriots, all of you, in the desire that the good news of the Gospel may bring from here to Europe a message of joy, under the banner of the Beatitudes. For what the earliest Christians gave to the world with the gentle power of the Spirit was an unprecedented message of beauty. It was the amazing newness of the Beatitudes, addressed to everyone, that won hearts and bestowed freedom upon many. This country has inherited a particular responsibility in that regard, namely, to be a messenger of beauty among the continents.

Cyprus radiates a natural beauty that must be protected and preserved by suitable environmental policies, adopted in concert with its neighbours. A beauty that is evident as well in its architecture, its art, especially its sacred art, and its religious crafts, and its many archaeological treasures. To draw an image from the sea all around us, I would even say that this island, small in size, represents a pearl of great price in the heart of the Mediterranean.

A pearl in fact becomes what it is, because it takes shape over time. It takes years for its various layers to become compact and give it lustre. So too, the beauty of this land comes from the cultures which over the centuries have met and blended here. Today too, the light of Cyprus is richly variegated. Many peoples and nations have contributed different shades and tints to this people. I think too of the presence of many immigrants: percentagewise, more than any other country of the European Union. To preserve the multicolored and multifaceted beauty of the whole is no easy thing. As in the formation of a pearl, it takes time and patience; it demands a broad vision capable of embracing a variety of cultures and looking to the future with foresight. I think in this regard of the importance of protecting and supporting all the members of society, especially those who are statistically a minority. I think too of the various Catholic agencies that would benefit from a suitable institutional recognition, so that the contribution they make to society through their activities, particularly their educational and charitable works, can be clearly defined from the legal standpoint.

A pearl develops its beauty in situations of difficulty. It is born in obscurity, when the oyster xe2x80x9csuffersxe2x80x9d after experiencing an unexpected threat to its safety, such as a grain of sand that irritates it. To protect itself, it reacts by assimilating the thing that wounded it: it encloses the foreign body that endangers it and makes it into something beautiful: a pearl. The pearl of Cyprus has been darkened by the pandemic, which has prevented many visitors from visiting it and seeing its beauty; here, as in other places, this has aggravated the effects of the financial and economic crisis. In this period of recovery, however, it will not be anxious efforts to recover what was lost that will ensure and consolidate growth, but the commitment to promote the recovery of society, especially through a decisive fight against corruption and everything that violates the dignity of the person; here I think, for example, of the scourge of human trafficking.

Yet the greatest wound suffered by this land has been the terrible laceration it has endured in recent decades. I think of the deep suffering of all those people unable to return to their homes and their places of worship. I pray for your peace, for the peace of the entire island, and I make it my fervent hope. The way of peace, which reconciles conflicts and regenerates the beauty of fraternity, has a single word as its signpost. That word is dialogue. We ought to help one another to believe in the patient and unassuming power of dialogue, on the basis of the Beatitudes. We know that it is no easy road; it is long and winding, but there is no other way to achieve reconciliation. Let us nurture hope by the power of gestures, rather than by gestures of power. There is a power of gestures, which prepares the way of peace. Not gestures of power, threats of reprisal and shows of force, but gestures of dxc3xa9tente and concrete steps towards dialogue. I think, for example, of openness to sincere discussion that would give priority to peoplexe2x80x99s needs, ever more effective involvement on the part of the international community, the need to protect the religious and cultural heritage, and the restitution of all that people hold most precious in that regard, such as places or at least sacred furnishings. With this in mind, I would like to express my appreciation and encouragement for the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Project, promoted by the Embassy of Sweden, for the cultivation of dialogue among religious leaders.

Times that seem least favourable, when dialogue languishes, can be the very times that prepare for peace. The pearl also reminds us of this, for it takes shape in the patient, hidden process of weaving new substances together with the agent that caused the wound. In these circumstances, may hatred not be allowed to prevail, efforts be made to bind up wounds and to keep in mind the situation of those who have disappeared. And when tempted to yield to discouragement, to think of coming generations, who long to inherit a world of peace, cooperation and cohesiveness, not one marred by perennial rivalries and poisoned by unresolved disputes. For this, dialogue is necessary, to avoid the growth of suspicion and resentment. Let us think in this regard of the Mediterranean, now sadly a place of conflicts and humanitarian tragedies; in its profound beauty it is mare nostrum, the sea of all those peoples who border it, in order to be connected, not divided. Cyprus, as a geographic, historical, cultural and religious crossroads, is in a position to be a peacemaker. May it be a workshop of peace in the Mediterranean.

Peace is not often achieved by great personalities, but by the daily determination of ordinary men and women. The European continent needs reconciliation and unity; it needs courage and enthusiasm, if it is to move forward. For it will not be the walls of fear and the vetoes dictated by nationalist interests that ensure its progress, nor will economic recovery alone serve to guarantee its security and stability. May we look to the history of Cyprus to see how encounter and welcome have brought forth good fruits that endure. Not only in the history of Christianity, for which Cyprus was xe2x80x9cthe springboardxe2x80x9d on this continent, but also for the building of a society which found its richness in integration. This spirit of enlargement, this ability to look beyond onexe2x80x99s own borders, brings rejuvenation and makes possible the rediscovery of a brilliance that was lost.

The Acts of the Apostles speak of Cyprus, telling us that Paul and Barnabas xe2x80x9ctraversed the whole islandxe2x80x9d in order to reach Paphos (cf. Acts 13:6). I rejoice, in these days, that I can traverse the history and spirit of this land, in the desire that its yearning for unity and its message of beauty will continue to guide its journey towards the future. [In Greek:] May God bless Cyprus!

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Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley charged with terrorism, murder: ‘Not just an impulsive act’


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Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old suspect accused of opening fire at his Michigan high school, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.xc2xa0

The sophomore, who is being charged as an adult, allegedly fired more than 30 rounds in the hallways of Oxford High School on Tuesday shortly before 1:00 p.m., killing four students and wounding seven others, including a teacher.xc2xa0

He appeared in Oakland County Court by video on Wednesday, slumped over in a vest, white mask, and glasses.xc2xa0

n Ethan Crumbley is being held without bond on murder, terrorism, and other charges.xc2xa0n (Oakland County Sheriff’s Office)

Mark Keast, an assistant prosecuting attorney in Oakland County, told Judge Nancy Carniak that he doesn’t “have the words to describe how horrific” the surveillance video of the shooting is.xc2xa0

“He methodically and deliberately walked down a hallway, aimed the firearm at students and fired it,” Keast said. “After children started running away from the defendant, he continued down the hallway, again at a deliberate and methodical pace, pointing and aiming inside classrooms and at students who hadnxe2x80x99t had the opportunity to escape.”

n Ethan Crumbley allegedly shot and killed four students and wounded seven others at Oxford High School.xc2xa0n

Judge Carniak ordered Crumbley to be held without bond and transferred to Oakland County Jail, where he will be separated from adults.xc2xa0

MICHIGAN HIGH SCHOOL TEEN KILLED IN SHOOTING WAS ‘HERO,’ CLASSMATES SAY

Lt. Tim Willis told the judge that Crumbley recorded videos on his phone the night before the incident in which he “talkedxc2xa0about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford Highxc2xa0School.”

“Further, a journal was recovered from Ethanxe2x80x99s backpackxc2xa0also detailing his desire to shoot up a school to include murderingxc2xa0students,” Willis said.xc2xa0

Crumbley’s parents went to Oxford High School about two to three hours before the shooting to meet with their son and school officials over behavioral issues in the classroom.xc2xa0

“The parents were brought in the morning of the shooting and hadxc2xa0a face-to-face meeting with the school,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.xc2xa0

“The content of that meeting obviously is part of the investigation but wexc2xa0did not learn of that meeting, nor of the content of that meeting until afterxc2xa0the shooting and during this investigation.”

n Ethan Crumbley’s parents appeared in court by video on Wednesday.xc2xa0n

Crumbley also had to meet with school officials the day before the shooting “over behavior in the classroom that they felt was concerning.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald noted that the terrorism count is not a “typical” charge, but she said that it is necessary to get justice for all the victims in this shooting.xc2xa0

“The children that I have just listed and those that were injured, theyxe2x80x99re the victims in the first-degree murder charges and assault with intent to murder,” McDonald said.xc2xa0

“But what about all these other children? What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now who canxe2x80x99t eat and canxe2x80x99t sleep and canxe2x80x99t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school. Those are victims too.”

GUN USED IN MICHIGAN SCHOOL SHOOTING PURCHASED BY SUSPECT’S FATHER ON BLACK FRIDAY

The suspect used a 9mm Sig Sauer, according to police, which the boyxe2x80x99s father bought on Black Friday, just four days before the shooting. A motive has not been announced.xc2xa0

McDonald said that her office is looking at charging the parents and “that decision will be made swiftly.”

The suspect has declined to speak with authorities following his arrest and his parents have hired an attorney.xc2xa0

“There is no conversation thatxe2x80x99s going on and no cooperation at that level,” Bouchard said Tuesday.xc2xa0

  • Parents wait to be reunited with their kids following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School in Oxford on November 30, 2021. xc2xa0Mandatory Credit: Eric Seals-USA TODAY NETWORK

  • Dozens of ambulances responded to the scene of the shooting on Tuesday.xc2xa0 (WJBK)

  • Officers apprehended the suspect within five minutes of the first 911 call.xc2xa0 (WJBK)

  • Police cars line up in front of the school following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School in Oxford on November 30, 2021. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, . Mandatory Credit: Liz Shepard-USA TODAY NETWORK

At least 30 shell casings were found at the scene and the suspect still had 18 live rounds when deputies apprehended him.xc2xa0

Crumbley was apprehended by police within five minutes of the first 911 call, Bouchard said.xc2xa0

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPxc2xa0

Four students died due to the shooting. Bouchard identified three of the students on Tuesday as 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin.xc2xa0

The fourth student died on Wednesday morning and was identified as 15-year-old Justin Shilling.xc2xa0

Three of the injured victims xe2x80x93 a 15-year-old male, a 17-year-old male, and a 47-year-old teacher xe2x80x93 have been discharged from the hospital. Four injured victims are still hospitalized.xc2xa0

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Suspect in Michigan high school shooting charged as an adult with murder and terrorism


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Then frightened students barricaded doors, phoned for help and picked up anything they could grab in case they needed to fight back.

“We grabbed calculators, we grabbed scissors just in case the shooter got in and we had to attack them,” he said, describing how a bullet pierced one of the desks they’d used to block the door.

“I started realizing it was real when I began to hear yelling,” Kluska told CNN.

Later, someone outside the room who claimed to be with the sheriff’s office told Kluska and his classmates that all was safe and they could come out, a video the freshman recorded shows.

“We’re not willing to take that risk right now,” the teacher replies.

It’s not clear who the person at the door was. But the teacher quickly signaled students to scramble out a first-floor window into the snow, Kluska said. From there, they raced across a courtyard to another part of the building, where a law enforcement officer herded them to safety.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard confirmed during a news conference Wednesday the suspect never knocked on any doors.

More than 100 calls to 911 were made. About two to three minutes after officers arrived, they found a 15-year-old suspect, later identified as Ethan Crumbley, and took him into custody without incident, Bouchard said.

Crumbley has been charged as an adult

with terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder. He also was charged with seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said.

Ethan Crumbley

The suspect’s lawyer entered a plea of not guilty on his client’s behalf at Wednesday’s arraignment. The judge scheduled a probable cause hearing for December 13 and a preliminary examination hearing for December 20.

During Crumbley’s arraignment Wednesday, Lt. Tim Willis said two separate videos were recovered from the suspected shooter’s cellphone in which he talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High School.

In addition to the cellphone, a journal was recovered from Crumbley’s backpack detailing his “desire to shoot up the school,” Willis said.

One of the dead was 14 years old

The four students who died

have been identified

as Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17, authorities said.

Justin died Wednesday morning at a hospital; the others died Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said. Tate died in a patrol car while a deputy was taking him to a hospital, Bouchard said.

Anita’s Kitchen

, where Shilling worked, shared a statement on social media about him.

“Justin was an exemplary employee, a devoted friend and co-worker, co-captain of his bowling team, and simply a pleasure to be around. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,” the statement read.

Seven others — six students and a teacher — were shot, Bouchard said.

Among the wounded were a 14-year-old girl who was on a ventilator following surgery, Bouchard said Tuesday night. On Wednesday, it was announced she had been taken off the ventilator and was in stable condition. A 14-year-old boy had a gunshot wound to the jaw and head. The teacher, a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy were discharged, Bouchard said.

Students in senior Aiden Page's class shoved desks against a door after the shooting started, he said.

Students in senior Aiden Page’s class shoved desks against a door after the shooting started, he said.

Parents could face charges

The attack was the deadliest US school shooting since eight students and two teachers were

slain in May 2018 at Texas’ Santa Fe High School

, according to a CNN tally. There have been 48 shootings this year on K-12 campuses, 32 of them since August 1.

The suspect was being held at a juvenile detention facility. Bouchard said authorities asked a judge to transfer him from the detention facility to the Oakland County Jail. The judge agreed to the request.

Charges of first-degree murder require allegations of premeditation, and evidence in this case indicates the shooting was planned “well before the incident,” McDonald said.

This shooting was “absolutely premeditated,” McDonald told reporters, without elaborating.

McDonald’s office will consider charges against the suspect’s parents, she said.

The weapon authorities said was used in the shooting, a 9mm Sig Sauer SP2022 semiautomatic pistol, was purchased by Crumbley’s father on Friday, four days before shots rang out at the school, Bouchard said.

Authorities are considering charges against both parents, with McDonald saying a decision would be made on that “swiftly.” The potential charges stem from the parents owning a gun. McDonald said that means securing it properly, ensuring ammunition is kept separate, among other legal responsibilities.

“We have to hold individuals accountable who don’t do that,” she said.

CNN has pressed the prosecutor to speak on whether evidence was recovered to support potential charges and which charges are being considered. The prosecutor declined to go into detail citing the investigation, but reiterated that an announcement would be made as soon as possible regarding whether charges would be brought.

CNN has attempted to reach the parents of Ethan Crumbley and are attempting to identify an attorney for them.

McDonald told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday she felt it was tragic how desensitized people were to gun violence, but gun owners should be held accountable for their ownership and possession of a firearm.

Suspect and his parents met with school officials hours before shooting

Bouchard said the 15-year-old had not been on law enforcement radar prior to the shooting.

However, authorities did learn after the shooting that the suspect and his parents met with school officials a few hours before the shooting. Officials met with just the suspect the day before and with the suspect and parents the day of the shooting, Bouchard said.

“The day before, it was a meeting with school personnel about some concerning behavior and the meeting the day of was with school personnel and parents about a different issue,” Bouchard said.

The sheriff declined to go into issues on either day.

“Prior to those two meetings there was no contact or nothing in his file by either concerning behavior or discipline,” he said.

McDonald told CNN she was not able to comment on what, specifically, the gunman, parents and school officials discussed during their meeting.

“There’s an additional piece of evidence that hasn’t been released yet, but I can assure you it was troubling, it was disturbing, and unfortunately he was allowed to go back to class,” she said.

Video shows assailant ‘was shooting people at close range,’ sheriff says

Investigators recovered more than 30 shell casings, said the sheriff, who’d earlier said at least a dozen rounds were fired.

“We believe he fired at least 30 shots,” he said.

Bouchard said two 15-round magazines were recovered by investigators and a third was recovered in the overnight hours. Investigators also learned the suspect had 18 rounds left, with seven in his pocket.

“With this much ammunition still with him … the quick actions of the school and the lockdown as well as the deputies going to the danger, saved lives,” Bouchard said.

Parents walk with their children away from a grocery store parking lot, where many students gathered after the shooting.

Parents walk with their children away from a grocery store parking lot, where many students gathered after the shooting.

Video from the school shows the assailant was “shooting people at close range — oftentimes toward the head or chest,” Bouchard told CNN’s “New Day” earlier Wednesday.

“It’s chilling. It’s absolutely cold-hearted, murderous,” Bouchard said.

Prosecutors said during Crumbley’s arraignment they’ve seen video from the school surveillance cameras showing Crumbley “methodically and deliberately” walking the hallways, aiming a gun at students and firing.

“What is depicted on that video, honestly judge, I don’t have the words to describe how horrific that was,” said prosecutor Marc Keast.

Video showed Crumbley with a backpack, and a minute later exiting the bathroom without the backpack and with a gun in hand, authorities said.

He started firing right outside the bathroom, Keast said, but after children started running away, he continued to go down the hallway at a “methodical pace” and shot inside classrooms and at students who hadn’t had the opportunity to escape. This continued for another four or five minutes and he went to another bathroom, Keast said.

When deputies arrived, he set down the gun and surrendered.

“A preliminary review of the defendant’s social media accounts, his cellphone, as well as other documented evidence recovered on scene showed that this defendant planned this shooting, he deliberately brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could,” Keast said.

Though much of the shooting was at close range, it nevertheless appeared “random,” Bouchard told CNN, without elaborating.

The assailant “tried to breach classroom doors,” the sheriff said.

“He actually fired through a number of the doors that I looked at last night — through the barricaded doors. … Some of those barricades were struck by gunfire,” Bouchard said.

Bouchard praised the work of his deputies and other local law enforcement agencies that responded Tuesday, saying their coordination and active shooter training proved invaluable.

Deputies were dispatched to the school at 12:52 p.m., and the suspect was in custody within three minutes of their arrival, Bouchard said.

As deputies made their way through the school, they encountered the suspect, who then put his hands up, Bouchard said. Deputies took the gun and placed the suspect in custody.

“I believe they literally saved lives, having taken down the suspect with a loaded firearm still in the building,” the sheriff said.

‘We believe we have some writings that contain his thoughts’

As for the investigation into a motive: “We believe we have some writings that contain some of his thoughts,” Bouchard said, adding he didn’t immediately know whether the writings reveal intent.

Investigators executed a search warrant at the suspect’s home and have searched the school, he said. Authorities seized a phone and are examining other seized items.

Michigan law prevents police from talking to a juvenile without parental permission, and the parents have refused that permission and requested a lawyer, Bouchard said.

“So, we can’t get the motive from the suspect that we have in custody, but we think we’ve got a path to get a lot of supportive information as to how and why this occurred. We’ve recovered some evidence that we’re now beginning to pore over,” Bouchard said.

Authorities also are investigating pictures of a target and the weapon posted on social media by the suspect, he added.

‘I’m going to text my family, say I love them’

“This district has been very good in training their personnel and their students on active shooters,” Undersheriff Michael McCabe said.

Kluska’s teacher, Moises Cortez, jumped into action after a lockdown was announced over the school’s loudspeakers, said the student who recorded video of his classmates escaping through a window.

“He shut the door and put, like, a metal doorstopper so no one would be able to kick in the door.” Kluska told CNN. “After he turned off the lights, he told us to get to the corner because this might not be a drill and he wants to be safe.”

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People were injured as they rushed out of the school, Bouchard said. Most were treated and released at a nearby staging area.

Zander Cumbey, a junior at the high school, told CNN’s Victor Blackwell that he started hearing screams about a minute after he sat down in his classroom.

“I heard screams come from the hallway and then the first gunshot happened, and my teacher, he walked into the classroom, he locked the door and he told us to call 911,” Zander said. “And then we heard the rest of the gunshots go off, more screams.”

He said as he was on the phone with dispatchers, he didn’t really speak to them.

“I just said kind of said ‘Oxford High School, shooter’, because I couldn’t talk,” Zander said.

He texted his parents that he loved them, he said, and texted his younger brother who also attends the school to see whether he was safe. Zander told CNN one of the victims — Tate Myre — was a close friend who was on the football team with him.

Donna Sanders’ youngest grandchild was changing classes when he heard gunshots, she told CNN. He and others ran through an exit door and went to a nearby grocery store to escape, he told her.

“He was able to run to safety with others while his brother was trapped inside,” Sanders said.

Students' quick act once shooting started may have saved their lives
Students' quick act once shooting started may have saved their lives

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Sanders’ daughter, Vontysha Pittman, said her oldest son sought safety in a classroom with a teacher and other students. He hid under a desk and called his father to tell him what was happening, she said.

“They are both are safe at home, but they are broken. We need prayers and not just for us but all the families at Oxford,” Sanders said.

Page’s classroom was in lockdown for an hour, the senior told CNN. The entire experience as “insane” as he contemplated whether he would live through the ordeal.

“The very first thing in my head was, ‘Is this actually happening? I’m going to text my family, say I love them just in case, if I were to die.’ Then when everything calmed down for a second, I was able to catch my breath and rationalize things,” he said.

CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus and Shimon Prokupecz reported from Oxford. Jason Hanna and Amir Vera wrote in Atlanta. Carolyn Sung, Taylor Romine, Laura Ly, Caroll Alvarado, Kristina Sgueglia and Patrick Cornell contributed to this report.

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Biden admin threatens harsh sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine


Michael_Novakhov
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The Biden administration warned on Wednesday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would trigger xe2x80x9chigh impactxe2x80x9d U.S. sanctions that would surpass any previously imposed on Moscow.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in the Latvian capital of Riga after meeting with his NATO counterparts, said Russiaxe2x80x99s large-scale troop buildup on Ukrainexe2x80x99s border and other pressure tactics resembled steps Moscow took before it invaded Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean peninsula.

xe2x80x9cNow, wexe2x80x99ve seen this playbook before in 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then as now they significantly increased combat forces along the border. Then as now they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify pre-planned military action,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

But it remained unclear if Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to order an invasion, Blinken told reporters.

xe2x80x9cNow, we donxe2x80x99t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade,” he said. “We do know that hexe2x80x99s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order should he so decide. So despite uncertainty about intentions, and time, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to it that Russia reverses course.”

CIA Director William Burns recently traveled to Moscow to convey Washingtonxe2x80x99s concerns, to urge a return to diplomacy to resolve the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukraine government, and to make clear xe2x80x9cthe severe consequences should Russia follow the path of confrontation in military action,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

xe2x80x9cWexe2x80x99ve made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high impact economic measures that we have refrained from pursuing in the past,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

Russia has deployed tens of thousands of combat troops on Ukrainexe2x80x99s border but has denied any aggressive plans toward Ukraine, saying it is only responding to what it calls provocative actions by Ukraine and NATO countries.

Blinken said the U.S. is urging Russia to reverse its troop buildup, pull back heavy weapons and recommit to the diplomatic process set up to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

xe2x80x9cThatxe2x80x99s how we can turn back from a crisis that will have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for our bilateral relations with Moscow, for Russiaxe2x80x99s relations with Europe and for international peace and security,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier that Russia would face serious political and economic consequences if it invades Ukraine.xc2xa0

The head of Ukrainexe2x80x99s military intelligence saidxc2xa0recently that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukrainexe2x80x99s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.

Ukraine, which wants to join the NATO military alliance, received deliveries of U.S. ammunition and Javelin missiles earlier this year, prompting criticism from Moscow.

Get the Morning Rundown

Get a head start on the morning’s top stories.

Dan De Lucexc2xa0is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.xc2xa0

Abigail Williams is a producer and reporter for NBC News covering the State Department.

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Ghislaine Maxwell Trial: Accuser Disputes FBI Account of Alleged Abuse


Michael_Novakhov
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The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell continued on Wednesday in federal court in downtown Manhattan, where the British socialite is facing sex-trafficking charges for allegedly assisting her late associate, Jeffrey Epstein, in abusing underage girls. In todayxe2x80x99s testimony, the defense cross-examined the governmentxe2x80x99s first alleged-victim witness, who, to protect her privacy, is known simply as xe2x80x9cJane.xe2x80x9d (Her testimony began yesterday.) Citing notes from Janexe2x80x99s previous unrecorded interviews with the government, Maxwellxe2x80x99s attorney Laura Menninger pointed out apparent inconsistencies and implied Jane had changed her story over time. Jane largely refused to engage, repeating xe2x80x9cI donxe2x80x99t recallxe2x80x9d and suggesting multiple times that the FBIxe2x80x99s notes from her interview could have been wrong.xc2xa0

The defense questioned inconsistent statements on whether Epstein had approached her alone at Interlochen Performing Arts Camp when she was 14 or if a woman xe2x80x94 Maxwell xe2x80x94 had been with him. In 2019, the attorney pointed out, Jane told the government that Maxwell had walked by with her dog. On Tuesday, Jane testified that Maxwell and Epstein had approached her together. xe2x80x9cThe FBI got it wrong again?xe2x80x9d Menninger said. xe2x80x9cMaybe they typed it up wrong,xe2x80x9d Jane said.

nn

During yesterdayxe2x80x99s direct examination from the prosecution, Jane said shexe2x80x99d first seen Maxwell naked was on an occasion when Epstein and Maxwell had led her upstairs and began fondling each other and giggling, then told Jane to take her clothes off before Epstein began masturbating. On Wednesday, defense pointed to notes from a 2019 interview where Jane had reportedly said she did not have a specific memory of the first time she saw Maxwell nude. Asked if she remembered saying this in an interview with the government, Jane said, xe2x80x9cI donxe2x80x99t recall.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0xc2xa0

Defense brought up more instances where they claimed Jane had changed her story, trying to impeach her credibility as a witness. One was regarding the timing of when the alleged abuse started; whether shexe2x80x99d told the government that she wasnxe2x80x99t sure if Maxwell had touched her; whether shexe2x80x99d told the government she was unsure if Maxwell had ever seen her performing oral sex on Epstein; and whether shexe2x80x99d told the government her first trip to New York with Epstein had been free from abuse. In each instance, she answered xe2x80x9cI donxe2x80x99t knowxe2x80x9d or xe2x80x9cI donxe2x80x99t recall.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

In excruciating back-and-forths, Jane would say she didnxe2x80x99t remember saying something, at which point Menninger would ask her to consult documentation of her conversations with the government. xe2x80x9cWith all due respect,xe2x80x9d Jane said during questioning about the timing of a trip to New York to see The Lion King on Broadway in the late 1990s. xe2x80x9cI didnxe2x80x99t write this and Ixe2x80x99ve never seen this document before.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

At one point, Jane seemed to point to the vagaries of remembering traumatic events over time. Menninger pointed to a 2019 interview where shexe2x80x99d supposedly said she was not sure if Maxwell had ever called her house in Florida to arrange meetings with Epstein. This was in contrast to what shexe2x80x99d said on Tuesday xe2x80x94 that Maxwell or an assistant had called her house to arrange her visits. xe2x80x9cMemory is not linear,xe2x80x9d she said.

During the course of the cross-examination, Jane confirmed she had flown on Epsteinxe2x80x99s plane with Prince Andrew and celebrity chef Adam Perry Lang, and that Epstein had brought her to Mar-a-Lago, where he introduced her to Donald Trump, whom she did not accuse of any wrongdoing. She was 14 years old at the time.xc2xa0

nn

The defense homed in on Janexe2x80x99s acting career and a prior appearance on a reality TV show. Menninger asked if she could cry on command. xe2x80x9cThatxe2x80x99s not really how it works,xe2x80x9d Jane said. She said reality TV doesnxe2x80x99t represent reality and when the prosecution asked she said she understood the difference between acting on tv and testifying in court. xe2x80x9cActing on television is not real, and testifying in court is real xe2x80x94 is the truth,xe2x80x9d she said during redirect examination from prosecution.

On Tuesday afternoon, a former boyfriend of Janexe2x80x99s corroborated portions of Janexe2x80x99s testimony. The witness, whom the court is calling xe2x80x9cMatt,xe2x80x9d said he dated Jane between 2006 and 2014, that he remains friends with her, and that they work on the same soap opera. He said Jane told him about her familyxe2x80x98s money struggles, and said she had had a xe2x80x9crough, brutalxe2x80x9d relationship with her mother. He also said that she had told him about Epstein helping her family pay bills and that she had had to do things she didnxe2x80x99t want to do to get the money. When he had pressed for details, he told the jury shexe2x80x99d said, xe2x80x9cMatt, the money wasnxe2x80x99t fucking free.xe2x80x9d

A longtime vice president of finance at Interlochen also testified, sharing documentation of a lodge on the arts center property that Epstein had donated money to fund, as well as correspondence with Maxwell expressing gratitude for the donation and discussing plans for a future visit by Epstein to the campus.

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CIA publishes new account describing


Michael_Novakhov
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The U.S. intelligence community faced xe2x80x9cgreater challengesxe2x80x9d in briefing former President Trump than it had confronted in almost five decades, when President-elect Nixon was taking office, according to a new account published by the CIAxe2x80x99s internal research center. xc2xa0

As was well-documented during his time in office, Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s tense relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies worsened amid politically charged investigations into his campaignxe2x80x99s contacts with Russia, leading to a xe2x80x9cbadly strainedxe2x80x9d rapport early in his presidency, former CIA officer Robert Helgerson writes in an update to his book, xe2x80x9cGetting to Know the President.xe2x80x9d xc2xa0

The book is featured among other unclassified materials on the CIAxe2x80x99s xe2x80x9cCenter for the Study of Intelligencexe2x80x9d website, but is for educational purposes and not an official product of the agency or reflective of its position, according to a disclaimer.xc2xa0

It was first published in 1996 and is a running historical account, dating back to the Truman administration, of how the intelligence community briefs newly elected presidents. Its latest chapter includes insights from the senior intelligence officials who oversaw the pre-election briefings offered to the presidential candidates in 2016, as well as briefings during the presidential transition and the delivery of the Presidentxe2x80x99s Daily Brief (PDB) throughout Trumpxe2x80x99s presidency. xc2xa0xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cFor the Intelligence Community, the Trump transition was far and away the most difficult in its historical experience with briefing new presidents,xe2x80x9d Helgerson says. xe2x80x9cTrump was like Nixon, suspicious and insecure about the intelligence process, but unlike Nixon in the way he reacted. Rather than shut the [intelligence community] out, Trump engaged with it, but attacked it publicly,xe2x80x9d he writes. xc2xa0

The director of Central Intelligence during Nixonxe2x80x99s presidency, Richard Helms, talked about the xe2x80x9crockyxe2x80x9d relationship between Nixon and the intelligence community in a 1982 interview that is included in thexc2xa0 book. Nixon xe2x80x9cwould constantlyxe2x80xa6pick on the [CIA] for not having properly judged what the Soviets were going to do with various kinds of weaponry. And obviously, he was being selective, but he would make nasty remarks about this and say this obviously had to be sharpened up.xe2x80x9d

Nixon mostly declined to receive the PDB, not because he wasnxe2x80x99t engaged with foreign policy xe2x80x94 he instead delegated this to his then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger. Throughout his presidency, according to the book, a courier would deliver the PDB to Kissingerxe2x80x99s office. Kissinger would then send Nixon the PDB xe2x80x9calong with material from the State Department, the White House Situation Room, the Joint Chiefs, and others,xe2x80x9d and then xe2x80x9cNixon would keep the material on his desk, reading it at his convenience throughout the day.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

The latest installment of the book, a 40-page account, details Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s first ever briefing, which took place in Augustxc2xa0 2016 at the FBI field office in New York City. Mr. Trump, then still the Republican presidential nominee, was xe2x80x9cprimarily a listener,xe2x80x9d the document says, xe2x80x9creflecting the fact that the material was new to him.xe2x80x9d At his second briefing in September, Mr. Trump asked xe2x80x9cnumerous questions,xe2x80x9d many of which xe2x80x9creflected his interest in financial and trade matters and in press reports about Russiaxe2x80x99s reported interference in the U.S. election campaign,xe2x80x9d the account says. xc2xa0

The briefings during the transition were led by a group of 14 intelligence officials hand-picked by Ted Gistaro, a veteran CIA analyst who later served as former President Trumpxe2x80x99s briefer. They hailed from the CIA, FBI, State Department and other agencies, and were the xe2x80x9clargest and most organizationally diverse group of experts ever deployed for transition briefings,xe2x80x9d according to the document.xc2xa0

Overall, Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s briefings began with a delay, because his team xe2x80x9cwas not fully prepared to launch transition operations, apparently having not expected to win the election,xe2x80x9d Helgerson writes. xc2xa0

And while the earliest sessions were substantive, they could also be meandering, according to former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, who said Mr. Trump xe2x80x9cwas prone to fly off on tangents; there might be eight or nine minutes of real intelligence in an hourxe2x80x99s discussion.xe2x80x9d xc2xa0

Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s already charged relationship with the intelligence community took a turn for the worse after he was briefed on the contents of a dossier xe2x80x93 whose most salacious claims have since been discredited xe2x80x93 that was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Despite efforts by Clapper to explain that the intelligence community had not relied on the dossier to arrive at its assessments of Russiaxe2x80x99s 2016 election interference xe2x80x93 and had not leaked the document to the media xe2x80x93 Trump remained unpersuaded and embittered. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cGistaro recalled that when they met for their next PDB briefing session, Trump xe2x80x98vented for 10 minutes about how we [the IC] were out to destroy him.xe2x80x99 Gistaro did not believe that Trump ever accepted subsequent IC disavowals of responsibility for the dossier,xe2x80x9d Helgerson writes, using an abbreviation for xe2x80x9cintelligence community.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

Still, Clapper also said that Mr. Trump, despite more negative public bluster, sometimes complimented the intelligence community, praising and expressing gratitude for the work of his briefers. The book notes that he was particularly appreciative of the CIAxe2x80x99s material on foreign leaders with whom he was dealing in the early weeks of his time in office. xc2xa0

Overall, Helgerson writes that behind closed doors, Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s interactions with intelligence officials were more amicable than was apparent on Twitter, where the president often expressed frustration with what he called a xe2x80x9cDeep Statexe2x80x9d seeking to undermine his presidency.xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cEven during times when President Trump publicly expressed great irritation with the ICxe2x80x94most notably in 2019 when an [intelligence community] employee filed a whistle-blower complaint concerning the presidentxe2x80x99s efforts to have Ukraine investigate a political opponent, Joe Bidenxe2x80x94briefings continued as usual and Trumpxe2x80x99s demeanor during the sessions remained the same,xe2x80x9d Helgerson notes. xc2xa0

Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s briefings were most frequent at the beginning of his administration; they averaged 2.5 sessions a week and lasted between 40-60 minutes, but tapered off over time. In what marked a break from recent convention, Trump was not briefed on covert action programs for the first several weeks of his administration, though other members of his administration, including CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo, were. xc2xa0

Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s intelligence briefers customized his PDB to his preferred format and consumption habits, as is traditionally done for incoming presidents. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cOn most days, Trumpxe2x80x99s PDB comprised three one-page items describing new developments abroad, plus brief updates of ongoing crises in the Middle East,xe2x80x9d the account says. xe2x80x9cThe goal was to make the PDB shorter and tighter, with declarative sentences and no feature-length pieces.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

Though the PDB was published every day, Mr. Trump only received an oral briefing two to three times a week, when xe2x80x9che relied on the briefer to orally summarize the significance of the most important issues,xe2x80x9d the account states. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cA few subjects and areas of the world were notable by their relative absence. Regarding Europe, only NATO budget issues, Turkey, and approaching elections in France and Germany stimulated much discussion. Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia received almost no attention,xe2x80x9d Helgerson writes. xc2xa0

Of Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s approach to the PDB, Gistaro, his first briefer, said, xe2x80x9cHe touched it. He doesnxe2x80x99t really read anything.xe2x80x9d Gistaroxe2x80x99s successor, Beth Sanner, adopted a xe2x80x9cstory-tellingxe2x80x9d approach to the briefings that included a one-page outline and a set of graphics, Helgerson recounts. xc2xa0

Sanner also led Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s last briefing before he left for Mar-a-Lago for the holidays in 2020. He received no briefings in the final month of his presidency, and notably none following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cTrump had his own way of receiving intelligence informationxe2x80x94and a uniquely rough way of dealing publicly with the ICxe2x80x94but it was a system in which he digested the key points offered by the briefers, asked questions, engaged in discussion, made his own priority interests known, and used the information as a basis for discussions with his policy advisers,xe2x80x9d Helgerson observes, adding, xe2x80x9cThe system worked, but it struggled.xe2x80x9d xc2xa0

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NATO Pushes Back Against Russian President Putin’s ‘Red Lines’ Over Ukraine


Michael_Novakhov
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Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of NATO, has categorically rejected Russia’s right to dictate how Ukraine does or doesn’t interact with the alliance. This comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that an expansion of NATO’s presence in Ukraine, especially the deployment of any long-range missiles capable of striking Moscow, would be a “red line” issue for the Kremlin. All of this follows major Russian troop movements that have prompted concerns that a new, larger-scale invasion of Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, may come in a matter of weeks. xc2xa0

Stoltenberg made his remarks to reporters earlier today in Riga, Latvia, where the top diplomats from all of NATO’s 30 members have been meeting to discuss the situation surrounding Ukraine, as well as the current Belarusian border crisis and arms control issues, among other matters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who attended this gathering, has raised concerns in the past, as have others, that what is happening along Belarus’ western borders with NATO member states, which you can read more about here, appears to be a deliberate distraction from Russian moves around Ukraine.xc2xa0

“It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decides when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. Russia has no veto, Russia has no say and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence to try to control their neighbors,” Stoltenberg said. “They try to re-establish some kind of acceptance that Russia has a right to control what neighbors do or not do.”

“I myself come from a small country bordering Russia, and I’m very glad that our NATO allies have never respected that Russia has the kind of right to establish a sphere of influence in the north, trying to decide what Norway as a small independent country can do or not do,” the Secretary-General, who is Norwegian, continued. “And that’s exactly the same for Ukraine.”

“So this idea that NATO support to a sovereign nation is a provocation is just wrong,” he added. “It’s to respect the sovereignty of the will of the Ukrainian people. So I think that tells more about Russia than about NATO.”

This is not the first time Stoltenberg has spoken out against countries establishing spheres of influence over smaller nations, nor is the first time Russia has criticized NATO’s involvement in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government’s interest in joining the alliance. However, his comments today follow remarks from Russian President Putin yesterday during an online investment forum in which he declared that any new deployments of NATO forces and materiel to Ukraine would be crossing a “red line” for his country. He specifically highlighted concerns about the potential arrival of long-range hypersonic missiles with the ability to hit Moscow in “five minutes.”

“The emergence of such threats represents a xe2x80x98red linexe2x80x99 for us,” Putin said. “I hope that it will not get to that and common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the global community will eventually prevail.”

He also reiterated criticisms about NATO exercises and other movements near Russia’s borders. For weeks now, Putin and other Russian officials have rejected concerns about Russia’s military movements near Ukraine and have sought to frame the alliance’s actions as being the real source of provocations in the region. This is a common rhetorical tack that the Kremlin has taken on many issues in the past to deflect from its own malign activities.

Various NATO members, including the United States and Canada, do have established security assistance missions in Ukraine that include rotating troop deployments. Exercises involving Ukraine and NATO nations are not uncommon, either. Though ties between the Ukrainian military and the alliance go back decades, this cooperation grew in the aftermath of Russia’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Since then, the Kremlin has also been actively supporting ostensibly local “separatist” groups, which have strong ties to Russian intelligence agencies, in their fight against Ukrainian government forces in that country’s eastern Donbass region.xc2xa0

There have certainly been calls for NATO to send forces to Ukraine to help deter Russia from taking any new military action, but, despite reported deliberations, there have been no indications yet that any member states are actually preparing to do so. There have also been reported discussions among NATO members, including the United States, about increasing deliveries of weapons and other equipment to the Ukrainian military.

However, there does not appear to be any discussion about a NATO deployment to Ukraine of ground-based surface-to-surface missiles able to strike Moscow. The American-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is the only ground-based weapon anywhere in service within the alliance that would even have the capability to hit the Russian capital from Ukrainian territory, and, even then, the launches would have to occur very close to Ukraine’s northern border with Russia for that to work. ATACMS’ maximum range is around 310 miles, while the shortest distance between Moscow and the Ukrainian border is around 280 miles.

For its part, Ukraine has threatened to use its own short-range ballistic missiles against targets in Russia in the event of a full-scale open conflict between the two countries.

With all this in mind, Putin’s comments about this notional missile deployment are extremely curious, and there is the distinct possibility that he might have been making references to other current or future NATO capabilities. This Russian president might be trying to leverage the situation to secure commitments from NATO to limit the deployment anywhere in Europe of ground-based hypersonic missiles or other long-range missiles that the United States now has in development.xc2xa0

He has already threatened in the past to adopt a standing posture targeting the United States with hypersonic weapons if the U.S. military deploys missiles that had been prohibited under the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, in Europe. The U.S. Army expects to field a variety of new missiles, including hypersonic types, that would have previously been banned under the INF in the coming years and just recently re-activated an artillery command in Europe to, among other things, manage the future deployment of such weapons to the region.

Putin could be trying to similarly force NATO’s hand in some way on the matter of new air and missile defenses in or around Ukraine. A new U.S. military Aegis Ashore missile defense site is slated to become operational next year, joining another Aegis Ashore facility already in Romania. The Russian government has long alleged that Aegis Ashore could be used to launch surface-to-surface missiles, as well as anti-missile interceptors, something the U.S. government has categorically denied. Last year, Putin put forward an offer to limit his country’s deployment of 9M729 ground-launched cruise missiles, which violated the terms of the INF and led to the collapse of that treaty, in exchange for the ability to inspect Aegis Ashore sites in Europe. xc2xa0

Regardless, there has been no talk of establishing an Aegis Ashore site in Ukraine. There have been calls, including from members of Congress in the United States, to bolster the Ukrainian military’s own air and missile defense capabilities.

Separately, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said yesterday, seemingly unprompted, that he might ask Putin to deploy nuclear weapons to his country if similar systems appeared in neighboring Poland. There had been talk last year about the possibility of relocating U.S. B61 nuclear bombs from Germany to Poland if the German government decided to drop out of a NATO nuclear sharing agreement.

Of course, Putin’s red lines could simply be designed to muddy the waters around his intentions regarding Ukraine. As The War Zonenhas explored in the past, the Kremlin certainly has reasons why it might be considering a new military intervention, chiefly a need to secure a ready source of fresh water for Crimea.

At the same time, Ukrainian and American officials have stressed that, despite the Russian troop buildup near Ukraine’s borders, an actual invasion is not necessarily inevitable.xc2xa0

“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade,” Secretary Blinken said in his own remarks at the NATO meeting in Latvia. “We do know that he’s putting in place the capacity to do so on short order, should he so decide. So despite uncertainty about intention, and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to it that Russia reverses course.”

“We’ve made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past,” he added. NATO is “prepared to impose severe costs for further Russian aggression in Ukraine” and “prepared to reinforce its defenses on the eastern flank.”

The Kremlin might be content to try to bring down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, including by leveraging internal discontent. Zelensky just recently accused Russia of attempting to launch a coup against him but has provided limited evidence of this so far.xc2xa0

Questions have been raised about whether or not these allegations might be, at least in part, an effort to neuter Zelensky’s domestic political opponents, including oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. Zelensky has said that Akhmetov’s name came up in relation to the apparent plot, but he has said he doesn’t believe that Ukraine’s richest man was involved directly. There was a protest in Kyiv today, the organizers of which accused Zelensky of making up the coup claims, but also saw speakers call out Russia’s aggression against the country.

Whatever the case, the Security Service of Ukraine, the country’s top domestic intelligence agency, also known by its Ukrainian acronym SBU, announced this week that it was investigating the alleged coup. This came after it emerged that Zelensky had fired Oleksandr Rusnak, the head of the SBU’s counterintelligence department, which officials in Ukraine insist is unrelated.

Another possibility is that Putin’s red line comments might just be an appeal to the nationalist sentiments of domestic audiences. In an example of the often highly provocative rhetoric being pushed internally in Russia, Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent host on the state-run Russia-1 television network, declared last week that the country could destroy the GPS satellite navigation constellation with anti-satellite weapons if NATO refused to respect the Kremlin’s previous red lines regarding Ukraine. This followed a widely condemned Russian test of a ground-launched anti-satellite interceptor on Nov. 15, which destroyed a defunct Soviet-era electronic intelligence satellite and created a dangerous cloud of debris.

There is no indication whatsoever that this reflects actual Russian policy at present, and Kiselyov is well known for making these kinds of inflammatory, but unsubstantiated, pronouncements. He was previously responsible for an equally provocative segment back in 2019 in which he outlined various bases that Russian submarines could strike in the United States with Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles in a future conflict. U.S. military facilities that had been closed for years at that point were bizarrely listed among the potential targets.

All told, it remains to be seen how Putin’s newly declared “red lines” and the reaction from NATO will actually impact the still-evolving crisis in and around Ukraine.

Contact the author: <a href=”mailto:joe@thedrive.com”>joe@thedrive.com</a>

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