Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 14 min 7 sec ago

How Alaska eats: Egg-citing recipes that are hard to beet

Fri, 2019-04-19 09:30

Hen and quail eggs pickled with Alaska beets and spices. (Julia O'Malley / ADN)

Newsletter #44: Not yolking

It all started with this doll-sized carton of quail eggs I picked up at New Sagaya Midtown Market a couple of weeks ago for $3. I had to have them, but what to do with tiny eggs? Pickle 'em, suggested a friend. I happened to have a big gnarly beet from last season lying around. Pretty soon, with pretty minimal effort, I whipped up some beautiful magenta beet-pickled eggs.

Quail eggs aside, if you celebrate Easter, I anticipate you’ll find yourself in possession of some hard-boiled eggs pretty soon. You might think about making Maya Wilson’s smoked salmon deviled eggs or her sinful smoked salmon egg salad sandwich.


Smoked salmon egg salad sandwich (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

The egg is one of the world’s most versatile foods, but cooking technique is everything. Kim Sunée has a collection of 13 egg recipes, including a nice recipe for how to soft boil one in soy sauce. Do you want to soft boil eggs for brunch this weekend but are worried about getting it perfect? Maya Wilson can walk you through it.

[Read previous newsletters here. Find more Alaska recipes here.]


Soft-boiled egg on asparagus toast (Photo by Maya Wilson)

Mara Severin has been busy eating on your behalf and has lots to say about Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage. (And look here: They serve Brussels sprouts with a poached egg!)

[Like to cook Alaska-style? Don’t miss a recipe. Get this newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday: Sign up here]


Roasted Brussels sprouts ($10) with a poached egg and hollandaise at Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage in Midtown (Photo by Mara Severin)

I’m going out right after I finish this newsletter to see if Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop has any more tsoureki, braided Greek Easter bread with a whole egg in the middle. (Here’s the one I scored last year.) Oh, speaking of sweet, baked things, get this: Photographer Marc Lester interviewed the new pastry professor at UAA. Guess what her name happens to be? Kellie Puff. How perfect is that?

If you don’t already, support local cooking and local food news and subscribe. Oh, and here’s a radio story where I make lunch with gluten-free noodles made out of a mystery Alaska ingredient. Give it a listen.

Here’s hoping you don’t have to hunt Easter eggs in the snow (even though it is tradition).

RECIPE: ALASKA BEET-PICKLED EGGS

Snow should taper off in Anchorage by early afternoon after several inches fell overnight

Fri, 2019-04-19 08:19

Fresh snow along Campbell Creek near Campbell Park in Midtown Anchorage on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)

Anchorage residents woke up Friday morning to a sight most haven’t seen in weeks — a full blanket of snow on the ground.

The overnight snowfall dumped between 2 to 3 inches on the Anchorage Bowl, and more on the Hillside. The National Weather Service cautions that the new snow could make for slippery roads for Friday commuters.

For the Hillside and parts of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the new snowfall is just a sequel. Those areas saw an earlier snowstorm that began Wednesday, while Anchorage received only mixed rain and snow with little accumulation.

Snow is expected to continue falling through the morning, with another 1 to 2 inches expected to accumulate.

“At higher elevations above 1,000 feet, another 2 to 4 inches are possible through early afternoon,” the weather service wrote in a special statement early Friday.

The Anchorage Police Department warned drivers in an early morning message to give themselves plenty of time to get where they’re going, or even to delay their commutes.

Forecasters expect road conditions to improve as temperatures climb in the afternoon. The high temperature for Friday will be near 40 degrees, the weather service predicts.

35-year Anchorage police veteran picked to be new Fairbanks chief

Fri, 2019-04-19 08:07

FAIRBANKS - A lieutenant with the Anchorage Police Department has been picked to be police chief in Fairbanks.


Lt. Nancy Reeder (Anchorage Police Department photo)

Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly recommended Lt. Nancy Reeder for the job.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports she accepted an offer but must pass a background check and be confirmed by the Fairbanks City Council.

Reeder was a sergeant in the Air Force for four years and a member of the Alaska Air National Guard for two years.

She has been with the Anchorage Police Department since 1984. She was an officer, traffic sergeant and detective before being named a lieutenant.

Matherly says Fairbanks police are familiar with her through past work.

Reeder would replace Chief Eric Jewkes, a 25-year department veteran who will retire at the end of April.

Small Alaska explorer plans to drill inside ExxonMobil holding on North Slope

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:55

The ExxonMobil facility at Point Thomson on Alaska's North Slope. ( Business Wire)

A small Alaska explorer has plans to drill for oil inside ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson Unit.

Jade Energy LLC received approval of its 2019 plan of development for Area F of the Point Thomson Unit from the state Division of Oil and Gas April 4.

The company previously took a 62 percent interest in the Point Thomson Area F lease in the southeast corner of the unit from ExxonMobil in a transaction approved last November.

The $4 billion Point Thomson development that ExxonMobil finished in early 2016 is focused on natural gas; the field is estimated to contain upwards of 8 trillion cubic feet of high-pressure natural gas. As a result, it is expected to be a lynchpin for any large gas export project.

Point Thomson sits on the eastern edge of state land on the North Slope and is adjacent to the northwest corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

After dealing with technical challenges related to the high gas reservoir pressure at Point Thomson that hampered initial production— approximately 10,000 pounds per square inch, according to ExxonMobil — the major now produces nearly 10,000 barrels of natural gas condensates that are stripped out of the gas before it is reinjected into the reservoir.

Jade Energy entered into a farm-out agreement with ExxonMobil in June 2018 to develop the Brookian oil prospects.

The company acquired 3D seismic data from Area F during the 2017-18 winter, the results of which will inform its drilling next winter, according to Oil and Gas filings. The target is Brookian formation reservoirs in the 12,000-foot range that are believed to contain significant amounts of oil.

BP drilled two exploration wells in the area in the mid-1990s known as the Sourdough wells and in 1997 BP and Chevron issued a press release stating they had confirmed approximately 100 million barrels of recoverable oil in the area.

However, the economic viability of the prospect was unclear at the time and the confidentiality period on the Sourdough well data has been extended, according to the submitted plan of development.

Anchorage-based Jade Energy is a startup explorer co-owned by Erik Opstad, who is the company’s managing member. Opstad has also recently been an Alaska manager for Accumulate Energy Alaska Inc., another Slope explorer that is the local subsidiary of Australian 88 Energy Ltd. Accumulate has led Brookian and unconventional oil exploration elsewhere on the Slope in recent years.

Opstad could not be reached with questions in time for this story.

Jade Energy plans to drill a well bore into the Brookian formations in next winter. From there, the rock samples will be evaluated to determine if they would be suitable for angled or horizontal development drilling, which the company believes is necessary to commercialize the field.

If it’s concluded the reservoir is compatible with the modern drilling techniques the well would likely be reentered during the 2020-21 winter when a lateral well would be drilled to appraise the prospect.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

Billionaires raced to pledge money to rebuild Notre Dame. Then came the backlash.

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:10

An image made available by Gigarama.ru on Wednesday April 17, 2019 shows an aerial shot of the fire damage to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Tuesday April 16. Nearly $1 billion has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was damaged in a massive fire on Monday. (Gigarama.ru via AP) (Gigarama.ru/)

PARIS - The eventual reconstruction of Notre Dame is now a foregone conclusion. Within hours of the fire that destroyed much of the cathedral on Monday, donors pledged more than $1 billionto restore the Parisian icon to its former glory.

Even before the smoke had cleared, Luxury goods magnate Francois-Henri Pinault announced his family would donate 100 million euros ($112 million) to the effort. Not to remain on the sideline, his rival Bernard Arnault - the chief executive of LVMH and the richest man in Europe - pledged twice that amount on Tuesday morning. The Bettencourt Meyers family, which controls L'Oreal, quickly matched that pledge. And Patrick Pouyanne, chief of excutive of French oil giant Total, offered another $112 million.

Officials are still assessing the extent of the damage, so the cost of Notre Dame's reconstruction remains unknown, but these and the many other donations coming in should pretty well cover it.

In the meantime, the cascade of cash that materialized overnight to save the cathedral has raised eyebrows in France, still in the throes of a crippling protest over rising social inequality and whose leader is regularly decried as the "president of the rich."

"Of course, I find it nice, this solidarity," said Ingrid Levavasseur, a leader of the yellow vest movement that has protested inequality in a series of often violent Saturday demonstrations since mid-November. The stream of donations essentially confirmed the movement's broader social critique, Levavasseur said.

"If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre-Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency," Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, said on Wednesday.

The cash flow has also furrowed brows abroad, with critics emphasizing that destroyed landmarks in non-Western locales - such as the ancient sites destroyed by the Islamic State in Syria - have hardly inspired such a global groundswell.

"In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame," South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. "In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil's National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege."

Rio de Janeiro's National Museum was incinerated in a fire in September.

Inside and outside of France, the unease has centered on a perceived disparity between concern for the fate of beautiful monuments and concern for the struggles of real people, which can be more difficult to sell to donors.

In February, for instance, the United Nations launched a record call for $4 billion dollars in aid for Yemen, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. "Almost 10 million are just one step away from famine," Secretary General António Guterres said in his pitch at a donor conference in Geneva. In the hours after his call, roughly $2.6 billion came in - a feat in itself. But still well short of the goal.

Notre Dame offers a striking contrast: No one was killed, no one is starving, but philanthropists likely provided the full amount - if not more - instantaneously and unprompted.

There was initial speculation that billionaire donors were contributing to Notre Dame in order to receive a generous tax break from the state. Typically, the French government allows corporations a 60 percent tax deduction on donations made in the realm of culture.

"Billionaires should pay taxes," tweeted economist Julia Cage, "not give when they feel like it, benefiting from enormous tax breaks."

Amid mounting criticism, some of the big donors defended their contributions. Both Arnault and Pinault said they were not looking for tax benefits.

Arnault told shareholders that his family holding company had already hit its ceiling on tax deductions for charitable donations.

"It's an empty controversy," Arnault said. "It's pretty dismaying to see that in France you are criticized even for doing something for the general interest."

The Pinault family similarly released a statement saying: "The donation for Notre-Dame de Paris will not be subject to any tax deduction. The Pinault family considers that it is out of the question to burden French taxpayers."

Pinault's wife, actress Salma Hayek, praised on Instagram the family's "personal and heart felt participation in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris."

"My husband and father in law are two generous french citizens, who sincerely understand the importance of this spiritual, cultural and historical treasure from Paris to the world," Hayek wrote.

Caroline Fourest, a French feminist and writer, said she thinks she understands the collective outpouring over Notre Dame, even though the nation's mourning is different than after major terrorist attacks - at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and the Bataclan concert hall in 2015, at the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice in 2016 and at a Christmas market in Strasbourg last December.

"There are similarities, mostly in the sense that we found a real communion, which was the case in Paris after the attacks," Fourest said.

“It’s not the same loss or the same anguish, because no one died,” she said. “But with Notre Dame, we were afraid of losing a part of the beauty that makes living in Paris so sweet. There’s a sadness there.”

Barr under fire for news conference that protected Trump and often featured one of his favorite terms

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:01

WASHINGTON - Flanked by two deputies, Attorney General William Barr stepped to a microphone on the Justice Department's seventh floor Thursday and spoke in the language of the president who appointed him to the job.

Previewing the imminent release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the top U.S. law enforcement official declared five times that investigators had found no “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. Once, he even seemed to chide reporters for their “relentless speculation” about President Donald Trump’s possible personal wrongdoing - while declaring the president correct in his pushback.

"As he said from the beginning," Barr declared, "there was in fact no collusion."

The news conference was a boon for the president, reinforcing - before the public had read Mueller's actual report - the letter Barr sent to Congress last month announcing that Mueller had not found a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, and had declined to reach a conclusion on whether Trump had obstructed justice. The president reacted with glee on Twitter and privately told advisers that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with whom he famously sparred, would not have done so well, according to White House aides who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

But the roughly half-hour, televised event also cemented the view among wary Democrats and some in the legal community that Barr was more politically motivated and protective of Trump than they had realized. In their view, his comments were inaccurate, and they at least seemed to belie the detailed, 448-page account of Mueller's work. Equally troubling: Barr embraced a preferred word of the president - "collusion" - when the special counsel wrote in his report the term was "not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law."

"I think it's pretty clear, he's just an extremely partisan attorney general," said Matthew Miller, who was a Justice Department spokesman in the Obama administration. "I can't think of any comparison in modern history to what he's done in the past three-and-a-half weeks."

[Transcript: Attorney General Barr’s full remarks on the Mueller report]

Barr disputed at the news conference the idea that he was protecting the president, and said he had “no objection” to Mueller himself testifying before Congress to air his side of things.

Asked about the concern - including from a federal judge - that he was fostering suspicion in his handling of Mueller's work, he shot back at a reporter: "I'm not sure what your basis is for saying that I am being generous to the president." When a reporter later asked about the "spinning" of Mueller's work, Barr simply declared "no" and walked off the stage.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Barr "thought it was important to hold a press conference to address the questions that he knew were on everyone's minds about process, which included issues of executive privilege, interactions with the White House and the redaction process."

She added: "The fact that the attorney general released a minimally redacted report after the press conference reflects his commitment to transparency and being as forthright as possible."

In addition to providing a broad overview of the report, Barr revealed that he had allowed White House lawyers and Trump's private attorneys to review the redacted document in advance - out of executive privilege and other concerns. Barr said that, after the White House counsel review, Trump elected not to exert executive privilege and his personal lawyers "were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions."

That happened earlier this week, and a senior White House aide said that Trump's lawyers briefed the president on its findings more than a day before it came out.

House Democrats had already been incensed when Barr scheduled the news conference, and after he spoke, they intensified their attacks. A senior Democratic aide said that leadership offices lodged a formal complaint with Barr before his news conference and plan to target his credibility in coming days.

Newly minted presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., called for him to resign, citing in a statement what he called Barr's "misconduct regarding the full report of Special Counsel."

"You can be the President's defense attorney or America's Attorney General, but you can't be both," he said.

Barr also revealed for the first time there was disagreement between the Justice Department and the special counsel's office on whether the president obstructed justice, saying he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disputed some of Mueller's "legal theories." Barr said he and his deputy stepped in to declare there was not a prosecutable obstruction case against Trump only when Mueller would not say one way or the other.

"The very prosecutorial function and all our powers as prosecutors, including the power to convene grand juries and compulsory process that's involved there is for one purpose and one purpose only. It's to determine, yes or no, was alleged conduct criminal or not criminal," Barr said. "Because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to."

Barr noted that the regulations do not call for him to release Mueller's report, and he did so with "limited" redactions. The report indeed details an array of episodes - some of them new, many of them already reported - of the president pressing to thwart the investigation, or of those on his campaign making contact with Russians or affiliates.

In one of the most striking episodes, Mueller's team alleged that Trump called White House counsel Donald McGahn at home in June 2017 and directed him to have the attorney general remove Mueller, citing conflicts of interest.

McGahn did not do so, fearing mass resignations at the Justice Department as happened when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of a special prosecutor, the report alleged.

Barr's critics have long alleged there were signs that he was more worried about protecting Trump than carrying out the Justice Department's mission. Before he got the job, he sent a memo to the Justice Department raising questions about what he saw as Mueller's theory of obstruction. And in recent weeks, he has suggested that intelligence agents conducted "spying" on the Trump campaign - a word his defenders say he did not mean to carry a negative connotation, though it closely reflects the president's attacks on Mueller's inquiry.

Ted Boutrous, a Gibson Dunn legal partner who frequently argues in front of the Supreme Court, said the news conference "really distorted the process and risks undermining public confidence in the special counsel's investigation." Boutrous is representing the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a lawsuit seeking the release of grand jury material from the Mueller probe.

Barr himself noted at a recent congressional hearing that offering a summary of Mueller's work "not only runs the risk of being under-inclusive or over-inclusive but also would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should have weighed everything coming out at once." His defenders, though, disputed he was trying to spin the report, and insisted his taking questions was a move that offered more transparency than normal.

"He knows the report's going to be out there," said George Terwilliger, a white collar defense lawyer who served as Barr's deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration. "The fact that he saw fit to talk to the press about the report and the process and the reasons for the steps that he took seem to me to be being quite open, rather than something nefarious."

Ian Prior, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Trump administration who is now a vice president at Mercury Public Affairs, said the criticism of Barr was "completely unfounded" and asserted that the attorney general had "gone far beyond what is required in the regulations to provide transparency to the public and Congress."

"Moreover, at his press conference, he accurately described the Mueller report, concisely explained his reasons for concluding that there was no obstruction of justice and was forthright in responding to reporters' questions," Prior said.

Even before the news conference, Barr had seemed to win Trump's adulation. The president recently told Republican lawmakers at a trade meeting that Barr was a "beauty" and that it was nice that he had a "real attorney general," according to people familiar with the meeting. For weeks, Trump lawyer Rudi Giuliani has praised Barr and said the president had "complete faith" in him.

Several White House officials said Barr's performance would probably insulate the attorney general from any Trump opprobrium over the next few days, as Democrats have more time to digest Mueller's work and hone their attacks. Some of his defenders, too, turned their attention to what they see as the next chapter of the story: Investigating the investigators.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a Trump ally and vocal critic of the FBI's Russia investigation, said most of his constituents have a single question: "Why did this happen in the first place?"

The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett and Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.

Blunt Talk | The future may be hazy, but Alaska’s cannabis entrepreneurs are optimistic

Fri, 2019-04-19 06:11

SPONSORED: It’s been approximately four years since Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2, which allowed for the legalization and taxation of the sale, production and consumption of marijuana, went into effect, and nearly two and a half years since Alaska’s first cannabis shop opened.

With Alaska still relatively new to the game, regulations for businesses continue to evolve and change. From working to accommodate a rapidly growing new market to navigating tax laws and banking restrictions that are cumbersome at best, cannabusinesses face unique challenges that other retail shops do not.

We caught up with some of Alaska’s cannaprenuers to find out how they navigate today’s market and learn about their hopes and ambitions for the future of the industry.

Knowing how and when to grow

Brandon Emmett, owner of Fairbanks’ Good Titrations, said scaling the business has been one of his biggest issues.

“We have had to grow our business quickly to keep up with demand,” Emmett said. “This keeps us busy with expansions, adding new equipment and hiring more employees.”

He said he spends a lot of time thinking about and visualizing how he wants his business to look.

“There are so many components to scaling a business,” Emmett said. “It’s not only about increasing the size of the machinery, but also about managing different departments. At some point, if you want to be successful, you have to let go and trust the people you hire to manage the people under them in the way they’ve been trained.” Emmett also cites increased consumer demand for higher THC products, as well as vape cartridges and edibles, as being part of the recent surge in business growth.

And while healthy competition is a good thing, Grace Doubrava, who manages Glacier Valley Shoppe in Juneau, said the influx of cannabusinesses offers both benefits and challenges.

“More business helps us to provide consumers with a larger variety of products,” she said. “But of course it also creates more competition with pricing and supply.”

A more competitive market can be a good thing for customers, but Doubrava added that, as is so often the case, shopping for cannabis in Alaska can come with some sticker shock.

“People also tend to compare our prices to places like Washington or Oregon, where the market is more flooded, but right now we don’t have the same level of options that these other states do, and our prices reflect that,” she said.

Banking on better options

One concern you’ll hear from almost any cannabusiness owner or employee: Limits on available banking, as well as the challenges of trying to comply with tax law.

“The federal government does not allow us to use the banking system or postal services,” said Michelle Cleaver, owner of Weed Dudes in Sitka. “Yet we are required to pay federal taxes and are taxed at a higher rate than all other businesses.”

Because cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government, the businesses that sell it are barred from claiming certain tax deductions; The Tax Adviser reports that this can result in effective tax rates of 90 percent or more.

Then there are the mechanics of paying those high taxes. The IRS collected as much as $4.7 billion from legal cannabis businesses in 2017. Because so many banks are reluctant to do business with the industry, much of this tax money was paid in cash -- and subsequently subject to additional penalties.

“How all of this cash is processed remains something of a mystery,” online publication Quartz reported in November. “But federal spending data reveals the IRS is paying a Virginia company $1.7 million for ‘large cash payments for processing cannabis federal taxes.’”

Emmett said he is confident that the banking situation will improve.

“Two credit unions are now offering services for businesses,” he said. “The downside to that is it’s very expensive. It will cost thousands of dollars a month to utilize, which is going to make it more difficult for smaller businesses. With the (state’s) budget woes, we are not hopeful to get a banking bill to go through this session. But our contacts in the Legislature have grown, and I think we will be able to make some changes in the tax structure.”

Emmett said he does fear that the cost of banking, along with the heavy tax structure, could spell defeat for the industry’s smaller growers.

“As prices fall, smaller shops struggle to compete,” he said. “This happens in all industries, but it is more pronounced in industries that are subject to multiple layers of government regulation.”

A regulatory roller coaster

Nationally, internationally and locally, attitudes and laws continue to evolve. Canada has legalized cannabis nationwide, a process that U.S. lawmakers are watching closely as they consider House Bill 420 (yes, that’s the real bill number), the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

Here in Alaska, proponents of legal cannabis have expressed concerns about changes to the makeup of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. Emmett served on the board until earlier this year, when he was replaced by Vivian Stiver, who has been vocal in her criticism of legalization.

The newest changes to Alaska’s laws include an endorsement for onsite consumption, which will add a new layer of regulation but has been welcomed by dispensary owners and advocates for Alaska as a cannabis tourism destination. Previously, there was no place for visitors to Alaska to consume cannabis unless they had access to a private home.

The statewide rule permitting onsite consumption went into effect April 11, although local governments may still impose their own restrictions.

“The vote to pass onsite consumption made for a pretty big change,” Doubrava said. “It will have a positive effect for those of us who serve cruise ship passengers and other tourists.”

Suffice to say, the path forward for Alaska’s cannabis industry is far from clear. But the entrepreneurs driving it remain optimistic -- and resolute that their business is good for the Last Frontier.

“Currently Alaska is the only cannabis legal state that requires owner and investors to be Alaska residents,” Cleaver said. “We are employing Alaskans while gaining revenue.”

Besides, she added, there are benefits beyond the economy.

“I have great expectations for us all,” Cleaver said. “I believe marijuana creates a happier, less-stressed population.”

Good Titrations is a Fairbanks business that specializes in producing high-quality cannabis concentrates. Good Titrations products are available at retailers throughout Alaska. Learn more at www.GoodTitrations.com.

Blunt Talk is a series of original articles sponsored by Alaska cannabis businesses and organizations to highlight the real people, families, businesses and groups impacted by the legalization of cannabis in Alaska. Find all the stories and a complete list of sponsors here: Story 1, Story 2, Story 3, Story 4, and Story 5.

This story was produced by the creative services department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with the series sponsors. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.

Redactions heavier on Russian meddling than on obstruction

Fri, 2019-04-19 02:33

This combination of images shows the entire redacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller's released Thursday, April 18, 2019, by special Attorney General William Barr. (Department of Justice via AP)

WASHINGTON — Across nearly 450 pages, blocks of black interrupt parts of Robert Mueller’s careful, dry narrative recounting Russian election meddling and President Donald Trump’s fear and ire. Most often, the Justice Department redactions mask a few words or paragraphs. In a few spots, they stretch for an entire page.

Attorney General William Barr said the report released Thursday was marred only by "limited redactions," but that's true only for the part of the report dealing with possible obstruction by Trump. An Associated Press analysis of the full document shows that nearly two-thirds of the section dealing with Russia's meddling — 139 pages out of 199 —had some form of redaction.

By comparison, only 24 out of 182 pages in the obstruction section were at least partially masked, the AP analysis shows.

The disparity reflects concerns over disclosing intelligence and ongoing law enforcement matters related to Russian interference in the election and, to a lesser degree, exposing grand jury testimony. The AP analysis showed that nearly 40% of the report's entire 448 pages — including its two main sections, appendixes and even its table of contents — had redactions.

The blacked-out passages leave factual holes that force readers to guess Mueller's intent. Even before the report's release, the redactions were at the core of a political battle pitting the Trump administration against skeptical Democratic lawmakers, who have insisted on the release of the full report. They are expected to wage a court fight over it, testing the limits of presidential authority. Barr has promised to provide congressional leaders with a version of the report containing fewer redactions, but it's not clear if this will satisfy Democrats.

Barr said his department had to redact material related to grand jury proceedings, ongoing investigations, privacy issues and intelligence, but said the redactions were limited.

"Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the special counsel's investigation," Barr said in a news conference shortly before the redacted report was released.

Several blacked-out passages refer to efforts by the Trump campaign to keep apprised of WikiLeaks dumps of emails and other materials related to Hillary and her campaign. The passages refer to now-convicted former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and to other campaign aides and allies.

Those references are likely related to the Mueller team's investigation into the activities of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone, who faces charges stemming from conversations he had during the campaign about WikiLeaks

Some pages that are almost entirely blacked out appear to mask the Mueller team's narrative concerning efforts by a secretive Russian tech team known as the Internet Research Agency to interfere in the 2016 election on the side of the Trump campaign.

In referencing Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an oligarch who funded that group, Justice officials blacked out details about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is under indictment, but is not in U.S. custody.

“Harm to Ongoing Matter,” the blacked out section noted.

There is no vindication for Trump

Fri, 2019-04-19 02:17

President Donald Trump arrives for a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington. Also pictured is Wounded Warrior Project CEO Michael Linnington, right. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Andrew Harnik/)

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump’s claim of vindication by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report depends on some creative thinking. The president, it seems, is not guilty of conspiracy with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. He is only guilty of wishing really, really hard for Russian help and having his fondest desire miraculously granted. On July 27, 2016, Trump made a public plea to the Russians to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. “Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement,” the Mueller report reveals, “GRU [Russian intelligence] officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office.”

This, evidently, doesn't qualify as conspiracy. But can it really be a coincidence? Maybe it was the hand of Providence. Or an answer to Franklin Graham's prayers. Whatever the non-collusive reason, Trump is clearly a lucky, lucky man.

What is less clear is how we are to accept a detailed, damning, 448-page moral and political indictment as good news for Trump and his administration. "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion," according to the report. This included a "social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump" and "computer-intrusion operations" against the Clinton campaign. While Trump campaign officials didn't directly coordinate with Russian intelligence activities, they welcomed and rooted for them. More than ever, the 2016 presidential election deserves an asterisk, indicating a serious chance it was won with foreign help.

Recall that Trump, during his campaign and well into his presidency, dismissed this influence as a myth. He said it might be the Chinese at work. Or it "could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." Trump, it turns out, is perfectly willing to minimize a national security threat for political reasons. But that isn't conspiracy either. Just friends helping friends.

[William Barr did this nation a great service. He shouldn’t be attacked.]

The Mueller report documents an atmosphere of routine, rewarded deception at the White House. In one case, after ordering then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, Trump ordered McGahn to publicly deny that the request to fire Mueller was ever made. (McGahn, to his credit, refused both orders.) In another case, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied about the extent of opposition within the FBI to former Director James Comey. Looking at the tape of her statement, it is remarkable how smoothly she dissembles. Obviously a valued skill in Trump’s orbit.

And the report strongly hints that obstruction of justice took place, even though the Justice Department does not believe the prosecution of such a crime is a legal option during Trump's term in office. In case after case, Trump employed pressure or dangled pardons in an effort to avoid embarrassment or legal exposure.

Some of the apparent obstruction was done in private: "Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over ... investigations ... the incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels."

At other times, the effort was not hidden at all: "[M]any of the president's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view."

The evidence in the report is quite specific. In one instance, Trump "sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information and to praise witnesses who declined to cooperate."

As I read it, the case for obstruction of justice is strong. And the report takes pains to point out a possible congressional role in examining obstruction claims. "The Constitution does not authorize the President to engage in such conduct, and those actions would transgress the President's duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed'."

What congress should do with this information is the matter for another day. But congressional leaders have some major choices ahead.

So: No evidence of direct conspiracy between Trump officials and the Russians, but plenty of evidence of desired conspiracy. And: Limited ways to prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice while he is president, but strong evidence obstruction was intended and occurred.

Already Republicans are urging America to move on. In this case, moving on would ignore and reward corruption on a grand scale.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

William Barr did this nation a great service. He shouldn’t be attacked.

Fri, 2019-04-19 02:09

Attorney General William Barr speaks alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report during a news conference, Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/)

Terwilliger III, a partner at the law firm McGuire Woods, served in the Justice Department for 15 years, including as deputy attorney general and acting attorney general.

Given all the politically driven discourse flying around the report by special counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr’s actions to get it released, it might be useful to step back and look at the report from the perspective of the law. It is, after all, the attorney general’s responsibility to see to the faithful execution of our laws.

If the time-honored practices of the Justice Department for how a regular prosecutor handles a case had been followed in the work of the special counsel, there would be no Mueller report. There would simply be an investigation, followed by a judgment - one made within federal prosecutors' broad charging discretion - as to whether charges should be brought or not.

If yes, indictments are sought from a grand jury. If not - silence. No public commentary or prosecutor opinions about the case - either just charges or nothing, except perhaps an announcement that there would be no charges. There would be no commentary that has the effect of "exonerating," or not, anyone involved in the investigation. It is not the function of a prosecutor to "exonerate" anyone, nor to tender any other opinions, commentaries or speculation about the facts of the matter investigated.

But with the special counsel, the procedures are different. They require the special counsel to confidentially report to the attorney general what decisions he made and the rationale for those decisions. It is then up to the attorney general to decide, including by accounting for the public interest, to what extent to make that report available to the public and to other government officials. Long before he even saw the report, Barr said he intended to make as much of it available as the law allowed. That is just what he has done, even as his integrity is unmercifully attacked by allegations that he is shading the truth.

Many of these attacks are irresponsible and shameful. Accusations that the attorney general is flying air cover for the president; that he might be Trump's new Roy Cohn; that, in summarizing the Mueller report before disclosing it, he was insulting Congress; that the redactions process is an artful cover-up; all of these do nothing more than demonstrate that discourse by too many public officials has moved from the gutter into the sewer. The facts show that Barr has followed the letter and the spirit of the law.

Even though deciding whether to prosecute was fundamental to the special counsel's core function, the special counsel expressly chose not to, citing in part prior Justice Department guidance on charging a sitting president. Instead, the special counsel reports all manner of his suspicions that there was obstruction, but he says he cannot prove it for various reasons. That is the most damnable of abuses of the criminal-justice process, as Hillary Clinton found out in 2016 in the investigation of her handling of her emails.

Nonetheless, by not bringing obstruction charges, the special counsel did make a decision on obstruction. His avoidance to simply stating that there would be no obstruction charge and his adding the gratuitous observation that the special counsel's report "does not exonerate" the president is exactly why we should not have prosecutors, special or not, writing public reports on their investigations. The special counsel's artful dodge resulted in the decision on obstruction being kicked up to the attorney general. Barr, in effect, articulated the decision that the special counsel had already made. All of the other noise, which will surely follow, arising from the on-the-one-hand and on-the-other recitations regarding obstruction in the report are legally irrelevant: two prosecutors - the special counsel and his superior, the attorney general - both decided against obstruction charges. Case closed.

But, of course, in reality the "case" is not a legal matter that can simply be closed. It is instead a political brawl; the Mueller narrative is now a weapon in a fight for the heart and soul of core groups of citizens that constitute the electoral bases to be energized. The political calculus apparently dictates "Who cares what is proper legal procedure, and so what if the rule of law loses, because we win!"

The attorney general is not only a lawyer whose resume, past actions and professional station bespeak unquestioned integrity, but he is also a veteran of steering legal ships through political waters, including troubled and challenging ones. Lots of good lawyers can figure out the legal issues, can discern and argue what the law demands, requires or disallows. But it takes another dimension to take those conclusions to a rightful - rule-of-law-driven - end when they arise in a heated political atmosphere.

Barr did this nation a great service by volunteering to take the job of attorney general - something others were unwilling to do. He has doubled down on that commitment by spending precious personal credibility to do the job by the book. I hope virtue is its own reward, because I doubt he will see any other return for this extraordinary gift to the country.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Five questions that still need to be answered in Mueller report

Fri, 2019-04-19 02:06

Special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as released on Thursday, April 18, 2019, is photographed in Washington. The section discusses Russia related communications with the Trump campaign. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) (Jon Elswick/)

In the coming days and weeks, reporters and legal analysts will comprehensively analyze Robert Muller’s report laying out in excruciating detail Russia’s attempt to interfere with our election, President Donald Trump’s team’s willingness to benefit from such interference and even obtain Hillary Clinton’s purloined emails, and Trump’s systematic, continual efforts to thwart the investigation. For now, let’s look at five topics that will require further clarification from Attorney General William Barr, Mueller and some of the figures involved.

First, the degree to which Barr and other members of the Trump administration, including press secretary Sarah Sanders, actively and thoroughly misled or even outright lied to the public is jaw-dropping. In spinning the report, Barr has shown himself not only to be acting as defense counsel to Trump but also to be in violation of his professional ethics as a lawyer. When he suggested, for example, that Mueller left the decision on whether Trump had engaged in criminal conduct to the attorney general or that Trump fully cooperated (he refused to sit for an interview) or that the president's actions were somehow justified because he was "frustrated," Barr was actively misleading the American people.

As former prosecutor Mimi Rocah tells me, "It seems quite clear Mueller intended for Congress to decide obstruction because he did not feel he could make a traditional prosecutive decision regarding the president, so Barr not only inserted himself in that (process), but he really misrepresented that Mueller hadn't given any indication of believing Congress should decide."

When Sanders said that the White House received complaints about FBI morale from within the FBI or that Trump had never contemplated firing Mueller, she was lying. These may not be criminal actions, but they were violative of their oaths to serve the American people and to uphold the Constitution and laws. Barr and Sanders should be compelled to resign. The media should be unyielding in its questioning of Sanders and in demanding she come clean on the myriad ways she misled the people who pay her salary.

Second, the idea that Mueller found "no collusion" has been debunked. Collusion, as we have pointed out numerous times, is not a legal term, and Mueller reiterated that very point, declining to render a judgment on collusion. What he looked at was whether there was sufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy. That, however, leaves a wide range of conduct that included encouraging hacking of Hillary Clinton's emails, which Russians did hours after Trump publicly suggested they do so; echoing Russian denials that they were interfering with the investigation; and Paul Manafort's meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik in which Trump's Midwestern campaign strategy was discussed (!). In sum, Mueller found the Trump team "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," and when, for example, WikiLeaks did just that, Trump went back to the WikiLeaks email dumps again and again.

Third, there is replete evidence of obstruction of justice. Mueller makes clear that he was not going to render a decision on criminality because Justice Department guidelines prevented him from doing so. However, both in his analysis and in his compilation of facts, he provides Congress with at least as much evidence for obstruction as existed against President Richard Nixon.

Mueller says bluntly that Trump exercised "undue influence" over the investigation and would have decapitated the probe if not for staffers such as former White House counsel Donald McGahn. Mueller enumerates the actions Trump took to interfere with and obstruct the investigation, such as ordering McGahn to fire Mueller (an order that prompted McGahn to threaten to resign), weighing in with witnesses, trying to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself, ordering Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to lie about the real reason for FBI Director James Comey's firing, helping to put out a false statement concerning the Trump Tower meeting, and asking Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to publicly deny links between Trump and Russia.

Mueller, in essence, said he could only exonerate Trump if the facts warranted. He explicitly did not exonerate Trump (because the evidence suggested otherwise). He could not make an affirmative finding of obstruction because that was beyond his purview under Justice Department guidelines.

Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, "Volume II provides a perfect roadmap for impeaching this president for obstruction of justice if the House opts to pursue that path." He continues, "Although Attorney General Barr did his darnedest to get in the way, and may have succeeded in creating a narrative that will protect the president, he had no way to erase or scrub that road map into oblivion." Tribe points out that "it's not just that the Mueller Report on p. 8 of the second volume says the Special Counsel's Office is 'unable to reach (the) judgment' that 'the President clearly did not commit (the crime of) obstruction of justice' but that the Report elaborates numerous shocking instances of what any objective observer would have to describe as such obstruction." And he concludes, "In a word, if we could imagine the Constitution's framers reading this report on what President Trump had personally done to interfere with and undermine lawful inquiries into Russia's role in helping him win the presidency, we would have to conclude that they would have regarded him as guilty of many high crimes and misdemeanors worthy of impeachment and removal from office."

Mueller specifically rejected the theory Barr laid out in his "audition" memo last year that Trump's actions within his Article II powers could not be considered obstruction of justice.

Fourth, the mainstream media's report on the incidents that Mueller examined with regard to obstruction were, in virtually all cases, completely correct. The White House's denials were bogus, and right-wing cheerleaders who claimed the media got it "wrong" were themselves wrong. Trump did try to fire Mueller, he did mislead the public regarding the Trump Tower meeting and he did try to influence witnesses.

Finally, there is much more to come. Mueller's investigation referred 14 investigations to outside prosecution, 12 of which were redacted in the report. The Southern District of New York prosecutors and the New York state attorney's office continue to investigate Trump's finances, his foundation and other leads provided by Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and private attorney Michael Cohen.

One can question whether Trump should be prosecuted and whether it would be wise to impeach him, knowing the Republican Senate will never remove him. What is unarguable is that no person who has behaved in ways Mueller described - including repeated lies to voters and efforts to impair an investigation - should be reelected. Republicans who insist otherwise once more disgrace themselves.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

What comes after the Mueller report

Fri, 2019-04-19 02:03

Attorney General William Barr speaks about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report during a news conference, Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/)

During his Thursday news conference, Attorney General William Barr communicated clearly and with confidence and authority the “bottom line” that neither President Donald Trump, nor any member of his campaign or family, nor indeed any American anywhere colluded with Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. Barr did exactly what the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, charged with executing the laws of this country should do: thoroughly explain the law and the decision in this matter. Barr was under no legal obligation to discuss this report with the media, but he did so in the interest of public confidence in the process - confidence that should and will increase with those who are open to reason.

No collusion. No obstruction. Special counsel Robert Mueller III made the first call. Barr, with the assistance of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, made the second call. Now, the lightly redacted report has been presented to Congress and the people.

The president did not assert his executive privilege. He directed his staff to cooperate completely with the investigation. As the attorney general stated, Trump faced an "unprecedented situation." (Challenged by a journalist whether the characterization of "unprecedented" wasn't "being generous" to the president, Barr responded with a question: "Is there another precedent for it?" The journalist responded that, in fact, there wasn't one. Barr responded that his characterization was thus accurate. Those who believe that Barr has brought much needed clarity to the Justice Department cheered as his response seemed to stand for a broader rebuke of an endlessly hysterical as opposed to curious media.) The president often acted in anger and/or haste, the redacted report revealed, as many an innocent man wrongly accused would act. But he was well served by those who let him cool down or change course.

Many commentators are ignoring the "first rule of holes": When in one, stop digging. They can't because, well, ratings. Three years of speculation up in smoke. Month after month of hysteria revealed as, well, hysteria. Attacks on the attorney general's integrity are not just pebbles thrown at a battleship; they reveal a fundamental unwillingness in some portions of the media to accept Mueller's - not Barr's, Mueller's - conclusion that no collusion occurred by any American with the Russian attacks and hacks. That's it. Game. Set. Match. In service of props from #TheResistance, however, a bunch of commentators are digging in, and thus deeper into the land of conspiracy theorists and tin-foil hats.

Watch now Democratic leaders, including candidates for president. They will not be lingering long near this giant, smoking wreck of many people's credibility. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's, D-Md., dismissal of impeachment talk provided the day's conclusive "tell." The rejection essentially translated to "the Judiciary Committee can hold hearings, but we are done here."

Except we are not done. The attorney general soon will have the report of the inspector general reviewing the actions at the highest levels of the FBI and the intelligence community during the campaign and the transition. Just to name a few issues worth investigating: I do think former FBI director James Comey should have told President Trump he was keeping a file on all of his conversations. I don't think any of that file should have been shared with others who subsequently leaked it to the public. And there is nothing in the redacted Mueller report resembling a predicate for a FISA warrant against Carter Page, a U.S. citizen, though the redactions prevent a conclusive opinion.

The results of the inspector general’s deep dig are yet to come - and they are truly the most interesting of all. In the meantime, thanks to Barr discharging his duty to make the call he did, we know that no obstruction occurred. Combined with Mueller’s conclusion of no collusion, the theater of the absurd of the past three years has reached an end for President Trump, his family and campaign team. It is the beginning of the end for those who set the counterintelligence investigation in motion. Who is lawyering up now?

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Mueller report offers little in black and white

Fri, 2019-04-19 02:00

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report that includes written answers from President Donald Trump as released on Thursday, April 18, 2019, is photographed in Washington. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) (Jon Elswick/)

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we live in a time when everything is supposed to be black and white. The weird, incestuous relationship between the media and the political parties incentivizes combatants to take positions on the 1-yard lines, if not in the end zones. But what if -- and bear with me for a moment -- the truth is a lot grayer?

Consider the Mueller report and all the controversies that swirl around it. From where I sit, everyone (with the exception of Robert Mueller himself) comes out looking worse than their loudest supporters claim but better than their shrillest detractors insist.

President Trump is the most obvious example. By now, anyone interested has either read or heard summaries of the Mueller report, so I won't get deep in the weeds. Any fair reading shows that it's far from the "total and complete exoneration" Trump and his supporters claim. But it does exonerate Trump of many of the most extreme accusations bandied about on cable TV and in op-ed pages over the last two years.

According to Mueller, as well as Attorney General Bill Barr and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, the president didn't coordinate -- a more precise term than "collude" -- with the Russian government in the 2016 campaign. He did behave badly. He welcomed Russia's efforts and praised WikiLeaks (a useful dump for Russia-acquired dirt on Hillary Clinton). In fact, his campaign may have coordinated with WikiLeaks. It's possible Trump or his lieutenants may even have wanted to work with the Russians but were too incompetent to do it.

That's bad. I would even argue it's outrageous. But it's not what countless Democrats and anti-Trump journalists claimed or hoped for.

Moreover, Trump may have acted like he was guilty of something, but evidence for the thing he was supposed to be guilty of couldn't be found. It's not outlandish to think that some of his suspicious behavior stemmed from anger at being wrongly accused and ignorance about how to properly conduct himself.

As for the obstruction charges. Reasonable people can conclude that Trump wanted to, and almost certainly tried to, obstruct the probe. Some of his behavior would be illegal if he weren't the president. But he is. And the legal arguments invoked by Barr and Mueller for letting him off the hook from criminal prosecution aren't as absurd as many claim.

That brings us to the attorney general. Barr's reputation took a hit when he opted to pre-spin the report's findings in such a favorable light. But the claims that he's disgraced himself don't give enough consideration to the serious legal, constitutional and even political issues at play. Perhaps such spin was the embarrassing price he had to pay to get Trump to agree to the report's release?

The executive branch should not serve as a de facto impeachment committee of the legislative branch. Barr believes the president cannot be indicted for exercising his constitutional powers, and he cites the standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. You can disagree with that, but the claim that Barr is part of a cover-up is unfair. What kind of "cover-up" involves releasing the actual report with few redactions? Barr's positions on the legal and constitutional issues were well known when he was confirmed, and while controversial in this partisan climate, they're hardly outside the mainstream.

Then there's Congress. For the last two years, the congressional GOP has behaved as if we live in a parliamentary system, where the head of the party is also the head of government, and the legislators of the same party are obliged to follow the leader. But that's not how our system works. Congress is the first branch of government and is supposed to have a more adversarial relationship with the executive branch, regardless of party. You'd think Republicans, who claim to revere the Constitution, would know this.

The Democrats have been just as bad. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has lied, in classic McCarthyite fashion, about having damning evidence he has to keep in secret (as have some former Obama officials). Both parties have been happy to let Mueller do the job properly reserved for Congress.

And that brings us to Mueller. He resisted both the demonization of Team MAGA and the flattery of Team Resistance and simply did his job. It’s not his fault that so many in the media and Congress have been reluctant to do theirs.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

The Mueller report is in its supernova stage

Fri, 2019-04-19 01:56

Attorney General William Barr speaks alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O'Callaghan, left, about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report during a news conference, Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/)

With Attorney General William Barr’s news conference Thursday and the release of the redacted special counsel report, the Russia collusion saga has reached its supernova stage. For a while, there will be a burst of light and a swelling of attention over the report’s findings on this or that unflattering data point, but the whole sad affair is probably destined to fade. For Democrats, the threshold question is whether they will be tempted by the ephemeral light of impeachment.

The conclusion that there was neither collusion nor obstruction means the hopes and dreams of President Donald Trump's critics - that he would be indicted - have reached a dead end. On Thursday, Barr said clearly that the Russians "did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign - or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter." And on obstruction, he noted that "the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation."

No one expects Democrats in Congress or the partisans in the media to see it that way or to accept the results of Robert Mueller's report as final and move on. And who knows whether the president will be impeached, but their quest for collusion has been dealt its fatal blow. The shouting and posturing in the days ahead will only amount to the president's critics chasing their tails. Good luck trying to sell to an already fatigued public the idea of obstruction of justice without an underlying crime or claiming the president tried to obstruct an investigation that he had the authority to stop at any time. Everyone has already made up their minds about the Mueller probe and the Russia-Trump connection. And oh by the way, the other Trump-related investigations and scandals seem destined to be just background noise. None appear fatal.

It is probably too much to hope that the news media and the permanent campaign establishment will move on from Mueller and Russia and talk about something else. And it is no secret that there is a substantial block of the angry left represented by Democrats in the House who want to impeach the president for something. The problem is that the "something" is still proving to be elusive. The shouting and posturing in the days ahead will continue, but I am not sure how Democrats see impeachment working for them politically. I am not sure if it is a net plus for the Democrats or a net minus.

Trump as the victim of a partisan crusade could reinforce the idea that the Democrats are obsessed with him and that they are not tending to business. It is also possible that a lot of voters think Trump is probably guilty of some type of obstruction but that it does not rise to the level of supporting a national distraction and a months-long, futile impeachment process. Support for impeachment has dropped in recent months, declining from 43 percent in favor in December to just 36 percent, according to a CNN poll released last month. Obviously, this polling was done before the Mueller report supernova erupted. It will be interesting to see if cool heads prevail among Democrats or if they cannot resist the urge to pursue the bright light of impeachment.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Trump is a cancer on the presidency. Congress should remove him.

Fri, 2019-04-19 01:52

George T. Conway III is a litigator at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York.

So it turns out that, indeed, President Donald Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not “totally” or “completely,” as he claimed. Special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed crimes of obstruction of justice - in part because, while a sitting president, Trump can’t be prosecuted under long-standing Justice Department directives, and in part because of “difficult issues” raised by “the President’s actions and intent.” Those difficult issues involve, among other things, the potentially tricky interplay between the criminal obstruction laws and the president’s constitutional authority, and the difficulty in proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

Still, the special counsel's report is damning. Mueller couldn't say, with any "confidence," that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that "if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state." Mueller did not so state.

That's especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn't be - and isn't - whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.

The Constitution commands the president to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." It requires him to affirm that he will "faithfully execute the Office of President" and to promise to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution." And as a result, by taking the presidential oath of office, a president assumes the duty not simply to obey the laws, civil and criminal, that all citizens must obey, but alsoto be subjected to higher duties - what some excellent recent legal scholarship has termed the "fiduciary obligations of the president."

Fiduciaries are people who hold legal obligations of trust, like a trustee of a trust. A trustee must act in the beneficiary's best interests and not his own. If the trustee fails to do that, the trustee can be removed, even if what the trustee has done is not a crime.

So too with a president. The Constitution provides for impeachment and removal from office for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." But the history and context of the phrase "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" makes clear that not every statutory crime is impeachable, and not every impeachable offense need be criminal. As Charles Black put it in a seminal pamphlet on impeachment in 1974, "assaults on the integrity of the processes of government" count as impeachable, even if they are not criminal.

And presidential attempts to abuse power by putting personal interests above the nation's can surely be impeachable. The president may have the raw constitutional power to, say, squelch an investigation or to pardon a close associate. But if he does so not to serve the public interest, but to serve his own, he surely could be removed from office, even if he has not committed a criminal act.

By these standards, the facts in Mueller's report condemn Trump even more than the report's refusal to clear him of a crime. Charged with faithfully executing the laws, the president is, in effect, the nation's highest law enforcement officer. Yet Mueller's investigation "found multiple acts by the President that were capable of executing undue influence over law enforcement investigations."

Trump tried to "limit the scope of the investigation."He tried to discourage witnesses from cooperating with the government through "suggestions of possible future pardons." He engaged in "direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony." A fair reading of the special counsel's narrative is that "the likely effect" of these acts was "to intimidate witnesses or to alter their testimony," with the result that "the justice system's integrity [was] threatened." Page after page, act after act, Mueller's report describes a relentless torrent of such obstructive activity by Trump.

Contrast poor Richard Nixon. He was almost certainly to be impeached, and removed from office, after the infamous "smoking gun" tape came out. On that tape, the president is heard directing his chief of staff to get the CIA director, Richard Helms, to tell the FBI "don't go any further into this case" - Watergate - for national security reasons. That order never went anywhere, because Helms ignored it.

Other than that, Nixon was mostly passive - at least compared to Trump. For the most part, the Watergate tapes showed that Nixon had "acquiesced in the cover-up" after the fact. Nixon had no advance knowledge of the break-in. His aides were the driving force behind the obstruction.

Trump, on the other hand, was a one-man show. His aides tried to stop him, according to Mueller: "The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests."

As for Trump's supposed defense that there was no underlying "collusion" crime, well, as the special counsel points out, it's not a defense, even in a criminal prosecution. But it's actually unhelpful in the comparison to Watergate. The underlying crime in Watergate was a clumsy, third-rate burglary in an election campaign that turned out to be a landslide.

The investigation that Trump tried to interfere with here, to protect his own personal interests, was in significant part an investigation of how a hostile foreign power interfered with our democracy. If that's not putting personal interests above a presidential duty to the nation, nothing is.

White House counsel John Dean famously told Nixon that there was a cancer within the presidency and that it was growing. What the Mueller report disturbingly shows, with crystal clarity, is that today there is a cancer in the presidency: President Donald Trump.

Congress now bears the solemn constitutional duty to excise that cancer without delay.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

President was protected by aides’ refusal to carry out orders

Fri, 2019-04-19 01:47

President Donald Trump, seen Thursday with the first lady, tweeted after the release of the report that it was a "great day for America!". Photo by Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post (Oliver Contreras/)

WASHINGTON - The moment President Donald Trump learned two years ago that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian election interference, he declared in the Oval Office, “This is the end of my presidency.”

Trump nearly made that a self-fulfilling prophecy as he then plotted for months to thwart the probe, spawning a culture of corruption and deception inside the White House.

Trump's advisers rarely challenged him and often willingly did his bidding, according to the special counsel's report released Thursday. But in some cases they explicitly refused when Trump pushed them to the brink of committing outright crimes - a pattern of inaction that ended up protecting the president.

Trump ordered Donald McGahn to instigate special counsel Robert Mueller III's firing, but the White House lawyer decided he would resign rather than follow through.

Trump urged Corey Lewandowski to ask then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the investigation, but his former campaign manager only delivered the message to an intermediary.

And Trump demanded that Reince Priebus procure Sessions' resignation, but the White House chief of staff did not carry out the directive.

The vivid portrait that emerges from Mueller's 448-page report is of a presidency plagued by paranoia, insecurity and scheming - and of an inner circle gripped by fear of Trump's spasms.

Again and again, Trump frantically pressured his aides to lie to the public, deny true news stories and fabricate a false record. But their unwillingness to execute his most drastic wishes were part of what kept Mueller from making a determination about obstruction of justice.

"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state," the report says. "Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment."

While many of the episodes catalogued have previously been explored in first-person accounts and news reports, Mueller’s report is singular for its definitive examination of the events - and will not easily be dismissed by Trump and his aides as “fake news.” The main actors are under oath and on the record, and the narrative they laid bare stands as a historical product with the imprimatur of a former FBI director who attained a cult status for his impartiality.

The political impact remains unsettled. Republicans were eager to turn the page Thursday, echoing the defiant refrain of Trump and Attorney General William Barr: "No collusion." But Democratic leaders insisted that Trump's conduct amounted to obstruction of justice and necessitated further inquiry, including calling on Mueller to testify before Congress.

Regardless, the Mueller report revealed how a combustible president bred an atmosphere of chaos, dishonesty and malfeasance at the top echelons of government not seen since the Nixon administration.

Trump officials frequently were drawn into the president's plans to craft false story lines. In one instance, while he was watching Fox News, Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to hold a news conference and claim that Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director based on Rosenstein's recommendation. Rosenstein declined and told Trump that he would tell the truth - that firing Comey was not his idea - if he were asked about it.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders attempted to buttress Trump's cover story. She said at a news briefing that countless members of the FBI were seeking Comey's removal, but later admitted to Mueller's team that her comment had been completely fabricated, calling it a "slip of the tongue" that was not founded on any evidence.

In yet another example, Trump dictated to communications director Hope Hicks an intentionally misleading statement for the press about Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

Trump's drumbeat to end the investigation was driven by his belief that the U.S. intelligence community's conclusive determination of Russian interference threatened the legitimacy of his election. It was, as Hicks told Mueller's investigators, his "Achilles' heel."

The report exhaustively documents the fraught relationship between Trump and McGahn. In the weeks following Mueller's May 2017 appointment, Trump repeatedly considered firing the special counsel. On June 17, Trump was at Camp David and twice called McGahn at home and directed him to call Rosenstein, who supervised the probe, and explain that Mueller had conflicts of interest and could not serve.

"You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod," Trump said on the first call, according to the account McGahn gave investigators.

McGahn did not act on the request, but Trump called a second time.

"Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the special counsel," Trump said, according to McGahn. The president told him, "Mueller has to go" and "Call me back when you do it."

McGahn told investigators that he felt trapped and decided to resign. He drove to the office to pack up his belongings and prepare to submit a resignation letter. He also called Priebus and chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon and told them of his intentions, but they urged him to stay, and McGahn returned to work that Monday.

Trump's claim that Mueller had "conflicts" - a dispute over membership fees at a Trump golf course in Virginia - was called "ridiculous" by Bannon and "silly" by McGahn. The report is peppered with similar times of aides grousing behind Trump's back about his tirades and impulsive directives.

Seven months later, after the New York Times reported that Trump had ordered McGahn to have Mueller fired and that McGahn had refused, Trump instructed the White House counsel to deny it - but McGahn said he would not rebut the article.

The president was furious. Staff secretary Rob Porter told investigators that Trump told him the story was "bullshit" and that McGahn was "a lying bastard." Trump directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a written record falsely stating that the president never directed the White House counsel to fire Mueller.

"If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him," Porter recalled Trump telling him.

The next day, Trump met with McGahn to discuss the article. The president insisted he never told McGahn to "fire" Mueller, but McGahn said that he had told him, "Mueller has to go." Trump then harangued McGahn about there being a record of their discussions.

"Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes," Trump told McGahn, according to McGahn's account to investigators.

McGahn responded that he was a "real lawyer."

"I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes," Trump replied, referencing a former lawyer and mentor who was disbarred for unethical conduct.

Meantime, as Trump's unhappiness with Sessions lingered into the summer of 2017, he tried several times to push the attorney general to either step down or limit the scope of the probe.

In between bursts of angry tweets about Sessions that June, he told Lewandowski he had a mission for him.

"Write this down," Trump instructed his former campaign manager, who is described in the report by Trump officials as a "devotee" who would do almost anything for the president.

Trump told Lewandowski to quietly approach Sessions, far outside of the usual chain of command, and suggest that the president would prefer that the Justice Department investigate only foreign interference in "future elections" - and to stop its probe of the 2016 campaign.

Lewandowski never delivered that message directly, reflecting his own unease with the president's request. He instead turned to Rick Dearborn, a veteran Sessions aide then working as a deputy White House chief of staff, to take the message to the attorney general. Dearborn, too, declined to do so, later telling investigators that the idea of being a messenger to Sessions made him uncomfortable.

Trump tried other ways to remove Sessions. In early July 2017, he asked Porter whether Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand was "on the team" and instructed him to sound her out about taking over responsibility for the Mueller probe and becoming attorney general. Porter told investigators that he understood Trump to want to find someone to end the investigation and did not contact her because he was uncomfortable with the task.

That same month, after The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence intercepts showed Sessions had discussed Trump campaign-related matters with the Russian ambassador, Trump erupted and demanded the attorney general's resignation.

Trump told Priebus that he needed "a letter of resignation on [his] desk immediately," according to the account Priebus gave investigators. He said the attorney general had "no choice" and "must immediately resign."

Trump said Sessions had to resign because of negative publicity, but Priebus told investigators he believed the president was driven because of his hatred over Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation. Priebus consulted McGahn and they discussed the possibility that they would both resign rather than carry out Trump's order to fire Sessions, according to Mueller's testimony.

The president followed up: "Did you get it?" he asked Priebus. "Are you working on it?"

Priebus explained that firing Sessions would be a calamity, and Trump agreed to hold off and eventually relented, although he tweeted for the next several days about the attorney general, including calling him "beleaguered."

Sessions stayed on the job until November 2018, but his experience was reflective of the torment caused by Trump.

The attorney general’s chief of staff told investigators that after the president tried to oust him in July 2017, Sessions carried a resignation letter in his pocket every time he went to the White House.

Fireweed 400 bike race calls it quits after 16 years

Thu, 2019-04-18 19:20

Dwarf fireweed frames a rider on the Glenn Highway during the 2006 Fireweed. (Erik Hill / ADN archives)

The Fireweed 400, Alaska’s biggest bike race, won’t be held this summer and may be gone for good.

Race officials said Thursday that this year’s race, which would have been the 17th annual edition of the event, won’t be held and “any additional runnings of the race are not feasible,” according to a press release from the race committee.

Jeremiah Osborne, the Fireweed 400’s IT director and a member of the race committee, said in an interview that committee members are interested in creating a similar event but there will be no replacement for the Fireweed 400 this year. It’s too late to get Department of Transportation permits and insurance, he said.

The Fireweed 400, created in 2003 by Peter Lekisch and George Stransky, consisted of several distance events held each July on the Glenn and Richardson highways. It attracted hundreds of riders every year.

The 400-mile race went from Sheep Mountain Lodge to Valdez and back and was a qualifying race for the 2,980-mile Race Across America (RAAM).

The Fireweed 400 also included races of 50, 100 and 200 miles. The 200-mile race, which started at Sheep Mountain Lodge and ended in Valdez, was the most popular of the events.

“It is our hope to see a local bicycle club take on the challenges of running a similar RAAM qualifying event in the future,” the race committee said in a press release.

“There’s nothing this year,” Osborne said. “Ideally, it would be awesome to be hopeful for something in 2020.”

Renowned American climber Jess Roskelley among group missing, presumed killed by avalanche in Canada

Thu, 2019-04-18 19:11

Renowned alpinist Jess Roskelley is presumed dead after an avalanche swept over his climbing party in the Canadian Rockies.

The 36-year-old Spokane, Washington, climber was attempting a difficult route on Howse Peak with Austrian climbers David Lama, 28, and Hansjörg Auer, 35.

Roskelley told his father, John Roskelley, that he would check in Tuesday night.

He never called.

John Roskelley, who was one of the best alpinists of his generation, called Parks Canada on Wednesday morning. Canadian authorities searched the area by helicopter and saw avalanche debris, climbing gear and one partially buried body, Roskelley said.

In a news release, Parks Canada said the three climbers were presumed dead after helicopter crews saw “signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment.”

During a Thursday press conference, Parks Canada staff said the party started their ascent Tuesday, April 16. They don’t know when exactly the avalanche occurred, but based on the debris field, they believe it was a size 3 avalanche on a 5-point scale. Size 3 avalanches are described as being able to bury a car, destroy a small building or break a few trees. Avalanche conditions were not known at the time the trio climbed because the area is outside of Banff Park’s monitoring area.

Park visitor safety specialist Stephen Holeczi said the helicopter crew saw “strong evidence that the climbing party was deceased.” He declined to elaborate.

View this post on Instagram

Thanks for always being reliable on and off the rope dad. It’s always good to get out with you!

Mueller’s report paints a portrait of a campaign intrigued by Russian overtures

Thu, 2019-04-18 18:36

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/)

WASHINGTON - The outreach had begun by August 2015, when Donald Trump was a newly announced presidential candidate in a crowded Republican field and a Russian news outlet emailed a top Trump aide to request an interview.

It persisted through the next 15 months of the 2016 campaign and into the presidential transition, when a Russian banker back-channeled a plan for reconciliation between the United States and the Kremlin to the new administration through a friend of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The portrait painted by special counsel Robert Mueller in his report released Thursday is one in which, again and again, Russian officials and business executives offered assistance to Trump and the people around him.

The campaign was intrigued by the Russian overtures, Mueller found, which came at the same time that the Russian government was seeking to tilt the outcome of the race in Trump's favor.

The special counsel did not find any of the contacts between Trump associates and Russians constituted a crime. Mueller said his "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

But the episodes detailed in his report show that Trump aides declined to forcefully reject the Russian offers or report them to law enforcement. Amid a growing awareness that Russia probably had hacked and disseminated Democratic emails, the campaign eagerly made use of the material - and its flirtation with Russian figures continued.

[Annotated: Read and search the full redacted Mueller report]

The “Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome,” Mueller wrote, and “the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

There were, Mueller wrote, "numerous links" between individuals tied to the Russian government and people associated with Trump. The special counsel said the communications consisted of business contacts, offers to assist the campaign, invitations for Trump and Putin to meet and for campaign aides to meet with Russian government officials, and policy proposals to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

"The number of meetings with Russians during the campaign was extraordinary and unprecedented," said Michael McFaul, a Russia scholar who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration.

"I cannot understand why there were so many contacts," he added. "I would like to know more about motivations on both sides."

Various episodes detailed in Mueller's report were revealed in news coverage during the past two years.

But investigators laid out intriguing new details about those incidents - and also identified moments of interaction previously unknown publicly.

Overtures through business associates

Mueller wrote that Russian interest in Trump's campaign began soon after the celebrity mogul announced he was running for president in June 2015.

On Aug. 18, 2015, the editor in chief of an online news outlet called Vzglyad emailed Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign aide, to request an interview with the new candidate. The publication was founded by a former Russian lawmaker who days earlier had registered two pro-Trump websites in Russia, according to the report.

The interview apparently never took place - the first of numerous moments in which Russian outreach appeared to falter through happenstance, the hectic nature of the campaign or, at times, lack of interest from the Trump campaign.

"In some instances, the campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances, the campaign officials shied away," Mueller wrote.

At times, the Russians sought to make connections with Trump through business ties and his children's professional contacts.

Twice, longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen fielded offers to build a Trump tower in Moscow during the campaign, even as the candidate was publicly claiming he had no business ties to Russia. Cohen reached out directly to the Kremlin for assistance with one of the projects, though it did not ultimately advance.

Later, a fashion world contact reached out to Trump's daughter Ivanka to pass along an invitation from a Russian deputy prime minister to attend an annual economic forum in St. Petersburg with her father.

Trump's assistant Rhona Graff declined the invitation but received a follow-up email from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko in March 2016 renewing the invitation, according to the report - perhaps the only instance during the campaign of a Russian government official directly reaching out to Trump.

Graff declined, noting Trump's busy campaign schedule, but added that he would otherwise "have gladly given every consideration to attending such an important event."

New York investment banker Robert Foresman used a connection to Mark Burnett, the producer of Trump's television show "The Apprentice," to try to pass along an invitation to the same event from a Russian presidential aide, the special counsel wrote.

In an email to Graff, Foresman wrote that he'd had an "approach" from "senior Kremlin officials" about Trump.

Foresman did not respond to a request for comment.

Mueller wrote that investigators did not locate evidence that Foresman reached Trump. The banker told prosecutors that he was merely trying to burnish his credentials with the campaign and not establish a Russian back channel to Trump.

In one of the best-known examples of Russia overtures, Russian business executives Aras and Emin Agalarov, who had hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, helped arranged a meeting for a Russian lawyer with Trump's son Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being told the lawyer would share damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to assist his father's campaign, responding: "I love it."

Mueller's team assessed whether the meeting violated campaign finance prohibitions on accepting foreign contributions. The special counsel concluded that charges would not meet Justice Department standards requiring that "admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction" because it was not clear the offer of information on Clinton would have constituted an in-kind contribution and because it would be difficult to demonstrate that participants knowingly and willfully broke the law, the report said.

Campaign contacts

The Russians also sought to forge relationships with people involved directly in Trump's campaign - particularly through aides with their own connections to Russia.

One of the first contacts came through Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was told by London-based professor Joseph Mifsud in April 2016 that the Russians had dirt about Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, according to court documents.

Mueller revealed in his report that Mifsud "maintained various Russian connections," including with people associated with entities involved in the Russian election interference operation.

The report delves deeply into the relationship between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and figures in Russia and Ukraine with ties to Putin, revealing the extent of Manafort's efforts to leverage his role on the campaign to get work in Eastern Europe.

Immediately upon joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, Manafort instructed deputy Rick Gates to send memos announcing his appointment to four "friends" with Russia connections: three Ukrainian business titans and one Russian, the Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, the report said.

Soon after, Manafort told Gates to begin sending "internal polling data" to the business executives, the report said.

The man Manafort and Gates trusted to translate and disseminate the information was Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort associate assessed by the FBI to have ties to Russian intelligence, according to court documents.

Gates told the special counsel he suspected Kilimnik was a "spy," a characterization Manafort disputed. In a 2017 statement to The Washington Post, Kilimnik denied ties to Russia intelligence.

That spring, Manafort briefed Kilimnik in person on the campaign. Kilimnik requested the second meeting, at a New York City cigar bar, to deliver a proposal from former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych that would guarantee Russian control over a new autonomous region in eastern Ukraine, according to Mueller.

Manafort claimed he dismissed the plan as crazy, but he continued to discuss it with Kilimnik through Trump's victory and presidency, the report said. In one email, Kilimnik wrote that with a "minor 'wink' (or slight push)," Trump "could have peace in Ukraine basically within a few months after inauguration."

Manafort, who was deeply in debt, told the special counsel he hoped to revive a once-lucrative consulting relationship with Deripaska and the Ukrainians. He denied bringing the peace plan to Trump or the campaign. The special counsel noted that Manafort lied repeatedly in interviews and before the grand jury about his interactions with Kilimnik, who could not be reached.

Meanwhile, Dimitri Simes, the Russian-born head of a Washington think tank, the Center for National Interest, who has advocated improved U.S.-Russian relations, had repeated communications with Kushner during the campaign, the special counsel found. Simes has numerous Russian government contacts, Mueller said.

Simes helped arrange an April 16, 2016, speech by Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington that was attended by the Russian ambassador.

The report provided new details about an August 2016 discussion between Simes and Kushner to discuss how to respond to Clinton campaign criticism of Trump and Russia.

Before the meeting, Mueller wrote, "Simes sent Kushner a 'Russia Policy Memo' laying out 'what Mr. Trump may want to say about Russia.' "

In an email setting up the meeting, Simes also told Kushner about "a well-documented story of highly questionable connections between Bill Clinton and the Russian government."

Kushner forwarded the email to top campaign officials and met with Simes to discuss the matter, but he told investigators that he didn't believe Simes had provided anything that could be "operationalized" for the Trump campaign.

In an interview Thursday, Simes said that the information he discussed with Kushner came from U.S. government sources, not from Russia. He said the Mueller report was "on target in that it found there was no collusion but that there was Russian interference" in the U.S. election.

‘Don’t want to blow off Putin!’

Russian overtures to Trump world intensified after the election, Mueller found.

Putin was anxious after Trump's victory that he didn't know the new president's team better, Russian businessman Petr Aven told Mueller's investigators.

Aven, who sits on the board of Alfa Bank, said that in late 2016, Putin appealed to his country's most influential business executives to make contacts with the Trump transition team. Aven said the Russian president made it clear "there would be consequences" if they did not deliver, the report said.

In early 2017, Aven said, he met again with Putin and told him he had failed to build contacts with the Trump team. In subsequent meetings, the Russian president continued to press him to make further efforts, he told investigators. At one point, Aven told Putin's chief of staff he had been subpoenaed by the FBI and asked about whether he had tried to create a back channel between Russia and the Trump administration.

A spokesman for Aven declined to comment.

At 3 a.m. on election night, Hicks received a call on her cellphone from a man who said something about a "Putin call," she told investigators. The man, an official at the Russian Embassy, sent her a note the following morning with the subject line "Message from Putin."

Uncertain about the man's identity, Hicks forwarded the email to Kushner, writing, "Can you look into this? Don't want to get duped but don't want to blow off Putin!"

Two days before Trump's inauguration, the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev, submitted a "a proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia" to Kushner via an associate, according to the report. Kushner gave the proposal to incoming chief strategist Stephen Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but neither ever followed up before Trump and Putin spoke later in January, Mueller found.

Even after 22 months of investigation, the special counsel's team was unable to fully examine all the Russian contacts, Mueller said.

Some key players communicated using encrypted apps or ones that do not preserve records. Some witnesses provided false or incomplete testimony, and some could not be interviewed because they were overseas.

Among the remaining mysteries: the full story of a meeting at a Seychelles resort between Trump associate Erik Prince and Dmitriev, a Russian banker close to Putin, and why Manafort shared polling data with Kilimnik - and then lied about it. Prosecutors said they did not establish that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, who was under surveillance for nearly a year, conspired with Russia. But they also said they were unable to fully determine his activities during a July 2016 visit to Moscow.

Page said Thursday he was not surprised.

"As I have been explaining for years, this was a big nothingburger," he said in an interview.

The special counsel indicated he believes there is more to learn.

“While this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible,” Mueller wrote, “given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”

Six months after receiving a new heart, a Chugiak man takes on the Alaska Heart Run

Thu, 2019-04-18 18:17

Louie Shaw, 66, who had a heart transplant six months ago, will participate in the Alaska Heart Run on Saturday. Photo at his Chugiak home. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Sixty-six-year-old Louie Shaw of Chugiak will make his Alaska Heart Run debut Saturday morning by walking the 5-kilometer race course with friends and relatives all around him and the heart of a 23-year-old stranger inside him.

Shaw had a heart transplant a little more than six months ago in California. He drove Los Angeles freeways within a month of his Oct. 15 surgery, and after returning to Alaska he made several snowmachine trips up the Yentna River to the family cabin. He’s remodeling his house. He’s got a moose hunt planned for September and hopes that he might be into good enough shape by August to go sheep hunting.

He is living his best life. For himself, and for the family of the young man whose heart is keeping him alive.

“If you think about it, why did that donor family donate that? So the individual could get on with their life, I’m sure,” Shaw said Wednesday before going to pick up one of his grandchildren at school. “I don’t want to go hide under some rock.”

Shaw’s heart transplant came nearly two decades after doctors discovered he had an enlarged heart and a blood clot the size of a golf ball. Within six months, blood thinners and other medications got rid of the blood clot and returned his heart to its normal size.

“But the damage had been done,” Shaw said, although the extent of the damage didn’t emerge until years later. “I did 14 more sheep hunts after that. I just kept on pushing.”

Hunting has been a barometer of heart health for Shaw, a mechanic who worked 20 years at Cal Worthington and about 10 years at Prudhoe Bay for CH2M Hill (later Jacobs Engineering) until heart failure landed him in the hospital last May.

In the spring of 2000, Shaw was hiking up Bear Mountain to get in shape for a sheep hunt when he noticed something weird.

“Both of my arms felt like they were falling asleep,” he said, “and I remember thinking, ‘Maybe it’s your heart,’ and then I thought, ‘Oh, no, keep on trucking.’

“That was the first stop sign I ran.”

Several weeks later he was on his sheep hunt and the higher he climbed, the more lackadaisical he got. Instead of pursuing some rams he had spotted, he headed back down to camp.

The night he got home from that trip, he woke up to the sound of bubbles percolating in his throat. The next day a physician assistant gave him decongestants for a possible allergy.

A few weeks later he was on a moose hunt, and again there was shortness of breath, this time with pain in the center of his chest. He thought it was acid reflux.

“I got to a place where I couldn’t sleep. I had a major dry cough. I’d go up to the second floor (at work) to use the bathroom and I would have to stop at the top of the stairs," he said. “Now it’s the first week of October 2000, and my wife finally says ‘if you don’t go to the doctor, don’t come home tomorrow.’ ’’

That’s when doctors discovered the enlarged heart and the big blood clot.

Fast forward to a September 2017 moose hunt, and Shaw once more found himself short of breath. The next Monday he was back at Prudhoe Bay and still struggling to breathe. Medics there called the Alaska Heart Institute, which wanted to see Shaw immediately.

Tests showed major heart failure. Shaw started taking a drug called Entresto and said he felt better almost immediately.

By January 2018 he was back on the North Slope, but by May the drug’s effectiveness had lessened and he was sent to an Anchorage hospital. Shaw went home with an IV in his arm but his condition continued to worsen. By the end of June he was on plane headed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Shaw and his wife Kim found a place to live near Cedars-Sinai, although Kim eventually ran out of vacation time and had to return to her longtime job at First National Bank in Eagle River. Cedars-Sinai swiftly put Shaw’s name on a transplant list, but it took three tries to find a good heart.

The first time, Shaw said, he was knocked out and on the operating table “and the next thing I know is I’m getting woke up and they say, ‘Sorry, Mr. Shaw, the surgeon didn’t like the heart.’ ’’

A couple of days later, the hospital called again. It had a heart from a man who had died in prison.

“They put me in the operating room and the phone rings, and they said the heart was at-risk,” Shaw said. “So that’s the second false alarm.”

A few more days passed before Shaw got a third call. On Oct. 15, surgeons put the heart of a 23-year-old man inside his chest.

“By the time Kimmy got from here to there I was sitting up in the bed, talking and eating Jell-O,” Shaw said. “They had me walking the next day. After seven days I was out of the hospital.

“It’s just a miracle.”

It’s a miracle made possible by organ donors. At Saturday’s Heart Run — the annual footraces that raise awareness and money for the fight against cardiovascular diseases and stroke — Shaw hopes to inspire others to become donors.

He’ll be one of more than 50 race participants — including his 12 grandchildren — who will wear gray T-shirts bearing the team name “Grandpa Love” on the front and the words “Save a life, donate a life” on the back.

It’s a compelling message. In a 2018 annual report, the American Heart Association said 3,191 people received heart transplants in the United States in 2016. It also said that as of April 2017, 3,957 people in the United States were on a transplant list and waiting for hearts.

Shaw said he signed up to be an organ donor years ago.

“Once you’re dead, you’re not going to use them, you know? It’s bone and flesh that I’ve been given to cruise around this planet, but when I die I can’t use it no more,” he said. “That kind of thinking can help somebody else. You can affect 10 to 20 people with the stuff you’re donating.”


Louie Shaw, 66, who had a heart transplant six months ago, will participate in the Alaska Heart Run on Saturday. Photo at his Birchwood home on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Shaw said he doesn’t ponder the fact that someone else’s heart is beating in his chest, although he recalled a moment after the transplant when he was in his hospital bed and heard his new heart beating.

“Wow, listen to that,” he remembers thinking. “Ain’t that great?”

Shaw doesn’t know who his donor was, but he said he often thinks about the generosity and unselfishness the man’s family showed during a time of unspeakable grief.

“To be able to go, ‘OK, let’s help someone else out, let’s donate these organs’ — just unbelievable,” he said.

Because of their decision to donate, Shaw continues to live his life, to hug his wife, to play with his grandchildren, to go on moose and sheep hunts. After his transplant he wrote them a letter of thanks.

“In the letter I told them I live in Alaska and I’ll be taking their loved one on some adventures that most people only dream about,” Shaw said.

Pages