September 23, 2018

Wife of key Trump aide worked to make Putin’s Russia look good in the West 

White House aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick reportedly leaked sensitive information to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), above. Cohen-Watnick's wife worked on behalf of Russia. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In the rush to connect the dots between the Trump Administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Jewish wedding provided the latest purported link.

Specifically, it’s the Jewish wedding of Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the White House aide whom the New York Times identified as having leaked sensitive intelligence to a high-ranking Republican congressman in March. New information suggests Cohen-Watnick’s wife worked on behalf of the Russian government as a Washington D.C-based public relations specialist before they married.

In November, the 30-year-old Trump aide celebrated his upcoming wedding with Rebecca Miller, a content executive at the multinational public-relations firm Ketchum, which was retained until 2015 by the Russian government. While at Ketchum, Miller reportedly worked to “make Russia look better.”

The information comes from an oral history interview of Miller’s mother, Vicki Fraser, by the State Historical Society of Missouri in August 2014 (Fraser was born in St. Louis).

“Her big challenges right now are Ketchum is responsible for providing PR and marketing to try to make Russia look better,” Fraser told the interviewer of her daughter, “which is particularly difficult when they’re invading other countries and when Putin is somewhat out of control.”

The interview was discovered by E. Randol Schoenberg, a Los Angeles-based attorney and genealogy who made a name and fortune by recovering some $300 million worth of paintings pilfered by Nazis in Vienna in a landmark case in 2006.

On his blog, Schoenberg wrote that he and a fellow genealogist managed to uncover family details about Cohen-Watnick that led to the find.

Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council senior director for intelligence, reportedly provided California Congressman Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with information suggesting President Donald Trump was swept up in surveillance by American intelligence agencies.

The leak is particularly significant because it led to a breakdown in the intelligence committee’s investigation of ties between Trump associates and Russia. In addition, after the source of the leak was revealed, National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster reportedly sought the aide’s firing, but Trump intervened personally to save Cohen-Watnick’s job.

Ohr Kodesh Congregation, a Conservative synagogue outside Washington D.C., announced Cohen-Watnick and Miller’s aufruf, the Shabbat celebration that precedes an observant wedding, in November.

Report: Jared Kushner attended Michael Flynn’s controversial meeting with Russian envoy

Jared Kushner sitting in on a session with President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans at the White House, Feb. 16. Photo by Ron Sachs/Getty Images.

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, attended a controversial meeting in December between a Russian diplomat and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, The New York Times reported.

The meeting between Kushner, Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak lasted 20 minutes at Trump Tower and was intended to “establish a line of communication,” White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Times on Thursday.

The FBI is investigating alleged Russian involvement in November’s U.S. presidential election. Flynn resigned after failing to disclose the nature of calls he had with Kislyak in which he reportedly urged the Russians not to respond to sanctions imposed or planned by the Obama administration, saying relations would improve under Trump.

Kushner was not known to have participated in talks with Russian officials prior to the report.

“Jared has had meetings with many other foreign countries and representatives – as many as two dozen other foreign countries’ leaders and representatives,” Hicks said, adding that Kushner has not met with Kislyak since the December meeting.

In an interview with the Times of London, Trump said that Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, would take on the task of negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians – an appointment Trump had previously floated due to the fact that Kushner “knows the region, knows the people, knows the players,” Trump described in a previous interview.

Kushner is Jewish and has visited Israel many times. His wife underwent an Orthodox conversion before their wedding in 2010.

Rep. Engel calls on Trump to dump Flynn

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in Washington, D.C, on Feb. 4, 2014. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The top Democrat handling foreign affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives called on President Donald Trump to sack National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after reports emerged Flynn consulted with Russia on sensitive issues before Trump assumed office.

“It’s clear that concerns about General Flynn’s ties to Russia were well warranted,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Friday in a statement.

Democrats have since the campaign been raising questions about Flynn, who in 2015 accepted a fee to speak at the 10th anniversary of RT, the English-language broadcaster widely seen as a Russian government propaganda outlet.

Flynn also has been a booster of closer ties with Russia, whose government, under President Vladimir Putin, has been reviled as repressive and corrupt by Democrats and Republicans.

Obama in December slapped sanctions on Russia because of its alleged spying in the United States and because the U.S. intelligence community expressed a high degree of certainty that Russia attempted to meddle in the U.S. elections.

It was revealed shortly thereafter that Flynn had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the United States just after Obama imposed sanctions, but Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, the ambassador, said the calls were routine and did not address the sanctions.

On Thursday, the Washington Post quoted nine intelligence officials who were familiar with the calls as saying that sanctions were indeed discussed. Inthe article, Flynn backed away from his earlier denial, leading some Democrats – chief among them Engel – to call for his removal.

“It’s unacceptable that during the transition, General Flynn discussed lifting sanctions with Russia’s ambassador,” Engel said.

According to the reports, Flynn suggested to Kislyak that Trump would roll back the sanctions, making the case to him that Russia should not retaliate against Obama.

“This action would be deeply troubling under any circumstances, but considering Russia’s effort to tip the election toward President Trump, the General’s actions are disqualifying,” Engel said. “And if General Flynn negotiated with Russia to change American policy, he may be in violation of the Logan Act, which bars such conduct. The President must relieve General Flynn immediately.”

The Logan Act is law against unauthorized citizens interfering in U.S. disputes with foreign governments. There has never been a prosecution under the act.

Engel’s district includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.

Destroy Hamas? Something worse would follow, Pentagon intel chief says

A top Pentagon intelligence official warned on Saturday that the destruction of Hamas would only lead to something more dangerous taking its place, as he offered a grim portrait of a period of enduring regional conflict.

The remarks by Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came as Israeli ministers signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day-old conflict in the Gaza Strip appeared remote.

At least 1,050 Gazans – mostly civilians – have been killed, and 42 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died.

Flynn disparaged Hamas for exhausting finite resources and know-how to build tunnels that have helped them inflict record casualties on Israelis. Still, he suggested that destroying Hamas was not the answer.

“If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse,” Flynn said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS,” he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an “Islamic caliphate” in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Confined in the crowded, sandy coast enclave of 1.8 million, where poverty and unemployment hover around 40 percent, weary Gazans say they hope the battle will break the blockade that Israel and Egypt impose on them.

Israeli officials said any ceasefire must allow the military to carry on hunting down the Hamas tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border.

Flynn's comments about the conflict came during a gloomy, broader assessment of unrest across the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq. Flynn said bluntly: “Is there going to be a peace in the Middle East? Not in my lifetime.”


Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Ron Popeski