By Robert A. Vella
Here are some updates on two individuals targeted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a look at how people in the Middle East feel about the worsening tensions between Iran and its adversaries, the first nation in Asia to legalized gay marriage, and the disturbing die-off of gray whales along the west coast of North America.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people linked to the Trump administration and Congress reached out to him in an effort to interfere in the Russia probe, according to newly-unredacted court papers filed Thursday.
The communications could have “affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation,” special counsel Robert Mueller wrote in the court filings.
Flynn even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, the court papers say. “In some instances, the SCO was unaware of the outreach until being alerted to it by the defendant,” Mueller wrote.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.
The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have only been disclosed to the public in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.
A federal judge has confirmed for the first time that Felix Sater, a former Donald Trump business associate who drove Trump Tower Moscow negotiations during the 2016 election, helped the U.S. government track down Osama bin Laden.
During a hearing on Thursday in the Eastern District of New York — held as part of a lawsuit brought by First Look Media to unseal records related to Sater’s longtime cooperation with the government on various national security issues — Judge I. Leo Glasser said the media group already knew all of the “very interesting and dangerous things” Sater had done through his decade as an FBI informant.
“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Sater wrote in a November 2015 email to Cohen, pitching him on a massive real-estate deal in Moscow and implying it could help Trump win the election. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it…I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
Sater, for his part, views the judge’s public acknowledgment of his help in the bin Laden case as proof of his loyalty to the United States and further evidence that he’s not working to advance the interests of his birth country, the former Soviet Union.
Middle East ponders war
As the Trump administration squares up against Iran, with what many see as alarming echoes of the buildup to the Iraq war in 2003, people across the Arab world are trying to figure out how worried they should be. In interviews, writers, businessmen and exiles expressed fear of a potentially dire war between the United States and Iran that for many has been brewing since the 1979 embassy siege in Tehran.
But they have also grown accustomed to an American president who often favors bluster over diplomacy as a tool of negotiation, yet ultimately backs down.
Yet, beneath the jokes and skepticism lie a festering worry that the escalating showdown could prove the exception to the rule, the moment when Mr. Trump’s tactics accidentally tip the United States — and the Middle East — into an unwanted war.
Gay marriage in Asia
Lawmakers in Taiwan have approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a landmark decision that makes the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass gay marriage legislation.
The vote came almost two years after the island’s Constitutional Court ruled that the existing law — which said marriage was between a man and a woman — was unconstitutional. The panel of judges gave the island’s parliament two years to amend or enact new laws.
SAN FRANCISCO — At least 53 dead or dying gray whales have washed up on West Coast beaches this spring, a death rate that’s only been seen once before. The great mammals are starving to death and scientists have theories as to why but so far no full explanation.
The number of deaths is likely much higher because it’s estimated that only 10% of dead whales actually end up on shore, said John Calambokidis, a research biologist with the non-profit Cascadia Research in Olympia, Washington, who studies whale populations on the West Coast.
The 53 dead reflect strandings in California, Oregon and Washington. Whales dying in Mexico aren’t part of NOAA’s numbers. Whales that die along British Columbia in Canada and along the Alaskan coast also aren’t included. Two dead whales have already been sighted near Anchorage in recent weeks, one on Tuesday.
“We have been facing record low levels of sea ice and earlier melting, which does not bode well for the organisms that the gray whales feed upon,” said Hazen.