Monday, March 6, 2017

Abe says latest North Korean missile launch represents ‘new level of threat’

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North Korea demonstrated its growing military capabilities with the launch of four ballistic missiles Monday, three of which fell into the Sea of Japan, in what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe characterized as “a new level of threat.”
Officials said the North fired the barrage at around 7:34 a.m. Japan time from near North Korea’s Donchang-ri long-range missile site.
The Defense Ministry said they flew about 1,000 km and reached a height of about 260 km, with three of the missiles falling within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, 300 km to 350 km west of the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture. The fourth missile fell near the EEZ, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 km) from Japan’s coastline.
During Monday’s Upper House Budget Committee session, Abe condemned the provocation as “utterly intolerable” and noted the North’s accelerating technological advancements.
“(The test-firing) clearly shows that North Korea is now a new level of threat,” Abe said.
The prime minister also said that “Japan will continue to coordinate closely with the United States, South Korea and other countries to strongly urge North Korea to exercise restraint.”
Although this is not the first time that North Korean missiles have fallen within Japan’s EEZ, a high-ranking official said that because four missiles were apparently fired simultaneously from the same location, the move represents a grave danger to Japan’s national security. In September, the North fired three ballistic missiles that also fell within Japan’s EEZ, some 200 km to 250 km off Okushiri Island, Hokkaido.
Monday’s salvo prompted officials in Tokyo to hold a National Security Council meeting to discuss responses.
After the NSC meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government had already lodged protests with Pyongyang — using the “strongest terms” — through the embassy in Beijing. Suga added that it is natural that the international community will seek even tougher responses given that the North has ignored numerous United Nations resolutions.
Following the launch, Kenji Kanasugi, head of Asian and Oceanian affairs in the Foreign Ministry, and Joseph Yun, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, confirmed by telephone that they will closely coordinate bilaterally as well as multilaterally with South Korea and the U.N. to urge North Korea to halt further provocations.
South Korea is likely to intensify its push to isolate the North diplomatically by seeking its suspension from global bodies such as the U.N.
“After completing an analysis and assessment of the North’s missile tests, the government will likely come out with a much tougher countermeasure with regards to such issues as suspending the North’s membership in the U.N.,” the Yonhap news agency quoted an anonymous South Korean government official as saying.
The test could also add momentum to calls by U.S. lawmakers to return Pyongyang to a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Monday’s barrage came as Pyongyang continues to show off its advances in nuclear weapons and missile technology. Less than three weeks ago, the North defiantly test-fired a new type of medium-range missile that is believed to use solid fuel. The launch came during Abe’s first summit talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Experts say solid-fueled missiles represent more of a threat than their liquid-fueled counterparts as they requires less preparation time.
There has been growing speculation that the North will conduct an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test after Kim Jong Un used a New Year’s Day address to claim that Pyongyang was in the final stages of developing a long-range missile capable of hitting New York and Washington. South Korea’s military said Monday that none of Monday’s missiles appeared to have been ICBMs.
Experts agreed, saying that the launch appeared to be similar to ones conducted last year.
“Although we cannot be 100 percent certain what type of missiles were fired until we get images from KCNA, the range and apogee would indicate they are closer to an extended range Scud or Rodong missile used in a salvo launch,” said David Schmerler, a researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “We saw launches like this last year off of Reunification Highway near Hwangju.”
Sebastian Maslow, an assistant professor of political science at the Tohoku University School of Law in Sendai, said it’s too early to determine what the launches mean in terms of the North’s quest to field a missile capable of hitting the continental U.S.
“I would not jump to any conclusion as to what this missile launch suggests with regard to the DPRK’s ICBM program, but (rather it appears to be) a test of U.S., Japan and ROK response capabilities detecting and projecting the missile’s trajectory, intelligence sharing, and coordination of any likely response,” Maslow said, using the acronyms for the two countries’ formal names, the Democratic Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.
The timing of the launches also raised questions among regional observers.
They overlapped with annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises known as Foal Eagle, drills that Pyongyang regards as a prelude to invasion. The launches also came right after the opening of China’s rubber-stamp parliament in Beijing — a gathering aimed at highlighting President Xi Jinping’s command over foreign and domestic affairs.
“We may speculate that the launches may be intended to test China’s further willingness of confronting the DPRK” as the Communist Party’s leadership gathers for its annual meeting, Maslow said.
For Abe, the timing of the missiles’ splashdown in Japan’s EEZ appeared fortuitous. The prime minister has been grappling with a scandal surrounding a nationalist kindergarten’s shady land deal that is allegedly linked to his office.
The launch, Maslow said, could help Abe shift attention from the scandal to national security issues.
“No doubt, Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party will amplify the DPRK missile and nuclear program and North Korea threat narrative in the coming days and weeks to highlight the importance of U.S.-Japan security cooperation, and the need to expand Japan’s missile defense program, including THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system) as part of the bilateral security framework.”
The U.S.-made THAAD system is due to be deployed to South Korea later this year. Japan is also reportedly considering bringing in the system.
Monday’s launch also came as the Trump administration is reportedly considering a harder-line approach to the North’s provocations. Trump’s national security deputies have reviewed in recent meetings a range of options to counter the North’s missile threat, The New York Times reported Sunday. Options include direct missile strikes on its launch sites and the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to the South, The Times said.
Those options will soon be presented to Trump and his top national security aides, the report said, quoting U.S. administration officials.
In Washington, the State Department condemned the launches, vowing that the U.S. was ready to “use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.”
“We remain prepared — and will continue to take steps to increase our readiness — to defend ourselves and our allies from attack, and are prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat,” acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
The test-firing also occurred amid growing international pressure on Pyongyang after the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother Kim Jong Nam, who was allegedly killed by Indonesian and Vietnamese women using the deadly VX nerve agent. It is widely speculated that the Kim Jong Un himself ordered the assassination.
“The North probably wants to deflect the international attention on this issue with the test-fire, as it has denied its involvement in the assassination,” said Hideshi Takesada, a professor at Takushoku University and an expert on North Korea.
The international community has been piling pressure on the North after it conducted two nuclear tests and launched 23 missiles last year — almost twice as many as it did under the rule of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il.
The U.N. last year adopted what Japanese officials call “the toughest sanctions” to date against North Korea, including a ban on coal imports from the country.
The efficacy of the sanctions, however, largely depends on China, which is Pyongyang’s biggest economic partner. Beijing announced last month that it was halting coal imports from the North until the end of this year.
“We will have to see how Japan and the rest of the international community reacts, but my feeling is that looking at all the recent developments … Japan and others will have to find some way to take defensive measures and impose costs on North Korea,” said Daniel Pinkston, an East Asia expert at Troy University in Seoul.
“In my view, failure to do so invites more North Korean belligerence. … THAAD and more missile defense cooperation by Japan should be expected,” he added.

Steve Bannon in 2013: Joseph McCarthy was right in crusade against Communist infiltration

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By Chris Massie and Andrew Kaczynski

Donald Trump's chief White House strategist Steve Bannon said in 2013 that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was right in his 1950s campaign claiming widespread Communist infiltration into the United States government.
The Wisconsin senator's inquisitions of those he suspected of communist ties -- which eventually led to his censure by the United States Senate -- was a key moment in the Red Scare and led to the coining of the term "McCarthyism."
Over the weekend, President Trump accused former President Obama of McCarthyism, making the unsubstantiated allegation the president wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the campaign.
    Bannon made his comments in July 2013 while interviewing conservative pundit Diane West about her book "American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character."
    "Today in modern pop culture, you know they call Ted Cruz the Joe McCarthy -- if you want to think of who devils are it's Ronald Reagan and those who name-names at the House Un-American Activities, the Hollywood Ten are heroes right?" Bannon said. "Alger Hiss is a hero, right? Richard Nixon's a villain? Joe McCarthy is a villain. Your book makes very plain that these guys were right. The place was infested with either traitors that were on the direct payroll of Soviet military intelligence or fellow-travelers who were kind of compliant in helping these guys get along. I mean, there's absolutely no question of it. How has pop culture so changed it that white is black and black is white?"
    A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
    During the conversation, Bannon and West compared communist infiltration of America during the Cold War to what Bannon referred to as a "dramatic influence campaign" by the Muslim Brotherhood in today's Washington, D.C.
    "Here, one fundamental difference is that, it's the banks, it's the investment banks, it's the hedge funds, it's the private equity funds, it's the law firms, it's the power establishment, in the United States, is inextricably linked with the cash coming out of the Middle East," Bannon argued. "One of the reasons, you look around this town, and I keep telling people, the reason that you have a dramatic influence campaign going around with the Muslim Brotherhood and everything you say is absolutely correct, when you listen to Major Coughlin, Stephen Coughlin's presentation, you get it, right? There are voices there of rationality that are being mocked and derided every day and the reason that the establishment looks the other way and the Bush apparatus looks the other way is because there's so much cash, there are so many petro-dollars being funneled back to this town."
    Bannon had said earlier in the interview that it was striking that this influence campaign had affected the policy of the administration of President George W. Bush, not just that of Barack Obama, adding that he wasn't arguing that Obama was "a Muslim or not a Muslim."
    "You mention, and you start your book off by talking about after 9/11, and one of the first examples that you use, is president George W. Bush coming up right after the attacks and saying Islam is a religion of peace," he said. "Now that administration had run on being heirs to Ronald Reagan and the Reagan revolution so how did Rumsfeld and Cheney and Condi Rice and George Bush, how did they, I can understand how you could make the argument about President Obama and I'm not arguing that he's a Muslim or not a Muslim, but it's very different with a progressive left administration that it is with guys that ran on a national security--how did they get it wrong?"
    Bannon and West also discussed West's claim that Americans were at risk of being "conquered by Islam."
    "Our diminution, our stunted mentality, actually makes us perfect candidates for being conquered by jihad, conquered by Islam, made into dhimmi, which is of course the people who live, Christians and Jews who live under Islamic law," West said. "We are silent."
    "Under the religion of peace," Bannon replied.
    "Under the religion of peace," West agreed.
    "As long as you're silent and you're spiffing 'x' amount of your income," Bannon said, in reference to religious minorities paying taxes under Islamic law.

    Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers

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    By Jonathan King and Richard Krushnic

    President Trump's calls for a military buildup are opening the fiscal floodgates for congressional hawks and defense industry contractors. On January 27, Trump signed an executive order setting in motion a "great rebuilding of the Armed Forces" that will include new ships, planes and weapons and the "modernization" of the US nuclear arsenal. Presently, more than half of this year's congressional budget -- some $610 billion of our income tax dollars -- is allocated to Pentagon accounts, including overseas military operations and nuclear weapons.
    Though the details were scarce, we can expect the Trump order to align with the proposals of Sen. John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee. As reported in Politico, Senator McCain is now calling for large increases in this already bloated budget, to $640 billion for fiscal year 2018 -- $54 billion above the current budget projections. Adding in the $60 billion projected spending for Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other interventions could bring total Pentagon spending next year to more than $900 billion. The primary beneficiaries of such a buildup will be the large corporations that dominate weapons contracting.
    This is likely to be more than 60 percent of the total congressional discretionary budget. For comparison, the National Institutes of Health budget, which funds biomedical research on all the diseases that afflict tens of millions of Americans, is about $33 billion, less than 3 percent of the congressional budget. By fiscal year 2022, defense appropriations would reach $800 billion.
    Trump's tweets calling to limit the costs on the deeply troubled and over-budget F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have led to some optimism regarding his Pentagon spending plans. But mildly limiting the excessive profits to Lockheed Martin and their subcontractors, by tens or even hundreds of millions, is a very small effect when overall spending is increased by hundreds of billions.
    Excessive Pentagon Spending Undermines the Civilian Economy
    In addition to increasing the national debt, such a program will require cutting every sector of the civilian side of the budget -- housing, transportation, environmental protection, biomedical research, education and health care. For many years, caps on these programs have continued to weaken them. The current proposal will essentially bankrupt the federal contribution to the civilian side of the economy.
    The longer-term effects on the national economy are often obscured but will be even more devastating. Weapons don't house us, don't clothe us, don't help us get to work and don't cure our diseases. Thus, in the long run, they drain resources away from productive investments, deeply undercutting the overall health of the economy.
    Dangers of Nuclear Weapons "Modernization"
    Perhaps the most dangerous effect of Trump's plan is the further modernization of the nuclear weapons triad. Great damage can be done with conventional weapons to people and their communities. But the increased investment in nuclear weapons increases the chances of inadvertent or intentional nuclear war. The resulting catastrophic damage to human society and to the planet will likely be irreversible. We share the concern with many defense experts, such as former Defense Secretary William Perry, that this modernization will increase the anxieties of Russia, China and other nations, and increase the chance of an accidental launch. The launching of the missiles from a single Trident class submarine would obliterate every major city in any adversary nation. If that nation were Russia, the retaliatory response, following in minutes to hours, would obliterate every city on the East Coast of the United States.
    Rutgers Climate Scientist Alan Robock and his colleagues have shown that even a limited exchange -- for example between India and Pakistan -- would generate firestorms throwing enough soot and particles into the upper atmosphere to generate a nuclear winter, lowering the Earth's temperature and creating worldwide famine for decades following.
    The Role of Weapons Contractors
    We have previously argued that it is the guaranteed profits from nuclear weapons manufacture that leads contractors to resist nuclear disarmament and promote the concept of danger from abroad.
    The profitability derives from three distinct aspects of such weapons contracts:
    • First, they cannot be outsourced to lower cost suppliers, such as in China or Mexico, by congressional edict.
    • Second, the contracts are cost-plus. That is, no matter what the companies spend on the manufacture, they are guaranteed a healthy profit on top. And, of course, the more they run up the costs, the more they make.
    • And third, the contracts are screened from oversight, such as proper audits, by national security considerations.
    The current 2017 congressional military authorization calls for spending of some $350 billion over the next decade for upgrades of our nuclear weapons ($35 billion a year) -- land-based missiles in silos, long-range bombers and their bombs, new Trident submarines and upgraded Trident missiles and new nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The so-called "modernization" program that Trump supports will spend more than $1 trillion -- a thousand billion -- income tax dollars over the next 30 years.
    Given that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that China has become a capitalist economy and that the major difficulties faced abroad are ISIS (also known as Daesh) and related groups, it is deeply questionable why the congressional budget still devotes tens of billions of dollars to Cold War-era nuclear weapons. Yet the Trump administration is proposing to spend a trillion dollars or more over the next three decades upgrading the US nuclear weapons triad.
    Where does the pressure for these wasteful and provocative programs -- which almost certainly decrease national security -- come from? While military high command and the intelligence agencies also press for nuclear weapons upgrades, corporate profits derived from nuclear weapons contracts may be the most powerful driving force, supported by members of Congress with military research and development (R&D) and production facilities in their districts.
    A closer look at Lockheed Martin, the largest weapons contractor in the world, reveals how this coupling between corporate profits and the continuation of nuclear weapons delivery programs operates.
    Lockheed Martin Promotes Nuclear Weapons Upgrades and Potential Use
    Corporations that contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) for nuclear weapons complex work do not report revenues and profits from this work separately from their other military work, although they do break up government work from civilian work, and sometimes break up military work from other government work. Hence, it is not possible to determine profits made from nuclear weapons complex work from the annual reports and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings of large military corporations. However, it is possible to estimate, and to demonstrate how a significant amount of military R&D and production not recorded as nuclear weapons work is in fact partially nuclear weapons work. The nuclear weapons work financed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) is (not surprisingly) carried out in a semi-secret insiders club that insulates it from public knowledge and oversight. The first contracts for the upgrading of the nuclear weapons triads have already been awarded -- one to Northrop Grumman -- for a new generation of long-range bomber. But the public remains in the dark as to how many tens of billions of their tax dollars will be spent on the project.
    From 2012-2014, according to Lockheed Martin's 2014 annual report, the company realized an average of $46 billion a year in revenue, with an average of $3.2 billion in profits -- 7 percent of revenue, and a 76 percent return on $4.2 billion of investor equity. The annual report informs us that 59 percent of 2014 revenue came from the Pentagon. We know from other sources that $1.4 billion a year is coming from the DOE for operation of the Sandia nuclear weapons lab, and we are estimating that an additional $600 million a year is coming for DOE nuclear weapons complex work. Information in the annual report indicates that around $6.1 billion came from foreign military sales. This adds up to around $35 billion of military revenue, or 75.3 percent of total 2014 revenue. The single biggest revenue earner in recent years is the F-35 jet fighter, bringing in $8.2 billion, 17 percent of total corporation revenue, in 2014. (William Hartung's recent report describes additional aspects of Lockheed Martin's military business, and his book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex provides extensive background).
    The only references to Lockheed Martin's nuclear weapons complex work in its 2014 annual report is a sentence noting provision of infrastructure and site support to the DOE's Hanford complex, and a phrase noting continuing work on the Trident missile. The words "nuclear weapons" never appear in the report.
    Lockheed Martin's Nuclear Weapons Operations
    In spite of the lack of mention in the annual report, Lockheed Martin is a partner with Bechtel ATK, SOC LLC and subcontractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS), in running the DOE Pantex Plant and the Y-12 Complex. Pantex does nuclear weapons life extension, dismantlement, development, testing and fabrication of high explosive nuclear warhead components. Y-12 stores and processes uranium, and fabricates uranium weapons components.
    Lockheed Martin produced the Trident strategic nuclear missile for the 14 US Ohio-class nuclear submarines and for the four British Vanguard-class submarines. The 24 Tridents on each Ohio-class submarine each carry either eight or 12 warheads, all of them 20 to 50 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each warhead is capable of killing most of the people in any one of the world's largest cities -- either immediately or later, from radiation, burns, other injuries, starvation and disease. Lockheed MArtin is not producing new Trident missiles now, but it maintains and modifies them. Previously, Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors received $65 million for each of the 651 Trident missiles, in addition to the $35 billion in earlier development costs.
    The other primary strategic nuclear weapon delivery vehicle is Boeing's land-based Minuteman III strategic missile, also with many warheads per missile. About 450 of them are in silos in Colorado and northern plains states. Lockheed Martin produced and continues to produce key systems for the Minuteman III, and plays a large role in maintaining them. It was awarded a $452 million contract for this work in 2014.
    Lockheed's Sandia Subsidiary
    Regarding the Pentagon's nuclear weapons upgrades planned for the next decade; particularly important is the role of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this DOE lab's 10,600 employees make 95 percent of the roughly 6,500 non-nuclear components of all seven US nuclear warhead types. Components arm, fuse, fire, generate neutrons to start nuclear reactions, prevent unauthorized firing, preserve the aging nuclear weapons stockpile and mate the weapons to the missiles, planes and ships that deliver them to targets. Sandia Corporation LLC, wholly owned by Lockheed Martin, operates Sandia. The DOE is spending at least $1.4 billion a year on Sandia nuclear weapons work. The secret Lockheed Martin nuclear warhead assembly plant uncovered in Sunnyvale in 2010 is an extension of Lockheed Martin's Sandia operations. Again, none of this received any mention or revenue numbers in Lockheed Martin's 2014 annual report.
    Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding
    One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks. Technically, the federal government does not allow military contracting firms to use awarded funds to lobby Congress. Lobbying funds must come from other parts of the companies' businesses. In reality, this is a non-functional restriction, since profits from various business segments are fungible; that is, once they are profits, they are intermingled, so in reality, the firms can use the profits from military contracts to lobby Congress. But Lockheed Martin went ahead and spent military contract funds from 2008-2012 as part of the contract expenditures. It didn't even bother to book the lobbying expenditures as expenditures of profits. In 2015, the US Department of Justice required Lockheed Martin's Sandia subsidiary to repay $4.9 million of a Sandia contract award to the Pentagon that the firm had spent under the contract for lobbying of Congressman the DOE secretary and the secretary's family and friends.
    Former Secretary of Defense William Perry's Warning
    Former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who served from 1994-1996, argues, "We are facing nuclear dangers today that are in fact more likely to erupt into a nuclear conflict than during the Cold War." He notes that the new US nuclear weapons modernization program and Russia's modernization program -- along with confrontations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East -- have begun a new nuclear arms race more dangerous than the Cold War. He sees "an imperative to stop this damn nuclear race before it gets underway again, not just for the cost but for the danger it puts all of us in."
    Efforts to communicate to voters the role of weapons contractors in distorting national security policy are getting underway, following the lead of the European-based "Don't Bank on the Bomb" campaign. Last spring, the Cambridge City Council voted unanimously to request that the Cambridge pension funds divest from stocks in companies involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Subsequently, the US Conference of Mayors passed a supporting resolution. These are small but important first steps in focusing attention on these corporate drivers of dangerous and costly nuclear weapons policies.

    Russian Hackers Said to Seek Hush Money From Liberal Groups

    • Post-election crime wave by attackers demanding bitcoins
    • Center for American Progress said to be among victims

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    Bombshell report links Trump hotel to corrupt Azerbaijan oligarchs and Iranian terror group

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    President Donald Trump and his eldest daughter developed a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation run by a family known as “the Corleones of the Caspian” with links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
    The Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku — conceived in 2008 as a luxury apartment building but converted in 2014 into a hotel — has never opened, and both local observers and international experts are baffled by the building’s existence, reported The New Yorker.
    The project was intended as an “ultra-luxury property” with both hotel and residential space, but both its location and timing are odd, according to the report.
    Trump Tower Baku is located in an underdeveloped part of the city’s downtown, across the street from a discount shopping center and miles away from the main business district.
    “Why would someone put a luxury hotel there?” said former top official in Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Tourism. “Nobody who can afford to stay there would want to be in that neighborhood.”
    The Trump Organization announced the project would be converted into just a hotel in 2014, after a construction boom had ended in Baku and luxury hotel occupancy rate hovered around 35 percent, the magazine reported.
    A Cornell University expert told The New Yorker that developers of five-star hotels typically must demonstrate an average occupancy rate of at least 60 percent over 10 years.
    Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald reported in September that Trump’s financial filings show he’s partners in the Baku deal with the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister.
    U.S. officials believe that official, Ziya Mammadov, laundered money for the Iranian military, although no formal charges were brought against him or his son, Anar Mammadov — who is Trump’s partner in the Baku hotel venture.
    The New Yorker examined Trump’s ties to Ziya Mammadov — one of the wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs in one of the world’s most corrupt nations — and his brother, Elton Mammadov, an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament, who signed contracts for the project and founded Baku XXI Century, which owns the tower.
    The Mammadov family, described by Foreign Policymagazine as “The Corleones of the Caspian,” has a reputation for using their government positions to enrich themselves and their partners — which includes construction firms tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
    The Trump administration is poised to condemn that group — which has been accused of drug trafficking, sponsoring terrorism abroad and money laundering — as a terrorist organization.
    The Baku development was the subject of numerous reports after Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015, and the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, dismissed any concerns by saying the company never engaged directly with Mammadov.
    Garten claimed Trump played only a passive role in the Baku development by licensing his name for use by Mammadov’s son, for which he was paid at least $2.8 million, according to limited public filings.
    Other documents suggest Trump was paid an additional $2.5 million for the use of his name in 2012, and the future U.S. president also signed a contract to manage the hotel after it opened for an undisclosed fee tied to the venture’s performance.
    Garten announced in December, a month after Trump’s election, that the Trump Organization had severed ties with the hotel, but The New Yorker reported those claims were incomplete and inaccurate.
    Jan deRoos, the Cornell professor, said the Trump Organization’s interest in the Baku project — which was overseen by Ivanka Trump — was atypical and “very, very intense.”
    That close involvement may open up the Trump Organization to criminal prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which was passed in 1977 to forbid American companies from rewarding corrupt foreign officials — even if they did so unwittingly.
    Garten all but admitted corruption was involved with the project — “I’m not going to sit here and defend the Mammadovs,” he said — but he insisted the Trump Organization should be exempt from prosecution because the company didn’t control the project and didn’t pay money to anyone.
    However, a legal expert who specializes in the foreign corruption law dismissed those claims as nonsense.
    “You can’t go into business deals in Azerbaijan assuming that you are immune from the FCPA, nor can you escape liability by looking the other way,” said Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at George Washington University Law School. “The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag — the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.”
    Trump complained about the law during a phone-in appearance on CNBC in May 2012, the month before the Baku deal was completed.
    “Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do,” Trump said. “It’s a horrible law and it should be changed.”
    He complained that American companies that refused to give bribes — and The New Yorker reports on duffel bags of cash changing hands during construction — would “do business nowhere.”
    “There is one answer — go to your room, close the door, go to sleep and don’t do any deals, because that’s the only way,” Trump whined to CNBC. “The only way you’re going to do it is the other way.”