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Russians Got Flynn to Take a Pay Cut for Moscow Speech

Documents released by the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee show a representative from RT, the Russian television network, successfully negotiating a lower speaking fee from Mike Flynn, the retired general who served briefly as Donald Trump’s national security advisor before stepping down amid questions about his foreign ties.

Flynn spoke at an RT conference in December 2015, and was famously seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin. The documents released this afternoon by the Oversight Democrats show Flynn’s booking agent for speeches, a company called Leading Authorities, negotiating logistics for the visit with the head of marketing for RT, a state-sponsored broadcaster.

Click Here to Read the Documents

While critics have suggested that Flynn was influenced by Russian money, the email chain shows RT asking for a discount, and getting a quick yes from Flynn’s rep.

“Sorry it took us longer to get back to you” writes Alina Mikhaleva of RT on Nov. 9, 2015, “but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment, so we had to negotiate it with the management. Do you think there is any possibility to reduce the price to 45K?”

Flynn’s rep responds, “Great news! He has accepted (followed by a smiley face emoticon) … I can get a contract over to you stat.”

The size of the fee Flynn originally requested is not in the document, but at the time Leading Authorities was asking for up to $55,000 for appearances in Europe and $75,000 for events in Asia, according to Yahoo News. 

The top Republican and top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Defense Department on Feb. 17 saying they were looking into Flynn's speaking engagements.

"We are attempting to determine the amount Lieutenant General Flynn received for his appearance, the source of the funding, and whether he may have received payments from any other foreign sources for additional engagements," wrote Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D.-Maryland.

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Drone Strike Kills Taliban Leader Who Trained Suicide Bombers

The Pakistani Taliban said a U.S. drone strike over the weekend in Afghanistan killed a senior military commander who was known for his skill in training suicide bombers.

Qari Mohammad Yasin, also known as Ustad Aslam, died in a drone strike in Afghanistan's Paktika province. He was linked to an attack ‎on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi and an attack on a bus carrying Sri Lanka's national cricket team.

"We lost a brave man and the trainer of trainers in a U.S drone attack," said Asad Mansoor, the spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar ( TTP-JA), a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, presently based in Afghanistan. 

Yasin was given the title "Ustad," or teacher, because he trained suicide bombers.

Family of Missing Ex-FBI Agent Levinson Files Suit Against Iran

The family of a former FBI agent turned CIA consultant who vanished in Iran ten years ago filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the government of Iran, saying it had lied to cover up its role in his detention.

The suit seeks damages from Iran for allegedly inflicting emotional distress on the wife and seven children of Robert A. Levinson, a private investigator who was last seen in 2007 on the Iranian island of Kish. He was apparently on an unauthorized CIA mission at the time.

The Iranian government says it does not know what happened to Levinson. The family received a proof of life photo in 2011 showing Levinson in an orange jumpsuit holding a sign saying, "HELP ME." Levinson, whose 69th birthday was on March 10, was apparently kidnapped on March 9, 2007. The suit alleges that the Iranian government is using photographs and video of Levinson in captivity to create the false impression that someone other than the government is holding him.

Image: Robert Levinson
This undated handout photo provided by the family of Robert Levinson after they received it in April 2011, shows retired-FBI agent Robert Levinson.\ Levinson family via AP

The FBI Doesn't Call You Up and Ask for Money

The FBI is warning the public to beware of calls from the FBI.

According to the FBI’s Denver field office, scammers are calling victims from what appears to be an FBI number and telling them they are being investigated by the bureau for violations and owe money. If the victims don’t pay up immediately, the scammers claim, they will be arrested.

The scheme has targeted victims throughout the region. "FBI" scammers who have called victims in northern Colorado have been able to "spoof" an actual phone number from an FBI office in the western part of the state, meaning the FBI number is fraudulently displayed by caller ID.

The FBI strongly suggests that given the rushed and threatening nature of the calls, victims should hang up on the scammer right away and contact their local FBI field office.

Last year, the FBI’s St. Louis, Missouri Division issued a news release warning the public about a similar spoofing scam in which a fake FBI agent told victims the bureau was investigating a tax violation. Scammers spoofed numbers from the FBI’s offices in Eastern Missouri to call victims in Western Missouri. 

“These are old scams that keep evolving with a new twist,” said William Woods, special agent in charge of the FBI St. Louis Division. “Just remember, the FBI does not call or e-mail private citizens to demand money or threaten arrest.”

Trump Organization Rushes To Register Trump Tower After NBC News Call

After NBC News contacted The Trump Organization on Tuesday to let the firm know it was in violation of New York City law for not registering Trump Tower, the company has completed the necessary paperwork and registered the property.

The Trump Organization, the umbrella corporation for Donald Trump's holdings, owns the skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and is headquartered there. Donald and Melania Trump have a penthouse in the tower and Trump's sons also maintain offices in the building.

Property owners of certain residential buildings are required by city law to register with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development every year, but Trump Tower’s registration expired in 2016 and The Trump Organization never renewed it. Failing to register can result in a fine of up to $500, and revokes some of the rights usually enjoyed by property owners.

On Tuesday morning, NBC News contacted The Trump Organization. Not long after, according  to city officials, a representative of The Trump Organization sent the necessary paperwork to the agency.

"This was an inadvertent clerical error that has since been remedied," a spokesperson for the Trump Organization told NBC News.

 

Image: US President Trump demands investigation into alleged wire-tapping
Trump Tower in New York in May 2016. Jason Szenes / EPA, file

Trump's Business Is In Violation of New York City Law

Donald Trump’s business, The Trump Organization, is in violation of New York City law, NBC News has learned. The Trump Tower skyscraper located at 725 Fifth Avenue -- where President Trump and Melania live in the penthouse apartment and his two eldest sons work in offices just below -- is not registered this year with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed on Tuesday.

Property owners of certain residential buildings are required by law to register annually by Sept. 1, but Trump Tower’s registration expired in 2016 and The Trump Organization did not renew it until today. Failing to register can result in a fine of up to $500, and revokes some of the rights usually enjoyed by property owners.

The Trump Organization has a $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower. The loan was written by Wall Street firm Ladder Capital Financial and it now resides in a trust and has been securitized.

The managing agent on the expired registration for Trump Tower is listed as the Trump Corporation. The “head officer” is Richie Ukaj, whose LinkedIn profile says he is the resident manager at The Trump Organization. The “officer” is listed as Sonja Talesnik, whose LinkedIn profile says she is the assistant general counsel and vice president, property administration at The Trump Organization.

Calls and messages to a spokeswoman for The Trump Organization were not immediately returned.

Royal Jordanian Tells Passengers U.S. Is Barring Electronic Devices From Its Flights

Royal Jordanian Airlines told passengers on flights to and from the U.S. Monday that because of a directive from the U.S. government, no laptops and other electronic devices could be brought into the cabin of a plane.

In messages posted on both Twitter and Facebook and now deleted, the international carrier said cellphones and electronic devices needed for medical reasons could be carried on-board,but everything else had to be stowed in checked baggage "following instructions from the concerned U.S. departments." 

The directive takes effect Tuesday, and applies to flights to and from New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal. 

According to a Royal Jordanian spokesperson, so far there is no time frame and the airline has no information about any directives that may have been issued to other carriers. Royal Jordanian will provide an update with more details on Tuesday.

Companies Pull Ads From Google, YouTube Over Racist, Terrorist Content

Major European clients are pulling their ad dollars out of Google and YouTube because of fears that their ads will end up next to videos promoting terrorism, racism and hate, and earn money for the extremists who posted the content.

Three of Britain’s biggest banks just removed their ads from Google when they saw their campaigns appearing next to extremist content.

According to Adweek and the Guardian, ad agency giant Havas Worldwide has also yanked all its ad money out of Google and YouTube in Britain, after Havas and Google couldn’t agree on how to keep the ads of French firm’s clients away from videos of terrorists and white supremacists.

McDonald’s, Audi, and the U.K. government have already stopped using the platforms in the U.K., amid concerns that extremist groups will earn money from their advertising. When an ad appears alongside a YouTube video, the individual or organization that posted video earns a small amount of money per viewing of the video.

 

Secret Service Racks Up Bills for Trump Kids' Trips. Next Stop Aspen?

President Donald Trump's family is reportedly headed to the ski resort town of Aspen this weekend, a trip that could cost taxpayers a pretty penny in security costs judging by the clan's recent globe-trotting.

The Trump family visit to Aspen has not been officially announced, but the Aspen Times, quoting anonymous local law enforcement sources, reported Thursday that Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump and their families were expected and that the Secret Service had met with the Aspen Police Department.

There are no hotel bills for Aspen in the Federal Procurement Data System yet, but the database does show a $12,208.25 contract by the Secret Service with Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club for "recreational good rental/ski equipment lease" between the dates of March 10 and March 23.

No further details were given, and the club's spokeswoman did not respond to requests for more information.

Federal documents examined by NBC News outline hotel bills for the U.S. Secret Service and State Department coinciding with other out-of-town visits by Trump's sons and daughters, including:

  • $53,155.25 during Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump's business trip to Vancouver in late February.
  • $16,738.36 during Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump's business trip to Dubai in mid-February.
  • $97,830 for Eric Trump's business trip to Uruguay in early January.

In addition, the records show the Secret Service spent $4,0162.02 on rental vehicles in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29, just ahead of Eric Trump's business visit to Cap Cana.

Ski Lift at Aspen
Gondola at Aspen Grafton Smith / Getty Images

Defense! Defense! Pentagon Asks Employees Not to Watch March Madness

March Madness is not a threat to our national security, but Pentagon officials are giving employees their annual reminder not to go crazy over college basketball. In an email sent Wednesday night, the Defense Department asked workers not to stream games from the tournament or they would feat up the Pentagon’s valuable internet bandwidth, and slow down the computers that run the U.S. military:

"Your JSP support team acknowledges and appreciates that college basketball fans within the DoD are excited to cheer on their favorite teams, update brackets, and otherwise obsess over the Big Dance."

"Please keep in mind; if you’re streaming video to watch your favorite player shooting free throws, you’re consuming network resources that could be served to support the Warfighter."

Russians Got Flynn to Take a Pay Cut for Moscow Speech

Documents released by the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee show a representative from RT, the Russian television network, successfully negotiating a lower speaking fee from Mike Flynn, the retired general who served briefly as Donald Trump’s national security advisor before stepping down amid questions about his foreign ties.

Flynn spoke at an RT conference in December 2015, and was famously seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin. The documents released this afternoon by the Oversight Democrats show Flynn’s booking agent for speeches, a company called Leading Authorities, negotiating logistics for the visit with the head of marketing for RT, a state-sponsored broadcaster.

Click Here to Read the Documents

While critics have suggested that Flynn was influenced by Russian money, the email chain shows RT asking for a discount, and getting a quick yes from Flynn’s rep.

“Sorry it took us longer to get back to you” writes Alina Mikhaleva of RT on Nov. 9, 2015, “but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment, so we had to negotiate it with the management. Do you think there is any possibility to reduce the price to 45K?”

Flynn’s rep responds, “Great news! He has accepted (followed by a smiley face emoticon) … I can get a contract over to you stat.”

The size of the fee Flynn originally requested is not in the document, but at the time Leading Authorities was asking for up to $55,000 for appearances in Europe and $75,000 for events in Asia, according to Yahoo News. 

The top Republican and top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Defense Department on Feb. 17 saying they were looking into Flynn's speaking engagements.

"We are attempting to determine the amount Lieutenant General Flynn received for his appearance, the source of the funding, and whether he may have received payments from any other foreign sources for additional engagements," wrote Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D.-Maryland.