George Soros responds to GOP attacks over Manhattan DA: ‘I don’t know him’
Jared Gans – March 31, 2023
Prominent Democratic donor George Soros responded to Republican attacks on him over Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) investigation that led to an indictment of former President Trump, saying that “I don’t know” Bragg.
Soros told Semafor that he did not contribute any money to Bragg’s campaign to become district attorney and does not know him. His response came as several members of the GOP have denounced Bragg as being backed and funded by Soros.
“I think some on the right would rather focus on far-fetched conspiracy theories than on the serious charges against the former president,” Soros said.
Soros has often been the subject of right-wing attacks and some conspiracy theories based on the large donations he has made to Democratic candidates over the years. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who leads a right-wing party, criticized Soros over donations he has made to support democracy in his native country, Hungary, and included some antisemitic tropes.
The Anti-Defamation League reported that conspiracy theories surrounding Soros have falsely attempted to cast him as controlling global society, leaning into antisemitic myths.
Soros pointed Semafor to an op-ed that he wrote in The Wall Street Journal as to why he has donated to “reform-minded prosecutors.”
He said in the piece that he believes both justice and safety need to be advanced in the criminal justice system. He said greater investment needs to happen to prevent crime through methods like deploying mental health professionals in “crisis situations,” investing in youth job programs and creating opportunities for inmates to get an education while in prison.
Soros said “reform-minded” prosecutors and law enforcement officials have rallied around a more “effective and just” agenda.
“This is why I have supported the election (and more recently the re-election) of prosecutors who support reform,” he said in the op-ed. “I have done it transparently, and I have no intention of stopping. The funds I provide enable sensible reform-minded candidates to receive a hearing from the public.”
Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other top Republicans have targeted Bragg following the Trump indictment by tying him to Soros.
“The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent,” DeSantis said in a statement Thursday.
Trump to be arraigned Tuesday to face hush money indictment
Michael R. Sisak – March 31, 2023
NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will be arraigned Tuesday after his indictment in New York City, court officials said Friday, his formal surrender and arrest presenting the historic, shocking scene of a former U.S. commander in chief forced to stand before a judge.
While Trump and his lawyers prepared for his defense, the prosecutor in his hush money case defended the grand jury investigation that propelled him toward trial, as congressional Republicans painted it all as politically motivated.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told three Republican House committee chairs Friday that such claims are “misleading and meritless” and rebuffed congressional probing into the grand jury process — by law, a confidential one.
“We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” Bragg wrote to Reps. James Comer, Jim Jordan and Bryan Steil.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to use congressional oversight to probe Bragg. Steil, Jordan and Comer have asked Bragg’s office for grand jury testimony, documents and copies of any communications with the Justice Department.
Trump’s indictment, announced Thursday, came after a grand jury probe into hush money paid during the 2016 presidential campaign to squelch allegations of an extramarital sexual encounter. The indictment itself has remained sealed, as is standard in New York before an arraignment.
Trump, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the investigation as a “scam,” a “persecution,” an injustice and a political low blow aimed at damaging his 2024 presidential run.
Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina said during TV interviews Friday he would “very aggressively” challenge the legal validity of the Manhattan grand jury indictment. Trump himself, on his social media platform, trained his ire about what he calls a “political persecution” on a new target: the judge expected to handle the case.
No ex-president has ever been charged with a crime before, so there’s no rulebook for booking one. Trump has Secret Service protection, so agents would need to be by his side at all times.
Indeed, Trump was asked to surrender Friday, but his lawyers said the Secret Service needed more time to make security preparations, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Even for defendants who turn themselves in, answering criminal charges in New York generally entails at least several hours of detention while being fingerprinted, photographed, and going through other procedures.
Bragg’s office said Thursday it had contacted Trump’s lawyer to coordinate a surrender. Ahead of the court’s announcement of the arraignment date, Trump’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said that Tuesday was the likely date for Trump to turn himself in.
As Trump ran for president in 2016, his allies paid the women to bury their allegations. The publisher of the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 for rights to her story and sat on it, in an arrangement brokered by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
After Cohen himself paid Daniels $130,000, Trump’s company reimbursed him, added bonuses and logged the payments to Cohen as legal expenses.
Federal prosecutors argued — in a 2018 criminal case against Cohen — that the payments equated to illegal aid to Trump’s campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violation charges, but federal prosecutors didn’t go after Trump, who was then in the White House. However, some of their court filings obliquely implicated him as someone who knew about the payment arrangements.
The New York indictment came as Trump contends with other investigations that could have grave legal consequences.
In Atlanta, prosecutors are considering whether he committed any crimes when trying to get Georgia officials to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss there to Joe Biden.
At the federal level, a Justice Department-appointed special counsel also is investigating Trump’s efforts to unravel the national election results. Additionally, the special counsel is examining how and why Trump held onto a cache of top secret government documents at his Florida club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, and whether the ex-president or his representatives tried to obstruct the probe into those documents.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Farnoush Amiri contributed from Washington.
‘Unlawful political interference’: Bragg defends Trump indictment against GOP attacks
Kyle Cheney, Jordain Carney and Erica Orden – March 31, 2023
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg defended his office’s decision to indict Donald Trump in a letter to Republican lawmakers Friday, rejecting GOP accusations of political persecution as “baseless and inflammatory.”
“That conclusion is misleading and meritless,” wrote Leslie Dubeck, Bragg’s general counsel, in a six-page letterto three House Republican committee chairs who have sought internal details of the criminal probe.
The letter was sent a day after Bragg’s office acknowledged that they had issued the first-ever indictment of a former president. Officials have also indicated they are working with Trump’s lawyers to negotiate his surrender. Though the timing of both his surrender and arraignment hasn’t been finalized, they are tentatively planned for Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
It’s uncharted territory for the legal system, the government and the country, which has never seen the indictment and prosecution of a former president. Though the precise evidence against Trump remains unknown, the case appears centered on hush money payments to a porn actress, Stormy Daniels, in 2016 to silence her allegations of a sexual relationship during Trump’s first presidential bid.
The indictment, which remains under seal, prompted a torrent of attacks from Trump’s allies, many of whom denounced it as a political witch hunt. While Trump himself has called for protests in the streets — and on Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) echoed that call — most House Republicans have instead vowed to train a microscope on the Democratic district attorney, requesting information and documents about the probe.
Bragg’s office used the letter to the lawmakers, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, to respond to those allegations of political bias.
“Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court and avail himself of all processes and protections that New York State’s robust criminal procedure affords. What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State,” the letter reads.
State judge Juan Merchan is expected to preside over the arraignment and may ultimately be called upon to preside over the criminal proceedings, according to a person familiar with the process.
Bragg’s office also used the letter to plead with Capitol Hill Republicans to encourage calm, accusing them of engaging in “unlawful political interference” in the same breath.
“We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” Dubeck wrote in the letter to Judiciary, Oversight and Administration Chairs Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.).
“As Committee Chairmen, you could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury,” she continued. “Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to collaborate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges and made unfounded allegations that the Office’s investigation, conducted via an independent grand jury of average citizens serving New York State, is politically motivated.”
Trump dialed up his rhetoric Friday, taking aim this time at Merchan, the judge he anticipates would be presiding over his case.
“The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case … HATES ME,” Trump posted on social media, complaining about Merchan’s handling of the separate proceedings brought by the district attorney’s office against the Trump Organization, which Trump said Merchan treated “viciously.”
Bragg’s office suggested that the House GOP inquiries appeared to be functioning more as interference for Trump than as legitimate congressional oversight, a concern Dubeck said was “heightened” by some of the committee members’ own statements about their goals.
She cited Greene’s statement that “Republicans in Congress MUST subpoena these communists and END this!” as well as Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s (R-Fla.) call to scrutinize lawmakers who are “being silent on what is currently happening to Trump.”
From a legal standpoint, individual lawmakers’ comments and motives aren’t typically given weight when a congressional committee takes actions. Trump routinely pointed to the comments of individual committee members’ plans to make use of his tax returns in his failed efforts to block Congress’ effort to obtain them.
Greene called for Trump supporters to gather Tuesday in New York, indicating she would be there herself. “We MUST protest the unconstitutional WITCH HUNT!” she tweeted. Her tweet was a departure from her reaction a day after Trump first suggested that he could be arrested, when she told reporters on the sidelines of the House GOP retreat that she would not be going to New York.
As of Friday, though, there were no indications of significant street protests or organized activities centered on the courthouse. Bragg arrived at around 7:30 a.m., amid signs of significantly heightened security, with little other movement aside from a large media presence.
In her letter, Dubeck also provided some details about the federal funding Bragg’s office has used in connection with Trump-related matters — money that House Republicans have suggested could now be under threat because of the indictment. Additionally, House Republicans received a second document on Friday detailing federal grant money the office has obtained.
None of that federal grant funding, she noted, has been used in the current investigation. She said the office has spent approximately $5,000 of federal funds — funds that the district attorney’s office helped recover during forfeiture actions — on expenses related to the investigation of Trump or the Trump organization.
“These expenses were incurred between October 2019 and August 2021,” Dubeck noted, adding that most were used to support Bragg’s predecessor’s successful defense of its probe of the Trump organization before the Supreme Court.
A spokesperson for Jordan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter from Bragg’s office. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y) said at an event on Friday that Republicans should “cease their intervention in an ongoing prosecution in a local prosecutor’s office.”
But House Republicans have already started laying some groundwork for a potential subpoena of the Manhattan district attorney, a move they haven’t publicly ruled out. They also appeared to make the case in their second letter to Bragg that they believe a subpoena would survive a legal challenge.
Comer, who noted that he hasn’t spoken with Trump recently, called the indictment a “political stunt” but said he needed more information before Republicans decided where to go next.
“I think before the next step we’ll have to see what, in fact, these charges were and then go from there,” Comer said in an interview on Friday.
Dubeck, in her letter, urged them to reach a “negotiated resolution … before taking the unprecedented and unconstitutional step of serving a subpoena on a district attorney for information related to an ongoing state criminal prosecution.”
Inside Trump’s Risky Plan to Fight the Stormy Daniels Hush-Money Case
Jose Pagliery,Roger Sollenberger – March 31, 2023
Finally faced with an actual criminal indictment, former President Donald Trump is settling on a familiar—if contradictory—defense strategy: Blame his previous lawyer, and say he would have done it anyway.
There’s just one problem: The indictment might be more sprawling than just the Stormy Daniels hush money payments that Trump’s team has claimed it was expecting for months.
On Thursday, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump—something he immediately characterized as “Political Persecution and Election Interference.”
The historic move capped a years-long local investigation involving those secret payments to silence a porn star from outing their sexual affair and potentially tanking his 2016 presidential campaign. While new reporting suggests that the Daniels case may not represent the full scope of charges—reportedly running more than 30 counts—that particular item largely hinges on the account of a less than reliable narrator.
That would be Trump’s longtime self-described “fixer,” Michael Cohen, who helped negotiate two nondisclosure agreements during the 2016 election, coordinated the $130,000 payment to Daniels, and got handsomely reimbursed through the Trump Organization.
But in the weeks before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecutors took the decisive step to criminally charge the former president, Trump’s defense lawyers cemented a defense that rested mainly on two points, according to a source familiar with their internal discussions.
First, it’s his lawyer’s fault. And second, Trump would have done it anyway.
The first affirmative defense exploits Cohen’s weaknesses as a truthful witness. According to the source, Trump’s team is prepared to argue that the real estate mogul was merely relying on his lawyer’s advice. Trump himself has been shopping around that theory since at least 2018, when he was still at the White House.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid,” he tweeted in December 2018.
At first blush, the “advice of counsel” defense makes sense, because the justice system gives great deference to lawyers and the advice they give. But it’s rarely invoked, because doing so allows investigators to pierce what are normally private attorney-client communications, according to the American Bar Association. And the defense doesn’t hold up if both the lawyer and client know what they’re doing is illegal, something known as the crime-fraud exception.
A similar “advice of counsel” defense failed to save Trump’s former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, from being convicted at trial last year for ignoring a congressional subpoena. And the Trump train has rammed head-on into the crime-fraud exception before. Last year, a California federal judge decided that Trump “more likely than not” committed a felony alongside lawyer John Eastman when they attempted to impede Congress on Jan. 6, 2021. And earlier this month, another federal judge invoked the same exception when she forced Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to comply with a grand jury subpoena involving the Mar-a-Lago document dispute.
But that might not get New York County prosecutors very far in Trump’s case, because he rarely puts things in writing—leaving investigators with potentially very little evidence. (Though Cohen does have hush money discussions on tape.)
But investigators do have access to one potentially incriminating written document. That would be the sworn affidavit Trump submitted in 2000 in response to a Federal Election Commission investigation. That probe focused on his role in alleged campaign finance violations strikingly similar to the issues reportedly at play in the Manhattan case—alleged straw donations and in-kind corporate contributions—and Trump’s affidavit demonstrated a deep understanding of those laws.
Still, prosecutors would reportedly be relying in large part on the account of Cohen himself, who appeared as a witness before the Manhattan grand jury several times in the run-up to the indictment.
Trump’s lawyers could benefit from the tell-all memoir written by a former prosecutor on that team, Mark Pomerantz, who wrote about a Feb. 9, 2022, meeting in which DA Alvin Bragg Jr. showed deep reservations about ever relying on testimony by Cohen, who had been sentenced to prison for lying to Congress years earlier.
“At one point during the meeting, Alvin commented that he ‘could not see a world’ in which we would indict Trump and call Michael Cohen as a prosecution witness,” Pomerantz wrote.
But that raises the question of why Bragg pulled the hard 180—aggressively pursuing a case hinging on a witness he was so adamantly opposed to less than a year prior. The report of a much more sprawling indictment suggests Bragg has more on his mind.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the office said that four people who were present at the meeting disputed Pomerantz’s recollection.
It’s also easy to forget why Cohen lied: to protect his former boss about the fact that there were business discussions to build a Moscow Trump Tower in Russia well into the closing months of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump’s second affirmative defense addresses the legality of the payments to begin with, according to the person familiar with Trump’s legal strategy. The former president plans to assert that the hush money payment did not have to be reported to the FEC, the person told The Daily Beast, because Trump would have made the payment anyway—regardless of whether he was running for office at the time.
The idea here is that Stormy Daniels going public about her claims that she had sex with Trump one night in 2006—when he was still married to his current wife, Melania—would have threatened their marriage and maybe even his public standing as a businessman.
“The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,” he stated. He added that such agreements are “very common among celebrities and people of wealth,” and—somewhat perplexingly—emphasized that “money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll[sic] in this transaction.”
That defense relies on the FEC rules regarding “personal use” of donor money during a political campaign. Federal law forbids candidates from using campaign funds to pay for things like personal lawsuits or expensive suits, which, Trump’s team argues, would extend to the hush money expenses by claiming they’re private and personal.
In other words, Trump’s lawyers are running on the theory that Trump would have paid Daniels anyway, “irrespective” of whether it would also help his presidential campaign.
But that defense has its drawbacks.
First, Trump would essentially be asserting that either federal prosecutors or a federal judge should have rejected Cohen’s own guilty plea to this same campaign finance crime, if it was never a crime to begin with. (That plea came three months after Trump’s tweets.)
Second, as The Daily Beast previously reported, campaign finance experts say that the hush money payments to Daniels and former Playboy “Playmate” Karen McDougal were clearly intended to influence the 2016 election. In fact, when Daniels tried to sell her story to the press years earlier, that was also in the political context of Trump’s candidacy—the potential 2012 bid he was publicly exploring at the time.
In 2018, the FEC’s Office of General Counsel found reason to believe that the payments were in fact unlawful, and that Trump, his campaign, and his company should be investigated. However, the Republican commissioners blocked that investigation—as they have done for every one of the dozens of complaints against Trump—citing the fact that Cohen, but not Trump, had already been held accountable, and the statute of limitations was running out.
The statute of limitations argument was also in large part due to Trump’s own presidential powers. He refused to appoint a replacement commissioner, depriving the FEC of its quorum for more than a year—meaning the commission couldn’t make any decisions about enforcement actions during that time.
But while the FEC Republicans let Trump slide for the Daniels payments, they saw fit to fine the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., over its unlawful hush money payment to McDougal, which involved the same infractions. That decision also overlooked prosecutors’ agreements with both Cohen and AMI.
On Thursday, hours before the news broke about the sealed indictment, the Wall Street Journalreported that Bragg’s investigation had focused more intently on the McDougal payments than was previously known. Trump’s team hasn’t tried to attack those payments—which the FEC found unlawful—the way they have with Daniels. In fact, it’s unclear from AMI’s non-prosecution agreement whether they were or were not ultimately reimbursed for those payments. Trump told Fox News in 2018 that he personally footed that bill. Meanwhile, Cohen’s memoir claims that Trump actually stiffed AMI executive David Pecker—which is why he wouldn’t pay for the Stormy Daniels silencing deal.
But, as Cohen himself told The Daily Beast in a statement on Thursday, “It is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself.”
Hours later, CNN reported that the indictment wasn’t nearly as narrowly focused on the hush money payments as Trump’s legal team and news reports have made it seem. Instead, CNN reported, the grand jury has brought more than 30 counts against the former president, including for business fraud. This suggests that the “novel legal theory” talking point, which Trumpworld has promoted, may not be Bragg’s silver bullet after all.
To that point, Bragg’s office might be centering the case against Trump on its already extensive investigation into his business dealings, which have already yielded a court victory. If prosecutors can tie the hush money payments to business, financial, or tax fraud at the state level, they can sidestep the federal question altogether.
Shortly after the New York County DA’s Office filed the indictment in Manhattan criminal court, Trump’s two lawyers in this case issued a statement defending their client.
“President Trump has been indicted. He did not commit any crime. We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court,” Susan Necheles and Joe Tacopina said.
Rachel Maddow Names The 1 Thing To Prepare For In Donald Trump Legal Proceedings
Lee Moran – March 31, 2023
Rachel Maddow jumped into the MSNBC anchor chair on Thursday — when she’s not normally on air — to cover the indictment of former President Donald Trump and to warn people what they may not expect in the historic prosecution.
“I do think there’s one thing we all need to be preparing for here that we are maybe not prepared for, and that is what I think is the very high probability that this is going to be boring,” she said. “I’m not sure we’re prepared for that.”
“I’m not sure either side ideologically is prepared for that. I don’t think the punditocracy is prepared for that. I don’t think you and I are prepared for that,” Maddow continued.
Maddow acknowledged Trump’s indictment for his role in a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels “feels like really big news” and “really big news feels like it has a lot of momentum.”
“But as far as I can tell, this is about a legal proceeding starting,” she explained. “And if you look at the kind of legal proceeding this is going to be, I think we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that, A: This might go on for a really long time, and it might go on where the incremental additional news on this news story each day is something that feels like reading the small print on the back of a lottery ticket or even your car rental insurance waiver.”
“This might really be boring,” Maddow repeated.
The case against Trump “isn’t something that is unprecedented in the world of criminal law,” she added. “The actual adjudication of cases like this one, as much as we know about what kind of case this is, before the indictment’s unsealed, the actual adjudication of cases like this is often a very boring thing.”
‘Absurdity to a new level’ as Russia takes charge of UN security council
Julian Borger in New York – March 30, 2023
In Ukraine, Moscow is pursuing an unprovoked war of aggression. In The Hague, Vladimir Putin is facing an arrest warrant for war crimes. But at the UN, Russia is about to take charge of a powerful international body, the security council.
From Saturday, it will be Russia’s turn to take up the monthly presidency of the 15-member council, in line with a rotation that has been unaffected by the Ukraine war.
The last time Russia held the gavel was in February last year, when Putin declared his “special military operation” in the middle of a council session on Ukraine. Fourteen months on, tens of thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians, cities have been ruined and Putin has been indicted by the international criminal court for the mass abduction of Ukrainian children.
In such circumstances, putting Russia in the driving seat of a world body tasked with “maintaining international peace and security” seems like a cruel April fools joke to many, not least the Ukrainian mission to the UN.
“As of 1 April, they’re taking the level of absurdity to a new level,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian permanent representative. “The security council as it is designed is immobilised and incapable to address the issues of their primary responsibility, that is prevention of conflicts and then dealing with conflicts.”
The ambassador said Ukraine would stay away from the security council in April except in the case of an “issue of critical national security interest”. Ukraine is not a current council member, though it is often called to speak on issues related to the war.
The US, Britain, France and their supporters on the council are likely to show their disapproval by downgrading the level of their representation at Russian-hosted events over the course of the month, but no member state is known to be planning any form of boycott or other protest.
The US on Thursday urged Russia to “conduct itself professionally” when it assumes the role, but said there was no means to block Moscow from the post. The Kremlin said on Friday that Russia plans to exercise all its rights on the council.
Diplomats at the UN headquarters in New York point out that most of the council’s agenda in April, like any month, is taken up by routine briefings and reports on UN peacekeeping missions around the world.
“It’s important to protect the rest of the council’s work on other files,” one European diplomat said. “We don’t want to disrupt the work that the council is doing elsewhere, because that would allow Russia’s invasion to have an even wider impact on issues of peace and security around the world.”
The council presidency does give the monthly incumbent the power to organise its own sessions, and Russia is planning three. On 10 April it will hold a briefing on the “risks stemming from the violations of the agreements regulating the export of weapons and military equipment”, at which it is expected to single out the US for its arms supplies to Ukraine and to other allies over recent years.
Later in the month, it will chair two open debates on “effective multilateralism” and on the situation in the Middle East, over which its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is expected to preside.
The last occasion when a permanent member of the council carried out an unprovoked invasion was the US attack on Iraq. The US was not subjected to the humiliation of repeated overwhelming defeats in the UN general assembly of the kind that Russia has endured over the past year, with about 140 of the 193 member states voting against Moscow’s positions, leaving Belarus, Eritrea, Syria and North Korea as Russia’s only reliable friends.
Russia’s deputy permanent representative, Dmitry Polyanskiy, denied that his mission was becoming a pariah at the UN. “Absolutely not. We feel that the west is embattled in the UN right now because more countries understand our position,” Polyanskiy said, claiming that the western allies had to water down resolutions and arm-twist to get 140 votes. “So I think that it’s rather the west is isolated, but not us in the general assembly.”
As for Putin’s ICC arrest warrant, Polyanskiy dismissed it as “totally irrelevant to any of our activities”. The last time the Russian leader travelled to the UN headquarters was in 2015.
In the security council, the balance of diplomatic forces is less clearcut than in the general assembly. The division of five permanent members – US, UK, France, Russia, China – has hardened considerably, with China regularly echoing Russian talking points in the council. The 10 non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms by the general assembly. Among the current batch, Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates and Gabon have generally stayed neutral over the Ukraine invasion.
Brazil is moving into the neutral column. Polyanskiy said the “Brics” group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa was drawing closer together and claimed there were 20 other countries interested in affiliation.
Richard Gowan, the UN director at the International Crisis Group, said that under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil was “making an effort to engage with Russia and position itself as a potential peacemaker over Ukraine”.
“I don’t think Russia has many close allies in the council, but a lot of council members really want to avoid getting caught up in big power games,” Gowan said. “There is a definite sense that a lot of council members want to shift attention to crises other than Ukraine where the UN may be able to do marginally more good.”
There are no security council sessions on Ukraine planned for April, but nine members can vote to force it on to the agenda, or members can hold informal sessions on the subject.
The glaring council impasse and paralysis over Ukraine has served to elevate the importance of the general assembly, but few expect it to bring any long-awaited reform to the running of the council, established by the victors of the second world war.
More likely, Kyslytsya acknowledged, “everybody will get accustomed to this new level of global hypocrisy”.
“That will be a disgrace,” he added. “But I think there’s quite a chance that may happen.”
‘Kick Russia out of the UN’: Group prepares legal challenge as Russia gets set to take UN Security Council presidency
Guy Davies – March 31, 2023
The Russian Federation will on April 1 take over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council, a shift in power that may seem extraordinary amid the war in Ukraine.
Despite the international condemnation and the allegations of President Vladimir Putin’s forces committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine, it will be Russia’s turn next month to step into the leadership position, which changes on a monthly basis.
Russia holds the power of veto on Security Council resolutions, something that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized last year, when he said the bloc should act decisively or “dissolve itself” after the atrocities committed in Bucha came to light.
“We are dealing with a state that is turning the veto of the United Nations Security Council into the right to die,” he said.
A year on from Zelenskyy’s address, Russia’s membership remains entrenched, as the country sits as a permanent member along with the U.S., France, the U.K. and China. But as Russia is set to take the presidency, one group of lawyers and diplomats is trying to block the move — and kick Russia out of the U.N. entirely.
“If we let Russia’s aggression stand, if Russia gains what it is seeking to gain out of its aggression against Ukraine, really the entire framework that we set up in 1945 is at risk,” Thomas Grant, professor at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law and a member of Civic Hub, the organization seeking to eject Russia, told ABC News. “We think that the grounds for doing this are extremely strong.”
The organization started as a group of academics and lawyers, but now boasts sitting Ukrainian lawmakers and diplomats in its ranks. They concede that the idea Russia will be booted out of the U.N. entirely is a long shot, but they said they hope at the least to stop Russia from securing the presidency in April. They also want to call Russia’s membership on the U.N. Security Council into question.
The group have yet to submit their formal legal challenge, but say they are adamant that the invasion of Ukraine has posed a major challenge to the composition of the U.N.
“There is a famous saying among the members of the Security Council that the Security Council is the master of its own procedures,” Volodymyr Yelchenko, the former Ukrainian ambassador to U.S. and Russia and member of Civic Hub, told ABC News. “They’re very vague.”
For their prospective legal case, he said, their efforts to lobby in Washington, Paris and London, are more important to their case than going to the Security Council directly, members said.
The political argument has perhaps been strengthened by the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Putin. There’s also a U.N. resolution calling for Russia’s immediate withdrawal. Those are indications the international community may be responsive to the Civic Hub’s proposal, they said.
“It’s that sort of aggression that is simply not tolerable. If what you want is basic predictability [and security] among countries in their relations … then it’s vital that Russia be identified as an aggressor that ought not be sitting in the principal security organ of the U.N.,” Grant said. “That’s the political case to be made.”
Civic Hub’s legal case, which they hope will compel the U.N. to act, however, is completely different.
Rather than formally requesting U.N. membership in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia merely inherited their member status, they said.
“Russia has never joined the U.N. in the proper way,” Professor Iouri Loutsenko, a former deputy director of the World Bank and the chairman of Civic Hub, told ABC News. “And this is a legal factor is undisputable.”
According to Loutsenko, the group has not received “straight answers” from the U.N. as they have lobbied for their proposal. But, if they were successful, Russia would be denied a voice on the world’s highest diplomatic stage.
“Russia [would] still have a flag in front of New York headquarters,” Grant said. “Its diplomats would still have key cards or whatever they used to get into the building, but they wouldn’t sit in the seats. They would not cast votes, they would not speak from the seat, and they would not be using the council as a broadcast platform for their messaging. So that would be the result.”
By exploiting that legal position, the group hope to isolate Russia even further from the international community, helping end the war in Ukraine and leading to change from within.
Russia set to take chair of UN security council amid Ukraine war
Julia Mueller – March 30, 2023
Russia is set to take the chair position of a United Nations Security Council meeting as it continues to wage its yearlong war on neighboring Ukraine, drawing criticism from Ukrainian leaders.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s confirmation to the top Security Council slot during an April meeting in New York “a bad joke,” as the International Criminal Court (ICC) has a warrant out for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes.
“Russian UN Security Council presidency on April 1 is a bad joke. Russia has usurped its seat; it’s waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children,” Kuleba said on Twitter. “The world can’t be a safe place with Russia at UNSC #BadRussianJoke #InsecurityCouncil.”
The 15 member states of the U.N. Security Council take turns in the presidency position every month. Only five seats on the council are permanent — those held by the U.S., the U.K., France, China and Russia.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N. highlighted comments from the international body’s Secretary-General António Guterres calling the day of Russia’s invasion the saddest moment in his tenure as U.N. chief.
“In fact the saddest in UN history until April 1, 2023 when, unless justice prevails, [Russia] assumes presidency of [the] Security Council. Stop raping justice & quashing UN Charter! Accountability now!” Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya wrote on Twitter.
Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba called Russia taking over the Security Council “a bit like Jack the Ripper taking over at the ministry of health.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that the administration expects Russia “to continue to use its seat on the council to spread disinformation” and urged the country “to conduct itself professionally” during its time with the presidency, according to Reuters.
“Unfortunately, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, and no feasible international legal pathway exists to change that reality,” Jean-Pierre said.
Russia’s permanent seat on the council — and with it, the power to individually veto any resolution that passes through the international body — has long been a topic of concern that was stoked by Moscow invaded its neighbor. Last February, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have called on Moscow to cease its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.
He said: “They’re conducting combat operations right now in Bakhmut primarily. It’s probably about 6,000 or so actual mercenaries and maybe another 20,000 or 30,000 recruits that they get, many of whom come from prisons.
“They are suffering an enormous amount of casualties in the Bakhmut area. The Ukrainians are inflicting a lot of death and destruction on these guys.”
He said the Russians had made “no progress whatsoever” for the last 21 days and it had been “very costly”.
The general added: “So it’s a slaughter-fest for the Russians. They’re getting hammered in the vicinity of Bakhmut and the Ukrainians have fought very, very well.”
Colonel Yevhen Mezhevikin, a Ukrainian commander in Bakhmut, said he was confident Ukraine’s forces could hold the city and push the Russians back.
He told the New York Times: “The enemy exhausted all its reserves. The density of assaults dropped by several times.
“Before, they could assault in all directions simultaneously and in groups of not less than 20, 30 or 40 people, but gradually it is dying down.”
Russian troops are dying in Ukraine due to heavy alcohol consumption, poor weapons handling, and hypothermia, UK intel says
Alia Shoaib – April 2, 2023
Russian troops are dying in Ukraine due to incidents linked to alcohol consumption, the UK MoD says.
Heavy drinking is tacitly accepted by the military, even in combat operations, it said.
The ministry estimated that Russia has suffered up to 200,000 casualties since the war began.
Many Russian troops are dying in Ukraine because of non-combat issues such as alcohol consumption and poor weapons handling drills, the UK defense ministry said in an intelligence update on Sunday.
The ministry estimated that Russia has suffered up to 200,000 casualties since its invasion of Ukraine over a year ago and that a “significant minority” has not been due to the fighting.
A Russian Telegram news channel reported in March that alcohol consumption is a particular issue amongst the deployed Russian troops and that “extremely high” incidents, crimes, and deaths have been linked to it.
The ministry noted that heavy drinking is commonplace in Russian society and has become a tacitly accepted part of military life, even in combat.
Russian commanders are likely finding alcohol abuse to be especially detrimental to combat effectiveness, the ministry said.
Aside from that, it said other common causes of non-combat casualties likely include poor weapon handling drills, road traffic accidents, and hypothermia.
There have been reports of Russian soldiers freezing to death on the front lines during a brutal winter because they are inadequately equipped.
Russia is currently in the midst of a winter offensive, which aims to extend Russian control over the whole Donbas region in Ukraine.
The mission has been largely unsuccessful, with Russia making minimal gains in exchange for high losses.