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White American men are a bigger domestic terrorist threat than Muslim foreigners

Since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners.

Jennifer Williams This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Las Vegas police stand guard along the streets outside the Route 91 Harvest Country music festival grounds on October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker/Getty Images

When President Donald Trump signed his since-revised executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, he claimed it was to protect Americans from "radical Islamic terrorists."

"We don't want 'em here," Trump told reporters at the Pentagon, where he signed the order in January.

But in the eight months since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed in attacks by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners.

Radical Islamic terrorists inspired or directed by groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda do pose a clear threat to the US. There is no question about that. Before last night's deadly shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history occurred in June 2016 when an ISIS-inspired man opened fire a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53.

And ISIS-linked militants have killed or injured dozens of people in countries like England, France, and Canada so far this year, including two women killed in a stabbing attack in Marseille, France, and several people injured in a car-ramming attack in Edmonton, Canada, just this weekend.

But here at home, the bigger threat has come from a very different kind of attacker, one with no ties to religion generally or Islamist extremism specifically.

Here are just a few of the attacks that have occurred in 2017:

 

Sunday night, a 64-year-old white man from Nevada opened fire on a crowd of more than 22,000 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing more than 50 and wounding more than 200.

In August, a 20-year-old white Nazi sympathizer from Ohio sped his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring at least 19 others.

In June, a 66-year-old white man from Illinois shot at Republican Congress members during an early morning baseball practice, severely wounding several people including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House of Representatives Majority Whip.

In March 2017, a 28-year-old white man from Baltimore traveled to New York City with the explicit aim of killing black men. He stabbed 66-year-old Timothy Caughman to death and was charged with terrorism by New York state authorities.

In May, a 35-year-old white man from Oregon named Jeremy Joseph Christian began harassing Muslim teenagers on a train in Portland, telling them "We need Americans here!" Two men interceded; Christian then stabbed and killed them both.

In fact, between 2001 and 2015, more Americans were killed by homegrown right-wing extremists than by Islamist terrorists, according to a study by New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC.

A June 2017 study by Reveal and the Center for Investigative Reporting found a similar pattern:

Even the "radical Islamic terrorists" are usually US citizens

In Trump's very first speech to Congress, he claimed that "the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country."

But none of the perpetrators of the major US terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam in the past 15 years have come from the nations on Trump's travel ban (either the original one or the new, revised version that was released late last month). In fact, the country home to the biggest number of terrorists who have carried out successful attacks inside the US is the US itself.

The San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people was carried out by an American-born US citizen of Pakistani descent and a lawful permanent US resident of Pakistani descent. The Orlando nightclub shooter who murdered 49 people was an American-born US citizen of Afghan descent. The Boston marathon bombers, who identified as ethnic Chechen, came to the US from Kyrgyzstan and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before carrying out attacks that left three dead. Faisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber, was Pakistani-American. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, was born in Virginia to Palestinian parents.

And as my colleague Zack Beauchamp has written, the average likelihood of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in which an immigrant participated in any given year is one in 3.6 million - even including the 9/11 deaths. The average American is more likely to die from their own clothing or a toddler with a gun than an immigrant terrorist. But we're not banning guns and T-shirts from coming into the country.

Adopting extremist views and committing horrendous acts of violence in the name of some "righteous" cause, be it religion or politics or just plain old hatred, isn't something that only Muslims, or Arabs, or immigrants, or any other group of people do. It's something humans do.

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Donald Trump thought targeting NFL players with his racialized venom would be smart politics. He was wrong.

The 1960s and ’70s saw a hurricane of political athletes: legends like Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Curt Flood, and Billie Jean King. But nothing, literally nothing, in the history of sports and politics can compare to what happened on Sunday.

Expressions of dissent broke out in every single NFL game during the playing of the national anthem. Some players kneeled, some sat, some raised fists, and some linked arms. But all of them were standing in opposition to Donald Trump. Announcers and commentators discussed their actions sympathetically. The booing one might expect from fans was sparse. Two anthem singers—a black man in Detroit and a white woman in Tennessee—took a knee during the last note of the song. How did this happen? How did the sport that—from ownership down—has historically been associated with the most conservative politics see this maelstrom of united discontent?

It starts with Colin Kaepernick, and it ends with understanding the “brotherhood” that exists in NFL locker rooms. Kaepernick, of course, is the blackballed (or whiteballed) free-agent NFL quarterback who took a knee and protested during the anthem last season to highlight the issue of police violence. I can say unequivocally from my reporting that, while only a small group of NFL players joined Kaepernick in this protest last season, the respect he garnered throughout the community of players for doing it week after week for four straight months, weathering all kinds of brutal criticism, was deep. Kaepernick lit the match. It was kept alight earlier this season by players like Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett, Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, Oakland Raider Marshawn Lynch, and a dozen members of the Cleveland Browns and others, but the gasoline was poured upon this flame by Donald Trump on Friday. People no doubt are aware of what should be known as “the Alabama speech,” in which he called for protesting NFL players to be fired and referred to anyone who protested as a “son of a bitch.”

It starts with Colin Kaepernick, and it ends with understanding the brotherhood that exists in NFL locker rooms.

This is where we get to the question of solidarity. Donald Trump never played football, and therefore does not understand what Bennett calls “the brotherhood.” Football players are very tight-knit as a community. It’s certainly not always a positive solidarity, most pointedly seen in the reticence of players to speak out when a teammate commits an act of violence against women, as well as in the pressure to play when hurt, which often comes from your “brothers,” not coaches. But this “brotherhood” also means that when someone threaten the livelihoods of the players and disrespect their families, they will stand as one.

From Trump’s perspective—leader of, as former NFL player Adalius Thomas called it in a scathing critique of Trump on MSNBC, “The Divided States of America”—these players probably seemed like a smart target. Trump reserves his greatest venom for black people and women—as we have seen time and again—and certainly thought that going after wealthy black athletic dissenters was a clever move. But it didn’t line up as he had hoped. First the union came out strongly in defense of players and challenged management to do the same. Then team owners and Roger Goodell came out—far less strongly, but still making it perfectly clear what side they were on. Even though their comments were not exactly fiery, they stood with the dissenting players. This matters, when we consider just how many of these owners supported Trump in the campaign. (If they were truly on the side of angels, not to mention meritocracy, they wouldn’t just talk the talk, but they’d sign Colin Kaepernick.)

Then this tumult spilled over into the Sunday morning shows. People like former NFL player Anquan Boldin had a platform on ABC News to say, “I don’t like the hate speech that is coming out of [Trump’s] mouth. Neither do the players in the locker room.”

Seahawk wide receiver Doug Baldwin shamed Trump with a statement so eloquent one wondered why he couldn’t be president.

Then there was the declaration of the entire Seahawks organization, on team letterhead, which read, “As a team we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards freedom and equality for all.”

But even beyond these voices, there was also Fox announcer—and Southern NFL icon—Terry Bradshaw, who said, “Not sure if our president understands those rights, that every American has the right to speak out and also to protest.”

Then there was former NFL coach Rex Ryan, a vocal Trump supporter who campaigned for the man. He said, “I’m pissed off I’ll be honest. I supported Trump, and I’m appalled at these comments. SOBs? Not the men that I know.”

One could certainly be forgiven for wondering what Trump he was watching during the campaign. But all of it speaks to the very intense, if at times deeply distorted, sense of solidarity that exists throughout the league at every level.

This is what Trump lacked the capacity to understand—and the divider in chief painted himself into a corner. For one day, the NFL was united.

The line of the day that explained it all was said by ESPN NFL commentator and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. He said, “This is choose-your-side Sunday. It really is. And what side are you on?”

When it comes to the NFL, that “side” does not involve standing with Donald Trump. In the 1960s, athletes made history. On Sunday, a new link was forged.

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Who Is Felix Sater, and Why Is Donald Trump So Afraid of Him?

Every time someone asks Donald Trump if he knows Felix Sater, his Russian-born, Brooklyn-bred former business associate, Trump draws a blank. Despite the fact that Sater worked on and off for a decade with the Trump Organization, and despite his recent headline-making appearance as an exuberant negotiator on behalf of Trump’s hardnosed attorney, Michael Cohen, in seeking to build a “massive Trump Tower in Moscow” last year, Trump ducks.

“I mean, I’ve seen him a couple of times; I have met him,” Trump said, in a deposition in a court case involving Sater in 2013. And The New York Times reported him as saying, “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” As late as 2015, when asked about Sater, Trump hemmed and hawed. “Boy, I have to even think about it.”

It’s no wonder that Trump, especially now that he’s under investigation over his ties to Russia and its meddling in the 2016 election, would respond to questions about Sater by saying: Who’s he?

Sater has a decades-long record as a larger-than-life, outside-the-law, spy agency-linked wheeler-dealer from the pages of a John le Carré novel.

Of all the characters caught up in Russiagate, none come close to Sater for having a decades-long record as a larger-than-life, outside-the-law, spy agency-linked wheeler-dealer from the pages of a John le Carré novel. His past record includes a conviction for lacerating a man’s face with a broken margarita glass in a bar brawl and his involvement in a multimillion-dollar stock fraud and money-laundering scheme. Despite that record, which came before he worked with Trump, Sater spent nearly a decade working with the Trump Organization in search of deals in Russia and other former Soviet republics. But on August 28, Sater made the front pages of the Times and The Washington Post, thanks to leaked copies of e-mails that he sent in late 2015 and early 2016 to Cohen, concerning Sater’s efforts to work with a group of Russian investors to set up a flagship Trump property in the Russian capital.

In language that Cohen himself described to the Times as “colorful,” Sater seemed nearly beside himself as he reported on his work in Moscow on behalf of Trump:

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” wrote Sater. “I will get all of [Vladimir] Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.… I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.” Echoing a line that would later become Trump’s own description of why he and Putin might get along, Sater wrote that the Russian leader “only wants to deal with a pragmatic leader, and a successful business man is a good candidate for someone who knows how to deal.”

Sater claimed, “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins [sic] private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin.”

Sater couldn’t resist adding, “Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins [sic] private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin.” According to the Times, Sater was “eager to show video clips to his Russian contacts of instances of Mr. Trump speaking glowingly about Russia.” Which, of course, Trump has done repeatedly over the years. And, though Trump has denied that he has any business interests in Russia, even as he was gearing up for the Republican presidential primary race, Cohen and Sater were deep into previously undisclosed talks with Russian partners about constructing a Trump-branded hotel, according to The Washington Post. In a statement to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week, Cohen did admit writing to Dmitry Peskov in connection with Sater’s work. Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin, confirmed the contact.

So who, exactly, is Felix Sater? Tim O’Brien, author of a biography of Trump, wrote about Sater in an article titled “Lean, Mean Trump-Russia Machine.” He was born in 1966 in the Soviet Union, and he and his family moved to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, when he was just 8. According to a recent Guardian profile, Sater’s relationship with Cohen—and to organized crime—goes way back:

Sater’s links to Trump’s circle can be traced back to not long after he came to the US as a child. His father, Mikhail Sheferovsky (who changed the family name after arriving in New York) became a local crime boss in Brighton Beach and Sater grew up on that side of Brooklyn, where he got to know another teenager in the neighbourhood, Michael Cohen, a Long Island boy who would go on to become Trump’s personal lawyer and vice-president of the Trump Organization.

Sorting out Sater’s checkered past leads into a convoluted labyrinth of crime, legal entanglements, shady deals, alleged ties to US and foreign intelligence agencies and, of course, intimate connections to Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. The best comprehensive account of Sater’s long and complicated path was written by Andrew Rice and published in August in New York magazine under the headline “The Original Russia Connection.” Rice’s account, which includes parts of a lengthy interview with Sater, draws heavily on a 2007 breakthrough piece by Charles Bagli in The New York Times. Bagli was the first to uncover and report in depth on Sater’s criminal past. This past February the Times published a blockbuster story by Megan Twohey and Scott Shane recounting an effort by Sater, Cohen, Gen. Mike Flynn, and a Ukrainian politician to put forward a half-cocked Ukrainian “peace plan” and deliver it, freelance fashion, to the White House. In addition, various lawsuits, testimony, and depositions by the characters in Sater’s erratic orbit, including by Trump himself, provide valuable material in figuring out who Sater is and what role he plays in the Trump-Russia story. In this piece, I draw on all of these sources and more.

Sater’s first run-in with the law came in 1991, when he “grabbed a large margarita glass, smashed it on the bar and plunged the stem into the right side of [a rival] broker’s face.”

Sater’s first run-in with the law came in 1991—according to the indictment, as reported by Bagli in the Times—when Sater, then an upstart stockbroker in his mid-20s, “grabbed a large margarita glass, smashed it on the bar and plunged the stem into the right side of [a rival] broker’s face. The man suffered nerve damage and required 110 stitches to close the laceration on his face.”

Sater, who served time in prison for that assault, was barred from financial trading by the National Association of Securities Dealers. Yet in 1993, Sater and several partners took over a securities firm called White Rock Partners, later called State Street Capital Markets, which portrayed itself as a legitimate brokerage firm but, in fact, ran a criminal enterprise involving stock fraud, money laundering, and a so-called “pump and dump” scheme that involved conspiring to inflate the apparent value of near-worthless stocks, sell them off to unsuspecting investors, and cash in. In so doing, for protection Sater drew on the assistance of his father’s friends in the Genovese crime family. According to Rice’s New York piece, Sater “laundered fraud proceeds through a labyrinthine network of Caribbean shell companies, Israeli and Swiss bank accounts, and contacts in New York’s Diamond District.” In the mid-1990s, New York reports, Sater spent a great deal of time in Moscow, where, according to a friend and business partner, Sal Lauria—who later wrote a book about all of this—“We were dealing with ex-KGB generals and with the elite of Russian society.”

It all came crashing down in 1998, when New York City police uncovered a stash of guns and documents in a mini-storage locker in SoHo implicating Sater and his partners in the fraud and money-laundering schemes. According to the Times, citing other defendants in the case, Sater pled guilty to racketeering charges for bilking at least $40 million from his investors. Using Sater’s testimony, the feds eventually convicted 19 of Sater’s cronies, including half a dozen who had mob connections. Significantly, the prosecutor who oversaw Sater’s cooperation agreement in the 1998 indictment, now sealed, was Andrew Weissmann—who is currently one of 16 prosecutors and criminal justice officials on the staff of special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the Russiagate inquiry.

Enter the spies. During his time in Moscow and traveling around eastern Europe, Sater began cultivating ties to arms dealers, officials in US law enforcement and national security agencies, and—according to his interview in New York—even meeting with the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. In order to get some bargaining power after he was indicted in 1998, according to Sater himself, he told the FBI that he had obtained valuable information about Osama bin Laden, a cache of Stinger missiles, and more. His information, it seems didn’t pan out—but after 9/11, Sater did cooperate in some fashion with the US government. Overseeing the Sater case back then was none other than Loretta Lynch, then US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn). In her confirmation hearing to serve as US Attorney General under President Obama, Lynch confirmed that Sater did in fact work with the FBI “and other agencies”—presumably the CIA—in “providing information crucial to national security.” Where and how Sater gathered the information that he provided, whether or not it involved contacts with the Russian FSB (the successor to the KGB) and GRU, and whether those agencies themselves established a covert connection with Sater is something that both Mueller and the US intelligence community ought to be looking at today, of course.

During his time in Moscow eastern Europe, Sater cultivated ties to arms dealers, officials in US law enforcement and national security agencies, and even meeting with the Russian military intelligence agency.

Sater’s connection with Trump starts in the mid-2000s, when Sater joined a real estate firm called the Bayrock Group, which had been founded in 2001 by Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan. Arif hired Sater in 2003, making him the firm’s chief operating officer. The firm later set up its headquarters on the 24th floor of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, just below Trump’s own suite of offices. (Sater’s first office suite, with his criminal enterprise called State Street Capital, had its offices in a Trump-owned building, 40 Wall Street, in the mid-1990s.)

Over the next several years Arif and Sater, via Bayrock, started or collaborated with Trump on a series of hotel and resort projects in Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, and elsewhere. Their most important collaboration was the development in 2005 of the Trump SoHo project, which, according to the Times’s 2007 exposé of Sater, was a “sleek, 46-story glass tower condominium hotel [then] under construction on a newly fashionable section of Spring Street.” New York magazine adds that, oddly enough, the Trump SoHo tower “happened to be directly across the street from the storage facility that had been Sater’s previous undoing.”

When told by the Times about Sater’s criminal past, Alex Sapir, president of the Sapir Organization, which was involved in the SoHo project, said, “This is all news to me.” At the time, though, Trump didn’t separate himself from Sater, mingling with him at the SoHo opening, hanging out in Colorado while working on another project, and—according to Sater, at least—regularly interacting.

“How did I get to Donald? I walked in his door and told him, ‘I’m gonna be the biggest developer in New York, and you want to be my partner.’”

“How did I get to Donald?” Sater asked New York magazine, with typical braggadocio. “I walked in his door and told him, ‘I’m gonna be the biggest developer in New York, and you want to be my partner.’” After that, Sater said, he’d frequently pop into Trump’s own office to talk about this or that deal. “Donald wanted me to bring deals to him,” Sater told New York. “Because he saw how many I put on the table at Bayrock.”

Sater and Bayrock sought to extend the Trump brand to Ukraine, Poland, and elsewhere—including Moscow. Around 2005, Sater identified a location for a Trump Tower in the Russian capital, and he says that he personally escorted Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump around Moscow back then—an assertion that neither of the Trumps have denied. Last January The New York Times reported, “During a trip in 2006, Mr. Sater and two of Mr. Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, stayed at the historic Hotel National Moscow opposite the Kremlin, connecting with potential partners over the course of several days.”

After the financial crisis of 2008, Bayrock ran into difficulty, and Sater went out on his own. According to New York, following his separation from Bayrock he went to work for the Trump Organization, even carrying a business card listing his title as “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.” Despite that, Trump denies ever employing Sater directly.

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Sater’s links to Trump in recent years are obscure. According to recent reporting by the Times and the Post, however, as recently as 2015-16, Sater and Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, were working together on a Trump Tower Moscow arrangement, though that too didn’t pan out.

But Sater and Cohen would cooperate on another venture. Following Trump’s election, the two men worked together to develop a curious peace plan for Ukraine. In it, Sater and Cohen worked with Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian opposition politician who himself had a questionable past, having spent time in prison in Ukraine for an embezzlement scheme, according to the New York Times story last February that first broke the news of his collaboration with Sater and Cohen (the charges against Artemenko were eventually dropped). According to the Times, Sater met Cohen and Artemenko at a New York hotel just two blocks from Cohen’s current residence in Trump Park Avenue. Cohen, who’s married to a Ukrainian woman, has business ties there himself, having once tried to get a Ukrainian ethanol business off the ground.

In 2014, a popular revolt toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was replaced by another oligarch, the pro-Western Petro Poroshenko. Paul Manafort, the GOP operative who would later sign on as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, was on Yanukovych’s payroll for years, and when Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia, Manafort contracted with opposition politicians in Kiev to help build an anti-Poroshenko bloc—and Artemenko joined in. (Manafort, of course, is under intense scrutiny in the Russiagate investigation from Mueller and two committees of Congress over his possible role as a go-between in collusion between Russia’s spy network and the Trump campaign. In July, Mueller ordered a pre-dawn raid at Manafort’s Virginia home seeking evidence in the case, amid speculation that Manafort might “flip” and turn against Trump.)

According to the Times, the Artemenko plan—delivered to Sater and Cohen, and then to Michael Flynn, the short-lived White House national security adviser who was forced to resign in February—involved using unflattering or compromising information (kompromat) to help oust Poroshenko and then winning the support of a new Ukrainian government for a 50- to 100-year lease of Crimea to Russia—which in 2014 occupied and annexed Crimea, which for many decades had been part of Ukraine. Because the vast majority of Ukrainian political forces would never agree to surrender their claim to Crimea, the plan was considered a hopeless nonstarter by most experts familiar with the Ukraine crisis. Yet the role of Sater and Cohen, both Trump associates, contributed to the growing belief in Washington that Trump, who has steadily refused to criticize Putin for his authoritarian excesses, extrajudicial killings, and suppression of free expression in Russia, has questionable ties to Russia.

The plan went nowhere, however. According to the Times, Sater gave Cohen the proposal in a sealed envelope, who reportedly said he left it in Flynn’s office. But in an interview with HuffPost, Cohen said he never delivered the envelope. But that doesn’t quite jibe with the Times’s original report, which noted that when Flynn resigned (because of his own still unexplained conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition), Cohen was still waiting for a response, “hoping a new national security adviser will take up their cause.” So far, as far as we know, current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster hasn’t responded to the idea, which is probably long dead.

Even allowing for Sater’s long-established record as a liar and self-promoter, there’s plenty here for Mueller and other investigators to dig into. And Sater, too, seems to believe that something big is coming. In his interview with New York magazine, he hinted ominously about the near future. “In about the next 30 to 35 days,” he told reporter Rice, “I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.”

Bob DreyfussBob Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist specializing in politics and national security. He is also the co-editor, with Max Sawicky, of ThePopulist.Buzz.

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