Sunday, July 5, 2020
ABC News / YouTube Rudy Giuliani continues to attack the...

REVEALED: Rudy Giuliani Had A ‘Shadow Government’ Operation In Venezuela Tampering With Elections

Rudy Giuliani has been cooking up other drug deals, besides the one in Ukraine, around the globe. He always wanted to be the Secretary of State and it looks like he’s gotten his way, as a shadow government SoS, working in direct contravention of official U.S. foreign policy  on any given matter. It has now come to light that Giuliani and then-Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) had a strategic telephone call in September, 2018 with Venezualan president Nicholas Maduro. Washington Post: Both were part of a shadow diplomatic effort, backed in part by private interests, aimed at engineering a negotiated exit to ease President Nicolás Maduro from power and reopen resource-rich Venezuela to business, according to people familiar with the endeavor. Sessions had served as emissary in the back-channel effort, visiting Maduro in Caracas that spring. The phone call, which Giuliani joined, was a follow-up to that visit, Sessions’s spokesman Matt Mackowiak told The Washington Post. This is the same MO that was followed in Ukraine, where Giuliani pressured officials to go after Joe Biden. Biden has called Giuliani a “thug” and this pattern of behavior certainly qualifies as mafia-esque. Giuliani claims to work for Trump pro bono, then he goes around the globe, ostensibly doing consulting work, but actually intervening and frequently undercutting U.S. foreign policy. He is a shadow secretary of state, there is no question. Giuliani’s willingness to talk with Maduro in late 2018 flew in the face of the official policy of the White House, which, under national security adviser John Bolton, was then ratcheting up sanctions and taking a harder line against the Venezuelan government. Around the time of the phone call, Giuliani met with Bolton to discuss the off-the-books plan to ease Maduro from office — a plan Bolton vehemently rejected, two people familiar with the meeting said. Giuliani did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A lawyer for Bolton declined to comment. The White House did not respond to requests for comment. In January 2019, the United States formally recognized Maduro’s rival Juan Guaidó as president, a policy move backed by Bolton. Later in the year, Giuliani would pick up a client in the region: a Venezuelan tycoon under investigation by the Justice Department for possible money laundering. A couple of things are noteworthy here. Pete Sessions was part of the group that pushed for the ouster of Marie Yovanovich, whom Giuliani disparagingly calls “Santa Maria” and John Bolton got the sack, but Rudy Giuliani is still riding high in the saddle, despite the fact that his colossal blunderings in Ukraine resulted in Donald Trump being impeached. So who’s running the State Department? Because it seems like Rudy Giuliani and Pete Sessions are dealing with some pretty wild characters. Mackowiak [aide to Sessions] said Sessions used his own funds to pay for the two-day trip. Two people with knowledge of the visit said he was hosted by Raúl Gorrín Belisario, the owner of a major television network in Venezuela who was viewed with distrust by some U.S. officials and months later would be indicted in Florida on charges of money laundering and bribery. Belisario appears to be cut from the same bolt of cloth as the gold dust twins, Fruman and Parnas, except on a more plush scale. And bonus points if you can guess this one: […]
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Mick Mulvaney...

Revealed: Documentation Shows Mick Mulvaney Stonewalled Aid To Ukraine To Serve Trump’s Political Purpose

The White House is in possession of a treasure trove of hundreds of documents revealing the withholding of aid to Ukraine, the after-the-fact justification for same and debate on the legal merits of doing such a thing. One thing is certain, this isn’t helping Donald Trump’s cause, plus Mick Get-Over-It Mulvaney is right at the center of the action. Washington Post: One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear if the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly. […] In the early August email exchanges, Mulvaney asked acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought for an update on the legal rationale for withholding the aid and how much longer it could be delayed. Trump had made the decision the prior month without an assessment of the reasoning or legal justification, according to two White House officials. Emails show Vought and OMB staffers arguing that withholding aid was legal, while officials at the National Security Council and State Department protested. OMB lawyers said that it was legal to withhold the aid, as long as they deemed it a “temporary” hold, according to people familiar with the review. A senior budget lawyer crafted a memo on July 25 that defended the hold for at least a short period of time, an administration official said. Mulvaney’s request for information came days after the White House Counsel’s Office was put on notice that an anonymous CIA official had made a complaint to the agency’s general counsel about Trump’s July 25 call to Zelensky during which he requested Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. White House counsel Pat Cipollone must be tearing his hair out these days. He has gone on record telling the House impeachment committees that the White House will not cooperate in with the inquiry in any way and has steadfastly refused to provide witnesses or documents. This new development certainly does not make Cipollone’s stance look particularly ethical. Look for blood pressures to soar as the heat in the proverbial kitchen rises. The document research has only exacerbated growing tension between Cipollone and Mulvaney and their offices, with Cipollone tightly controlling access to his findings, and Mulvaney’s aides complaining Cipollone isn’t briefing other White House officials or sharing important material they need to respond to public inquiries, according to people familiar with their relationship. Mulvaney is a critical player in the Ukraine saga, as he has acknowledged that he asked OMB to block the release of congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine — at the president’s request — in early to mid-July of 2019. The emails revealed by White House lawyers include some in which Mulvaney urges Vought to immediately focus on Ukraine’s aid package, making clear it was a top priority for the administration. Now here’s an interesting note: Cipollone is worried about public records requests. Cipollone’s office has focused closely on correspondence that could be subject to public records requests, those which involve discussions between staff […]

Lev Parnas Bragged About Trump Sending Him On A ‘James Bond Mission’ In Ukraine

Gordan Sondland has purportedly said, “Every time Rudy gets involved, he goes and f**ks everything up.” That may become the tag line for the saga of Ukraine, because at this point, I think it’s likely that history will record that when things truly went south for Donald Trump was when Rudy Giuliani brought in his two thugs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to help him with a shadow government operation. “Dammit Rudy,” Sondland said, according to Holmes. “Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and fucks everything up.” — Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 16, 2019 Parnas met with Trump at Hanukkah and then told colleagues that he was on a “mission” for “the big man” meaning Trump. CNN: In the days immediately following the meeting, Parnas insinuated to the two people he confided in that he clearly believed he’d been given a special assignment by the President; like some sort of “James Bond mission,” according to one of the people. – To Parnas, the chain of command was clear: Giuliani would issue the President’s directives while Parnas, who speaks fluent Russian, would be an on-the-ground investigator alongside Fruman, who has numerous business contacts in Ukraine. – “Parnas viewed the assignment as a great crusade,” says one of the people in whom Parnas confided. “He believed he was doing the right thing for Trump.” Giuliani’s lawyer is trying to blow off the incriminating photograph with Parnas and Fruman beaming next to Pence, Trump and a yarmulke wearing Giuliani, as a photo op. The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment to a series of questions regarding the meeting and Trump’s relationship with Parnas and Fruman. – Giuliani, through his lawyer, Robert Costello, denies that any private meeting took place that night at the White House, saying it was a mere handshake and photo opportunity. Costello also rejects Parnas’ claims of being put on a “James Bond” style mission, saying that Parnas is “no Sean Connery,” and that he suffers from “delusions of grandeur.” – Joseph A. Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, told CNN, “Mr. Parnas at all times believed that he was acting only on behalf of the President, as directed by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and never on behalf of any Ukrainian officials.” This particular scenario is so nuts that if this were fantasy, it would partake of two cinema genres, the first being the mob movie, where the boss gives the little guy a special assignment, with the idea that he will rise through the ranks to importance and the second is the spy (or detective) parody, where some complete ditz gets the notion that what he’s doing is a big deal with global implications. Here, Parnas fits the description of the ditz, although we do not deny that what he was assigned to do, did indeed have the implications he thought. If anything, that fact only makes it more ridiculous or tragic, depending on your perspective. Ambassador Yovanovitch asked Friday in testimony, “How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?” How? Vladimir Putin owns Donald Trump, that’s how. Rudy Giuliani is going to be the downfall of Trump, is my happy prediction, and Parnas and Fruman will be the agents of his destruction and Ukraine […]
Jamelle Bouie / Flickr rand paul...

Rand Paul Blocks Senate Resolution Protecting Whistle Blowers

Put Rand Paul’s name up on the board, if it’s not there already, in the Soul Sold To Trump category. He will not let up on his crusade to out and harass the Ukraine whistle blower, and his latest gambit was to block a resolution in the Senate Wednesday granting protections to whistle blowers. The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) had asked for unanimous consent to pass the resolution, which “acknowledges the contributions of whistleblowers,” and throws the chamber’s support behind protecting whistleblowers from retaliation. “The threats we have seen over the last few days are so egregious they demand bipartisan outrage from one end of this chamber to the other, whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent, liberal, moderate or conservative,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “What’s happening here is another erosion of the values of this republic for political expediency.” He added that they should “send a message today that the Senate reaffirms our long standing tradition about defending whistleblowers.” Not on Rand Paul’s watch. He discourages the practice. Paul objected to passing the resolution after Democrats refused to drop their resolution and instead pass whistleblower legislation that he introduced earlier that day. “I support whistleblowers and I do think they have a role to play in keeping government accountable … but what we have seen over the last few years is that we have a system that we should continue to refine,” Paul said. He argued that his legislation would “make clear” that President Trump should be able to face his accuser. The measure also would expand current whistleblower protections for contractors. Another one on Putin’s payroll, evidently, along with Moscow Mitch, Lindsey Graham, and God knows who else. This is a very alarming development. If government employees, or anybody in a position of trust knows about something that Congress should be made aware of, it’s essential that the person not feel deterred or intimidated from sharing. Rand Paul wants to take us one giant leap closer to autocracy — and to protect Donald Trump? He is working for Putin. This is appalling.

Rand Paul Tweeted Article Outing Whistle Blower, Russian Media Got Right On It

John McCain was right about Rand Paul when he said he was working for Vladimir Putin, back when Paul opposed letting Montenegro into NATO. Monday, Paul recklessly demanded at a Trump rally, that the media print the name of the whistle blower, then he tweeted out an article that he found on Real Clear Investigations, a site which is described as right-center. The article went on at length to describe the name, CIA job title, political history and photograph of the purported whistle blower. The American media didn’t pick up on it for re-broadcast, but the Russians sure did. Daily Beast: As if on cue, the Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information. But unlike Rand Paul, one of the Russian state media outlets didn’t seem to find the source—Real Clear Investigations—to be particularly impressive, and claimed falsely that the material was published originally by The Washington Post. This was the most egregious, but certainly not the only example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading for Trump’s fight against impeachment as proceedings against him unfold with growing speed. As a chorus of talking heads on Fox News have picked up on Trump’s talking points, which is predictable—they’ve also been echoed across the pond, albeit with a tinge of irony. The Russians love this chaos, they love the likes of Rand Paul contributing to it, and most of all, they love Donald Trump and all that he has done for them. “Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?” asked Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the television show Evening with Vladimir Soloviev. […] But all the reasons they believe Trump “isn’t a very good president” for America are precisely their reasons for thinking he is so great for Russia. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian client whose regime teetered on the brink of collapse only to be saved definitively by Trump’s chaotic approach to the Middle East, recently said that “President Trump is the best type of president for a foe.” The Russians heartily agree. The Trump presidency has been wildly successful for Russia, which is eagerly stepping into every vacuum created by the retreat of the United States on the world stage. “They say Trump is making Russia great. That’s basically accurate,” pointed out Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a prominent fixture on Russian state television. “The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States. America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa… So when they say that Trump is weakening the United States—yes, he is. And that’s why we love him… The more problems they have, the better it is for us.” It’s been said before, and it will be said again, ad infinitum, the United States cannot afford another four years of Trump. We are losing face in the eyes of the world and key relationships and alliances have been eroded the past three years. We have to get the White House under sane and stable leadership or we will end up a third world nation, and a satellite of Russia, which has been Putin’s plan all along — it really is as simple as that.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Rand Paul...

Rand Paul Trashes Rule of Law Demanding Whistle Blower’s Identity, Schumer Lashes Back

It’s no new insight that this particular iteration of the GOP is the most lawless and corrupt in the history of the party, nonetheless each new outrage still brings a certain level of amazement, as disregard for basic principles of law and freedom are displayed once again, as though these things were inconsequential. Rand Paul outrageously demanded the media reveal the name of the Ukraine whistle blower, in contravention of federal law, not to mention basic decency, and Chuck Schumer wasn’t having it. The Hill: Paul, speaking in his home state at a Trump campaign rally on Monday evening, referenced unconfirmed reports in conservative media that the whistleblower worked for former Vice President Joe Biden, questioning the person’s credibility. “We also now know the name of the whistleblower. The whistleblower needs to come forward as a material witness because he worked for Joe Biden at the same time Hunter Biden was getting money from corrupt oligarchs,” Paul said at the rally after President Trump invited him onstage. “I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name,” Paul told the crowd to loud cheers. Schumer made his views known Tuesday, “I cannot stress just how wrong this is. We have federal whistleblower laws designed to protect the identity and safety of patriotic Americans who come forward to stand up for the Constitution,” Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor. “There should be bipartisan outrage at the public attempts by the president and a member of this body to expose the identity of a federal whistleblower,” Schumer argued. Paul, and his compatriots in the alternate political reality of Donald Trump, care nothing for the constitution and the rule of law. They make that evident every time they open their mouths and advocate actions which are nothing but destructive to our way of life. John McCain accused Rand Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin” in Spring of 2017, when Paul opposed allowing Montenegro into NATO. McCain may not have fully appreciated just how right he was.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr sean hannity...

Did You Know Sean Hannity Was Running The State Department? Read Yovanovich’s Transcript. UPDATE

If you doubt for one minute that up is down and black is white since Donald Trump took office, perhaps the fact that West Point graduate Mike Pompeo felt the need to ask high school graduate and conspiracy theorist Sean Hannity why Ambassador Marie Yovanovich lost her job will convince you. Omg… Yovanovitch says she was told that as she was being recalled, Pompeo would try to find out what was going on by…. calling Sean Hannity — Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) November 4, 2019 !!!The follow-up to that exchange– Schiff [incredulous]: "So some top administration official was going to [Hannity] to find out what the basis of [Hannity] was attacking you for?" Yovanovitch: "Uh-huh." — Aaron Fritschner (@Fritschner) November 4, 2019 Fox News is running the country. Other than that, everything is just swell. Nice temperature outside, birds chirping, Thanksgiving in a few weeks — JFC, how have we sunk to this? UPDATE: 12:05 p.m. PST Here is a link to Yovanovich’s and McKinley’s testimony. JUST IN: Yovanovitch and McKinley impeachment transcripts have been released: — Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 4, 2019

Trump’s ‘Perfect Phone Call’ To Zelensky Was Anything But, According to Vindman Testimony

Tuesday’s testimony by Ukraine expert and Army officer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman shed light into a few small mysteries, most pointedly what both the note takers and the voice recognition software missed, but which the human ear caught, when Donald Trump had his inappropriate call with Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. Both references to Joe Biden on tape and the Burisma company were omitted, and the transcript of the call which Trump characterized as “perfect” contained ellipses. Now we know what belonged there instead of dots. The omissions are incriminating as hell. New York Times: The phrases do not fundamentally change lawmakers’ understanding of the call, which was first reported by the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint set off the impeachment inquiry. There are plenty of other examples of Mr. Trump referring to Ukraine-related conspiracy theories and asking for investigations of the Biden family. But Colonel Vindman’s account offered a hint to solving a mystery surrounding the conversation: what Mr. Trump’s aides left out of the transcript in places where ellipses indicated dropped words. In hours of questioning on Tuesday by Democrats and Republicans, Colonel Vindman recounted his alarm at the July 25 call, saying he “did not think it was proper” for Mr. Trump to have asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate a political rival, and how White House officials struggled to deal with the fallout from a conversation he and others considered problematic. His testimony about the reconstructed transcript, the aftermath of the call and a shadow foreign policy being run outside the National Security Council came as Democrats unveiled plans for a more public phase of the impeachment process. They plan to vote on Thursday to direct the Intelligence Committee to conduct public hearings and produce a report for the Judiciary Committee to guide its consideration of impeachment articles. The measure will also provide a mechanism for Republicans to request subpoenas for witnesses and give Mr. Trump’s lawyers a substantive role in the Judiciary Committee’s proceedings to mount a defense. Some lawmakers indicated Colonel Vindman would make a good candidate to appear again at a public hearing next month. It is not clear why some of Colonel Vindman’s changes were not made, while others he recommended were, but the decision by a White House lawyer to quickly lock down the reconstructed transcript subverted the normal process of handling such documents. Once more, the Trump White House plays by it’s own rules and subverts the rule of law, plain and simple. It would appear at this point that our way of life and our government is only being saved and preserved due to the courage and honor of individual men and women in career government and/or civil service positions. The sitting *resident has no honor and he’s in it for number one, solely. Our systems are there for him to exploit not to steward, and our coffers are there for him to pillage, not protect. Not saying that other American presidents have been saintly or blameless, but nobody comes close to this regime for corruption and base conduct. It makes you wonder if Trump or his cabal have ever drawn an honest breath or done a straightforward deed, without some self-serving purpose behind it. And after three years, i believe we can say, “No.” At least, from what we have seen. It will […]

Read Opening Statement From Ukraine Expert On Trump/Zelensky Call, Who Testifies Tuesday

The statement of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a military foreign area officer, who will testify before the House committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight, is lengthy and produced in PDF format here by Politico. It starts out with Lt. Col. Vindeman qualifying himself as an expert on Ukraine and giving his background and history. All of that is valuable and interesting reading. Here’s where it gets really interesting. May 21, 2019: Inauguration Delegation Goes to Ukraine On May 21, 2019, I was directed by Ambassador Bolton and Dr. Hill to join the delegation attending President Zelenkskyy’s inauguration. When the delegation returned, they provided a debriefing to President Trump and explained their positive assessment of President Zelenskyy and his team. I did not participate in the debriefing. Oleksandr Danylyuk Visit – July 10, 2019 On July 10, 2019, Oleksandr Danylyuk, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council for Ukraine, visited Washington, D.C. for a meeting with National Security Advisor Bolton. Ambassadors Volker and Sondland also attended, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The meeting proceeded well until the Ukrainians broached the subject of a meeting between the two presidents. The Ukrainians saw this meeting as critically important in order to solidify the support of their most important international partner. Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short. Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate. Following the debriefing meeting, I reported my concerns to the NSC’s leadcounsel. Dr. Hill also reported the incident to the NSC’s lead counsel. Election Call – July 25, 2019 On July 21, 2019, President Zelenskyy’s party won Parliamentary elections in a landslide victory. The NSC proposed that President Trump call President Zelenskyy to congratulate him. On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said. I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel. Conclusion The United States and Ukraine are and must remain strategic partners, working together to realize the shared vision of a stable, prosperous, and democratic Ukraine that is integrated into the Euro-Atlantic […]
gregwest98 / Flickr Pentagon...

Pentagon Attempted To Block Their Own Official, Laura Cooper’s Testimony — NYT Publishes Letter

It was apparent from the day that Donald Trump was elected and he and his idiot son-in-law, Jared Kushner, didn’t even know that it was their responsibility to hire all new White House staff, that the civil servants, who did know procedures, were the only ones who were going to keep the wheels of government turning. Now, it is equally apparent that the career officials are the ones who are going to save our bacon. Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine policy, testified voluntarily before the House impeachment inquiry committee Wednesday, and Adam Schiff also signed a subpoena requiring her appearance, apparently out of an abundance of caution — although that particular term of art is inapplicable nowadays. Nothing can get done in Washington these days unless it is tight as a drum and nailed shut, in this political atmosphere. Any possible loophole will be explored and exploited. That’s the case here, where David L. Norquist, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, attempted to challenge Cooper’s right to testify on the theory that department lawyers needed to be present. Below is the entire letter, and annotations to it are available at the New York Times: DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 1010 DEFENSE PENTAGON WASHINGTON, DC 20301-1010 OCT 22 2019 Daniel  Levin [Cooper’s attorney] White & Case LLP 701 Thirteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20005-3807 Dear Mr. Levin: I understand that you have been retained by Ms. Laura Cooper, the Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, as her private counsel for a deposition to be conducted jointly by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, “[p]ursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.” The Department’s October 15, 2019 letter to the Chairs of the three House Committees [Tab A] expressed its belief that the customary process of oversight and accommodation has historically served the interests of congressional oversight committees and the Department well. The Committees’ purported “impeachment inquiry,” however, presents at least two issues of great importance. The first issue is the Committees’ continued, blanket refusal to allow Department Counsel to be present at depositions of Department employees. Department Counsel’s participation protects against the improper release of privileged or classified information, particularly material covered by the executive privilege which is the President’s alone to assert and to waive. Excluding Department Counsel places the witness in the untenable position of having to decide whether to answer the Committees’ questions or to assert Executive Branch confidentiality interests without an attorney from the Executive Branch present to advise on those interests. It violates settled practice and may jeopardize future accommodation. Furthermore, the Department of Justice has concluded that “congressional subpoenas that purport to require agency employees to appear without agency counsel are legally invalid and are not subject to civil or criminal enforcement.” See Attempted Exclusion of Agency Counsel from Congressional Depositions of Agency Employees, 43 Op. O.L.C. (May 23, 2019) [Tab B]. The second issue is the absence of authority for the Committees to conduct an impeachment inquiry. In its October 15, 2019 letter, the Department conveyed concerns about the Committees’ lack of authority to initiate an impeachment inquiry given the absence of a delegation of such authority by House Rule or Resolution. This correspondence echoed […]

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