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Daily Archives: March 17th, 2018

The American obsession with all things Irish increasingly overlooks the one quality of the Irish people that has enabled that little island to have such an outsized influence on the greater world.

By Casey Chalk
March 16, 2018

President Trump has declared March “Irish-American Heritage Month.” That is fitting, given how much Americans love to brag about their Irish heritage, whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day or not. Irish-themed bumper stickers, Celtic art tattoos, and Celtic crosses are all ubiquitous paraphernalia of Americans eager to assert pride in their ancestral homeland.
About 33 million Americans, or a little over 10 percent of the population claim Irish ancestry. As with every other March 17th, this means we’re in for the usual seas of green clothing, marketing of Irish-themed bric a brac, grocery sales of corned beef, and, of course, the drinking of Guinness. Yet the American obsession with all things Irish increasingly overlooks the one quality of the Irish people that has enabled that little island in the North Atlantic, comparable in size to the state of Indiana, to have such an outsized influence on the greater world: their Christian faith.
The Irish Preserved Christianity…

We should remember that the Emerald Isle was long a backwater of the European world — the Romans, who called it Hibernia, didn’t even bother to try and conquer it. The island was dominated by small Celtic tribal clans constantly at war with one another. Irish life was, to borrow a line from Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Patrick, a young Roman-British boy living in the crumbling Roman province of Britannia, was himself captured and sold by Irish slave traders. It was only the introduction of Christianity through the ministry of men like St. Patrick that the distant land underwent a true cultural and spiritual revolution.
Beginning in the sixth century, the island was slowly covered in monasteries, which, as Thomas Cahill recounts in his popular book How the Irish Saved Civilization,” became remarkable centers of learning and cultural preservation in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Christians across Europe traveled to Ireland to participate in the burgeoning Irish monastic tradition. Ireland in turn produced scores of missionary saints and scholars who traveled throughout Europe, facilitating scholarly and religious renewal in the courts of England, France, the Germanic lands, and beyond. Irish missionaries founded monasteries throughout western and central Europe, greatly empowering the growth of Christianity across the continent. The number of Irish saints from this period is simply astounding, and demonstrates the scope and depth of their influence.
… and Christianity Preserved the Irish
In the centuries that followed, Ireland suffered numerous invasions — first by Vikings, then Anglo-Normans. The island endured centuries of warfare and oppression at the hands of outsiders, particularly the Anglo-Norman lords who came to dominate the political landscape. During the reign of English king Henry VIII in the 16th century, a policy of English and Scottish settlement was implemented, further marginalizing the native Irish. Henry also of course broke from the Catholic Church in order to found an autonomous Anglican Church, which he also sought to foist upon the Irish people, who fought to retain their Catholic identity. The Protestant Reformation took a more violent turn under the helm of English Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, known as “Butcher Cromwell” by the Irish for his scorched earth policies that aimed to eliminate political and religious dissent on the island.
More religious and political persecution followed, particularly in the north of Ireland, where English monarchs sent Calvinist English and Scottish settlers to expand their hegemony over the Irish people. Sadly, the Irish hadn’t seen the worst of it — the introduction of the potato, a staple indigenous to the Western hemisphere, revolutionized Irish agriculture, allowing families to grow a nutritious crop on their small estates. Irish families grew exponentially, while family plots grew smaller and smaller with each generation (for centuries, Irish Catholics were forbidden to purchase or lease land). By the time of the potato blight in the 1840s, there were more than 8 million people living in Ireland (far more than there are even now!). The blight caused widespread famine, and over one million of the Irish people starved to death or perished of diseases related to malnutrition. Their English overlords did little to stem the crisis. In a ten-year period from 1845 to 1855, 1.5 million Irish immigrated to America.

Through all of these trials, the Irish sought to retain their unique cultural and religious traditions. It was their indelible faith in God that preserved them through these centuries of trials, culminating in the disaster of the potato famine. The Irish brought their deeply-rooted Christian beliefs with them to the United States, having an incalculable impact on the country’s Catholic Church in places like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. To this day, many of America’s Catholic priests are natives of Ireland, and Irish missionaries continue to do their work across the globe. Moreover, the Republic of Ireland, founded in 1922 after a brutal rebellion, is one of the few modern countries established with an explicit allegiance to God (and even the Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ!). It remains one of the few countries in Europe that largely prohibits abortion. The world has Irish Christians to thank for much of the good found in this world, and the Irish have their indefatigable Christian identity to thank for their outsized cultural influence.
The Banality of Contemporary Irish Pride
Despite this glorious story of faith and courage amidst great suffering and persecution, contemporary Irish-American identity often ignores its Christian heritage. St. Patrick’s Day is an occasion for cheap, ridiculous green paraphernalia, drunkenness, and debauchery. People pride themselves in their Irish heritage, yet the focus is far more on the food, drink, music, and art than it is on the religious devotion that guided their ancestors through a millennia and a half of hardships. When I studied abroad in Dublin as an undergraduate, most of the American students, like me, were of Irish lineage. Few of them came to Ireland to worship God or step foot in a church. Most came to get sh*t-faced drunk in bars all over the Emerald Isle. The Guinness, Harp, Jameson, and Paddy, among others, never stopped flowing.
I admit, Irish alcohol is a glorious, wonderful thing. Yet it too is a gift from God, to be enjoyed in moderation. Moreover, the Irish didn’t convert Europe, preserve Western civilization, or bless American society by existing in a state of perpetual inebriation. Rather, it was Irish prayers, Irish sermons, Irish rosary beads, and calloused Irish hands that built a cultural heritage known across the world. An Irishman separated from his Christian identity is no Irishman at all. Moreover, I suspect our many non-religious St. Patrick’s Day festivities would be practically unintelligible to our devoutly Christian Irish ancestors.
My admiration for my own Irish heritage runs deep. My mother’s ancestors were all Irish Catholic immigrants to America who came to this country during the famine. They ran bars in Brooklyn and farmed the land in Kansas. They had names like Fitzpatrick, McGahey, Collins, and Casey (the source of my own name). I love Gaelic music, Irish soda bread, Celtic art, and, of course, a cold pint of Guinness. I even proposed to my wife on a St. Patrick’s Day weekend following a concert of the legendary traditional Irish music group The Chieftains. Yet the foundation for all of this is my love for the faith of my fathers, that holy faith, of millions of Irish men and women who were true to God until death. That, more than anything else, is an Irish identity worthy of our pride.
Casey Chalk is a graduate student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College.

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Soviet-born Donald Trump adviser Felix Sater: ‘Send ’em to jail’ if Robert Mueller finds collusion

Good Morning America
March 16, 2018

Felix Sater is a lot of things. One of them, he says, is misunderstood.
The Soviet-born American businessman, who says he was a “senior advisor to Donald Trump,” has become known for his supporting role in the unfolding drama that is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Sater is often referred to as the convicted felon and onetime stock scammer who promised to “get all of Putins team to buy in” on a proposed plan to build “Trump Tower Moscow” in the heat of the presidential campaign.
“I know how to play it, and we will get this done,” Sater wrote to Trump attorney and confidant Michael Cohen, his childhood friend, in emails published by The Washington Post and The New York Times. “Buddy, our boy can become president of the USA, and we can engineer it.”
The project was abandoned, but as federal investigators launched a wide-ranging probe of alleged Russsian interference in the 2016 election including possible connections to Trump’s campaign and personal businesses, Sater quickly found himself caught in the dragnet. Now, in an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos airing Friday morning on Good Morning America, Sater tells ABC News that there is much, much more to his life story.
And he’s right.
“I don’t think if a screenwriter was trying to write this movie that they could make this up,” Sater said.

Sater, 52, says that for the past two decades he has served as a high-level intelligence asset for the DIA, CIA and the FBI. As first reported this week by Buzzfeed News, Sater has helped bust mafia families, capture cybercriminals and pursue top terrorists — including Osama bin Laden — earning praise from some of the country’s top law enforcement officials.
He won’t say whether or not he’s been interviewed by the special counsel, but it’s almost certain that Mueller knows his body of work well. He served as FBI Director for much of Sater’s clandestine career.
As questions have swirled about his supposed loyalty to Russia, Sater is speaking out, recasting himself as an unheralded protector of the United States.
“I am a patriot,” Sater said. “Having the opportunity to serve my country and do anything in its defense was a no brainer. It was, ‘Where do I sign up?’”
Sater says he was recruited as an intelligence asset in perhaps the unlikeliest of places — the bathroom.
He was a young man living in Russia, where he was born, trying to rebuild a business career derailed by what he calls “a bad, stupid, drunken night in a bar.” He had been convicted of felony assault charges and spent a year in prison following a bloody bar fight in which he stabbed a man in the face with a margarita glass.
He needed money so desperately upon his release, he says, that he started working on what he calls “the dark side of Wall Street,” a reference to a so-called “pump-and-dump” stock scheme that reportedly defrauded investors of nearly $40 million.
He was at a dinner party in Moscow when he says one of the guests followed him into the bathroom and identified himself as an agent of the U.S. government. He told Sater that he had unwittingly gained access to a group of high-level Russian intelligence operatives who had valuable information about Russian defense technology.
“They seem to like you,” Sater recalls being told. “You speak Russian. You blend in there. And your country needs you.”
So began, Sater says, his career in espionage. He says he developed assets in several different countries by cultivating cover as a corrupt businessman offering access to illicit schemes and passed information to U.S. agents tasked with handling a variety of threats to national security.
“They used to come to me with cases that had nothing to do with me and ask for my assistance, in which I would enthusiastically and wholeheartedly dive in and try to help,” he said.
He says he tipped off law enforcement to potential assassination attempts on Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush; obtained information and photographs about North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear program; lured Russian cybercriminals hacking the U.S. financial system out of hidings so that they could be unmasked and captured.
And, he says, he was even tasked with hunting for Osama bin Laden and managed to turn Mullah Omar’s personal secretary into a key source that provided intelligence about al-Qaeda hideouts.
The information he had obtained was so valuable that when his past caught up with him and he finally faced his sentencing in connection with that multimillion-dollar fraud, the judge let him off with a mere $25,000 fine.
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the Senate during her confirmation hearing that Sater “provided valuable and sensitive information to the government” and that information was “crucial to national security.”
That work, he says, continues in some unspecified capacity to this day. He said as recently as last year he was asked for “assistance in making evaluations of various foreign governments [and] foreign individuals.”
He reportedly told this story under oath when he testified recently before the House Intelligence Committee, at which point he said even “the Democratic aides who were there to question [me] regarding the Russia-Trump investigation stopped, paused and thanks me for my service to my country.”
“One of the few times in my life that I almost cried,” Sater said.
Sater says he made himself valuable to the U.S. government by knowing everything. When it comes to Trump, however, he says he knows next to nothing.
His company, Bayrock Group, began renting office space in Trump Tower. Sater says he introduced himself to Trump in 2000 and began funneling development proposals to Trump’s desk shortly thereafter.
“I would bring him deals,” Sater said.
Sater claims he has helped the Trump Organization secure financing on several major projects, but none has garnered more scrutiny than a failed proposal to build “Trump Tower Moscow” amid the launch of Trump’s controversial campaign for the presidency.
In 2015, Trump signed a non-binding letter of intent, which promised a $4 million initial payment to the Trump Organization, to build the tallest building in the world in Moscow. In emails sent to Cohen published by the Post and the Times, Sater appears to celebrate an apparent merger of Trump’s business and political fortunes.
Faced with questions about his boast that he and Cohen could “engineer” a Trump presidency using the deal to court Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support, Sater pleaded ignorance.
“I am not a political person,” Sater said. “I don’t understand the implications of the politics or the various strings that get attached to it and how good or bad it may look.”
Any perceived alignment of Trump’s business and political interests, he said, was purely coincidental.
“I was trying to do a real estate transaction,” Sater told ABC News. “I clearly was not involved in the campaign, nor was I involved in any of the political end, and the hope that a large transaction like that would be built, if that was helpful to his run, that would be great.”
Asked if he knew certain key member of the Trump campaign, he claimed to have had “zero contact” with many of the Trump allies who have fallen under the spotlight. He denied knowing Michael Flynn. And Paul Manafort. And Rick Gates. And George Papadopoulos. And Carter Page.
Asked if then-candidate Trump could have softened his stance on Russia because he was simultaneously pursuing a business deal there, Sater demurred.
“I can’t speak for the president,” he said.
And asked if — given his extensive sources in the both the Russian foreign intelligence services and the Russian criminal underworld — he knew of the effort underway to influence the U.S. election, he issued a forceful denial.
“I was not aware of what they were doing,” Sater said. “I read about it, just like everyone else, in the newspapers.”
Sater called Trump’s claim that he couldn’t pick him out of a lineup “disappointing,” but says Trump has nothing to fear from his testimony to investigators. He is unaware, he said, of any Russian money in any of the Trump projects he worked on and unaware of anyone in Trump’s orbit who may have colluded with foreign powers during the campaign.
If Mueller finds any, Sater recommended stiff penalties.
“Send ‘em to jail,” he said. “Anybody who colluded with anybody– with any other country against America — is guilty of crimes against our country.”
But as for himself, Sater isn’t worried.
“Eventually, it will become known that I’m guilty of trying to build the world’s tallest building,” Sater said, “and that’s about it.”
ABC News’ Matthew Mosk contributed to this report

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