Will Georgian Dream fully embrace Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

After the official approval of Georgia’s candidacy by EU leaders this month, full EU membership hinges on Georgia’s future foreign policy decisions, political unity, and holding fair and free elections in 2024, Ekaterine Zalenski writes.


On 18 October, Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, failed to impeach President Salome Zourabichvili.

This impeachment procedure was initiated in response to Zourabichvili’s unauthorised meetings with European leaders, advocating for Georgia’s EU candidacy. 

The Constitutional Court of Georgia ruled that these meetings violated the constitution, prompting a parliamentary impeachment vote. However, only 86 lawmakers voted in favour of impeachment, falling short of the required 100 votes.

These months of tension between the ruling party and the President reflect broader societal divisions in Georgia concerning the nation’s Euro-Atlantic prospects. 

Recent opinion polls by the International Republic Institute in Georgia reveal strong support for EU and NATO membership, with 89% and 80% of participants expressing support, respectively. 

However, the government’s actions indicate a different position, raising questions about the divergence between official decisions and public desires.

Should a shift away be of concern?

Over the past two decades, Russia has maintained its use of soft power and efforts to counter Western influence in Georgia. 

Despite the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, which resulted in the occupation of 20% of Georgian territories and significant political and economic damage, Georgia had uninterruptedly been on a pro-Western path. 

However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there has been a notable shift in Georgia’s governmental stance.

With Russia’s significant military presence in the country, and the recent explicit warning from former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev regarding the potential formal annexation of Georgia’s Russian-occupied regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the imperative to prioritise territorial security and embrace democratic opportunities offered by Euro-Atlantic integration should become more compelling. 

This approach should take precedence over aligning with more pro-Russian political interests.

‘Foreign agent’ bill and pointing the finger at Ukraine

While the government insists on its commitment to EU and NATO accession, as enshrined in Georgia’s constitution, emphasising pro-Western activities, voting records on UN resolutions, and efforts, which have now paid off, of meeting EU recommendations, a closer evaluation reveals an overall lack of tangible commitment to a genuinely pro-European trajectory.

Most notably, during a period of Western sanctions on Russia, the Georgian government abstained, asserting that it aimed to prevent exacerbating tensions and potential Russian aggression within the nation.

Georgian Dream supported the resumption of Georgia-Russia flights, endorsed Vladimir Putin’s visa changes for Georgians, and introduced the controversial “foreign agent” bill, sparking societal unrest.

Furthermore, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili attributed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the country’s NATO aspirations and even accused the European Parliament of attempting to involve Georgia in the conflict.

Additionally, the government used systematic propaganda, akin to Russia’s tactics, painting liberal principles associated with Euro-Atlantic integration as a derogatory term and linking it to eroding traditional values.

EU green light in the shadow of domestic trouble

Although Zourabichvili was not impeached, the process significantly constrained her capacity to engage in future foreign diplomatic visits and inflicted substantial damage on her credibility. 

Nevertheless, the president’s prior efforts have now gained significance with the European Commission recommending granting Georgia candidate status. 


Despite this momentous development, the repercussions of the impeachment process extend beyond the immediate context, and the caveat in the European Commission’s decision must be acknowledged. 

After the official approval of Georgia’s candidacy by EU leaders this month, full EU membership hinges on Georgia’s future foreign policy decisions, political unity, and holding fair and free elections in 2024. 

Consequently, the Georgian Dream’s actions will continue to mould the nation’s future trajectory.

Ultimately, the advantages of Georgia officially receiving candidacy status outweigh the advantages of not doing so. A rejection would undoubtedly have had profound effects at both societal and political levels. 

Candidate status could counter substantial threats

Zourabichvili’s unwavering commitment to fostering close ties with Western institutions, coupled with her vocal criticisms of Russia and Putin, aligned with the pro-European and anti-Russian sentiments expressed by the population throughout recent protests. 


A rejection would have impacted this pro-European sentiment and potentially augmented Russia’s political leverage and influence in Georgia. This still presents a substantial threat that warrants careful international consideration.

The influx of Russian settlers and businesses into the country, facilitated by the ruling party’s open-door policy, also raises security concerns; the Russian notion of “Compatriots Abroad” has previously been exploited by Russia to advance its foreign policy objectives through military means in both Georgia and Ukraine. 

In the larger geopolitical context, the upcoming construction of a Russian naval base in Abkhazia further raises security concerns for the entire region.

However, granting Georgia EU candidate status constitutes an act of validation and reward for the government despite its democratic regression, and one might question whether this potentially undermines the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy. 

Ultimately, EU candidate status is extended to the people and their aspirations must not be disregarded. 


Optimistic anticipations remain that candidate status may positively influence the government’s future decisions and that the 2024 elections will foster a transformative shift in the country’s political trajectory.

Ekaterine Zalenski is Research Analyst at London Politica, focusing on European political affairs with an emphasis on Eastern Europe.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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New US sanctions to plug loopholes that let Russia get Western tech

The US has announced a raft of new sanctions aimed at people and companies in countries, notably NATO member Turkey, that sell Western technology to Russia that could be used to bolster its war effort.

The US is slapping sanctions on more than 150 businesses and people from Russia to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Georgia to try to crack down on evasion and deny the Kremlin access to technology, money and financial channels that fuel President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.


The sanctions package is one of the biggest by the State and Treasury departments and is the latest to target people and companies in countries, notably NATO member Turkey, that sell Western technology to Russia that could be used to bolster its war effort.

The package also aims to hobble the development of Russia’s energy sector and future sources of cash, including Arctic natural gas projects, as well as mining and factories producing and repairing Russian weapons.

“The purpose of the action is to restrict Russia’s defense production capacity and to reduce the liquidity it has to pay for its war,” James O’Brien, head of the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told the AP.

From Russia to Turkey to the UAE

The US is imposing sanctions on a newly established UAE company, which provides engineering and technology to Russia’s Arctic liquefied natural gas project, as well as multiple Russian companies involved in its development.

Putin wants the Arctic LNG 2 project to produce more liquefied natural gas and make Russia a bigger player in the energy market. In July, Putin visited the LNG site in Russia’s far north and said it would have a positive impact on “the entire economy.”

The US package includes sanctions on several Turkish and Russian companies that the State Department says help Moscow source US and European electronic components –such as computer chips and processors — that can be used in civilian and military equipment.

The department also is targeting Turkish companies that have provided ship repair services to a company affiliated with Russia’s Ministry of Defence.

Before the war, O’Brien said, Russia imported up to 90% of its electronics from countries that are part of the G7 wealthy democracies, but sanctions have dropped that figure closer to 30%.

Sanctions, he said, “are effective” and “put a ceiling on Russia’s wartime production capacity.”

“Russia is trying to run a full production wartime economy, and it is extremely difficult to do that with secretive episodic purchases of small batches of equipment from different places around the world,” O’Brien said.

However, analysts say Russia still has significant financial reserves available to pursue its war and it’s possible for Russia to import the technology it seeks in tiny batches to maintain defense production.


“Russia could probably fill a large suitcase with enough electronic components to last for cruise missile production for a year,” said Richard Connolly, a specialist on Russia’s defense sector and economy at the risk analysis firm Oxford Analytica.

Russia, he said, also gets a lot of electronic components from Belarus, “so even if we whack all the moles, Belarus will still provide the equipment for as long as Lukashenko is in power.”

Both Turkey and the UAE have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but have not joined Western sanctions and sought to maintain ties with Russia.

Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said this year that trade between Russia and the UAE grew by 68% to $9 billion in 2022, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Are sanctions effective?

Despite countries still doing business with Russia, the State Department believes sanctions are working, O’Brien said, noting that “the way to measure success is on the battlefield.”


“Ukraine can shoot down most of what the Russians are firing, and that tells us that there’s a gap,” he said. “The battlefield debris shows us Russia is using less capable electronics or sometimes no electronics at all.”

Nonetheless, Russia has been pummeling Ukraine with frequent missile attacks, including two over the past week that killed at least 23 people in Ukraine.

This is partly because Russia is “still getting hold of these electronic components and they are largely functioning as they did before,” said Connolly, the Russia analyst.

The latest sanctions package targets multiple Russian companies that repair, develop and manufacture weapons, including the Kalibr cruise missile. But to really turn the screws on Russia, analysts say Western companies need to think twice before selling crucial technology to countries known to have a healthy resale market with Russia.

“We need to work much harder with companies in our own countries to ensure that they are not feeding the re-export market,” said Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.


“Many of them may be celebrating a rise in sales to the UAE or Turkey and not realising, or not choosing to realise, that the rise is being driven by re-export business as opposed to genuine business happening in the UAE and Turkey,” he said.

The United Arab Emirates has insisted it follows international laws when it comes to money laundering and sanctions. However, a global body focused on fighting money laundering has placed the UAE on its “grey list” over concerns that the global trade hub isn’t doing enough to stop criminals and militants from hiding wealth there.

Turkey, meanwhile, has tried to balance its close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, positioning itself as a mediator.

Turkey depends heavily on Russian energy and tourism. Last year, however, Turkey’s state banks suspended transactions through Russia’s payment system, Mir, over US threats of sanctions.

The extent of US sanctions

Including the latest sanctions, the State Department says the US has targeted almost 3,000 businesses and people since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“The United States and its allies and partners are united in supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.

The State Department also sanctioned a Russian citizen for being associated with the Wagner mercenary group and for facilitating shipping of weapons from North Korea to Russia.

Also targeted were a Russian oligarch who the State Department says has personal ties to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and organised crime, as well as a Russian Intelligence Services officer and a Georgian-Russian oligarch. The State Department has said Russia’s Federal Security Service worked with the oligarch to influence Georgian society and politics for Russia’s benefit.

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Trump surrenders at Atlanta jail, gets mugshot taken and is then released

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was arrested at a Georgia jail on August 24 on racketeering and conspiracy charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election results in the southern State.

During a brief session lasting less than 30 minutes, the 77-year-old Mr. Trump was booked on 13 charges at Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail, according to records published by the sheriff’s office.

Mr. Trump’s height was listed by the jail as six foot three inches (1.9 meters), his weight as 215 pounds (97 kilograms) and his hair color as “Blond or Strawberry.”

Explained | The indictment against Donald Trump 

Mr. Trump left Atlanta jail roughly 20 minutes after surrendering, reported AP. He was released on $200,000 bond and headed back to the airport for his return flight home to New Jersey.

Mr. Trump arrived in Georgia on August 24 evening to surrender on charges that he illegally schemed to overturn the 2020 election in that State, a county jail booking that yielded a historic first: a mug shot of a former American President.

Mr. Trump’s surrender, coming amid an abrupt shake-up of his legal team, follows the presidential debate in Milwaukee the night before featuring his leading rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination — a contest in which he remains the leading candidate despite broad legal troubles. His presence in Georgia, though likely brief, is swiping the spotlight anew from his opponents after the debate in which they sought to seize on his absence to elevate their own presidential prospects.

Mr. Trump landed in Atlanta shortly after 7 p.m. and was to be driven, through the city’s rush-hour traffic, to jail for the booking process. Wearing his signature white shirt and red tie, he offered a wave and thumbs up as he descended the steps of his private plane.

The Fulton County prosecution is the fourth criminal case against Mr. Trump since March when he became the first former President in U.S. history to be indicted. Since then, he’s faced federal charges in Florida and Washington, and this month he was indicted in Atlanta with 18 others — including his ex-chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — under a racketeering statute normally associated with gang members and organized crime.

Former President Donald Trump steps off his plane as he arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, on Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta.
| Photo Credit:

Mr. Giuliani surrendered on August 23 and posed for a mug shot. Meadows, who had sought to avoid having to turn himself in while he sought to move the case to federal court, turned himself in August 24. The bond was set at $100,000.

Explained | How will the indictments affect Donald Trump?

The criminal cases have spurred a succession of bookings and arraignments, with Mr. Trump making brief court appearances before returning to the 2024 campaign trail. He’s turned the appearances into campaign events amid a far lighter schedule than his rivals, with staff delighting in wall-to-wall media coverage that has included news helicopters tracking his every move.

The campaign has also used the appearances to solicit fundraising contributions from his supporters as aides paint the charges as part of a politically motivated effort to damage his reelection chances. As Mr. Trump was en route from New Jersey to Atlanta, his campaign sent a message saying, “I’m writing to you from Trump Force One, on my way to Atlanta where I will be ARRESTED despite having committed NO CRIME.”

As afternoon turned to evening, scores of Mr. Trump supporters had gathered outside the jail where the ex-president was to surrender, some waving flags with Trump’s name, as officials tightened security measures.

His Atlanta surrender was different from prior ones, requiring him to show up at a problem-plagued jail — but without an accompanying court appearance for now. And unlike in other cities that did not require him to pose for a mug shot, Fulton County officials have taken a booking photo as they would any other defendant.

District Attorney Fani Willis has given all of the defendants until August 25 afternoon to turn themselves in at the main Fulton County jail. On August 24, her office proposed an October 23 trial date, though the complexities of the 19-person case — and potential scheduling conflicts with other Mr. Trump prosecutions — would appear to make it all but impossible. The date seemed to be a response to early legal manoeuvring by at least one defendant, Kenneth Chesebro, who requested a speedy trial.

Just ahead of his expected surrender, Mr. Trump hired a new lead attorney for the Georgia case.

Prominent Atlanta criminal defence attorney Steve Sadow took the place of another high-profile criminal defence attorney, Drew Findling, who had represented Mr. Trump as recently as Monday when his bond terms were negotiated. But by August 24 Mr. Findling was no longer part of the team, according to a person with knowledge of the change who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Mr. Sadow, who has represented a rapper, Gunna, who pleaded guilty last year in a racketeering case also brought by Willis, said in a statement that “the president should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him.”

“We look forward to the case being dismissed or, if necessary, an unbiased, open-minded jury finding the president not guilty,” he added. “Prosecutions intended to advance or serve the ambitions and careers of political opponents of the President have no place in our justice system.”

It’s not the first time this year that Mr. Trump has shaken up his legal team either in the run-up to an indictment or in the immediate aftermath. One of his lead lawyers, Tim Parlatore, left the legal team weeks before Mr. Trump was indicted in Florida on charges of illegally hoarding classified documents, citing conflicts with a top Trump adviser. Two other lawyers, James Trusty and John Rowley, announced their resignations the morning after that indictment was returned.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He said in a social media post this week that he was being prosecuted for what he described in capital letters as a “perfect phone call” in which he asked the Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to help him “find 11,780 votes” for him to overturn his loss in the State to Democrat Joe Biden.

Mr. Trump is expected to turn himself in at the Fulton County jail, which has long been a troubled facility. The Justice Department last month opened a civil rights investigation into conditions, citing filthy cells, violence and the death last year of a man whose body was found covered in insects in the main jail’s psychiatric wing. Three people have died in Fulton County custody in the past month.

Unlike in other jurisdictions, in Fulton County, arraignments — in which a defendant appears in court for the first time — generally happen after a defendant surrenders at the jail and completes the booking process, not on the same day. That means Mr. Trump could have to make two trips to Georgia in the coming weeks though the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has said some arraignments in the case may happen virtually if the judge allows, or he could waive Mr. Trump’s arraignment.

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Protesters in Georgia drive away Russian cruise ship, allege violent police response

After two days of demonstrations, protesters in Georgia forced out the Russian cruise ship Astoria Grande, which had been docked at a Black Sea port in the southwest of the country. Police responded by using force on protesters, who cited their disapproval of the cruise ship’s passengers’ views on Russian policies in Ukraine and Georgia. According to our Observer, the clashes highlight a disparity between the Georgian government and the population’s stance on Russia.

Issued on: Modified:

4 min

The Russian cruise ship Astoria Grande stopped at Georgia’s Batumi port on the Black Sea for the first time on July 26. Hundreds of Georgians met it with anti-Russian signs, determined to stop the 800 tourists aboard from disembarking.

Protesters were even more incensed to learn that Russian television personalities who spoke in support of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine were among the tourists on board. 

When they were interviewed by Georgian media on their arrival, some passengers declared that the 2008 Russian war against Georgia “liberated” Abkhazia, an autonomous republic and state recognised by only seven countries in the world, that is a breakaway region bordering Russia considered occupied territory by Georgian law. These statements, as well as deliberate provocations, rallied more people against the cruise ship.

The ship left port early on July 27, but returned on July 31 only to be met once again by demonstrators. The protesters threw eggs and plastic bottles at the minibuses taking Russian tourists on the ship. 

The cruise operator told Russian media RBC that Batumi was no longer a destination for the Astoria Grande. 

Video taken by Tazo Makharadze during the protest in Batumi on August 31.

‘We won this battle. But the struggle continues’

Tazo Makharadze is the cofounder of the association Dafion, a pro-European youth movement. He launched the call for protest against the cruise ship on both days. 

The gathering of people in Batumi started when the Russian cruise arrived in Batumi and the “guests” on the cruise insulted our territorial integrity and said that Abkhazia and Samachablo were not Georgian. 

Soon after, I posted an appeal calling on people to come out and protest this disparity. Other organisations were involved besides us. And most importantly, completely nonpartisan people took part in this protest, and this means that these sentiments are present in the people. 

The protests were mostly self-organised, because this is the mood of the people right now and they don’t want Russia. More than 20 percent of our country is occupied by Russia. Despite this, our government pursues a pro-Russian policy. That’s why Georgian youths often have to stand on the street and protest these disparities. 

We won this battle and drove out the occupiers ahead of time. But the struggle continues.

Hundreds of people gathered in the port of Batumi on August 31. The police intervened to allow the passage of minibuses transporting Russian tourists to the ship.

Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of “Georgian Dream”, the majority party in the Georgian parliament, publicly condemned the protests on August 1. 

“Hypocrisy and the double standard of pseudo-anti-Russians clearly indicate that all political provocations, including the rally held yesterday in Batumi, are dictated only by anti-state political goals and external influence,” Kobakhidze said. 

He added that cruise ships provide tourist revenues to the country.

‘The participants of the rally did not comply with their legal demands’

The police intervened to provide safe passage to tourists and used violence against protesters, according to eyewitnesses. At least 23 people were detained on July 31. Among them are well-known activists and a local leader of the opposition party Droa. 

The Georgian ministry of interior released a statement about the protests in Batumi on July 31:  

“Despite numerous calls by law enforcement officers at the port of Batumi, the participants of the rally did not comply with their legal demands […]. We call on the participants of the rally not to go beyond the limits of the freedom of assembly and expression allowed by law.”

The police did not make any further official declarations following the departing of the cruise ship. Our team tried to contact the Georgian police and the regional police section in Batumi for a comment, but did not receive a response. 

‘There was no reason for violence. People were arrested because of fear’

Tazo Makharadze told us that the police violence was exaggerated. 

The police intervened when we did not allow the Russian tourists to get off the cruise. They physically assaulted the protesters. There was a case when a fallen person was kicked in the leg. There was no reason for violence.

The police attempted to move protestors out of the way to let minibuses with Russian tourists pass

Multiple legal associations declared that pre-trial detention was used in an abusive way. Some detainees stated that the police were physically violent even after they were arrested. One Ukrainian protester that was arrested had to be transferred to the hospital because of her injuries. 

‘Police violated protesters’ rights to freedom of expression’

While arrested protesters have the right to see their lawyer right away, information about the identity of the detained as well as on the location of their detention was released only in the late evening of July 31, according to a press statement by the Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia (GYLA).  

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to a representative from Union Sapari, one of the volunteer legal associations that is striving to prove that protesters were illegally detained

The police arrested the protesters under traditional articles, which they always use in similar cases: petty hooliganism and disobedience to the request of the policeman. 

Police violated protesters’ rights to freedom of expression. The three people we are representing have been detained already for 48 hours and several of them are injured. We are collecting the video archives of the detention and disputing the detention in the court as illegal.

A video posted on Twitter on August 1 shows the Georgian police violently arresting a Ukrainian demonstrator. While in detention she had to be transferred to the hospital.

Several police officers are under investigation for engaging in abusive behaviour, as stated by the Georgian Special Investigative Service on August 1. 

As of August 3, 15 protesters have been released on bail. At least eight protesters remain in detention, where they have been held for longer than 48 hours – the maximum term of pre-trial detention under Georgian law. 

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Herschel, Grifty Walker

Herschel Walker — Hey! Stop throwing stuff at me, this is real news! — appears to have been up to some some mind-blowingly grifty shenanigans during his failed 2022 run against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) last year, according to reporting from the Daily Beast Wednesday. The Beast acquired a bunch of emails between Walker and a company owned by a longtime family friend of Walker’s, billionaire industrial mogul Dennis Washington, who made it big in molybdenum and copper mining in Montana in the ’70s and then expanded into industrialist stuff. (His novelty record, “Big In Molybdenum,” flopped, however.)

In March 2022, the Beast reports, Walker emailed an executive for one of Washington’s companies, conveniently named The Washington Corporations, to ask for money, which candidates do all the time, no big whoop. Except, as reporter Roger Sollenberger explains, candidates definitely don’t make the kind of ask Walker did, because it’s almost certainly illegal as fuck:

Walker wasn’t just asking for donations to his campaign; he was soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal company—a company that he never disclosed on his financial statements.

Emails obtained by The Daily Beast—and verified as authentic by a person with knowledge of the exchanges—show that Walker asked Washington to wire $535,200 directly to that undisclosed company, HR Talent, LLC.

And the emails reveal that not only did Washington complete Walker’s wire requests, he was under the impression that these were, in fact, political contributions

In the best possible circumstances, legal experts told The Daily Beast, the emails suggest violations of federal fundraising rules; in the worst case, they could be an indication of more serious crimes, such as wire fraud.

The story is very careful to point out that even though he’d never run for office before, Walker was very well briefed on campaign finance rules from the time he started running in 2021. In one of the emails to Washington, Walker even explained the limits that could be given to his campaign and to his super PAC, “34N22,” so he can’t very well claim he was just a simple country millionaire former football player who’d like to be a werewolf maybe.

While we do have to talk about donation amounts and such, we won’t be going into all the financial ins and outs, because 1) that’s already in the Daily Beast story, and also 2) that would be Math.

Sollenberger adds that after Washington’s people were informed by a third party that the money that had been wired to Walker’s company couldn’t actually be used for political purposes, an executive emailed Walker to ask if the money sent to HR Talent could be redirected to the super PAC instead, but that Walker “appears to have dismissed” those worries. The story now includes an update, noting that the day after it ran,

a spokesperson for Washington said Walker had refunded the money but did not respond to questions about when that happened.

Look, everything’s fine here, we’re fine. How are you?

When Walker was preparing for the runoff election against Raphael Warnock, a November 29 email from Tim McHugh, executive VP for the Washington Corporations, notes that after McHugh had spoken with Walker on the phone about a new $100,000 contribution to the campaign that Walker had requested, McHugh was informed that

“any funds sent to the HR Talent account cannot legally be used for political purposes. Political contributions must go to either the Team Herschel or 34N22 accounts. […] We will need your assistance to get the prior contributions made to the HR Talent account in March corrected.”

Sollenberger decodes that for us:

Walker was not allowed to solicit donations for the super PAC in excess of federal limits, which this amount of money explicitly was. But that was not McHugh’s concern; he was worried about the hundreds of thousands of dollars his boss had wired to HR Talent in March.

But instead of addressing those concerns, Walker wrote back with an email detailing how Washington and his two sons, Kyle and Kevin, could donate $10,800 to his campaign, his recount effort, and his super PAC, with the remainder to go to his company, HR Talent. Yes, again, right after McHugh said hey, I hear that can’t be used for your campaign.

As Sollenberger ‘splains,

The numbers suggest that Walker had worked out a $100,000 arrangement with each Washington, with 95 percent of their contributions going to Walker’s company instead of the super PAC. But while Dennis Washington’s $5,800 campaign donations from the time do appear in FEC records, the $95,400 never hit the super PAC’s account. Kyle and Kevin Washington did not donate any money after the November emails.

Long story short: There’s a lot of hinky stuff in the emails, and campaign finance experts told Sollenberger over and over that they’d never seen anything so insanely grifty:

Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at Campaign Legal Center, called the arrangement “jaw-dropping.” Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said if Walker “used the campaign to funnel money into his own business, that’s one of the biggest campaign finance crimes I’ve ever heard of.” Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance lawyer and deputy executive director of Documented, remarked that the exchanges were “stunning and, to my knowledge, without parallel in recent history.”

“Campaign finance laws are designed to prevent massive under-the-table payments like those described here,” Fischer said. “While we don’t have all the facts, these emails point to highly illegal, potentially even criminal activity.”

Libowitz even went so far as to suggest that Walker’s scheme appears to have out-Trumped Donald Trump, because while Trump used campaign donations at his own businesses over and over, there were actual goods and services being purchased at the going market rates (though perhaps on the high side of the going rate, ahem). “Here, the money isn’t being spent by the campaign on Herschel’s businesses,” Libowitz told Sollenberger. “The money never even goes to the campaign. It just goes straight to him.”

But wait, there’s more!

Ghosh, of the Campaign Legal Center, agreed that Walker appears to have violated campaign finance laws, calling the scheme “$500,000 of grift.”

“It appears to be a fake campaign solicitation, designed to just profit personally from someone. That’s brazen in a way that’s off the charts,” he said.

On top of that, Ghosh pointed out that campaign law requires candidates to report all their sources of income, so Walker’s failure to list HR Talent LLC in his financial statements appears to violate the law too. Further, Ghosh said, if Walker had misled Washington about where the money was going — as certainly seems to be the case — “Then we’re in the world of just defrauding somebody.”

“Sounds a lot like wire fraud if the money didn’t make it to the campaign or super PAC,” Ghosh said. “And the fact they tried to do it again shows they’re trying to squeeze this billionaire.”

So what happens now? That would be up to federal prosecutors, who we assume pay attention to the news. And golly, wouldn’t it be something if more on this came out, like with all the stuff on Clarence Thomas that started turning up after ProPublica did some digging?

If this does turn into an investigation, and an investigation turns into an arrest, we have two words of advice for the federal agents assigned to bring Mr. Walker in: Silver bullets.

[Daily Beast]

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For nearly 50 years, only Black men caddied The Masters. One day, they all but vanished | CNN


History never forgets a champion. When you win one of sport’s biggest titles, you become immortal.

Win multiple times and your legacy is even greater. To think of The Masters is to think of Jack Nicklaus, the most successful champion in the major’s history with six wins, and Arnold Palmer, who donned the winner’s green jacket four times in just six years at Augusta National.

And yet for decades, two former champions with a combined nine wins lay buried in unmarked graves.

Willie Peterson caddied Nicklaus’ first five victories, while Nathaniel “Iron Man” Avery was on the bag for all four of Palmer’s triumphs. Avery’s headstone was only installed at Augusta’s Southview Cemetery, in Georgia, in 2017, 32 years after his death. Three years later, a 10-minute drive away at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Peterson – who died in 1999 – received his.

They were just two of Augusta National’s original caddie corps, all of them Black men who, from the inaugural edition of the tournament in 1934, guided golfers around the fabled course.

Every subsequent year for almost half a century, they would play substantial – sometimes pivotal – roles in the destination of the green jacket.

The stories of the original group of Augusta caddies almost always began in the same place: Sand Hills.

Located just three miles from The Masters venue, the historically Black district lay adjacent to Augusta Country Club. There, local kids between 10 and 12 years old could earn a wage carrying the bag for members.

Around 90% of Augusta National’s original caddie corps grew up in the Sand Hill neighborhood, according to Leon Maben, vice president of the board of directors at Augusta’s Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History.

Eventually, many would hop across Rae’s Creek to begin work at Augusta National. Or as Ward Clayton, author of “Men on the Bag: The Caddies of Augusta National,” terms it: they “graduated.”

Palmer looks over his shoulder as he sits with a group of caddies during the 1965 Masters.

“They were just looking for a buck,” Clayton told CNN. “They weren’t aiming at the outset to become the greatest caddies in the world, but they did – that’s what they became.

“It wasn’t as much of an age thing as it was just your ability. You had to learn to how to act around adults, how to read greens, how to tell guys what clubs to hit, what their yardage was, and how to read people.

“You had to become a little bit of an amateur psychologist … you had to read them right away, from the first hole.”

There was strong incentive for graduating. A “good bag” at Augusta National would pay up to $5, Maben said, offering $20 for a particularly lucrative day’s labor.

For Jariah “Jerry” Beard, caddie for 1979 Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller, it meant he could earn as much in a day as his parents could in a week working at the city’s John P. King mill.

If caddying was an education, then Willie “Pappy” Stokes was its headmaster.

Having grown up on the very grounds Augusta National was built on, a 12-year-old Stokes was hired to provide water to workers constructing the club. During bad weather, the youngster closely studied how rain streamed across the terrain, always trickling towards the course’s lowest point: Rae’s Creek.

That realization formed the basis of Stokes’ ability to read greens with near-perfect accuracy, a knowledge he imparted to budding students at Saturday morning “caddie school.”

At just 17-years-old, Stokes helped Henry Picard to the 1938 Masters title. He would retire after helping four different players to five wins at Augusta and having sealed his status as “The Godfather” of caddies.

Stokes watches on as Ben Hogan edges closer to his first Masters title in 1951. Stokes would caddy again for Hogan when he won his second green jacket in 1953.

Stokes’ knowledge trickled down to those that followed, epitomized by Beard in 1979. To this day, Zoeller remains the only golfer to win The Masters on his first attempt, as Beard steered the debutant around Augusta “like a blind man with a seeing-eye dog.”

And they were Zoeller’s words, not Beard’s, relayed by the American in “Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk,” a 2019 film co-produced by Clayton.

Maben often joked with Beard, who died in March aged 82, that Zoeller ought to give him his green jacket.

“These guys were ahead of their time,” Maben said. “They knew Augusta National like the back of their hand and were able to direct a golfer without any type of instrument like today’s caddies (use).

“They didn’t have no book to go by or no instrument to say how the wind was blowing that day, anything like that. They were the best at what they did.”

Beard helps Zoeller line up a putt at the 1979 Masters.

And as with “The Godfather,” caddie nicknames were par for the course.

Tommy “Burnt Biscuits” Bennett, on the bag for Tiger Woods’ first Masters in 1995, got his moniker after an attempt as a child to steal biscuits being baked on his Grandma’s wooden stove ended with him badly scalding himself, according to ESPN.

Then there was John H. “Stovepipe” Gordon, Frank “Marble Eye” Stokes, and Matthew “Shorty Mac” Palmer. Avery’s “Iron Man” title had multiple stories as to its origin, according to Clayton, one being that he inadvertently cut off a finger while playing golf with a hatchet and another that he injured a hand playing around with powerful firecrackers.

John H.

But Clayton has a clear favorite in the nickname department: Willie “Cemetery” Perteet, former caddie for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The story, as recounted by Clayton, goes as follows.

Caddie by day, jazz band drummer in downtown Augusta by night, Perteet was leaving a gig one evening when he was jumped by a gang brandishing knives. The group had been gathered by the caddie’s ex-girlfriend, who was “terrifically hurt” after he had ended the relationship.

Hospitalized by his injuries, Perteet later returned to consciousness – but not in a hospital bed. Instead, he awoke in a refrigerated bay, staring into the horrified eyes of a mortician.

“The doctor evidently gave him too much medication and they thought he was dead,” Clayton explained.

“So all the caddies give him the nickname ‘Dead Man.’ President Eisenhower, right at the outset, said, ‘I don’t really like that title. We’re just going to call you Cemetery.’”

Though those who worked the bag were often close with the golfers they paired with, there was an enduring divide – social, as caddies, and racial, as Black men in America.

Only allowed to play the course on the days Augusta National was closed to members, caddies were “considered a lower class,” despite the respect for their craft, Clayton said. Maben, having spoken to many of the original caddies, agreed.

“That’s during segregation, Jim Crow period, and Black men was downgraded in society, called boy, n***er and all that,” Maben said.

“The way I analyze it, from a lot of the conversations I had, they knew their place at that time in society.”

In 1990, TV executive Ron Townsend became the first Black member admitted to Augusta National, 15 years after Lee Elder had become the first Black golfer to compete at The Masters.

Elder won four times on the PGA Tour.

By the time Townsend arrived, most of Augusta’s original caddie corps had disappeared. For the first 48 years at The Masters, golfers had to employ the services of the club’s caddies, but from 1983 onwards, they could bring their own.

Part of the reason lay in events at the previous year’s tournament, when a miscommunication led to some caddies missing a morning tee time. Several golfers used the incident as leverage in their bid to persuade The Masters to allow players to bring the caddies they employed year-round on the PGA Tour.

Clayton believes the arrival of Tour caddies was a matter of when, not if. “There’s no doubt that there was still a large, large group of excellent caddies at Augusta National. But the depth of those caddie ranks were not as great as what the players wanted,” he said.

“It would just have been nice if it was done in a more seamless manner versus what occurred.”

Caddies old and new at the 1983 Masters.

Regardless of the cause, the impact was profound. The 1983 Masters saw the first White caddies walk the greens at the major, with just 19 Black caddies on the bag, Clayton said.

Peterson was furious after entering the caddy facility to find his trusty No. 1 locker had been taken by an unknowing “Tour caddie.” The matter was quickly resolved, but the outgoing caddies were distraught – a pain felt both emotionally and financially.

“They felt like their jobs were being taken from them,” Clayton explained. “They didn’t have a lot of time for these guys coming in from the outside.”

Within a decade, less than 10 of the original caddie corps remained, he added.

“It was not nice the way they went out,” Carl Jackson, caddie for Ben Crenshaw, told CNN.

“It was a hard thing for all the guys because many of them were really good caddies and had experience about that golf course. At least 25-30 of those pros should not have let their caddies go.”

Yet Jackson’s story at Augusta National would not end for another 40 years.

Like many others, Jackson had begun working at Augusta Country Club before graduating to Augusta National in 1958 to learn his trade under Stokes. He arrived with the nickname “Skillet” because he supposedly couldn’t throw a baseball hard enough to break an egg.

In 1976, he paired with Crenshaw for the first time. For renowned putter “Gentle Ben” and the soft-spoken Jackson, green-reader extraordinaire, the partnership was a match made in heaven. After finishing runner-up on their first outing together, in 1984 Crenshaw clinched a two-shot victory over Watson to seal his maiden major title.

Jackson and Crenshaw formed a formidable partnership.

Crenshaw and Jackson would celebrate a second green jacket in 1995. It marked a hugely emotional victory for the Texan golfer, whose mentor Harvey Penick had died just before the tournament, leaving him in “shambles,” Jackson said.

When Crenshaw tapped home his winning putt, the duo shared a long hug on the green. Almost 20 years later to the day, the pair would repeat the gesture when – after their 39th outing – they retired together at the 2015 Masters.

The pair’s friendship lies at the heart of a forthcoming documentary on Jackson’s life, “Rise Above.”

“That’s how America ought to be,” Jackson says in the film. “The Black man taking care of the White man and the White man taking care of the Black man.’”

For Jackson, the core message of the documentary is about respect.

“If you’re righteous, you’re righteous. If you’re unrighteous, you’re gonna be a hater anyway.”

Jackson and Crenshaw embrace on the 18th green after their final hole together at The Masters.

Clayton will be at Augusta National this week, overseeing content for Masters.com, keeping a close eye on the men in the white jumpsuits and green hats carrying the clubs of those vying for the 2023 green jacket.

He will do so with as comprehensive a knowledge of the history of the club’s caddies as any in attendance. Yet prior to researching his 2004 book, mythic stories of “The Godfather,” “Cemetery,” and Augusta’s original caddie core were just that to him – myths. And that troubled Clayton.

“That was my effort, to tell their stories,” he said. “Because I thought they played a vital, vital role in making that club what it is and also helping golfers win … they deserved their attention.

“A lot of them aren’t with us any longer. That number is diminishing every year and they should be honored or remembered in a way that tells the story of who they are.”

The legacy of The Masters' original caddies lives on at Augusta National.

Preserving and spreading those stories is an ongoing mission. Clayton helped get the headstones for Avery and Peterson, with Palmer and Nicklaus also involved for their respective caddies.

This year, the Lucy Craft Laney Museum will put the legacy of Augusta’s Black caddies – quite literally – center stage.

Twice a month at the museum, supplementing its regular tours, the “Men on the Bag Experience” will see the stories of three original Augusta caddies – Stokes, Perteet, and Peterson – acted out in a play.

At the end of each performance, at least two original caddies – or “living legends” as Maben refers to them – will emerge from the audience to host an on-stage Q&A. Each will be immortalized in a sports trading card, stylized with their picture, story, and stats, to be signed and distributed to patrons as they leave the show.

Maben rarely calls them caddies. It’s almost always “living legends,” “superstars” or, most commonly of all, “champions.”

And history never forgets a champion.

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Why do Masters champions win a green jacket? | CNN


Golfers fall asleep dreaming of securing theirs, Bubba Watson was moved to tears simply reminiscing over his, and one fan was willing to shell out over $680,000 just to own one.

Augusta National’s green jacket – an exclusive prize for Masters champions – is golf’s most coveted fashion statement, and one of sport’s most iconic pieces of clothing.

Sure, the prestige of winning one of the four majors in men’s golf and the trophy, not to mention the prize money, are welcome rewards, but the storied history of the Georgia club’s green member’s jacket earned it a unique reputation among those that pursue it.

The story of Augusta’s green jacket began some 3,900 miles across the Atlantic, in the town of Hoylake in northwest England.

Ahead of hosting its sixth British Open Championship in 1930, Royal Liverpool Golf Club held a players’ reception. In attendance was the most celebrated amateur golfer of the era, American Bobby Jones.

Over dinner, Jones proceeded to pepper former club captain Kenneth Stoker with questions on his red coat, the formal kit of Royal Liverpool captains.

“Mr. Jones, if you’re so fascinated by this, I will give you my coat if you win our Championship this week,” challenged Stoker – according to a CNN interview with club historian Joe Pinnington in 2014.

Naturally, Jones made short work of the wager, clinching the 11th of his 13 career major victories and returning to the US with a trophy – and a red blazer.

After becoming the first and only golfer to complete the original grand slam (Amateur Championship, Open Championship, US Open, US Amateur) months later, Jones stunned the sporting world by announcing his retirement from competitive golf at just 28 years old.

Harboring a passion for course design, Jones had other plans in mind. In 1934, his newly founded Augusta National hosted the first incarnation of The Masters.

Three years later, Augusta members started wearing green jackets to make themselves identifiable to patrons. In 1949 it was decided that year’s victor, Sam Snead, and all the previous champions, would be issued with their own version too.

The heavily bunkered appraoch to the par 5 3rd hole on the Royal Liverpool Golf Course, on June 10, 2004 in Hoylake, England.

How Royal Liverpool Golf Club inspired the Masters green jacket

The green jacket wasn’t a smash hit from the start, though. Originally produced by New York’s Brooks Uniform Company, Augusta members complained that the jackets were overly thick and uncomfortable in hot conditions, leading to a swift change of manufacturer, according to the PGA Tour.

Since 1967, Hamilton Tailoring Company of Cincinnati has held responsibility for making the jacket, the color of which is officially classified as “Pantone 342.”

Production is a month-long process that sees the owners name stitched inside and Augusta National logos emblazoned on both the chest pocket and brass buttons.

As a result, the jacket slipped onto the shoulders of winners on Sunday is simply for presentation, with the real one handed over later.

Yet newly crowned champions can’t simply walk away and find a lifetime spot for their new prize in their wardrobe – terms and conditions apply.

For starters, the jackets cannot be removed from – and can only be worn on – the grounds of Augusta National, though winners are permitted to take theirs home for a year on the condition they bring it back at the next edition of the tournament to hang in the Champions Locker Room.

When the defending champion returns a year later, they – along with a host of former victors – will don their jacket for the Masters Champions Dinner. The reigning winner decides the menu, with Scottie Scheffler serving up cheeseburger sliders, ribeye steak, and chocolate chip cookies for this year’s meal. Their final responsibility is to help the new winner slip into his new jacket during a ceremonial “passing of the torch” presentation outside Butler Cabin.

But what if a champion successfully defends his title? That was a question Masters co-founders Jones and Clifford Roberts hurriedly answered in 1966 when Jack Nicklaus became the first back-to-back champion at Augusta.

The pair decided that “The Golden Bear” should put the jacket on himself, and in the two repeat occasions since – Nick Faldo in 1990 and Tiger Woods in 2002 – the Masters chairman assumed responsibility for helping the golfers into their jackets.

Faldo helps 1997 Masters champion Woods into his green jacket.

There is one infamous exception to the rule of returning your jacket.

When Gary Player became the first international golfer to win The Masters in 1961, he jetted home to South Africa with his green jacket tucked away in his luggage. The following year, when he was defeated by Arnold Palmer in a playoff, he didn’t return it.

“I didn’t know you were supposed to leave it there,” said Player. “Next thing you know, there was a call from Mr. Roberts. And I said, ‘Well, Mr. Roberts, if you want it, why don’t you come and fetch it?’”

Roberts saw the funny side, Player added, and allowed the South African to keep it on the condition that he didn’t wear it in public. “The Black Knight” would go on to win two further Masters in 1974 and 1978.

Player was an honorary starter at the 2017 tournament.

Given how hard it is for the game’s finest to get their hands on a green jacket, it’s borderline impossible for non-golfers to do the same – but that hasn’t stopped a select few from trying.

In 2013, the jacket owned by Horton Smith, winner of the inaugural Masters in 1934, sold for $682,229 to an unnamed buyer at an auction hosted by Green Jacket Auctions.

Smith won The Masters in 1934 and 1936.

In 2017, Augusta National filed a lawsuit to stop the memorabilia company from auctioning another winner’s green jacket, as well as two members’ green jackets, according to the Associated Press.

The champion’s jacket was purported to have belonged to 1966 winner Byron Nelson. His blazer was marked in an inventory check at Augusta in 2009 before going missing, the lawsuit said.

In January 2019, Augusta National and Green Jacket Auctions agreed to drop their legal dispute, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

One jacket auctioned by Green Jacket Auctions was reported to have been first discovered in a Toronto thrift shop. Purchased for a measly $5, the jacket, whose original owner was undisclosed, was sold at auction for $139,349 in April 2017.

From letting friends – and even newborn children – try it on for size, to donning it for barbeques, Masters champions have found various uses for their green jackets during their limited-time home ownership.

“I didn’t take it for granted whatsoever,” 2015 champion Jordan Spieth told reporters upon his return to Augusta the following year.

“I think that I could have taken advantage of having it in my possession more than I did, but you learn and next time I’ll do a little bit better.

“Some of my favorite memories were certainly back home, having a bunch of my friends over and just having the jacket on while you’re grilling out … it was certainly a lot of fun and I don’t want to have to give it back.”

Spieth settles into his green jacket after victory in 2015.

For others, the satisfaction of turning rivals green with envy is enough.

“It’s a great way to give the other guys grief, give them a little jab here or there,” said Phil Mickelson, champion in 2004, 2006, and 2010.

Charl Schwartzel, who mounted a stunning final day charge to seal victory in 2011, said: “To have it with you and to see the people’s faces when you walk in … they always take a second look like, ‘that’s the jacket!’”

Zach Johnson described dressing his four-month-old son in his 2007 winner’s jacket for a picture session, following in the footsteps of Bubba Watson, who did the same with his adopted son after triumph in 2012.

“I wrapped Caleb up in it, that was the only thing I did with it,” a tearful Watson told reporters in 2013.

“Out of respect and honor for Augusta National and one of the greatest clubs we have, one of the greatest tournaments … I didn’t do any of my funny antics that I normally would do.”

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The haunting Masters meltdown that changed Rory McIlroy’s career | CNN


Slumped on his club, head buried in his arm, Rory McIlroy looked on the verge of tears.

The then-21-year-old had just watched his ball sink into the waters of Rae’s Creek at Augusta National and with it, his dream of winning The Masters, a dream that had looked so tantalizingly close mere hours earlier.

As a four-time major winner and one of the most decorated names in the sport’s history, few players would turn down the chance to swap places with McIlroy heading into Augusta this week.

Yet on Sunday afternoon of April 10, 2011, not a golfer in the world would have wished to be in the Northern Irishman’s shoes.

A fresh-faced, mop-headed McIlroy had touched down in Georgia for the first major of the season with a reputation as the leading light of the next generation of stars.

An excellent 2010 had marked his best season since turning pro three years earlier, highlighted by a first PGA Tour win at the Quail Hollow Championship and a crucial contribution to Team Europe’s triumph at the Ryder Cup.

Yet despite a pair of impressive top-three finishes at the Open and PGA Championship respectively, a disappointing missed cut at The Masters – his first at a major – served as ominous foreshadowing.

McIlroy shot 74 and 77 to fall four strokes short of the cut line at seven-over par, a performance that concerned him enough to take a brief sabbatical from competition.

But one year on in 2011, any lingering Masters demons looked to have been exorcised as McIlroy flew round the Augusta fairways.

Having opened with a bogey-free seven-under 65 – the first time he had ever shot in the 60s at the major – McIlroy pulled ahead from Spanish first round co-leader Alvaro Quirós with a second round 69.

It sent him into the weekend holding a two-shot cushion over Australia’s Jason Day, with Tiger Woods a further stroke behind and back in the hunt for a 15th major after a surging second round 66.

And yet the 21-year-old leader looked perfectly at ease with having a target on his back. Even after a tentative start to the third round, McIlroy rallied with three birdies across the closing six holes to stretch his lead to four strokes heading into Sunday.

McIlroy drives from the 16th tee during his second round.

The youngster was out on his own ahead of a bunched chasing pack comprising Day, Ángel Cabrera, K.J. Choi and Charl Schwartzel. After 54 holes, McIlroy had shot just three bogeys.

“It’s a great position to be in … I’m finally feeling comfortable on this golf course,” McIlroy told reporters.

“I’m not getting ahead of myself, I know how leads can dwindle away very quickly. I have to go out there, not take anything for granted and go out and play as hard as I’ve played the last three days. If I can do that, hopefully things will go my way.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow because four shots on this golf course isn’t that much.”

McIlroy finished his third round with a four shot lead.

The truth can hurt, and McIlroy was about to prove his assessment of Augusta to be true in the most excruciating way imaginable.

His fourth bogey of the week arrived immediately. Having admitted to expecting some nerves at the first tee, McIlroy sparked a booming opening drive down the fairway, only to miss his putt from five feet.

Three consecutive pars steadied the ship, but Schwartzel had the wind in his sails. A blistering birdie, par, eagle start had seen him draw level at the summit after his third hole.

A subsequent bogey from the South African slowed his charge, as McIlroy clung onto a one-shot lead at the turn from Schwartzel, Cabrera, Choi, and a rampaging Woods, who shot five birdies and an eagle across the front nine to send Augusta into a frenzy.

Despite his dwindling advantage and the raucous Tiger-mania din ahead of him, McIlroy had responded well to another bogey at the 5th hole, draining a brilliant 20-foot putt at the 7th to restore his lead.

The fist pump that followed marked the high-water point of McIlroy’s round, as a sliding start accelerated into full-blown free-fall at the par-four 10th hole.

His tee shot went careening into a tree, ricocheting to settle between the white cabins that separate the main course from the adjacent par-three course. It offered viewers a glimpse at a part of Augusta rarely seen on broadcast, followed by pictures of McIlroy anxiously peering out from behind a tree to track his follow-up shot.

McIlroy watches his shot after his initial drive from the 10th tee put him close to Augusta's cabins.

Though his initial escape was successful, yet another collision with a tree and a two-putt on the green saw a stunned McIlroy eventually tap in for a triple bogey. Having led the field one hole and seven shots earlier, he arrived at the 11th tee in seventh.

By the time his tee drive at the 13th plopped into the creek, all thoughts of who might be the recipient of the green jacket had long-since switched away from the anguished youngster. It had taken him seven putts to navigate the previous two greens, as a bogey and a double bogey dropped him to five-under – the score he had held after just 11 holes of the tournament.

Mercifully, the last five holes passed without major incident. A missed putt for birdie from five feet at the final hole summed up McIlroy’s day, though he was given a rousing reception as he left the green.

Mere minutes earlier, the same crowd had erupted as Schwartzel sunk his fourth consecutive birdie to seal his first major title. After starting the day four shots adrift of McIlroy, the South African finished 10 shots ahead of him, and two ahead of second-placed Australian duo Jason Day and Adam Scott.

McIlroy’s eight-over 80 marked the highest score of the round. Having headlined the leaderboard for most of the week, he finished tied-15th.

McIroy was applauded off the 18th green by the Augusta crowd after finishing his final round.

Tears would flow during a phone call with his parents the following morning, but at his press conference, McIlroy was upbeat.

“I’m very disappointed at the minute, and I’m sure I will be for the next few days, but I’ll get over it,” he said.

“I was leading this golf tournament with nine holes to go, and I just unraveled … It’s a Sunday at a major, what it can do.

“This is my first experience at it, and hopefully the next time I’m in this position I’ll be able to handle it a little better. I didn’t handle it particularly well today obviously, but it was a character-building day … I’ll come out stronger for it.”

Once again, McIlroy would be proven right.

Just eight weeks later in June, McIlroy rampaged to an eight-shot victory at the US Open. Records tumbled in his wake at Congressional, as he shot a tournament record 16-under 268 to become the youngest major winner since Tiger Woods at The Masters in 1997.

McIlroy celebrated a historic triumph at the US Open just two months after his Masters nightmare.

The historic victory kickstarted a golden era for McIlroy. After coasting to another eight-shot win at the PGA Championship in 2012, McIlroy became only the third golfer since 1934 to win three majors by the age of 25 with triumph at the 2014 Open Championship.

Before the year was out, he would add his fourth major title with another PGA Championship win.

And much of it was owed to that fateful afternoon at Augusta. In an interview with the BBC in 2015, McIlroy dubbed it “the most important day” of his career.

“If I had not had the whole unravelling, if I had just made a couple of bogeys coming down the stretch and lost by one, I would not have learned as much.

“Luckily, it did not take me long to get into a position like that again when I was leading a major and I was able to get over the line quite comfortably. It was a huge learning curve for me and I needed it, and thankfully I have been able to move on to bigger and better things.

“Looking back on what happened in 2011, it doesn’t seem as bad when you have four majors on your mantelpiece.”

A two-stroke victory at Royal Liverpool saw McIlroy clinch the Open Championship in 2014.

McIlroy’s contentment came with a caveat: it would be “unthinkable” if he did not win The Masters in his career.

Yet as he prepares for his 15th appearance at Augusta National this week, a green jacket remains an elusive missing item from his wardrobe.

Despite seven top-10 finishes in his past 10 Masters outings, the trophy remains the only thing separating McIlroy from joining the ranks of golf immortals to have completed golf’s career grand slam of all four majors in the modern era: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

The Masters is the only major title to elude McIlroy.

A runner-up finish to Scottie Scheffler last year marked McIlroy’s best finish at Augusta, yet arguably 2011 remains the closest he has ever been to victory. A slow start in 2022 meant McIlroy had begun Sunday’s deciding round 10 shots adrift of the American, who teed off for his final hole with a five-shot lead despite McIlroy’s brilliant 64 finish.

At 33 years old, time is still on his side. Though 2022 extended his major drought to eight years, it featured arguably his best golf since that golden season in 2014.

And as McIlroy knows better than most, things can change quickly at Augusta National.

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Trump Did THREE Perfect Calls To Overturn Georgia? Go To Three Prisons!

Let’s get the ball rolling so Fox News doesn’t have to: These Georgia grand jurors are so woke, they probably got a restful night of sleep last night. They’re so woke they probably didn’t even have to drink coffee today. They’re so woke they probably go on dates with Hunter Biden to Silicon Valley Bank in the morning.

OK cool. The Atlanta Journal Constitution dropped some very cool new reporting and interviews with the grand jurors in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s investigation into Donald Trump’s attempts to overthrow the free and fair 2020 election in Georgia. If you’re already cringing hearing “Georgia grand jurors talking to media,” worry not. These people are anonymous and it appears they’re being very careful about blabbing any information they shouldn’t.

What they are telling us, though, is fascinating. For instance, Trump made yet another PERFECT CALL trying to overthrow the election. There was the most famous one — the “find me 11,780 votes” one, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. There was the one to Frances Watson, the lead investigator in the secretary of state’s office, when he pressed her to get to the “right’ answer on what happened in Georgia.

BEFORE! If Team Trump Is Sh*tting Itself This Much Over THESE Georgia Grand Jury Excerpts, Imagine What’s Under Seal

And now we have Trump’s third perfect call, which jurors heard, to Georgia Republican House Speaker David Ralston, telling him to convene a special session of the Georgia Legislature to overturn Joe Biden’s win and give it to him. Ralston, as we know, did not do that.

One juror said Ralston proved to be “an amazing politician.”

The speaker “basically cut the president off. He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ … He just basically took the wind out of the sails,” the juror said. “‘Well, thank you,’ you know, is all the president could say.”

We feel like there’s a pattern here.

A juror the AJC talked to spoke of crying in their car at the end of the day, particularly days when they’d hear testimony from people whose lives Donald Trump ruined because he’s a weak sore loser who doesn’t love himself and can’t look his unending failures in the face.

Among the most compelling witnesses, various jurors said, were Fulton County poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, who had received death threats after being singled out by Trump and his then-attorney Rudy Giuliani. Another mentioned Eric Coomer, the onetime executive for Dominion Voting Systems, who left his job after being vilified. Also mentioned was Tricia Raffensperger, the wife of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who broke down when describing the vitriol and threats leveled at her, one juror said.

“I was pretty emotional throughout the whole thing,” a juror said. “I wouldn’t cry in front of any of the witnesses, but when I would get in my car, I was like, I just left that and I have to just go do my job now?…. I just know things that are hard to know.”

They talked about how they want people to know how serious their deliberations were — especially after the media tour their foreperson took — and the respect for the system and the people who administer it they came away with.

Donald Trump Destroys People’s Lives

GA Grand Jury Foreperson Is Telling Us What We Want To Hear. She Should Stop That.

They talked about understanding the gravity of what they were participating in, as they confronted lockdowns and being protected by SWAT teams and bomb-sniffing dogs. The latter happened the day seditious bastard Michael Flynn showed up and, of course, refused to answer questions.

Speaking of, they talked about the three kinds of witnesses they heard from: those who came freely, those who came under subpoena but answered freely, and those who fought tooth-and-nail and then refused to answer questions, often people who had been in Trump’s inner circle. Those people annoyed the shit out of them, not because of any preconceived notions they had about people taking the Fifth — hearteningly, prosecutors made sure they didn’t have those — but because they knew it was going to take forever and be tedious as fuck.

Of course, jurors report that sometimes when those dicks would refuse to answer questions, prosecutors would helpfully play videos of them talking elsewhere, to fill out the record.

Jurors dropped some details about what some folks did say to them. This quip from Lindsey Graham is getting a lot of play:

“He said that during that time, if somebody had told Trump that aliens came down and stole Trump ballots, that Trump would’ve believed it,” the juror said.

Such a pathetic damned idiot.

One juror talked about how gross it was seeing certain witnesses speak one way to them and then go back out on the campaign trail and say election-denying garbage. But these last quotes are a bit more uplifting:

“I can honestly give a damn of whoever goes to jail, you know, like personally,” one juror said. “I care more about there being more respect in the system for the work that people do to make sure elections are free and fair.”

Said another juror: “I tell my wife if every person in America knew every single word of information we knew, this country would not be divided as it is right now.”

The grand jurors said they understand why the public release of their full final report needs to wait until Willis makes indictment decisions.

“A lot’s gonna come out sooner or later,” one of the jurors said. “And it’s gonna be massive. It’s gonna be massive.”

Well, that gives us hope, because unlike that very nice juror who doesn’t care who goes to jail, we are much meaner than that and we would like to see at least 10 people buried underneath Guantanamo over this, starting with Mr. Perfect Calls himself.

Speaking of, let’s see if he’s going berserk or anything.

We’ll mark that one down as a “yes.”


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Anti-EU protests in Georgia: Are they staged or real?

EU flags were ablaze outside the Georgian Parliament on Tuesday.

In an apparent outburst of anti-European feeling, a crowd — mostly made up of older men — tore down an EU flag hanging outside the building in Tiblisi and turned it to ashes

“We openly state that there is a very numerous segment in Georgian society that is against the idea of European integration,” said Shota Martinenko, Secretary General of the group behind the protest.

“Everyone will have to listen to the voice of this segment.”

But this is simply not true.

Support for joining the bloc among Georgia’s some four million citizens is as high as 81%, according to a 2022 poll by the National Democratic Institute.

“It was a very staged performance,” Tamta Gelashvili, a researcher of the Georgian far right at the University of Oslo, told Euronews.

“The demonstration was aimed at showing international society there’s disagreement among people about the country’s foreign policy orientation.”

“It wants to create this impression, but such diversity of opinion isn’t really there.”

‘Sneaky strategies’

The unruly demo – reportedly “unimpeded by the scant police presence” – was organised by Alt Info, a far-right, pro-Russian, anti-Western group.

“They’re a peculiar organism,” said Gelashvili. “They have been created in a very artificial way. They didn’t have a big social base. They don’t have a big network. They’re not really linked to other far-right groups.”

Alt Info started life in around 2018 as an online news website, translating articles from far-right outlets, such as Breitbart, focused on “cultural flashpoints”, such as migration and gender. 

“Back then it was very tiny,” Gelashvili told Euronews. “The website had zero information, so we never knew who was behind this group. We didn’t know anything about them.”

Things changed in 2021.

Alt Info established a political party called the ‘Conservative Movement‘, with offices springing up in all corners of the country within a year – something Gelashvili called a “dream” for most parties.

Where the party got the massive financial resources needed for this breakneck expansion is unclear.

Gelashvili pointed to a “suspicious system” where money was personally donated by members, though when journalists asked about the origin of this cash some said it had been given to them by the party itself.

“Clearly some kind of financial obscurity is going on there,” she said. “They have a lot of funds, but they don’t really want to disclose where this money is coming from.”

‘Georgia has no future with the West’

Some in Georgia have speculated that Alt Info is funded by Moscow, though Gelashvili was more cautious, saying there was “very little evidence” for this – despite “a lot of suspicions”.

“It certainly plays into Russian hands to create this instability and try to reverse the very clear pro-Western orientation of our country,” she said, adding that Alt Info was trying to “break a taboo” about striking a pro-Russian stance.

“But I’m always very careful to say there are direct financial links. A long-standing problem in Georgian politics is that every time we don’t like someone, we just call them Pro-Russian.”

Russia maintains significant interests in the tiny caucasian county, which was once part of the USSR. It invaded in 2008, occupying the Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories in northern Georgia.

Members of Alt Info have repeatedly claimed the West will drag Georgia into the Ukraine war – a line repeated by the Russian state media.

“From a geopolitical point of view, the policy of the European Union and America involves provoking a war between Georgia and Russia and opening a second front in order to weaken Russia’s influence in the region and strengthen its own influence,” Alt Info Secretary General Shota Martinenko wrote in a statement sent to Euronews.

“Those people who want integration with the West are simply victims of propaganda prepared for their destruction by the West,” he continued. “We are trying to wake them up.”

While there is no basis for these claims, Alt Info has seized on Georgia’s faltering EU ambitions.

In June, Brussels left the country off the waiting list to join the bloc, while granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

“We do not believe that Georgia’s accession to the European Union is at all possible,” said Martinenko. “It is an unfulfilled task and a fairy tale due to geographical and geopolitical reasons, which the West uses to give hope to Georgians… to demand that their interests be pursued in return for these hopes.”

Georgia’s EU bid has been dogged by concerns over its political system, which is blighted by accusations of fraud, intimidation, vote-buying, cronyism and police harassment, besides accusations Oligraphs exert excessive influence over politics and the media.

Other questions surround Alt Info’s connections to the ruling Georgian Dream Party, a nominally pro-democracy, pro-European party that came to power in 2012. 

In the last couple of years, it has increasingly parroted Kremlin-like messages and shown “authoritarian tendencies of repressing dissent”, according to analyst Gelashvili.

“There’s a lot of symbiosis between the state and Alt Info, if not direct links,” she claimed. “Their narratives overlap, suggesting Georgian Dream uses the group strategically to deepen political polarisation with its rivals.”

Georgia’s police force has also been accused of complicity with Alt Info.

In 2021, more than 50 journalists and activists were violently assaulted by far-right mobs ahead of a planned Pride March in support of the LBGT community.

“In the case of European integration, it is clear that traditional Georgian culture and values are under threat,” said Alt Info leader Martinenko. “The norms that the European Union rigidly demands from our country to establish are completely unacceptable for the largest part of Georgian society: massive LGBT propaganda and attempts to declare homosexuality, transgenderism and similar pathological perversions as the norm, aggressive feminism and support for liberal immigration policy.”

Human rights — some relating to the rights and status of minorities — are protected under EU treaties, though Brussels does not enforce policy on national governments.  

‘Just a few dozen people pretending they are a movement’

Right now Alt Info remains on the political margins, despite the media circus around their protests. Last year, their support took a beating after members visited Russia and met with officials amid the Ukraine war.

Their fiery anti-EU demo on Tuesday was small, numbering a few hundred. Meanwhile, recent protests against a now stalled ‘foreign agent’ law – which critics branded as anti-democratic – drew in tens of thousands.

Whether they have a political future is unclear.

“The danger comes in a more long-term sense,” says Gelashvili. “I don’t see them becoming an electorally powerful political actor. But their anti-equality narrative is dangerous… it could impact public opinion and Georgia’s democratisation process.”

“The problem is they have a lot of money and money can buy you a lot of things”. I would be very careful to put any kind of very strong opinion forward,” she continued.

“Nobody really knows what they could do.”

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