Advertisements


Republicans lose patience with FBI on Russia, Trump campaign ties information – CNN News

Top Republicans in Congress expressed their dissatisfaction Wednesday about getting answers from the FBI, as lawmakers trying to investigate Russia's meddling in the US election say they've continued to see no evidence of President Donald Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. The FBI's decision to brief the Senate Judiciary Committee comes after the committee's Chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, threatened to not schedule a vote for Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general unless his panel got the FBI briefing he and the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, requested weeks ago. Grassley &'8212; a stalwart Republican with a powerful post &'8212; expressed his exasperation the FBI hours before a private meeting at the Capitol with Comey. He called the scheduled meeting a &'8220;positive step,&'8221; but also added: &'8220;I don't want to say that's enough at this point.&'8221; Grassley said he was frustrated that officials haven't been as forthcoming as lawmakers would like, and said his committee hasn't been given the respect it deserves for its oversight of the executive branch. &'8220;That's very irritating,&'8221; Grassley told CNN. He wasn't the only Republican venting his displeasure: Sen. Lindsay Graham, who sits on a subcommittee that's seeking FBI answers, said earlier that he would subpoena the agency for information if it wasn't provided to him and fellow subcommittee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. &'8220;We wrote a letter &'' Sen. Whitehouse and myself &'' wanting to know if there's evidence of a warrant issued by the Trump campaign,&'8221; the South Carolina Republican told CNN's Chris Cuomo on &'8220;New Day. &'8220;He hasn't answered that letter or confirmed if there's a real investigation of the Trump campaign.&'8221; &'8220;He needs to answer the letter and give the nation some information about what's going on here,&'8221; Graham said. Whitehouse and Graham said later Wednesday they had received a letter from the FBI saying they would respond to their questions next week in a classified letter. It was also announced Wednesday that Comey will testify at the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 hearing and there will be a second hearing in the committee March 28, the committee's chairman said. In a Fox interview with Tucker Carlson Wednesday, the President defended his decision to tweet about wiretapping before producing evidence by hinting &'8212; again without evidence &'8212; that more information will emerge in the weeks to come, presumably proving his point. &'8220;Wiretap covers a lot of different things,&'8221; Trump said. &'8220;I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.&'8221; House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he does not believe Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped him, but said it's possible Trump communications may have been gathered in &'8220;incidental&'8221; intelligence collection. &'8220;I don't believe Trump Tower was tapped,&'8221; Nunes told reporters Wednesday. &'8220;We don't have any evidence that that took place and, in fact, I don't believe &'8212; just in the last week of time, the people we've talked to &'8212; I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,&'8221; Nunes said at a news conference in reference to the claim originally made by Trump several weeks ago. Nunes and Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said they want to see any evidence of wiretapping by their March 20 hearing or they may also issue a subpoena for the records. Asked if he had seen any evidence that Trump aides spoke with Russian officials other than Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, Nunes said, &'8220;Not that I'm aware of.&'8221; But Schiff added: &'8220;I wouldn't answer that question as categorically as my colleague. We're not privileged to talk about the contents of the investigation but, you know, I think we need to be very precise when we talk about this. And I just don't think that we can answer it categorically in this forum.&'8221; Nunes and Schiff also sent a letter to the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency demanding information on the leaks regarding Russia's contact with Trump advisers by Friday. The two leaders of the House investigation said their work has been stalled so far by trouble accessing computers used by the director of national intelligence &'8212; Schiff said he has been taking handwritten notes when he views evidence. The two have not yet interviewed former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and declined to say whether he would appear at a public hearing. Schiff added that he is very concerned about Trump adviser Roger Stone's admission that he communicated with &'8220;Guccifer 2.0&'8221; &'8212; who was later determined by intelligence agencies to be a Russian hacker or group of hackers. Stone has described his contact with Guccifer as limited to a &'8220;brief exchange with him on Twitter&'8221; and any suggestion otherwise, he told CNN, is &'8220;a fabrication.&'8221; The White House has vacillated on Trump's claims in the last two days. Press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump did not mean literally that Obama personally wiretapped him. But on Tuesday, Spicer said Trump was &'8220;extremely confident&'8221; he would be vindicated by the evidence. &'8220;I think there's significant reporting about surveillance techniques that existed throughout the 2016 election,&'8221; Spicer said, without providing any examples. &'8220;He feels very confident that what will ultimately come of this will vindicate him,&'8221; Spicer said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday he never gave Trump any reason to believe the GOP candidate [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource: mindanaoexaminer mindanaoexaminerMar 16th, 2017

Comey’s hearing passes but the political storm rages on – CNN News

James Comey is at it again. The FBI director, in his deadpan way, characteristically unleashed a new chain of political consequences Monday, in hours of steely testimony before a House hearing examining Russian meddling in the presidential election. Just five months ago, Democrats were left fulminating at Comey's handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton's email server. Now, as Comey wades back into the political swamp, it's Republicans who are left to fret after the FBI chief sensationally dispensed with protocol to confirm his agents were probing alleged collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign aides and Moscow. By publicly confirming the probe, Comey sentenced the White House to months of uncertainty, potential leaks and distractions that already threaten to sap the President's political capital at a crucial moment. It is quite possible that no charges will ever be leveled against Trump aides and that the FBI counter-intelligence operation will find that there was no wrongdoing or collusion by Trump aides. But the suspicion will hover for months over former Trump associates like former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who denied any wrongdoing in a statement on Monday — and foreign policy expert Carter Page — and by extension over the President himself. FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found &'8220;The longer this hangs out here, the bigger the cloud is,&'8221; Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes told Comey as the hearing broke up, urging him to expedite the investigation. &'8220;There is a big, gray cloud that you have now put over people who have very important work leading the country,&'8221; Nunes said. In a second blow to the President's credibility, Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that he had &'8220;no information&'8221; to support claims by the President that Trump Tower was targeted in a surveillance operation ordered by his predecessor Barack Obama. Comey's deskmate at the House Intelligence hearing, National Security Agency Chief Mike Rogers, torpedoed another Trump claim — that Obama had ordered British spies to eavesdrop on his presidential election campaign. Such has been the disruption and the uproar during Trump's first two months in office, that the significance of individual events in the torrent of political news often gets overlooked. RELATED: The 4 bombshells of James Comey But the spectacle of two of the most senior intelligence chiefs publicly contradicting the President for whom they work marked another milestone in an administration that is shattering all kinds of conventions. The trio of bombshells put an increasingly beleaguered White House on the defensive. Trump's recent poll numbers are among the lowest of Trump's presidency. &'8220;Following this testimony it's clear nothing has changed,&'8221; White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during Monday's briefing. &'8220;Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there's no evidence of a Trump/Russia collusion.&'8221; But the new headache for the White House was not the only takeaway of the day of testimony in the House hearing room at the Longworth Office Building, where theater style seating exacerbated the sense of political drama. It also became clear that Trump and the White House will not be chastened by the fact that the President's claims about wiretapping have now been publicly rebuked by top US intelligence chiefs and bipartisan congressional leaders. His White House and Republicans in the committee introduced a new wrinkle in the Russia saga, raising legitimate questions about whether leaks that exposed former national security adviser Michael Flynn's name following his conversations with the Russian ambassador breached the law. They also implied that fast practice by the former Obama administration may be to blame, supplying new grist for the conspiracy mill that operates around Trump and his supporters in the conservative media. &'8220;Director Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that certain political appointees in the Obama administration had access to the names of unmasked US citizens, such as senior White House officials, senior Department of Justice Officials, and senior intelligence officials,&'8221; Spicer said. &'8220;Before President Obama left office, Michael Flynn was unmasked and then illegally, his identity was leaked out to media outlets, despite the fact that as NSA Director Rogers said, that unmasking and revealing individuals endangers quote, national security.&'8221; Comey did confirm that some Obama officials might have had access to the intelligence, but declined to draw any conclusions about them. Spicer also said that Trump would not apologize to Obama for his now debunked claim that the 44th President ordered wiretapping against him — saying there was a lot about surveillance that remained unknown. It was a characteristic response from a White House that is allergic to apologizing even when facts contravene its presentation of events. The tactic worked well for Trump during his campaign. Whether he can adopt a similar stance as President, and retain credibility is more open to question. The White House counter-attack also implicitly called into question the legitimacy of the probe against Trump campaign aides itself. Before Comey testified, Trump branded claims his campaign colluded with Russia as &'8220;fake news&'8221; and the invention of Democrats still chafing at Clinton's shock general election defeat. Republicans had hoped going into the hearing that Comey would say that there was no evidence of coordination between Russia and Trump aides. But he pointedly did not do so — citing the need to protect an ongoing investigation — though cautioned no one should read anything into his silence. That fact alone is sure to give [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 21st, 2017

Vladimir Putin denies he has compromising material on Donald Trump – The Guardian

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied he had any compromising material about US President Donald Trump. “Well, this is just another load of nonsense,” Putin said on NBC News’ Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, when asked whether he had any damaging information on the Republican president. The remarks were the latest in a series of denials from Moscow that have had little impact so far on a political crisis in the United States over potential links between Russia and Trump’s inner circle. The issue will be front and centre this week in Washington, where former FBI director James Comey is due to testify on whether Trump tried to get him to back off an investigation into alleged ties between Trump’s election campaign and Moscow. Comey, who was leading the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election, was fired by Trump last month, four years into his 10-year term. Putin also told NBC he had no relationship with Trump and had never met him, regardless of Trump’s previous travel to Russia as a businessman. Putin noted that executives from perhaps 100 American companies were currently in Russia. “Do you think we’re gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something?” Putin asked, before saying: “Have you all lost your senses?” Have you all lost your senses? Vladimir Putin Trump has offered contradictory accounts of his relationship with Putin over time but has also said the two never met. He has called an FBI investigation into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia a “witch hunt” designed to undermine the legitimacy of his 2016 election win. Trump has also disparaged a dossier of unsubstantiated allegations that purported to show Russian intelligence operatives had compromising information about him, but which he has described as a “hoax.” US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Moscow tried to tilt the election campaign in Trump’s favour, including by hacking into the emails of senior Democrats, a charge the Kremlin denies. “They have been misled,” Putin told NBC, in an interview NBC said was recorded on Friday. “And they aren’t analysing the information in its entirety. I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.” Trump has denied any collusion but the FBI and congressional probes into the Russia matter have dogged the early months of his presidency. Former CIA director John Brennan said last month he had noticed contacts between Trump’s campaign associates and Russia during the 2016 election and grew concerned Moscow had sought to lure Americans down “a treasonous path.” After Comey’s dismissal, news reports emerged that Trump asked Comey to end the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynnduring a February meeting in the Oval Office, the day after Flynn was fired for misrepresenting his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. Flynn has declined to testify to the US Senate Intelligence Committee about his Russian ties, invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Putin downplayed Flynn’s appearance with him at a December 2015 gala dinner in honor of the Russian television network Russia Today (RT), which US officials consider a state-run propaganda outlet. “I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman, he was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services’,” Putin said. “That’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him. That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn,” he added. Reuters has reported that Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, discussed with Kislyak the idea of creating a back channel between Trump and Putin that could have bypassed diplomats and intelligence agencies. Putin said he was unaware of any such discussion and criticized NBC for asking about contacts between the ambassador and the Trump administration. “You created a sensation out of nothing. And out of this sensation, you turned it into a weapon of war against the current president,” Putin said. … today we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So we think it’s fair to ask people who visit us often for their help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.( “I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman, he was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services’,” Putin said. “That’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him. That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn,” he added. Reuters has reported that Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, discussed with Kislyak the idea of creating a back channel between Trump and Putin that could have bypassed diplomats and intelligence agencies. Putin said [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 5th, 2017

How Trump’s health care loss will shape his presidency – CNN News

The fate of Donald Trump's presidency may hinge on what he does next. His failure to convert the core campaign promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare &'8212; even with a GOP monopoly on power in Washington &'8212; has left the White House reeling. Trump and his advisers must now regroup and try to figure out how to avoid another legislative debacle on their next big issue, tax reform. They will do so knowing that a second failure could throttle his presidency. Once, Trump's aides viewed health care reform, presumably an easy early win, as a way to deliver momentum to his presidency and to build toward more sweeping change picked from his ambitious agenda. But the effort's ignominious defeat Friday has severely weakened the President, electrified Democrats and left Trump's declarations that he is the ultimate dealmaker who can change Washington looking increasingly hollow. Trump surprised some of those close to him with his reaction to Friday's health care collapse. He did not vent or rage. Instead in the Oval Office afterward Trump was &'8220;sullen and quiet&'8221; as he contemplated his first blow, dealt by the Washington swamp he had vowed to drain, one insider source said. The President was well aware he failed to deliver on an issue that stirs the passions of his political base. He was also mindful that the health care disaster would make his quest to tackle a behemoth tax package that much more difficult, the source said. Indeed, the early failure means that hundreds of billions of dollars in federal savings that the White House had earmarked to bankroll a tax code overhaul are nowhere to be seen. &'8220;It makes everything harder moving forward,&'8221; one Trump adviser said. Another senior administration official told CNN's Gloria Borger that tax reform could now have to be a &'8220;smaller version,&'8221; than originally planned and the problem would be explaining to the public that because the repeal of Obamacare didn't happen, there's &'8220;a trillion dollars less to deal with.&'8221; Already casting an eye toward the midterm elections, which typically hurt the President's own party, some of Trump's advisers fear Obamacare's underdog survival will provide a rallying point for their political foes. &'8220;Democrats will feel emboldened and their base will feel emboldened,&'8221; a senior administration official said. As the White House grasps for a bounce back strategy, his team must take another look at one of the most important questions that Trump faced when he took power, one lent more urgency by his humiliation over health care. They must consider whether his brand as an outsider &'8212; with broad strokes politics that exacerbates grievances, has little time for dissenters and is anchored around his imposing, unpredictable personality &'8212; can actually prosper in Washington. Ironically, it was the same forces of inertia and division in the capital that soured Trump's voters on the political establishment and helped elevate him to power that combined to defeat him in his first legislative venture. &'8220;I think what happened is that Washington won,&'8221; said Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney, in a frank moment Sunday on NBC's &'8220;Meet the Press.&'8221; &'8220;I think the one thing we learned this week is that Washington was a lot more broken than President Trump thought that it was,&'8221; said Mulvaney, adding &'8220;the status quo wins and, unfortunately, the folks back home lost.&'8221; Mulvaney's comments marked a stunning admission, given that he works for a President who brashly predicted he knew politics better than the politicians and would soon bring the city to heel with his negotiating flair and mastery of sealing a deal. Instead, two-thirds of the way through his crucial First 100 days, Trump is nowhere near any significant legislative victory. And health care reform's failure is not his only problem. His travel ban on citizens on a list of predominantly Muslim nations has twice been turned back by the courts. His budget, which features steep cuts in diplomacy spending to finance an increase for the military, is facing stiff resistance in Congress. A building intrigue over his campaign's ties to Russia is clouding the White House's mood. It now appears that the most tangible success of Trump's first months in office will be the expected confirmation of his Supreme Court pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch &'8212; though even that will further polarize Washington. Republicans are vowing to invoke the &'8220;nuclear option&'8221; by changing Senate rules so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with 51 votes, along party lines, rather than with the super-majority traditionally required for nominees to the nation's top bench. In one sense, it should not be surprising that Trump is struggling. He is the most inexperienced new president in history, and lacks the political networks and insider contacts that most commanders-in-chief take for granted when they take office. Capitol Hill sources report that the President appeared unfamiliar with the in-depth details of the health care bill, as he tried to move votes in meetings with holdout Republican lawmakers. And while his processor, Barack Obama, spent months marshaling Obamacare through Congress, Trump tried to ram through the repeal bill in a matter of weeks. That was part of a White House strategy to get a fast start in the First 100 Days to create a shock-and-awe sense of momentum. But the tactic appears to have backfired &'8212; especially in the case of Obamacare and the travel ban where too little time was spent assessing the political and [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 27th, 2017

‘I think it was Russia’ – CNN News

President-elect Donald Trump said for the first time Wednesday he believes Russia was responsible for hacking ahead of the election but contemptuously rejected allegations that Moscow mounted a campaign to compromise him. In his first news conference since winning the election, a combative Trump made clear he will not mute his style when he is inaugurated in nine days. He lashed out at media and political foes alike in a bravura performance. The Trump Tower press conference confirmed the President-elect's deep desire to quickly assert power once he's sworn in. He insisted on moving speedily &'8212; too speedily for some Republicans in Congress &'8212; to replace Obamacare. He also pledged swift action on building a wall along the border with Mexico and nominating a new Supreme Court justice. But it's also clear Trump will take office amid persistent questions about his relationship with Russia. While Trump was at the podium, his nominee to become secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, faced tough questions on Capitol Hill about whether the incoming administration will view Russia with sufficient skepticism. At the news conference, Trump finally conceded he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin's intelligence agencies were behind hacks on Democratic computers ahead of the election but argued that wouldn't happen again. &'8220;I think it was Russia,&'8221; Trump said. Putin &'8220;should not be doing it. He won't be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it.&'8221; Trump, who has vowed to improve relations with Russia despite some Republican opposition, said he did not know if he would get along with Putin and noted it's possible he won't. But he could not resist a swipe at his defeated Democratic election rival, Hillary Clinton. &'8220;Do you honestly believe Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?&'8221; he asked. He added that Russia is not the only nation that hacks US targets and accused Democrats of not having sufficient cybersecurity programs. The news conference opened with the incoming White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, slamming a &'8220;political witch hunt&'8221; following reports that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Trump. Vice President-elect Mike Pence also criticized the media before introducing Trump, who kept up his criticism of US intelligence. &'8220;I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies,&'8221; Trump said. He said any such move by the agencies would be a &'8220;tremendous blot on their record.&'8221; &'8220;A thing like that should never have been written, it should never have been had and it certainly should have never been released,&'8221; Trump said. The news conference follows exclusive reporting by CNN on Tuesday that classified documents presented last week to President Barack Obama and Trump included the allegations about Russia. The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and drew in part from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him 01:38 The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Trump. The news conference, delayed from December, was scheduled for Trump to outline how he will address questions about possible conflicts-of-interest related to his vast business empire. Trump appeared beside a large pile of files he claimed were pertinent to the companies that are going to be placed in a trust to be run by his sons. He reiterated that he doesn't plan to release his tax returns, saying they are under audit and don't include relevant information After taking a handful of questions, Trump turned the event over to Sheri Dillon, an attorney who was on hand to discuss Trump's business interests. She said Trump planned to put in place a structure that will &'8220;completely isolate him from the management of the company.&'8221; &'8220;He further instructed that we build in protections that will assure the American people that the decisions that he makes and the actions he takes as President are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests,&'8221; she said. Trump will place all his financial and business assets in a trust, Dillon said. The Trump Organization, meanwhile, will not enter into any new deals abroad and all domestic deals will be subject to a heavy vetting process. The firm will also appoint a new ethics officer, she said. The President-elect has also terminated a number of deals set to close shortly, a step that had cost him millions of dollars, she said. Dillon argued that the decision had been made not to put all Trump's assets in a blind trust or to divest of all his assets because it would be impractical. She also said that Trump should not be forced to destroy the business that he had built up. &'8220;President Trump can't unknow he owns Trump Tower,&'8221; Dillon said, explaining why a blind trust would not be a workable solution to addressing conflicts of interest issues while he is President. Dillon said Trump would take other actions to avoid the appearance of a conflict over the Emoluments Clause [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Bolton says he’s no longer allowed to see Trump – CNN News

A hawkish ally of Donald Trump claims he cannot see the President due to &'8220;staff changes&'8221; at the White House. John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN who at one point was a candidate to lead the State Department, claimed in a National Review op-ed published Monday that his plan for the US to exit the Iran nuclear deal had to be presented publicly, because staff changes at the White House have made &'8220;presenting it to President Trump impossible.&'8221; CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. His alleged snubbing is the latest development in the tug-of-war for influence over Trump's White House between firebrands such as Bolton and those who have taken a more moderate approach to foreign policy, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Bolton's op-ed comes days after Sebastian Gorka, who advocated a hawkish stance against terrorism, left his position as a White House adviser. Chief of staff John Kelly, who assumed the role in late July, has been conducting a review of the West Wing that includes assessing individual staffers' portfolios. In a memo drawn up after a July directive from Steve Bannon, the recently ousted White House chief strategist, Bolton pushes for selling the idea of leaving the Iran deal to the public in a &'8220;white paper&'8221; and lays out a strategy for the &'8220;campaign&'8221; and its &'8220;execution.&'8221; Bolton has been frustrated at the rise of more traditional foreign policy thinkers within the White House, such as Mattis and Tillerson, who have favored remaining in the deal. The agreement curbs Iran's nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Iran remains under multiple sanctions for terrorism-related activities. &'8220;Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity,&'8221; Bolton writes. Where proponents of the deal, including lawmakers and former Obama administration officials, see the pact as a way to get visibility on Iran's nuclear activities, and, at least for the time being, stop it's nuclear program, Bolton sees only danger. &'8220;The JCPOA is a threat to US national-security interests, growing more serious by the day,&'8221; Bolton writes, though he doesn't offer evidence. &'8220;If the President decides to abrogate the JCPOA, a comprehensive plan must be developed and executed to build domestic and international support for the new policy.&'8221; His memo, he says, fills that function. &'8220;It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, 100-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement,&'8221; Bolton writes. He adds that there is no need to wait for the next deadline in October, when the US must next certify that Iran is sticking to the deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the JCPOA, was an international agreement hammered out over 20 arduous months of negotiations. China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US, the EU and Iran reached a deal in July 2015 and it was implemented in January 2016. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency has regular access to nuclear sites inside Iran and verifies that it is implementing its side of the deal; in exchange, the US, UN and EU lifted nuclear related sanctions. Every 90 days, the US president must certify that Iran is keeping up its end of the deal. Trump campaigned against the deal and continues to criticize it, but because Iran is complying, he has certified it twice on the advice of his national security staff. But officials in his administration have clearly been looking for ways to find wiggle room to get out of the deal. Some, like US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, have used the line that Iran is not complying with the &'8220;spirit&'8221; of the deal, pointing to Tehran's activities in the region, including its support for Houthi rebels in Yemen and its backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bolton says that Trump can bolster his case for abrogating the deal &'8220;by providing new, declassified information on Iran's unacceptable behavior around the world.&'8221; These activities, though, are not part of the JCPOA, deliberately left as a separate issue by the Obama administration and the other international negotiators, who said that to include every single gripe with Iran would make negotiations too unwieldy to resolve. Some proponents of the deal, watching the Trump administration's moves, are already campaigning to keep it. They point to the security consequences of an Iran without constraints on its nuclear weapons program and to the economic fallout as European and Asian firms would likely continue to do business with Tehran while US firms are shut out. &'8220;Accordingly,&'8221; Bolton writes, &'8220;we must explain the grave threat to the US and our allies, particularly Israel.&'8221; But many in Israel's security establishment argue for keeping the deal in place, and making sure its implementation is as rigorous as possible. Bolton makes the case for a four-step campaign that begins with &'8220;early, quiet consultations with key players such as the UK, France, Germany, Israel and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian behavior, and seek their input.&'8221; That would be followed by a detailed white paper that includes declassified intelligence explaining why the deal hurts US security interests; a diplomatic campaign against the deal, especially in Europe and the Middle East; and efforts to sway lawmakers and the [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsAug 30th, 2017

A year of Trump fails to improve US-Russia ties

MOSCOW -- Donald Trump said during his election campaign he wanted to improve relations between the US and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But a year on from his inauguration, ties between Washington and Moscow are at Cold War lows. As American investigators continue to probe Russian involvement in Trump’s shock 2016….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsJan 18th, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

Putin thanks Trump for help in foiling attack plot

MOSCOW, Russia --- Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump on Sunday for the CIA's help in thwarting a planned attack in Saint Petersburg, the second time in a week that the leaders have exchanged praise. Putin spoke by phone with Trump to convey his gratitude for intelligence supplied by the CIA which allowed Russia's FSB security service to break up a "terrorist cell" that was planning attacks in Russia's second city, according to the Kremlin. "The information received by the CIA was enough to detect, hunt down and arrest the criminals," it added in a statement carried by Russian news agencies. Putin also pledged that Russian security agenc...Keep on reading: Putin thanks Trump for help in foiling attack plot.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 18th, 2017

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir compares Trump’s ‘war on truth’ to Orwell’s 1984 p The Guardian

Hillary Clinton uses her new memoir to draw parallels between Donald Trump’s “war on truth” and the Soviet Union and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. “Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism,” the defeated presidential candidate writes in What Happened, published on Tuesday. “This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered.” The goal is to make you question logic and and reason and to sow mistrust, Clinton writes. “For Trump, as with so much he does, it’s about simple dominance.” She argues that Trump has taken “the war on truth” to a whole new level. “If he stood up tomorrow and declared that the Earth is flat, his counselor Kellyanne Conway might just go on Fox News and defend it as an ‘alternative fact,’ and too many people would believe it.” The cathartic 469-page memoir is heartfelt, honest and at times funny as it tries to come to grips with Clinton’s personally and politically catastrophic defeat last November. She identifies many reasons, including racism, sexism, the late intervention of the FBI and her own mistakes. She writes: “I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment. I was giving speeches laying out how to solve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter.” The cathartic 469-page memoir is heartfelt, honest and at times funny as it tries to come to grips with Clinton’s personally and politically catastrophic defeat last November. She identifies many reasons, including racism, sexism, the late intervention of the FBI and her own mistakes. She writes: “I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment. I was giving speeches laying out how to solve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter.” Clinton peppers the book with insults aimed at Trump. These include: “a clear and present danger to the country and the world”; “he’d remade himself from tabloid scoundrel into right-wing crank”; “for Trump, if everyone’s down in the mud with him, then he’s no dirtier than anyone else”; “he had no ideological core apart from his towering self-regard, which blotted out all hope of learning or growing”. Clinton also shows little affection for her rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, identifying him as another causal factor in her defeat. “His attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign. I don’t know if that bothered Bernie or not.” Clinton was hammered by both Sanders and Trump over her paid speeches to Wall Street. She admits these were a “mistake”, explaining: “Just because many former government officials have been paid large fees to give speeches, I shouldn’t have assumed it was okay for me to do it. Especially after the financial crisis of 2008-09, I should have realized it would be bad ‘optics’ and stayed away from anything having to do with Wall Street. I didn’t. That’s on me.” The Clinton campaign’s frustration with a lack of media attention toward reported attempts by Moscow to interfere with the race were well-known. But Clinton dedicates a lengthy section not simply to how she and her aides became increasingly aware of Russian efforts, but also to warn that Vladimir Putin has only just scratched the surface. Clinton attests to sharing a relationship with Putin that has long been “sour”, saying of the Russian president: “Putin doesn’t respect women and despises anyone who stands up to him, so I’m a double problem.” It was for that reason, and her desire to pursue a more hawkish posture toward Russia, that Putin had developed a “personal vendetta” against her, Clinton writes. But, she writes, she would not have anticipated the assault that was subsequently waged against her campaign, and the minimizing of Russia’s role behind it. “This wasn’t the normal rough-and-tumble of politics,” Clinton writes. “This was – there’s no other word for it – war.” The wounds are reopened with each revelation about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Clinton confessed that she has followed “every twist and turn”. As one of the young attorneys who worked for the House judiciary committee’s impeachment inquiry into Richard Nixon, Clinton advises the Trump-Russia investigation is “much more serious” than Watergate. Each time a new shoe drops, Clinton can’t help but hear Trump’s infamous words to her in their final debate when she confronted him over his affinity for Putin: “No puppet. You’re the puppet.” “This man is President of the United States,” Clinton writes, “And no one is happier than Vladimir Putin.” Clinton is at her most scathing when she reflects on the coverage of her decision to use a private email server as secretary of state. In a chapter dedicated to what she calls the single most decisive factor in her loss, Clinton envisions a history class, 30 years from now, in which students learn about the election that “brought to power the least experienced, least knowledgeable, least competent President our [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsSep 12th, 2017

Trump’s transgender military ban ‘not worked out yet’ – BBC News

The White House has not yet decided how it will implement the president's ban on transgender people serving in the US military. Mr Trump's surprise Twitter announcement on Wednesday has been met with criticism from rights groups. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration would work alongside the Pentagon to decide how to proceed. It is not yet clear how the announcement will affect current transgender service personnel. &'8220;The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military,&'8221; Donald Trump tweeted. &'8220;Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.&'8221; Asked at a press briefing if troops on battlefields would be immediately sent back, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the policy had yet to be worked out. &'8220;The decision is based on a military decision. It's not meant to be anything more than that,&'8221; she said. However, some US media outlets questioned the spending justification. The Washington Post drew attention to an analysis that the US military spends almost $42m (£32m) a year on the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra &'' several times the total estimated cost of transgender medical support. Meanwhile, Politico reports that the move was prompted by threats from Republican hardliners over a spending bill which would provide funding for Mr Trump's promised military spending and border wall plans. One Republican lawmaker had already tabled an amendment to the spending bill to prevent the military paying for transgender surgical procedures. The timing of this transgender ban is almost as interesting as the move itself. Why now? With the Trump administration being buffeted by the Jeff Sessions political death watch, the ongoing multi-prong investigation into the Trump campaign, the healthcare drama in the Senate and the impending Russian sanctions bill, perhaps the administration decided this was a good time to change the subject and rally conservative forces to his side. Republicans have long used cultural issues as a wedge to divide Democrats and energise evangelicals. As one White House insider acknowledged, this is straight out of that playbook. While Mr Trump campaigned as sympathetic to LGBT rights, he needs the traditional religious conservatives to stay loyal to him now, more than ever. The president's action will create a furore among liberals and the media commentators whose disdain for the current administration is not a new development. This is a fight the White House will welcome. The decision to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military was made by the Obama administration last year, with a one-year review period allowed for its implementation. The policy included a provision for the military to provide medical help for service members wanting to change gender. But in June, Defence Secretary James Mattis agreed to a further six-month delay. In 2016, the independent Rand Corporation estimated that about 4,000 US active-duty and reserve service members are transgender, although some campaigners put the figure higher than 10,000. Rand also predicted that the inclusion of transgender people in the military would cause a 0.13% increase in healthcare spending (approximately $8.4m). Kristin Beck, a retired elite Navy SEAL, issued a challenge to President Trump in an interview with Business Insider: &'8220;Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy.&'8221; She said that during her decorated military career, she had been &'8220;defending individual liberty&'8221;. &'8220;Being transgender doesn't affect anyone else,&'8221; she said. &'8220;We are liberty's light. If you can't defend that for everyone that's an American citizen, that's not right.&'8221; Army reservist Rudy Akbarian, in Los Angeles, said: &'8220;My heart dropped a little bit, you know. It hurt.&'8221; &'8220;Not everyone responded well after learning I was transitioning,&'8221; he said. &'8220;But after spending time on missions and realising we all share the same love for the country, we worked together and got the job done. &'8220;The discrimination I'm facing now is from those outside the military &'' not the people who work with me.&'8221; Mr Trump said his decision was based on consultation with his generals, but there has been a mixed reaction. Former Defence Secretary Ash Carter, who lifted the ban last year under President Obama, said: &'8220;To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military.&'8221; Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John McCain, said major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter. &'8220;Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,&'8221; he added. Several British military generals also condemned Mr Trump's decision, including the commander of the UK Maritime Forces, Rear Admiral Alex Burton, who said &'8220;I am so glad we are not going this way.&'8221; &'8220;Each dollar needs to be spent to address threats facing our nation,&'8221; Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, a long-time opponent of the Obama administration's position, said in a statement. &'8220;The costs incurred by funding transgender surgeries and the required additional care it demands should not be the focus of our military resources,&'8221; she said. Trump supporter and political commentator Scott Presler is among those who disagree with the military carrying the cost of such interventions. While disagreeing with the ban, he added that &'8220;generals know more about war than I do.&'8221; &'8220;I don't think this is an attack on the LGBT community &' I'm mixed, but I have confidence in the guidance that President [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJul 27th, 2017

Republican Karen Handel beats Jon Ossoff in runoff – The Guardian

Democrats fell short of a special election victory yet again on Tuesday when Jon Ossoff, long the best hope of Democrats to win a special election in the Trump administration, suffered a narrow loss to Republican Karen Handel in the Sixth Congressional District. The race was the latest in a series of special elections in Republican seats where Democrats managed to deliver moral victories – rather than actual victories – as they proved unable to notch a major electoral win in the Trump administration. With 100% of precincts reporting, Handel had 52.7% and Ossoff had 47.3%. Sporadic downpours and flash flood warnings helped to put a damper on Democratic turnout in base precincts and on the hopes of progressives to thwart Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Combined with an energized Republican base that kept Ossoff from accumulating a significant lead among early voters, it doomed the hopes of the anti-Trump activists who made the first time Democratic candidate a minor political celebrity. The runoff came after a first round of voting in April where Ossoff won just over 48% of the vote and Handel finished second in a splintered Republican field with just under 20% of the vote. However, Ossoff struggled to match that total as Handel consolidated the Republican vote in a traditionally conservative district in the northern suburbs of Atlanta and ended up falling a percentage point short of his much hyped performance in the first round of voting. Trump took to Twitter to hail the result as a personal victory “Thank you @FoxNews “Huge win for President Trump and GOP in Georgia Congressional Special Election.” The seat had been vacated by Tom Price when the former congressman joined Trump’s cabinet to become secretary of health and human services and previously held by Republican stalwarts like Senator Johnny Isakson and former speaker Newt Gingrich. Although Price won by 23% in 2016, Donald Trump only narrowly won this wealthy, well-educated district by just over 1%. Trump’s narrow win sparked optimism among Democrats that the district, where nearly 60% of residents have a college degree, could flip as part of the political realignment around the president’s upset victory in 2016. Roughly $50m ended up being spent by both parties and allied groups in the race as it became the most expensive congressional campaign in the history of the United States. However, while Democrats had motivated their base and won over skeptical Republicans, the conservative slant of district proved too much even for the nearly unprecedented resources that Democrats invested in the race, even flying in volunteers for last minute doorknocking as local television stations had been saturated by 30-second advertisements. The two candidates took different tones in their election night speeches after the race was called. Ossoff, speaking to a distraught crowd in a packed ballroom, cast the race in historical terms. “As darkness has crept across this planet you have provided a beacon of hope to people in Georgia and people in around the world,” Ossoff told attendees. He cast the race in broader metaphysical terms. “The fight goes on, hope is still alive,” said Ossoff. In contrast, Handel gave a far more traditional speech. She mentioned the obligation that came with “being the first Republican woman elected to Congress from the great state of Georgia” and cast herself an inspirational story, telling attendees “anything is possible with hard work, inspiration, grit and people that believe in you.” Handel also touched on policy priorities like “finishing the drill on health care” and lowering taxes including repeal of the estate tax. Although the race had been cast a referendum on Trump – an opinion the President seemed to endorse after the result had been reported – both candidates awkwardly danced around his looming presence on the campaign trail. At Handel’s campaign events, Trump’s name went unmentioned by the candidate and introductory speakers. Instead, there was constant refrain of attack on Ossoff for his ties to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and praise for previous holders of the seat like Price and Gingrich. Ossoff was regularly bashed for the amount of money he raised out of state, for having “San Francisco values” and, particularly, for the fact that he did not actually live in the district. Handel, who suggested in the first televised debate of the campaign that Trump should use Twitter less often, told the Guardian in an interview on Monday that she didn’t pay attention to the president’s use of social media. She said “I am focused on my campaign, I have precious little time to be on Twitter.” Several hours later, her campaign sent out a fundraising email signed by the former secretary of state with the subject line “did you see what Trump just tweeted?” after the President used his ubiquitous social media account to tout her campaign. Ossoff has also been measured in his attacks on Trump in a traditionally Republican district albeit one that the president barely won in 2016. Instead, the lanky and measured political neophyte focused on banal and politically non-controversial issues like government waste and turning Atlanta into “the Silicon Valley of the South” and let the progressive anti-Trump enthusiasm of the Democratic base carry him. Instead, he has focused on Handel’s stint as Georgia secretary of state as well as her brief stint with the Susan Komen Race For The Cure, a charity which combats breast [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 21st, 2017

Jeff Sessions calls accusations of Russia collusion an ‘appalling lie’ – The Guardian

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has rejected allegations that he took part in collusion with Moscow to influence the 2016 election as an “appalling and detestable lie”. In a heated, often testy hearing of the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions refused to answer questions about his discussions with Donald Trump, on the grounds that the president could claim executive privilege over those discussions at a later date. Under persistent questioning from Democratic senators, the attorney general repeatedly claimed he could not recall details of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. And in a startling admission from the country’s top justice official, he said he had not received, nor had he asked for, a briefing on Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election. He said he could not recall any conversations with Trump about the Russian role in the election throughout the transition period. The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has rejected allegations that he took part in collusion with Moscow to influence the 2016 election as an “appalling and detestable lie”. In a heated, often testy hearing of the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions refused to answer questions about his discussions with Donald Trump, on the grounds that the president could claim executive privilege over those discussions at a later date. Under persistent questioning from Democratic senators, the attorney general repeatedly claimed he could not recall details of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. And in a startling admission from the country’s top justice official, he said he had not received, nor had he asked for, a briefing on Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election. He said he could not recall any conversations with Trump about the Russian role in the election throughout the transition period. Over the course of more than two and a half hours, Sessions faced a hail of questions about his meetings with the Russian ambassador to Washington during the campaign, his recusal from inquiries over possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and his role in the firing of the FBI director, James Comey At one point, Sessions, formerly a senator for Alabama, complained: “I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.” Some of the most heated exchanges were over his refusal to talk about White House conversations on the Russia investigation and Comey’s dismissal on 9 May, even though Trump has not invoked executive privilege. Democrats on the committee reminded Sessions he was under oath. “You are obstructing this congressional investigation by not answering these questions,” Martin Heinrich, a Democratic senator from New Mexico, warned him. Sessions insisted: “I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic practices of the department of justice.” A justice department official later confirmed that “declining to answer questions at a congressional hearing about confidential conversations with the president is long-standing executive-branch-wide practice,” citing a 1982 justice department memorandum. The memorandum gives the president the right to invoke executive privilege to cover “military, diplomatic or national security secrets” and a more limited privilege in keeping law enforcement investigations secret. So far Trump has not invoked executive privilege, but Sessions argued the president could do so at a later date. “I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses, and there may be other privileges that apply,’’ he said. “At this point, I believe it’s premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege.’’ The frustration of the Democrats on the committee turned to disbelief when Sessions said that since being sworn in as attorney general in February, he had not received a briefing on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, despite a consensus among US intelligence agencies that it represented a significant security threat. “You never asked about it?” Angus King, an independent, asked. “No,” Sessions admitted. At the outset of the hearing, Sessions delivered a prepared statement denying any contacts with Russian officials about the campaign. “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any kind of interference in any campaign in the United States,” Sessions told the senators. “I have no knowledge of any conversations held along those lines by anybody in the Trump campaign.” He added, his voice rising in indignation: “I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.” At his confirmation hearing on 10 January, Sessions told the Senate: “I did not have communications with the Russians,” a claim that was later proved untrue when the Washington Post revealed he had had two meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, during the campaign. Sessions argued that his statement at the confirmation hearing was not a lie because of the context in which it was made, under questioning by the Democratic senator Al Franken of Minnesota about collusion. “He asked me a rambling question that included dramatic new allegations that the United States intelligence community had advised President-elect Trump that ‘there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government’,” Sessions said. [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 14th, 2017

What the Qatar crisis means for Hamas – CNN News

When Palestinian militant group Hamas announced its new charter to the world, it wasn't from Ramallah or Gaza City, but from the Sheraton hotel's gilded Salwa Ballroom in Doha. It was no surprise that Hamas chose Qatar. It's the home of outgoing Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, and much of his senior leadership. &'8220;Qatar is quite important for Hamas,&'8221; said H.A. Hellyer, a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. &'8220;Qatar provides strong financial aid to the occupied Palestinian territories and is a safe haven for a number of Hamas leaders.&'8221; The recent crisis in the Persian Gulf region is putting that relationship in jeopardy. Earlier this month, nine countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed financial embargoes of varying severity. The announcement was the culmination of a feud that had been simmering for years. The nine countries accused Doha of assisting terrorist organizations, providing support for the Muslim Brotherhood and of being far too cozy with Iran. Ironically perhaps, Qatar's relationship with Hamas had not been among the biggest issues dividing the region. Unlike the US, Britain, and Europe, all of which designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, Arab states &'8212; including Qatar &'8212; do not. This was something Qatar's Foreign Minister sought to remind people in an interview with Russia's RT, in response to a call from his Saudi counterpart that Qatar stop supporting Hamas. &'8220;The US views Hamas as a terror organization. But to the rest of the Arab nations, it is a legitimate resistance movement. We do not support Hamas, we support the Palestinian people,&'8221; Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said. &'8220;Hamas' presence [in Doha] is coordinated with the US and the countries in the region, and it's part of our effort to mediate between the Palestinian factions to reach reconciliation.&'8221; For its part, Hamas says it is being squeezed unreasonably. &'8220;The Gulf Countries are pressuring Qatar to cut relations with resistance organizations. This is unacceptable and we refuse this pressure,&'8221; Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said in a statement to CNN. &'8220;We are a resistance movement and the whole world is a witness to this.&'8221; Hamas is seen as having been under a series of pressures for the last few years, reflected in some significant internal changes. Last month, a new leader was announced &'8212; Ismail Haniya taking over from long-time leader Meshaal &'8212; at the same time as the militant group issued its new charter. While Israel pointed to the fact the new document continued to espouse violent resistance, and a commitment to the &'8220;rejection of the Zionist entity,&'8221; others observers said the document's description of a Palestinian state with the borders existing on the eve of the Six Day War in 1967 provided evidence of a new moderation. As Hamas rank and file were digesting those changes, so the leadership was suddenly forced to pay careful attention to diplomatic developments. Hellyer sees two main reasons the nine regional allies are turning their attention towards Hamas. &'8220;First, Hamas has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which puts it in the firing line of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia,&'8221; Hellyer says. &'8220;But I think this has more to do with a western audience. The Saudi rulers took advantage of Trump's recognition of them as a powerful actor in the region and that might have encouraged them.&'8221; Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, has been a thorn in the side of regional autocrats for years. Qatar's regional influence also comes from support for Islamists, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas at one end of the spectrum, or Al Qaeda at the other. Doha has used this sway to negotiate with various groups including the Taliban, as well as to help negotiate ceasefires between Israel and Hamas. In late 2010 and into 2011, Qatar saw its influence throughout the Middle East rise sharply. Al Jazeera, already a thorn in the side of Arab autocrats, reported extensively on the Arab Spring. The Al Jazeera Arabic channel grew additional roots in Egypt after the uprising and election of Mohamed Morsy who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The international community praised the new Egyptian president for bringing a swift end to a war between Gaza militants and Israel that same year. In the long run, though, as it unraveled across the region, the Arab Spring proved to be disastrous for Hamas, which saw the number of countries it could call a friend whittled away. &'8220;Hamas had very strong relations with Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Iran,&'8221; says Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician. &'8220;Things have changed over time so they had to diversify relations.&'8221; Before 2012, the Hamas leadership was based out of Damascus. Tensions grew between the militants and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad as revolution gripped the country. Eventually, Hamas sided with the rebels and cut ties to some extent with Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran. &'8220;Hamas lost a lot in the uprisings,&'8221; says Hellyer. &'8220;This is one of the reasons why Qatar stepped in.&'8221; Qatar, a strong supporter of both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas, took advantage of the situation. In the fall of 2012, the head of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, visited the Gaza Strip becoming the first world leader to do so under Hamas control. The emir inaugurated projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the vacuum left [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 13th, 2017

Special counsel Mueller s investigation seems to be growing

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating possible ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia's government has taken over a separate crim.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJun 4th, 2017

AP-NORC Poll: Majority of Americans favor Russia probe

NEW YORK — A slim majority of Americans favor an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with the Russian government, according to a new pol.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsApr 2nd, 2017

Yemen family fears drone strikes under Trump – The Guardian

Every day, as they hear the whine of the drones overhead, the Tuaiman family waits for Donald Trump to finish killing them. The drones used to hover about once a week over al-Rawdah, the Yemeni village where the family lives, sending children running for cover. Now, according to Meqdad Tuaiman, the drones come every day – sometimes three or four times. Usually they arrive in the afternoon. Other times they come after sundown and linger until sunrise. The drones have not fired their weapons in four months, but their patrols have intensified since late January, when Trump took office. Meqdad, a 24-year-old used-car salesman and occasional pipeline guard, considers it no coincidence. In October 2011, Meqdad’s father, Saleh, and his 17-year-old brother Jalal were killed in a drone strike after they drove into the desert to find some missing camels. Another brother who was with them – Ezzaldeen, 14 – escaped the blast and hid until morning, when he found the two shattered bodies. In 2014, the Guardian gave Meqdad’s 13-year-old brother a camera to record his daily life. In January 2015, he too was killed in a drone strike. US drone strikes in Yemen are a key part of the campaign against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but the Tuaiman family denies any links to terrorism and say the family has never received any explanation from either US authorities or their Yemeni government allies. According to Meqdad, his brother Ezzaldeen has started to say: “They’re going to kill me next.” Under the Trump administration, airstrikes have escalated dramatically in Iraq and Syria, sending claims of civilian casualties skyrocketing. Airstrikes have also increased in Yemen, where the US campaign against Islamists has played out alongside a tangled civil war, which has already drawn in regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Trump administration is considering plans to deepen US involvement in the civil war, which pits Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against the Persian Gulf states who support the exiled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Tuaiman family feels pinioned between the two campaigns: its support for Hadi aligns them with the US – even as they fear being marked for death by US drone strikes. In Washington, Obama was criticized from the right for being too risk-averse even as human rights monitors said his administration’s guidance on avoiding civilian casualties was to lax. And under Trump, the guidance is a dead letter, an administration official recently told the Guardian. “Under Obama, Republicans constantly expressed concerns that White House micromanagement of how and where drones were deployed – and unrealistic rules of engagement for drone strikes – hampered US counterterrorism strategy. Even without formal guidance, Trump can reverse this by devolving strike authority to lower-level officials, and signal an acceptance for more strikes and thus more civilian casualties,” said Micah Zenko, who studies counterterrorism at the Council on Foreign Relations. Meqdad fears that Trump intends to make good on a promise he made in 2015: “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.” US officials deny plans to implement such a policy, which legal experts say would constitute a war crime. But with three dead relatives, Meqdad is disinclined to rule it out. “Basically, we felt that [Trump has] no respect for human life. We felt very afraid”, Meqdad said, in a telephone interview arranged by the human rights group Reprieve. Meqdad said that if the US possesses any evidence against his family, “please bring it to court. We’re ready to explain in any US court.” From the Tuaiman’s Yemeni home to Iraq and Syria, the pace of US airstrikes has increased in recent weeks. Central Command has denied relaxing any relevant rules of engagement. Yet it has acknowledged, a December devolution of decision-making that made it quicker for US military “advisers” fighting alongside Iraqi forces in Mosul to call in airstrikes. “I think philosophically the president has made it very clear that he wants to give the commanders on the ground much more flexibility to execute their mission, especially when it comes to defeating Isis,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday. US air force statistics show that since December, the US dropped vastly more bombs on Iraq and Syria than ever before in the two-and-a-half-year old war. In January, US warplanes loosed 3,600 munitions, followed in February by another 3,440. (March statistics are not yet available.) That blew away the previous high-water mark for monthly weapons releases: 3,242 in November 2015. The UK-based monitor group Airwars has said claims of civilian casualties caused by the US and its allies have risen so sharply that it lacks the resources to continue monitoring those alleged to have been caused by Russia, which the US had once criticized for indiscriminate bombing. In March 2017 alone, Airwars has tracked allegations of nearly 1,000 civilians killed in Iraq and Syria attributed to the US-led coalition. The Pentagon says it investigates credible claims of civilian deaths. But in Mosul, mass deaths apparently resulting from a 17 March US airstrike have caused international outcry and prompted the Iraqi government to pause its offensive. A similar trend is at work in Yemen. As of Wednesday, Trump’s 69th day in office, the US had conducted 37 drone strikes or raids beyond declared battlefields, at a rate of one strike every 1.8 days, said Zenko. Those strikes and raids have overwhelmingly focused on Yemen. [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 30th, 2017

Trump campaign chair offers to talk to House panel on Russia

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, a key figure in investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, has volunteered to be.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 24th, 2017

What we know in the FBI probe of Trump campaign’s Russia ties – CBS News

What we know in the FBI probe of Trump campaign’s Russia ties – CBS News.....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 22nd, 2017

Closer US-Russia ties uncertain as Tillerson plans trip

WASHINGTON — With Russia-tinged investigations swirling around his administration, President Donald Trump has yet to fulfill a campaign pledge of closer coop.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 22nd, 2017

The World: FBI confirms probe of Trump campaign team's ties to Russia

WASHINGTON -- FBI chief James Comey dealt Donald Trump a double blow Monday by confirming a probe into his election campaign's links to Russia last year while repudiating the President's claim that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsMar 21st, 2017