FBI Raided Paul Manafort’s Home July 26th, 2017

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN) FBI agents raided a home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The agents seized materials in Manafort’s home as part of the ongoing Russia investigation led by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the source said.
“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told CNN. He declined to provide further details.
The so-called no-knock warrant, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was served at Manafort’s home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs on July 26, the day after Manafort met with Senate intelligence committee investigators.
The tactic appears unusual for a case that has been under investigation for months and for which Manafort has already turned over hundreds of pages of documents to Senate investigators. The source told CNN the documents seized included financial and tax records and at least some of the information had already been provided to Senate investigators.
Since his appointment in May, Mueller has quietly gathered a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in a nondescript office in Washington. Officials familiar with the probe describe it as akin to a small US attorney’s office, with FBI agents and prosecutors assigned to separate groups looking into various aspects of the investigation.
These include groups of investigators and lawyers focused separately on Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as the investigations focused on Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a US official briefed on the investigation has told CNN.
So far, Trump’s campaign has turned over approximately 20,000 pages to the Senate judiciary committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the election, while Manafort turned over approximately 400 pages and Donald Trump Jr. turned over about 250 pages.
Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled a dossier at the center of the federal Russia probe, has not yet turned over any documents, according to the committee’s spokesperson, though a source told CNN the firm plans to provide the committee with “thousands” of pages of documents Wednesday.
The spokesperson declined to provide details about the specific contents of the documents.

Donald ‘Fake News’ Trump Tells Mexico’s President That “New Hampshire Is A Drug-Infested Den”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump, in a conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, labeled New Hampshire “a drug-infested den,” according to a transcript of Trump’s January 27 call that was published by The Washington Post on Thursday.

The comment was quickly decried by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Granite State, including the state’s Republican governor who endorsed Trump during the 2016 campaign.
During the call, according to the Post, Trump lashed out at Peña Nieto for the quantity of illegal drugs that come into the United States from Mexico.
“We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump said.
He later bragged that he won the Granite State because of the opioid epidemic.
“I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den,” he said.
Asked by CNN to comment on the transcript, Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said only that he “can’t confirm or deny the authenticity of allegedly leaked classified documents.”
Trump did, in fact, win the Republican primary in New Hampshire, more than doubling the vote total received by his nearest competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump, however, narrowly lost the state to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Trump seized on the opioid epidemic while campaigning in New Hampshire throughout 2015 and 2016, promising the people of the state that he would boost local clinics, help those who are already hooked on opioids and stop the flow of drugs coming into the state.
The issue was so critical to Trump that he headlined an event in New Hampshire focused strictly on opioids days before the 2016 election.
“I just want to let the people of New Hampshire know that I’m with you 1,000%, you really taught me a lot,” he said before promising to help people who “are so seriously addicted.”
And he has made similar comments in the past about how inexpensive drugs can be.
“We’re becoming a drug-infested nation,” Trump said in February. “Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.”
Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu flatly said Trump’s statement was “wrong” in a statement on Thursday.
“It’s disappointing his mischaracterization of this epidemic ignores the great things this state has to offer,” he said. “We are already seeing positive signs of our efforts as overdoses and deaths are declining in key parts of the state. In spite of this crisis, New Hampshire remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
New Hampshire’s two Democratic senators also blasted the comments.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted that Trump needed to apologize to the state of New Hampshire and “then should follow through on his promise to Granite Staters to help end this crisis.”
“It’s absolutely unacceptable for the President to be talking about NH in this way — a gross misrepresentation of NH & the epidemic,” she wrote.
Sen. Maggie Hassan called Trump’s comments “disgusting.”
“As he knows, NH and states across America have a substance misuse crisis,” Hassan wrote. “Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, [Trump] needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis.”
And the Democratic National Committee said the comments prove that Trump “looks at the opioid epidemic as a political advantage, rather than a national crisis that demands the attention and care of our President.”
Multiple White House officials failed to respond to CNN’s questions about the President’s comments about New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is one of the states most directly impacted by the opioid crisis. According to the NH Drug Monitoring Initiative, drug overdose deaths have climbed in the state since 2012 and it expected to again hit an all-time high once data from 2016 is tabulated.
A national study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 25% of all drug overdose deaths were related to heroin in 2015. That number was just 6% in 1999.
In response to the epidemic, Trump created a White House panel tasked with looking into how the federal government should respond. The panel, which is being led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, released its interim report earlier this week and suggested that Trump declare a state of emergency to combat opioids.
“Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it,” read its report. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency.”
The report added: “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” noting the fact that 142 Americans die from drug overdoses every day.

How to tell when Trump is hiding something? The Trump Jr. saga offers 2 clues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(THE TRUMPS ARE LIKE THE BUSHES AND THE CLINTON’S: IT IS NOT ‘MISS SPEAKING’ IT IS CALLED LYING FOLKS)(TRS)

The Fix

How to tell when Trump is hiding something? The Trump Jr. saga offers 2 clues.

 August 1 at 12:08 PM
 Play Video 3:18
Donald Trump Jr.’s contradictory statements about the Russia meeting
A timeline of Donald Trump Jr.’s comments and contradictions about his meeting with a Russian lawyer in June of 2016. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

The Washington Post’s report that President Trump dictated his son’s misleading statement about meeting with a Russian lawyer contradicts previous denials by Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer. But one person without egg on her face is White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who pleaded ignorance when asked repeatedly about the president’s involvement.

In hindsight, Sanders’s shrugs look like signals that Trump was hiding something — perhaps even from his own spokeswoman — and provide clues about how to detect secrets in the future.

  1. Pay attention to things that White House spokesmen say they “don’t know” or “haven’t asked” about. These types of answers are given frequently.
  2. Watch for times when the White House declines to repeat the claims of Trump’s personal legal team.

The statement at the root of The Post’s report was issued to the New York Times when it reported July 8 that Donald Trump Jr. met last summer with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer. Here’s the key passage: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no followup.”

That version of events was, at best, a partial truth. The Times reported a day later that the premise of the meeting was that the Russian lawyer would share damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Naturally, the genesis of the original statement — with its glaring omission — interested journalists. Was the president involved?

At an off-camera news briefing on July 11, Sanders was asked when Trump and Trump Jr. had spoken last. She said she did not know.

 Play Video 0:34
Huckabee Sanders plays down Trump son’s meeting with Russian lawyer
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was nothing inappropriate about a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian attorney during the campaign last year. (Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Reuters)
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That night, the Times reported that the president had signed off on his son’s statement.

On “Good Morning America” the next day, Sekulow disputed the Times’s report. “The president didn’t sign off on anything,” Sekulow said. “He was coming back from the G-20 [summit], the statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. and, I’m sure, in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn’t involved in that.”

At an off-camera briefing hours later, however, Sanders wouldn’t repeat Sekulow’s denial. This was her exchange with The Post’s Philip Rucker, one of the reporters behind Monday’s scoop:

RUCKER: Has President Trump had any communication with his son, Donald Trump Jr., over the last several days? And was he involved in helping Donald Trump Jr. craft his statement to the press over the weekend on Air Force One, as was reported in the New York Times?

MS. SANDERS: I’m not sure about specific communications and the nature of those conversations. I know that they’ve spoken at least at some point over the last few days, but beyond that I don’t have any other further details.

RUCKER: Has he helped him with his response?

MS. SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of, but I just don’t know the answer to that, Phil.

RUCKER: So is that not true?

MS. SANDERS: I’ve been telling you, I’m just not sure. I don’t know the answer. I’ll have to check and let you know.

RUCKER: Okay. Can you find out?

MS. SANDERS: Yeah.

Sanders never followed up with reporters. It is certainly possible that she truly did not know whether the president was involved in crafting the statement; if that is the case, then she was remarkably incurious. Perhaps it was best not to know.

Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(ONE HABITUAL LIAR DICTATING LIES FOR ANOTHER HABITUAL LIAR SO THEY CAN TRY TO KEEP THE LIES THEY ARE TELLING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE STRAIGHT, PATHETIC.)(TRS)

Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer

 Play Video 2:00
President Trump personally intervened to write Donald Trump Jr. statement
President Trump personally dictated a statement that was issued after revelations that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig explain. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
 July 31 at 7:46 PM
On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

The claims were later shown to be misleading.

President-elect Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York on Jan. 11. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Over the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an email promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.

As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III looks into potential obstruction of justice as part of his broader investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, these advisers worry that the president’s direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a cover up.

“This was . . . unnecessary,” said one of the president’s advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”

Trump has already come under criticism for steps he has taken to challenge and undercut the Russia investigation.

He fired FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9 after a private meeting in which Comey said the president asked him if he could end the investigation of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told associates that Trump asked him in March if he could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on Flynn. In addition, Trump has repeatedly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for rescuing himself from overseeing the FBI’s Russian investigation — a decision that was one factor leading to the appointment of Mueller. And he has privately discussed his power to issue pardons, including for himself, and explored potential avenues for undercutting Mueller’s work.

Although misleading the public or the news media is not a crime, advisers to Trump and his family told The Washington Post that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from Mueller.

Trump, they say, is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired.

“He refuses to sit still,” the presidential adviser said. “He doesn’t think he’s in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he is going to solve by himself.”

Trump has said that the Russia investigation is “the greatest witch hunt in political history,” calling it an elaborate hoax created by Democrats to explain why Clinton lost an election she should have won.

Because Trump believes he is innocent, some advisers explained, he therefore does not think he is at any legal risk for a coverup. In his mind, they said, there is nothing to conceal.

The White House directed all questions for this article to the president’s legal team.

One of Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, declined to discuss the specifics of the president’s actions and his role in crafting his son’s statement about the Russian contact. Sekulow issued a one-sentence statement in response to a list of detailed questions from The Post.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent,” Sekulow’s statement read.

Trump Jr. did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney, Alan Futerfas, told The Post that he and his client “were fully prepared and absolutely prepared to make a fulsome statement” about the meeting, what led up to it and what was discussed.

Asked about Trump intervening, Futerfas said, “I have no evidence to support that theory.” He described the process of drafting a statement as “a communal situation that involved communications people and various lawyers.”

Peter Zeidenberg, the deputy special prosecutor who investigated the George W. Bush administration’s leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, said Mueller will have to dig into the crafting of Trump Jr.’s statement aboard Air Force One.

Prosecutors typically assume that any misleading statement is an effort to throw investigators off the track, Zeidenberg said.

“The thing that really strikes me about this is the stupidity of involving the president,” Zeidenberg said. “They are still treating this like a family run business and they have a PR problem. . . . What they don’t seem to understand is this is a criminal investigation involving all of them.”

Advocating for transparency

The debate about how to deal with the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting began weeks before any news organizations began to ask questions about it.

Kushner’s legal team first learned about the meeting when doing research to respond to congressional requests for information. Congressional investigators wanted to know about any contacts the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser had with Russian officials or business people.

Kushner’s lawyers came across what they immediately recognized would eventually become a problematic story. A string of emails showed Kushner attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in the midst of the campaign — one he had failed to disclose. Trump Jr. had arranged it, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort had also attended.

To compound what was, at best, a public relations fiasco, the emails, which had not yet surfaced publicly, showed Trump Jr. responding to the prospect of negative information on Clinton from Russia: “I love it.”

Lawyers and advisers for Trump, his son and son-in-law gamed out strategies for disclosing the information to try to minimize the fallout of these new links between the Trump family and Russia, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications and one of the president’s most trusted and loyal aides, and Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works closely with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, huddled with Kushner’s lawyers, and they advocated for a more transparent approach, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.

In one scenario, these people said, Kushner’s team talked about sharing everything, including the contents of the emails, with a mainstream news organization.

Hicks and Raffel declined to comment. Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell also declined to comment.

The president’s outside legal team, led by Marc Kasowitz, had suggested that the details be given to Circa, an online news organization that the Kasowitz team thought would be friendly to Trump. Circa had inquired in previous days about the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The president’s legal team planned to cast the June 2016 meeting as a potential setup by Democratic operatives hoping to entrap Trump Jr. and, by extension, the presumptive Republican nominee, according to people familiar with discussions.

Kasowitz declined to comment for this article, as did a Circa spokesman.

Consensus overruled

Circumstances changed when the New York Times began asking about the Trump Tower meeting, though advisers believed that the newspaper knew few of the details. While the president, Kushner and Ivanka Trump were attending the G-20 summit in Germany, the Times asked for White House comment on the impetus and reason for the meeting.

During breaks away from the summit, Kushner and Ivanka Trump gathered with Hicks and Raffel to discuss Kushner’s response to the inquiry, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Kushner’s legal team joined at times by phone.

Hicks also spoke by phone with Trump Jr. Again, say people familiar with the conversations, Kushner’s team concluded that the best strategy would be to err on the side of transparency, because they believed the complete story would eventually emerge.

The discussions among the president’s advisers consumed much of the day, and they continued as they prepared to board Air Force One that evening for the flight home.

But before everyone boarded the plane, Trump had overruled the consensus, according to people with knowledge of the events.

It remains unclear exactly how much the president knew at the time of the flight about Trump Jr.’s meeting.

The president directed that Trump Jr.’s statement to the Times describe the meeting as unimportant. He wanted the statement to say that the meeting had been initiated by the Russian lawyer and primarily was about her pet issue — the adoption of Russian children.

Air Force One took off from Germany shortly after 6 p.m. — about noon in Washington. In a forward cabin, Trump was busy working on his son’s statement, according to people with knowledge of events. The president dictated the statement to Hicks, who served as a go-between with Trump Jr., who was not on the plane, sharing edits between the two men, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

In the early afternoon, Eastern time, Trump Jr.’s team put out the statement to the Times. It was four sentences long, describing the encounter as a “short, introductory meeting.”

“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up,” the statement read.

Trump Jr. went on to say: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Over the next hour, word spread through emails and calls to other Trump family advisers and lawyers about the statement that Trump Jr. had sent to the Times.

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Some lawyers for the president and for Kushner were surprised and frustrated, advisers later learned. According to people briefed on the dispute, some lawyers tried to reach Futerfas and their clients and began asking why the president had been involved.

Also on the flight, Kushner worked with his team — including one of his lawyers, who called in to the plane.

His lawyers have said that Kushner’s initial omission of the meeting was an error, but that in an effort to be fully transparent, he had updated his government filing to include “this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr.” Kushner’s legal team referred all questions about the meeting itself to Trump Jr.

The Times’ story revealing the existence of the June 2016 meeting was posted online about 4 p.m. Eastern time. Roughly four hours later, Air Force One touched down at Joint Base Andrews. Trump’s family members and advisers departed the plane, and they knew the problem they had once hoped to contain would soon grow bigger.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Jamaica’s First Woman Prime Minister Retires Amidst Praise, Criticism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GOOGLE PLUS’S GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Jamaica’s First Woman Prime Minister Retires Amidst Praise, Criticism — and a Contentious Battle to Succeed Her

Former prime minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller, when she attended the ceremony unveiling the winning design for the slavery memorial at the United Nations (in her capacity, as then prime minister). Photo by United Nations Information Centres, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

On June 29, 2017, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, Portia Simpson-Millermade her final speech in parliament. It marked, at the age of 72, her retirement from representational politics.

Simpson-Miller had been under some pressure to step down as opposition leader ever since the People’s National Party (PNP), under her leadership, lost the general elections in February 2016. Former finance minister, Peter Phillips, was returned unopposed as party leader, and sworn in as opposition leader on April 3, 2017.

Ms. Simpson Miller was showered with tributes by colleagues on both sides of the house in a joint sitting of parliament on June 27, where she was described as a champion of the poor. With rural roots, her political journey as a woman and her personal resilience in the face of stiff challenges were often topics of praise and admiration. However, her leadership skills were often called into question during her two stints as prime minister, and as she left the political stage she still had her detractors.

Outspoken entertainer Tanya Stephens took to Facebook to deliver a devastating critique of Simpson-Miller’s legacy:

Hearing people lament Portia’s departure is like seeing people congratulate my rapist for being a ‘good man’…she isn’t a good person. SHE knows that. Besides unqualified AND an embarrassing representation who wasn’t even of average intelligence as per her public displays, she was also an awful apathetic human who perfected the art of pandering to the hypocrisy of Jamaicans. I’m happy to see her back. I’m not alone. Good riddance.

Stephens responded to the many Jamaicans who were disturbed by her outburst by simply stating:

That it takes ‘audacity’ to criticize a PUBLIC SERVANT is a tragedy.

As a quite unpleasant war of words ensued, community activist Damien Williams shared:

To compare the fanfare & well wishes towards PSM [Portia Simpson-Miller] to that being offered to a rapist is NOT a critique of her capacity, competence or a commentary on her failures but NASTY personal attack, plain and simple. However, to offer a defense of PSM by doing same is equally nasty. Rape is NEVER something you downplay or use to inflict pain/recompense. We certainly can express dissent without ad hominem. We are always so grotesquely excessive and then use as a crutch, freedom of speech. KMT [Kiss my teeth]

Affectionately known as “Mama P,” Simpson-Miller presided over the gritty “garrison” constituency of South West St. Andrew for over four decades. It is an inner city area of the capital, plagued with poor infrastructure, unemployment and poverty. Columnist Martin Henry wrote:

Portia Simpson came to representational politics at the parliamentary level in 1976 when political tribalism and its ugly pickney, political violence, were on the upswing. The state of emergency declared by the Government that year, partly in response to escalating violence associated with the election campaign, assisted the young KSAC councillor to capture what up till then was a safe JLP seat, having never been won before by the PNP since its creation in 1959. Her 76 per cent margin of victory in ’76 just kept growing to the point where it equalled the number of voters, even when a few voted for the JLP candidate.

Since 1976, criminal violence, indexed by murder, has progressively increased, with South West Andrew making its above-average contribution.

Within a week or two of Simpson-Miller’s resignation as a member of parliament, the party became gradually embroiled in a political tussle over her possible successor in the constituency. This was reported and commented on in detail by both traditional and social media. Jamaicans have a taste for political intrigue, and many (especially those with party affiliations) are following every twist and turn with interest.

The story began with a drama — and a murder — when local Councillor Karl Blake (considered a possible successor) was injured and his assistant shot dead at their constituency office. Blake, who has recovered, is reportedly no longer interested in contesting the seat.

While Councillor Audrey Smith-Facey, who is campaigning under the hashtag #OurAudrey, was expected to be the main contender, the waters were muddied considerably when a video was posted of Simpson Miller endorsing former Kingston mayor, Councillor Angela Brown-Burke, to succeed her. This was a surprise to many, with some questioning whether it was genuine, having come after the nomination period had ended; this threw the party into further confusion.

According to one news report, however, party delegates are firmly rejecting Brown-Burke. Many would like to see the young maverick, Damion Crawford, in the seat. Crawford is apparently not interested, but this has not stopped him from seeing the humour in the situation (he locked horns with Brown Burke on social media in 2015):

Crawford himself added:

Noting in fake exasperation:

In moments like these i wish my name wasn’t damion crawford it’s too easy to call. I’m changing it again to Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta”

Meanwhile, some journalists are enjoying the cut and thrust within the party:

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

UPDATE: Region 3 Chair @PhillipPaulwell backing Burke. Former Region 1 boss @LisaHannamp supporting . Hanna chides Executive

#OurAudrey shows no sign of backing down, issuing a somewhat sarcastic statement that she expects to be the “standard bearer”. One Jamaican Twitter user was amused:

Loooooooooooooooooooooool. Is which lawyer/PR person write this? Them need to raise them retainer. This was good. https://twitter.com/AbkaFitzHenley/status/887838803305607168 

Not to be outdone, Councillor Brown-Burke is busy campaigning on her Facebook page, with a photo of herself and “her people” in the constituency. She also wasted no time in updating the cover photo on her Facebook page to read, “I’m thankful for my struggle, because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength!”

After a meeting of the party’s executive council, the PNP has now agreed to hold a selection conference to decide between the two women on July 30, 2017.

The question remains, though: does Portia Simpson-Miller want to remain engaged with the people of South West St. Andrew, whom she described in her farewell speech as her “armour of steel”? Perhaps that depends on which woman succeeds her.

Is It Past Time To Arrest AG Jeff Sessions For Obstruction Of Justice And For Lying To Congress?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

 Play Video 2:09
Sessions discussed Trump campaign matters with Russian ambassador, according to U.S. intercepts
The accounts from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to his superiors, intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, contradict public assertions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Post’s Greg Miller explains. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
 July 21 at 6:51 PM
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous.

Trump, in an interview this week, expressed frustration with Sessions’s recusing himself from the Russia probe and indicated that he regretted his decision to make the lawmaker from Alabama the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Trump also faulted Sessions as giving “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing about his Russian contacts during the campaign.

Officials emphasized that the information contradicting Sessions comes from U.S. intelligence on Kislyak’s communications with the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Russian ambassador could have mischaracterized or exaggerated the nature of his interactions.

“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman in a statement. She reiterated that Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington.

Sessions removed himself from direct involvement in the Russia investigation after it was revealed in The Washington Post that he had met with Kislyak at least twice in 2016, contacts he failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing in January.

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions said when asked whether anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with representatives of the Russian government.

He has since maintained that he misunderstood the scope of the question and that his meetings with Kislyak were strictly in his capacity as a U.S. senator. In a March appearance on Fox television, Sessions said, “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way.”

Sessions appeared to narrow that assertion further in extensive testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, saying that he “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

But when pressed for details, Sessions qualified many of his answers during that hearing by saying that he could “not recall” or did not have “any recollection.”

A former U.S. official who read the Kislyak reports said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.

Sessions had a third meeting with Kislyak in his Senate office in September. Officials declined to say whether U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted any Russian communications describing the third encounter.

As a result, the discrepancies center on two earlier Sessions-Kislyak conversations, including one that Sessions has acknowledged took place in July 2016 on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

By that point, Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to embark on a secret campaign to help Trump win the White House by leaking damaging emails about his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Although it remains unclear how involved Kislyak was in the covert Russian campaign to aid Trump, his superiors in Moscow were eager for updates about the candidate’s positions, particularly regarding U.S. sanctions on Russia and long-standing disputes with the Obama administration over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kislyak also reported having a conversation with Sessions in April at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where then-candidate Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address, according to the officials familiar with intelligence on Kislyak.

Sessions has said he does not remember any encounter with Kislyak at that event. In his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions said, “I do not recall any conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower Hotel.”

Later in that hearing, Sessions said that “it’s conceivable that that occurred. I just don’t remember it.”

Kislyak was also a key figure in the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to leave that job after The Post revealed that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak even while telling others in the Trump administration that he had not done so.

In that case, however, Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, providing irrefutable evidence. The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.

Former FBI director James B. Comey fueled speculation about the possibility of a Sessions-Kislyak meeting at the Mayflower when he told the same Senate committee on June 8 that the bureau had information about Sessions that would have made it “problematic” for him to be involved in the Russia probe.

Comey would not provide details of what information the FBI had, except to say that he could only discuss it privately with the senators. Current and former officials said he appeared to be alluding to intelligence on Kislyak’s account of an encounter with Sessions at the Mayflower.

Senate Democrats later called on the FBI to investigate the event in April at the Mayflower hotel.

Sessions’s role in removing Comey as FBI director angered many at the bureau and set in motion events that led to the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s harsh words toward the attorney general fueled speculation this week that Sessions would be fired or would resign. So far, he has resisted resigning, saying that he intends to stay in the job “as long as that is appropriate.”

Matt Zapotosky and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Mueller Is Investigating Trump Family Business Ties With Shady Russian’s

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trumpcampaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross and senior advisor Jared Kushner attend a meeting at the White House on Feb. 2, 2017.

Trump, Ross and Kushner attend a meeting at the White House on Feb. 2, 2017.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that he was unaware of the inquiry into Trump’s businesses by the two-months-old investigation and considered it beyond the scope of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be examining.

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he wrote in an email.

Markets Fall

Major U.S. stock indices, which had been trading higher in the morning, fell as traders worried that the probe could derail Trump’s growth agenda. The dollar fell against the euro and U.S. government bonds rose.

The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, however, making the boundaries fuzzy.

The Justice Department’s May 17 order to Mueller instructs him to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” suggesting a relatively broad mandate.

Agents are interested in dealings with the Bank of Cyprus, where Wilbur Ross served as vice chairman before he became commerce secretary. In addition, they are examining the efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real-estate properties. The information about the investigation was provided by someone familiar with the developing inquiry but not authorized to speak publicly.

The roots of Mueller’s follow-the-money investigation lie partly in a wide-ranging money-laundering probe launched by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last year, according to the person.

For more on the Trump-Russia investigations, see this Q&A

FBI agents already had been gathering information about Manafort, according to two people with knowledge of that probe. Prosecutors hadn’t yet begun presenting evidence to a grand jury. Trump fired Bharara in March.

The Manafort inquiry initially focused on actions involving a real-estate company he launched with money from Ukraine in 2008. By the time Bharara was fired, his office’s investigation of possible money laundering extended well beyond that, according to the person briefed on the Mueller probe.

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The Bharara investigation was consolidated into Mueller’s inquiry, showing that the special counsel is taking an overarching approach. The various financial examinations constitute one thread of Mueller’s inquiry, which encompasses computer hacking and the dissemination of stolen campaign and voter information as well as the actions of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Joshua Stueve, Mueller’s spokesman, declined to comment, as did a Manafort spokesman and Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner.

Spokesmen for the White House, Trump Organization and Ross didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Evade Taxes

Mueller’s team is looking at the Trump SoHo hotel condominium development, which was a licensing deal with Bayrock Capital LLC. In 2010, the former finance director of Bayrock filed a lawsuit claiming the firm structured transactions in fraudulent ways to evade taxes. Bayrock was a key source of capital for Trump projects, including Trump SoHo.

The 2013 Miss Universe pageant is of interest because a prominent Moscow developer, Aras Agalarov, paid $20 million to bring the beauty spectacle there. About a third of that sum went to Trump in the form of a licensing fee, according to Forbes magazine. At the event, Trump met Herman Gref, chief executive of Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank PJSC. Agalarov’s son, Emin, helped broker a meeting last year between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

Another significant financial transaction involved a Palm Beach, Florida, estate Trump purchased in 2004 for $41 million, after its previous owner lost it in bankruptcy. In March of 2008, after the real-estate bubble had begun losing air, Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought the property for $95 million.

As part of their investigation, Mueller’s team has issued subpoenas to banks and filed requests for bank records to foreign lenders under mutual legal-assistance treaties, according to two of the people familiar with the matter.

Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.

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This Is The Week President Trump Meets President Putin Face To Face In Germany At G-20 Summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will demand the return of two diplomatic compounds seized by the United States when he meets in Germany this week with President Trump for the first time, the Kremlin said, as a senior Russian official warned that Moscow’s patience on the issue was running out.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said his government showed “unusual flexibility” by not retaliating in December when then-President Obama confiscated the two compounds, in New York state and Maryland, and expelled 35 Russian diplomats as punishment for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Ushakov urged Washington to “free Russia from the need to take retaliatory moves,” according to The Associated Press.

The White House has reportedly been mulling returning the compounds in an effort to improve relations with Moscow, and in recent days Russian officials have warned that retaliatory measures have been drawn up if the compounds are not returned. They were nominally used by the Russian Embassy as recreational facilities, but U.S. intelligence has long argued they were bases for espionage.

In a separate statement released today, the Kremlin said Putin would raise the issue with Trump when the two meet in Hamburg, Germany, where the G-20 summit is being held Saturday. The statement said that the Kremlin expected Putin would convey the need to find the “most rapid resolution” on the issue, which it described as an “irritant” in Russian-U.S. relations.

The two leaders’ first meeting is highly anticipated, coming as investigations continue into possible collusion between members of Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials and as relations between Moscow and Washington are being described as at their worst since the Cold War.

There has been intense speculation for months over when the two presidents might come face to face. Since confirming the meeting

last week, the White House has been light on details about what they will discuss.

“There’s no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” Trump’s national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster told reporters last week.

McMaster said administration officials had been tasked with drawing up options to confront Russia over “destabilizing behavior,” including cyber threats and political subversion, as well as looking for ways to cooperate on issues such as Syria and North Korea.

Today the Kremlin was more specific, issuing a broad list of areas where it said it believed it could cooperate with the United States. The top issues listed for discussion were Russia’s dissatisfaction with U.S. sanctions, its desire to cooperate on international terrorism, the Syria crisis and improving efforts around nuclear arms control.

Most of the issues resembled those the Kremlin frequently raised with the Obama administration, and the statement emphasized Moscow’s desire for a return to normal relations.

There is “significant potential for coordinating efforts,” the Kremlin statement said. “Our countries can do much together in resolving regional crises,” including Ukraine, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The statement also said Russia was eager to restore business links with the United States.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday told the news agency Interfax he hoped the meeting would lend clarity to the relationship and warned that not seeking to normalize relations would be a “huge mistake.”

In reality, however, it’s unclear that, beyond the return of the diplomatic compounds, there is much Putin and Trump will be able to ask of each other. In many areas, U.S. and Russian interests have little overlap, and that has not appeared to change under Trump.

On Syria the two have clashed, and last month a U.S. fighter shot down a war plane belonging to Russia’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. The White House has said sanctions will not be lifted on Russia until it withdraws from Crimea, and in the Senate both parties are drawing up more sanctions to punish Russia for its alleged election meddling.

“I don’t think we should expect any kind of breakthrough,” said Maria Lipman, a veteran political analyst in Moscow. “I don’t think we should expect any significant results from this meeting. Not even the beginning of solutions to the major issues.”

During the presidential campaign and after the election, some Russian officials and state media expressed optimism that Trump would mean better relations with the United States. But such hopes have so far largely not materialized.

Lipman said she believes there is a growing realization in the Kremlin of Trump’s severely restricted ability to alter U.S. policy toward Moscow, given the intensity of the scandal around the Russia investigations.

India: PM Modi, Sir India Is Not A Democracy If You Do Not Have Religious Freedom

To India’s Prime Minister Modi:

This article is in regard to a story I read earlier today from the Christian Post. In several regards this article if it is true shows that India is not yet a true democracy. For any country to actually be a democracy there are many issues that must be addressed, in this article I am only going to try to address a few of these ideals. In a true democracy there has to be equality in areas of their caste system where anyone can move up, or down in the financial arenas depending on their own abilities. All adults must be allowed to vote for whomever they chose at least as long as they are not convicted felons who are in jail at the time of the elections. This last issue I have with your government is in regard to India not having true honest religious freedom.

 

I do believe that India is a great country right now yet it could be so much more if the political will is there. The article today in the Christian Post said that six Christian adults were arrested last month for taking 72 Christian children of Christian parents to a ‘vacation Bible school’. A State can not prosper for all of its citizens if they cannot worship their God as they see fit. The only exception to this rule should be if the religion is telling people to go into the population and attack and or kill people who don’t agree with them and their ‘God’s’ teachings. If a person actually knows anything about the New Testament Scriptures of the Bible then they know that the Scriptures do not teach violence toward anyone. As you well know Mr. Modi there are some ‘Religions’ that do teach such violence and not even as arbitrarily, but as a requirement. Mr. Modi, is the Hindu Religion really one of these Demonic Cults? I believe that the Nation of India can be the greatest Democracy size wise on this planet in about 20 or 30 years and you may think it is now but with these glaring flaws that is not so, not yet. If the politicians in your country do not fix these serious issues I believe your future will look like a mixture of Iran and China except not Islamic or Atheist but a horrible debased Hindu State that will end up having no semblance of Democracy or freedom.

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein contemplates whether he will become a witness in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

Rosenstein, in office for less than two months, is the top Justice official overseeing the probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
But Rosenstein could end up recusing himself, too, Justice officials say, in part because he played a role in President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Comey dismissal could become part of a widening investigation into whether the President tried to interfere with the ongoing Russia probe.
Officials familiar with the matter describe friction on the Justice Department’s fourth and fifth floors, home to the suite of offices belonging to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, respectively, in part because of Rosenstein’s handling of the Russia matter.
Rosenstein was among those who advised Sessions to recuse himself, according to officials briefed on the matter. But then Rosenstein made the surprise move to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation, a development that people close to Sessions and Trump believe has worsened matters for everyone involved.
Sessions learned of the Mueller appointment at about the same time that the press was told, according to people briefed on the matter. The attorney general was at a White House meeting when the notification came from Rosenstein, prompting the enraged President to scold the attorney general for the turn of events. Trump had viewed Sessions’ recusal as unnecessary, even though Justice Department regulations made it almost impossible to avoid.
The focus on Rosenstein sharpened Friday because the President attacked the deputy attorney general in a tweet, blaming him for what he terms a “witch hunt.”
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the President tweeted.
The President’s tweet — seeming to confirm the probe based on news reports — came as a surprise to the President’s own legal team, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mueller continues to hire a team of lawyers, and with FBI investigators is gathering information that is widely expected to lead to a formal investigation into whether President Trump attempted to interfere in the investigation. Comey’s firing likely will be part of that probe.

Special counsel members donated to Dems

Special counsel members donated to Dems 02:26
Rosenstein told the Associated Press earlier this month that when he hired Mueller he discussed the possibility of having recuse himself “if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation” and if recusal is necessary.
The strain on Rosenstein has increasingly become visible in recent weeks, according to Justice officials.
At a ceremony last month to welcome Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rosenstein joked awkwardly about being at the center of criticism since taking office, according to people who were in the room.
If Rosenstein recuses himself, Brand, a Trump appointee, would become the top Justice official overseeing Mueller’s work.
On Thursday night, he issued a statement lashing out at news stories sourced to anonymous officials and that he believes are causing the President and Republicans to attack the Justice Department, the FBI and Mueller for alleged leaks.
Rosenstein’s unusual statement, which he issued over the objections of some advisers, said in part: “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials.'”
A Justice official said Rosenstein was motivated in part because of frustration that recent news stories have unfairly brought on a torrent of “leak” accusations against the FBI and Mueller’s team.

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