AG Jeff Sessions: Seems He Can’t Remember Anything Except How To Lie To Congress

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS AND REUTERS)

AG Jeff Sessions says he can’t recall more meetings with Russian officials before admitting he ‘possibly’ had one

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had “no recollection” of any additional meetings with Russian diplomats during the 2016 presidential campaign, before acknowledging that he “possibly” had one.In testy testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election on Tuesday, Sessions also defended his role in firing FBI Director James Comey while repeatedly refusing to answer questions about his conversations with President Trump.

The attorney general acknowledged that Trump hadn’t evoked “executive privilege” — legalese for an ability to protect private conversations with the President — but still refused to answer any questions from senators regarding his conversations with Trump, including whether he and Trump had discussed the Russia investigation when talking about firing Comey.

Sessions’ repeated dodges and refusals to answer questions led to building frustration from Democrats throughout the hearing.

Columbia professor turns over James Comey documents to FBI

“You’re not answering questions. You’re impeding the investigation,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said. “You are obstructing the congressional investigation by not answering questions.”

“I’m protecting the right of the President to assert it if he chooses” to executive privilege in the future, Sessions said.

Sessions also insisted he had every right to be involved with Trump’s decision to fire Comey, even though the FBI head was leading the Russia investigation Sessions had been forced to step away from.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives to testify during a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives to testify during a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“The scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI,” he said.

In aftermath of Comey’s bombshell testimony, Trump goes golfing

Sessions refused, however, to offer further explanation for his support in firing the former FBI director even though he’d recused himself from the investigation into whether President Trump’s team colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

And he used carefully selected language to give himself an out about a potential unreported third meeting with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., saying only that he did not “have any recollection of meeting or talking to the Russian Ambassador or any other Russian officials” during a Trump event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the campaign.

Later, he muddied up that denial even further.

“I could say that I possibly had a meeting but I still do not recall it,” he said.

Senators had asked Comey to investigate Sessions’ Russia talks

“I don’t recall” was his favorite phrase of the day, as Sessions fell back on the pat answer time and again throughout the day.

While he was evasive in his answers, Sessions was fiery off the bat in defending his character against what he painted as “scurrilous and false allegations.”

“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,” he said.

He claimed that he’d planned to recuse himself from the Russia investigation from the start, even though he had refused to commit to do so during his confirmation hearing, saying he “not aware of a basis to recuse myself,” and made no moves towards recusal until after he’d been caught in a lie about his previous contacts with Russian officials.

Trump says he’d testify on Comey claims, but won’t talk tapes

“If merely being a supporter of the President during the campaign warranted recusal from involvement in any matter involving him, then most typical presidential appointees would be unable to conduct their duties,” Sessions said in his January confirmation hearing. “I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters. If a specific matter arose where I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with Department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed.”

Sessions even waited days to announce his recusal after the news of his previously undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador came to light.

The attorney general blamed his false testimony that he hadn’t met with Russian officials, when it turned out he did at least twice, on a misunderstanding of what Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was asking him at the time, though he went much further to declare that he hadn’t met with any Russians when that wasn’t what Franken had asked.

Sessions recused himself from the investigation into whether President Trump or his team colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

Sessions recused himself from the investigation into whether President Trump or his team colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

(JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

Sessions said he has “confidence” in Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI probe into Russia. He said that he hadn’t talked to Trump about him after one of Trump’s friends said he was considering firing the special counsel on Monday, but stated he didn’t “think it would be appropriate” to fire Mueller.

While he defended his role in firing Comey and claimed there were performance issues, he repeatedly refused to discuss whether he’d recommended it or if Trump had asked him to come up with a rationale for a decision he’d already made, repeatedly saying he wouldn’t talk about any private conversations with the President.

“I’d come to the conclusion that a fresh start was appropriate and did not mind putting that in writing,” he said, though he admitted he didn’t discuss any job performance problems with Comey before the firing.

And he said while it “appears” Russia interfered in the 2016 election, he said he’d never asked about it at the DOJ, a stunning disinterest in the attack on democracy.

He returned to a favorite answer when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked him whether he’d confronted Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about Russia’s meddling in the election when they met twice last year: “I don’t recall.”

Tags:
JEFF SESSIONS
JAMES COMEY
RUSSIA
FBI
CONGRESS
DONALD TRUMP
2016 ELECTION
ROBERT MUELLER
AL FRANKEN
MARTIN HEINRICH

Qatar insists it’s ‘business as usual’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Qatar insists it’s ‘business as usual’

QATAR tried to avoid an escalation of its feud with Gulf neighbors yesterday by telling their citizens they are welcome to stay, while boasting of “business as usual” for vital gas exports.

Iran also announced it had sent tons of vegetables to Qatar, which has seen food imports threatened.

Nearly a week after Saudi Arabia and several of its allies severed ties with Qatar in an unprecedented Gulf diplomatic crisis, there were no signs of the bitter dispute being resolved.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups, an assertion since backed by US President Donald Trump.

Qatar strongly rejects the allegations and has said it is open to talks on ending the dispute, which also saw the three Gulf states order all Qatari citizens out of their countries within 14 days.

The crisis has raised deep concerns of instability in the region, and yesterday Kuwait’s foreign minister said his country would continue efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis.

Qatar said late on Saturday that it would not retaliate with such measures of its own. A statement carried on Qatari state media said Doha would “not take any measures against residents of Qatar who hold the nationalities of countries that severed diplomatic ties … on the back of hostile and tendentious campaigns against the country.”

The decision will come as a relief to the more than 11,000 people from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain living in Qatar.

Concerns have been raised about the impact of these measures on people who live in all the countries affected.

“For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear,” Amnesty International has said.

Despite the unprecedented sanctions, Qatar says that its crucial exports of liquefied gas have not been interrupted.

“Qatar Petroleum … is conducting business as usual throughout all its upstream, midstream and downstream businesses and operations, and in all activities across all of QP’s world-class facilities,” a statement read.

Gas has helped transform the tiny emirate into one of the richest countries in the world, fueling its rise into a major regional player and helping fund huge infrastructure projects such as the 2022 football World Cup, which will be hosted by Qatar.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said yesterday that he was confident the crisis posed no threat to the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s rivals have also accused Doha of being too close to the Sunni Arab Gulf states’ arch-rival — Shiite-dominated Iran — in claims that Doha has also denied.

Iranian officials said tons of vegetables had been sent from Iran to Qatar since the measures were taken against it.

Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said five planes carrying around 90 tons of vegetables each had been sent to Qatar in recent days.

“We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand,” Noushabadi added, without saying if the deliveries were commercial exports or aid.

Three ships loaded with 350 tons of fruit and vegetables were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar, the Tasnim news agency quoted a local official as saying.

On Saturday, Moscow joined other nations in calling for a dialogue, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease their “blockade” of Qatar.

Washington has sent mixed signals on the crisis, despite Qatar’s position as a key ally and host to the largest US airbase in the region.

While Tillerson and others have called for an easing of tensions, Trump said on Friday that Qatar had “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

Kuwait, which has not joined its neighbors against Qatar, has been leading mediation efforts and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled Al-Sabah said yesterday that would continue.

“Kuwait stresses the need for the dispute to be resolved within the Gulf framework,” Sheikh Sabah said in a statement quoted by the KUNA news agency.

Qatar has expressed readiness “to understand the concerns of its brothers and respond to the efforts of the emir (of Kuwait) to strengthen peace and security,” the foreign minister said.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have announced hotlines to help families with Qatari members, their official news agencies reported, after their cutting of diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar led to travel disruption.

Until the dispute, Gulf societies enjoyed close travel ties and many families are intermarried.

But authorities in the UAE and Bahrain have made praise for Qatar’s government a criminal offense, and some Gulf citizens have worried that the strong rhetoric on Qatar’s foreign policy would divide their peoples.

But the UAE said it drew a distinction between Qatar’s government and its people.

Forbes: Eric Trump charity money went to Trump business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND FORBES MAGAZINE)

Forbes: Eric Trump charity money went to Trump business

 Story highlights
  • Eric Trump held a charity golf tournament for children’s cancer research each year
  • A Forbes report alleges his foundation shifted money from the tournament into the Trump Organization

Washington (CNN) Eric Trump is pushing back against a Forbes report released Tuesday that alleges his Eric Trump Foundation shifted money from a charity golf tournament for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital into the Trump Organization.

The annual Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational took place each year from 2007 to 2015 at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York. President Donald Trump’s second eldest son told the magazine that use of the golf course was free, and much of the merchandise, drinks and entertainment was comped.
“We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” he told Forbes.
But, per the Forbes report, “in reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free — that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization.”
Two people directly involved told Forbes that in 2011 Donald Trump “specifically commanded that the for-profit Trump Organization start billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit Eric Trump Foundation.”
According to IRS tax filings, the costs for the golf invitational from 2007 to 2010 were approximately $50,000 per year. In 2011, that jumped to about $142,000. The 2012 golf invitational cost the foundation $59,000. Costs in 2013 again jumped to $230,000, and $242,000 in 2014, and $322,000 in 2015, its final year. It’s unclear why the costs went up and how much of that money went to the Trump Organization.
A spokesperson for Eric Trump slammed the story as “shameful” and “truly disgusting,” highlighting the foundation’s work raising over $16.3 million for St. Jude children with an expense ratio of 12.3% and the construction of a $20 million ICU.
“Contrary to recent reports, at no time did the Trump Organization profit in any way from the foundation or any of its activities,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“While people can disagree on political issues, to infer malicious intent on a charity that has changed so many lives, is not only shameful but is truly disgusting. At the end of the day the only people who lose are the children of St. Jude and other incredibly worthy causes,” the statement said.
The spokesperson did not respond to CNN’s request to provide an explanation for the rising costs.
Trump also fired back via Twitter to a designer who wrote that Trump stole from children with cancer.
“I have raised $16.3 million dollars for terminally ill children at @StJude with less than a 12.3% expense ratio. What have you done today?!” he wrote Tuesday evening.
At the end of 2016, Trump stepped aside from all direct fundraising efforts for his eponymous organization, which was subsequently restructured and renamed.
“While I resigned with a heavy heart, it was a voluntary decision to enact these measures during the tenure of my father’s presidency in order to avoid the appearance or assertion of any impropriety and/or a conflict of interest,” Trump wrote in a letter on the foundation’s website.

Eric Trump: Democrats Who Oppose His Father are Quote “Not Even People”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Eric Trump said Democrats who support the probe into his father’s campaign and Russia are “not even people” and he has “never seen hatred like this.”

He also shared harsh criticism of the Democratic Party as a whole.
“They’re imploding,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday night, adding: “They have no message. You see the head of the (Democratic National Committee), who is a total whack job.”
Trump’s “not even people” remark quickly evoked comparisons on social media to Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment made about President Trump’s supporters during the 2016 campaign.
Trump — one of President Donald Trump’s five children — also said Democrats are obstructing the current administration.
“They lost the election that they should have won because they spent seven times the amount of money that my father spent. They have no message so what do they try and do? They try and obstruct a great man, they try and obstruct his family, they come after us viciously, and its truly, truly horrible,” Trump said.
Trump is currently helping run the family business with his brother, Donald Trump Jr., while their father serves as president.
Here’s the full Eric Trump quote in context:
I’ve never seen hatred like this, and to me they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad, I mean morality is just gone, morals have flown out the window we deserve so much better than this as a country. You know it’s so sad. You see the democratic party — they’re imploding. They’re imploding. They have no message. You see the head of the DNC who is a total whack job. There’s no leadership there. And so what do they do? They become obstructionists because they have no message of their own. They have no solid candidates of their own. They lost the election that they should have won because they spent 7 times the amount of money that my father spent. They have no message so what do they try and do? They try and obstruct a great man, they try and obstruct his family, they come after us viciously, and its truly, truly horrible.

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud: Trump keeps Proving His Ignorance To The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud

May 30 at 5:20 PM
President Trump escalated his feud with Berlin on Tuesday, even as Germany’s leader and Trump’s own spokesman tried to defuse the conflict, which has sent tremors through Washington’s core postwar alliances.Before the presidential tweets began flying early Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the importance of Germany’s ties to the United States. But she pointedly did not back down from earlier comments about Europe’s need to rely on itself rather than its friends.

The dispute started as Trump sped through meetings in Europe last week and appeared to leave a trail of bruises in his wake. It heated up after Merkel did little over the weekend to hide her disappointment with Trump’s refusal to commit Washington to the climate change treaty. And it was further inflamed Tuesday at 6:40 a.m. Washington time when Trump fired a white-hot shot straight at Berlin’s glass-and-concrete chancellery.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” Trump wrote in his early-morning tweet.

The fight has had few obvious practical consequences so far. But Merkel’s meetings this week — first a chummy meeting with India’s leader on Tuesday and then a sit-down with the Chinese prime minister on Wednesday — were bracing reminders of the trade ties being forged outside the United States as Washington moves toward a sharply more nationalist and protectionist agenda.

Play Video 1:15
White House says Trump and Merkel’s relationship is ‘fairly unbelievable’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel “get along very well,” during a press briefing on May 30, and said her comments about increased European independence are “what the president called for.”(Reuters)

Merkel refused to give ground Tuesday, even as she sought to ease the dispute with a rhetorical hug.

“Transatlantic relations are of paramount importance,” Merkel said alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin. “What I did was merely to point out that in light of the present situation, there are yet more reasons that we have to take our destiny in Europe into our own hands.”

The Modi meeting was planned long before the dust-up with Trump. But the cheerful body language between the two leaders was difficult to miss.

“We are meant for each other,” Modi said to Merkel, smiling widely, as both leaders made positive comments about a European Union-India trade deal in the works.

German officials — who say that the United States remains Germany’s most important international ally and an important partner whose friendship they want to maintain — feel that Trump has prioritized relations with authoritarian nations such as Saudi Arabia instead of democratic allies. Many were shocked when Trump declared in Riyadh that “we are not here to lecture” the mostly unelected assembled leaders — and then blasted European allies in Brussels for not spending enough on defense.

That led Merkel to conclude that she needs to advocate a sharply more pro-European agenda at home ahead of September elections, one ally said. She said Sunday at a beer-hall political rally that Europe can no longer fully rely on others, a message clearly about Washington, even if it was aimed largely at her own voters.

“It was mostly to say we have to strengthen Europe. It was not anti-Trump,” said Norbert Röttgen, a close Merkel ally who is the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of Germany’s Parliament.

“You have to explain to your voters what we make of the experience of the last days,” Röttgen said. “Trump, he is an unprecedented president. He calls into question by the way of his behavior, by what he is saying, by what he is not saying, the foundation of this alliance, and you have to give an answer to that. And the answer of the chancellor is that we have to bring into this alliance, not against this alliance, but into this alliance, a stronger German hand.”

With Germany’s elections drawing closer, Merkel has been forced to turn her attention to her own voters — most of whom loathe Trump and staunchly oppose increasing defense spending, one of his key demands. She is seeking a fourth term in office and has rejected most of Trump’s criticisms as baseless.

Even before Trump’s victory last year, Merkel was increasing defense spending, pushing up the budget by $27 billion over the next three years. That would almost double current levels — but it would still be dwarfed by the $664 billion the United States spends every year.

Now Merkel needs to convince German voters that defense increases are in their own interest, rather than a response to Trump. In a preview of election-season arguments, leading Social Democrats said Monday that Merkel should have openly opposed Trump from the start rather than trying to work with him at first.

“Merkel needs to put some distance between herself and Trump, who is exceptionally unpopular in Germany,” said Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in northern Germany.

But there are practical limits to any German split from Washington, Dirsus said. Germany is not militarily independent and is far from becoming so. And the United States remains an important trade partner.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that there was no dispute between Trump and Merkel.

“I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable,” Spicer said.

But Europeans are growing weary of the message gap between Trump and the rest of his circle. They are still searching for which side to give greater weight — and last week’s trip tipped the balance toward the president.

“Europeans think they are now being treated worse by Trump than countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on transatlantic relations at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

The bilateral strains mean that the United States has, to some extent, lost the trust of one of Europe’s most pro-American leaders. The German chancellor, the most powerful politician in Europe, grew up in East Germany, and her upbringing there has long been credited for her staunch support for closer European-U.S. ties.

“Given her experience with the Cold War, Merkel has long upheld and defended American ideals. But the belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” Bierling said.

Noack reported from Berlin.

Trump: The Habitual Fraud And Habitual Liar Can’t Keep His Lies Straight One Day Too Another

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

Spicer dodges questions on why Trump cited anonymous Fox report after decrying anonymous sources

Sean SpicerSean Spicer. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

White House press secretary Sean Spicer ducked a series of questions on Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s promotion of a Fox News story based on a single anonymous source just days after blasting such stories as “made up.”

The Monday Fox News report that Trump retweeted lays blame on the Russians, rather than Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Kushner, for discussing the possibility of a communications back channel between the Trump administration and Moscow. The Fox report cited “a source familiar with the matter.”

That report followed a Friday report in The Washington Post that said Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told Moscow that Kushner was the one who wanted a secret communications channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin. The Post’s story cited US officials who had been briefed on intelligence reports.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names … it is very possibly that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers.”

Both the Post and Fox relied on anonymous sources for their stories. Trump tried discrediting such sourcing in a series of Sunday-morning tweets, but retweeted the Fox News story anyway on Tuesday.

Spicer said during Tuesday’s press briefing — his first time back at the podium in weeks — that questions from a Post reporter about what Trump knew of the back channel discussion “assumes a lot,” adding that what the “question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out.”

“Your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed,” he said.

Another reporter asked if Trump’s retweet of the Fox News story confirmed any of the facts that Spicer said had not been confirmed. The reporter then listed some of the main points from the Fox News story.

“Was the president not confirming that there was an effort in the facts that I just said?” she asked. “He retweeted that.”

“I think what I just said speaks for itself,” Spicer responded.

The reporter noted that Spicer was attempting to discredited the Post’s anonymous sources while Trump was at the same time promoting a Fox story based off a single anonymous source.

“Why are those sources, or this source rather, that they used, more credible than the ones in the Washington Post article?” she asked.

Spicer dodged the question and pivoted to talking about a statement provided by Kushner’s attorney that he had already referenced in the briefing and then mentioning the “dossier,” a document prepared by an ex-British spy that contained unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.

“So again, I’m not going to get into confirming stuff,” Spicer said. “There is an ongoing investigation.”

The reports about the December meeting between Russians and Trump officials in Trump Tower, which had already been under scrutiny from investigators, have thrust Kushner into the center of the ongoing Russia investigations. The FBI is investigating whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this month, Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing that investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not refute the Times story but said it was Comey’s “grandstanding and politicizing” of the Russia investigation that put pressure on the administration’s ability to engage Moscow.
“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said in a statement to CNN. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
He added, “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he kill an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing.
“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.
Even before Friday’s report, news about Comey and the newly named special counsel for the Russia investigation has threatened to overshadow Trump’s trip.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was controversial before news of talk about Comey ever came out. No United States media were invited in for the meeting, but a photographer from TASS, the Russian state media organization, was in the room for at least part of the gathering. The meeting was also personal request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

Senate tees up ‘accountability act’ as regulation fight intensifies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Senate tees up ‘accountability act’ as regulation fight intensifies

The U.S. Capitol Building is seen May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
By Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

The U.S. Senate could soon approve a major overhaul of the federal bureaucracy and make lasting changes to regulation of the environment, education, banks and other areas.

On Wednesday a Senate committee sent a bill on to the full chamber that, supporters say, will make regulators more accountable to lawmakers and provide greater understanding of how rules affect the economy.

The next step, debating the bill on the Senate floor, has not been scheduled. The House of Representatives approved companion legislation in January.

Critics say the bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, creates so many new requirements that it would paralyze regulators working to establish even the most basic rules and standards. They also say it makes cutting industry and banks’ costs a higher priority than protecting public health and safety.

For decades the political parties have been starkly divided over regulation and Republicans are currently winning their battle to lessen the red tape they say ties up business and hurts the economy. Republicans also say former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, pushed regulators to go beyond their duties of executing laws passed by Congress to create policy on their own.

Democrats say regulation, which touches nearly every part of American life, shields average people from health, financial and other threats and is needed to accomplish the goals set in laws.

The Senate bill would require more cost-benefit and other analyses, give courts and the White House greater checks on rulemaking, classify regulations by potential economic impact, and lengthen rulemaking processes.

One progressive group, Public Citizen, estimates it would add 53 steps to major rulemaking, possibly doubling the average amount of time it takes to finalize a regulation – currently four years.

The bill has pitted the powerful business group, the Chamber of Commerce, against progressive ones such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp broke ranks with her fellow Democrats to write the accountability act, indicating some members of the party may support the bill when the closely-divided Senate votes.

Also, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, is working on alternative legislation that her party could find more palatable and could keep some of the bill’s measures.

Since Republicans swept Congress and the White House in November’s elections they have moved swiftly against regulation.

Using the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers killed 14 Obama-era regulations in the span of three months.

Trump’s efforts have yielded mixed results. His order to cut two existing regulations for every new one has stalled during a legal challenge. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency was jammed with thousands of pleas to maintain regulations when it asked for public comment on Trump’s order to look into repealing or rewriting current rules. The comment period closed Monday.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Donald Trump thinks he invented the phrase ‘priming the pump.’ That’s telling

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Donald Trump thinks he invented the phrase ‘priming the pump.’ That’s telling.

President Donald Trump walks from Marine One across the South Lawn to the White House in Washington, Sunday, May 7, 2017, as he returns from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

(CNN) There’s a very odd — and telling — moment in President Donald Trump’s interview with The Economist released Thursday morning. Here it is:

TRUMP: We have to prime the pump.
ECONOMIST: It’s very Keynesian.
TRUMP: We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?
ECONOMIST: Priming the pump?
TRUMP: Yeah, have you heard it?
ECONOMIST: Yes.
TRUMP: Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
Trump, quite clearly, believes he came up with the phrase “prime the pump.” Or at least that he is the first person to use it in regards the potential kick-starting effect of tax cuts on an economy.
Not so, according to the increasingly cheeky Twitter account of the Merriam Webster Dictionary that noted shortly after Trump made the claim that “the phrase ‘priming the pump’ dates to the early 19th century,” adding: “‘Pump priming’ has been used to refer to government investment expenditures since at least 1933.”
A simple slip of the tongue by Trump? I don’t think so.
Here’s the thing with Trump: He is someone who has always created his own version of events and reality. One of his tried and true tactics as a businessman was, no matter the outcome of a deal, to declare victory and move on. He would aim to win the next day’s press story — knowing that for lots of people not paying close attention that would be all they would hear.
And he didn’t stop doing it once he became a candidate for president. He would simply say things — Muslims were celebrating on the roofs in northern New Jersey after 9/11, Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in JFK’s assassination (or maybe he wasn’t!), all the polls showed him beating Hillary Clinton — that weren’t factually true but seemed right to him. His gut — the much-ballyhooed origin of most of Trump’s political instincts — told him this stuff was right, so who were fact checkers and biased media types to tell him — or his supporters — differently?
Trump kept building his own world once in the White House. He would have won the popular vote except for the 3 to 5 million votes cast by undocumented immigrants. His inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. His first 100 days were among the most successful of any president ever. And so on and on and on.
It didn’t matter that all of these things were provably false. What mattered (and matters) is that Trump believed them. That made them truth to him.
Which brings us back to him inventing the phrase “prime the pump.” Of course he didn’t do that. But Trump came up with it in relation to his tax reform plan — raising the deficit in the near term via tax cuts in the belief they will “prime the pump” for future economic growth — so he, naturally, believed he was the first one to think it up.
That takes some significant self-regard. But also a sense that if you say it, it must be new and true. And Donald Trump believes that whatever he says is, by definition, new and true.

Did Marine Le Pen’s Mouth Show The French People Her True Soul?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Emmanuel Macron in Albi, France, on Thursday. Marine Le Pen, his presidential opponent, described him in a debate on Wednesday as “the privileged child of the system and the elites.” CreditBenoit Tessier/Reuters

PARIS — A milestone in French politics was reached in the country’s verbally violent presidential debate Wednesday night, but not the expected one.

The shock in the post-debate commentaries, in print and across the airwaves, was revealing: France had never witnessed such a brutal political confrontation in real time.

The consensus was that, far from being the knockout blow Marine Le Pen needed and many anticipated, the result was the opposite. The candidate of the far-right National Front had not improved her already difficult position against the centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.

With her sneering mockery of Mr. Macron, her aggressive tone, and her use of epithets, she had revealed something essential about herself despite years of effort to soften her party’s image, in the view of commentators.

Continue reading the main story

“I was myself surprised, as she revealed herself as what is worst about the far right in France,” Gérard Grunberg, a veteran political scientist at the Institut d’Études Politiques, known as Sciences-Po, said in an interview.

Even her own father, the National Front patriarch and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, declared that she “wasn’t up to it” during the two-and-half-hour debate, though he still supports her election. A poll taken immediately after for BFMTV found that 63 percent of viewers thought Mr. Macron had carried the day. His polling lead in the election Sunday is around 20 points.

Most significantly, many saw in Ms. Le Pen’s principal debate tactic an unwelcome guest: the big lie.

Mr. Macron repeatedly called her a liar during the debate, and newspaper commentaries on Thursday backed him up. “Marine Le Pen: The Strategy of the Lie,” was the banner headline on Le Monde’s front page, which went on to say that the “deliberate tactic was largely inspired by what Donald Trump practiced in the American campaign.”

The newspaper detailed “The 19 lies of Marine Le Pen” during the debate about topics including “Brexit,” the euro, the European Union and terrorism. On all these subjects the newspaper demonstrated that Ms. Le Pen had put forward half-truths and outright falsehoods.

She was revealed as “the heir of a practice of politics that has always been based on denigration and threat,” Le Monde said in its front-page editorial. “The imitator, besides, of Donald Trump, piling on, just like the American president, lying insinuation.”

Mr. Macron’s campaign has been quick to pick up on the (negative) parallel between President Trump and Ms. Le Pen, posting a video on Twitter in which American and British citizens express regret about voting for Mr. Trump and for Brexit, and warning that “this Sunday France will have to make a choice. The worst is not impossible.”

Ms. Le Pen herself has significantly backed away from her early enthusiastic declarations in favor of Mr. Trump since his chaotic beginnings. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama announced Thursday he was supporting Mr. Macron, in a video posted on Mr. Macron’s Twitter feed.

One “insinuation” from Ms. Le Pen in the Wednesday debate may wind up costing her. At the end she suggested that Mr. Macron might have “an offshore account,” later acknowledging she had no proof.

Photo

Marine Le Pen in Ennemain, France, on Thursday. A leading historian of her party, the National Front, said Wednesday’s debate was “transformed into a fight.” CreditMichel Spingler/Associated Press

Such an accusation is extremely serious for public figures in France, especially in the court of public opinion. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into whether fake news is being used to influence the election, and Mr. Macron has announced a lawsuit against right-wing websites over the suggestion.

Ms. Le Pen’s tactics on Wednesday, eschewing any kind of detailed exposition of policies and instead relying on epithet-slinging — Mr. Macron was “the privileged child of the system and the elites,” and the “representative of subjugated France” — would have been familiar to anyone attending her rallies across France this election season. Her supporters roar at these verbal sallies.

But such language is not normally part of mainstream political discourse in France. And that fact set up the collision of Wednesday night, and the tone of dismay and shock in the commentaries on Thursday.

The second-round presidential debate has become almost a sacred ritual in French politics. Fifteen years ago, Jacques Chirac, the former president, refused to dignify Ms. Le Pen’s father in a debate when he unexpectedly made the second round. That Ms. Le Pen was not given that treatment in 2017, commentators suggested, meant that she had been accepted as a legitimate partner in the democratic process.

But on Thursday, French media and academic commentators suggested she had violated that trust by her “violence,” as many put it. “Maybe she wanted to reassure her electorate,” Marc Lazar, a historian, said in an interview, “or maybe she was just showing her true nature.”

“She has wanted to show that she has ‘undemonized’ the party,” Mr. Lazar continued, referring to the effort Ms. Le Pen has undertaken to distance the National Front from the hate-filled declarations of her father. “But in the end, she just proved that she is her father’s daughter. I think there were a lot of people who were surprised, because they thought she had really changed.”

Even experienced Front-watchers were taken aback by Ms. Le Pen’s actions on Wednesday night. “It was transformed into a fight, not a debate,” said Valérie Igounet, the Front’s leading historian. “The way she spoke was pretty unsettling. I was astonished, too. She was so aggressive.”

Numerous political figures said the debate had made a big voter turnout for Mr. Macron all the more urgent. It was not expected to come from the far left, which continues to evince extreme hostility to Mr. Macron, seeing him as the hated representative of capitalism and finance — precisely Ms. Le Pen’s depiction of him.

The far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has suggested that there is an equivalence between the two candidates. Some two-thirds of his voters will cast blank votes or abstain on Sunday, according to an internal party survey.

On Thursday, one of Mr. Mélenchon’s more prominent supporters, a filmmaker named François Ruffin, wrote in an op-ed in Le Monde addressed to Mr. Macron in the wake of the debate: “You are detested already, before even having set foot in the Élysée,” referring to the presidential residence.

Mr. Ruffin, who made a film that tracked the corporation-mocking efforts of Michael Moore, continued: “You are hated” by those whom Mr. Mélenchon represents “because they see in you, and they are right, the arrogant elite,” Mr. Ruffin wrote. “You are hated, you are hated, you are hated.”

More typical of Thursday’s reactions, though, was that of the editorial in the southern La Dépêche du Midi, in Toulouse. “The ‘decisive’ debate was above all a revelatory debate. Through lies and incessant interruptions, striking proof was given last night that it is difficult, if not impossible, to debate with the far right, in conditions of minimal democratic respect.”

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truthtroubles.wordpress.com/ Just an average man who tries to do his best at being the kind of person the Bible tells us we are all suppose to be. Not perfect, never have been, don't expect anyone else to be perfect either. Always try to be very easy going type of a person if allowed to be.

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