Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ex-MI6 chief accuses Donald Trump of secretly borrowing from Russia to keep his property empire afloat during the financial crisis Wednesday April 12th, 2017 at 7:12 PM

Ex-MI6 chief accuses Donald Trump of secretly borrowing from Russia to keep his property empire afloat during the financial crisis

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Bombshell accusation from ex-spymaster Sir Richard Dearlove comes as rumours continue to swirl about the president’s past business dealings with Moscow
A FORMER MI6 chief has accused Donald Trump of secretly borrowing from Russia to keep his property empire afloat during the financial crisis.
The bombshell accusation from ex-spymaster Sir Richard Dearlove comes as rumours continue to swirl about the president’s past business dealings with Moscow.
Well connected Sir Richard also warned any shady deals could still come back to haunt the billionaire in the White House.
The MI6 chief between 1999 and 2004 told Prospect magazine: “What lingers for Trump may be what deals—on what terms—he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him”.
His intervention deepens the already raging feud between Trump and the intelligence community on both sides of the Atlantic.
The ex-spy boss also branded the new president’s wild allegations last month that Cheltenham-based eavesdroppers GCHQ bugged his offices on predecessor Barack Obama’s orders as “deeply embarrassing”
He added: “For Trump and the administration, that is.
“The only possible explanation is that Trump started tweeting without understanding how the NSA-GCHQ relationship actually works”.
The president has repeatedly denied having any business dealings with Russia.
Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele claimed the Russian government holds compromising material on Trump in a secret dossier drawn up to discredit him.
President Putin angered with US attack in Syria labelling it a 'Trumped up pre-text'
In the rare interview, Sir Richard also criticised Europe’s leaders for ignoring a CIA warning about an impending migration crisis made as far back as 16 years ago.
He described the effect of uncontrolled migration and free movement across the EU as “catastrophic”.
Sir Richard said: “The CIA published these predictive papers around 2001.
“At that point they were indicating that mass migration, particularly from the south to the north - particularly out of Africa - was going to be a huge problem for the European continent.
“If you look at the figures for population growth and unemployed youth and that sort of phenomenon, leaving aside the instability in the Middle East, we shouldn’t really be particularly surprised by what’s happened.
“We just didn’t prepare for it.”
The rise of the far right across Europe also poses more of a threat to the UK than Islamic terrorism, the spymaster claimed.
He added: “It is not in the UK’s national interest to see continental Europe being split apart by the revival of nationalist movements”.
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Ex-MI6 chief accuses Donald Trump of secretly borrowing from Russia to keep his property empire afloat during the ... - The Sun

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The Sun

Ex-MI6 chief accuses Donald Trump of secretly borrowing from Russia to keep his property empire afloat during the ...
The Sun
A FORMER MI6 chief has accused Donald Trump of secretly borrowing from Russia to keep his property empire afloat during the financial crisis. The bombshell accusation from ex-spymaster Sir Richard Dearlove comes as rumours continue to swirl about the ...

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Tillerson's Moscow Meeting Is a Reminder of How Dangerous Russia Is - Fortune

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Tillerson's Moscow Meeting Is a Reminder of How Dangerous Russia Is
It has challenged Western norms and global security with Crimean annexation, civil war in Eastern Ukraine, provocative behavior toward American and other NATO forces on NATO's borders and in international airspace, intervention in Syria, carpet bombing ...
Trump declares US-Russia relations may be at "all-time low"ABC News
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Daily Caller -WDEF News 12 -The Atlantic
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Trump Says It's Likely Russia Knew of Syrian Gas Attack in Advance - New York Times

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New York Times

Trump Says It's Likely Russia Knew of Syrian Gas Attack in Advance
New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that Russia likely knew of the Syrian government's plan to gas its own people in advance of a chemical weapons attack last week in northwestern Syria, asserting that United States relations with Moscow ...
Trump, In A 180-Degree Switch, Says NATO 'No Longer Obsolete'NPR
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Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft - Google Search

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britain syria un security council - Google Search

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Story image for britain syria un security council from Reuters

Russia blocks UN Security Council condemnation of Syria attack

Reuters-1 hour ago
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the Security Council that samples taken from the site of the April 4 attack had been analyzed by ...
Story image for britain syria un security council from Washington Post
Washington Post

The Latest: Russia vetoes UN condemnation of Syria attack

KSBY San Luis Obispo News-35 minutes ago
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring ... Vladimir Safronkov told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that the ...
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Dept. Of Defense / James Mattis Press Conference on President Trump's Actions, Russia & North Korea - YouTube

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Streamed live on Apr 11, 2017
LIVE: Defense Department Briefing From The Pentagon on Russia, North Korea and China (4/11/2017) James Mattis press conference On President Trump's Actions - UN Security Council 4/7/2017 HD

LIVE: General James Mattis press conference - Defense Department briefing from the Pentagon

US Defense Secretary James Mattis holds a press conference at the Pentagon.

Defense Department Briefing From The Pentagon on Russia, North Korea and China (4/11/2017)

Trump says NATO the 'bulwark of international peace and security - YouTube

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Published on Apr 12, 2017
Trump says NATO the 'bulwark of international peace and security' during a joint press conference with visiting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. SOUNDBITE

Tillerson and Putin Find Little More Than Disagreement in Meeting

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Mr. Tillerson reiterated the American view that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia’s chief Middle East ally, was responsible for the chemical weapons assault in northern Syria on April 4 that left more than 80 people dead, sickened hundreds and outraged the world.
Mr. Lavrov reiterated the Russian view that the facts about the chemical weapons attack had yet to be determined, and denounced what he described as the “media hysteria” surrounding the assault.
Further punctuating the Syria dispute, Russia vetoed a Western-backed resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemning the chemical weapons attack.
It was the eighth time in the six-year-old Syria conflict that Russia, one of the five permanent Security Council members, had used its veto power to shield the Syrian government. But in a possible sign of Russia’s isolation on the chemical weapons issue, China, the permanent member that usually votes with Russia on Syria resolutions, abstained.
Asked about President Trump’s description of Mr. Assad as an “animal,” Mr. Tillerson said that characterization “is one that Assad has brought upon himself.”
Mr. Tillerson said Russian interference in the presidential election was a settled fact. In response, Mr. Lavrov gave what amounted to a long lecture on what he described as an extensive list of American efforts to achieve “regime change” around the world, from Serbia to Iraq to Libya. He described them all as failures — an implicit warning against any efforts to achieve the same end in Syria.
For hours after Mr. Tillerson’s arrival in Moscow, it was unclear whether Mr. Putin would even meet with him because of the tense state of relations, which has have worsened just in the past few weeks.
Their meeting lasted almost two hours and ended just before 8 p.m. local time.
In the 24 hours before Mr. Tillerson landed in Moscow, the White House accused Mr. Putin’s government of covering up evidence that Mr. Assad had been responsible for sarin gas attacks on its own people, launched from a base where Russian troops are operating.
Mr. Putin shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused the administration of President Trump, who American intelligence agencies believe benefited from Russian cyberattacks intended to embarrass his Democratic rival during the election campaign, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.
“This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when U.S. representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq,” Mr. Putin said, referring to an intelligence failure that Mr. Trump has also cited in recent months. “The exact same thing is happening now,” he charged.
He quoted two Russian writers, Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov, authors of the 1928 satire “The 12 Chairs,” and said, “ ‘It’s boring, ladies.’ We have seen this all before.”
But the diplomatic theater playing out in Moscow on a rainy Wednesday morning was far from boring: Mr. Putin, operating on home turf, was looking for any way to shape the narrative of Mr. Tillerson’s first trip here as secretary of state.
The outcome could well decide whether Mr. Trump’s oft-stated desire to remake American relations with Moscow will now disintegrate, just as similar efforts by Barack Obama did early in his presidency.
Russia said earlier this week that Mr. Putin would not meet with Mr. Tillerson, but on Wednesday the Russian leader’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, held out the possibility of a meeting later in the day. Russian leaders have greeted virtually all new secretaries of state since the end of World War II, but Mr. Peskov said any meeting would depend on how Mr. Tillerson’s other talks went.
The drama appeared to be an effort by Mr. Putin to show that he was in control.
Critics of the Trump administration insist that the series of events around the attack in Syria had been meant to distract from the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Mr. Tillerson, who was recognized with an Order of Friendship medal by the Russian government while he was the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has insisted on a tough line on Russia, ruling out any early end to sanctions unless the country returns Crimea to Ukraine and ceases meddling elsewhere.
On Syria, Mr. Tillerson delivered what sounded much like an ultimatum to the Russians on Tuesday while talking to reporters at a Group of 7 meeting in Italy.
“I think it is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end,” Mr. Tillerson said, echoing a theme first heard from Mr. Obama in 2011, when the Arab Spring led many to believe the Syrian leader was about to be overthrown.
Mr. Tillerson essentially demanded that Russia make a choice, severing ties with Mr. Assad and working with the United States on a variety of initiatives in the Middle East.
The White House released a declassified four-page report that details United States intelligence on the chemical weapons attack, asserting that the Syrian and Russian governments have sought to confuse the world community about the assault through disinformation and “false narratives.”
OPEN Document
But Mr. Putin and his acolytes in the Russian government see the situation very differently. They regard their military intervention in Syria, which the Obama administration did not see coming, as a tactical success.
They shored up Mr. Assad and made him dependent on Russia’s presence. That, in turn, assured Russia’s continued access to its naval station in Syria, a move that was critical to the country’s efforts to project power in the Middle East.
As Mr. Tillerson entered the foreign ministry here to meet Mr. Lavrov, an experienced and wily veteran of many of Russia’s post-Cold War encounters with Washington, the Russian government released another salvo against American intentions here.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria V. Zakharova, said it was “useless” for Mr. Tillerson to arrive in Moscow with “ultimatums” and suggested that if he wanted any progress, he should start by getting Mr. Trump and his administration on the same page about Syria strategy.
“It is not clear what they will do in Syria and not only there,” she said on Dozhd, Russia’s independent television network. “Nobody understands what they will do in the Middle East because it is a very complicated region, forgive me for saying such a banal thing. Nobody understands what they will do with Iran, what they will do with Afghanistan.”
Then, to suggest this was a symptom of broader disorganization, she added, “Nobody understands what they will do with North Korea.”
Mr. Tillerson had hoped, several weeks ago, to make the battle against the Islamic State a focus of this trip, working with Russia to seal off the last escape routes from Raqqa, in hopes of killing the remainder of the Islamic State force there.
Instead, the chemical attack in Syria — and the investigations into how and how significantly Mr. Putin interfered in the United States presidential election — have overshadowed what Mr. Tillerson has insisted remains the No. 1 priority: defeating the Islamic State.
There was some suggestion by the Russians that Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Tillerson would talk about no-fly zones, one way of keeping Mr. Assad’s air force grounded. But it is unclear how that would work, and the prospect of confrontation between American and Russian forces would be significant as the no-fly zone was enforced.
Meanwhile, Mr. Putin went on Mir TV to suggest two theories about how the sarin gas attack might not have been the responsibility of Mr. Assad. He said that there was evidence, which he did not specify, that the shells hit a bunker of chemical weapons, a view that other Russian officials have expressed previously. The United States rejected this conclusion when it declassified intelligence assessments on Tuesday.
The second theory Mr. Putin offered was that “this was all staged, in other words this was a provocation.” “This was deliberately done to create noise and pretext, for additional pressure on the legitimate Syrian government,” he said. “That’s all. This needs to be checked. Without a check we don’t think it is possible to make any steps against the official Syrian government.”
Mr. Tillerson has all but called that theory fake news.
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WATCH LIVE: Secretary of State Tillerson joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov - YouTube

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson holds a joint news confernece with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Rex Tillerson Sergey Lavrov Vladimir Putin Joint Press Conference 4/12/2017 video - YouTube

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Published on Apr 12, 2017
Rex Tillerson Sergey Lavrov Vladimir Putin Joint Press Conference 4/12/2017 video

trump and fbi - Google Search

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FBI Reportedly Got Court Order To Monitor Trump Adviser's ...

NPR-1 hour ago
During the 2016 presidential campaign the FBI obtained a secret warrant to monitor the communications of Carter Page, who was then serving ...
The Trump Official the FBI Was Investigating
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Putin Meets With Tillerson in Moscow

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Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow on Wednesday as tensions between the two countries continued to escalate over the American military strike in Syria, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed.
The meeting, which lasted almost two hours, comes after officials in Moscow initially said Putin would not meet with Tillerson during his first visit to Russia, later hedging to say a sit down was possible.
When Lavrov and Tillerson met, the two exchanged their ideas on their vision for a future Syria and found it looks pretty similar — the differences are on how to get there, a State Department official told NBC News.
Tillerson Gets Frosty Welcome to Russia From Lavrov 0:51
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Relations between the Cold War adversaries have become even more volatile following a U.S. strike against a Syrian airfield last week that officials believe launched a chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in northwest Syria.
Earlier in the day, Russian officials leveled a barrage of criticism against President Donald Trump's administration ahead of Tillerson's planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who joined Putin for the talk with the American secretary of state.
Tillerson's Russian counterpart warned the U.S. diplomat that Moscow believes it is "fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again in the future."
Tillerson, however, used his opening remarks to portray a more diplomatic tone in which he called the talks "an important moment in the United States' relationship with Russia."
Image: Vladimir Putin holds a joint news conference with the president of Moldova.
The meetings Wednesday "represent a continuation of our communications and discussions and dialogue that began in Bonn," Tillerson said, referring to a G-20 summit on Feb. 16. when he met with Lavrov.
Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most important supporters, while the U.S. has supported the rebels battling the Syrian leader.
"Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. I think it's very bad for Russia," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Putin, who had an infamously icy relationship with President Barack Obama, said in an interview that U.S.- Russian relations have actually gotten worse since Trump took office.
"One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved, but rather has deteriorated," Putin said in an interview released on the Kremlin website.
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Tillerson meets with Putin amid deepening tensions over U.S. missile strikes in Syria

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on April 12, acknowledging "sharp differences" with the Kremlin. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on April 12, acknowledging "sharp differences" with the Kremlin. (Reuters)
MOSCOW — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held his first directs talks with Russia’s president on Wednesday amid deepening tensions after U.S. missile strikes in Syria and Washington’s demands that Moscow abandon support for its main Middle East ally.
The meeting between Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin came after hours of tense exchanges, with both sides staking out positions that were sharply at odds. Russia made it clear it was unwilling to roll back its strategic alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The talks appeared unlikely to bring any significant breakthroughs after last week’s missile strike plunged U.S.-Russian relations to one of the lowest points since the Cold War.
But despite the growing rifts, some general compromises were discussed.
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Secretary of State Tillerson travels to Moscow for talks with Russian government officials

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Secretary Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow on first visit by a Trump Cabinet official to Russia. Tillerson met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and is scheduled to meet with President Vladi­mir Putin.
In the first visit by a Trump Cabinet official to Russia, the secretary of state met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and is scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
April 11, 2017 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disembarks from his plane at the Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow. U.S. Department Of State/via European Pressphoto Agency
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Putin might agree to resume an information-sharing “deconfliction” network with the United States on the countries’ warplane flights in Syria. Russia suspended its role in the system after the U.S. missile strikes, and Lavrov said it could be restored if the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria focused only on the Islamic State and other militant groups — and not expand to Syrian government targets.
At a joint news conference, Tillerson told reporters that Russia and the United States agreed to seek a “unified, stable Syria” and work together to oppose North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Tillerson also said both nations would set up a “working group” to seek ways to ease tensions.
Tillerson said the United States has “no information” that Russia forces directly helped with the chemical attack, but U.S. officials earlier suggested that Russia could have known about the Syrian plans in advance.
Asked by a Russian state television reporter about President Trump’s comments that Assad was an “animal,” Tillerson said: “The recent chemical weapons attack carried out in Syria was planned and it was executed by Syrian forces, and we are confident of that.”
Lavrov retorted: “This is obviously the subject where our views differ.”
“Russia is not seeking to cover up for anyone in the chemical weapon incident,” he added.
Throughout the day, the wide gaps between Russia and the United States were on full display.
In an interview on the Fox Business Network, President Trump called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an "animal" and blasted Russia for its support of Assad. Trump was also combative on the subject of North Korea. In an interview on the Fox Business Network, President Trump called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an "animal" and blasted Russia for its support of Assad. (Reuters)
At the opening meeting, Tillerson — looking directly at Lavrov — acknowledged what he called “sharp differences” between the two countries.
But Moscow appeared unready to budge on the primary goal of Tillerson’s mission — persuading Russia to help remove Assad from power.
In what was effectively an ultimatum, Tillerson on Tuesday said that Moscow must calculate the costs of remaining an ally of Assad, the Iranians and Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah. Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed Tillerson’s remarks Wednesday.
“I believe everyone realized a long time ago that there is no use in giving us ultimatums. This is simply counterproductive,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in remarks aired on the Internet news site TVDozhd.
The Trump administration on Tuesday said it had collected intelligence that purportedly proved Syrian forces had carried out the deadly chemical weapons attack in the northern Idlib province that led to the U.S. missile strike.
“We reject any accusations to this effect and would like to remind everyone that Russia has been the only country to demand an unbiased international inquiry into the circumstances of the use of toxic chemicals near Idlib from the very start,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
In an interview broadcast Wednesday, President Trump sharply dialed up the rhetoric on Syria, calling Assad “an animal” whose regime was saved by Russian intervention.
“And frankly, Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person. And I think it’s very bad for Russia,” Trump said on the Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” show. “I think it’s very bad for mankind. It’s very bad for this world.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast in full on Russian television later Wednesday, argued that there is no proof Assad’s forces carried out the attack and called the U.S. strikes a breach of international law.
Putin also said that confidence in an improvement in U.S.-Russian relations was lower now than it had been under the Obama administration.
“The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not improved, but most likely has been degraded,” Putin said in remarks on the Mir television channel.
In his opening remarks, Lavrov also took a subtle dig at the Trump administration, saying it was difficult to get clarity on U.S. stances since there are so many vacancies in top positions at the State Department.
Putin derisively compared the current situation in Syria to the buildup to the war in Iraq in 2003, when U.S. officials insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction over the objections of international investigators.
Moscow wants the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Idlib, one of the last strongholds for beleaguered rebel factions fighting Assad’s government.
The feuding also played out at the United Nations, where Russia was expected to veto a Security Council resolution to bolster calls for international inquiries into the chemical attack. Earlier this week, forensic experts in Turkey said the banned nerve agent sarin was used.
“To my colleagues from Russia — you are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told 15-member Security Council.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft accused Russia of siding with “a murderous, barbaric criminal, rather than with their international peers.”
Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, stared back at Rycroft and said he “cannot accept that you insult Russia.”
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Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.
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Tillerson meets with Putin amid...

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Tillerson meets with Putin amid deepening tensions over US missile strikes in Syria

Washington Post - ‎2 hours ago‎
MOSCOW — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held his first directs talks with Russia's president on Wednesday amid deepening tensions after U.S. missile strikes in Syria and Washington's demands that Moscow abandon support for its main Middle East ally.

Putin says trust erodes under Trump, Moscow icily receives Tillerson

Reuters - ‎7 hours ago‎
MOSCOW Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday trust had eroded between the United States and Russia under President Donald Trump, as Moscow delivered an unusually hostile reception to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a face-off over Syria. Any hope in ...

Putin Meets With Tillerson in Moscow

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> - ‎3 hours ago‎
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow on Wednesday as tensions between the two countries continued to escalate over the American military strike in Syria, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed.

Seeking to salvage ties, US and Russia agree on Syria probe

Minneapolis Star Tribune - ‎42 minutes ago‎
Glen Johnson/planet Pix, Tns - Tns U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, is escorted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov prior to their bilateral meeting at the Osobnyak Guest House on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. Lavrov ...

Analysis: Russia's Assad stance dims hopes for US thaw

ABC News - ‎1 hour ago‎
Russian President Vladimir Putin reacts during a joint press conference with Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella after a meeting in Moscowís Kremlin, Russia, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Sergio Mattarella is in Russia on an official visit. (Sergei ...
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Trump says he has ‘confidence’ in FBI Director Comey but it’s ‘not too late’ to fire him

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'It's not too late' to get rid of FBI Director James Comey, Trump says

ABC News - ‎4 hours ago‎
President Trump is doubling down on the unsubstantiated wiretapping claims against his predecessor as well as his unproven allegation that former national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime. In an interview with Fox Business on ...

Trump says he has 'confidence' in FBI Director Comey but it's 'not too late' to fire him

Washington Post - ‎1 hour ago‎
President Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday morning that he has “confidence” in FBI Director James B. Comey, but it was “not too late” to fire him. Trump has long sent mixed signals on Comey and the bureau director's future in government ...

Trump: Clinton Would Be Going To Trial If It Weren't For Comey Saving Her During The 2016 Election

Townhall - ‎1 hour ago‎
FBI Director James Comey has been the punching bag for everyone. Democrats thought he was a partisan agent for releasing a letter to Congress informing them that the FBI would be reviewing new emails found on the laptop of Clinton aide, Huma Abedin.

Trump says administration will have best first 100 days ever

New York Daily News - ‎3 hours ago‎
"We freed up so much and we're getting great, great credit for it," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network's "Mornings with Maria." "We have done so much for so many people. I don't think that there is a presidential period of time in the ...
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Amid doubts and recriminations, Putin meets with Tillerson

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Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country's former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger's authenticity.
Now, financial records newly obtained by the Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort's name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort's firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.
The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump's campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort's work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.
Separately, Manafort is also under scrutiny as part of congressional and FBI investigations into possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia's government under President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. The payments detailed in the ledger and confirmed by the documents obtained by the AP are unrelated to the 2016 presidential campaign and came years before Manafort worked as Trump's unpaid campaign chairman.
In a statement to the AP, Manafort did not deny that his firm received the money but said "any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work that was provided. I invoiced my clients and they paid via wire transfer, which I received through a U.S. bank."
Manafort noted that he agreed to be paid according to his "clients' preferred financial institutions and instructions."
Previously, Manafort and his spokesman, Jason Maloni, have maintained that the ledger was fabricated and said no public evidence existed that Manafort or others received payments recorded in it.
The AP, however, identified in the records two payments received by Manafort that aligned with the ledger: one for $750,000 that a Ukrainian lawmaker said last month was part of a money-laundering effort that should be investigated by U.S. authorities. The other was $455,249 and also matched a ledger entry.
The newly obtained records also expand the global scope of Manafort's financial activities related to his Ukrainian political consulting, because both payments came from companies once registered in the Central American country of Belize. Last month, the AP reported that the U.S. government has examined Manafort's financial transactions in the Mediterranean country of Cyprus as part of its probe.
Federal prosecutors have been looking into Manafort's work for years as part of an effort to recover Ukrainian assets stolen after the 2014 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who fled to Russia. No charges have been filed as part of the investigation.
Manafort, a longtime Republican political operative, led the presidential campaign from March until August last year when Trump asked him to resign. The resignation came after a tumultuous week in which the New York Times revealed that Manafort's name appeared in the Ukraine ledger — although the newspaper said at the time that officials were unsure whether Manafort actually received the money — and after the AP separately reported that he had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine's pro-Russian Party of Regions.
Officials with the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is investigating corruption under Yanukovich, have said they believe the ledger is genuine. But they have previously noted that they have no way of knowing whether Manafort received the money listed next to his name. The bureau said it is not investigating Manafort because he is not a Ukrainian citizen.
Still, Manafort's work continues to draw attention in Ukrainian politics.
Last month, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko revealed an invoice bearing the letterhead of Manafort's namesake company, Davis Manafort, that Leshchenko said was crafted to conceal a payment to Manafort as a purchase of 501 computers.
The AP provided to Manafort the amounts of the payments, dates and number of the bank account where they were received. Manafort told the AP that he was unable to review his own banking records showing receipt of the payments because his bank destroyed the records after a standard seven-year retention period. He said Tuesday the "computer sales contract is a fraud."
"The signature is not mine, and I didn't sell computers," he said in a statement. "What is clear, however, is individuals with political motivations are taking disparate pieces of information and distorting their significance through a campaign of smear and innuendo."
Leshchenko said last month the 2009 invoice was one of about 50 pages of documents, including private paperwork and copies of employee-issued debit cards, that were found in Manafort's former Kiev office by a new tenant.
The amount of the invoice — $750,000— and the payment date of Oct. 14, 2009, matches one entry on the ledger indicating payments to Manafort from the Party of Regions. The invoice was addressed to Neocom Systems Ltd., a company formerly registered in Belize, and included the account and routing numbers and postal address for Manafort's account at a branch of Wachovia National Bank in Alexandria, Va.
The AP had previously been unable to independently verify the $750,000 payment went to a Manafort company, but the newly obtained financial records reflect Manafort's receipt of that payment. The records show that Davis Manafort received the amount from Neocom Systems the day after the date of the invoice.
Leshchenko contended to AP that Yanukovich, as Ukraine's leader, paid Manafort money that came from his government's budget and was "stolen from Ukrainian citizens." He said: "Money received by Manafort has to be returned to the Ukrainian people."
Leshchenko said U.S. authorities should investigate what he described as corrupt deals between Manafort and Yanukovich. "It's about a U.S. citizen and money was transferred to a U.S. bank account," he said.
A $455,249 payment in November 2007 also matches the amount in the ledger. It came from Graten Alliance Ltd., a company that had also been registered in Belize. It is now inactive.
The AP reported last month that federal prosecutors are looking into Manafort's financial transactions in Cyprus, an island nation once known as a favored locale for money laundering.
Among those transactions was a $1-million payment in October 2009 routed through the Bank of Cyprus. The money was deposited into an account controlled by a Manafort-linked company, then left the account on the same day, broken into two disbursements of $500,000, according to documents obtained by the AP.
The records of Manafort's Cypriot transactions were requested by the U.S. Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which works internationally with agencies to track money laundering and the movement of illicit funds around the globe.
Dozens of Ukrainian political figures mentioned in the Black Ledger are under investigation in Ukraine. The anti-corruption bureau, which has been looking into the Black Ledger, publicly confirmed the authenticity of the signature of one top official mentioned there. In December, the bureau accused Mykhaylo Okhendovsky of receiving more than $160,000 from Party of Regions officials in 2012, when he was Ukraine's main election official.
The bureau said it would identify more suspects in the coming months.
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Is Stephen Bannon getting pushed out? The latest signs point to Yes.

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Stephen K. Bannon. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Washington is abuzz with chatter about President Trump’s latest comments concerning his chief ideologist, Stephen K. Bannon, which suggest he may be on his way out. Trump said this:
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
He ended by saying, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”
Bannon only got involved in his campaign “very late,” Trump says. But as Aaron Blake points out: “Bannon joined the campaign in August for the lion’s share of the general election, taking on the role of campaign CEO.” Indeed, Bannon reportedly co-wrote Trump’s dystopian convention speech, which he described as “an unvarnished declaration of the basic principles of his populist and nationalist movement.” Bannon’s blueprint currently remains the touchstone for Trumpist governance, if you can call it that.
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Which raises a question: If Bannon is indeed seeing his influence wane, is there any evidence that the stench of Bannonism itself is any less prevalent in this White House? Perhaps Bannon is getting pushed out, but will that change the fact that the Trump agenda continues to reflect the ugliest aspects of Bannon’s nativist nationalism in as pronounced a fashion as ever?
White House advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon are in the midst of a feud — one that's being waged in the media. The Fix's Callum Borchers explains how it's typical of the inner turmoil that's plagued the Trump administration from the start. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
White House advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon are in the midst of a feud — one that's being waged in the media. The Fix's Callum Borchers explains how it's typical of the inner turmoil that's plagued the Trump administration from the start. How the Bannon-Kushner feud sums up the Trump administration's inner turmoil (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
The Trump administration is still fighting in court to try to rescue his ban on refugees (including from Syria) and migrants from Muslim-majority countries — even after Trump bombed Syria out of professed concern for Syrian civilians victimized by the government. The shift to mass deportations is underway: Anecdotal tales are coming in about parents who are yanking kids from day care out of fear of removal and about longtime residents with no other offenses who are getting deported. People who previously were low priorities for deportation now fear that routine check-ins with immigration officials will result in their removal. Trump’s vast expansion of the pool of targets for deportation is creating precisely the climate of fear — and, perhaps, the self-deportations — that it is designed to create.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that the administration is demanding that both funding for the Mexican wall and language restricting funding to sanctuary cities — thus punishing localities that don’t enforce the federal immigration crackdown — must be included in the upcoming spending bill, which could cause a government shutdown. CNN reports that immigration hard-liners are in the process of getting installed in key immigration posts. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions just announced that prosecutors must try to charge border crossers with a felony (even though the move’s impact on deportation efforts remains unclear), while declaring: “this is the Trump era.” Reminder: If Bannon does get pushed out, Sessions remains in the perfect position to carry out Trumpism’s worst impulses in the areas of immigration and criminal justice.
It is sometimes argued that Bannon’s decline can be seen in the fact that his “economic nationalism” is losing influence inside the White House. But this misses the fact that there has never been any evidence that his “economic” nationalism has led him to try to get Trump to adopt any particular policies. Bannon allies made a great show of leaking his disdain for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s health-care plan (when it collapsed), but the fact remains that the White House threw its lot in with Ryanism at a critical moment, backing a health plan that would roll back the coverage of millions, including untold numbers of lower-income Trump voters. Bannon pushed that plan among congressional Republicans, and if he has any populist health-care alternative to the Ryanism he supposedly disdains, we haven’t seen it.
We are supposed to believe that Trumpist economic nationalism — as shaped by Bannon — embraces a heterodox combination of hard-line immigration restrictionism and pro-worker trade policies and a decisive ideological break with Ryanism when it comes to spending and social insurance for the elderly. But the ambition of Trump’s actual trade agenda is withering, and we don’t even know whether it will help workers. And while Bannon early on talked a good game about infrastructure spending, there’s no indication of any actual plan beyond a tax break and privatization scheme. Meanwhile, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney declined to say in an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood whether Trump would veto a bill that contained the sort of cuts to Medicare that Ryan has long championed (and Trump opposed).
Perhaps Bannon objects to that posture on Medicare, and maybe future reporting will establish this. But the point is that there’s no particular reason to believe he has any problem with it. The strains of Bannon’s nationalism that have turned up in actual policy are mainly the nativist ones. And whatever happens to Bannon, there’s no indication that those strains won’t continue to shape Trump’s agenda.
Their private assessment contradicts … Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.” … One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.
As always, the White House and (some) Republicans will continue going to extraordinary lengths to prop up Trump’s original absurdities (that Obama wiretapped his phones), no matter how much more ridiculous those efforts get.
* FBI OBTAINED WARRANT TO MONITOR TRUMP ADVISER: The Post scoops that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page last summer:
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials. This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents.
National security analyst Susan Hennessey tweeted out the legal provision dictating what investigators needed to show in order to demonstrate “probable cause to believe Page was acting an agent of a foreign power.” It’s eye-opening stuff, though Page strongly maintains his innocence.
* KANSAS RACE SIGNALS TROUBLE FOR GOP: Republican Ron Estes beat Democrat James Thompson by only seven points last night in a deep red Kansas district that Trump won by 27 points. Nate Cohn summarizes:
The small and imperfect lesson of Tuesday’s special election in Kansas is that the Republicans might be in quite a bit of trouble. Mr. Estes’s seven-point victory is extremely poor for this district. … These are the circumstances that often end in a so-called wave election, like the ones that swept Democrats into power in 2006 and out of the House in 2010. We might well be heading for another. At a minimum, the Kansas result is fully consistent with that possibility.
As Cohn notes, it is easy to over-interpret the meaning of special elections. But there are other upcoming ones — notably in Georgia next week — that will begin to tell us how real this is.
* CLOSE KANSAS OUTCOME COULD BOOST DEM RECRUITMENT: The New York Times’ overview of last night’s results in Kansas makes an important point: The unexpectedly strong Democratic showing last night “will galvanize Democrats’ candidate-recruitment efforts for next year’s campaign.”
Democratic recruitment will also likely get a boost if Trump’s approval numbers remain in the toilet, and it may start showing itself if candidates begin entering races in districts that might seem relatively safe for Republicans — another dynamic worth watching.
* REPUBLICANS WORRY ABOUT 2018: McClatchy’s Alex Roarty talks to GOP strategists about last night’s results and the signs they are seeing in other special elections:
Two Republicans strategists familiar with polling data in two of the special election races say the main problem is … the Democratic base is so energized that even voters who rarely pay attention to politics are suddenly engaged. … Another House Republican strategist said the Democratic base is so motivated, it doesn’t make sense to run attack ads because it will further incite those voters.
As another GOP strategist puts it: “At the end of the day, the national environment has to get better for us not to lose the House.”
* GOP POLLSTER WHACKS TRUMP ON SYRIA: Republican pollster David Winston points out to the Washington Examiner that the polling has shown only bare majority support for Trump’s missile strikes on Syria, and blames this on Trump’s failure to explain the rationale:
“They are not good numbers. … He needs to realize that there is a level of explanation that he needs to do, particularly when you’re about to put American lives potentially at risk … when they hear something he has done, 60 percent of the country starts off with the viewpoint of, ‘That guy I don’t like.'”
Trump’s abysmal approval numbers make it doubly necessary for him to explain his policies. Of course, the idea that Trump has actual policy rationales at all is questionable to begin with.
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Trump: Jim Comey saved Hillary Clinton's life - YouTube

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Published on Apr 12, 2017
President Donald Trump on the obstacles to staffing his administration, FBI Director James Comey and former national security advisor Susan Rice.

Trump Expresses Confidence In FBI Director

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President Trump offered up a mixed review of FBI Director James Comey in a new interview with Fox Business.
Trump told the business network’s Maria Bartiromo that he still has confidence in Comey, but he blamed the Obama administration appointee for keeping Hillary Clinton out of jail, and he said “it’s not too late” to fire him.
“No, it’s not too late [to fire Comey], but, you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be interesting,” Trump told Bartiromo.
As FBI director, Comey is overseeing an investigation into whether several former Trump advisers had improper ties to members of the Russian government. On Tuesday, it was reported that the FBI and Justice Department obtained a warrant from a secret federal court last summer to conduct electronics surveillance on Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign. (RELATED: FBI Obtained Surveillance Warrant Against Former Trump Adviser)
Trump has said he did not know Page and that neither he nor his campaign had improper relations with the Kremlin.
While Trump says he has confidence in Comey, he also took several overt jabs at the FBI director over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“When Jim Comey came out he saved Hillary Clinton, people don’t realize that. He saved her life. When he was reading those charges she was guilty of every charge, and then he said she was essentially okay,” Trump said.
He was referring to a July 5 press conference in which Comey announced that he would be recommending that the Justice Department not charge Clinton with any crimes for mishandling classified information on her private email server.
Comey has become unpopular with both parties of late. Many Republicans believe he went too easy on Clinton. They also view him as an enemy of sorts because he is overseeing the Trump-Russia probe.
Democrats are unhappy with Comey because of his decision to re-open the Clinton email investigation late in the presidential campaign after emails were found on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Many Clinton campaign officials blame Comey’s late action for swaying the election to Trump.
Asked by Bartiromo why, given Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, Trump has not fired him, the Republican said: “Well, because I want to give everybody a good, fair chance.”
“Director Comey was very, very good to Hillary Clinton, that I can tell you. If he weren’t, she would be right now going to trial,” he added.
And asked if he plans to push for a case against Clinton, Trump demurred.
“I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about positive.”
Trump also doubled down on his claims last month that Obama ordered wiretaps against him.
“Perhaps I didn’t know how right I was, because nobody knew the extent of it,” Trump said.
“You look at the extent of the surveillance, me and so many other people, it’s terrible.”
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(UPDATED) James Comey Helped Elect Donald Trump, But Could He Now Be His Greatest Foe? – The Moderate Voice

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There is little doubt that American intelligence agencies have long believed that Donald Trump’s inner circle and perhaps the man himself aided and abetted Russian efforts to throw the 2016 presidential election. How long they have believed that is germane because it helps explain why the Russia scandal that now engulfs the White House has taken so long to come to a boil.
The conduct of the FBI is hugely relevant in this regard because it is the lead investigative agency on domestic intelligence concerns, not the Justice Department or CIA, let alone congressional intelligence committees, and the deportment of its director, James Comey, raises troubling questions.
Let’s be clear from the jump that I’m not suggesting Comey is a Russian agent or is in the bag for Trump. He’s not, but he doesn’t have to be because his actions — and inactions — behind the scenes and publicly arguably were the coup de grâce that enabled the least qualified man in modern presidential history to improbably beat an unpopular but eminently qualified opponent. At this point, it matters not that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million popular votes. There will be no redo.
The consequences of Trump’s Electoral College victory have been disastrous, and he’s only been in office less than three months, while getting to the bottom of the Russia scandal may go far toward determining how long we have to live under the Trump kleptocracy.
As early as 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies were aware of contacts by Trump’s inner circle with Russians with ties to the Kremlin’s intelligence services, as well as Trump’s own dealings with Russians, including mobster Felix Sater, and his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A timeline of the FBI’s involvement in the Russia scandal — that is, the information we have on which to judge Comey and the bureau — has slowly come into focus. This timeline is by no means complete, and there are outlier accounts, notably one in Newsweek magazine, but there is a consensus of a sort as detailed in a recent New York Times story, among several others, that this is what has happened over the last 10 months:
* In early June of 2016, the CIA concludes in an internal report that Russia is actively engaged in meddling in the presidential election, and that includes the goal of getting Trump into the White House, not merely disrupting the U.S. political system.
* On July 5, Comey rebukes Clinton for being “extremely careless” but recommends no criminal charges in connection with her handling of classified information, including emails on a private server, as secretary of state, lifting a cloud from her presidential campaign.
* On July 19, Trump is nominated for president at the Republican National Convention after he and surrogates declare, in what becomes an oft-repeated campaign theme in the coming weeks, that Clinton should be “in jail” for her use of the private email server.
* By late July, the FBI has opened a counterintelligence investigation to examine possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but its existence is kept secret even from high ranking members of Congress colloquially known as the Gang of Eight.
* In the course of that investigation, the FBI obtains and then renews a FISA Court warrant allowing it to monitor Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, whom it believes is in touch with Russian agents and had been used in previous years by spies for Moscow to obtain information.
* By August, the CIA concludes that unnamed Trump campaign advisers might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election by sabotaging the Clinton campaign through a multi-pronged attack approved by Putin that includes email hacking, disinformation and false news stories.
* By late August, CIA Director John Brennan is so concerned about Trump-Russia links that he initiates urgent, one-on-one briefings with the Gang of Eight — four Democrats and four Republicans — who by law are to be briefed on important intelligence matters.
* On August 25, Brennan briefs Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, then the highest ranking Democrat. With Congress in recess, Brennan explains to Reid over a secure phone link that the FBI and not the CIA would have to take the lead in what is a domestic intelligence matter.
* In late August, Reid writes to Comey without mentioning the CIA briefing. He expresses great concern over what he calls mounting evidence “of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”
* By September, intelligence shows that although Republican sites also are being hacked by Russian hackers, only Democratic emails are being publicized by Putin ally Wikileaks, but the FBI apparently still has not found conclusive evidence of Trump-Russia connections.
* On September 22, two other Gang of Eight members — Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Senate and House intelligence committee Democrats — release a statement stating that Russian intelligence agencies are “making a serious and concerted effort” to influence the election.
* In late September, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, at the behind-the-scenes urging of the Obama administration, is asked to warn state election officials of possible attempts to penetrate their computer systems by Russian hackers. McConnell resists, questioning the veracity of the intelligence.
* On September 25, McConnell writes to state election officials. He does not mention the Russian connection, but warns of unnamed “malefactors” who might seek to disrupt elections through online intrusions. Reid and Gang of Eight Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican Paul Ryan also sign the letter.
* On October 28, Comey tells Congress that the FBI is reopening its Clinton investigation because of emails found on a computer belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose estranged wife is a top Clinton aide, throwing the Clinton campaign into crisis only 10 days before the election.
* On October 30, Reid writes an angry letter to Comey accusing him of a “double standard” in renewing the Clinton investigation so close to the election while sitting on “explosive information” on ties between Trump and Russia. Comey’s response, if any, is not known.
* On November 6, Comey announces that after a intensive review of the “new” emails, they were found to be either personal or duplicates of those previously examined, and that the FBI had not changed the conclusions it reached in July in exonerating Clinton.
* On November 8, Trump defeats Clinton decisively in the Election College but loses the popular vote in a close race that pundits widely agree was decided by voters who were influenced by Trump’s repeated characterization of Clinton as being a criminal and Comey’s October 28 announcement.
* By early January, the CIA and FBI have “high confidence” that Russia was trying to help Trump through a hacking campaign, while the NSA has only “moderate confidence.” The agencies also believe that Russia gained election board computer access in a number of states.
* On January 5, President Obama’s national security director releases a report stating that the CIA, FBI and NSA believe that Russians hacked Democratic email accounts and then passed the emails on to WikiLeaks to try to tip the election to Trump because he would be friendlier to Russian interests.
* On January 20, Trump becomes president. He insists that the Russia scandal is “false news” while naming several people to key positions who had secret contacts with Russians involved in the election meddling effort, including his national security director, who is soon cashiered and later threatens to tell what he knows.
* On March 20, Comey in effect calls Trump a liar in publicly acknowledging for the first time in testimony before Congress that the FBI’s investigation into Russian election meddling includes Trump associates’ contacts with Russians who were working to sabotage Clinton.
Meanwhile, on April 7, Spanish authorities arrested Pyotr Levashov at the request of U.S. authorities, who believe he is one of the Russian election meddlers who distributed pro-Trump “fake news” to try to influence voters. Levashov, who was vacationing in Barcelona with his family, has been identified by private cyber-crime analysts as possibly the man behind the moniker Peter Severa (Peter of the North in Russian), who under that name has specialized in employing spambot engines that can infect tens of thousands of computers with billions of spam messages.
If a Spanish court agrees to the U.S. request to extradite Levashov, he would become the first person charged in connection with the election meddling.
Why did Americans go to the polls on November 8 without knowing what was really going on? And why did Comey remain silent until over four months after the election?
The short answer to these questions is that while intelligence agencies raced in the final weeks of the campaign to understand the scope of the Russian meddling, the Democrats and Republicans who were privy to classified intelligence briefings saw the intelligence through an acutely political lens — and consequently missed the elephant in the room — while sparring endlessly over whether the intelligence showed that the Russians were helping Trump.
President Obama feared that a public statement about Russia’s pro-Trump efforts would look like a “partisan” attempt to help Clinton, while Comey separately had a similar concern. In Obama’s case, this was an enormous failure of leadership, while in Comey’s case it doesn’t add up because the FBI director exhibited no such restraint in telling Congress 10 days before the election that an investigation into Clinton’s emails had been reopened.
The least worst rationale for Comey’s actions is this: The FBI director was still smarting from attacks from the Republican leadership and relentless criticism from candidate Trump for closing the initial Clinton investigation without drawing blood and believed he had no choice but to let Congress know of developments that he was unable to walk back eight days later when they turned out to not be new at all but almost certainly gave Trump an 11th hour bump.
These answers and explanations are deeply unsatisfactory because of that elephant in the room:
The Russian effort to elect Trump was an unprecedented assault from the U.S.’s greatest foe on the bedrock of American democracy and is the most explosive scandal since Soviet spies stole atomic bomb secrets over 70 years ago.
That should have overridden the partisan nattering, but did not. The consequent failure of leadership in the White House, FBI and Congress was immense, and something insightful historians will be dining out on for years to come.
Yet it may turn out that Comey, who would seem to be the good guy turned villain in this drama, could become its hero.
This is because Republicans have build a protective wall around Trump that not even the supposedly nonpartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee may be able to surmount in investigating the Russia scandal. The House intel committee, of course, has been deeply compromised because of its now recused chairman’s efforts to not just protect Trump, but to be a willing pawn in the White House’s ham-handed efforts to push back against the scandal and try to change the subject, which certainly was a factor in the April 6 cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base.
Only the FBI may be capable of sorting through a scandal deeply complicated by sensitive and often secret information involving international espionage and electronic spying to accumulate the damning evidence that would stand up in a court of law against Trump’s inner circle. And perhaps the president himself.

GO HERE to read some recent posts on the Russia scandal
Shaun Mullen
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Americans are concerned by Trump’s Russian links

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Ian Penny, World & Nation Editor • April 7, 2017 •
The Trump administration is suspected of having ties to Russian politicians and business leaders. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Hollywood has a knack for the outlandish.
In the 1962 film “The Manchurian Candidate,” Frank Sinatra’s character Maj. Bennett Marco uncovers a chilling Soviet plot to install a Communist president in the White House via brainwashing and assassination.
Fifty-five years later, many American citizens and policymakers fear an equally bizarre plot has unfolded involving President Donald Trump and Russian government and business leaders.
“The evidence that has come out in the open source media so far strongly suggests that there could possibly have been some collusion between the Russians and the Trump administration in the run up to the election,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “We know that the Russians were involved in hacking databases, releasing classified information that they stole from various databases (and) working through WikiLeaks and Julian Assange to give it a patina of legitimacy.”
There is also a list of connections between the Trump administration and Russia, independently mapped out by reporters Bonnie Berkowitz and Denise Lu of The Washington Post and by senior foreign affairs correspondent Michael Crowley in Politico Magazine, which raises questions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn each met with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the U.S., during the 2016 presidential campaign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., had dealings with Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom and majority state-owned oil company Rosneft.
Three Trump campaign advisers, Carter Page, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, have ties to Russia through political, diplomatic and business channels. Even Trump’s real estate company, the Trump Organization, and his children have concrete and alleged Russian connections.
The American public has taken notice.
According to a March 24 Quinnipiac University poll, 41 percent of respondents said they were “very concerned” about Trump’s relationship with Russia and 22 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.” When it comes to Russia’s election interference, 46 percent of respondents said the issue was “very important.”
At the moment, though, Trump’s relationship with Russia is all smoke and no fire. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of Congress’ Gang of Eight privy to classified intelligence briefings, has said there is currently no direct evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.
“I don’t think we can say anything definitively at this point,” said Schiff to CNN. “We are still at the very early stages of the investigation. The only thing I can say is that it would be irresponsible for us not to get to the bottom of this.”
Duncan, who served as an Air Force intelligence officer in the 1960s and worked at the CIA for 26 years, believes the actions of the Trump administration are revealing.
“Based upon what I know about the intelligence business and how agents are recruited, how they’re manipulated, how the intelligence services work — both ours as well as the Russians — I think Trump is behaving in a manner that would suggest the Russians have something on him,” said Duncan. “I don’t know what that is, and I don’t know for sure that’s the case.”
With the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and the results of the 2016 election in question, how the investigation is handled is crucial.
“Let the American people know what the heck is going on,” said Duncan. “Until that’s done, there will be a cloud over this administration. If it does come to light that indeed there have been infractions, (Trump) may be forced to resign, he may be impeached. I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball. But it’s not looking very good right now for him.”
Currently, according to USA Today, five congressional committees are investigating Russia’s election interference and Flynn’s ties to Russia as national security adviser. Doubts exist, however, whether a Republican Congress will investigate these issues in an impartial manner.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, was a member of Trump’s transition team. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was an adviser to his campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac University Poll, 66 percent of respondents support establishing an independent commission to investigate Trump’s links to Russia, a move that Duncan supports.
“We need to take (the investigation) out of the hands of partisan politics,” said Duncan.
The allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. political process may be part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy to sow discord in the Western democracies and boost Russia’s geopolitical status.
“Understanding the Russian mindset, understanding what Putin is trying to do … his dream has been to destroy the West and Western alliances,” said Duncan. “We see it with Brexit, with the breakup of the European Union. We see it with the Russian involvement in the French election, the German election, the U.S. election, creating disharmony and cracking the resolve of the West, his enemy.
“He’s doing a damn good job of it in my book, and that’s scary. I don’t think the American people realize the danger we are in right now.”
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Sessions Is Wrong to Take Science Out of Forensic Science

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US-Russia relations fray; Trump backs NATO expansion; Low public support for Syria strike; Army dusts off hypersonic arty concept; and just a bit more...

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About that carrier strike group: Japan’s navy will exercise with the U.S. ships “in a display of military power aimed at deterring the North Korean regime from further missile tests,” Reuters reports. “The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF) may conduct helicopter landings on each other’s ships, as well as communication drills, as the USS Carl Vinson and its escort ships pass through waters close to Japanese territory,” Reuters quotes two “sources” as saying. More here.
The U.S. military is increasing its force protection measures in Syria, Military Times reported Tuesday. “A U.S. military spokesman said the U.S. commander for the campaign in Iraq and Syria, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, has been ‘calling in the resources that he needs’ to protect U.S. forces considering the increased tensions following the strikes. Defense officials declined to specify exactly what protection measures were taken.” That, here.  
Get a better picture of that “complex and coordinated” three-hour attack on U.S. special forces and their moderate rebel partners near the Syria-Jordan border over the weekend, via this roll-up from Business Insider. Some of what you’ll read there: “The attack came from ISIS fighters disguised as US-backed rebels, carrying M-16 rifles and using vehicles captured from US-supported rebel groups. They struck first with a car bomb at the base entrance, which allowed some of the attackers to infiltrate the base. Many of the ISIS fighters were wearing suicide vests.” Rebel reinforcements were sent, “but they came under attack from other ISIS fighters.”
It was a serious fight,” a U.S. military official told the WSJ. “Whether or not it was a one-off, we will have to see.” More here.
Russia reportedly lost a couple soldiers recently to Islamic State mortars in Syria, the defense ministry announced Tuesday, with no mention of where or when. “The latest deaths bring the number of Russian combat deaths in Syria officially acknowledged by the Defense Ministry to 29,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, here.
Pundits loved the Syria strike. The U.S. public, not so much. “The 50% of Americans who approve of the military strikes against Syria last week is historically low compared with other previous U.S. military actions,” the pollsters at Gallup reported Tuesday. Since 1983, only one action had lower approval: Libya in 2011, at 47%. Other findings: 41% of those surveyed disapproved. Overall, 82% of Republicans approve, compared with 33% of Democrats. Read more, here.
How many reasons has the Trump administration offered for the strike? Just Security’s Kate Brannen compiled a list, here.
Then there’s this, via NBC News, from presidential son Eric Trump: “If there was anything that Syria [strike] did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie.”
Speaking of Trump-Russia ties, Lawfare offers a list of examples of “at least tacit collaboration between the Russians and the Trump campaign, collaboration in which Trump personally participated on multiple occasions. But we have collectively discounted this cooperation for two related, and quite perverse, reasons: It was overt and public and it was legal.” Read the list, here. Still: “It remains an important question whether anyone in the Trump camp colluded covertly or illegally or whether they coordinated with the Russian operation.”
And on that last question: “The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the Washington Post reports. The warrant was issued after the FBI and the Justice Department convinced a judge that there was probable cause to believe Carter Page was acting as a Russian agent, U.S. officials told the Post. Read, here.
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‘No Doubt’ Syria Behind Chemical Attack, Mattis Says

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He did lay pressure on Russia to pull their support for Assad. “This is Russia putting their name on the line. So it’s not a question of how long that alliance has lasted, but at what point do they recognize that they are now getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way, really quickly.”
Spicer repeated the White House’s recent shift to call for Assad’s eventual removal from power in post-war Syria. “There’s no question that you can’t have a peaceful Syria with Assad in charge. I don’t see how that ever works. So, no, I don’t see a future Syria that has Assad al-Ashar [sic] as the leader of that government.”
Despite calling for Assad’s removal and a direct cruise missile strike on Syrian government forces, Mattis and Gen. Joseph Votel, who commands all troops in the area known as U.S. Central Command, said the administration’s one-off response did not change America’s battle plans against ISIS. Mattis declined to say how the administration would respond to any future Syrian use of barrel bombs, and Votel declined to reveal if the U.S. knew the location or movements of additional Syrian chemical weapons. “I’m not going to speculate on what we know or don’t know here but again I remain very confident in our forces and our ability to respond when we’re asked to do things,” Votel said.
“The goal right now in Syria…is breaking ISIS,” Mattis said. Assad’s chemical weapon attack “was a separate issue that arose in the midst of that campaign,” Mattis said, “but the rest of the campaign stays on track, exactly as it was before Assad’s violation.”
That counter-ISIS campaign, however, is the same one leftover from President Barack Obama. Trump ordered a new counter-ISIS war plan from the Pentagon but has yet to receive one. Mattis explained on Tuesday a new counter-ISIS plan would not be rushed.  
“Well, the counter-ISIL plan has been put in skeleton form; it’s being fleshed out now,” he said. “This has got to be done in a methodical way, where we look at each element of it. A couple weeks ago, Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson had 60, 68 nations in town with his counterparts as the fellow foreign ministers. And they are working on the stabilization efforts in Syria; this is not the United States working alone. It’s a very, very complex security situation and it’s one that we’re going to have to address in a very methodical manner.”

Tillerson, Lavrov to hold joint presser after meeting - YouTube

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Published on Apr 12, 2017
Leland Vittert reports from Washington, D.C.

Мама,я лётчика люблю (Группа "Экспресс").avi - YouTube

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Published on May 29, 2012
Видео ряд на песню "Мама я лётчика люблю " в исполнении группы"Экспресс"

Trump administration unveils intelligence discrediting Russia’s claims on chemical attack in Syria

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The Trump administration took the unusual step Tuesday of unveiling intelligence discrediting Russia’s attempts to shield its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from blame in last week’s deadly chemical attack.
The newly released details of
a U.S. intelligence assessment, which officials said demonstrated Syrian culpability in the April 4 assault that killed at least 70 people, added to rapidly escalating tensions with the Kremlin and signaled a move away from hopes for U.S. rapprochement with Russia.
Officials said their case against the Syrian government included signals and aerial intelligence — combined with local reporting and samples taken from victims of the attack — that showed a Russian-made, Syrian-piloted SU-22 aircraft dropped at least one munition carrying the nerve agent sarin.
The declassified findings formed part of a coordinated broadside against Russia from the White House, State Department and Pentagon. The choreographed critiques appeared to show a desire to impose order on what has been the administration’s chaotic, often contradictory public stance on national security matters.
The increasingly hostile stance toward Russia takes place less than a week after the administration, in a sign of its rapidly evolving foreign policy positions, launched a barrage of missile strikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for the chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the time had come for Russia to rethink its support for the Syrian government, which has been blamed for repeated atrocities in Syria’s ongoing civil war.
“In this particular case we’re going to be very forceful . . . to make sure that we let Russia know that they need to live up to the obligations it has made,” he said.
Spicer’s remarks came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first official visit to Moscow, where he is expected to press Russia to choose between Syria and the West.
According to U.S. officials who spoke about intelligence findings on the condition of anonymity, U.S. surveillance tracked the aircraft as it took off from a base near the city of Homs, loitered over the strike area in Idlib province and delivered its deadly yield. U.S. intelligence also detected the presence of individuals associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program at the Shayrat air base in the days surrounding the attack.
Dozens of people died of exposure to sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, including numerous children, officials said. Many more were injured, among them first responders.
The officials said that nothing from an array of intelligence and publicly available material provided any credence to the alternative account put forward by Syria and Russia, which claimed that routine bombing struck an opposition chemical weapons depot.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on April 11 at a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers that the U.S. hopes Russia will abandon its support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow says the U.S. hopes Russia will abandon its support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)
“I have personally reviewed the intelligence, and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon later in the day.
He warned Syria that it would pay a “very, very, very stiff price” for further chemical attacks.
But Mattis and other officials said the U.S. government has not yet reached a consensus on whether Russia knew about the assault ahead of time.
U.S. officials suggested that it was unlikely that Russian troops, stationed at the air base that was singled out last week, would have been kept in the dark.
“We do think it is a question worth asking the Russians, about how is it possible that their forces­ were co-located with the forces­ that planned, prepared and carried out the chemical weapons attack at the same installation and did not have foreknowledge?” one senior official said.
Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict in 2015 has proved to be a lifeline for Assad, who has relied on both Moscow and Tehran for financial and military support.
The officials slammed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s government for a “clear pattern of deflecting blame” for its actions and those of Assad’s forces, and for trying to use disinformation to hide the Syrian government’s role in what occurred.
“I think it’s clear that the Russians are trying to cover up what happened there,” another official said.
Officials also provided their fullest accounting so far of what they believe was the Syrian government’s motivation in launching the Khan Sheikhoun attack.
They said that the Syrian military had used the weapons to prevent the loss of a key airfield that was threatened by a recent rebel advance on the strategic city of Hama.
“They were losing in a particularly important area, and that’s what drove them,” said one of the senior officials. Khan Sheikhoun was seen as a “rear” in that assault.
The Assad regime, after six years of war, is down to as few as 18,000 soldiers, according to some estimates. Officials said the reliance on chemical weapons was intended to help make up for those manpower deficiencies.
The orchestrated U.S. government message Tuesday was in sharp contrast to earlier weeks of the young administration. On key issues, such as China, North Korea and NATO, President Trump’s off-the-cuff tweets and improvised pronouncements have sometimes contradicted those of his key advisers and even his own earlier statements.
The mixed messages have been especially prevalent when it comes to Syria. Over the course of the past two weeks, administration officials have suggested that the White House was no longer focused on removing Assad from power, a position that held in the immediate aftermath of the attacks only to be abandoned by Tillerson on the eve of his trip to Moscow this week.
Signaling a step back from Trump’s earlier suggestions of warmer U.S.-Russia relations, Tillerson has had sharp words for the Kremlin in the lead-up to his Moscow visit, saying that Russia either failed to embrace its obligations as a guarantor for the Syrian regime or had been incompetent.
“This distinction doesn’t much matter to the dead,” Tillerson said.
Moscow played a central role in the international process to remove chemical weapons from Syria in 2013, in the wake of an earlier chemical attack. According to the U.S. government, last week’s attack showed that the Syrian government retained stockpiles of its most deadly chemicals.
Russian officials stepped up their own response to events in Syria on Tuesday, as Putin raised questions about the capabilities of U.S. intelligence agencies and asserted that rebels were planning to plant chemical materials elsewhere in Syria and blame the Assad government.
The Russian military also warned the United States against further missile strikes, which it said would be “unacceptable.”
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Despite the recriminations on both sides, Mattis expressed confidence that tensions between the United States and Russia will not spiral out of control. The two governments continue to communicate, he said, and Russia is likely to act in its own self-
interest to prevent a dangerous deterioration in relations.
Mattis described last week’s U.S. counterstrike as an isolated incident that would not affect the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State, which has been an American priority since 2014.
“This was a separate issue,” he said. “We addressed that militarily, but the rest of the campaign stays on track, exactly as it was before Assad’s violation.”
Carol Morello and David Filipov in Moscow and Jenna Johnson, Anne Gearan and Ashley Parker in Washington contributed to this report.
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Rex Tillerson meets Sergey Lavrov for...

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Rex Tillerson meets Sergey Lavrov for 'frank exchange'

Daily Mail - ‎9 minutes ago‎
Tillerson hammered Russia on Tuesday, saying in a statement that Russia had 'failed in its responsibility' to locate and destroy Bashar al-Assad's entire stockpile of chemical weapons. 'It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation ...

(CNN) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov began a meeting with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson in Moscow ...

Big Country Homepage - ‎27 minutes ago‎
He also complained about the mixed messages coming out of Washington on the Trump administration's policy on Syria, with the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, making clear Assad should have no future in Syria as Tillerson took a softer line. "I will be ...

Russia Faults `Ambiguous' U.S. Policy Before Tillerson Talks

Bloomberg - ‎39 minutes ago‎
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov began talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow by criticizing the Trump administration's “ambiguous” foreign policy and pushing back against accusations the Kremlin is covering up a Syrian ...

Moscow to Tillerson: US strike on Syrian air base must not be repeated

USA TODAY - ‎52 minutes ago‎
Moscow believes that measures such as last week's U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base must not be repeated, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, Russian state media reported. President Trump ...

Tillerson faces tough line from Russia over support for Syrian leader Assad

Washington Post - ‎55 minutes ago‎
MOSCOW — Tense comments and warnings from the Russian side marked the beginning of what is likely to be a tough day for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he attempts to persuade Moscow to abandon its support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
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Russia's Lavrov warns US over Syria in heated talks

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The two top diplomats are sitting down together in Moscow on Wednesday for what are expected to be painstaking talks after a chemical attack in northwestern Syria plunged the old Cold War enemies to a new low.
The two countries have traded barbs over last week's chemical attack, which killed 89 people, and prompted the US to carry out its first air strikes against the Syrian regime in the six-year conflict, taking out aircraft and infrastructure at a Syrian military air base.
The White House said Tuesday 
that Russia and Syria were trying to "confuse the world community about who is responsible" for the chemical attack.
The attack has been widely blamed on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime, but Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, has denied the regime was responsible for the killings.
Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia "saw some very troubling actions regarding the attack on Syria."
"We believe it is fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again," Lavrov said, according to an official Russian interpreter.
He also complained about the mixed messages coming out of Washington on the Trump administration's policy on Syria, with the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, making clear Assad should have no future in Syria as Tillerson took a softer line.
"I will be frank that we had a lot of questions regarding a lot of very ambiguous as well as contradictory ideas on a whole plethora of bilateral and international agenda coming from Washington," Lavrov said.
Haley: I think Russia knew about attack
Haley: I think Russia knew about attack


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He also hit back at remarks Tillerson made a day earlier that Russia would have to decide whether it was with the US and the West in standing up against Assad, or against them.
Tillerson took a more diplomatic tone in his initial remarks, saying that he hoped to clarify "areas of common objectives, areas of common interests, even when our tactical approaches may be different."
"And to further clarify areas of sharp difference, so we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing those differences may be."
US President Donald Trump ordered a Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airfield in Syria, from where aircraft used in the chemical attack were launched.
The US claimed the strike destroyed 20% of Syria's operational aircraft, a figure disputed by Russia's Defense Ministry.
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UK's Daily Mail to pay Melania Trump damages over modeling claims

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How Syria is shuffling Trump-era politics - CNN

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How Syria is shuffling Trump-era politics
(CNN) The missile strike launched by President Donald Trump on an Assad regime airfield last week did little to change the deadly status quo in Syria, where government aircraft were again bombarding rebel-held Idlib province a day later. In the US, the ...
AP News in Brief at 6:04 am EDTWashington Post
The Memo: Syrian strike changes little for polarizing TrumpThe Hill
Tillerson en route to Moscow with more blame on Russia for Syria attacksLos Angeles Times
BBC News -Politico -New York Times -Reuters
all 2,610 news articles »

Tillerson carries Syria stance to Moscow as Trump administration speaks for West - Reuters

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Tillerson carries Syria stance to Moscow as Trump administration speaks for West
LUCCA, Italy/MOSCOW U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson carried a unified message from world powers to Moscow on Tuesday, denouncing Russian support for Syria and taking up America's traditional role as leader of the West on behalf of Donald ...
What exactly is the Trump policy on Syria?The Boston Globe

all 2,724 news articles »

The Trumps' war for nepotism - Washington Post

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Washington Post

The Trumps' war for nepotism
Washington Post
Donald Trump's political career is all about rewriting the political rule book — taking long-standing norms that the establishment says he can't violate, thumbing his nose at them, and then waiting for his base to rally to his side. The latest of ...

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