Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Yemen Raid of 1.29.17 - Update | A raid in remote Yemen and a SEAL’s death still reverberate for Trump - WP

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The Yemen Raid of 1.29.17: WHAT WENT WRONG?! - News

News Reviews and Opinions: The U.S. and Global Security Review ...

News Reviews and Opinions: Pentagon Argues Value of Yemen Raid ...

The US and Global Security Review: Updated: 12:08 PM 2/5/2017

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A raid in remote Yemen and a SEAL’s death still reverberate for Trump

"David Maxwell, a former Special Operations officer who is associate director for Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, said Special Operations commanders would have reviewed the raid proposal carefully and signed off only if they thought it was a viable plan.
“But the enemy has a vote, and there is no perfect intelligence,” Maxwell said. “Every mission is high-risk, and we always have to be willing to accept the casualties.”
Such risks were certainly on the minds of the Navy SEALs that night after an elite Special Operations air regiment dropped them at their insertion point in remote central Yemen.
According to Yemeni officials, AQAP fighters had chosen the village of Yaklaa as a training site because of its remoteness and its sympathetic residents. They described Abdul-Raoof al-Dhahab, an important local tribal leader, as an AQAP supporter."

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The Yemen Raid of 1.29.17: WHAT WENT WRONG?! - News
Feb 5, 2017 - In deadly Yemen raid, a lesson for Trump's national security team - WP | The danger of ... Full Details Of The Botched US Raid In Yemen - Mintpress News (blog) Monday February ..... Mike Nova (@mikenov) February 5, 2017.

News Reviews and Opinions: The U.S. and Global Security Review ...
The U.S. and Global Security Review: The Yemen Raid of 1.29.17: WHAT WENT WRONG?! The U.S. and ... Posted by Mike Nova at 2/02/2017 01:01:00 AM.

News Reviews and Opinions: Pentagon Argues Value of Yemen Raid ...
Feb 5, 2017 - Pentagon Argues Value of Yemen Raid Using Old Evidence - WSJ | M.N.: ..... Mike Nova's Shared NewsLinks: Iran holds military exercises in response to U.S. sanctions ...... News

The US and Global Security Review: Updated: 12:08 PM 2/5/2017
The U.S. and Global Security Review: Updated: 12:08 PM 2/5/2017: The Yemen Raid of 1.29... The U.S. and ... Posted by Mike Nova at 2/05/2017 01:23:00 PM.

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US tries to ID hundreds of al Qaeda contacts thanks to Yemen raid

CNN-Mar 2, 2017
Washington (CNN) Several US officials told CNN Thursday that the US is now taking action to locate and monitor hundreds of people or ...
The Trump Administration Is Ramping Up the War in Yemen
Blog-Slate Magazine (blog)-Mar 3, 2017
Story image for yemen raid from Task & Purpose

Navy SEAL Death In Yemen Raid Not Undergoing Larger Review

Task & Purpose-21 hours ago
A more in-depth investigation into the death of the Navy SEAL during a controversial U.S. military raid in Yemen has not been ordered, despite ...
Trump ducks responsibility for Yemen raid
Opinion-The Boston Globe-Mar 1, 2017
Was the Yemen raid worth it? Officials disagree
Opinion-The San Diego Union-Tribune-Mar 3, 2017
Story image for yemen raid from PBS NewsHour

US warplanes bombard al-Qaida in Yemen

PBS NewsHour-13 hours ago
This follows the January 29 Special Forces raid on the group in Yemen that killed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and several dozen Yemenis.
Story image for yemen raid from PBS NewsHour

On Yemen raid planning, where did the Obama administration leave ...

PBS NewsHour-Mar 1, 2017
What level of planning did the Obama administration take on ahead of a deadly U.S. military raid in Yemen carried out under President Trump?
Story image for yemen raid from New York Times

Lingering Questions in the Yemen Raid

New York Times-Feb 28, 2017
The first military operation President Trump authorized, a rare and risky raid in Yemen on Jan. 28, resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL and as ...
Trump might support investigation into Yemen raid, White House says
Opinion-Jerusalem Post Israel News-Feb 26, 2017
Story image for yemen raid from PBS NewsHour

Questions persist about deadly Yemen raid and its results

PBS NewsHour-Mar 1, 2017
More than a month after a controversial U.S. Special Operations raid in Yemen -- during which Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed -- there are ...
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US warplanes bombard al-Qaida in Yemen

PBS NewsHour-13 hours ago
The American military is ramping up operations in the war-torn country of Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni countries ...
Story image for Yemen from NPR

Trump orders counterterrorism expansion in Yemen

The Spokesman-Review-13 hours ago
WASHINGTON – More than two years after a multisided civil war erupted in Yemen that allowed al-Qaida's local franchise to amass power and ...
Story image for Yemen from Press TV

US steps up commando deployments to Yemen: Report

Press TV-2 hours ago
The moves signal that the US military appears to be launching a more aggressive campaign against al-Qaeda in Yemen, as well as Daesh in ...
Trump ducks responsibility for Yemen raid
Opinion-The Boston Globe-Mar 1, 2017
Story image for Yemen from

Regional Al Qaeda Leader Killed In Yemen Airstrike

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>-Mar 3, 2017
The brother-in-law of a regional Yemeni al Qaeda leader confirmed to NBC News that the al Qaeda leader was killed overnight in a U.S. ...
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Cowards Clapping for Courage

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Cowards Clapping for Courage

Townhall - ‎6 hours ago‎
For nearly two minutes during President Trump's address before Congress last week, the assembled members of the U.S. House and Senate stood and thunderously applauded Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed ...

Bill Maher: Carryn Owens Moment Was The Worst, Not Best, Moment Of Trump's Address To Congress

RealClearPolitics - ‎12 hours ago‎
On Friday's broadcast of his HBO show Real Time, host Bill Maher said the media "fell hard" for Donald Trump's recognition of Carryn Owens at his address to a joint session of Congress. Owens, the widow of senior chief petty officer and Navy SEAL Ryan ...

Letter: Tribute may have been too calculated

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> - ‎14 hours ago‎
Hugh Hewitt's column of rationalization reminded me of so many of Donald Trump supporters' constant refrains. There always seems to be an interpretation of everything he says or does — regardless of how crass — in the most positive and optimistic light.

Truthdigger of the Week: Bill Owens for Questioning a Raid That Killed His Navy SEAL Son

Truthdig - ‎12 hours ago‎
The still image above from a Democracy Now! video shows Carryn Owens, center, the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, during President Trump's address to Congress. At right is Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter. Plenty of questions surround the ...

Navy SEAL Death In Yemen Raid Not Undergoing Larger Review

Task & Purpose - ‎20 hours ago‎
A more in-depth investigation into the death of the Navy SEAL during a controversial U.S. military raid in Yemen has not been ordered, despite being announced earlier this week, defense officials said Friday. On Monday, the White House and Defense ...
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A raid in remote Yemen and a SEAL’s death still reverberate for Trump

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Almost as soon as the team of U.S. and Emirati commandos slipped into the darkened village, their weapons shouldered in the moonless night, a surprise counter­attack erupted and a veteran Navy SEAL was hit.
Struggling to hold off an escalating fusillade from al-Qaeda fighters and armed Yemeni tribesmen, the U.S. forces, fearing the worst for their injured comrade, made an urgent request for a helicopter to evacuate Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
The 36-year-old SEAL, who would later die of his wounds, is now at the center of a debate over the first counterterrorism operation of the Trump administration, one that has provided ammunition for critics of the new president’s decision-making process and dealt a potential blow to future action against one of the world’s most potent militant groups.
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President Trump paid tribute to the fallen SEAL on Tuesday night in his address to a joint session of Congress, singling out Owens’s widow, Carryn, in a sharply emotional episode that juxtaposed the president’s assertions about the success of the raid with his apparent attempts to distance himself from the criticism it has generated.
According to current and former officials, the discussions leading up to the Jan. 29 raid, intended as the first step in a major expansion of U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen, marked a departure from the more hands-on, deliberative process used by the previous administration.
The raid, the product of a more abbreviated White House process, has been followed by confusion within the U.S. government over how operations against al-Qaeda in Yemen will proceed. It has also generated friction with a key counterterrorism ally, smarting from the lack of adequate notice about the raid and, according to local reports, up to 31 Yemeni civilian deaths.
The raid, which took place just over a week into the Trump administration, came as U.S. military officials sought to restore their counterterrorism capability in Yemen, severely damaged in the country’s ongoing civil conflict. In 2015, the United States was forced to suspend a long-standing program that partnered Special Operations forces with Yemeni troops on the ground, severely limiting the U.S. government’s ability to track and disrupt a feared militant adversary, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Long seen as a particularly threatening branch of al-Qaeda, the group has used the chaos that followed the 2011 Arab Spring to expand its influence, seizing territory and recruiting supporters from Yemen’s tribal society. It has also demonstrated an ambition to strike the U.S. homeland.
Hoping that expanded operations would provide an opportunity to recover information that would increase their understanding of AQAP’s network and goals, military officials last fall developed proposals to resume a more robust counterterrorism program.
Colin Kahl, a former official who oversaw Middle East issues at the Pentagon and was national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said a proposal put forward by the Pentagon in the final weeks of the Obama administration would have expanded military authorities to conduct partnered ground operations and placed additional Special Operations and aviation assets in the region. “This was a big piece of business,” Kahl said.
A tearful Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens who died in a raid in Yemen, received a standing ovation from Congress when President Trump acknowledged her husband's bravery. A tearful Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens who died in a raid in Yemen, received a standing ovation from Congress when President Trump acknowledged her husband's bravery. (Photo: Melina Mara, The Post/Reuters)
In early January, White House officials examined the military request but decided to table a decision for the new administration, recommending to incoming officials that they conduct a thorough review of the proposal.
On Jan. 25, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested urgent approval at a dinner meeting with Trump of a nighttime mission that represented a first step in expanding activities against AQAP. The meeting was also attended by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; then-
national security adviser Michael Flynn; CIA Director Mike Pompeo; and a handful of others. Trump approved the operation.
According to one senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide new details of the internal deliberations, Trump was provided information on the proposed raid earlier that day, during his morning intelligence meeting. He also briefly dropped by a discussion on the topic that Flynn was holding in his office.
The following day, the operation was discussed at a previously scheduled meeting among sub-Cabinet officials chaired by K.T. McFarland, Trump’s deputy national security adviser.
Asked what risks the operation carried, Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ticked off a list of possible problems that military officials believed could occur, including the potential for U.S. or civilian casualties and the possibility that militants might be bracing for an attack, officials said. Although officials believed AQAP might be preparing for an unspecified assault rather than operating with knowledge of the Jan. 29 raid, the operation still posed an elevated risk to U.S. forces.
In part because the operation had already been approved by Trump and in part because the meeting was also scheduled to cover other topics, discussion of the raid was as short as about 25 minutes, according to several accounts, and as long as 40, according to the senior administration official.
In either case, the brisk treatment of a high-risk operation stands in contrast to similar deliberations during the Obama administration, known for its extensive litigation of risks in military activities and tight control of tactical decision-making.
“In previous operations like this, we would sit around the table for two hours and scrub everything. The intelligence agencies would put down maps. We’d have congressional folks talk about reaching out to Congress. The State Department would do its political assessment,” Kahl said. “You can’t cover the complexity of a topic like that in 23 minutes.”
Former officials have also criticized the raid, saying it has strained relations with the Yemeni government. U.S. officials said Matthew Tueller, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, had promised to notify President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as the operation got underway. Diplomats said Hadi was notified of the raid.
After reports of the raid and a high civilian death toll became public, the Yemeni government reacted, first signaling it had suspended U.S. permission to mount ground operations and then publicly backtracking on that move. In another indication of the internal confusion that has characterized the early Trump administration, officials at the State and Defense departments said that raids had not been suspended, while the senior administration official said the suspension remains in effect.
The State Department and the Yemeni Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
Eric Pelofsky, who served as special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for North Africa and Yemen on Obama’s national security staff, said the raid “risked significant damage to our counterterrorism cooperation with the Yemeni government. We do not yet know what the cost of that damage will be.”
David Maxwell, a former Special Operations officer who is associate director for Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, said Special Operations commanders would have reviewed the raid proposal carefully and signed off only if they thought it was a viable plan.
“But the enemy has a vote, and there is no perfect intelligence,” Maxwell said. “Every mission is high-risk, and we always have to be willing to accept the casualties.”
Such risks were certainly on the minds of the Navy SEALs that night after an elite Special Operations air regiment dropped them at their insertion point in remote central Yemen.
According to Yemeni officials, AQAP fighters had chosen the village of Yaklaa as a training site because of its remoteness and its sympathetic residents. They described Abdul-Raoof al-Dhahab, an important local tribal leader, as an AQAP supporter.
In another illustration of the complexity of the environment facing U.S. forces, Dhahab had recently struck a deal with the Yemeni government to fight rival Houthi rebels, making him both a U.S. counterterrorism target and an ally of the U.S.-backed effort to restore Hadi’s government-in-
exile to power.
At about 1 a.m., the combined team of roughly two dozen U.S. and Emirati commandos arrived in Yaklaa, a collection of mud-brick houses scattered among hilly terrain and bordered by a minefield. According to Yemeni security and tribal officials, the foreign forces used nonlethal grenades and suppressed rifles as they fought their way into the homes of Dhahab and another suspect, both of whom were killed.
Yemeni and tribal officials described a chaotic scene that followed, saying that tribal leaders, even those without an affiliation with AQAP, took up arms out of loyalty to Dhahab and a desire to protect their village.
“Any person who has dignity and honor would not stand by and watch his neighbors and relatives and tribesmen being attacked and do nothing,” said Saleh Hussein al-Aameri, a tribal leader who was close enough to hear the gunfire.
According to U.S. officials providing new information about the raid, the AQAP fighters withdrew to a nearby building, unleashing grenades and gunfire despite the women and children around them. Unable to shoot their way out of the engagement, U.S. forces called for air support to attack the building.
The commandos gathered what they could — computer equipment, documents and pictures of the now-dead midlevel tribal leaders they had hoped to capture — before withdrawing under the cover of Marine Cobra gunships and Harrier attack jets that began strafing Yemeni positions with their 25mm cannons and rockets.
“Anything that moved in the area was targeted by American helicopters,” Aameri said.
With the number of injured U.S. personnel rising, a Marine Quick Reaction Force was launched from the USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship in the Gulf of Aden. But that evacuation operation went awry, too: Three additional service members were wounded when an approaching MV-22 Osprey lost power and hit the ground. The $75 million aircraft was then scuttled to keep it out of AQAP hands.
It’s not known whether Emirati forces were killed or wounded in the operation.
The U.S. military is conducting investigations into the operation, including a probe into reports of noncombatant deaths.
While critics have questioned the intelligence gained in the raid, leaders at the White House and Pentagon have repeatedly defended its value.
The White House was dealt a blow last week when news reports revealed that Owens’s father, Bill, questioned the necessity of the raid and had refused to meet with Trump when his son’s remains were repatriated in early February.
Speaking to Congress on Tuesday, Trump cited Mattis’s description of the raid as a success, but the president has also appeared to distance himself from the operation. Earlier this week, he said the generals “lost Ryan.”
Ali Al-Mujahed in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.
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The Putin-Trump alliance threatens Europe, America

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WASHINGTON, March 4, 2017 — There is much we do not know about Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election, or about any collusion of Trump campaign officials or of Donald Trump himself in these efforts.
As FBI, congressional, and perhaps special prosecutor investigations move forward, the truth will become clearer. But what we already know is disturbing. In early January, two weeks before the inauguration, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, released a declassified report concluding that Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, strengthen Trump’s, and “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.”
In early January, two weeks before the inauguration, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, released a declassified report concluding that Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, strengthen Trump’s, and “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.”
Seventeen federal intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia was responsible for hacking DNC and Clinton campaign servers, but that those efforts did not directly affect the voting process. In testimony before the Senate, Clapper described an unprecedented Russian effort to interfere in the U.S. electoral process. The operation, he reported, involved hacking Democrats’ e-mails, publicizing the contents through WikiLeaks, and manipulating social media to spread “fake news” and pro-Trump messages.

Trump called stories about Russia’s role in the election a “witch hunt.” He said that the hacking attacks could have been from anyone: the Russians, the Chinese, or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds.”
Finally, as the evidence mounted, he accepted the finding but insisted that Russian interference had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
The question now relates not only to Russia’s role but whether the Trump campaign colluded in these efforts. Classified intelligence reportedly shows multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russian representatives.
Some of Trump’s associates, Michael Flynn and Attorney General Sessions, for example, have been less than truthful about such contacts.
Trump’s second campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had regular communication with his longtime associate, a former Russian military translator in Kiev who has been investigated by Ukraine on suspicion of being a Russian intelligence agent.
Another Trump campaign aide, former Pentagon official J.D. Gordon, met with Soviet ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a time when Gordon was helping to remove hawkish language about Russia’s conflict with Ukraine from the party’s platform.
Current and former U.S. officials say that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.
Trump himself has told a variety of different stories about his ties to Russia. When he was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest in 2013, he told an MSNBC interviewer of Putin, “I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.”  At a National Press Club luncheon, he recalled, “I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump said, “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.” Trump has tweeted that he has “nothing to do with Russia,” yet in 2008, his son, Donald, Jr. said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” 
At a news conference on Feb. 16, Trump was again asked whether anyone in his campaign had been in contact with Russia. He replied, “Nobody that I know of.” He called reports of Russian contacts—which we now know included meetings with the  Russian ambassador by son-in-law Jared Kushner—”a ruse,” and said, “I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia.”
The next day, the Senate Intelligence Committee formally advised the White House to preserve all material that might shed light on contacts with Russian representatives.
President Trump is free with criticism of both friends and foes. He regularly insulted his Republican primary opponents—”Lying Ted” and “Little Marco”—and his Democratic opponent: “Lock her up.” Since taking office he has criticized the president of Mexico and the prime ministers of Germany and Australia, among others. The only foreign leader he refuses to criticize is the man accused of influencing our election in his direction.
During the campaign Trump said that Vladimir Putin is a “strong leader,” far superior to our own president. As early as 2007, Trump declared that Putin was “doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.” During the campaign, he said Putin was such an effective leader that he had turned the U.S. into a “laughingstock.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump refused to criticize Putin. O’Reilly prodded him, “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.” Trump responded, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
Even Republicans who have silently accepted Trump’s rejection of traditional conservative policies and belief in free markets and free trade, could not remain silent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, called Putin “a former KGB agent” and “a thug.” He rejected any comparison between the U.S. and Russia, citing “Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its incursions into Ukraine and its interference in our presidential election.”
“I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way that the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does,” said McConnell.
Russia seems to be the big winner here. Putin wanted Trump to win the election. He viewed Clinton as more hawkish and interventionist than Trump and was angry at Clinton and the Obama administration for imposing sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Putin welcomed Trump’s “America First” declarations, particularly his welcoming of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, and his statements about NATO being increasingly irrelevant.
Putin’s goal is to rebuild the Russian Empire. Weakening the EU and NATO is a critical element in this effort. Putin not only tried to help Trump get elected, but is now interfering in elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands and other Western countries.
In France, Russian banks have helped finance the far-right wing campaign of Marine Le Pen and the Natiinal Front. Le Pen’s goal is to have France leave NATO and the EU. This would give Putin the free hand he seeks to expand Russian power beyond its borders. People all over Europe are nervous and wonder if the U.S. under Trump will fulfill its commitments.
The president of the European Council believes that Trump is  a potential threat to the EU. Donald Tusk warned of “the worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable … the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy.”
General Sir Rifhard Shirreff, the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, says that “Putin is calling the shots at the moment.” Russia has been building up its forces around the Baltic states, including an aircraft carrier group dispatched to the North Sea, an expanded deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander-M ballistic missiles, and anti-ship missiles. In Shirreff’s view:
“The great fear is the neutering of NATO and the decoupling of America from European security. If that happens, it gives Putin all kinds of opportunities. If Trump steps back the way he seemed to as a candidate, you might not even need to do things like invade the Baltic states. You can just dominate them anyway. You’re beginning to see the collapse of institutions built to ensure our security. And if that happens you will see the re-nationalizing of Europe as a whole.”
Europe fears Putin and cannot understand Trump’s embrace of Russia and apparent indifference to the EU and NATO. The German magazine Der Spiegel published an editorial that reflected the general feeling in Europe and the decline in America’s standing since the election. The new president, it said, is becoming “a danger to the world.”
Some have expressed the view that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have much in common. Andrei Kozyrev, who served as foreign minister in the Yeltsin  government and now lives in the U.S., left Russia as it became increasingly authoritarian. Now he sees a similar pattern in his adopted country:
“I am very concerned. My fear is that this is probably the first time in my memory that it seems we have the same kind of people on both sides—in the Kremlin and in the White House … It’s probably why they like each other. It’s not a matter of policy, but it’s that they feel they are alike. They care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success, however that is defined.”
By interfering in our election, Russia in effect declared war on our country. Since he was the beneficiary of Russia’s intervention, Trump is reluctant to confront what really happened. He may be the innocent beneficiary of Russia’s actions, or his campaign may have colluded in these efforts. Numerous secret meetings with Russian officials and false denials that they ever took place must be throughly investigated.
In the meantime, Russia seems to have served its own purposes very well. It’s influence is expanding abroad, while at home, autocracy is advancing. Writing in The New Yorker, Evan Osnos, David Remnick and Joshus Yaffa report:
“Dissent has been effectively marginalized. opposition candidates are frequently kept off the ballot by legal technicalities. And when they do make it on, they are denied media coverage, let alone the ‘administrative resources’ enjoyed by pro-Kremlin politicians. Some thirty journalists have been murdered in Russia in the past decade and a half; human-rights groups that receive funding from abroad are registered in Moscow as ‘foreign agents.’ And contemporary Russian television is not only compliant but celebratory. ‘Imagine you have two dozen TV channels and it is all Fox News,’ Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister under Putin and now a critic, said.”
Early in March, concerned about Russia’s aggressive posture toward Poland and the Baltic states, Sweden reinstated conscription. In the Journal of Strategic Studies, Martin Kragh recently published a study of Russia’s “active measures” toward Sweden, meaning the use of forged documents, disinformation military threats, and agents of influence.
Throughout Europe, Russia is on the march. Putin put a large bet on Trump. So far, it seems to be a good one. Now, it is important that the American people learn exactly how all of this came to pass. Let us hope that our system of checks and balances and accountability works as it should.

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Schumer and Putin shared doughnuts 14 years ago and Trump wants an investigation – The Denver Post

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Associated Press file
Vladimir Putin, left, and Chuck Schumer, right.
By Karoun Demirjian,  The Washington Post
President Donald Trump is firing back at the top Senate Democrat calling for an investigation into his administration’s alleged Kremlin ties – by tweeting out pictures of him hobnobbing with Russian President Vladimir Putin almost 14 years ago.
“We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!” Trump wrote in a tweet posted to both his personal and presidential accounts Friday afternoon.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., responded shortly after with a tweet of his own: “Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?”
The spat is taking place barely a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all Justice Department proceedings having to do with the Trump campaign, after it was revealed that he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice – but did not disclose those meetings to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.
Sessions is only the latest member of the Trump team whose ties to Kremlin officials have been brought to light in recent months, as congressional committees and the FBI dig into allegations of contacts between Russia and campaign officials during the 2016 elections. Trump administration officials have accused Democrats and the press of a witch hunt.
Later Friday, Trump added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to the list of Democratic leaders whom he believes should be investigated over Russia ties. He tweeted an article about Pelosi’s 2010 meeting with Kislyak, which came a day after Pelosi told reporters that she had never met Kislyak.
“I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it,” Trump tweeted.
Schumer has been one of Trump’s chief and most constant antagonists in Congress on this point, raising concerns about the Russia connections of several of Trump’s administration officials and campaign surrogates.
But back to that picture with Putin.
The picture that Trump chose to post has been floating about conservative media since at least the beginning of the year, but dates back to September 2003, when Putin visited the United States to – among other things – open the first Lukoil gas station in the United States, in Manhattan.
Lukoil is a Russian oil company that acquired American company Getty Petroleum Marketing – and its gas stations – in late 2000. In 2003, the United States also saw it – and Russian oil in general – as a potential answer to budding problems in the oil markets.
At the time, the United States was pretty dependent on OPEC nations for its oil consumption. North American natural gas production hadn’t really taken off yet, and the United States had just gone to war in Iraq – and many were worried that the heavily Middle Eastern OPEC would manipulate the per-barrel cost of oil sky-high.
In fact, just days before Schumer and Putin’s doughnut gas station summit, OPEC announced it would cut production by 900,000 barrels a year. Russia – not an OPEC member nation – seemed to offer an outlet to soften the blow.
Back in 2003, it’s important to note, the United States and Russia were also far friendlier to each other than they are today. Russia had offered support for the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and cooperation in the war in Afghanistan. Even though Russia had criticized the Iraq War as an “error,” U.S.-Russia relations were, comparatively, in good shape. It would be another five years before the 2008 war in Georgia began to decidedly sour relations – and the 2014 Ukraine conflict to send them into free fall.
To put a stronger point on it: On his September 2003 trip, Putin even visited Camp David with President George W. Bush, according to the Associated Press.
Still, Bush did not show up at the Manhattan Lukoil gas station to fete Putin’s new American oil era as Schumer did.
And for those wondering, the doughnuts, according to a caption on the original AP photo, were from Krispy Kreme.
Read the whole story

· · ·

Petraeus: We can work with Russia on some things | WLS-AM 890

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By Theodore Schleifer
Former CIA Director David Petraeus is backing President Donald Trump’s argument for strategic cooperation with Russia, saying he can imagine times when the US could overlook its conflicts with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It’s very clear what Vladimir Putin’s objectives are. In many cases, they are unacceptable to us and NATO and our allies and partners around the world,” Petraeus told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen on the sidelines of a German Marshall Fund event in Berlin celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. “Having said that, there could be some convergence of interest when it comes to the defeat of the Islamic State and al Qaeda, and perhaps stopping the bloodshed in Syria as an overall objective as well.”
Trump has said positive things about Putin and Russia in general, adopting positions that are out of the GOP mainstream when it comes to the US adversary.
But Petraeus cautioned: “I again would go into this with my eyes very wide open and a very, very realistic appraisal of what Russia has done and what Putin would like to do.”
He concluded: “I think strategic dialogue with one’s adversary is not something that should be avoided. I think you should actually pursue it.”
Petraeus also said he expected more troops to be sent to the Middle East to fight ISIS, pointing to Afghanistan in particular. He declined to weigh in on the administration’s recent decision to conduct a ground raid in Yemen, saying he was not aware of the intelligence that emerged from it.
But he did reiterate that he thought it would be a mistake for the US to roll back its commitment to foreign aid.
“There’s a saying that diplomacy without the threat of military force is like baseball without a bat. It goes the other way as well,” he said. “You’ve gotta have the diplomatic elements, and often times you don’t need to actually swing the bat if you have successful diplomacy.”
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.
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Page 3

Can America's Spies Work With Russia's?

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    J.G. is a lawyer in his early 30s. He’s a fast talker and has the lean, sinewy build of a distance runner. His choice of profession seems preordained, as he speaks in fully formed paragraphs, his thoughts organized by topic sentences. He’s also a worrier—a big one—who for years used alcohol to soothe his anxiety.
    J.G. started drinking at 15, when he and a friend experimented in his parents’ liquor cabinet. He favored gin and whiskey but drank whatever he thought his parents would miss the least. He discovered beer, too, and loved the earthy, bitter taste on his tongue when he took his first cold sip.
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  • Trump's Unfounded Claims of a "Nixon/Watergate" Wiretapping Scheme

    In an early-morning tweetstorm, Trump accuses his predecessor of an unlikely scheme to undermine his presidential campaign.
    Early morning Saturday President Donald Trump made several tweets that accused his predecessor of  conducting a “Nixon/Watergate” wiretapping scheme on Trump Tower during the election. Trump is staying the weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and he offered no evidence of his wiretapping claims, which he called “McCarthyism!”
    It’s not exactly clear what Trump is referencing—or whether the information was based on intelligence briefings from law enforcement, or just gleaned from media reports. It has been widely detailed that there’s an ongoing investigation that began in 2016 into possible links between Trump’s close associates and top Russian officials, including a report issued by American intelligence agencies in January that concluded the Russian government sought to influence the election on Trump’s behalf.  
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    The flags in the lobby of the State Department stood bathed in sunlight and silence on a recent afternoon. “It’s normally so busy here,” marveled a State Department staffer as we stood watching the emptiness. “People are usually coming in for meetings, there’s lots of people, and now it’s so quiet.” The action at Foggy Bottom has instead moved to the State Department cafeteria where, in the absence of work, people linger over countless coffees with colleagues. (“The cafeteria is so crowded all day,” a mid-level State Department officer said, adding that it was a very unusual sight. “No one’s doing anything.”) As the staffer and I walked among the tables and chairs, people with badges chatted over coffee; one was reading his Kindle.
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    This post includes spoilers for the entirety of Get Out.
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  • President Trump's Untruths Are Piling Up

    The need for Congress to figure out why he and his team keep misleading the public about Russia grows more urgent by the day, even if they are ultimately exonerated.
    Let’s be clear from the start: There is no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign coordinated with Russia to hack the Democratic National Committee’s emails or funnel them to Wikileaks; no evidence that they are puppets of Vladimir Putin; and no proof that the Kremlin possesses kompromat on the president.
    There are suspicions voiced by members of Congress, leaked by parts of the intelligence committee, held by journalists at respected publications who are investing lots of time and money chasing down leads, and of concern to millions of Americans.
    And that status quo is unhealthy for American democracy.
    I would welcome proof that Trump is innocent of any wrongdoing in this matter, because the alternative is a compromised president, the possibility of a constitutional crisis, and consequences that are hard to predict.
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  • How to Build an Autocracy

    The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

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    Not many people choose the latter. But among them would be hunger expert Robin Spiller, director of biomedical research at the Nottingham Digestive Diseases Centre in the U.K. And he has data and a deeply considered health argument on his side. Spiller and his team compared the two options head to head in a study, and they found that when people who drank the blended “soup,” it kept them from feeling hungry for about an hour longer than the whole-food meal.
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    The 2020 election is projected to mark the first time in more than 40 years that baby boomers aren’t the largest generation of eligible voters.
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    Polls early in his presidency consistently show Trump facing lower job-approval ratings, and greater resistance to his key ideas, among Millennials than among any older generation. Those findings are fueling Democratic hopes that Trump’s agenda of bristling nationalism on issues like immigration will stamp the GOP as a party of racial exclusion, not only for the increasingly diverse Millennials, but for the first post-Millennials who will enter the electorate in 2020.
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    Declines in manufacturing employment are shaping the structure of the American family.
    In many small towns across the country, there aren’t very many good jobs these days. Once there were factories that employed millions and paid decent wages. Today, young men are scraping by working at local bars or in lower-paid temp jobs. Many of these men are single, and new research suggests that those two things—their poor economic status and their singleness—are not unrelated.
    It’s no wonder, then, that the changes wrought by the disappearance of manufacturing jobs helped elevate the platform of Donald Trump, who won 67 percent of white workers without a college degree. Their malcontent comes not just from their economic struggles, but from the dramatic changes to their personal lives that the decline of manufacturing have created.
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· · · · · · · ·

Trump, citing no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower

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President Trump accused former president Barack Obama of wire tapping his calls in Trump Tower. Here's a timeline of Trump's relationship with Obama. (Thomas Johnson,Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
President Trump accused former president Barack Obama of wire tapping his calls in Trump Tower. Here's a timeline of Trump's relationship with Obama. Here's a timeline of Trump's relationship with Obama. (Thomas Johnson, Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.
While citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of four tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”
Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump's senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration's activities.
Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, said in a statement early Saturday afternoon: “A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the wide-ranging federal investigation into Russian interference in the election said Saturday that there had been no wiretap of Trump.
Officials at Justice and the FBI declined to comment.
Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Washington Post reporter Adam Entous breaks down Friday's intelligence report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. (Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)
Washington Post reporter Adam Entous breaks down Friday’s intelligence report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Washington Post reporter Adam Entous breaks down Friday’s intelligence report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. (Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)
Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump's assertion.
“It's highly unlikely there was a wiretap,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. The former official continued: “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”
A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can't just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement chastising Trump for leveling a "spectacularly reckless allegation" against Obama without evidence.
Referencing Trump's description of Obama as a "bad (or sick) guy," Schiff said, "If there is something bad or sick going on, it is the willingness of the nation's chief executive to make the most outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them. "
Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vacationing this weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Sessions and Russia.
After visiting one of his golf courses on Saturday morning, Trump amended his public schedule to add a late-afternoon meeting with Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at Mar-a-Lago. The president also is planning to have dinner there with both secretaries, as well as chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House Counsel Don McGahn and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller.
Trump had departed Washington in a fury on Friday, fuming at a senior staff meeting in the Oval Office that morning about Sessions' decision to recuse himself. Trump was angry and told his top aides that he disagreed with the attorney general's decision and that he thought the White House and Justice Department should have done more to counter the suggestion that Sessions needed to step away. The president told staff he wanted to see them fight back against what he saw as a widespread effort to destabilize his presidency, according to senior White House officials who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who normally travel with the president, stayed behind in Washington to work on health care and immigration policies and were not with Trump on Saturday when he tweeted. Bannon was expected to fly to Florida on Saturday afternoon to attend the dinner at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump's tweets took numerous top White House aides by surprise, according to one of the White House officials. Saturday was expected to be a “down day, pretty quiet,” this official said, and there was little, if any, attempt to coordinate the president's message on the wiretapping allegations.
Here are Trump's tweets, in the order they were sent:
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Trump did not stop tweeting there. About an hour later, the president revived one of his favorite feuds, this one with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie star-turned-California governor has been hosting “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” the NBC reality franchise that Trump helped found.
Schwarzenegger announced Friday that he would not return to the show for another season because, he said, the show had too much “baggage.” But Trump insisted on Twitter that there is more to the story than that.
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Memorable tweets from President Trump

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Trump tweets from his personal account and the president’s. Here’s a look at some of his more memorable tweets.
Trump tweets from his personal account and the president’s. Here’s a look at some of his more memorable tweets.
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Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.
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· · · · · · ·

Obama 'never ordered Trump wire-tapping'

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Claims Barack Obama ordered wire-tapping of Donald Trump are "simply false", ex-president's spokesman says.

Did Donald Trump's accusations of Barack Obama 'wiretapping' stem from news report by Louise Mensch? 

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Graham on Trump claims: "Biggest scandal since Watergate"

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From: CBSNewsOnline
Duration: 01:07

During a town hall meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke about President Trump's claims against the Obama administration. See his remarks here.
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CBSN is the first digital streaming news network that will allow Internet-connected consumers to watch live, anchored news coverage on their connected TV and other devices. At launch, the network is available 24/7 and makes all of the resources of CBS News available directly on digital platforms with live, anchored coverage 15 hours each weekday. CBSN. Always On.

SC Sen. Graham Talks Trump Taxes, Russia 

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From: AssociatedPress
Duration: 02:22

At a rowdy town hall meeting, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told constituents the U.S. Senate can subpoena President Donald Trump's tax returns. He also touted his legislation to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (March 4)
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AP’s commitment to independent, comprehensive journalism has deep roots. Founded in 1846, AP has covered all the major news events of the past 165 years, providing high-quality, informed reporting of everything from wars and elections to championship games and royal weddings. AP is the largest and most trusted source of independent news and information.
Today, AP employs the latest technology to collect and distribute content - we have daily uploads covering the latest and breaking news in the world of politics, sport and entertainment. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important. Subscribe:
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Page 4

U.S. warplanes bombard al-Qaida in Yemen 

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From: PBSNewsHour
Duration: 04:00

The American military is ramping up operations in the war-torn country of Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni countries supports Yemen’s president. Since Thursday, the U.S. has carried out more than 30 air strikes in Yemen, targeting the Islamic militant group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold joins Hari Sreenivasan with analysis.

Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower

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From: CBSNewsOnline
Duration: 03:25

President Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower before the election. Former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko joins CBSN by phone with the latest.
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Get the latest news and best in original reporting from CBS News delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to newsletters HERE:
Get your news on the go! Download CBS News mobile apps HERE:
Get new episodes of shows you love across devices the next day, stream local news live, and watch full seasons of CBS fan favorites anytime, anywhere with CBS All Access. Try it free!
CBSN is the first digital streaming news network that will allow Internet-connected consumers to watch live, anchored news coverage on their connected TV and other devices. At launch, the network is available 24/7 and makes all of the resources of CBS News available directly on digital platforms with live, anchored coverage 15 hours each weekday. CBSN. Always On.

PBS NewsHour Weekend full episode March 4, 2017

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From: PBSNewsHour
Duration: 22:27

On this edition for Saturday, March 4, President Trump accuses former President Obama of wiretapping him during the election without providing evidence, and a look at why the U.S. military is expanding its role in Yemen. Later, citizen videographers document innovative ways to make large cities more sustainable, and the FCC considers policy changes. Hari Sreenivasan anchors from New York.

USS Bataan leaves for 7-month deployment to Middle East and Mediterranean

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The Bataan left for a seven-month tour to the Middle East and Mediterranean. The Norfolk-based USS Mesa Verde and USS Carter Hall from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach left Saturday.

Just how would the government obtain a wiretap in a counterintelligence probe? Show a federal judge probable cause that the target is an agent of a foreign power.

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Current and former officials express disbelief at President Trump’s accusation that he was tapped by President Barack Obama.

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· · ·

Russiagate? Is Donald Trump heading for his Watergate over relations with Russia? - Sky News

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Sky News

Russiagate? Is Donald Trump heading for his Watergate over relations with Russia?
Sky News
A total of 17 US intelligence agencies arrived at a consensus: Russia had used a portfolio of propaganda, including hacking and "fake news", to interfere with the US election with the specific aim of helping Mr Trump and hurting his Democratic rival ...
Echoes of Watergate resurface as Trump-Russia links probedBBC News
Donald Trump isn't the only villain – the Republican party shares the blameThe Guardian

all 19 news articles »
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Page 5

David Brooks: Trumpism at its best, straight up - Santa Cruz Sentinel

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National Review

David Brooks: Trumpism at its best, straight up
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Donald Trump gave us Trumpism at its best on Tuesday night. And that was useful because it gave us a view of the political movement he represents, without the clownish behavior. The first thing we learned was that Trumpism is an utter repudiation of ...
Trump's Nationalism Replacing Stale ReaganismNewsmax
Donald Trump -- CPAC, Speech, & Republican Reactions Show ...National Review
Rich Lowry: The End of Reaganism — The Patriot PostPatriot Post
Tyler Morning Telegraph -Salina Journal (subscription)
all 27 news articles »

US designates Pakistan group as money launderer for terror - Times of India

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Times of India

US designates Pakistan group as money launderer for terror
Times of India
"The country suffers from financial crimes associated with tax evasion, fraud, corruption, trade in counterfeit goods, contraband smuggling, narcotics trafficking, human smuggling/trafficking,terrorism and terrorist financing," the report said ...
Khanani group launders billions of dollars: US

all 6 news articles »

Sessions to attend Mar-a-Lago dinner with Trump - The Hill

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The Hill

Sessions to attend Mar-a-Lago dinner with Trump
The Hill
Sessions made the announcement Thursday during a press conference, hours after Trump said he had "total" confidence in his attorney general and said he didn't think he needed to recuse himself. The attorney general's decision came after Democratic ...
Russia is the slow burn of the Trump administration, and it's not going awayWashington Post
Trump Team's Links to Russia Crisscross in WashingtonNew York Times
The ultimate guide to Donald Trump's Russia connectionsQuartz
NPR -CNN -Washington Post
all 4,983 news articles »

Взгляд: Пушков назвал Обаму «маньяком прослушки»

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Бывший президент США Барак Обама оказался «маньяком прослушки», заявил российский сенатор Алексей Пушков. «Он слушал не только Меркель, Олланда и пол-Европы, но и Трампа. Вот за это он достоин Нобелевской премии», - заявил Пушков в Twitter. Тем временем представитель экс-президента США Барака Обамы Кевин Льюис заявил, что ни сам экс-глава США, ни сотрудники его администрации «не давали распоряжения проводит слежку за кем-либо из граждан США», передает РИА «Новости». «Любое предположение об обратном попросту ложно», - заявил представитель Обамы. Напомним, по словам действующего президента США Дональда Трампа, до него дошла информация, что Обама прослушивал телефонные разговоры в небоскребе Трамп-тауэр. Напомним, в 2014 году разгорелся скандал, вызванный тем, что стало известно о слежке американских спецслужб за гражданами своей страны и иностранных государств, в том числе за собственными сенаторами и мировыми лидерами.


Malaysia Expels North Korean Ambassador

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The ambassador, Kang Chol, was given 48 hours to leave the country after he failed to attend a requested meeting with Malaysian officials, a day after police issued an arrest warrant for a North Korean airline employee in connection with the killing of Kim Jong Nam.

Trump claims Obama wiretapped him during campaign; Obama refutes it

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump accused predecessor Barack Obama on Saturday of wiretapping him during the late stages of the 2016 election campaign, but offered no evidence for an allegation which an Obama spokesman said was "simply false".
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Page 6

Just Security: Tapping Trump? 

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Once again, Donald Trump has kicked off a media firestorm with a series of early-morning Tweets, this time leveling the serious accusation that “President Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower”  just prior to the presidential election.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Though Trump asserted he had “just found out” about this surveillance, he appears to be referencing a series of reports that began with a piece by Louise Mensch in Heat Street back in November, which was later corroborated by articles published by The Guardian and the BBC in January.  The reports may have come to Trump’s attention by way of a Breitbart story that ran on Friday, summarizing claims of a “Deep State” effort to undermine the Trump administration advanced by conservative talk radio host Mark Levin.
If it were true that President Obama had ordered the intelligence community to “tapp” Trump’s phones for political reasons, that would of course be a serious scandal—and crime—of Nixonian proportions. Yet there’s nothing in the published reports—vague though they are—to support such a dramatic allegation.  Let’s try to sort out what we do know.
First, as one would hope Trump is aware, presidents are not supposed to personally order electronic surveillance of particular domestic targets, and the Obama camp has, unsurprisingly, issued a statement denying they did anything of the sort:
Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
Rather, the allegation made by various news sources is that, in connection with a multi-agency intelligence investigation of Russian interference with the presidential election, the FBI sought an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing them to monitor transactions between two Russian banks and four persons connected with the Trump campaign.  The Guardian‘s report alleges that initial applications submitted over the summer, naming “four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials,” were rejected by the FISC. But according to the BBC, a narrower order naming only the Russian banks as direct targets was ultimately approved by the FISC in October.  While the BBC report suggests that the surveillance was meant to ferret out “transfers of money,” the Mensch article asserts that a “warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons.”
Taking all these claims with the appropriate sodium chloride seasoning, what can we infer?  First, contrary to what many on social media—and even a few reporters for reputable outlets—have asserted, the issuance of a FISA order does not imply that the FBI established probable cause to believe that any Trump associate was acting as an “agent of a foreign power” or engaged in criminal wrongdoing.  That would be necessary only if the court had authorized direct electronic surveillance of a United States person, which (if we credit the BBC report) the FISC apparently declined to do.  Assuming the initial applications were indeed for full-blown electronic surveillance orders, then the fact that the FBI supposedly did name the Trump associates at first would suggest they may have thought they had such evidence, but one would expect the FISC to apply particularly exacting scrutiny to an application naming persons associated with an ongoing presidential campaign.  An application targeting only foreign corporate entities—especially entities openly controlled or directed by the Russian government—would require no such showing, even if the FBI’s ultimate interest were in communications concerning those U.S. persons.
It’s worth noting here that, contra Trump’s claim on Twitter, none of the articles in question claim that phones were tapped.  Indeed, it’s not even entirely clear that the order the FISC finally issued in October was a full-blown electronic surveillance warrant requiring a probable cause showing.  If the FBI was primarily interested in obtaining financial transaction records, corporate documents, and (depending on both the facts and the FISC’s interpretation of the FISA statute) perhaps even some stored e-mail communications, that information might well have been obtainable pursuant to a §215 “business records” order, which imposes only the much weaker requirement that the records sought be “relevant to an authorized investigation.”  The BBC’s use of the word “intercept” to describe the investigators’ aim, as well as Mensch’s characterization of the order as a “warrant,” both suggest full-blown electronic surveillance, but reporters aren’t always particularly meticulous about their use of legal terms of art, and similarly, sources with indirect knowledge of an investigation may not be scrupulously exact about the distinction between an “order” and a “warrant.”
In either event, there’s nothing here to suggest either the direct involvement of President Obama nor any clear indication of a violation of the law.  If, however, the primary purpose of the investigation was to build a criminal case against U.S. persons in the Trump camp, then the use of FISA authorities to gather information by naming foreign entities sounds like “reverse targeting”—tasking collection on a foreign target when your real interest is a U.S. person with whom they’re communicating.  That would be, to use the technical term, highly shady even if not unlawful. Thanks to the Patriot Act, however, FISA authorities may be used in investigations that have a “significant” foreign intelligence purpose, even if the “primary” purpose is criminal prosecution—a change from the prior standard imposed by the courts, which had required that foreign intelligence be the “primary” purpose of surveillance under the aegis of FISA, precisely to prevent authorities from evading the stricter requirements imposed by Title III, the statute that covers wiretapping for domestic criminal investigations.
All that said, let’s circle back to Breitbart’s gloss on the Intelligence Community’s investigation of the Trump campaign:
In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.
None of this is really supported by the public record. First, the attribution of whatever monitoring occurred to the “Obama administration” insinuates a degree of involvement by the White House or its political appointees for which there is no evidence.   “Eavesdrop” implies surveillance of telephone conversations, which do not appear to have been the focus of the FISC order. (As is now well known, the intelligence community did intercept telephone conversations between former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador—but as a result of routine collection on an acknowledged foreign agent, not surveillance targeting Flynn himself.)  Neither is there any evidence that authorization was sought to collect on “the Trump campaign” per se; rather, the BBC’s report claims that the application ultimately rejected by the FISC focused on “four members of the Trump team.”  Mensch’s original report asserts that Trump was “named” in the initial application, but is vague as to whether that means he was a named target of electronic surveillance.  (Since, again, that would entail showing that Trump himself was an “agent of a foreign power, ” this seems improbable unless the FBI has managed to keep some explosive evidence under wraps in the leakiest political environment I can recall.)  “Continued monitoring” implies some nefarious motive, but a standard FISA surveillance order would run for either 90 days (if targeting a U.S. person) or 120 days (if targeting a non-U.S. person),  so there’s nothing particularly extraordinary in that.
The claim that the administration then “relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government” is presumably a reference to the revised guidelines for intelligence sharing issued in January.  First, this revision was first publicly announced in February of last year, and had been in the works since long before any inquiry into Russian election interference began.  Second, it applies to raw signals intelligence obtained by NSA pursuant to Executive Order 12333, not to intelligence gathered by the FBI under the authority of a FISA court order.  Third, there is no evidence whatever that any of the intelligence leaks that have made headlines in recent weeks are connected with the revised guidelines—and, indeed, this seems rather unlikely, since most of those leaks have concerned information disseminated in “finished” intelligence reports, not the “raw” signals intelligence to which the new guidelines apply.
In short, both Breitbart and Trump have advanced claims far more dramatic than anything the public evidence can support.  That said, intelligence monitoring—whether direct or indirect—of persons connected with a presidential campaign inherently carries a high risk of abuse, and as Congress moves to launch its own inquiries into the Trump campaign’s Russian ties, it would be entirely appropriate to further scrutinize  both the FBI’s initial surveillance and applications and the surveillance that was ultimately conducted for any signs of impropriety.  In the meantime, it might behoove the Commander in Chief to refrain from issuing serious and inflammatory accusations based wholly on “intelligence” gleaned from Breitbart News.
Image: Gewoldi/Getty
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