Sunday, March 5, 2017

White House Leaves Many Questions Unanswered About Trump 'Wire Tapping' Tweets : NPR Sunday March 5th, 2017 at 11:02 AM

White House Leaves Many Questions Unanswered About Trump 'Wire Tapping' Tweets : NPR

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President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) listen on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images hide caption
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President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) listen on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Pool/Getty Images
A day after President Trump tweeted, without any evidence, charges that his predecessor wire tapped his phones, the White House asked Congress to investigate whether the Obama administration had abused its investigative powers. The White House has yet to provide proof for the president's claims, which were denied Sunday by the former head of the DNI.
President Trump Accuses Obama Of 'Wire Tapping,' Provides No Evidence
In a statement, White House press secretary Sean Spicer says "reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling."
It's not clear what reports he is referring to or what prompted President Trump's explosive charges on Saturday. And the statement dials back several notches from what the President actually alleged on Saturday.
The White House went radio silent for the entire day following Trump's early Saturday morning tweetstorm, not providing evidence or an explanation for the claims the president made.
In the Sunday morning statement, Spicer goes on to say "President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."
The House and Senate intelligence committees are both headed by Republicans. They are currently investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Spicer concludes saying neither the White House nor the President will comment further until the investigation is conducted.
Though, 40 minutes later, the press secretary tweeted about an interview on ABC that would seem to reinforce the President's claim.
Mukasey was Attorney General under George W. Bush and was a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.
On NBC's "Meet The Press," on Sunday morning, James Clapper, the recently former Director of National Intelligence said, to his knowledge, there was no wiretapping on then-candidate Trump or his campaign. You can see a clip of his interview in the video below. When asked by host Chuck Todd if he could confirm or deny the existence of a court order authorizing electronic surveillance of Trump, Clapper said he could deny one existed, to his knowledge.
The statement from Spicer leaves more questions than it answers. Here's a sampling of the questions NPR sent to the White House yesterday, that remain unaddressed today:
- What led to the president's tweets [Saturday] morning?
- Can you confirm whether this is coming from Breitbart/Levin or whether the president is sharing information about an ongoing federal investigation?
- What evidence does he have that President Obama ordered his phones tapped? Can you please provide a source and an explanation?
- Did he speak to intelligence officials in the government to reach these conclusions?
- Is he confirming that his campaign was under federal investigation and that a warrant was secured to monitor electronic communications from Trump tower?
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White House Says It Won't Comment On Trump's 'Wire Tapping' Tweets - NPR

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NPR

White House Says It Won't Comment On Trump's 'Wire Tapping' Tweets
NPR
More than 24 hours after President Trump tweeted, without any evidence, charges that his predecessor wire tapped his phones, the White House has put out a statement. But it too provides no proof for the president's claims, and ends with a pledge not to ...

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The Latest: White House wants probe of wiretap allegations - Associated Press

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Associated Press

The Latest: White House wants probe of wiretap allegations
Associated Press
The White House says it wants the congressional committees that are investigating Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election to also examine whether "executive branch investigative powers" were abused in 2016. That's a reference to ...
US President Donald Trump accuses Barack Obama of 'wire tapping' Trump TowerStuff.co.nz
Spokesman Denies Obama Administration Wiretapped TrumpVoice of America
Obama denies wiretapping Trump during electionsArutz Sheva
Haaretz -CNBC -euronews
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Trump urges Obama 'abuse of power' probe

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The US president urges a Congress inquiry but offers no evidence to back his claim of wire-tapping.

Trump Under Pressure to Resolve the Disappearance of Robert Levinson 

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Mr. Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent, vanished in Iran in March 2007. Candidate Trump promised to bring him home. The Iranians have denied involvement.

Trump ramps up his allegations against Obama

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March 5, 2017, 4:49 PM (IDT)
President Donald Trump called Sunday for a congressional investigation into whether his predecessor abused his executive powers during the election campaign last year by having Trump Tower wiretapped in connection with an investigation of Russian interference. "Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement Sunday. The congressional probe should be part of the investigation into Russian activity, the White House said.
In reference to Obama, Trump tweeted earlier. "Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, 'Tell Vladimir that after the election I'll have more flexibility?'" 
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White House asks Congress to probe whether Obama ordered wiretap

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Sunday requested the U.S. Congress examine whether the Obama administration abused its executive "investigative authority" during the 2016 campaign, as part of the ongoing congressional probe into Russia's influence on the presidential election.
  

Suspected al Qaeda militants kill six Yemeni troops, civilian: official

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ADEN (Reuters) - Suspected al Qaeda militants opened fired on a Yemeni military checkpoint in the southern province of Abyan on Sunday, a security official and residents said, killing six troops and a civilian.
  

The Latest: White House demands probe over Obama power use

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on President Donald Trump's claim that then-President Barack Obama had Trump's telephones tapped during last year's election (all times EST):...

White House: Congress must probe alleged Obama power abuse 

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PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The White House demanded on Sunday that Congress investigate whether former President Barack Obama abused his executive powers in connection with the 2016 presidential election....

White House pushing for Obama probe

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Lawmakers investigating potential Trump campaign ties to Russia should also consider whether President Barack Obama’s administration illegally wiretapped Trump Tower, a top spokeswoman for President Donald Trump said Sunday.
“I think what is necessary is Congress doing its job. Let them investigate,” said deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Sanders presented no evidence of any improper actions by the Obama administration, and she repeatedly refused to back up Trump’s explosive Saturday tweets accusing Obama of spying on him and his team. Pressed repeatedly by host Martha Raddatz, Sanders said Trump was merely wondering about illegal wiretapping — despite Trump declaring it as fact just a day earlier.
“I think he is going off of information that he’s seeing that has led him to believe this is a very real potential,” she said, adding, “He’s talking about: ‘Could this have happened?’”
Trump on Saturday called it a “fact” that Obama had tapped Trump Tower phones, despite no evidence of his predecessor’s involvement. His claim appeared to be based on right-wing media reports raising questions about whether Trump associates had been surveilled. On Sunday, the press secretary stated: "President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."

Obama White House spokesman Josh Earnest insisted Sunday that any wiretaps authorized against Trump or his associates arose only from legal law enforcement authority.
“The president of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of an American citizen,” he said, noting that such taps are only approved by judges based on evidence in a criminal or counterintelligence investigation.
Earnest said the White House kept FBI investigations at arm’s length and didn’t against to “influence or dictate” how those probes were conducted.
The Trump administration’s call for Congress to investigate wiretaps targeting Trump or his associates comes as the House and Senate intelligence committees have already launched probes into whether top Trump allies had contacts with Russia officials during the 2016 campaign. House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Devin nNunes (R-Calif.) has also emphasized that he intends to probe leaks of classified information that have made their way into media reports since the election.
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Obama spokesman dismisses Trump's wiretap outburst as 'simply false' 

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Without citing evidence, Donald Trump on Saturday accused Barack Obama of a Watergate-style “wire tapping” of his offices in New York before the US presidential election, a move critics dismissed as an attempt to deflect attention from investigations of his ties to Russia.
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RussiaToday's YouTube Videos: ‘DC insiders seek to defeat Donald Trump - even in aftermath of his victory’ – ex CIA agent

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From: RussiaToday
Duration: 07:14

There are still senior people in jobs at the Director of National Intelligence office, the office of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency that ought to be fired, Larry Johnson, retired CIA and State Department official, told RT.
Like us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/RTnews
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RT (Russia Today) is a global news network broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. RT is the first news channel to break the 1 billion YouTube views benchmark.


 RussiaToday's YouTube Videos

Russian elites - Google News: 'Time Playing Against Trump' as US Elites Struggle to Derail Thaw With Russia - Sputnik International

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Sputnik International

'Time Playing Against Trump' as US Elites Struggle to Derail Thaw With Russia
Sputnik International
As United States President Donald Trump's plan to cooperate with Russia against terrorism is delayed, time is playing against the American leader, according to Franz Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of Russia's Federation Council Committee on Defense ...

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 Russian elites - Google News

Reuters: World News: Iran and Azerbaijan to join railways as part of freight route

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran and neighboring Azerbaijan agreed on Sunday to work towards completing their portion of a planned freight railway route from Europe to South Asia, Iranian state media reported.
  


 Reuters: World News

BBC News - World: Trump urges Obama abuse of powers probe

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President Trump urges Congress to examine whether Obama abused presidential powers as part of Russia probe

 BBC News - World

AP Top News at 9:26 a.m. EST: The Latest: White House demands probe over Obama power use

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on President Donald Trump's claim that then-President Barack Obama had Trump's telephones tapped during last year's election (all times EST):...

 AP Top News at 9:26 a.m. EST

Russia and US Presidential Elections of 2016 - Google News: Trump resumes Twitter attacks on Obama, calls for congressional probe - USA TODAY

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NPR

Trump resumes Twitter attacks on Obama, calls for congressional probe
USA TODAY
Ratcheting up his attacks on predecessor Barack Obama, President Trump called Sunday for a congressional investigation into whether "executive branch investigative powers were abused" by his predecessor during last year's election. "Reports concerning ...
'This is McCarthyism!': Trump accuses Obama of 'wire-tapping' his ...The Guardian
Trump claims Obama wiretapped him during campaign; Obama refutes itReuters
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 Russia and US Presidential Elections of 2016 - Google News
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AP Interview: Russian protester decries prison conditions

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Newly free after more than a year in prison, Russian opposition activist Ildar Dadin described beatings and other harsh treatment he says that he endured behind bars. He said that it drove him to thoughts of suicide, but that he overcame the despair through belief in his own integrity.





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Trump renews attack on Obama 

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Trump urges Obama abuse of powers probe

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President Trump urges Congress to examine whether Obama abused presidential powers as part of Russia probe

Who Was King Hussein of Jordan? 

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From: AlJazeeraEnglish
Duration: 02:44

Why are opinions divided about Jordan's King Hussein?
Full doc: http://aje.io/llsy

King Hussein of Jordan's succession to the throne

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From: AlJazeeraEnglish
Duration: 01:26

How did King Hussein become King of Jordan?
Watch our 2 part series: http://aje.io/682g

Ex-NATO commander: US falling behind on military modernization - The Hill

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The Hill

Ex-NATO commander: US falling behind on military modernization
The Hill
A former NATO commander says the U.S. is falling behind countries such as Russia and Chinawhen it comes to modernization of its armed forces. "We've taken it for granted. For 25 years we had the best ... armed forces in the world," retired U.S. Army Gen.

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Perspective From A Former CIA Russia Chief - NPR

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Perspective From A Former CIA Russia Chief
NPR
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday. Steve Hall, a retired CIA operative, oversaw the agency's clandestine operations in Russia. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks to him about the links between the Trump administration and Russian officials. Facebook; Twitter.

Trump ramps up his allegations against Obama

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March 5, 2017, 4:49 PM (IDT)
President Donald Trump called Sunday for a congressional investigation into whether his predecessor abused his executive powers during the election campaign last year by having Trump Tower wiretapped in connection with an investigation of Russian interference. "Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement Sunday. The congressional probe should be part of the investigation into Russian activity, the White House said.
In reference to Obama, Trump tweeted earlier. "Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, 'Tell Vladimir that after the election I'll have more flexibility?'" 

Trump accuses Obama of having ties to Russia - New York Post

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PoliticusUSA

Trump accuses Obama of having ties to Russia
New York Post
President Trump launched new attacks on his predecessor and Democrats on Sunday, suggesting Barack Obama also has shady Russian ties. At 6:40 a.m., Trump insinuated that Obama acted improperly in March 2012 when the then-president told Russian ...
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Netanyahu to meet Putin, says Iran seeks permanent foothold in Syria - Reuters

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Reuters

Netanyahu to meet Putin, says Iran seeks permanent foothold in Syria
Reuters
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a concert, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow ...
Netanyahu: Putin meeting to focus on averting Iranian entrenchment in SyriaThe Times of Israel
Putin-Netanyahu to Meet in Moscow ThursdayThe Jewish Press - JewishPress.com
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White Nostalgia Didn't Start With Trump — Just Look At Classic Rock - NPR

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NPR

White Nostalgia Didn't Start With Trump — Just Look At Classic Rock
NPR
It was a message, though, largely not embraced in minority communities, given that blacks, Latinos and women were fighting for equal rights during the same period Trump has indicated he believes America was great (the Industrial Revolution and the ...

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Who's responsible for driving the Trump-Russia story? Trump, of course - Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles Times

Who's responsible for driving the Trump-Russia story? Trump, of course
Los Angeles Times
There may yet be an innocent explanation for all the conversations coming to light between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the government of Russia. But the way Trump and his team have responded to questions about the contacts sure hasn't ...
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Daesh Suicide Bomber Blows Himself Up in Al-Nusra Front Command Center in Syria - Sputnik International

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Sputnik International

Daesh Suicide Bomber Blows Himself Up in Al-Nusra Front Command Center in Syria
Sputnik International
A suicide bomber blew himself up in al-Nusra Front terrorist group's command center in Syria, Al Mayadeen TV channel reported. According to the Lebanese TV channel, the incident took place in the Syrian city of Azaz in the province of Aleppo that is ...

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Trump and Russia: What the fallout could be - CNN

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The Hill

Trump and Russia: What the fallout could be
CNN
(CNN) US President Donald Trump's Russia problems seem to be getting worse by the week -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become the latest senior Trump official to be found within a murky web of ties and contacts to Russia. But the communications ...
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Trump wants congressional probe, won't comment on claims until it's done - USA TODAY

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South China Morning Post

Trump wants congressional probe, won't comment on claims until it's done
USA TODAY
Hours before the White House statement, Trump tweeted about his predecessor's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, "Tell Vladimir that after the election I'll have more flexibility ...
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How Our Strategy Against Terrorism Gave Us Trump

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A bipartisan obsession with Islamist terrorism has distorted America’s understanding of its interests and poisoned our politics.

Opinion: This Is the Russia You’re So Afraid Of?

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Vladimir Putin projects Russian might, but a decaying provincial town tells a different story.

Former Mossad chief: Time for Israel to talk to Hamas

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There remains no good case for Israel to shun Hamas.





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How Trump could settle the debate around his wiretapping allegations 

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Iran and Azerbaijan to join railways as part of freight route

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran and neighboring Azerbaijan agreed on Sunday to work towards completing their portion of a planned freight railway route from Europe to South Asia, Iranian state media reported.
  

The Latest: White House demands probe over Obama power use

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on President Donald Trump's claim that then-President Barack Obama had Trump's telephones tapped during last year's election (all times EST):...

Netanyahu to meet Putin, says Iran seeks permanent foothold in Syria - Reuters

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Reuters

Netanyahu to meet Putin, says Iran seeks permanent foothold in Syria
Reuters
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a concert, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow ...
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Trump's Mar-a-Lago tested amid stiffening security - Politico

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Politico

Trump's Mar-a-Lago tested amid stiffening security
Politico
PALM BEACH, Fla. – Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago is having trouble transforming from a ritzy hangout for millionaires and billionaires into a more rigid enclave with new security measures to protect the president from prying eyes and more significant threats.
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Trump and Russia: What the fallout could be - CNN

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CNN

Trump and Russia: What the fallout could be
CNN
(CNN) US President Donald Trump's Russia problems seem to be getting worse by the week -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become the latest member of Trump's campaign team to be found within a murky web of ties and contacts to Russia. But the ...
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Ayn Rand is dead. Liberals are going to miss her.

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Ayn Rand, Russian-born American novelist, is shown in Manhattan with the Grand Central Terminal building in background in 1962. (AP Photo)
Ayn Rand is dead. It’s been 35 years since hundreds of mourners filed by her coffin (fittingly accompanied by a dollar-sign-shaped flower arrangement), but it has been only four months since she truly died as a force in American politics. Yes, there was a flurry of articles identifying Rand lovers in the Trump administration, including Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo; yes, Ivanka Trump tweeted an inaccurate Rand quote in mid-February. But the effort to fix a recognizable right-wing ideology on President Trump only obscures the more significant long-term trends that the election of 2016 laid bare. However much Trump seems like the Rand hero par excellence — a wealthy man with a fiery belief in, well, himself — his victory signals the exhaustion of the Republican Party’s romance with Rand.
In electing Trump, the Republican base rejected laissez-faire economics in favor of economic nationalism. Full-fledged objectivism, the philosophy Rand invented, is an atheistic creed that calls for pure capitalism and a bare-bones government with no social spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. It’s never appeared on the national political scene without significant dilution. But there was plenty of diluted Rand on offer throughout the primary season: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz all espoused traditional Republican nostrums about reducing the role of government to unleash American prosperity.
Yet none of this could match Trump’s full-throated roar to build a wall or his protectionist plans for American trade. In the general election, Trump sought out new voters and independents using arguments traditionally associated with Democrats: deploying the power of the state to protect workers and guarantee their livelihoods, even at the cost of trade agreements and long-standing international alliances. Trump’s economic promises electrified rural working-class voters the same way Bernie Sanders excited urban socialists. Where Rand’s influence has stood for years on the right for a hands-off approach to the economy, Trump’s “America first” platform contradicts this premise by assuming that government policies can and should deliberately shape economic growth, up to and including punishing specific corporations. Likewise, his promise to craft trade policy in support of the American worker is the exact opposite of Rand’s proclamation that “the essence of capitalism’s foreign policy is free trade.”
And there’s little hope that Trump’s closest confidants will reverse his decidedly anti-Randian course. The conservative Republicans who came to power with Trump in an almost accidental process may find they have to exchange certain ideals to stay close to him. True, Paul Ryan and Mike Pence have been able to breathe new life into Republican economic and social orthodoxies. For instance, in a nod to Pence’s religious conservatism, Trump shows signs of reversing his earlier friendliness to gay rights. And his opposition to Obamacare dovetails with Ryan’s long-held ambitions to shrink federal spending. Even so, there is little evidence that either Pence or Ryan would have survived a Republican primary battle against Trump or fared well in a national election; their fortunes are dependent on Trump’s. And the president won by showing that the Republican base and swing voters have moved on from the traditional conservatism of Reagan and Rand.
What is rising on the right is not Randian fear of government but something far darker. It used to be that bright young things like Stephen Miller, Trump’s controversial White House aide, came up on Rand. In the 1960s, she inspired a rump movement of young conservatives determined to subvert the GOP establishment, drawing in future bigwigs such as Alan Greenspan. Her admirers were powerfully attracted to the insurgent presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, whom Rand publicly supported. They swooned when she talked about the ethics of capitalism, delegitimizing programs like Medicare and Medicaid as immoral. They thrilled to her attack on the draft and other conservative pieties. At national conferences, they asked each other, “Who is John Galt?” (a reference to her novel “Atlas Shrugged”) and waved the black flag of anarchism, modified with a gold dollar sign.
Over time, most conservatives who stayed in politics outgrew these juvenile provocations or disavowed them. For example, Ryan moved swiftly to replace Rand with Thomas Aquinaswhen he was nominated in 2012 for vice president, claiming that the Catholic thinker was his primary inspiration (although it was copies of “Atlas Shrugged,” not “Summa Theologiae,” that he handed out to staffers). But former Randites retained her fiery hatred of government and planted it within the mainstream GOP. And it was Rand who had kindled their passions in the first place, making her the starting point for a generation of conservatives.
Now Rand is on the shelf, gathering dust with F.A. Hayek, Edmund Burke and other once-prominent conservative luminaries. It’s no longer possible to provoke the elders by going on about John Galt. Indeed, many of the elders have by now used Randian references to name their yachtsinvestment companies and foundations.
Instead, young insurgent conservatives talk about “race realism ,” argue that manipulated crime statistics mask growing social disorder and cast feminism as a plot against men. Instead of reading Rand, they take the “red pill”, indulging in an emergent internet counter-culture that reveals the principles of liberalism — rights, equality, tolerance — to be dangerous myths. Beyond Breitbart.com, ideological energy on the right now courses through tiny blogs and websites of the Dark Enlightenment, the latter-day equivalent of Rand’s Objectivist Newsletter and the many libertarian ’zines she inspired.
Once upon a time, professors tut-tutted when Rand spoke to overflow crowds on college campuses, where she lambasted left and right alike and claimed, improbably, that big business was America’s persecuted minority. She delighted in skewering liberal audience members and occasionally turned her scorn on questioners. But this was soft stuff compared with the insults handed out by Milo Yiannopoulos and the uproar that has greeted his appearances. Rand may have accused liberals of having a “lust for power,” but she never would have called Holocaust humor a harmless search for “lulz,” as Yiannopoulos gleefully does.
Indeed, the new ideas on the right have moved away from classical liberalism altogether. American conservatives have always had a mixed reaction to the Western philosophical tradition that emphasizes the sanctity of the individual. Religious conservatives, in particular, often struggle with Rand because her extreme embrace of individualism leaves little room for God, country, duty or faith. But Trump represents a victory for a form of conservatism that is openly illiberal and willing to junk entirely the traditional rhetoric of individualism and free markets for nationalism inflected with racism, misogyny and xenophobia.
Mixed in with Rand’s vituperative attacks on government was a defense of the individual’s rights in the face of a powerful state. This single-minded focus could yield surprising alignments, such as Rand’s opposition to drug laws and her support of legal abortion. And although liberals have always loved to hate her, over the next four years, they may come to miss her defense of individual autonomy and liberty. Ayn Rand is dead. Long live Ayn Rand!
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Trump seeks congressional probe into ‘politically motivated investigation’ during 2016 campaign

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Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones

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But a senior White House official said that Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s chief counsel, was working to secure access to what Mr. McGahn believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.
The official offered no evidence to support the notion that such an order exists. It would be a highly unusual breach of the Justice Department’s traditional independence on law enforcement matters for the White House to order it to turn over such an investigative document.
Any request for information from a top White House official about a continuing investigation would be a stunning departure from protocols intended to insulate the F.B.I. from political pressure. It would be even more surprising for the White House to seek information about a case directly involving the president or his advisers, as does the case involving the Russia contacts.
After the White House received heavy criticism for the suggestion that Mr. McGahn would breach Justice Department independence, a different administration official said that the earlier statements about his efforts had been overstated. The official said the counsel’s office was looking at whether there was any legal possibility of gleaning information without impeding or interfering with an investigation. The counsel’s office does not know whether an investigation exists, the official said.
Last month, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, came under fire for asking a top F.B.I. official to publicly rebut news reports about contacts between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that the “White House counsel is reviewing what options, if any, are available to us.” Mr. McGahn did not respond to a request for comment. He was traveling on Saturday to Florida to join the president at his estate, Mar-a-Lago.
The president’s decision on Saturday to lend the power of his office to accusations against his predecessor of politically motivated wiretapping — without offering any proof — was remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on dubious sources.
It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Mr. Trump’s phone conversations. It would have meant that the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to convince a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe Mr. Trump had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal investigation or a foreign intelligence one.
Former officials pointed to longstanding laws and procedures intended to ensure that presidents cannot wiretap a rival for political purposes.
“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,” said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Mr. Obama. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.”
Mr. Trump asserted just the opposite in a series of five Twitter messages beginning just minutes before sunrise in Florida, where the president is spending the weekend.
In the first message, the president said he had “just found out” that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” before the election. Mr. Trump’s reference to “wires tapped” raised the possibility that he was referring to some other type of electronic surveillance and was using the idea of phone tapping loosely.
The president was adamant in conversations with several people throughout the day on Saturday that he believed he was right about the wiretaps, according to three people with direct knowledge of those conversations.
Two people close to Mr. Trump said they believed he was referring to a Breitbart News article, which aides said had been passed around among his advisers. Mark Levin, a conservative radio host, had also embraced the theory recently in a push against what right-leaning commentators have been calling the “deep state.”
The Breitbart article, published on Friday, claimed that there was a series of “known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.” Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, once led Breitbart News.
If Mr. Trump was motivated to take to Twitter after reading the Breitbart article or listening to Mr. Levin, he was using a presidential megaphone to spread dark theories of a broad conspiracy aimed at undermining his presidential ambitions, and later his presidency.
Even with the Breitbart article circulating, several of Mr. Trump’s advisers were stunned by the president’s morning Twitter outburst. Those advisers said they were uncertain about what specifically Mr. Trump was referring to; one surmised that he may also have been referring to a months-old news report about a secret surveillance warrant for communications at his New York offices.
One senior law enforcement official from the Obama administration, who has direct knowledge of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia and of government wiretapping, said that it was “100 percent untrue” that the government had wiretapped Mr. Trump. The official, who asked for anonymity to discuss matters related to investigations and intelligence, said the White House owed the American people an explanation for the president’s allegations.
Ben Rhodes, a former top national security aide to Mr. Obama, said in a Twitter message directed at Mr. Trump on Saturday that “no president can order a wiretap” and added, “Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are moving forward with their own investigations into Russia’s efforts to influence the election, and they have said they will examine links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russians.
Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said on Friday that he believed there were “transcripts” that would help document those contacts, though he said he had not yet seen them.
“There are transcripts that provide very helpful, very critical insights into whether or not Russian intelligence or senior Russian political leaders — including Vladimir Putin — were cooperating, were colluding, with the Trump campaign at the highest levels to influence the outcome of our election,” Mr. Coons told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. “I believe they exist.”
In a written statement on Saturday, a spokesman for Mr. Coons said that the senator “did not imply that he is aware of transcripts indicating collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” The spokesman, Sean Coit, said Mr. Coons had “simply stated that a full review of all relevant transcripts and intelligence intercepts is necessary to determine if collusion took place.”
The New York Times reported in January that among the associates whose links to Russia are being scrutinized are Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman; Carter Page, a businessman and foreign policy adviser to the campaign; and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative who said he was in touch with WikiLeaks at one point before it released a trove of emails from John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, last August. Mr. Stone later said he had communicated with WikiLeaks through an intermediary.
Mr. Trump appeared on Saturday to suggest that warrants had been issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He claimed that the Obama administration had once been “turned down by court” in its supposed efforts to listen in on conversations by Mr. Trump and his associates.
In the fall, the F.B.I. examined computer data showing an odd stream of activity between a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s biggest banks, whose owners have longstanding links to Mr. Putin. While some F.B.I. officials initially believed that the computer activity indicated an encrypted channel between Moscow and New York, the bureau ultimately moved away from that view. The activity remains unexplained.
There is no confirmed evidence that the F.B.I. obtained a court warrant to wiretap the Trump Organization or was capturing communications directly from the Trump Organization.
During the transition, the F.B.I. — which uses FISA warrants to eavesdrop on the communications of foreign leaders inside the United States — overheard conversations between the Russian ambassador to the United States and Michael T. Flynn, whom Mr. Trump had named national security adviser.
Mr. Trump has pointedly and repeatedly questioned in conversations how it was that Mr. Flynn’s conversations were recorded, and wondered who could have issued a warrant.
After The Washington Post reported that Mr. Flynn and the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, had discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia, Mr. Flynn was pushed out of his post by the White House because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the calls.
The Breitbart article cited mainstream news reports and concluded — going beyond the public record — that the Obama administration had “obtained authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the N.S.A. rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government.”
Mr. Levin, a day earlier, railed about what he called a “much bigger scandal,” claiming — again with no proof — that Mr. Obama and his aides had used “the instrumentalities of the federal government, intelligence activity, to surveil members of the Trump campaign and put that information out in the public.”
Several senior members of Mr. Trump’s White House staff did not respond to an email requesting on-the-record responses to more than a half-dozen questions about Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, denounced 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.”
Even some Republican lawmakers questioned Mr. Trump’s accusations. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska issued a statement demanding that the president reveal everything he knows about any wiretaps or warrants.
“The president today made some very serious allegations, and the informed citizens that a republic requires deserve more information,” Mr. Sasse said, adding that “we are in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust.”
Taping calls seems to hold a spot in Mr. Trump’s consciousness. He spent many years taping his own phone calls as a businessman. During the campaign, Mr. Trump’s staff members told reporters they feared that their offices were being bugged.
But Mr. Trump’s latest allegations represented a sharp change in his tone toward Mr. Obama.
The current president has frequently spoken about how much he admires Mr. Obama for the gracious way he handled the transition. But since taking office, Mr. Trump has frequently clashed with the intelligence agencies over the Russia inquiries, including efforts to examine the attempts by that country to influence the presidential election and the contacts between Mr. Trump’s aides and the Russian government.
In recent days, the president has appeared increasingly angry about leaks of information that he believes are coming from law enforcement and intelligence officials who are holdovers or recently departed from Mr. Obama’s administration.
People close to Mr. Trump have described him as determined to stop those people from sabotaging his administration. One adviser said on Friday that the president had been discussing a possible plan to try to prevent leaks from occurring. The adviser declined to elaborate on what the plan might entail.
Two senior administration officials said Mr. Trump had tried for two days to find a way to be on an offensive footing against the news articles resulting from leaks; one person close to Mr. Trump said his explosive claim was a result of that.
Mr. Trump’s mood was said to be volatile even before he departed for his weekend in Florida, with an episode in which he vented at his staff. The president’s ire was trained in particular on Mr. McGahn, his White House counsel, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Mr. Trump was said to be frustrated about the decision by Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, to recuse himself from participating in any investigations of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr. Trump has said there were no such connections. Mr. Trump, who did not learn that Mr. Sessions was recusing himself until after the decision was made, told aides that it gave an opening to his critics on the Russia issue.
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United States Ramps Up Airstrikes Against Al Qaeda in Yemen

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Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, has been convulsed by civil strife for more than two years. In the west, Houthi rebels ousted the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the United States’ main counterterrorism partner in the country, and have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni Arab countries that back Mr. Hadi.
In the country’s central and southern regions, the United States, along with the United Arab Emirates and allied Yemeni tribesmen, have been waging a shadow war against more than 3,000 members of the Qaeda affiliate and their tribal fighters.
The Qaeda branch has tried at least three times to blow up American airliners, without success. The group has specialized in developing nonmetallic bombs that can be inserted into body cavities to avoid detection. Its top bomb maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and his protégés are still believed to be actively plotting against the United States, counterterrorism officials say.
On Friday, a Defense Department official said the computers, cellphones and other materials seized during the SEAL team raid on Jan. 29 had, so far, yielded names, phone numbers and other contact information of suspected terrorists, and had enabled analysts to identify terrorist nodes in Yemen. Once correlated against information about known Qaeda terrorists — a process that could take weeks or months — the data could be used to carry out strikes against militants, the official said.
Information about the group and its plots was substantially curtailed when American advisers withdrew from Yemen in March 2015 after Mr. Hadi’s government was forced to flee from Sana, the country’s capital.
American commanders have said the potential of recovering a trove of new information about the Qaeda affiliate and its operations justified the risks taken by the Navy’s commandos.
Captain Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said the strikes conducted on Thursday and Friday were planned before the January raid and were part of a larger campaign in which planning started several months ago, during the Obama administration. “This is part of a plan to go after this very real threat,” Captain Davis told reporters on Friday.
He did not disclose specifically who or what was targeted, noting that analysts were still conducting damage assessments.
Mr. Trump in January authorized the Pentagon to conduct the kinds of strikes carried out this week at the same time he approved the ill-fated Special Operations raid, Captain Davis said. He emphasized that the airstrikes this week were “conducted in partnership with the government of Yemen and were coordinated.”
After the January raid, Mr. Hadi’s government withdrew permission for the United States to conduct Special Operations ground missions, a decision prompted by anger at the civilian casualties incurred in the assault.
This week’s attacks come at a time when the White House is considering giving the Pentagon more independent authority to conduct counterterrorism raids as part of an effort to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State and other militant organizations.
Such a step would allow military commanders to move more swiftly against terrorism suspects, streamlining a decision-making process that often dragged during the Obama administration, frustrating Pentagon officials.
The airstrikes early Friday struck targets in the southern province of Shabwa and lasted more than an hour, said a local government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to prevent reprisals against him.
Large explosions forced many families to flee their homes. One of the strikes targeted a small cement-brick factory, killing four suspected Qaeda operatives related to Saad Atef Al Awlaki, a local senior Qaeda official. There were also similar strikes in Abyan and Baydha provinces on Friday.
The airstrikes appear to be the latest phase in rebuilding American counterterrorism operations in Yemen since the last 125 military advisers left the country in March 2015. Last May, American Special Operations forces helped Yemeni and Emirati troops evict Qaeda fighters from the port city of Al Mukalla.
Al Qaeda had used Al Mukalla as a base as the militants stormed through southern Yemen, capitalizing on the power vacuum caused by the country’s 14-month civil war and seizing territory, weapons and money.
Since then, Emirati and Yemeni troops have pushed Qaeda fighters deeper into the largely ungoverned spaces of the country’s south-central interior, where the largely indigenous militant group has joined with tribal sympathizers.
“A.Q.A.P. has long and deep ties in several regions of the country,” The Soufan Group, a political risk assessment firm in New York, said in an appraisal on Friday. “It is highly likely there will be more ground assaults involving U.S. Special Operations Forces in Yemen.”
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Trump orders counterterrorism expansion in Yemen

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WASHINGTON – More than two years after a multisided civil war erupted in Yemen that allowed al-Qaida’s local franchise to amass power and seize territory, President Donald Trump has told the Pentagon to conduct a complicated counterterrorism campaign.
Trump’s decision, just six weeks into his presidency, intends to reverse the largely unchecked expansion across southern Yemen of the group, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The willingness to expand counterterrorism operations inside war-torn Yemen is another signal that Trump is more willing to defer to military commanders on national security policy than was President Barack Obama, who was criticized publicly by three of his four Defense secretaries and privately by uniformed officers for micromanaging the military.
Over two days this past week, armed drones and warplanes conducted more than 30 airstrikes against suspected al-Qaida positions in three Yemeni provinces. They were the first U.S. attacks in the country since an ill-fated Navy SEAL raid in January that killed two dozen civilians, including women and children, al-Qaida militants and Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens.
The airstrikes are expected to continue into the coming week. Trump is also considering giving more power to U.S. military commanders to conduct operations in Yemen, including ground attacks.
The militant group is considered by intelligence officials to be al-Qaida’s most dangerous affiliate because of its repeated attempts to attack American targets, including the bombing attempt aboard a U.S.-bound airliner over Detroit in 2009 and a failed attack on two cargo planes flying to Chicago in 2010. The group also claimed responsibility for the shooting that killed 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015.
No specific threats or plots were being tracked in Yemen, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday. Rather, he said, the latest strikes were designed to eliminate the Yemeni countryside as a place “where they can plot and execute external attacks.”
The U.S. military did not specify why the operation kicked off this week. Targets inside Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, have been under surveillance for months.
U.S. intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the information on targeting al-Qaida in Yemen more aggressively was presented to the Obama administration in its last month in office, but was deferred to Trump.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the strategy to Trump in his first week in office. The authority was granted to Gen. Joseph Votel, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, to carry out the Jan. 29 special operations raid and airstrikes on a list of targets.
The delegation of authority could be seen as a way for Trump to insulate himself from responsibility when operations go awry.
In an interview Thursday on Fox News, Trump was asked about the January raid on a remote compound in Yakla village that devolved into the fierce and deadly shootout.
“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said. “This was something they wanted to do.”
“They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do. The generals, who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe,” he said. “And they lost Ryan.”
Later that day, Trump invited Owens’ widow to his first address to Congress, and publicly praised the SEAL as a hero.
James J. Carafano, foreign policy and defense analyst for the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, who advised the Trump transition, criticized Obama for micromanaging military decisions but said presidents must be willing to accept accountability.
“You can delegate authority but not responsibility,” he said. “In a sense, you put your personal reputation at risk. So if you delegate authority and then something goes wrong, because you hold the responsibility, the fault comes back on you.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s strategy, noting that Trump relies heavily on input from military leaders, while Obama was criticized for rejecting their proposals.
“He chose these highly qualified individuals because he believes in their expertise and understanding of the issues,” Spicer said of Trump.
The Pentagon said military operations in Yemen are being coordinated with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s fragile government.
Yemen has been edging toward anarchy since late 2014, when Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim rebels known as Houthis swept in from their homeland in the country’s northwest corner to seize the capital, Sanaa.
The Obama administration closed the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa months later and pulled out special operations forces gathering intelligence and launching drone strikes.
When Houthi rebels appeared on the verge of capturing Aden, the country’s economic hub, Arab coalition forces, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, launched a counterattack in March 2015. By then, the rebels had forced Hadi into exile and controlled much of the country.
Saudi airstrikes, backed by U.S. intelligence and refueling, chiefly targeted the Houthis, not al-Qaida.
With a relative free hand to operate in Yemen, al-Qaida has flourished in the power vacuum, looting banks and raising millions of dollars by extorting companies, and imposing taxes and export duties.
In Yemen, where it is not uncommon to see billboards that read “USA kills Yemenis,” some see U.S. intervention as likely only to make the situation worse.
“What is happening is really and unfortunately painting a dark picture of the coming period in Yemen, which would be protracted insecurity, instability for many years to come,” said Muneer Talal, a TV director from the country’s Taizz governorate.
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U.S. warplanes bombard al-Qaida in Yemen

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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: 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 against Shiite Houthi rebels. The U.S. is also allied with the Saudis and Yemen’s president. Since Thursday, U.S. warplanes have carried out more than 30 air strikes in Yemen using aircraft and drones to target the Islamic militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
This follows the January 29 Special Forces raid on the group in Yemen that killed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and several dozen Yemenis.
For more analysis of the U.S. role in Yemen, I am joined from Washington by Gordon Lubold, a reporter for “The Wall Street Journal”.
So, why this sudden interest in Yemen?
GORDON LUBOLD, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think the interest actually began certainly within the U.S. military prior to President Trump taking office in January. The proposal had been kind of in the works, but the Obama administration had decided to allow Mr. Trump to make the decisions about how to proceed in Yemen. As you know, AQAP is seen really — and the Pentagon would tell you — is potentially even more of a threat to the U.S. homeland than Islamic State is.
But — so these proposals were kind of under way, and then Mr. Trump acted on them, essentially granting the Pentagon broader authority to go after AQAP in Yemen.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It seems like there are almost two wars going on — the Saudis and Iranians fighting each other as the proxy war, there’s the Houthi rebels and so forth. And then there’s this fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
GORDON LUBOLD: Yes, there’s kind of as a defense official was explaining yesterday, kind of a civil war within a civil war. But what the U.S. is really concerned with primarily is fighting AQAP in central Yemen and along the coastal Yemen. That includes the area where the January 29th raid was.
There’s about maybe upwards of 3,000 known al Qaeda fighters in this area. So, the idea is to kind of — somebody in the Pentagon said kind of get after it, but use indigenous forces and Emiratis and Saudis to do it.
U.S. forces are kind of — they’re involved on the ground. The Pentagon’s loathe to kind of acknowledge that, but there is some presence there. But they don’t appear to be doing a lot of ground combat right now.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Did anybody from the Pentagon say that the intelligence gathered from the raid on January 29th is contributing to any of these airstrikes?
GORDON LUBOLD: Right, they’ve actually made a point of saying that the intelligence from that raid did not drive these strikes over the last few days. They’re kind of separate and distinct. That intelligence gathered there is really — they’re still assessing it, and these targets that have been hit the last couple, few days, were also entrained prior to the 29th raid. So, really not.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Basically, the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has flourished in the middle of this active war.
GORDON LUBOLD: The chaos in that country, you know, kind of breeds the terrorism that U.S. and allies are concerned about, and it’s, you know, obviously a very poor country, large youth bulge, as they say, not a lot of water, resources. It’s kind of ripe for growing terrorism, and I think that what we’re seeing and why we’re seeing this now is, you know, the Trump administration has a desire to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State, but really also other militant groups. And this one, as I say, is seen as potentially more of a threat to the American homeland.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Gordon Lubold of “The Wall Street Journal,” joining us from Washington — thanks so much.
GORDON LUBOLD: Thank you.
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