Thursday, March 2, 2017

Graham to meet with FBI Director Comey | » Mike Nova's Shared NewsLinks: Graham to meet with FBI Director Comey about Russia investigation - CNN 02/03/17 12:24 | The U.S. and Global Security Review: Who is Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States? - CNN Thursday March 2nd, 2017 at 1:10 PM

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3.2.17 - Th


Democrats Demand Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resign Over Russian Meetings - NBC News
News Reviews and Opinions: Warren, Pelosi demand AG Jeff Sessions resign over Russia meetings | Global News Podcast: Top Trump lawyer hit by Russia talks claims by BBC World Service Thursday March 2nd, 2017 at 6:53 AM | » Mike Nova's Shared NewsLinks: Sebastian Gorka - Google Search 01/03/17 20:32
News - Attorney-General Jeff Sessions - Google Search
sessions and comey - Google Search
Trump White House scrambles to check...
Attorney General Sessions had contact...
Trump Taps Putin Critic for Senior White House Position | Foreign Policy
Fiona Hill - Google Search
RUSSIA and THE WEST - РОССИЯ и ЗАПАД: Trump Taps Putin Critic for Senior White House Position Foreign Policy (blog) The Trump administration has offered a well-respected scholar and sober critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin the position of White House senior director for Europe and Russia, a White House official told Foreign Policy. The decision to hire Fiona ...
Truck goes airborne during police chase in Louisiana | abc13.com
#Sessions hashtag on Twitter
News about "Fiona Hill" on Twitter
Thursday Morning Briefing: Sessions in the hot seat | Reuters
Live: U.S. Politics | Reuters.com
Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose - The Washington Post
The U.S. and Global Security Review: M.N.: Imagining Mr. Session's train of thought and hypothetical response: "It all depends on what exactly the words "member" and "surrogate" mean, and also of which committee, how long, when, and under what circumstances and capacities... Very relative... Not true! Not true! False news! Dig deeper! No mix! No Justice in politics, and definitely no any politics in justice. Absolutely not! I swear!" | FBI's Comey: Mexican drug cartels fueling US heroin epidemic - Fox News
The Daily 202: Trump’s Russia headache gets worse, as Sessions struggles to spin undisclosed meetings - The Washington Post
Intellipedia - Google Search
Here's what the NSA version of Wikipedia, Intellipedia, looks like - Business Insider
Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking - The New York Times
FAUST Gounod | Alagna-Mula-Gay--Altinoglu | Bastille 2011 - YouTube
Key G.O.P. Lawmakers Say Sessions Should Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry - The New York Times

Who is Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States? - CNN Thursday March 2nd, 2017 at 1:10 PM


Sergey Kislyak - Google Search

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Story image for sergey kislyak from CNN

Who is Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States?

CNN-3 hours ago
(CNN) Sergey Kislyak is the diplomat's diplomat -- an envoy of extensive experience whose career spans the Soviet era and that of the Russian ...
Sergey Kislyak: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
<a href="http://Heavy.com" rel="nofollow">Heavy.com</a>-2 hours ago

<a href="https://twitter.com/search/sergey+kislyak" rel="nofollow">https://twitter.com/search/sergey+kislyak</a>

Who is Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States? - CNN

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CNN

Who is Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States?
CNN
Kislyak keeps up a regular schedule of public appearances and speaking engagements across the US. In October, he told the Detroit Economic Club that Russia had become an unexpected and unneeded factor in the US election campaign. "We have ...

and more »

'The fuse is lit': Dan Rather says Trump-Russia scandal is about to go off like a bomb - Raw Story

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Raw Story

'The fuse is lit': Dan Rather says Trump-Russia scandal is about to go off like a bomb
Raw Story
Veteran CBS News anchor Dan Rather wrote on Facebook Thursday that the scandal over Pres. Donald Trump's personal and political connections to the Russian government and those of his aides is like a bomb with a lit fuse. “Every once in a while in ...

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Off-duty Oakland police officer shot at on freeway - SFGate

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KRON4.com

Off-duty Oakland police officer shot at on freeway
SFGate
An off-duty Oakland police officer was shot at in a freeway incident late Wednesday night, officials said. The shooting occurred about 11:40 p.m. on southbound Interstate 880 near 16th Avenue, police said. The officer was not injured and the motive for ...
Off-Duty Police Officer Shot at in OaklandU.S. News & World Report
VIDEO: Off-duty officer targeted in East Bay freeway shootingKRON4.com

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Sweden to introduce military draft for men and women - Deutsche Welle

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Deutsche Welle

Sweden to introduce military draft for men and women
Deutsche Welle
The decision comes amid growing security concerns over Russia's influence in Europe. ... Sweden abolished the draft in 2010, but Russia's moves in Eastern Europe have since prompted Stockholm to rethink its strategies and boost its armed forces. One of ...

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Russia accuses opposition of 'sabotaging' Syria talks - Middle East Monitor

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Middle East Monitor

Russia accuses opposition of 'sabotaging' Syria talks
Middle East Monitor
Russia accused the main Syrian opposition group at peace talks in Geneva of sabotaging the process today, a day after Moscow's foreign ministry officials met the opposition factions for rare talks on how to narrow their differences. Backed by Western ...

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Trump White House facing Russia scandal flare-up - Politico

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Politico

Trump White House facing Russia scandal flare-up
Politico
The Trump administration's Russia problem has flared up big-time amid revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador last year — and didn't tell senators about it during his confirmation. After riding high on ...
Here's what former Trump advisor Michael Flynn told RussiaBGR
Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions under fire over Russia meetingsBBC News
US media turn screw on Donald Trump administration with fresh reports of Russia linksThe Independent
Quartz -USA TODAY -Washington Post -Washington Post
all 1,265 news articles »

Chelsea Clinton: America is suffering an opioid epidemic - BBC News

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BBC News

Chelsea Clinton: America is suffering an opioid epidemic
BBC News
We hope the Clinton Foundation's early work in changing markets and distribution systems around HIV/AIDS medicines may provide a model and we know we need new partners in the mental health, health systems and education spaces, among others, ...

and more »

Russia Bombs US Assets In Syria - Daily Caller

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TIME

Russia Bombs US Assets In Syria
Daily Caller
Russian aircraft bombed members of the Syrian-Arab forces, a U.S.-backed militia fighting the Islamic State in Northern Syria, said the commander of U.S. forces in the region. U.S. military advisers operating a few miles from the bomb site saw the ...
Russian Airstrike Accidentally Hits US-Backed Forces in Syria, General SaysTIME
RussiaSyria bombed US-backed fighters in Syria, US general saysCNBC
Official: RussiaSyria bombed US-backed fighters in SyriaThe Hill
New York Times -Fox News -Business Insider
all 246 news articles »

Graham to meet with FBI Director Comey about Russia investigation - CNN

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CNN

Graham to meet with FBI Director Comey about Russia investigation
CNN
Washington (CNN) Sen. Lindsey Graham is scheduled to meet Thursday with FBI Director James Comey to discuss recent news related to Russia, though the location of the meeting has not been made public. Graham complained about reading news reports ...

Your Guide to the Controversy About Russia and Trump's Election - Bloomberg

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Bloomberg

Your Guide to the Controversy About Russia and Trump's Election
Bloomberg
Questions about Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and about possible contacts with Donald Trump's campaign team, have swirled for almost a year. They've helped fray relations between Trump and the U.S. security agencies he now leads ...
Sessions twice met with Russian ambassador in 2016 despite denialABC News
Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not discloseWashington Post
Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with Russia ambassador twice during presidential electionNew York Daily News
BBC News -The Guardian -The Hill (blog)
all 1,082 news articles »

As pressure mounts, Trump reportedly hires the best US expert on Putin's psyche - Quartz

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Times of Malta

As pressure mounts, Trump reportedly hires the best US expert on Putin's psyche
Quartz
But Hill formerly served as the Russia expert for the National Intelligence Council, the coordinating body for the 17 US intelligence agencies. If he has indeed chosen Hill, Trump will at least in part inoculate himself from suspicions that he is too ...
End of Pax Americana?Times of Malta
Sensing Chaos, Russia Takes A 'Wait-And-See' Approach To TrumpWest Virginia Public Broadcasting
Failing to engage with Russia 'not a viable, long-term policy option', warn MPsNews & Star
RT -Newsweek -New York Times
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Page 3

"Адмирал Григорович" прошел Босфор 

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From: SvobodaRadio
Duration: 00:47

"Адмирал Григорович" в прошлом ноябре уже принимал участие в российской военной операции у берегов Сирии. Корабль вооружен крылатыми ракетами, зенитной артиллерией, реактивной бомбовой установкой, торпедами, а также может нести палубный вертолет. Посмотрите на дым
Ссылка на источник - http://www.svoboda.org/a/28343521.html

Путин присвоил государственные награды РФ менеджерам "Роснефти" - ТАСС

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РБК

Путин присвоил государственные награды РФ менеджерам "Роснефти"
ТАСС
МОСКВА, 2 марта. /ТАСС/. Президент РФ Владимир Путин наградил орденами и медалями нескольких менеджеров компании "Роснефть". Соответствующий указ опубликован в четверг на интернет-портале правовой информации. Так, Путин наградил орденом Почета финансового ...
Путин наградил менеджеров «Роснефти» за «улучшение инвестклимата»РБК
Путин наградил Терешкову орденомРоссийская Газета
Путин наградил орденами и медалями менеджеров "Роснефти"Интерфакс
Ведомости
Все похожие статьи: 30 »

Obama officials reportedly rushed to preserve intel on Russian election hacking - CNBC

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CNBC

Obama officials reportedly rushed to preserve intel on Russian election hacking
CNBC
The sources told the Times that U.S. allies had provided information of meetings in European cities between Russian officials and associates of Trump. U.S. intelligence agencies also intercepted communications of Russian officials discussing contacts ...
The telephone protocol of Donald Trump, explainedWashington Post

all 298 news articles »

Interactive Timeline: Trump and Russia

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Democrats in Congress are calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after learning that Sessions met last year with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The development is the latest in a series of alleged and reported ties between Trump associates and Russia that have dogged the Trump administration.

Генпрокурора США обвинили в тайных связях с российским послом 

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From: golosamerikius
Duration: 02:06

В среду вечером появилась информация о том, что генеральный прокурор США Джефф Сешнс якобы скрывал информацию о встречах с российским послом перед президентскими выборами в США. Сам Сешнс утверждает, что не обсуждал с послом предвыборную компанию, но это не убеждает критиков генпрокурора

Trump team's many, many denials of contacts with Russia - USA TODAY

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USA TODAY

Trump team's many, many denials of contacts with Russia
USA TODAY
President Trump, and his presidential campaign, have issued at least 20 denials of campaign officials' communications with and connections with Russian officials. Here's a listing of their denials beginning over the summer: ...
Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election HackingNew York Times
Trump's aides told to preserve Russia-related materialsCBS News
Trump Team's Ties To Russia Face Sharper Scrutiny Amid New House Probe And Explosive ReportsHuffington Post
ABC News -NPR -Foreign Policy (blog)
all 297 news articles »
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Page 4

Kremlin suggests Sessions fuss an impediment to US-Russia relations relations - MLive.com

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MLive.com

Kremlin suggests Sessions fuss an impediment to US-Russia relations relations
MLive.com
Matryoshkas, traditional Russian wooden dolls, including a doll of U.S. President Donald Trump, top, are displayed for sale in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Trump has repeatedly said that he aims to improve relations with Russia, but Moscow ...
US-Russia Relations Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi call on Jeff Sessions to resign after report of Russia contactsPulse Nigeria
Emotional atmosphere harms US-Russian relations: KremlinXinhua
Sessions did not disclose meetings with Russian ambassadorCNN
Quartz -ABC News -POLITICO.eu -Washington Post
all 1,294 news articles »

Trump Taps Putin Critic for Senior White House Position | Foreign Policy - Daily Mail

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Daily Mail

Trump Taps Putin Critic for Senior White House Position | Foreign Policy
Daily Mail
Her writings make clear she views Putin with suspicion. 'Putin approaches his dealings with the United States with the logic of a covert operative, steeped in plots and conspiracies. He also uses an intelligence operative's tools,' she wrote in the ...

Trump taps leading Putin critic Fiona Hill for senior White House position as administration continues to take fire ... - Daily Mail

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Daily Mail

Trump taps leading Putin critic Fiona Hill for senior White House position as administration continues to take fire ...
Daily Mail
Her writings make clear she views Putin with suspicion. 'Putin approaches his dealings with the United States with the logic of a covert operative, steeped in plots and conspiracies. He also uses an intelligence operative's tools,' she wrote in the ...

Turkey, US on collision course over Kurdish role in battle for Syria's Raqqa - WHTC

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WHTC

Turkey, US on collision course over Kurdish role in battle for Syria's Raqqa
WHTC
But putting together a united ground force to take Raqqa has so far proven a confounding task in Syria, where the United States, TurkeyRussia, Iran and Arab states have all backed local forces in a multi-sided civil war since 2011. All the foreign ...
US-allied militia agrees to hand villages to Syrian govtReuters
Turkey to strike YPG unless it leaves Manbij: FM ÇavuşoğluHurriyet Daily News
Turkey warns US against partnering with PYDvestnik kavkaza
BBC News
all 49 news articles »

Mystery of the dying Russians: Foul play or poor health? - TRUNEWS

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Mystery of the dying Russians: Foul play or poor health?
TRUNEWS
On September 7th, 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin's driver was killed in a head on car accident in Moscow, analysis of the video of the accident raises concerns that the accident may have been malicious in nature. In November 2015, a senior ...

Vladimir Putin takes two night break, hiking in subzero temperatures in Siberian forest - The Siberian Times

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The Siberian Times

Vladimir Putin takes two night break, hiking in subzero temperatures in Siberian forest
The Siberian Times
Local reports suggested he was in Ust-Abakan district, famed for its hunting lodges. There was speculation he is in the company of close colleague Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, a native of the Siberian Republic of Tuva. 'I cannot say anything ...
Putin on short vacation in Siberia's great outdoors, says PeskovTASS

all 2 news articles »
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US Attorney General Would Recuse Himself from Trump-Russia Probe 

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says if it is "appropriate" he would recuse himself from his agency's wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election. The former senator was recently sworn in as the country's top law enforcement official, after being one of President Donald Trump's top surrogates during his run to the White House. He is facing calls from some lawmakers to resign or at least recuse himself from the investigation due to his denial at his January Senate confirmation hearing that he knew of any Trump campaign communications with Russian officials. Since then it has been disclosed Sessions met Moscow's ambassador to Washington twice last year, when he was a senator. "I have said whenever it is appropriate, I will recuse myself. There is no doubt about that," Sessions told NBC News. Sessions met Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in July at an event on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention, and again in September at his Capitol Hill office. His aides late Wednesday acknowledged Sessions's contacts with Kislyak, but said they were not meetings between the Trump campaign and Russia, but rather discussions Sessions held as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sessions had testified under oath at the confirmation hearing, "I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have, did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it." WATCH: Sessions tells Senator Franken he had no contact with Russian officials during confirmation hearing Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat who asked Sessions at the confirmation hearings about any Russian contacts he had had, told CNN, "He made a bald statement, that during the campaign he had not met with the Russians. That's not true. It's extremely misleading at the most charitable." Accused of lying under oath The top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accused Sessions of "lying under oath" during his confirmation proceedings. "The attorney general must resign,” Pelosi wrote in a statement. “There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.” Congressman Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, also called on Sessions to resign, as did Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Some Republicans agreed with Democrats he should remove himself from any oversight of the probe into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. A key Republican, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, said Thursday “it would be easier” for an investigation into ties between the Russian government and Trump's campaign if Sessions recused himself from it. Another Republican, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, said Sessions should clarify his testimony and remove himself from the investigation. Senator Lindsey Graham, a prominent Republican who served with Sessions on the Armed Services Committee, said during a CNN town hall event Wednesday that an independent investigator should be in charge of the probe. "It is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump," Graham said. "There may be nothing there, but if there's something there, if the FBI believes there's criminal nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor."   Flynn ouster over Russia links Trump's early administration has already seen the resignation of his first national security adviser over links to Russia. Trump ousted Michael Flynn after just 24 days on the job after information emerged that he had lied to top officials about the nature of his own conversations with the Russian ambassador.   Trump has denied multiple reports that people connected to his campaign had connections with members of the Russian government during the election season. But Sessions had his defenders, too. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who unsuccessfully fought Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, told MSNBC that Sessions's testimony was "unfortunate. He didn't speak as clearly as he should have." However, Cruz said, "Context is important. The underlying meeting (with the Russian ambassador) is a nothing burger. The underlying meeting is simply doing his job. That's part of being a senator." White House defends Sessions A White House official said the talks were held in Sessions's official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which is "entirely consistent with his testimony" during his confirmation hearing. The official accused "partisan Democrats" of launching another attack against the Trump administration. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is part of the Justice Department that Sessions heads, is investigating Russian activities aimed at disrupting the U.S. election to help Trump win and any possible links between the Trump campaign and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Senate intelligence committee is carrying out its own probe, and the House intelligence committee announced parameters for its investigation on Wednesday. The U.S. intelligence community concluded last year that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump win. They said Moscow hacked into the computer of the campaign chief of Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state Trump defeated in the election. Then, the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks released thousands of the emails in the weeks before the election showing embarrassing, behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic officials to help Clinton win the party's presidential nomination.

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· · · ·

Pentagon looks at authorizing some raids without White House approval

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Military commanders are discussing speeding up the authorization of counterterrorism missions by allowing the Pentagon or even field commanders to approve some of them rather than the White House, US defense officials told CNN.
    


Jeff Sessions Needs to Go 

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What he did was as bad, if not worse, than Richard Kleindienst, Nixon’s attorney general.

What Sessions said about Russia ties during confirmation hearings

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Yet another official in the Trump administration is raising eyebrows over interactions with Russia during campaign season last year.
    


The Latest: More Republicans say AG should recuse himself

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on Attorney General Jeff Sessions&apos; talks with the Soviet ambassador (all times local):...

Top Republicans call on U.S. attorney general to recuse himself in Russia probe

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several congressional Republicans called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday to recuse himself from investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election after it emerged he met last year with Russia's ambassador but did not disclose the contacts in Senate testimony.
  
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First on CNN: US launches airstrikes in Yemen

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The United States conducted airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen overnight, according to a senior US official.
    


Ex-Bush ethics lawyer: Sessions can't continue as AG

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A former top ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should leave his post after it was revealed Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign, then denied it under oath in his confirmation hearings.
    


Top Senate Democrat wants Sessions to resign for 'good of the country'

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Like Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants attorney general to step down.

U.S. carries out strikes in Yemen targeting al Qaeda: U.S. officials

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WASHINGTON/ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - The United States has carried out air strikes in Yemen targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, in what could be one of the first operations since a January raid by U.S. commandos against the group.
  

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking - New York Times

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New York Times

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking
New York Times
President Obama in December. Some in his administration feared that intelligence about Russian interference in the 2016 election could be covered up or destroyed. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times. WASHINGTON — In the Obama administration's last ...
House Intelligence panel publicizes scope of Russia probeWashington Post
Trump Russia: House intelligence committee agrees inquiryBBC News
House Intel Committee lays out goals for Russia investigationThe Hill
Daily Caller -CBS News -Slate Magazine (blog) -ABC News
all 247 news articles »

Intellipedia - Google Search

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Story image for Intellipedia from New York Times

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian ...

New York Times-8 hours ago
This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
Story image for Intellipedia from MeriTalk (blog)

Data Analytics Key to Complex Intelligence Decisions, Says IARPA ...

MeriTalk (blog)-Feb 15, 2017
Platforms such as Intellipedia, a Wikipedia for the IC community, and iSpace, a forum for discussion in the IC community, help knowledge ...
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Key G.O.P. Lawmakers Say Sessions Should Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry

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Asked to clarify whether that required Mr. Sessions to step aside, he replied: “I think it’d be easier from that standpoint, yes.”
And Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who leads the House Oversight Committee, said on Twitter on Thursday, “ AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”
Some Democrats were already going further, suggesting that Mr. Sessions had perjured himself and demanding that he step down.
“Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. “There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.”
The Trump administration rejected the accusations as partisan attacks, and Mr. Sessions said in a statement issued shortly before midnight that he had not addressed election matters with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” Mr. Sessions said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
In an appearance on NBC News on Thursday morning, Mr. Sessions reiterated that he had not met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the political campaign, but left the door open to stepping aside from the investigation. “I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
The clash was the latest escalation in the continuing fallout over what intelligence officials have concluded was Russian interference in the 2016 election to help President Trump, including by hacking Democratic emails and providing them to WikiLeaks for release.
F.B.I. officials have been scrutinizing contacts between people affiliated with the Trump campaign over communication with the Russian government. And last month, the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, resigned after it emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about a conversation with Mr. Kislyak.
Now, Mr. Sessions appears to be at risk of becoming caught in that same wave. He was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump and became an architect of his populist campaign strategy who sharpened the candidate’s message on immigration and trade. Mr. Sessions became a trusted adviser and is seen as one of the power centers in the administration.
At the confirmation hearing for attorney general in January, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, asked Mr. Sessions about a CNN report that intelligence briefers had told Barack Obama, then the president, and Mr. Trump, then the president-elect, that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information about Mr. Trump.
Mr. Franken also noted that the report indicated that surrogates for Mr. Trump and intermediaries for the Russian government continued to exchange information during the campaign. He asked Mr. Sessions what he would do if that report proved true.
Mr. Sessions replied that he was “not aware of any of those activities.” He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
But the Justice Department acknowledged on Wednesday that Mr. Sessions had twice communicated with the Russian ambassador last year. The first time was in July, at the Republican National Convention, after he gave a speech at an event for ambassadors sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. The second time was a visit to his office by Mr. Kislyak in September. The Washington Post earlier reported both encounters.
While confirming the conversations, the department played down both. Of the Heritage Foundation encounter, a Justice Department official said the Russian ambassador was among a small group of diplomats who approached Mr. Sessions as he was leaving the stage. The ambassadors, the official said, thanked Mr. Sessions for his remarks and invited him to join them at various events they were sponsoring, but he made no commitments to do so.
Of the office visit, the official said, the discussion focused on relations between the United States and Russia and issues the two countries were facing, although the department left open the possibility that there had been “superficial” comments about news related to the election.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Sarah Isgur Flores, said “there was absolutely nothing misleading” about Mr. Sessions’s answers at his confirmation hearing. She said that Mr. Sessions, as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had at least 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors, including those from Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Poland and Russia.
She added: “He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”
But Democrats were unassuaged. In a statement, Mr. Franken called Mr. Sessions’s testimony “at best misleading,” noting, “It’s clearer than ever now that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”
Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, cast doubt on Mr. Sessions’ explanation that he had met with the Russian ambassador because of his duties as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that was beyond the panel’s jurisdiction.
“I’ve been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com.”
And Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, went further, calling for Mr. Sessions to resign because he let a “demonstrably false” statement stand for weeks without correcting the public record.
“There is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue,” Mr. Cummings said.
Continue reading the main story
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· · · ·

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

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“I have no idea what this allegation is about,” he said. “It is false.”
Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.
At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.
It also reflected the suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia on election email hacks — a suspicion that American officials say has not been confirmed. Former senior Obama administration officials said that none of the efforts were directed by Mr. Obama.
Sean Spicer, the Trump White House spokesman, said, “The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election.” He added, “There continues to be no there, there.”
As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The documents, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide, were sent in response to a request from Mr. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and were shared with Republicans on the panel.
“This situation was serious, as is evident by President Obama’s call for a review — and as is evident by the United States response,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Mr. Obama. “When the intelligence community does that type of comprehensive review, it is standard practice that a significant amount of information would be compiled and documented.”
The opposite happened with the most sensitive intelligence, including the names of sources and the identities of foreigners who were regularly monitored. Officials tightened the already small number of people who could access that information. They knew the information could not be kept from the new president or his top advisers, but wanted to narrow the number of people who might see the information, officials said.
More than a half-dozen current and former officials described various aspects of the effort to preserve and distribute the intelligence, and some said they were speaking to draw attention to the material and ensure proper investigation by Congress. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified information, nearly all of which remains secret, making an independent public assessment of the competing Obama and Trump administration claims impossible.
The F.B.I. is conducting a wide-ranging counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election, and is examining alleged links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government. Separately, the House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting their own investigations, though they must rely on information collected by the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies.
On Wednesday, a Justice Department official confirmed that Mr. Sessions had two conversations with Ambassador Kislyak last year, when he was still a senator, despite testifying at his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing that he had no contact with the Russians. At that hearing, Mr. Sessions was asked what he would do if it turned out to be true that anyone affiliated with the Trump team had communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign. He said he was “not aware of any of those activities.”
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Mr. Sessions said at the time.
However, Justice officials acknowledged that Mr. Sessions had spoken with Mr. Kislyak twice: once, among a group of ambassadors who approached him at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and, separately, in an office meeting on Sept. 8. The contacts were first reported by The Washington Post.
Sarah Isgur Flores, Mr. Sessions’s spokeswoman, said “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer” because he did not communicate with the ambassador in his capacity as a Trump campaign surrogate. She said Mr. Sessions had at least 25 conversations in 2016 with ambassadors from a range of nations — including Britain, Japan, China, Germany and Russia — while on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The revelation prompted congressional Democrats to issue a torrent of statements reiterating their demands that Mr. Sessions recuse himself from overseeing any investigation into Russia’s contacts with the Trump campaign. So far, Mr. Sessions has demurred.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday that if the reports about Mr. Sessions were accurate, “it is essential that he recuse himself from any role in the investigation of Trump campaign ties to the Russians.” Mr. Schiff added, “This is not even a close call; it is a must.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House, called on Mr. Sessions to resign, saying on Twitter that “he is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, backed up Mr. Sessions late Wednesday, calling the accusations “the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats.”
At a CNN town hall on Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he did not know if there was anything between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But he added that if there was, “it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump.”
At his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, former Senator Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “I think it’s our responsibility to provide you access to all that you need.”
Some Obama White House officials had little faith that a Trump administration would make good on such pledges, and the efforts to preserve the intelligence continued until the administration’s final hours. This was partly because intelligence was still being collected and analyzed, but it also reflected the sentiment among many administration officials that they had not recognized the scale of the Russian campaign until it was too late.
The warning signs had been building throughout the summer, but were far from clear. As WikiLeaks was pushing out emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee through online publication, American intelligence began picking up conversations in which Russian officials were discussing contacts with Trump associates, and European allies were starting to pass along information about people close to Mr. Trump meeting with Russians in the Netherlands, Britain and other countries.
But what was going on in the meetings was unclear to the officials, and the intercepted communications did little to clarify matters — the Russians, it appeared, were arguing about how far to go in interfering in the presidential election. What intensified the alarm at the Obama White House was a campaign of cyberattacks on state electoral systems in September, which led the administration to deliver a public accusation against the Russians in October.
But it wasn’t until after the election, and after more intelligence had come in, that the administration began to grasp the scope of the suspected tampering and concluded that one goal of the campaign was to help tip the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. In early December, Mr. Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full assessment of the Russian campaign.
The New York Times would like to hear from readers who want to share messages and materials with our journalists.
In the weeks before the assessment was released in January, the intelligence community combed through databases for an array of communications and other information — some of which was months old by then — and began producing reports that showed there were contacts during the campaign between Trump associates and Russian officials.
The nature of the contacts remains unknown. Several of Mr. Trump’s associates have done business in Russia, and it is unclear if any of the contacts were related to business dealings.
The New York Times, citing four current and former officials, reported last month that the American authorities had obtained information of repeated contacts between Mr. Trump’s associates and senior Russian intelligence officials. The White House has dismissed the story as false.
Since the Feb. 14 article appeared, more than a half-dozen officials have confirmed contacts of various kinds between Russians and Trump associates. The label “intelligence official” is not always cleanly applied in Russia, where ex-spies, oligarchs and government officials often report back to the intelligence services and elsewhere in the Kremlin.
Steven L. Hall, the former head of Russia operations at the C.I.A., said that Mr. Putin was surrounded by a cast of characters, and that it was “fair to say that a good number of them come from an intelligence or security background. Once an intel guy, always an intel guy in Russia.”
The concerns about the contacts were cemented by a series of phone calls between Mr. Kislyak and Michael T. Flynn, who had been poised to become Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. The calls began on Dec. 29, shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions. Mr. Kislyak was irate and threatened a forceful Russia response, according to people familiar with the exchange.
But a day later, Mr. Putin said his government would not retaliate, prompting a Twitter post from Mr. Trump praising the Russian president — and puzzling Obama White House officials.
On Jan. 2, administration officials learned that Mr. Kislyak — after leaving the State Department meeting — called Mr. Flynn, and that the two talked multiple times in the 36 hours that followed. American intelligence agencies routinely wiretap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, according to multiple current and former officials.
Beyond leaving a trail for investigators, the Obama administration also wanted to help European allies combat a threat that had caught the United States off guard. American intelligence agencies made it clear in the declassified version of the intelligence assessment released in January that they believed Russia intended to use its attacks on the United States as a template for more meddling. “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned,” the report said, “to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies.”
Continue reading the main story
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· · · · · · · ·

The Daily 202: Trump’s Russia headache gets worse, as Sessions struggles to spin undisclosed meetings

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Jeff Sessions is sworn in on Jan. 10 ahead of his confirmation hearing to become attorney general. "I did not have communications with the Russians," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. Now he acknowledges that he spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: Jeff Sessions wakes up this morning with potentially serious legal and political problems.
-- The attorney general and his team are in damage-control mode, trying to explain confusing and seemingly inconsistent statements.
-- A handful of top Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and Claire McCaskill, called for his resignation overnight. Others are expected to follow in the coming hours. Many more are clamoring for a special prosecutor, both to explore whether Sessions should be charged with perjury for making apparently false statements to Congress and more broadly to explore links between Trump campaign officials and Russia during the election. There is consensus among Democrats in both chambers that Sessions must, at the very least, immediately recuse himself from all Russia-related investigations to preserve the integrity of the Justice Department and the ongoing FBI investigation, something he has repeatedly resisted.
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-- Notably, few Republican lawmakers are rushing to vocally defend their longtime colleague this morning. Some worry about what shoes might drop next.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on “Morning Joe” that Sessions should recuse himself. “I don’t have all the information in front of me, I don’t want to prejudge, but I just think for any investigation going forward, you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigation,” he said. “I think it’d be easier from that standpoint.”
The GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee echoed that, as well:
-- In case you missed them, four significant Russia stories popped late last night:
The Washington Post reported that then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United Statesencounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general. “One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race,” Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller report. The second meeting happened after a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention, when the two spoke individually in Cleveland. A Sessions spokeswoman confirmed both meetings.
Testifying under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was asked in January by Al Franken what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. “I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
There’s more: Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) sent Sessions an additional written question: “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” The AG’s one-word answer could not have been more categorical: “No.”
Watch the Franken-Sessions exchange:
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about news that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on unconfirmed reports that Russia has compromising information on Trump. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about news that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on unconfirmed reports that Russia has compromising information on Trump. (Senate Judiciary Committee)
-- The Wall Street Journal, following The Post’s report, added that “U.S. investigators have examined contacts … Sessions had with Russian officials during the time he was advising” Trump’s campaign. “The outcome of the inquiry, and whether it is ongoing, wasn’t clear,” per Carol E. Lee, Christopher S. Stewart, Rob Barry and Shane Harris. “The contacts were being examined as part of a wide-ranging U.S. counterintelligence investigation into possible communications between members of Mr. Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives.” Three other nuggets:
  • A spokeswoman told the Journal that the AG wasn’t aware that his communications have been under investigation until being contacted by the press.
  • The inquiry, focused on contacts Sessions had “while serving as Mr. Trump’s foreign-policy adviser in the spring and summer of 2016,” is being pursued by the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Treasury Department.
  • The FBI’s role in the investigation into Mr. Sessions’ conversations left the agency ‘wringing its hands’ about how to proceed, said one person familiar with the matter.”
Barack Obama and Donald Trump visit in the Oval Office on Nov. 10. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
-- The New York Times revealed that some Obama White House officials were so concerned about possible contacts between Trump associates and the Russians that they took active measures to ensure the incoming administration would not be able to “cover up or destroy” key evidence.
“American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump,” three former American officials told Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt. “Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.”
To leave as long a paper trail as possible, Obama administration officials spread information across the government. Some illustrations of how they did it from the story:
  • Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee…”
  • “At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.”
  • “There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked ‘secret’ to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration.”
“The opposite happened with the most sensitive intelligence, including the names of sources and the identities of foreigners who were regularly monitored,” the Times reporters add. “Officials tightened the already small number of people who could access that information. They knew the information could not be kept from the new president or his top advisers, but wanted to narrow the number of people who might see the information."
Storm clouds formed yesterday over the White House. Literally. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
-- Finally, the Associated Press reports that the White House counsel’s office has instructed all of the president’s aides to preserve materials that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election and other related investigations. “The instructions, which were sent to White House staff on Tuesday, come after Senate Democrats last week asked the White House and law enforcement agencies to keep all materials involving contacts that Trump’s administration, campaign and transition team — or anyone acting on their behalf — have had with Russian government officials or their associates,” Julie Pace and Vivian Salama report. “The Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has also asked more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals to preserve relevant records.” Congress will want to know why it took nearly a week for this order to go out after their request… 
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new calls for a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Jeff Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI. The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new calls for a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde, Sarah Parnass/Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
-- Sessions’s spin is quite a stretch. Justice officials claim that Sessions’s secret sit-down with Ambassador Kislyak on Sept. 8 was in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as a Trump campaign surrogate. Officials told The Post’s reporters who broke the story that the attorney general did not consider the conversations relevant to Franken and Leahy’s questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak. “There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” claimed Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores (who used to be Sean Spicer’s #2 at the RNC).
But The Post’s Adam Entous contacted all 26 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 2016 to see whether any lawmakers besides Sessions met with Kislyak in 2016. Of the 20 lawmakers who responded, every senator, including Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. The other lawmakers on the panel did not respond as of last night.
Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who called for Sessions to resign this morning, is a senior member of that committee and a former prosecutor. “A good prosecutor would have known these facts were relevant to the questions asked,” she said in a statement. “It’s clear Attorney General Sessions misled the Senate—the question is, why? I’ve been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for 10 years, and in that time, have had no call from, or meeting with, the Russian ambassador. Ever. That’s because ambassadors call members of Foreign Relations Committee.
Many reporters mocked as nonsensical a clean-up statement sent out by a Sessions spokeswoman last night in response to The Post’s story:
Approached by an NBC camera crew this morning, Sessions carefully denied meeting with any Russian officials during the course of the election to talk about the Trump campaign. "I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign," he said, "and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. And I don't have anything else to say about that." When asked about the calls by Democrats to recuse himself from investigating any alleged ties between Trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, Sessions added: "I have said whenever it's appropriate, I will recuse myself. There's no doubt about that."
But the continuing pushback from someone else in the Trump administration is potentially making the story worse for them. Recall that Sessions keeps saying he didn’t talk about politics: 
Here's what Rep. Elijah Cummings, Sen. Lindsey Graham, the White House and more have to say about news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign, which he did not reveal in confirmation hearings. Video: 'Sessions should resign immediately': Reactions from both parties following Russia revelation (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)
THE GATHERING STORM – A ROUND-UP OF KEY REACTION:
This was the chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush:
The legendary Harvard constitutional law professor said he thinks the AG perjured himself:
Max Boot, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain in 2008, a defense policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012 and the head of the Counter-Terrorism Working Group for Marco Rubio in 2016:
The Capitol bureau chief at Politico, one of the deans of the congressional press corps:
A reporter from The Intercept posted a 45-second clip of Sessions saying Bill Clinton should be impeached for perjury:
One of CNN’s law enforcement beat reporters:
The managing editor for politics at NBC News:
The editor of Politico Magazine:
A staff writer at the New Yorker:
The managing editor of Lawfare and a Brookings Fellow:
The editor of Wired:
Also, what would Sessions say if Hillary Clinton’s DOJ did this?
Nancy Pelosi speaks at a hearing of the Congressional Executive Commission on Human Rights yesterday. It was Ash Wednesday. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
-- Among the Democrats calling for Sessions to resign overnight are the House Minority Leader and the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee:
  • “After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
  • “When Senator Sessions testified under oath that ‘I did not have communications with the Russians,’ his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks,” Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) remarked in a statement. “Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.”
Also Elizabeth Warren:
And a rising star Arizona congressman:
-- Other Democrats, for now, have stopped short of demanding his resignation:
Al Franken says Sessions’s answer to his question was “at best, misleading” and “very” troubling: “It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”
Oregon’s senator is a senior member of the Intelligence Committee:
Pennsylvania senator (up for reelection in 2018):
California senator (who was that state’s attorney general until the start of this year):
Hawaii senator:
The top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee:
A Texas congressman on the House Armed Services Committee:
An Illinois Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee:
A California Democrat on House Intelligence:
Another Golden State Dem:
-- Alumni of the Obama administration have joined the growing chorus:
The communications director at OFA:
A Stanford professor who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama until 2014:
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus talks with John McCain and Lindsey Graham as they arrive for Trump's address to Congress on Tuesday night. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
-- “Republicans were more cautious in their remarks, but there were signs that they could step up calls for an outside investigation of the Trump team’s ties to Russia as a result of the Sessions news,” Karoun Demirjian reports. Last Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said during a CNN town hall last night that if the substance of Sessions’s conversations with the Russian ambassador proved to be improper or suspect, he too would join the call for Sessions to go. “If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make that decision about Trump,” he said, adding that the communications could have been innocent. “But if there’s something there that the FBI thinks is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. If that day ever comes, I’ll be the first one to say it needs to be somebody other than Jeff.”
-- Another Russia story to keep an eye on: Jon Huntsman is now in the running to be Trump’s ambassador to Moscow. “Eight years after he was sent to China by a Democratic president, the former Utah governor and Republican presidential candidate, is under consideration to be Trump’s ambassador to Russia,” Mark Landler writes in the Times this morning. “And like eight years ago, there is a political dimension to the choice: Sending Mr. Huntsman to Moscow would remove him as a primary challenger to Utah’s 82-year-old Republican senator, Orrin Hatch — just as when former President Barack Obama chose him for Beijing in 2009, it was seen as a way to keep him off the field during the 2012 presidential campaign. Mr. Huntsman’s name had already circulated for secretary of state and, more recently, for deputy secretary. But a person briefed on the talks, which were first reported by CNN, said the Moscow ambassador’s post was a more genuine prospect.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The White House has decided to remove Iraq from a list of countries subject to the forthcoming travel ban, amid concerns in Washington and Baghdad that keeping the country on the list would undercut relations with a critical ally in the fight against Islamic State. (Wall Street Journal)
Joe Biden kisses Hallie Biden, his son's widow, before Beau Biden's funeral in 2015. On the left is Hunter Biden, who subsequently left his wife for Hallie. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
-- Another surreal story: Hallie Biden, the widow of Beau Biden, the son of the former vice president, is in a relationship with Beau’s married brother, Hunter. Yes, you read that correctly. The New York Post’s Page Six reports that Hallie and Hunter began their relationship after the death of Hallie’s husband of brain cancer in May 2015. "And the soap-operatic tale couldn’t be discounted, since it came with on-the-record statements from Hunter Biden and from the former vice president and his wife, Jill," The Reliable Source's Emily Heil writes:
  • "Hunter, a 47-year-old lawyer, is still married, though the tabloid reports that he and his wife, Kathleen, separated five months after Beau died. (Hunter made headlines over his discharge from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine in 2013.) It wasn’t clear when the relationship between Hallie and Hunter began, though they are now an 'official' couple, according to the report. 
  • Hallie has two children; Hunter and his estranged wife, Kathleen, have three.
  • The new couple apparently has the support of Joe and Jill Biden: "We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness,” the former second couple said in a statement to Page Six. “They have mine and Jill’s full and complete support and we are happy for them.”
Kellyanne Conway speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
GET SMART FAST:​​
  1. Kellyanne Conway won't be disciplined internally for hawking Ivanka Trump's clothing line because she "inadvertently" violated ethics rules, according to the White House Counsel's Office. The director of the Office of Government Ethics recommended that Conway be sanctioned, but Team Trump says they are letting her off the hook because she spoke in a "light and offhand manner" and is unlikely to repeat the action. (Matea Gold)
  2. Meanwhile, the Trump team opted to nix an ethics course for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees, failing to give them training that could help them avert these kinds of lapses. (Politico)
  3. The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 21,000 yesterday for the first time, buoyed by Trump's address to Congress. (Thomas Heath)
  4. The Senate confirmed Ryan Zinke’s nomination to lead the Interior Department by a 68 to 31 vote. ( Darryl Fears)
  5. DREAM-er Daniela Vargas was arrested by ICE officials in Jackson, Miss., after speaking out about the new administration's immigration policies. Vargas had let her immigration status under DACA lapse. (Samantha Schmidt)
  6. Marco Rubio's staff has been booted from the senator's Tampa office because of weekly protests. The owner of the Bridgeport Center said it did not renew the lease on the Floridian's field office because the protests were too disruptive. (Kristine Phillips)
  7. The Supreme Court asked a lower court to reexamine whether the GOP-led Virginia legislature used racial bias in gerrymandering legislative districts to dilute the African-American vote. The justices said the lower court used the wrong standard when saying the efforts were constitutional. (Robert Barnes and Gregory S. Schneider)
  8. Russia and the Syrian government regime bombed U.S.-backed fighters near the Syrian village of al-Bab. The U.S. Army said it believes the Russian and Syrian government thought they were targeting militants, not the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. (Dan Lamothe)
  9. The head of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria says that Kurdish fighters will participate “in some form or fashion” in the upcoming operation to retake the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria. But he insisted that they will largely be “local Kurds” from the Raqqa area who pose no threat to neighboring Turkey. (Karen DeYoung and Dam Lamothe)
  10. An ex-CIA officer is celebrating Italy’s decision not to jail her in a Muslim cleric’s kidnapping, but the news came too late for her to travel to see her dying mother. (Ian Shapira)
  11. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer won't receive her annual bonus and the company's top lawyer was ousted for not properly handling the security breaches that resulted in the exposure of customers' personal information. (Associated Press)
  12. Francios Fillon, France's center-right presidential candidate, has pledged to stay in the race despite the news that he will be formally charged in an embezzlement probe. Fillon is accused of paying his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for not doing any work. (New York Times)
  13. Newly-discovered "micro-fossils" are estimated to be at least 3.77 billion years old. They are narrower than a human hair and can't be seen by the naked eye, and the rocks contain chemical compounds that is likely a result of biological processes. (Sarah Kaplan)
  14. Facebook is bolstering its suicide prevention tools as live broadcasts of people killing themselves are on the rise. It is using artificial intelligence to scan posts for possibly troubling statements and reporting them to community managers. (Lindsay Bever)
  15. Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger said he is being “nudged” by friends to run for president as a Democrat in 2020. It’s unclear what would prompt Iger to leave the “happiest place on earth” to govern a country that is, well, not -- but for the first time, Iger said he is giving consideration to the plan. (The Hollywood Reporter)
  16. Oprah Winfrey also teased a possible presidential run during an interview for Bloomberg TV, noting that Trump shows you don't need political experience to run. (Helena Andrews-Dyer)
  17. Alec Baldwin and public radio host Kurt Anderson have agreed to pen a satirical book about Trump to come out in November called "You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump.” Anderson was the founding editor of Spy magazine, which coined the phrase "short-fingered vulgarian" to describe Trump. (New York Times)
  18. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, is running for governor of Florida in 2018. The 37-year-old is the first of many candidates expected to enter the open race. (Amber Phillips)
  19. An Iowa state senator who is pushing legislation to insist that state colleges cap the number of Democrats hired as professors apparently does not have his own college degree, having attended a management class for run by Sizzler steak house. (NBC)
  20. The sport of golf could be getting a facelift. Or at the very least, a ton of sweeping new rule changes. The proposed revisions were previewed for the first time by international golf-governing bodies on Wednesday, and come as officials seek to make the game “easier to understand and apply” for newcomers. The new rules could be implemented as soon as 2019 – but first, they’ll undergo a six-month period of public review by pros and amateurs alike. (Des Bieler)
  21. Lego announced the creation of a new “Women of NASA” set, seeking to honor the invaluable contributions women have made to the U.S. space program. The proposed set includes figurines of Sally Ride -- the first American woman in space -- and Katherine Johnson, whose character was portrayed in the move “Hidden Figures.” (Sarah Larimer)
FACTS ON THE GROUND UNDERCUT TRUMP'S YEMEN CLAIMS:
-- Missy Ryan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff examine the NAVY SEAL raid in Yemen that killed Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, which sparked the emotional moment at Trump's joint address to Congress on Tuesday night in which he saluted Owens's widow, Carryn. "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, 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."
The process was criticized for being too brief and less deliberative than in other administrations: "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 ... 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 around 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."
-- Ten current U.S. officials across the government who have been briefed on the details of the raid told NBC News that, so far, no truly significant intelligence has emerged from the haul. While the SEALs scooped up laptops, hard drives and cell phones, the sources told NBC’s reporters that none of the intelligence gleaned from the operation so far has proven actionable or vital — contrary to what President Trump said in his speech to Congress Tuesday. “The Associated Press quoted a senior U.S. official as describing a three-page list of information gathered from the compound, including information on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's training techniques and targeting priorities. Pentagon officials confirmed that to NBC News, but other U.S. officials said the information on that list was neither actionable nor vital. One senior Pentagon official described the information gathered as ‘de minimis,’ and as material the U.S. already knew about,” per NBC.
Trump arrives aboard Marine One to greet the remains of Ryan Owens at Dover Air Force Base on Feb. 1. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
TRUMP IS THE DON'T-BLAME-ME PRESIDENT:
-- He is preternaturally unable to take any personal responsibility for bad things that happen under his watch, whether bankruptcy or the death of a Navy SEAL, which he publicly blames on the generals.
-- This is an emerging pattern of his presidency: Trump has blamed Obama for fometing protests against him, a judge for any future terrorist attack on the homeland, and the weather for the relatively small size of his inauguration crowd. "For a businessman who views the world through a binary win-or-lose lens, Trump has become the 'don’t blame me' president — struggling to adjust to the reality of a job often revealed in shades of gray," Abby Phillip and Ashley Parker write. "The man in the nation’s highest elective office, who is eager to claim credit for positive developments, has yet to show signs of accepting responsibility or blame when things go wrong.
-- "When you run on a campaign of win, win, win, you never can admit a setback," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has met with Trump several times. "If that’s the case, that’s a pathological situation."
Trump introduces H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Feb. 20. (Susan Walsh/AP)
BANNON KEEPS WINNING WEST WING TURF WARS:
-- Trump's use of "radical Islamic terrorism" on Tuesday night suggests that H.R. McMaster, who has told his staff not to use the phrase and asked the president not to include it in the speech, has little juice vis-a-vis Stephen K. Bannon. The disagreement is more than rhetorical and shows a divide between the national security adviser and the president's chief strategist, Greg Jaffe reports: "Bannon leads the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House think tank, and was also named by Trump to a position on the National Security Council, giving him a major role in the formulation of foreign policy. Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, is one of his senior advisers, focusing on issues involving counterterrorism." 
  • “Some of McMaster’s friends and former military officers have said that retiring from the military before taking the job as national security adviser would have provided him more leverage in internal debates. ‘In a civilian capacity he has much more latitude to say, ‘In 48 hours, I am gone,’’ said retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who served in the Clinton administration. ‘If he’s got to tell Bannon to shut the hell up in the next meeting, that’s easier to do as a civilian.’”
  • Rubbing salt in the wound: Gorka, who celebrated on Twitter when Trump spurned his own NSA, then went on NPR yesterday to defend the president’s use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” calling them the “clearest three words” of the president’s speech. “The enemy is radical Islamic terrorism,” he said. “That has not changed, and it will not change.”
-- Meanwhile, McMaster is taking steps to control the NSC, eliminating the jobs created by his predecessor, ousted security adviser Michael Flynn,  reports Politico.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to his employees last week. (Susan Walsh/AP)
THE HAMMER FALLS ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE:
-- The Environmental Protection Agency has been informed by the Office of Management and Budget that Trump wants to slash the agency's budget by one-fifth in one year and eliminate dozens of programs, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: "The plan to slash EPA’s staff from its current level of 15,000 to 12,000, which could be accomplished in part through a buyout offer as well as layoffs, is one of several changes for which the new administration has asked agency staff for comment by close of business Wednesday. ... The proposal also dictates cutting the agency’s grants to states, including its air and water programs, by 30 percent, and eliminating 38 separate programs in their entirety. Programs designated for zero funding include grants to clean up brownfields, or abandoned industrial sites; a national electronic manifest system for hazardous waste; environmental justice programs; climate-change initiatives; and funding for native Alaskan villages ... The agency’s Office of Research and Development could face a cut of up to 42 percent, according to an individual apprised of the administration’s plans. The document eliminates funding altogether for the office’s 'contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research Program,' a climate initiative that then-President George H.W. Bush launched in 1989."
-- Anxiety is high across the federal government, where civil servants realize the math of Trump's proposed budget -- a 10 percent hike in defense spending with cuts to fall on domestic discretionary spending and not entitlements -- does not add up for them. Lisa Rein reports: "The math seems clear: To shrink government by that much, layoffs are inevitable, say federal officials, unions and budget experts ... Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said a voluntary buyout program across the government may be a more palatable option ...  And words like buyouts, furloughs and RIFs (or reduction in force) — government-speak for layoffs — are now being tossed around at the water cooler as civil servants face the possibility of massive downsizing."
-- Trump's drive to massively cut the foreign aid budget could literally kill people in Africa, where famine is spreading. Kevin Sieff reports from Nairobi that four countries are approaching famine and 20 million people are nearing starvation levels, according to the United Nations: "It is the first time in recent memory that so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously, and humanitarian groups say they do not have the resources to respond effectively ... In Nigeria, millions have been displaced and isolated by Boko Haram insurgents. In Somalia, a historic drought has left a huge portion of the country without access to regular food, as al-Shabab militants block the movement of humanitarian groups. In South Sudan, a three-year-old civil war has forced millions of people from their homes and farms. In Yemen, a civil war along with aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have caused another sweeping hunger crisis." The United States provided 28 percent of foreign aid to those four countries alone. "'Nobody can replace the U.S. in terms of funding,” said Yves Daccord, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said of the current crises.'" Kevin writes. “I don’t remember ever seeing such a mix of conflict, drought and extreme hunger.”
President Trump on March 1 met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at the White House. “We think we’re going to have tremendous success,” Trump said. President Trump meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at the White House. (The Washington Post)
GOP DIVIDE ON OBAMACARE PERSISTS:
-- Trump seemed to at least gently support some aspects of the House GOP leadership's plan to repeal and replace the ACA during his speech to Congress. Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell report. "By specifically mentioning 'tax credits,' Trump appeared to side with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in a key intraparty debate over what the ACA’s replacement ought to look like. Influential conservatives in the House and Senate have balked at offering refundable tax credits to help Americans buy insurance, advocating instead for a less expensive tax deduction. ... The tax-credit issue has become a flash point between GOP leaders and their conservative flank, rooted in the amount of government spending it would take to achieve adequate health coverage in the ACA’s absence."
-- House leaders tried to sell their plan to the Senate GOP late yesterday, but they're taking special measures to ensure that it doesn't leak to the press, Bloomberg reports: "The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House Energy and Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them." I'm old enough to remember when these very same Republicans attacked Democrats for negotiating health care policy behind closed doors...
WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:
-- “North Korean regime is finding new ways to stop information flows, report says,” by Anna Fifield: “As ordinary North Koreans have found ways to get information the state denies them — soppy South Korean dramas and peppy pop songs, novels, news from the outside world — so too has the Kim regime found news ways to crack down on them. … The regime has developed sophisticated new tools to check just what its citizens are up to … [underlining] the challenges in getting information into the most tightly controlled country on the planet — and the challenges that North Korea watchers as diverse as the U.S. Congress and small defector-led groups face in trying to penetrate it.” Access to outside networks has also been curtailed: “Once, I went into a house and made a call to China and inspectors came within 30 seconds,” said a 59-year-old man who used to work for a trading company near the Chinese city of Dandong. “There are inspectors going around with an eavesdropping device to control calls to China."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Scenes from the congressional correspondents' dinner in Washington last night:
Diane Rehm was honored:
A good visualization of how many vacancies remain at the senior echelons of our government:
Trump's friend Chris Ruddy, who runs the conservative magazine Newsmax, hung out with him in the Oval (he's the one who questioned Reince's staying power recently):
Trump, in his 2015 book: "To me, for politicians to claim that we have an answer to every problem is silly."
Trump, in his Tuesday night speech: "Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved."
Here's the side-by-side:
Twitterati remembered Andrew Breitbart's death five years ago yesterday:
Some in very glowing terms:
Kangaroos are coming to the Hill:
Some funny takes on the Kellyanne Conway Oval office picture:
Tune in for the "Ellen" show today:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times Magazine, “How the Trolls Stole Washington,” by Amanda Hess: “It was during the summer of 2014 that internet trolling boiled over into a mainstream crisis. It began with a seething, accusatory blog post about a video-game developer named Zoe Quinn, written by an ex-boyfriend. What seemed like a small, personal conflict managed to explode into a culture war … some even hoping to compel Quinn to ‘an hero’ herself — tittering 4chan code for committing suicide. But as [#GamerGate] grew … it coalesced into a movement that looked awfully political. Despite their self-presentation as ciphers, trolls have always had a point of view, and #GamerGate offered a platform for a whole coalition to express its distrust of media, resentment toward women and anger at progressive critiques of racism and misogyny. They had demands, too: They worked to get journalists fired, to pressure advertisers, to silence feminist critics. To outsiders, #GamerGate looked like a cesspool of angry, entitled young men nobody else wanted to talk to. But some right-wing figures spied an opportunity.”
-- The New York Times, “Uber Case Could Be a Watershed for Women in Tech,” by Farhad Manjoo: “Few women in Silicon Valley were surprised by the revelations about Uber detailed this month by Susan Fowler, a software engineer who published an exposé on the culture of sexism and sexual harassment [she reportedly encountered at the company.]  For many women in Silicon Valley, the contours of Ms. Fowler’s story rang true from sorry experience. This week, The Guardian reported that a female Tesla employee had filed suit against the electric-car company for what she called ‘pervasive harassment.’ And even in cases where abuse is well documented …  the men responsible are rarely punished, and the overall picture rarely improves. Still, the Uber scandal feels different. It feels like a watershed. For gender-diversity advocates in the tech industry, Ms. Fowler’s allegations, and the public outcry they have ignited, offer a possibility that something new may be in the offing. What could happen? Something innovative: This could be the start of a deep, long-term and thorough effort to remake a culture that has long sidelined women — not just at Uber but across the tech business, too.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Walmart Employee In Texas Films Man’s Racist Rant Against ‘Foreigners’” from HuffPost: “A woman who posted a Facebook video of a man telling a Texas Walmart worker to ‘go to your own countries’ is demanding the retailer do more to protect its employees. Liz Colunga [said her longtime friend Adela] … was working at the Walmart vision center in Irving, Texas, last week when a man berated her for appearing to be an immigrant. She said that the man in the video below couldn’t see well with the glasses he had just picked up … When Adela referred him to a doctor, she said he requested to see a white employee instead. Adela told him “you’re being racist” and went to get her supervisor, who was busy on the phone … She began filming once the man started insulting a black woman in an electric wheelchair, calling her fat and obese, and claiming that he pays her medical bills.” He is also heard complaining about about taxes and foreigners, and telling Adela to “fix” her own country. 
 
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“‘Beauty and the Beast’ to have Disney’s first-ever ‘exclusively gay moment,” from Elahe Izadi: “There will be some marked changes to the forthcoming live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’: According to the director, the movie will break ground as Disney features an openly gay character. Gaston’s sidekick LeFou, played by Josh Gad, will have a small subplot relating to his sexuality ... ‘LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” director Bill Condon [said]. ‘It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff … It is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.’ As The Post’s Jessica Contrera has previously written, some Disney fans have argued it would have been hugely helpful to see gay characters … But doing so is a risk for children’s entertainment companies, who have a financial incentive to make movies as widely accessible — and therefore as non-controversial — as possible.
DAYBOOK:
Trump is flying to Langley Air Force Base to visit the Gerald R. Ford CVN 78 and talk about his request for increased defense spending. He’ll attend an operations briefing, attend a leadership meeting and give a speech. Then he’ll fly back to the White House. Sean Spicer will gaggle on Air Force One during the flight down.
Mike Pence will travel to Cincinnati to participate in listening sessions with Ohio business leaders and their employees. The Vice President will be joined by Tom Price. And then he’ll give a speech.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: 
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told Paul Kane that his decision to skip Trump’s speech on Tuesday night was not a boycott, like with the inauguration: “I watched from my house, a short distance from here. … I just didn’t feel like coming and stayed home and watched it in the comfort of my home.” What did he think of the speech? “Interesting,” he said.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- While spring warmth may be winning the war, winter is battling back for a cameo performance. We have a wind-swept chill today, and it’s downright cold Friday and Saturday. From the Capital Weather Gang: “Some of those early cherry blooms are in trouble. The leading edge of the main cold surge arrives Friday morning, and snowflakes could fly. But fear not, spring is back in full force again early next week. Strong northwest winds will keep daytime temperature rises meager and are borderline hazardous in the morning as they gust as high as 50 mph or so. Highs only manage mid-40s to lower 50s. Skies may start out on the cloudy side but should clear out gradually.”
-- Gov. Larry Hogan ramped up Maryland's response to a growing opioid-addiction crisis, declaring a state of emergency and committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to bolster prevention, enforcement, and treatment services. “The action fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2014 but temporarily shelved after taking office in favor of other legislative and executive initiatives,” Bill Turque writes.
-- Hogan also condemned a recent spike in bomb threats targeting Jewish schools and community centers -- one of which was located in Rockville. “Our administration condemns all forms of racism and discrimination,” Hogan said in a Facebook statement. “If needed, he said, state police will assist local and federal law enforcement in investigating the threats. (Ovetta Wiggins)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Mike Pence is unbelievably repetitive in every interview he gives, always sticking very, very closely to his talking points:
Vice President Pence hit the airwaves on March 1 to support President Trump's joint address to Congress – and his interviews sounded just a little bit repetitive. Mike Pence's unbelievably repetitive interviews (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
A super PAC aligned with the House Republican leadership, the Congressional Leadership Fund, will launch a $1.1 million ad buy today against the main Democratic candidate in the Georgia special election to succeed ex-Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). My story is here. Click to watch the ad:
Read the whole story
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Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose

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Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.
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When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.
(Senate Judiciary Committee)
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about news that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on unconfirmed reports that Russia has compromising information on Trump. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) about news that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on unconfirmed reports that Russia has compromising information on Trump. (Senate Judiciary Committee)
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.
“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’s spokeswoman.
In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.
(Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice in 2016 with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, but did not mention this during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general. Sessions was asked about possible contacts between President Trump's campaign and the Russian government. Jeff Sessions spoke twice in 2016 with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, but did not mention this during his confirmation hearing. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
Sessions responded with one word: “No.”
In a statement issued Wednesday night, Session said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on Sept. 8 in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.
“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores said.
She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.
In the case of the September meeting, one department official who came to the defense of the attorney general said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”
The Russian ambassador did not respond to requests for comment about his contacts with Sessions.
The Washington Post contacted all 26 members of the 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee to see whether any lawmakers besides Sessions met with Kislyak in 2016. Of the 20 lawmakers who responded, every senator, including Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. The other lawmakers on the panel did not respond as of Wednesday evening.
“Members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak’s door,” a senior Senate Armed Services Committee staffer said, citing tensions in relations with Moscow. Besides Sessions, the staffer added, “There haven’t been a ton of members who are looking to meet with Kislyak for their committee duties.”
Last month, The Post reported that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, and other top Trump officials. Flynn was forced to resign the following week.
When asked to comment on Sessions’s contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Post on Wednesday: “If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading.”
Franken added: “It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”
Several Democratic members of the House on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.
“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement, adding that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter late Wednesday that “we need a special counsel to investigate Trump associates’ ties to Russia.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said at a CNN town hall Wednesday night that if the substance of Sessions’s conversations with the Russian ambassador proved to be improper or suspect, he too would join the call for Sessions to go.
“If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make that decision about Trump,” Graham said — although he stressed he Sessions’s contacts with the Russian ambassador could have been “innocent.”
“But if there’s something there that the FBI thinks is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. If that day ever comes, I’ll be the first one to say it needs to be somebody other than Jeff.”
Current and former U.S. officials say they see Kislyak as a diplomat, not an intelligence operative. But they were not sure to what extent, if any, Kislyak was aware of or involved in the covert Russian election campaign.
Steven Hall, former head of Russia operations at the CIA, said that Russia would have been keenly interested in cultivating a relationship with Sessions because of his role on key congressional committees and as an early adviser to Trump.
Sessions’s membership on the Armed Services Committee would have made him a priority for the Russian ambassador. “The fact that he had already placed himself at least ideologically behind Trump would have been an added bonus for Kislyak,” Hall said.
Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who until 2014 served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he was not surprised that Kislyak would seek a meeting with Sessions. “The weird part is to conceal it,” he said. “That was at the height of all the discussions of what Russia was doing during the election.”
Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said.
Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event.
Democratic lawmakers, including senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have demanded in recent weeks that Sessions recuse himself from the government’s inquiry into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.
Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation.
Sessions’s public position on Russia has evolved over time.
In an interview with RealClear World on the sidelines of the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum in March 2015, Sessions said the United States and Europe “have to unify” against Russia.
More than a year later, he spoke about fostering a stronger relationship with the Kremlin. In a July 2016 interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sessions praised Trump’s plan to build better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities,” Sessions told CNN.
Asked whether he viewed Putin as a good or bad leader, Sessions told CNN: “We have a lot of bad leaders around the world that operate in ways we would never tolerate in the United States. But the question is, can we have a more peaceful, effective relationship with Russia? Utilizing interests that are similar in a realistic way to make this world a safer place and get off this dangerous hostility with Russia? I think it’s possible.”
Julie Tate, Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.
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Thursday Morning Briefing: Sessions in the hot seat

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Truck goes airborne during police chase in Louisiana

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WEBSTER PARISH, LA --
We're getting our first look at some incredible video of a police chase in Louisiana.
Deputies said they stopped the driver of a Toyota Tacoma for speeding, but then the passenger tried to make a getaway.

As the driver was speaking with officers outside the vehicle, that passenger climbed into the driver's seat and took off.
He led officers in a chase that ended when his truck hit some spike strips, swerved and then went airborne.
A bystander with a smartphone captured the whole thing on video.
The driver was unhurt, but you can tell from the incredible damage to the truck just how violent that crash was when he landed.
Deputies said the suspect was an escaped work-release participant. He's now back in custody.

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FBI's Comey: Mexican drug cartels fueling US heroin epidemic - Fox News

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FBI's Comey: Mexican drug cartels fueling US heroin epidemic
Fox News
GLEN ALLEN, Va. – Mexican drug cartels are fueling the U.S. heroin epidemic, said FBI Director James Comey, who addressed residents and public safety officials in suburban Virginia. Comey, who headlined community summit in Henrico County, said these ...
FBI Director James Comey on opioid epidemic during Henrico visit ...Richmond.com
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