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Delegation to Puerto Rico spars with Trump over timing of trip | TheHill

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Delegation to Puerto Rico spars with Trump over timing of trip
© Greg Nash
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The largest-ever delegation of lawmakers to visit a U.S. territory found itself in an exchange of words with President Trump for leaving Washington during a partial government shutdown.
The 36-member delegation was in town over the weekend for the annual summit of the Latino Victory Fund (LVF), an organization focused on increasing political participation, as well as a convention for Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm.
President Trump lambasted the Democratic trip in a tweet Monday morning and then again while speaking to reporters.
“A lot of the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something. I don’t know, maybe they’re celebrating the shutdown,” Trump said outside the White House before going to speak at an event in New Orleans. “We have a very big crisis, a humanitarian crisis on the border. Everybody knows it, they know it.”
Henry Muñoz, one of the founders of the LVF, was among those who fired back at the president for his remarks.
“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. That is almost like saying that this is not a part of our country,” said Muñoz, who serves as the Democratic National Committee’s national finance chair. “Would people say the same thing if 25 congresspeople went to Louisiana or Florida or to Arkansas or to Kansas?”
“This is not a celebration,” he added.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Bold PAC’s chairman, told The Hill he chose Puerto Rico for this year’s convention to showcase the territory’s needs as it slowly recovers from Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island in 2017.
“One of the reasons was to show that going to Puerto Rico means that you’re helping fellow Americans and you’re helping the American economy. In addition to that, the more important side than that is making sure that we came to see for ourselves what is the condition of Puerto Rico. How bad is it? And it’s bad,” said Cárdenas.
He went on to say that members of the delegation were in Puerto Rico to do serious work.
“We started planning this a year ago, and just because there’s a Trump shutdown it doesn’t mean that the world is going to stop. We appreciate and respect every single worker who’s being punished by Donald Trump. But at the same time, there’s over 3.2 million Puerto Rican American citizens on this island that deserve for us to continue to do our job,” said Cárdenas.
Part of the criticism also centered on the fact that actor and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original-cast run of his hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” premiered over the weekend when lawmakers were visiting.
Miranda, speaking at the LVF summit, said it’s a “miracle” the lawmakers were in town.
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“We brought ‘Hamilton’ here to bring a spotlight to Puerto Rico,” he said. “I’m grateful to see so many cameras here.”
Most lawmakers attended a performance on Sunday, but Cárdenas said the delegation’s main focus was on policy discussions the previous day, when they heard from top Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D), San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (D) and Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez (D), as well as local business leaders, nongovernmental organizations and the island’s fiscal control board.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the policy sessions helped him understand the nuances of how Puerto Rico’s financial and political situations are intertwined.
Nadler told The Hill he was most surprised by the structure of the fiscal control board, an oversight organization established by Congress in 2016 to oversee Puerto Rico’s fiscal health.
Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMore oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it MORE (D-N.J.) said he learned about friction between labor and government in implementing a legislative package setting the minimum wage at $15 per hour.
Guam Del. Michael San Nicolas (D), a new member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the political issues plaguing Puerto Rico’s financial situation are familiar to him as a territorial representative.
“We have nowhere near this much attention from the elected federal officials either. So it’s a really great thing that Bold PAC is moving members to be able to see firsthand what’s going on,” said San Nicolas. “It wasn’t necessarily something I didn’t know, it’s something I didn’t realize was so pervasive among the territories. But the way the inequities that we have compared to states affect our fiscal situation is similar whether you’re in the Caribbean or you’re in the Pacific.”
The policy discussion touched on the Puerto Rico statehood debate, questions over how to repay Puerto Rico’s massive outstanding debt and the Democratic House majority’s role in getting appropriated disaster relief funds to the island.
Congress has appropriated more than $18 billion for Puerto Rico disaster recovery in community development block grants managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). About $2.6 billion been allotted to projects on the island.
Julián Castro, HUD secretary during the Obama administration, told the LVF summit that the Trump administration “failed the people of Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit.”
“This work is nothing new to me,” said Castro, who on Saturday announced he is running for president in 2020. “I had the opportunity to visit places like Louisiana and Texas and New York and New Jersey who understand the process of recovering from a natural disaster.”
Cruz, meanwhile, lambasted the president for his administration’s actions toward Puerto Rico and for demanding federal funds to build a border wall.
“The president is egocentric, machista, racist, doesn’t know what he’s got in his hands,” she said. “The only thing he is doing is debilitating the image of the United States before the world. He doesn’t represent American values.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cárdenas said the members will return from the trip and “feel in their heart, in their gut, in their mind that Puerto Rico has been treated as a forgotten place in America.”
“The pressure that we will put on this administration and the departments, I believe that it will [speed up recovery funds],” he said. “And the only way that our efforts don’t speed up the money coming to the island is if the administration digs in their heels and refuses to do so.”
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Delegation to Puerto Rico spars with Trump over timing of trip | TheHill - The Hill

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Delegation to Puerto Rico spars with Trump over timing of trip | TheHill  The Hill
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The largest-ever delegation of lawmakers to visit a U.S. territory found itself in an exchange of words with President Trump for leaving ...

trump and fbi - Google Search

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trump and fbi - Google Search

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trump and fbi - Google Search

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Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was 'following ...

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(CNN) In the chaotic aftermath at the FBI following Director James Comey's firing, a half-dozen senior FBI officials huddled to set in motion the ...
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Trump slams FBI for investigating US-Russia ties

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Clint Watts: The FBI had to act on Trump

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The former FBI agent discusses the deluge of evidence that led the FBI to open an inquiry into whether the president was working on Russia's ...
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Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett calls for the FBI to be disbanded over reports they investigated Donald Trump's ties to Russia - Media Matters for America

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Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett calls for the FBI to be disbanded over reports they investigated Donald Trump's ties to Russia  Media Matters for America
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): This is the whole premise of your book. The illicit scheme to clear Hillary Clinton of crimes we know she committed and frame ...


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The Mueller Thread: Is William Barr Itching to Get Rid of the Special Counsel? - OZY

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The Mueller Thread: Is William Barr Itching to Get Rid of the Special Counsel?  OZY
Trump's attorney general nominee didn't stop an independent counsel in 1992, and it might have cost George H.W. Bush the election.

Mueller reportedly probing illicit donations to Trump inaugural event related to Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE - Haaretz

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Mueller reportedly probing illicit donations to Trump inaugural event related to Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE  Haaretz
WASHINGTON - Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining a January 2017 meeting that involved close advisers to U.S. President Donald Trump and ...

Trump Attorney General nominee Bill Barr – Swamp master or destroyer? - Fox News

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Trump Attorney General nominee Bill Barr – Swamp master or destroyer?  Fox News
The Senate Judiciary Committee opens its confirmation hearing Tuesday for former Attorney General William Barr to become attorney general again. Is there no ...

Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia - Google Search

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Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia

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WASHINGTON — There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.
Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States.
Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.
In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States.
At the time, Mr. Trump’s national security team, including Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, scrambled to keep American strategy on track without mention of a withdrawal that would drastically reduce Washington’s influence in Europe and could embolden Russia for decades.
Now, the president’s repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr. Trump’s efforts to keep his meetings with Mr. Putin secret from even his own aides, and an F.B.I. investigation into the administration’s Russia ties.
A move to withdraw from the alliance, in place since 1949, “would be one of the most damaging things that any president could do to U.S. interests,” said Michèle A. Flournoy, an under secretary of defense under President Barack Obama.
“It would destroy 70-plus years of painstaking work across multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic, to create perhaps the most powerful and advantageous alliance in history,” Ms. Flournoy said in an interview. “And it would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of.”
Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, said an American withdrawal from the alliance would be “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion.”
“Even discussing the idea of leaving NATO — let alone actually doing so — would be the gift of the century for Putin,” Admiral Stavridis said.
Senior Trump administration officials discussed the internal and highly sensitive efforts to preserve the military alliance on condition of anonymity.
After the White House was asked for comment on Monday, a senior administration official pointed to Mr. Trump’s remarks in July when he called the United States’ commitment to NATO “very strong” and the alliance “very important.” The official declined to comment further.
American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.
Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said. With a weakened NATO, they said, Mr. Putin would have more freedom to behave as he wishes, setting up Russia as a counterweight to Europe and the United States.
An American withdrawal from the alliance would accomplish all that Mr. Putin has been trying to put into motion, the officials said — essentially, doing the Russian leader’s hardest and most critical work for him.
When Mr. Trump first raised the possibility of leaving the alliance, senior administration officials were unsure if he was serious. He has returned to the idea several times, officials said increasing their worries.
Mr. Trump’s dislike of alliances abroad and American commitments to international organizations is no secret.
The president has repeatedly and publicly challenged or withdrawn from a number of military and economic partnerships, from the Paris climate accord to an Asia-Pacific trade pact. He has questioned the United States’ military alliance with South Korea and Japan, and he has announced a withdrawal of American troops from Syria without first consulting allies in the American-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
NATO had planned to hold a leaders meeting in Washington to mark its 70th anniversary in April, akin to the 50-year celebration that was hosted by President Bill Clinton in 1999. But this year’s meeting has been downgraded to a foreign ministers gathering, as some diplomats feared that Mr. Trump could use a Washington summit meeting to renew his attacks on the alliance.
Leaders are now scheduled to meet at the end of 2019, but not in Washington.
Mr. Trump’s threats to withdraw had sent officials scrambling to prevent the annual gathering of NATO leaders in Brussels last July from turning into a disaster.
Senior national security officials had already pushed the military alliance’s ambassadors to complete a formal agreement on several NATO goals — including shared defenses against Russia — before the summit meeting even began, to shield it from Mr. Trump.
But Mr. Trump upended the proceedings anyway. One meeting, on July 12, was ostensibly supposed to be about Ukraine and Georgia — two non-NATO members with aspirations to join the alliance.
Accepted protocol dictates that alliance members do not discuss internal business in front of nonmembers. But as is frequently the case, Mr. Trump did not adhere to the established norms, according to several American and European officials who were in the room.
He complained that European governments were not spending enough on the shared costs of defense, leaving the United States to carry an outsize burden. He expressed frustration that European leaders would not, on the spot, pledge to spend more. And he appeared not to grasp the details when several tried to explain to him that spending levels were set by parliaments in individual countries, the American and European officials said.
Then, at another leaders gathering at the same summit meeting, Mr. Trump appeared to be taken by surprise by Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general.
Backing Mr. Trump’s position, Mr. Stoltenberg pushed allies to increase their spending and praised the United States for leading by example — including by increasing its military spending in Europe. At that, according to one official who was in the room, Mr. Trump whipped his head around and glared at American officials behind him, surprised by Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks and betraying ignorance of his administration’s own spending plans.
Mr. Trump appeared especially annoyed, officials in the meeting said, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and her country’s military spending of 1 percent of its gross domestic product.
By comparison, the United States’ military spending is about 4 percent of G.D.P., and Mr. Trump has railed against allies for not meeting the NATO spending goal of 2 percent of economic output. At the summit meeting, he surprised the leaders by demanding 4 percent — a move that would essentially put the goal out of reach for many alliance members. He also threatened that the United States would “go its own way” in 2019 if military spending from other NATO countries did not rise.
During the middle of a speech by Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump again broke protocol by getting up and leaving, sending ripples of shock across the room, according to American and European officials who were there. But before he left, the president walked behind Ms. Merkel and interrupted her speech to call her a great leader. Startled and relieved that Mr. Trump had not continued his berating of the leaders, the people in the room clapped.
In the end, the NATO leaders publicly papered over their differences to present a unified front. But both European leaders and American officials emerged from the two days in Brussels shaken and worried that Mr. Trump would renew his threat to withdraw from the alliance.
Mr. Trump’s skepticism of NATO appears to be a core belief, administration officials said, akin to his desire to expropriate Iraq’s oil. While officials have explained multiple times why the United States cannot take Iraq’s oil, Mr. Trump returns to the issue every few months.
Similarly, just when officials think the issue of NATO membership has been settled, Mr. Trump again brings up his desire to leave the alliance.
Any move by Mr. Trump against NATO would most likely invite a response by Congress. American policy toward Russia is the one area where congressional Republicans have consistently bucked Mr. Trump, including with new sanctions on Moscow and by criticizing his warm July 16 news conferencewith Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
Members of NATO may withdraw after a notification period of a year, under Article 13 of the Washington Treaty. Such a delay would give Congress time to try blocking any attempt by Mr. Trump to leave.
“It’s alarming that the president continues to falsely assert that NATO does not contribute to the overall safety of the United States or the international community,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who is among the lawmakers who support legislation to stop Mr. Trump from withdrawing from the military alliance. “The Senate knows better and stands ready to defend NATO.”
NATO’s popularity with the public continues to be strong. But the alliance has become a more partisan issue, with Democrats showing strong enthusiasm and Republican support softening, according to a survey by the Ronald Reagan Institute.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, Washington’s ambassador to NATO and a former Republican senator, has sought to build support for the alliance in Congress, including helping to organize a bipartisan group of backers.
But even if Congress moved to block a withdrawal, a statement by Mr. Trump that he wanted to leave would greatly damage NATO. Allies feeling threatened by Russia already have extreme doubts about whether Mr. Trump would order troops to come to their aid.
In his resignation letter last month, Mr. Mattis specifically cited his own commitment to America’s alliances in an implicit criticism of Mr. Trump’s principles. Mr. Mattis originally said he would stay through the next NATO meeting at the end of February, but Mr. Trump pushed him out before the new year.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan is believed to support the alliance. But he has also pointedly said he thinks that the Pentagon should not be “the Department of No” to the president.
European and American officials said the presence of Mr. Mattis, a former top NATO commander, had reassured allies that a senior Trump administration official had their back. His exit from the Pentagon has increased worries among some European diplomats that the safety blanket has now been lost.
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Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia - The New York Times

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Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia  The New York Times
WASHINGTON — There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the ...
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Most Iconic Classical Music Masterpieces Everyone Knows in One Single Video - YouTube

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Most Iconic Classical Music Masterpieces Everyone Knows in One Single Video

FBI debated whether Trump followed Russia's direction - YouTube

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FBI debated whether Trump followed Russia's direction

Trump lashes out over Russia reports - YouTube

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Trump lashes out over Russia reports

Why Did President Trump Conceal The Details Of His Meetings With Putin? | The 11th Hour | MSNBC - YouTube

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Why Did President Trump Conceal The Details Of His Meetings With Putin? | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

NYT: President Donald Trump Discussed Pulling The United States Out Of NATO | The 11th Hour | MSNBC - YouTube

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NYT: President Donald Trump Discussed Pulling The United States Out Of NATO | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

Anderson Cooper: I'm not usually at a loss for words - YouTube

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Anderson Cooper: I'm not usually at a loss for words
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President Donald Trump’s Historic Russia Denial Will Follow Him Forever | The Last Word | MSNBC - YouTube

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President Donald Trump’s Historic Russia Denial Will Follow Him Forever | The Last Word | MSNBC

Hannity: FBI plotted to destroy President Trump - YouTube

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Hannity: FBI plotted to destroy President Trump

FBI plotted to destroy President Trump [Video]

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The FBI and CIA and DIA and NSA among other Government intellifence gathering agencies are highly dedicated professionals that safeguard our national security and are made up of men and women whom are Republicans, Democrats, Independents. Hannity is self-deluded.

Where the investigations related to President Trump stand - The Washington Post

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In this Jan. 9, 2019, photo, President Donald Trump arrives with Vice President Mike Pence to attend a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
Where the investigations related to President Donald Trump stand and what may lie ahead for him:
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
Trump is facing criminal investigations in Washington and New York.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. Trump also plays a central role in a separate case in New York, where prosecutors have implicated him in a crime. They say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign.
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WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TODAY?
Trump on Monday denied he ever worked for Russia against U.S. interests, addressing an extraordinary question that has haunted his presidency and shows no sign of going away.
Content from The Coca-Cola Company This is content paid for by an advertiser and published by WP BrandStudio. The Washington Post newsroom was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more about WP BrandStudio.
Sustainability and closed-loop recycling systems must now become a global priority, from emerging nations to the world's largest economies.    Read More 
Speaking from the South Lawn, Trump issued a flat denial: “I never worked for Russia.”
Trump raised eyebrows over the weekend when he didn’t directly answer the Russia question in an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, a friend of his.
He was asked about a New York Times report that law enforcement officials began investigating, in 2017, whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against U.S. interests.
Trump said the question was “insulting,” but did not directly deny it.
Monday’s clear denial demonstrated the unprecedented pressure Trump faces as the special counsel’s Russia investigation shows possible signs of wrapping up. After two years in office, the president is still being questioned about whether he was compromised by Russian intelligence agencies, and he is still struggling to answer clearly.
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SO ... DID THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN COLLUDE WITH RUSSIA?
There is no smoking gun when it comes to the question of Russia collusion. But the evidence so far shows a broad range of Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and several lied about the communication.
There is also evidence that some people in the president’s orbit were discussing a possible email dump from WikiLeaks before it occurred. American intelligence agencies and Mueller have said Russia was the source of hacked material released by WikiLeaks during the campaign that was damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort.
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OTHER QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
—WHAT ABOUT OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE? That is another unresolved question that Mueller is pursuing. Investigators have examined key episodes such as Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his fury over the recusal from the investigation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
—WHAT DOES TRUMP HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ALL THIS? Trump has repeatedly slammed the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and insisted there was “NO COLLUSION” with Russia. He also says his former lawyer, Cohen, lied to get a lighter sentence in New York.
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For more in-depth information, follow AP coverage at <a href="https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations" rel="nofollow">https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations</a>
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Donald Trump: Ex-DOJ Counterintelligence Chief: Trump Is 'A Clear And Present Danger' To National Security

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David Laufman called Trump's actions "positively chilling."



 Donald Trump

Ex-DOJ Counterintelligence Chief: Trump Is 'A Clear And Present Danger' To National Security | HuffPost

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The former head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence unit said President Donald Trump was a threat to the security of the United States.
David Laufman said on Monday that he reached a “tipping point” after the Washington Post reported that Trump had concealed details of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin from members of his own administration.
“It’s a painful anguishing thing to acknowledge that the president of the United States is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” he told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
Laufman, who served as chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the DOJ’s National Security Division, told Maddow he had a “moral obligation” to speak up when he sees national security undermined by government officials. 
“The notion that the president of the United States would be trying to conceal the details of conversations with the leader of our principal foreign adversary was positively chilling,” Laufman said. 
He also slammed Trump’s “unbelievable acquiescence” to Putin in Helsinki last year, calling it “positively shocking” to national security officials. 
See his full comments above. 
The unit Laufman used to lead “supervises the investigation and prosecution of cases affecting national security, foreign relations, and the export of military and strategic commodities and technology,” the DOJ’s website notes.
It also authorizes “the prosecution of cases under criminal statutes relating to espionage, sabotage, neutrality and atomic energy.” 
Laufman, who resigned from the department last year, helped to oversee the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server as well as the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported.
The newspaper said he had served in the administrations of both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, worked for Republicans in Congress and began his career in 1980 as a CIA analyst. 
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"If the counterintelligence investigation wasn’t closed by Robert Mueller after he took it over, then the American people need to know..." - 6:59 AM 1/15/2019

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"If the counterintelligence investigation wasn’t closed by Robert Mueller after he took it over, then the American people need to know. And Congress can’t be expected to act until they get an answer to the question of whether the Office of Special Counsel thinks the president is a threat to the nation’s national security because he is compromised by, or otherwise working with, the Russians. They need that information so they can act."

Washington Monthly | We Need to Know Why the Intelligence Community Suspects Donald Trump

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Over the weekend, I noticed that an outfit I am unfamiliar with called The Epoch Times had apparently received a copy of a transcript of the closed-door congressional testimony of a former assistant general counsel at the FBI named Lisa Page. I couldn’t find an actual copy of the transcript and The Epoch Times’ article only selectively quoted from it, so I decided not to use it as a source even though it fit in perfectly with what I did write about.
Now that CNN has reported that they too have obtained a copy of this testimony, I at least know that this isn’t some kind of disinformation. The Epoch Times is chasing what they perceive to be misconduct in the investigation of Hillary Clinton, so their analysis isn’t of much interest to me, although I did read it carefully. Near the end of their long piece, however, there is a section titled “A Possible Obstruction Case” that touches on something that they didn’t really understand at all until the story broke in the New York Times on Friday night. The Times reported that the FBI had responded to the firing of James Comey by opening a full counterintelligence investigation into the president of the United States.
As you’ll see, the congressional inquisitors couldn’t really imagine the seriousness of the situation and thought that the investigation was based purely on the possibility that Trump may have obstructed justice when he fired James Comey.  Armed with the knowledge from the Times blockbuster, it’s much easier to understand Page’s testimony and also why the FBI’s lawyer wouldn’t allow her to say much.
To set this up, I need to explain that Lisa Page was having an extramarital affair with senior FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok. The two of them exchanged a lot of text messages on their government-issued phones, and some of those messages from 2016 expressed dismissive or hostile opinions about prominent American politicians, including then-candidate Donald Trump.  This is seen as evidence by many on the right that there was bias in the Russia investigation, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems to agree to at least the extent that (for appearance’s sake, if nothing else) he removed Strzok from his team.
The day after Comey was fired, the couple exchanged a message that has drawn the interest of Republicans. It said, “And we need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting.” In her testimony, Lisa Page confirmed that “Andy” was a reference to newly-acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe.
In her testimony, Page attempts to provide context for the text. She confirms that “the case we’ve been waiting on” means that even prior to Comey’s firing, the FBI had been considering opening an investigation into the president specifically. This is confirmation of what I’ve said all along, which was that the intelligence community has long considered Donald Trump as a possible Russian agent. But, as you’ll see, the inquisitors didn’t understand what the investigation was about and Page was not allowed to tell them.
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Washington Monthly | We Need to Know Why the Intelligence Community Suspects Donald Trump

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Over the weekend, I noticed that an outfit I am unfamiliar with called The Epoch Times had apparently received a copy of a transcript of the closed-door congressional testimony of a former assistant general counsel at the FBI named Lisa Page. I couldn’t find an actual copy of the transcript and The Epoch Times’ article only selectively quoted from it, so I decided not to use it as a source even though it fit in perfectly with what I did write about.
Now that CNN has reported that they too have obtained a copy of this testimony, I at least know that this isn’t some kind of disinformation. The Epoch Times is chasing what they perceive to be misconduct in the investigation of Hillary Clinton, so their analysis isn’t of much interest to me, although I did read it carefully. Near the end of their long piece, however, there is a section titled “A Possible Obstruction Case” that touches on something that they didn’t really understand at all until the story broke in the New York Times on Friday night. The Times reported that the FBI had responded to the firing of James Comey by opening a full counterintelligence investigation into the president of the United States.
As you’ll see, the congressional inquisitors couldn’t really imagine the seriousness of the situation and thought that the investigation was based purely on the possibility that Trump may have obstructed justice when he fired James Comey.  Armed with the knowledge from the Times blockbuster, it’s much easier to understand Page’s testimony and also why the FBI’s lawyer wouldn’t allow her to say much.
To set this up, I need to explain that Lisa Page was having an extramarital affair with senior FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok. The two of them exchanged a lot of text messages on their government-issued phones, and some of those messages from 2016 expressed dismissive or hostile opinions about prominent American politicians, including then-candidate Donald Trump.  This is seen as evidence by many on the right that there was bias in the Russia investigation, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems to agree to at least the extent that (for appearance’s sake, if nothing else) he removed Strzok from his team.
The day after Comey was fired, the couple exchanged a message that has drawn the interest of Republicans. It said, “And we need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting.” In her testimony, Lisa Page confirmed that “Andy” was a reference to newly-acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe.
In her testimony, Page attempts to provide context for the text. She confirms that “the case we’ve been waiting on” means that even prior to Comey’s firing, the FBI had been considering opening an investigation into the president specifically. This is confirmation of what I’ve said all along, which was that the intelligence community has long considered Donald Trump as a possible Russian agent. But, as you’ll see, the inquisitors didn’t understand what the investigation was about and Page was not allowed to tell them.
Notably, that text was sent the day after Comey had been fired by Trump. Unfortunately, a certain level of clarity remains lacking as FBI counsel was limited to noting that “the decision to open the case was not about who was occupying the director’s chair.” She continued…somewhat confusingly with, “if I was able to explain in more depth why the director firing precipitated this text, I would.”
One representative kept pursuing the question from multiple angles, asking, “Was that a fear that someone other than McCabe would eventually be put into that slot?” Page again consulted with counsel and noted she couldn’t answer that question.
The representative made the logical observation, “Well, that leads at least some of us to conclude that it may have been an obstruction-of-justice case.” Page responded, “That’s a reasonable inference, sir, but I cannot, sort of, confirm that that’s what we are referring to.”
As she noted, it was a logical inference to assume it was an obstruction of justice case, but it was actually far more than that.
Unidentified Representative: “So the firing of Jim Comey was the precipitating event, as opposed to the occupant of the director’s office?”
Page: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Rep.: “Well, other than obstruction, what could it have been?”
Page: “I can’t answer that, sir. I’m sorry.”
Rep.: “Is there anything other than obstruction that it could have been?”
Page: “I can’t answer.”
At another point, during her second day of testimony, this subject was explored in more detail:
Unidentified Representative: “Were there discussions about opening an obstruction-of-justice case or any other case against Donald Trump prior to the firing of Jim Comey on May 9th of 2017, as reflected in the Comey memos?”
FBI legal counsel: “Congressman, to the extent that goes into the equities of the ongoing investigation that the special counsel is now conducting, I will instruct the witness not to answer.”
[The Epoch Times commentary]: Normally, this line of questioning ends with inferences having to be made, but, in this case, what appears to be an honest error on the part of Page hinted firmly at the true answer:
Rep.: “I don’t want any of the details. I just want to know whether there was a discussion about the possibility of opening that prior to the firing of the director.”
Page: “Obstruction of justice was not a topic of conversation during the timeframe you have described.”
Rep.: “OK. Then—”
Page: “I think. One second, sir.”
[Discussion off the record.]
Page: “Sir, I need to—I need to take back my prior statement.”
Rep.: “Which one?”
Page: “Whatever the last thing I just said was. Sorry. That there were no discussions of obstruction, yeah. That is—I need to take that statement back.”
Rep.: “So there were?”
Page: “Well, I think that I can’t answer this question without getting into matters which are substantively before the special counsel at this time.”
Rep.: “Well, I think you’ve just answered it by not answering it. Was Andy McCabe privy to those same conversations?”
Page: “I can’t answer this substantively, sir. I’m sorry.”
Rep.: “Well, were these related to some charges, whether obstruction or other charges, potentially against Donald Trump?”
Page: “I can’t—I can’t answer that question, sir, without getting into the substance of matters that are now before the special counsel.”
Rep.: “Again, I think you’re answering it by not answering it.”
[The Epoch Times commentary]: At a later point in testimony, this issue was potentially further clarified:
Rep.: “Comey has admitted that he told the president, I think, that he wasn’t under investigation during that timeframe.”
Page: “That is not inconsistent, sir. … Somebody could not be under investigation, but there still could be discussions about potential criminal activity, and that is totally consistent with FBI policies and would not be unusual with respect to any investigation.”
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Page needed to correct her testimony. The original question was “were there discussions about opening an obstruction-of-justice case or any other case against Donald Trump prior to the firing of Jim Comey.” The fact that they had opened a counterintelligence case on the president was such a closely guarded secret that it couldn’t even be hinted at, and if they hadn’t been discussing an obstruction of justice case prior to Comey’s firing, what else could it have been than a counterintelligence investigation? In addition to that, it simply wasn’t true that they weren’t concerned about obstruction. James Comey had been told to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, and the possibility of an obstruction case had been discussed in that context.
The important thing is that “the case we’ve been waiting on” that needed to be launched before a permanent FBI director was appointed to replace Comey was indeed a counterintelligence investigation. There had been an understandable reluctance to take such a drastic step despite a mountain of suspicious evidence, but when Comey was fired because he was investigating Russian interference in the election, that was enough to overcome the Bureau’s reservations.
This becomes crystal clear when we look at the testimony of Lisa Page’s boss, then-FBI general counsel James Baker, which CNN has obtained:
In his congressional testimony, Baker said that he did not discuss with Comey the possibility that Russia had influenced his firing. But Baker met with a group of roughly a half-dozen officials, including McCabe and possibly Strzok and Page, to discuss it.
“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Baker told lawmakers, according to an excerpt from the transcript first reported by the Times and confirmed by CNN.
Baker said the notion that Trump was acting at the behest of Russia was “discussed as a theoretical possibility.”
“I’m speaking theoretically. If the President of the United States fired Jim Comey at the behest of the Russian government, that would be unlawful and unconstitutional,” Baker said.
“Is that what happened here?” Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, asked Baker.
“I don’t know,” Baker responded, before the FBI lawyer cut off additional questions on that line of inquiry.
There have been a lot of false dichotomies in how the Russia investigation has been reported and understood, and we have three examples here. It’s true that a formal counterintelligence investigation of the president was not launched until after he fired James Comey, but the FBI had been pursuing the question of the president’s possible compromise by the Russians since they began their more general Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation in late-July 2016. So, the significance of the new investigation has been exaggerated even as its nature has been misunderstood.
The second false dichotomy is directly related to that misunderstanding. Over the weekend, Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare described this as the Obstruction Was the Collusion mistake. People simply weren’t getting that Trump was attempting to help the Russians just as much as he was attempting to help himself when he moved to shut down the investigation. By obstructing the investigation, he was colluding with the Russians after the fact.
And that gets to the third error. Collusion has been discussed almost wholly in the context of what happened during the election, but the collusion has been ongoing throughout the transition and actual administration.  In fact, it has been the behavior of Trump and his team since the election that has raised the most suspicion. Just the fact that, as president, Trump has met privately so often with Vladimir Putin while taking such extraordinary steps to hide the content of their discussions is enough to raise the highest level of alarm.
But that’s only one data point. Both before and after the election, Trump has encouraged Brexit. He’s talked about dismantling NATO (including disparaging new member, Montenegro), actively sought to weaken the European Union (while disparaging its leaders), said that Crimeans are happier under Russian occupation, moved to turn Syria over to Russian domination, followed Russian advice to stop military exercises with South Korea, sought to re-include Russia in the G8, slow-walked congressionally mandated sanctions of Russia, complained about reprisals that he has approved, and repeatedly accepted Putin’s denials that Russia intervened in the election.
It appears to the intelligence community that Trump is pursuing policies that are much more clearly in Russia’s interests than in the interest of America. They have been investigating why he’s behaving this way because it is seen as potentially more than a difference over policy preferences.
It has already been amply demonstrated that Russia knew things both during the campaign and subsequently that, if revealed, could have destroyed Trump’s political ambitions. They knew of the more than one hundred contacts they’d made with Trump-connected figures. They knew that Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort owed a Russian oligarch nearly $20 million and was offering to give him private briefings. They knew that Trump was negotiating with them to build a tower in Moscow at the same time he was denying any business interests in Russia. They knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting where the president’s son had eagerly sought dirt on Hillary Clinton. And that’s just a partial list of things that we’ve discovered without the Russians having told us. Trump has survived them primarily because of the delay between when we learned these details and when they were most relevant in the news cycle or campaign.  There are undoubtedly many additional things that Russia could divulge that would cause Trump severe problems.  Perhaps there is even a pee tape.
Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa wrote an important essay in the Washington Post on Sunday. Here’s part of what she said:
If the counterintelligence case against the president was eventually closed because it found that Trump did not pose a threat to U.S. national security, Trump should welcome Mueller’s report reaching Congress. This conclusion would stop the speculation about Trump’s relationship with Russia and reassure the American public that his loyalties remain with the United States. But if it wasn’t, and the threat to national security is ongoing, then informing Congress of the nature of the threat is paramount. This would be the only way that Congress can determine whether it should take the ultimate step to neutralize the damage that the president could inflict on the nation — through impeachment and removal from office.
She’s right on all counts. If the counterintelligence investigation wasn’t closed by Robert Mueller after he took it over, then the American people need to know. And Congress can’t be expected to act until they get an answer to the question of whether the Office of Special Counsel thinks the president is a threat to the nation’s national security because he is compromised by, or otherwise working with, the Russians. They need that information so they can act.
It’s not that I think the intelligence community prejudged this case so much as that it should not have come as a revelation that they suspect the president of the worst imaginable crimes. When they told him that Russia hacked the Democrats and interfered in our elections, and Trump called them liars and Nazis, it was pretty inevitable that they’d want to understand his bizarre hostility.
The intelligence community has long suspected Trump of being under Russian influence. Now we need them to make their case.
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Peter Strzok, Lisa Page messages from Robert Mueller probe lost after phone resets: IG

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Investigators weren’t able to find any text messages between fired agent Peter Strzok and former bureau lawyer Lisa Page from their time on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe because by the time their phones were recovered, they’d been reset for others’ use, an inspector general said Thursday.
The report also said the FBI still isn’t reliably collecting text messages of all of its employees — despite the black eye the bureau has suffered from Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.
In fact, the FBI’s data collection tool misses about 10 percent of text messages sent on Samsung Galaxy S7 devices — the same phones issued to Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page. That rate doubles to about 20 percent for an earlier model of the phone also used by the two FBI officials.
The revelations came in a report Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released to detail the efforts his team made to try to recover the texts between the two, who traded anti-Trump messages during the course of an adulterous affair they were having.
Investigators have already released many of the controversial messages, including one in which Mr. Strzok promised they would “stop” Mr. Trump from winning the White House.
But there was a gap in the text messages, or what the inspector general dubbed a “collection tool failure,” and the new report detailed investigators’ efforts to try to recover those messages directly from the Samsung Galaxy phones issued to both Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.
All told about 19,000 messages were recovered according to the report.
The inspector general said there was “no discernible patterns” regarding the content of the text messages that were missed by the FBI’s collection tool, but later recovered by investigators.
“The messages included some political content, some work-related content, and some personal content,” the report said.

While messages were recovered from some phones, the inspector general said that wasn’t the case for the phones assigned to the two during their time on the special counsel’s probe.
Ms. Page joined that office on May 28, 2017, and left on July 15, 2017. Mr. Strzok joined in early June and was ousted from that team in late July, with his final clearance from the team coming Aug. 11, 2017.
They returned the phones issued to them, and they were both reset to factory settings and therefore had no content from their use.
The FBI employee who received Mr. Strzok’s phone says she didn’t remember it containing any substantive messages. Ms. Page’s phone couldn’t be located for several months, but when it was finally found this September, it had also been reset and had no messages.
Mr. Strzok had turned his device over to the Justice Department once he was removed from the special counsel’s team. A records officer for the special counsel’s office told the inspector general the phone had been reviewed for texts, but it contained “no substantive text messages.”
Ms. Page’s phone was not reviewed by the special counsel’s office for records that needed to retained, the report said.
The deputy attorney general told the inspector general that such resets are standard procedure when a user returns a device and it is to be reissued to another user.
In a response to the report, the FBI said it is reviewing its current collection method.
The FBI “appreciates and agrees with the OIG’s conclusion and explanation that the content of the text messages exchanged between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page did not appear to be a factor in their collection or lack thereof,” the FBI response said. “Further, the OIG did not find that gaps in the collection were intentional on the part of the FBI or any FBI personnel.”

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The New Abwehr Hypothesis of Operation Trump by Michael Novakhov - Google Search

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