POLITICAL NEWS UPDATED

Trump says 'perhaps illegal' for lawyer to tape client

REUTERS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:34
U.S. President Donald Trump said that it was "perhaps illegal" for a lawyer to record a client, a day after reports his onetime attorney had recorded them both discussing buying the rights to a story by a woman who said she had an affair with Trump.

The age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:29
It was nearly 2 a.m., a few hours after she felled the 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was tweeting.

Judge rejects US efforts to strip terrorist of citizenship

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:28

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The government can't strip a terrorist of his U.S. citizenship, a federal judge ruled this month in a decision siding with a Pakistan-born man serving the last few years of a 20-year prison sentence for his guilty plea to plotting to destroy New York's Brooklyn Bridge.

...

Cynthia Nixon, like Bernie Sanders before her, has a problem with black Democrats

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:27
First things first: The theme song of the week is the theme to "Will & Grace," by Jonathan Wolff.

Pakistani court convicts ex-lawmaker for substance misuse

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:37

ISLAMABAD (AP) - A court convicted a former lawmaker and candidate for the national assembly Saturday giving him a life sentence for the misuse of a controlled substance he obtained for his pharmaceutical company.

Hanif Abbasi, a leader of the former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-N, was immediately arrested following ...

Acting CIA watchdog steps down, withdraws IG nomination

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 12:30
The acting watchdog at the CIA, who has been accused of retaliating against whistleblowers, is resigning, the agency confirmed Friday.

Democrats with intel, military backgrounds tout service after Trump-Putin summit

REUTERS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 12:29
Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer running in a competitive congressional race in Virginia, is using the outcry over President Donald Trump's meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin to press what she and other Democrats believe will be a powerful campaign theme.

Facebook Suspends Another Analytics Firm

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 11:49
Facebook says it has suspended working with Boston-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon until it can determine how the firm collects and shares Facebook and Instagram user data. Facebook announced the suspension Friday. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the suspension and said that one of Crimson Hexagon’s clients is a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin. Facebook said that Crimson Hexagon is cooperating with the investigation and there is no evidence that Crimson Hexagon obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately. "We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram," Facebook said in a statement Friday. "We take these allegations seriously and have suspended these apps while we investigate." Chris Bingham, Crimson Hexagon’s, chief technology officer, said in a blog Friday his company "only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access." He added, "Government entities that leverage the Crimson Hexagon platform do so for the same reasons as many of our other nongovernment customers: a broad-based and aggregate understanding of the public’s perception, preferences and sentiment about matters of concern to them." Earlier this year, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica inappropriately obtained user data from millions of Facebook users.

Estonia Spy Chief: Network of Operatives Pushing Russian Agenda in West

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 11:49
For the past several months, intelligence and security officials in the U.S. government and private sector have cautiously marveled at the seemingly slow pace of Russian cyberattacks and influence operations using social media. Unlike in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, officials say so far there has been no frenzy of hacks, phishing attacks or use of ads and false news stories to penetrate voting systems, alter voter rolls or influence voters ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Some have suggested the slowdown is the result of better preparation and better cyber tools that have allowed social media companies to thwart Russian efforts. But among Western intelligence agencies, there is also concern that Russia may not be relying on bots and trolls because they have real people who can do the work instead. “We [Estonian intelligence] have detected a network of politicians, journalists, diplomats, business people who are actually Russian influence agents and who are doing what they are told to do,” Mikk Marran, the director general of Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence Service said Friday, speaking of Moscow’s efforts in the West. “We see clearly that those people are pushing Russia's agenda,” Marran told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado. Marran’s comments come during a week that saw U.S. President Donald Trump casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, while standing alongside his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, following their meeting in Helsinki.  Since returning from Europe, Trump has backtracked on his initial statement, reading a prepared statement during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and in an interview Wednesday with CBS News. Still, senior U.S. intelligence and security officials remain concerned, publicly asserting Russia did indeed meddle with the 2016 election.  A U.S. special counsel, Robert Mueller, appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign, on July 13 indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking the computer networks belonging to the Democratic party, and has previously secured indictments against Trump campaign staffers, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Yet despite the publicity from the U.S. investigation and greater awareness across the West of Russia’s influence operations, Estonian intelligence officials assert Moscow has not been deterred. Instead they say the Kremlin has ratcheted up efforts to make use of “influence agents,” many of whom the Moscow has been cultivating for years. “Politicians that have been in the margins of local politics some years ago are actually right now in national parliaments or national governments,” Marran said. “They have made some bad investments but they have also made some very good investments.” “What they [the Russians] have provided to those people is media support, political support. They have proposed or provided some exclusive business opportunities,” he added. “In some occasions we have also seen that they have provided financial aid.” Marran declined to name any politicians, diplomats or journalists suspected of being in Moscow’s pocket. And while it is not the first time that Estonia, a U.S. ally and a NATO member, has warned of Russia's cultivation of “influence agents” in Western Europe, there are growing concerns that such operations have taken hold in the United States. Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested Thursday that Russian efforts may even have reached into the White House. “I’ve been trying my best to give the president the benefit of the doubt and always expressed potential other theories as to why he behaves as he does with respect to Russia generally and Putin specifically,” Clapper told CNN when asked about Trump’s refusal to back the findings of the U.S. intelligence community during his joint news conference with Putin Monday in Helsinki. “But more and more I come to a conclusion after the Helsinki performance and since, that I really do wonder if the Russians have something on him,” Clapper said. There have also been persistent rumors that some members of Congress could also be doing Russia’s bidding  a notion reinforced Thursday by Bill Browder, the chief executive officer of Hermitage Capital and a driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to withhold visas and freeze financial assets of Russian officials thought to be corrupt or human rights abusers. “There's one member of the U.S. Congress who I believe is on the payroll of Russia — it’s a Republican Congressmen from Orange County [California] named Dana Rohrabacher who is running around trying to overturn the Magnitsky Act,” Browder said at the Aspen Security Forum. “I don’t have the bank transfers to prove it, but I believe that that’s the case,” Browder said when he was pressed on the accusation, citing Rohrabacher’s behavior. VOA contacted Rohrabacher's office regarding the accusation, but has not yet gotten any response. U.S. intelligence and security agencies also declined comment on the allegations that Russian influence agents have infiltrated the U.S. government, though The New York Times reported in May that intelligence agents had warned Rohrabacher, long been considered to be one of the most Russia-friendly members of Congress, as far back as 2012 that Kremlin agents were actively trying to recruit him. And during a private meeting in June 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told fellow Republican lawmakers, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post. “It was a bad joke,” McCarthy told reporters after the tape emerged. “That was all there was to it. Nobody believes it.” Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.

What is kompromat?

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 11:45
The strange series of events that have followed US President Donald Trump's one-to-one meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday has given rise to debate in Washington and in the media over whether Moscow does indeed have incriminating intelligence that it's holding over Trump's head.

Pentagon official defends Putin invitation to Washington

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 11:26
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood on Friday defended the White House's invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to come to Washington in the fall.

CIA: China Waging ‘Quiet Kind of Cold War’ Against US

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 09:46
China is waging a “quiet kind of cold war” against the United States, using all its resources to try to replace America as the leading power in the world, a top CIA expert on Asia said Friday. Beijing doesn’t want to go to war, he said, but the current communist government, under President Xi Jinping, is subtly working on multiple fronts to undermine the U.S. in ways that are different than the more well-publicized activities being employed by Russia. “I would argue ... that what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during THE Cold War (between the U.S. and the Soviet Union) but a cold war by definition,” Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. Rising U.S.-China tension goes beyond the trade dispute playing out in a tariff tit-for-tat between the two nations. Stealing secrets, building islands There is concern over China’s pervasive efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the U.S. The Chinese military is expanding and being modernized and the U.S., as well as other nations, have complained about China’s construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea. “I would argue that it’s the Crimea of the East,” Collins said, referring to Russia’s brash annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which was condemned throughout the West. Collins’ comments track warnings about China’s rising influence issued by others who spoke earlier this week at the security conference. The alarm bells come at a time when Washington needs China’s help in ending its nuclear standoff with North Korea. Other wary voices On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents the broadest and most significant threat America faces. He said the FBI has economic espionage investigations in all 50 states that can be traced back to China. “The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also warned of rising Chinese aggression. In particular, he said, the U.S. must stand strong against China’s effort to steal business secrets and academic research. Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said increasing the public’s awareness about the activities of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students or groups at U.S. universities could be one way to help mitigate potential damage. “China is not just a footnote to what we’re dealing with with Russia,” Thornton said. ​Military upgrades Marcel Lettre, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army of ground forces, the third-largest air force and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines. “All of this is in the process of being modernized and upgraded,” said Lettre, who sat on a panel with Collins and Thornton. He said China also is pursuing advances in cyber, artificial intelligence, engineering and technology, counter-space, anti-satellite capabilities and hypersonic glide weapons. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a congressional committee earlier this year that China is developing long-range cruise missiles — some capable of reaching supersonic speeds. “The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese have already pursued a test program that has had 20 times more tests than the U.S. has,” Lettre said. Franklin Miller, former senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council, said China’s weapons developments are emphasizing the need to have a dialogue with Beijing. “We need to try to engage,” Miller said. “My expectations for successful engagement are medium-low, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”

The problem of Kavanaugh's lengthy paper trail

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:30

WASHINGTON (AP) - Judge Brett Kavanaugh has a long record of judicial and executive branch service to recommend him as President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. And that's part of the problem in getting him confirmed by the Senate.

Democrats are demanding to see the conservative appellate court ...

McCaskill promises duck boat 'solutions,' despite government inaction after past tragedies

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:30
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., pledged Friday to look into “legislative solutions” to improve the safety of amphibious vehicles like duck boats after 17 people died in the Table Rock Lake tragedy Thursday.

Lawmakers Develop Strategy to Stop Foreign Meddling in 2018 Midterm Election

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:28
The midterm elections in the United States are less than four months away. Officials are putting into place a number of measures to prevent a repeat of the kind of Russian interference that U.S. intelligence discovered in the 2016 elections. That includes a new announcement that notifies the public about foreign breaches. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports from the White House.

Trump missteps fuel new energy in Democrats' campaigns

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:25

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - As Democratic congressional candidate Abigail Spanberger mingled with supporters at a Richmond brewery, one person hung like a shadow over the gleaming brew tanks and grilled food truck pizza.

As they watched their kids play with Legos in the corner of the bar Wednesday night, Kristen ...

US destroyers sailed through Taiwan Strait

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:17
In a move that could heighten tensions between Washington and Beijing, two US Navy destroyers have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, a US Navy official has confirmed to CNN.

CIA official: China wants to replace US as world superpower

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:14
The goal of China's influence operations around the world is to replace the United States as the world's leading superpower, the CIA's Michael Collins said Friday.

Putin idea for Ukraine referendum rejected by White House

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:06

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House has rejected a Vladimir Putin-backed effort to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the region's future, distancing itself from the idea in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's controversial summit with the Russian leader.

Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said the ...

Nationals activate RHP Strasburg, 1B Zimmerman from DL

REUTERS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 05:13
The Washington Nationals officially activated right-hander Stephen Strasburg from the 10-day disabled list before his scheduled start Friday evening against the Atlanta Braves.

Lawyer for accused Russian agent: US using info 'taken completely out of context'

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 03:50
The attorney for the 29-year-old Russian woman accused of trying to win influence in American political circles as a secret agent for her home country pushed back on the US government portrayal of his client as a spy in an interview televised on CNN.

Alabama attorney, company official convicted in bribery case

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 02:29

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A prominent Alabama attorney and a coal company executive were convicted Friday on federal charges involving bribery of a state lawmaker.

The verdict against Joel Gilbert, a partner with Balch & Bingham law firm, and Drummond Co. Vice President David Roberson was announced after a four-week ...

At RNC meeting, no one is sweating Trump-Putin summit

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 02:24
If President Donald Trump sparked a widespread backlash over his news conference beside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland on Monday, one wouldn't have known it from the buoyant tone among Republican Party officials this week.

Trump-backing congressman doesn't want a 2nd Putin summit in Washington

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 02:14
Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican who has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, said the US should "absolutely not" invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington.

Traffic wardens 'driven at deliberately' in council attacks

BBC POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:39
Motorists drove at traffic wardens and a social worker was dragged into the road and kicked in the head.

Who's getting in?

BBC POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:36
What an annotated guest list for a party at Number 10 reveals about Denis Thatcher.

Mattis criticizes Turkey on human rights but still wants it to get stealth jets

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:31
Secretary of Defense James Mattis criticized Turkey for its "authoritarian drift" and its record on human rights but still wants the NATO ally to receive the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to a letter to a senior lawmaker on Capitol Hill.

24 headlines that sum up 1 very bad week for Donald Trump

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:30
It's hard to avoid hyberbole when it comes to Donald Trump. The President himself constantly engages in braggadocio about the biggest this or the worst that. He lives in a world of extremes and, therefore, the way that he is covered tends to favors the extremes as well.

U.S. lawmakers cut anti-ZTE measure from defense bill

REUTERS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:17
U.S. lawmakers cut measures from a defense bill that would have reinstated sanctions on China's ZTE Corp, abandoning an attempt to punish the company for illegally shipping U.S. products to Iran and North Korea.

Family reunifications: 450 down, roughly 1,900 to go by Thursday

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:04
The Trump administration has reunited at least 450 families separated at the border with children 5 and older, including almost 100 just overnight.

Kavanaugh's lengthy paper trail becomes flashpoint

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:57

WASHINGTON (AP) - Judge Brett Kavanaugh has a long record of judicial and executive branch service to recommend him as President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. And that's part of the problem in getting him confirmed by the Senate.

Democrats are demanding to see the conservative appellate court ...

Lawyer Cohen taped Trump discussing Playboy model payment

REUTERS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:52
U.S. President Donald Trump's onetime personal attorney Michael Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump two months before the 2016 election in which they discussed buying the rights to a story by a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump, one of the president's lawyers said on Friday.

Heart doctor for former President George H.W. Bush killed in bicycle drive-by shooting

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:50
A cardiologist who treated former President George H.W. Bush was killed Friday morning in a bicycle-to-bicycle drive-by shooting near Texas Medical Center in Houston, authorities said.

NRA, others sue Seattle over gun-storage law

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:27

SEATTLE (AP) - The National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation and two Seattle residents are suing the city over its new gun-safety law.

News outlets report the lawsuit filed Friday in King County Superior Court alleges that the "safe storage" requirement violates Washington state law, which prevents cities from regulating ...

Judge praises U.S. efforts in reuniting migrant families

REUTERS POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:26
A federal judge said on Friday the U.S. government had made "very promising" progress toward reuniting some 2,500 immigrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration.

US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China's ZTE

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:17
U.S. Republican lawmakers have dropped their efforts to reimpose a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.  The move Friday gives a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump who has championed for ZTE to stay in business.  Republican senators Friday dropped legislation that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. Senators had included the legislation in a defense spending bill passed last month, but a House version of the defense bill did not include the same provision. Lawmakers say senators decided to leave the provision out of the final compromise bill, which is expected to come to a vote in the House and Senate in the coming days. Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of President Trump over his decision to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted Friday's developments. “By stripping the Senate's tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest  have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners,” he said in a statement. Republican Senator Marco Rubio called dropping the provision “bad news” in a tweet Friday.ZTE is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo. In April, the U.S. Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business.  However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July. The Commerce Department announced last week that it has formally lifted the ban on ZTE after the Chinese company complied with all terms of the settlement.  Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets.      

Judge: "Great progress" reuniting families split at border

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:11

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A federal judge says the Trump administration is making "great progress" toward meeting a Thursday deadline to reunite more than 2,500 children with their families after they were separated at the border.

Justice Department attorneys said Friday that 450 children 5 and older had been reunified, ...

Pompeo says a second Trump-Putin meeting is 'all to the good'

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:07
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a second meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would be "all to the good."

Ocasio-Cortez stumps in Kansas for progressive House candidates

CNN POLITICS - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 00:07
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly minted progressive star from New York, hit the campaign trail in deep-red Kansas with Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, to boost a pair of progressive House candidates Friday, hoping to pull off the next political upset.

Pompeo calls on North Korea to keep denuclearization promise

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 23:32
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on members of the United Nations to enforce sanctions against North Korea more strictly and for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to keep his promise to denuclearize.

To Helsinki and back

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 23:20
Let's end the week with some news nuggets.

Mueller team wants to talk to 'Manhattan Madam'

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 23:12
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has reached out to the lawyer for Kristin Davis, famously known as the "Manhattan madam," a source familiar with the matter says.

Congress abandons bid to reverse Trump deal with ZTE

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 23:03

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress is abandoning an effort to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE in a defense bill, essentially green-lighting the Trump administration's deal to save a company that was accused of selling sensitive information to hostile regimes, aides said Friday.

Senators from both parties expressed outrage ...

Democrats Want to Compel Interpreter to Testify About Helsinki Summit

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:35
U.S. Democratic lawmakers are trying to compel a government interpreter to testify about what was discussed during President Donald Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but legal analysts say that is not likely to happen — unless the president allows it. Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours at Monday’s Helsinki summit. Only interpreters were present for the meeting, and details of what was discussed remain unknown to anyone else. Democrats want to compel the U.S. government interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before lawmakers, while Republicans are blocking the move. The call for Gross to testify raises questions concerning legality, executive privilege and the ethical code for interpreters who pride themselves on their discretion and confidentiality. “There is no precedent for issuing a subpoena for the translator,” scholar William Pomeranz told VOA. Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said he did not expect the translator to be questioned by Congress, “especially because the intent of the [Trump-Putin] meeting was to be an off-the-record conversation.” Subpoena request Democrats say that they are concerned about what Trump may have said to Putin and that the circumstances of the summit are exceptional. They cite the fact that the Trump’s administration is already being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and say the circumstances justify subpoenaing Trump’s interpreter. The White House has been engulfed in controversy since the Helsinki summit, when Trump cast doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since walked back his comments, saying he does believe U.S. intelligence conclusions. Pomeranz said the summit "is still clouded in mystery in terms of what were the concrete results.” He said, “President Putin has suggested there were certain agreements that emerged from the summit. Yet, the State Department and President Trump have not articulated them.” The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California, formally requested Thursday that the committee issue a subpoena for Gross to testify, but he was overruled by Republicans who hold the majority in the House. Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey also raised concerns about whether Trump could have used the summit to pursue his worldwide business interests. “Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests,” he wrote in a letter requesting that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hear public testimony from Gross. Executive privilege Conservatives in the House are arguing that executive privilege shields a president’s interpreter from reporting to Congress, and many if not most legal scholars seem to agree. While Congress has an oversight role over the executive branch, conservative lawmakers say that presidents should be able to meet with world leaders and speak candidly without interference from lawmakers. They also warn that subpoenaing Gross would create a dangerous precedent that could hurt the state of U.S. diplomacy as well as future presidents of either party. Legal scholars who expressed opinions said it's likely that only Trump could permit Gross to tell anyone about what she heard. The White House has not said whether Trump has asked her to do that. Interpreters' code of ethics The move by Democrats to compel Gross to testify also raised questions about the right of interpreters to adhere to their code of ethics, which bounds them to strict secrecy. Interpreters say they view their ethics code of confidentiality similar to the lawyer-client privilege or the duty of priests not to disclose what penitents tell them during confession. Interpreters also say that it can sometimes be difficult to recall the big picture of a conversation they have listened to after relying on short-term memory to interpret. Pomeranz said the role of the translator is “focused simply on making the statements, not necessarily of the content of the discussions.” “To be a simultaneous translator is a very difficult job and it doesn’t necessary mean you are in the position to remember the specific details of the conversation,” he said. Gross is an employee of the State Department and has served as an interpreter to high-level U.S. government officials before. She was the interpreter for Laura Bush at the Russian resort of Sochi in 2008 and interpreted for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow in 2017. VOA's Sarah Williams and Pete Cobus contributed.to this report.

Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, in joint rally, say their agenda is now Democratic 'mainstream'

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:30
When Democratic socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders rallied for a left-wing congressional candidate Friday afternoon in Kansas, they insisted their agenda is now the "mainstream."

What's in the Rubio-Van Hollen sanctions bill

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:29
Legislation proposed by Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Maryland's Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen gained eight new cosponsors on Thursday, the same day senators and the White House clashed over how to handle Russia and US relations.

The Latest: Baby reunites with family in Honduras

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:27

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) - The Latest on a family reuniting in Honduras after being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

A baby who was separated from his father at the Texas border five months ago is back with his family in Honduras.

Johan Bueso ...

Pentagon sending $200 million in nonlethal aid to Ukraine in move expected to rile Moscow

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:20
The Pentagon announced Friday it would send $200 million in nonlethal military aid to Ukraine -- a move likely to anger Moscow just days after President Trump held a summit in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Debt to the Penny for 07/19/2018

US TREASURY DEBT DAY-TO-DAY - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:15
Debt Held by the Public: 15,535,663,966,290.66
Intragovernmental Holdings: 5,724,334,431,804.26
Total Public Debt Outstanding: 21,259,998,398,094.92

Lawyers; Asylum seekers face horrible conditions in custody

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:07

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Federal public defenders say asylum seekers are enduring horrible conditions in a U.S. prison in Oregon, apparently driving at least one person to attempt suicide.

They say about 120 people are crammed into filthy, tiny cells with open toilets and are given scant meals that leave ...

Mitch Landrieu suggests Biden 2020

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:01
When Mitch Landrieu discusses his ideal opponent for President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, he acknowledges it sounds like he's describing Joe Biden.

Russians attempted to infiltrate three 2018 campaigns, Microsoft says

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:01
Russian intelligence operatives attempted to hack into the online accounts of staffers on three congressional campaigns in the upcoming midterm elections, a Microsoft executive said Thursday, marking the first public acknowledgment of a Russian attack on a 2018 race.

California High Court Rejects Proposed Measure to Divide State

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:58
In November, Californians will not have to decide whether the state should be partitioned. The state Supreme Court ruled this week that a measure on partitioning the nation's most populous state into three could not be put on the ballot for the November midterm elections. In June, state election officials announced the proposed ballot measure had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Yet, the state’s highest judicial body ruled that splitting California would amount to a change in its Constitution, requiring the approval of the state legislature before voters go to the polls. “Significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity," the court said. The ruling also said, "We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election." The measure was backed by California-based venture capitalist Tim Draper. He has long attempted to force a vote on similar measures to divvy up his home state. "Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes," Draper told the Los Angeles Times last year, after submitting his most recent proposal. "States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens." A California environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), opposed the measure. “California’s Constitution rightfully ensures that voters have a voice in public policy through direct democracy,” Howard Penn, the PCL’s executive director, said in a statement. “If those constitutional safeguards mean anything, they should prevent a billionaire from circumventing the constitutionally required process for making such sweeping changes to our government.” The high court gave Draper 30 days to respond to the ruling. If such a measure to divide the state were to pass someday, it would most likely require approval from the U.S. Congress. No U.S. state has been divided since West Virginia broke off from Virginia in 1863, during the Civil War.

White House touts Kavanaugh's skills as a professor ... as well as his 'great hair'

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:54
A White House news release issued Friday morning touted praise for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from his former law students on his prowess as a professor -- as well as his hair.

Avenatti: Bumping into Cohen in NYC yields a 'lengthy' and 'frank' discussion

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:52
What began as a coincidental encounter between Michael Avenatti and Michael Cohen on Monday evening evolved into what Avenatti is calling a potentially "critical" meeting.

DoD to Provide $200 Million in Security Cooperation Funds to Ukraine

(USA) DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:50
The Defense Department announced that it will provide $200 million to Ukraine in security cooperation funds for additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces.

Trump administration wants to change key parts of the Endangered Species Act

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:48
The Trump administration announced major changes it wants to make to parts of the Endangered Species Act that it argues loosen regulations while providing the best conservation results, but environmentalists warn the suggested changes to the 45-year-old law could harm species that need protection.

Specialist facing US Army discharge sues for citizenship

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:45

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A U.S. Army specialist born in South Korea has sued to demand a response to her American citizenship application after the military moved to discharge her.

Yea Ji Sea, a 29-year-old from Gardena, California, who has served four years and is assigned to the duty station ...

New Jersey could tax tap water under Democratic lawmaker's plan

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:30
A New Jersey state senator has introduced legislation that would levy a tax on tap water in an effort to fix the state’s aging pipes.

GOP congressman said blacks have 'entitlement mentality' and view themselves as victims

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:17
Republican Rep. Jason Lewis has a long history of racist rhetoric about African-Americans, pushing claims of a "racial war" by blacks on whites and arguing that violence regularly occurs at black gatherings. He also frequently claimed that black people have an "entitlement mentality" and viewed themselves as victims.

Republicans confirm Charlotte for site of 2020 convention

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:12
It's official: The 2020 Republican National Convention will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Former Trump administration officials: A list of notable departures

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:01
From the White House chief of staff to the FBI director, from leaving for a new job to learning of his firing from a television, here’s a running list of those who have left the Trump administration.

Baby who was in US court now will be back in dad's arms

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:42

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) - A year-old boy who became a poster child for the U.S. policy of separating immigrants and their children was on his way home to the arms of his parents Friday, five months after he was taken from his father at the U.S. border.

Johan ...

AP FACT CHECK: Kansas not the 'sanctuary state' of Midwest

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:31

CHICAGO (AP) - One of Republican Kris Kobach's favorite slogans in his campaign for governor is that Kansas is the "sanctuary state of the Midwest."

Kobach has repeated it on Twitter, Facebook, in news interviews and on his campaign website. But the facts about the state's immigration policies and undocumented ...

The Michael Cohen tapes story is just getting started

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:31
The story, on its face, seems to be this: In the waning months of the 2016 election, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen talked about paying off former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, who alleged an affair with Trump, to keep her quiet.

CIA watchdog withdraws nomination after allegations of retaliation against colleagues

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:26
Christopher Sharpley, the acting Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency, is withdrawing his nomination after former colleagues alleged he retaliated against them.

US releases $200 million in defensive aid to Ukraine as Moscow seeks better ties

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:20
In a move likely to irk Moscow, the Pentagon has released $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine just days after the Russian Ministry of Defense said it was ready to work with the US Department of Defense on a range of security issues following a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and amid concerns the US President had not been tough enough with his Russian counterpart at their meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

U.S. lawmakers cut anti-ZTE measure from must-pass defense bill

REUTERS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:05
U.S. lawmakers who reached an agreement on a must-pass defense bill cut from the legislation a measure that would have made it harder for the president to undo sanctions slapped on China's ZTE Corp , a top Democrat in the Senate said on Friday.

How Mark Sanford met Maria Butina

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:58
Rep. Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Republican and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, had his own run-in with accused Russian spy Maria Butina at his family farm last year.

The Point: What we missed in our 2020 Democratic power rankings

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:57
There's nothing that gets people talking more than ranked lists. That's especially true in politics, and double especially true when the subject is the 2020 presidential race.

U.S. lawmakers cut anti-ZTE measure from must-pass bill: source

REUTERS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:51
U.S. lawmakers who reached an agreement on a must-pass defense bill cut from the legislation a measure that would have made it harder for the president to undo sanctions slapped on China's ZTE Corp , a top Democrat in the Senate said on Friday.

Marc Short's hiring at University of Virginia protested by faculty, students

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:51
Marc Short trading the White House for the University of Virginia – and hundreds of faculty and students have signed onto petitions calling for the school to change its mind about his hiring.

Trump team worries: Could Helsinki disaster strengthen Mueller's hand?

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:47
Donald Trump's legal team and close allies are increasingly concerned that the President's widely panned performance standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week could strengthen the hand of special counsel Robert Mueller at a critical time.

White House: Russia Call for Ukraine Referendum Illegitimate

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:38
The White House said Friday it "is not considering supporting" a Vladimir-Putin-backed call for a referendum in eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's meeting with the Russian president. Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, revealed Friday that the two leaders had discussed the possibility of a referendum in separatist-leaning eastern Ukraine during their Helsinki summit. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said agreements between Russia and the Ukrainian government for resolving the conflict in the Donbas region "do not include any option for referendum." He added any effort to organize a "so-called referendum" would have "no legitimacy." The White House announcement comes as it laid out the agenda for an autumn summit between Trump and Putin in Washington that would focus on national security. Moscow signaled openness to a second formal meeting between the two leaders, as criticism of Trump over his first session with his Russian counterpart continued to swirl. A White House official said the next Trump-Putin meeting would address national security concerns discussed in Helsinki, including Russian meddling. The official did not specify if that meant Russia's interference in U.S. elections. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said the talks would also cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria. Trump asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall to follow up on issues they discussed this week in Helsinki, Finland, the official said. A White House meeting would be a dramatic extension of legitimacy to the Russian leader, who has long been isolated by the West for activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond and is believed to have interfered in the 2016 presidential election that sent Trump to the presidency. No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade. The announcement of a second summit comes as U.S. officials have been mum on what, if anything, the two leaders agreed to in Helsinki during their more than two-hour one-on-one meeting, in which only translators were present. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats revealed Thursday he has yet to be briefed on the private session. The Russian government has proven to be more forthcoming. "This issue [of a referendum] was discussed," Antonov said, adding that Putin made "concrete proposals" to Trump on solutions for the four-year, Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people. He did not elaborate on what Putin's solutions would be. The move may be seen as an effort to sidestep European peace efforts for Ukraine and increase the pressure on the Ukrainian government in its protracted conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region. Trump tweeted Thursday that he looked forward a "second meeting" with Putin and defended his performance at Monday's summit, in which the two leaders conferred on a range of issues including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea. "There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems ... but they can ALL be solved!" Trump tweeted. In Moscow, Antonov said it is important to "deal with the results" of their first summit before jumping too fast into a new one. But he said, "Russia was always open to such proposals. We are ready for discussions on this subject." News of Trump's invitation to Putin appeared to catch even the president's top intelligence official by surprise. "Say that again," Coats responded, when informed of the invitation during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "OK," he continued, pausing for a deep breath. "That's going to be special." The announcement came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding post-summit Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump's public doubting of Russia's responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error. Then on Thursday, the White House said Trump "disagrees" with Putin's offer to allow U.S. questioning of 12 Russians who have been indicted for election interference in exchange for Russian interviews with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes. Trump initially had described the idea as an "incredible offer." The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the proposal. It was Congress' first formal rebuke of Trump's actions from the summit and its aftermath. Asked about the Putin invitation, Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said "I wouldn't do it, that's for damn sure." "If the Russians want a better relationship, trips to the White House aren't going to help," he added. "They should stop invading their neighbors." Mixed messages from Trump have increased worries in Congress that the White House is not taking seriously the threat that senior officials say Russia now poses to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. Democrats in the House sought Thursday to extend a state grant program for election security but were blocked by Republicans. There is $380 million approved in the current budget for the program, which is intended to help states strengthen election systems from hacking and other cyberattacks. Democratic lawmakers erupted into chants of "USA! USA!" during the debate, While Trump and Putin had met privately on three occasions in 2017, Trump opened the door to a potential White House meeting with him earlier this year. The Kremlin had said in April that the president had invited the Russian leader to the White House when they spoke by telephone in March. At the time, White House officials worked to convince a skeptical president that the Nordic capital would serve as a more effective backdrop — and warned of a firestorm should a West Wing meeting go through. Still, Trump has expressed a preference for the White House setting for major meetings, including floating an invitation to Washington for North Korea's Kim Jong Un after their meeting in Singapore last month. Putin would be setting foot inside the building for the first time in more than a decade. He last visited the White House in 2005, when he met President George W. Bush, who welcomed the Russian leader in the East Room as "my friend." President Barack Obama welcomed then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the White House in 2010, and took him on a burger run at a joint just outside the capital. Putin, in his first public comments about the summit, told Russian diplomats that U.S.-Russian relations are "in some ways worse than during the Cold War," but that the meeting with Trump allowed a start on "the path to positive change."

Expert: GPS places Jordanian-born man at Texas slaying

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:33

HOUSTON (AP) - A digital forensic expert says a GPS device owned by a Jordanian-born man on trial for capital murder places him at the same time and place of a 2012 Texas slaying.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Christian Mammarella testified Thursday before the prosecution rested in Ali Mahwood-Awad ...

Senators propose bill to restrict international development loans to Turkey

REUTERS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:24
Six U.S. senators introduced bipartisan legislation on Thursday to restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey "until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of U.S. citizens", a senate committee statement said.

RNC Selects Charlotte for 2020 convention

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:07

The Republican National Committee voted Friday to hold its 2020 party convention in Charlotte.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said she was "thrilled" by the decision.

"We look forward to seeing the Queen City take center stage as the Republican Party re-nominates President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to ...

Eyes on Dan Coats' future after comments on Trump-Putin meeting

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:02
The post-Helsinki tension between President Donald Trump and his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared to have cooled after the President reaffirmed his support for the intelligence community and its assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Senators plan to resurrect resolution backing intelligence community on Russia

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:00

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Friday they plan to revive a non-binding resolution that failed to pass this week and that would have put the chamber on record as supporting the intelligence community and its findings that Russian interfered in the 2016 election.

Sens. Jeff Flake, Arizona ...

Republicans to hold 2020 convention in North Carolina

REUTERS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:57
Republicans on Friday voted to hold their 2020 presidential nominating convention in Charlotte, making North Carolina the road to U.S. President Donald Trump's re-election.

This is the week the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories got really real

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:56
For months and months, liberals have insisted that Russia has something on Donald Trump -- some sort of compromising material ("Kompromat") that made the American President repeatedly call into question the idea that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and was likely to continue to do so in future campaigns.

RNC chooses Charlotte to host 2020 convention

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:55
The Republican National Committee on Friday voted to officially select Charlotte as the host of the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Security Council tells Pompeo it wants concrete NKorea deeds

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:54

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The Netherlands' U.N. ambassador said the Security Council made clear to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday that it wants to see "concrete actions and deeds" from North Korea to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Ambassador Karel Van Oosterom, who chairs the Security Council committee ...

Congress to back off harsher sanctions for China's ZTE: Report

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:52

Congress will back off ZTE Corp. crackdowns in the latest defense spending bill, which means President Trump's deal with the Chinese company will stand, Bloomberg reported Friday.

Anonymous sources told Bloomberg reporters that negotiators from both chambers agreed to remove language imposing harsher sanctions on the foreign telecommunications company. ...

Trump's ex-Lawyer Cohen and Rev. Al Sharpton Meet 'n Tweet

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:52
President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the Rev. Al Sharpton have met to renew a long acquaintance – and they've made a point of letting the public know. Both tweeted about their get-together Friday.   Longtime Sharpton spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger says Cohen recently contacted the civil rights activist, and they met at a Manhattan hotel for about an hour.   Cohen is facing an FBI investigation into his business dealings. He hasn't been charged with any crime.   Cohen tweeted there's "no one better to talk to!" than Sharpton.   Both men tweeted that they've known each other for about 20 years.   Noerdlinger says Cohen was Sharpton's conduit to Trump during past clashes over race issues, and they revisited those conversations Friday.   Cohen hasn't immediately responded to a message.  

Lawmakers cut anti-ZTE measure from must-pass bill: source

REUTERS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:46
U.S. lawmakers who reached an agreement on a must-pass defense bill cut from the legislation a measure that would have made it harder for the president to undo sanctions slapped on China's ZTE Corp, a congressional source said on Friday.

Montana Editorial Roundup

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:43

Billings Gazette, July 18, on priests being wrong to cheer on Trump's views:

For those who might be outraged to see four Roman Catholic priests standing prominently in the audience of the Great Falls rally when President Donald Trump came to visit, you may be missing the point.

The problem ...

Pennsylvania Army depot employee dies after explosion and fire

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:37
One of five people injured during an explosion and fire at Letterkenny Army Depot in southern Pennsylvania died Thursday evening, according to a spokeswoman for the US Army Aviation and Missile Command.

Cohen taped discussion with Trump about possible payment to Playboy model

FOXNEWS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:37
Attorney Michael Cohen recorded a conversation with President Trump before the election in which they discussed possible payments to a former Playboy model who claimed she slept with Trump, a source familiar with the investigation confirmed to Fox News.

FBI has tapes of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump discussing payment to former Playboy model: Report

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:36

The FBI has a secretly taped conversation of President Trump and his former longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen discussing paying hush money to a Playboy model who had alleged an affair with Mr. Trump, The New York Times reported on Friday.

The bombshell report said that Mr. Cohen secretly recorded ...

White House: Security Focus for Next Trump-Putin Meeting

VOICE OF AMERICA POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:35
An autumn summit between President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin would focus on national security, the White House said Friday, and Moscow signaled an openness to a second meeting between the two leaders. Yet criticism of Trump over his first session with his Russian counterpart continued to swirl. A White House official said the next Trump-Putin meeting would address national security concerns discussed in Helsinki, including Russian meddling. The official did not specify if that meant Russia's interference in U.S. elections. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said the talks would also cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria. Trump asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington in the fall to follow up on issues they discussed this week in Helsinki, Finland, the official said. A White House meeting would be a dramatic extension of legitimacy to the Russian leader, who has long been isolated by the West for activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond and is believed to have interfered in the 2016 presidential election that sent Trump to the presidency. No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade. Trump tweeted Thursday that he looked forward a "second meeting" with Putin and defended his performance at Monday's summit, in which the two leaders conferred on a range of issues including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea. "There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems ... but they can ALL be solved!" Trump tweeted. In Moscow, Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the U.S., said it is important to "deal with the results" of their first summit before jumping too fast into a new one. But he said, "Russia was always open to such proposals. We are ready for discussions on this subject." News of Trump's invitation to Putin appeared to catch even the president's top intelligence official by surprise. "Say that again," National Intelligence Director Dan Coats responded, when informed of the invitation during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "OK," he continued, pausing for a deep breath. "That's going to be special." The announcement came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding post-summit Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump's public doubting of Russia's responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error. Then on Thursday, the White House said Trump "disagrees" with Putin's offer to allow U.S. questioning of 12 Russians who have been indicted for election interference in exchange for Russian interviews with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes. Trump initially had described the idea as an "incredible offer." The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the proposal. It was Congress' first formal rebuke of Trump's actions from the summit and its aftermath. Asked about the Putin invitation, Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said "I wouldn't do it, that's for damn sure." "If the Russians want a better relationship, trips to the White House aren't going to help," he added. "They should stop invading their neighbors." Mixed messages from Trump have increased worries in Congress that the White House is not taking seriously the threat that senior officials say Russia now poses to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. Democrats in the House sought Thursday to extend a state grant program for election security but were blocked by Republicans. There is $380 million approved in the current budget for the program, which is intended to help states strengthen election systems from hacking and other cyberattacks. Democratic lawmakers erupted into chants of "USA! USA!" during the debate, As for Putin's offer on investigations, Sanders it was "made in sincerity" and the U.S. hopes he will have the indicted Russians "come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt." Just a day earlier, the White House had said the offer was under consideration, even though the State Department called Russia's allegations against the Americans, including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, "absurd." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday of the proposed Russian questioning, "That's not going to happen." "The administration is not going to send, force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team," Pompeo said in an interview with The Christian Broadcasting Network. Senate Republicans joined Democrats in swiftly passing a resolution, 98-0, that put the Senate on record against the questioning of American officials by a foreign government. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell hastily arranged the vote as lawmakers unleashed an avalanche of resolutions and other proposed actions expressing alarm over Trump's meeting with Putin and the White House's shifting response. Coats said Thursday he wished the president hadn't undermined the conclusions of American intelligence agencies while standing next to Putin and felt it was his duty to correct the record. He restated the U.S. intelligence assessment about Russian meddling and Moscow's "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy." While they had met privately on three occasions in 2017, Trump opened the door to a potential White House meeting with Putin earlier this year. The Kremlin had said in April that the president had invited the Russian leader to the White House when they spoke by telephone in March. At the time, White House officials worked to convince a skeptical president that the Nordic capital would serve as a more effective backdrop — and warned of a firestorm should a West Wing meeting go through. Still, Trump has expressed a preference for the White House setting for major meetings, including floating an invitation to Washington for North Korea's Kim Jong Un after their meeting in Singapore last month. Putin would be setting foot inside the building for the first time in more than a decade. He last visited the White House in 2005, when he met President George W. Bush, who welcomed the Russian leader in the East Room as "my friend." President Barack Obama welcomed then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the White House in 2010, and took him on a burger run at a joint just outside the capital. Putin, in his first public comments about the summit, told Russian diplomats U.S.-Russian relations are "in some ways worse than during the Cold War," but that the meeting with Trump allowed a start on "the path to positive change." Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she still has not seen evidence that Moscow tried to help elect Trump. She said at the Aspen Forum that Russia is attempting to "cause chaos on both sides."

Americans would prefer picking the president with the popular vote, but there's a catch

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:29
Americans reached a new high in support for having presidential elections based on the popular vote instead of the Electoral College, according to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute.

Pairing row: Julian Smith refuses to answer questions

BBC POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:24
The Conservative Chief Whip refused to be drawn on questions about a pairing controversy.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, RNC chairwoman: 'Democrats are more divided than ever'

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:16

The head of the Republican National Committee said the GOP is poised for victory in the 2018 midterm elections in part because of the the infighting among Democrats.

"The Democrats are more divided than ever," RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said at the party's summer meeting in Austin, according to ...

NYT: Cohen recorded Trump discussing payment to ex-Playmate

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:15
President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, secretly made a recording of his conversation between himself and the future President discussing payments to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who has alleged an affair with Trump, The New York Times reported Friday.

In op-ed, Kushner blames Hamas for Palestinians' plight, but suggests they can still help

CNN POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:02
President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is singling out Hamas for blame for the plight of the Palestinian people, but suggests the US believes the militant group could still have a role to play in Gaza if it demonstrates "clear, peaceful intentions" with Israel.

Home Office: 'Child spies used against crime when necessary'

BBC POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:00
The government wants to increase the amount of time under-18s can be used undercover.

Immigrant parents have trouble reaching separated children

WASHINGTON TIMES POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:59

NEW YORK (AP) - An immigrant father from Guatemala dotes over his despondent teenage daughter during a weekly 10-minute phone call, while other parents wait weeks for the phone to ring.

A mother in Louisiana has phone video chats with her detained 5-year-old son in Texas, while a Honduran asylum-seeker ...

Lawyer Cohen taped Trump discussing payment to Playboy model: NYT

REUTERS POLITICS - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:59
President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation with Trump before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump, the New York Times reported on Friday.

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