attacked

Security forces stand guard at St. Antony shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo
Security forces stand guard at St. Antony shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

April 25, 2019

By Alasdair Pal and Sunil Kataria

NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – As mourners buried the remains of Christian worshippers killed by the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, hundreds of Muslim refugees fled Negombo on the country’s west coast where communal tensions have flared in recent days.

At least 359 people perished in the coordinated series of blasts targeting churches and hotels. Church leaders believe the final toll from the attack on St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo could be close to 200, almost certainly making Negombo the deadliest of the six near-simultaneous attacks.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Pakistani Muslims fled the multi-ethnic port an hour north of the capital, Colombo. Crammed into buses organized by community leaders and police, they left fearing for their safety after threats of revenge from locals.

“Because of the bomb blasts and explosions that have taken place here, the local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” Adnan Ali, a Pakistani Muslim, told Reuters as he prepared to board a bus. “Right now we don’t know where we will go.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet despite Islamic State being a Sunni jihadist group, many of the Muslims fleeing Negombo belong to the Ahmadi community, who had been hounded out of Pakistan years ago after their sect was declared non-Muslim.

The fallout from Sunday’s attacks appears set to render them homeless once more.

Farah Jameel, a Pakistani Ahmadi, said she had been thrown out of her house by her landlord.

“She said ‘get out of here and go wherever you want to go, but don’t live here’,” she told Reuters, gathered with many others at the Ahmadiyya Mosque, waiting for buses to take them to a safe location.

“I HAVE NOTHING NOW”

Sri Lanka’s government is in disarray over the failure to prevent the attacks, despite repeated warnings from intelligence sources.

Police have detained an unspecified number of people were detained in western Sri Lanka, the scene of anti-Muslim riots in 2014, in the wake of the attacks, and raids were carried out in neighborhoods around St Sebastian’s Church.

Police played down the threats to the refugees, but said they have been inundated with calls from locals casting suspicion on Pakistanis in Negombo.

“We have to search houses if people suspect,” said Herath BSS Sisila Kumara, the officer in charge at Katara police station, where 35 of the Pakistanis that gathered at the mosque were taken into police custody for their own protection, before being sent to an undisclosed location.

“All the Pakistanis have been sent to safe houses,” he said. “Only they will decide when they come back.”

Two kilometers away, makeshift wooden crosses marked the new graves at the sandy cemetery of St Sebastian’s Church, as the latest funerals on Wednesday took the number buried there to 40.

Channa Repunjaya, 49, was at home when he heard about the blast at St Sebastian’s. His wife, Chandralata Dassanaike and nine-year-old daughter Meeranhi both died.

“I felt like committing suicide when I heard that they had died,” he told Reuters by the open graves. “I have nothing now.”

Meeranhi’s grandmother, with her head still bandaged after being wounded in the attack, was held by a relative as the first handfuls of earth were scattered upon her child-sized coffin.

Most of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are Buddhist, but the Indian Ocean island’s population includes Muslim, Hindu and Christian minorities. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

There were signs of some religious communities pulling together following Sunday’s outrage.

Saffron- and scarlet-robed Buddhist monks from a nearby monastery handed out bottled water to mourners who gathered under a baking afternoon sun.

But the town, which has a long history of sheltering refugees – including those made homeless by a devastating tsunami in 2004 – may struggle to recover from Sunday’s violence, said Father Jude Thomas, one of dozens of Catholic priests who attended Wednesday’s burials.

“Muslims and Catholics lived side by side,” he said. “It was always a peaceful area, but now things have come to the surface we cannot control.”

(Editing by John Chalmers & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

Main candidates for Spanish general election hold their second televised debate in Madrid
Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) candidate Pedro Sanchez is pictured before a televised debate ahead of general election in Sebastian de los Reyes, outside Madrid, Spain, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina

April 23, 2019

By Belén Carreño and John Stonestreet

MADRID (Reuters) – The main contenders in Spain’s parliamentary election traded verbal blows over jobs and national identity on Tuesday, as Socialist frontrunner Pedro Sanchez said he had no plans to include center-right Ciudadanos in any governing alliance.

A day after an inconclusive first televised debate, the leaders of the four main parties represented appeared to step up efforts to grab extra votes ahead of Sunday’s ballot – and tempers frayed.

The election is the country’s most divisive in decades and, with no single party close to winning a parliamentary majority, its outcome is uncertain. Polls have showed that up to four in 10 voters have yet to decide whom to cast their ballot for.

Outgoing Prime Minister Sanchez looks best placed to form a government if his Socialist Party wins the around 30 percent of the vote that surveys have suggested.

But he would need to team up with one or more other party to form a parliamentary majority, and on Tuesday he distanced himself from one option.

“Entering an alliance with a party that has put cordon sanitaire around the Socialist Party is not part of my plans,” he said in reference to Ciudadanos at the start of the debate.

Ciudadanos has previously said it will not join any coalition led by Sanchez, and its leader Albert Rivera – together with Conservative Partido Popular’s (PP) Pablo Casado – renewed the two-pronged attack they had directed at the prime minister on Monday.

The economy made a late appearance as an election topic in a wide-ranging and at times chaotic debate that also took in immigration, housing and gender equality.

But as on Monday, one of the most emotive issues remained Catalonia and the region’s botched 2017 independence bid, which came close to triggering a constitutional crisis.

Casado called Sanchez “the favorite candidate of the enemies of Spain” and Rivera told him: “Many Socialists are disappointed with you because you want to liquidate Spain.”

Sanchez, who became prime minister in June, has been more open to dialogue with Catalan separatists than his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy.

But he reiterated on Tuesday that he was ruling out any moves toward independence by the region, and that its pro- and anti-secessionist factions needed to negotiate with each other.

‘NERVOUS’ OR LOOKING ON?

The rightist candidates also attacked Sanchez over unemployment. Casado compared Spain’s economy to thrice bailed-out Greece and Rivera called the country “the European joblessness champion”.

The Ciudadanos leader also repeatedly told Sanchez he looked “nervous.”

Spain’s jobless rate has nearly halved from its 2013 peak, and growth in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy has consistently outpaced the bloc’s average since shortly after it exited recession in the same year.

The bulk of the recovery took place under Sanchez’s PP predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, though unemployment has continued to fall since Sanchez took office almost a year ago and hit a 10-year low in the last quarter of 2018.

But the jobless rate remains above 14 percent, and a stretched pension system and the labor market are overdue for structural reform.

“This country’s problem is short-term employment,” said Pablo Iglesias of far-left Podemos Unidas.

For Pablo Simon, professor of political science at Carlos III University in Madrid, Casado and Rivera and failed to land telling blows on Sanchez.

The Socialist leader “saw the bulls and stayed behind the barrier, as he did yesterday, letting the others slug it out though he did venture into the ring a little more,” he said.

Publication of official opinion polls ended six days before the election and in Monday’s final survey, by GAD3 in ABC newspaper, the Socialists scored 31.5 percent of the vote, giving Sanchez far more leeway than others to pitch for coalition partners.

However, he may well need to bring separatist lawmakers on board, which would complicate any broader alliance.

A putative coalition of PP, Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox of Santiago Abascal scored a combined 45 percent – putting them short of a parliamentary majority.

Vox was not invited to the debate as it is not currently represented in Spain’s parliament.

(Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

April 23, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday and spent a significant time questioning him about why he has lost some Twitter followers, a person briefed on the matter said.

The meeting, which was organized by the White House last week, came hours after Trump again attacked the social media company over his claims it is biased against conservatives.

“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted, posting a photo of Dorsey and others with him in the Oval Office.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him without providing evidence. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”

Twitter said in a statement Dorsey had a “constructive meeting with the president of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”

Unlike other major U.S. tech company executives, Dorsey had not previously met with Trump.

He was not invited to a December 2016 meeting with president-elect Trump that featured other major tech companies. Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign.

Trump has been upset about losing followers.

In October, Trump wrote that “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join – they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?”

Any reduction is likely the result of Twitter’s recent moves to remove millions of suspicious accounts after it and other social media services were used in misinformation campaigns attempting to influence voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential race and other elections, Reuters reported in October.

Shares in Twitter jumped 13 percent on Tuesday after it reported quarterly revenue above analyst estimates, which executives said was the result of weeding out spam and abusive posts and targeting ads better.

Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.

Trump has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. But the president and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly criticized the company and its social media competitors for what they have called bias against conservatives, something Twitter denies.

Democratic U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this month “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”

Carlos Monje, Twitter’s public policy director, said at a Senate hearing earlier this month the site “does not use political viewpoints, perspectives or party affiliation to make any decisions, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce our rules.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday, the White House confirmed, hours after Trump again attacked the social media company.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”

Twitter did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Source: NewsMax Politics

An illustration photo shows the Facebook page displayed on a mobile phone internet browser held in front of a computer screen at a cyber-cafe in downtown Nairobi
An illustration photo shows the Facebook page displayed on a mobile phone internet browser held in front of a computer screen at a cyber-cafe in downtown Nairobi, Kenya April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 23, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Paresh Dave

NAIROBI/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s struggles with hate speech and other types of problematic content are being hampered by the company’s inability to keep up with a flood of new languages as mobile phones bring social media to every corner of the globe.

The company offers its 2.3 billion users features such as menus and prompts in 111 different languages, deemed to be officially supported. Reuters has found another 31 widely spoken languages on Facebook that do not have official support.

Detailed rules known as “community standards,” which bar users from posting offensive material including hate speech and celebrations of violence, were translated in only 41 languages out of the 111 supported as of early March, Reuters found.

Facebook’s 15,000-strong content moderation workforce speaks about 50 tongues, though the company said it hires professional translators when needed. Automated tools for identifying hate speech work in about 30.

The language deficit complicates Facebook’s battle to rein in harmful content and the damage it can cause, including to the company itself. Countries including Australia, Singapore and the UK are now threatening harsh new regulations, punishable by steep fines or jail time for executives, if it fails to promptly remove objectionable posts.

The community standards are updated monthly and run to about 9,400 words in English.

Monika Bickert, the Facebook vice president in charge of the standards, has previously told Reuters that they were “a heavy lift to translate into all those different languages.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said this week the rules are translated case by case depending on whether a language has a critical mass of usage and whether Facebook is a primary information source for speakers. The spokeswoman said there was no specific number for critical mass.

She said among priorities for translations are Khmer, the official language in Cambodia, and Sinhala, the dominant language in Sri Lanka, where the government blocked Facebook this week to stem rumors about devastating Easter Sunday bombings.

A Reuters report found last year that hate speech on Facebook that helped foster ethnic cleansing in Myanmar went unchecked in part because the company was slow to add moderation tools and staff for the local language.

Facebook says it now offers the rules in Burmese and has more than 100 speakers of the language among its workforce.

The spokeswoman said Facebook’s efforts to protect people from harmful content had “a level of language investment that surpasses most any technology company.”

But human rights officials say Facebook is in jeopardy of a repeat of the Myanmar problems in other strife-torn nations where its language capabilities have not kept up with the impact of social media.

“These are supposed to be the rules of the road and both customers and regulators should insist social media platforms make the rules known and effectively police them,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “Failure to do so opens the door to serious abuses.”

ABUSE IN FIJIAN

Mohammed Saneem, the supervisor of elections in Fiji, said he felt the impact of the language gap during elections in the South Pacific nation in November last year. Racist comments proliferated on Facebook in Fijian, which the social network does not support. Saneem said he dedicated a staffer to emailing posts and translations to a Facebook employee in Singapore to seek removals.

Facebook said it did not request translations, and it gave Reuters a post-election letter from Saneem praising its “timely and effective assistance.”

Saneem told Reuters that he valued the help but had expected pro-active measures from Facebook.

“If they are allowing users to post in their language, there should be guidelines available in the same language,” he said.

Similar issues abound in African nations such as Ethiopia, where deadly ethnic clashes among a population of 107 million have been accompanied by ugly Facebook content. Much of it is in Amharic, a language supported by Facebook. But Amharic users looking up rules get them in English.

At least 652 million people worldwide speak languages supported by Facebook but where rules are not translated, according to data from language encyclopedia Ethnologue. Another 230 million or more speak one of the 31 languages that do not have official support.

Facebook uses automated software as a key defense against prohibited content. Developed using a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, these tools identify hate speech in about 30 languages and “terrorist propaganda” in 19, the company said.

Machine learning requires massive volumes of data to train computers, and a scarcity of text in other languages presents a challenge in rapidly growing the tools, Guy Rosen, the Facebook vice president who oversees automated policy enforcement, has told Reuters.

GROWTH REGIONS

Beyond the automation and a few official fact-checkers, Facebook relies on users to report problematic content. That creates a major issue where community standards are not understood or even known to exist.

Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s director of public policy for Africa, told Reuters in March that the continent had the world’s lowest rates of user reporting.

“A lot of people don’t even know that there are community standards,” Okobi said.

Facebook has bought radio advertisements in Nigeria and worked with local organizations to change that, she said. It also has held talks with African education officials to introduce social media etiquette into the curriculum, she said.

Simultaneously, Facebook is partnering with wireless carriers and other groups to expand internet access in countries including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where it has yet to officially support widely-used languages such as Luganda and Kituba. Asked this week about the expansions without language support, Facebook declined to comment.

The company announced in February it would soon have its first 100 sub-Saharan Africa-based content moderators at an outsourcing facility in Nairobi. They will join existing teams in reviewing content in Somali, Oromo and other languages.

But the community standards are not translated into Somali or Oromo. Posts in Somali from last year celebrating the al-Shabaab militant group remained on Facebook for months despite a ban on glorifying organizations or acts that Facebook designates as terrorist.

“Disbelievers and apostates, die with your anger,” read one post seen by Reuters this month that praised the killing of a Sufi cleric.

After Reuters inquired about the post, Facebook said it took down the author’s account because it violated policies.

ABILITY TO DERAIL

Posts in Amharic reviewed by Reuters this month attacked the Oromo and Tigray ethnic populations in vicious terms that clearly violated Facebook’s ban on discussing ethnic groups using “violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion.”

Facebook removed the two posts Reuters inquired about. The company added that it had erred in allowing one of them, from December 2017, to remain online following an earlier user report.

For officials such as Saneem in Fiji, Facebook’s efforts to improve content moderation and language support are painfully slow. Saneem said he warned Facebook months in advance of the election in the archipelago of 900,000 people. Most of them use Facebook, with half writing in English and half in Fijian, he estimated.

“Social media has the ability to completely derail an election,” Saneem said.

Other social media companies face the same problem to varying degrees.

(GRAPHIC: Social media and the language gap – https://tmsnrt.rs/2VHjwTu)

Facebook-owned Instagram said its 1,179-word community guidelines are in 30 out of 51 languages offered to users. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook as well, has terms in nine of 58 supported languages, Reuters found.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube presents community guidelines in 40 of 80 available languages, Reuters found. Twitter Inc’s rules are in 37 of 47 supported languages, and Snap Inc’s in 13 out of 21.

“A lot of misinformation gets spread around and the problem with the content publishers is the reluctance to deal with it,” Saneem said. “They do owe a duty of care. “

(Reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Fiji and Omar Mohammed in Nairobi; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

Supporters of the main opposition CHP pose in front of a party bus with a picture of their leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on it, in Istanbul
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) pose in front of a party bus with a picture of their leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on it, in Istanbul, Turkey, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

April 22, 2019

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey has arrested nine people, including a member of the ruling AK Party, after the country’s main opposition leader was punched and his car was stoned at a soldier’s funeral at the weekend, the interior minister said on Monday.

Kilicdaroglu was attacked on Sunday as he attended a funeral in a northern district of Ankara for a soldier killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.

The incident took place after his Republican People’s Party (CHP) defeated President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party in March 31 mayoral elections in the capital Ankara and Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, painful losses for the ruling party.

During campaigning, Erdogan often accused the CHP and Kilicdaroglu of links to terrorism because it had election deals in some constituencies with the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, which Erdogan said has ties to the outlawed PKK.

The HDP denies links to the PKK, which has waged an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984, and is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that nine people had been detained, adding that Kilicdaroglu’s recent “contacts” with the Kurdish party (HDP) made him a target.

“CHP’s contacts with the HDP, and HDP’s policy that doesn’t distance itself from the PKK are all happening before the public eye. Kilicdaroglu should have informed the authorities if he wanted to attend the funeral,” Soylu told a new conference.

“It’s wrong to blame the interior ministry for such incidents while partnering with the political arm of the PKK at the same time,” Soylu added, saying Kilicdaroglu’s party was trying to make political gains from the attack.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said heated political rhetoric had fueled the attack. “Likely inspired by hate speeches of ruling politicians. This radical polarization must end,” Piri said.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), greets his supporters during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul
FILE PHOTO: Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), greets his supporters during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul, Turkey March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir/File Photo

April 21, 2019

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party was attacked by several shouting men on Sunday before security guards led him safely away from a crowd in Ankara on Sunday, according to the party and video footage of the incident.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) that pulled off upset local election victories on March 31, had been attending a funeral for a Turkish soldier killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Video of the incident showed Kilicdaroglu hit on the head at least twice as a clutch of security guards attempted to keep dozens of shouting and fist-pumping men away. He managed to leave the scene and enter a nearby house, according to broadcaster NTV and Demiroren News Agency.

A crowd then gathered outside the house chanting “PKK out”, NTV said.

“In the incident, we were all scattered. Kemal Kilicdaroglu is alright. He is taken to a safe place,” Levent Gok, CHP member of parliament from Ankara, told Haberturk TV. “We must keep calm. Kilicdaroglu will make a statement.”

The CHP’s mayoral candidates in Ankara and Istanbul defeated those from President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, according to initial results and a series of recounts of the elections three weeks ago.

The AK Party has submitted two petitions to cancel and re-run the vote in Istanbul, citing what is says are irregularities and illegal votes.

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

First they cooperated. Then they stonewalled. Their television interviews were scattershot and ridiculed, their client mercurial and unreliable.

But President Donald Trump’s legal team, through a combination of bluster, legal precedent and shifting tactics, managed to protect their client from a potentially perilous in-person interview during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation . His lawyers are taking a victory lap after a redacted version of Mueller’s findings revealed politically damaging conduct by the president but drew no conclusions of criminal behavior.

“Our strategy came to be that when we weren’t talking, we were losing,” Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, told The Associated Press in a recent interview. Given that Mueller could not indict a sitting president, Giuliani said, the team kept its focus on Mueller’s “capacity to report, so we had to play in the media as well as legally.”

The aftershocks from the Mueller report released Thursday will help shape the next two years of Trump’s administration. But while the report may cause some Democrats to take a renewed look at impeachment despite long odds of success in Congress, the legal threat to Trump that seemed so dangerous upon Mueller’s appointment in May 2017 has waned.

At the outset, that appointment led Trump to predict “the end of my presidency.” The White House struggled to recruit top Washington attorneys, many of whom were reluctant to work for a temperamental, scandal-prone president who repeatedly claimed he would be his own best legal mind.

The initial strategy of the Trump legal team, including White House attorney Ty Cobb and personal defense lawyer John Dowd, was to be as cooperative as possible with Mueller’s prosecutors and ensure that investigators got access to the documents they requested and the witnesses they wanted to interview. The Trump lawyers hoped to bring about a quick conclusion to the investigation.

Believing he could exonerate himself, Trump initially expressed a willingness to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team. A date was set for that to take place at Camp David. But then the president’s lawyers moved away from the plan, in part by arguing that the special counsel already had gotten answers to his questions.

“It became the most transparent investigation in history,” Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, said in an interview.

Still, there was internal tumult along the way, including the March 2018 departure of Dowd, a veteran and experienced criminal defense attorney, and the additions of Giuliani and the husband-wife team of Martin and Jane Raskin.

Even as the legal team professed cooperation with Mueller’s prosecutors, the lawyers expressed impatience, frustration and skepticism in a series of private letters that challenged the credibility of the government’s witnesses and the demands to interview the president.

In a November 2018 correspondence, one of a series of letters obtained by news outlets, the president’s legal team attacked the questions Mueller wanted to ask the president as “burdensome if submitted to a routine witness, let alone presented to the president of the United States, more than two years after the events at issue while he continued to navigate numerous, serious matters of state, national security and domestic emergency.”

Those private complaints were dwarfed by louder public protests. Trump spent months engaging in daily, sometimes hourly, attacks on Mueller’s team, declaring the investigation a “Witch Hunt” and questioning the integrity of the investigators.

Giuliani, in many ways more of a television spokesman than conventional lawyer, amplified those attacks. He went so far as to accuse the investigators of misconduct and to portray Mueller, who as a Marine officer had led a rifle platoon in Vietnam, as unpatriotic.

The former New York City mayor became a human smoke screen, making accusations and offering theories often meant to distract and obfuscate. He was a punch line on cable news channels, and his interviews were mocked as blunder-filled performances.

But there was a method to Giuliani’s shtick, at least at times. More than once he let slip revelations that initially were perceived as gaffes but later were recognized as efforts to get out ahead of potentially damaging news stories. Two examples include payments to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claimed an affair with Trump, and a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow.

There were missteps, too.

The interviews granted by White House staffers filled the pages of the Mueller report with stories of West Wing chaos. At least one interaction caught Mueller’s attention as a possible effort to discourage a witness from cooperating against the president.

Trump’s lawyers communicated regularly with attorneys for other people under scrutiny in the investigation as part of a joint-defense agreement that enabled them to swap information. But the report reveals that after former national security adviser Michael Flynn withdrew from the agreement and began cooperating with the government, an unidentified Trump lawyer left a message with Flynn’s attorneys reminding them that the president still had warm feelings for Flynn and asking for a “heads-up” if Flynn knew damaging information about the president.

While Giuliani, with an eye toward the members of Congress who might eventually decide the president’s fate, focused on the public relations battle, the legal team also worked behind the scenes to argue that Mueller could not use a subpoena to compel Trump to give an in-person interview, which carried potentially grave risks for a president prone to making false statements.

“I think they were right to think that it would hurt him to speak to Mueller’s team, and as it turns out, they were right to think that he could get away with refusing to speak with Mueller’s team,” said Stanford law school professor David Alan Sklansky.

Mueller’s team, which spent about a year negotiating with Trump’s lawyers over a potential interview, ultimately agreed to accept written answers on Russia-related questions but never spoke with the president in person.

Making the move to block an interview was “defense lawyering 101” because defense lawyers as a matter of course don’t like to let clients in legal jeopardy speak to investigators, said Duke law professor Samuel Buell.

Mueller never acted to subpoena Trump. The special counsel did not conclude that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians. With an eye on following a Justice Department legal opinion that prohibits indicting a sitting president, Mueller did not rule on whether Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declared that Trump did not.

Buell said it hard to know how much credit belonged to Trump’s lawyers.

“I think that’s where the real lawyering in a situation like this goes on, is the client management piece,” he said. “Trump doesn’t like to be managed, clearly … but the Mueller report won’t tell you what went on with the president’s private lawyers and the president.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

The U.S. intelligence community holds an institutional bias toward the Democratic Party, and this has grown under President Donald Trump, according to former CIA analyst John Gentry.

Gentry, who is now a Professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, wrote in an article for the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence that former senior intelligence leaders, including CIA Director John Brenan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, had broken traditionally held prohibitions by publicly discussing liberal political views and criticizing Trump.

“The attacks on Trump were unprecedented for intelligence officers in their substance, tone, and volume,” he wrote. “Critics went far beyond trying to correct Trump’s misstatements about U.S. intelligence; they attacked him as a human being.”

“In the past, intelligence officials usually bit their tongues when presidents criticized their work, recognizing that they sometimes make mistakes, that they work for presidents in an unequal relationship, that their job is to help all administrations succeed and even on occasion to be scapegoats for political leaders’ failed policies,” Gentry said. “That said, some intelligence officers have long leaked information to the press.”

Although he does not say intelligence officials have produced biased reports, Gentry does suspect “bias may have crept into CIA analyses.”

He concludes, “a considerable body of evidence, much of it fragmentary, indicates that many CIA people have left-leaning political preferences, but less evidence shows that political bias influences CIA analyses.”

The CIA did not respond to The Washington Free Beacon’s request for comment on the article.

Source: NewsMax America

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Omar participates in a news conference about Trump administration policies towards Muslim immigrants outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

April 15, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Democratic U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar as an “out of control” purveyor of “hate” speech on Monday before leaving for a visit to the state the Muslim-American represents in Congress.

Writing on Twitter, Trump blasted both Omar and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for defending Omar after he tweeted a video on Friday suggesting Omar had been dismissive of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made,” Trump said. “She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”

Omar’s and Pelosi’s offices had no comment on Monday.

The Minnesota congresswoman said on Sunday evening that she had experienced “an increase in direct threats on my life – many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video.”

“Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop,” Omar wrote in a tweeted statement.

Marc Lotter, an adviser to Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, denied Trump was inciting violence.

“I don’t think it is the president who’s putting her in danger. I think it’s her ill-thought-out words that she used to describe the greatest terror attack on the history of United States soil,” Lotter told CNN on Monday.

The video tweeted by Trump spliced news footage of 9/11 with a clip from a speech Omar gave last month in which she said “some people did something” in reference to the attacks.

Lawmakers from Trump’s Republican Party have accused Omar of minimizing the Sept. 11 attacks, while critics of the president say he took Omar’s words out of context in order to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

Later on Monday, Trump plans to visit a trucking company in Burnsville, Minnesota, about 15 miles (24 km) outside Minneapolis. The venue is in the state’s second congressional district, which is south of and partially adjacent to the fifth congressional district represented by Omar.

The Minnesota branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, will hold a rally in support of Omar outside the company.

Omar was speaking at a CAIR banquet in California in March when she made her controversial remarks about 9/11. Omar also said Muslims had “lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.”

The White House said Sunday that Trump did not wish any harm in his Twitter post about Omar.

The House of Representatives approved a broad resolution condemning bigotry last month after remarks by Omar that some members of both parties viewed as anti-Semitic.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)

Source: OANN


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