Crazy

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner responded to a comedian’s apparent taunt regarding an issue in Saudi Arabia by saying he is “privately” applying pressure on Saudi leadership over human rights issues.

The day after comedian Hasan Minhaj called out Kushner — who was seated in the back of the room — during a speech Tuesday night for having a direct line to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Kushner issued a response to Page Six.

Kushner told the outlet he is working on “advancing America’s interests in the region” and admitted he has spoken directly with Bin Salman about the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Minhaj’s comment was in reference to Loujain al-Hathloul, who along with other Saudi women have been detained for activism. Some of them have been beaten and tortured while in prison.

“I will continue to put pressure on privately,” Kushner said.

Kushner was then asked if Bin Salman would take action, to which he replied, “We’ll see.”

During a speech at the Time 100 Summit, Minhaj said, “I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here, and it would be crazy if there was a high-ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, ‘Hey, maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it.’ But, hey, that person would have to be in the room. It’s just a good comedy premise.”

It has been reported Kushner speaks with foreign leaders such as Bin Salman on WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned app on which users communicate via encrypted messages.

Source: NewsMax America

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Iran will continue to find buyers for its oil and use the Strait of Hormuz to transport it, the country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, warning that if the United States tries to stop Tehran, then it should “be prepared for the consequences.”

“We believe that Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil,” Zarif also told an event at the Asia Society in New York.

“If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences,” he said, without giving specifics.

The United States on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.

Oil prices hit their highest level since November on Tuesday after Washington announced all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.

When asked if the U.S. pressure campaign on Tehran was aimed at sparking further negotiations or regime change, Zarif said: “The B team wants regime change at the very least.” He described the B Team as including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton.

“We’re allergic to pressure,” he said, adding in a message to the Trump administration: “Try the language of respect, it won’t kill you, believe me.”

Zarif also said that Iran had told the U.S. administration six months ago that it was open to a prisoner swap deal, but had not yet received a response.

“All these people that are in prison inside the United States … we believe their charges are phony. The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phony. Let’s not discuss that,” he said.

“Let’s have an exchange. I’m ready to do it and I have authority to do it,” Zarif said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

Radio host Rush Limbaugh thinks former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democrats’ best hope for winning the 2020 election — but he said Biden has no chance of defeating President Donald Trump.

Limbaugh was on Fox News’ “The Story” and gave host Martha MacCallum his early thoughts on 2020.

“I remain stunned and amazed that the Democrat Party and the media still do not understand who Donald Trump is,” Limbaugh said. “They don’t understand how he won, they don’t understand how he is going to win again in 2020. They don’t understand the people who voted for him or why. They hold all of that in contempt.

“Here’s the thing: Joe Biden is probably the best chance they’ve got, and he doesn’t have a chance. Joe Biden? And crazy Bernie [Sanders]? And Mayor Pete [Buttigieg]? Three white guys, two of them are brontosauruses from Jurassic Park, and that isn’t going to sit well with the rest of this party, which has gone so far left.”

Limbaugh then wondered aloud how much Biden really wants to be president. The 76-year-old worked in Washington for more than 40 years as a senator and the vice president and has already run for president twice.

Biden is expected to announce his candidacy for president this week.

“I don’t know how badly he really wants this,” Limbaugh said. “And you have to really want this if you are going to have any chance of winning it.”

Source: NewsMax America

A security officer stands in front of St Anthony's shrine in Colombo
A security officer stands in front of St Anthony’s shrine in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

April 22, 2019

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Authorities lifted a curfew in the Sri Lanka on Monday, a day after 290 people were killed and about 500 wounded by a string of bombings that tore through churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

There was still no claim of responsibility for the attacks on two churches and four hotels in and around Colombo, the

capital of predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka, and a third church on the country’s northeast coast.

A government source said President Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the National Security Council early on Monday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, the source said.

There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday there

had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

Sri Lanka had been at war for decades with Tamil separatists but extremist violence had been on the wane since the civil war ended 10 years ago.

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about eight

and 12 percent.

The island-wide curfew imposed by the government was lifted early on Monday, although there was uncharacteristically thin traffic in the normally bustling capital.

Soldiers armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Center in the business

district, where the four hotels were targeted on Easter Sunday, according to a Reuters witness.

Scores of people who were stranded overnight at the main airport began making their way home as restrictions were lifted.

The government also blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, making information hard to come by.

Wickremsinghe acknowledged on Sunday that the government had some prior information about possible attacks on churches involving a little-known Islamist group, but said ministers had not been told.

Sri Lankans accounted for the bulk of the 290 people killed and 500 wounded, although government officials said 32

foreigners were also killed. These included British, U.S., Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nations.

A British mother and son eating breakfast at the luxury Shangri-La hotel were among those killed, Britain’s The

Telegraph newspaper reported.

One Australian survivor, identified only as Sam, told Australia’s 3AW radio the hotel was a scene of “absolute carnage”.

He said he and a travel partner were also having breakfast at the Shangri-La when two blasts went off. He said he had seen two men wearing backpacks seconds before the blasts.

“There were people screaming and dead bodies all around,” he said. “Kids crying, kids on the ground, I don’t know if they were dead or not, just crazy.”

There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered for Easter Sunday services. Pictures from the scene showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.

Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Police said they suspected that blast was a suicide attack.

Three police officers were also killed when security forces raided a house in Colombo several hours after the attacks.

Police reported an explosion at the house.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: OANN

Lawyer Michael Cohen’s epic fallout with President Donald Trump was reportedly triggered by a meeting last June between actor Tom Arnold and the president’s trusted fixer.

According to The New York Times, Arnold tweeted a selfie with Cohen and later claimed to NBC News that the pair were teaming up to take down the president.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani phoned Cohen’s legal adviser, Robert Costello, because the president wanted to know what it was all about, the Times reported.

“Is he totally nuts???” Costello wrote in frustration to his law partner, the Times reported. “He is playing with the most powerful man on the planet.”

When Cohen sent along Arnold’s tweet clarifying the situation — “I’m the crazy person who said Me & Michael Cohen were teaming to take down Trump of course,” Arnold posted — Costello sent it to Giuliani with the request: “Make sure your client knows this. He will sleep better,” the Times reported.

Cohen tweeted at the time the meeting with Arnold was a “chance, public encounter in the hotel lobby where he asked for a selfie,” and insisted they never talked about Trump.

Arnold tweeted Sunday about the Times account: “This was satisfying.”

Source: NewsMax America

Congressional Democrats took legal action on Friday to gain access to all of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s evidence from his inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as the probe’s findings dented President Donald Trump’s poll ratings.

The number of Americans who approve of Trump dropped by 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report on Thursday, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online opinion poll.

Mueller did not establish the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians but did find “multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”

While Mueller ultimately decided not to charge Trump with a crime such as obstruction of justice, he also said the investigation did not exonerate the president, either.

U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, issued a subpoena to the Justice Department to hand over the full Mueller report and other relevant evidence by May 1.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice. The redactions appear to be significant,” Nadler said in a statement.

The Justice Department called the request “premature and unnecessary,” but spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement the department would work with Congress “to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests.”

The report provided extensive details on Trump’s efforts to thwart Mueller’s investigation, giving Democrats plenty of political ammunition against the Republican president but leaving them with no consensus on how to use it.

The document has blacked out sections to hide details about secret grand jury information, U.S. intelligence gathering and active criminal cases as well as potentially damaging information about peripheral players who were not charged.

Six top congressional Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s offer to give them access to a less-redacted version of the report. In a letter to Barr, they repeated their request for the full report but said they were open to “a reasonable accommodation.”

Democratic leaders have played down talk of impeachment of Trump just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election, even as some prominent members of the party’s progressive wing, notably U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promised to push the idea.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren became the first major contender for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination to call for the start of impeachment proceedings, saying on Twitter that “the severity of this misconduct” demanded it.

‘CRAZY MUELLER REPORT’

Trump, who has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a political witch hunt, lashed out again on Friday.

“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report…which are fabricated & totally untrue,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

He seemed to be referring to former White House counsel Don McGahn who was cited in the report as having annoyed Trump by taking notes of his conversations with the president.

“Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed,” Trump wrote. “It was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the ‘Report’ about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).”

Phone conversations between the president and McGahn in June 2017 were a central part of Mueller’s depiction of Trump as trying to derail the Russia inquiry. The report said Trump told McGahn to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller. McGahn did not carry out the order.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,005 adults conducted Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, 37 percent of people approve of Trump’s performance in office – down from 40 percent in a similar poll conducted on April 15, which matches the lowest level of the year. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats’ subpoena “is wildly overbroad” and would jeopardize a grand jury’s investigations.

While most Republicans have stood by Trump, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, now a U.S. senator from Utah, criticized Trump and those around him as portrayed in the report. Romney, an on-and-off Trump critic, said on Twitter it was “good news” there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with a crime.

“Even so, I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,” said Romney, who lost the White House race to President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Mueller inquiry laid bare what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, denigrate 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump.

RUSSIA DENIES MEDDLING

Russia said on Friday that Mueller’s report did not contain any evidence that Moscow had meddled. “We, as before, do not accept such allegations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Asked on Friday about Russian interference in 2016, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington that “we will make very clear to them that this is not acceptable behavior.”

Half a dozen former Trump aides, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were charged by Mueller’s office or convicted of crimes during his 22-month-long investigation. The Mueller inquiry spawned a number of other criminal probes by federal prosecutors in New York and elsewhere.

One reason it would be difficult to charge Trump is that the Justice Department has a decades-old policy that a sitting president should not be indicted, although the U.S. Constitution is silent on whether a president can face criminal prosecution in court.

Nadler told reporters on Thursday that Mueller probably wrote the report with the intent of providing Congress a road map for future action against the president, but the Democratic congressman said it was too early to talk about impeachment.

But the House Oversight Committee’s Democratic chairman, Elijah Cummings, said impeachment was not ruled out.

“A lot of people keep asking about the question of impeachment … We may very well come to that very soon, but right now let’s make sure we understand what Mueller was doing, understand what Barr was doing, and see the report in an unredacted form and all of the underlying documents,” he told MSNBC.

Source: NewsMax Politics

The Muller Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election is pictured in New York
The Mueller Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election is pictured in New York, New York, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

April 19, 2019

By Doina Chiacu and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats on Friday took legal action to get hold of all of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s evidence from his inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as the probe’s findings hit President Donald Trump’s poll ratings.

The number of Americans who approve of Trump dropped by 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report on Thursday, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online opinion poll.

Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians but did find “multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”

While Mueller ultimately decided not to charge Trump with a crime such as obstruction of justice, he also said that the investigation did not exonerate the president, either.

U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, issued a subpoena to the Justice Department to hand over the full Mueller report and other relevant evidence by May 1.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice. The redactions appear to be significant. We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the Special Counsel developed to make this case,” Nadler said in a statement.

The report provided extensive details on Trump’s efforts to thwart Mueller’s investigation, giving Democrats plenty of political ammunition against the Republican president but no consensus on how to use it.

The document has blacked out sections to hide details about secret grand jury information, U.S. intelligence gathering and active criminal cases as well as potentially damaging information about peripheral players who were not charged.

Democratic leaders played down talk of impeachment of Trump just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election, even as some prominent members of the party’s progressive wing, notably U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, promised to push the idea.

‘CRAZY MUELLER REPORT’

Trump, who has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a political witch hunt, lashed out again on Friday.

“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report…which are fabricated & totally untrue,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

He seemed to be referring to former White House counsel Don McGahn who was cited in the report as having annoyed Trump by taking notes of his conversations with the president.

“Watch out for people that take so-called “notes,” when the notes never existed until needed.” Trump wrote, “it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).”

Phone conversations between the president and McGahn in June 2017 were a central part of Mueller’s depiction of Trump as trying to derail the Russia inquiry. The report said Trump told McGahn to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller. McGahn did not carry out the order.

In analyzing whether Trump obstructed justice, Mueller revealed details about how the president tried to fire him and limit his investigation, kept details of a June 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian under wraps, and possibly dangled a pardon to a former adviser.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,005 adults conducted Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, 37 percent of people approve of Trump’s performance in office – down from 40 percent in a similar poll conducted on April 15 and matches the lowest level of the year. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats’ subpoena “is wildly overbroad” and would jeopardize a grand jury’s investigations.

The Mueller inquiry laid bare what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, denigrate 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump.

Russia said on Friday that Mueller’s report did not contain any evidence that Moscow had meddled. “We, as before, do not accept such allegations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Asked on Friday about Russian interference in 2016, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington that “we will make very clear to them that this is not acceptable behavior.”

Trump has tried to cultivate good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and came under heavy criticism in Washington last year for saying after meeting Putin that he accepted his denial of election meddling, over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Half a dozen former Trump aides, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were charged by Mueller’s office or convicted of crimes during his 22-month-long investigation. The Mueller inquiry spawned a number of other criminal probes by federal prosecutors in New York and elsewhere.

OBSTRUCTION

One reason it would be difficult to charge Trump is that the Justice Department has a decades-old policy that a sitting president should not be indicted, although the U.S. Constitution is silent on whether a president can face criminal prosecution in court.

A paragraph in the report is at the heart of whether Mueller, a former FBI director, intended Congress to pursue further action against Trump.

“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” Mueller wrote.

Republican Collins said Democrats had misconstrued that section of the report to suit their anti-Trump agenda.

“There seems to be some confusion…This isn’t a matter of legal interpretation; it’s reading comprehension,” Collins wrote on Twitter.

“The report doesn’t say Congress should investigate obstruction now. It says Congress can make laws about obstruction under Article I powers,” Collins said.

Nadler told reporters on Thursday that Mueller probably wrote the report with the intent of providing Congress a road map for future action against the president, but the Democratic congressman said it was too early to talk about impeachment.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday advised against an immediate attempt to impeach Trump. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment,” Hoyer told CNN.

But the House Oversight Committee’s Democratic chairman, Elijah Cummings, said impeachment was not ruled out.

“A lot of people keep asking about the question of impeachment … We may very well come to that very soon, but right now let’s make sure we understand what Mueller was doing, understand what Barr was doing, and see the report in an unredacted form and all of the underlying documents,” he told MSNBC.

Short of attempting impeachment, Democratic lawmakers can use the details of Mueller’s report to fuel other inquiries already underway by congressional committees.

Only two U.S. presidents have been impeached: Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 after firing his secretary of war in the tumultuous aftermath of the American Civil War. Both were acquitted by the Senate and stayed in office.

In 1974, a House committee approved articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal but he resigned before the full House voted on impeachment.

(For a graphic on ‘Link to Mueller report’ click https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-TRUMP-RUSSIA/010091HX27V/report.pdf)

(For a graphic on ‘A closer look at Mueller report redactions’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2VSx7HZ)

(Reporting by David Morgan and Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld, Nathan Layne, Sarah N. Lynch and Andy Sullivan; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

Don McGahn was barely on speaking terms with President Donald Trump when he left the White House last fall. But special counsel Robert Mueller’s report reveals the president may owe his former top lawyer a debt of gratitude.

McGahn, who sat with Mueller for about 30 hours of interviews, emerged as a central character in Mueller’s painstaking investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice and impeded the years-long Russia investigation. In one striking scene , Mueller recounts how Trump called McGahn twice at home and directed him to set Mueller’s firing in motion. McGahn recoiled and threatened to resign instead.

Mueller concluded that McGahn and others effectively halted Trump’s efforts to influence the investigation, prompting some White House officials and outside observers to call him an unsung hero in the effort to protect the president.

John Marston, a former Washington, D.C. assistant United States attorney, said McGahn appeared to help Trump “both in real time with his actions and then as well as being forthcoming.”

McGahn’s relationship with the president was turbulent. A prominent Washington attorney, he joined Trump’s campaign as counsel in 2015 and followed him to the White House, but the two men never developed a close rapport. His departure last fall came as little surprise.

Still, it was McGahn who Trump turned to on June 17, 2017, when he wanted to oust Mueller. According to the special counsel report, McGahn responded to the president’s request by calling his personal lawyer and his chief of staff, driving to the White House, packing up his belongings and preparing to submit his letter of resignation. He told then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the president had asked him to “do crazy s—.”

Mueller said McGahn feared Trump was setting in motion a series of events “akin to the Saturday Night Massacre,” the Nixonian effort to rein in the Watergate investigation.

William Alden McDaniel, a lawyer who represented targets and witnesses in the Ken Starr investigation, as well a high-ranking officials in the Iran-Contra scandal, said McGahn appeared to be “one of the few people in the administration to stand up to the president” and that “takes a certain amount of principle.”

Mueller’s report shows there were a handful of other aides who rebuffed orders and suggestions from the president, helping save him from the consequences. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski resisted an effort by Trump to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from the investigation and to limit the scope of Mueller’s probe. Priebus and McGahn repeatedly resisted Trump efforts to force out Sessions so that Trump could replace him and install a new person to oversee Mueller’s work.

McGahn also tried in other ways to keep the president in line, advising him that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid the perception or reality of political interference in law enforcement and reminding him that their conversations were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

Trump responded by questioning McGahn’s tendency to take notes and draft memoranda outlining his advice to the president for the historical record.

“Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump said, according to Mueller’s report. The special counsel said McGahn responded that he keeps notes “because he is a ‘real lawyer’ and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.”

Exchanges like those appear to have led Mueller to conclude that McGahn was “a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.”

McGahn did not respond to a request for comment Thursday and nearly a dozen friends and former colleagues mostly spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting him, describing him as a private person.

They largely characterized McGahn’s time in the White House as unhappy and defined by his frequent clashes with the president.

“Don is an experienced lawyer who’s dealt with difficult clients in the past,” said Jason Torchinsky, an election law attorney who has known McGhan for 20 years.

The White House declined comment.

In a campaign and White House staffed largely by novices and bootlickers, McGahn was a rare establishment figure, despite his longer hair and 80s cover band dabbling. He served as commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission and had deep roots with the Republican party, including spending a decade as general counsel of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

At the White House, he earned praise from conservatives for helping confirm a series of conservative judges, including, in his final act, shepherding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He was also instrumental in fulfilling long-held conservative priorities, including leading the White House’s systematic effort to cut government regulations and weaken the power of administrative law judges.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel during their meeting at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, wearing a Venezuelan flag sash, during their meeting at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

April 17, 2019

By Zachary Fagenson, Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton

MIAMI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed new sanctions and other punitive measures on Cuba and Venezuela, seeking to ratchet up U.S. pressure on Havana to end its support for Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

Speaking to a Cuban exile group in Miami, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States was targeting Cuba’s military and intelligence services, including a military-owned airline, for additional sanctions and was tightening travel and trade restrictions against the island.

Bolton’s speech followed the State Department’s announcement on Wednesday that it was lifting a long-standing ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties seized by Cuba’s Communist government since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

President Donald Trump’s decision, which the State Department said could unleash hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billions of dollars, drew swift criticism from European and Canadian allies, whose companies have significant interests in Cuba.

The Cuban government, which could be hindered in attracting new foreign investment, denounced it as “an attack on international law.”

Taking aim at Venezuela, Bolton said the United States was also imposing sanctions on the country’s central bank to prohibit access to dollars by an institution he described as crucial to keeping Maduro in power. Bolton also announced new sanctions on Nicaragua.

In a state television address, Maduro called the sanctions “totally illegal.”

“Central banks around the world are sacred, all countries respect them,” Maduro said, adding that the central bank would “confront and defeat” the sanctions. “To me the empire looks crazy, desperate.”

While accusing Cuba of propping up Maduro with thousands of security force members in the country, Bolton also warned “all external actors, including Russia,” against deploying military assets to support the Venezuelan leader.

“The United States will consider such provocative actions a threat to international peace and security in the region,” Bolton said, noting that Moscow recently sent in military flights carrying 35 tons of cargo and a hundred personnel.

However, Cuba appears unlikely to be budged by demands to dump Maduro, a longtime ally of Havana, and Maduro has also shown little sign of losing the loyalty of his military despite tough oil-related U.S. sanctions on the OPEC nation.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel responded defiantly. “No one will rip the (fatherland) away from us, neither by seduction nor by force,” he said on Twitter. “We Cubans do not surrender.”

ROLLING BACK OBAMA-ERA DETENTE

Amid Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution in January to assume the interim presidency. The United States and most Western countries have backed Guaido as head of state. Maduro, backed by Cuba, Russia and China, has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet.

Bolton, a longtime Cuba hardliner, was frequently interrupted by applause in his address to veterans of the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion on the 58th anniversary of the failed operation to overthrow Castro. His speech was a sequel to one late last year branding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny.”

Bolton’s announcements included further measures to roll back parts of the historic opening to Cuba, an old Cold War foe, under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The Obama administration’s approach, he said, “provided the Cuban regime with the necessary political cover to expand its malign influence.”

Among the Cuba measures announced by Bolton was reinstatement of limits on U.S. citizens sending remittances to Cuba at $1,000 per person per quarter. Remittances have surged since Obama started easing restrictions, becoming an important part of the economy and fueling growth of the private sector.

“Restricting remittances that can be sent to Cubans will directly hurt the Cuban people,” said Ben Rhodes, a former Obama adviser who negotiated the 2014 diplomatic breakthrough with Havana. “This is a shameful and mean-spirited policy.”

Bolton said the United States would also further restrict “non-family” travel to Cuba and cited military-owned Cuban airline Aerogaviota among five entities being added to the U.S. sanctions blacklist.

The Trump administration has previously sought to curtail Venezuela’s subsidized oil shipments to Cuba.

Also on Wednesday, Bolton announced sanctions on Nicaragua’s Bancorp, which he called a “slush fund,” and on Laureano Ortega, a son of President Daniel Ortega for what he described as “vast corruption.”

Trump’s toughened stance on Cuba as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua has gone down well among Cuban Americans in south Florida, an important voting bloc in a political swing state as he looks toward his re-election campaign in 2020.

Trump has added Cuba hawks to top posts. Bolton brought in Mauricio Claver-Carone, known as staunchly anti-Castro and an outspoken critic of Obama’s rapprochement with Havana, as his top Latin America adviser.

However, the risk, some former U.S. officials say, is that Trump’s team will overdo the targeting of Cuba in their anti-Maduro campaign and alienate some European and Latin American allies who have good relations with Havana but are also needed by Washington to maintain pressure on Venezuela.

Over the objections of key allies, Trump decided to allow a law that has been suspended since its creation in 1996 to be fully activated, permitting Cuban-Americans and other U.S. citizens to sue companies doing business in Cuba over property seized in decades past by the Cuban government.

Until now, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act had been fully waived by every president over the past 23 years.

Among the foreign companies heavily invested in Cuba are Canadian mining firm Sherritt International Corp and Spain’s Melia Hotels International SA. U.S. companies, including airlines and cruise companies, have forged business deals in Cuba since the easing of restrictions under Obama.

Toronto-based Sherritt said it would not be materially impacted by the Trump administration’s Helms-Burton decision and would continue to operate as usual focusing on meeting its nickel/cobalt production targets.

It was unclear, however, how Cuba property claims, some of which involve complex legal matters, will fare in U.S. courts.

The European Union said it will “consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests.”

Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs for Canada, which has coordinated with Washington on Venezuela, said: “Canada is deeply disappointed with today’s (U.S.) announcement.”

Kim Breier, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said a U.S. government commission has certified nearly 6,000 claims for property confiscated in Cuba with a current value of about $8 billion and that there could be up to 200,000 uncertified claims worth tens of billions of dollars if pursued.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, David Alexander and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank in Havana; Philip Blenkinsop and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen in Caracas; writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump is predicting that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden will be the final two Democrats standing in the 2020 race against him.

Looking ahead to his re-election campaign, Trump tweeted Tuesday that he believes “it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)!”

Sanders is leading the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field in fundraising so far, raising $18 million. Biden hasn’t yet entered the race but is widely expected to.

Trump says, “I look forward to facing whoever it may be.”

He ended his tweet with a cryptic, “May God Rest Their Soul!”

Source: NewsMax Politics


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