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, 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)
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
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.
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
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
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)
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