Mike Pence

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington after Special Counsel Mueller handed in report on Trump-Russia investigation in W
The U.S. Capitol is seen after Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed in a keenly awaited report on his investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and any potential wrongdoing by U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election has ensnared dozens of people, including several advisers to President Donald Trump and a series of Russian nationals and companies.

Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 U.S. Justice Department official, in May 2017 appointed Mueller to look into Russian interference, whether members of Trump’s campaign coordinated with Moscow officials and whether the Republican president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Mueller has charged 34 people and three companies.

Trump denies collusion and obstruction. Russia denies election interference.

Mueller has handed in a report on his investigation, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

The following are those who have pleaded guilty or have been indicted in Mueller’s inquiry. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2RwJarW)

PAUL MANAFORT

Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, guilty of five counts of tax fraud, was sentenced to a combined 7-1/2 years in prison in two cases brought by Mueller in which he was convicted by a jury in Virginia in August 2018 and pleaded guilty a month later in Washington.

In Virginia, he was found guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Manafort, who prosecutors said tried to conceal from the U.S. government millions of dollars he was paid as a political consultant for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in a separate case in Washington and agreed to cooperate with Mueller. The Washington case had focused on accusations of money laundering and failing to report foreign bank accounts, among other charges.

A judge on Feb. 13 ruled that Manafort had breached his agreement to cooperate with Mueller by lying to prosecutors about three matters pertinent to the Russia probe including his interactions with a business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who they have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

MICHAEL COHEN

Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to crimes including orchestrating “hush money” payments before the 2016 election to women who have said they had sexual encounters with Trump, violating campaign laws. That case was handled by federal prosecutors in New York, not Mueller’s office.

As part of a separate agreement with Mueller’s team, Cohen pleaded guilty in November 2018 to lying to Congress about negotiations concerning a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, a project that never materialized.

Cohen is due to report to prison on May 6 to begin serving a three-year prison sentence.

Cohen in February 2019 testified at a public hearing before a House of Representatives committee. He accused Trump of approving the “hush money” payments and knowing in advance about the 2016 release by the WikiLeaks website of emails that prosecutors have said were stolen by Russia to harm Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. He said Trump implicitly directed him to lie about the Moscow real estate project.

He promised to keep cooperating with prosecutors and made multiple closed-door appearances before congressional panels.

MICHAEL FLYNN

Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser for less than a month in early 2017, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during Trump’s presidential transition and agreed to cooperate with Mueller.

Trump fired him as national security adviser after it emerged that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about his dealings with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. His sentencing is pending.

ROGER STONE

The longtime Trump ally and presidential campaign adviser was charged in January 2019 with seven criminal counts including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering and making false statements, pleading not guilty.

His trial date has been set for Nov. 5.

Prosecutors said Stone shared with members of the Trump campaign team advance knowledge of the plan by WikiLeaks to release the stolen Democratic emails. Prosecutors also accused him of trying to interfere with a witness, a radio host who matched the profile of Randy Credico.

RICK GATES

The former deputy chairman of Trump’s campaign, Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators. He agreed to cooperate with Mueller and testified as a prosecution witness against Manafort, his former business partner. His sentencing is pending.

KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK

A Manafort aide in Ukraine and a political operative described by prosecutors as linked to Russian intelligence, Kilimnik was charged in June 2018 with tampering with witnesses about their past lobbying for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

Prosecutors said in January 2019 that Manafort shared political polling data with Kilimnik in 2016, providing an indication that Trump’s campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians.

TWELVE RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS

Twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2018, accused of hacking the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations as part of a Russian scheme to release emails damaging to Clinton during the 2016 race. They covertly monitored employee computers and planted malicious code, as well as stealing emails and other documents, according to the indictment.

THIRTEEN RUSSIAN NATIONALS, THREE COMPANIES

Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies were indicted in Mueller’s investigation in February 2018, accused of taking part in an elaborate campaign to sow discord in the United States ahead of the 2016 election and harm Clinton’s candidacy in order to boost Trump. The companies included: the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based propaganda arm known for trolling on social media; Concord Management and Consulting; and Concord Catering.

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS

The former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced in September 2018 to 14 days in prison after pleading guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, including a professor who told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton.

ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN

A lawyer who once worked closely with Manafort and Gates, Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February 2018 to lying to Mueller’s investigators about contacts with a Trump campaign official. Van Der Zwaan, the Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, was sentenced in April 2018 to 30 days in prison and fined $20,000.

RICHARD PINEDO

Pinedo was not involved with the Trump campaign, but in February 2018 pleaded guilty to identity fraud in a case related to the Mueller investigation for helping Russian conspirators launder money, purchase Facebook ads and pay for supplies.

He was sentenced in October 2018 to six months in jail and six months of home detention.

(Compiled by Susan Heavey, Sarah N. Lynch, Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

The progressive organization MoveOn called on Wednesday for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to boycott the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference — and many have heeded their calls.

AIPAC, an organization “committed solely to strengthening, protecting and promoting the U.S.-Israel relationship,” has its three-day conference scheduled for next week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are all confirmed speakers for the conference.

Multiple Democratic presidential candidates: South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete ButtigiegMassachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro and California Sen. Kamala Harris have all announced that they will not be in attendance for this year’s conference.

Buttigieg announced he would not be in attendance prior to boycott announcement.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) afternoon general session in Washington March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

MoveOn released a statement on Wednesday that included a survey conducted internally. According to that survey, more than 74 percent of MoveOn members agree or strongly agree with the statement that “any progressive vying to be the Democratic nominee for President should skip the AIPAC conference.”

Comparatively, less than one-fifth of respondents, 18.6 percent, said they disagree or strongly disagree.

MoveOn cited four specific reasons why members are calling for the boycott.

  1. AIPAC advocated against the Iran Nuclear Deal.
  2. One of the speakers is Netanyahu, who was indicted earlier this year.
  3. AIPAC has “been known to peddle anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while giving platforms to Islamophobes.”
  4. AIPAC “has refused to condemn the antisemitism of Republicans,” and they specifically call out Steve Bannon.

Harris spoke off-the-record at the convention last year, where she explained her support for a two-state solution.

AIPAC was embroiled in a recent saga in which they were accused of purchasing pro-Israel support from members of Congress by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The comment sparked significant backlash from a number of political leaders across both sides of the aisle, including some who will be speaking at the conference — such as Pelosi, Pence and Schumer(RELATED: Omar Releases Statement After Backlash Surrounding Tweet Accusing AIPAC Of Buying Israel Support)

AIPAC, Harris’ and Omar’s offices were all approached for comments, but none had responded at the time of publication.

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Source: The Daily Caller

  • Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has repeatedly spread conspiracy theories. 
  • Tribe has amplified conspiracies about President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia teaming up to expose Jeff Bezos and Russia orchestrating a plane crash to cover up collusion, among others.
  • Tribe’s role as internet conspiracist hasn’t kept media outlets from promoting him on TV and in news articles.

Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has habitually spread conspiracy theories, but that hasn’t prevented him from maintaining a presence in the national media.

Tribe was among several high-profile figures to amplify a false conspiracy theory in February that President Donald Trump had teamed up with Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Salman to leak Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s affair to the National Enquirer.

“Are Donald Trump and the murderous Saudi Prince bin Salman co-conspirators with David Pecker and AMI in a failed criminal plot to blackmail and extort Jeff Bezos as owner of the Washington Post? Asking for a friend in the Southern District of New York,” Tribe wrote on Twitter, where he has more than 492,000 followers. (RELATED: Majority Of Democrats Believe A Straight-Up Conspiracy Theory)

His conspiratorial post was shared thousands of times across Twitter.

Screenshot/Twitter

Screenshot/Twitter

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Enquirer had paid the brother of Bezos’s mistress $200,000 for text messages between the two lovers, confirming a Daily Beast report that identified the brother — not the Saudis — as the Enquirer’s source. Tribe’s tweet was still up as of Wednesday evening.

The Harvard Law professor has made a habit of spreading baseless conspiracy theories, seemingly without repercussion.

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Attorney Laurence H. Tribe attends The ACLU of Southern California’s 2011 Bill of Rights Dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on Dec. 12, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

In one instance, Tribe implied that a Russian plane crash in February 2018 was a cover-up of collusion between Trump and Russia.

His tweet, which again received thousands of retweets, read: “Among those killed in the tragic plane crash yesterday: Sergei Millian, a Papadopoulis [sic] friend who had emailed Kushner and is said to be behind one of the most salacious claims in the dossier on Trump’s involvement with Russia. Probably just coincidence. .”

He sarcastically added that the “coincidence” “[s]ounds plausible.”

Tribe’s viral claim was nowhere close to the truth. Millian wasn’t on the plane.

In December 2018, Tribe shared a left-wing blog post titled “Mueller Hints That Mike Pence May Be Indicted Soon.” There is no evidence to support that headline, and the vice president has not been indicted.

“The title of this piece gets well ahead of its skis in terms of actual substance,” Tribe conceded, before continuing “but the evidence described provides rich food for thought. And if Pence is truly in Mueller’s cross-hairs, that’s a huge game-changer.”

No reporting to date supports the claim that Pence is “in Mueller’s cross-hairs.” The blog Tribe cited, PoliticusUSA.com, has a track record of spreading misinformation.

In January, Tribe cited the same blog to say that Trump’s announcement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to travel to Afghanistan during the government shutdown bordered on “treason” by giving “aid and comfort” to the Taliban.

Tribe’s role as internet conspiracist hasn’t prevented national media outlets from elevating his profile, quoting him in their articles and hosting him on their panels.

Tribe has appeared on MSNBC five times this year, according to a transcript search on the media monitoring service Grabien.

The Washington Post cited Tribe in an article Monday about Republican Iowa Rep. Steve King, who shared a meme on Facebook saying that Republican states would win in a civil war because they have “8 trillion more bullets.” King deleted the post after criticism.

The Post quoted a tweet from Tribe, who said that King “isn’t actually COMMITTING treason, but he is fomenting and inciting it.” Tribe said King’s meme provided the House of Representatives “[a]mple reason to expel him.”

Tribe’s media appearances have continued long after a May 2017 BuzzFeed report noted his established track record of spreading anti-Trump conspiracy theories.

In one instance BuzzFeed documented, Tribe shared an article from the Palmer Report, a left-wing blog known for spreading misinformation, that claimed Trump had paid then-Republican Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz “$10 million in Russian money” in advance of the 2016 election.

The only source for the conspiracy theory was a tweet from an anonymous Twitter user.

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Source: The Daily Caller

UPDATE: Despite closing up their campaign, due to high demand Bonfire has chosen to reopen their shirt sales for 6 days. Get your’s while you still can!

President Donald J. Trump delivered an inspiring message during his speech on the current crisis in Venezuela, a message that was later echoed by Vice President Mike Pence at CPAC: put simply, “[The United States] will never be a socialist country!”

Yet as Donald Trump uttered those very words reflective of how many Americans feel given the massive history of violence that has accompanied socialism in other countries, self-proclaimed socialists like Senator Bernie Sanders and congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez continue to try and re-brand socialism as a cool and hip solution to some of the policy problems that exist today.

If it didn't work under Stalin or Che... why would it work today? (Photo via Bonfire)

If it didn’t work under Stalin or Che… why would it work today? (Photo via Bonfire)

Show off to everyone you know that socialism wasn't cool then, and it isn't cool now (Photo via Bonfire)

Show off to everyone you know that socialism wasn’t cool then, and it isn’t cool now (Photo via Bonfire)

Source: The Daily Caller

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

As the U.S. economy continues to produce positive employment numbers, some Democratic presidential contenders are saying more people than ever are working more than one job to sustain their livelihoods.

But that appears to be more of a political talking point than economic reality, as a Washington Post fact-checker revealed Tuesday. The number of people who have to work more than one job is actually shrinking in Trump’s economy, and in January,  applications for unemployment insurance fell to 1969 levels.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 5: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence look on as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence look on as U.S. President Donald Trump … (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

But that hasn’t stopped California Democratic Rep. Kamala Harris from putting her own data out there for voters to consider. (RELATED: February Jobs Report: 20,000 Jobs Added, Unemployment 3.8 Percent)

“[They say,] ‘The economy is great. It is doing great for everybody.’ And then you ask them, ‘Well, how is that?’ Well, they’ll point to the stock market. Well, that’s fine if you own stocks. Then you’ll ask them, what’s your other measure? And they’ll talk about well, the unemployment rate is down. That’s fine,” the Post quotes Harris as saying.

“Yeah, well, I’ve been traveling our country. People are working. They’re working two and three jobs to pay the bills. It’s not working for working people,” she continued, offering anecdotal evidence. Harris also doesn’t talk about the black unemployment being the lowest in history under Trump.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to her supporters during her presidential campaign rally launch … (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

But the economy is working better than it was a year ago, with only 251,000 workers out of a total workforce of 156 million being forced to find a second full-time job. As the Post notes, that’s 100,000 fewer people than 2018 data shows. There are 7.8 million people who work full-time and supplement their income with another part-time position, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is also inclined to push the multi-job panic button when he speaks to supporters. Last week, he declared, “Millions of Americans are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive.” (RELATED: The Key To Winning In 2020 Will Be Properly Explaining Socialism, Says Bernie Sanders)

Sanders did not mention that those millions comprise just 5 percent of all employed Americans, according to the Post report. Of that 5 percent, the majority have a secondary job that is part-time.

Former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, also running for his party’s presidential nomination, has painted a similar employment picture of over-worked Americans with little time for rest or relaxation.

“I have already shared with you that many are working second or third jobs. In fact, in Texas, half of your colleagues are working a second or third job just to put food on the table,” O’Rourke told an Iowa crowd, according to Fox News.

The Post fact checker, however, points out that O’Rourke and his team claimed that statistic of “half” the workforce in Texas is working two jobs was actually in regard to teachers only. But the U.S. Department of Education study that used a random sample of teachers showed that only 18 percent of teachers nationwide took up more than one job to earn more money.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Scott Morefield | Reporter

Joe Biden reportedly has told several supporters that he wants to run for president in 2020, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday.

However, the former vice president told the supporters his concerns about being able to raise the necessary cash at the same pace as his competitors, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

It took O’Rourke just one day to raise over $6.1 million after his Thursday presidential bid announcement, and Sanders raised $10 million in just a week after he announced in February. Fundraising being key to what is considered the “money primary,” Biden reportedly expressed his desire to “announce a large fundraising number after his candidacy is official,” according to the WSJ.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence (L) talks with former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden during the state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral December 05, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Biden chief strategist Steve Ricchetti said his boss was around 95 percent committed to tossing his hat into the ring, the New York Times reported, but the former vice president did express concern about the fact that President Donald Trump is unlikely “to stop at anything” to defeat his Democratic opponent. (RELATED: Biden Gets Four Point Bump In Latest Poll)

Meanwhile, top Democratic fundraiser Philip Levine told the WSJ that it was “highly likely” he would back Biden were he to announce.

“I think he would be a great nominee. In order to win the general election, we must have an experienced centrist,” said Levine. “Progressives win districts. Centrists win states.”

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Source: The Daily Caller

Doug Schoen, pollster and Democratic strategist, blasted President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy and said it projects an image of the U.S. abdicating its role as "democracy's standard-bearer."

Schoen made his comments in a column posted by Fox News website Tuesday.

Schoen referred to former Vice President Dick Cheney recently pressing Vice President Mike Pence about Trump's foreign policy during a closed-door event.

"Despite often opposing Vice President Cheney, I largely agree with him that the Trump administration's foreign policy lacks direction and discipline," he said.

"I remain concerned that President Trump's nationalistic, isolationist 'America First' approach to foreign policy projects an image of the United States as abdicating our role on the world stage as democracy's standard-bearer."

Schoen claimed many of the "more reasoned voices" on Trump's national security team have left, notably former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

"While I may not have wholeheartedly agreed with Secretary Mattis on everything, we share an understanding of the role that the United States should play on the world stage: the role of a global leader who champions democracy and stands up for our allies," he said.

And Schoen said Trump's lack of foreign policy direction has been particularly troubling.

"For America to truly succeed, we must renew our commitment to global leadership in a way that is informed by an idealistic, moral, yet also practical outlook toward the international community," he said.

Source: NewsMax Politics

U.S. and EU flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday that Washington’s “selfish” approach to trade was not sustainable, but it was too early to say that EU-U.S. trade talks were doomed to fail.

The Trump administration has imposed stiff tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum and set off a trade war with China in a bid to redress what it sees as unfavorable terms that contribute to a U.S. trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year.

The Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28-nation European Union, has been in talks with U.S. authorities since last July, seeking to clinch a deal on industrial goods trade.

EU governments are now discussing the details of a negotiating mandate for the Commission, while Washington has until mid-May to decide whether to make good on President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports of European cars.

“It is too early to say that our trade discussions are doomed to fail,” Katainen told a regular news briefing.

“There are discussions going on on several levels and … we can end up having some sort of an agreement with the U.S. on trade, but let’s not go deeper than this,” he said, adding that the scope of negotiations had to be clear and that a deal would require a lot of good will and political capital on both sides.

Asked about a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Katainen said it was problematic and that attempts to get it done were like pushing a rope.

“Japan, China and the EU are willing to reform the WTO, the U.S. has not been that interested, but they are willing to cooperate,” he said.

“Even though the U.S. authorities may think that selfishness is better than cooperation, it is not a sustainable way of thinking. We need better, rules-based trade in the future where the international community sets the rules,” he said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that the WTO was using an “out of date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet.

He said Washington was nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a meeting at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a meeting at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is due to travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to tour the devastation left by floods in the Midwest which have killed at least three people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Media reports including CNN say that 74 of Nebraska’s 93 counties had declared states of emergency by early Tuesday.

“This is clearly the most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history,” in terms of sheer size, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Ricketts will join Pence as he surveys the damage, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter late on Monday. Pence is traveling at U.S. President Donald Trump’s request, she said.

The flood water have been driven by snow melt from heavy rains last week and warm temperatures said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

“Most of the snow pack in Nebraska is now gone, but up river in North and South Dakota, there’s significant snow pack of up to 20 plus inches and it’s melting,” he said.

The Missouri River, the longest in North America, has flooded much of Nebraska between Omaha and Kansas City at the Missouri state line.

The river was expected to crest at more than 47 feet (14.5 meters) on Tuesday, breaking the previous record, set in 2011, by more than a foot, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said in the latest bulletin on its web page.

At least one person was missing on Monday in addition to the three reported deaths.

State officials said Monday that 290 people had been rescued by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams.

Damage to the state’s livestock sector was estimated at about $400 million, while the full impact on the spring planting season was not yet clear, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

The state’s highway system suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the state Department of Transportation.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Gina Cherelus in New York, and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Carlos Alfredo Vecchio leave the White House after their meeting in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, charge d’affaires appointed by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido leave the White House after their meeting in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Gershon Peaks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido have taken control of three of the country’s diplomatic properties in the United States, Guaido’s U.S. envoy said on Monday, as the opposition presses its bid to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The envoy, Carlos Vecchio, said the opposition had gained control of two buildings belonging to Venezuela’s defense ministry in Washington and one consular building in New York. He added that the group expects to take control of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington “in the days to come.”

The moves come after Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing that Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by most Western countries, including the United States.

“We are taking these steps in order to preserve the assets of the Venezuelans here in this country,” Vecchio said from one of the buildings, the office of Venezuela’s military attache to Washington, after removing a portrait of Maduro from the wall and replacing it with one of Guaido.

Maduro, who has branded Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, broke off relations with Washington after it recognized Guaido, calling diplomatic and consular staff back to Caracas.

Of 55 staff members, 12 decided to remain in the United States and support Guaido, Vecchio said on Monday. He added that his staff would work out of the attache building, which is located in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood and has an assessed value of $2.2 million, according to Washington property records.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the opposition’s move to take possession of the properties.

Vecchio spoke alongside Colonel Jose Luis Silva, Venezuela’s military attache to Washington who recognized Guaido on Jan. 27. Few other high-ranking members of the military have heeded Guaido’s call to break with Maduro, who retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

On Monday, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters an army general has defected and fled to Colombia. Vecchio said he was confident that Venezuela, which is undergoing an economic and humanitarian crisis, was in “an irreversible process of change” but that “it won’t come easily.”

The United States withdrew all its remaining diplomatic personnel in Venezuela last week.

(Reporting by Gershon Peaks in Washington; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Tom Brown)

Source: OANN


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