Donald Trump

Larry Kudlow, the chief economic adviser to President Donald Trump, said young people embracing socialism will soon find out the ideology doesn’t work,

Kudlow made his comments during an interview on Hill.TV on Friday.

“(Winston) Churchill argued that if you’re not a socialist in your 20s, you have no heart, and if you’re not a capitalist in your 30s, you have no mind,” Kudlow said.

“The reason I say that is, I personally want to talk to the younger group, the millennials, I know I’m an old guy, I want to try to give them the benefit of some experience, and some history.

“They are in the workforce now, and they are matriculating through their careers, and I believe they will discover that the idea of central planning doesn’t work, and it would be devastating to the economy.”

The Hill noted discussions of socialism have become common in political circles.  Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is running for president, is a self-descried democratic socialist. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez D-N.Y., also calls herself a democratic socialist.

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: Eurogroup President Centeno attends a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: Portugal’s Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Mario Centeno attends a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

April 12, 2019

By Jan Strupczewski

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Europe must raise the international profile of its euro currency to protect itself from the domination of a “weaponised” U.S. dollar and help stabilize the international monetary system, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers Mario Centeno said.

“Washington’s inclination to use the dollar as a tool to complement the effect of economic sanctions and serve a narrow domestic agenda is a source of concern,” Centeno told the Reinventing Bretton Woods Committee in Washington on Friday.

“The foundations of the international monetary system are wobbling, as currencies are used to advance national interests that are narrowly defined. For some observers, the system in which the dollar holds a dominant and unrivalled position is on the cusp of reformation,” he said in a speech.

The European Union started thinking about increasing the role of the euro last year after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to abandon the 2015 deal under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear program.

The U.S. move, though unilateral, means European companies also cannot trade with Iran, fearing they would be cut off from U.S. markets and the international payments system in retaliation.

Centeno said the world could be heading toward a multi-currency system in which the dollar would vie for dominance with others, notably the euro and the Chinese renminbi.

He said such a multi-polar currency system could improve the functioning of the international monetary system and would be less prone to the economic fluctuations of the dominant dollar by offering options to diversify currency reserves.

The euro is used in around 36 percent of international payments, just behind the dollar with almost 40 percent, but when it comes to foreign exchange trading 44 percent is in dollars but only 16 percent in euros, Centeno said.

The favorite for currency reserves is the dollar with a 62 percent share of global reserves, while the euro has a 20 percent share.

“In Europe there is a growing concern that we are exposed to the risk that the power of the dominant dollar can be used against our best interests. The obvious consequence of ‘America First’ is that others will come second, at best,” Centeno said.

“The feeling is that we can only rely on ourselves and our currency. And this is behind repeated calls to strengthen the international role of the euro,” he said.

Centeno noted however, that to achieve a stronger role, the euro zone needed to tackle many tough issues about the design of the single currency.

He said the 19 countries sharing the euro had to first complete their banking union, by agreeing on a European deposit insurance system and setting up a capital markets union.

Other needs include a budget for the euro zone, under discussion now, and creating a euro zone safe asset – a debt instrument backed by all euro zone countries – with a sufficiently deep and liquid market, an idea that now faces very strong opposition from several key euro zone countries.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

Attorney General William Barr will issue new rules for courts that handle immigration cases, which could have a dramatic effect on the immigration system, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Justice Department is set to change rules to help select appellate immigration judges declare their rulings binding on the whole immigration system, which could increase the number of individual judges making cursory decisions at the appellate level during a large-scale shakeup of the court.

“All of these pieces add up to taking away due process and speeding people through to their deportation in some sort of assembly line substitute for justice,” Jeffrey Chase, former immigration judge, told the newspaper.

“The policy change really is a reflection of showing how DOJ management can rewrite immigration laws and policies on a whim,” said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel for the American Association of Immigration Lawyers. “Efforts to improve efficiency, they’re important. But they can’t be implemented at the expense of fundamental principles of due process and fairness in the court system.”

President Donald Trump and members of his administration frequently complain about the lack of efficiency in the immigration system, and Trump has argued that the entire system should be done away with.

“Congress has to … get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work,” Trump said earlier this month. “And frankly, we should get rid of judges. You can’t have a court case every time somebody steps their foot on our ground.”

Source: NewsMax Politics


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the UK government should not extradite Julian Assange to the US, where he faces a computer hacking charge.

The Wikileaks co-founder was arrested for a separate charge at Ecuador’s London embassy on Thursday, where he had been granted asylum since 2012.

Mr Corbyn said Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s leader expressed anger at how Assange had behaved.

Australian-born Assange, 47, sought refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy seven years ago, to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped. But Ecuador abruptly withdrew its asylum and invited the police to arrest Assange on Thursday.

After his dramatic arrest, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of a British charge of breaching bail. He spent Thursday night in custody and is facing up to 12 months in prison for that conviction.

The Met said it cost an estimated £13.2m to police Ecuador’s London embassy between June 2012 and October 2015, when the force withdrew the physical presence of officers.

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The Swedish authorities are now considering whether to reopen an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, which Assange denies.

The US government has also charged him with allegations of conspiracy to break into a computer, relating to a massive leak of classified US government documents. The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, and if he was convicted, he could face up to five years in jail.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “this is all about Wikileaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public”.

But she said Assange should also face the criminal justice system if the Swedish government charged him.

Swedish prosecutors dropped a rape investigation into Assange into 2017 because they were unable to formally notify him of the allegations – a necessary step in proceeding with the case – while he remained in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Assange battle ‘now political’

In a tweet, Mr Corbyn shared a video said to be of Pentagon footage – which had been released by Wikileaks – of a 2007 air strike which implicated US military in the killing of civilians and two journalists.

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale said backing Assange is not without political risk and will not find universal favour among Labour MPs – but Mr Corbyn’s intervention “means the battle over Assange’s future will now be as much political as it is legal”.

The editor of Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has expressed fears that the US could file more serious charges against Assange, and that if he was convicted he could be behind bars for “decades”.

Mr Hrafnsson added that Assange had been thrown “overboard” by Ecuador – and the country was “horrible” to treat him like that.

‘He was a problem’

Meanwhile in Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno criticised Assange, claiming that after spending seven years in the country’s embassy he had dismissed Ecuador by describing it as an insignificant country.

“We had treated him as a guest,” he said. “But not anymore.”

Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Jaime Marchan, also previously said Assange had been “continually a problem” while he was living in the embassy.

Meanwhile, a man who is alleged to have links with Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s officials said.

The man – who has been identified by supporters as a Swedish software developer called Ola Bini – had been trying to board a flight to Japan.

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Assange is due to face a hearing over his possible extradition to the US on 2 May.

During a briefing at the White House following Assange’s arrest, US President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he stood by remarks that he made during his election campaign when he said he loved Wikileaks.

“I know nothing about Wikileaks,” said Mr Trump. “It’s not my thing.”

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He added: “I’ve been seeing what happened with Assange and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the attorney general, who’s doing an excellent job.”

Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”

Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.

Meanwhile, Australia said it had received a request for consular assistance after Assange was taken from the embassy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Assange will not get “special treatment” and will have to “make his way through whatever comes his way in terms of the justice system”.

The arrest was welcomed by the government on Thursday. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no-one is above the law.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.

Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.

The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website. She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.

She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.

Manning was recently jailed for refusing to testify before an investigation into Wikileaks’ role in revealing the secret files.

U.S. and EU flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
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

April 12, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has drawn up a list of U.S. imports worth around 20 billion euros ($22.6 billion) that it could hit with tariffs over a transatlantic aircraft subsidy dispute, EU diplomats said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to impose tariffs on $11 billion worth of European Union products over what Washington sees as unfair subsidies given to European planemaker Airbus.

The EU measures would relate to the EU’s World Trade Organization complaint over subsidies to Boeing.

WTO arbitrators have yet to set final amounts of potential countermeasures in each case.

The Commission said earlier this week that it had begun preparatory work on countermeasures in the Boeing case.

It added then that it was open for discussions with the U.S., provided these were without preconditions and aimed at achieving a fair outcome.

EU diplomats said the Commission was expected to publish a list of products on April 17 and begin a process of public consultation, after which the list could then be adjusted.

The final amount decided by the WTO arbitrator could also be lower. The EU had also initially requested that the WTO authorize countermeasures of $12 billion. The arbitrator’s decision may not come before March 2020.

The U.S. and Europe have been locked in dispute over mutual claims of illegal aid to their respective plane giants. The case has been grinding through the WTO for almost 15 years, yielding partial victories for both sides.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robin Emmott and Mike Harrison)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump propped up his daughter Ivanka in a new interview and said she would be a favorite to win a presidential election if she ever runs.

The Atlantic published a lengthy profile of Ivanka Trump and her role in the White House, where she works as a senior adviser. Her father told the media outlet that Ivanka has a “great calmness.”

“If she ever wanted to run for president, I think she’d be very, very hard to beat,” Trump said. “She went into the whole helping-people-with-jobs, and I wasn’t sure that was going to be the best use of her time, but I didn’t know how successful she’d be. She’s created millions of jobs, and I had no idea she’d be that successful.”

Trump later added, “She’s got a great calmness … I’ve seen her under tremendous stress and pressure. She reacts very well — that’s usually a genetic thing, but it’s one of those things, nevertheless.”

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner work in the West Wing and live in the Kalorama section of Washington, D.C., about two miles from the White House.

Source: NewsMax

After nearly seven years holed up inside the cramped Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is dreading the prospect of violent attacks on him in an American prison, one of his regular visitors told ABC News’ The Investigation podcast on Thursday.

In an interview for ABC News’ “The Investigation” podcast conducted one day after Assange’s long-anticipated arrest by London police and court appearance on a 2012 bail jumping warrant and U.S. extradition request, one of his most frequent visitors described Assange’s fears of being sent to a US prison and subjected to violence inside.

“He did say he was worried that, if he was in a normal American prison, being beaten up,” war documentary filmmaker and former Taliban hostage Sean Langan, who has spent more than 50 hours with Assange in the past year, told ABC News. Langan’s last visit to Assange at the embassy was on March 22, he said.

Film maker and former hostage Sean Langan sits in the audience during a WikiLeaks discussion at The Front Line Club in London, Dec. 1, 2010.(REX/Shutterstock, FILE) Film maker and former hostage Sean Langan sits in the audience during a WikiLeaks discussion at The Front Line Club in London, Dec. 1, 2010.

“And then I said, ‘Well, the chances are you’re most likely’ — slightly gallows humor, it didn’t make him feel better – ‘you’re most likely going to be put into one of those federal Supermax prisons where you won’t see a soul,” said Langan, an ABC News contributor.

Perhaps most surprising to many who saw his leaks of embarrassing Democratic party emails during the 2016 campaign — which Special Counsel Robert Mueller has alleged were hacked by Russian spies in an effort to hurt rival Hillary Clinton’s chances — Assange was often sharply critical of Trump in casual conversation with a handful of visitors.

Langan says Assange described longtime Trump friend and political adviser Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. as intellectually incapable of a conspiracy, much less one that included WikiLeaks or him, and he rejoiced when Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently closed his investigation without indicting him for conspiring with Russian military intelligence to tilt the U.S. election.

“‘Those bunch of clowns’ — that was the exact quote — ‘those bunch of clowns couldn’t conspire and organize this kind of thing’,” Langan recalled Assange telling him. “He certainly did not hold [President Trump] in high regard. He was quite dismissive.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he leaves the Westminster Magistrates Court in the police van, after he was arrested in London, April 11, 2019.(Henry Nicholls/Reuters) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he leaves the Westminster Magistrates Court in the police van, after he was arrested in London, April 11, 2019.

Langan and Vaughan Smith, an Assange confidant and owner of London’s Frontline Club, began making “social visits” — as the Ecuadorian Embassy called them — with Assange in early November. The pair was among the first people summoned by the controversial publisher of sensitive secrets after Ecuador lifted a ban on his visitors and most of his communications, a loosening of restrictions on Assange that lasted six months in 2018.

Inside, they didn’t find an apartment littered with cat dropping or feces on the wall — as alleged by his Ecuadorian hosts who over time turned against their notorious asylee — but instead the “claustrophobic” quarters of a man in poor health toughing out intense surveillance of the tiny rooms he has occupied since entering the embassy in August, 2012.

That year, fearing he would extradited to the United States, Assange skipped out on his bail during a rape inquiry in Sweden. The rape inquiry was dropped two years ago but reopened today in the wake of Assange’s removal from the embassy in London, Swedish prosecutors said. Assange has denied the rape allegation.

Assange shared his recollections with Langan in five-hour rolling conversations at a table between two speakers meant to deter electronic surveillance by Ecuador or other countries. One speaker blared symphony music and the other David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Langan told ABC News.

Asked about a controversial November, 2018 report in the Guardian newspaper that Assange had met with Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort — since convicted on financial crimes related to lobbying in Virginia and in Washington — he was adamant it never happened. “He said, ‘That’s [bull]. Never met him.’ So he strongly denied that,” Langan said.

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks speaks to the press during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, April 11, 2019.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images) President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks speaks to the press during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, April 11, 2019.

The Guardian report has not been matched by any other major news organization or corroborated since it was published.

Langan said that Assange seemed to acknowledge that he had communicated with Guccifer2.0, an online persona Mueller has said in a U.S. indictment was really an amalgam of Russian spies who stole the Democratic party emails and coordinated with WikiLeaks to leak them, but said that he believes Assange was unaware of Guccifer 2.0’s true identity.

Langan said that Assange complained to him that other news outlets were communicating with Guccifer2.0 too but the U.S. government was unfairly picking on him.

“I took it to be a non-denial denial,” Langan said.

With his arrest and the prospect of a trial in the U.S. for computer intrusion relating to WikiLeaks document dumps of military and intelligence secrets almost a decade ago, Langan said Assange now realizes “that he could face the rest of his life in isolation.”

The idea of further confinement weighs on Assange, he said.

“You can see the toll it is taking on him,” Langan added. “It’s an unpleasant thing to see in any man.”

He is no doubt glad to be out of the embassy, however, Langan added.

“It’s like a gilded cage. But a cage is a cage is a cage,” said Langan.

Smith always brought lunch from the club and Assange would fetch plates to serve the food on, then step back into his tidy galley to wash each plate after they dined.

Langan said Assange expressed frustration with what he described as false news reports that claimed Assange wore smelly socks and did not care for the cat his kids gave to him as a gift.

“That really hurt him,” Langan recounted.

Russia targeted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., following his primary loss in 2016, hoping to push them towards voting for President Donald Trump instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, The Washington Post reports.

Shortly after Sanders ended his primary campaign, a Twitter account called Red Louisiana News began focusing on the senator’s supporters. “Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016,” read one tweet from the account, according to the Post.

Clemson University researchers found that this Twitter account was not based in Louisiana, as it claimed, but from Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller found in his investigation that Russians at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg were directed to use social media accounts to oppose Clinton and “to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

Researchers found that although it’s impossible to tell for sure how many social media posts were made targeting Sanders supporters, at least 9,000 of these Russian tweets included the word “Bernie.”

“I think there is no question that Sanders was central to their strategy. He was clearly used as a mechanism to decrease voter turnout for Hillary Clinton,” said Darren Linvill, an associate professor of communications at Clemson and one of the researchers.

He added that the tweets they examined “give us a much clearer understanding of the tactics they were using. It was certainly a higher volume than people thought.”

Source: NewsMax

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Bill Priestap, left, with Michael Horowitz, DoJ inspector general.

By Eric Felten, RealClearInvestigations
April 12, 2019

Attorney General William Barr shocked official Washington Wednesday by saying what previously couldn’t be said: That the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 involved “spying.”

The spying, which Barr vowed to investigate, is not the only significant possible violation of investigative rules and ethics committed by agents, lawyers, managers, and officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice. A catalogue of those abuses can be found in recently released testimony that Edward William Priestap provided to Congress in a closed-door interview last summer. From the end of 2015 to the end of 2018 Bill Priestap was assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, which meant he oversaw the FBI’s global counterintelligence efforts.

In that role, he managed both of the bureau’s most politically sensitive investigations: the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information and the probe into whether Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election. His testimony provides rare insight into the attitudes and thoughts of officials who launched the Russia probe and the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose final report is expected to be released very soon.

More important, his testimony contains extensive indications of wrongdoing, including that the FBI and DoJ targeted Trump and did so with information it made no effort to verify. It paints a portrait of the Obama-era bureau as one that was unconcerned with political interference in investigations and was willing to enlist the help of close foreign allies to bring down its target. And, perhaps presaging a defense to Barr’s claim that American officials had spied on the Trump campaign, it showcases the euphemisms that can be used to disguise “spying.”

Filling In the Blanks

Priestap’s testimony took place on June 5, 2018, in Room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The questioning, by congressmen and House committee staff, focused on whether the FBI had applied the same rigor to the Clinton investigation that it had to the Trump probe.

The transcript the public can read today contains not only those questions and Priestap’s responses, but also the tell-tale redactions of anxious bureaucrats. One thing that is very clear is that the Sharpie brigades at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice really, really didn’t want anyone to know where Bill Priestap was a week into May 2016.

Rep. Jim Jordan: Where in the world was Bill Priestap?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Not long into the questioning that Tuesday morning last summer, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked, “Do you ever travel oversees?”

“Yes,” said Priestap.

 “How often?”

 “As little as possible.”

The seeming comedy routine notwithstanding, Jordan later asked how many times in his 2½ years running the counter-intelligence shop Priestap had traveled abroad.

 “I want to say three times,” he said.

 “And can you tell me where you went?” Jordan asked.

“The ones I’m remembering are the [REDACTED].”

Jordan drilled in: “All three times to [REDACTED]?

Priestap said the trips he remembered “off the top of my head were all [REDACTED].”

Jordan asked whether Priestap remembered when he went to this place. Priestap said “No.”

Jordan was back at it in later rounds of questioning, asking whether Priestap had traveled to a given location at a given time in 2016. Over and again, censors from the FBI and DoJ have redacted the location and the time.

What could this exotic destination be?  How is the timing of Priestap’s trip there a matter of national security? What secrets were the redactors trying to protect?

Peter Strzok: “Bill” was in London. 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Turns out the Sharpie brigades weren’t nearly as thorough as they thought. A long-available transcript of text messages between FBI agent Strzok and lawyer Page – the paramours who worked on both the Clinton and Trump investigations – provide the answer. It’s right there on the page detailing texts between Strzok and Page on May 4, 2016. At around 9:31 that Wednesday evening, Strzok writes to say he is worried about getting a memo into shape that is expected that night or the next morning. He feels pressured even though “I don’t know that Bill will read it before he gets back from London next week.” Go to a text from the next Monday morning, May 9, and Strzok is wondering who will be receiving the daily report on the Clinton investigation, what “with Bill out.”

So there we have it. Bill Priestap was in London on or around May 9. Which strongly suggests that all three of the international trips taken by him during his tenure as FBI counterintelligence chief were to London.

Still, there is a reason the censors had out their Sharpies. It has to do with another question Jordan asked Priestap: “Okay. So what were you doing in [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED] of 2016?”

“So,” Priestap replied, “I went to meet with a foreign partner, foreign government partner.” In other words, almost certainly British intelligence. Not exposing our British partners has been the Justice Department’s justification for locking up secrets about the beginnings of the Trump investigation. The redactions try and fail to hide that Priestap met repeatedly with his British counterparts in 2016.

Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was also in London. So was the FBI, around the same time.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

Students of the Russia-collusion saga will recall that some of the earliest and most significant events cited as leading to the FBI’s investigation of Team Trump took place in a certain REDACTED country during a REDACTED season in 2016. It was over breakfast on April 26 in London that the mysterious Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, told young Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Five days later, on May 1, Papadopoulos had drinks with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in a London bar where he shared this piece of gossip/intel. And, of course, London is home to the author of the anti-Trump “dossier,” Christopher Steele.

According to the official story laid out in the New York Times, Australian officials did not pass on this new information for two months. And while Steele was retained by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the spring to dig up dirt on Trump for the Clinton campaign, the official story is that he did not start working with U.S. officials until the summer.

And so it is more than passingly curious that Priestap kept going to London when these significant events were occurring. Jordan asked Priestap about his second trip there: “What did it have to do with?”

Priestap demurred: “I’m not at liberty to discuss that today.”

After some dodging and weaving, Jordan came back to the question, but this time with an uncomfortable specificity: “Was your second trip then concerning the Trump-Russia investigation?” he asked.

“Sir, again, I’m just not at liberty to go into the purpose of my second trip.”

Priestap could have answered “no” without perjuring himself, he could have quickly put this matter to bed.  His “I’m not at liberty” answers strongly suggest that the Trump-Russia investigation was exactly what his second trip to London was about.

Spying, Redefined

Attorney General Barr’s statement that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign makes another part of Priestap’s testimony – about why an FBI asset in London named Stefan Halper reached out to Papadopoulos and to another Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page — even more significant.

Stefan Halper: also in London.

Voanews.com/Wikimedia

Weeks before Priestap’s testimony was taken last summer, the efforts of Halper, an American scholar who works in Britain, had been exposed. Republicans had been spluttering with outrage that the FBI would deploy a spy against an American presidential campaign. Democrats had been countering that while the bureau used informants, only the ignorant and uninitiated would call them spies.

Democratic staff counsel Valerie Shen tried to use her questioning of Priestap to put the spying issue to bed. “Does the FBI use spies?” she asked the assistant director for counterintelligence (who would be in a position to know).

“What do you mean?” Priestap responded. “I guess, what is your definition of a spy?”

“Good question,” said Shen. “What is your definition of a spy?”

Before Priestap answered, his lawyer, Mitch Ettinger, intervened. “Just one second,” he said. Then Ettinger – who was one of President Bill Clinton’s attorneys during the Paula Jones/Monica Lewinsky scandal – conferred with his client.

Back on the record, Priestap presented what smacks of pre-approved testimony: “I’ve not heard of nor have I referred to FBI personnel or the people we engage with as – meaning who are working in assistance to us – as spies. We do evidence and intelligence collection in furtherance of our investigations.”

Shen was happy with the answer, and so she asked Priestap to confirm it: “So in your experience the FBI doesn’t use the term ‘spy’ in any of its investigative techniques?” Priestap assured her the word is never spoken by law-enforcement professionals – except, he said (wandering dangerously off-script), when referring to “foreign spies.”

“But in terms of one of its own techniques,” Shen said, determined to get Priestap back on track, “the FBI does not refer to one of its own techniques as spying?”

“That is correct, yes.”

“With that definition in mind, would the FBI internally ever describe themselves as spying on American citizens?”

“No.”

So there we have it with all the decisive logic of a Socratic dialogue: The FBI could not possibly have spied on the Trump campaign because bureau lingo includes neither the noun “spy” nor the verb “to spy.” Whatever informants may have been employed, whatever tools of surveillance may have been utilized, the FBI did not spy on the Trump campaign – didn’t spy by definition, as the bureau doesn’t use the term (except, of course, to describe the very same activities when undertaken by foreigners).

What’s telling about this line of questioning is that it inadvertently confirms Republican suspicions — and Attorney General Barr’s assertion. If House Democrats believed there had been no spying on the Trump campaign, they could have asked Priestap whether the FBI ever spies on Americans, given the common meaning of the verb “to spy.” They could have flat-out asked whether the FBI had spied on Trump World. Instead, Democratic counsel asked whether, given the FBI’s definition of spying, the bureau would “internally ever describe themselves as spying on American citizens.” It would seem that Democrats were every bit as convinced as Republicans that the FBI spied on Trump’s people.

Interpreting ‘Political Interference’

Democratic lawyer Shen also seemed to be engaged in damage control when she asked Priestap whether “political interference in the Department of Justice or FBI investigation [is] ever proper?”

Surprisingly, Priestap said it was: “In my opinion, I can imagine situations where it would be proper.” He explained that the political appointees in an administration might determine “that the national security interests of the country outweigh the law enforcement/prosecutive interest of the FBI and Department of Justice.”

Shen then appeared to push him to clean up his answer, suggesting that what Priestap was describing wasn’t “a political determination” but “a policy interpretation balancing national security and law enforcement.”

“Yeah. I guess,” Priestap said. “And maybe I misunderstood your question.” Then what does he do but repeat his belief that political appointees — and “by political, I could imagine, for example, the National Security Council” — might act on the notion that national security outweighs other considerations.”

“Right. Yeah. Right,” Shen said. “Let me rephrase.” She explained she wasn’t asking about decisions political officials make, but rather, decisions officials make for political reasons. Then came the rephrased question: “Is interference in a Department of Justice or FBI investigation ever proper when motivated by purely political considerations?” [Emphasis added]

“Not in my opinion,” responded Priestap.

What Shen was laboring to establish was that the only sort of investigative behavior that could be called political interference was when someone at DoJ or FBI acted out of “purely political considerations.” That’s a standard that leaves plenty of room for politics.

Targeting Trump?

But does it leave room enough for the “dossier”? The political abuse foremost in Republican minds was, and remains, that collection of howlers and hearsay allegedly compiled by Christopher Steele, who was sold to the public as a high-minded former British spy instead of a man being paid by the Clinton campaign to dirty up Trump.  Steele’s efforts were lapped up by the FBI and DoJ even though the lawmen knew Steele was peddling political work-product — opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Carter Page: Was he the real quarry, or was Donald Trump?

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

In particular, Republicans have charged that Steele’s dossier was presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court without full disclosure of its partisan origins, thus perpetrating a fraud on the FISA court. The accusation was formalized in May 2018, when Republicans demanded the appointment of a second special counsel because, they claimed, “the FBI and DOJ used politically biased, unverified sources to obtain warrants issued by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISA Court) that aided in the surveillance of U.S. citizens, including Carter Page.”

Shen, the House Oversight Committee minority counsel, brushed that accusation aside with what appeared to be an unambiguous and definitive question: “Mr. Priestap,” she asked, “are you aware of any instances of the FBI and DOJ ever using politically biased, unverified sources in order to obtain a FISA warrant?”

Priestap gave the most unambiguous and definitive of answers: “No.” One might be tempted to think that was an endorsement of the dossier, a confirmation that the FISA warrant applications were largely based on information that was neither politically biased nor unverified. But that would be taking the question and the answer on face value, when something rather less straightforward was going on.

Shen followed with another broad, all-encompassing question about the propriety of the FBI and DoJ’s behavior: “Are you aware,” she asked Priestap, “of any instances where the FBI or DOJ did not present what constituted credible and sufficient evidence to justify a FISA warrant?”

Priestap’s response is a textbook case of circular logic: “If it’s not justified, the court doesn’t approve it. So, like, if we’re not meeting the standard required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the requests are turned down.”

“So, in other words,” said the Democratic counsel, “by definition, if you presented information and a FISA court approved it, that would constitute credible sufficient information?”

“In my opinion,” said Priestap, “yes.”

Sit back and savor that exchange for a moment. One of the most senior officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation – an organization that regularly refers for prosecution people who don’t tell the full truth – champions this peculiar standard of credibility: If you can snooker a FISA court judge, the information used to traduce the court is rendered by definition “credible sufficient information.” What is the condition of the FBI if its leaders think whatever you can get past a judge is good enough?

This strange concept of legal alchemy aside, the question remains whether the dossier was used merely as a vehicle to get information on Carter Page, or whether the real quarry was Donald Trump himself. As before, Shen was unintentionally helpful at winkling inadvertent truths out of her cooperative witness. It started with the softest of softballs: “Are you aware of any FBI investigations motivated by political bias?”

“I am not.”

“Are you aware of any Justice Department investigations motivated by political bias?”

“No.”

 And a little later: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken to damage the Trump campaign at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI?”

“No.”

And there Shen might have left it, having elicited basic denials that the FBI and Justice had abused their power. But then she pushed her luck, asking a question that wasn’t worded quite carefully enough: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken to personally target Donald Trump at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI?”

Priestap must have pulled quite the face because Shen immediately declared, “I’ll rephrase.” Here’s how she tried it the second time: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken against Donald Trump at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI?”

Before Priestap can answer, his lawyer, Mitch Ettinger, interjected: “I think you need to rephrase your question.”

At which point Shen’s Democratic colleague Janet Kim jumped in to help: “Are you aware of any actions ever taken against Donald Trump at the highest levels of the Department of Justice or the FBI for the purpose of politically undercutting him?”

At last, Priestap was able to say, “No.”

That long road to “no” strong suggests that the highest levels of Justice and the FBI personally targeted Trump and took action against him. The only caveat is that Priestap believes none of that targeted action was done to undercut Trump politically. That may be so (however much the savvy observer may think otherwise). But it doesn’t blunt the main takeaway — that the bureau and DoJ targeted Trump.

In Summary…

So what did we learn from Bill Priestap’s compendious and revealing testimony?

  • We learned that the FBI and Justice targeted and took action against Trump.
  • We learned that the FBI, according to Priestap, is incapable of securing a FISA warrant with information that isn’t credible, although the judge’s approval of the warrant means by definition that the information is credible.
  • We learned that the FBI believes political interference in an investigation can be proper as long as the bureau isn’t acting purely politically.
  • We learned that the FBI did send at least one asset to do to the Trump campaign an activity that even the bureau would call “spying” — if it were done by foreign operatives.
  • We learned that the origins of the Trump-Russia tale will never be fully understood until the part played by British intelligence is made clear.

That’s an awful lot to take away from one largely neglected transcript. But it suggests just how much remains unknown about the Trump-Russia investigation while providing a glimpse at the people that want to keep it that way.

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Source: Real Clear Politics

President Donald Trump is downplaying the chances of reaching a bipartisan two-year agreement to escape billions of dollars in spending reductions.

The president tweeted Thursday evening: “House Democrats want to negotiate a $2 TRILLION spending increase but can’t even pass their own plan. We can’t afford it anyway, and it’s not happening!”

Politico noted House Democrats failed this week to gain support to pass a bill that would ward off $126 billion in spending cuts in the fiscal that starts on October 1 and cuts for the following fiscal year.

The Trump administration maintains it would lead to nearly $2 trillion in spending increases over 10 years, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that Trump might initiate a budget sequester and allow about $125 billion in cuts for both defense and non-defense spending if Congress does not agree to his 2020 budget.

Source: NewsMax Politics


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