Displaying items by tag: Russia

Sessions offered to resign before Trump’s trip abroad

  • Published in U.S.

By  and /Politico



Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered his resignation to President Donald Trump amid Trump’s rising frustration with the series of events that culminated in the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials during last year’s election. 

Trump ultimately refused Sessions’ offer, which came just before Trump embarked on his first international trip in late May, according to a person who regularly speaks with Sessions. This person said the attorney general offered to resign out of a sense of obligation because he was aware of how angered Trump was about his decision to recuse from the Russia investigations in March.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to a request for comment about Sessions’ resignation offer. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment.

In recent days however, and with fired FBI Director James Comey’s Thursday testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee set to once again put the spotlight on the Russia investigation, the White House and Trump have declined to give Sessions a vote of confidence. 

Trump has continuously — sometimes publicly — expressed his frustration with Sessions’ decision to formally step back from any investigation of Russian election interference. A day after Sessions announced his recusal, Trump gathered his senior aides in the Oval Office for a meeting, during which he fumed about Sessions’ decision. 

Trump has been furious about the series of investigations into Russia — which dismisses as a “witch hunt.” The president traces a direct line between Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from any Russia investigation to where he stands now: With former FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed as a special counsel and with intense public focus on the Russia investigation. 

A fractured relationship between Trump and Sessions would be significant and could amount to Trump abandoning one of his most loyal supporters. Sessions was the first and, for many months, the only U.S. senator to back Trump’s campaign. Sessions traveled extensively with Trump, often speaking before him at events and serving as a surrogate to the then-Republican nominee. One of Trump’s top aides, Stephen Miller, worked for Sessions for years before joining Trump’s orbit. 

Sessions has said his decision came after he consulted extensively with Justice Department lawyers about what was appropriate. He announced his recusal after revelations about a previously unreported meeting between Sessions and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

Trump traces the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the investigation into Russian election interference back to Sessions decision to recuse himself. 

A Trump adviser described Sessions as one of a number of targets of Trump’s frustration as the Russia issue intensifies. 

“He’s in a mess and is blaming anyone around him — Sessions, (White House Counsel Don) McGahn, you name it, depending on the day,” the Trump adviser said. 

The Trump adviser said Sessions was unlikely to leave his post — but that Sessions has been taken aback by how often Trump complains about the Russia recusal. Sessions, after consulting with Department of Justice lawyers, had thought the recusal was inevitable. 

Trump hasn’t seen it the same way, the Trump adviser said.

"Trump doesn't follow the traditional rules of politics that when it gets hot, you have to do something to take the heat down," this person said. "He dials it up." 

For his part, Sessions has maintained to Trump and others that his decision came only after taking the advice of career officials, the person close to Sessions said. 

Sessions wanted to show that he was willing to keep the Department of Justice above politics, said the source, who added that Sessions felt motivated to restore faith and confidence in the department.


Clinton Says She Was 'Right' About 'Vast Russia Conspiracy'; Investigations Ongoing

  • Published in U.S.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center in New York last month.

Mary Altaffer/AP


Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton argued Wednesday that Russian meddling in the 2016 election in large part cost her the White House, and said she's was "leaning" toward believing that President Trump's campaign did, indeed, collude with the Russians.

During an interview at Recode's Code Conference, Clinton argued that the Russians "could not have known how best to weaponize" damaging information about her campaign and fake news stories perpetrated on social media unless they had been "guided" by Americans.

Multiple investigations into potential ties between Trump associates and Russia, as well as Russian interference in the U.S. election, are ongoing.

Clinton's latest comments continue a post-election emergence where the former Democratic nominee continues to point fingers for her loss, though other accounts of the Clinton campaign have put more fault in her corner.

Trump tweeted Wednesday night that she "blamed everybody but herself, refuses to say she was a terrible candidate."

Clinton's response: "People in covfefe houses shouldn't throw covfefe."

At the conference, Clinton said her campaign's assertions that there was Russian meddling had been "basically shooed away."

" 'There she goes, "vast right-wing conspiracy," ' now it's a vast Russian conspiracy," she said. "It turned out we were right, and we saw evidence of it."

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the election in an effort to get Trump elected, though there so far has been no evidence of collusion with the Trump team. Former CIA Director John Brennan told lawmakers earlier this month that he was concerned about contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, but he said he didn't know if "collusion existed."

In addition to her Russia comments, Clinton on Wednesday said stories about her controversial private email server while at the State Department were overblown, calling it "the biggest nothing-burger ever."

"It was a mistake. I've said it was a mistake," she added. "And obviously, if I could turn the clock back, I wouldn't have done it in the first place. But the way that it was used was very damaging."

Trump brought up the server regularly on the campaign trail.

Clinton said she takes responsibility for mistakes made by her campaign, but echoed comments she's made since the election as well — that she was on a trajectory toward winning until then-FBI Director James Comey released a letter less than two weeks before Election Day saying that he was re-examining her email investigation.

"Comey was more than happy to talk about my emails, but he wouldn't talk about the Russians," she said.

Comey has testified it makes him "mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election." But he defended his handling of both investigations, saying that not disclosing that they were re-opening the investigation just before the election would have jeopardized the FBI's independence and that the Russia investigation, which began last summer, was treated "consistently under the same principles" as the Clinton email probe.

Trump fired Comey earlier this month, initially citing how he handled the investigation into Clinton's email server as the impetus. However, the president later said the Russia investigation played a role.

Even with that last-minute October surprise, Clinton said she still believed she was going to win — and that perhaps that was why the warnings about Russia's involvement seemed to fall on deaf ears.

"I also think I was the victim of the very broad assumption I was going to win. I never believed it, I always thought it would be a close election," she said.

But her campaign ultimately saw measurable drops with women voters in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, in particular, Clinton said.

"I knew that I'd taken a tremendous hit after the Comey letter and later I understood the role that WikiLeaks played in it. But the Comey letter was measurable," she said. "You could see my drop."

However, pollsters have said that "there is at best mixed evidence to suggest that the FBI announcement tipped the scales of the race." And the new book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign details how many early missteps ultimately hurt her campaign.

Clinton has pointed fingers before at Comey for contributing to her loss. And in a commencement address last week at her alma mater, Wellesley College, she jabbedmore directly at Trump and the controversies engulfing his administration.

But on Wednesday she unleashed her harshest blame yet against her own party, claiming the Democratic National Committee was vastly unprepared for the 2016 election when it came to data-gathering compared to the GOP's robust operation.

"I set up my campaign and we have our own data operation. I get the nomination, so I'm now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherited nothing from the Democratic Party," she said.

"I mean, it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong," Clinton added.



Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat than Isis, John McCain says

  • Published in U.S.

 The Guardian.

Video link: 170529McCain_desk.mp4


Russia's leader Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat to the United States than islamist terrorism, US senator John McCain says.

Speaking to the ABC's 7.30 program on Monday night, Mr McCain - who is in Canberra for security talks - said Mr Putin is "the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS".

"I think ISIS can do terrible things, and I worry a lot about what is happening with the Muslim faith," Mr McCain said.

"But it's the Russians who tried to destroy the very fundamental of democracy, and that is to change the outcome of an American election. I have seen no evidence they succeeded but they tried and they are still trying.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began examining possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, before FBI head James Comey was fired by President Donald Trump.

Mr Putin has denied Russia attempted to meddle in the election.

Despite this, Mr McCain said there should be further sanctions on "the Russians" as they are "the far greatest challenge that we have".

"We need to have increased sanctions and hopefully when we come back from our recess the Senate will move forward with sanctions on Russia, and enact other penalties for Russian behaviour," Mr McCain said.

The 80-year-old, who is the chair of the senate armed services committee, also addressed mounting tensions with North Korea, saying the world could face another Cuban Missile Crisis if tensions are not diffused.

​"The key to it is China. China can restrain North Korean behaviour," Mr McCain said. "This could be a very serious crisis, along the lines of the Cuban missile crisis, unless we do everything we can to restrain North Korean behaviour."

He said the impending crisis requires all countries to work together to ensure North Korea is never in a position where they can threaten the US, America, Australia or any allies with a nuclear weapon.

During Mr McCain's visit, Australia announced an additional 30 troops will be sent to Afghanistan.

Asked why security in the middle east seemed to get worse, not better, after US intervention, Mr McCain was scathing of former president Barack Obama's approach.

"We have not pursued a strategy for victory. The Obama administration's strategy was' don't lose'," Mr McCain said.

Meanwhile, he believes President Donald Trump's advisors have the capacity to achieve victory.

"I believe that this national security team that is around the President now, General McMaster and General Kelly and General Mattis, I think they are developing a strategy and that strategy means victory," he said.

Mr McCain said Mr Trump accepted the advice of his team "most of the time".

"Can I tell you that he does all the time? No," Mr McCain said. "Can I tell you that it bothers me? Yes, it bothers me."

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