Displaying items by tag: Russia

Special counsel Mueller named to probe Trump-Russia ties

  • Published in U.S.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller Wednesday as a special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into allegations that Russia and Donald Trump's campaign collaborated to influence the 2016 presidential election, giving Mueller sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes uncovered in the probe.


It was a concession by the Trump administration, which had resisted calls from Democrats to turn the investigation over to outside counsel. The White House counsel's office was alerted only after the order appointing Mueller was signed.

In a written statement, Trump insisted anew that there were no nefarious ties between his campaign and Russia.

"A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity," he declared. "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly."

The appointment of a special counsel ramps up the pressure on Trump and his associates. Mueller's broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russia probe, but also "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." That could well include the firing last week of FBI Director James Comey.

Republicans have largely stood behind Trump as the FBI and congressional investigations into Russia's election meddling intensified. But GOP lawmakers have grown increasingly anxious after Trump fired Comey, who had been leading the bureau's probe — and after Comey associates said he had notes from a meeting in which Trump asked him to shut down the investigation into the Russia ties of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

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Early reaction from Congress was generally positive to the appointment of Mueller (pronounced MULL-er).

Democrats said it was not a moment too soon.

"I believe Mueller will be independent, he will be thorough and he will be fair and he's not going to be easily swayed," said Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. "And he is a career man, a career FBI kind of guy, and I think that's a good thing."

Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the oversight panel, said Mueller was a "great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted."

House Speaker Paul Ryan was more muted and formal: "I welcome his role at the Department of Justice. The important ongoing bipartisan investigation in the House will also continue."

Fellow Republican Peter King of New York was more leery: "I'm worried with all special counsels because there's no control over them and they can abuse their power."

In the 1990s, Democrats complained that independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton, overstepped his authority.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump gave no indication of the announcement to come in a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy.

He made no reference to the controversies about Russia or the Russia ties for fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn or Comey's dismissal. But he complained bitterly that about criticism of his still-young presidency.

"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly," he said. "You can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. ... I guess that's why we won. Adversity makes you stronger. Don't give in, don't back down. ... And the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face."

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, three congressional committees, all led by Republicans, confirmed they wanted to hear from Comey. Congressional investigators have been seeking Comey's memos on his meeting with Trump, as well as documents from the Justice Department related to his firing.

The latest political storm, coupled with the still-potent fallout from Trump's recent disclosure of classified information to Russian diplomats, overshadowed all else in the capital and beyond. Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street as investors worried that the latest turmoil in Washington could hinder Trump's pro-business agenda.

Interest was hardly limited to the U.S. No less a commentator than Russia's Vladimir Putin called the dramatic charges swirling around Trump evidence of "political schizophrenia spreading in the U.S." He offered to furnish a "record" of the Trump-diplomats meeting in the Oval Office if the White House desired it.

There was no word on what that record might entail, a question many were likely to raise in light of Trump's recent warning to Comey that he had "better hope" there were no tapes of a discussion they'd had.

The White House disputed Comey's account of the February conversation concerning Flynn, but did not offer specifics. Several members of Congress said that if Trump did suggest that Comey "let this go" regarding Flynn's Russian contacts, it was probably just a joke, light banter.

Questions about Trump's conduct have been mounting for weeks, most recently with the two explosive revelations — that in February the president pressed Comey to drop a federal investigation into Flynn's contacts with Russia and that he disclosed classified information to the senior Russian officials last week.'

Both allegations came from anonymous sources, and the White House was quick to denounce the leaks and deny any impropriety, insisting the president never tried to squelch the Flynn investigation nor did he make inappropriate disclosures to the Russians.

On Capitol Hill, Comey was clearly the man in demand, with three committees working to seat him at their witness tables.

— The House oversight committee set a May 24 hearing on whether Trump interfered in the FBI probe, and invited Comey to testify.

—The Senate intelligence committee invited Comey to appear in both open and closed sessions. It also asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to give the committee any notes Comey might have made regarding discussions he had with White House or Justice Department officials about Russia's efforts to influence the election.

—Top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the FBI to provide any Comey memos and asked the White House to turn over any audio recordings that might exist of conversations with the now-fired director. They expect to bring in Comey in to testify, as well.

Trump is preparing to leave town Friday on his first foreign trip, and aides have been hopeful the journey will be a chance for the administration to get back on track after weeks of chaos and distractions.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speculated Trump was probably happy to get out of town — "and a lot of us are glad he's leaving for a few days."

His advice to the president: "Stay disciplined, stay focused and deliver on the world stage."

___(Associated Press


Russia prepares for Rody visit in May

MANILA, Philippines - Russia is now laying the groundwork for President Duterte’s visit to Moscow next month by identifying possible areas of cooperation, Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev said yesterday.

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The envoy, however, said Russia would not send military troops to the Philippines nor is it seeking a military alliance with the country.

“We are now preparing for the historic visit of President Duterte in May,” Khovaev said in a message yesterday in a meeting of the Philippine Russian Business Assembly.

Duterte said he would be visiting Russia on May 25.

Khovaev said Russia is ready to help the Philippines in many areas, including security, through the provision of arms, as well as joint military exercises.

“The two countries have to deal with specific threats such as terrorism, extremism, piracy, illegal drug trafficking so it is natural to combine efforts. No nation is able to cope with these challenges on its own. That is why we are ready to share our experience, arms, weapons and other necessary equipment. Also, training and joint military exercises, but we don’t seek military alliance and we will not send our troops,” Khovaev said in an interview after the meeting.
Aside from security, he said that Russia is ready to cooperate with the Philippines in different fields such as trade and investments, political, education, culture, tourism, science and technology, as well as agriculture.

“We are looking forward to cooperation in different fields. It will be a milestone in the history of our relations and it should be successful. It is in the long-term interest of the two countries and it will greatly contribute to the regional stability and sustainable development,” he said.

Duterte has said he wants Russia to be an ally.

During his visit, the President intends to have a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he already met in November 2016, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru.

Duterte said Putin was his “idol.”

By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star)


‘Russian leaks’ still pervading despite White House assertions

Very recent media reports concerning Russia and members of President Trump's team are being described as: "The slow drip, drip of Russia stories."
Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, announced how upset he is at the mention of the stories that have not been terminated at all.
Preibus, in his role, has been described as having contacted the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).The focus of the Preibus' FBI contact as announced: "to request the agency dispute on news stories that the Trump campaign had contact with Russian officials."
Such a communication by Preibus was categorized as highly unusual by the White House press coverage based on what ought to be aired through the news media, both print and broadcast.
Strong voices from the media: The Preibus action is called meddling.
"The meddling puts the president's chief of staff in the middle of an ongoing investigation that involves his boss.
"FBI Director James Comey refused Priebus' request owing to alleged contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia are still under review."
Trump's quest for the presidency during his candidacy was rife with his personal comments: Washington's government institutions were "rigged" against him.
The then presidential candidate laudedC omey's 'public intervention in the election when the FBI director informed Congress he was"reopening" the investigation into the much- publicized Clinton e-mails as she likewise sought the presidency.
It was widely publicized that Comey stated how he did not find anything new and quickly closed the subject. The Comey report did not fall on deaf ears and was used as a weapon against the Democratic presidential candidate by the Trump backers.
Trump proceeded to attack the intelligence community -- it was termed a continuation of a lengthy "spat" with American officials tasked with ferreting out truths critical to national security.
Therefore, how would some members of theAmerican populace translate the Priebus' move? Isn't it clear even to non-partisans that the Priebus' request directed to the aforesaid intelligence agency could vastly weakenTrump's position?
TheTrump reaction was (as always) via 'Tweet' in regard to the response of Comey directed to the Priebus' request. Trump was described as having blasted the FBI and NSA on Twitter; central to that tweet surfaced: that the FBI is totally unable to stop the national security leakers.
After all the caustic exchange of opinions that has taken place, which originally came from Trump's main surrogate, Comey's having turned down the Priebus request is deemed justifiable by those who have been keeping a close watch on the intelligence panorama.
Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager whose very recent re-appearance on the political scene, is the latest report on alleged Russian ties.
Reportedly, texts were sent to the cell phone of Manafort's daughter relating to the involvement of Manafort himself: that he had close financial ties with the former president of Ukraine,a Russia ally.
Similarly, what was bruited around re Manafort's ties, was how he helped set up a meeting between DonaldTrump and an associate of the Ukrainian president in 2012, on Trump's alleged relations with Russia.
Trump, in the meantime, delivered a keynote address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He railed about his ongoing war with journalists. He made emphatic his views on news reports as “fake,” calling unnamed sources as the “real enemy of the people.”
But the media coverage did bring out the mood at the CPAC convention.
Some in attendance at the same CPAC event were described as waving small Russian flags with the word "Trump" on them as he started his speech.
How else could some observers at the very same audience react to whatever knowledge has been aired without hesitation, in regard to how Trump has conducted himself amid so-called "Russian backing?"

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