Posts Tagged ‘Sergei Lavrov’

Libyan Military Strongman Haftar Visiting Russia

August 12, 2017

MOSCOW — Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar was due to arrive in Moscow on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, RIA news agency reported, citing a Russian negotiator.

Haftar is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, told RIA. It was not immediately clear what the pair would be discussing.

At the end of July, Haftar and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj committed during talks in France to a conditional ceasefire and to elections, but a Italian naval mission aimed to help the country curb migrant flows has fueled tension this month.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

It has rejected a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is struggling to assert authority over an array of armed factions which have been competing for control since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has held talks with Russian officials before and in January he was given a tour of a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The head of the U.N.-backed government visited Moscow in March, and the Kremlin said then it wanted to help repair the damage it said had been done by Western involvement in the country.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Tillerson says can settle problems with Russia, avoid damaging ties

August 7, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 6, 2017 / 11:15 PM

MANILA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday said the United States wants to work with Russia and it was pointless to cut off ties over their disagreements.

Discussing a meeting he held on Sunday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson told reporters that Russia had indicated “some willingness” to talk and find ways to move forward on the thorny issue of the Ukraine.

He said he saw U.S.-Russia relations pragmatically and believed problems could be addressed, and stressed to Lavrov that Russia needed to understand that meddling in elections was a very serious issue.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Perry

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Rex Tillerson meets for ‘lengthy’ talks with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov amid diplomatic crisis

Russia has removed some 750 American diplomats from their positions

By Emily Shugerman New York

The Independent

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he has engaged in “lengthy” talks with the US Secretary of State, and feels the US is ready to continue dialogue with Russia.

Mr Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila. It was the first conversation between the two men since the US imposed sanctions on Russia last week.

Mr Lavrov said Mr Tillerson was chiefly interested in the reduction of some 750 American diplomatic positions in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the move was a response to the US sanctions, and to former President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US earlier this year.

“I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered,” Mr Putin said in a Russian state media interview.

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There has been confusion, however, over whether the US diplomats would be expelled from Russia, or simply removed from their positions.

“We provided an explanation,” Mr Lavrov said, but did not disclose details.

The US Congress overwhelmingly voted to imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the country’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Three US intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of releasing damaging information on Hillary Clinton and spreading false reports via social media in an attempt to bolster Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Federal investigators are also looking into whether Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in this effort.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

Mr Trump signed his country’s sanctions into law begrudgingly last week, under intense pressure from legislators. In a statement, Mr Trump called the sanctions “seriously flawed,” and said he would only sign the bill for the sake of national unity.

The President, who has repeatedly pushed for better relations with Moscow, wrote: “We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”

Later, Mr Trump declared US relations with Russia were at an “all-time low”.

Russia “fully shares” Trump’s view that relations are in dangerous condition after sanctions law passed, Kremlin spokesman told press today.

Mr Lavrov, recalling his discussions with Mr Tillerson, said he felt that the Americans “need to keep the dialogue open,” and added: “There’s no alternative to that.”

Mr Tillerson did not comment on the discussions.’

Mr Lavrov said the two men also discussed sending special representative Kurt Volker, the US envoy to Ukraine, on a visit to Moscow. Mr Volker travelled to Ukraine last month to assess the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. The conflict is seen as a major obstacle to improved US-Russia relations in the US.

Mr Lavrov did not specify when Mr Volker would visit.

Mr Tillerson and Mr Lavrov also reportedly discussed the nuclear situation in North Korea, and how the US and Russia could withstand attacks.

They agreed that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary Thomas A Shannon would continue the discussion.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rex-tillerson-sergey-lavrov-russia-lengthy-talks-sanctions-association-of-southeast-asian-nations-a7880031.html

Tillerson Says World Breathes Easier As North Korea Action Taken in Peace

August 7, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi supported a tough stance on Pyongyang’s arsenal

MANILA (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday that a UN Security Council vote to impose sanctions on North Korea showed that world powers were united behind a push for a denuclearised Korean peninsula.Speaking at a security forum in Manila, Washington’s top diplomat said Kim Jong-Un’s regime must halt ballistic missile tests if it wanted to talk to the United States about resolving the standoff.

“It’s quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearised Korean peninsula,” he said.

On Sunday, Tillerson held separate talks in Manila with foreign ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergei Lavrov of Russia, both of whom he said were in support of a tough stance on Pyongyang’s arsenal.

While Wang called for a resumption of dialogue with North Korea, Tillerson insisted Kim must first stop the missile tests.

“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” he said, holding out the prospect of US envoys sitting down with Pyongyang’s isolated regime.

But he would not set a timeframe on when this might be possible or how long North Korea might have to refrain from testing more long-rang missiles.

“We’ll know it when we see it,” he told reporters.

“I’m not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks.

“And they can demonstrate that they are ready to sit in the spirit of finding their way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests.”

The UN Security Council on Saturday approved a US-drafted sanctions package against North Korea that could cost it $1 billion a year in an effort to halt its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

This was in response to the North conducting two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month that Kim boasted showed he could strike any part of the United States.

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Tillerson Hails U.N. Sanctions, as Chinese Minister Rebukes North Korea at Asean Meeting

MANILA — A day after the United Nations Security Council passed its toughest sanctions against North Korea, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson met with his South Korean and Chinese counterparts here in hopes of ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang.

In a midday conclave on Sunday with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea, Mr. Tillerson hailed in his typically understated fashion the United Nations vote, which could cost North Korea nearly $1 billion a year, or about one-third of its foreign earnings.

“It was a good outcome,” Mr. Tillerson said with a smile.

Ms. Kang, sitting across the table from him, could not resist chiming in: “It was a very, very good outcome.”

Despite Mr. Tillerson’s obvious glee, though, the man of the moment here at the annual ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, was the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, a dashing diplomat who unlike Mr. Tillerson held a news conference and direct talks with Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong of North Korea.

Mr. Wang said the two had “an intensive conversation,” and in unusually strong terms, he later urged North Korea to show restraint.

“Do not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke the international society’s good will by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests,” Mr. Wang said.

He also said, “Of course, we would like to urge other parties like the United States and South Korea to stop increasing tensions.”

A year ago, the Chinese were on their heels in this region. An international tribunal in The Hague last July delivered a sweeping rebuke of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands, finding that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

The case, brought against China by the Philippines, seemed like a turning point in China’s disputes with a host of regional players, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A few months before that ruling, 12 nations in the Pacific region concluded more than seven years of negotiations by signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a trade agreement that bound much of Southeast Asia together with the United States and Japan in an economic partnership intended to fight China’s growing economic hegemony in the region.

While China had its own regional trade accord, the United States-led pact had become the preferred agreement, with several nations that had missed out on the initial round of negotiations expressing interest in joining in a second round.

How things have changed.

Read the rest:

Trump to sign Russia sanctions, Moscow retaliates

July 29, 2017

AFP and Reuters

© Nicholas Kamm / AFP | US President Donald Trump arrives at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York July 28, 2017 to deliver remarks on law enforcement at Suffolk Community College at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood, New York.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-07-29

U.S. President Donald Trump will sign legislation that imposes sanctions on Russia, after Moscow ordered the United States to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two U.S. diplomatic properties in retaliation.

The U.S. Senate had voted almost unanimously on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia, forcing Trump to choose between a tough position on Moscow and effectively dashing his stated hopes for warmer ties with the country or to veto the bill amid investigations in possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

By signing the bill into law, Trump cannot ease the sanctions against Russia unless he seeks congressional approval.

Moscow’s retaliation, announced by the Foreign Ministry on Friday, had echoes of the Cold War. If confirmed that Russia’s move would affect hundreds of staff at the U.S. embassy, it would far outweigh the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35
Russians in December.

The legislation was in part a response to conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that  Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election , and to further punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Late on Friday, the White House issued a statement saying Trump would sign the bill after reviewing the final version. The statement made no reference to Russia’s retaliatory measures.

Russia had been threatening retaliation for weeks. Its response suggests it has set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the U.S. leader, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.

Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low because of the allegations that Russian cyber interference in the election was intended to boost Trump’s chances, something Moscow flatly denies. Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

The Russian Foreign Ministry complained of growing anti-Russian feeling in the United States, accusing “well-known circles” of seeking “open confrontation”.

President Vladimir Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia would have to retaliate against what he called boorish U.S. behaviour. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Friday that the Senate vote was the last straw.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by telephone that Russia was ready to normalise relations with the United States and to cooperate on major global issues.

Lavrov and Tillerson “agreed to maintain contact on a range of bilateral issues”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry said the United States had until Sept. 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the number of Russian diplomats left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.

‘Extreme aggression’

It was not immediately clear how many U.S. diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave either the country or their posts, but the Interfax news agency cited an informed source as saying “hundreds” of people would be affected.

A diplomatic source told Reuters that it would be for the United States to decide which posts to cut, whether occupied by U.S. or Russian nationals.

An official at the U.S. Embassy, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, said the Embassy employed around 1,100 diplomatic and support staff in Russia, including Russian and U.S. citizens.

Russian state television channel Rossiya 24 said over 700 staff would be affected but that was not confirmed by the foreign ministry or the U.S. embassy.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement said the passage of the bill confirmed “the extreme aggression of the United States in international affairs”.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met outgoing U.S. ambassador John Tefft on Friday to inform him of the counter measures, Russian news agencies reported. The U.S. Embassy said Tefft had expressed his “strong disappointment and protest”.

Most U.S. diplomatic staff, including around 300 U.S. citizens, work in the main embassy in Moscow, with others based in consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was also seizing a Moscow dacha compound used by U.S. diplomats for recreation, from Aug. 1, as well as a U.S. diplomatic warehouse in Moscow.

In December, the outgoing Obama administration seized two Russian diplomatic compounds – one in New York and another in Maryland – at the same time as it expelled Russian diplomats.

Trump and Putin met for the first time at a G20 summit in Germany this month in what both sides described as a productive encounter, but Russian officials have become increasingly convinced that Congress and Trump’s political opponents will not
allow him to mend ties, even if he wants to.

The European Union has also threatened to retaliate against new U.S. sanctions on Russia, saying they would harm the bloc’s energy security by targeting projects including a planned new pipeline to bring Russian natural gas to northern Europe.

A European Commission spokesman in Brussels said the bloc would be following the sanctions process closely.

(REUTERS)

http://www.france24.com/en/trump-sign-us-sanctions-russia-putin-moscow-retaliates-seizes-property-demands-diplomatic-staff-redu

Trump and Putin Met for Second Time at G-20 — An “extraordinarily important meeting.”

July 19, 2017

Previously undisclosed conversation took place on sidelines of gathering of world leaders in Germany

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a second, previously undisclosed talk on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, a White House official said Tuesday.

The conversation took place on the same day that the two leaders met earlier for more than two hours in what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called an “extraordinarily important meeting.”

The White House disclosed the conversation after it was reported by Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk advisory group. He wrote about the meeting in a company newsletter and spoke about it in a television interview Tuesday.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and text

 Ian Bremmer

The two leaders spoke during a state dinner for the world leaders and their spouses.

The White House official said Mr. Trump spoke with many leaders during the dinner and said the president “spoke briefly” with Mr. Putin, who was seated next to first lady Melania Trump, toward the end of the evening.

Mr. Bremmer said the two spoke for about an hour, joined by Mr. Putin’s translator.

The White House official said Messrs. Trump and Putin used the Russian translator because the American translator accompanying Mr. Trump spoke only English and Japanese. Mr. Trump had been seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd,” the White House official said. “It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders.”

In the meeting earlier in the day, Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Putin on what the intelligence community says was an extensive campaign by the Russian government to meddle in last year’s election. Mr. Trump told him that Americans are upset about Russia’s actions and want them to stop, Mr. Tillerson told reporters in a briefing. Mr. Putin denied that Russia played a role, and the two leaders agreed not to “relitigate” the past, Mr. Tillerson said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was also in the meeting, told reporters afterward that Mr. Trump accepted Mr. Putin’s contention that Russia didn’t interfere in the campaign.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Bremmer said he learned about the second Trump-Putin talk from participants at the dinner, which was attended only by world leaders and their spouses.

Mr. Bremmer said the participants described the talk as “very animated” and “very friendly.”

Mr. Trump said it was already known that he would be attending a dinner with the Russian president and 18 other world leaders. “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick,’” he tweeted Tuesday evening. “All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!”

The dinner was closed to the news media, and White House officials hadn’t provided details of the president’s interactions during the event before Tuesday.

The news that Mr. Trump had a talk with Mr. Putin that the White House didn’t initially disclose comes as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow in that effort.

Mr. Trump has expressed skepticism about U.S. intelligence agencies’ consensus that Russia sought to meddle in the election, saying days before his meeting with Mr. Putin, “Nobody knows for sure.” He has repeatedly denied any collusion by his campaign.

Since his meeting with Mr. Putin, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has released an email chain showing that he helped arrange a meeting last June to discuss allegedly damaging information about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In that email chain, the younger Mr. Trump was told that the information was gathered as part of a Russian government effort to help his father.

Also on Tuesday, the White House announced its intent to formally nominate Jon Huntsman —former governor of Utah and ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and to China under President Barack Obama —as ambassador to Russia.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 19, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump, Putin Held Second Talk at G-20.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-and-putin-met-for-second-time-at-g-20-white-house-says-1500419605

Trump tells Duterte of two U.S. nuclear subs in Korean waters: NYT

May 24, 2017

Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump told his Philippine counterpart that Washington has sent two nuclear submarines to waters off the Korean peninsula, the New York Times said, comments likely to raise questions about his handling of sensitive information.

Trump has said “a major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible because of its nuclear and missile programs and that all options are on the table but that he wants to resolve the crisis diplomatically.

North Korea has vowed to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead that can strike the mainland United States, saying the program is necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

Trump told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Washington had “a lot of firepower over there”, according to the New York Times, which quoted a transcript of an April 29 call between the two.

“We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all,” the newspaper quoted Trump as telling Duterte, based on the transcript.

The report was based on a Philippine transcript of the call that was circulated on Tuesday under a “confidential” cover sheet by the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

In a show of force, the United States has sent the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it joined the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea in late April.

According to the Times, a senior Trump administration official in Washington, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the call and insisted on anonymity, confirmed the transcript was an accurate representation of the call between the two leaders.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Trump discussed intelligence about Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at talks in the Oval Office this month, raising questions about Trump’s handling of secrets.

Trump also praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem”, the New York Times reported, a subject that has drawn much criticism in the West.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed in the Philippines since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about one-third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense during legitimate operations.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Fired FBI director Comey to publicly testify in Russian probe

May 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP file photo | Fired FBI director James Comey

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-05-20

James Comey, the former FBI chief fired by President Donald Trump, has agreed to publicly testify about Russian interference in the US elections, as fresh allegations increased pressure on the American leader.

In an Oval Office meeting with senior Russian officials last week, Trump called Comey a “nut job” and said firing the intelligence chief had relieved “great pressure” on him, The New York Times reported.

The exchange supports claims that Trump sacked Comey over the bureau’s probe into possible collusion between the real estate mogul’s campaign and Moscow.

The Washington Post meanwhile said the FBI has identified an unnamed senior White House official as a “significant person of interest” in its sprawling probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The reports came just as Trump flew to Saudi Arabia to kick off his first foreign trip as US leader — highlighting how the controversy over his team’s alleged links to Moscow is dogging his fledgling presidency.

Comey will testify in open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee at some point after the Memorial Day holiday, May 29, though a date has not yet been set.

The ex-FBI chief has not spoken publicly since his surprise firing last week.

“I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media,” panel Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, said he expects Comey to “shed light on issues critical to this Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

However, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Comey declined their invitation to testify before the panel over the circumstances surrounding his abrupt removal.

“We’re extremely disappointed in James Comey’s decision not to testify voluntarily before the Judiciary Committee,” said Chairman Chuck Grassley and the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, urging Comey to reconsider.

“There is no reason he can’t testify before both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees… Given his commitment to the people and the mission of the FBI, we expected him to be responsive to the senators responsible for vetting its next proposed leader.”

The White House has been thrown into turmoil by a succession of stunning allegations against the president this week, including that he may have obstructed justice by asking Comey to drop an investigation into one of his top advisors.

Moscow ties under microscope

The latest report from the Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation, undercuts Trump’s insistence that his campaign had nothing to do with the Kremlin.

Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about a phone call with the Russian ambassador.

The president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is among those whose contacts with the Russian government have come under scrutiny.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week, according to the Times, citing notes taken at the meeting and read to the paper by a US official.

“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

That flies in the face of the White House’s public insistence that Comey’s dismissal was not linked to his ongoing investigation.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not dispute the Times’s account.

Intercepted Russian communications suggest that Russian officials felt that they had built up such a strong relationship with Flynn that they could use him to influence Trump and his inner circle, CNN reported.

It cited current and former administration officials as saying US intelligence officials were so concerned about the conversations between Flynn and the Russians that they would limit how much sensitive information they shared with him.

Did he or didn’t he?

On Thursday, Trump declared himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” in American political history and denied allegations of collusion.

“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians — zero,” Trump told reporters.

The White House on Friday predicted that the investigation would back up Trump’s account.

“As the president has stated before — a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” said Spicer.

Spicer offered a new explanation for the firing, saying that Trump had been trying to improve relations with Russia — and Comey got in the way.

“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” he said.

Related:

Image result for james comey taking oath, photos

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Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (left), with Donald Trump and Russia’s ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office.

Fired FBI Director James Comey (top) has agreed to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing that will be scheduled for after Memorial Day. The bombshell announcement on Friday evening came just hours after a summary of a May 10 Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump and Russia’s ambassador and foreign minister was read to a New York Times reporter. According to the notes that White House aides circulated internally, President Donald Trump told Sergey Lavrov (bottom with Trump) and Sergey Kislyak last week that James Comey, the ousted FBI director, was ‘a real nut job’ whose departure would make life easier for him. ‘I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,’ Trump said, according to the summary. ‘I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.’ Trump also assured the Russian envoys: ‘I’m not under investigation.’

Defiant President Trump Insists There Was “No Collusion” — As Former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

May 18, 2017

Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) on August 8, 2013 in New York City. The ICCS, which is co-hosted by Fordham University and the FBI, is held every 18 months; more than 25 countries are represented at this year's conference

  • The Justice Department has named a special to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election
  • Longtime former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead the probe
  • Democrats and others have been demanding an independent probe that would be free from possible interference
  • Inquiry to probe any links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’ 
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he will recuse himself from election investigations, after his own undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. were revealed 
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the move 
  • He said Mueller would have ‘all appropriate resources’ 
  • News broke as Trump was interviewing candidates to be the new FBI director – who will no longer oversee the Russia probe

A defiant President Trump again proclaimed that there were no ties between his presidential campaign and Russia on the heels of a Justice Department announcement that a special counsel would take over the probe.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who served a decade and was then reappointed by President Obama, will take over the executive branch investigation.

‘As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,’ Trump said in a statement released several hours after the news broke Wednesday night.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14:  FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the over 2,500 open cases the FBI Corporate and Securities is probing for fraud after they are up close to 50 percent from 2008.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14: FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a oversight hearing on Capitol Hill December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. Mueller testified on the over 2,500 open cases the FBI Corporate and Securities is probing for fraud after they are up close to 50 percent from 2008. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Justice Department announced that Mueller would serve as special counsel, and would have ‘all appropriate resources’ to carry out the probe – during a week when Donald Trump‘s White House was battered by disclosures about his contacts with the Russians and his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The White House has spent weeks batting back efforts to install an independent outsider to lead the Russia probe, saying there are already sufficient probes. As Special Counsel, Mueller will have a wide berth to follow the investigation where he sees fit, and set his own terms for how much information he wants to reveal or withhold.

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for an independent investigation that would be free from interference from Trump administration officials, as well as a special congressional commission that might probe deeper into charges that Russia tried to sway the election through hacking and other means.

It wasn’t immediately clear how or whether Trump’s contacts with Comey and reported efforts to either steer or inquire about the FBI’s Russia probes played a role in the decision.

The White House had repeatedly an independent investigation wasn’t needed.

Wednesday night, Trump said he hoped the investigation would be speedy.

‘I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,’ he said. ‘In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.’

President George W. Bush appointed Mueller to lead the FBI in 2001. He was reappointed by President Obama 10 years later to serve an addition two years. He has a reputation among members of both parties for probity.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the move Wednesday evening, after getting grilled during his own confirmation hearings about under what circumstances he would be willing to appoint a special counsel.

‘In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,’ Rosenstein said.

‘My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,’ he continued.

Rosenstein added, ‘Each year, the career professionals of the U.S. Department of Justice conduct tens of thousands of criminal investigations and handle countless other matters without regard to partisan political considerations.’

He continued: ‘I have great confidence in the independence and integrity of our people and our processes. Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome.’

‘Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly. Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result,’ he added.

A letter appointing Mueller as special counsel charges him with investigating links 'between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump'

A letter appointing Mueller as special counsel charges him with investigating links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’

Sen. John McCain compared Trump scandals to Watergate in scope in comments Tuesday, where he also referenced Iran-Contra

Sen. John McCain compared Trump scandals to Watergate in scope in comments Tuesday, where he also referenced Iran-Contra

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak (L-R) talking during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House

In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington

In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, then-incoming FBI Director James Comey talks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller before Comey was officially sworn in at the Justice Department in Washington

Rosenstsein’s letter tasks Mueller with investigating links ‘between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’

The wide scope also includes ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’ – which would appear to include any efforts Trump may have made to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

‘I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,’ Mueller said in a statement.

Rosenstein didn’t inform the White House or the Attorney General of the decision until after he had signed the order, CNN reported.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was spotted at the White House about 5 pm Wednesday, about an hour before the news broke.

It wasn’t immediately clear what Sessions was doing at the White House. In response to an inquiry from DailyMail.com, a DOJ official said: The White House was informed after the order was signed as was the attorney general.

In Mueller, the department has tapped a counsel with a reputation for probity.

The soon-to-be special counsel was born outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from Princeton, New York University and the University of Virginia.

A decorated war veteran, he served as a Marine in Vietnam and came home with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Navy commendation medals.

Mueller took over the helm of the FBI in 2001. In July, after he was nominated by then President George W. Bush, the Justice Department announced that he had prostate cancer and would undergo surgery.

That surgery was scheduled for three days after his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His nomination passed unanimously on the Senate floor on August 2, 2001, 98-0.

Mueller didn’t fully step into the job until September 4, 2001, a week before the Sept. 11, terror attacks.

Democrats have been calling for an independent probe of Moscow’s alleged election interference since the existence of the FBI’s Russia probe was reported and then confirmed by ex FBI Director Mueller during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

The calls only increased after Trump sacked Comey last week. The president said in an NBC interview that the FBI’s Russia probe, which he has called a ‘hoax,’ was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that according to a memo written by Comey, Trump had asked Comey to back off in the FBI’s probe of ex national security advisor Mike Flynn, whose own Russia connections are under investigation.

Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the sprawling FBI investigation, NBC News reported.

Although Republicans have provided considerable cover for Trump, there were early stirrings of more aggressive oversight on Wednesday.

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference after a classified meeting of the committee in which they reviewed documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference after a classified meeting of the committee in which they reviewed documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who has been criticized by committee Democrats for not taking an aggressive investigative stance toward the Trump administration, wrote the FBI on Tuesday seeking copies of ‘any and all documentation the fired FBI director James Comey kept of his communications with President Donald Trump.’

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has its own investigation of alleged Russian election interference, also wants Comey to appear in closed and open session.

It asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to hand over any notes Comey has of conversations between the White House and Justice Department officials about the Russia probe.

Still another panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also seeking documents.

Panel chair Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California wrote the Justice Department and the White House on Wednesday seeking documents.

Democrats, for the most part, greeted the development positively.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who worked under President Obama, called Mueller ‘Incorruptible.’

‘As long as his charter is appropriate defined and he is properly resourced, this is a good move.’

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware sent out a bevvy of tweets praising Mueller.

‘Director Mueller helps restore confidence in the independence and integrity of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference,’ he wrote, calling the ex-FBI head a ‘strong choice.’

Some Democratic lawmakers, while praising the choice of Mueller, again pointed a finger at the Trump administration and demanded that the probe be given proper resources.

‘And now that the Justice Department has rightly turned the reins of the investigation over to an independent special prosecutor, it is critical that former Director Mueller is given the resources he needs to get to the bottom of Russia’s attack on our democracy, without any interference from the Trump administration,’ said Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Republicans’ responses were more mixed.

Sen. Lamar Alexander praised Mueller’s ‘independence and integrity’ while working with both Presidents Bush and Obama.

‘Which are exactly the qualities needed to pursue the Russia investigation to its conclusion,’ Alexander said.

The Tennessee lawmaker also urged the Senate to continue its investigation and bring ex-FBI director Comey before Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nothing to Mueller’s character, but pledged the Senate’s probe would go on, and said appointing a special prosecutor ensures the FBI’s investigation ‘will continue.’

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, ‘My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead.’

 ‘That is what we’ve been doing here in the House,’ he continued. ‘The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.’

The House’s ‘important ongoing bipartisan investigation,’ Ryan also said, will continue.

MUELLER’S ROLE IN WASHINGTON’S MOST-TOLD STORY ABOUT JIM COMEY

During Mueller’s tenure at the top of the FBI, he was involved in one of the most memorable parts of his successor Comey’s biography.

As the story goes, Comey – whose firing last week by President Trump teed of the White House’s most recent troubles – received a call in 2004 informing him that President Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card were heading to the intensive care unit where Comey’s boss, John Ashcroft, the attorney general, lay ill.

Gonzales and Card wanted Ashcroft to sign off on a reauthorization of President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program, which the Republican president had signed off on in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Justice Department had just deemed the program illegal.

Comey, serving as the deputy attorney general, alerted Mueller and then rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital bed, barely beating Gonzales and Card, according to an account from the Washington Post.

Ashcroft, at that time, refused to sign.

The White House officials eventually stood down, when Bush relented, after both Mueller and Comey, along with Ashcroft, threatened to resign.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4516640/Justice-names-special-counsel-lead-Russia-probe.html#ixzz4hQEHIycy
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 (Wall Street Journal)

China seeks Russia’s help to ‘cool’ North Korea situation

April 15, 2017
/ 05:48 PM April 15, 2017
Korean People's Army (KPA) tanks are displayed on Kim Il-Sung square during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017.  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on April 15 saluted as ranks of goose-stepping soldiers followed by tanks and other military hardware paraded in Pyongyang for a show of strength with tensions mounting over his nuclear ambitions. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES

Korean People’s Army (KPA) tanks are displayed on Kim Il-Sung square during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on April 15 saluted as ranks of goose-stepping soldiers followed by tanks and other military hardware paraded in Pyongyang for a show of strength with tensions mounting over his nuclear ambitions. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES

China is seeking Russia’s help to cool surging tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s foreign minister has told his Moscow counterpart, after Beijing warned of possible conflict over North Korea.

Fears over the North’s rogue weapons program have soared in recent days, with a US naval strike force deployed near the Korean peninsula, while President Donald Trump has warned the threat “will be taken care of” and Pyongyang has vowed a “merciless” response to any provocation.

China — the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline — on Friday warned that war over North Korea could break out “at any moment”.

In a call with Sergei Lavrov later Friday, Wang Yi said the common goal of the two nations was to “bring all the parties back to the negotiating table”, according to a statement on China’s Foreign Ministry website.

“China is ready to coordinate closely with Russia to help cool down as quickly as possible the situation on the peninsula and encourage the parties concerned to resume dialogue,” Wang told Lavrov, referring to the stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program that includes Russia, China and the United States.

“Preventing war and chaos on the peninsula meets common interests,” he added.

Beijing has long opposed dramatic action against the North, fearing the regime’s collapse would send a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

Trump insists that China must exert more leverage on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions or suffer the consequences.

Pyongyang is already under several sets of UN sanctions over its atomic and ballistic missile programs.

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/889286/china-seeks-russias-help-to-cool-north-korea-situation#ixzz4eJsyiJid
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Russia, Syria & Iran demand no further US strikes on Syria – foreign ministers — Retreat into make believe world of “Assad did not use chemical weapons” while lashing out at US, UK

April 14, 2017

Russia Today (RT)

Russia, Syria & Iran demand no further US strikes on Syria – foreign ministers
The US cruise missile attack on Syria was an act of international aggression, Russia, Syria and Iran have stated after a meeting of their foreign ministers in Moscow.

“We have reiterated our position and were united in stating that the attack was an act of aggression, which blatantly violated the principles of international law and the UN Charter,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“We call on the US and its allies to respect Syria’s sovereignty and refrain from actions similar to what happened on April 7, and which have serious ramification not only for regional, but also global security,” he added.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R), U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L), April 12, 2017. © Maxim Shemetov

Lavrov was referring to the Tomahawk missile barrage fired by the US Navy at a Syrian airbase in Homs province. Washington ordered the attack after accusing Damascus of launching a chemical weapons attack at a rebel-held town in Idlib province from that airbase. Russia condemned the move, saying the US hadn’t offered any proof to pin the alleged chemical weapons incident on the Syrian Army.

Meeting with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, Javad Zarif and Walid Muallem, on Friday, Lavrov pledged to continue Russia’s support of Damascus in fighting terrorism and restoring peace in Syria.

He added that Moscow suspects that the Idlib incident was a provocative act aimed at derailing negotiations between the Syrian government and so-called moderate rebel groups on a political transition in the country. Lavrov said the perpetrators of the deadly release of toxins must be found.

“We insist on a thorough, objective and unbiased investigation of the circumstance of the use of chemical substances in Khan Shaykhun on April 4,” he said, adding that the investigating team must include inspectors chosen from nations from different parts of the world to ensure its objectivity.

US President Donald Trump. © Jonathan Ernst

Muallem pledged full cooperation of Damascus in carrying out such a probe.

The Russian minister added that Moscow doubts the objectivity of the current mechanisms for investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, considering the difference in how the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) handles reports by Damascus and by other parties.

“When accusations come against the Syrian government, the OPCW reacts in a matter of days and voices its concern. But they never go on the sites of incidents located in the regions controlled by the armed opposition, citing security issues,” he said. “We consider such analysis from a distance unacceptable.”

Lavrov also accused the US of reviving the Obama administration goal of toppling the Syrian government instead of seeking a political solution, citing the Tomahawk missile attack.

“Such acts of aggression are obviously meant to derail the peace process, which was endorsed in a unanimously adopted resolution of the UN Security Council and implies that the fate of Syria would be decided only by the Syrian people,” he said. “The action was obviously deviating from this basic concept and find new protects to aim for regime change.”

READ MORE: White House claims on Syria chemical attack ‘obviously false’ – MIT professor (VIDEO)

Lavrov said there is an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the conclusion that the chemical incident in Idlib province was staged to set up the Syrian government.

“Publications by professional experts, including some in the US and Britain, say there are too many inconsistencies and gaps in the version of events presented to justify the [US] aggression,” he said.

Zarif accused “certain countries” of hypocrisy, citing Iran’s history of suffering from chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1980s war. Declassified CIA files showed that the US was well aware that Saddam was using CWs against Iranians, but didn’t oppose it and even provided intelligence for such attacks.

https://www.rt.com/news/384715-russia-iran-syria-strikes-demand/