Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

North Korea Has The More Responsible Leadership — Says it will launch four missiles into waters ‘30-40km’ off US territory in Pacific Ocean

August 10, 2017

The Guardian:

North Korea details Guam strike plan and calls Trump ‘bereft of reason’

Pyongyang says it will launch four missiles into waters ‘30-40km’ off US territory in Pacific Ocean

Image may contain: 1 person, screen

 A news bulletin shows the distance between North Korea and Guam at a railway station in Seoul. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has defied threats of “fire and fury” from Donald Trump, deriding his warning as a “load of nonsense” and announcing a detailed plan to launch missiles aimed at the waters off the coast of the US Pacific territory of Guam.

A statement attributed to General Kim Rak Gyom, the head of the country’s strategic forces, declared: “Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him”. The general outlined a plan to carry out a demonstration launch of four intermediate-range missiles that would fly over Japan and then land in the sea around Guam, “enveloping” the island.

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General Kim Rak Gyom

“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA [Korean People’s Army] will cross the sky above Shimani, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures of Japan,” the statement said. “They will fly for 3,356.7 km for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40km away from Guam.”

The statement said the plan for this show of force would be ready by the middle of this month and then await orders from the commander-in-chief, Kim Jong-un.

The statement was clearly designed as a show of bravado, calling the Trump administration’s bluff after the president’s threat and a statement from the defence secretary, James Mattis, both stressing the overwhelming power of the US military. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met by fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said on Wednesday.

The response from Pyongyang was its most public and detailed threat to date, and evidently meant to goad the US president. Trump had “let out a load of nonsense about ‘fire and fury’ failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation. This is extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA.”

The US has a naval base in Guam and the island is home to Andersen air base, which has six B-1B heavy bombers. According to NBC news the non-nuclear bombers have made 11 practice sorties since May in readiness for a potential strike on North Korea. The remote island is home to 162,000 people.

Read the rest:

U.S. Says ‘Grave’ Consequences if Syria’s Al Qaeda Dominates Idlib Province

August 3, 2017

AMMAN — The United States warned a takeover of rebel-held northwestern Idlib province by Syrian jihadists linked to a former al Qaeda affiliate would have grave consequences and make it difficult to dissuade Russia from renewing bombing that recently stopped.

In an online letter posted late on Wednesday, the top State Department official in charge of Syria policy, Michael Ratney, said the recent offensive by Hayat Tahrir al Sham, spearheaded by former al Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front, had cemented its grip on the province and put “the future of northern Syria in big danger”.

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Civil defence team members extinguish a fire after an airstrike hit Idlib, Syria on 27 April 2017 [Bilal Baioush/Anadolu Agency]

“The north of Syria witnessed one of its biggest tragedies,” said Ratney who was behind secret talks in Amman with Moscow over the ceasefire in southwest Syria announced by U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. It was the first such U.S.-Russian effort under the Trump administration to end Syria’s civil war.

“In the event of the hegemony of Nusra Front on Idlib, it would be difficult for the United States to convince the international parties not to take the necessary military measures,” the top State Department diplomat said.

Mainly Islamist rebels swept through Idlib province in 2015, inflicting a string of defeats on the Syrian army until Russia stepped in to reverse the tide of the civil war in favour of President Bashar al Assad.

Idlib province, the only Syrian province that is entirely under rebel control, has been a major target of Russian and Syrian aerial strikes that caused hundreds of civilians casualties.

The agricultural region had a respite since a Russian-Turkish brokered accord reached last May approved four de-escalation zones across Syria, among them one in Idlib province.

Many locals fear the jihadists’ hold on Idlib will again make the province a target of relentless attacks by Russian and Syrian forces and turn it into another devastated Aleppo or Mosul.

More than two million people live in Idlib, which has become an overcrowded refuge for many of the displaced, including rebel fighters and their families.

Fighters from the former Jabhat al-Nusra -- since renamed and part of the group in control of Idlib -- pictured in Aleppo in 2016.


“Everyone should know that Jolani and his gang are the ones who bear responsibility for the grave consequences that will befall Idlib,” said Ratney, referring to former Nusra head Abu Mohammad al Jolani who effectively leads Hayat Tahrir al Sham.

In less than three days Jolani’s fighters overran their powerful rival, the more mainstream Ahrar al Sham group, seizing control of a strategic border strip with Turkey in some of the heaviest inter-rebel fighting since the start of the conflict.

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An emboldened Hayat Tahrir al Sham has sought to allay fears it did not seek to dominate the whole province but suspicions run high among many in the region about their ultimate goals to monopolise power.

The jihadists have linked up with Western-backed Free Syria Army (FSA) groups who continue to maintain a foothold in several towns in the province. The south of the region is still in the hands of rival groups, including Ahrar al Sham but the jihadists have been trying to extend their control.

Ratney told rebel groups, who have been forced to work with the jihadists out of expediency or for self preservation, to steer away from the group before it was “too late.”

He said Washington would consider any organisation in Idlib province that was a front for the militants a part of al Qaeda’s network.

The expanding influence of the former al Qaeda has triggered civilian protests across towns in the province with some calling for the group to leave towns and not interfere in how they are run.

Nusra and its leaders would remain a target of Washington even if they adopted new names in an attempt to deny Washington and other powers a pretext to attack them, the U.S. official said.

The jihadist sweep across Idlib province has raised concerns that the closure of some crossing points on the border with Turkey could choke off the flow of aid and essential goods.

Washington remained committed to delivering aid in channels that avoided them falling into the hands of the hardline jihadists, Ratney said echoing similar concerns by NGO’s and aid bodies after their recent gains.

The main border crossing of Bab al Hawa with Turkey which the al Qaeda fighters threatened to take over has however been re-opened with a resumption of aid and goods to the province that has relieved many people.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Venezuela: Citizens fear Sunday vote means end of democracy — Maduro tightens grip on power

July 30, 2017

The President’s radical plan will create a political body with the power to rewrite the country’s constitution and dismantle any brand of government seen as disloyal

By Nicholas Casey

The Independent 

One by one, the markers of Venezuela’s democracy have been pushed aside.

First, the Supreme Court was packed with loyalists of the President, and several opposition politicians were blocked from taking their seats. Then, judges overturned laws that the President opposed, and elections for governors around the country were suddenly suspended.

Next, the court ruled in favour of dissolving the legislature entirely, a move that provoked such an outcry in Venezuela and abroad that the decision was soon reversed.

Now, President Nicolas Maduro is pushing a radical plan to consolidate his leftist movement’s grip over the nation: he is creating a political body with the power to rewrite the country’s constitution and reshuffle – or dismantle – any branch of government seen as disloyal.

The new body, called a constituent assembly, is expected to grant virtually unlimited authority to the country’s leftists.

Venezuelans are going to the polls tomorrow to weigh in on the plan. But they will not have the option of rejecting it, even though some polls show that large majorities oppose the assembly’s creation. Instead, voters will be asked only to pick the assembly’s delegates, choosing from a list of stalwarts of Mr Maduro’s political movement.

The new assembly will rule above all other governmental powers – technically even the President – with the kind of unchecked authority not seen since the juntas that haunted Latin American countries in decades past.

“This is an existential threat to Venezuelan democracy,” said David Smilde, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy group.

The list of delegates includes powerful members of the President’s political movement, including Diosdado Cabello, a top politician in the ruling Socialist Party who was involved in a failed coup attempt in the 1990s, and Cilia Flores, the President’s wife.

But the push to consolidate power also puts the country at a crossroads, one laden with risk.

As Maduro effectively steers his country toward one-party rule, he sets it on a collision course with the United States, which buys nearly half of Venezuela’s oil. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s administration froze the assets of, and forbade Americans to do business with, 13 Venezuelans close to Maduro, including his interior minister and heads of the army, police and national guard.

The administration is warning that harsher measures could follow, with “strong and swift economic actions” if the vote happens tomorrow, according to Trump. In a statement, he called Maduro a “bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator”.

There is also the potential powder keg on Venezuela’s streets. Infuriated by Mr Maduro’s government, the opposition has mobilised more than three months of street protests that have crippled cities with general strikes, rallies and looting. More than 110 people have been killed, many in clashes between the state and armed protesters. Few know how protesters will react to newly imposed leaders.

Even the members of the new assembly themselves are a wild card. Their power will be so vast that they could possibly remove Mr Maduro from office, some analysts note, ending a presidency that has been deeply unpopular, even among many leftists.

“It’s a crapshoot, a Pandora’s box,” said Alejandro Velasco, a Venezuelan historian at New York University who studies the country’s leftist movements. “You do this and you have so little control over how it plays out.”

Mr Maduro contends that the government restructuring is necessary to prevent more bloodshed on the streets and save Venezuela’s failing economy, which is dogged by shortages of food and medicine.

The President has refused to negotiate with street protesters, calling some of them terrorists and asserting that they are financed by outside governments trying to overthrow him. A new governing charter would give him wide-ranging tools to “construct peace”, he and leftists have said.

“We need order, justice,” Mr Maduro said during an interview with state television this month. “We have only one option, a national constituent assembly.”

The turmoil gripping Venezuela illustrates the sweeping declines in popularity for the Venezuelan left since the death of its standard-bearer, former president Hugo Chavez, in 2013.

It was Chavez who oversaw the last rewrite of the constitution, in 1999, which was widely backed by the voters who had propelled him to office in the belief that the country’s rule book favoured the rich.

That new constitution – and rising oil prices – fuelled a socialist-inspired transformation in Venezuela. It helped enable Chavez to redistribute state wealth to the poor, nationalise foreign assets and make him popular with his supporters. The constitution also left open the possibility of another constituent assembly in the future.

Now Mr Maduro has taken that option at a time when the leftists are dogged by their deepest crisis in decades. This time, Venezuelans are seeing it less as a stab at reform than as an attempt by a struggling ruling class to maintain power.

“It’s a last-ditch effort to secure his base,” Mr Velasco said. “He’s doing it at a moment of weakness.”

Under the rules of the vote, the constituent assembly would take the reins of the country within 72 hours of being officially certified, though it is unclear to most people what would happen after that.

Some politicians have suggested that governorships and mayors be replaced with “communal councils”. Top members of Mr Maduro’s party have identified Luisa Ortega, the attorney general, who has criticised Mr Maduro’s crackdown on protesters, as someone to be immediately dismissed.

But many fear that a likely first step will be the abolition of the country’s legislature, a tactic first used by Chavez when rewriting the constitution in 1999.

Leftists did not control the legislature then, and the same is true today. For more than a year, courts close to Mr Maduro have chipped away at the powers of opposition lawmakers there, overturning laws – like a measure to release political prisoners – and stripping them of budgetary oversight.

Organisers of a symbolic vote against the measure this month said more than 7 million ballots had been cast, with 98 percent backing the opposition.

Juan Guaido, an opposition politician, fears that the constituent assembly will dismantle his chamber, effectively liquidating any political power held by Mr Maduro’s rivals.

“If there was anything left of Venezuela’s battered democracy, it was the powers that were legitimately elected by the people, like the National Assembly,” he said. The vote would create a “totalitarian and repressive dictatorship”.

Still, some say the opposition has failed to offer clear alternatives to Mr Maduro. Eva Golinger, an American lawyer who was a confidante of Chavez’s, said rivals of the leftists had focused too heavily on wresting power from the President, something that could risk a wider civil conflict.

“They only rally around regime change,” said Ms Golinger, who opposes how Mr Maduro has gone about the constitutional rewrite.

The constituent assembly would also be able to take on one piece of work left unfinished by Chavez: creating a more socialist constitution.

Chavez later tried to amend his 1999 document with changes that he argued would speed the course of his populist revolution. But the additional measures were narrowly defeated when they were taken to voters in 2007.

Mr Maduro has indicated that he intends to pick up where Chavez left off. He has suggested a nine-point outline that includes increasing public spending for education and health care, giving socialist organisations increased governing abilities and taking unspecified measures to prevent foreign meddling in Venezuela.

Analysts also expect that the new constitution could dig deeper into the economic policy favoured by the President, which many economists blame for exacerbating the country’s economic crisis.

With much of the opposition expected to boycott the vote, it was mainly Venezuelans loyal to Maduro’s party who were eager to head to the polls tomorrow.

Maria Elena Perez, 54, a leftist activist in Caracas, the capital, said it was time for a new rule book.

“The current constitution is weak, and there’s a lot that needs to be fixed,” she said.

In the week before the vote, potential delegates were making their pitches on Venezuelan airwaves.

In one video, Ysmael Modoy, a candidate from the western state of Portuguesa, urged voters to defend Chavez’s legacy and promised a new constitution that better battled corruption.

Some sought a lighthearted tone. Antonio Leon, a candidate who goes by the nickname the Mask, entered his commercial dancing and singing while crossing an empty street. He didn’t address any changes to the constitution, but promised voters that he would make it easier to get government rations.

“Remember: you are love, you are life,” he said before returning to his dance.

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.


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.


Iran Will Respond to Any New U.S. Sanctions: Deputy Foreign Minister

July 26, 2017

BEIRUT — Iran will respond if the U.S. government passes new sanctions, deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said Wednesday, according to state media.

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Islamic Republic of Iran deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi  (Abbas Araghch)

New sanctions being discussed in the U.S. Congress are “a completely clear hostile act and against the Islamic Republic of Iran and … will be met with a definitive response,” Araqchi, who is also a top nuclear negotiator, was quoted as saying by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

He did not specify what actions Iran would take.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea. The Republican-controlled Senate passed an earlier version of the bill with near-unanimous support.

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Iran’s Republican Guard released this photo of the IRGC launching a missile attack on enemy positions in Syria

It was unclear how quickly the bill would make its way to the White House for U.S. President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto.

Separately, Trump issued a veiled threat against Iran on Tuesday, warning Tehran to adhere to the terms of a nuclear deal with world powers or else face “big, big problems.”

A week after certifying Iran as complying with the 2015 agreement negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, Trump made clear that he remains extremely wary of Tehran.

New sanctions could reduce the benefits that Iran receives from the nuclear agreement, Araqchi said, according to IRNA.

“America has committed to follow the nuclear deal with goodwill and in a productive environment and to hold back from any steps that would have an effect on the successful execution of the deal,” he said.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Catherine Evans)


Related image
USS Thunderbolt

 (Qatar stands in support of Iran)

Trump says he would be surprised if Iran is in compliance with a nuclear deal — WSJ Interview

July 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would be surprised if Iran is in compliance with a nuclear deal when recertification comes up again in three months, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“We’ll talk about the subject in 90 days but I would be surprised if they were in compliance,” he told the Journal. The president must certify to Congress every three months that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal.

(Writing by Eric Beech)


Syria says U.S. halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war — Trump the “Peacemaker” hands things over to Assad, Russia, Iran (and China)

July 25, 2017


July 25, 2017

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria views a U.S. decision to halt CIA support to rebel groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad as a “start” toward ending the six-year conflict, a government minister told Reuters.

“All these steps are the start to solving the Syrian crisis, and without that there is no solution,” national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar said in an interview.

But speaking generally about the conflict, he said what was really needed was for foreign states to completely seal off borders across which arms and fighters have flowed throughout the war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“As long as there are areas left like open wounds, there will be no solution,” he said, without specifying which areas these were.

Haidar also said the government intended to reach more “reconciliation agreements” with insurgents in parts of Syria delineated as “de-escalation zones” under diplomatic efforts led by Russia.

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Syria’s national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar

His comments reflected the government’s satisfaction with U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision, announced by U.S. officials last week, to end the CIA program set up in 2013 to equip and train certain vetted rebels.

The move marks a further blow to the opposition and a boost for Assad, whose position already appeared militarily unassailable. But Haidar said it was more of a U.S. admission of failure than a genuine policy shift.

“All the American attempts to fund and arm and train groups it called moderate factions … have failed.”

The program overseen by the CIA has funnelled aid to rebels in southern and northern Syria, with support from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Some of these states, notably Qatar and Turkey, are widely believed to have backed some rebels outside the CIA channel.

“Dangerous and Wasteful”

Before assuming office in January, Trump suggested he could end support for Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels and give priority to fighting Islamic State.

In a tweet on Tuesday, he called the CIA funding to anti-Assad Syrian rebels “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments”. The tweet was reported by the Syrian state news agency and state-run TV.

Rebels have said the support always fell far short of what they needed to make a decisive difference in the war with Assad, who received more robust backing from his allies Russia and Iran.

Assad’s military advantage has helped the government suppress pockets of opposition in western Syria, through local deals in which rebels and civilians are given the choice of evacuating or accepting state rule.

Haidar said the government intends to reach more such agreements with rebels. Russia has been working to establish de-escalation zones in the major rebel strongholds of western Syria, notably Idlib province in the northwest and the eastern Ghouta area near Damascus.

Moscow and Washington have also brokered a separate ceasefire for southwestern Syria earlier this month.

“The Syrian government and allied countries are working on many details for the … de-escalation zones to pave the way for real reconciliations,” Haidar said.

“We will not accept anything less than that.”

Damascus describes such deals as a “workable model” that brings the country closer to peace. But the opposition decries them as a tactic of forcibly displacing people who oppose Assad after years of bombardment and siege.

Haidar denied such allegations and said many people have returned to their hometowns after local deals ended the fighting there.

Trump son to testify before US Senate panel next week

July 20, 2017


© AFP/File | Donald Trump Jr is seen in December 2016 as he walks around Trump Tower in New York
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump’s eldest son and a former campaign manager will testify before Congress next week as part of US investigations into the Trump team’s alleged contacts with Russia, a Senate panel announced Wednesday.

Donald Trump Jr and Paul Manafort are scheduled to testify in an open hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 10 am (1400 GMT).

Both men attended a controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer last year in which they were expecting to receive dirt from Moscow on Donald Trump’s 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton.

Adding to the political drama in Washington next week, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, albeit in a closed-door session, CNN reported, citing Kushner’s lawyer.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, also attended the June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Trump Jr sent shockwaves through Washington when he confirmed the meeting by releasing a series of emails in which the now-president’s son was told the campaign could get “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

It put Trump’s son and son-in-law at the center of a burgeoning scandal involving multiple US investigations into whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow in its efforts to tilt the 2016 election in the Republican’s favor.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and top Democrat Dianne Feinstein warned in letters to those testifying next week that they need to “preserve all relevant documents in your possession… related to Russian interference in the 2016 election, including documents related to your or the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian government officials, associates or representatives.”

The senators said they would issue subpoenas if the witnesses did not produce the required documents.

Kremlin Denies Reaching Out to Trump Jr. Via Developer

July 12, 2017

MOSCOW — The Kremlin has denied reaching out to a Moscow-based property developer and his son who arranged a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. to discuss allegedly compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

The emails published by Trump Jr. show publicist Rob Goldstone telling Trump that singer Emin Agalarov and his father, developer Aras Agalarov, had “helped along” the Russian government’s support for Trump. In his email, Goldstone said that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” offered to provide the information on Clinton to the Trump campaign in a meeting with Aras Agalarov.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, insisted that the Kremlin has not spoken to Agalarov and has no ties to the Russian lawyer who was at the meeting.

Trump Jr. Met Russian Lawyer Who Claimed to Have Information on Hillary Clinton

July 10, 2017

President’s son provides further details about June 2016 meeting in New York

Donald Trump Jr. campaigning for his father in Gilbert, Ariz., in November 2016.

Donald Trump Jr. campaigning for his father in Gilbert, Ariz., in November 2016. PHOTO: MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s eldest son arranged a June 2016 meeting between top campaign aides and a Russian lawyer who has been linked to the Kremlin after being told she “might have information helpful to the campaign.”

In a statement Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. said he didn’t know the lawyer’s name before the meeting, and said they were set up by an “acquaintance” from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. The meeting, in New York City, was also attended by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign chairman at the time. The younger Mr. Trump said he told Messrs. Kushner and Manafort “nothing of the substance” of the meeting beforehand.

Mr. Manafort resigned about two months later amid reports of his connection to pro-Russian political forces in Ukraine. Investigators are currently examining whether Mr. Manafort’s work for foreign interests violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act and related laws. Mr. Manafort’s spokesman has said he is taking the “appropriate steps” to respond to guidance from federal authorities about his FARA disclosures.

In the meeting, the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting [Hillary] Clinton,” Mr. Trump Jr. said in his statement. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.” When Ms. Veselnitskaya then raised the issue of the Magnitsky Act, which placed sanctions on Russian human-rights abusers, Mr. Trump Jr. said he cut off the meeting.

Ms. Veselnitskaya couldn’t be reached for comment.

Revelations of the 2016 meeting arrived over the weekend as President Trump was returning to Washington after a G-20 summit meeting in Hamburg, where he met one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Sunday morning tweets, the U.S. president said he “strongly pressed” the Russian leader twice about meddling in the U.S. election and that Mr. Putin “vehemently denied it.” But he also suggested the U.S. could “work with” Russia on cybersecurity issues.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were critical of Mr. Trump’s handling of the meeting, saying he could have more strongly protested Russian meddling and that he appeared overly willing to look past Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. election. They also questioned Mr. Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. could work with work with Russia on cybersecurity issues, saying it would only empower a regime that has hacked systems in the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers, who analysts say work for that country’s military and intelligence apparatus, stole emails from the DNC, as well as another Democratic organization and the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, as part of their effort to harm her candidacy and boost Mr. Trump. That finding was first publicly addressed in the fall of 2016.

Investigators in Congress as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation are examining whether Russian money could have made its way into the U.S. election process, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the investigation. But whether those money flows took the form of laundered campaign contributions—foreign parties cannot donate to U.S. politics campaigns—or whether Russian funds were used in support of candidates is unclear.

A person close to the Trump campaign recalled getting an email around the time of the meeting with the Russian attorney asking about the campaign’s stance on the Magnitsky Act. The person could not recall if they responded to the email, or whether it was before or after the meeting took place.

In a statement on Saturday about the meeting, Mr. Trump Jr. had made no mention of the promise of helpful information Ms. Veselnitskaya could provide, or of her statements about Russian campaign funds. Instead, he said the meeting “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government.”

The Trump aides met with Ms. Veselnitskaya on June 9, about a month after Mr. Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination. The New York Times first reported the meeting on Saturday.

The president didn’t become aware of the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya until recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Mr. Putin ordered a campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor, and a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department earlier this year is investigating whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia in that effort. Mr. Trump has denied that there was any collusion and has said he doubts the intelligence community’s assessment, saying earlier this week, “No one really knows for sure.”

Brian Fallon, who served as press secretary for the Clinton campaign, said the younger Mr. Trump’s decision to take a meeting with a Russian individual who promised helpful campaign information raised further questions about potential collusion.

Mr. Kushner disclosed the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya earlier this year in a required form to obtain a security clearance, according to a statement by his attorney, Jamie Gorelick.  Mr. Kushner initially filed a disclosure that didn’t list any contacts with foreign government officials, but the next day submitted a supplemental disclosure saying that he had engaged in “numerous contacts with foreign officials.”

Mr. Kushner has since submitted information about “over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition,” Ms. Gorelick said.

“Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr.,” Ms. Gorelick said. “As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

Two previously disclosed meetings Mr. Kushner held with key Russians—the head of a state-run bank that has faced U.S. sanctions and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.—had already drawn the interest of agents conducting a counterintelligence investigation to determine the extent of those contacts. Mr. Kushner agreed earlier this year to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee, becoming the first White House official to do so.

Ms. Veselnitskaya counts among her clients state-owned companies and family members of top government officials and her husband previously served as deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region.

As a lawyer, she has campaigned against the Magnitsky Act and the Russian accountant for whom the measure was named. Sergei Magnitsky was jailed and died in prison after he uncovered evidence of a large tax-refund fraud.

In a move seen as retaliation to that law, Mr. Putin in 2012 signed a law banning adoption of Russian children by American families .

In postings on her social media accounts, Ms. Veselnitskaya appeared critical of former President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Last July, she shared an article posted by another page and highlighted the quote, “Liberalism is a f—ing mental disorder.” She has also appeared to cheer some of Mr. Trump’s top achievements, such as the confirmation earlier this year of Neil Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at

Appeared in the July 10, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump’s Son Met With Russian About Campaign.’


See also: Reuters —  Trump Jr., Kushner met with Russian lawyer: New York Times