Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

Still Think Putin is America’s Friend? Russia warns of nuclear war unless US backs down over missiles in Europe — Ready to close Black Sea

March 28, 2017

Russia has warned of nuclear war if US missiles carry on being shipped into Europe.

 

Pentagon missiles in Europe and warships patrolling Russia’s borders could lead to nuclear war, warned Vladimir Putin’s military bosses.The anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) is provoking a “new arms race” and scuppers Russia’s ability to defend itself from a nuke strike, they said.

Russian military bosses warned the ABM “lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons” and increases the risk of “sudden nuclear attack”.

“The presence of the global ABM system lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, because it gives the US the illusion of impunity for using strategic offensive weapons from under the protection of the ABM ‘umbrella,’” said Viktor Poznikhir, top brass for the Russian general staff.Image may contain: airplane and sky

He added: “The ABM shield is a symbol of the build-up of rocket forces in the world and a trigger for a new arms race.”

Scientists previously warned the US’s new nuclear weapons could force Putin’s hand into a nuclear conflict.

Russian leader Vladimir PutinGETTYVLADIMIR PUTIN: US President Donald Trump hopes to improve relations with Russia

Trump labels reports of his ties with Russia “fake news”

Poznikhir said: “The presence of American ABM sites in Europe and ABM-capable ships in the seas and oceans close to Russia’s territory creates a powerful clandestine potential for delivering a surprise nuclear missile strike against Russia.”US attempts to trump Russia and China are heighting the risk of nuclear war, the Kremlin warned.

The stark warning came at a nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva.

Trump: ‘Vladimir Putin is a better leader than Barack Obama’

Poznikhir said the US missile shield “narrows down the opportunity for nuclear reduction dialogue”.He said the Pentagon is developing the missile system to face Iran and North Korea, but ignoring objections raised by Russia.

Russia warns the US will have 1,000 missiles at its fingertips which could pose a threat to them by 2020.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/600613/Russia-Nuclear-War-US-Missiles-World-3-Vladimir-Putin-Donald-Trump-ABM-Shield-China-ICBMs

U.S. Boosts Military Backing for Saudi-Led Coalition in Yemen

March 27, 2017

Support for Riyadh, U.A.E. mainly aimed at helping fight al Qaeda but also helps counter Iran’s influence

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March 27, 2017 5:59 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration has significantly increased military support for Sunni Arab states fighting al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias in Yemen, said U.S. and Arab officials, drawing the U.S. deeper into the two-year civil war there.

American support now includes greater intelligence and logistical support fo

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-boosts-military-backing-for-saudi-led-coalition-in-yemen-1490651993

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U.S. weighs bigger role in Yemen’s war, boosting aid to allies

Reuters
Monday, 27 March 2017 22:44 GMT

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) – The United States is considering deepening its role in Yemen’s conflict by more directly aiding its Gulf allies battling Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, officials say, potentially relaxing a U.S. policy that limited American support.

The review of potential new U.S. assistance, which includes intelligence support, would come amid increasing evidence that Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to the Houthi movement, a Shi’ite ally.

Any elevation in U.S. support could be seen as a sign that President Donald Trump’s administration has made confronting Iran and its allies an early priority.

For the moment, however, any increase in direct U.S. assistance may be restricted to non-lethal measures and there was no sign the United States was considering waging strikes on Houthi targets, for example.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, increasingly sought to limit U.S. ties to the civil war in Yemen and his administration became unnerved by civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition, which have come under intense international scrutiny.

Yemen’s conflict has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

Critics of U.S. participation in the conflict, which has included arms sales to Saudi Arabia and refueling of Saudi-led coalition jets, say Washington carries some of the blame for the civilian fallout.

“The U.S. should not escalate our military involvement in a civil war in Yemen halfway around the world without any explanation by the president of what we are doing there and what is our strategy,” said Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California and a longtime advocate in Congress for a suspension of U.S. cooperation with the Saudi-led coalition.

MEMO FROM MATTIS

Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, wrote a March memo to the White House advocating limited support for operations by Gulf partners, officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the officials said the United States was examining offering the United Arab Emirates, for example, U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and information sharing.

The memo was first reported by the Washington Post and comes amid a broader U.S. review into its policy in Yemen, which for years has been seen almost entirely seen through the prism of America’s fight against al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has taken advantage of Yemen’s war pitting the Houthis against the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to try to broaden its wealth and power.

Iran rejects accusations from Saudi Arabia that it is giving financial and military support to the Houthis in the struggle for Yemen, blaming the deepening crisis on Riyadh.

But Iran’s role in Yemen has increasingly been the focus of U.S. policymakers since the United States struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in October in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

U.S. officials say the Houthis have benefited from Iranian-provided know-how and weaponry, including ballistic missiles.

The proposed U.S. support could allow America to aid an eventual push on the western port city of Hodeidah, which is under the control of the Houthis.

It is near the Bab al-Mandab strait, a strategic waterway through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily.

Obama’s administration was long wary of operations involving the port, given its strategic importance as a vital gateway for humanitarian supplies, and last year rejected a proposal to assist its Gulf allies in a push for the port. (Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Israel’s Netanyahu Pledges to Work With Trump on Peace Efforts

March 27, 2017

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he was committed to working with U.S. President Donald Trump to advance peace efforts with the Palestinians and with the broader Arab world.

Netanyahu made the pledge in a speech to the largest U.S. pro-Israel lobbying group at a time when the Trump administration is seeking agreement with his right-wing government on limiting settlement construction on land the Palestinians want for a state, part of a U.S. bid to resume long-stalled peace negotiations.

But Netanyahu, speaking via satellite link from Jerusalem, avoided any mention of the delicate discussions, and stopped short of reiterating a commitment to a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Image result for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, photos

“Israel’s hand and my hand is extended to all of our neighbors in peace,” Netanyahu told the annual convention of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “Israel is committed to working with President Trump to advance peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors.”

But he repeated his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something they have refused to do.

Netanyahu heaped praise on Trump, who has set a more positive tone with Israel than his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, who often clashed with the Israeli leader.

He thanked the new Republican president for a recent U.S. budget request that “leaves military aid to Israel fully funded.” He also expressed confidence in a U.S.-Israeli partnership for preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon, following its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and for “confronting Iran’s aggression in the region.”

On the settlements issue, a round of U.S.-Israeli talks ended last Thursday without agreement. Gaps remain over how far the building restrictions could go, according to people close to the talks.

Netanyahu’s coalition is grappling with divisions that have sparked speculation that he could seek early elections.

Many Israelis had expected Trump, because of his pro-Israel campaign rhetoric, to give a green light for settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. But Trump unexpectedly urged Netanyahu last month to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

There is skepticism in the United States and Middle East over the chances for restarting Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Peace talks have been frozen since 2014.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements, built on land captured in a 1967 war, to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing historical and political links to the land, as well as security interests.

Trump has expressed ambivalence about a two-state solution, the mainstay of U.S. policy for the past two decades, but he recently invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit.

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by James Dalgleish)

http://www.australiannationalreview.com/spain-issues-arrest-warrant-israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu/

Beijing Defends Its Right to Guard South China Sea With Arms

March 24, 2017

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says deployment of military gear helps to protect maritime trade routes

Malcolm Turnbull in China

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Australia for a five-day visit, March 23, 2017. Reuters photo

March 24, 2017 1:44 a.m. ET

CANBERRA, Australia—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made an unusually elaborate defense of Beijing’s deployment of military gear on artificial islands in the South China Sea, saying the disputed facilities were partly intended to protect maritime trade and air routes.

Mr. Li, who was asked to speak about the hot-button issue on a visit to Australia to promote trade links, said that it was China that would be hit hardest by conflict in a region home to trillions of dollars worth of seaborne trade.

“China’s facilities on Chinese islands and reefs are primarily for civilian purposes,” Mr. Li said in a press conference at Australia’s Parliament. “And even if there is a certain amount of defense equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, because without such freedom or without stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese side would be the first to bear the brunt of it.”

His comments were a rare amplification by a top Chinese leader on Beijing’s South China Sea policies following a pledge in 2015 by China’s President Xi Jinping not to militarize the islands . The U.S. and some Asian countries that have territorial disputes with China in the sea are concerned about the construction of extensive facilities including ports, hangars and military-capable runways.

Last year, after a U.S. think tank released satellite images appearing to show China had installed antiaircraft weapons and other arms on all seven islands it has built in the in the Spratly archipelago, China’s Defense Ministry said the emplacements were for “appropriate and legal” self-defense.

Both the U.S. and China say their main goal in the South China Sea is to maintain security, freedom of navigation in the vital global trade route. Where they disagree is over China’s expansive maritime claims over most of the sea and who should be the guarantor of such principles.

The U.S. has carried out several so-called freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sending warships close to Chinese-built atolls in patrols that have raised tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Mr. Li said China “never had any intention” to engage in militarization when it began building islands in waters claimed in whole or part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. But he said China’s presence guaranteed that more than 100,000 ships passed through the sea and the pirate-plagued Malacca Strait last year without being attacked.

“We hope that the market and the business communities will continue to have strong faith in the South China Sea, in these sea-lanes with safe passage to pursue more free trade,” he said.

An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods pass through South China Sea maritime trade routes each year, en route to China, South Korea, Japan and other Asia-Pacific destinations.

During his confirmation hearings, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington may need to block China from some South China Sea islands, what expert said could trigger a dangerous military escalation. But Mr. Tillerson struck a conciliatory tone after meeting President Xi Jinping last week, promising “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed deals with Mr. Li on Friday to expand Australia’s $6 billion-a-year beef export industry with China, while streamlining the 2015 China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The beef deal sought to capitalize on a temporary halt to China’s imports of beef from Brazil after a furor there over meatpacking safety.

Mr. Li’s five-day visit to Australia is the first by a Chinese premier in more than a decade and comes weeks ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence aimed at improving alliance ties. As well as signing trade agreements, Mr. Li will also attend a weekend game of Australian Rules, the country’s quirky homegrown football code which Canberra hopes will take off in China.

Mr. Li has also sought while in the country to contrast China’s trade stability with the U.S. under Mr. Trump, warning against protectionism and Washington’s decision to reject a Pacific trade pact favored by Australia.

Mr. Turnbull said his country didn’t need to choose between security alliance ties with the U.S. and China, as the country’s biggest trade partner, worth about $114 billion last year, around a quarter of Australia’s total.

“We have a staunch, strong ally in Washington and a very good friend in Beijing,” Mr. Turnbull said. “It’s a multipolar world. The idea that Australia has to choose between Australia and the United States is not correct.

Jeremy Page in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to Rob Taylor at rob.taylor@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/beijing-defends-its-right-to-guard-south-china-sea-with-arms-1490334273

Alleged Obama administration spying on Trump team — Is there a potential ‘smoking gun’?

March 24, 2017

By

Nunes: Surveillance reports I’ve seen are ‘concerning’

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Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

The FBI hasn’t been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by Friday. The NSA document production is expected to produce more intelligence than Nunes has so far seen or described – including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying.

Some time will be needed to properly assess the materials, with the likely result being that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on the contents of the documents – and their implications – until next week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources during a span of several weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his committee colleagues, he will be the only member of the panel in a position to know whether the NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News was told Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had been briefed on the basic contents of the intelligence described by Nunes.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is also sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of any alleged Obama administration spying on the Trump team, sources said.

At a dramatic Wednesday news conference, Nunes claimed to have seen evidence that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including the president-elect, were subjected to “incidental surveillance” collection that Nunes characterized as legal but troubling.

“What I’ve read bothers me,” he told reporters, “and I think it should bother the president himself, and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

Schiff blasted Nunes for not coming first to the Intelligence Committee with the information.

“If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,” Schiff said in a Wednesday statement.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.” His latest book is “A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/23/potential-smoking-gun-showing-obama-administration-spied-on-trump-team-source-says.html

Related:

Anonymous U.S. government officials accuse Trump aides of giving Russians the ‘thumbs up’ for election hacks — ‘This is deeply troubling along many levels.’

March 23, 2017
  • US officials say FBI has information suggesting Trump campaign aides coordinated release of damaging info about Hillary Clinton with Russia
  • Other officials, however, say the evidence is circumstantial and it is premature to infer that collusion took place between Trump campaign and Moscow
  • The new information adds to statements made Wednesday by Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee
  • Schiff told MSNBC that the evidence into alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign is ‘more than circumstantial’ 
  • Earlier Schiff ripped GOP chairman Devin Nunes for going to the White House with new information about ‘incidental’ surveillance of Trump associates 
  • Nunes stunned Washington by saying that President Donald Trump was right – sort of – when he said his calls were monitored by Obama 
  • Intelligence collected on his transition team was ‘incidental,’ meaning neither Trump nor campaign insiders were targeted
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP photo

The bitter dispute over President Trump’s claims he was wire-tapped by the Obama administration and counter-accusations that his aides colluded with Russia during the election took another twist on Wednesday night.

A CNN report said the FBI believes President Donald Trump’s associates were in communication with suspected Russian operatives possibly to coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton during the election campaign.

The cable news network quotes anonymous US government officials as saying that the bureau has information that suggests links between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, though the sources stress that the evidence unearthed so far is ‘not conclusive.’

The fact that the claims are being made on CNN is only likely to intensify the president’s conflict with the network he has called ‘fake news’ and lead to further accusations that it is acting as the opposition to Trump.

And they come against the background of a bitter and now nakedly partisan dispute on the House Intelligence Committee over interactions with Russia which boiled over on Wednesday afternoon into an ugly public dispute between the Republican chair and the Democratic ranking member.

One source is cited by CNN as saying that this information is what FBI Director James Comey was referring to in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday.

Comey told lawmakers on Monday that the FBI had come across ‘a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.’

The bureau is now sifting through phone records, travel documents, and human intelligence material in an effort to conclusively determine if laws were broken by individuals with links to Trump’s campaign.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that there is 'more than circumstantial' evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia - a statement backed up by anonymous US officials who told CNN that new information suggests possible collusion

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that there is ‘more than circumstantial’ evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia – a statement backed up by anonymous US officials who told CNN that new information suggests possible collusion

The White House has denied any wrongdoing by the campaign.

‘People connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready,’ CNN quoted one source as saying.

But other officials threw cold water on the circumstantial evidence, saying that it was premature to make inferences from the information gathered.

US intelligence agencies believe that the Russian government was behind the hacking and release of emails belonging to senior Democratic Party officials, including the senior echelons of Clinton’s campaign.

There is consensus among US intelligence officials that the aim of the hacks was to aid Trump’s candidacy.

Thus far, four individuals involved in Trump’s campaign – former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, national security adviser Michael Flynn, and confidante Roger Stone – have been investigated by the FBI for alleged ties to Russia.

All of them deny any wrongdoing.

Paul Manafort 

Paul Manafort  CREDIT: AP

The latest revelations by CNN appear to bolster statements made earlier on Wednesday by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC’s MTP Daily that the evidence currently in the hands of intelligence officials are ‘more than circumstantial’ and ‘very much worthy of investigation,’ though he said he could not get into specific.

Schiff blasted his GOP counterpart, asking whether the panel’s Russia probe can function after chairman Rep. Devin Nunes briefed Trump on new snooping developments.

Schiff, a California Democrat who works closely with Nunes, called the Republicans’ debrief of Trump at the White House Wednesday ‘deeply troubling,’ and demanded the creation of an independent Russia probe.

House Democrats condemn Nunes for ‘undermining’ intel probe
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Schiff was blindsided when Nunes went to tell Trump that intelligence intercepts picked up Trump transition members – as well as Trump himself – seeming to substantiate the president’s claims this month.

‘The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to at as a surrogate of the White House – because he cannot do both,’ Schiff fumed at a Capitol Hill press conference.

‘This is deeply troubling along many levels. The most significant level is it really impedes our ability to do this investigation the way we should,’ he added.

He declined to get into specifics about the documents Nunes saw – because he said Nunes hadn’t shared them with him or with Republican members of the committee yet.

‘We have no idea where these documents came from, whether they even show what they purport to show,’ he said. He raised the possibility that Nunes brought up the information as a way to help Trump back up his Twitter claim of 19 days ago that President Obama had his phones ‘tapped’ at Trump Tower – something the head of the FBI and Nunes himself has said didn’t happen.

His admonishment was a departure from the normally collegial panel, where the leaders are known as ‘chairman’ and ‘vice chairman’ and share the nation’s top secrets.

Nunes confirms intelligence was collected on Trump transition team

Earlier on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. David Nunes (R-Cal) told President Trump that there was ‘incidental’ surveillance of Trump aides unrelated to Russia

Nunes would not say how Trump transition officials were caught up in the surveillance - and whether any of them work at the White House

Nunes would not say how Trump transition officials were caught up in the surveillance – and whether any of them work at the White House

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‘But even if they do, on the basis of what the chairman said, the underlying fact is still the same: There’s no evidence to support the president’s contention that he was wiretapped by his predecessor,’ said Schiff.

‘So I’m not sure what the point of this extraordinary process is. And I have to hope that this is not part of a broader campaign by the White House aimed to deflect from the [FBI] director’s testimony earlier this week.’

Schiff suggested that the House Intelligence could be a casualty of Trump’s tweets – bringing up an angry clash with the British government over alleged spy cooperation that the British say didn’t happen.

HAPPIER TIMES? Chairman Devin Nunes of California (R) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff listen to testimony during hearings on Russia's involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election and alleged hacking allegations during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday

HAPPIER TIMES? Chairman Devin Nunes of California (R) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff listen to testimony during hearings on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election and alleged hacking allegations during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday

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‘If the incident today is an indication that, after making the baseless claim, the president then aggravated the damage by implicating the British in a potential plot to have the British surveil him on behalf of President Obama, and now is attempting to interfere in the congressional investigation – again, with the effort of trying to provide some substance to a claim without substance – then the damage the wrecking ball of this allegation has just claimed another victim, that being our own committee,’ he said.

‘I only learned about this the way that all of you did, when the chairman briefed the press in advance of briefing his own committee members,’ said Schiff.

The president told White House reporters that he feels ‘somewhat’ vindicated after hearing what Nunes had to say this afternoon. The congressman came to the White House this afternoon to give Trump an in-person briefing

Schiff also blasted Nunes in a blistering written statement. ”If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,’ Schiff said.

‘The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.’

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Nunes defended himself from the charges he might have acted improperly in an appearance on CNN about an hour before Schiff spoke.

He said the information ‘concerned me enough to have to notify the president because it was him and his transition team that were involved in this,’ he said.

‘It’s not fair for him not to know what’s in these reports,’ added Nunes.

‘President-elect Trump and his team were put into intelligence reports,’ Nunes told the network. He mentioned ‘dozens’ of intercepts. ‘Clearly there was surveillance that was conducted.’

But he didn’t back off his earlier statement that Trump was not subjected to wiretapping at Trump Tower.

FBI Director James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Schiff’s frustration followed Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes’ decision to brief the House speaker; the CIA, NSA and FBI chiefs; the White House; and the Washington press corps about a cache of intelligence reports in his possession – without sharing them with fellow committee members.

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Nunes told reporters on Capitol Hill that the US Intelligence Community collected ‘incidental’ information about President Donald Trump and his transition team during the three months following the 2016 election.

He said the information collected was ‘legally collected’ pursuant to a warrant issued by a FISA judge in a federal court, and concerned ‘foreign’ surveillance.

But that ‘did not involve Russia or any discussions with Russians,’ and there’s no reason to believe anyone in Trump’s circle was the target of an investigation.

The president told journalists that he feels ‘somewhat’ vindicated after hearing what Nunes had to say.

Trump has been fighting Democrats’ charges that he lied on March 4 when he claimed Barack Obama ‘wire tapped’ him last year.

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President Obama’s Director of national Intelligence James Clapper

‘I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. I somewhat do,’ he said shortly after a meeting with Nunes.

Nunes told NBC he wasn’t currently able to show the information to Schiff because he and the committee don’t have the documents in their possession.

He said he was waiting for an intelligence official to send over the reports, which he said he was shown by a ‘source.’

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Nunes’ statements ‘would appear to have revealed classified intelligence.’

Schiff refused to make the same charged when asked whether Nunes had revealed classified information.

Asia markets enjoy small recovery after big losses — Investors worries grow that Trump cannot deliver on US healthcare and economy-boosting measures

March 23, 2017

AFP

No automatic alt text available.

US lawmakers vote later Thursday on President Donald Trump’s proposed healthcare reform but dealers fear his struggles with the overhaul could delay his economy-boosting measures

HONG KONG (AFP) – Most Asian markets edged up and the dollar saw a small recovery on Thursday as investors tracked a bounce in New York, with focus now on a crucial congressional vote on US healthcare reform later in the day.However, the increases were marginal compared with the sharp sell-off suffered on Wednesday when equities tumbled across the board on fears Donald Trump’s economy-boosting measures could be delayed by his struggles to push through his repeal of Obamacare.

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There is widespread belief the tycoon’s health system proposals will fall foul of lawmakers with many of his Republican counterparts opposed to numerous parts of it and raising questions about the fate of promised infrastructure spending, tax cuts and deregulation.

Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said: ?A not inconsiderable risk is that the administration gets bogged down in the repeal of Obamacare, spends its political capital, and delays the tax and infrastructure plans that so boosted the market.?

McKenna added that the head of the Office of Management and Budget had said full details of the 2018 budget would not be available until May, adding to investors worries.

But Wall Street’s three main indexes climbed Wednesday, giving some impetus to Asia, which followed suit in early trade.

Tokyo was up 0.1 percent by the break, Hong Kong added 0.3 percent, Shanghai put on 0.2 percent, Sydney also gained 0.2 percent and Seoul was 0.3 percent higher. Singapore, Manila and Jakarta also eked out small gains.

“Despite the amount of ink spilt over the healthcare vote, fundamentally the US economic landscape looks bright, and investors were quick to snap up bargains,” Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said in a note.

“With little on the economic calendar, traders remain glued to the shifting tides of the healthcare negotiations.”

The dollar enjoyed some tentative buying, edging up slightly against its major peers but it is still stuck at five-month lows against the yen.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 19,068.22 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 24,399.68

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,252.39

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0785 from $1.0802

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2470 from $1.2486

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.50 yen from 111.13 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 35 cents at $48.39 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 33 cents at $50.97 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 20,661.30 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,324.72 (close)

Global Markets Follow U.S. Stocks Lower — Doubts about President Donald Trump’s ability to push through market-friendly policies

March 22, 2017

Investors re-evaluate President Trump’s ability to deliver on some of his campaign promises

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Global stocks remained under pressure Wednesday following Wall Street’s steepest declines since September.

Some analysts attributed the pullback to doubts about President Donald Trump’s ability to push through market-friendly policies. Expectations for measures including tax cuts and infrastructure spending had helped lift U.S. stocks to record highs this year.

The Stoxx Europe 600 was down 0.7% late morning while Asian markets were weaker across the board as banks followed their U.S. peers lower. Futures pointed to a 0.1% opening dip for the S&P 500 and a 0.2% loss for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Both indexes logged their first 1% declines in five months on Tuesday, puncturing their longest stretch without such a move since the 1990s.

While a 1% drop isn’t unusual by historical standards, particularly at elevated valuations, the moves marked a break from the ultralow volatility that characterized trading in recent months.

Some investors have pointed to concerns about President Donald Trump’s ability to deliver on campaign promises such as tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure investment.

Some investors have pointed to concerns about President Donald Trump’s ability to deliver on campaign promises such as tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure investment.PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Some investors pointed to concerns about the new administration’s ability to deliver on campaign promises such as tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure investment as President Trump struggled to round up support ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“The administration has chosen to start with health care, and if it can’t pass health-care legislation, it will be seen as wounded,” said Vincent Reinhart, chief economist at Standish Mellon Asset Management.

”Markets mostly priced in all the good news you can expect from the administration by year-end, and what’s sinking in is the reality that politicians almost never deliver as quickly or successfully as initially thought,” Mr. Reinhart said.

Banks, which had been among the best performers since the November election, were the biggest decliners in Europe and Asia on Wednesday. The Euro Stoxx Banks index fell 1.6%, while Japan’s Topix bank subsection fell over 3%, and Australia’s “Big Four” banks shed 1.5% to 2.6%. The S&P 500 Financials sector had fallen 2.9% on Tuesday, in its biggest drop since June.

A pullback in commodities prices also dented energy and basic resources companies. Brent crude oil declined 1.6% to $50.18 a barrel Wednesday, while U.S. crude futures fell to $47.52.

As investors dialed down on risk, the yen hit a four-month high against the dollar, weighing on stocks in Japan. The Nikkei Stock Average shed 2.1% in its biggest daily drop since the November election, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 ended down 1.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index shed 1.1%.

Stocks in China generally logged smaller declines than in other Asian markets amid an influx of liquidity from the People’s Bank of China.

“The market was kind of euphoric about potential changes in policy and improvements in survey data… and for that to continue, you need more good news,” said Colin Harte, multiasset manager at BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

“Volatility on most measures had completely collapsed and we are on the cusp of a lot of changes in policy, in the U.S., Europe and globally,” he said. He has recently positioned his portfolios more cautiously, scaling back on developed market equities.

In corporate news, shares of Dutch paint and chemicals firm Akzo Nobel were down 2.7% after it rejected a sweetened takeover proposal from rival PPG Industries.

Shares of Nike led declines in U.S. premarket trading after it offered a tepid outlook for sales growth.

The WSJ Dollar Index edged up 0.1% during European morning trading, on track to snap its longest losing streak since November. The dollar was last down 0.4% against the yen, but up 0.2% against the euro and British pound.

Government bonds began to stabilize Wednesday, with 10-year U.S. Treasury yields edging down to 2.404% from 2.432% Tuesday. German bund yields fell to 0.413% from 0.429%. Yields move inversely to prices.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com

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Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was paid $10 million dollar yearly in secret deal to help Vladimir Putin

March 22, 2017

The Telegraph

Paul Manafort 

Paul Manafort  CREDIT: AP

By 

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska
Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Manafort’s plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear.

The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations. Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided, and said he never worked for Russian interests. The documents obtained by AP show Manafort’s ties to Russia were closer than previously revealed.

In a statement to the AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as “inappropriate or nefarious” as part of a “smear campaign.”

“I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments,” Manafort said. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin CREDIT: EPA

Deripaska became one of Russia’s wealthiest men under Putin, buying assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit the Kremlin’s interests. U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.” In response to questions about Manafort’s consulting firm, a spokesman for Deripaska in 2008 — at least three years after they began working together — said Deripaska had never hired the firm. Another Deripaska spokesman in Moscow last week declined to answer AP’s questions.

Manafort worked as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman last year from March until August. Trump asked Manafort to resign after AP revealed that Manafort had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russian political party .

The newly obtained business records link Manafort more directly to Putin’s interests in the region. According to those records and people with direct knowledge of Manafort’s work for Deripaska, Manafort made plans to open an office in Moscow, and at least some of Manafort’s work in Ukraine was directed by Deripaska, not local political interests there. The Moscow office never opened.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Manafort has been a leading focus of the U.S. intelligence investigation of Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a U.S. official. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the investigation were confidential. Meanwhile, federal criminal prosecutors became interested in Manafort’s activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukraine assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014. No U.S. criminal charges have ever been filed in the case.

FBI Director James Comey, in confirming to Congress the federal intelligence investigation this week, declined to say whether Manafort was a target. Manafort’s name was mentioned 28 times during the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, mostly about his work in Ukraine. No one mentioned Deripaska.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time” in the campaign, even though as Trump’s presidential campaign chairman he led it during the crucial run-up to the Republican National Convention.

 Sean Spicer White House daily press briefing
 Sean Spicer White House daily press briefing CREDIT: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Manafort and his associates remain in Trump’s orbit. Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Trump by telephone. Manafort’s former business partner in eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House on a number of occasions. Gates has since helped plan Trump’s inauguration and now runs a nonprofit organization, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda.

Gates, whose name does not appear in the documents, told the AP that he joined Manafort’s firm in 2006 and was aware Manafort had a relationship with Deripaska, but he was not aware of the work described in the memos. Gates said his work was focused on domestic U.S. lobbying and political consulting in Ukraine at the time. He said he stopped working for Manafort’s firm in March 2016 when he joined Trump’s presidential campaign.

Manafort told Deripaska in 2005 that he was pushing policies as part of his work in Ukraine “at the highest levels of the U.S. government — the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department,” according to the documents. He also said he had hired a “leading international law firm with close ties to President Bush to support our client’s interests,” but he did not identify the firm. Manafort also said he was employing unidentified legal experts for the effort at leading universities and think tanks, including Duke University, New York University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort CREDIT: EPA

Manafort did not disclose details about the lobbying work to the Justice Department during the period the contract was in place.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the department. Willfully failing to register is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, though the government rarely files criminal charges.

Deripaska owns Basic Element Co., which employs 200,000 people worldwide in the agriculture, aviation, construction, energy, financial services, insurance and manufacturing industries, and he runs one of the world’s largest aluminum companies. Forbes estimated his net worth at $5.2 billion. How much Deripaska paid Manafort in total is not clear, but people familiar with the relationship said money transfers to Manafort amounted to tens of millions of dollars and continued through at least 2009. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret payments publicly.

Oleg Deripaska, billionaire and president of United Co. Rusal
Oleg Deripaska, billionaire and president of United Co. Rusal CREDIT:BLOOMBERG

In strategy memos, Manafort proposed that Deripaska and Putin would benefit from lobbying Western governments, especially the U.S., to allow oligarchs to keep possession of formerly state-owned assets in Ukraine. He proposed building “long term relationships” with Western journalists and a variety of measures to improve recruitment, communications and financial planning by pro-Russian parties in the region.

Manafort proposed extending his existing work in eastern Europe to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Georgia, where he pledged to bolster the legitimacy of governments friendly to Putin and undercut anti-Russian figures through political campaigns, nonprofit front groups and media operations.

For the $10 million contract, Manafort did not use his public-facing consulting firm, Davis Manafort. Instead, he used a company, LOAV Ltd., that he had registered in Delaware in 1992. He listed LOAV as having the same address of his lobbying and consulting firms in Alexandria, Virginia. In other records, LOAV’s address was listed as Manafort’s home, also in Alexandria. Manafort sold the home in July 2015 for $1.4 million. He now owns an apartment in Trump Tower in New York, as well as other properties in Florida and New York.

Trump Tower
Trump Tower CREDIT: EPA

One strategy memo to Deripaska was written by Manafort and Rick Davis, his business partner at the time. In written responses to the AP, Davis said he did not know that his firm had proposed a plan to covertly promote the interests of the Russian government.

Davis said he believes Manafort used his name without his permission on the strategy memo. “My name was on every piece of stationery used by the company and in every memo prior to 2006. It does not mean I had anything to do with the memo described,” Davis said. He took a leave of absence from the firm in late 2006 to work on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Manafort’s work with Deripaska continued for years, though they had a falling out laid bare in 2014 in a Cayman Islands bankruptcy court. The billionaire gave Manafort nearly $19 million to invest in a Ukrainian TV company called Black Sea Cable, according to legal filings by Deripaska’s representatives. It said that after taking the money, Manafort and his associates stopped responding to Deripaska’s queries about how the funds had been used.

Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, Deripaska’s representatives openly accused Manafort of fraud and pledged to recover the money from him. After Trump earned the nomination, Deripaska’s representatives said they would no longer discuss the case.

Asian Markets Shudder as Trump Trade Unwinds

March 22, 2017

Regional markets track U.S. stocks, which suffer biggest fall this year

U.S. President Donald Trump pausing for a gesture during a speech in Washington Tuesday; the House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. President Donald Trump pausing for a gesture during a speech in Washington Tuesday; the House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on dismantling the Affordable Care Act. PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Asian markets were lower Wednesday, following overnight declines in U.S. stocks, the dollar and bond yields, as investors re-evaluated their “Trump trade” optimism.

Shares have broadly risen globally since the U.S. election, buoyed in particular by President Donald Trump’s talk of a tax overhaul and infrastructure investment. This helped the dollar against regional currencies and boosted financial stocks.

However, roadblocks have risen ahead of the vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, triggering a market pullback as investors question Mr. Trump’s ability to deliver on his policy promises.

The Nikkei Stock Average fell 2% in the morning session after opening at a three-week low and coming within 42 points of breaking below 19000. If it doesn’t recover, this would be the index’s biggest drop since Nov. 9—the initial slump in the wake of Mr. Trump’s electoral win.

Sizable drops are being posted throughout Asia, with Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down 1.5%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index off 1.4% and the Taiex in Taiwan 1% lower.

“The focus is back on politics now,” said Christoffer Moltke-Leth, director of global sales trading at Saxo Capital Markets. “The market is very concerned with upcoming trouble to Trump’s growth agenda [and] uncertainty with regards to if Trump can secure enough votes to repeal Obamacare.”

Financials led U.S. stocks lower overnight as the S&P 500 and Dow industrials both logged their first 1% declines in five months, ending the longest such streak since the mid-1990s.

That theme continued in Asia trading. Japan’s Topix bank subsection sagged 3% to its lowest level in two months, Korea’s financial subindex dropped 1% and Australia’s “Big Four” banks—which make up one-third of the weighting of that country’s benchmark stock index—shed 1% to 2%.

“Investors may be more than willing to take profit, especially given the fact that many Asian indices have seen recent highs” while “concerns of a prolonged unwinding of the Trump trade may be brewing,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Group.

In currencies, the yen gained a further 0.1% in Asian trading after the dollar earlier hit a four-month low against the yen. That added pressure to Japan stocks as a stronger currency makes the country’s exports costlier around the world.

Sovereign-debt yields have also been falling safety-seeking investors drive up prices. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury set its lowest closing level of the month Tuesday at 2.432% and has fallen a bit further in Asia. Gold is also getting a lift, with London spot prices hitting a three-week high.

For Asian oil companies, the broader negative sentiment was compounded by a bearish inventory reading from the American Petroleum Institute, which said U.S. supplies rose by 4.5 million barrels last week. That is twice what analysts on average anticipate from the government’s reading later in the global trading day.

Hong Kong-listed Chinese oil majors PetroChina and Cnooc were down 1.9% and 2%, respectively. Brent, the global crude benchmark, is down a further 0.3% in Asia after falling more than 1% overnight.

Stocks in China generally logged smaller declines than in other Asian markets amid an influx of liquidity. Over the past three days, the People’s Bank of China has injected into markets a combined 110 billion yuan ($16 billion), resulting in a sharp drop in interbank borrowing rates. The Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.7%.

Looking ahead, Mr. Moltke-Leth predicts that with patience wearing thin as Mr. Trump’s first 100 days run out without detailed policy developments, global stocks will undergo a 10% correction but stop short of entering a bear market.

“My feeling is we are running into a period of risk-off sentiment,” he said. “I would probably start to underweight [stocks], particularly in the U.S.”

Write to Ese Erheriene at ese.erheriene@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/asian-markets-shudder-as-trump-trade-unwinds-1490147711