Posts Tagged ‘US President Donald Trump’

Trump says time to work ‘constructively’ with Russia — Progress starting already in Syria and Ukraine — “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.”

July 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump meeting Friday in Hamburg, Germany

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump pledged Sunday to work “constructively” with Russia but ruled out an immediate easing of sanctions while the countries remain at odds over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

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In a series of tweets on his return from Europe, Trump said he had confronted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over evidence from the US intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election when the two leaders met for the first time in Germany on Friday.

And while he welcomed an agreement for the start of a ceasefire in Syria, Trump said it was too early to consider any easing of US sanctions on Russia “until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved.”

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election,” Trump said of their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. “He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..”

Trump said he and Putin had talked about the idea of setting up what he called “an impenetrable cyber security unit” to prevent hacking in future elections, without giving details.

He also said the two men had discussed the implementation of a ceasefire in Syria which began on Sunday, saying “it will save lives.”

“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

– Friction over Syria –

Syria has been a particular source of friction between the two countries, as Russia is a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad.

Moscow was furious when the Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against Syrian forces in April, in retaliation for what Washington said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad’s regime against civilians.

Moscow has warned that a program of sanctions imposed by the US, which was tightened last month, threatens their whole relationship.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in the US last December after accusing Russia of trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

And last month, the United States added 38 individuals and entities to its sanctions list targeting Russians and pro-Russian rebels it blames for the fighting in Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea.

“Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved,” said Trump.

The US president has previously equivocated over whether Russia did try to tilt the outcome of last November’s election contest against Hillary Clinton in his favor, amid an investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign team actively colluded with Moscow.

– ‘Strategic alliance’ –

So his public assessment that Russia did meddle has triggered questions over whether his administration planned to bring in more sanctions.

Asked on Sunday whether new sanctions were in the pipeline, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told ABC television: “We have sanctions that are already on the table and we expect to enforce those sanctions.”

Mnuchin also insisted that Russia and the US could work together on cyber security, despite criticism in some quarters that the two sides had diametrically opposing goals.

“What we want to make sure is that we coordinate with Russia, that we’re focused on cybersecurity together, that we make sure that they never interfere in any democratic elections,” he said.

“This is like any other strategic alliance, whether we’re doing military exercises with our allies or anything else. This is about having capabilities to make sure we both fight cyber (crime) together which I think is a very significant accomplishment for President Trump.”

The US and Russian sides have issued sharply conflicting accounts of Friday’s meeting, with Putin saying on Saturday that Trump had been “satisfied” by his denials of any Russian interference in the polls.

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Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the Russian denials had been expected but cut no ice.

“This is Russia trying to save face,” she told CNN. “And they can’t. They can’t.

“Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.”

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Trump calls first Putin meeting an ‘honor’, cites ‘very good’ talks

July 7, 2017

By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason | HAMBURG

Reuters

Fri Jul 7, 2017 | 11:50am EDT

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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that it was an “honor” to meet him for the first time and said he looked forward to “positive things” in the relationship between the former Cold War rivals.

The face-to-face encounter between Trump and Putin at a Group of 20 summit in Germany was one of the most eagerly anticipated meetings between two leaders in years.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Trump promised a rapprochement with Moscow during his campaign for the presidency last year. But he has been unable to deliver on that pledge because his administration has been dogged by investigations into allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election and ties between his campaign team and Moscow.

Moscow has denied any interference and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.

Trump and Putin spoke through translators with their respective foreign ministers present for six minutes before reporters were allowed into the room for their statements. Afterwards the reporters were ushered out and the meeting continued.

“President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well,” Trump told reporters, sitting alongside the Russian leader.

“We’ve had some very, very good talks. We’re going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue. We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned. And it’s an honor to be with you.”

Putin, through a translator, said: “We spoke over the phone with you several times,” adding: “A phone conversation is never enough.”

“I am delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President,” he said, noting that he hoped the meeting would yield results.

Both men sat with legs splayed. Trump listened intently as Putin spoke.

Before the meeting, some feared the Republican president, a political novice whose team is still developing its Russia policy, would be less prepared for the talks than Putin, a former KGB agent who has dealt with the last two U.S. presidents and scores of other world leaders.

Amid criticism of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and the investigations into its role in the U.S. campaign, Trump has come under growing pressure to take a hard line against the Kremlin.

On Thursday, Trump delivered some of his sharpest remarks about Moscow since becoming president, urging Russia to stop its “destabilizing activities” and end its support for Syria and Iran.

But Trump stopped short of any personal criticism of Putin and declined to say definitively whether he believed U.S. intelligence officials’ assertion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

“I think it was Russia but I think it was probably other people and/or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure,” Trump said on a visit to Poland.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Denis Pinchuk in Moscow and Denis Dyomkin in Hamburg; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Ralph Boulton and David Stamp)

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin sit down for historic first meeting

July 7, 2017

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have sat down for their first bilateral meeting as presidents.

The highly anticipated meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg follows months of speculation about the relationship between the Kremlin and Mr Trump’s White House.

.US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg

US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“President Putin and I have been discussing various things and it’s going very well,” Mr Trump told reporters at a brief photo call before the meeting began.

“Obviously now that will continue”  “positive things… will happen for Russia and the United States.”

Putin said they had spoken over the phone about bilateral issues, “but phone conversations are obviously not enough.”

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands for the first time

“I’m delighted to meet him personally,” Mr Putin added.

The two presidents were accompanied by Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of State.

Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin
A firm grip: Mr Trump grips Mr Putin’s arm with both hands at the G20 Summit CREDIT:STEFFAN KUGLER/EPA

The two men first met briefly this morning, when their first handshake happened earlier today, and was caught on camera by journalists at the G20 Summit in Hamburg before it was posted to Facebook by the German Cabinet.

As officials gathered around a table, a towering Mr Trump was seen gripping Mr Putin’s right hand before patting his arm several times. Later, he casually slapped him on the back in an apparent gesture of friendliness.

The handshake’s happened! At the G20 Kremlin spokesman says Trump & Putin “shook hands & said they’ll see each other soon” for the bilateral

The two were seen exchanging pleasantries and both smiled as they stood side-by-side at the white meeting table.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was also there, watching the big moment unfold.

Read the rest and see videos:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/07/donald-trump-meets-vladimir-putin-historic-handshake/

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Trump says he and Putin ‘discussing various things’ and it’s ‘going well’

By VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

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President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are holding their first official meeting as heads of state on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

“It’s an honor to be with you,” Trump said to President Putin at the beginning of their meeting.

“President Putin and I have been discussing various things. I think it’s going very well, we’ve had some very, very good talks,” Trump told reporters who were allowed into the room briefly.

Trump added, “We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States, and for everybody concerned.”

Trump and Putin were joined at their more formal meeting by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and two translators.

Putin said he was “delighted” to meet with Trump personally and hoped their meeting “will yield positive results,” according to the translator.

The Russian president said while he and Trump have spoken over the phone — three times since Trump took office – such calls are “never enough.”

Trump did not answer questions from the media on whether they will discuss Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Before their high-stakes sit-down, the two leaders had a casual run-in this morning where they exchanged a handshake.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

Includes vide:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-putin-discussing-things-meeting/story?id=48474106

Trump takes aim at China over North Korea

July 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP | US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump prepare to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on July 5, 2017

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump lashed out at China Wednesday, pointing to a surge in its trade with North Korea as evidence that US reliance on Beijing to rein in Pyongyang was misplaced.

“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” Trump said in an early morning tweet.

Trump posted the tweet as he was about to depart on a trip to Europe that will include a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit in Germany.

It came a day after North Korea conducted an apparently successful test launch of an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States.

G20: Merkel’s party no longer considers US a ‘friend’

July 4, 2017

Reuters and France 24

© Miguel Medina, AFP | File photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel talking with US President Donald Trump at the G7 meeting in Sicily on May 26, 2017.

Video by Nadia MASSIH

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-07-04

In their campaign programme for the German election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have dropped the term “friend” in describing the relationship with the United States.

Four years ago, the joint programme of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), referred to the United States as Germany’s “most important friend” outside of Europe.

The 2013 programme also described the “friendship” with Washington as a “cornerstone” of Germany’s international relations and talked about strengthening transatlantic economic ties through the removal of trade barriers.

But the words “friend” and “friendship” are missing from the latest election programme – entitled “For a Germany in which we live well and happily” – which Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer presented on Monday ahead of a Sept. 24 election.

Instead, the United States is described as Germany’s “most important partner” outside of Europe. CDU officials were not immediately available to comment on the change in wording.

The change in wording underscores how relations between Berlin and Washington have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump entered the White House in January.

During his campaign for the presidency, Trump said that Merkel was “ruining” Germany with migration policies he described as “insane”.

He has repeatedly denounced Germany’s trade surplus with the United States, accused Berlin and other European partners of owing “massive amounts of money” to NATO, and unsettled western partners with his decision last month to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

A survey by the Pew Research Center last week showed that just 35 percent of Germans have a favourable view of the United States, down from 57 percent at the end of President Barack Obama’s term.

Merkel is due to host Trump and other leaders at a G20 summit in Hamburg later this week.

In place of the 2013 passage about strengthening economic ties, the 2017 programme refers to historical U.S. support for Germany after World War Two and in the run-up to German reunification.

The new CDU/CSU election programme also repeats a line that Merkel used in a speech in Munich in late May after a difficult summit of G7 leaders, where Trump resisted pressure from six other nations to stay in the Paris agreement.

“The times in which we could fully rely on others are, to a certain extent, in the past. We Europeans must take our fate into our own hands more decisively than we have in the past,” the programme reads.

While affirming Germany’s commitment to the NATO military alliance, the programme says that the EU must be in a position to defend itself independently if it wants to survive in the long run.

It also adds a special section entitled “Germany and France as the Motor of Europe” which vows to “reinvigorate the friendship” between the two countries.

“We are ready, together with the new French government, to further develop the euro zone step by step, for example through the creation of its own monetary fund,” it reads.

But it also rules out the mutualisation of debt in Europe and says that “solidarity” will only be possible if EU countries stick to the rules of the bloc’s Growth and Stability Pact.

(REUTERS)

Manchester bombing investigation: UK anger at U.S. for leaks

May 24, 2017

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Britain slams United States for leaking identity of Manchester suicide bomber

By Latika Bourke

Manchester bomb suspect identified

London: Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd has complained to her US counterpart over the leak of the identity of the Manchester suicide bomber to the American media.

Mrs Rudd took the extraordinary step of making the UK government’s frustration with the Americans public on Wednesday as counter-terror investigators worked to identify possible accomplices of 22-year old Salman Abedi.

A photo published by the BBC reportedly of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi.A photo published by the BBC reportedly of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi. Photo: Handout/BBC

On Wednesday morning, local time, police in Manchester arrested three people in the city’s south. They had already arrested a 23-year-old man in relation to the attack. US media identified that man as Abedi’s brother, citing “US officials”.

As was the case with the Westminster attack in April, British press held off reporting the attacker’s name – even though they knew it – to avoid endangering the investigation or tipping off any further suspects. But on Tuesday, US networks CBS and NBC named the perpetrator hours before Greater Manchester police confirmed his identity.

Mrs Rudd said while the leak of Abedi’s identity to US media had not compromised the investigation, it had the potential to jeopardise inquiries and draw media attention to places being searched.

“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order protect operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources,” the minister told the BBC’s Radio 4.

“I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again.

“They are perfectly clear about the situation and that it shouldn’t happen again.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd (left) with Prime Minister Theresa May in Manchester on Tuesday.Home Secretary Amber Rudd (left) with Prime Minister Theresa May in Manchester on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

The US and UK have one of the closest intelligence-sharing relationships in the world, as part of the “five-eyes” relationship, which also includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Britain’s anger follows consternation over US President Donald Trump’s sharing with the Russians of classified intelligence relating to an Islamic State plot – potentially compromising a source in the field.

Police at a building in Manchester where three people were arrested on Wednesday.Police at a building in Manchester where three people were arrested on Wednesday. Photo: Getty Images

Professor Lawrence Freedman from King’s College in London warned further leaks from the US would undermine the intelligence sharing relationship.

“US officials just don’t seem to be able to help themselves. It will get to the stage where UK officials will stop sharing,” he said.

Flowers placed at a vigil in Albert Square, central Manchester, for the 22 people killed in the blast.Flowers placed at a vigil in Albert Square, central Manchester, for the 22 people killed in the blast. Photo: AP

Mrs Rudd said the attacker was “known, up to a point, to the intelligence services.” She confirmed he had recently travelled to Libya.

She made her comments before arriving at 10 Downing Street for another meeting of the government’s emergency response committee, commonly called COBRa.

Something happening on Granby rd in . Scary stuff, riot van, fire engine, heavily armed police

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http://www.smh.com.au/world/britain-slams-the-united-states-for-leaking-identity-of-manchester-suicide-bomber-20170524-gwcg3u

King Salman Calls Trump’s Visit a “Turning Point” — Trump on Sunday urged Muslim leaders to take a stand against violence committed in the name of religion

May 22, 2017

AFP

© Saudi Royal Palace/AFP | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on May 22, 2017, shows US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump waving as they board Air Force One before leaving Riyadh for Israel

RIYADH (AFP) – 

Saudi King Salman on Monday described US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Muslim kingdom in the Gulf as a “turning point” in relations between the two countries.

Trump on Monday concluded his landmark visit to Saudi Arabia, which he chose for his first foreign trip since taking office in January, during which the allies announced arms deals and investments worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

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“This is a turning point in relations between the two countries,” Salman told his council of ministers, according to state news agency SPA.

He said relations between the two countries will advance from a partnership to the “level of strengthening consultations, cooperation and coordination on all fronts”.

The king also praised an “historic agreement” between Gulf monarchies and Washington “to take firm measures to target the financing of terrorism” and the setting up of a Riyadh-based centre for this task, SPA said.

The ministers also hailed the launch of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh on Sunday.

Dubbed “Etital”, Arabic for moderation, the centre “embodies the kingdom’s great efforts and its ongoing fight against terrorism”, SPA reported.

In his first foreign speech, Trump on Sunday urged Muslim leaders to take a stand against violence committed in the name of religion, describing the struggle against extremism as a “battle between good and evil”.

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Israel Pulls Out All The Stops For Visit By U.S. President Donald Trump — ‘“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”

May 20, 2017
BY GREER FAY CASHMAN
MAY 19, 2017 23:51

 

Israelis are rolling out the red carpet, literally.

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 At an unimaginable cost in time, effort and human resources, both the Americans and the Israelis are leaving no stone unturned for the visit on Monday of US President Donald Trump, who will be the first sitting President to visit the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem. Other US Presidents who visited the Wall did so before they were elected or after leaving office – or both.

On Thursday, an American advance team visited Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem in case of an emergency situation that would require medical treatment for the president. They inspected the helicopter landing pad, the CT scanning facilities, and the operating theaters.

On Sunday, a dress rehearsal for the visit will be held at Ben Gurion Airport with the participation of representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, IDF and the Airports Authority as well as the police.

Last week, members of the US Military Mess who will serve as Trump’s personal chefs and valets arrived at the King David hotel to familiarize themselves with the kitchen and with the requirements of kashrut. There have been many changes at the hotel in order to accommodate the Americans – something that Sheldon Ritz, director of operations at the hotel, termed “controlled chaos.”

After long days with the detail-conscious American advance team, it transpired in the final analysis that President Trump has no special demands. Any food that he will be eating in the hotel is being brought on Air Force One and will all be kosher in deference to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, who are orthodox Jews. All that the King David was asked to do was to organize hairdressing and make-up appointments and to ensure that there would be no other guests in the hotel.

On Friday night, Ritz managed to oversee a dinner for 120 people in honor of the Premier of Quebec who was staying at the hotel, and another dinner for an Australian trade delegation, which likewise checked out on Saturday. The King David’s housekeeping staff are not permitted to enter Trump’s suite to clean up or even to lay the linens on the bed. The Americans take all this upon themselves, Ritz told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. All journalists traveling with Trump on Air Force One will stay at the King David, where a press center will be set up for them in addition to the larger press center at the Mamilla hotel.

The Government Press Office is setting up a press center at the Mamilla Hotel, which is within easy walking distance of the King David and the Dan Panorama, where most other journalists will be staying. There will be approximately 100 work stations equipped with high-speed Internet connections that will enable the uploading of video files, live Internet broadcasts, real-time access to raw materials and the ability for journalists to work directly with their office or broadcast outlets.

Every journalist will be given a personal app to enable high quality live broadcast via cell phone camera with minimal 1.5-second delay. All app users will receive a unique URL thus enabling each individual their own distinct broadcast channel with a transmission link that can be sent to their media outlets and social media.

The GPO will also provide services for on-line video streaming of live broadcasts, video players to view live broadcasts via a media asset management system, and a satellite downlink for the recorded live broadcasts, plus technical support services.

Smolenskin Street, where the Prime Minister ‘s Residence is located, is a small street full of cracks, uneven patches and potholes in the road. The Prime Minister’s residence is the last house on the street, and is number nine. For more than two years, half the street has been sealed off by a metal enclosure, plus a traffic barrier and heavy black curtains. Residents of the street are permitted on some occasions to pass through, but not always, and even when given permission by a security guard are often stopped by someone from the border police and have to argue their way through.

For more than a week now, even the rare privilege of walking to the end of the street has been denied the residents, because the whole of the enclosed area was dug up, re-fitted with security devices and other infrastructure and paved nicely for the Trump visit. The rest of the street is still a mess. Workers on Friday were putting the finishing touches on a huge security tent, much tighter than the one that was put up for Barack Obama.

Notices went up in the street and its surroundings advising motorists which streets would be blocked to traffic and parking. The notices were also placed on car windshields. The problem is that the notices are in Hebrew only, and the area is full of French and English speaking immigrants, not all of whom are sufficiently fluent in Hebrew to understand the content of the notice.

At the President’s residence, less than ten minutes walk away from that of the Prime Minister, road workers had been digging up the pavement for months to create a new entrance. It had nothing to do with the Trump visit, but was more or less completed in time for it. On Thursday and Friday, presidential staff were busy laying fresh new flower beds, assembling the stages for the media, installing media equipment and rolling out red carpets. Carpet sweeping at the President’s residence is done manually, and it is a very frustrating exercise for the people employed to do the sweeping, because almost without fail, after every speck of dust has been removed, someone will walk on the carpet and leave footprints. Efforts to prevent this by covering certain sections with a white piece of cloth are to no avail, because they are ignored by most of the people walking on the carpet.

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama will be part of the welcoming group of dignitaries who will greet President Trump on arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, and will then have to rush back to Jerusalem to greet him again when he arrives at the President’s Residence.

It is customary when presidents of the United States or popes of Rome visit the President that they plant a tree together in the presidential garden. This time it will be an almond tree, and not any of the previously planted species, but it will be marked with a plaque whose message will be in the same gist as those of other tree planting ceremonies: ‘“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper that love thee. Peace be in thy walls, and prosperity in thy palaces.” (Psalms 122)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have a little more breathing space than Rivlin. His meeting with Trump at the King David Hotel is scheduled for 6 p.m. At 7.30, Netanyahu and his wife Sara will host a dinner for Trump and his wife Melania at the Prime Minister’s residence, where other invitees will be subjected to the most stringent of security requirements.

At 8 p.m., Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will host a dinner at the King David Hotel for Trump’s entourage and the Israeli delegation.

At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Trump will visit Yad Vashem, and from there will go to the Israel Museum, where he will deliver a farewell statement prior to his departure from Israel.

All the dignitaries who will be at the airport on Monday to greet him on his arrival will be back there on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. farewell ceremony. No one from the King David will be permitted to enter his suite until he is well out of Israeli air space.

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http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Israel-pulls-out-all-the-stops-for-Trump-visit-492287

Trump putting US intelligence ties at risk: experts

May 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Paul HANDLEY | US President Donald Trump speaks to the press with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following meetings in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, May 16, 2017

WASHINGTON (AFP) – With his shoot-from-the-hip tweets targeting US spies and alleged Oval Office leak of secrets to the Russians, President Donald Trump has damaged White House relations with American and allied intelligence agencies and put national security at risk, current and former officials said Tuesday.

Diplomats, former intelligence officials and senior politicians said Trump’s attitude could make allies less willing to share their secrets with the United States, and render US spy chiefs less able to provide the White House with crucial security information.

Ex-CIA director Leon Panetta warned that Trump’s behavior risks polluting relations between the intelligence agencies of the United States and its allies.

“He cannot just, you know, go ahead and reveal classified information without creating some huge problems within the intelligence community,” Panetta said on CNN, reacting to an explosive Washington Post report claiming Trump shared top secret information with Russia’s foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States.

The information allegedly leaked to the Russians, reportedly on Islamic State group efforts to place laptop computer bombs on commercial aircraft flights, was provided by a Middle Eastern country “that made very clear that they did not want this intelligence shared,” Panetta said.

“The damage is that this country may cut off any kind of intelligence provided to the United States on very sensitive issues that relate to the national security of this country.”

The New York Times reported that the information was provided, at least in part, by Israel — which had allegedly urged Washington be careful in handling it.

– ‘Holy grail’ at risk-

Douglas Smith, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security, said Trump appeared to put at risk the “holy grail” of the spy world: the means and methods of intelligence collection.

“Imagine how a foreign government is going to feel when information they view as highly sensitive — they’ve probably collected it in a very secretive and challenging way — is so cavalierly given away to a foreign power who is by no means our friend.”

Trump’s controversial meeting with Russian diplomats came one day after he threw his administration into turmoil by taking the rare step of firing his FBI director James Comey, who had been overseeing investigations into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia to skew the 2016 election.

Veteran Republican Senator John McCain warned that reports Trump divulged to Russia information provided by a US ally “sends a troubling signal to America’s allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future.”

Karin Von Hippel, director-general of London’s RUSI military think tank, predicted “there’s definitely going to be nervousness about what to share and when,” although she was confident sharing “won’t come to a standstill.”

That message was echoed by Yves Trotignon, a former counter-terrorism analyst for France’s DGSE intelligence agency, now with risk consultant Riskeco, who said Trump violated a basic tenet of intelligence sharing.

“We don’t give intelligence supplied by one ally’s service to another, unless everything has been made very clear. This is a basic rule which President Trump obviously does not know,” he told AFP. “The United States cannot afford to lose the confidence of its allies that could at one point leave it on its own.”

– Keeping politics out –

The twin developments of Comey’s ouster and Trump’s alleged sharing of secrets with Moscow have raised concerns to a new level within the intelligence community.

US presidents strive for strong relationships with their top intelligence advisors as soon as they come into office.

The country’s security can rest heavily on the level of trust between the president and the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of National Intelligence.

Trump has made little apparent effort to cement those ties — as illustrated most dramatically, but far from exclusively, by Comey’s abrupt dismissal.

In four months since becoming president, Trump has insulted the CIA as chronic leakers, rejected unanimous assessments that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, skipped daily intelligence briefings, and named widely distrusted former army general Michael Flynn, who was fired by his predecessor Barack Obama, to be his national security advisor.

Stephen Slick, a former CIA operations officer and now director of the Intelligence Studies Project at the University of Texas-Austin, said rank-and-file intelligence officers remain apolitical and focused on their work.

He noted, however, that the heads of the key agencies were political figures — with a duty to keep politics out of the intelligence process.

“It is important that they use their experience to insulate the intelligence process and products from politics, and resist efforts by the administration or its critics to draw the community into ongoing partisan frays,” he told AFP.

by Paul HANDLEY
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Republicans, Democrats demand ‘full explanation’ on Trump sharing secrets with Russia — “This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president.”

May 16, 2017

AFP

© Handout photo Russian Foreign Ministry/AFP | (L to R): Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office.

Latest update : 2017-05-16

US President Donald Trump is facing criticism for sharing top secret intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week, prompting both Democrats and Republicans to demand a “full explanation”.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump revealed highly classified information on the plans of the Islamic State (IS) group during a May 10 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.

Citing unnamed officials, the Post reported that the intelligence included plans by the Islamic State group to threaten airliners in a plot involving laptop computers.

The intelligence originated from a Middle Eastern ally that did not authorise the United States to pass the information on to Russia. The rules of espionage usually allow governments and intelligence agencies to have a significant say in how their information is shared.

By not respecting these protocols, the officials said, Trump’s revelation threatened the cooperation of an ally “that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State”.

“This is code-word information,” a US official familiar with the matter told the Post, referring to an intelligence classification that ranks even above top secret. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies”.

One official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting said Trump told Lavrov of the “great intel” he receives as president. “I have people brief me on great intel every day,” he said.

Such seemingly off-the-cuff revelations could prompt allies and sources in the field to avoid passing sensitive intelligence to the White House in the future, thereby jeopardising US operations and security.

Divulging such information could also place intelligence sources at imminent risk. The source in question, moreover, was not a US informant but one cultivated by an allied nation.

Senior Security Contributor Michael Morell says the source that says Pres. Trump gave classified information to Russians “is now at risk”

While Trump did not reveal how the intelligence was gathered, he did reveal the name of the IS group-controlled city where the threat was detected. From this location Russia could likely identify the US ally who gathered the information or determine which intelligence capabilities were involved, the Post said.

Russia and the United States are both battling the Islamic State group in Syria and do share some information about the jihadists’ moves. But Russian operations in the country are largely aimed at bolstering the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, while the Trump administration launched air strikes on Assad targets following a deadly chemical attack in April and has said Assad should play “no role” in Syria’s future.

Trump’s meeting with the Russian envoys was controversial from the start, as Russian photographers were allowed to take pictures while US media were barred from the Oval Office.

The White House later expressed outrage that photos of the gathering were made public after the Russian embassy posted them on Twitter.

@realDonaldTrump meeting has just started | В Овальном кабинете началась встреча С.Лаврова с Д.Трампом

“They tricked us,” one White House official told CNN, adding: “That’s the problem with the Russians – they lie.”

WH furious over Russian government photos of Trump meeting with Lavrov/Kislyak. “They tricked us,” an official said of Russians “They lie.”

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as the FBI, continue to investigate the extent of Russian attempts to influence the US presidential election. The meeting with Russian officials came the day after Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing the bureau investigation.

Ambassador Kislyak has also figured prominently in the allegations of improper contact between Trump associates and Russian officials. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after not revealing the true nature of his talks last year with Kislyak while Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any Russia investigations after he failed to disclose his meetings with the ambassador while being questioned under oath.

Soon after the talks, senior White House officials appeared to recognise that the discussions had taken a problematic turn, with the Post reporting that a series of calls was made to the CIA and the National Security Agency in what were likely attempts at damage control.

Political aftershocks

National Security Adviser HR McMaster was unequivocal in denying that sources had been compromised, emphasising that Trump had not revealed any “intelligence sources or methods” in his meeting with the Russians. He said that Trump and Lavrov had merely “reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation”.

“At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state (Rex Tillerson), remember the meeting the same way and have said so,” McMaster continued.

But despite the denials, the Post report sent shock waves around Washington, with Republicans joining Democrats in calls for a “full explanation” from the White House.

“We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount,” said Doug Andres, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

This sentiment was echoed by the top-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

“Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country,” Schumer said on Twitter.

“The president owes the intelligence community, the American people and Congress a full explanation.”

“To compromise a source is something that you just don’t do,” the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, told reporters. “That’s why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close, is to prevent that from happening.”

Some legal experts said the allegations involved potentially serious wrongdoing on the part of the president.

“This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States,” said Alan Dershowitz, a prominent US legal expert and former Harvard Law professor, in an interview with CNN on Monday.

.@AlanDersh reacts to WaPo story: “This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president”

But others pointed out that the US president has a legal right to declassify information as he sees fit, so Trump’s decision to share intelligence broke no laws.

“The classification system is not based on a law,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy specialist with the Federation of American Scientists, in comments to the New York Times. “It is an expression of presidential authority, and that means that the president and his designees decide what is classified, and they have the essentially unlimited authority to declassify at will.”

Trump himself seized on this justification on Tuesday, tweeting that he had the “absolute right” to share the information.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he wrote in two tweets.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

Anyone else sharing sensitive intelligence, however, risks losing security clearance and his or her government position. An individual could also face up to 10 years in prison on charges related to the Espionage Act, which makes it a felony to reveal certain information on US national defence to unauthorised sources.

Date created : 2017-05-16