GilmerFreePress.net

GS600xxx01

The Free Press WV

In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Trump budget keeps pledges: Cuts for poor, more for military

Donald Trump fulfilled a major campaign promise Tuesday, proposing a $4.1 trillion budget plan that would upend Washington in a big way. But he drew rebukes, even from some Republican allies, for the plan’s jarring, politically unrealistic cuts to the social safety net for the poor and a broad swath of other domestic programs.

The budget, Trump’s first as president, combines his spending plan for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year with a promise to balance government books after a decade, relying on aggressive cuts, a surge in economic growth — and a $2 trillion-plus accounting gimmick.

“Through streamlined government, we will drive an economic boom that raises incomes and expands job opportunities for all Americans,“ Trump declared in his budget message.

“Basically dead on arrival,“ opined the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas.

The proposal reflects a conservative vision of smaller government, a drastic rollback of programs for the poor and disabled to prod them into the workforce and a robust hike for the military and border security. It foresees scuttling Barack Obama’s health care law and an overhaul of the tax code, a boon to the wealthiest Americans.

The plan is laced with $3.6 trillion in cuts to domestic agencies, food stamps, Medicaid, highway funding, crop insurance and medical research, among others. Many of the voters who propelled Trump into the presidency last November would see significantly less from the federal government.

“We’re no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off those programs,“ said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and a former tea party congressman.

At the same time, the blueprint boosts spending for the military by tens of billions and calls for $1.6 billion for a border wall with Mexico that Trump repeatedly promised voters the U.S. neighbor would finance. Mexico emphatically rejects that notion.

The proposal got a chilly reception from congressional Republicans and Democrats, who insist they will have the final say as they struggle to complete a health care bill and rewrite the tax code.

Food stamp cuts would drive millions from the program, while a wave of Medicaid cuts — on top of more than $800 billion in the House-passed health care bill — could deny nursing home care to millions of elderly poor people. It would also force some people on Social Security’s disability program back into the workforce.

“These cuts that are being proposed are draconian,“ said veteran GOP Representative Harold Rogers, who represents a poor district in eastern Kentucky. “They’re not mere shavings, they’re deep, deep cuts.“

Said Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La.: “I don’t think the president’s budget is going anywhere.“

The budget would reduce pension benefits for federal workers by $63 billion by eliminating cost-of-living adjustments for most and by requiring employees to make larger contributions. In agriculture, it would limit subsidies to farmers, including for purchasing crop insurance, an idea already attacked by farm state lawmakers.

“We’ve lost 40 percent of our wheat crop and you’re telling me there’s going to be large cuts to crop insurance?“ asked Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “Come on. That doesn’t add up.“

The Trump plan would roll back Obama-era increases to a children’s health program for lower-income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid, take an ax to the Environmental Protection Agency and climate change programs, cut $95 billion from highway trust fund transfers to state highway departments, and curb payments to disabled veterans of retirement age who are eligible for Social Security.

Trump’s budget holds true to his campaign pledge to leave Medicare and Social Security pension benefits alone and contains spending increases for the military and veterans, but it treats most of the rest of the government as fair game. Student loan subsidies, home heating assistance and Great Lakes cleanup would be on the chopping block as the departments of education, environment, energy and State take hits.

“In the America of Trump’s budget, children, working families, seniors and people with disabilities will be ‘fined,‘ while the wealthiest Americans will get a ‘bonus.‘ What’s so ‘great’ about that America?“ asked Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

The budget does feature a handful of domestic initiatives, including a six-week paid parental leave program championed by Trump’s daughter Ivanka that would be designed and financed by the states through cuts to unemployment insurance. Some $200 billion in federal infrastructure investments are promised to leverage another $800 billion in private investment, though the idea has yet to get much traction.

During the campaign, Trump attacked the weak economic growth of the Barack Obama years, and pledged that his economic program would boost growth from the lackluster 2 percent rates seen since recovery began in mid-2009. Trump’s new budget assumes sustained growth above 3 percent, sharply higher than the expectations of most private economists. Without more than $2 trillion in such “economic feedback” over the coming decade, the nation’s budget would never reach balance and would run a deficit of almost $500 billion.

Trump’s balanced-budget goal depends not only on the growth projections but also a variety of accounting gimmicks, including an almost $600 billion peace dividend from winding down overseas military operations and “double counting” $2.1 trillion in revenue from economic growth — using it to both pay for tax cuts and bring down the deficit.

The proposal projects that this year’s federal deficit will rise to $603 billion, up from $585 billion last year. It projects that if Trump’s initiatives are adopted the deficit will start declining and actually disappear by 2027.


►  Trump’s Orb Photo Is Instant Meme

The Free Press WV

It was your ordinary photo op, this one featuring Trump and the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia as they opened the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh. Except it just happened to show them placing their hands on a glowing orb in a dark room, which called to mind, well, pretty much “every science-fiction/fantasy ever,“ in the words of CNET. “For clarification, this is not a Satanic ritual,“ reads one tongue-in-cheek tweet in wide circulation from, yes, the Church of Satan, notes the BBC. Almost instantly, Twitter was flooded with references to Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Superman, A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Space Jam, and many, many more.


►  Trump’s High-Stakes Israel Visit Hhs Amusing Start

Trump’s visit to Israel started with an amusing moment Monday: After getting off Air Force One at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and walking along a red carpet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump asked “What is the protocol?“ and Netanyahu responded “I don’t know,“ the AP reports. But with multiple serious issues to deal with, there may not be many more opportunities to joke during Trump’s two-day visit to Israel and Palestinian territories. A roundup of coverage:

  • NBC looks at five issues expected to loom over the visit. They are Trump’s sharing of Israeli intelligence, his controversial visit to the Western Wall, uncertainty over the proposed move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and plans to build a new coalition including the US, Israel, and Sunni Arab states.
  • The BBC looks at Trump’s chances of brokering a peace agreement that he has called the “ultimate deal.“
  • Preparations for Trump’s visit have caused even more bickering among members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition than usual, the New York Times reports. The PM reportedly had to order members of his cabinet to attend Trump’s airport welcome after learning that most of them planned to skip it.
  • The AP notes that Trump’s journey on Monday may have been the first-ever direct flight between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Reuters reports that the day before Trump’s arrival, the Israeli government granted some economic concessions that it says “will ease daily civilian life in the Palestinian Authority” after Trump “asked to see some confidence-building steps.“
  • The Jerusalem Post reports that the Trump visit is making history in at least three ways, one of which is his visit to the Western Wall, which other American presidents have avoided because they didn’t want to send a message about Israeli sovereignty over the disputed territory.
  • Haaretz reports that Trump spoke on the airport tarmac after arriving in Israel. “On my first trip overseas as president, I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between us and Israel,“ he said.


►  Even Some Republicans Say Trump’s Budget Is ‘Draconian’

The $4.1 trillion budget sent to Congress Tuesday by Trump claims it will erase the national deficit by 2027, the AP reports. It will do this by drastically cutting programs for the poor, including Medicaid and food stamps, as well as decreasing funding for medical research, highways, and more. Democrats are, not surprisingly, opposed to the budget, but even some Republicans are distancing themselves from it. “These cuts that are being proposed are draconian. They’re not mere shavings, they’re deep, deep cuts,“ says Republican Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky. Here’s what else you need to know about Trump’s proposed budget:

  • Analysis in the Washington Post states Trump’s proposed budget takes from the poor to give to the rich—it includes massive tax cuts for wealthy Americans and a $1.4 trillion cut to Medicaid over the next decade—at a time when inequality in the US “is already at historically elevated levels.“
  • But cuts alone aren’t enough to balance the budget. FiveThirtyEight reports the other part of Trump’s proposed budget is rosy economic projections “that have little basis in reality.“ The budget assumes economic growth of 3% per year by the year 2021; most economists think that won’t happen, and some federal agencies are projecting growth that’s less than 2%.
  • The BBC reminds readers that Trump’s budget—which includes a 10% increase in military spending and $1.6 billion for a border wall—is unlikely to become a reality as it stands, same as all other presidential budgets. The Senate and House each pass their own version of the budget, then congressional committees hammer it all out.
  • But Slate argues that just because it’s unlikely to pass as is, it doesn’t make Trump’s proposed budget any less dangerous, calling it a “permission slip” to Republicans in Congress to attack the safety net: “He’s granting Paul Ryan permission to cut away. And that, ultimately, is what makes Trump’s budget so frightening.“
  • On the other hand, Peter Morici writes for MarketWatch that Trump’s “mad-genius budget” is just what we need to “avert fiscal calamity and restore prosperity and hope for the nation’s most struggling citizens.“ He claims too many people are abusing social services like unemployment.
  • Finally, New York points to what it characterizes as an “embarrassing mistake” in Trump’s proposed budget: It assumes a $2 trillion increase in government revenue through economic growth. That growth isn’t just far from guaranteed but a “double-counting error,“ as Trump has previously claimed it would also pay for his proposed “biggest tax cut” in history.


►  New Report May Mean More Trouble for Trump on Russia

A new report from the Washington Post could deepen Trump’s trouble with a special investigator. The newspaper says Trump asked the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the director of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, to publicly reject the idea of any collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia. Both thought the request was inappropriate and refused. CNN confirms the story. The reason it’s trouble? Evidence of his requests could end up in the hands of Robert Mueller, the special investigator in charge of the Russia inquiry, who could look into whether Trump tried to impede the FBI’s investigation. The Rogers request was recounted in an NSA memo, though it’s unclear whether any such memo exists for the request to Coats.

Trump reportedly reached out to both after former FBI chief James Comey testified before Congress on March 20 and confirmed that the agency was investigating possible ties between members of Trump’s campaign and Russia. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says the allegations represent “yet another disturbing allegation that the President was interfering in the FBI probe.“ The White House response to the story: “The White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals.“


►  Ex-CIA Chief: Russia ‘Brazenly’ Interfered With Our Election

Former CIA chief John Brennan left no wiggle room in one aspect of his testimony before a House panel on Tuesday: “It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 election process,“ he told the House Intelligence Committee, per the Daily Beast. But as for the dicier question of whether Russia worked with anyone in the Trump campaign: “I don’t know whether such collusion existed,“ he said, per the New York Times. However, Brennan said he was sure that Russia was at least trying to influence members of the campaign, and thus “I felt as though the FBI investigation was certainly well founded,“ he said, per Politico. Other key quotes and moments:

  • Suspicious contacts: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,“ Brennan said. “It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.“
  • Where’s the evidence? Republicans Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney pressed him for evidence of collusion, but he said that wasn’t the CIA’s role, reports the Hill. “I don’t do evidence, I do intelligence,“ he said. “We were uncovering intelligence about contacts between US persons and the Russians,“ and “as we came upon that, we would share it with the bureau.“
  • Warning to Russia: In a sign of how worried he was, Brennan said he personally called the head of Russia’s intelligence service and warned him that meddling would cause serious harm to US-Russia relations. It’s the first time such a high-level warning has been revealed, reports the Washington Post. His counterpart denied any meddling.
  • ‘Unresolved’: Brennan stepped down as CIA chief on January 20, and by then, “I had unresolved questions in my mind about whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting US persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion.“
  • From the right: So still no evidence of collusion, writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. “Maybe the special counsel probe will find evidence for such, but don’t forget that Brennan ran the CIA during the entire election cycle and still can’t connect those dots.“
  • From the left: “Brennan’s comments about the ‘well founded’ basis of the Russia investigation blow up Trump’s talking point—one he pushed as recently as May 18 on Twitter—that the probe is just a ‘witch hunt’ promoted by Democrats upset about Hillary Clinton’s defeat,“ writes Aaron Rupar at ThinkProgress.


►  Rubio Doesn’t Get the Shock Over Trump

Surprised by the week the White House has had? Senator Marco Rubio isn’t, and doesn’t quite get why you are. During a Sunday interview on Face the Nation, he reminds Americans they “got what they voted for,“ noting that Trump’s White House is not much different from his unconventional presidential campaign—even if the drama coming out of it is “different from anything we’ve ever confronted,“ reports CBS News. “I don’t understand why people are that shocked,“ he said. The Florida senator, who battled Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, did express that the administration would “benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoid some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis.“ Politico see echoes of Mitch McConnell’s Tuesday comment: “We could do with a little less drama from the White House.“

John Dickerson kicked off the interview by immediately asking about former FBI director James Comey. Rubio’s take: “Well, obviously, look, these media reports that are out there raise questions and deserve answers. What did the president say? Did in fact you keep memos? What do those memos say? And why did you write them? And what was your feeling? And the American public deserves to know the answers to that. I think that’s fair to the president. I think that’s fair to former director Comey. And I think that fair to the country.“

In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Letter: Flynn cites ‘public frenzy,’ invokes 5th Amendment

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination on Monday and declined to hand over documents sought under subpoena by a Senate panel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

In a letter to the Senate intelligence committee , Flynn’s attorneys justified the decision by citing an “escalating public frenzy against him” and saying the Justice Department’s recent appointment of a special counsel has created a legally dangerous environment for him to cooperate with the panel’s investigation.

“The context in which the committee has called for General Flynn’s testimonial production of documents makes clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him,“ the attorneys wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the AP.

Flynn’s decision not to cooperate with the Senate committee represents a new legal complication for the expanding government and congressional inquiries into Russian interference in the presidential campaign and contacts between Trump advisers and Russian officials and representatives. Flynn is a key figure in both the FBI investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller and in separate Senate and House inquiries.

Trump appointed Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and top military intelligence chief, as his top national security aide in January, only to fire him less than a month later. Trump said that Flynn had misled top U.S. officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his contacts with Russian officials, including Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Flynn’s letter to the Senate committee stressed that his decision to invoke his constitutional protection is not an admission of wrongdoing but rather a response to the current political climate in which Democratic members of Congress are calling for his prosecution, the person said.

Legal experts had said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the documents without a grant of immunity because doing so might compel him to waive some of his constitutional protections.

Trump himself walked back into the Russia controversy during his visit to Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing beside him, was asked Monday if he had any concerns about intelligence sharing with the U.S.

After Netanyahu responded — he said the cooperation was terrific — Trump volunteered that he “never mentioned the word or the name Israel” during his recent Oval Office conversation with top Russian diplomats.

That comment referred to revelations that he divulged classified information about an Islamic State threat in his May 10 meeting in the Oval Office with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador. U.S. officials have said the information originated with Israel. However, it has not been alleged that Trump told the Russians that Israel was the source.

Trump has defended Flynn since his ouster and called on him to strike an immunity deal because Flynn is facing a “witch hunt.“ The president’s comments are in stark contrast to his harsh words during the 2016 campaign for people who received immunity or invoked the Fifth Amendment in the probe of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“You see, the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?“ Trump said during a September campaign rally in Iowa.

Flynn’s decision not to cooperate now does not fully close the door on future cooperation with the committee. Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner said in March that Flynn wants to tell his story “should the circumstances permit.“ He noted it would be unreasonable for Flynn to agree to be questioned by the committee “without assurances against unfair prosecution.

Flynn’s letter comes less than two weeks after the committee issued a subpoena for his documents as part of its ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign. In addition to the Senate investigation, Flynn is also being investigated by other congressional committees, as well as the ongoing FBI counterintelligence probe and a separate federal criminal investigation in northern Virginia.

Representatives for the Senate committee’s Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails inquiring about the committee’s next steps.

This is the second time he has declined to cooperate with a request from the Senate committee. He also turned down an April 28 request that was similar to ones received by other Trump associates, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump associate Roger Stone and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

According to Monday’s letter, the committee requested that Flynn provide a list of all meetings and communications he had with Russian officials. It also asked him to provide all records of his communications with the Trump campaign that “were in anyway related to Russia.“ The letter notes that the time frame of the request was Jan. 16, 2015, through Jan. 20, 2017.

Washington lawyer Nina Ginsberg, who has extensive national security law experience, said that if Flynn turned over any personal records in response to the committee’s subpoena, he would waive his Fifth amendment rights regarding those documents and have to testify about them.

Ginsberg also noted that the committee faces new complications from the Justice Department’s move last week to appoint Mueller as special counsel in the Russia inquiry. If the intelligence committee wants to give Flynn immunity, it will likely have to enter into discussions with Mueller to determine whether the move could impede the FBI’s case.

“The committee could decide to go ahead and not worry about Mueller,“ Ginsberg said, but that could create new legal complications for Mueller’s probe.

Lawmakers of other key congressional committees are pledging a full public airing as to why former FBI Director James Comey was ousted amid the intensifying investigations into Russia’s interference with the U.S. election.

In Sunday TV appearances, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they will press Comey in hearings as to whether he ever felt that Trump tried to interfere with his FBI work. Some lawmakers are insisting on seeing any White House or FBI documents that detail conversations between the two, following a spate of news reports that Comey had kept careful records.

Comey was fired by Trump earlier this month. The former FBI director agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee after the Memorial Day holiday.

Former CIA Director John Brennan is to testify in open and closed hearings Tuesday before the House intelligence committee, which is conducting its own investigation.


►  Congressional panels pledge thorough probe into Comey firing

Members of key congressional committees pledged Sunday to proceed with aggressive investigations into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election and any ties with the Trump campaign, saying the American people need a full airing as to why former FBI director James Comey was ousted.

Comey was fired by Donald Trump earlier this month. The former director agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee after the Memorial Day holiday.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of that committee, said he wants to press Comey as to whether he ever believed the White House was interfering with his work, in light of a spate of news reports that Comey had kept detailed records of his interactions with Trump.

The New York Times and other news outlets reported last week on a Comey memo indicating Trump had urged him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Separately, another Times report said Trump had told Russian officials in a closed-door meeting at the Oval Office that firing Comey “had relieved great pressure on him.“

“Did he keep these memos? What do those memos say? And why did he write it? And how did he feel? Did he ever feel like he was being put in a position where he couldn’t do his job?“ Rubio asked. “There’s no doubt that that’s the questions that are going to get asked, and asked repeatedly.“

Rubio said White House officials had told him they had no transcripts nor notes of Trump’s meeting with Russian officials but “apparently someone has discussed them, or leaked them.“

“This cloud is impacting everything else,“ Rubio said, describing a number of questions, such as possible obstruction of justice, that are hanging over the White House. “So, we need to get over this once and for all.“

Leaders of the House oversight committee, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Democrat Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said they would demand Comey’s notes. Cummings also is urging Chaffetz, who is resigning from his job next month, to subpoena the White House for any documents relating to Flynn.

Chaffetz said he expects to speak with Comey on Monday and that if there are any notes of White House meetings, “we’re certainly pursuing them.“

“There have been so many lies, so many contradictions,“ Cummings said, adding that he expects parallel investigations from Congress to proceed fully after the Justice Department last week appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head an investigation into possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Referring to the whole sequence of events leading to Comey’s firing, Cummings added: “I think that there may be quite a few people that may have some problems with the law.“

The White House has repeatedly insisted that a “thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.“ It has not denied the Times report that Trump was critical of Comey to the Russians the day after he fired him. But White House spokesman Sean Spicer has called the president’s rhetoric part of his deal-making, contending that Comey had created “unnecessary pressure” on Trump’s ability to negotiate with Russia on a range of issues.

White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster underscored that point in an interview that aired Sunday, saying Trump had felt “hamstrung.“

“The president feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news,“ said McMaster, who was present at the meeting.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a member of the intelligence committee, said she also plans to press Comey regarding what was discussed with Trump about Flynn and whether he was asked by Trump to alter the FBI investigation. The California Democrat said public hearings should ferret out what has been a flurry of apparently contradictory comments by many of the parties involved.

“I really think that rather than have all these memorandums and issues circulating around, that we need to put the facts before the American people,“ she said. “Did the president fire Comey because of his investigation and was he worried about what the investigation might conclude? If so, that borders on a very serious charge.“

“And it’s got to come from Director Comey himself,“ Feinstein said.

Rubio appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,“ Feinstein also was on CBS’ “Face the Nation,“ and Chaffetz, Cummings and McMaster spoke on ABC’s “This Week.“


►  More we learn about Russia connections, worse it looks for all Republicans

The Russia scandal enveloping the White House poses an existential threat to the White House and more broadly to the GOP. The Post’s latest bombshell shows just how cavalier Republicans were about handing the party and the country over to someone with inexplicable affection for an enemy of the United States.

The Washington Post reports:

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy – made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,“ McCarthy, R-Calif., said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Representative Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

McCarthy’s remark sounds like a bad joke, as his spokesman claimed, but the issue is not whether Trump was actually receiving rubles from the Kremlin. McCarthy and fellow Republicans betray in this episode both a recognition of the degree to which Trump was behaving as Vladimir Putin’s lapdog and their own lack of seriousness about a presidential nominee who, if elected, would pose a threat to the United States’ national security. The glib, cavalier treatment of a potential national security threat reveals a level of immaturity and irresponsibility that we do not expect from elected officials, especially those in top leadership roles.

As things turned out, the Russia connection during the campaign was reportedly far deeper than even #NeverTrump Republicans and Democrats imagined. Reuters reports:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

This undercuts repeated assurances from the president that no one had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign. The number of contacts is extraordinary, according to multiple foreign policy experts.

USA Today counts 20 times the administration or Trump denied contacts during the campaign with the Russians. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied any contacts in testimony under oath during his confirmation hearing. In fact, he had at least two contacts with Kislyak. As a result of his testimony – which he updated in a letter to Congress – he was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Given the frequency with which Flynn and others reportedly communicated with Russian officials, flat denials by the president and his aides suggest either total ignorance of the actions of Trump subordinates or the capacity for bald-face, repeated lies to the American people.

Moreover, the extent of the contacts and the number of denials provide a powerful motive for the president, aided by his attorney general and other aides to oust former FBI director James B. Comey, who would not let go of an investigation that Trump insisted was a baseless attempt to delegitimize his presidency. (Thursday he was back tweeting that he is the victim of a witch hunt.)

Trump alone is responsible for the mess in which he finds himself. He hired on pro-Putin advisers, continued to praise Russia throughout the campaign, insisted (falsely) he had no ties to Russia (even his lawyer had to add a qualifier – “with few exceptions” – as to his financial ties to Russia), refused to release his tax returns and, most recently, handed over top-secret information to Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Moreover, he hired Flynn, whom his attorneys knew at the time was under investigation for failure to report receipt of monies from Turkey. He kept him on after being informed that Flynn had lied to the vice president and others about contacts with Russian officials. (Trump fired Flynn only after The Post broke the story that Flynn had lied.)

In all of this, neither Trump, his campaign officials and lawyers nor GOP leadership ever put America first. That’s the political sin at the root of all this, an irony that should not be lost on those who insisted that this was all a laugh riot.


►  Biden: It’s time for America to regain unity and purpose

Former Vice President Joe Biden gave assurances Sunday that the country’s current divisiveness brought on by a presidential election that “churned up some of the ugliest realities” of society will be temporary.

Biden told graduating seniors at Colby College to resist the impulse to throw up their hands after an election that played to society’s “baser instincts.“

“It’s time for America to get up. It’s time to regain our sense of unity and purpose. It’s time for us to restart realizing who in God’s name we are,“ he said during a sunny commencement address on the library lawn.

The Democrat who served two terms alongside President Barack Obama expressed his own disbelief in the state of affairs.

“This past election cycle churned up some of the ugliest realities in our country. Civilized discourse and real debate gave way to the coarsest rhetoric and stoking of our darkest emotions,“ he said.

But he said the corrosive politics and us-against-them populism won’t be permanent. “I assure you it’s temporary. I assure you it’s transitory. The American people will not sustain this attitude,“ he said.

He encouraged the 480 graduates from 36 states and 42 countries to resist the temptation to retreat into their own bubbles, engaging in a comfortable lifestyle and surrounding themselves by people with similar viewpoints.

Instead, he encouraged them to get out and take risks, to treat others with dignity, and to build bonds of empathy with others.

“Life can’t be lived in a self-referential, self-reinforcing, self-righteous echo chamber we build for ourselves online. Living on screens encourages shallow and antiseptic relationships that make it easy to reduce others to stereotypes, to write another human being off as a bad person,“ he said.

Biden never mentioned Republican Donald Trump by name but he came close when he talked about standing up to sexual harassment and sexual violence.

He made a reference to so-called sexually charged locker room conversations — referencing Trump’s downplaying of lewd remarks as “locker room talk” — before telling the group: “It doesn’t go on like someone said it does.“


►  At refugee camp, Trump envoy Haley vows more aid for Syrians

His skull and jaw wrapped in bandages, the young Syrian refugee stared nonchalantly into a small black box at a supermarket in this sprawling, dust-swept refugee camp. The box scanned his iris to identify him, charged his account and sent him on his way.

If the boy noticed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley watching intently from just a few feet away, he didn’t show it. But Haley would later tout the iris-scanners as a fraud-cutting tool boosting efficiency for the more than $6.5 billion the U.S. has spent helping those whose lives have been upended by Syria’s harrowing civil war.

Yet as Haley pledged Sunday that the U.S. would increase support, her message was diluted by Trump’s own vow to put “America First,“ his planned budget cuts and hardline position on admitting refugees.

“We’re the No. 1 donor here through this crisis. That’s not going to stop. We’re not going to stop funding this,“ Haley said. “The fact that I’m here shows we want to see what else needs to be done.“

It was a theme the outspoken ambassador returned to over and over in Jordan at the start of her first trip abroad since taking office. In her stops here and in Turkey — another Syria neighbor — Haley is witnessing first-hand the strains placed on countries absorbing the more than 5 million Syrians who have fled the Islamic State group, President Bashar Assad’s government, or both.

She climbed into the trailer of an 18-wheeler staged at the Ramtha border crossing less than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from Syria, inspecting boxes of peas, tuna and canned meat stacked shoulder-high. The truck was to join 19 others in a convoy into opposition-held territory in Syria, carrying supplies from U.N. agencies and other groups, many U.S.-funded.

“This is all in the name of our Syrian brothers and sisters,“ Haley told aid workers in a nearby tent, swatting away flies in the summer heat. “We want you to feel like the U.S. is behind you.“

The U.S. president’s message to Syrians couldn’t be more different.

Trump, who was in Saudi Arabia on his first overseas trip, once called his predecessor “insane” for letting in Syrian refugees. As president, he tried to bar them from the U.S., describing them as a national security threat. A court blocked that move, but the number of Syrian refugees admitted has nonetheless dropped, from 5,422 in the four months before Trump’s inauguration to 1,566 in the four months since, U.S. statistics show.

And Trump has called for drastic cuts to U.S. funding for the United Nations and its affiliated agencies — such as those aiding people still in Syria and those who’ve fled. Trump plans to release his budget blueprint Tuesday, but his initial proposal in March called for a one-third cut to diplomatic and overseas programming while boosting the U.S. military by $54 billion.

Haley told reporters accompanying her to Jordan that the U.S. was “not pulling back” and was in fact “engaging more.“ She cited Trump’s stepped-up action to try to hasten a political solution to the war, including a strike punishing Assad’s forces for using chemical weapons that the Syrian opposition and its backers have enthusiastically applauded.

She echoed Trump’s defense of his plan to temporarily halt refugee admissions from all countries — which was also blocked in court — by saying the U.S. needed to protect Americans by first improving its refugee-vetting capabilities. And she pointed to a group of women in the camp who’d overwhelmingly told her their hope was to return to Syria, not relocate to the U.S.

“So our goal is how do we get these people back home to a safe place?“ Haley said.

Still, the situation in Zaatari Refugee Camp — like in others in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq — tell the story of Syrians who see no quick resolution to their plight.

In Zaatari, half of the 80,000 refugees are children, and a dozen babies are born here per day, according to UNICEF, the U.N.‘s child welfare agency. Thirty-five percent of marriages involve a child under 18, a reflection of the economic hardships families in the camp face.

Many of the younger children wander unsupervised through the camp, where gusts of dust occasionally reduced visibility to just a few feet as Haley’s motorcade rolled through the streets, passing sparse, white-corrugated buildings accorded a bit of cheer by colorful murals painted on their walls.

As ambassador, Haley plays a key but only partial role in the Trump administration’s decision-making on Syria, refugees and humanitarian aid. But her role at the U.N. puts her at the center of the debate about how the global community takes on the crisis. After all, it’s successive U.N. Security Council resolutions that created the legal framework for aid groups to send aid into Syria, with or without Assad’s consent.

At the Marka military airport in Amman, Haley went aboard a cargo plane to get a rare look at high-risk operations to airdrop wheat, lentils and cooking oil into Assad-controlled territory in Deir el-Zour, which is completely surrounded by the Islamic State group. In a sign of Moscow’s outsize influence in the Syria conflict, both the aircraft and the company that flies it on behalf of the World Food Programme are Russian.

“It’s smiles, and tears,“ said David Beasley, WFP’s executive director. “It really is.“


►  Will Trump break promise to Haitian immigrants?

Once upon a time, Donald Trump tried to fashion himself as Haiti’s savior. “To all of our friends in Haiti, and in Little Haiti, your day of justice is coming,“ the then-candidate told a crowd of Haitians in South Florida last October. “And it arrives on November 8.“

Yet Trump’s administration now is on the verge of inflicting more misery on Haiti and the Haitian American community. Nearly 60,000 Haitians who have been legally living in the United States for more than a decade could be deported if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chooses not to extend what is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for them. The administration has assumed anti-immigrant, anti-refugee stances since assuming power. But forcing mass deportations to Haiti would not only be exceptionally heartless for those already living here but also could set one of the world’s poorest countries back even further.

Compared with the political attention that immigrants receive, there’s not much public debate about foreign nationals covered under TPS. DHS chooses TPS countries based on temporary conditions, including armed conflict, an environmental or public health disaster, or other “extraordinary” circumstances. A person who is found to be eligible for TPS cannot be removed from the United States and is permitted to work and travel.

In Haiti’s case, a letter from James McCament, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, proclaimed that the situation in the country had improved enough to warrant sending tens of thousands of Haitians back to the country. In response, Haiti’s new government is pleading with the United States to extend TPS, arguing that the country – still reeling from Hurricane Matthew and a cholera outbreak that killed more than 9,000 people – is not in a position to absorb a rapid influx of deportees.

In a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly, Haiti’s ambassador Paul Altidor wrote that “allowing TPS to expire before Haiti can absorb and support their return will cause an immediate increase in poverty in Haiti, as thousands of households will no longer have an economic lifeline.“ (Indeed the Haitian diaspora in the United States sends about $1 billion a year back to Haiti in remittances.) “It is in the mutual interest of our two governments to renew TPS for Haitians for at least another 18 months,“ the letter concludes. The TPS designation expires in July.

Extending TPS for Haitians has important implications for other groups in the United States who have fled from crisis. Some 13 countries are currently designated for TPS status, including Honduras, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Should the Trump administration end TPS for Haiti, other groups can reasonably fear losing their TPS status as well. If 60,000 Haitians are deported, it would serve as yet another harsh signal from the administration to those around the world seeking shelter that they are not welcome here.

“We are not asking for an indefinite renewal of TPS,“ Altidor told me over the phone. “But the extension would give us time to get the country back on track to reconstructing itself.“ Altidor said he was engaging at the highest levels of the Haitian government on the issue, including with President Jovenel Moise. Altidor met with Kelly on Monday. A decision on TPS for Haitians could come as soon as early as May 23.

Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, who has been vocal about the TPS issue in the New Yorker, spoke to me from Miami after attending a rally in support of a TPS extension for Haitians. “Every day that goes by, people grow more and more worried.“ she said. “Over and over, the promises that are made to Haiti are not kept. There is always a vulnerability in Haiti, with erosion, lack of land cover, and natural disasters. We are constantly having to negotiate our own migration. The Haitian community in South Florida was already feeling vulnerable after the election, after the tough talk on immigration – not just from the president but from Secretary Kelly. The TPS issue is just another sad layer on top of that.“

Haitians at least have support across Congress: A number of U.S. senators have sent letters pressing for an extension of TPS, including Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass. Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott has asked the Trump administration to extend protection for Haitians under the program.

“Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion,“ Trump said to Haitians while campaigning against Hillary Clinton. Now, his administration has the opportunity to prove it and extend TPS – and relief – for Haitians.

WV Legislative Update: Delegate Brent Boggs - Minority House Finance Chairman

image

The month of May is always a memorable time in our family.  In addition to Memorial Day, there are birthdays for Jennifer, Jessica, Collin and Justin and the wedding anniversary for Jen and Justin.  However, I still cannot believe our oldest grandson, Collin, is now 14 years old.  When you’re with your kids every day, you watch them grow and changes are subtle.  Change doesn’t seem so rapid.  However, only getting to see Collin and Gavin every few months really drives the point home.

Congratulations to the Town of Sand Fork for continuing their annual event to honor Gilmer County veterans last Sunday.  A little rain didn’t deter a big turnout to honor our vets and adding the most recent memorial name plaque to the Veterans Memorial wall.  Jean and I enjoyed attending the program, visiting with everyone and participating in paying tribute to our honored veterans from all generations.

After being instructed to return to the Capitol for a continuation of the quest for a state budget, there was some real progress last week in the passage of HB 107.  Some much needed statesmanship was injected into the process.  This is the first time in quite a while that both the majority and minority in the House of Delegates had the opportunity to work jointly on good, solid bipartisan legislation and finding some much needed consensus.  Prior efforts have lacked that element.

Big differences were contained in last week’s House bill verses the Senate bill (SB 1007).  In addition to raising revenue, the House version shifts most of the economic benefits to earners making less than $100,000 per year.  It phases out state taxes over three years on social security income for those earners; increases the standard deduction per dependent by $500 each; and provides a state tax exemption on veterans’ benefits.  It’s important to remember that this is the current House version and still would need approval by the Senate and the Governor.  It’s a good first step to work from.

I believe that if a small group – three or four members – from the House, Senate and representatives from the Governor’s office could sit down for a day of two, we could have an agreement in short order that would pass both houses and meet with a positive response from the Governor.  Based on last week and from discussions and communications with the Governor’s office, Speaker and Finance Chairman over the weekend, I’m cautiously optimistic that we can move in this direction and complete the work soon. Willingness to find common ground to reach a reasonable compromise is the key.

While working to reach a final agreement on the remaining bills and the budget, having only a few members to hash out the details would save taxpayers thousands of dollars each day.  Once agreement is imminent, details can be transmitted to each member; caucus meetings held to answer questions; members can return to the Capitol, and the whole package could be finalized by votes in one day.  Whether or not my idea is adopted remains to be seen.

It’s too soon to tell if the bipartisanship and consensus building will extend to the State Senate.  Hard work remains on revenue bills for jobs, roads and bridges.  If these pieces of the puzzle can be completed, a budget agreement should come quickly.  Unfortunately, there were a few members that sought the opportunity to inject politics immediately after a few days of much needed cooperation.  Fortunately, these partisan tactics were obvious to all in attendance, including the statewide news media.

No one wins from the chaos that would ensue from a state government shutdown.

Finally, congratulations to 8 yr. old grandson Carson in blasting his first Little League home run over the center field fence and bleachers at their home field in Hurricane.  To make it more memorable, it was a grand slam.  Great job, Carson.  I’m happy we could be there to share the event.

Until the budget work is completed, please send your inquiries to the Capitol office:  Building 1, Room 258-M, Charleston, WV 25305.  My Capitol office number is 304.340.3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

Have A Minute?  Senator Capito’s Weekly Address to West Virginians‏

The Gilmer Free Press

It was another busy week here in Washington. From highlighting the need for infrastructure improvements to helping West Virginians rebuild, and easing the pain caused by the opioid epidemic, this week’s newsletter has the details. Keep scrolling for an update and be sure to share the news with your friends and family.


Infrastructure Week

This was Infrastructure Week, a time to draw attention to our nation’s many infrastructure needs. Improving West Virginia’s infrastructure remains one of my top priorities. By modernizing, repairing and building, we can improve our state’s economy, create more jobs and retain talent right here at home.

Helping West Virginia Recover

I kicked off the week with an important announcement that will help many West Virginians. On Monday, I delivered the good news that our state will receive additional funding to help continue recovery efforts following last June’s flood. These resources are critical to helping our communities rebuild, and I am thrilled we were able to secure these additional resources.  This funding will go a long way to assist communities in West Virginia that need it most and help us move forward.


Caring for the Most Vulnerable

Another top priority of mine has been fighting and ending the drug epidemic. I continued those efforts this week by reintroducing a bipartisan measure called the CRIB Act. This bill is designed to help newborns suffering the pain of withdrawal receive the care they need and provide support for their families. Lily’s Place in Huntington is already providing this type of care, and the CRIB Act will make it easier for other communities to follow in their footsteps.

Sincerely,
The Gilmer Free Press
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator

The McKinley Capitol Report

The Gilmer Free Press

Invest in Energy Infrastructure to Create New Jobs

Investing in our energy infrastructure will help grow our economy and spark a manufacturing renaissance. In particular, the development of an ethane storage and distribution hub in West Virginia and other states will create thousands of good paying jobs, attract new private investment, and bring billions of dollars in new revenue to the region. Earlier this week I introduced legislation to examine the economic benefits of an Appalachian storage hub. Below is a picture of myself and Senators Capito and Manchin briefing reporters about this project.

West Virginia has a tremendous amount of untapped resources and the legislation that was introduced is an important step towards unleashing our economic potential. This should be a priority so that America can reclaim the mantle of leadership in energy production on the world stage.


We Must Withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement

Earlier this week I introduced a resolution calling for a full withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, a poorly negotiated deal forced by the Obama administration.

The Trump administration should completely withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement because this flawed accord:

1.    Hurts the American economy

The agreement forces the U.S. to immediately reduce our carbon emissions, hurting American workers and increasing energy costs, while countries like China only promise to begin reducing their emissions in 2030.

2.    Does not help the environment

According to an MIT study, we know that if all the signers meet their commitments, it would only reduce warming by 0.2 degrees (Celsius) by the year 2100.

3.    It was never ratified by Congress

This deal was another attempt by the Obama administration to force through its radical climate change agenda without the consent of Congress.

Rather than negotiating faulty agreements under the guise of international unity, the best way to lead on this issue is to prioritize fossil energy research and advance new technologies that will allow countries around the world to use their resources in the cleanest and most efficient manner.  Doing so will allow America to create new jobs and claim the mantle of leadership on the world stage in clean energy production.


Meeting with Constituents

We had many visitors come to the office this week. They included representatives from Toyota and Hino Trucks, the Italian Navy Attache, and Chief Martin from Parkersburg (pictured below). If you are ever in town and would like to stop by or schedule a meeting, you can do so by clicking here. We look forward to seeing you!

Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

Click Below for additional Articles...

Page 1 of 301 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »




The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXV The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved