NYT: Trump Asked DOJ to Put Loyalist In Charge of “Hush Money to Whores” Probe

EFEB 20, 2019

H3 trump whitaker

A new report by The New York Times details a number of possible obstruction of justice efforts by President Trump as he tried to suppress or contain multiple investigations about him. The Times says Trump asked former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to place a loyalist in charge of an investigation into hush money payments made to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Trump reportedly asked for New York federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman to head the investigation, but Berman had already recused himself from the case. Whitaker testified to Congress earlier this month that Trump never pressured him to intervene in an investigation. Did he perjure himself? The report also details Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which he publicly attacked over 1,100 times.

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Trump demands high-speed rail funds back from California in retribution for National Emergency Lawsuit

Trump gestures after speaking on border security at the Rose Garden
Mr Trump has frequently been at-odds with the more liberal state (which still denies felons their right to vote. How liberal is that?)

President Donald Trump has continued to escalate tensions with California by calling on the state to return billions in federal funds for a high-speed rail.

His administration plans on cancelling $929m (£711m) in grants for what Mr Trump has called a “failed” project.

These federal funds account for a quarter of the California rail project.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom called it “political retribution” for the California-led lawsuit against Mr Trump’s national emergency declaration.

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it is looking into cancelling the $929m grant as well as recovering a $2.5bn grant already being spent by the state.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Mr Trump again lambasted the state over the project, saying: “Send the Federal Government back the Billions of Dollars WASTED!”

All but one of the states involved are governed by Democrats.

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Trump v California

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

The battle between Donald Trump and California Governor Gavin Newsom, carried out in speeches, tweets and legal filings, now includes a hefty price tag. The US government has spent billions helping construct a high-speed rail line in California. Now, after cost overruns and cutbacks in the scope of the ambitious project, the president wants the federal money back.

That may be difficult to pull off – and will surely face an extended court battle – but that’s not the point. Mr Newsom is fighting the president over emergency funding for the border wall, so the Trump administration is going after the state’s rail funding.

Tit for tat.

This latest drama puts the conflict between the conservative White House and the most prosperous and populous state in the nation, one fully controlled by Democrats, in stark relief.

California’s leaders have offered their state as a “counter-proposal” to Trump’s America – a demonstration that progressive policies and regulations can go hand-in-hand with economic growth and well-being. It’s the antithesis of the Trumpist view that restrained regulation and limited government involvement open the path to success.

It’s a battle over ideology and principles – a civil war conducted in courts and the court of public opinion.

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Following the news of the lawsuit, Mr Trump had slammed Democrats, “the radical left”, the 9th Circuit courts, and taunted California over the rail project.

“This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by. This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.”

What’s the current rail situation?

California’s initial plans, approved in 2008, involved a high-speed rail linking San Francisco and Los Angeles with an estimated cost of $77bn.

Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger inspects bullet trains in Japan in 2010 as inspiration for California's own train updatesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThen-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger inspects bullet trains in Japan in 2010 as inspiration for California’s own train updates

Since then, overrunning costs and delays have plagued the project and in his state address last week, Gov Newsom said they would be scaling the project down and focusing on connecting regions in the Central Valley for now.

At the time, Mr Trump attacked the project, saying the state owed the government $3.5bn for the “green disaster”. On Tuesday, his administration took steps towards collecting those funds.

Gov Newsom hit back by saying Mr Trump’s claims were “fake news”.

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In this handout image provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Construction of the Fresno River Viaduct seen between Raymond Road and Watson StreetConstruction has begun on parts of the rail system

Can Trump take back the funds?

California and the federal government signed an agreement in 2010 over this funding.

Per the agreement, the federal government is allowed to take the money back if the state does not make “adequate progress” or “fails to complete the project or one of its tasks” or if the state cannot meet the funding-match requisite, CNBC reported.

California has not yet met the $2.5bn funding match, and so it has not been able to use the $929m.

Federal Railroad Administration chief Ronald Batory said in a letter on Tuesday to the state’s rail authority that California has “materially failed to comply with the terms of the agreement”.

The letter cited the governor’s altered plans for the system along with California’s inability to match the federal funds as grounds for terminating the award.

California’s rail authority has not yet responded to the letter.

Art Bauer, a California Senate Transportation Committee staffer, told the Los Angeles Times he could not recall any precedent for such an action, but that “the governor unwittingly gave the federal government a reason to back away from the project”.

Bernie Sanders to run for US president in 2020!

US Senator Bernie Sanders has announced he is running for the presidency, launching a second bid for the White House after a surprisingly strong run for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

Sanders, 77, made the announcement in a radio interview in his home state of Vermont on Tuesday.

“We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it’s time to move that revolution forward,” the self-described Democratic socialist told Vermont Public Radio.

Sanders said he would enact many of the ideas he championed during his bid for the presidency in 2016, including universal healthcare access and the minimum hourly wage of $15, if elected to the White House this time around.

A frequent critic of current US President Donald Trump, Sanders went on to describe the Republican leader as “an embrassasment”.

“I think he is a pathological liar… I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants.”

In an email to supporters early on Tuesday, Sanders pledged to build a vast grassroots movement to confront the special interests he said dominate government and politics.

“Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” he said.

Sanders raised more than $1m within hours of launching his 2020 presidential bid.

Crowded field

Sanders had launched his 2016 candidacy against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a long shot, but ended up capturing 23 state-nominating contests and pushing the party to the left, generating tension between its establishment and liberal wings that has not entirely abated.

Like Trump, Sanders was an outsider when the 2016 presidential primaries began, but he came close to pulling off an upset over Clinton.

This time around, Sanders has been among the leaders in opinion polls of prospective 2020 candidates, but he faces a field more heavily populated with other liberal progressives touting many of the same ideas he brought into the party mainstream.

The list of politicians seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination already includes his fellow Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

A number of other high-profile Democrats are still considering presidential bids, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke.

The primaries and caucuses that determine the Democrat nominee for next year’s election will begin in February 2020 in Iowa.

Name recognition

Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington, said the already crowded field was down to candidates seeking to “gain some momentum” before Sanders announced his run for office.

“Sanders enters the race now as the frontrunner,” Rattansi said.

“He has the best nationwide organisation, the best name recognition and the biggest network of donors around the country – he is the now the man to beat.”

The crowded field could make it harder for Sanders to generate the same level of fervent support as four years ago, however.

The 77-year-old is also likely to face scrutiny about his age and relevance in a party that is increasingly advancing more diverse and fresh voices, including women and minorities – groups that Sanders struggled to win over in 2016.

Some Democrats have questioned whether their champion this time around should be a septuagenarian white man.

#MeToo era scrutiny

The Vermont senator, a former member of the US House of Representatives, also faces different pressures in the #MeToo era.

In the run-up to Sanders’s 2020 announcement, persistent allegations emerged of sexual harassment of women by male staffers during his 2016 campaign. Politico and The New York Times reported several allegations of unwanted sexual advances and pay inequity.

Sanders offered an unequivocal apology over the complaints on January 10, saying: “What they [women] experienced was absolutely unacceptable and certainly not what a progressive campaign – or any campaign – should be about.”

“Every woman in this country who goes to work today or tomorrow has the right to make sure that she is working in an environment which is free of harassment, which is safe and is comfortable, and I will do my best to make that happen.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Trump to transfer sensitive nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia

US President Donald Trump is seated during the Arab Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh in 2017President Trump at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh in 2017

The US is rushing to transfer sensitive nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia, according to a new congressional report.

A Democratic-led House panel has launched an inquiry over concerns about the White House plan to build nuclear reactors across the kingdom.

Whistleblowers told the panel it could destabilise the Middle East by boosting nuclear weapons proliferation.

Firms linked to the president have reportedly pushed for these transfers.

The House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee report notes that an inquiry into the matter is “particularly critical because the Administration’s efforts to transfer sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing”.

President Donald Trump met nuclear power developers at the White House on 12 February to discuss building plants in Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia.

And Mr Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, will be touring the Middle East this month to discuss the economics of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Saudi Arabia has said it wants nuclear power in order to diversify its energy sources and help address growing energy needs.

But concerns around rival Iran developing nuclear technology are also at play, according to US media.

Previous negotiations for US nuclear technology ended after Saudi Arabia refused to agree to safeguards against using the tech for weaponry, but the Trump administration may not see these safeguards as mandatory, ProPublica reported.

Critics say giving Saudi Arabia access to US nuclear technology would spark a dangerous arms race in the volatile region.

White House Advisor Jared Kushner, watches alongside a member of the Saudi Delegation during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C.Adviser Jared Kushner watches alongside a member of the Saudi Delegation during a meeting between President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

What does the report say?

The House report is based on whistleblower accounts and documents showing communications between Trump administration officials and nuclear power companies.

It states that “within the US, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia”.

These commercial entities could “reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia”.

Mr Trump is reportedly “directly engaged in the effort”.

The White House has yet to comment on the report.

The report includes a timeline of events and names other administration officials who have been involved with the matter, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Mr Kushner, Mr Trump’s inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn was found guilty of lying about Russian contacts by special counsel Robert Mueller as a part of the inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The commercial entities mentioned in the report are:

  • IP3 International, a private company led by ex-military officers and security officials that organised a group of US companies to build “dozens of nuclear power plants” in Saudi Arabia
  • ACU Strategic Partners, a nuclear power consultancy led by British-American Alex Copson
  • Colony NorthStar, Mr Barrack’s real estate investment firm
  • Flynn Intel Group, a consultancy and lobby set up by Michael Flynn
Then White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. on February 13, 2017Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was deeply involved with the nuclear plans, the report says

The report states that Flynn had decided to develop IP3’s nuclear initiative, the Middle East Marshall Plan, during his transition, and while he was still serving as an adviser for the company.

In January 2017, National Security Council staff began to raise concerns that these plans were inappropriate and possibly illegal, and that Flynn had a potentially criminal conflict of interest.

Following Flynn’s dismissal, however, IP3 continued to push for the Middle East Plans to be presented to Mr Trump.

According to the report, one senior official said the proposal was “a scheme for these generals to make some money”.

And whistleblowers described the White House working environment as “marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting”.

What next?

The report says an investigation will determine whether the administration has been acting “in the national security interests of the United States or, rather, [to] serve those who stand to gain financially” from this policy change.

These apparent conflicts of interest among White House advisers may breach federal law, and the report notes that there is bi-partisan concern regarding Saudi Arabia’s access to nuclear technology.

The oversight committee is seeking interviews with the companies, “key personnel” who promoted the plan to the White House, as well as the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Defence, State, Treasury, the White House and the CIA.

The 9/11 Terrorists, and where they came from:

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Petition Calling for Impeachment of the President of the United States

p05kdxbj

https://www.change.org/p/the-people-impeach-donald-j-trump

 

or

https://www.needtoimpeach.com/petition/

 

(When the future asks, “What did you do?”)

 

 

Mexico border wall: US states sue over emergency declaration

Breaking News image

A coalition of 16 US states led by California is suing President Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare an emergency to raise funds for a Mexican border wall.

The lawsuit was filed in the court for the Northern District of California.

It comes days after Mr Trump invoked emergency powers to bypass Congress and secure funding for the project – a key campaign pledge.

Democrats have vowed to contest it “using every remedy available”.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they were taking President Trump to court “to block his misuse of presidential power”.

“We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theatre,” he added.

‘Fake’: Thousands rally in US against Trump’s national emergency

More than 250 rallies held across the US to decry Trump’s national emergency declaration to build the border wall.

People gather to protest against Trump's declaration of a national emergency at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Manhattan [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]
People gather to protest against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Manhattan [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

Washington, DC – Thousands of people rallied nationwide on Monday to protest against the national emergency US President Donald Trump declared last week to help fund his long-promised wall across the US-Mexico border.

More than 250 rallies were organised across the United States on President’s Day, a US government holiday, with protesters carrying banners and placards that called the national emergency “fake”.

“I do think we have a national emergency in this country, this is an emergency to our democratic system,” Angelina Huynh, who joined the rally in Washington, DC, outside the White House with her two preschool children, told Al Jazeera.

As the snow fell in Boston, Massachusetts, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley took to the stage to speak against Trump’s bid to bypass Congress and help free up $8bn in funds for his wall, which was one of his biggest 2016 campaign promises.

Protesters and civil rights organisations called on Congress to take action against Trump’s latest move.

“Thank you other cities & states filing lawsuits! No better way to spend Presidents’ Day than rallying to stop this crazy President [with] his fake emergency to build a wall!” tweeted Congresswoman Maxine Waters before a rally in Los Angeles, California.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Daniel Altschuler@altochulo

“Come for one, face us ALL!”

Immigrants, Muslim, Black and LGBTQ folks, and white allies standing united outside the White House and Trump’s .

Our solidarity is .

Trump declared the national emergency after Democrats refused to cave in to his demand of more than $5bn in funding for the wall. That demand led to the longest government shutdown of its kind late last year and into 2019.

The shutdown ended in late January when Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats agreed to temporarily fund the government while talks on border security continued.

Racing against the clock, Democratic and Republican negotiators came to an agreement last week to keep the government open. The deal did not include funds for Trump’s wall but did include about $1.37bn in funding for physical barriers.

Trump agreed to sign the legislation, but also announced he was declaring a national emergency over the border, drawing immediate challenges from Democrats and rights groups.

The president maintains that a wall is needed to stem irregular immigration and the flow of illicit drugs into the country. But statistics show that irregular immigration has been on the decline for decades and most illegal drugs enter the US through official ports of entry.

Angelina Huynh joins a rally in Washington, DC, against Trump’s national emergency deceleration with her two children on February 18, 2019. [Ola Salem/Al Jazeera]

‘How many people are angry?’

Activists and civil rights organisations were joined at rallies on Monday by those affected by Trump’s policies over the past two years since he took office, including those affected by the ban on travellers from several Muslim-majority countries, the crackdown on undocumented immigration and child separations at the border.

“I have a question, how many people are angry?” a speaker called out to hundreds of protesters at noon in Lafayette Park in the US capital. “How many people are sick and tired of being sick and tired?” the crowd was asked as they cheered in response.

Jo Hannah from Texas visited the border in 2017 and said she saw no emergency. Instead, she saw a plan that would devastate wildlife in the area and a plan that could tear down a wildlife centre in San Antonio.

“Around 10,000 monarch butterflies breed in this centre every year, and they are going to tear this centre for the wall,” she said to Al Jazeera from the Washington, DC rally.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Deborah Rosenman@drosenman

Check out all the people at the against the and his racist agenda. Congress must act now! @MoveOn

Legal challenges

Since Trump’s announcement on Friday, several Democrats said they would challenge the declaration that would help Trump override Congress’ purse power.

Cheers erupted outside the White House as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told a crowd that the civil rights group was preparing to sue Trump for declaring a national emergency.

So far, three Texas landowners and an environmental group have filed the first lawsuit challenging Trump, the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen said.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told local media that he planned to file a suit as well. In an interview, he said the suit was “definitely and imminently” coming.

New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii and Connecticut are among several states joining the lawsuit, local media reported, quoting the attorney general’s office.

Protesters outside the White House rally against Trump’s national emergency deceleration on February 18, 2019. [Ola Salem/Al Jazeera]

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS