Trump completely wimps out again and throws US Ambassador Nikki Haley under the bus

Thanks sir, I’ll have another!

On Sunday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced that the Treasury Department would be rolling out tough new sanctions against Russia on Monday as punishment for its continued support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

But not 24 hours later, the White House threw Haley under the bus with a clear, contradictory message: Not so fast.

“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Sources familiar with the sanctions rollout process described a chaotic back-and-forth as lawmakers and staffers were struggling to figure out what Haley was exactly referring to. It was unlikely that Haley, who has been lauded by lawmakers from both parties for her tough anti-Kremlin positions, would have misspoken so egregiously if a sanctions regime was not already in the works.

Trump on Monday has now reneged on the preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.”

Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley had said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

After this announcement, Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Administration officials said Monday it was highly unlikely Trump would approve any additional sanctions without at least another triggering event by Russia.

Sometime after Haley’s comments on CBS, the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not in fact coming, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Monday: “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”

An official at White House tried to spin the news as Haley got ahead of herself and made “an error that needs to be mopped up.”

But other administration officials expressed serious skepticism that Haley had merely misspoken. They said Haley is one of the most disciplined and cautious members of the Cabinet, especially when it comes to her public appearances. She regularly checks in with Trump personally to go over her planned statements before she sits for television interviews.

Haley issued no clarifying statement on Sunday after news organizations, including The Washington Post, reported prominently that the new sanctions would be announced Monday based on her comments to CBS.

Asked Monday morning why it had taken 24 hours for the administration to walk back Haley’s comments, one White House official said only that there had been confusion internally about what the plan was.

White House officials said Trump has been impressed with Haley lately, particularly her remarks about Syria over the past week, and stressed Monday that the president holds her in high regard.

In the absence of a permanent secretary of state, Haley has been the face of American diplomacy, playing an especially prominent role over the past week as the Trump administration responded to the attack in Syria.

Haley said Sunday on CBS: “You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn’t already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used. And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message, and our hope is that they listen to it.”

The Russians were listening. After Haley’s comments, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that the sanctions were a U.S. ploy to oust Russia from international markets and constituted “undisguised attempts of unfair competition.”

Sources: Daily Beast and Washington Post

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The latest news on Trumps crime family and their contacts with GRU – Russian Military intelligence

Former Trump campaign aide was in contact with a person who the FBI believed had ties to Russian intelligence during the run-up to the 2016 election, according to new court documents filed Wednesday by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The contact, identified in court documents as “Person A,” and Gates were “directly communicating” in September and October prior to the election, prosecutors asserted in court documents.

Gates has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI and has promised to assist Mueller’s continuing probe into Russia’s interference in the election.

The contacts were disclosed in court documents filed in a related case involving the sentencing of a Dutch attorney who pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI about his work for Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Prosecutors claim that the attorney, Alex Van Der Zwaan, knew about the person’s ties to Russian intelligence.

Outstanding question: Was Manafort working directly for the Russian Government on assignment to the Trump campaign?

“Gates told him ‘Person A’ was a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU (the intelligence arm of the Russian military),” the court documents state.

Pardon talk for crime family members

 

The New York Times reported that President Trump’s former lead attorney, John Dowd, last summer engaged in discussions about possible pardons for Manafort and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn as Mueller’s prosecutors were building criminal cases against the two.

Manafort was indicted along with Gates on conspiracy and money laundering charges in Washington, D.C. He faces related bank fraud charges in an Alexandria, Va., federal court. Both cases were brought by Mueller’s prosecutors and Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

Flynn, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office. And he is also cooperating with Mueller’s continuing investigation.

Dowd, who resigned as Trump’s lead attorney last week, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said pardons had not been discussed, referring to deputy White House counsel Ty Cobb’s statement: “I have only been asked about pardons by the press.”

Jay Sekulow, the president’s current lead attorney, said he did not take part in any such discussions.

“Never during the course of my representation of the president have I had any discussions of pardons of any individuals involved in this inquiry,” Sekulow said in a statement.

Rob Kelner, Flynn’s attorney, declined comment Wednesday. Reginald Brown, who represented Manafort last summer, was traveling Wednesday and not immediately available for comment.

Last July, when initial reports surfaced that the president and advisers were exploring Trump’s authority to grant pardons, Dowd flatly denied the account then reported by the Washington Post.

At the time, the report indicated that president and advisers were specifically researching Trump’s authority to pardon members of his family, and possibly himself, related to the Russia inquiry.

original story from –  https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/28/robert-mueller-trump-campaign-deputy-rick-gates-contacted-russian-intelligence-source

Just another 24 hours on Dear Leader’s crazy train

1/ The Senate Intelligence Committee recommended that states buy voting machines that produce paper ballots and that they secure voter databases ahead of November’s midterm elections. Senators, concerned about Russian meddling in the midterms, called on Congress to “urgently” make funds available for states to update their voting systems, institute vote audits, and hire staff focused on cybersecurity. (New York Times)

2/ Senators criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to prepare for the 2018 midterms. “I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said. Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the committee, saying the 2018 midterms and future elections are “clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts.” (CNN)

3/ Trump ignored specific warnings from his national security advisers not to congratulate Putin on his recent election win. Instead, Trump called Putin and opened by congratulating him. A section in Trump’s briefing materials was titled “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in all-capital letters. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump and John Kelly are reportedly furious over the leak that Trump congratulated Putin despite warnings from multiple national security advisers and briefing materials that said “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” It’s still unclear if Trump read the guidance that was given to him by his advisers, but Trump defended his congratulatory call, tweeting that “Getting along with Russia… is a good thing,” and that his “energy and chemistry” with Putin will be constructive. He capped off his second tweet with an all-caps: “PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!” (CNN / Axios)

A senior White House official who is not authorized to discuss the leak publicly commented that “leaking [president’s briefing papers] is a fireable offense and likely illegal.” A person in close contact with national security officials said John Kelly is “on a warpath” and “there’s going to be a scalp over this.” (Los Angeles Times)

5/ The former director of the CIA suggested that Russia may have compromising information on Trump “that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.” John Brennan, the CIA director under Obama, said the fact that Trump “had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear.” Brennan was the CIA director in 2016 when the dossier surfaced that claimed the Russians had compromising information on Trump. (CNN / New York Times)

poll/ 40% of voters view the NRA negatively, compared with 37% who view the organization positively. the first time since before 2000 that more people in the poll have viewed the NRA in a negative light than in a positive light. (NBC News)

poll/ 70% of millennial women now identify as Democrats, up from 54% in 2002. 23% of millennial women identify as Republicans, down from 36% in 2002. (Pew Research Center)

poll/ 67% of voters say Trump is not a good role model for children. And, 55% don’t think Trump has a good sense of decency. (Quinnipiac)

 

From: WTF Just Happened Today?  Day 426: No sense of urgency.

H.R. McMaster is probably hatin’ the day he ever agreed to work for the orange tyrant

Is our Dear leader Trump ready to fire his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, after he said that evidence of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election was “incontrovertible.”

Sources close to the White House have said that Pentagon officials were “quietly” trying to find a job for McMaster in the Pentagon.

“Several sources have said that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump,” the report said.

According to CNN, the desire to fire McMaster as national security adviser was reinforced after his recent remarks about Russia’s role in helping Trump to get elected.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McMaster said at a security conference this month.

Sources say that Trump prefers to be briefed by CIA Director Mike Pompeo or Defense Secretary James Mattis, “who patiently answer his questions, regardless of the premise.”

“McMaster, meanwhile, is the person who delivers the news that Trump doesn’t want to hear on a daily basis,”

 

“McMaster, meanwhile, is the person who delivers the news that Trump doesn’t want to hear on a daily basis,

Tensions are flaring up between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.

A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.

Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.

While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.

This is not the first time McMaster has faced speculation that his job may be in jeopardy and sources with knowledge of McMaster’s standing in the White House have repeatedly said that he has been on thin ice for months.

There was discussion in the West Wing about replacing him last fall, but he ultimately survived because officials, including the President himself, were skeptical about the optics of appointing a third national security adviser in less than a year, several sources told CNN. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned amid controversy over his contact with Russian officials within a month of taking the job.

The decision was also driven by the White House’s challenge attracting top talent for jobs in the administration due to Trump’s “blacklist” of individuals who have criticized the President, his personality, and the Russia investigation, according to a senior Republican source.

However, those familiar with the President’s thinking don’t believe McMaster’s job is any safer now. “He is safe until he’s not,” the senior Republican with knowledge of the White House added.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that Trump “still has confidence in General McMaster.”

Tension with Trump

Tensions between Trump and McMaster have been playing out for months and were on full display this weekend after Trump publicly chided him over remarks he made regarding Russian interference in the election.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted. “Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

The criticism laid bare the strained relationship between the two men and left some wondering how much longer McMaster has left in the administration. For months, Trump has privately expressed irritation with McMaster stemming from differences in “personality and style,” the senior Republican source said.

The two have never gotten along, and Trump continues to chafe at McMaster’s demeanor when he briefs him, feeling that he is gruff and condescending, according to a source who is familiar with his thinking.

He prefers the briefing style of someone like CIA Director Mike Pompeo or Defense Secretary James Mattis, who patiently answer his questions, regardless of the premise. McMaster, meanwhile, is the person who delivers the news that Trump doesn’t want to hear on a daily basis, according to the senior Republican source.

He has also been undercut by others in Trump’s orbit like former chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to congressional and administration officials. A source familiar with the situation said Trump’s perception of McMaster is still influenced by the legacy of Bannon who maintained a tense relationship with McMaster after McMaster removed him from the National Security Council.

“He paid McMaster back by spreading rumors and whispering in Trump’s ear,” the senior Republican source said, adding that “Bannon poisoned the well.”

What’s next for McMaster?

The current commander of US forces in South Korea, General Vincent Brooks, is expected to leave his post on a scheduled rotation in the coming months but his successor has already been earmarked within the Army but not yet made public, several officials said.

Another possible option would be to name McMaster as the replacement for Gen. John Nicholson who has served as commander of the coalition in Afghanistan since 2016.

Some officials have said that the Pentagon may be looking to identify a slot that is not too high profile because McMaster would be transitioning back to the military from a White House position akin to a political appointee.

If moved back into a military role that involves testifying before Congress, McMaster might be viewed as simply supporting the White House rather than providing lawmakers with his best military advice, one defense official said.

Lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee would likely have questions about McMaster’s time in the White House should he be nominated for a military role but an aide to one senior Republican member told CNN that there do not appear to be any obvious red flags at the outset that would inherently prevent his confirmation.

A second defense official said McMaster is well aware of those political sensitivities.

However, one top Pentagon official said McMaster’s role in the administration should not prevent him from earning his fourth star, comparing his transition to other military officers like Colin Powell who have gone back and forth between the Pentagon and the White House.

McMaster would also have the option of retiring from active duty at any time if he chose to do so.

From Raw Story and CNN

Rage, diversion and just plain BS. This fool looks so guilty!

As the noose tightens around Trump, he continues to divert attention and point fingers. He is really behaving like lower echelon criminal that’s been caught red-handed.

Donald Trump on Wednesday once again attacked his own attorney general and asked why he isn’t investigating former President Barack Obama for alleged Russian election meddling.

Writing on Twitter, Trump told his followers to ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions — whose name the president misspelled as “Jeff Session” — why Democrats weren’t being investigated for “crimes” related to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?” the president asked. “Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Session (sic)!”

This is not the first time that Trump has publicly called out Sessions for not doing his bidding.

Over last summer, for example, Trump called Sessions “beleaguered” and “weak” because he was not sufficiently investigating former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

Trump has also raged against Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election after it was revealed that Sessions falsely told the Senate during his confirmation hearing that he had never met with any Russian government officials during the campaign.

https://www.rawstory.com/2018/02/trump-demands-know-jeff-session-isnt-investigating-obama-russian-meddling-crazed-tweet/

The Bully in Chief is striking out

THE BULLY:

This morning, Trump bashed Rep. Adam Schiff  D-Ca, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Trump tweeted: “Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!” Who he was referring to: Former FBI Director James Comey; Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; former CIA Director John Brennan; and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Why is Trump attacking Schiff? Is it because Schiff has been a vocal critic of the controversial Republican-released memo that accuses the Justice Department of abusing surveillance powers?

SCHIFF FIRES BACK:

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted back at the president: “Mr. President, I see you’ve had a busy morning of ‘Executive Time.’ Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or…really anything else.”  Like maybe the crashing Stock market?

Dow closes down more than 1,100 points after plunging over 1,500 points in volatile trading

The Dow swung more than 2,100 points in the past two sessions, shattering long-term momentum. The index’s 1,500-point plunge was the biggest intraday trading loss in Dow history.

Law enforcement and Intelligence officials say that the “Nunes memo” is an inaccurate attack on the FBI

FBI challenges accuracy of GOP’s surveillance memo

Trump surrogate and tool, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)

Trump on Jan. 30 told Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) that he will “100 percent” release a memo alleging abuse by the FBI. (The Washington Post)

The FBI spoke out publicly Wednesday against a GOP memo criticizing the bureau’s use of surveillance authorities, challenging the classified document’s accuracy as the White House and congressional Republicans are expected to soon make its contents public.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about the material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,’’ the FBI said in a statement.

The bureau also said it carefully follows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which provides a legal framework for national security investigations.

“The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process,’’ the statement said.

The public statement underscores the concerns among federal law enforcement officials and intelligence officials that the memo is an inaccurate attack on the FBI, and that its release will set a dangerous precedent for future releases of classified information that touches on political issues.

The FBI statement follows Trump’s Tuesday night statement that he would “100 percent” authorize the public release of a GOP memo of alleged surveillance abuses at the FBI and Department of Justice.

“There are no current plans to release the House Intelligence Committee’s memo,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday morning on CNN, noting that Trump had not “seen or been briefed” on the memo’s contents before he made those comments Tuesday night.

But later Wednesday morning, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told Fox News radio that the memo will “be released here pretty quick,” just as soon as the White House’s national security lawyers finish “slicing and dicing and looking at it so that we know what it means.”

On Tuesday night, Trump promised to publicize the memo in comments to Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who asked Trump to “release the memo” as Trump was exiting the House chamber following his first State of the Union address.

“Oh yeah, oh, don’t worry,” Trump told him. “100 percent.”

The exchange was caught by television cameras filming his departure. A White House spokesman confirmed soon after that Trump intended to release the memo.

The comments appeared to jump ahead of plans to assure critics that the White House is putting the memo through a formal vetting process before Trump makes a decision. They are also the latest sign that Trump is out of step with parts of his administration when it comes to whether, or how, the memo ought to be made public.

Sara Sanders also insisted that the White House planned to “complete the legal and national security review that has to take place” before deciding whether the memo should be released.

“There’s always a chance” the memo won’t be released, Sanders said. “No one here is going to make a decision that jeopardizes national security.”

But since the memo issue emerged, Trump has been at odds with top federal law enforcement officials about whether it should be made public.

On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to make the four-page document available to the public, something that will happen if Trump does not act to block its release within five days. Just before the vote, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, who viewed the memo over the weekend, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, made a last-ditch plea to Kelly not to approve the House panel’s action, explaining that it could compromise intelligence gathering and set a dangerous precedent.

[Justice Department officials appealed to White House to halt release of memo alleging FBI abuses related to author of Trump dossier]

It was not the first time that Justice Department officials had warned that releasing the memo could compromise intelligence gathering sources and methods, and threaten national security. But at the White House, Trump made his desire to release the memo clear despite those warnings, prompting Kelly to apprise Attorney General Jeff Sessions of Trump’s plans.

Conservative Republican members of Congress were sure days before that Trump would be on board with their campaign to publicize it. The push began shortly after the House Intelligence panel voted on the morning of Jan. 18 to make the memo available to members to read in a secure facility; that afternoon, leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus took a phone call from Trump in which they told him of the memo and their plans. Caucus members told of the conversation immediately afterward came away with the impression “that he would want it released . . . since it helps Trump so much,” as Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) put it.

The memo was written by staffers for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) earlier this month after the panel procured from the FBI and Justice Department long sought-after documents related to a now-famous dossier of allegations concerning Trump and his purported ties to Kremlin officials. Sanders told CNN Wednesday that Trump was “not aware of any conversation or coordination” between Nunes and the White House on the production or release of the memo, but she didn’t rule out the possibility entirely, saying: “I just don’t know the answer.”

The memo alleges that the former British spy who wrote the dossier, Christopher Steele, passed bad information to the FBI — though people familiar with the document said it does not determine whether he did so intentionally or by mistake. The memo alleges that information formed the basis for an application to conduct surveillance against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Republicans have long been suspicious of the dossier, particularly since learning that Steele’s work was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Democrats, however, allege that the GOP memo is nothing but a hit job designed to weaken the federal law enforcement agencies behind special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including Trump’s alleged ties to Russian officials. They have prepared a memo countering the allegations in the GOP memo written by Nunes’s staff, but the Democrats’ document is only available to members to read in a secure facility.

By Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/trump-wants-to-release-memo-100-percent-as-white-house-tries-to-walk-it-back/2018/01/31