IRAN, Russia and Turkey’s leaders welcomed Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria as “a positive step” after they met to decide the future of the war-stricken country. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in the southern city of Sochi, where they had “constructive and business-like” talks regarding Syria on Thursday. And in the joint press conference, Mr Putin said Washington’s decision of recalling the 2,000 US soldiers currently in northeastern Syria was “a positive step that would help stabilise the situation in this region, where ultimately the legitimate government should re-establish control”. But, he added, he hasn’t seen so far any movement in Syria signalling Mr Trump’s promises will be fulfilled.
When President Donald Trump declares a national emergency to free up funding for his border wall he will follow a long line of presidents dating back to George Washington who have relied on emergency authority to achieve a goal. But experts say national emergencies have rarely been used in the way Trump intends. Trump is expected to declare an emergency as early as Friday as a mechanism to unlock pots of federal money he can then use to build portions of a border barrier, a central promise of his 2016 campaign. He will also sign a bipartisan bill that sets aside $1.375 billion for barriers, far short of the $5.7 billion he has demanded. Presidential emergencies often lead to bitter partisan disputes and occasionally wind up in court, but they are relatively common. The United States is already subject to more than 30 national emergencies, including one signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter days after the Iranian hostage crisis began. "They’re declared for all kinds of things," said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University's Center for Human Values. "They’re absolutely common, which is why nobody blinks an eye about the whole thing – and then you get a case like this." Since 1976, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, presidents have declared at least 58 states of emergency – not counting disaster declarations for weather events, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. Dozens remain in effect, extended by subsequent presidents. The Militia Acts of 1792 gave Washington authority to take over state militias during the Whiskey Rebellion. In perhaps the best-known use of emergency powers from history, President Abraham Lincoln established a blockade on the ports of Southern states and suspended habeas corpus without congressional approval. In modern times, presidents have far more frequently used emergency powers to impose sanctions. They have sometimes used them to seize property and call up the National Guard. - If Obama pulled that same crap that Trump has, Republicans would be up in arms rioting in the streets and talking impeachment.
In 2014, President Donald Trump railed against then President Barack Obama over his use of executive power on immigration. Fast forward five years and Trump is expected to do the same thing. "Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress," Trump said in a tweet on Nov. 20, 2014. Trump is now planning to use his executive powers in declaring a national emergency to obtain additional funds for a wall along the southern U.S. border. The White House announced Thursday he would make the declaration after signing a bipartisan funding bill that will provide $1.375 billion for a 55-mile border barrier – much less than the $5.7 billion that Trump has demanded. The funding bill would prevent the government from shutting down as it did in December, spurring the longest-ever shutdown on record. The move will allow Trump to sidestep Democratic opposition to get more wall funding, but it could draw legal challenges from lawmakers and others who viewed the move as a power grab and something that violates the Constitution. Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2014. In 2014, Trump seemed to have similar beliefs. His tweet attacking Obama for using executive authority on immigration specifically targeted an executive order that shielded up to 5 million immigrants from deportation and bolstered protections for "DREAMers," people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Although the positions were reversed, Obama was also frustrated by a lack of congressional action for what he viewed as a broken immigration system. Obama's order followed an impasse with the Republicans in Congress, who during elections that month took control of both the Senate and House. The White House at the time said allow Obama's orders were steps to "fix our broken immigration system." Trump was far from alone in attacking Obama in 2014. Republicans blasted the former president for acting unilaterally, and the Supreme Court ultimately struck down the plan in 2016. Even Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, denounced Obama's decision.
As President Donald Trump prepares to declare a controversial national emergency on Friday over the border issue, the White House is reportedly looking at raiding funds approved by Congress to aid those suffering in the devastating aftermath of disasters. According to Associated Press, which cited unnamed Congressional aides and White House officials, Trump is eyeing up the $13 billion in disaster relief funding split into pots to help Puerto Rico, California, Texas, and other states cope with recent hurricanes, wildfires and flooding. Trump was unable to secure any of the $5.7 billion he demanded from Congress to fund his planned steel and concrete wall along 1,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. House Democrats, who have a strong majority, refused to allocate any money to Trump’s wall, arguing it is expensive, ineffective, and responding to a crisis that does not exist. The president shut down the government for five weeks before caving in and reopening it temporarily. Under pressure from Republicans to avoid another shutdown, Trump will reluctantly sign off on a bipartisan compromise deal agreed by Congress, which includes more money for border security but only $1.37 billion for 55 miles of new fencing instead of the wall as he envisions it. But he will simultaneously declare a national emergency, unlocking a suite of presidential powers that allow him to bypass Congress altogether and take money from approve budgets elsewhere, such as for defense spending.
(CNN) Paul Manafort's latest legal debacle deepened the core intrigue underlying special counsel Robert Mueller's probe: Why have so many of President Donald Trump's associates been caught lying about contacts with Russians? In a significant new twist in the 2016 election saga, a judge ruled Wednesday that Trump's ex-campaign chairman "intentionally" lied to investigators, breaking a deal he had reached as a cooperating witness. The lies, including about meetings with a suspected Russian intelligence asset, were about issues intimately linked to Mueller's wider inquiry, which includes a look into whether there were any links or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference effort. How Team Trump has changed its story in the Russia probe. Taken in isolation, the new Manafort bombshell would have rocked any presidency, given his senior role in the Trump campaign. But for a White House as cloaked in suspicion as this one, after two years of stunning revelations about Moscow's election interference, it is yet more bad news that will fuel a feverish atmosphere and further crank up pressure on Trump's inner circle. Like many of the stunning reveals from Mueller, the latest Manafort drama also offered tantalizing glimpses into the special counsel's web of investigation but provided no resolution to the long-running Russia puzzle. Mueller has yet to provide any proof of a conspiracy or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russians, despite obtaining convictions and guilty pleas from a string of the President's former associates.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, announced on Thursday that President Trump planned to declare a national emergency so he can bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the southwestern border. That raised the prospect of a constitutional clash with lawmakers over who controls the federal purse.
Analysis: The U.S. organized a global conference on the Mideast in Warsaw, but Turkey's leader is at a summit with Russian and Iranian leaders instead. As Trump administration officials presided over the second day of an international conference in Warsaw dominated by calls to ratchet up pressure on Iran, one longtime U.S. ally and NATO member was noticeably absent — Turkey. Snubbing the gathering in Poland, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday attended a rival conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he planned to meet his Russian and Iranian counterparts to work out a final settlement of the war in Syria. The dueling summits illustrate President Donald Trump's struggle to forge a united front against Iran, and reflect Turkey's drift away from Washington as it finds common ground with Moscow and Tehran, experts and former officials said. For decades, the U.S. could count on Turkey as a reliable partner that would line up with other allies against Iran and support Washington's strategic goals. But the political landscape has changed, U.S. influence in the region is in doubt, and Ankara is staking out an independent course, said Colin Clarke, senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, a New York-based think tank. "I think we're seeing a realignment," Clarke told NBC News. "The U.S. has gone from the position where we called the shots, to where we are making mere suggestions to Turkey. That's a major sea change."
Threatening to reveal Jeff Bezos’ ‘dick p*ck’ was just the latest strong-arm tactic. ‘The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo,’ one veteran said, ‘but really it was blackmail.’ It may have shocked the world when the publisher of the National Enquirer allegedly tried to use nude pictures to coerce Jeff Bezos. But it came as no surprise to three veterans of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. “The threats, the blackmail, that’s their business model,” one former National Enquirer staffer told The Daily Beast. That model burst out into public view on Thursday night when Bezos—the world’s richest man, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of The Washington Post—published emails from AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard that threatened the release of a “d*ck pick” if the Post didn’t relent in its investigation of AMI. It was a familiar moment to Paul Barresi, a private investigator who spent years working on cases that informed stories in AMI and other tabloids. “The National Enquirer had some people who would go to a celebrity and say, ‘unless you give in to a one-on-one interview that would amount to a fluff piece with us, we’re going to report XYZ,” he said. “The celebrity would then acquiesce to their demand.” “The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo, but really it was blackmail,” Barresi said. “I know that the same methodology is practiced today,” he added. “Obviously it's practiced, because they did it” to Bezos.
Supplying Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez’s racy texts was just the latest in a long relationship with the Enquirer and its sister publications.Michael Sanchez, the Hollywood talent agent who allegedly leaked Jeff Bezos’ racy text messages to the National Enquirer, has a history of weaponizing his connections at AMI and the Enquirer on behalf of—and sometimes against—his former clients. Sanchez leaked information about client Scottie Nell Hughes’ affair with Fox Business host Charles Payne to the Enquirer, two sources told The Daily Beast. An explosive lawsuit he filed against another former client, So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy, ended up an exclusive story in AMI-owned Radar Online on the same day it was filed. That was years before Sanchez found himself at the center of the war between Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company. As The Daily Beast has reported, Sanchez was the alleged source of racy text messages between Bezos and his sister, Lauren Sanchez, that wound up splashed on the pages of the Enquirer last month. Sanchez has denied (though not to The Daily Beast) leaking Bezos’ texts, but AMI has described the culprit as a longtime Enquirer source. Sanchez also acknowledged this week that he is friends with Dylan Howard, a top executive at AMI who shared a byline on the Enquirer’s Bezos story. And Sanchez admitted that he provided pictures of his sister to an AMI publication, Us Weekly.
It comes precisely a year after the Parkland shooting, where Jones accused survivors of being crisis actors. Alex Jones, America’s most famous conspiracy theorist, is not in a good place right now. His longtime Infowars associate Roger Stone has been been indicted as part of the probe into alleged Russian collusion, and Jerome Corsi, another associate, is being investigated by a federal grand jury. Jones is currently feuding with the much more popular podcaster Joe Rogan. And now, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis has ruled that Jones must undergo a sworn deposition. The deposition ruling, which was announced Wednesday night, is part of a defamation lawsuit filed by the parents of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting. The lawsuit alleges that, because of Jones’ accusations that the shooting was staged and the parents are “crisis actors”, the victims’ parents have been subject to ceaseless abuse and harassment. For example, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah Pozner died in Sandy Hook, have been forced to move seven times due to death threats. Mark and Jackie Barden, whose son Daniel also died in the shooting, have suffered similar levels of harassment.
Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials were so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office. The concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to expand their scope to also investigate whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. They also were to examine if he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. Mr. McCabe’s remarks were made in an interview on “60 Minutes” scheduled to air on Sunday. He was promoting his memoir, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” which will be released next week. Mr. McCabe said he spoke to Mr. Trump just after Mr. Comey was fired, and the next day he met with the team investigating Russia’s election interference. “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion,” Mr. McCabe said. “That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”
The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan. Court records show that Manafort was joined at some point by his campaign deputy, Rick Gates, at the session at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-paneled space with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the city. The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik. The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. It was at that meeting that prosecutors believe Manafort and Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump’s presidential bid. The encounter goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge in a sealed hearing last week. One subject the men discussed was a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine, an issue of great interest to the Russian government, according to a partially redacted transcript of the Feb. 4 hearing. During the hearing, the judge also appeared to allude to another possible interaction at the Havana Room gathering: a handoff by Manafort of internal polling data from Trump’s presidential campaign to his Russian associate.
The senator urged lawmakers to pass his legislation to use the drug lord’s fortune to build the barrier. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday urged the passage of his legislation to use the ill-gotten gains of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to build a border wall after the drug kingpin was convicted of narcotics trafficking and other charges. “It’s time to pass my EL CHAPO Act,” Cruz tweeted. “I urge my Senate colleagues to take swift action on this crucial legislation.” The tweet includes a graphic of an imprisoned El Chapo surrounded by money bags with the caption: “Make El Chapo pay for the wall.”
CNN)Paul Manafort "intentionally" lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's office, breaking the plea agreement that made him the star cooperator in the Russia probe, a federal judge found on Wednesday. Manafort "made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation," including his contacts with his Russian associate during the campaign and later, Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote on Wednesday. Jackson's ruling is another stunning turn in Mueller's efforts to uncover Russian interference in the 2016 election, as the first man the special counsel indicted then pursued as a potential cooperator for a year sees the end of any benefits he tried to gain through a guilty plea.Manafort was convicted of various financial crimes in August, and then cut the deal to plead guilty to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering in September.
In all, Jackson determined Manafort intentionally lied about $125,000 he received for the legal bills, about another unnamed Justice Department criminal investigation and about his interactions with his longtime Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik while he was campaign chairman and later. Jackson noted twice in her order that two of the topics Paul Manafort lied about, Kilimnik and payments he received for his legal bills were "material to the investigation." Manafort is still bound by what he agreed to in the plea, so he will not be able to retract his guilty pleas. But the finding frees Mueller's office from its contractual obligations in the plea, like asking for a reduced sentence for him because of his cooperation. Mueller spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment. Manafort's lawyers have maintained that he did not intentionally lie. The judge reviewed extensive transcripts and evidence that would give her a window into Mueller's work, and her ruling shows that Manafort's lies were serious enough to disrupt his cooperation.
The network has said it merely was monitoring Stone's house when the ex-Trump aide was arrested after piecing together clues from its reporting. Roger Stone urged a federal judge Wednesday to make special counsel Robert Mueller’s office explain why it shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating the seal on the longtime Donald Trump aide’s indictment by allegedly leaking it to the press. Stone has repeatedly criticized the dramatic arrest at his home in January, which was caught on film by a CNN camera crew staking out his South Florida house. Stone claims CNN was tipped off about the arrest to film the raid, violating court orders. The network has said it merely was monitoring the house after piecing together clues from its reporting. In its motion, Stone’s team argues that CNN presented it with a copy of the indictment without a time stamp from the court records database, known as PACER, which it says is a sign the network had the document ahead of time. "A person with privileged access to a 'draft' of Roger Stone’s Indictment, identical to that which had been filed under seal ... had — in violation of the Court’s Order — publicly distributed the Indictment prior to its release from the sealing ordered by the Court," the filing says. However, the special counsel’s public release announcing the indictment was sent out minutes before Stone’s arrest, and it included a link to the same copy of the indictment without a PACER time stamp. Later that morning, Mueller’s office updated its link to an indictment with the PACER markings. Mueller’s office declined comment on Stone’s complaint. CNN’s reporting relied on a number of factors: The special counsel's team had blocked off Jan. 25, the day of the arrest, while scheduling a court hearing for another case. Stone's indictment had also been seen as a looming inevitability, and CNN said it pieced two and two together and deduced that could be the day of the arrest.
The House vote is the latest in a series of moves by Congress aimed at curbing the president's foreign policies. The House on Wednesday passed a measure aimed at withdrawing all U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-backed war in Yemen, the latest in a series of rebukes by Congress to President Donald Trump's foreign policy. The Democratic-led House advanced the bill, 248-177, as its first major vote on foreign policy, making it priority even as the administration resists congressional involvement in the conflict. Last year, with Republicans in the majority, the House refused to take up the measure in order to keep the president's hands from being tied on a key foreign policy area. Because a similar bill has passed the Senate before and is likely to pass again, it could be the first veto of Trump's presidency. The resolution, authored by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., has strong support from both sides of the aisle. It would invoke the War Powers Resolution, inserting congressional oversight into the conflict in Yemen, effectively ending U.S. involvement and military assistance to the civil war there between the Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. “It’s overdue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the measure.
A rare example of elite accountability. For most of this week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been under fire for comments she made on Sunday about Israel policy that had anti-Semitic undertones. Omar apologized on Monday, but Republicans, including President Donald Trump, are still calling on her to resign or be stripped of her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In a Wednesday hearing, though, Omar showed that she has a quite a lot to offer the committee — grilling Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, in a way that very few lawmakers would be willing to do. Abrams is a former Reagan administration official who focused on Latin America policy. Under his watch, the US supported a number of armed anti-Communist groups with truly brutal human rights records. Abrams also played a vital role in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund Nicaraguan right-wing fighters called the Contras — even hiding information from Congress to cover up the situation, which is a federal crime.
"Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive," Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said. "They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today." A Louisiana police department has found itself at the center of its own blackface scandal after a photo taken more than two decades ago surfaced showing two white Baton Rouge officers wearing face and body paint to appear as if they are black. In it, Lt. Don Stone and Capt. Frankie Caruso are seen dressed in denim outfits, hats and sunglasses with their exposed skin covered in brown paint as they strike a pose for the camera. The photo, taken in 1993, was in the Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook, according to the media outlet The Rouge Collection, which featured the photo on its site. The picture was captioned "Soul Brothers." The image — the latest in blackface controversies popping up across the country in recent weeks — led to the Baton Rouge Police Department issuing an apology. "Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive," police Chief Murphy Paul said. "They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today." According to the police department, the photo was taken before Stone and Caruso went undercover for a drug bust in a predominantly black neighborhood. "The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs," Paul said.