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Senate Republican leaders are set to unveil draft language of legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Thursday, after weeks of secrecy surrounding their effort to prepare a healthcare bill to be voted on as early as next week.
The Senate bill is expected to follow the template laid out in the House version, which narrowly passed last month, but with key differences.
According to reports in the Washington Post and Politico, sourced to a draft that was circulating among lobbyists and aides, the Senate proposal would repeal key provisions of the ACA, restructure healthcare subsidies, and cut funding for Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income Americans.
It would keep income-based tax credits and subsidies – which are currently available under the ACA – unlike the House measure, which tied them to age. The proposal would also stagger the cuts to Medicaid expansion, rolling back spending on the healthcare program over four years – as opposed to three, as had been considered – beginning in 2020, according to Politico. This provision is a victory for moderates who were concerned about abruptly cutting Medicaid.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will brief his caucus on the proposal during a meeting on Thursday morning, when the bill is expected to be made public. McConnell has said he would like to vote on the bill before Congress leaves for the Fourth of July recess, at the end of next week.
The details of the plan are subject to change, especially after negotiations to assemble a bill that can earn 50 votes.
Republicans, who hold a small, 52-seat majority in the 100-member Senate, are using a special budget process called reconciliation that allows them to bypass a Democratic filibuster. But their margin is slim: they can only afford to lose two GOP senators to earn the necessary 50 votes, with vice-president Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.
The Senate will not vote on their bill without an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, told reporters on Wednesday that a CBO score is expected by Monday but could come as early as Friday.
Despite not having read a final bill yet, several senators have already expressed concerns with the proposed legislation and with the state of negotiations. Conservatives like senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah want to see the bill that goes further on repealing Obamacare.
But moderates, like senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, want a slower phase-out of Medicaid expansion, because of its potential impact on low-income residents in their states.
On Wednesday, Democrats continued to protest the secrecy of the healthcare bill – which was drafted behind closed doors and is not expected to receive a public hearing.
TV roundup: late-night hosts blast the Republican healthcare bill
In a floor speech on Wednesday, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, rallied opponents of the Republicans repeal efforts: “This is the time to get loud – to get very loud.
“This isn’t some mundane debate where the two sides can’t square their differences, the kind most people choose to ignore,” Wyden said. “This is an out and out attack on the healthcare of millions of Americans.”
McConnell has brushed off accusations that the process has been secretive despite complaints from his own party that they are frustrated with the lack of transparency. In a tweet on Wednesday, McConnell’s team said the “@SenateGOP has been active & engaged on how to move beyond failures of #Obamacare & we’re focused on following”.
On Wednesday night, Donald Trump said in a speech that he urged Senate Republicans to increase funding for their healthcare bill to give the plan more “heart”.
“I’ve been talking about a plan with heart. I said, ‘Add some money to it,’” he said at a rally in Iowa, confirming reports that had leaked from his meeting with Senate Republicans about their bill.
Trump also dangled an option sure to rankle members of his party as they prepare to publish their bill: he said he’d be willing to change the bill if Democrats would join the effort.
“A few votes from the Democrats – it could be so easy,” he said, adding: “So beautiful.”
 
 
 
Immigration officials arrested more than 200 Iraqi nationals over the weekend
Iraqi Christians have been persecuted by Islamic State and other groups
 
Iraqis are being swept up in immigration raids across the US and targeted for deportation by the Trump administration, in a crackdown attorneys and advocates described as a “death sentence” for members of Iraq’s Christian minority.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) arrested more than 200 Iraqi nationals over the weekend who have been the subject of deportation orders following criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.
One hundred and fourteen people were detained in Detroit alone, most of whom are members of Iraq’s Chaldean minority – which, like other Christian groups, has been targeted for persecution by Islamic State and other jihadist groups.
Najah Konja, 55, who was arrested in Detroit on Sunday morning, immigrated to the US with his family in 1977. No other relatives remain in Iraq, according to his brother, Shoki “Steve” Konja.
“What is he going to do there?” Steve Konja, a US citizen, told the Guardian. “Basically, they are sentencing him to death.”
Konja said his brother does not speak Arabic, and that the last member of their family to leave Iraq was kidnapped twice and held for ransom because of his relatives in the US. “The government of Iraq cannot protect and defend its own citizens – let alone a bunch of Christians coming from the US,” Konja said.
These concerns were echoed by advocates including the Minority Humanitarian Foundation (MHF), which provides aid to Iraqi minorities. MHF planned to file a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportation of Chaldeans to Iraq.
“Donald Trump has essentially given these Christians a death sentence,” said MHF founder and president, Mark Arabo.
Last year, then-secretary of state John Kerry said a genocide was occurring against Christians in Iraq, though international courts have not officially given the violence there that designation.
ICE agency spokesperson Gillian Christensen said an “overwhelming majority” of those arrested were convicted for crimes including “homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses.”
In Detroit, Christensen said the operation “was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested.”
But community advocates scoffed at that claim, arguing many of the charges were handed down decades ago and those convicted had served their sentences for the
Konja served 23 years in prison for drug charges and was released in 2009. In prison, he pursued his GED and helped teach other inmates, his brother said.
For the past eight years, he has worked at a large chain store where he was a director of operations, overseeing 400 employees. “He completely turned his life around,” his brother said.
Steve Konaj said the arrest has left him disillusioned with the country he considers his home.
“This is not United States,” he said. “I’ve been here 40 years. I believe in the dream, I believe in the constitution. I love it to death. I’m willing to sacrifice myself if needed, but to tell these people: ‘You committed a crime 30 years ago, when you were 19, 20 – now you have to pay again for that mistake.’”
Iraq had previously not cooperated with US deportation efforts but the two countries negotiated a new policy in March after Trump issued a travel ban for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries including Iraq.
The ban was revised after it was struck down in a federal court; the new ban – which is also the subject of a legal challenge – no longer includes Iraq and removes language that prioritized entry for religious minorities, including Christians, from these countries.
The executive order said the rules for Iraq had changed because “the Iraqi government has expressly undertaken steps to enhance travel documentation, information sharing, and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to final orders of removal.”
Another focus of the recent sweep was Nashville, where at least 30 Iraqis were arrested, said local immigration attorney Andrew Free.
Unlike Detroit, Ice raids there have hit Kurds, members of the largest ethnic minority in Iraq, who have been fighting Isis alongside US soldiers in Syria.
Nashville has the largest population of Kurds in the US. Attorneys and advocates there said the Ice raids began by targeting people with criminal histories early last week. Then Ice conducted sweeps of predominantly Kurdish neighborhoods, going door-to-door starting at 6am.
In response, Drost Kokoye, who is Kurdish and a founder of the American Muslim Advisory Council, helped set up a hotline for people to call when Ice knocks on their door. She said the hotline has been “buzzing” every day from 6am to 9am since last week.
The sweep has had a chilling effect on the community. Kokoye said that at Nashville’s Kurdish mosque the daily breaking of the fast, Iftar, the crowd is about a quarter of what it was at the beginning of Ramadan, which started before the Ice raids. She said: “People are terrified, people are rattled, people don’t feel safe in their homes.” (Amanda Holpuch in New York)
 
 
 
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 19:14

Cuba: Council of State calls general elections

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Author: Granma / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
In accordance with procedures established in the Constitution of the Republic and Law No. 72 from October 29,1992, the "Electoral Law," the Council of State convokes the Republic's electors to general elections to elect, respectively, delegates to Municipal Assemblies, delegates to Provincial Assemblies, and deputies to the National Assembly of People's Power.
The first round of elections to chose delegates to Municipal Assemblies of People's Power, for two and a half year terms, will take place October 22, 2017, and, on October 29, a second round in constituencies where no candidate receives more than 50% of the valid votes cast.
The date for elections to elect delegates to Provincial Assemblies and deputies to the National Assembly of People's Power will be set at the appropriate time.
 
At least six people have died and more than 50 are being treated in hospital after a huge fire engulfed a tower block in west London in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The Metropolitan police said it expected the number of fatalities to rise further, as a result of what Commander Stuart Cundy called a “truly shocking” fire at Grenfell Tower in the Latimer Road area, near Notting Hill.
2930Hundreds of firefighters battled to rescue residents from their flats after the blaze broke out, shortly before 1am. The fire rapidly engulfed the full height of the 24-storey block, and was still burning strongly more than six hours later, with a thick pall of dark smoke visible across the capital.
Residents could be seen waving and screaming from their windows, as firefighters wearing breathing apparatus fought to rescue them. There were unconfirmed reports from a number of witnesses who spoke of seeing residents jump from their homes as they were engulfed by flames.
The London fire commissioner, Dany Cotton, had earlier confirmed there had been fatalities as a result of the “unprecedented” fire.
“In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale,” she said. “This is a major fire that has affected all floors of this 24-storey building, from the second floor upwards.”
She later said that firefighters had rescued “large numbers of people from inside the building across a range of different floors”, and had spoken to rescuers who had made it as far as the 19th and 20th floors.
Two hundred firefighters were at the scene at the fire’s peak, along with 40 engines and a range of specialist vehicles, including 14 fire rescue vehicles, she said. In addition, at least 20 ambulance crews were in attendance.
NHS England said 74 people are being treated in hospital, 20 of whom are in critical care.
Live London fire: six confirmed dead, 20 more critical after tower block blaze – latest updates
Follow the latest updates after a huge fire engulfs Grenfell Tower in Latimer Road, near Notting Hill, in West London
The Met said it was likely to take some time before the identities of the dead could be confirmed, adding that it was too soon to speculate on the cause of the blaze.
Prime minister Theresa May said she was “ deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in Grenfell Tower”. Nick Hurd, the new police and fire minister, will chair a meeting of the civil contingencies secretariat at 4pm to ensure the government is ready to assist emergency services and local authorities, she said.
However, it has emerged that concerns about fire safety in the tower were raised as early as 2012, when a health and safety review found firefighting equipment had not been checked for up to four years. A residents’ group also raised concerns about the single emergency exit to the building in 2016, warning that if that exit were to become blocked in a fire, people would be trapped inside.
In a blogpost on Wednesday morning, the Grenfell Action Group said: “We have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in [the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea].
 
 
“ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.”
The 1970s building underwent a £10m refurbishment that was completed last year, when it was fitted with a new communal heating system, double glazing and exterior cladding. There are believed to be 120 homes in the tower.
Witnesses gave chilling accounts of the spread of the blaze and residents’ desperate attempts to flee.
Hadil Alamily told the Guardian she saw “someone jump on fire from the top floor”. She said the man was flashing a light in an SOS pattern. “He was screaming: ‘Help, help, help!’ but no one helped. He dashed a mattress out of the window. He was literally on fire and jumped.”
A Guardian reporter saw one man waving a blanket from his window and calling for help, as firefighters sprayed his window with water to try to douse the flames. People from neighbouring estates huddled outside in their pyjamas near the flaming building, some shouting: “Put your head out the window,” or telling the man to shout his flat number so they could guide the fire services to him.
One local resident, Victoria Goldsmith, told Sky News: “There [were] literally two people trapped at the top and they had mobile phones and they had the lights trying to flash them and signal people … They couldn’t get to them … the fire kept going and the lights went out. They are trying to get it under control. Its pretty horrendous.”3000
Jody Martin said he got to the scene as the first fire engine was arriving at Grenfell Tower. He told the BBC: “I grabbed an axe from the fire truck, it looked like there was a bit of confusion about what to do. I ran around the building looking for a fire escape and couldn’t see any noticeable fire escapes around the building. A lot of debris falling down. I eventually gained entry on to the second floor, and once I got to the corridor I realised there was so much smoke there.”
He added that, given the thickness of the smoke, he would be surprised if anyone could have left the building without assistance. “I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window … hearing screams, I was yelling everyone to get down and they were saying: ‘We can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors’,” he said.
Flatmates Line Sterring, 23, from Denmark, and Isabel Afonso, 22, from Portugal, live in Testerton Walk, immediately adjacent to Grenfell Tower.
They first heard noises at about 1.30am, and ran downstairs where they were told there was a fire in the neighbouring building.
“There were people in the tower sitting on the window saying: ‘I’m going to jump down,’ and people yelling at them: ‘Don’t jump, they are coming,’” said Alfonso.
“A lot of neighbours were trying to help, some of the apartments have access by a kind of bridge to our building so people were helping people over the gate between them. Some people were helping a family of four people with a baby.”
As the flames spread around the building, said Sterring: “We could see people waving fairy lights and flags to show their position. At first people seemed calm but then you could see smoke coming out of the windows. When they saw the smoke they started panicking.
“We saw people in the second top window of the tower. There were four people screaming and shouting and then the window went completely dark from the smoke and that part of the building was covered in flames.
“The worst thing was seeing people stuck and you feel so useless. You are just watching people probably dying and the feeling of not doing anything, you just can’t do anything.”
 
 
The CEO of conservative media outlet Newsmax said during an interview Monday that President Trump might fire the special counsel in charge of the investigation into his administration’s ties with Russia, New York Post says Tuesday.
Chris Ruddy, a longtime Trump pal, told PBS’s Judy Woodruff that Trump is “considering perhaps terminating” Robert Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel after Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
“I think he’s weighing that option,” Ruddy said.
It wasn’t clear whether Ruddy, who speaks with the president often, was basing his remarks on a conversation had had with Trump.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer later insisted that “Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue.”
Although Ruddy said he thinks” it would be a very significant mistake,” he claimed that there wasn’t a justification for a special counsel.
The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, responded forcefully by saying Mueller would be brought back “immediately.”
“If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller. Don’t waste our time,” he tweeted.
http://nypost.com/2017/06/12/trump-pal-says-president-is-considering-firing-robert-mueller/?utm_source=maropost&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nypdaily&utm_content=20170613&mpweb=755-3665091-719176607 
 
 
The scandal of Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia deepened on Thursday when James Comey, the man he fired as director of the FBI, branded the US president a liar.
At a hearing that riveted Washington and millions across the United States, James Comey said he believed he had been sacked because of the FBI’s investigation into Moscow’s meddling in last year’s presidential election.
 
Comey’s explosive testimony over nearly three hours asserted:
The Trump administration lied to smear the reputation of Comey and the FBI following his dismissal;
Comey documented every meeting he had with Trump because he thought the president might lie about what had taken place;
He passed details of the meetings – via a friend – to the press in the hope of spurring the appointment of a special counsel;
He believes that Trump directed him to shut down the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey also offered a stark view of the underlying issue – “massive” Russian interference in the US election. “There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts.”
In one of the most gripping chapters yet of the long-running Trump/Russia saga, Comey testified under oath to the Senate intelligence committee on Capitol Hill. Bars in New York and Washington DC opened as America’s three major TV networks broadcast live coverage of the hearing, which earned comparisons with Watergate.
His evidence did not deliver a knock-out blow to the Trump presidency, but it nevertheless cast the billionaire Republican’s integrity in a withering light.
Comey said of his own dismissal: “The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organisation was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.”
 
“Those were lies, plain and simple, and I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.”
He told the panel: “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.”
In a statement for the record released on Wednesday, Comey detailed several meetings with Trump this year, claiming that Trump demanded his “loyalty” and directly pushed him to “lift the cloud” of suspicion by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the Russia investigation.
In his testimony, Comey explained that he documented each meeting because he thought Trump might be dishonest about what had taken place – a practice he never felt obliged to undertake with former presidents George W Bush or Barack Obama.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document,” he said of their first conversation at Trump Tower in New York in January.
He also described a meeting in the Oval Office in February, when Trump allegedly cleared the room of officials, including the attorney general, and discussed the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s links to Russia. “I hope you can let this go,” the president allegedly said.
In a memorable exchange, Senator Angus King of Maine asked: “When a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like ‘I hope’ or ‘I suggest’ or ‘would you,’ do you take that as a directive?”
Comey replied: “Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’” – a reference to King Henry’s II’s kiss of death to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket.
Comey also revealed that he asked a friend to leak to the New York Times details of his memo about the Oval Office encounter“because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel”.
The former FBI chief was testifying under oath to the Senate intelligence committee on Russia’s interference in the presidential election in a packed room of the Senate’s Hart building on Capitol Hill, with millions watching on TV and online.
Comey entered the room at 10.02am to a chorus of clicking cameras, shook hands with chairman Richard Burr and sat behind a table, staring ahead inscrutably, his hands pressed together.
Comey said he was puzzled when the dismissal was attributed to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, only for Trump to tell an interviewer it was because of Russia.
Comey said: “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” telling senators: “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
Comey set out the high stakes of the Russia investigation in passionate remarks about an attack on America’s way of life.
“The reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans,” he said. “And that’s wonderful and often painful. But we’re talking about a foreign government using technical intrusion and lots of other methods tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal.
“And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them, and so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible.”
The former FBI chief faced detailed questioning about a series of meetings with Trump he set out in his statement for the record, which was published by the committee on Wednesday.
One was a private dinner with Trump at the White House in January. Comey said he walked away feeling like the president was “looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job”.
He also discussed a meeting in the Oval Office in February, when Trump allegedly cleared the room of officials, including the attorney general, and discussed the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s links to Russia. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump allegedly said.
Senator James Risch of Idaho zeroed in on the word “hope”, asking: “He did not direct you to let it go?”
Comey acknowledged: “Not in his words, no.”
Risch asked: “Again, those words are not an order? He said: ‘I hope.’”
Comey replied: “The reason I keep saying his words is, I took it as a direction. This is the president of the United States. I took it as a direction.”
Risch demanded: “You don’t know anyone who has been charged for hoping something?”
Comey: “As I sit here I don’t.”
Comey also revealed that he was behind the leak to the New York Times of the details of his memo describing Trump asking him to let the Flynn inquiry go. He said his motivation in asking a friend to share the content of the memo was to prompt the appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russia investigation – special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed the next day.
He was motivated by Trump’s tweet implying that there were recordings of their meetings. Comey said he “woke up in the middle of the night” in a panic about the president’s tweet.
In a later line of questioning, Comey was again asked why he chose to leak his notes to the media. “As a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it was very important to get it out,” he said.
 
Asked whether he thought Trump had tried to obstruct justice or merely seek a way for Mike Flynn to save face,Comey replied: “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing and very concerning, but that’s a conclusion that I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offence.”
Comey’s written testimony disclosed that Trump demanded his “loyalty” and directly pushed him to “lift the cloud” of investigation by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the investigation into his campaign’s Russia ties.
Democrats are keen to establish whether Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice, while Republicans have seized on Comey’s confirmation that he assured the president more than once that he was not a target of the FBI’s investigation.
Trump fired Comey as director of the FBI on 9 May, admitting later that the Russia investigation was on his mind at the time. The president later tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Comey said on Thursday: “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
He added later: “The president surely knows whether he taped and, if he did, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all the tapes: I’m good with it.”
Trump managed to refrain from tweeting during the hearing, but his personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz in a statement tried to turn the tables on Comey, saying he had “admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorised disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president”.
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar. I think it is frankly insulting that question would be asked.”
 
 
Federal contractor arrested and charged with removing classified material
NSA report: cyber-attack on software supplier and phishing emails hit officials

Russian intelligence agents hacked a US voting systems manufacturer in the weeks leading up to last year’s presidential election, according to the Intercept, citing what it said was a highly classified National Security Agency (NSA) report.
The revelation coincided with the arrest of Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor from Augusta, Georgia, who was charged with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.
The hacking of senior Democrats’ email accounts during the campaign has been well chronicled, but vote-counting was thought to have been unaffected, despite concerted Russian efforts to penetrate it.
Russian military intelligence carried out a cyber-attack on at least one US voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than a hundred local election officials days before the poll, the Intercept reported on Monday.
The website, which specialises in national security issues, said the NSA document had been provided to it anonymously and independently authenticated. “The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed US government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light,” it continued.
On Monday afternoon, the justice department said Winner had been arrested by the FBI at her home on Saturday and appeared in federal court in Augusta on Monday. She is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation, assigned to a US government agency facility in Georgia, it added. She has been employed at the facility since on or about 13 February and held a top-secret clearance during that time.
Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told the Guardian that her daughter was a former linguist in the US air force who spoke Farsi, Pashto and Dari.
“I never thought this would be something she would do,” said Winner-Davis. “She’s expressed to me that she’s not a fan of Trump, but she’s not someone that goes and riots and pickets or stuff.”
Reality Winner poses in a photo from her Instagram account.
Reality Winner poses in a photo from her Instagram account. Photograph: Reuters

The NSA report makes clear that, despite recent denials by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the NSA is convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
The document reportedly states: “Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting US local government organizations.”
On Tuesday Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin did not see “any evidence to prove this information is true”, adding that Moscow categorically denied “the possibility” of the Russian government being responsible.
The Intercept noted that, although the document does not directly identify the company in question, it contains references to a product made by VR Systems, a Florida-based vendor of electronic voting services and equipment whose products are used in eight states.
The Intercept said the NSA requested a number of redactions in its publication of the document and that it agreed to some that were not clearly in the public interest.
The intelligence assessment acknowledges that there is still a great deal of uncertainty over how successful the Russian operatives were and does not reach a conclusion about whether it affected the outcome of the election, in which Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton hinged on three closely contested states.
But the suggestion that Russian hackers may gained at least a foothold in electronic voting systems is likely to add even more pressure to special counsel and congressional investigations. The Obama administration maintained that it took preventive measures to successfully guard against breaches of the systems in all 50 states.
The former FBI director James Comey is set to testify before the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday regarding Russian meddling in the election.
The FBI is handling the investigation into Winner’s alleged breach of national security. In a deposition in support of the Winner’s arrest warrant, the justice department said: “On or about May 9, Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it. Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.”
The statement added: “Once investigative efforts identified Winner as a suspect, the FBI obtained and executed a search warrant at her residence. According to the complaint, Winner agreed to talk with agents during the execution of the warrant. During that conversation, Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a ‘need to know’, and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified.
“Winner further admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents.”
Vivian Siu, director of communications at the Intercept, said: “As we reported in the story, the NSA document was provided to us anonymously. The Intercept has no knowledge of the identity of the source.” (David Smith in Washington and Jon Swaine in New York)

 
The sins of the father have shadowed Kushner’s slick ascent – now claims of contact with Moscow have landed him in a spotlight he had hoped to avoid
 
In the middle of December last year, Jared Kushner, the smooth-skinned, impeccably tailored and inscrutable son-in-law of Donald Trump, was riding high. He was basking in the glow of having helped his father-in-law become the most powerful man on earth; was about to take up the role of senior adviser to the President of the United States, which would make him one of the most influential people in the administration; and on the home front he and his wife Ivanka Trump were sitting on a real estate pile worth up to $740m.
If he’d just let his elegantly thin-lapelled suits and pinstriped ties do the talking, he might still be atop that wave, lauded by some as the one voice of reason and calm in a wild and unpredictable White House. But he didn’t rest there.
insert2Instead, he allowed himself to be lured by the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, to a meeting with a top Russian banker, an alumnus of the country’s top spy academy with close ties to Vladimir Putin. Details of the discussion with Sergey Gorkov remain sketchy, but according to Gorkov himself Kushner was present in his capacity as CEO of Kushner Companies, the family real estate empire from which he had yet to step aside in preparation for his move into the White House.
Gorkov’s description suggests that money matters may have been on the table between the two men. Even more incendiary was the alleged proposal that passed between the two men about setting up a back-channel between the Trump inner circle and the Kremlin, as revealed by the Washington Post.
With that one encounter, barely 30 minutes long, Kushner eviscerated his carefully cultivated image and propelled himself into the center of the inquiry into possible links between Trumpworld and the Russians. He now finds himself as a person of interest, though not a target, of the FBI investigation.
Next Thursday the conflagration will flare up again with the testimony to the US senate intelligence committee of James Comey, the FBI director sacked by Trump. Kushner can expect to be dragged into that arena too, having reportedly argued firmly in favour of Comey being dumped.
The revelation of the Gorkov meeting in December has landed Kushner in a place that he has tried hard to avoid: the public spotlight. On a more visceral level, it has threatened the mission that has driven him ever since he was plucked from obscurity to lead the family business at the age of 24 – his desire to redeem the Kushner name after the disgrace and imprisonment of his father.
Charles Kushner served 14 months of a two-year sentence imposed in 2005 for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness-tampering. In an act of retaliation against Charles’s brother-in-law, who had been cooperating with federal prosecutors, he had hired a prostitute to seduce his relative-turned-snitch, had filmed their embrace, and then posted the tape to his sister, who promptly presented it to law enforcement.
The trauma of the Kushner patriarch’s downfall, and its seismic impact on Jared, who was obliged to step up and take his father’s vacant seat, offers an essential clue to understanding how he finds himself today in such troubled waters. “It was always all about the father,” said a former top executive in one of Kushner’s holdings who worked directly with him. “Jared was driven by a desire for redemption, to vindicate his father. A great deal of his pre-Trump life was focused on that single aim.”
While the elder Kushner was behind bars in a federal penitentiary in Alabama, his son spoke with him on the phone every few days and visited the prison regularly at weekends. After he was released in 2006, Charles once again became a fixture at Kushner Companies HQ. “Daddy,” Jared would call him in front of senior executives.
Such was the jolt of Charles Kushner’s incarceration, that by the age of 26 Jared was already taking the lead on billion-dollar real-estate deals. Part of the redemption strategy that he pursued as the new head of the family was to shift the business from its New Jersey base to the more glamorous and much more high-stakes environment of Manhattan – one of the many striking parallels between Kushner and his father-in-law, who also as a young man relocated the Trump real estate operation from the outer boroughs into heart of New York City.
The new Kushner Companies home at 666 Fifth Avenue, opposite the Rockefeller Center, was the manifestation in glass and aluminium of Jared’s redemptive ambitions. It was bought in 2007 for $1.8bn, a record-breaking sum for an individual building in the US at that time. The vast expense caused jaws to drop in Manhattan real estate circles, and continues to cause the Kushner family palpitations given the vast debt burden and cost of planned redevelopment, forcing the company to go looking for loans in controversial locations.
FBI investigators delving into Kushner’s December meeting with the Russian banker Gorkov are likely to be alert to any sign that 666 Fifth Avenue came up in conversation. The Kushners have a hole of at least $250m to fill in the financing of the 41-storey tower, a particularly challenging task after negotiations with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese company with close ties to the Chinese government, collapsed in March.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump make their way to board Air Force One before departing from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump make their way to board Air Force One before departing
from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate intelligence committee has indicated that it plans to question Kushner when he appears before members as part of the Russia investigation about whether he addressed the issue of the financing of 666 Fifth Avenue with Gorkov. The White House has insisted that the subject never came up, but in his statement Gorkov said that for his part he saw the meeting as a stop on his tour of “business circles of the US, including with the head of Kushner Companies, Jared Kushner.
Kushner stood down as CEO of Kushner Companies shortly before taking up his new role at Trump’s side in the Oval Office. He has also gone some way to divesting assets that could cause a potential conflict of interest as he engages with federal government business.
But specialists in government ethics say that his past life as a real estate tycoon makes him vulnerable to potential conflicts of interest inside the White House. Kushner has provided the Office of Government Ethics with a 54-page filing listing his assets and stating which he has divested in a bid to avoid such conflicts, but a Washington Post analysis found that he is still hanging on to almost 90% of his holdings.
More importantly, the disclosure form reveals nothing at all about the sources of capital to which the Kushner empire is beholden for keeping its developments afloat.
Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under George W Bush, told the Guardian that Kushner’s filing fell far short of what was needed.
“In real estate it’s not what you own, it’s what you owe, and to whom. With Kushner, we just don’t know a lot of it, and that’s a serious problem. If he wants to keep his job in the White House, he ought not to remain in the real estate business which is an industry that relies on deep bank loans and debt,” Painter said.
Painter, now a law professor at the University of Minnesota, added that Charles Kushner’s disgrace could have added an extra layer of liability. “The father’s criminal record could make it difficult for Jared to get good deals from US banks, forcing him to turn to non-traditional sources of financing from shadowy foreign banks, Russian or otherwise.”
Since his new life as a public servant began on 20 January, Jared Kushner has cut an ethereal figure in the White House, his pale skin giving observers the impression that he needs to spend more time in the sun. People who have sat through meetings with him on the Middle East were surprised that he remained largely silent, and that when he did speak he tended to mumble in his trademark thin and reedy voice. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, reportedly has a pet name for him: “the air” – in reference to the way he glides in and out of rooms like a puff of wind.
But as Bannon knows to his cost, Kushner also wields a stealthy knife. His feud with Bannon is thought to have been seminal in at least temporarily sidelining the former Breitbart chairman within the White House – although Trump’s nihilistic climate change move was signature Bannon, and demonstrated he remains a power in the land.
'In real estate it’s not what you own, it’s what you owe, and to whom'
Kushner is also known to have encouraged Trump to ditch Comey at a time when the FBI director was actively pursuing the Russia investigation. That piece of advice from a senior adviser who was supposed to offer the president cool and considered counsel now looks ill-conceived, to put it mildly.
At the centre of all this is the intriguing relationship between Kushner and Trump himself. At face value they are chalk and cheese: the younger man quiet and composed, the older man brash and impulsive.
But there are some common traits between Kushner and his father-in-law. It’s not just their similar trajectories in the real estate world. They also have a staggering level of confidence-cum-arrogance that has allowed them to take on challenges that stretch them far beyond their own experience.
For Trump, it was the temerity of a reality TV star who thought he could be president. For Kushner, it was the chutzpah of a 36-year-old business executive without a single day spent in government who did not blink when he was given the job of bringing peace to the Middle East, dealing with Syria, ending the strife in Iraq, forging new relations with China, not to mention transforming the way that federal institutions do business. That’s his other nickname in the White House: “Secretary of everything”.
There’s one other example of Kushner’s Trump-like qualities that now seems pertinent: the boldness of a private citizen not yet in public office who allegedly discussed with a foreign banker the creation of a back-channel to the ruthless leader of a US adversary. “That makes no sense in terms of normal White House protocol and procedure,” said professor Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University.
At worst, Berry added, such a proposal could expose Kushner to prosecution under the Logan Act, the law that forbids anyone who is not in or authorized by government (in this case the Obama administration) from negotiating with a foreign power on behalf of the US. “There’s no reason for him to be talking to a Russian banker about US policy,” Berry said.
It all leaves Kushner so near and yet so far. He was so near to putting his father’s disgrace behind them and leading the family to a new exalted reputation. Now he has troubles of his own.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/03/jared-kusher-trump-russian-web?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=229027&subid=18646478&CMP=GT_US_collection 
 
 
Brussels rejects Trump’s offer to renegotiate landmark deal, as global politicians, business leaders and US state governors criticise president

Less than 24 hours after the US president announced his decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement and strike a new, less ambitious deal with the world, Brussels declared its outright refusal to engage in such talks.
EU officials will instead cut out the White House to deal directly with the US states and major corporations, many of whom who have already pledged to live by the terms forged in Paris.
Miguel Arias Cañete, the European commissioner for climate action, said a global agreement should not be put at the whim of a domestic election. “The Paris agreement is fit for purpose,” the Spanish politician said, gripping a copy of the document that 195 countries have pledged to support. “The Paris agreement is here to stay. The 29 articles of this Paris agreement are not to be renegotiated. They are to be implemented. That’s what the EU will do.”
Cañete, who was speaking in Brussels after finalising a joint statement with China on accelerating efforts to reduce carbon emissions, said: “The world can continue to count on the EU on providing global leadership fighting climate change … We will do so developing strong partnerships.
“The fight against climate change cannot depend on the result of elections in one country of another. When a country signs an international agreement it has to fulfil its commitments. There will be new administrations. I’m pretty sure President Trump hasn’t read the articles of this treaty. There is nothing to renegotiate here.”
Trump’s move has been met with a chorus of disapproval from global leaders and blue chip companies including Facebook, Apple, Ford and Microsoft.
A number of the governors of US states have vowed to ignore Washington. The mayor of Pittsburgh also fired back against Trump, who told reporters on Thursday: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Bill Peduto wrote on Twitter: “Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow Paris agreement. As the mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement for our people, our economy and future.”
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Trump “can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet”. She said the move by the US to join just Nicaragua and Syria outside the accord was “extremely regrettable and that’s putting it very mildly”.
Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, also spoke together on Friday morning of the importance of continued international cooperation to defeat global warming.
Merkel, speaking at a press conference in Berlin, said Germany would not sway from the goals set out in the Paris agreement. “Nothing can or will stop us,” she said. “The road - there’s no doubt about it - is stony, but I am also convinced of the fact we cannot retrace our steps.”
She there were many other partners willing to work together and was “enthused” by the response from US companies who were supportive of the deal. “We need this Paris agreement in order to save our creation,” she said.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said in an unprecedented English-language speech from the Elysée Palace that he believed Trump had made a mistake. “I do
respect this decision but I do think it is an actual mistake both for the US and for our planet.
“Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: make our planet great again,” he said.
 
 
Downing Street issued a later statement saying the British prime minister, Theresa May, had told Trump of her “disappointment”. Downing Street sources would not say whether May had been asked to sign the declaration from the other European G7 countries.
In an announcement made in the White House garden, Trump effectively took out the world’s second largest carbon emitter of greenhouse gases, from an accord that Barack Obama had described as a “major leap for mankind”, echoing Neil Armstrong’s words during the moon landing.
Trump told reporters: “The fact that the Paris deal hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries … That’s not going to happen while I’m president, I’m sorry.”
Obama issued a rare statement saying the new administration had joined “a small handful of nations that reject the future”. He said that US states, cities and businesses “will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”.
Trump’s decision risks destabilising the Paris deal, with remaining participants faced with the choice of trying to make up the shortfall in emissions cuts or following the US’s lead and abandoning the agreement. In 2015, nearly 200 countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the runaway climate change that would occur should temperatures spiral 2C or more above the pre-industrial era.
The US emissions reduction pledge accounts for a fifth of the global emissions to be avoided by 2030, with an analysis by not-for-profit group Climate Interactive showing that a regression to “business as usual” emissions by the US could warm the world by an additional 0.3C by 2100. This would help push global temperature rise well beyond 2C, causing punishing heatwaves, a rise in sea level, displacement of millions of people and the loss of ecosystems such as coral reefs.
Prof John Schellnhuber, a climate scientist and former adviser to the EU, Angela Merkel and the pope, said the US would be the loser from its withdrawal. “China and Europe have become world leaders on the path towards green development already and will strengthen their position if the US slips back. The Washington people around Trump fail to recognise that the climate wars are over, while the race for sustainable prosperity is on.”
Trump followed through with his campaign pledge to “cancel” US involvement in the Paris accord following months of conflicting signals over whether he would do so or just scale back the US ambition to cut emissions.
The withdrawal represents a victory for the nationalist elements in Trump’s administration, such as his strategist Steve Bannon, who have argued the Paris deal undermines an “America first” approach, harms domestic coal production and hinders efforts to repeal Barack Obama-era regulations such as the Clean Power Plan.
Trump sought to frame his decision as part of this nationalist agenda. “The Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” he said. “They don’t put America first. I do, and I always will.”
The anti-agreement faction had jockeyed for Trump’s favour over a rival school of thought, including the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, that argued the US should remain in the Paris deal in order to preserve its diplomatic influence.
 
Legendary golfer Tiger Woods, who last week expressed his desire to return to competition after his recent back surgery, was busted on a DUI charge in Florida early Monday, according to authorities, New York Post says.
Woods, who lives on Jupiter Island, was arrested for driving under the influence around 3 a.m. and sprung from the Palm Beach County Jail on his own recognizance shortly before 11 a.m.
A mug shot released by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’ Office shows a haggard-looking, unshaven Woods staring vacantly at the camera with ruffled hair.
It’s unclear whether he 41-year-old – a 14-time major champion who won 79 PGA Tour titles — was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
He has been beset with back problems for the past few years.
 
 
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