Investigation

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is seen during a closed door interview before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill
Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is seen during a closed door interview before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

June 19, 2019

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hope Hicks, once a close aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to face questions in Congress about six instances in which Democrats believe Trump may have broken the law during the 2016 presidential campaign and while in the White House.

The White House has asserted immunity over testimony by Hicks involving her 14 months in the Trump administration, according to a knowledgeable source, continuing its strategy of not cooperating with House investigations.

The 30-year-old Hicks, accompanied by two personal lawyers, ignored shouted questions from reporters as she arrived just before 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) to appear under subpoena in a closed session of the House Judiciary Committee.

Two White House lawyers also were expected to join her, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Hicks could remain well into the evening, fielding a wide range of questions from the panel’s 41 Democratic and Republican lawmakers and staff.

Hicks was Trump’s former campaign press secretary and his White House communications director until she left in March 2018 and later became chief communications officer and executive president for Fox Corporation, parent company of Fox News.

Democrats want to hear from her about alleged hush money payments made during the campaign to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, who say they had affairs with Trump. He has denied the affairs.

They also want Hicks to talk about five examples of potential obstruction of justice by Trump that are laid out in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as the president’s efforts to impede the Mueller investigation.

Hicks was mentioned 183 times in Mueller’s report.

Assertions during questioning of executive privilege, a legal principle sometimes cited by presidents to keep White House information under wraps, would block a key line of inquiry by the committee and could lead to a subsequent legal challenge.

Despite the closed setting, Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, view Hicks’ appearance as a breakthrough for their congressional investigation, which could trigger impeachment proceedings against the president if it unearths evidence of serious misconduct.

Democrats say her appearance could help undermine Trump’s strategy of stonewalling congressional investigators by encouraging others to cooperate with them and by giving investigators the chance to challenge any executive privilege assertions, possibly in federal court.

MANY TOPICS

Democrats want Hicks to testify about an effort by the president to mislead the public about a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York, where the Mueller report said campaign officials, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., met with Russians offering “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A key question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the time.

Aides said Hicks also would be asked about alleged obstruction by Trump involving McGahn, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A transcript of her testimony, which will be released after the interview, will be featured at a Thursday hearing where the committee will examine an ABC News interview, in which Trump said he saw nothing wrong with accepting damaging information about a U.S. political opponent from a foreign government, aides said.

The White House last month asserted executive privilege to block the release of Mueller’s unredacted report and related evidence, such as investigative interviews. The committee and the Justice Department have since reached an agreement giving panel members access to more of the Mueller report and some underlying material from the investigation.

The House voted 229-191 on June 11 on party lines to

authorize House committees to file lawsuits in federal court seeking orders from judges to compel officials to cooperate with official congressional demands for testimony or evidence.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn, a star witness in the Mueller report, last month defied a subpoena for his testimony and documents after the White House directed him not to cooperate with the Judiciary panel.

McGahn could face legal action. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said last week that other witnesses, including Hicks and former McGahn aide Annie Donaldson, also could face court action if they defy committee subpoenas.

Mueller’s 448-page report found insufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, despite numerous contacts between the campaign and Russia. It also described numerous attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s investigation but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

Russian national Oleg Pulatov, accused of downing of flight MH17, is seen in this handout photo
Russian national Oleg Pulatov, one of the accused of downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, is seen in this handout photo released by Dutch Police and obtained by Reuters on June 19, 2019. Dutch Police/Handout via REUTERS

June 19, 2019

By Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch

NIEUWEGEIN, Netherlands (Reuters) – Three Russians and a Ukrainian will face murder charges for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine which killed 298 people, in a trial to start in the Netherlands next March, an investigation team said on Wednesday.

The suspects are likely to be tried in absentia, however, as the Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and is not expected to hand anyone over.

“These suspects are seen to have played an important role in the death of 298 innocent civilians”, said Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke.

“Although they did not push the button themselves, we suspect them of close cooperation to get the (missile launcher) where it was, with the aim to shoot down an airplane.”

Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said in a letter to parliament the Netherlands had taken unspecified “diplomatic steps” against Moscow for failing to fully comply with legal requests or providing incorrect information.

The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction named the four suspects as Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. It said international arrest warrants for the four had been issued.

Girkin, 48, a vocal and battle-hardened Russian nationalist, is believed to live in Moscow where he makes regular public appearances. He is a commentator on Russian and foreign affairs via his own website and YouTube channel.

“The rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” Girkin told Reuters on Wednesday without elaborating.

Ukrainian authorities said they would try to detain Kharchenko, the suspect believed to be on their territory.

MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone on board was killed.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The Russian Federation must now cooperate fully with the prosecution and provide any assistance it requests.” There were 10 Britons on the flight.

RUSSIAN MISSILE

Most of those on board were Dutch. The joint investigation team formed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.

Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said Moscow was not to blame and there are other explanations for what happened.

The governments of the Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia legally responsible.

Asked if she expected the suspects to attend the trial, Silene Fredriksz, whose son Bryce was on the plane, said: “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t care. I just want the truth, and this is the truth.”

Moscow has said it does not trust the investigation.

“Russia was unable to take part in the investigation despite expressing an interest right from the start and trying to join it”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The investigation team said Girkin was a former FSB security service colonel who served as minister of defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in the summer of 2014.

It said Dubinsky was head of the military intelligence agency of DNR, while Pulatov was head of a second department of the DNR military intelligence agency. Kharchenko was head of a reconnaissance battalion for the second department, it said.

Prosecutors have said the missile system that brought down the plane came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

(Additional reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterda, Maria Vasilyeva and Anastasia Teterevleva in Moscow; Editing Hugh Lawson and Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

RUSADA Director General Ganus attends a news conference in Moscow
Yuri Ganus, Director General of Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

June 19, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian anti-doping chief Yuri Ganus said on Wednesday that the country’s suspended athletics federation was not doing enough to stamp out doping culture and was falling short in its bid to be reinstated by global athletics governing body IAAF.

Russia’s athletics federation has been suspended since a 2015 report commissioned by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping in the sport. The IAAF decided to uphold Russia’s suspension earlier this month and will review its status in September.

“Enough with appearances. Over the last four years we have presented our athletics as being in a great state,” Ganus told a news conference. “We have serious grounds to say that the federation in its current condition cannot be reinstated.”

Ganus, who last month called for the dismissal of senior Russian athletics officials, said efforts to transform the culture in Russian athletics had so far fallen flat.

“We need to stop trying to demonstrate a (change) in culture,” he said. “A culture comes with daily work… in our relationship to athletes.”

Reuters reported this month that two coaches and one doctor banned for doping were still working with athletes, a situation that can expose athletes to anti-doping violations.

The IAAF task force overseeing Russia’s reinstatement said this month that Reuters’ findings called into question the federation’s ability to enforce doping bans and embrace a new anti-doping culture, which are conditions for its reinstatement.

Margarita Pakhnotskaya, deputy head of RUSADA, said on Wednesday the agency could not provide a timeline for its investigation into Reuters’ findings. The Russian sports ministry has said it would probe the findings by the end of the month.

Despite the ban, some Russian athletes – including two-time world champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene – have been cleared to compete internationally by the IAAF after demonstrating they train in a doping-free environment.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Sweden's prime minister speaks at campaign rally in Stockholm
FILE PHOTO: Sweden’s Prime Minister Goran Persson speaks at a campaign rally one day before Sunday’s general election in Stockholm September 16, 2006. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank shareholders elected Goran Persson as chairman on Wednesday, with the former Swedish Prime Minister pledging to “clean the house” after a money-laundering scandal.

Sweden’s oldest retail bank has lost its chief executive, chairman and a third of its stock market value this year as its Estonian business was embroiled in a money laundering inquiry.

Swedbank, which is under investigation in the United States, the Baltics and Sweden, now faces the potential threat of sanctions and fines as it seeks to regain public confidence.

The most recent allegations against Swedbank, reported by Swedish state TV in March, say it processed gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, mostly Russian non-resident clients, through Estonia from 2010 to 2016.

Swedbank suspended its two top Estonian executives on Tuesday as part of an internal inquiry into its compliance with anti-money laundering rules which it launched in April under shareholder pressure for greater transparency.

Swedbank bulked up its board with three appointments at its annual shareholder meeting, including the addition of Persson, as it seeks to regain investor confidence following the scandal, which has also engulfed neighboring Danske Bank.

The 70-year-old former Swedish politician has emerged as a troubleshooter since playing an instrumental role in reviving Sweden’s economy after a financial crisis in the 1990s.

Persson, a Social Democrat who served as prime minister for a decade until 2006 and has since sat on several boards including smaller regional lender Alandsbanken, vowed to restore confidence in Swedbank and work for a better corporate culture.

“We’re going to clean our house. That work starts now,” Persson said after his election as chairman of Swedbank, whose shares were up 1% to 140.50 Swedish crowns at 1031 GMT.

Shareholders also voted in Bo Magnusson and Josefin Lindstrand as new members of the board, which also faces the task of finding a new chief executive for the bank.

Persson expects a new CEO to be in place by “end of autumn.”

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish in Stockholm; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Evidence suggests Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials are liable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.N. rights investigator said on Wednesday.

There was no immediate reaction from Riyadh which was sent the 100-page report in advance – but the kingdom has regularly denied accusations that the prince was involved.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called for countries to widen sanctions to include the Crown Prince and his personal assets, until and unless he can prove he has no responsibility.

Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding.

His body was dismembered and removed from the building, the Saudi prosecutor has said, and his remains have not been found.

“It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” Callamard said in her report based on a six-month investigation.

Callamard went to Turkey earlier this year with a team of forensic and legal experts and said she received evidence from Turkish authorities.

“There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s”, she said.

“Indeed, this human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation,” she added, urging U.N. Secretary-General to establish an international probe.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

Trump Sees The Future Is Keeping America Great Because He Has 2020 Vision! Trump Is Making America Great Again! Will You Vote For Trump?

Trump officially launches re-election campaign, makes case for second term: ‘Keep America Great’
President Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign Tuesday night before a jam-packed crowd in Orlando’s Amway Center, and quickly unloaded on the media organizations and government actors he said tried their hardest to bring down both See More his candidacy and then presidency with the Russian collusion scandal. “Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” Trump said. He specifically called out the “phony” dossier used by the FBI to secure a secret surveillance warrant to surveil one of his former aides, Carter Page. To supporters’ delight, Trump even debuted a new impersonation of Hillary Clinton.

For the most part, Tuesday’s rally focused on Trump’s policy successes, from criminal justice reform to the economy. He also touted the planned Space Force, celebrated the “obliteration” of ISIS, and Republicans’ role in a newly energized national pro-lifemovement. And after polling the boisterous crowd, Trump appeared to settle on a new campaign slogan: “Keep America Great.” Still, not everyone loves the new Trump rallying cry. In an op-ed in the Opinion section of FoxNews.com, Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock explains why he believes the president needs a better re-election campaign slogan and what it should be.

Republicans demand Democratic leadership condemn AOC for ‘concentration camp’ remarks
Top Republicans are urging Democratic leadership to condemn Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks comparing detention facilities on the southern border to concentration camps. Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday told her Instagram followers on a live-stream that the U.S. government is “running concentration camps on our southern border.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said AOC’s remarks disrespect history and disregard what happened during the Holocaust. “It’s a total disregard to the facts, in particular about the Holocaust, but also you see the extent to which her colleagues and the people whoare supposed to be leading the Democrats in the House – Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer – won’t stand up and criticize what she’s saying and condemn those comments,” the House Republican Caucus chairwoman said in an interview on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.”

The debate over slavery reparations comes to the Hill
Slavery reparations will be the center of debate during a scheduled hearing Wednesday before a House Judiciary subcommittee. After being treated as a fringe issue, reparations increasingly have been discussed by the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed looking at the idea, though they have stopped short of endorsing directpayouts for African-Americans. Still, the nation remains divided on the issue, as illustrated by remarks ahead of Wednesday’s hearing by Sen. Cory Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In addition to Booker, actor and activist Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates are also among the witnesses expected to testify at the hearing.

Will a US-China trade talk breakthrough come at the G-20?
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to meet in Japan and discuss trade at the G-20 Summit, amid a weeks-long stalemate on negotiations and tension over looming new tariffs on China. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he and Xi had had “very good” telephone conversations. “We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan,” the president tweeted. “Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.”

Pentagon in transition as acting Defense Secretary Shanahan plans to depart
President Trump abruptly announced Tuesday that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is withdrawing from consideration to lead the Pentagon and he’s naming Secretary of the Army Mark Esper as Shanahan’s replacement. While speculation had brewed for days about Shanahan’s status, the announcement came shortly after the publication of an explosive USA Today report that the FBI has been probing a violent domestic dispute from 2010 between Shanahan and his then-wife as part of his background investigation. Speaking to reporters outside the White House,the president said, “it’s a difficult time for Pat,” adding Shanahan would take “some time off for family matters.” In a resignation letter Tuesday, Shanahan said “it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process.”

TODAY’S MUST-READS
Kelly Shackleford: Why Oregon cake bakers’ victory matters so much (for all of us).
New York clerk ‘will not be granting drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants,’ contrary to new law: report.
Guests watch in horror as massive huntsman spider eats a possum in their ski lodge.

MINDING YOUR BUSINESS
Will the Fed cut interest ratesduring its meeting this week?
Amazon Prime Day 2019: Here’s everything we know so far.
These colleges have the highest employment rate after graduating.

Source

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts on stage formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts on stage formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

June 19, 2019

By Steve Holland

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday formally launches what may be an uphill battle to persuade voters to give him four more years in office, as he bets a strong U.S. economy will outweigh voter concerns about his unorthodox style and polarizing policies.

At an evening rally in Orlando, Florida, Trump, who has long made it known he is running for re-election, will begin making his case with gusto for a second term. He and his wife, Melania, and a large contingent of senior White House staff arrived in Orlando aboard Air Force One for the occasion.

The Trump of 2020 most certainly will bear a strong resemblance to the Trump of 2016 – brash and eager to bash opponents and promote tough policies on trade and immigration.

Two-and-a-half years into his tenure, Trump sees plenty of positive factors, led by a growing economy with low unemployment.

“If the economy stays strong, he is very likely to get re-elected,” said Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

But an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, coupled with a presidential style marked by name-calling and eye-popping tweets, has undermined some Americans’ confidence in Trump before the November 2020 election.

He also has stirred division with his hard-line policies on immigration and unsettled business and farm groups with his use of tariffs in trade disputes with China and some allies.

Democrats cite a string of broken promises in Trump’s first term, from lowering drug prices to closing corporate tax loopholes and stopping plant closures. In a media call on Tuesday, Democratic Party officials focused on his moves to weaken the signature healthcare law of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, without providing an alternative.

“Donald Trump is launching his campaign for re-election tonight and the American people face a choice – we can make Trump an aberration or let him fundamentally and forever alter the character of this nation,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.

POLLING CONCERNS

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on June 11 gave Trump a 40% job approval rating, compared with 57% who disapproved. Other opinion polls have shown him running consistently behind his main Democratic challengers, such as Biden, in key battleground states.

Republican strategists say the fundamentals favor Trump as he heads into his election but that he faces challenges given his bare-knuckled approach, which he refuses to temper.

“His support with his base is as strong as it’s ever been for any Republican incumbent president. The challenge is adding to that and building the coalition he needs for re-election,” said Republican strategist Ryan Williams, a former adviser to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

In a Twitter post before his trip, Trump said: “Republican enthusiasm is at an all time high. Look what is going on in Orlando, Florida, right now!”

The Orlando Sentinel, however, welcomed the president’s visit with an editorial titled: “Our endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump.”

Trump supporters with tents and sleeping bags started camping out at the rally venue on Monday and thousands had gathered by Tuesday afternoon in a torrential downpour. “It was like a big Trump party,” said Maureen Bailey, who slept in a tent with her twin sister, Laureen Vartanian.

Local Democratic Party officials planned a “Win With Love” rally a few blocks from the Trump rally.

Starting his 2020 push in Florida, which the former New York businessman considers his second home, shows how important the state is to Trump’s re-election hopes. He would like to recreate the state-by-state electoral victory map he assembled to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

That election included Trump victories in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and he thus far faces challenges in all those states, along with North Carolina.

FLORIDA IS A KEY

Democrats vow to win back industrial states like Pennsylvania and Michigan that flipped to Trump in 2016 after decades of voting Democratic in presidential elections, and they believe his behavior and policies will generate strong turnout among Americans eager to turn him out of office.

Trump campaign advisers wave off the polls at this stage, saying Trump had trailed in most polls in 2016 and still won.

The advisers believe Trump’s chances will improve once Democrats go through their hard-fought nominating process and produce a nominee for him to face off against.

Nobody is expecting Trump to change his behavior. Aides who had urged him early in his White House tenure to tone down his style are long gone.

Some Trump advisers had urged the president to begin his campaign launch in New York with a nostalgic recreation of the scene from June 2015 when Trump and his wife rode down an escalator at Trump Tower for his announcement speech.

On his flight to Tokyo on May 24, Trump turned down the idea, based on input from the first lady, who thought he should do something new and was adamantly against the escalator ride, said a person with direct knowledge of the conversation.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Carlo Allegri in Orlando; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

Almost four years to the day President Donald Trump announced his run for the White House from Trump Tower in New York City, he took the stage at a massive rally in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday night to announce his plans for a second term.

Taking the stage with first lady Melania Trump, and his vice president, Mike Pence, and his wife Karen, Trump beamed as his wife declared: “It has been my honor to serve as first lady of this incredible country for the past two years. And I’m excited to do it for six more.”

“With every ounce of heart, might and sweat … we are going to keep keep America great again and we will indeed keep America great,” Trump said. “Better than ever before. And that is why tonight I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the UnitedStates.”

Trump announced his first improbable run for the White House on June 16, 2015.

After pounding Democrats, Hillary Clinton, the media and the two-year investigation of Russia meddling by special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump declared:

“The only thing these corrupt politicians will understand is an earthquake at the ballot box. We did it once and now we will do it again and this time we’re going to finish the job.”​

“2016 was not merely another four-year election. This was a defining moment in American history, ask them right there,” he said, pointing at the news media in the crowd. He then smirked as the crowd booed and chanted their disdain.

“That is a lot of fake news back there,” he declared.

“Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” he declared. “We accomplished more than any other president has in the first two and a half years of a presidency. And under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before, because we did, in the middle of the great and illegal witch-hunt.

“We went through the greatest witch-hunt in political history. The only collusion was committed by the Democrats, the fake news media, and their operatives and the people who funded the phony dossier, crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” he said.

“It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election, spy on our campaign, which is what they did, and subvert our democracy. Remember, the insurance policy just in case Hillary Clinton lost.”

At which point the crowd burst into the chant: “Lock her up!”

Of Democrats, he complained:

“They only care about their own political power,” he said. “They went after my family, my business, my finances, my employees, almost everyone that I have ever known or worked with, but they are really going after you. That’s what it is all about. It’s not about us. It’s about you. They tried to erase your vote, erase your legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of our country.

“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”

He framed the 2020 election as “a verdict on the amazing progress we have made” and “a rigged system.”

“So if you want to shut down this rigged system once and for all, then show up November 3rd. That’s your day, big day, and vote, vote, vote.We’re going to have a big, big day.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speak to the media at the State Department in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speak to the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan abandoned his quest for the top Pentagon job on Tuesday as reports emerged of domestic violence in his family, plunging the leadership of the U.S. military into new uncertainty just as tensions with Iran are rising.

Shanahan said he made the decision, first announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet, to prevent his three children from reliving “a traumatic chapter in our family life.”

“It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up,” Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, said in a statement.

Hours after naming Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to replace Shanahan as acting secretary, Trump told reporters he would likely nominate the former Raytheon executive and army veteran to the defense secretary position.

Shanahan, 56, was thrust into the role in an acting capacity in January, after then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned over policy differences with Trump.

He had been due to go before U.S. senators for confirmation hearings when the allegations of incidents of domestic violence surfaced as part of FBI background checks.

USA Today reported that the FBI had been examining a nine-year-old dispute involving Shanahan and his then-wife.

The newspaper reported https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/18/defense-secretary-fbi-patrick-shanahan-wife-domestic-violence-altercation/1470811001 that Shanahan said in a statement late on Monday that he “never laid a hand on” his former wife. USA Today reported that he and his wife both claimed they had been punched by the other and that his wife was arrested after the incident but the charges were dropped.

The Washington Post also reported that Shanahan’s teenage son allegedly hit his mother with a baseball bat in 2011, when the Shanahans were already living apart, leaving her unconscious in a pool of blood.

The Post said Shanahan had been responding to its questions about the incidents since January. He told the paper he now believes he was wrong to say in a memo to his ex-wife’s brother that his son had acted in self-defense.

“Bad things can happen to good families . . . and this is a tragedy, really,” the paper quoted Shanahan as saying. He added the disclosure of the incident would “ruin my son’s life.”

IRAN TENSIONS

Shanahan has been a prominent figure as tensions between the United States and Iran have risen in recent weeks. It was Shanahan who announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East on Monday, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

Worries about a confrontation between the two countries have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents but Tehran denies responsibility.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it was a bad time for the United States not to have stable leadership at the Pentagon.

“This is a very difficult time, with everything going on in Iran and with provocations and counteractions. And to have no Secretary of Defense at this time? It’s appalling, and it shows the chaos in this administration,” he told reporters.

The decision to stand down promises to prolong what has already been the longest period without a confirmed defense secretary.

Shanahan was the longest official in history to serve as secretary of defense in only an acting capacity, according to Pentagon records. Part of the delay was due to Shanahan being under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general for allegedly seeking preferential treatment of Boeing while at the department. He was cleared of wrongdoing in April.

Shanahan did not have prior experience in national security matters before he was picked by Mattis to be his deputy.

A source familiar with the situation said Shanahan met Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning to say he wanted to step down. The source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the decision was 100 percent Shanahan’s.

(Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Amanda Becker; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Mary Milliken, Nick Zieminski and Sonya Hepinstall)

Source: OANN

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said Tuesday he is “not at this point” ready to support an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, but he does want an investigation into whether he violated his office or committed any crimes.

“Because ultimately, what we’ve learned and I think this is clear at this point, the Mueller report is over 450 pages or so of mostly damning evidence,” Rep. Deutch told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

But to move forward, the House needs to hear from key figures like former White House counsel Don McGahn and ex-Trump aide Hope Hicks to display to the American people, many of whom have not read the Mueller report, what was going on.

“Bring in the people who are the subjects of the Mueller report, so people can hear the outrageous conduct the president wanted them to pursue,” Deutch said.

Deutch on Tuesday also commented about Trump’s use of Twitter, noting it often serves as a distraction.

Trump has planned to live-tweet the upcoming Democratic debates, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Deutch said, because the president gave that publication the scoop, “we stop talking about his incoherent policy on Iran. We stop talking about his interview last week where he said he would welcome foreign governments . . . all that gets taken off the table because we’re obsessed with his Twitter account? My god, there’s been a lot that happened over the past week that I think should alarm all of us.”

He said he is also concerned about Trump’s actions with Iran, because his strategy is not clear, adding Congress must end the Authorization for Use of Military Force law.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Time is running out for special counsel Robert Mueller to appear before Congress and testify and waiting until August to hear from him might be too late, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Tuesday.

“The best way to get a witness to testify is if you can get them to testify voluntarily, and particularly I think with someone like Bob Mueller making an appeal to his patriotism, a sense of duty is the right way to go,” the House Intelligence Committee chairman told CNN’s “New Day.” “At the end of the day, he needs to come testify.”

But if an agreement cannot be reached to bring Mueller in, “then we’ll have to use a subpoena,” the congressman said.

Meanwhile, there has been a “slow increase” in the number of House Democrats coming out in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump, Schiff said, while warning even if an inquiry would be announced tomorrow, things will not change dramatically when it comes to witness testimony.

“If anything, the administration is going to dig in deeper,” Schiff said. “Whether we’re going to get to critical mass or not, I don’t know. It may depend on how the investigation proceeds.”

He also commented on reports intelligence officers did not tell Trump about efforts they were taking to conduct cyber attacks on Russia.

“If it’s true that the intelligence agencies or the Cabinet members are keeping things from the president because they can’t rely on him to keep his mouth shut when it comes to discussing that with the Russians or with others, it’s a real problem, because we have a president who’s not well-informed,” Schiff said.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hope Hicks, once a close aide and communications director for President Donald Trump, becomes on Wednesday the first member of his inner circle to testify to the congressional panel leading a probe into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Democrats who control the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee believe Hicks can provide important insights into troubling chapters of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Trump’s efforts to interfere with the investigation.

“She’s our first fact witness,” said Jamie Raskin, a Democratic lawmaker on the committee. “Having somebody talking about what happened from a personal perspective will be a dramatic debut for the committee.”

Hicks, who was one of Trump’s closest aides during the 2016 campaign and the first 14 months of his presidency, was subpoenaed to testify and is due to appear at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Wednesday, the committee said.

It will be a closed-door interview with lawmakers, and the committee will release a transcript afterward.

The White House is trying to prevent former Trump aides from cooperating with a string of congressional investigations into Trump, so it is unclear how helpful the 30-year-old public relations consultant will be.

Hicks’ attorney did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Mueller’s 448-page report refers to Hicks more than 180 times and places her in the middle of some of the most incriminating episodes involving Trump, who did not agree to answer Mueller’s questions on obstruction.

Democrats want Hicks to shed light on a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York, where the Mueller report said campaign officials, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., met with Russians who had offered “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

One question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the time.

The Mueller report quotes former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates as saying Trump Jr. told Hicks, other campaign staff and Trump family members about his plans for the meeting but that Hicks denied knowing about the meeting until months later.

The report also recounts how in July 2017, Trump directed Hicks to issue a misleading statement to the press saying only that the Trump Tower meeting had been about Russian adoption.

“I would like to know about her involvement in that process and what she personally knew happened,” said Ted Lieu, another Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “She was involved in that whole chain of events, where the president lied about what actually happened.”

Mueller’s report concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow. It also described attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s probe, but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.

EVIDENCE OF OBSTRUCTION?

Hicks was also present for two separate episodes that Mueller cited as offering relevant evidence of obstruction after Trump took office: his efforts to get former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to redirect the Russia probe away from his 2016 election campaign team, and his attempts to persuade former White House Counsel Don McGahn to deny that Trump asked him to remove Mueller.

Lawmakers are not sure whether Hicks will talk about her time in Trump’s administration. The White House has already directed her not to give the committee documents pertaining to her tenure there, which ended in March 2018. Last month, the White House directed McGahn to ignore a subpoena for documents and testimony, leading him to skip a committee hearing.

House Republicans dismiss the committee probe as political overreach calculated to placate Democratic voters who want Trump impeached.

“It just seems like the Democrats are trying to influence the 2020 election and using the committees to do so,” said Debbie Lesko, a Republican on the panel.

Legal experts believe Hicks could decline to answer questions on key topics, citing Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over the Mueller report.

That could force the committee to seek a federal court order directing her to testify, an action the full House authorized in a party-line vote last week.

The committee has also subpoenaed Annie Donaldson, McGahn’s former chief of staff, to testify on June 24. Donaldson did not respond to a Reuters query.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Swedbank sign is seen on the local headquarters building in Tallinn
FILE PHOTO: Swedbank sign is seen on the local headquarters building in Tallinn, Estonia March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

June 18, 2019

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank has suspended the two top executives at its Estonian business with immediate effect, acting on an internal investigation into compliance with money-laundering rules at the bank.

Sweden’s oldest retail bank has faced a turbulent year after being linked to a money laundering scandal originating at Danske Bank, which has said its Estonia branch was used to move 200 billion euros ($225 billion)of suspicious funds from 2007 to 2015.

Swedbank – whose group CEO and chairman departed amid the turmoil – admitted in late April to failings in combating money laundering and announced an internal inquiry to review its current and historic customer relationships through its Baltic units.

Swedbank said late on Monday the probe was continuing as it announced findings from the investigation so far had prompted it to suspend Robert Kitt, who has been Estonia CEO from 2015, and Vaiko Tammevali, Estonia CFO since 2014.

“Today’s decision is a consequence of the ongoing internal investigation,” Swedbank’s head of Baltic Banking, Charlotte Elsnitz, said in a statement.

“We are fully committed to the Estonian market and to all our employees, customers and other stakeholders. Estonia is one of four home markets of Swedbank.”

Kitt and Tammevali could not immediately be reached for comment.

The bank’s shares, which have lost about a third in value since the scandal broke, were down 1.5 percent at 138.55 Swedish crowns at 0735 GMT.

The most recent allegations against Swedbank, reported by Swedish state TV, stated that the lender had processed gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, non-resident clients, mostly Russian, through its Estonian branch from 2010 to 2016. Previous allegations had related to a period between 2007 and 2015.

Credit Suisse analysts said that the removals meant that essentially all top management in Estonia had been changed, which could help bank in any discussions with authorities.

The Estonian financial regulator declined to comment and said that their ongoing forward investigation with Sweden and other Baltic authorities was ongoing.

Swedbank said it was cooperating fully with authorities in Sweden, the United States and the Baltic countries in their investigations.

The lender said Olavi Lepp, currently chief risk officer, had been named acting CEO of Swedbank Estonia, while Anna Kouts, currently head of treasury, would become acting CFO.

(Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom and Esha Vaish, editing by Deepa Babington/Keith Weir)

Source: OANN

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Championship Parade
Jun 17, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and team mates show off the Larry O’Brien trophy to fans during a parade through downtown Toronto to celebrate their NBA title. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

June 18, 2019

Four people sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds at Monday’s rally celebrating the Raptors’ championship, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

Three arrests were made, according to Saunders, who added that the investigation was ongoing.

A reported 1.5 million parked Toronto’s downtown for the Raptors’ parade and subsequent rally at City Hall. The shootings occurred at Nathan Phillips Square, adjacent to City Hall. Addition people sustained minor injuries attempting to flee the scene after the shots were heard.

Mayor John Tory said in a statement, “It is disappointing and I’m sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge it at what was otherwise a joyous celebration.”

–While the Raptors celebrated, the next chapter for the team sits in limbo based on the future of star forward Kawhi Leonard.

“Holding that trophy, there’s nothing more special than that,” Ed Rogers, chairman of Rogers Communications, partial owner of the Raptors, said at the rally. “The three of us are going to do everything we can to not make this a one-year thing, but make this a dynasty.”

Leonard will opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent. The Raptors expected this bit of paperwork even before Leonard was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs last summer. What they won’t know until at least June 30 is whether Leonard ever will wear a Toronto uniform again, and Leonard declined to offer any hints Monday.

–Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said he isn’t concerned by reports of tension between James Harden and Chris Paul.

In a wide-ranging interview on ESPN Radio, Morey also disputed reports that Paul has asked to be traded and confirmed that he intends to come to contract terms with head coach Mike D’Antoni. As to an ESPN story that said there’s unrest between All-Stars Harden and Paul, Morey said the frustration stems from a desire to win.

“Two competitive superstars at that level, there’s going to be times when they are extremely competitive, extremely focused on how do we get to that next level, and when we don’t, there’s going to be frustration,” Morey said. “I’m frustrated, our top players are frustrated, Mike D’Antoni is frustrated. We want to take the last step and be the champion, and I think it’s good that there is tension in the sense that we all want to win.”

–The New Orleans Pelicans picked up the 2020-21 option for head coach Alvin Gentry, putting him under contract for the next two seasons.

Gentry, 64, has spent the past four seasons coaching the Pelicans, going 145-183 and leading the team to the second round of the playoffs in 2017-18.

The Pelicans went 33-49 this season. Anthony Davis requested a trade in the middle of the campaign and sat out or had his minutes limited for much of the second half.

–Pelicans forward Julius Randle will opt out of his $9.1 million player option for 2019-20, The Athletic reported.

The 6-foot-9 Randle signed a one-year contract with the Pelicans last summer that included the player option for 2019-20. With his expected opt-out, Randle and the Pelicans could negotiate a new deal, or Randle could pursue another team.

The Pelicans agreed to trade All-NBA star Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for a hefty return of players and draft picks earlier this week. They now have the No. 1 and 4 overall picks in Thursday night’s draft, and they are expected to select Duke’s Zion Williamson with the top pick.

–Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason after the Brooklyn Nets declined to make a qualifying offer, ESPN reported.

Hollis-Jefferson later tweeted: “Brooklynnnnn I Love You.. can’t believe it’s been 4 years ha.. Thank you”

Hollis-Jefferson, 24, averaged 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in four years with the Nets, who acquired him in a draft-night trade after the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the 23rd pick in the 2015 draft. He started 147 of 234 games in Brooklyn, averaging a career-best 13.9 points in 2017-18.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Championship Parade
Jun 17, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and team mates show off the Larry O’Brien trophy to fans during a parade through downtown Toronto to celebrate their NBA title. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

June 18, 2019

Four people sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds at Monday’s rally celebrating the Raptors’ championship, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

Three arrests were made, according to Saunders, who added that the investigation was ongoing.

A reported 1.5 million parked Toronto’s downtown for the Raptors’ parade and subsequent rally at City Hall. The shootings occurred at Nathan Phillips Square, adjacent to City Hall. Addition people sustained minor injuries attempting to flee the scene after the shots were heard.

Mayor John Tory said in a statement, “It is disappointing and I’m sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge it at what was otherwise a joyous celebration.”

–While the Raptors celebrated, the next chapter for the team sits in limbo based on the future of star forward Kawhi Leonard.

“Holding that trophy, there’s nothing more special than that,” Ed Rogers, chairman of Rogers Communications, partial owner of the Raptors, said at the rally. “The three of us are going to do everything we can to not make this a one-year thing, but make this a dynasty.”

Leonard will opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent. The Raptors expected this bit of paperwork even before Leonard was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs last summer. What they won’t know until at least June 30 is whether Leonard ever will wear a Toronto uniform again, and Leonard declined to offer any hints Monday.

–Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said he isn’t concerned by reports of tension between James Harden and Chris Paul.

In a wide-ranging interview on ESPN Radio, Morey also disputed reports that Paul has asked to be traded and confirmed that he intends to come to contract terms with head coach Mike D’Antoni. As to an ESPN story that said there’s unrest between All-Stars Harden and Paul, Morey said the frustration stems from a desire to win.

“Two competitive superstars at that level, there’s going to be times when they are extremely competitive, extremely focused on how do we get to that next level, and when we don’t, there’s going to be frustration,” Morey said. “I’m frustrated, our top players are frustrated, Mike D’Antoni is frustrated. We want to take the last step and be the champion, and I think it’s good that there is tension in the sense that we all want to win.”

–The New Orleans Pelicans picked up the 2020-21 option for head coach Alvin Gentry, putting him under contract for the next two seasons.

Gentry, 64, has spent the past four seasons coaching the Pelicans, going 145-183 and leading the team to the second round of the playoffs in 2017-18.

The Pelicans went 33-49 this season. Anthony Davis requested a trade in the middle of the campaign and sat out or had his minutes limited for much of the second half.

–Pelicans forward Julius Randle will opt out of his $9.1 million player option for 2019-20, The Athletic reported.

The 6-foot-9 Randle signed a one-year contract with the Pelicans last summer that included the player option for 2019-20. With his expected opt-out, Randle and the Pelicans could negotiate a new deal, or Randle could pursue another team.

The Pelicans agreed to trade All-NBA star Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for a hefty return of players and draft picks earlier this week. They now have the No. 1 and 4 overall picks in Thursday night’s draft, and they are expected to select Duke’s Zion Williamson with the top pick.

–Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason after the Brooklyn Nets declined to make a qualifying offer, ESPN reported.

Hollis-Jefferson later tweeted: “Brooklynnnnn I Love You.. can’t believe it’s been 4 years ha.. Thank you”

Hollis-Jefferson, 24, averaged 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in four years with the Nets, who acquired him in a draft-night trade after the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the 23rd pick in the 2015 draft. He started 147 of 234 games in Brooklyn, averaging a career-best 13.9 points in 2017-18.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Freshman U.S. Rep. Katie Porter on Monday threw her support behind an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, adding another Democratic lawmaker to those clamoring for the move.

The congresswoman from Irvine, California, announced her decision in a video statement. About 60 other lawmakers support opening an inquiry, a far cry from a majority in the 435-seat House.

Porter said she believes Congress must investigate after special counsel Robert Mueller said he couldn’t exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice in a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and didn’t have the option to indict a sitting president.

“I cannot with a clean conscience ignore my duty to defend the Constitution. I can’t claim to be committed to rooting out corruption and putting people over politics and then not apply those same principles and standards in all of the work I do,” Porter said.

She called out the administration for ignoring subpoenas and directing officials to disregard summons to testify before Congress.

“The administration has refused to respect the rule of law,” Porter said. “The question is not whether a crisis is in our midst but rather whether we choose to fight against it.”

Porter, a consumer protection lawyer and law professor at the University of California, Irvine, was elected last year in one of several contested races that put all the traditionally Republican districts in Orange County under Democratic control amid Trump’s low approval ratings.

But Republicans still outnumber Democrats in her district covering a swath of eastern Orange County and hold a slight edge in the county as a whole. Porter already has a number of Republican challengers seeking her seat in 2020.

Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, called Porter “too far left” for her district and “out of touch.”

“She doesn’t have the support of her district. She doesn’t even have the support of Speaker Pelosi,” Whitaker said.

“Most people think we should accept the Mueller report and move forward,” he said.

In Porter’s district, about 30.8 percent of registered voters are Democrats and 35.7 percent are Republicans, according to the county registrar.

In a May survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, about 38 percent of respondents in Orange and San Diego counties said they approved of the way Trump was handling his job as president.

At a town hall in Orange County earlier this month, Porter said she didn’t seek election to impeach Trump but she felt the refusal to comply with subpoenas was a turning point and wouldn’t refrain from doing so if the time came.

Source: NewsMax Politics

More than a dozen people broke State Department rules in handling former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails, resulting in 23 violations and seven infractions of security protocols, multiple reports stated.

The information came in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who oversees the security review, Fox News reported.

According to the Washington Times, some of the 15 people got write-ups placed in their security files at the department that could affect future attempts to gain security clearances, the department said.

“The department considers and violation of security policies to be a serious matter,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Taylor, assistance secretary for legislative affairs.

The State Department, calling the matter “serious,” said it expected to conclude the investigation by Sept. 1, Fox News reported.

Taylor wrote that disciplinary consequences were pending.

“In every instance in which the Department found an individual to be culpable of a valid security violation or three or more infractions, the Department forwarded the outcome to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/PSS), to be placed in the individuals’ official security file,” Taylor wrote. 

“This referral occurred whether or not the individual was currently employed with the Department of State and such security files are kept indefinitely,” Taylor added. “Consistent with the referral policy, for individuals who were still employed with the Department at the time of adjudication, the Department referred all valid security violations or multiple infractions to the Bureau of Human Resources.”

The State Department declined to release the names of the employees.

Investigations in 2016 found nearly two dozen emails Clinton sent or received contained top secret information, while more than 2,000 others contained classified information, the Washington Times noted.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of Odebrecht is seen inside of one of its offices in Mexico City, Mexico
FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of Odebrecht is seen inside of one of its offices in Mexico City, Mexico May 4, 2017. Picture taken on May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo

June 17, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht SA said it was filing for bankruptcy protection on Monday, aiming to restructure 51 billion reais ($13 billion) of debt in what would be one of Latin America’s largest-ever in-court debt restructurings.

The bankruptcy filing comes after years of struggles for Odebrecht, the biggest of the Brazilian engineering groups caught in a sweeping political corruption investigation that has rippled across Latin America.

In a statement, Odebrecht said the bankruptcy protection was the best way to conclude its debt restructuring as creditors sought to seize assets pledged as collateral for unpaid loans.

The debt restructuring relates to the parent company Odebrecht SA and a network of holding companies.

The group’s main operating businesses are excluded, including Odebrecht’s crown jewel, Braskem SA, Latin America’s largest petrochemical producer. Also excluded are construction unit OEC, oil company Ocyan, shipmaker Enseada, Odebrecht Transport and homebuilder Incorporadora OR.

Sugar and ethanol subsidiary Atvos Agroindustrial Participacoes SA, which already filed for a separate bankruptcy protection, is also excluded from Monday’s filing.

Odebrecht, which had expanded from its construction roots into oil and gas, ethanol, real estate, transportation and even shipbuilding, began its fall from grace in 2014, when it became a principal target of Brazil’s largest-ever corruption probe.

Former chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht, grandson of the founder, was arrested in 2015 and later sentenced to 19 years in jail for corruption. He has been under house arrest since late 2017, barred from having any say in the conglomerate.

In 2016, Odebrecht agreed to the world’s largest-ever corruption leniency fine with prosecutors in Brazil, the United States, and Switzerland, paying at least $3.5 billion. The scandal spread to other Latin American countries where Odebrecht did business, including Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia.

Since then, the group has been selling assets to raise cash as borrowing costs climbed. In recent years, the group sold Brazilian sanitation company Odebrecht Ambiental to Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management for $800 million and Peruvian hydroelectric plant Chaglla to China Three Gorges Corporation for $1.4 billion.

Still, some of the group’s businesses have been forced to restructure debts as their revenues dwindled.

Odebrecht’s construction unit OEC is in talks to restructure $3 billion of debt with bondholders. The company proposed a 70% haircut, which was rejected by its creditors.

After a failed attempt to negotiate an out-of-court solution with its creditors, ethanol unit Atvos filed for bankruptcy protection in May.

Shares in Braskem are pledged as collateral to the group’s largest creditors. Odebrecht had been negotiating a sale of Braskem to LyondellBasell Industries NV for a year and a half, but talks ended with no deal earlier this month.

The conglomerate’s largest creditors are Brazilian state-owned lenders Banco do Brasil SA, Caixa Economica Federal and BNDES, as well as private-sector lenders Banco Bradesco SA, Itaú Unibanco Holding SA and Banco Santander Brasil SA.

The group is being advised by financial restructuring firm RK Partners and law firm E. Munhoz Advogados.

(Reporting by Aluisio Alves, Tatiana Bautzer and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Brad Haynes and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

There are many more questions to be asked about how far the origins of the Russia investigation went to protect 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and how much then-President Barack Obama knew, Rep. Doug Collins said Monday.

“Others were saying no, we will never charge her,” the Georgia Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “We have (former FBI Director James) Comey preparing the exoneration, then you take the same group, everybody who goes into the Russian investigation, exactly the same people. This was not low-level investigating.”

There are still a few weeks left before the Inspector General’s report will be completed, said Collins, and he believes Democrats are “very concerned” about it.

“They know right now that all they have is to paint the president in a bad light,” said Collins. “What they do know is that the report will come out. You are actually taking on American citizens, using a secret court to do this when you have unverified documents.”

He added that he agrees with President Donald Trump’s contention in an interview last week that Obama had to know about the investigation, as it was “much higher up than just these investigators. We see the influence.”

Collins also discussed the escalating situation with Iran, commenting that the only thing the country agrees with is Trump’s strength.

“That was so disheartening, the Iran deal, which I was firmly against from day one,” said Collins. “Now they say they’re going to break the treaty. They were never really abiding by it to start with.”

Collins also on Monday discussed the immigration and border situation, and accused Democrats of using migrants as “pawns.”

“We have issues that need to be fixed,” said Collins. “We need some humanitarian aid there because they’re coming through in droves. We’ve got to fix the incentive for it.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

June 17, 2019

By Susan Mathew and Medha Singh

(Reuters) – European stock markets closed marginally lower on Monday with a profit warning from Germany’s Lufthansa hitting airline stocks, while markets globally awaited clues from the U.S. Federal Reserve on its policy direction.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index finished 0.1% lower. France’s CAC 40 was led higher by luxury stocks, while IT company Indra Sistemas’ 7.1% slip took Spain’s IBEX 35 0.7% lower.

At the U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting starting Tuesday, investors on balance think an interest rate cut is unlikely while many back a shift toward one in July.

A swing in money market pricing toward up-to-three rate cuts by the Fed this year have been at the heart of a recovery for stock markets this month after their worst falls in months in May. [MKTS/GLOB]

“The market seemed to be in a kind of cautious mode because of the Fed meeting. A lot has been priced in,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda.

“There is a much higher chance that the Fed intentionally or unintentionally pours cold water over the expectations,” he said.

The European travel and leisure sector underperformed other major European sectors as Lufthansa plunged 11.6% and kept Germany’s DAX pressured.

The group lowered its profit outlook for the full year 2019, citing price competition from low cost rivals in Europe.

“Lufthansa signaling a weak outlook is hitting all these bigger carriers and that’s definitely one negative element this morning,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) fell 2.2%, while budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair Holdings slipped more than 4% each.

Spain’s Indra Sistemas fell after a media report said is to buy up to 75% of ITP Aero from Rolls Royce for about 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion).

Contributing to CAC 40’s gains, French luxury stocks Kering and LVMH rose more than 1%. Peer Chanel reported higher annual sales and profits on Monday.

Banks had a mixed day.

HSBC rose 0.9% and was among the biggest boosts to STOXX 600 after it announced plans to expand its branch network by around a quarter as it opened a new location in Apple Inc’s home town of Cupertino, California.

Deutsche Bank, which has been cutting back and reorganizing for months, gained 1.4% after the Financial Times reported that the German lender is planning to create a “bad bank” that would house or sell assets valued at up to 50 billion euros.

Meanwhile, Nordea Bank, the Nordic region’s biggest lender, slipped 1.7%. Its Danish headquarters was searched on June 12 by Denmark’s state prosecutor in relation to an ongoing money-laundering investigation into the bank, a Nordea spokesman told Reuters.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel, Medha Singh and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Nordea bank logo is seen outside their corporate headquarters in Stockholm
FILE PHOTO: The Nordea bank logo is seen outside their corporate headquarters in Stockholm February 2, 2011. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo

June 17, 2019

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The Danish headquarters of Nordea was searched last week by Denmark’s state prosecutor in relation to a money-laundering investigation into the bank, a Nordea spokesman told Reuters.

The Danish prosecutor has been investigating the Nordic region’s biggest lender in relation to money laundering risks since June 2016.

Nordea took a 95 million euro provision in April for a possible fine for alleged money laundering.

Both physical, digital documents and e-mails were seized during the search of the building in Copenhagen on June 12, said Danish newspaper Borsen, the first to report the news, citing anonymous sources.

Shares in Nordea fell around 2% after news of the raid broke.

The prosecutor declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

The search was regarding “the combat of money laundering in relation to past customers in the International Branch,” Nordea said in a statement.

“We fully cooperate with the prosecutors to ensure that they have access to all relevant information,” said Frank Vang-Jensen, head of Nordea in Denmark.

Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest lender, has been embroiled in a massive money laundering scandal at its Estonian branch that has sent ripples across the Nordic banking sector.

(Reporting by Jacob Grønholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Keith Weir)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Spanish bank BBVA are seen in Madrid
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Spanish bank BBVA are seen in Madrid, Spain, June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

June 17, 2019

MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish bank BBVA must look closely at accusations against its former chairman Francisco Gonzalez to avoid potential costs to its reputation, Bank of Spain Governor Pablo Hernandez de Cos said on Monday.

Spanish authorities are investigating contracts with a jailed ex-police chief Jose Manuel Villarejo, whom news reports said was hired by BBVA in 2004 to spy on top executives of a potential buyer, construction company Sacyr.

“Our message remains the same; it’s important that lender looks at this matter deeply and quickly in order to mitigate potential costs to its reputation,” de Cos said during a conference in Santander.

In March, Gonzalez said he would temporarily step down as honorary chairman to avoid any harm to the bank’s reputation during the inquiry.

Current chairman Carlos Torres told the same conference that the bank was cooperating closely with the judicial inquiry as well as conducting their own investigation into the matter.

The bank has acknowledged that it hired Grupo Cenyt, a security firm owned by ex-police chief Villarejo, who was arrested in 2017 as part of a separate investigation and remains in prison.

Torres, who replaced Gonzalez in January, has said that Cenyt provided various services to BBVA but the bank had found no evidence of spying.

(Reporting by Jesus Aguado; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Ingrid Melander)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A high-quality diamond is seen in a jewellery shop in Milan
FILE PHOTO: A high-quality diamond is seen in a jewellery shop in Milan, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

June 17, 2019

By Emilio Parodi and Maria Pia Quaglia

MILAN (Reuters) – (Please note strong language in paragraph 38.)

A long-running criminal probe into diamond sales by Italian banks has uncovered what prosecutors say is further evidence of corruption by officials at UniCredit, Italy’s largest lender, and smaller rival Banco BPM.

The allegations, some previously unreported, are laid out in documents used by prosecutors when they sought a magistrate’s order seizing assets from the banks and two diamond brokers. Reuters viewed the documents, which also included excerpts of wire taps and witness statements.

The allegations relate to suspected crimes and do not necessarily mean that prosecutors will charge the companies and their employees when their investigation, which has been running since 2016, is concluded.

The number of bank officials under suspicion, and the allegations they may face if they are charged, however, are widening.

In a new development, officials from UniCredit and Banco BPM are also suspected of corruption because broker Intermarket Diamond Business (IDB) invested some of its profits from the diamond sales in the banks’ shares, according to evidence gathered by prosecutors.

In addition to UniCredit and Banco BPM, Intesa Sanpaolo and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siene are also under investigation.

In February, magistrates guiding the probe ordered the seizure of more than 700 million euros in assets from the two brokers and five banks.

UniCredit said in a statement to Reuters it was cooperating closely with authorities and its policy was not to comment on an ongoing investigation. It would “continue to offer appropriate customer care services to its affected clients”.

Lawyers for Banco BPM, Banca Aletti, Intesa Sanpaolo and IDB did not respond to requests for comment. Monte dei Paschi’s lawyers declined to comment.

In a long-running scandal in a sector already tarnished by controversy, Italy’s biggest banks are suspected of colluding with diamond brokers to scam their own customers — allegedly selling them diamonds at vastly inflated prices while marketing them as sound financial investments.

All of the banks, along with a Banco BPM subsidiary, Banca Aletti, are suspected of fraud and money-laundering for using the proceeds to boost profits, according to allegations laid out in the documents used for the seizure order.

Prosecutors also allege that UniCredit and Banco BPM worked out a deal with IDB where, in return for the banks selling IDB’s diamonds, the broker would channel money into their stock, boosting their share capital at a time when it was under pressure from a rising tide of bad debts.

Under Italian law it is deemed to be corruption when one party abuses its commercial position to induce the counterparty to provide it with favors — in this case, the alleged purchase of shares. The IDB officials involved are also under investigation.

According to a criminal lawyer when asked by Reuters, under Italian law, if the banks are charged and convicted, they could be fined millions of euros, risk forfeiting the total of 161 million euros seized from them in February and could even be temporarily suspended from operating by court order.

They could also be ordered to pay compensation to victims, with sums to be decided by a civil court.

More than 100,000 people are estimated to have bought diamonds at Italian banks over the last 20 years, judicial sources say.

A GUN TO THE HEAD

Banks have been selling diamonds on behalf of brokers in Italy since the 1980s but they ramped up the business after the global financial crisis, according to prosecutors, when a deep recession left them saddled with soured loans and looking for alternative revenue sources.

Banco BPM, Italy’s third-largest bank, was known as Banco Popolare in 2016 when it was looking to raise capital to fund its merger with Banca Popolare di Milano.

In a telephone conversation in early June 2016, a transcript of which was seen by Reuters, the former CEO of IDB complained that Banco Popolare was insisting he invest in the bank’s shares.

“Given we decided more or less voluntarily to subscribe in a very substantial way to Banco Popolare’s capital increase, they arrived with a 9-milimetre and they pointed it at my forehead and told me, ‘sign here’,” Claudio Giacobazzi said in a call to his financial adviser in 2016.

Giacobazzi died last year. IDB went bankrupt in January and is in liquidation.

IDB invested more than 7 million euros in shares and share options in UniCredit in 2012, and a total of more than 950,000 euros in Banco Popolare shares in 2014 and 2016, according to the February order authorizing the seizure of the banks’ assets. Reuters reviewed a copy of the order.

Banco BPM profited the most from diamond sales, netting around 85 million euros, including the Banca Aletti business, between 2012 and 2016 — more than all the income earned by the other three banks combined, according to the order. Banco BPM also charged the biggest commissions, up to 24.5%, they show.

Milan prosecutors believe the banks teamed up with brokers to sell the stones in blister packs to bank customers, often at more than double their market value, making tens of millions of euros each in commissions. Their partners IDB and another broker Diamond Private Investment (DPI), made hundreds of millions each.

A lawyer for DPI declined to comment on what he called an ongoing preliminary investigation.

Prosecutors believe staff from UniCredit, Banco BPM and Monte dei Paschi accepted gifts including hotel stays and antiquities from brokers as sales incentives.

Italian state television channel Rai3 first reported the alleged mis-selling in late 2016.

Currently, 68 banking and brokerage officials are under investigation, as well as the banks themselves, but more individuals are expected to be investigated before the probe concludes within a few months, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Prosecutors have received lawsuits from more than 450 alleged victims, one of the sources said.

Italy’s antitrust authority fined the banks and brokers a total of 15 million euros in 2017 for selling the stones at inflated prices.

Since then, the banks have begun to compensate customers. All except Banco BPM have offered to buy back diamonds at the purchase price. Banco BPM said last month it would compensate clients for their losses but leave them with the stones. In April, it said it had received 18,400 claims for compensation.

CRAZY STUFF

Investigators allege the banks and the diamond brokers made the diamonds look like a safe investment.

Customers who queried the price they were paying were referred to inflated diamond prices listed in Italy’s main financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore. The listings, which were assumed by clients to be official market quotes, were in fact ads placed by the brokers, prosecutors say.

A spokeswoman for the newspaper declined to comment.

One Banca Aletti brochure distributed to its clients describes diamonds as a “good refuge” over the medium and long term, forecasting returns of 50-80 percent above inflation.

In one phone tap in May 2017, a planning and marketing executive for parent bank Banco BPM, Pietro Gaspardo, discusses the brochure with BPM director general Maurizio Faroni.

    “The things written inside are amazing. Amazing! Amazing!” Gaspardo tells Faroni. “Expected returns … crazy stuff. There are things written there that are really madness.

“I’m not thinking of myself now but for the bank. That stuff there will screw us up the arse totally. To make an investment and not sell it as a jewel, with expected return — shit!”

Gaspardo’s lawyer, Maurizio Miculan, said his client’s comments show his innocence because he was clearly surprised at what he found in the brochure.

Faroni’s lawyer declined to comment.

When customers wanted to cash in the diamonds, they would resell the stones back via the banks to the brokers. The lenders made commissions of 12-24.5% on selling the diamonds and the brokers made commissions of 7-16% on buying them back, according to the judicial order that authorized the February asset seizures.

One of those clients was Gabriele Moggi who spent around 33,000 euros — most of an early-retirement payoff from the Italian Air Force — on diamonds in 2016 on the advice of his bank, a unit of Banco Popolare. He had them independently valued six months later for around 8,000 euros.

Moggi told Reuters he eventually settled with the bank in January this year for compensation of 15,000 euros, leaving him with the stones and a net 10,000 euros loss.

“I was asking for 20,000,” said Moggi who was fed up and wanted out. “In the end I accepted 15,000 euros because there was no other way to get out of it.”

A spokeswoman for Banco BPM said the bank couldn’t comment on individual cases.

(Editing by Mark Bendeich and Carmel Crimmins)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: 30th anniversary of the crackdown of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: Thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 30th anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy movement at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

June 17, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – More than 20 Chinese activists who took part in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement called on Monday on the United Nations’ top human rights body to investigate Beijing’s deadly crackdown 30 years ago.

Wang Dan and 21 others, backed by the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said they had submitted the complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a Geneva forum which opens a three-week session on June 24.

“We request the HRC investigate the gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Chinese government during its military assault on peaceful protests,” they said in statement.

They also sought action over “the consistent pattern of human rights violations in persecuting Chinese citizens during the past three decades who broke the silence” about the events of June 3-4, 1989.

The anniversary remains taboo in China. Beijing has not held a public inquiry nor permitted an independent investigation, the statement said.

Beijing enjoys strong support among developing countries at the Human Rights Council, a 47-member state forum that has never adopted a resolution on China since being set up in 2006.

A Council spokesman was not in a position to provide any information, noting that communications lodged via the complaint procedure were confidential.

“The massacre 30 years ago has not ended yet. The Chinese government even determined that the victims were criminals and a large number of exiles are still deprived of their right to return to their own country,” said Wang, who lives in the United States.

China has never provided a death toll for the 1989 violence, but rights groups and witnesses say it could run into the thousands.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet)

Source: OANN

Russian journalist Golunov walks out of an office of criminal investigations in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Russian journalist Ivan Golunov, who was freed from house arrest after police abruptly dropped drugs charges against him, speaks with the media near an office of criminal investigations in Moscow, Russia June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

June 16, 2019

By Polina Ivanova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Several hundred protesters gathered in Moscow on Sunday in a small, government-authorized rally supporting investigative journalist Ivan Golunov and decrying abuse of power over his five-day arrest this month on drug charges.

The 36-year-old reporter, known for exposing corruption among Moscow officials, was freed following an outcry by supporters who said he was framed by corrupt police.

Journalists critical of Russian authorities have led a dangerous existence since the 1990s – sometimes threatened, attacked or even murdered over their work – but Golunov’s case triggered an unusually strong backlash.

An unsanctioned rally on June 12, the day after he was released, led to more than 500 detentions, including opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

But Sunday’s event was given the go-ahead, raising questions over whether President Vladimir Putin’s government was trying to provide a safety valve for public anger.

The rally, called by the Russian Union of Journalists and named “Justice and Fairness to Everyone”, had drawn a few hundred people by early afternoon, a Reuters witness said. State news agency TASS cited police saying around 1,600 were there.

Computer programmer Sergey, 28, said he was attending in the hope the protest would help stop others having drugs planted on them as he believes happened to Golunov. “Someone has to (protest),” he said, noting the small number at the rally.

Other demonstrators drew attention to detentions of regional journalists. “Moscow, Golunov is free. What about the others?” one of the banners read.

Putin fired two police generals over the case on Thursday, and other officers involved have been suspended pending an investigation.

Golunov was invited to Sunday’s event but did not turn up.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Source: OANN

An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman
FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, June 13, 2019. ISNA/Handout via REUTERS

June 16, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – The two oil tankers crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran are being assessed off the coast off the United Arab Emirates before their cargos are unloaded, the ships’ operators said on Sunday.

Damage assessment on Japan’s Kokuka Courageous and preparation for ship-to-ship transfer of its methanol cargo would start after authorities in Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, complete security checks, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said.

Thursday’s attacks, which also hit Norwegian tanker Front Altair, have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States and its Gulf allies after similar blasts in May struck four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE.

Foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday Britain was “almost certain” Iran was behind attacks, adding that London did not believe anyone else could have done it.

Tehran has denied any involvement in the attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for global oil supplies.

The Front Altair is sitting off the coast of Sharjah’s Khorfakkan port while the Kokuka Courageous is anchored closer to shore off the emirate’s Kalba port, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data.

“Our crew remain on board the Kokuka Courageous. They are safe and well,” Bernhard Schulte said in a statement.

The Kokuka Courageous’s 21 crew members were returned to the vessel by the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet after being rescued.

The crew of the Front Altair, who had been picked up by Iranian boats, departed Iran from Bandar Abbas airport to Dubai International Airport on Saturday, the ship’s operator Frontline said.

A specialist team will inspect the Front Altair before deciding on how to unload its naphtha cargo. Frontline said on Sunday there had been no reported marine pollution.

The ship is now being towed toward the offshore part of Fujairah emirate, the company said.

FINGER POINTED AT IRAN

It was not clear who would take part in assessing damage to the tankers. After the May 12 attacks, in which a Norwegian-registered tanker was also hit, the UAE launched an investigation in cooperation with the United States, Saudi Arabia, Norway and France, which has a naval base in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE has said the probe shows that a state actor was behind last month’s operation, without naming a country, and that naval mines were most likely used.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have directly blamed Iran for both last week’s and last month’s ship attacks. The kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Saturday called on the international community to take a “decisive stand” but said Riyadh does not want a war.

The attacks have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region where the United States has boosted its military presence over perceived Iranian threats.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran heightened after the United States last year quit a 2015 international nuclear pact with Iran and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in several proxy wars in the Middle East, including in Yemen where the Iran-aligned Houthi movement has claimed drone strikes on oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia last month and a missile attack which hit a civilian airport in the south of the kingdom last week.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous/Keith Weir)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Algerian Prime Minister Ouyahia awaits arrival of French President Macron at Houari Boumediene airport in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia at Houari Boumediene airport in Algiers, Algeria December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

June 16, 2019

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algerian former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia appeared in a court in Algiers on Sunday to be questioned over alleged corruption involving the partner in Algeria of Germany’s Volkswagen, state TV said.

This is the second time Ouyahia has been questioned since the Supreme Court last week ordered his detention as part of another investigation into alleged corruption.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Algerian Prime Minister Ouyahia awaits arrival of French President Macron at Houari Boumediene airport in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia at Houari Boumediene airport in Algiers, Algeria December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

June 16, 2019

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algerian former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia appeared in a court in Algiers on Sunday to be questioned over alleged corruption involving the partner in Algeria of Germany’s Volkswagen, state TV said.

This is the second time Ouyahia has been questioned since the Supreme Court last week ordered his detention as part of another investigation into alleged corruption.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source: OANN

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country's rightful interim ruler, greets supporters after delivering a speech, in Merida
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country’s rightful interim ruler, greets supporters after delivering a speech, in Merida, Venezuela June 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

June 15, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Saturday called for an investigation into claims his representatives misappropriated funds intended to help defectors from the Venezuelan military living in Colombia.

More than 1,400 members of Venezuela’s armed forces have fled to Colombia this year, heeding Guaido’s call to disavow socialist President Nicolas Maduro. They began arriving in late February, as Maduro’s troops at the border with Colombia drove back convoys of humanitarian aid requested by Guaido.

Latin American news outlet PanAm Post on Friday reported that representatives of Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, used funds intended to pay for the cost of the troops’ hotels in the Colombian border city of Cucuta for personal purchases. [https://tinyurl.com/y6qgdeka]

“We will investigate this deeply,” Guaido said during a speech to supporters in the mountainous Venezuelan state of Merida. “Every cent of public funds should be sacred, and that is something we have to learn as a society.”

Guaido in January invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has since been recognized as the country’s legitimate leader by most Western and Latin American countries, including Colombia and the United States.

The opposition and its allies abroad say Maduro is a corrupt dictator who, along with other senior officials, has grown rich as Venezuela’s economy collapsed in recent years, prompting millions to emigrate. Maduro calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.

“We request that the relevant jurisdiction investigate and clear up these serious charges,” Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, wrote on Twitter on Friday, linking to the PanAm Post article. “Democraticization is not possible under the opacity of corrupt acts.”

Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a Friday tweet that the Maduro government had previously “denounced a gigantic corruption scheme of Guaido’s with money sent to Cucuta to recruit hitmen.”

In a statement, Guaido’s office said he had requested Colombian authorities’ help with the investigation.

“We condemn any possible act of corruption by Venezuelan citizens in the management of resources to pay for the lodging of troops who arrived in Colombia,” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said on Twitter, calling on “relevant authorities” to investigate.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Luc Cohen; Additional reporting by Helen Murphy in Bogota; editing by Diane Craft)

Source: OANN

A senior Democrat on a congressional panel seeking President Donald Trump’s tax returns warned on Saturday that the current Congress may not see the long-sought tax documents without launching an impeachment inquiry.

Representative Lloyd Doggett, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, were slow to request Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service and now need to push back forcefully against Trump’s refusal to turn over the returns.

“Because this request was delayed until April and no legal action has yet been filed to get the returns, it is certain we won’t get them this year and perhaps (will face) some challenge to even get them with favorable expedited rulings by the time this Congress ends,” Doggett, who chairs the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, told CNN.

“That and the total obstruction by Trump have convinced me that we need to institute an impeachment inquiry,” the Texas Democrat said. “I just think we need a thorough investigation and a strong pushback immediately to a president who believes he’s above the law.”

The current Congress is due to end in January 2021.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal requested six years of Trump’s individual and business tax returns on April 3, under a federal law that says the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” such documents if requested by a lawmaker who holds in Neal’s position. He later subpoenaed the returns.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the subpoena. On Friday, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion saying the secretary was on solid ground for doing so.

Neal has said he is likely to sue in federal court to enforce the subpoena and obtain the returns. But he has taken no such action.

Democrats want Trump’s returns as part of their inquiry into possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves as president.

Trump has broken with a decades-old precedent among recent U.S. presidents by refusing to release his tax returns while a presidential candidate in 2016 or since being elected, saying he could not do so while his taxes were being audited.

Numerous tax experts have said an audit should not be an obstacle to disclosing his returns.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump hosts healthcare event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for an event on healthcare coverage options for small businesses and workers in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

June 15, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Democrat on a congressional panel seeking President Donald Trump’s tax returns warned on Saturday that the current Congress may not see the long-sought tax documents without launching an impeachment inquiry.

Representative Lloyd Doggett, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, were slow to request Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service and now need to push back forcefully against Trump’s refusal to turn over the returns.

“Because this request was delayed until April and no legal action has yet been filed to get the returns, it is certain we won’t get them this year and perhaps (will face) some challenge to even get them with favorable expedited rulings by the time this Congress ends,” Doggett, who chairs the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, told CNN.

“That and the total obstruction by Trump have convinced me that we need to institute an impeachment inquiry,” the Texas Democrat said. “I just think we need a thorough investigation and a strong pushback immediately to a president who believes he’s above the law.”

The current Congress is due to end in January 2021.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal requested six years of Trump’s individual and business tax returns on April 3, under a federal law that says the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” such documents if requested by a lawmaker who holds in Neal’s position. He later subpoenaed the returns.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the subpoena. On Friday, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion saying the secretary was on solid ground for doing so.

Neal has said he is likely to sue in federal court to enforce the subpoena and obtain the returns. But he has taken no such action.

Democrats want Trump’s returns as part of their inquiry into possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves as president.

Trump has broken with a decades-old precedent among recent U.S. presidents by refusing to release his tax returns while a presidential candidate in 2016 or since being elected, saying he could not do so while his taxes were being audited.

Numerous tax experts have said an audit should not be an obstacle to disclosing his returns.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Source: OANN

An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman
FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, June 13, 2019. ISNA/Handout via REUTERS

June 15, 2019

By Asma Alsharif

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia called for swift action to secure Gulf energy supplies, after the United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in a vital oil shipping route that have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region.

Thursday’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman exacerbated the antagonistic fallout from similar blasts in May that crippled four vessels. Washington, already embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, has blamed Tehran.

Iran has denied any role in the strikes on the tankers south of the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for oil from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and other Gulf producers.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said “there must be a rapid and decisive response to the threat” to energy supplies, market stability and consumer confidence after the attacks in the Gulf area, the Saudi Energy Ministry reported on Twitter.

The U.S. military released a video on Thursday, saying it showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the explosions that damaged the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous.

“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News on Friday.

The United States has tightened sanctions on Iran since Washington withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and global powers last year. Washington’s stated aim is to drive Iranian oil exports, the mainstay of its economy, to zero.

Tehran has said that if its oil exports were halted, it could block the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel of water separating Iran and Oman through which a fifth of the oil consumed globally passes.

ENERGY SECURITY

Oil prices have climbed 3.4% since Thursday’s attacks. Ship insurers said insurance costs for ships sailing through the Middle East have jumped by at least 10%.

“The kingdom is committed to ensuring stability of global oil markets,” the Saudi energy minister said in Japan at a meeting of energy ministers from the G20 group of nations.

Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said ministers agreed on the need to “work together to deal with the recent incidents from (an) energy security point of view.”

Trump, who pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal under which world powers agreed to ease international sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear work, said any move to close the Strait of Hormuz would not last long.

He also said he was open to holding talks with Iran, although Tehran said it had no plans to negotiate with the United States unless it reversed a decision on the nuclear deal.

Tehran and Washington have both said they have no interest in a war. But this has done little to assuage concerns that the arch foes could stumble into conflict.

A U.S. official told Reuters a surface-to-air missile was fired from Iranian territory on Thursday morning at a U.S. drone that was near Front Altair following the attack on the tanker. The missile did not hit the drone, the official said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the United States was “planning various contingencies” when asked if more military forces would be sent to the area, but added that the focus was on building an international consensus.

“We also need to broaden our support for this international situation,” he told reporters.

RESTRAINT

As well as blaming Iran for the tanker attacks, Washington has also said Tehran was behind May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations. Tehran has denied all those charges.

Britain has backed the United States in blaming Iran for the tanker attacks. On Saturday, Iran summoned the British ambassador to complain about its “unacceptable stance,” ISNA news agency reported.

Other nations have urged caution. Germany said the video was not enough to prove Iran’s role, while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation to determine responsibility.

China and the European Union called for restraint.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani renewed Iran’s threat to continue scaling back compliance with the nuclear deal unless other signatories to the pact show “positive signals”.

He did not specify what Iran wanted in his comments to a meeting of Asian leaders in Tajikistan.

France and other European signatories to the nuclear deal, have said they wanted to save the accord, but many of their companies have canceled deals with Tehran, under pressure from the United States.

(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia, Nazarali Pirnazarov in Dushanbe, Yuka Obayashi in Karuizawa; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Justice Minister Sergio Moro speaks during a session of the Public Security commission at the National Congress in Brasilia
FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s Justice Minister Sergio Moro speaks during a session of the Public Security commission at the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

June 15, 2019

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Leaked personal messages published on Saturday by a news website show the judge who led the corruption trial that jailed former Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva advised prosecutors to influence public opinion against the leftist leader.

The Intercept posted what it said were social media chats from then judge Sergio Moro to the prosecution team, suggesting prosecutors make a public statement playing up what Moro said were contradictions in Lula’s testimony to undermine his claim to be a victim of political persecution.

The exchange occurred after Lula’s May 10, 2017 deposition against charges that he took a beachside luxury apartment as a bribe. Lula left the court room to tell supporters that he was being “massacred” and was preparing to run for president again.

Moro, who is now Brazil’s justice minister, questioned the authenticity of the messages and said he would not comment on texts obtained by hackers.

“The supposed material, obtained in a criminal way, must be presented to an independent authority so that its integrity can be certified,” he said in a statement.

The texts copied off the Telegram messaging app appear to show Moro suggesting to prosecutors that they mount a public campaign against the man he was judging, and The Intercept said they raised doubts about Moro’s impartiality in the trial that led to a 12-year prison sentence for Lula.

“Maybe tomorrow you should write a statement clarifying the contradictions between (Lula’s) deposition and the rest of the proof and his previous statement,” the judge wrote to prosecutor Carlos dos Santos Lima on the corruption investigation.

Lula’s lawyers have long argued that Moro was a politically motivated judge who wanted to jail their client to block him from running for the presidency last year, when opinion polls showed him easily leading the race, even after he had been jailed.

In an interview published on Friday, Moro told the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper that he was not worried that the corruption conviction against Lula would be overturned, which legal experts including the Brazilian Bar Association and some Supreme Court Justices have said could happen.

The Intercept has published stories based on what it said was an “enormous trove” of messages received from an anonymous source containing exchanges between prosecutors, Moro and others involved in the investigation and prosecution of the “Car Wash” corruption probe.

Considered the world’s largest graft investigation, it has uncovered billions of dollars of bribes paid in schemes mostly involving sweetheart contracts at state-run firms. It has brought down hundreds of members of the business and political elite in Brazil and across Latin America.

Moro told the newspaper he did not think there was anything illegal in his chats with prosecutors and insisted that Lula’s case “was decided with absolute impartiality based on proof without any type of influence.”

Moro was picked for justice minister by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who won the presidency after Lula was barred from running because of his conviction.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Logo is pictured outside the WTO headquarters in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters next to a red traffic light in Geneva, Switzerland, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

June 15, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The Brazilian government has formally asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to open a panel to investigate Indonesian policies on Brazil’s poultry exports, the Agriculture Ministry said on Friday.

Brazil won a case against Indonesia at the WTO in 2017, but the South American country argues that the WTO decision was never implemented by Indonesia, which continues to block any chicken imports from Brazilian companies.

Brazil is not allowed to export poultry to Indonesia because it lacks an international sanitary certification that needs to be issued by the Islamic country’s government.

In a statement, the Agriculture Ministry said a team of inspectors from Indonesia visited meat processing plants in Brazil last year, but has yet to release any documentation on the inspections.

“WTO rules say a country can not delay indefinitely the issuance of the sanitary authorization,” the ministry said, adding that the Indonesian government has never identified any reason for not doing so.

Brazil, the world’s largest poultry exporter, said its request for a panel will be evaluated by WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body in a meeting scheduled for June 24.

(Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; editing by Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

The Department of Justice said Friday the Treasury Department was correct by not providing lawmakers with President Donald Trump’s tax returns because doing so would have violated federal law.

In a memorandum, Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel wrote to the Treasury that the House Ways and Means Committee was not entitled to see Trump’s returns.

Federal law “protecting confidentiality of tax returns prohibited the Department of the Treasury from complying with a request by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for the president’s tax returns,” Engel wrote.

Engel leads the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, a group within the department that offers legal opinions.

“While the Executive Branch should accord due deference and respect to congressional requests, Treasury was not obliged to accept the committee’s stated purpose without question, and based on all the facts and circumstances, we agreed that the committee lacked a legitimate legislative purpose for its request,” Engel wrote.

The original request came from committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. Democrats are trying to take a close look at Trump’s background as they seek to determine whether he has broken the law.

Trump was cleared of conspiring with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election, while Attorney General William Barr said there was insufficient evidence to pursue a case involving obstruction of justice against Trump. Still, some Democrats believe Trump tried to obstruct the nearly two-year Russia investigation.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the defense of President Donald Trump in a new interview, saying Democrats constantly harp on him for everything he says and does.

The Kentucky Republican was on Fox News Thursday night and was asked about the Democratic backlash to Trump’s recent remark that he might accept opposition research from a foreign government — and may or may not go to the FBI with it.

“I said weeks ago, ‘case closed.’ We got the Mueller report, the only objective evaluation that will be conducted. Nobody has any confidence that the Democratic House is gonna engage in any kind of appropriate oversight,” McConnell said.

“The case is closed. Why don’t we move on and solve the border crisis and approve the president’s USMCA, the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada? We have work to do.”

Host Laura Ingraham then pressed McConnell to say whether Trump was out of line in his earlier comments.

“He gets picked at every day over every different aspect of it,” McConnell said. “But the fundamental point is they’re trying to keep the 2016 election alive and the investigation alive, when the American people have heard enough.

“I would ask the Democrats in the House this: Is there anything you’re willing to other than harass the president for the next two years? Anything at all?”

Democrats are constantly feuding with Trump and have vowed to continue investigating him in the wake of the Mueller report. Some members of the party are even calling for him to be impeached.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Tibor Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, speaks during a news conference on the case of Sudan, in the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa
FILE PHOTO: Tibor Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, speaks during a news conference on the case of Sudan, in the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

June 14, 2019

By Aidan Lewis

CAIRO (Reuters) – Outside mediation is needed to defuse Sudan’s crisis because the ruling military council and opposition distrust each other too deeply for direct talks following a deadly raid on a protest camp, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa said on Friday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Tibor Nagy also said he had met victims of the June 3 raid during a visit this week to Khartoum and he described their accounts as “harrowing”.

The raid, in which opposition-linked doctors say more than 100 people were killed, led to the collapse of stalled talks over a political transition toward elections and civilian rule following the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April.

The military ousted and arrested Bashir after 16 weeks of protests, setting up a transitional council and entering talks with an alliance of protest and opposition groups that then stalled over who would lead a three-year transition.

Nagy, speaking in a telephone briefing from Addis Ababa, said Washington’s newly named envoy to Sudan, veteran diplomat Donald Booth, would focus on supporting mediation efforts led by the African Union and IGAD, an African trade bloc.

“Why mediation, why not direction negotiation between the parties? The two parties absolutely do not trust each other in any way,” Nagy said.

While in Khartoum, Nagy met opposition groups and civil society as well as military council head Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“FRANK” EXCHANGE

The conversation with Burhan “was about as frank and direct as possible … it was quite an exchange of views and obviously we did not agree on some of the key points,” Nagy said.

“From our point of view we mentioned that the events of June 3 constituted a 180 degree turn in the way events were going, with murder, rape, pillaging by members of the security forces.”

Washington believes there has to be an investigation into the incident that is “independent and credible”, he said.

“We spoke to some of the victims, including an American citizen who was shot, and those accounts were harrowing and very persuasive.”

The Sudanese government has confirmed 61 deaths in the sit-in raid.

Shams El Din Kabbashi, the military council spokesman, said on Thursday there had been excesses and deviations from a plan devised after the council ordered military leaders to clear the sit-in.

Some officers have been arrested in connection with the raid and the results of an investigation will be announced on Saturday, he said.

Stability in Sudan, which has been grappling with an economic crisis, is seen as crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.

Wealthy Gulf states are among the foreign powers trying to influence the path of the nation of 40 million.

The United States imposed sanctions on Sudan under Bashir which were largely lifted in 2017. But Sudan remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, preventing it from accessing badly needed funding from international lenders.

(Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Malaysian air crash investigator inspects crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near Hrabove
FILE PHOTO: A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo

June 14, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Investigators will next week announce criminal proceedings against suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 five years ago, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists, two leading Dutch broadcasters reported on Friday.

MH17 was shot out of the sky over territory held by separatists in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board.

About two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch.

Dutch prosecutors said on Friday a multi-national investigation team would present its latest findings to media and families on June 19. A spokesman for the national Dutch prosecution service declined to specify what would be announced.

Citing anonymous sources, broadcaster RTL reported that the public prosecution service had decided to launch a case against several MH17 suspects.

National public broadcaster NOS also reported that criminal proceedings will be announced against individual suspects.

No suspects were named in the reports.

The Joint Investigation Team, which seeks to try the suspects under Dutch law, has said the missile system came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

Investigators had said their next step would be to identify individual culprits and to attempt to put them on trial.

Dutch officials have said Russia has refused to cooperate.

Russia is not expected to surrender any potential suspects who may be on its territory and authorities have said individuals could be tried in absentia.

The Joint Investigation Team was formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine to investigate collaboratively.

The Netherlands and Australia, which lost 38 people, hold Russia legally responsible. Moscow denies all involvement and maintains that it does not support, financially or with equipment, pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Members of emergency services work at the scene of an incident involving an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport
FILE PHOTO: Members of emergency services and investigators work at the scene of an incident involving an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Russia May 6, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

June 14, 2019

By Andrew Osborn and Polina Ivanova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Lightning struck a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft knocking out its auto pilot system shortly before it crash landed in Moscow last month killing 41 people, investigators said on Friday, adding it had approached too fast and been too heavy.

The Russian Aeroflot passenger plane, which had been flying from Moscow to the northern Russian city of Murmansk, caught fire as it made a bumpy emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremtyevo airport on May 5.

The plane, which was carrying 73 passengers and five crew members, hit the runway hard and bounced along the tarmac, with the fuselage quickly becoming engulfed in a fireball.

Some passengers and crew were able to escape by using emergency chutes, but others could not get out, despite the arrival of fire crews at the scene.

The investigation into the crash is being closely watched as the Superjet was the first new passenger jet developed in Russia since the Soviet Union collapsed. Its reputation is now on the line with signs of nervousness emerging after the crash among passengers and operators.

Investigators on Friday did not name a single cause of the crash, the second deadly accident involving the Superjet in nine years of service, saying they needed more time to carry out experiments and would be issuing a final report at a later date.

But the preliminary report, from the Interstate Aviation Committee which investigates plane crashes in Russia, presented for the first time a detailed reconstruction of what happened, highlighting several important moments.

“Holy Christ!” one of the crew members exclaimed after lightning struck the plane setting off an alarm and turning off its auto pilot system, the report said.

A short while later, the communications system went down, it said, forcing the crew to switch to an emergency frequency to communicate with air traffic control.

Initially and despite those problems, investigators said the crew appeared to believe that there was nothing to worry about, but told air traffic control that they were returning to the airport anyway.

However, when the plane came into land it was overweight, they added, and traveling too fast, and its approach was sometimes erratic.

Despite those observations, investigators did not name pilot error as the cause of the crash, saying the way the plane had been flown was similar to how other pilots flew it routinely.

Russian investigators have opened a criminal investigation into the crash and are looking into various versions, including technical failure, human error, and bad weather conditions.

It was unclear when a final report into the crash would be issued.

(Writing by Christian Lowe and Andrew Osborn; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Andrew Cawthorne and Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Ellen Weintraub, who chairs the Federal Election Commission, said she wants to make it clear that foreign assistance is illegal in U.S. elections.

In a Thursday evening tweet, Weintraub wrote: “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.”

And in a statement attached to the tweet, she added: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.

“Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation. Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation.”

And she warned: “Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Her comments came after President Donald Trump said that if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call the FBI.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Ellen Weintraub, who chairs the Federal Election Commission, said she wants to make it clear that foreign assistance is illegal in U.S. elections.

In a Thursday evening tweet, Weintraub wrote: “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.”

And in a statement attached to the tweet, she added: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.

“Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation. Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation.”

And she warned: “Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Her comments came after President Donald Trump said that if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call the FBI.

Source: NewsMax Politics

The Wider Image: They fled Venezuela's crisis by boat - then vanished
A taxi driver waits for customers outside a taxi firm in El Tigre, Venezuela, June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

June 14, 2019

By Angus Berwick

GUIRIA, Venezuela (Reuters) – A taxi dropped Maroly Bastardo and her two small children by a cemetery not far from the shore in northeast Venezuela. She still had time to change her mind.

Eight months pregnant, Bastardo faced forbidding choices in a nation whose economy has collapsed. Give birth in Venezuela, where newborns are dying at alarming rates in shortage-plagued maternity wards. Or board a crowded smuggler’s boat bound for Trinidad, the largest of two islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Her husband, Kennier Berra, had landed there in February, found work and beckoned her to join him.

Bastardo’s mother, Carolina, begged her to stay.

Neither Bastardo or her children could swim. Barely three weeks earlier, 27 people had gone missing after a migrant boat went down in the narrow stretch of water separating Venezuela from Trinidad. The 20-kilometer strait, known for its treacherous currents, is nicknamed the Dragon’s Mouths.

But the 19-year old hairdresser was determined. On May 16, she and the kids packed into an aging fishing vessel along with 31 other people, including three relatives of her husband. They snapped cellphone photos from the shore near the port town of Guiria, where thousands of Venezuelans have departed in recent years, and messaged loved ones goodbye.

The craft, the Ana Maria, never arrived. No migrants or wreckage have been found.

A man believed to be the boat’s pilot, a 25-year-old Venezuelan named Alberto Abreu, was plucked from the sea on May 17 by a fisherman and taken to nearby Grenada. Abreu told his rescuer the Ana Maria had sunk the night before. He fled before police could complete their investigation, Grenadian authorities said, and hasn’t been spotted since.

Bastardo’s anguished mother, Carolina, clings to hope that perhaps a lesser tragedy has befallen her daughter and grandchildren. She prays smugglers are holding them hostage to extract more money, and that any day now she will get the ransom call.

“My heart tells me they are alive,” Carolina said. “But it’s a torture.”

The disappearance of Bastardo, five relatives and her unborn child underscores the ever-more perilous lengths Venezuelans are taking to escape a nation in freefall.

Years of economic mismanagement by the socialist government have crippled the oil-rich nation with hyperinflation, shortages and misery. An estimated 4 million people – about 12% of the populace – have fled the South American country in just the last five years.

The vast majority have traveled overland to neighboring Colombia and Brazil. But in images reminiscent of desperate Cubans fleeing their homeland in decades past, Venezuelans increasingly are taking to the sea in rickety boats.

Prime destinations are the nearby islands of Aruba, Curacao, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago off Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. Formerly welcoming of Venezuelans, who once brought tourist dollars, all have clamped down hard on these mostly impoverished migrants. Their governments have tightened visa requirements, increased deportations and beefed up coast-guard patrols to intercept smugglers’ vessels.

Trinidad and Tobago, with a population of more than 1.3 million people and among the highest incomes in the region, has been a particular magnet.

Since 2016, almost 25,000 Venezuelans have arrived in Trinidad, according to government figures, many without documentation. The United Nations last year estimated 40,000 Venezuelans were living in Trinidad, straining the government’s ability to assist them.

Traffickers have been known to abandon their human cargo in rough waters and force female and child passengers into prostitution. A shortage of spare parts in Venezuela means boats often take to sea in disrepair. Most migrants leave Guiria in open, low-slung wooden vessels with patched hulls and jury-rigged outboard motors. Smugglers often stuff these boats well beyond their 10-person capacity, locals familiar with the trade told Reuters.

But for Maroly Bastardo, the grinding hardships of life in Venezuela loomed as the greater danger. She was feeling exhausted and increasingly anxious about her health and that of the baby in the event of a difficult labor.

“Things are too rough here girl,” Bastardo texted an aunt in the days leading up to her departure from Venezuela. “I can’t give myself the luxury of staying here all beat down.”

Reuters reconstructed Bastardo’s ill-fated journey in interviews with her family members, friends and the relatives of others missing from the Ana Maria, along with authorities and people involved in the human smuggling trade.

(For a related photo essay, see: https://reut.rs/31w6P17)

A FAMILY’S DESCENT

Bastardo grew up in El Tigre, an interior boomtown in Venezuela’s famed Orinoco Oil Belt, the source of much of the nation’s oil wealth.

Carolina, Bastardo’s mother, worked in the kitchen of a fancy hotel that catered to visiting oil executives. Bastardo attended private school and talked of becoming a doctor. She and her little sister, Aranza, sang songs in the bedroom they shared.

The good times faded with mismanagement of state-run oil company PDVSA by late President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro. With government loyalists at the helm of the company, oil revenue funded social programs while basic maintenance and investment tumbled. Skilled petroleum professionals fled for opportunities abroad. Despite possessing some of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela has seen oil production slump by about 75% since the turn of the century, when it was producing 3 million barrels a day.

The fallout hit El Tigre hard. The swanky hotel closed its doors and Carolina lost her job. Bastardo quit school at age 16 to earn a few dollars a week cutting hair. She and Berra, a construction worker, had two children, Dylan and Victoria.

With another baby on the way – a little boy they planned to name Isaac Jesus – Berra left in February for Trinidad. He found a job frying chicken and laid plans for his family to follow. Bastardo would require a Cesarean section, her third. The prospect of giving birth in the local hospital terrified her, her mother said.

Venezuela’s national healthcare system, once considered a model for Latin America, is now plagued by shortages of imported drugs, equipment and even basics like rubber gloves. Thousands of doctors and nurses, their salaries ravaged by inflation, no longer show up for work.

At the Luis Felipe Guevara Rojas Hospital in El Tigre, signs at the maternity ward inform women in need of Cesareans to bring their own antibiotics, needles, surgical sutures and IV drip. Even electricity isn’t a given. Doctors there said the power fails almost daily, forcing them to rely on backup generators.

Infant mortality rose sharply, to 21.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016 from 15 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008, reversing nearly two decades of progress, according to a study published in January in The Lancet medical journal. Mothers, too, are dying at higher rates during childbirth, the study said. Some 11,466 babies died before their first birthday in 2016, up 30% from the year before, according to the most recent figures from Venezuela’s Health Ministry.

“Any woman who gives birth in a Venezuelan hospital is running a risk,” said Yindri Marcano, director of the El Tigre hospital.

Trinidad would almost certainly have better medical care, Bastardo and Berra reckoned. An extra incentive: a child born there would be a citizen and could make it easier for them to obtain legal residency someday. Family members would accompany Bastardo to watch out for her and the little ones, 3-year-old Dylan and Victoria, 2.

On April 2, Bastardo, the children, and her sister-in-law Katerin traveled 500 kilometers by taxi to the port of Guiria. Located on Venezuela’s remote and lawless Paria Peninsula, the city is known as a hub of migrant tracking and drug running.

There they joined Berra’s father, Luis, and his Uncle Antonio, who would also make the trip. The six settled into a rundown hotel above a Chinese restaurant to make final preparations. They hung out with a friend of Luis’s, Raymond Acosta, a 37-year-old local mechanic.

Luis took charge of securing their places in a smuggler’s boat. A construction worker, he and his wife had already emigrated to Trinidad and had helped other relatives make the journey in recent years.

Acosta said Luis had negotiated a price of $1,000 for all six members of the party: $400 payable up front, with the balance due in Trinidad, U.S. dollars only.

But as the departure approached, the smuggler jacked up the price. They would need an extra $500 cash up front. Rather than back out, Luis had his wife in Trinidad drain their savings, and he arranged for a contact there to transport the cash to Guiria.

Another setback followed on April 23: A migrant boat heading for Trinidad with 37 passengers overturned in the Dragon’s Mouths. Rescuers found nine survivors and a corpse; the rest remain missing, according to Venezuela’s Civil Protection and Disaster Management Authority.

Smugglers hunkered down for a few weeks, according to people involved in the boat trade in Guiria. The family’s crossing was delayed.

News of the accident unnerved Bastardo’s mother in El Tigre. The night before the scheduled departure, Carolina begged her daughter to reconsider.

Bastardo replied via text: “Mothers have to do what they can to help their children….Don’t worry. Better times are coming.”

PHOTOS, TEXTS, THEN SILENCE

On Thursday, May 16, Acosta took the six voyagers to a taxi stand, where they said their goodbyes around 3 p.m. They were headed to the small fishing village of La Salina, 4 kilometers from Guiria, to meet their boat, and were relieved to be finally getting underway, Acosta said.

He said he felt uneasy that none of the family took a life jacket in case the smugglers didn’t have enough to go around. He also fretted about the possibility of an overloaded boat.

“People are now more desperate,” Acosta said. “I always told Luis that they shouldn’t go if there were too many passengers on board.”

Before they boarded, Bastardo snapped a cellphone photo of Katerin, Dylan and Victoria with their backs to the camera, staring out to sea. She sent it to her family.

The plan was to arrive at the Trinidadian port of Chaguaramas under cover of darkness. The 70-kilometer journey from Guiria typically takes about four hours, putting them in port around 8:30 p.m. at the latest. Luis wanted his son there early.

“At 6.30 in Chaguaramas, be waiting,” he texted Berra at 4:37 p.m. as their voyage got underway.

Those who know the route say pilots headed for Chaguaramas carrying migrants typically navigate along the coastline until reaching the eastern tip of the Paria Peninsula around nightfall. At that point, the lights of Trinidad’s towns are visible as they prepare to enter the final 20-kilometer stretch, the Dragon’s Mouths.

(For a graphic on the sea route, see: https://tmsnrt.rs/2X9VqVn)

Evening turned to night. The Ana Maria didn’t show. Berra said he paced anxiously until police arrived at midnight on the Chaguaramas dock and told him to leave. He said he returned early Friday morning and waited all day and deep into the second night. Still nothing. He repeated the vigil on Saturday.

“After the first sinking, Maroly was afraid, but she still wanted to be here with us,” Berra said in a phone interview from Trinidad.

Back in El Tigre, Bastardo’s family was growing uneasy. She and the others were not returning text messages.

On Friday, they heard instead from someone identifying himself only as Ramon. Locals in Guiria said Ramon had helped arrange for their relatives to cross by boat to Trinidad without documents, including on the Ana Maria. The vessel had engine trouble, Ramon wrote, but would soon be on its way.

“We are going to change the motors and continue,” Ramon said in text messages viewed by Reuters.

In a telephone interview, Ramon said he works for an operation that takes people to Trinidad legally, with a limit of 10 passengers per vessel. He said he was simply passing along information given to him by an unidentified smuggler to ease the family’s fears. He declined to give his surname and denied he was involved in any illicit activity.

By Saturday, May 18, reports of the Ana Maria’s disappearance had surfaced in the news and social media.

In an early morning Facebook post, Robert Richards, an American fisherman, said he had found a “young man” on Friday afternoon, floating 50 kilometers offshore of Trinidad, “fighting for his life.” Photos accompanying the post showed a figure in a life jacket bobbing near a piece of floating debris. Richards said the man had “been in the water for 19 hours…on a boat that sunk the night before with 20 other people on board, so far no other survivors.”

Richards, whose Facebook page says he resides in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has not responded to calls and text messages seeking comment.

Abreu was identified as the man in the photos by relatives of people on the Ana Maria who saw the Facebook post. Venezuela’s Civil Protection agency confirmed he had been rescued.

In a May 24 statement, police in Grenada said a man “in need of urgent medical attention” was rescued May 17 by a vessel in waters between Trinidad and Grenada and brought to Grenada for treatment. They said the man, a Venezuelan national, left the hospital without “authorization.” His whereabouts remain unknown.

Venezuelan authorities barely searched for the Ana Maria. The Civil Protection authority, in charge of maritime rescue, had no boats to send. Its half-dozen-or-so vessels are all in disrepair or missing parts, said Luisa Marin, an agency official in Guiria. The Venezuelan military sent out a boat from Guiria on Saturday, May 18, two days after the Ana Maria vanished, but the craft malfunctioned after 20 minutes and had to return to harbor, Marin and other locals said.

Trinidad’s coast guard conducted its own search in Trinidadian waters, but spotted no signs of the Ana Maria or its passengers, National Security Minister Stuart Young said publicly on May 21.

HOPING AGAINST HOPE

With no wreckage or bodies found, some relatives of the missing say they believe the migrants were kidnapped by criminal gangs. But Trinidadian authorities have not presented any evidence that this happened. The National Security Ministry declined to comment.

Bastardo’s mother, Carolina, 38, says she no longer sleeps. She scours the news and social media for any shred of information. Every time she reads that Trinidadian authorities have apprehended yet another group of undocumented Venezuelan migrants, she wonders if her Maroly might be among them.

“It just causes me more agony: Is it her? Is it not her?” Carolina said from her porch in El Tigre, staring into the distance.

Bastardo’s nine-year-old sibling, Aranza, says she believes her big sister is still alive. The child’s birthday is coming up June 30. She tells her mom the only present she wants is to have Bastardo and the others back.

(Reporting by Angus Berwick in Venezuela; Additional reporting by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and Maria Ramirez in Puerto Ordaz; Editing by Marla Dickerson)

Source: OANN

Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang
FILE PHOTO: Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang province, China December 7, 2018. Picture taken December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

June 14, 2019

By Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil rose for a second day on Friday, extending sharp gains following attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that stoked concerns of reduced crude flows through one of the world’s key shipping routes.

The attacks near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz pushed oil prices up as much as 4.5% on Thursday, putting the brakes on a slide in prices in recent weeks over concerns about global demand.

It was the second time in a month tankers have been attacked in the world’s most important zone for oil supplies, amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran. Washington quickly blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks, but Tehran denied the allegation.

Brent crude futures were up 50 cents, or 0.8%, at $61.81 a barrel by 0313 GMT, having settled up 2.2% on Thursday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $52.49 a barrel. WTI also closed up 2.2% in the previous session.

“The events in the Gulf would now appear to have taken on an overt military dimension and we are waiting to see what action the U.S. Fifth Fleet and other military resources in the region may take,” said Tom O’Sullivan, founder of energy and security consultancy Mathyos Advisory.

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 multinational nuclear pact with Iran and reimposed sanctions, especially targeting Tehran’s oil exports.

Iran, which has distanced itself from the previous attacks, has said it would not be cowed by what it called psychological warfare.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States has assessed Iran was behind the attacks on Thursday.

The U.S. military later released a video that it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese-owned oil tanker.

Qatar called for an international investigation into the attacks and a de-escalation of tensions in the region.

On the demand side, OPEC on Thursday cut its forecast for growth in global oil demand due to trade disputes and pointed to the risk of a further reduction, building a case for prolonged supply restraint in the rest of 2019.

The producer group and its allies are due to meet in the coming weeks to decide whether to maintain supply curbs. Some members are worried about a steep slide in prices, despite demands from U.S. President Donald Trump for action to lower the cost of oil.

World oil demand will rise by 1.14 million barrels per day (bpd) this year, 70,000 bpd less than previously expected, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said in a monthly report published on Thursday.

“Throughout the first half of this year, ongoing global trade tensions have escalated,” OPEC said in the report. “Significant downside risks from escalating trade disputes spilling over to global demand growth remain.”

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Joseph Radford and Richard Pullin)

Source: OANN

Anti-union demonstrators drive past Volkkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant where workers are voting this week over whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers in Chattanooga
Anti-union demonstrators drive past Volkkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant where workers are voting this week over whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S. June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Carey

June 13, 2019

By Nick Carey

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Reuters) – For the second time in five years, workers at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant have been voting this week on whether to unionize, potentially handing the United Auto Workers its first toehold in the U.S. South.

The vote by 1,700 workers at VW’s Chattanooga plant, which makes the Passat sedan and the Atlas SUV, comes at a pivotal time for the UAW. Its membership fell 8% last year and the union faces contentious contract talks this summer with Detroit automakers General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

The result in Tennessee could mark a small but significant step toward the UAW’s cherished goal of unionizing foreign automakers. In 2014, VW’s Chattanooga workers voted against unionization by a small margin, extending the UAW’s decades-long losing streak in the South.

The latest organizing vote has been opposed by prominent Republican elected officials in Tennessee and is expected to be close. Voting began on Wednesday and polls close late Friday.

Pro-union VW workers complain of lax health and safety procedures, of quality of life issues such as constant last-minute changes in scheduling, insufficient vacation time and small bonuses.

“This is not about a pay raise,” said Steven Fugat, 26. “I just want some stability, I want to know when I have to work and when I get to be with my family or helping out at my church.”

Fugat makes $20 an hour hanging tires, installing consoles, seats and rearview mirrors on Atlas and Passat vehicles near the end of the assembly line.

“I want respect for my time and we are ready for a change for the good,” he said.

UAW faces membership challenge: https://tmsnrt.rs/2I4S0wa

Detroit automakers pay more for unionized workers: https://tmsnrt.rs/2WE3UEM

Pro-union workers allege VW has argued against unionization in daily meetings, but a company spokeswoman said it respected “the right of our employees to decide.”

In January, the German automaker said it would invest $800 million to build a new electric vehicle in Chattanooga starting in 2022, creating 1,000 new jobs.

When asked if a vote for unionization could affect that plan VW’s spokeswoman said the automaker’s commitment “is unchanged.”

VW also has workers on the factory floor who oppose the UAW.

Keri Menendez, 44, said her problem was not with organized labor but with the UAW, which has struggled with a wide-ranging federal corruption probe.

So far seven people linked to the union and Fiat Chrysler have been sentenced in the investigation into illegal payouts to UAW officials. The UAW and the automaker insist only a few individuals were involved.

“Corruption has been a problem for the UAW,” said Menendez, a team leader on the line making $23.50 an hour. “They’re more interested in their own business than caring for people.”

Republican U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said in a statement it was “deeply concerning that an organization with such a troubled past could soon force their grip onto workers in Chattanooga.”

FALLING MEMBERSHIP

At its peak in 1979, the UAW represented 1.5 million workers. Last year, after nine years of gains, membership dropped again to below 400,000.

The union’s gains in recent years had come mostly from unionizing casino workers, graduate students and nurses instead of automotive workers.

Brandi Ginger, 43, who works in quality control at the VW plant, dislikes that history of decline.

“How can an organization that has fallen that far ever be considered successful?” she asked.

Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga attorney who oversees Southern Momentum, an anti-UAW group, said the union would scare away other potential investors and “render us less competitive.”

A victory in Chattanooga would give the UAW a psychological boost, but the major manufacturing operations of Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co Ltd lie further south in states like Alabama and Mississippi that lack Tennessee’s history of partial unionization – GM, for instance, has a plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

“A win at VW would give the UAW bragging rights,” said Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs. “But a win in the Deep South is not in the cards.”

Unionizing those major operations could strengthen the UAW’s hand with the Detroit automakers, which want to narrow the gap between what they pay U.S. hourly workers and their foreign counterparts.

For instance, VW notes that in 2018 the average assembly worker at Chattanooga earned nearly $55,000 last year and skilled workers made more than $78,000, above the Chattanooga area’s average annual wage of almost $46,000. But that is well shy of the $95,000 and $123,000 the average U.S.-based GM assembly worker and skilled work made respectively, including overtime and profit-sharing bonuses.

Steven Bernstein, a Tampa-based labor attorney at Fisher Phillips LLP, said that if the UAW wins in Chattanooga, it must prove its worth to win elsewhere.

“The UAW would have to deliver meaningful, tangible benefits to VW workers, otherwise why vote for them?” Bernstein said.

But first, the UAW must win.

Shannon Fossett, a team leader at the Chattanooga plant, campaigned for unionization in 2014 and said he believed the UAW could win, but was nervous about how close the vote could be.

“It’s got to happen, we’ve been pushing for a union for years,” he said. “After all that work, how can it not happen?”

(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Ben Klayman and Tom Brown)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Monaco Grand Prix
FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Monaco Grand Prix – Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco – May 26, 2019 Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in action during the race REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

June 13, 2019

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) – Ferrari will not formally appeal the penalty that cost Sebastian Vettel victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, the team said on Thursday, but could still seek a review of the decision by presenting fresh evidence.

The deadline for the Formula One team to lodge a formal protest was Thursday evening, 96 hours after the end of the race in Montreal.

“We have withdrawn our intention to appeal and are evaluating the right of review,” a Ferrari spokeswoman said.

The team had said on Sunday they intended to appeal after stewards handed Vettel a five-second penalty for going off track and returning in what they deemed to be an unsafe fashion.

Vettel had led from start to finish but lost out to Mercedes’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton after the penalty was added on to the German’s time at the checkered flag.

“They are stealing the race from us,” Vettel, a four-times world champion, had said over the radio when told he was under investigation.

The stewards’ decision triggered an immediate controversy with some defending the penalty while others felt the officials had killed off an exciting race by over-zealous application of the rules.

Some ex-drivers, who felt Vettel could have done nothing different, questioned whether the rules were fit for purpose with Formula One trying to encourage better and more entertaining racing.

“He stayed ahead the entire race, he crossed the checkered flag first, for us he’s the moral winner. We won today,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto at the time.

The sporting regulations do not allow for in-race penalties to be appealed but Ferrari can seek a review of the stewards’ actions under article 14.1.1 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code.

This allows for further action in the event of any “significant and relevant new element” coming to light that was not available to those seeking the review at the time of competition.

Ferrari have 14 days since the publication of the final race classification to produce fresh evidence, if they do decide to take that course.

The stewards then have sole discretion to determine whether such a significant and relevant new element existed, with their decision final.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience at the Vatican
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves the weekly general audience at the Vatican, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

June 13, 2019

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Thursday told his ambassadors around the world, some of whom have been involved in sexual and financial scandals, to live humble, exemplary lives and be closer to the poor than to the elite.

In a document handed to more than 100 ambassadors in Rome for meetings with top Vatican officials, Francis told the envoys that they had to “live for the things of God and not for those of the world”.

The Vatican is a sovereign state as well as the headquarters of the 1.3-billion-member Roman Catholic Church, and it has diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries. Its ambassadors, known as nuncios, are often the highest ranking and most visible diplomats in a given country.

In recent years, some nuncios or other Vatican diplomats have been mired in scandal.

The nuncio in France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, is under investigation in Paris over accusations of sexual molestation.

In 2013, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the ambassador in the Dominican Republic, was charged with paying boys for sex. He was recalled, kept in detention in the Vatican and dismissed from the priesthood, but died in 2015 before his trial.

Last year, a Vatican court sentenced an Italian priest, Carlo Alberto Capella, to five years in jail for possessing child pornography while he was a diplomat in Washington.

“A man of God does not deceive or defraud others, does not give in to gossip or bad-mouthing others. He conserves a pure mind and heart, not allowing his eyes and ears to be contaminated by the filth of the world,” the pope said.

Nuncios who “go off the rails damage even the Church,” he told them.

Some Vatican ambassadors have also come under fire for lavish lifestyles.

“It is ugly to see a nuncio looking for luxury, for designer clothes, in the midst of people who are deprived of life’s necessities,” Francis said.

He instructed them to reject gifts by the powerful who wanted to influence them, and to spend time with the poor and others on the margins of society.

As the Church under Francis has become more polarized, some nuncios have taken to social media to criticize directly some of the pope’s decisions or draw attention to criticism by conservative groups.

Francis pointedly told the envoys that it was incompatible with their role to “criticize the pope behind his back”.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., on Thursday asked Republicans, “where is the outrage” over foreign interference in U.S. elections, and criticized the president’s recent comments.

“We need for our partners, our colleagues across the aisle to join us,” Clark said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.” “Where is the outrage? We have passed a bill in H.R. 1 that will protect just our voting and our elections from just this kind of foreign interference. It is sitting at the Senate door. We need the Senate to do their jobs. We need Republicans to join us and say ‘this is unacceptable, and we must stand for the Constitution.'”

She also addressed President Donald Trump’s recent comment in an interview with ABC News that he would accept compromising information about his political opponents from foreign powers.

“It really underlines the importance of us continuing to be aggressive and getting these facts out to the American people,” the congresswoman said. “We’re having the hearings and we need to pursue this. We need to take our ability, our responsibility under the constitution for oversight and investigation so deadly seriously, and we need to make the case about this president and this administration.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

U.S. President Donald Trump hosts working lunch with governors at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a working lunch with governors on workforce freedom and mobility in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis – RC11EBB95250

June 13, 2019

By Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic lawmakers accused President Donald Trump on Thursday of giving Russia the green light to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential race, while a top Republican ally said Trump was wrong to say he would accept political dirt from foreign sources.

The uproar followed televised comments in which the U.S. president told ABC News he would be willing to listen to such damaging information about political opponents as he seeks re-election.

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday. “It’s not an interference. They have information, I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong.”

Trump’s comments came less than three months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report that found Russia waged a hacking and influence campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

The Trump remarks to ABC drew outrage from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates seeking to challenge Trump in 2020, as well as one of Trump’s leading Republican allies.

“What the president said last night shows clearly, once again, over and over again, that he does not know the difference between right and wrong,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress. “There is no sense … any ethical sense that informs his comments and his thinking.”

Some Democratic presidential candidates renewed their call to impeach the president. However, Pelosi said Democratic leaders would stick with their plan to investigate Trump and his administration before any formal impeachment proceedings.

One of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, joined Democrats in criticizing the president’s remarks.

“I think it’s a mistake,” said, Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He accused Democrats of also having accepted damaging information from foreign nationals on political opponents and said any public official contacted by a foreign government with an offer of help to their campaign should reject it and inform the FBI.

Some prominent Republicans struggled to explain the president’s comments, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he was confident Trump was speaking hypothetically.

Others were outspoken in their discomfort. “It is never appropriate to allow a foreign government or its agents to interfere in our election process. Period,” said Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News that Trump said he would “of course” go to the FBI if there was wrongdoing, although Trump said he would “maybe” go to the FBI.

“THING OF VALUE”

Any foreign contribution of “money or other thing of value” violates U.S. campaign finance law. Legal experts say knowingly soliciting information from a foreign entity would also be illegal.

An FBI counterintelligence investigation of Russian election activities in the 2016 presidential election sparked Mueller’s probe, which confirmed U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia worked to help Trump win.

Mueller, whose investigation examined a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Trump’s campaign had with Russians promising dirt on Clinton, did not charge Trump campaign staff who attended the meeting.

Trump defended his remarks in a flurry of tweets on Thursday morning, saying he talks with foreign governments daily but he did not address the issue of accepting political dirt on his opponents. “Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous!”

Top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committee expressed alarm at Trump’s comments.

Senator Mark Warner recalled Trump’s “Russia, if you are listening” call for Moscow to dig up Clinton’s missing emails during the 2016 campaign.

“The President has given Russia the green light to interfere in the 2020 election,” Warner wrote in a Twitter post.

“The president has either learned nothing in the last two years or picked up exactly the wrong lesson – that he can accept gleefully foreign assistance again and escape the punishment of the law,” U.S. Representative Adam Schiff said.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the Democratic 2020 race so far, said: “This isn’t about politics. It is a threat to our national security.”

Democratic presidential candidates who renewed calls for Trump’s impeachment included U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell.

“A foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to support Trump, Trump welcomed that help, and Trump obstructed the investigation. Now, he said he’d do it all over again. It’s time to impeach Donald Trump,” Warren said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu, Makini Brice, Richrad Cowan, Ginger Gibson; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

June 13, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump’s comments saying that he would take assistance from a foreign entity ahead of the 2020 election but stopped short of saying they could trigger impeachment.

Speaking to reporters, the U.S. House of Representatives’ top Democrat said her caucus would continue to investigate Trump and his administration through their various committees, one day after Trump said he would take information from foreign sources on any political opponents and might not contact the FBI.

“Yesterday, the president gave us, once again, evidence that he does not know right from wrong,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference. “Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night.”

On Wednesday, Trump told ABC News in an a televised interview that there was nothing wrong with accepting foreign assistance and he might not report such interference to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Legal experts have said such foreign assistance could violate campaign finance law.

Pelosi, under pressure from more progressive members of her caucus to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, said Trump’s statement was “appalling” and “totally unethical,” but that House Democrats would methodically pursue their various investigations.

“As we go down this path to seek the truth for the American people and to hold the president accountable, it has nothing to do with politics or any campaign,” she said.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Dialogue Committee meeting at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Dialogue Committee meeting at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

June 13, 2019

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s state prosecutor’s office said on Thursday jailed former president Omar al-Bashir had been charged with corruption after the completion of an investigation.

Bashir was overthrown and arrested in a coup by the military on April 11 after months of mass protests against his autocratic 30-year rule.

The charges were related to laws on “suspected illicit wealth and emergency orders”, the public prosecutor’s office said without giving more details.

Bashir had already been charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters.

Prosecutors had also ordered his interrogation on suspicion of money laundering and financing terrorism.

It has not been possible to get a comment from Bashir since his ousting.

Sudan was placed on a U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism under Bashir, an Islamist former general who is also under indictment by the International Court of Justice over war crimes in the country’s western Darfur region.

On Wednesday, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa joined an international effort to press Sudan’s military rulers and the opposition toward a deal on a transition to democracy following the toppling of Bashir.

Stability in Sudan is crucial for a volatile region struggling against Islamist insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya. Various powers, including Russia and the Gulf Arab states, are trying to influence its path.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Lena Masri; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN


Current track

Title

Artist