The Wall Street Journal just released a grounding report on President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. They are reporting that he took at least $50,000 from a couple allied with the Russian government in an attempt to lobby him while President Trump was campaigning for president.
According to the report, the meeting took place on Oct 11. at the Ritz Hotel in Paris just shy of one month prior to Trump winning the 2016 election.
The meeting was hosted by Fabien Baussart, and his Syrian-born wife, Randa Kassis, who just formally nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize. Mrs. Kassis is a leader of a political faction endorsed by Russia in its efforts to end the war in Syria.
The latest disclosure is bringing more heat on the Trump family. Just recently, it was also discovered that Trump Jr. attended a meeting with a foreign agent of the Russian government in an attempt to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton. He will have to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee along with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort who attended the meeting with the Russian lawyer.
In any case, the financial compensation will likely draw more in-depth questioning from Congress. Mrs. Kassis indicated that she passed on Mr. Trump’s views to Russian diplomats after the meeting in subsequent trips she made to Moscow.
She further elaborated that the talks she had with Trump Jr. were about general campaign issues and his dad’s overall policy platform.
Asked why Mr. Baussart thought that Putin deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in Syria, he stated: “I believe he deserved it. He is the only one who is truly fighting terrorism.”
The Obama administration, however, has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria.
The Trump Organization tried to dismiss the news by saying that “Donald Trump Jr. has been participating in business-related speaking engagements for over a decade—discussing a range of topics including sharing his entrepreneurial experiences and offering career specific advice.”
But, Robert Ford, a former State Department official with experience in U.S. policy toward Syria, said that the French government warned the U.S. about the couple because they “are very close to the Russians.”
HERE’S THE AUDIO OF DONALD TRUMP’S PRIVATE RNC FUNDRAISER AT HIS OWN HOTEL
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP kicked off his re-election campaign’s financing efforts with a major fundraiser at his own Washington hotel Wednesday night, excluding media but charging attendees $35,000 each.
While the president may have barred reporters from the closed-door Republican National Committee gathering, his battle with the press wasn’t far from his mind. During his speech, according to audio of the event published here by The Intercept, he singled out CNN, asking the audience whether he ought to sue what he described as “horrible human beings.”
Trump drew loud applause with his suggestion that he was prevailing in his campaign against the cable news network. “Boy, did CNN get killed over the last few days,” he said. Last week, CNN retracted a story about a Trump ally’s ties to a Russian bank; three of the network’s journalists resigned in the wake of the flap.
Trump then focused his attention on CNN commentator Van Jones, whom Trump noted was recently captured on secretly recorded audio calling the story of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia a “nothing burger,” as well as CNN network president Jeff Zucker.
“Van Jones — you see this man?” Trump said. “These are really dishonest people. Should I sue them? I mean, they’re phonies. Jeff Zucker, I hear he’s going to resign at some point pretty soon. I mean, these are horrible human beings.”
“It’s a shame what they’ve done to the name CNN, that I can tell you,” Trump went on, riffing on taking the network to court. “But as far as I’m concerned, I love it. If anybody’s a lawyer in the house and thinks I have a good lawsuit — I feel like we do. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Trump addressed recent political developments and his coming agenda, promising tax cuts and a strengthened military. On health care, Trump was less than enthusiastic about the chance of success for the congressional Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“I think we’re going to have a good shot,” Trump said of the repeal effort, using the opportunity to bash the ACA, citing rising health insurance premiums. Democrats, Trump said, are “stuck with Obamacare,” which he said was “dead” and a “disaster.”
In typical fashion, Trump took the opportunity to praise his own record throughout his remarks, boasting of decreased border crossing figures by immigrants and a string of special congressional election victories. “I don’t think anybody as president has done as much in the first five months,” he claimed.
During the speech, Trump made light of rapidly escalating tensions in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have led a coalition of Arab countries in an effort to isolate their Persian Gulf neighbor Qatar. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has attempted to mediate the dispute in recent days.
“We’re having a dispute with Qatar — we’re supposed to say Qatar,” Trump said Wednesday night, mocking the pronunciation of the country’s name. “It’s Qatar, they prefer. I prefer that they don’t fund terrorism.”
Listen to the audio here:
The Donald Trump Jr. emails change everything
It is no longer possible to dismiss the Russia scandal as fake news.
The June 2016 email thread in which Donald Trump Jr. was offered Russian government help for the Trump campaign has now been released, and it is utterly damning.
In the thread, publicist Rob Goldstone writes clear as day that a prosecutor in Russia met a client of his, and offered to give the Trump campaign incriminating information on Hillary Clinton “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.
The full thread — posted by Trump Jr. himself in two tweets in an effort to preempt a story by the New York Times’ Jo Becker, Adam Goldman, and Matt Apuzzo — makes indisputably clear that Trump Jr. was trying to collude with the Russian government.
In the thread, Goldstone goes on to schedule a meeting between Trump Jr. and a “Russian government attorney” who he said would convey the information. Trump Jr. also forwards on the thread to Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, confirming the time of the meeting.
To be blunt: This changes everything.
What exactly is so damaging about the new email thread
The email thread makes clear that Donald Trump Jr. was aware of and willing to support a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.
It suggests that Kushner and Manafort were also in the loop.
And it raises serious questions of how Donald Trump himself could have kept professing to disbelieve claims that Russia was helping him.
What actually happened when Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort met Russian government attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower remains unclear.
Trump Jr. has claimed in a statement that he was given no useful information at the meeting and that the matter went no further. Yet previous accounts he’s given of the meeting keep leaving out relevant details that emerge later on.
There remains a great deal we still don’t know about the Russia scandal. For instance, what, if anything, Trump’s team actually ended up doing with the Russians is still unclear. Did any collaborative effort or private understanding materialize in the end? Was the Trump campaign tipped off about the Russian hacking and planned leaks of prominent Democrats’ emails? What, exactly, did Donald Trump know?
But it’s no longer possible to dismiss the Russia scandal as fake news. The future of Trump’s presidency hinges on what Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation finds.
The emails are very specific about who was behind the information
On June 3, 2016, publicist Rob Goldstone sent his acquaintance Donald Trump Jr. a tantalizing email headlined “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential”:
Goldstone said he was writing at the behest of Aras and Emin Agalarov, a father-son pair of real estate developers who do business with Russia and worked with the Trumps on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. (Emin is also a Russian pop star.)
He said that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia” met with Aras and “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful” to Trump. (“Crown prosecutor” is a British term and that exact position doesn’t exist in Russia, but the Times suggests Goldstone may have been referring to the Russian prosecutor general.)
And crucially, Goldstone made clear that the information would be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”
Trump Jr. responded enthusiastically — “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Goldstone then helps set up a phone call between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov, and later arranges a meeting between Trump Jr. and someone he calls “The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”
Trump Jr. confirms the meeting and says then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner will also attend:
Later, the meeting was rescheduled, and Trump Jr. forwarded the new time and apparently the entire thread to Kushner and Manafort:
The meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya then took place the following day, on June 9.
Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, who for seven years have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to make deep cuts in Medicaid and end the law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.
The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.
But the measure landed in rough seas ahead of a vote that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, wants next week. Four conservative senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, announced that they would oppose it without changes — more than enough to bring it down.
“It does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs,” the four wrote in a joint statement.
Other Republican senators, like Dean Heller of Nevada and Rob Portman of Ohio, expressed their own qualms, as did AARP, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“We are extremely disappointed by the Senate bill released today,” the medical school association wrote. “Despite promises to the contrary, it will leave millions of people without health coverage, and others with only bare-bones plans that will be insufficient to properly address their needs.”
Once promised as a top-to-bottom revamp of the health bill passed by the House last month, the Senate bill instead maintains its structure, with modest adjustments. The Senate version is, in some respects, more moderate than the House bill, offering more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.
But the Senate bill would make subsidies less generous than under current law. It would also lower the annual income limit for receiving subsidies to cover insurance premiums to 350 percent of the poverty level, or about $42,000 for an individual, from 400 percent.
Older people could be disproportionately hurt because they pay more for insurance in general. Both chambers’ bills would allow insurers to charge older people five times as much as younger ones; the limit now is three times.
The Senate measure, like the House bill, would phase out the extra money that the federal government has provided to states as an incentive to expand eligibility for Medicaid. And like the House bill, it would put the entire Medicaid program on a budget, ending the open-ended entitlement that now exists.
It would also repeal most of the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for expanded coverage, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent in a measure that would also slice billions of dollars from Medicaid, a program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but also almost two-thirds of people in nursing homes. A capital-gains tax cut for the most affluent Americans would be retroactive to the beginning of this year.
The bill, drafted in secret, is likely to come to the Senate floor next week, and could come to a vote after 20 hours of debate.
If it passes, President Trump and the Republican Congress will be on the edge of a major overhaul of the American health care system — about one-sixth of the nation’s economy.
The premise of the bill, repeated almost daily in some form by its chief author, Mr. McConnell, is that “Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief.”
Mr. Trump shares that view, and passage of the Senate bill would move the president much closer to being able to boast about the adoption of a marquee piece of legislation, a feat he has so far been unable to accomplish.
Trump Just Addressed His Pardon Controversy With An Ominous Tweet
Once again, America awoke to a presidential tweet-storm Saturday morning, as President Trump took to his favorite social media platform to push back against multiple stories that have rocked the White House over the last week.
He lashed-out again at Senate Republicans in an attempt to shame them into passing an ObamaCare repeal bill, something they’ve failed to accomplish three times already. He again pleaded for investigators to ignore the Trump-Russia scandal and instead look into Hillary Clinton’s emails instead. He even squeezed in something about his newly minted communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a tweet storm without an attack on the “failing” New York Times, who the President blamed for foiling a U.S. a plot “to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi.” As always, the president provided no evidence for his claim, and the Times has no clue what he’s referring to.
But the most ominous of all of this tweets this morning addressed reports in recent days that Trump’s legal team is exploring the limits of the presidential pardon as part of a larger strategy to end the Trump-Russia scandal once and for all.
“Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people,” the Washington Post reported Thursday. “A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.”
This unleashed a firestorm of speculation in the media about the strategy of Trump’s legal team and their efforts to shut down the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In response to that firestorm, the President tweeted this:
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
With this tweet, the President essentially confirmed the Washington Post report. He certainly doesn’t deny it. The mere confirmation that Trump is considering pardons six months into his presidency should set-off fire alarms because it’s the clearest indication yet that we’re headed for a constitutional crises.
Presidents have extraordinary power to pardon, but those pardons typically are made at the end of a presidency because they come at a tremendous political cost. President Gerald Ford pardoned the ousted Richard Nixon for crimes surrounding the Watergate scandal, and that cost him reelection in 1976.
The political cost of the Trump-Russia scandal, however, would be paid for first and foremost by Republicans in congress. With the 2018 midterm elections just over a year away, voters will be watching to see how GOP senators and congressmen react to any abuse of the president’s pardoning power.
If President Trump and his lawyers grant pardons to skirt charges or otherwise derail Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, his political fate will rest in their hands, and then America will judge at the ballot box.
NY Times Just Uncovered A Legal Memo Proving Pres. Trump CAN Be Indicted While In Office
As the Russia scandal continues to unfold at a staggering pace, the nation is already abuzz with the prospect of a Trump presidency ending before its first year is out. Impeachment began being discussed as soon as Trump took office, but as the drip of explosive leaks from the intelligence community continues to paint a bleaker and bleaker picture for the Trump team, the actual terms of a presidential indictment are coming into the discussion.
A New York Times Freedom Of Information Act just helped clear up a lot of the confusion surrounding whether or not a president can actually be indicted for his actions. A 56-page memo from the Clinton era was just unearthed for the first time and it indicates that yes, a President can be indicted while in office.
“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of and are contrary to, the president’s official duties. In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law” reads the memo from the independent counsel of Bill Clinton, Kenneth Starr.
Starr decided to let Congress impeach Clinton rather than try to bring an indictment himself. But seeing as we are now faced with a Republican congress that has indicated that they have no intention of bringing the public humiliation of an impeachment upon themselves, it’s very reassuring to know that Special Prosecutor Mueller has the power to punish the traitor himself.
Congress Just Defied Trump And Forced A Showdown On Obama’s Russian Sanctions
To their credit, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have struck a deal on a massive package of sanctions against Russia. The legislation, originally crafted during the Obama administration, comes in response to Russia’s operation to undermine the 2016 presidential election, and to their continued interference in the affairs of its neighbors, particularly Ukraine and Georgia.
Of particular note in this legislation are stipulations that the sanctions congress approves be implemented as is, denying the White House’s request that the Trump Administration be allowed to tweak and tailor any sanctions against Russia as they deem necessary.
According to the New York Times:
“The new legislation sharply limits the president’s ability to suspend or terminate the sanctions. At a moment when investigations into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials have cast a shadow over his presidency, Mr. Trump could soon face a bleak decision: veto the bill — and fuel accusations that he is doing the bidding of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — or sign legislation imposing sanctions his administration abhors.”
The Senate voted to approve the original sanctions bill over a month ago, which the White House immediately criticized. Democrats accused House Republicans of intentionally stalling on the Senate’s bill at Trump’s direction.
Publicly, the White House objected to it on grounds that it placed unfair restrictions on the President’s ability to execute foreign policy. The President wanted “more flexibility” and said the Senate’s sanctions could harm American energy, defense, and financial companies, the Times reports. It appears congress has ignored those complaints.
“The House version of the bill includes a small number of changes, technical and substantive, from the Senate legislation, including some made in response to concerns raised by oil and gas companies,” write Matt Fleigenheimer and David E. Sanger in today’s Times story. “But for the most part, the Republican leadership appears to have rejected most of the White House’s objections.”
The prospect of a veto seems unlikely in this political climate, as Trump can ill-afford anything that looks like he’s appeasing Russia. To further deter the prospect of a veto, however, the legislation includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea as well. The President has consistently talked tough about both countries and has pleaded for more action by our partners in the region. Vetoing those sanctions would constitute a major retreat and cast doubt over our resolve in the deepening crises with those two rogue nations.
A moment of truth is coming for the President, and for the American people. Does he choose to sign legislation punishing Russia for their transgressions – something his intelligence community, and now members of congress, insist are in the best interest of the Unites States? Or does he dismiss the bill and hand Vladimir Putin exactly what he wants, whatever his true motivation?
We will soon have our answer.
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