president

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is urging all 2020 presidential candidates to release their tax returns for the past 10 years.

"Four years after Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president, we have still not seen his tax returns, despite reporting that suggests that those returns may show evidence of criminality and despite the fact that releasing them would be one of the best ways to illuminate potential conflicts of interest," the watchdog group said in a statement on its website.

CREW called on all presidential candidates to release their returns from at least the past 10 years "so that all Americans can compare what each candidate has released and read the returns themselves."

The group is tracking which 2020 candidates have released their returns.

CREW's call for tax returns was detailed in a report by The Hill. It noted so far only two Democrats have released at least 10 years of returns – Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Meanwhile, The Hill reported House Democrats plan to try to get Trump's tax returns by requesting them from the Treasury Department.

Source: NewsMax

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is urging all 2020 presidential candidates to release their tax returns for the past 10 years.

"Four years after Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president, we have still not seen his tax returns, despite reporting that suggests that those returns may show evidence of criminality and despite the fact that releasing them would be one of the best ways to illuminate potential conflicts of interest," the watchdog group said in a statement on its website.

CREW called on all presidential candidates to release their returns from at least the past 10 years "so that all Americans can compare what each candidate has released and read the returns themselves."

The group is tracking which 2020 candidates have released their returns.

CREW's call for tax returns was detailed in a report by The Hill. It noted so far only two Democrats have released at least 10 years of returns – Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Meanwhile, The Hill reported House Democrats plan to try to get Trump's tax returns by requesting them from the Treasury Department.

Source: NewsMax

President Donald Trump said Thursday that it's time for the United States to recognize Israel's control over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister's planned visit next week to the White House.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase "Israeli-occupied" from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it "Israeli-controlled."

"After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" Trump tweeted.

Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. "At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!"

In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu's delight.

Trump's announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo's words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel's April 9 ballot.

Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump.

Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics.

Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration's strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat.

Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel's claim on the area.

"You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan," he said. "You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee."

Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem's Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel's control of the contested city.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies.

Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site.

The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel.

"I think it's symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel," he said before making the trip. "It's a place that's important to many faiths and I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be very special."

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city's most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel's capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.

Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader.

The Old City is home to Jerusalem's most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church.

Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he said it did not determine the city's final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo's visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. "While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve," he said.

While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned.

"The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that," Pompeo said. "It's a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people."

In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

"If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,"

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping visits Portugal
FILE PHOTO: China’s President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Portugal’s Parliamentary President Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues at the Parliament in Lisbon, Portugal, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

March 21, 2019

ROME (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Rome on Thursday at the start of a three-day visit during which he will sign an accord drawing Italy into his giant “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan despite U.S. opposition.

Italy, seeking a welter of new export deals to boost its stalled economy, will become the first Group of Seven major industrialized nation to join the multi-billion-dollar project which is designed to improve Beijing’s global trade reach.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Middle East summit in Warsaw
FILE PHOTO: White House adviser Jared Kushner looks on during the Middle East summit in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic head of a U.S. congressional investigative panel on Thursday pressed the White House for information on whether President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, used the unofficial WhatsApp messaging tool to communicate sensitive or classified information with foreign leaders.

U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings made the request in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, which was seen by Reuters.

In the letter, Cummings noted that Kushner’s lawyer had told Congress in December that Kushner used WhatsApp as part of his official duties but did not say whether such messages included classified information.

The congressman also said the lawyer told his committee that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and Kushner’s wife, continued to receive emails related to official business on a personal email account.

Cummings said in his letter that a law governing presidential records prohibits top White House officials, including the president and vice president, from using non-official electronic messaging accounts.

Cummings said that when it was under Republican control in March 2017, his committee started investigating whether White House officials were using personal email and messaging accounts to conduct official business.

He said that Trump’s White House had so far failed to provide documents and information and was “obstructing” his committee’s efforts to investigate possible violations of White House policy and the presidential records law.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

European Union leaders summit in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The French Senate referred President Emmanuel Macron’s top aides to prosecutors on Thursday for withholding information from an investigation into Macron’s former bodyguard, prompting the government to accuse the legislature of exceeding its powers.

In one of the sharpest confrontations in years between France’s powerful executive and its parliament, Macron’s government described the move by the opposition-controlled Senate as a “political coup”.

The Senate announced on Thursday it had referred Macron’s top aide Alexis Kohler, his chief of staff Patrick Strzoda and Lionel Lavergne, the Elysee’s top security official, to prosecutors.

It accused them of withholding information from an investigation into former presidential bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who was sacked last year after being filmed beating up protesters while wearing a police helmet and civilian clothes.

“This is neither reasonable nor measured, this is a political coup,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told reporters of the Senate move.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe took the rare step of boycotting the government’s weekly question-and-answer session at the Senate, his office said.

The Senate has been investigating Benalla, who was fired as Macron’s security aide after video emerged of his confrontation with May Day protesters.

He was sacked only after Le Monde newspaper broke the story, prompting criticism that the president had failed to act sooner. He has also been investigated over other accusations, including that he used a diplomatic passport after he was fired.

Last month, an investigative committee of French senators said the top Elysee officials had withheld information from them during their six month investigation and recommended the case be referred to prosecutors.

Macron’s government has argued that the Senate was contravening the separation of powers by questioning decisions by the executive branch. Many experts on French constitutional law say the Senate has acted within its rights.

“This is a perfectly legitimate move by the senate’s investigative committee,” Jean-Philippe Derosier, a constitutional law expert at the University of Lille told Reuters, saying the government’s criticism was “not justified.”

(Reporting by Michel Rose and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

European Union leaders summit in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The French Senate referred President Emmanuel Macron’s top aides to prosecutors on Thursday for withholding information from an investigation into Macron’s former bodyguard, prompting the government to accuse the legislature of exceeding its powers.

In one of the sharpest confrontations in years between France’s powerful executive and its parliament, Macron’s government described the move by the opposition-controlled Senate as a “political coup”.

The Senate announced on Thursday it had referred Macron’s top aide Alexis Kohler, his chief of staff Patrick Strzoda and Lionel Lavergne, the Elysee’s top security official, to prosecutors.

It accused them of withholding information from an investigation into former presidential bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who was sacked last year after being filmed beating up protesters while wearing a police helmet and civilian clothes.

“This is neither reasonable nor measured, this is a political coup,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told reporters of the Senate move.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe took the rare step of boycotting the government’s weekly question-and-answer session at the Senate, his office said.

The Senate has been investigating Benalla, who was fired as Macron’s security aide after video emerged of his confrontation with May Day protesters.

He was sacked only after Le Monde newspaper broke the story, prompting criticism that the president had failed to act sooner. He has also been investigated over other accusations, including that he used a diplomatic passport after he was fired.

Last month, an investigative committee of French senators said the top Elysee officials had withheld information from them during their six month investigation and recommended the case be referred to prosecutors.

Macron’s government has argued that the Senate was contravening the separation of powers by questioning decisions by the executive branch. Many experts on French constitutional law say the Senate has acted within its rights.

“This is a perfectly legitimate move by the senate’s investigative committee,” Jean-Philippe Derosier, a constitutional law expert at the University of Lille told Reuters, saying the government’s criticism was “not justified.”

(Reporting by Michel Rose and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lighthizer testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies at a House Ways and Means Committee on U.S.-China trade in Washington U.S., February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 21, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s plans for trade negotiations with the United States fall far short of what is required and any idea of delaying formal talks would not work, the U.S. ambassador to the EU said on Thursday.

The European Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 28 EU countries, has presented two negotiating mandates to governments for approval, one on reducing tariffs on industrial goods, the other on making it easier for companies to clear their products for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The mandate that is being circulated falls far short of what even (Commission) President Juncker and President Trump discussed in July in Washington. The idea was to have a wide-ranging conversation about all aspects of our relationship,” Gordon Sondland told an AmCham business conference in Brussels.

The EU and the United States ended months of standoff in July when President Donald Trump agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker not to hit EU car imports with extra tariffs while the two sides worked on improving economic ties.

EU governments have failed so far to agree on launching formal trade talks, Germany pressing for a quick start, and France bidding for more time.

Stalling, said Sondland, would have consequences.

“The more the EU leadership plays the delay game the more we will have to use leverage to realign the relationship,” he said.

Some in Europe, he said, believed they could simply wait for a new U.S. president, but this tactic would not work.

“The (U.S.) Democrats disagree with President Trump on many issues…. but when it comes to fixing our trade imbalance with the EU there is no daylight between (us), none,” he said.

A key part of the July agreement was to remove import duties on “non-auto industrial goods”. The EU has said cars should be included and rejected Washington’s demand that agriculture should feature in talks too.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that discussions were at a “complete stalemate”.

The EU says progress has been made – its two negotiating mandates, discussions of possible regulatory cooperation and the doubling of U.S. soybean imports into Europe since July, although mainly because they are cheaper than rival imports.

Sondland repeated the U.S. line that agriculture had to be part of trade discussions, but acknowledged that the two sides could build up deals piece by piece, as long as they did move though the issues.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

The progressive organization MoveOn called on Wednesday for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to boycott the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference — and many have heeded their calls.

AIPAC, an organization “committed solely to strengthening, protecting and promoting the U.S.-Israel relationship,” has its three-day conference scheduled for next week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are all confirmed speakers for the conference.

Multiple Democratic presidential candidates: South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete ButtigiegMassachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro and California Sen. Kamala Harris have all announced that they will not be in attendance for this year’s conference.

Buttigieg announced he would not be in attendance prior to boycott announcement.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) afternoon general session in Washington March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

MoveOn released a statement on Wednesday that included a survey conducted internally. According to that survey, more than 74 percent of MoveOn members agree or strongly agree with the statement that “any progressive vying to be the Democratic nominee for President should skip the AIPAC conference.”

Comparatively, less than one-fifth of respondents, 18.6 percent, said they disagree or strongly disagree.

MoveOn cited four specific reasons why members are calling for the boycott.

  1. AIPAC advocated against the Iran Nuclear Deal.
  2. One of the speakers is Netanyahu, who was indicted earlier this year.
  3. AIPAC has “been known to peddle anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while giving platforms to Islamophobes.”
  4. AIPAC “has refused to condemn the antisemitism of Republicans,” and they specifically call out Steve Bannon.

Harris spoke off-the-record at the convention last year, where she explained her support for a two-state solution.

AIPAC was embroiled in a recent saga in which they were accused of purchasing pro-Israel support from members of Congress by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The comment sparked significant backlash from a number of political leaders across both sides of the aisle, including some who will be speaking at the conference — such as Pelosi, Pence and Schumer(RELATED: Omar Releases Statement After Backlash Surrounding Tweet Accusing AIPAC Of Buying Israel Support)

AIPAC, Harris’ and Omar’s offices were all approached for comments, but none had responded at the time of publication.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

Harvard University was sued Wednesday for allegedly making money off of photos of slaves, which are kept in a museum at the school.

Tamara Lanier, who says she is a descendant of South Carolina slaves named Renty and Delia, filed the complaint Wednesday. She said Harvard seized and refused to give her the pictures, known as daguerreotypes, of her ancestors.

“Slavery was abolished 156 years ago, but Renty and Delia remain enslaved in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” the lawsuit said. “Their images, like their bodies before, remain subject to control and appropriation by the powerful, and their familial identities are denied to them.”

Renty is the patriarch of Lanier’s family and Delia was his daughter, according to the suit.

Harvard scientist Louis Agassiz allegedly commissioned the images in 1850 to “prove” black people were inferior and deserved to be exploited, the complaint said.

“The claim is simple,” attorney Josh Koskoff said, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. “You took something. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to me. And I want it back.”

The daguerreotypes, which are fragile, are currently kept in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology. The images are shown twice a year because of “their importance, condition, age, and rarity,” according to the museum’s website.

Lanier, 54, said Harvard was dismissive or not responsive when she contacted the school multiple times, WaPo reported. (RELATED: Officials Are Looking to Recover Nearly $450K From Harvard Alum Who Took College Entrance Exams For Students)

She wants the Ivy League school to hand over the pictures along with compensation for damages and for “pain and suffering.”

Harvard is one of the schools part of the Universities Studying Slavery consortium, which aims to help institutions address “historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education.”

Former Harvard President Drew Faust also installed a plaque honoring four slaves in April 2016, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Harvard and legal firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Caribbean tour
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, attend a reception at the Prime Minister’s official residence, in Kingstown, St Vincent and Grenadines, March 20, 2019. Jane Barlow/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) – Prince Charles and his wife Camilla arrive in Cuba on Sunday as part of a Caribbean tour, the first British royals to visit the Communist-run nation even as ally the United States seeks to isolate the country.

The royal couple were asked by the UK government to add Cuba to their tour of former and current British territories in hopes of boosting commercial relations and political influence.

The plans were made before the Trump administration intensified efforts this year to end what it views as Latin America’s “troika of tyranny”: the socialist governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. It has warned foreign companies away from doing business with Cuba, continuing its reversal of Trump predecessor Barack Obama’s detente with the island.

“The visit shows a fresh willingness by the UK to engage with Cuba in the Diaz-Canel era,” said Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who lectures at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.

“The UK has long seen the U.S. trade embargo as the wrong way to produce greater openness and tolerance of new ideas in Cuba,” he said.

The visit will be welcomed on the island, which has seen a decline in high-profile visits since the likes of Pope Francis, then-U.S. President Obama and the Rolling Stones graced its shores just a few years ago.

“This visit means a lot because it shows the world that Cuba is a safe country and at the same time, in spite of economic and political adversities, it continues as a country of social interest,” culture ministry employee Mariela Gonzalez, 42, said on the streets of Havana.

The royal couple will dine with Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro a year ago. They first met last November on Prince Charles’ 70th birthday, when the Cuban president was visiting London.

There are no plans for Charles to meet Raul Castro, who remains head of the Communist Party, though that could change, according to Britain’s embassy.

The royals’ schedule through Wednesday, when they depart for the Cayman Islands, includes a tour of Havana’s restored colonial district, visits to community and green energy projects, a meeting with young entrepreneurs, reviewing a parade of antique British cars, and various cultural activities.

Former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta, who returned to his native land in 2015 to start a dance company, termed the visit “great” and said he hoped it would strengthen relations.

“I was formed here and for many years I was in the UK and built my career, so these two nations are very important to me,” said the world-renowned Acosta, who will take over direction of England’s Birmingham Royal Ballet next year.

BREXIT AND TRUMP

Britain has worked through its embassies worldwide to strengthen bilateral commercial relations since a referendum three years ago to exit the European Union. 

Plans for high-level officials to accompany the Prince of Wales were scuttled by the political drama playing out in London over how best to leave the EU before a March 29 deadline.

British trade with Cuba was less than $100 million last year. However, some 200,000 British tourists vacation there annually.

Insurer Lloyds of London and British-based accounting firm Ernst and Young do a brisk business on the island, as do lubricants manufacturer Castrol and Aberdeen Standard Investments, which manages Cuba-focused real estate firm CEIBA Investments Ltd

A handful of well-known British corporations have investments in Cuba through subsidiaries, for example Imperial Brands Plc, British-American Tobacco Plc and Unilever.

These and other British companies may eventually become targets of lawsuits by Cuban-Americans if Washington presses ahead with a tougher stance on foreign investment.

The Trump administration has threatened to activate a dormant law as soon as next month that allows American citizens to go to court against foreign companies “trafficking” in their nationalized and confiscated properties taken at the time of Cuba’s 1959 Revolution.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A couple look towards signs pointing out distances to different cities,at an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights
FILE PHOTO: A couple look towards signs pointing out distances to different cities,at an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday it was time to back Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Alexander)

Source: OANN

William Davis | Contributor

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke joined the chorus of Democrats and Republicans criticizing President Donald Trump for his renewed attacks on the late Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Trump has sharply criticized McCain in recent days for his decision to turn over the unverified Steele dossier to the FBI in 2016 — as well as his decisive vote against a bill to repeal Obamacare in 2017. Trump said of the Senate icon, “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.” (RELATED: Lou Dobbs Defends Trump Against GOP Critics Over McCain Comments)

O’Rourke responded on the campaign trail in New Hampshire on Thursday, praising McCain for sticking up for then-Senator Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign after a woman made racist comments against the Democratic Nominee. (RELATED: The Media Is Lavishing Praise On McCain After His Passing, But Look At What It Had To Say When He Ran Against Obama)

“I just keep going back to Sen. McCain himself and the example that he set for all of us, running for the presidency in 2008,” O’Rourke said. “That kind of dignity and civility, and mutual respect in our politics is missing right now.”

“The bar was really set by Sen. McCain,” O’Rourke said. “He really was extraordinary in that way.”

Elected officials from both parties have taken Trump to task for his attacks on McCain, and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently announced his intentions to reintroduce a bill to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after the 6-term Arizona Senator.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator

  • FACT, an ethics watchdog group, filed a complaint with the IRS against Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit organization founded by Stacey Abrams. 
  • FACT says Fair Fight is violating its tax-exempt status by promoting Abrams’ political career instead of solely focusing on its stated goal of promoting voting rights. 
  • After losing her 2018 gubernatorial bid, Abrams openly considered a 2020 run for Senate and the White House. 

An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint with the IRS against Stacey Abrams’ nonprofit organization, Fair Fight Action, alleging it violated federal law.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) — a government watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. — is saying Fair Fight is working to promote Abrams’ political career in lieu of promoting voting rights, which, if accurate, it says would be in violation of its 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

Originally founded in 2014 as Voter Access Institute, Abrams changed the name to Fair Fight Action in December 2018. Fair Fight’s stated goal is the promotion of voter rights, and it advocates for a number of different election reforms. However, under its 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, it cannot provide “support for an individual’s personal political activities.”

In its complaint to the IRS, FACT argues Abrams used Fair Fight to promote her own political ambitions.

The complaint says since Abrams lost her gubernatorial election, Fair Fight has helped pay for Abrams’ statewide speaking tour, Facebook ads that attacked Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and promoted herself, a Super Bowl ad, hosted watch parties for supporters to “cheer” for Abrams as she gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union, and accepted donations from a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser.”

These activities have gone on as Abrams openly mulled a 2020 Senate candidacy and even a presidential bid. Former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly considering Abrams as his running mate, should he run and win the Democratic presidential nomination. Any political run for office by Abrams, experts argue, would elevate concerns over Fair Fight’s activities.

“It is extremely concerning that Stacey Abrams appears to be abusing our nation’s tax laws for her personal political gain,” Kendra Arnold, the executive director of FACT, said in a statement Tuesday. “The IRS has on numerous occasions ruled against groups trying to advance personal interests, and it is imperative the IRS investigate Fair Fight Action’s conduct.”

Abrams’ team hit back against the complaint.

“We know the playbook for Trump and his allies. They’re going to do whatever it takes to undermine our movement to ensure free and fair elections. We have to fight back now,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo — Abrams’ 2018 campaign manager who runs Fair Fight — in an email to supporters.

Groh-Wargo called the complaint “baseless” and said her group was not promoting Abrams.

Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams walks on stage and waves at the audience for a campaign rally at Morehouse College with Former US President Barack Obama on Nov. 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 02: Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams walks on stage and waves at the audience for a campaign rally at Morehouse College with Former US President Barack Obama on November 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Obama spoke in Atlanta to endorse Abrams and encourage Georgians to vote. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

FACT pushed back against the accusation that it is a partisan organization, pointing out that it filed similar complaints with Republicans as well.

“Whoever we identify with questionable behavior, they fail to respond to the actual legitimacy of the complaint and just try to characterize us in one way or another,” Arnold told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have filed complaints against every type of candidate and elected official. We do not consider party affiliation.” (RELATED: House Oversight Committee Opens Investigation Into Alleged Georgia Voter Suppression)

This is not the first time a nonprofit led by Abrams received negative headlines.

Third Sector Development, a nonprofit launched by Abrams that focuses on registering black voters, has been hit with seven different tax liens over the past few years for unpaid employment contributions. Georgia state regulators filed three tax liens against the group in the past year, and the Georgia Department of Labor filed four tax liens between 2014 and 2016. Abrams blamed the issues on clerical errors.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

March 21, 2019

By Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers see a U.S. economy that is rapidly losing momentum. They predict inflation will miss their 2 percent target for yet another year, despite rising wages, and they expect unemployment to increase.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s view of it all? He calls these fundamentals “very strong,” says the economy is in a “good place and sees the outlook as “favorable.”

Welcome to the new normal.

Powell’s upbeat assessment of a deteriorating economy shows how completely the Fed has embraced a world of stubbornly weak inflation, permanently slower growth and chronically low interest rates that give the central bank precious little room for conventional policy easing when the next downturn arrives.

It is a situation that poses risks to the Fed’s credibility, given the long-running failure to lift inflation to a target first specified in 2012 in hopes of guiding the economy upward. It also raises the stakes over an evolving debate about the need for fiscal, social and other policies that may be targeted to pick up the slack.

“It feels like the Fed has come to Jesus on this topic,” said University of Oregon economics professor Tim Duy, who believes the abrupt revisions to Fed forecasts show the Fed may have already raised interest rates too far. “The secular stagnation story, some part of it, must in fact be a reality.”

Powell delivered his message on Wednesday as the Fed signaled it is likely finished with the interest rate increases it started back in 2015, and hinted that should the outlook worsen, a rate cut may be next.

“We are very mindful… of what the risks are,” Powell said after the Fed held its target range for short-term rates steady at 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. “We don’t see data coming in that suggests we should move in either direction… We should remain patient and let the situation clarify over time; when the time comes, we will act appropriately.”

DOWN IN THE DUMPS?

At least nine and perhaps as many as 15 of the Fed’s 17 policymakers slashed their interest rate forecasts, with most seeing no rate hikes this year. As a group they now believe the economy has lost perhaps a third of its momentum compared with last year, and will grow around 2.1 percent in 2019.

What about the idea they would need to boost rates high enough to brake growth and actually curb inflation, a feature of their outlook in 2018? A thing of the past.

If anything, the Fed’s concern has shifted in the other direction, toward inflation remaining so low it undermines business and household expectations about the future, another potential drag on growth if either sector becomes more cautious in spending.

To some analysts, the abrupt revisions sound like a warning.

“What does the Fed know that it’s not saying?” asked Marvin Loh, global macro strategist at State Street.

“I think we are bracing for another shoe to drop,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco.

That was also the view of financial markets, with short-term interest-rate futures quickly pricing in a rate cut next year.

Powell noted risks to his positive outlook include a slowdown in Europe and ongoing trade tensions with China.

RISK OF THE LESS-LIKELY OUTCOME

To others, however, it seemed like confirmation of an inconvenient truth: that global growth may have peaked, leaving countries stuck in slow-growth mode and reliant on fiscal policy to keep from grinding to a halt. In addition, they will have to carry the load of recovery should a recession occur.

“Even once this episode is past, what do things look like? In the Fed’s view it is a world of sub-2 percent growth” over the long run, said Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income and a former U.S. Treasury official. “By U.S. historical standards, it is not great.”

Central banks in Japan and Europe are in a similar fix, fueling a global debate about whether, given chronically low interest rates, it makes sense for larger and economically more dynamic nations to borrow more for investments in infrastructure, education, climate adaptation and other endeavors that would have a clear public return.

“It is a different world,” former International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard said in a meeting with reporters recently at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “We are going to be in a world where monetary policy is highly constrained and fiscal (policy) will become central.”

Originally skeptical of the secular stagnation argument that low growth in developed nations is hardwired into the long-term outlook by aging populations that over-save, he said he now views that as the “more likely” state of affairs.

The issue now is whether the current slow-growth expansion will continue indefinitely in the hoped-for “soft landing” that the Fed foresees in its current projections.

There are arguments to the contrary. The recently released Economic Report of the President projected growth will remain near 3 percent this year and could edge up in coming years if, for example, the now-temporary household tax cuts approved in 2017 are made permanent. Resolution of current global trade frictions could also raise the global outlook.

But 2018, a year that began with U.S. and world officials heralding an era of synchronized global growth, may also prove the outlier.

Said Bank of the West’s Anderson: “Even with the U.S. pausing, it might not be enough to stop a global downturn.”

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider; Editing by Dan Burns and Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

March 21, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah are harming Lebanon as a whole, President Michel Aoun said on Thursday ahead of a visit to the country by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The United States deems the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group a terrorist organization and has been steadily increasing financial sanctions against it as part of efforts to counter Iran.

Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah has a large armed militia that has helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his eight-year war against rebels, but it is also a political party in Lebanon with seats in the parliament and cabinet.

“Lebanon is within the siege that has been imposed on others, particularly on Iran. And it is passing, as a result of that, through a big crisis,” Aoun told Russian media in Lebanon, the Lebanese Presidency office said.

Sanctions against Hezbollah introduced since 2016 raised fears among Lebanese that U.S. correspondent banks might deem Lebanese banks too risky to do business with, harming a major part of Lebanon’s economy.

However, Lebanon’s Central Bank has repeatedly said that the banking sector is fully compliant with sanctions and that foreign institutions are satisfied with how it implements regulation.

“We don’t expect more measures against the banks,” Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said.

But he said the “negative impact of the siege on Hezbollah afflicts all Lebanese, as it does the Lebanese banks”.

“Every Lebanese bank has uncertainty about dealing with a depositor, fearing that he has a link with Hezbollah … This mutual fear does not build an economy and sound trade relations,” he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo is due to visit Lebanon on Friday and Saturday after trips to Kuwait and Israel. In Israel, Pompeo described Iran-backed Hezbollah as a risk to the Lebanese.

Aoun is scheduled to visit Russia over March 25-26 after being invited by President Vladimir Putin, Aoun’s office said.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman visit the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem's Old City
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem’s Old City March 21, 2019. Abir Sultan/ Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accompanied Israel’s prime minister on a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday in the first such gesture since Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, angering Palestinians.

The ancient Western Wall, the most sacred prayer site in Judaism, is located in the eastern part of the city that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

Israel has long considered all of Jerusalem as its eternal, indivisible capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they seek in territory Israel took in the June 1967 war.

Shortly after entering office in January 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump visited the Western Wall, though without Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Later that year Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy and officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, though making clear that he was not prejudging a settlement on where the city’s borders should be.

Since that shift, the U.S. ambassador to Israel has paid visits to the Western Wall along with Netanyahu. Pompeo suggested that his own visit as the top U.S. diplomat in Netanyahu’s presence was significant.

“I think it’s symbolic that a senior American official goes there with the prime minister of Israel,” he told reporters prior to arriving in the walled Old City.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the compound of a Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The elevated plaza above it is the Noble Sanctuary, the third holiest site in Islam, containing the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Pompeo, Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman together approached the wall and each leaned against its massive stones with one hand. Pompeo then placed a prayer note in between the stones, as is customary.

Before going to the wall, he visited the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

Pompeo, now on a Middle East tour, visited Kuwait before Israel and is due to proceed to Lebanon. His trip to Israel, three weeks before a closely contested election, was portrayed in local media as a Trump administration boost for the right-wing Netanyahu.

(Reporting by Rami Amichay; Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Not only is there a national emergency on the border, but there is one in Congress, too, for their inaction on immigration reform, according America First Policies vice chair Kimberly Guilfoyle in The Daily Caller.

"Congress tried to veto reality," Guilfoyle wrote. "Instead, President Trump vetoed Congress.

". . . By any measure of objective reality, there is a national emergency at the southern border. There's also another national emergency. It's in Washington where Congress refuses to recognize reality or do anything about it."

Congress' inaction has invited human traffickers to flood our borders, because they know they ostensibly protected by politics, she claimed.

The mass migration gets released into the United States by court order and the undocumented immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, perhaps even flooding the market and causing wage deflation for those laborers, she added.

"No matter how hard Congress tries to ignore, deny and dodge reality, we have a humanitarian, security, and enforcement crisis at the border," Guilfoyle wrote. "As Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen said, it is beyond a national emergency — it's a total meltdown of our immigration system.

". . . The president took an oath to preserve and protect our country. He takes that oath seriously. Congress must take off its blindfold and work with President Trump to end the immigration crisis threatening our nation."

Source: NewsMax

DCNF Video Team | Contributor

CNN’s Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump have a very contentious relationship. Check out this compilation video of Acosta’s glowing questions to President Barack Obama versus his to President Trump.

Trump has famously called Acosta ‘fake news,’ and Acosta is known for his contempt of the president.

WATCH:

Under Obama, Acosta would introduce a question with flatteries like “some people are calling your best week ever last week.” But Acosta also recently criticized The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti for asking a question that he thought “was asked in a way that really teed it up like a game of tee ball here in the Rose Garden.” (RELATED: Bar Hopping With Liberals On Election Night)

Watch some of The Daily Caller News Foundation’s other videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you never miss out.

SUBSCRIBE HERE!

Check out the most recent videos by TheDCNF:

Is Thanksgiving Racist?

Super Bowl Or See Michelle Obama Speak?

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

David Hookstead | Reporter

Barack Obama thinks the Duke Blue Devils are going to win March Madness.

The 44th POTUS released his bracket Thursday morning, and it’s actually not too bad. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but my bracket shares a shocking number of similarities with Obama’s. (RELATED: The March Madness Bracket Has Been Released)

He’s got a Final Four of Duke, Michigan, Tennessee and North Carolina.

My only beef here, and it’s a big one, is the fact that he has Oregon beating Wisconsin in the first round. My man, that just isn’t going to happen. (RELATED: Watch Wisconsin Beat Kentucky In The 2015 Final Four)

I’ll have a piece later today explaining in-depth why that won’t occur, but I’m disappointed that Obama, a man who prides himself as a basketball fan, would think the Ducks have a chance. Truly embarrassing.

Say whatever you want about Obama’s time as the President, I think it’s awesome that he is a big basketball fan. We might disagree on just about everything politically, but he does seem like a guy that would be fun to kick with some beers and the game on.

I wish I could criticize him more here, but I just can’t. Our brackets are too similar. So, in this case, major props to Obama (other than his Wisconsin pick) for knowing what’s up.

Source: The Daily Caller

Matt M. Miller | Contributor

Democratic 2020 presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper questioned why female 2020 candidates weren’t being asked if they would consider male running mates.

Asked by Dana Bash if he would vow to put a woman on his presidential ticket, John Hickenlooper replied, “Of course,” and then said, “How come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’” #CNNTownHall pic.twitter.com/AC7hWtyZ7D

CNN’s Dana Bash asked Hickenlooper at a presidential town hall Wednesday, “Governor, some of your male competitors have vowed to put a woman on the ticket. Yes or no, would you do the same?” (RELATED: Former Colorado Governor Joins Growing List Of 2020 Dem Hopefuls)

“Of course,” Hickenlooper replied. He then proceeded to ask Bash a question of his own: “How come we’re not asking more often the women: ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’”

His question was met with silence from the audience.

“When we get to that point, I’ll ask you that question,” Bash responded.

A spokesperson for Hickenlooper, Lauren Hitt, addressed criticism towards the Hickenlooper’s question on Twitter, attempting to clarify Hickenlooper’s intended arguement, “Making the point that the media too often discounts the chances of women winning the nomination themselves.” (RELATED: Is There A Place For Moderate John Hickenlooper In A Democratic Party That Embraces The Green New Deal?)

Several other male Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have encountered the same question regarding their vice president selection.

When asked if he would consider a female running mate, former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said, “That would be my preference.”

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders expressed that he will be looking for a young female candidate upon announcement of his 2020 presidential bid.

“I think we would look for somebody who is maybe not of the same gender that I am, and maybe someone who might be a couple of years younger than me, and somebody who can take the progressive banner as vice president and carry it all over this county,” Sanders said to the Young Turks. “I’m not going to box myself in, but should I become [the presidential nominee], you know I’ll be looking to women first.” Sanders continued.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker stated outright that “there will be a woman on the ticket,” to reporters last week.

Source: The Daily Caller

A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City
FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Wells Fargo’s board is in talks with Harvey Schwartz, the former president and co-chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, to take over as the bank’s next chief executive, the New York Post reported on Thursday, citing people briefed on the talks.

Schwartz is up against another serious candidate for Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan’s job, whose identity couldn’t immediately be learned, the newspaper reported citing one source close to the situation.

Shares of Wells Fargo pared some losses to trade down 1.5 percent at $49.62. The stock was earlier down 2.4 percent.

The bank was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru)

Source: OANN

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte said Manila’s relations with Beijing will not be jeopardised despite two former officials filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court over China’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea.

Since taking office in 2016, the Philippine leader re-oriented his foreign policy away from longtime ally the United States and toward China, despite decades of mistrust and bitter maritime disputes with Beijing.

However, the country’s former anti-graft chief and former foreign affairs minister is asking the ICC to conduct a preliminary examination on China’s role in the South China Sea.

The letter was dated March 13 – four days before the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the ICC was formalized.

Duterte said: “They think they have a good case and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China.”

Close ties will remain as China understands that anyone can file a case as the Philippines is a democratic country, he told reporters late on Thursday.

Duterte is facing criticism from opponents for making too many political concessions to China in return for billions of dollars of pledged Chinese loans and investment, most of which have yet to materialize.

China says it has irrefutable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and the waters around them.

Under the ICC rules, any individual, group or state can communicate with the prosecutor on alleged crimes falling under the court’s jurisdiction. The complaints can form the initial basis of the preliminary examinations.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Imported automobiles are parked in a lot at the port of Newark New Jersey
Imported automobiles are parked in a lot at the port of Newark New Jersey, U.S., February 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A conservative group has sued the U.S. government for access to a report on whether auto imports pose a big enough security risk to justify hefty tariffs on the sector, part of a growing chorus demanding a copy of the document.

Cause of Action Institute (CoA), a watchdog aligned with the conservative political activists David and Charles Koch, asked the District of Columbia Federal Court on Wednesday to require the Commerce department to hand over a copy of the report, which could unleash tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts.

Last month, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross submitted the so-called “Section 232” national security report to President Donald Trump, starting a 90-day countdown for him to decide whether to impose the tariffs on millions of imports.

The Commerce department declined to comment.

The industry has warned that tariffs could add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses throughout the U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department started its investigation in May 2018 at Trump’s request. Known as a Section 232 investigation, its purpose was to determine the effects of imports on national security. It had to be completed by February.

In the suit, CoA alleged the Commerce Department has missed deadlines to respond to Freedom of Information Act Requests it filed for the report on Feb. 18, a day after the report was sent to the White House.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has also sought a copy of the report without success, Politico reported.

Administration officials have said tariff threats on autos are a way to win concessions from Japan and the EU. Last year, Trump agreed not to impose tariffs as long as talks with the two trading partners were proceeding in a productive manner.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Additional Reporting by David Shepardson and David Lawder; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf
FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

March 21, 2019

By Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s oil exports have dropped in March to their lowest daily level this year, according to tanker data and industry sources, even before Washington formally requires importing countries to reduce purchases to avoid infringing U.S. sanctions.

Shipments are averaging between 1.0 and 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) so far this month, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and three other companies that track Iranian exports. That’s lower than February, when shipments were at least 1.3 million bpd.

Shipments have dropped from at least 2.5 million bpd in April 2018, the month before U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions, fueling a year of economic crisis in the country.

Tehran has vowed to keep exporting oil despite U.S. efforts to reduce its shipments to zero, but the export decline could be another indicator of economic pressure from the embargo.

In a new year speech on Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic had resisted U.S. sanctions and called on the government to boost national production to face enemy pressures.

For the oil market, the drop in Iranian shipments will add to an OPEC-led oil supply cut and comes ahead of U.S. plans to clamp down further on Iranian exports from May, after ending of the current round of fairly generous waivers from sanctions.

Still, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, which began cutting production from Jan. 1 to bolster prices, are unlikely to be in a rush to change course, analysts say, without concrete signs of a shortage.

“We do expect less Iranian oil exports after May,” said Sara Vakhshouri of energy consultant SVB Energy International.

“However, we don’t think that OPEC will increase its production in anticipation of lower Iranian oil exports, but only if there are clear signs of further Iran and/or Venezuelan export cuts in the market,” Vakhshouri said.

Venezuela, an OPEC member, is also under U.S. sanctions which have curbed its exports.

Iran’s export levels have become more opaque since U.S. sanctions on the country’s oil sector took effect in November, although estimates of March supplies are falling into a narrower range than in previous months.

Kpler, a company that tracks oil flows, said Iranian shipments so far in March had dropped sharply to 1.03 million bps from 1.44 million bpd in February.

“Iranian crude loadings have struggled through the first half of March,” Kpler said in a report, although it said exports would rise closer to 1.3 million bpd in the rest of March.

(Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

John Lott | President, Crime Prevention Research Center

Ever since the 2016 campaign, Democrats and the media have asserted that President Trump has failed to distance himself from white nationalists and neo-Nazis. The fact that White House staffers must answer these questions shows how far out of kilter the discussion has gone.

A Monday headline in the Washington Post read: “Trump’s top staffer doesn’t believe his boss is a white supremacist. Many Americans disagree.” Acting White House Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney left no equivocation: “The president is not a white supremacist.”

On the Sunday edition of CNN’s State of the Union, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) claimed that President Trump “needs to do better” at condemning white nationalism. “The leadership, the administration — when they continue to stay silent, it’s going to increase,” said Tlaib.

Host Jake Tapper agreed: “I don’t think moderate Republicans are doing enough to hold President Trump accountable for his rhetoric.”

Last August, Bloomberg ran the headline, “Trump Still Fails to Condemn Racism a Year After Charlottesville.” The article went on to claim, “He has refused to distance himself from white supremacists like Duke.”

These media depictions are so extreme that they are easily proven false. If Trump “stayed silent” and really “refused to distance himself,” there shouldn’t be any statements to the contrary. Yet, there are dozens of them.

Take this exchange with a reporter a couple of days after the Charlottesville riots in 2017.

TRUMP: Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. . . . I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.  

REPORTER: I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?  

TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. . . .

So what exactly is unclear? It’s hard to see how any rational person could think that Trump wasn’t condemning neo-Nazis. Was “very bad people” not strong enough? Should he have said, “very, very bad people”?

Or how about another Trump statement in the aftermath of the riots? “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”  

No matter how many times Trump specifically singles out white supremacists, his other blanket condemnations of bigotry convince the media that he really supports racists. This tweet from August didn’t pass the media smell test: “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”  

How many times does Trump have to disavow David Duke and others like him before the media will concede the point?

“David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” in March 2016. “I disavowed him. I disavowed the KKK. Do you want me to do it again for the 12th time? I disavowed him in the past, I disavow him now.”

After the election, the New York Times asked Trump about the “alt-right.” The president-elect replied, “I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn.”

On CBS’ 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked Trump about reports of his supporters using racial slurs and making personal threats against blacks, Latinos and gays. Trump replied, “I am very surprised to hear that.” When Stahl asked if he had a message for these offenders, Trump was firm: “I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it — if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”

The media is factually wrong about Trump. At this point, there can be no doubt that journalists who claim that Trump has failed to condemn white supremacists are wildly inaccurate. If people read the full transcripts of Trump’s statements on Charlottesville or David Duke, the media will have no credibility left.

John R. Lott is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author, most recently, of “The War on Guns.”


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller

Source: The Daily Caller

It is "stupid" for President Donald Trump to keep attacking late Sen. John McCain, and there can be "no positive outcome" from it, former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci said Thursday.

"When you are attacking dead people, it's not good," Scaramucci told CNN's "New Day." "It's one of the main reasons why you have graveyards and people don't touch the grave yards. They drive by them on the highway and say that's a valuable piece of land but they leave all the caskets inside graves."

Trump again slammed McCain, who died of brain cancer last August, during a speech at an Army tank plant in Lima, Ohio, on Wednesday, after attacking him on Twitter.

"That's an unnatural social act and it will turn people off eventually," Scaramucci said. "I wish he wouldn't do that because he's got so many great things going on, and so many great things about the country and the world that are taking place. Why do that? I just think it's wrong."

He said he does understand Trump's grievances against McCain, including his vote on repealing Obamacare, but added the criticisms are not "scoring any points with anybody."

Scaramucci said he always got along with McCain, and he does not believe veterans, who support Trump by the millions, "are in love" with the president's attacks on the late senator.

"So, he could sit there and try to justify it he may have staff around him that tells him, 'hey, that's great that you're attacking a dead senator,' but I don't think it's great," Scaramucci said.

Source: NewsMax

Henry Rodgers | Capitol Hill Reporter

Former Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 2020 hopeful, said he once watched an X-rated film with his mother during a town hall Wednesday night.

Hickenlooper was asked about a piece in his book in which he says he came home from college to a table full of food cooked by his mother. Hickenlooper said he told his mother he and his friend had already purchased tickets to an X-rated film, titled “Deep Throat,” so he asked his mother if she would like to come along, as her husband had just died and he says he did not want her to be lonely.

“She didn’t want to be left alone in the house again,” Hickenlooper said. “So I took my mother to see ‘Deep Throat.’”

The former Colorado Governor also said his mother was “mortified” after seeing the film, but that she did not leave during the film because she had already bought a ticket. Hickenlooper claims to not have known how graphic X-rated films are, before buying the ticket.

WATCH: 

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper participates in a discussion as part of the Brookings Institution’s Middle Class Initiative October 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hickenlooper will have to defeat a long list of Democratic candidates to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. (RELATED: Hickenlooper Faces Uphill 2020 Battle In A Democratic Field That’s Sprinting To The Left)

“I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” Hickenlooper said in a video announcing his decision. “I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”

Follow Henry Rodgers On Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Jane Philpott, when she was newly appointed president of the Treasury Board, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
FILE PHOTO: Jane Philpott, when she was newly appointed president of the Treasury Board, signs a book in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – A Canadian cabinet minister, who had quit in protest over the government’s handling of a corruption scandal, said she and others had more to say about the matter, indicating more pain to come for embattled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau has been on the defensive since Feb. 7 over allegations that top officials working for him leaned on former justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, last year to ensure that construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoided a corruption trial.

“There’s much more to the story that should be told,” former treasury board president, Jane Philpott, told Macleans’ magazine in an interview released on Thursday.

“I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth,” she said. Philpott added that she and Wilson-Raybould had more to say but did not elaborate further. Philpott, a close political ally of Wilson-Raybould, quit on March 4.

Trudeau has denied any political interference to protect SNC-Lavalin from a bribery trial.

The crisis may threaten Trudeau’s reelection chances in the upcoming October vote. Polls show Trudeau’s center-left Liberals, who as recently as January looked certain to win the election, could lose to the official opposition Conservatives.

As well as the two ministers, the affair has claimed Trudeau’s closest political aide and the head of the federal bureaucracy. A Liberal legislator who backed Wilson-Raybould quit on Wednesday to sit as an independent.

Trudeau suffered further potential embarrassment on Thursday when SNC-Lavalin Chief Executive Neil Bruce denied he had told government officials that 9,000 jobs could be at risk if the firm was found guilty of offering bribes to Libyan officials.

Trudeau has often referred to the 9,000 potential job losses as a reason for helping the firm, which wanted to take advantage of new legislation to pay a large fine rather than be prosecuted.

“Until we are able to put this behind us, it’s pretty difficult to grow our Canadian workforce,” Bruce told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday.

Asked whether he had mentioned a specific number of jobs that could be at risk, he replied: “No, we never gave a number.”

A court conviction would bar SNC-Lavalin from bidding on federal government contracts for 10 years.

Bruce added that if the company’s share price continued to suffer, it might become a takeover target. He played down comments by officials that the company might move abroad.

SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters are in the populous province of Quebec, where the Liberals say they need to pick up more seats in the October election to retain a majority government.

Trudeau has dismissed calls for a public inquiry, noting the House of Commons justice committee was probing the matter. That committee – dominated by Liberal legislators – shut down its inquiry on Tuesday, saying no more action was needed.

In protest, the Conservatives forced the House to sit through the night on Wednesday casting votes on hundreds of confidence motions. The marathon continued into Thursday.

“We’ll keep fighting and we hope Canadians join us in this cause and raise their voices,” Conservative legislator Michelle Rempel told reporters.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

March 21, 2019

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has appointed ruling party head Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), as an assistant, a presidency statement said on Thursday.

Bashir, who has faced more than three months of street protests against his rule, delegated the leadership of the National Congress Party to Haroun earlier this month.

Both Bashir and Haroun are wanted by the ICC over alleged crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Paul Ingrassia | Contributor

Former President Jimmy Carter officially became America’s longest living president Thursday when he turned 94 years and 172 days, surpassing George H.W. Bush’s age of 94 years and 171 days at the time of his death. 

Carter, who has been out of office since 1981, also holds the record for longest post-presidency. At 38 years and counting, Carter has a significant leg up on the runner-up, Herbert Hoover, who spent 31 years and 230 days out of office after his presidency. 

From left, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the state funeral for former U.S. President George H. W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral. (Photo by Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images)

From left, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the state funeral for former U.S. President George H. W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral. (Photo by Alex Brandon – Pool/Getty Images)

H.W. Bush was previously the oldest president in American history when he reached 93 years, 166 days in November of 2017, officially surpassing former President Gerald Ford at the time of his death in 2006. H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30 2018. (RELATED: George H.W. Bush Just Became The Longest Living President)

Only six (John Adams, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, H.W. Bush and Carter) of the 45 men who ascended to the highest office of the land reached the age of 90 in their lifetimes. Carter is the only one still living of the six.

Four of the six men who reached the age of 90 did so in the twenty-first century. Adams, America’s second president served from 1797-1801 and was the only president to turn 90 in the nineteenth century. Hoover, who was president from 1929-1933, was the second president to reach 90. He was the only president to hit 90 in the twentieth century in 1964, 139 years after John Adams. 

Adams, however, outlived Hoover by 176 days, making him the longest record holder to maintain the title of oldest president until Ronald Reagan turned 90 years and 248 days in 2001. Adams held onto the title for nearly two centuries, the longest duration by far.

After Carter, the next oldest living president is the current occupant of the office, President Donald Trump, who is 72-years-old, 280 days.

Trump, alongside former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, are the only three presidents who were born in the same year: 1946, the first year of the baby boomer generation. Carter remains the only living president from the greatest generation, a demographic group that roughly encompasses Americans born between 1900 and 1924.

Carter, who has overcome a number of health ailments in recent years including brain cancer, still remains active in public life and in his various humanitarian efforts.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Two of the top administration officials who now hold their positions in an "acting" capacity are expected to be upgraded to permanent status soon — possibly in the next week, White House sources told Newsmax.

Mick Mulvaney is expected to be moved from "acting" to "permanent" White House chief of staff, while the occupant of his previous position as Director of the Office of Management and Budget will almost certainly undergo a similar upgrade.

Russ Vought, presently "acting" OMB director, is considered certain to be nominated for permanent director.

Nomination of Vought, formerly a top aide to several conservative Members of Congress, to be OMB director will require Senate confirmation. The president's tapping "acting" chief of staff Mulvaney to be the permanent holder of the position would simply require the stroke of Trump's pen.

Trump himself has repeatedly said he has no problem working with top officials who are on "acting" status and this gives him "more flexibility." Senators of both parties disagree, saying "acting" officials carry less authority than those who have hold are permanent officials.

Mulvaney apparently agreed with them. Two months ago, the former South Carolina congressman and state legislator sent out strong signals he would not object to becoming president of the University of South Carolina and made inquiries about the job following the announced retirement of President Harris Pastides.

Mulvaney subsequently announced he was "no longer interested" in the position and would remain as Trump's chief of staff.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Source: NewsMax

IMF logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington
FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S., as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund is still awaiting guidance from its members on whether to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday, adding that there is no schedule for an IMF board meeting to decide the issue.

Rice told an IMF news briefing that there is still no clarity on Venezuela’s leadership situation and any shift in the Fund’s recognition of the government will be guided by its 189 member countries and the international community and “views are still being formed.”

Another Washington-based multilateral institution, the Inter-American Development Bank, last week replaced the representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with an economist backed by Juan Guaido, a major setback for the Maduro government.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

Michael Cohen’s business partner on the failed Trump Tower Moscow project will testify publicly before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 27, the committee announced.

Felix Sater will testify “about his business ventures with the Trump Organization and the potential Trump Tower Moscow deal,” according to a Thursday press release from the committee.

The committee will also have an open hearing on March 28 on “Putin’s Playbook: The Kremlin’s Use of Oligarchs, Money and Intelligence in 2016 and Beyond.”

The hearings are the first under Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff’s tenure.

Sater, a real estate executive who has worked as an informant for the U.S. government for decades, worked with Cohen beginning in late 2015 to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. (RELATED: Bruce Ohr Testimony Undercuts Adam Schiff’s Theory About FBI’s Handling Of Dossier)

Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks about President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, during an interview with Mike Allen of Axios, on Jan. 31, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sater sent several text messages touting the project and pledging to get the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also came up with the idea to offer Putin a $50 million penthouse as part of the negotiation to secure the deal. Sater said the offer was part of a “marketing conversation” he had with Cohen.

Cohen pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s probe to lying to Congress about the timeline of his work on the Trump Tower project. He claimed that negotiations ended in January 2016, before the beginning of the 2016 primaries. Cohen acknowledged in his Nov. 29 plea agreement that he continued his efforts through June 2016.

Sater, who has known Cohen since childhood, has said he saw no evidence of election-related collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Schiff, a California Democrat, has shifted his focus recently from the question of collusion to whether Russia or other foreign countries have compromised President Donald Trump through lucrative business deals.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Michel Temer arrives for a breakfast with foreign media at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia
FILE PHOTO: Former Brazil’s President Michel Temer arrives for a breakfast with foreign media at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

March 21, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s former president Michel Temer was arrested on Thursday as part of the sweeping anti-corruption investigation known as “Car Wash”, a source involved in the case told Reuters.

Temer was president from 2016 to 2018, taking office following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Marcelo Rochabrun)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Michel Temer arrives for a breakfast with foreign media at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia
FILE PHOTO: Former Brazil’s President Michel Temer arrives for a breakfast with foreign media at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

March 21, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s former president Michel Temer was arrested on Thursday as part of the sweeping anti-corruption investigation known as “Car Wash”, a source involved in the case told Reuters.

Temer was president from 2016 to 2018, taking office following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Marcelo Rochabrun)

Source: OANN

Voters in Wisconsin recognize Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez more than they recognize most of the Democrats running for president in 2020.

An Axios report revealed that Sen. Bernie Sanders was recognized by voters more than all other 2020 candidates in the survey, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Every other candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary was known less than Ocasio-Cortez.

Description Official portrait of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.Andrew Cutraro, White House Photographer

Official portrait of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden. Andrew Cutraro, White House Photographer

They didn’t just know her name, either. Members of the focus group in the study could recall past campaign slogans, as well as major policy stances, such as her efforts in environmental issues, as well as her efforts to combat inequality. The researchers noted the words “Green New Deal” did not come up. (RELATED: Poll: New Yorkers Consider Ocasio-Cortez A Villian In Amazon Pullout By Wide Margins)

Sens. Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris were each recognized at about the same rate, all with a recognizability score of 2.5 out of 10. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke earned a score of 1 out of 10, and the rest of the candidates running for office fell well short of that score according to the report.

Axios surveyed an unknown number of “swing voters” for the Wisconsin focus group. Members of the group were shown a photo of one of the politicians and asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 on how confident they were in identifying that person.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers, Algeria, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi and Aidan Lewis

ALGIERS/CAIRO (Reuters) – Protests that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets in Algeria over the past month led President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to scrap plans to run for a fifth term.

He postponed an election originally set for April and announced that experts would oversee a transition to a “new system” in coming months. Protesters say this is not enough.

WHAT CAUSED THE PROTESTS?

The immediate cause was Bouteflika’s candidacy. Calls for protests spread after it was confirmed on Feb. 10. Mass rallies began on Feb. 22, and numbers rose over the following two Fridays. After Bouteflika abandoned plans to stand but stopped short of stepping down — raising the prospect that he would stay in power for the rest of the year — the protests swelled.

More broadly, protests drew on frustration among millions of Algerians who feel politically and economically excluded, and resentment against an aging and secretive elite that has controlled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

President since 1999, Bouteflika became a symbol of an independence generation that clung to power. He oversaw a return to stability after a civil war in the 1990s but in his second decade in power was incapacitated and mostly absent from public life, fuelling a sense of drift and decline.

Plans to diversify the economy away from oil stalled in a sclerotic system many saw as corrupt and riven with cronyism.

HOW DID BOUTEFLIKA SURVIVE SO LONG?

Major Islamist groups were discredited by the 1990s war and along with a liberal opposition were coopted or excluded when it ended. As the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) reasserted itself, political apathy set in and election turnouts dropped.

When uprisings swept the region in 2011, Algeria used a heavy security and oil money to curtail demonstrations.

There were frequent local protests, but these demanded state resources, not political change. Factional battles played out in the domestic media, relatively free by regional standards. Then, as now, neither ruling elite factions nor Bouteflika and his entourage appeared able to agree on a succession plan.

WHO HAS BEEN RUNNING THE COUNTRY?

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, but by then he had already sidelined or outlived the generals who brought him to power. General Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene, head of military intelligence and the man widely seen to be the real center of power in Algeria, departed in 2015.

While the army remained Algeria’s most powerful institution, an informal clique around the presidency amassed more influence, including Bouteflika’s younger brother Said. An emerging business elite profiting from surging oil income also benefited.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS NOW?

Bouteflika announced that an “independent and inclusive” national conference would draft and new constitution and set a date for elections, and should conclude its work by the end of the year. An interim, technocratic government is being formed.

But this plan has been cast into doubt as Bouteflika’s position has weakened. Protesters want him to step down when his five-year term ends in April and say their goal is sustain pressure and prevent infiltration from “Bouteflika’s system”.

Chief of staff Gaed Salah has said the army should take responsibility for solving the crisis but so far it has been waiting in the wings. The army is more reluctant to intervene directly than in the past. Its decision to cancel parliamentary elections in 1992 that Islamists were poised to win triggered the conflict that left up to 200,000 people dead.

Islamism is in decline, and a new leader may come from the political mainstream. Ahmed Benbitour, a former prime minister, and Mustapha Bouchachi, a rights activist and lawyer, are among those emerging as protest leaders.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO PROTESTERS FACE?

Protesters are trying to remain peaceful. From the start, they have worried that factions within the security forces may provoke violence to discredit protesters, or that demonstrations could turn violent when protesters’ demands are not met.

Another challenge is to find leaders with enough experience and broad support — those who served under Bouteflika may be discredited in the eyes of protesters.

Protesters fear that factions holding power and associated patronage networks will look to survive even as they abandon Bouteflika. Most observers believe that while Bouteflika and his clique will leave power, the system around them will remain.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Algeria is Africa’s biggest country by landmass and has a population of more than 40 million. It is a major oil and gas producer and OPEC member, and a top supplier of gas to Europe.

Western states see Algeria as a counter-terrorism partner. It is a significant military player in North Africa and the Sahel, and diplomatically involved in crises in Mali and Libya.

Algeria also backs the Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara, in opposition to its neighbor Morocco.

(Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

Molly Prince | Politics Reporter

Former Vice President Joe Biden is considering naming Stacy Abrams as his running mate for a potential 2020 presidential bid, according to a report published Thursday.

Biden’s top advisers have discussed adding Abrams to the top of the ticket in an attempt to show Americans that the former vice president “isn’t just another old white guy,” reported Axios.

After her unsuccessful run for governor in 2018, Abrams has openly mulled a second run for the position when Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s term expires in 2022. However, she is also considering a run for Senate against Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue in 2020.

Abrams is well-known for her consistent accusations of widespread voter suppression during the 2018 election cycle, which she further claims is racially motivated. Following Abrams’s loss, she appeared regularly on cable news shows and at private events repeating those assertions. There has been no evidence to corroborate Abrams’s claims.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Stacey Abrams during a town hall style event at the Cobb Civic Center. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey interviews Stacey Abrams during a town hall style event at the Cobb Civic Center. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Abrams sued the state of Georgia in November over allegations of voter suppression. Interestingly, the lawsuit condemned legislation that Abrams herself helped pass. (RELATED: Stacey Abrams Is Not Holding Virginia Democrats To The Same Standard As Brett Kavanaugh)

While Biden has not formally revealed if he will run for president, he has been polling as the top contender for the Democratic nomination, though his age and his race are seen as a drawback by the left wing of the party.

Rev. Al Sharpton told Axios that Abrams may also bolster support from women and the African-American community which, he asserts, are still resentful over Biden’s questioning of Anita Hill during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings.

While Abrams has never held statewide or federal office, the Democrats see her as a rising star within the party. She gave the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union in February maker her the first black woman and the first non-sitting public official to give the rebuttal.

Follow Molly @mollyfprince

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Source: The Daily Caller

European Union leaders summit in Brussels
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker talks to the media as she arrives for a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – There will be an extraordinary EU leaders meeting next week if the British parliament votes down for the third time the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May, the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said.

“In the event the Withdrawal Agreement would not be approved by the House of Commons, we will have a second meeting of the European Council next week,” Juncker told reporters on entering an EU summit in Brussels.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Gabriela Baczynska)

Source: OANN

Acting President of Kazakhstan Tokayev shakes hands with his predecessor Nazarbayev during a joint session of the houses of parliament in Astana
FILE PHOTO: Acting President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (R) shakes hands with his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev during a joint session of the houses of parliament in Astana, Kazakhstan March 20, 2019. Kazakh Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

ALMATY (Reuters) – Nursultan Nazarbayev remains omnipresent in Kazakh politics days after his surprise resignation, hinting he will effectively retain a share of power with the loyalist parliament speaker who automatically stepped into his shoes.

In stepping down on Tuesday, Nazarbayev, the only ruler Kazakhstan has known since the Soviet era almost three decades ago, formally elevated Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the presidency -though Nazarbayev kept other senior decision-making posts.

The arrangement might be reassuring to investors in the major energy-producing country who hope the 78-year-old Nazarbayev would oversee a smooth transition of power to a permanent successor – who has yet to be identified.

On Thursday, Nazarbayev and Tokayev together spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Putin’s office said in a statement – an unusual move for the Kremlin leader who usually talks one-on-one with counterparts.

Putin expressed confidence that Nazarbayev “will continue to actively take part in work aimed at strengthening the cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union”, a Moscow-led trade bloc of former Soviet republics.

Putin and Tokayev also agreed the latter would visit Russia in the near future.

In another display of closeness, Nazarbayev and Tokayev took part on Thursday in festivities in the capital Astana related to the Nowruz holiday celebrated on the spring equinox across Central Asia and parts of the Middle East.

Astana itself is now being renamed Nur-Sultan on Tokayev’s suggestion, despite some opposition from residents.

Photographs published by the president’s office showed Nazarbayev wearing a traditional Kazakh coat and fur hat and waving to onlookers, shaking hands with people and blessing newlyweds, with a smiling Tokayev by his side.

Official media now routinely refer to Nazarbayev as Yelbasy, the national leader.

Tokayev’s first personnel decision was nominating Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter Dariga for the Senate speaker position he had vacated, raising the likelihood that she would eventually take over as full-time president.

Tokayev is set to serve for the rest of Nazarbayev’s term, which ends in April 2020. No candidates have yet announced plans to run in elections then, but there is little doubt that the one who secures Nazarbayev’s backing would win.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Acting President of Kazakhstan Tokayev shakes hands with his predecessor Nazarbayev during a joint session of the houses of parliament in Astana
FILE PHOTO: Acting President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (R) shakes hands with his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev during a joint session of the houses of parliament in Astana, Kazakhstan March 20, 2019. Kazakh Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

ALMATY (Reuters) – Nursultan Nazarbayev remains omnipresent in Kazakh politics days after his surprise resignation, hinting he will effectively retain a share of power with the loyalist parliament speaker who automatically stepped into his shoes.

In stepping down on Tuesday, Nazarbayev, the only ruler Kazakhstan has known since the Soviet era almost three decades ago, formally elevated Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to the presidency -though Nazarbayev kept other senior decision-making posts.

The arrangement might be reassuring to investors in the major energy-producing country who hope the 78-year-old Nazarbayev would oversee a smooth transition of power to a permanent successor – who has yet to be identified.

On Thursday, Nazarbayev and Tokayev together spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Putin’s office said in a statement – an unusual move for the Kremlin leader who usually talks one-on-one with counterparts.

Putin expressed confidence that Nazarbayev “will continue to actively take part in work aimed at strengthening the cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union”, a Moscow-led trade bloc of former Soviet republics.

Putin and Tokayev also agreed the latter would visit Russia in the near future.

In another display of closeness, Nazarbayev and Tokayev took part on Thursday in festivities in the capital Astana related to the Nowruz holiday celebrated on the spring equinox across Central Asia and parts of the Middle East.

Astana itself is now being renamed Nur-Sultan on Tokayev’s suggestion, despite some opposition from residents.

Photographs published by the president’s office showed Nazarbayev wearing a traditional Kazakh coat and fur hat and waving to onlookers, shaking hands with people and blessing newlyweds, with a smiling Tokayev by his side.

Official media now routinely refer to Nazarbayev as Yelbasy, the national leader.

Tokayev’s first personnel decision was nominating Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter Dariga for the Senate speaker position he had vacated, raising the likelihood that she would eventually take over as full-time president.

Tokayev is set to serve for the rest of Nazarbayev’s term, which ends in April 2020. No candidates have yet announced plans to run in elections then, but there is little doubt that the one who secures Nazarbayev’s backing would win.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic poses during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, Serbia
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic poses during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, Serbia, September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Djordje Kojadinovic

March 21, 2019

By Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac

BELGRADE (Reuters) – The failure to revive talks between Serbia and Kosovo on normalizing relations could destabilize the Western Balkan region still recovering from the wars of the 1990s, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday.

Twenty years after NATO bombed the now-defunct Yugoslavia to halt Serbia’s brutal crackdown on Albanians in Kosovo, its former southern province, talks are stalled.

Albanian-majority Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and won recognition from the United States and most EU countries, but not Serbia or its big power patron Russia, and some 4,000 NATO troops remain to safeguard peace in the tiny country.

Both countries must fully normalize ties, before either could progress further on their way to join the European Union.

“Every day of delays could create conditions in which one spark could set the region on fire. The Western countries should know that,” Vucic told Reuters in an interview.

“That is the danger … when national sentiments are stoked.”

In response to Serbia’s bid to prevent Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, Pristina imposed 100 percent tariffs on goods imported from Serbia, something that could cost the Serbian economy 600 million euros in one year, around 0.4 percent of GDP.

To restore the dialogue, Serbia wants those taxes abolished, a move supported by the EU and the United States.

What any settlement could look like is unclear. Both Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci have floated ideas about a “correction of borders” or “delimitation” – terms interpreted by analysts as land swaps.

The West sees the integration of the entire region into the EU and NATO as a way to maintain regional stability.

“Our accession to the European Union depends on the dialogue with Pristina and whether one day we will manage to reach a deal,” Vucic said, adding that he expected Germany, France or the EU to become more active in the negotiating process.

“I think we will see some of their initiatives in the near future,” he said, without elaborating.

Vucic, in power since 2012, said he had no plan to resign or call early elections, something demanded by thousands in opposition protests that started last December accusing his government of cronyism, corruption and stifling media freedoms, something he denies.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN

“On the advice of counsel, Mr. Stone will not produce the documents requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary,” Stone’s attorney wrote to Nadler in a letter reviewed by The Daily Caller, adding, “whether the documents requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary exist or not, they are subject to a Fifth Amendment claim.”

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 25: U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) listens during a House Rules Committee meeting at the U.S. Capitol February 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Democrat-led committee is meeting to consider a resolution to block the national emergency declaration that seeks to allow President Trump to shift spending to fund sections of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Stone’s attorney continued, “Mr. Stone’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen, who is currently defending his innocence, and one who denounces secrecy for the purposes of advancing innuendo.”

Stone instead noted that Nadler should seek relevant documents from the House Select Committee On Intelligence, where he testified in September 2017. Stone also pointed to the recent charges he faces from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.  Stone was indicted on seven counts by Mueller’s team on charges of allegedly making false statements to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing a government investigation. (EXCLUSIVE: Trump Considers Reviewing FBI Policies After Stone Raid) 

Pictured is U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“As a current criminal defendant, with the presumption of innocence guaranteed to him, it is not in Mr. Stone’s best interest to participate in any additional proceedings, outside those in federal court, until the charges are resolved,” Stone said.

The indictment against Stone claims that a “senior official” on Trump’s 2016 campaign asked Stone to inquire with Wikileaks about possible impending releases of damaging information on Hillary Clinton in July 2016. Stone told The Daily Caller at the time of his indictment he is “unfamiliar” with the email referenced within Mueller’s indictment, but noted that perhaps it needed more context.

Nadler’s document requests to Stone included anything related to Michael Cohen, contacts with foreign governments, and his communications with Trump.

Source: The Daily Caller

Phillip Stucky | Contributor

Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner suggested the late Sen. John McCain wouldn’t have turned the Trump Dossier over to the FBI had he known it was Democrat-funded during a Thursday interview on CNN.

“Christopher Steele said the dossier was being given to McCain for the purposes of legitimizing it,” Turner began. (RELATED: Lou Dobbs Defends Trump Against GOP Critics Over McCain Comments)

He continued:

My expectation is that if John McCain had known this information was Democratic-Party-funded — Hillary-Clinton-funded information — that it had not been verified as Christopher Steele has testified now — he probably wouldn’t have had anything to do with it. That’s largely on the minds of people as we hear the president doing these attacks, I think John McCain is a national hero.

I worked with him on national security issues. I cannot believe if he had not been deceived and had been told this information was being paid for by Hillary Clinton, that Christopher Steele himself was being paid for by Hillary Clinton he would have had nothing to do with it.

President Donald Trump spent five minutes during his Wednesday rally in Ohio criticizing McCain and reiterated his statement that he wasn’t thanked for the late Arizona senator’s funeral.

“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” Trump said in a Tank factory. “I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank you. That’s OK.”

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson called the president’s behavior regarding McCain “deplorable.”

“It’s deplorable what he said, it will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again,” he continued. “We don’t talk about our veterans in any way but to brag on them for the service they render.”

The sentiment was echoed by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter. “Today and every day, I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”

Source: The Daily Caller

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

The chairwoman of the Tennessee Democratic Party admitted this week that she “used a poor choice of words” when she dismissed her state as “racist.”

In her apology, published by the Tennessean newspaper of Nashville, Mary Mancini suggested Republicans in Tennessee are guilty of “bigotry, misogyny and homophobia.”

Mancini wandered into the political minefield earlier this month at a meeting with County Coffee Democrats when she mused about the candidates that Tennessee Democrats were nominating — supposedly not selecting enough people of color, millennials  or members of the LGBTQ community.

Thousands celebrate the annual LGBTQ Capital Pride parade in Washington June 10, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

Thousands celebrate the annual LGBTQ Capital Pride parade in Washington June 10, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

“We have a little bit of a problem in this state, and I’m just going to say it outright,” Mancini said, according to Fox News. “This is a racist state.” (RELATED: Taylor Swift’s Political Outreach Falls Short And Political Commentators Let Her Know It)

Mancini reportedly repeated the smear again, this time referring to Tennessee as “a very racist state.”

The chairwoman’s comments did not resonate well, even within her own party — so she issued a half-hearted apology that suggested only Republicans are bigoted.

“In the heat and the frustration of seeing and hearing the constant drumbeat of bigotry, misogyny and homophobia coming from the Republicans at the state legislature, I used a poor choice of words and vented my frustration and I apologize,” Mancini wrote in her statement. (RELATED: Tennessee Senate Candidate Advocated For Taxpayers To Fund Down Syndrome Abortions)

In response to her frustration, Tennessee Republican Chairman Scott Golden told the Tennessean that Mancini’s words only hurt the image of the state while insisting Republicans are committed to “lift all Tennesseans up,” through education and employment.

In the November midterm elections, Republican Marsha Blackburn became Tennessee’s first woman senator, replacing outgoing GOP Sen. Bob Corker.

In the lead-up to that election, a Democratic communications officer said the “idiots” who voted for President Donald Trump “aren’t listening” to other viewpoints.

US President Donald Trump arrives for a "Make America Great Again" campaign rally at McKenzie Arena, in Chattanooga, Tennessee on November 4, 2018. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump arrives for a “Make America Great Again” campaign rally at McKenzie Arena, in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Nov. 4, 2018. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

Mancini made her initial comments about race when she suggested a black candidate couldn’t win his state constituency because there are few minority voters and “two out of the three counties in that area are extraordinarily racist,” Mancini told the County Coffee Democrats, according to Fox.

“I wasn’t the only one who was told that we need to run someone who is not African-American in that district, because (some believed) an African-American cannot win in that district because white people will not vote for an African-American,” Mancini told the Tennessean.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – One of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s few remaining allies in the face of mass protests, business leader Ali Haddad, is facing pressure to quit as head of Algeria’s main business association, a move that would further weaken the embattled head of state.

Bouteflika’s long-time strategic partners, from members of the governing FLN party to trade unionists, have abandoned the president, peeling away layers of his ruling elite.

The 82-year-old president also relied on influential figures like Ali Haddad, who has made billions through public works projects awarded by the government and investments in the media.

He also funded Bouteflika’s election campaigns and heads the FCE, a top business association whose leaders have been long-time supporters of the president.

The forum for entrepreneurs has been hit by a series of resignations from members who have turned their backs on Bouteflika since the protests began on Feb 22.

“Voices inside the FCE exist and they have publicly called for an extraordinary General Assembly to replace Ali Haddad,” said Laid Benamor, former vice president of the organization, who resigned from it after the demonstrations began.

“He is today associated with cronyism and favors. The union must return to its original purpose, an apolitical economic space, to regain credibility.”

Haddad was not immediately available for comment.

A second businessman, Ourahmoune Nabil, described Haddad as one of the symbols of Bouteflika’s system of rule and added that he must go, echoing public sentiment.

“There won’t be a real change if Bouteflika leaves and Haddad stays,” he said.

The FCE was not immediately available for comment.

NO CLEAR SUCCESSOR

Bouteflika, 82, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term.

But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His move failed to placate Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to step aside so a new generation of leaders can create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.

Even if Bouteflika quits, Algerians could face a new crisis. There is no clear successor who has won the backing of the army and is younger than 70.

One option, experts say, is to create a high council of state that will set a date for general elections.

Bouteflika and his inner circle have built a multi-layered network of power over the years that includes the military — which often orchestrates politics from behind the scenes.

On Wednesday, army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah threw his weight behind protesters, saying they have expressed “noble aims”.

The ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN, has also sided with the demonstrators, leaving Bouteflika more vulnerable than ever.

(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

Sixty-four percent of New York voters say they definitely would not vote to re-elect Donald Trump as president, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Twenty-one percent say they would vote for him and 12 percent say they would consider it.

Here is how the New York survey breaks down:

  • 7 percent of Republicans said they definitely would not vote for Trump’s re-election. 67 percent said they would vote for him and 20 percent said they would consider it.
  • 93 percent of Democrats said they would not vote for his re-election, compared to 3 percent who definitely would cast their ballots for Trump. 2 percent said they would consider voting for him.
  • 60 percent of independents would not vote for Trump, while 16 percent definitely would. 17 percent would consider it.
  • 28 percent of all those polled have a favorable opinion of him, compared to 67 percent who view him unfavorably.
  • 62 percent view former Vice President Joe Biden favorably, compared to 24 percent who do not. Biden had the highest rating among those Democrats considered to be presidential hopefuls.

The poll, conducted March 13-18, surveyed 1,216 voters in the state of New York. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Source: NewsMax

PM (Taoiseach) of Ireland Varadkar waits for President of European Council Tusk in Dublin
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland Leo Varadkar waits to meet with President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Dublin, Ireland March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

March 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain must give a reason if it wants to delay its departure from the European Union, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said ahead of a summit of European leaders on Thursday, adding that Britain needed flexibility given the “chaos” in London.

Varadkar said that nobody in the EU wanted Britain to leave the European Union without a deal, and that there was openness to an extension.

“The situation in London is somewhat chaotic at the moment,” he added. “We need to cut the entire British establishment a little bit of slack on this and support their request … for a short extension. No deal will only ever be a British choice.”

(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Alastair Macdonald, writing by Thomas Escritt, editing by Alissa de Carbonnel)

Source: OANN

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/Pool

March 21, 2019

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Hezbollah on Wednesday as a risk to Middle East stability and conferred with Israel about the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Lebanese group ahead of a trip to Beirut.

Pompeo, who has been on a regional tour to promote the Trump administration’s hard tack against Iran, received a warning from Israel which worries it may again be in the sights of Hezbollah forces winding down their intervention in Syria’s war.

Meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, Pompeo listed Hezbollah, Palestinian Hamas and Yemen’s Houthis – all recipients of Iranian support – as “entities that present risks to Middle East stability and to Israel”.

“They are determined to wipe this country off the face of the planet and we have a moral obligation and a political one to prevent that from happening. You should know that the United States is prepared to do that,” Pompeo said in public remarks at the meeting.

For its part, Israel has carried out repeated air strikes on Hezbollah in Syria, where the Shi’ite Muslim militia – along with Russian air power – helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tables against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels and militants.

In a speech broadcast on the Persian new year on Thursday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic had successfully resisted “unprecedented, strong” U.S. sanctions.

Iran has faced economic hardship since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sanctions.

Focusing his remarks on Lebanon, Rivlin told Pompeo that its prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, “cannot say to anyone that Lebanon is separate from Hezbollah” – a reference to the group’s political clout in Beirut where it has ministers in the government as well as lawmakers in parliament.

“If some(thing) will happen from Lebanon toward Israel, we will hold Lebanon as the responsible (party)”, Rivlin said, speaking in English.

Washington also has been increasingly voicing concern at Hezbollah power, echoing Israel, whose forces were fought to a standstill by the militia in a 2006 Lebanon war.

Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem was widely seen in Israel as a boost for Netanyahu, who enjoys a close relationship with Trump, just three weeks before a closely contested Israeli election.

In a further signal of solidarity with Israel, Pompeo was later scheduled, accompanied by Netanyahu, to visit Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In May 2017, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the wall, but did not ask Netanyahu to join him.

Seven months later, Trump broke with decades of U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, incensing Palestinians who claim the city’s eastern sector as the capital of a future state they seek.

Last May, Washington moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pompeo also visited the embassy on Thursday.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN


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