McMaster speaks to Trump’s tweets, North Korea and Middle East peace

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says neither the American people nor U.S. allies should question the stability of the Trump administration amid his predecessor Michael Flynn’s guilty plea and rumors Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is stepping down.

“No, I don’t think our allies need any reassurance,” McMaster told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “In fact, what we’re doing is continuing to work with them on all the key challenges we face today — from North Korea, to the defeat of ISIS across the Greater Middle East — the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, too.”

McMaster reiterated that President Trump’s main priority is to protect American interests at home and abroad.

Tillerson will continue to be a part of that effort, McMaster said.

“I’m not aware of any plan at all” for Tillerson to resign, he said.

Wallace also asked McMaster about the president’s recent retweets of online posts linked to “Britain First,” a far-right group in the United Kingdom.

Last week, Trump retweeted a video that purported to show Muslim immigrants committing acts of violence. Those depicted in the footage reportedly were European-born.

Wallace noted that many British leaders – including Prime Minister Theresa May – voiced outrage at Trump, saying the president had “got it wrong” and risked needlessly stirring racial and ethnic discord.

“General, why did President Trump send out those videos?” Wallace asked.

“Well, President Trump is the best judge of why he did that,” McMaster said. “I know it was his intention to highlight the importance of creating safe and secure environments for our citizens — to make sure that we have the right laws in place, enforcement mechanisms in place.”

Wallace then suggested that between the Britain First retweets and Trump’s support for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the president might be tossing away any hope of achieving Middle East peace during his presidency.

“No, the president’s not giving up on the Mideast peace agreement at all,” McMaster said.

“There are options involving the move of an embassy at some point in the future, which I think, you know, could be used to gain momentum toward a — toward a peace agreement, and a solution that works both for Israelis and for Palestinians,” McMaster added.

McMaster also addressed North Korea.

Last week, North Korea launched its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile – a provocation to which President Trump replied, “I will only tell you that we will take care of it.”

How exactly would the president “take care of it” given China and Russia’s complicity in propping up the regime, Wallace asked.

“Well, the president’s going to take care of it by, if we have to, doing more ourselves,” McMaster said. “But what we want to do is convince others it is in their interest to do more.

“China, as you know, has taken some unprecedented actions.  And what we’re asking China to do is, not do us or anybody else a favor, but to act in China’s interest.

“There’s a real grave danger to China, to Russia, to all nations, by — you know, from a North Korea that’s armed with nuclear weapons. And of course, you have that direct threat, but you also have the threat of — the potential of Japan, South Korea, others, arming themselves, possibly even with nuclear weapons. That is not in China’s interest; it’s not in Russia’s interest.

“And so, what the president’s saying is, we all need to take care of it. If necessary, the president and the United States will have to take care of it, because he has said he’s not going to allow this murderous, rogue regime to threaten the United States with the most destructive weapons on the planet.”

Courtesy: Fox News

Donald Trump insists no collusion shown in Flynn case

The US president has remained confident that testimony from his former national security adviser did not implicate him. But his new timeline on Michael Flynn raises further questions.

Donald Trump speaks to reporters before departing the White House for New York in Washington (Reuters/J. L. Duggan)

US President Donald Trump insisted there was “absolutely no collusion” between his election campaign and Russia, in comments to media on Saturday.

“What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for fundraising events in New York. “There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy.”

His comments came after his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty in court on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US before Trump took power.

Investigators also revealed that Flynn was now cooperating with authorities and that he was prepared to testify that he was directed by a “very senior” transition official to make contact with Russia.

Read more: Michael Flynn to testify Trump’s team directed him to contact Russia

Many major US outlets reported that the figure allegedly directing Flynn was likely to be Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner. Flynn’s contact with Russia undermined Obama administration foreign policy at the time.

Later on Saturday Trump posted on Twitter, saying Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were entirely legal and that there was “nothing to hide,” but the post presented a different timeline of events to what the White House had earlier indicated.

I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!

Problematic timeline

Trump’s Friday Tweet implied he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI — a criminal act — and that this had contributed to his firing, but this was never listed as a reason for his dismissal.

Flynn was forced to resign in February after just three weeks for supposedly misleading Trump staff about his communication with former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. On Friday, investigators made clear that Flynn had kept his superiors abreast of his conversations, which took place after the election.

If Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI before he was asked to resign — as Trump implied on Twitter — then he would have known about Flynn’s crime even as he reportedly pressed then FBI chief James Comey to drop his inquiry into Flynn. Trump fired Comey soon after that reported conversation.

Read more: Analysis — Despite Flynn’s guilty plea, Trump presidency not over yet

Michael Flynn in Washington (Reuters/C. Barria)Flynn was Trump’s national security adviser

Inner circle

Flynn was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime since Special Counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion by Trump aides.

Immediately after Flynn’s guilty plea, White House lawyer Ty Cobb insisted Flynn had only implicated himself. “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” he said.

But Flynn’s compliance grants Mueller access to someone who was one of Trump’s closest advisers during the campaign, transition and the early days of the administration.

aw/ng (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

Courtesy: DW

MUELLER’S RUSSIA INVESTIGATION COULD HINGE ON 18TH CENTURY LAW

Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be throwing the book at members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team, and one law now getting scrutiny was written around the time the telegraph was invented.

The Logan Act, an 18th century law meant to crack down on U.S. citizens looking to conduct diplomacy that goes against the interests of the U.S. government, got new attention when Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI.

Flynn admitted to lying about December 2016 conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Sergey Kislyak, during which he pushed for a lesser response to President Barack Obama’s new sanctions tied to Russia election meddling, as well as to the Obama administration’s acceptance of a U.N. resolution to denounce Israeli settlements, according to court documents.

During the conversations, which took place before Trump took office, Flynn attempted to undermine Obama’s position on sanctions and Israel. That appears to be a textbook case of the Logan Act, although no one has ever been prosecuted under the law—and Mueller likely knows it.

“I have no doubt that Mueller will use the Logan Act as part of its investigation, but I don’t know if they’ll ever charge someone,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

GettyImages-812857070Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Vladeck, an expert on the Logan Act, said that although the law appears to apply to Flynn’s actions, its constitutionality might come into question if it were ever used in court. The problem is that the act covers speech, and the Supreme Court’s past predilections in favor of free speech are well known. There’s also the issue that the law has never been used for a prosecution—though that doesn’t mean Mueller won’t use the threat of the Logan Act to help convince Flynn and others to cooperate.

“It just hasn’t been used in forever and a half,” Vladeck said. “It’s surrounded by uncertainty. It certainly seems to cover some of the things that Flynn has now admitted to.”

Documents released as part of Flynn’s plea agreement said Flynn was acting under instructions from a “senior member of the Presidential Transition Team,” and reports indicated that at least in one instance that person was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

That means Kushner and other senior officials might be in jeopardy under the Logan Act, even as Flynn pleaded only to lying to the FBI about the conversations.

Those lies about phone calls, and the public representation of their content, served as the impetus behind Flynn’s firing after the shortest tenure as national security adviser in history.

The admission by Flynn of having attempted to sway Russia’s actions before Trump took office confirm previous reporting by several outlets, but it does not touch the larger issue of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Several former intelligence officials and operatives who spoke to Newsweek said that although the court proceedings Friday don’t change the facts about the case, they’re a sign that Special Counsel Mueller is working to build a larger case.

“For the general public, it is speculation for now,” said Alex Finley, a former CIA operative and author of Victor in the Rubble. “But signs are pointing in a direction. We see smoke. My guess is the FBI and IC [intelligence community] see the fire.”

Courtesy: Newsweek

Analysis: Despite Flynn’s guilty plea, Trump presidency not over yet

With a guilty plea and reports that former US national security adviser Michael Flynn is cooperating, the investigation into Russian election meddling has picked up pace. DW answers three key questions.

Donald Trump (left) jokes with Michael Flynn (Getty Images/G. Frey)

The guilty plea of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who on Friday admitted to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, is very significant.

First, in Flynn, not only has a member of US President Donald Trump’s campaign team been charged but also a former high-ranking official in the administration.

Second, despite the White House downplaying the charges by saying that Flynn was only in the administration for a short time, he was one of the most important foreign policy advisers, if not the most important, to the future president during the election campaign. Trump’s high esteem for Flynn led him to be appointed national security adviser, a position that doesn’t require congressional approval, against the advice of many experts.

USA Michael Flynn beim Briefing im Weißen Haus in Washington (Reuters/C. Barria)Under the deal with Mueller, Flynn can expect only six to 12 months in prison — or a suspended sentence

Third, Flynn’s guilty plea is a clear indication that he has provided important information to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who will be able to use that information to prepare investigations and charges against more significant figures.

“That’s the real story here. That he agreed to cooperate in exchange for favorable treatment from Mueller,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a former assistant attorney general at the Justice Department and a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

“You don’t enter into a plea agreement unless the prosecutor has determined and independently corroborated that the potential witness has substantial, credible and reliable evidence that would implicate higher ups in the criminal enterprise in unlawful activity.”

Read more: Why the Russia probes don’t cripple Trump’s foreign policy

According to Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, Flynn has likely already given up valuable information to investigators.

“A plea deal would only have been offered once there was real cooperation,” he said.

Lisa Kern Griffin, a criminal law scholar at Duke University, noted that Flynn appears to have gotten off lightly, although further charges are still possible.

Making false statements to the FBI is a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to five years. But under the deal with Mueller, Flynn can expect only six to 12 months in prison, or possibly a suspended sentence, Griffin said.

That’s almost nothing, she added, compared to what the public record of Flynn’s activities suggests, which could have led to multiple charges.

In addition, no charges have been brought against Flynn’s son, who according to media reports was in Mueller’s sights over an alleged plot to kidnap US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is wanted by the Turkish government over last year’s failed coup attempt.

Read more: President Donald Trump after six months — Expect more of the same

Who’s next?

Watch video00:22

Trump on Putin and US election meddling

Since Mueller’s strategy is to work his way up to “big fish” through indictments and deals with “small fish,” the net around potential targets will now become smaller.  After all, as former national security adviser, Flynn was already fairly high up in the White House hierarchy.

For legal experts, there are only a few people in Mueller’s sights, and high on this short list stands Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser.

Read more: Kushner denies colluding with Russia after Senate Intelligence Committee meeting

“There were a number of ways during the campaign that Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner were working together and at a minimum I suspect that Michael Flynn has damaging information to offer about Jared Kushner,” Griffin said.

According to US media reports, Kushner is the “very senior member” of the Trump transition team who directed Flynn to make contact with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016.

Trump’s son could also be targeted by Mueller, noted Gurulé. “To me the other potential target is Donald Trump Jr. There is reason to believe that he is being targeted based on this June [2016] meeting in the Trump Tower [with a Russian lawyer and others — Editor’s note], where he appears to be excited over the possibility of Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Beginning of the end for Trump?

Although many Trump critics — on social media and elsewhere — may be tempted to see Flynn’s plea deal as the beginning of the end for the president, it’s still premature to conclude whether or not Flynn may implicate others in Trump’s inner circle.

Read more: Think Donald Trump will be impeached soon? Think again

For legal experts, this is only a step, even if a significant step, in the long process of Mueller’s investigation. Certainly, it’s true that the charges have been getting ever closer to the president. But Trump has, so far, never directly been under investigation. And it remains constitutionally questionable whether a sitting president can even be charged.

Griffin thinks it’s unrealistic to assume Trump will soon be leaving office — at least at this point in time. She believes the question over Trump’s future will likely not to be answered legally, but rather politically in next year’s midterm elections.

Watch video01:55

First charges in Trump Russia investigation

COURTESY: DW

ABC News corrects its report about ‘candidate’ Trump and Flynn

ABC News issued a correction to a bombshell report Friday morning that initially claimed Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that he was instructed by then-“candidate” Donald Trump to contact Russian officials during the campaign.

But on Friday evening the network said the unnamed source “clarified” the information provided for the original story, saying it was during the post-election transition period – not during the campaign — that president-elect Trump asked Flynn to reach out to Russia regarding “working jointly against ISIS” and to “repair relations.”

An ABC spokesperson told CNN it didn’t learn of the reporting error until around 6 p.m. Friday.

The network initially called the updated story a “clarification” on Twitter, before deleting the post and swapping it out with a formal correction, CNBC reported.

The shocking but erroneous initial report had a profound impact on the markets, causing the Dow Jones industrial average to plummet by more than 300 points in midday. (It later recovered somewhat to close about 40 points lower for the day.)

Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Trump, pleaded guilty on Friday to making false statements to the FBI – as part of a deal that calls for his full cooperation with investigators in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

According to the plea document, Flynn has agreed to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” with the probe, with sentencing delayed until those efforts “have been completed.”

Fox News’ Judson Berger contributed to this report.  

Benjamin Brown is a reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bdbrown473.

Courtesy: Fox News

Why Flynn’s guilty plea is bad news for Team Trump

Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, does not bode well for the Trump administration and for the president and his family personally

Flynn, who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser and earlier was involved in the Trump presidential campaign and presidential transition team, promised full cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The White House continues to maintain that Flynn does not have any information that could implicate or incriminate President Trump

Court documents show Flynn told investigators that a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team directed him to contact foreign governments, including Russia, about a United Nations vote.

There is now for the first time the hint of evidence that there was potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that this collusion may have been carried out at the highest level.

And Fox News reported: “While it is unclear who Flynn himself is prepared to name, Fox News has been told by a former senior intelligence officer with knowledge of Trump transition activities that then-President-Elect Trump directed Flynn during that period to contact the Russians – while also directing him and his team to contact 12 other countries.”

As a result, there is now for the first time the hint of evidence that there was potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that this collusion may have been carried out at the highest level.

To be sure, this is one side of the story. President Trump had repeatedly said there was no such collusion. So has the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Some have speculated that Kushner is the unnamed “senior member” of the transition team who directed Flynn to make foreign contacts.

But if there is anyone who can show that there potentially was collusion it is Flynn.

Indeed, the fact that Flynn has only been charged with one count is remarkable, given that all evidence suggests that he has apparently colluded with the Russians himself during the 2016 presidential campaign. Not to mention his history of concealing work that he did for the Turkish government and working on behalf of Russia while advising Trump’s campaign.

Just consider the laundry list of allegations made against the retired Army lieutenant general.

First, Flynn failed to disclose the more than $500,000 he received from a Turkish businessman and crony of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for lobbying and research work that his firm – Flynn Intel Group, Inc. – did to discredit an exiled cleric who Erdogan wants returned to Turkey from the U.S.

And Flynn wrote an op-ed on behalf of Turkey – headlined “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support” – while he was working for candidate Trump.

Even more disquieting, Flynn is under investigation for a meeting during which he allegedly discussed a plan for him and his son to receive $15 million in exchange for kidnapping the exiled cleric.

Lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Flynn’s Russian ties. He also failed to list payments from Russia-linked entities on the first of two federal financial disclosure forms he was required to fill out to become national security adviser. Nor did he list the speeches he was paid to deliver by Russian state-owned television network RT.

As the first former administration official who has been charged as part of Mueller’s Russia investigation, the charges against Flynn alone make it difficult to distance President Trump from Mueller’s probe.

And now that Flynn is cooperating with the FBI and is prepared to testify, he has effectively brought the special counsel’s investigation onto the White House front lawn.

Based on my own experience working on campaigns, it is very well within the realm of possibility that President Trump was aware – if not responsible for – Flynn’s communications with the Russians over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. But this possibility remains unproven, as far as we know from what has been made public.

Anyone who has worked on a presidential campaign knows that most important rule is that you always tell your principal what you are doing. So it is entirely plausible that Flynn’s communications could have been carried out at the direction of a senior member of the Trump campaign team, if not the candidate himself. We don’t know what Mueller and his team know, so whether this happened remains to be established in the public record

It is certainly questionable that Flynn stayed in touch with the Russians while he was on the campaign trail without candidate Trump knowing about it, as the White House maintains

Now that Flynn is expected to testify against the president, what he did or did not do with Donald Trump will now be the critical issue going forward.

Douglas E. Schoen is a Fox News contributor. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. His new book is “Putin’s Master Plan“. Follow him on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.

Courtesy: Fox News

 

Former national security adviser Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI

Former national security adviser Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI
President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has turned himself in to the FBI. He pleaded guilty to charges of making false statements to the FBI about his conversation with the Russian ambassador in December 2016.

The charge was detailed in court documents unsealed on Friday. The document accuses Flynn of making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” to law enforcement about a phone call he had with former Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. The statements were made on January 24, four days after Trump was inaugurated.

Flynn, 58, pleaded guilty to the charge during a Friday morning hearing in Washington, DC.

Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is pleading guilty to one count of “willfully and knowingly [making] materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” to the FBI.

Flynn resigned less than a month into Trump’s term, after the acting Justice Department head – who was subsequently fired for refusing to enforce a travel ban executive order – warned that he could be subjected to blackmail because his dealings with Russians hadn’t been disclosed.

At issue was the phone call between Flynn and Kislyak at the end of December 2016, after President Barack Obama ordered a number of Russian diplomats to leave the US and closed two Russian diplomatic properties.

Flynn is specifically accused of falsely claiming that he did not ask Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day.” He is also accused of falsely telling agents that he “did not recall the Russian ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”

Flynn also told the FBI that he “did not ask the Russian ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution,” according to court documents.

US intelligence services listened in on the phone call. Information about it was leaked to the media in January, after Trump’s inauguration. Flynn resigned in February.

In a statement on Friday, Flynn said he was falsely accused of treason and other outrageous acts, and that he made the decision to cooperate with the special counsel in the best interests of his family and the country.

The plea “clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion” of the special counsel investigation, White House attorney Ty Cobb said on Friday, according to Reuters.

Flynn’s false statements to the FBI “mirror the false statements to White House officials” that prompted his resignation in February, Cobb said.

“I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn wrote in his resignation letter.

After he stepped down, Flynn filed an updated foreign registration form which showed that he had not disclosed contacts and payments from foreign entities – specifically, the government of Turkey – while serving as Trump’s campaign adviser from February 2016.

Courtesy: RT

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