US discussion – Trump pulls health bill

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Partisan split at House intel committee over canceled open hearing

“Yesterday, the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client,” committee chairman Devin Nunes announced during a news conference.

Nunes also announced that the committee is bringing in FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers for a second briefing, this time behind closed doors so that they can provide more information. The committee is also delaying its March 28 hearing, a decision infuriating Democrats on the committee.

“Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee tweeted moment before going to speak to the press Friday morning.

Schiff refused to say whether he thought Nunes should step down from his position, telling reporters, “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract.”

It seems odd that Nunes is heading a committee investigating a campaign that he has been involved with.


Live updates: Will Obamacare be repealed under Trump?

House tees up repeal vote, 11:30 a.m. The House took a procedural step to set up final vote on Obamacare repeal. The chamber voted 230-194 to let debate move forward on the bill. Six Republicans voted no, but that doesn’t indicate how the vote on final passage will turn out.

New amendments can’t be offered on the floor, and debate will last four hours. That sets up a late afternoon vote on final passage.

This is only step one. One of the reasons some Republicans are reluctant to support the Bill is that they think the Senate will reject it.

Spicer doesn’t sound confident.

Spicer: Trump has given his all. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House still wants a vote Friday, as he defended Trump’s role in pushing the bill. Trump “has left everything on the field when it comes to this bill,” Spicer said. “The president and his team have committed everything they can to making this thing happen. And the speaker is going to continue to update him on the way forward.”

Spicer reiterated that negotiations on the bill are done and Republicans now have to decide whether to make good on their years-long pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I think at the end of the day — you know, I said this yesterday — you can’t force people to vote,” he said. “But I think we’ve given them every single reason to fulfill every pledge that they’ve made, and I think this is the right thing to do.”

GOP lawmakers: The bill is dead, 4:15 p.m. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who chairs the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, is ready to move on. “We tried. We tried our hardest. There were people who were not interested in solving the problem. They win today.”

Greg Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, also seems to be looking forward. “We have a lot of health care issues to deal with. We tried our best on this one.”

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UK can’t blame EU for problems that led to Brexit, says Juncker

British politicians sowed the seeds for Brexit by blaming the European Union for problems over which the bloc has little control and while building an economy dependent on foreign labour, the president of the European commission has said.

Writing exclusively for the Guardian as EU leaders meet to celebrate the bloc’s 60th anniversary in Rome, Jean-Claude Juncker warns that “for too long” politicians at a national level have allowed the EU to be a scapegoat, and that the consequences can now be seen.

Putin welcomes Le Pen to Moscow with a nudge and a wink

The expression said it all. Even by Vladimir Putin’s standards, it was a knowing smirk of epic proportions as he shook hands with Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin on Friday.

In his remarks, Putin noted that France was currently involved in an election cycle and that Russia did “not want to influence events in any way”. The sentiment sounded slightly less than genuine given that it came as part of a one-on-one Kremlin meeting with the far-right presidential candidate one month before the vote.

The mixed messaging appears to be a deliberate strategy, and is similar to some of the Russian rhetoric around the allegations that the Kremlin intervened to get Donald Trump elected. There is both an outburst of fury at those who would dare to voice such allegations, and a simultaneous revelling in them.

Back in December, Putin first said it was absurd to suggest Russia intervened on Trump’s behalf, but immediately followed up by saying “nobody believed in him, except us”.

What we knowThe attack, the victims and the investigation

Here is what the Guardian has been able to confirm:

  • Five people have died, including a police officer and the attacker.
  • Police say at least 50 people were injured, with 31 requiring hospital treatment. Two of these remain in a critical condition, one of whom has life-threatening injuries. Two police officers are among those still in hospital.
  • The assailant was Khalid Masood, 52, who was born in Kent with the birth name Adrian Russell Ajao. He was believed to have been living recently in the West Midlands.
  • He drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three people – two of whom died at the scene and one who died of his injuries in hospital – before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the building, armed with two knives.
  • He stabbed an unarmed police officer who later died from the injuries. Police then shot the attacker. The dead officer was identified as PC Keith Palmer, 48, who had 15 years of service with the parliamentary and diplomatic protection service and was a husband and father.
  • Another victim was named as Aysha Frade, 43, who worked at a sixth-form college in Westminster. The mother of two had family in Betanzos, Galicia, north-west Spain, and her death was confirmed by the mayor of the town.
  • A third person killed by the attacker was named as Kurt Cochran, a tourist from Utah in the US. He and his wife, Melissa, were on the last day of a trip to Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Melissa remains in hospital with serious injuries.
  • On Friday, police said a fourth victim, Leslie Rhodes, 75, from Clapham in south London, had died in hospital overnight. He was a retired window cleaner who had apparently been crossing the bridge to catch a bus after visiting a friend in St Thomas’ hospital.
  • The Metropolitan police said Masood had a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences. His most recent was in December 2003 for possession of a knife.
  • Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. It released a statement through the Amaq news agency, which it uses to broadcast propaganda, calling the attacker “a soldier of Islamic State”. The claim is unverified.
  • The attacker is believed to have acted alone but police are investigating possible associates. May said there was no reason to believe further attacks on the public were planned.
  • Police have searched several addresses in Birmingham, London and other parts of the country. Five men and three women were arrested overnight on Wednesday and early on Thursday on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts. Two men were arrested overnight on Thursday – one in the West Midlands and one in north-west England – and a woman was detained in Manchester on Friday morning. Ten people remain in custody after one woman was released on bail.

The list goes on.

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UK & Europe – London terrorism

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Man arrested in Antwerp after driving at high speed towards a crowd of people in the main shopping street. (1342 GMT)

BBC reporting the man is of North African origin

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39369202

The attacker has been named as 52 year old Khalid Masood after ISIS claimed him as one of their soldiers

Aljaz: More info since released. 52 years old, came originally from Kent, then lived in Birmingham, West Midlands, has previous convictions for violent offences, last came to attention of authorities in 2003.

He is apparently from Birmingham, which goes with other reporting this morning that said neighbours of one of the residences searched by police in Birmingham thought that the person in the flat might be the attacker.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4340858/Armed-police-seal-Birmingham-ongoing-incident.html

  • Missy & Geeza

 

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Comey: no evidence supporting Trump’s wiretap accusations

FBI Director James Comey has just appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.

On Donald Trump’s tweeted accusations that then-President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential election campaign:

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI”.

He also said that that the Justice Department had also looked for evidence to support Trump’s  allegation and couldn’t find any.

And the Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers strongly denied allegations repeated by the Trump administration that he’d asked GCHQ to spy on Mr Trump.

Comey declined to say whether the FBI was investigating the potential leak of classified information related to now resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but said that such a leak would be taken very seriously.

Comey  confirmed that the FBI was investigating if Russia had meddled in the presidential election, including investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The official presidential Twitter account responded:

BBC Live: FBI: No evidence Obama wiretapped Trump

Summary

  1. FBI director Comey confirms investigation into alleged Russian meddling in US election and any Trump links
  2. The law enforcement chief says there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Trump
  3. The Trump administration says ‘nothing has changed’ and ‘there is NO EVIDENCE of Trump-Russia collusion’
  4. The NSA’s head strongly denies Trump administration claims that he asked Britain’s GCHQ to spy on Trump
  5. Democrats and Republicans, meanwhile, trade barbs at Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI was investigating any possible co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the election outcome.

US intelligence chiefs have previously said only that they believed Russia aimed to favour Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Comey also said neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice had evidence to support Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama wiretapped his phones ahead of the election.

And the Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers strongly denied allegations repeated by the Trump administration that he’d asked GCHQ to spy on Mr Trump.

Rogers said that would violate both US law and international spy agreements.

Chris Wallace at Fox News:

Wallace said it was “pretty startling” to hear the FBI director confirm that the Trump campaign – including President Trump – is under FBI investigation.

He added that Comey also said that the FBI has “no information” to support Trump’s claims that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration during the presidential campaign.

“It’s been a bad day for the Trump White House,” Wallace said.

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The tweet/debunk cycle continues

Donald Trump sulked during his media conference with Angela Merkel and waiting until he was in the ‘safety’ of his twittersphere before taking a swipe at Germany.

Trying to circumvent unfavourable media coverage by tweeting directly to his base audience is one thing.

But dirty diplomacy is another. He is looking like a gutless keyboard warrior.

And as has become common the challenges to his claims have flowed.

NZ Herald: German Defense Ministry contradicts Trump, says it doesn’t owe US money for NATO

President Donald Trump’s Saturday tweet accusing Germany of owing the United States “vast sums of money” for NATO might have been an attempt to put pressure on the European ally. But Berlin has rejected his claim while also questioning his understanding of NATO finances.

Yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called the criticism “inaccurate,” without mentioning the president’s name.

“NATO does not have a debt account,” von der Leyen said, according to her ministry. In reality, NATO has only a small logistical budget, which relies on funding by all member states. The vast majority of NATO members’ total resources are managed domestically, however.

And:

The criticism echoed other experts, including former US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder. “Trump’s comments misrepresent the way NATO functions,” Daalder told The Washington Post on Saturday. “The president keeps saying that we need to be paid by the Europeans for the fact that we have troops in Europe or provide defense there. But that’s not how it works.”

Trump is not  just gutless, he is also often inaccurate.