UK v Trump on GCHQ accusation

The UK  Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has issued a statement categorically refuting Donald Trump’s claim that the GCHQ assisted the President Obama to wiretap Donald Trump.


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17 March 2017

The Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP, has today issued the following statement:

The Committee is aware of the allegations that the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, tasked GCHQ to ‘wire tap’ the now President of the United States, Donald Trump, during the 2016 US Presidential election.

First, I should make clear that the President of the United States is not able to task GCHQ to intercept an individual’s communications.

Second, long-standing agreements between the Five Eyes countries means that the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand cannot ask each other to target each other’s citizens or individuals that they cannot themselves target, or in any other way seek to circumvent their own or each other’s legal and policy obligations.

Third, an individual can only be the target of interception by GCHQ under a warrant signed by a Secretary of State. Such warrants can only authorise action where it is necessary and proportionate for a valid national security purpose. It is inconceivable that those legal requirements could be met in the circumstances described.<

I note GCHQ’s public denial of the potentially damaging allegations against them. This was an unusual step by the Agency, but it clearly indicates the strength of feeling about this issue, and I echo that sentiment.

http://isc.independent.gov.uk/news-archive/17march2017


So this makes it approximately everyone denying Trump’s accusations have any basis, and Trump has come up with approximately no evidence to support his accusations.

Trump tries to explain on wiretapping

Donald Trump was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox when he tried to explain how solid his claims were when he accused Barack Obama of wiretapping him.

He also explained how Twitter lets him get his message out to avoid failing fake news media.

Exclusive: President Trump on his use of Twitter, its role in his presidential victory, his attitude toward the press coverage he receives from ‘fake new media,’and more

Trump: Twitter allows me to get my message out

Here is some of the transcript (highlighted on Twitter by @BraddJaffy)

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That is the President of the United States of America.

Americans can trust Trump “when he’s not joking’

What if his whole presidency is a bad joke?

This would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the White House PR team themselves seeming to struggling so much telling what are jokjes and what are serious comments from Trump.

The Hill: Spicer: Americans can trust what Trump says, ‘if he’s not joking’

At Monday’s White House briefing, NBC’s Peter Alexander asked whether Americans “can trust it to be real” when the president comments on something.

“If he’s not joking, of course,” Spicer replied. “Every time that he speaks authoritatively, he’s speaking as president of United States.”

When Alexander followed up to ask if Trump still believes that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, Spicer confirmed that the president still believes that to be true.

Alexander also asked if Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election are “phony or real.”

Spicer sought to clarify Trump’s use of the word “wiretap,” arguing that the president was speaking in broad terms about surveillance.

“He doesn’t really believe that President Obama tapped his phone personally, but I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election,” Spicer said. “That is a widely reported activity that occurred back then.”

“The president used the word ‘wiretap’ in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities during that.”

Spicer and Conway are really struggling to make sense of and then explain away Trump’s Twitter attacks.

And this will be blamed on the media too I suppose.

Will Trump start to use a #joke tag in his funny tweets so that Spicer and Conway don’t make themselves the targets of the jokes?

Trump asked for wiretap evidence

Donald Trump has been asked by the House intelligence committee to provide evidence in support of his claim that President Obama ordered wiretapping of him and his campaign. John McCain has also asked the current president to front up.

But White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway has dismissed demands – and made some odd accusations herself, including an alternate fact, saying that monitoring could be done with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” and “We know this is a fact of modern life.”

Fox News: Conway brushes off McCain demand to prove wiretap claim or retract

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway on Monday brushed off a demand by Sen. John McCain to either provide evidence of President Trump’s wiretapping claims or retract the allegation, saying the White House will wait until congressional committees release their own findings.

“We will comment further after those findings are made clear,” Conway told “Fox & Friends.”

She was responding to McCain, R-Ariz., who on Sunday said Trump has “one of two choices” to make regarding his explosive allegation two weekends ago that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones.

“Either retract or … provide the information that the American people deserve, because, if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we have got a serious issue here, to say the least,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Top lawmakers also expressed doubt Sunday that the Justice Department would meet a bipartisan request to provide evidence by Monday.

Not only is Team Trump supporting and defending his unprecedented and unsubstantiated accusations, they are adding degrees of bizarreness.

USA Today: Kellyanne Conway suggests even wider surveillance of Trump campaign

The White House is offering yet another wrinkle in its attempt to support President Trump’s allegation — unfounded, so far — that his campaign headquarters in Manhattan was wiretapped by the Obama administration. The latest comes from Trump’s senior counselor Kellyanne Conway.

She says the “surveillance” may be broader than even Trump suggested.

In a wide-ranging interview Sunday Conway suggested that the alleged monitoring of activities at Trump’s campaign headquarters at Trump Tower in Manhattan may have involved far more than wiretapping.

“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,” Conway said as the Trump presidency marked its 50th day in office during the weekend. “You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways.”

Conway went on to say that the monitoring could be done with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” adding: “We know this is a fact of modern life.”

Conway did not offer any evidence to back up her claim. But her remarks are significant — and potentially explosive — because they come amid a request by the House Intelligence Committee for the White House to turn over any evidence by Monday that the phones at Trump Tower were tapped as part of what the president claims to be a secret plot by the Obama administration to monitor his campaign.

The White House has not said whether it will provide any corroborative support to back up the president’s claim of the alleged wiretapping.

If they don’t substantiate Trump’s claims it will add weight to the likelihood that his Tweets were based on the rant of a right wing radio crank and a report by Breitbart, an activist ‘news’ site that campaigned for Trump and against Hillary Clinton, and whose CEO is now virtually CEO of Trump’s White House.

US discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.


Bureaucracy and regulations are necessary parts of government, but the tend to keep growing and clogging up the efficient running of a country. Over regulation is legendary in the US, and reducing it is one thing that Donald Trump will be supported on – as long as it doesn’t go too far.

Capitalism needs some regulation to keep excesses in check, to protect people and to protect the environment.

Politico: The coming GOP assault on regulations

While President Donald Trump has launched a noisy crusade to slash regulations that constrain American businesses, Republicans in Congress have embarked on a less prominent but potentially more lasting effort to make it much harder for federal agencies to create new regulations in the future.

There is a flurry of anti-regulatory legislation floating around Capitol Hill, but it is becoming clear that the key Republican vehicle to rein in rulemaking will be Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s Regulatory Accountability Act.

A 16-page draft of the legislation obtained by POLITICO was significantly less radical than several aggressive bills recently passed by the House of Representatives, but industry groups have pinned their hopes on this one attracting support from enough moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster and make it to Trump’s desk.

And even if the Portman bill won’t automatically ensure “the deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by White House adviser Steve Bannon, it could still dramatically curtail the power of government regulators in the long run.

 

EPA chief contradicts EPA science

The recently appointed (by Donald trump) chief of the US Environmental Protection Agency disagrees with majority scientific consensus on CO2 links to warming.

RNZ: US environment chief doubts CO2’s role in global warming

The EPA’s website notes that carbon dioxide is the “primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change”.

Data released in January by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the planet’s rising temperature has been “driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions in the atmosphere”.

The two US agencies added that the earth’s 2016 temperatures were the warmest ever.

But:

Scott Pruitt told CNBC that measuring human impact on the climate was “very challenging” and there was “tremendous disagreement” about the issue.

Mr Pruitt, chief of the EPA, instead insisted that officials needed “to continue the debate” on the issue.

His remarks contradict his own agency’s findings on greenhouse gas emissions.

Isn’t that why he was chosen by Trump to head the EPA?

Mr Pruitt, 48, who was sworn in last month, is considered one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial appointments due to his ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The former Oklahoma attorney general also spent years legally challenging the reach of the organisation he now heads.

During his confirmation hearing in January, Mr Pruitt did say he believed humans had contributed to climate change, though he was not sure how much.

Perhaps he should learn something about what his agency does.

Mr Trump tweeted in 2012 that global warming was a “hoax”, but he said last November “I think there is some connectivity” between humans and the changing climate.

Trump is well known for promoting hoaxes and conspiracies. He is also well known for changing his tune.

Dotcom – Trump

refers to CNN (from last September): Is Trump right? Could a 400-pound couch potato have hacked the DNC?

Russia might be behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, according to US officials and lawmakers — but not Donald Trump.

The Republican presidential nominee came up with many alternative possibilities at the first general election debate on Monday night.

“It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people,” he said during the first presidential debate. “It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

(400 pounds = 181 kilograms)

So a monster bed potato, not a couch potato.

Yesterday:

Dotcom-Trump

I can’t find that on Twitter now, but Dotcom has tweeted since:

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Bizarre. How would Dotcom know this?

Why are Dotcom and Wikileaks so keen to help Trump?

I don’t trust US spying but I wouldn’t put much faith in those who think Trump can fix it all. Or are Trump and Assange more interested in getting onside with Trump so he will help them?

 

US discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.


Reuters: Trump’s genial private meetings with CEOs jar with public attacks

When the bosses of some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies headed to Washington in January to meet U.S. President Donald Trump, it had all the makings of a potentially hostile meeting.

Just weeks before, Trump had sent drug stock prices plummeting after accusing the companies of “getting away with murder” by charging too much for medicines.

But the Trump who greeted chief executives on Jan. 31 was a surprisingly genial host who even gave them a personal tour of the Oval Office, according to several participants in the breakfast.

“There is no question that it was better than it could have been or we thought it could be,” said one industry insider familiar with the meeting.

Trump did not repeat his public attacks on the industry. Instead, he focused on “outdated” regulations that drive costs up for drugmakers, according to participants interviewed by Reuters. The CEOs left with Trump’s word that he would streamline regulations and reform the high U.S. corporate tax rate.

An Amgen spokeswoman said Trump made it clear that he wanted to work with the company on U.S. job creation and biotech innovation. Representatives of the other drugmakers declined to comment.

But:

As recently as Tuesday, Trump tweeted he was working on a system to increase competition in the health industry and lower drug pricing, sending pharma shares lower.

The Reuters report shows a number of company share price fluctuations that may have been a result of Trump’s public comments.

“He said one thing for the cameras and the door shuts and then it’s like kumbaya,” said one person who was briefed on a meeting between Trump and a group of CEOs.

“He likes to be seen as engaging and buddy buddy with other big important business leaders,” said this person.

The degree he seems to want to involve himself personally in business matters is unprecedented. It could achieve some positive things but it has significant risks.

Trump’s unpredictability and his different public/private personas could easily result in unintended consequences. Financial and share markets tend to react to uncertainty.

Trump’s new immigration order

President Trump has signed a new executive order that restricts immigration from six countries. The first attempt was plagued by court rulings against it.

They believe it is a lawful order “just like the first executive order”, still trying to defend a deficient document.

Fox News: Trump signs new immigration order, narrows scope of travel ban

President Trump on Monday signed a revised executive order suspending the refugee program and entry to the U.S. for travelers from several mostly Muslim countries, curtailing what was a broadly worded directive in a bid to withstand court scrutiny.

More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in response to the original travel ban. One suit filed in Washington state succeeded in having the order suspended by arguing that it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

As before, the order will suspend refugee entries for 120 days. But it no longer will suspend Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely.

The new order also will ban travelers from six countries who did not obtain a visa before Jan. 27 from entering the United States for 90 days. The directive no longer includes Iraq, as the original order did, but covers travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Iraq, a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, was removed from the travel ban list after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he spoke with the Iraqi government about its vetting process and felt that the screening system was thorough enough to stand on its own.

Trump had claimed that there had been no vetting previously, hence the claimed need for his orders. See Politifact Wrong: Donald Trump says there’s ‘no system to vet’ refugees.

The order also makes clear that green card holders are not affected.

There was confusion about green card holders after the first order was signed.

The Trump administration also plans to cap the number of refugees it accepts to 50,000 a year – down sharply from the 110,000 accepted by the Obama administration.

According to the new executive order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will have 20 days to perform a “global, country-by-country review of the identity and security information that each country provides to the U.S. government to support U.S. visa and other immigration benefit determinations.”

Couldn’t they have done that review anyway?

The new order also details categories of people eligible to enter the United States for business or medical travel purposes.

Will that affect business travel from New Zealand?

The risks of raging Trump

Reports of Donald Trump lashing out in a rage are troubling. This adds weight to concerns about a volatile presidency with a high risk of some quite bad turning to custard.

Washington Post: Inside Trump’s fury: The president rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations

“This account of the administration’s tumultuous recent days is based on interviews with 17 top White House officials, members of Congress and friends of the president, many of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly.”

Trump was mad — steaming, raging mad.

Trump’s young presidency has existed in a perpetual state of chaos. The issue of Russia has distracted from what was meant to be his most triumphant moment: his address last Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. And now his latest unfounded accusation — that Barack Obama tapped Trump’s phones during last fall’s campaign — had been denied by the former president and doubted by both allies and fellow Republicans.

When Trump ran into Christopher Ruddy on the golf course and later at dinner Saturday, he vented to his friend. “This will be investigated,” Ruddy recalled Trump telling him. “It will all come out. I will be proven right.”

“He was pissed,” said Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative media company. “I haven’t seen him this angry.”

At the center of the turmoil is an impatient president increasingly frustrated by his administration’s inability to erase the impression that his campaign was engaged with Russia, to stem leaks about both national security matters and internal discord and to implement any signature achievements.

A deep state of anger over ‘deep state’:

Trump, meanwhile, has been feeling besieged, believing that his presidency is being tormented in ways known and unknown by a group of Obama-aligned critics, federal bureaucrats and intelligence figures — not to mention the media, which he has called “the enemy of the American people.”

That angst over what many in the White House call the “deep state” is fomenting daily, fueled by rumors and tidbits picked up by Trump allies within the intelligence community and by unconfirmed allegations that have been made by right-wing commentators. The “deep state” is a phrase popular on the right for describing entrenched networks hostile to Trump.

So Trump is raging against real and imagined hostility – with much of the hostility  trumped up to give him an enemy to appear to fight against.

The president has been seething as he watches round-the-clock cable news coverage.

Stories from Breitbart News, the incendiary conservative website, have been circulated at the White House’s highest levels in recent days, including one story where talk-radio host Mark Levin accused the Obama administration of mounting a “silent coup,” according to several officials.

Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist who once ran Breitbart, has spoken with Trump at length about his view that the “deep state” is a direct threat to his presidency.

Is the paranoia spread from Bannon or spread by Bannon?

The mood at the White House on Tuesday night was different altogether — jubilant. Trump returned from the Capitol shortly before midnight to find his staff assembled in the residence cheering him. Finally, they all thought, they had seized control.

The merriment came to a sudden end on Wednesday night, when The Washington Post first reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the Russian ambassador despite having said under oath at his Senate confirmation hearing that he had no contact with the Russians.

Inside the West Wing, Trump’s top aides were furious with the defenses of Sessions offered by the Justice Department’s public affairs division and felt blindsided that Sessions’s aides had not consulted the White House earlier in the process, according to one senior White House official.

The next morning, Trump exploded, according to White House officials.

The president would trumpet his plan to grow military spending aboard the Navy’s sophisticated new aircraft carrier. But as Trump, sporting a bomber jacket and Navy cap, rallied sailors and shipbuilders, his message was overshadowed by Sessions.

Back at the White House on Friday morning, Trump summoned his senior aides into the Oval Office, where he simmered with rage, according to several White House officials.

Trouble for Trump continued to spiral over the weekend. Early Saturday, he surprised his staff by firing off four tweets accusing Obama of a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap his Trump Tower phones in the run-up to last fall’s election. Trump cited no evidence, and Obama’s spokesman denied any such wiretap was ordered.

A bad reaction in a bad mood. An ominous sign – Obama isn’t in command of armed forces any more but it’s a matter of time before someone who does will be the target of Trump’s ire.

Trump was brighter Sunday morning as he read several newspapers, pleased that his allegations against Obama were the dominant story, the official said.

But he found reason to be mad again: Few Republicans were defending him on the Sunday political talk shows.

Sounds almost like manic depressive phases.