Sideshow Don continues on Twitter, Burr explains Senate investigations

Donald Trump’s obsession with investigations into collusion and his obsession with being seen as great continue on Twitter:

Highly respected Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of Senate Intelligence, said today that, after an almost two year investigation, he saw no evidence of Russia collusion. “We don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Thank you!

Not only did Senator Burr’s Committee find No Collusion by the Trump Campaign and Russia, it’s important because they interviewed 200 witnesses and 300,000 pages of documents, & the Committee has direct access to intelligence information that’s Classified.

Now we find out that Adam Schiff was spending time together in Aspen with Glenn Simpson of GPS Fusion, who wrote the fake and discredited Dossier, even though Simpson was testifying before Schiff. John Solomon of

The mainstream media has refused to cover the fact that the head of the VERY important Senate Intelligence Committee, after two years of intensive study and access to Intelligence that only they could get, just stated that they have found NO COLLUSION between “Trump” & Russia….

Actually no, only one member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said “we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia” before a draft of their final report has been started, and before the Mueller investigation has concluded.

Burr: “”What I’m telling you is that I’m going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people. And you’ll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that’s collusion.”

I presume no facts have been presented to Trump yet, but he has been asserting ‘NO COLLUSION’ since the allegations and investigations began.

..It is all a GIANT AND ILLEGAL HOAX, developed long before the election itself, but used as an excuse by the Democrats as to why Crooked Hillary Clinton lost the Election! Someday the Fake News Media will turn honest & report that Donald J. Trump was actually a GREAT Candidate!

This relates to this from CBS News:  Richard Burr on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, 2 years on

The investigation into Russian intelligence activities by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence turned two years old, without fanfare, last month.

For almost as long, the inquiry, led by Republican Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, has been held up as the last bastion of bipartisanship in Washington.

After a parallel investigation divided the House Intelligence Committee last year, the Senate’s probe has been under intense pressure to offer a single set of findings.

Burr has spoken little about the probe he leads. But he thinks deeply about how its conclusions should be presented. And he acknowledges now that the investigation is broader, and perhaps more consequential, than it has long been thought to be.

For more than an hour, Burr detailed the committee’s work and findings to date, explained why its investigation will stretch beyond its second year, and addressed the potential of a partisan breakdown at its conclusion. He described the committee’s coordination with the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, its plans for delivering a final report, and hinted at what kinds of questions it may, at least for now, have to leave unanswered.

He made clear that the investigation is not compiling the story of one pivotal election, but of something larger, more complicated and, from a counterintelligence perspective, more nefarious. The final report may be so highly classified, he said, that a meaningful portion may not be made public at all.

Burr said he felt vindicated by his decision to empower the committee’s staff to run the investigation. He said their access to highly classified intelligence from the agencies the committee is equipped to oversee often allowed them to know in advance what they needed to elicit from a witness.

“It also gave us tremendous insight to know when somebody was lying to us,” he said, adding that the committee had “not been shy” in referring individuals for criminal prosecution.

To date, the committee has interviewed more than 200 witnesses and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of documents; it has held more than a dozen public hearings and released two interim reports.

The first, on election security, was issued last March and found that the Department of Homeland Security’s response to Russia’s incursions was “inadequate.”

The second, released in May, included the initial findings of a review of the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russia’s active measures — an unclassified version of a more comprehensive report is still forthcoming.

“We see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” of the ICA, Burr said at the time, in a simple assertion that nevertheless generated headlines for its contrast with a finding by the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican majority.

Their final report cited “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in the assessment made of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s intentions. On a bipartisan basis, the Senate committee substantiated the finding that Putin had developed a “clear preference” for Donald Trump.

Burr would only say that Steele remained of interest, but out of reach.

Burr has previously said it would be impossible to assess the credibility of the dossier without understanding who Steele’s sources and sub-sources were; failing to speak directly with Steele suggests that the committee has not, itself, come to a determination of the dossier’s reliability.

Was there collusion?

For now, Burr appears to have arrived at his answer. “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” he said.

He told Fox News in September that the committee had found no “hard evidence” of collusion, though new information could still come to light.

He now doubled down, adding it was “accurate with everything we’ve accumulated since then.”

It was the first time the chairman sounded like he was not speaking for the entirety of his committee, given the disconnect between his view of a set of facts and that of the vice chairman. (Warner declined to be interviewed for this article.)

In January, Warner said the revelation that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate of Manafort’s known to have ties to Russian intelligence, was the “closest we’ve seen” to collusion.

Burr did not use the word then and would not now. Manafort, he said, “shared polling data with a former partner of an effort to do campaign services in the Ukraine.” It was a “stretch,” Burr said, to call that collusion.

He argued that the underlying motivations behind some interactions were often hard, and sometimes impossible, to determine, and that what might look like collusion could have an alternative rationale.

“There’s an awful lot of connections of all these people,” he said. “They may not be connections that are tied to 2016 elections in the United States, but just the sheer fact that they have a relationship — it may be business. It may be Russian intelligence. It may be they’re all on the payroll of Oleg Deripaska,” he said.

“I have no belief that at the end of our process, people that love Donald Trump are going to applaud what we do. And I have no belief that people that hate Donald Trump are going to reverse and say, ‘Well, you know, this clears him.’ They are solidly in one camp or the other,” he said.

“I’m speaking to what I hope is the 60 percent in the middle that are saying, ‘Give me the facts that I need to make a determination in this one particular instance — what happened.’ And that’s what our focus is,” he said.

There is also the Mueller investigation.

Burr has often voiced his awareness that his committee’s report will be tested by the special counsel’s findings. He has said he’s comforted by it, in part because Mueller, by virtue of having more and better investigative tools, may provide answers that proved elusive to his team.

But he remained evasive as to whether Mueller’s final report should itself be made public — even if it could conceivably fill in some gaps within his own probe. “I’m going to leave that up to whoever the A.G. is at the time,” he said.

No overall findings yet.

How the committee will issue its overall findings, once it arrives at them, also appears to be an open question. Burr said a formal draft had not yet been started, and he could not make a prediction about how much of it, ultimately, would be declassified.

“What I’m telling you is that I’m going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people. And you’ll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that’s collusion,” he said.

“My only advice to you is, be careful. There are a lot of false narratives out there,” he said.

It is a highly complex issue, being investigated by the Senate, by Congress, and by Mueller.  None of them have come to final conclusions, and if they do they could remain classified.

Trump, the media and any of us don’t know anywhere near the full story – and we may never know it.

Will the investigations end up doing any good? Who knows?

Was Trump a great, or as he puts it, a GREAT Candidate? Many thought he was. Many thought he was terrible. He ended up getting fewer popular votes overall than another flawed candidate, Hillary Clinton, but his campaign was good enough to win the presidency under the electoral college system. Some voters would have thought neither candidate was great and voted for the least worst.

Will Trump end up being seen as a great president? It’s far too soon to judge that. There are and will be positives and negatives, it depends on how they all add up.

Was their collusion. That is up to both evidence and interpretation. But we shouldn’t be fixated on ‘collusion’, there are other bad practices, even illegal practices, that could be proven, or disproven, or neither.

US Senate challenges Trump’s plans to withdraw from Syria

Donald Trump’s announcement and follow up statements about withdrawing US troops from Syria and Afghanistan were typically controversial, vague and contradictory. He surprised and alarmed people in the US, to the extent that his Defence Secretary James Mattis resigned immediately over Trump’s withdrawal proclamation last month.

The criticism continues.

Time: Trump’s Own Intelligence Chief Contradicted Him Several Times

The nation’s intelligence chief contradicted President Trump’s statements on North Korea, Syria and Russia while addressing the Senate on Tuesday, arguing that ISIS continues to pose a threat to the United States despite the Administration’s claims that it has been defeated.

Director of U.S. National Intelligence Dan Coats released the results of the Worldwide Threat Assessment, which describes the biggest international dangers facing the United States, and told lawmakers during the Senate hearing that the U.S. must “keep our eyes on” ISIS.

“While ISIS is nearing territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” Coats said.

As usual Trump thinks he knows best.

Does Trump know that Iran is closely linked to Syria? A US withdrawal from Syria would help Iranian interests there.

These tweets have been criticised – Bloomberg:  Trump Blasts U.S. Spy Agencies as Passive, ‘Weak’ on Iran Threat

Responding to Trump’s criticism, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet that “it is a credit to our intelligence agencies that they continue to provide rigorous and realistic analyses of the threats we face. It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening.”

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on Senate Intelligence, said in a tweet that “the President has a dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality. People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter.”

Now the US Senate, led by a Republican majority, are pushing back against Trump’s plans (if you can call them plans, they are more like random proclamations).

CNN:  In rebuke to Trump, Mitch McConnell unveils proposal urging troops stay in Syria, Afghanistan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing an amendment to a Middle East policy bill that would acknowledge “al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home,” a move seen as a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump’s push to withdraw US troops from Syria.

“It would recognize the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal from either conflict and highlight the need for diplomatic engagement and political solutions to the underlying conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan,” McConnell said Tuesday from the Senate floor, announcing the amendment to the bill, which is currently being debated.

McConnell added that, “while it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores, there is still a great deal of work to be done…..we’re not the world’s policemen, but we are the leaders of the free world.”

The leader of ‘the leaders of the free world’ (that’s increasingly debatable under Trump’s isolationism) might have to do a lot more firing to get his Intelligence agencies onside with his way of thinking, but one president can’t vote out 100 senators.

The US risks becoming the joke of the free world, but given the international situations the lead joker is thrashing around in it is not really a laughing matter.

Senate vote 50-48 for Kavanaugh

The US Senate is due to vote on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court this morning NZ time.

It looks like being a done deal for Kavanaugh, but that may not be the end of the controversy.

New Zealand has a cl;ear separation between the appointment of judges and politicians, as it should be, so it is strange and alarming to see how political important appointments to the highest judicial position are.

The vote was 51-49

Division over Kavanaugh nomination continues towards vote

the Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court wil go to a preliminary vote soon, but a final vote won’t happen until Sunday NZ time.

The Hill:  Bitter partisan battle over Kavanaugh enters final chapter

The Senate will take a pivotal vote Friday on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as the battle over President Trump’s pick enters its final chapter.

Four senators — three Republicans and a Democrat — remained undecided on Thursday, though two of them signaled a sense of satisfaction with the FBI’s investigation of sexual misconduct allegations that threatened to torpedo Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Senate Republican leaders plan to hold a key procedural vote Friday morning, setting up a confirmation vote for Saturday afternoon. Friday’s cloture vote is scheduled to happen at 10:30 a.m.

That’s 6.30 am NZ time.

If senators vote Friday to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, as expected, they will have to allow another 30 hours for procedural debate, putting the final vote in mid-afternoon the following day.

Kavanaugh went to the extraordinary length of writing an op-ed. Fox News: Kavanaugh, in op-ed, decries ‘vicious’ attacks while saying he ‘might have been too emotional’ at hearing

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, decrying what he described as “vicious” attacks against him while admitting he “might have been too emotional” during his hearing on Capitol Hill last week.

“I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times,” Kavanaugh wrote. “I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.

Some have said that this sort of emotion is not good for a judge, and others have questioned Kavanaugh’s partisanship – Reuters:  Kavanaugh does not belong on Supreme Court, retired Justice Stevens says

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said on Thursday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on the high court because of “potential bias” he showed in his recent Senate confirmation hearing.

Speaking to an audience of retirees in Boca Raton, Florida, Stevens, 98, said he started out believing that Kavanaugh deserved to be confirmed, “but his performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind.”

Stevens cited commentary by Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe and others suggesting Kavanaugh had raised doubts about his political impartiality when he asserted that sexual misconduct accusations he faced stemmed from an “orchestrated political hit” funded by left-wing groups seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

However partisanship in judicial matters appears to be an accepted norm in the US.

The four editorials listed at RealClear Politics give an indication of the division over the nomination.

Many have taken sides and put reason aside to defend their entrenched positions.

Whichever way the votes go today and tomorrow a lot of people are likely to be very unhappy.

In a number of ways this nomination has been an indication of how much of a mess politics, democracy, and increasingly the judiciary, has become in the US. And there is no indication it will go anywhere other than downhill from here.

One thing that Donald Trump has already achieved as President is the most huge amount of division imaginable, and he gives every indication he intends to continue to play his game that way.

I’ll update this post today as the results of the first vote become known

FBI ‘background investigation’ requested before Kavanaugh vote

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that the FBI conduct a background investigation before a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They want this done in just a week, but it seems a prudent pause in proceedings.

Reuters (Twitter):

Republican Senator Flake says it would be proper to delay floor vote on Kavanaugh for up to one week.

Senate Judiciary Committee will request Trump administration has FBI conduct background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

Senate panel says supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh, must be completed in one week.

One week isn’t a lot of time for this, but it is better than a highly politicised Senate hearing that proved little apart from vested interests and manipulation of both Republicans and Democrats.

Vox:  Trump says he’ll defer to senators on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote

President Donald Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, for his “riveting” testimony during his Senate Judiciary hearing on Thursday night, then demanded, “The Senate must vote!”

But on Friday, answering reporters’ questions as he met with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, Trump said he’d defer to senators on how they wanted the nomination to play out. “Well, I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions,” Trump told reporters.

When asked if Trump would approve a reopening of an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said he would rely on lawmakers. That’s going to “be a decision that they’re going to make,” the president said. “And I suspect they’ll be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote, or to do whatever else they want to do.”

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” Trump added.

Also from Vox: Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart

Beyond the style of their testimonies, there was a striking difference in the content of their words. Both Ford and Kavanaugh fielded questions from senators and the prosecutor hired by Republicans, Rachel Mitchell.

But only Ford made an effort to answer every single question.

Kavanaugh actively dodged questions. He often repeated the same non-answer over and over. Other times, he insisted on answering a question with “context” — which inevitably was a long story about his childhood — but never actually answered the question.

It may be up to the FBI now to get some questions answered.

A dramatic last-minute demand by Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Friday prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek an FBI investigation into President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations that have riveted the country and imperiled his confirmation chances.

The Republican-led committee approved Kavanaugh’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate over Democratic opposition, with Flake providing the decisive vote.

But Flake, a moderate Republican, cast his vote only after asking the panel to request that the Trump administration pursue an FBI probe of the explosive allegations against Kavanaugh and delay a final Senate confirmation vote for up to a week to allow the investigation to run its course.

Flake’s action came a day after the Judiciary Committee’s jarring and emotional hearing into the allegations against Kavanaugh that gripped the country, with a university professor named Christine Blasey Ford accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when both were high schools students in Maryland. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

Flake’s action put the confirmation prospects for Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge nominated for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, in further jeopardy in a Senate only narrowly controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Republican Senate leaders agreed to Flake’s demand but the White House would have to direct the FBI to act. Trump said earlier he would rely on the Senate’s decision about how to move forward.

I think the White House will have to direct the FBI to act, otherwise a could will keep hanging over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

It sounds like Trump may have been given a choice of this or insufficient votes in support of the nomination.

Russian interference in Us elections is longstanding and continues

CIA head Mike Pompeo says that Russia has tried to interfere in US elections for a long time and that continues. The investigations into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign, and separately Clinton’s campaign, in the 2016 election are ongoing.

Reuters: CIA’s Pompeo says Russia and others trying to undermine U.S. elections

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency said on Sunday that Russia and others are trying to undermine elections in the United States, the next major one being in November when Republicans will try to keep control of Congress.

Moscow denies any meddling in the 2016 elections to help Republican Trump win. U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any crimes were committed.

It goes further than criminal activity though. No country should be intefering in another country’s elections – something both Russia and the US have been guilty of for a long time.

Trump has at times suggested that he accepts the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia sought to interfere in the election but at other times has said he accepts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Moscow meddled.

What Trump says at any time seems to depend on his mood at the time or what issue he is trying to promote or divert from.

Pompeo told CBS that the CIA had an important function as a part of the national security team to keep U.S. elections secure and democratic. “We are working diligently to do that. So we’re going to work against the Russians or any others who threaten that very outcome,” he said.

And CIA and FBI investigations should be independent of the President or of political parties.

Parallel to this: Senate’s Trump-Russia probe not close to ending

The Senate Intelligence Committee probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is nowhere near over, as lawmakers probe issues including a June 2016 meeting between top aides to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and a Russian lawyer, the panel’s top Democrat indicated on Friday.

Senator Mark Warner said committee staff have interviewed everyone at the meeting, where President Trump’s son Donald Jr. expected to be given derogatory information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with the exception of “one or two individuals who are Russian.”

“But I feel very strongly that you can‘t, you could never conclude without the senators themselves being able to talk to the principals involved,” Warner said. “We have not gotten there yet.”

Warner, in an interview with Reuters, said the Senate investigation has made progress on several fronts.

It has, he said, “re-validated” a Jan. 6, 2017, U.S. intelligence assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election, with the goal of undermining Americans’ trust in their institutions and denigrating Clinton.

In an effort that has been “frustratingly slow,” Warner said, the investigation also prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to warn 21 U.S. states whose election systems were the subject of tampering attempts by Moscow.

Warner and fellow Democrats have worked closely with the Senate panel’s Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr.

In the interview, Warner repeated a warning that he made in a Dec. 20 Senate floor speech that any move by Trump aimed at firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller would provoke a “constitutional crisis.”

Warner said his concern that Trump might take a step to dismiss Mueller was confirmed by news reports on Thursday detailing steps the president reportedly took to blunt the Russia investigation.

Shock loss rant reveals Moore is less

It was regarded as a shock loss when republican candidate Roy Moore failed to win the Alabama seat for the US senate.

I find it a bit shocking that a candidate like Moore would have been selected and come close to being elected to the Senate.

Moore hasn’t conceded defeat yet, but has let loose with a rant that sounds scary for someone who came close to becoming a Senator.

Stuff: Roy Moore turns recount into religious crusade: ‘Immorality sweeps over the land’

A day after losing the US Senate race in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones, Roy Moore has issued a new statement refusing to concede the election.

In the video issued by the campaign on Wednesday evening (Thursday NZ Time), Moore said his campaign is still waiting for the official vote count from Alabama officials. The Republican candidate framed the election as not just a political contest but also a dire ideological battle for “the heart and soul of our country.”

It was a four-minute fire-and-brimstone video about abortion, same-sex marriage, school prayer, sodomy, and “the right of a man to claim to be a woman and vice versa.”

“We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilisation and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity. Today, we no longer recognise the universal truth that God is the author of our life and liberty. Abortion, sodomy and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“We have stopped prayer in our schools. We have killed over 60 million of our unborn children. We have redefined marriage and destroyed the basis of family, which is the building block of our country. Our borders are not secure. We have a huge drug problem. Our economy is faltering under an enormous national debt.

Trump’s tax bill will significantly increase debt – and it may be passed by the Senate before the new Alabama Senator is sworn in.

“We have even begun to recognise the right of a man to claim to be a woman, and vice versa. We have allowed judges and justices to rule over our Constitution, and we have become slaves to their tyranny. Immorality sweeps over our land.”

“Even our political process has been affected with baseless and false allegations, which have become more relevant than the issues which affect our country. This election was tainted by over $50 million dollars from outside groups who want to retain power and their corrupt ideology.”

“In this race we have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots. This has been a very close race, and we are awaiting certification by the secretary of state.”

So despite most of the Republican Party sighing with relief when Moore lost he still holds hopes of getting into the Senate.

For one of the most advanced countries in the world there is still some very old fashioned views popular in some states.

Alabama Senate election

It’s interesting to see so much interest in a US senate election here in New Zealand.

Alabama would normally be expected to be a safe Republican seat, but a controversial conservative candidate with a raft of sexual misconducts thrown into the campaign, sever splits in the GOP with some Senators openly saying they would vote against their own party candidate and if he won would seek to have him dumped from the Senate./

And then President Trump stirred up his own alleged sexual misconduct while endorsing and campaigning for the GOP candidate added more interest.

Especially now the results are in and he lost, and the Republican Senate majority is down to a bare 51, which make it even hard for Trump to progress his policies.

What are their names? Moore and Jones (the winner) I think from memory, but that doesn’t matter much here.

The Republicans have had a reality check, especially Trump and Steve Bannon of helped run the losing campaign.

But this is unlikely to do much to address the dysfunction in US politics.

Senate defies Trump on climate change

This is only small change as far as money goes but it’s a bit of a snub for President Trump.

Reuters:  Defying Trump, Senate panel approves funding for U.N. climate body

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill on Thursday evening that includes $10 million to help fund the United Nations’ climate change body that oversees the Paris Climate Agreement, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to stop funding it.

The 30-member Senate panel, which allocates federal funds to various government agencies and organizations, approved a $51 billion spending bill for the State Department and foreign operations, which included an amendment to continue funding the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as the scientific body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The amendment passed even though the 2018 budget proposal that Trump, a Republican, introduced earlier this year eliminated support of any mechanism to finance climate change projects in developing countries and organizations.

The United States has usually contributed to around 20 percent of the UNFCCC budget.

The amendment passed 16-14. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee voted in favor, as did all committee Democrats except for West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

So mixed messages from the US on climate change measures.

In a diplomatic cable that Reuters obtained last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. diplomats should sidestep questions from foreign governments on how the United States plans re-engage in the global Paris climate agreement.

The cable also said diplomats should make clear that the United States wants to help other countries use fossil fuels, which have been linked to global warming.

Trump seems intent on promoting dirty fossil fuels with little regard for their impact on the environment.

This is minor defiance from the US senate.

 

More US sanctions against Russia

The US Senate has voted in favour of strengthening sanctions against Russia “in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyberattacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria,” said Republicans and Democrats on the committees.

ABC News: Tillerson warns against steps that cut off talks with Russia

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and deteriorating further, yet he cautioned against taking steps that might close off promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson stopped short of registering his opposition to a new package of Russia sanctions the GOP-led Senate is considering in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression in other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine.

Top lawmakers on two Senate committees — Banking and Foreign Relations — announced the sanctions deal amid the firestorm over Russia’s meddling in the presidential election and investigations into Moscow’s possible collusion with members of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The plan calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on corrupt Russian actors, those involved in human rights abuses and those supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The package also would require a congressional review if a president attempts to ease or end current penalties.

Penalties also would be slapped on those responsible for malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government.

A procedural vote on the Russia sanctions is expected Wednesday, and the measure is expected to get strong bipartisan support.

House and Senate committees are investigating Russia’s meddling and potential links to the Trump campaign, with testimony scheduled Tuesday from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a separate probe.

So both Congress and the Senate are continuing investigations, strengthening sanctions, and making it harder for President Trump to “ease or end current penalties”.

And today (Tuesday US time) Sessions to face tough questions at public Senate hearing, in next round of Russia probe:

The Senate’s Russia probe will hit a new level of intensity Tuesday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions becomes the highest-ranking official to testify – in what Senate Intelligence Committee leaders confirmed will be an open hearing, in the spirit of last week’s dramatic session with James Comey.

The circumstances are different for Sessions’ appearance. While Comey was a witness scorned by President Trump and ready to dish on the leader who fired him, Sessions remains the top law enforcement official in the country, working for Trump’s administration.

But lawmakers – particularly Democrats – are preparing tough questions for Sessions both about Russia’s contact with Trump campaign associates and the circumstances of Comey’s firing.

Also from Fox News:  Mueller’s lawyer build-up raises flags for Trump allies

Special counsel Robert Mueller is said to be building out his investigative team with some of the country’s best legal minds, in a development that speaks to the seriousness of the Russia probe but also is raising red flags on the pro-Trump side.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, citing the hires, said “they’re setting up to go after Trump.”

“This is going to be a witch hunt,” Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Not all Republicans feel that way, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that Mueller just “wants to get to the truth.”

But recent hires show Mueller is building a formidable team, poised to either root out wrongdoing or prove the Trump team’s claims that there’s no ‘there there.’

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney fired by Trump along with dozens of other holdover prosecutors earlier this year, tweeted that Dreeben is “1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times.”

However, Bharara said Dreeben’s “loyalty is to the Constitution alone” and Mueller is looking to find the truth, apply the law “and yield a just result. Charge or no charge.”

It is important for the integrity of the US political system that as much of the truth is discovered as possible, charge or no charge.