Monday, May 21, 2018
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Trump and his fixer
Donald Trump has officially disclosed his reimbursement to his lawyer for a payment to a porn star to hush her claims of an affair.
The Office of Government Ethics found on Wednesday that Mr Trump ought to have revealed the payment in his previous financial disclosure. The filing shows he paid back Michael Cohen for a 2016 expense of between $100,001 and $250,000.
The White House stated in a footnote to the filing that it was listing the payment "in the interest of transparency", even though it contended it did not have to make the disclosure.
However, the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) wrote in a letter that "the payment made by Mr Cohen is required to be reported as a liability".
In his letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the OGE acting director says he is sending the president's latest financial disclosure and last year's one.
The ethics chief writes to Mr Rosenstein that "you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing".
The deputy attorney general is overseeing the Department of Justice investigation into whether Trump aides colluded with alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
The Stormy Daniels payment is a potential legal problem for the president because it could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution.
Mr Cohen, whose records relating to the settlement were seized in an FBI raid last month, is now reportedly under criminal investigation.
Later that week, the president said the newly hired Mr Giuliani needed time to "get his facts straight". Also on Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee backed up the American intelligence community's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election to help Mr Trump.
The panel's assessment contradicts a conclusion in March by the House Intelligence Committee rejecting allegations that the Kremlin had aimed to boost the Republican candidate's chances.
What else did we learn?The disclosure shows millions in 2017 income from rents, licences, book and television royalties, company shares, hotel management fees and golf courses, with interests that span the globe from India to Dubai.
The president even collected pensions, including $64,804 from the Screen Actors Guild. The report provides a glimpse of how the president's business fared during his first year in office, though comparisons are difficult since his prior disclosure covered 16 months.
Mar-a-Lago contributed $25m in income, compared to about $37m on the previous report. (Assuming the property performs evenly throughout the year, Mar-a-Lago would have brought in about $28m in 2016.)
The president reported royalties from his 1987 book Art of the Deal in the same $100,000-$1m range as he did last year - and sales for some of his lesser titles picked up.
Many of his shareholdings are in mutual and index funds, rather than the cross-section of American companies he once owned.
Posted by Shadow at 2:04 AM
Monday, May 14, 2018
AMES OLIPHANT AND JULIE STEENHUYSEN
May 14th 2018 3:33PM
BETHESDA, Maryland/CHICAGO, May 14 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's wife, MelaniaTrump, underwent a surgical procedure on Monday to treat a benign kidney condition and will remain at Walter Reed medical center for the rest of the week, the first lady's office said.
Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that Mrs. Trump, 48, underwent an embolization procedure to treat the kidney condition.
"The procedure was successful and there were no complications," Grisham said. "The first lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere."
President Trump spoke with his wife of 13 years before the procedure and talked to the doctor after it was completed, a White House official said.
"Heading over to Walter Reed Medical Center to see our great First Lady, Melania. Successful procedure, she is in good spirits. Thank you to all of the well-wishers!" he tweeted.
An embolization is a minimally invasive procedure often used to block the flow of blood to a tumor or an abnormal area of tissue.
Dr. Keith Kowalczyk, a urologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said that based on available information it appeared that Melania Trump was treated for a benign tumor known as an angiomyolipoma.
"It's the most common benign tumor that's out there. It is a tumor, which means it's a growth. There's no worry for it to spread or metastasize. Once it's treated, it's treated," he said.
Kowalczyk said women in their mid to late 40s make up 80 to 90 percent of the cases of angiomyolipomas.
"It kind of all fits. But I don't know. Any time you are doing an embolization, it's because something might bleed. She's young and healthy and I can't really think of any other reason you would embolize someone like that."
Kowalczyk said angiomyolipomas are most commonly found by chance.
"Usually, with embolization there is over a 90 percent success rate," he said.
The Slovenian-born first lady last week rolled out an agenda for her White House work focused on helping children.
A CNN/SSRS poll found last week that Melania was viewed favorably by 57 percent of Americans, up from 47 percent in January. Her husband's job approval rating lags behind hers at 50 percent or less.
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatisand Leslie Adler)
A very speedy recovery ...........Shadow & Witchy
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Former President Barack Obama has weighed in on President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
“There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.”
“The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense,” Obama added.
The former president further called Trump’s announcement “misguided” and a “serious mistake.”
“Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers,” Obama noted.
There are few issues more important to the security of the US than the potential spread of nuclear weapons or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. Today’s decision to put the JCPOA at risk is a serious mistake. My full statement:
There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.
The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.
That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.
Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.
First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my Administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium – the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran's nuclear program and achieved real results.
Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.
Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.
Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained. Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior – and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies – is strengthened with the JCPOA, and weakened without it.
Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.
In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.