Trump asked two intel chiefs to push back against FBI’s Russia probe — report

US President Donald Trump reportedly asked two intelligence chiefs in March to push back against the FBI investigation into possible collusion between members of his presidential campaign and Russia, current and former US officials told the Washington Post in a report published Monday.

In the newest report suggesting the White House sought to tamp down the Russia probe, the Post said Trump urged National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to publicly deny any evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia during last year’s presidential election.

The two flatly refused, the Washington Post reported, deeming the request inappropriate.

Trump’s request came after March 20 when then-FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

The president abruptly fired Comey earlier this month, in a shock move that only increased speculation surrounding alleged Russia collusion.

Then-FBI Director James Comey sworn in prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 3, 2017. (AFP/JIM WATSON)

The White House gave several different accounts of why Comey was dismissed but Trump later said in an interview that it was at least partly because of the Russia investigation.

According to the report Monday, Trump is also building a team of outside legal counsel to handle his responses to the possible collusion investigations.

Several high-profile lawyers were currently being considered to help the president handle the federal and congressional probes, and Trump is personally involved in the search, according to the Post.

It said the president, who declared himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” after a special prosecutor was appointed to oversee the investigation into Moscow’s efforts to tip the US elections, is favoring the use of a team of lawyers rather than a single attorney.

The finalists to serve as Trump’s lead attorney are Marc Kasowitz, Robert Giuffra Jr., Reid Weingarten and Theodore Olson, according to the Post. They would serve separately from the White House Counsel’s Office.

Last week, the White House was hit by two bombshell reports related to Russia, one alleging that Trump had asked Comey in February to “let go” of the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia, and another describing an alarming intel leak to Russian officials, disclosing classified information obtained through an intel arrangement with Israel.

In that same meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kysliak, Trump is reported to have said that the firing of “nut job” Comey had eased the pressure on him.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” the New York Times reported last week that Trump said during the May 10 meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

The Washington Post then reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, that a senior Trump adviser was now considered a “person of interest” in the investigation.

Late last week, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the federal investigation in an effort to re-establish independence from the White House.

Trump is currently in Israel as part of his first foreign trip, having landed in the country on Monday following a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia. He is headed to Europe next.

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Peace Now report finds 34 percent increase in West Bank housing construction starts

JERUSALEM (JTA) — There has been a 34 percent increase in construction starts in the West Bank in 2016 over the same period in the previous year, according to a new report.

Peace Now’s annual construction report was released on Sunday.

Some 1,814 new housing units began construction, an increase of 34 percent to a parallel time period in the previous year, with 70 percent of the new construction in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border, or settlements that are likely to be emptied in a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  Over 26 percent or 474 housing units  of the new construction was in areas that are east of the route of the separation barrier.

In addition, according to the report, 42 new public buildings such as schools and synagogues, were started in 2016, as well as 23 structures for industry or agriculture.

“The trends of 2016 illustrates that while Netanyahu attempts to illustrate restraint in order to save face among the international community, on the ground construction is not only ongoing but also increasing, mainly in the most problematic areas for a future agreement. If the Israeli government is interested in a two-state solution, it must seize acting unilaterally in a way that makes this solution much more difficult to achieve,” Peace Now said in a statement.

Trump is telling aides he wants to re-hire Michael Flynn if he’s cleared by the FBI: report (LOL….)

Even though damning revelations keep dropping about disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, it seems at least one person inside the White House wants him back: President Donald Trump.

White House sources tell the Daily Beast that Trump has “expressed his hopes that a resolution of the FBI’s investigation in Flynn’s favor might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity.” Trump advisers both inside and outside the White House, however, have reportedly told him that bringing Flynn back in any role would be a very bad idea.

“Trump feels really, really, really, bad about firing him, and he genuinely thinks if the investigation is over Flynn can come back,” one White House official told the Daily Beast.

Trump fired Flynn after it was revealed that he lied both publicly and privately to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his contacts with Russian government officials. Trump had been warned about Flynn’s falsehoods by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, but he didn’t fire Flynn until 18 days later when a report about his talks with Russian officials appeared in the Washington Post.

Since then, reports have revealed that Flynn was under federal investigation for his work lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government at the time he accepted the position as national security adviser. Flynn reportedly told the Trump transition teamthat he was under investigation for his work, but he was offered the job anyway.

REPORT: US HOUSE LEADER MCCARTHY SUGGESTED TRUMP ON PUTIN PAYROLL

 

WASHINGTON – A leading Republican in the US Congress in June 2016 made a quip during a private meeting of fellow lawmakers that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be making payments to Donald Trump, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made the assertion, the newspaper reported, saying the conversation was recorded last June, during the primary election season when Trump was seeking to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

 

If Trump leaked Israel secrets, why doesn’t Israel seem to care?
Report: Trump team knew Flynn was under federal probe before becoming NSA

According to the Washington Post report, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican, interrupted McCarthy and urged Republicans present to keep McCarthy’s remarks secret.

The newspaper report quoted McCarthy saying, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

McCarthy fired back at the report on Twitter on Wednesday, saying, “This was an attempt at humor gone wrong.”

A spokesman for Ryan said the remarks were meant as humor and had been taken out of context.

“This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians,” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said.

Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher on Wednesday told reporters that McCarthy’s quip was a joke. “The trouble is, when you ever try to be funny, it is really taken seriously by a third party, and that’s what’s happened here,” he said.

Reuters does not have a copy of the tape and could not confirm authenticity or gauge whether McCarthy was joking.

Report: Jewish man wearing kippah threatened with hammer in Marseille

(JTA) — A Jewish man told police in the city of Marseille in southern France that he had been assaulted on the street while wearing a kippah by another man wielding a hammer.

The incident took place on Tuesday morning on Village Street in Marseille’s central 6th district, which is situated approximately half a mile from the Grand Synagogue of Marseille, the man told police according to a report in the online edition of the La Provence daily.

The alleged attacker produced a hammer, threatened the complainant and tapped him with the instrument without injuring him before fleeing the scene, the Jewish man reportedly told police. His deposition did not offer clear indications that the incident was a hate crime, according to La Provence.

Tzvi Amar, president of the local office of the Consistoire, the French Jewish community’s organization responsible for religious services, in January last year said Jews should “remove the kippah during these troubled times” because “the preservation of life is sacrosanct.”

Amar’s statement, which he said “turns his stomach” and is born of “grave circumstances that require extraordinary measures,” came after the stabbing of a Jewish man in Marseille in January of 2016 allegedly by a 15-year-old Muslim radical. He sustained minor injuries.

In October 2015, a French man of Algerian descent stabbed a Jewish man who was returning from synagogue and assaulted two others, including a rabbi.

Marseille has 80,000 Jews in a total population of approximately 850,000. About a third of its residents are Muslim, according to estimates.

Despite recent attacks, Marseille has faced fewer attacks than Paris, even taking its smaller Jewish population into account. In 2014, SPCJ, the French Jewish security service, recorded 186 attacks in the Paris region, where some 300,000 French Jews live — a rate of approximately one attack per 1,600 Jews. Only 36 such incidents occurred in Marseille, about 30 percent fewer than Paris.

REPORT: SHELDON ADELSON (KIKE) ‘FURIOUS’ OVER WHITE HOUSE STALLING ON US EMBASSY MOVE

 

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Report-Adelson-furious-over-White-House-stalling-on-US-embassy-move-490757

 

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is reportedly “furious” by comments made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after America’s top diplomat appeared to waver on the US president’s pledge to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to online publication Axios Monday.

Two sources close to the Jewish entrepreneur told the news site that Adelson was outraged with the White House’s apparent shift in rhetoric surrounding the embassy issue.

 

Speaking in an interview aired Sunday with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, Tillerson said the president’s decision will be informed “by the parties involved” in the Middle East peace process.

“The president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have,” Tillerson said.

US President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to move the embassy, but quickly changed course after taking office, advised by Middle East allies that such an action would roil the region and undermine his efforts to jumpstart peace talks.

During the 2016 US presidential election, Adelson publicly supported Trump’s bid for the White House, reportedly donating to the then-Republican candidate an estimated $25 million, according to Fox News.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later publicly disputed Tillerson’s charge that Israel might not want the US Embassy relocated to Jerusalem at this time.

“Israel has clearly stated its position to the US and to the world multiple times. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem won’t harm the peace process.”

“The opposite is true. It will correct a historic injustice by advancing the [peace process] and shattering a Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem isn’t Israel’s capital,” Netanyahu said.

While Netanyahu has publicly called for the embassy’s relocation, there is wide-ranging speculation that he has hesitated, possibly to not lose support for wider, behind-the- scenes alliances with moderate Arab states with regard to Iran.

Marc Zell, who chairs Republicans Overseas Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that the embassy has not been moved “because of a request coming from this side of the ocean.”

The Israeli government wants the embassy moved, but “it’s a question of timing,” said Zell, who just returned from Washington, where he had dinner with Vice President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Adelson is scheduled to appear in Israel next week to provide testimony in a corruption probe swirling around the premier. His visit will coincidentally coincide with Trump’s first official state visit to the holy land since taking office, which is dated for May 22.

It is unknown if the two will meet while in the country.

Comey Furious over Trump Team’s Smear Campaign — and He’s Prepared to Respond: Report

James Comey will respond at some point to President Donald Trump, according to sources familiar with the former FBI director — but he’s staying quiet for now.

Associates said Comey is furious about the lack of respect he was shown during his abrupt firing Tuesday and has been angered by comments by Trump and White House staffers, reported ABC News.

The ABC News report referred to comments by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, who accused Comey of committing “atrocities” against Hillary Clinton.

One person close to the former FBI director told the network that Comey had shown considerable restraint when Trump questioned his competence and called him a “showboat.”

If and when Comey responds, he could prove to be more dangerous to Trump outside the FBI than he was before.

Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the Department of Justice, said Comey fastidiously keeps evidence of potential wrongdoing to protect himself and the agency.

The potential threat posed by Comey apparently prompted Trump to reveal a tape recording system at the White House that could potentially be subpoenaed by congressional investigators in their ongoing Russia probe.

Comey was caught off guard by the firing, which he learned about from televisions turned on behind him during a public appearance, and has issued only one public statement since his dismissal.

“I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all,” Comey told former colleagues in a letter he delivered. “I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.”

Many agents believe Comey was treated poorly by the administration, and acting FBI director and the FBI Agents Association contradicted White House claims that their old boss had lost the confidence of “rank and file” employees.

Travis Gettys is an editor for Raw Story. 

US military chief (White Freemason) to visit Israel, discuss IS, Syria

US military head Joseph Dunford will visit Tel Aviv on Monday to meet his Israeli counterparts and discuss fighting the Islamic State on the Jewish state’s borders, according to a report Sunday.

Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, according to the report in the Ynet news site

Neither the IDF nor the US Embassy would confirm details of Dunford’s itinerary. American protocol dictates that such confirmations only be released once the chairman is en route to his destination.

According to Ynet, Dunford and the Israeli officials are set to discuss the fighting in Sinai, where an Islamic State affiliate is engaged in a bloody war with Egyptian forces, as well as the situation in Syria, specifically the chemical weapons still believed to be in the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Iranian government’s attempts to transfer advanced weaponry through the country to the Hezbollah terrorist group.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump said fighting the Islamic State was a key part of brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace, before meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.

The trip would be Dunford’s third trip to Israel in his position as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, but his fourth time meeting with Eisenkot.

It was not immediately clear what the rest of Dunford’s itinerary would entail, and if he would only be visiting Israel or would continue on to other countries in the region.

On Sunday, US and Jordanian forces kicked off a large-scale military exercise, known as “Eager Lion,” in which more than 20 nations will take part.

In August, Dunford presented Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit. The medal can be awarded by the US Armed Forces to foreign military and political officials who “distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services,” according to US law.

The chairman last visited in Israel in March 2016, when he met with Eisenkot and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

“My first visit overseas was [to Israel], and I appreciate the warm welcome I had. This is my second [visit] in a short period of time, and I think that reflects what you said — how important this relationship is,” Dunford told Ya’alon during their meeting.

“The relationship between our two countries is about much more than just the military-to-military relationship, but I believe that’s one of the foundational elements,” he added.

Aaron Hernandez found with ‘John 3:16’ written in ink on forehead, report says

BOSTON — Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez wrote a reference to a biblical passage in ink on his forehead and in blood on the wall of his prison cell before he hanged himself with a bed sheet, state police said in an investigative report released Thursday.

The former New England Patriots tight end was found naked April 19 at the Souza-Baranowski prison, where he was serving a life sentence in the 2013 murder of a man who had been dating his fiancee’s sister. His suicide came five days after he was acquitted in the 2012 gun slayings of two men in a car.

A report released by state police on Thursday says “John 3:16” was written on Hernandez’s forehead and on the cell wall.

The Bible passage says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The report, from a state police detective assigned to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.’s office, said a correction officer found Hernandez around 3 a.m.

Correction officers found that cardboard had been shoved into the tracks of Hernandez’s cell door to prevent the door from opening. Hernandez also had put shampoo on the floor to make it slippery, the report states.

Once the correction officers got inside the cell, they found Hernandez hanging from a bed sheet tied around the window bars. The officers and medical staff performed CPR, but Hernandez never regained consciousness. He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

State police said Hernandez’s right middle finger had a fresh cut and there was blood on adjacent fingers. Besides the “John 3:16” written on his forehead, there also appeared to be a large circular blood mark on each of his feet.

On the wall of the cell were several drawings and “John 3:16” written in what appeared to be blood. Under the drawings was a Bible open to John 3:16, with the verse marked in blood. Three handwritten notes were found next to the bible. A description of the notes was redacted from the state police report.

Correction officers told police that Hernandez had been locked in his cell just before 8 p.m. on April 18. One officer said he last saw Hernandez around 1 a.m. on April 19.

About two hours later, the officer saw a sheet hanging in front of the door to Hernandez’s cell. The officer said he asked Hernandez to remove the sheet or sound off. As the officer poked at the sheet it fell, and he saw Hernandez hanging from the window, according to the report.

After that officer and others opened the door, they tried to lift Hernandez to relieve pressure. After Hernandez was cut down, officers began performing chest compressions.

State police said a review of video surveillance shows Hernandez was on the phone just before being locked in his cell. Police said they listened to the last five phone calls Hernandez made.

“Hernandez does not make any apparent indication of an intent to harm himself during any of the phone calls,” the report states.

An autopsy performed by the state medical examiner’s office determined the cause of Hernandez’s death was asphyxia by hanging and the manner of death was suicide. The state police report said toxicology tests showed Hernandez’s blood came back negative for all substances tested, including synthetic marijuana.

Hernandez’s lead attorney in his recent double murder trial, Jose Baez, has pledged to do an independent investigation into his death. The defense team sharply criticized state investigators, saying some leaked information to reporters while failing to keep the Hernandez family informed.

“The unprofessional behavior of those entrusted to impartially and professionally conduct an investigation into Aaron’s death has caused grave concern as to the validity and thoroughness of the investigation,” Hernandez’s attorneys said in a statement.

Hernandez grew up in Bristol, Connecticut. His suicide left friends, family and his legal team in disbelief as many searched for an explanation to the tragic end of a young man whose football skills earned him a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the NFL’s top franchise.

Hezbollah nearly bankrupt, but Nasrallah awash in cash — report

The Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of its large outlays on fighting in Syria and from the increasing squeeze of US sanctions on its revenue streams, though top members continue to pad their own wallets.

According to a report Friday in the German daily Die Welt, Hezbollah’s increasing financial difficulties have led the group to increasingly rely on a number illicit schemes to earn money, including money laundering, drug trafficking and counterfeiting, as well as through its substantial property holdings.

Despite $1 billion in aid that Israeli security officials estimate Hezbollah receives each year from its patron Iran, which is said to cover some 70 percent of the group’s annual finances, the increasing financial toll from its military involvement in Syria and lack of additional assistance from Tehran has forced the group to resort to extorting not only its “donors” in the country, but also Lebanese expatriates in Africa, South America, Europe and the United States, according to the report.

The blackmail has reportedly led to discontent within the Shiite group’s ranks and among its supporters, as Lebanese Shiites in the country have been forced into selling their assets and property in order to prop up Hezbollah and fund its operations.

In areas in southern and eastern Lebanon under its control, Hezbollah has also begun collecting tariffs on goods at border crossings with Syria in place of the Lebanese government, according to Die Welt.

In this Saturday, May 9, 2015 file photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands on a hill next to the group's yellow flag in the fields of the Syrian town of Assal al-Ward in the mountainous region of Qalamoun, Syria. (AP Photo/Bassem Mroue, File)

While the fighting in Syria has greatly strained the group’s finances, the imposition of US sanctions last year on Lebanese banks that do business with the terror group is also said to have taken a toll, as Shiite businessmen in Lebanon have become increasingly reluctant to work with Hezbollah out of fear of American reprisal.

“Hezbollah has had to cast a wide net because most Lebanese banks have not wanted to do business with them,” a congressional expert on the legislation told AFP in 2015.

Despite its monetary troubles, Hezbollah has not cut funding for the extensive social programs it provides to large segments of Lebanon’s Shiite community or the payments it provides to the families of dead and injured fighters so as not to risk alienating the group’s support base.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (AP/Hussein Malla)

Die Welt also reported that members of the terror group’s leadership have used Hezbollah funds for their own enrichment despite its dire fiscal situation, including the son of the organization’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, who is said to have taken money to fund a chain of coffee houses in Beirut.

In addition, Nasrallah himself is said to be worth some $250 million, according to Die Welt.

In a speech last year, Nasrallah brushed off reports that the group was in dire financial straits, saying that money was continuing to pour in from Tehran.

“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said in June.

Iran was instrumental in Hezbollah’s inception three decades ago and has provided financial and military support to the group.

“As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it,” Nasrallah added.