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Trump Support Vital as Congress Tackles Immigration Issue

The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the “Dreamer” immigrants on Monday, and Republican senators say they’ll introduce President Donald Trump’s plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation.

If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he’ll say something that undermines the effort.

Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president’s blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.

Watch, VOA’s Michael Bowman reports:

Trump, thus far, has balked on that front.

“The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him,” is how Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a proponent of compromise, describes the president and the impact conservative voters and his hard-right advisers have on him. “I don’t know how far he’ll go, but I do think he’d like to fix it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled an initial procedural vote for Monday evening to commence debate. It is expected to succeed easily, and then the Senate will sort through proposals, perhaps for weeks.

Democrats and some Republicans say they want to help the “Dreamers,” young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally since they were children and have only temporarily been protected from deportation by an Obama-era program. Trump has said he wants to aid them and has even proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million, but in exchange wants $25 billion for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall plus significant curbs to legal immigration.

McConnell agreed to the open-ended debate, a Senate rarity in recent years, after Democrats agreed to vote to end a three-day government shutdown they’d forced over the issue. They’d initially demanded a deal toward helping Dreamers, not a simple promise of votes.

To prevail, any plan will need 60 votes, meaning substantial support from both parties is mandatory. Republicans control the chamber 51-49 but GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been home for weeks battling brain cancer.

Seven GOP senators said late Sunday that they will introduce Trump’s framework, which they called a reasonable compromise that has White House backing. The group includes Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn of Texas and Iowa’s Charles Grassley.

Democrats adamantly oppose Trump’s plan, particularly its barring of legal immigrants from sponsoring their parents or siblings to live in the U.S. It has no chance of getting the 60 votes needed to survive. The plan will give GOP lawmakers a chance to stake out a position, but it could prove an embarrassment to the White House if some Republicans join Democrats and it’s rejected by a substantial margin.

Another proposal likely to surface, backed by some Republicans and many Democrats, would give Dreamers a chance at citizenship but provide no border security money or legal immigration restrictions. It too would be certain to fail.

Votes are also possible on a compromise by a small bipartisan group led by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. It would provide possible citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, $2.7 billion for border security and some changes in legal immigration rules. McCain and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would offer legal status but not necessarily citizenship, and require tougher border security without promising wall money.

Trump has rejected both proposals.

Some senators have discussed a bare-bones plan to protect Dreamers for a year in exchange for a year’s worth of security money. Flake has said he’s working on a three-year version of that.

“I still think that if we put a good bill to the president, that has the support of 65, 70 members of the Senate, that the president will accept it and the House will like it as well,” Flake told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Underscoring how hard it’s been for lawmakers to find an immigration compromise, around two dozen moderates from both parties have met for weeks to seek common ground. So have the No. 2 Democratic and GOP House and Senate leaders. Neither group has come forward with a deal.

In January, Trump invited two dozen lawmakers from both parties to the White House in what became a nearly hour-long immigration negotiating session. He asked them to craft a “bill of love” and said he’d sign a solution they’d send him.

At another White House session days later, he told Durbin and Graham he was rejecting their bipartisan offer. He used a profanity to describe African nations and said he’d prefer immigrants from Norway, comments that have soured many Democrats about Trump’s intentions.

Trump made a clamp-down on immigration a staple of his 2016 presidential campaign. As president he has mixed expressions of sympathy for Dreamers with rhetoric that equate immigration with crime and drugs.

Last September he said he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets Dreamers temporarily live and work in the U.S. Trump said President Barack Obama had lacked the legal power to create DACA.

Trump gave Congress until March 5 to somehow replace it, though a federal court has forced him to continue its protections.

The court’s blunting of the deadline has made congressional action even less likely. Lawmakers rarely take difficult votes without a forcing mechanism – particularly in an election year. That has raised the prospect that the Senate debate launching Monday will largely serve to frame a larger fight over the issue on the campaign trail.

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Trump to Unveil $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday is set to unveil his long-awaited plan to tackle the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The plan aims to turn $200 billion in federal funds into a $1.5 trillion investment for fixing America’s roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure.

The proposal relies heavily on state and local governments and the private sector to cover the costs for most of the  projects.

“Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments, and where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit,” Trump said at last month’s State of the Union address.

The $200 billion federal funds would come from cuts to existing programs. Of that, half would be spent on an incentive program to match funds from state and local governments.

About $50 billion would go toward rural projects in the form of block grants to states. Another $20 billion would be allocated to “transformative programs” meant for new and innovative projects. An additional $20 billion would go toward expanding loan programs and private activity bonds, and the final $10 billion would go into a “capital financing fund.”

The plan also seeks to shorten the time and expense of getting federal permits to no more than two years. Currently, the process can take five to 10 years.

“President Trump’s infrastructure proposal is a disaster,” said Shelley Poticha of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It fails to offer the investment needed to bring our country into the 21st century. Even worse, his plan includes an unacceptable corporate giveaway by truncating environmental reviews.”

            

But Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, praised Trump “for providing the leadership we have desperately needed to reclaim our rightful place as a global leader on true 21st-century infrastructure.”

On Monday, Trump will meet with key members of Congress, including heads of relevant committees, to discuss the plan.

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US Senate Prepares to Tackle Immigration Reform

The U.S. Senate begins debate this week on a topic Congress has left unaddressed for decades: immigration reform.

“Yes, it’s going to happen right here — stay tuned,” Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said in a recent floor speech. “Next week could be historic.”

President Donald Trump has consistently framed immigration reform as a security matter, first and foremost.

“Glaring loopholes in our laws have allowed criminals and gang members to break into our country,” Trump said in his weekly address, issued Sunday. “During my State of the Union, I called on Congress to immediately close dangerous loopholes in federal law that have endangered our communities and imposed enormous burdens on U.S. taxpayers.”

Of immediate concern to many lawmakers of both political parties are hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants soon to be at risk of deportation. Some Republicans also want to reshape and restrict legal immigration, which could have a major impact on those aspiring to come to America from around the world.

Trump set the stage for the upcoming debate last year, when he terminated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that granted temporary work and study permits to immigrants brought illegally to America as children, and gave Congress a March 5 deadline to address their plight.

“At that point [March 5], 1,000 young people each day, on average, will lose their protection from deportation and their legal right to work in America,” Durbin said.

“I see this as an opportunity for these individuals who have literally grown up in our country to be able to be full participants in our country,” Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said.

The president has made clear he wants more than a DACA fix.

“We need the [border] wall. We’re going to get the wall,” Trump said at the White House last week. “We’ve identified three priorities for creating a safe, modern and lawful immigration system: securing the border, ending chain migration, and canceling the terrible visa lottery.”

Aside from building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump has proposed lower the number of immigrants America accepts from around the world and prioritizing newcomers with advanced work skills.

Democrats say they are open to a smaller deal, legal status for DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers and beefing up U.S. borders.

“There’s an appetite on both sides and in both chambers to get this done, both helping the Dreamers and border security,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.

Senior Republican lawmakers say Trump deserves credit for the totality of his immigration proposal.

“President Trump has done something that President Obama never did. He’s offered 1.8 million young adults who are currently DACA recipients and DACA-eligible an opportunity to get on a pathway to American citizenship,” Republican Senator John Cornyn said. “That’s an incredibly generous offer.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has not speculated what, if anything, the chamber might pass.

“While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do,” McConnell said last week.

“We’re not going to solve the whole problem in this next week,” Maine independent Senator Angus King warned. “We are not going to solve all of the complicated — and believe me they are complicated — issues.”

McConnell promised an open debate, meaning there is no time limit and senators of both parties can, in theory, offer an unlimited number of proposals for the chamber to consider. Anything the Senate approves would need to pass in the House of Representatives and get Trump’s signature to become law.

 

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Who’s at Fault in Amtrak Crash? Amtrak Pays Regardless

Federal investigators are still looking at how CSX railway crews routed an Amtrak train into a parked freight train in Cayce, South Carolina, last weekend. But even if CSX should bear sole responsibility for the accident, Amtrak will likely end up paying crash victims’ legal claims with public money.

Amtrak pays for accidents it didn’t cause because of secretive agreements negotiated between the passenger rail company, which receives more than $1 billion annually in federal subsidies, and the private railroads, which own 97 percent of the tracks on which Amtrak travels.

Both Amtrak and freight railroads that own the tracks fight to keep those contracts secret in legal proceedings. But whatever the precise legal language, plaintiffs’ lawyers and former Amtrak officials say Amtrak generally bears the full cost of damages to its trains, passengers, employees and other crash victims — even in instances where crashes occurred as the result of a freight rail company’s negligence or misconduct.

​No ‘iron in the fire’

Railroad industry advocates say that freight railways have ample incentive to keep their tracks safe for their employees, customers and investors. But the Surface Transportation Board and even some federal courts have long concluded that allowing railroads to escape liability for gross negligence is bad public policy.

“The freight railroads don’t have an iron in the fire when it comes to making the safety improvements necessary to protect members of the public,” said Bob Pottroff, a Manhattan, Kansas, rail injury attorney who has sued CSX on behalf of an injured passenger from the Cayce crash. “They’re not paying the damages.”

Beyond CSX’s specific activities in the hours before the accident, the company’s safety record has deteriorated in recent years, according to a standard metric provided by the Federal Railroad Administration. Since 2013, CSX’s rate of major accidents per million miles traveled has jumped by more than half, from 2 to 3.08 — significantly worse than the industry average. And rail passenger advocates raised concerns after the CSX CEO at the time pushed hard last year to route freight more directly by altering its routes.

CSX denied that safety had slipped at the company, blaming the change in the major accident index on a reduction of total miles traveled combined with changes in its cargo and train length.

“Our goal remains zero accidents,” CSX spokesman Bryan Tucker wrote in a statement provided to The Associated Press. CSX’s new system of train routing “will create a safer, more efficient railroad resulting in a better service product for our customers,” he wrote.

Amtrak’s ability to offer national rail service is governed by separately negotiated track usage agreements with 30 different railroads. All the deals share a common trait: They’re “no fault,” according to a September 2017 presentation delivered by Amtrak executive Jim Blair as part of a Federal Highway Administration seminar.

No fault means Amtrak takes full responsibility for its property and passengers and the injuries of anyone hit by a train. The “host railroad” that operates the tracks must only be responsible for its property and employees. Blair called the decades-long arrangement “a good way for Amtrak and the host partners to work together to get things resolved quickly and not fight over issues of responsibility.”

Amtrak declined to comment on Blair’s presentation. But Amtrak’s history of not pursuing liability claims against freight railroads doesn’t fit well with federal officials and courts’ past declarations that the railroads should be held accountable for gross negligence and willful misconduct.

​Maryland crash, backlash

After a 1987 crash in Chase, Maryland, in which a Conrail train crew smoked marijuana then drove a train with disabled safety features past multiple stop signals and into an Amtrak train — killing 16 — a federal judge ruled that forcing Amtrak to take financial responsibility for “reckless, wanton, willful, or grossly negligent acts by Conrail” was contrary to good public policy.

Conrail paid. But instead of taking on more responsibility going forward, railroads went in the opposite direction, recalls a former Amtrak board member who spoke to the AP. After Conrail was held responsible in the Chase crash, he said, Amtrak got “a lot of threats from the other railroads.”

The former board member requested anonymity because he said that Amtrak’s internal legal discussions were supposed to remain confidential and he did not wish to harm his own business relationships by airing a contentious issue.

Because Amtrak operates on the freight railroads’ tracks and relies on the railroads’ dispatchers to get passenger trains to their destinations on time, Amtrak executives concluded they couldn’t afford to pick a fight, the former Amtrak board member said.

“The law says that Amtrak is guaranteed access” to freights’ tracks, he said. “But it’s up to the goodwill of the railroad as to whether they’ll put you ahead or behind a long freight train.”

A 2004 New York Times series on train crossing safety drew attention to avoidable accidents at railroad crossings and involving passenger trains — and to railroads’ ability to shirk financial responsibility for passenger accidents. In the wake of the reporting, the Surface Transportation Board ruled that railroads “cannot be indemnified for its own gross negligence, recklessness, willful or wanton misconduct,” according to a 2010 letter by then-Surface Transportation Board chairman Dan Elliott to members of Congress.

That ruling gives Amtrak grounds to pursue gross negligence claims against freight railroads — if it wanted to.

“If Amtrak felt that if they didn’t want to pay, they’d have to litigate it,” said Elliott, now an attorney at Conner & Winters.

Same lawyers

The AP was unable to find an instance where the railroad has brought such a claim against a freight railroad since the 1987 Chase, Maryland, disaster. The AP also asked Amtrak, CSX and the Association of American Railroads to identify any example within the last decade of a railroad contributing to a settlement or judgment in a passenger rail accident that occurred on its track. All entities declined to provide such an example.

Even in court cases where establishing gross negligence by a freight railroad is possible, said Potrroff, the plaintiff’s attorney, he has never seen any indication that the railroad and Amtrak are at odds.

“You’ll frequently see Amtrak hire the same lawyers the freight railroads use,” he said.

Ron Goldman, a California plaintiff attorney who has also represented passenger rail accident victims, agreed. While Goldman’s sole duty is to get the best possible settlement for his client, he said he’d long been curious about whether it was Amtrak or freight railroads which ended up paying for settlements and judgments.

“The question of how they share that liability is cloaked in secrecy,” he said, adding: “The money is coming from Amtrak when our clients get the check.”

Pottroff said he has long wanted Amtrak to stand up to the freight railroads on liability matters. Not only would it make safety a bigger financial consideration for railroads, he said, it would simply be fair.

“Amtrak has a beautiful defense — the freight railroad is in control of all the infrastructure,” he said. But he’s not expecting Amtrak to use it during litigation over the Cayce crash.

“Amtrak always pays,” he said.

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White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself

A statement from the White House press secretary Sunday affirmed that “Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria.”

The statement follows Israel’s attack Saturday on a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel conducted the air strikes after anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a raid on Iranian-backed positions in Syria. Earlier Israel said it had shot down an Iranian drone launched from Syria after it entered Israeli territory late Friday.

The White House statement urged “Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace.”

US: Israel entitled to protect itself

On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Defense also said that Israel is entitled to protect itself against acts of aggression.

“Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people,” said Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway, who added the U.S. was not involved in the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I reiterated to him our obligation and right to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory,” he said. “We agreed coordination between our armies would continue,” said Netanyahu, who also discussed the strike with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Syria: New Israeli aggression

Syria’s state media said earlier Saturday Syria is responding to “new Israeli aggression,” following the Israeli raid.

In Saturday’s raid, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was downed by the Syrian Army with anti-aircraft fire.

The Israeli pilots were able to eject themselves from their aircraft, the IDF said. Israel said one pilot was “severely injured” in the “emergency evacuation,” while another pilot was slightly injured.

Feras Shehabi, a Syrian lawmaker, said Syria’s response to Israel’s assault signals a “major shift in the balance of power in favor of Syria and the axis of resistance.” He said “Israelis must realize they no longer have superiority in the skies or on the ground.”

IDF spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said, “Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn’t know how it will end. We are prepared for a variety of incidents …whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

The Syrian attack resulted in air raid sirens being activated in the Golan Heights and Beit She’an, but no casualties were reported.

“The IDF will continue to operate against attempts to infiltrate Israeli airspace and will act with determination to prevent any violations of Israel’s sovereignty,” an IDF spokesperson said Saturday.

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North Korea’s Summit Offer Could Test US-South Korea’s United Nuclear Front

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang could complicate the Trump administration’s diplomatic efforts to pressure the reclusive communist state to abandon its nuclear weapons program, analysts say.

Kim extended the rare invitation to the South Korean leader through his closest confidante: his only sister Kim Yo Jong, who was visiting the South as part of the North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics, according to South Korea’s presidential office on Saturday.

Moon said he wanted to “create the environment for that to be able to happen,” according to the office.

​Dialogue or pressure or both?

The North Korean diplomatic initiative comes amid growing international pressure, led by the United States, aimed at imposing maximum economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime. Former U.S. officials and analysts say the North Korean move could put Moon, who supports Trump’s pressure campaign while pursuing dialogue with the North, at odds with the Trump administration.

“The invitation is a very clever move by Kim Jong Un to drive a big wedge [between Washington and Seoul]. Kim has been masterful at public relations in regard to the summit and playing on feelings for Korean unity,” said Robert Manning, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In the past, inter-Korean summits often resulted in a substantial economic aid to Pyongyang. If Moon follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, it would hurt the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against the North, according to Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses.

“If it leads to promises of aid, then it would definitely undermine the maximum pressure strategy,” Gause said, referring to the proposed summit between the two Koreas.

Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, warned Seoul could violate international sanctions by providing economic aid to Pyongyang.

“Moon should realize that offering economic benefits for symbolic North Korean gestures is not only ineffectual but would themselves risk being violations of U.N. resolutions,” Klingner said.

Balancing act

The Moon government has been engaging in a delicate balancing act between Pyongyang and its longtime ally Washington after Kim Jong Un offered to send a delegation to the Olympics in the South. Moon has accommodated the North’s demands on Olympics participation in hopes of persuading Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearization, while trying to allay concern in Washington that the North was using a “charm offensive” to simply ease sanctions and earn time to complete its nuclear weapons program. 

The North’s invitation, Manning said, apparently puts Seoul in a difficult position, where it needs to prove its efforts will bear fruit.

“President Moon must balance his desire for North-South reconciliation with his policy of denuclearization,” Manning said.

Dennis Wilder, a Georgetown University assistant professor, who served as National Security Council senior director for East Asian affairs during the George W. Bush administration, suggested Moon should accept the invitation only if Pyongyang agrees to discuss denuclearization with Washington.

“My own view is that President Moon should only go if there is a strong signal from the North of willingness to engage seriously with the Trump administration,” Wilder said.

Joseph DeTrani, former U.S. special envoy for nuclear talks with North Korea, said Moon should make it clear to Kim that he wants to discuss the nuclear and missile issues at the summit. The former envoy believes Moon should use the meeting as an opportunity to push Kim to accept his predecessor’s promise to denuclearize.

Washington unmoved

The latest North Korean diplomatic overture does not appear to have discouraged Washington from pursuing its strategy of pressure.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who led a U.S. delegation to the Olympic Games, told reporters that he and Moon discussed the South Korean leader’s meeting with Kim Jong Un’s sister, adding he remains confident about Seoul’s support for the pressure strategy.

“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Pence said.

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As Brexit ‘Cliff-Edge’ Fears Grow, France Courts Japanese Firms in Britain

There are growing fears that Britain could be headed for a so-called cliff-edge exit from the European Union, as big differences remain between Brussels and London over the shape of any deal. It comes as Japan warns its businesses may pull out of Britain if they face higher costs after Brexit. A leaked government analysis suggests that economic growth in Britain will decline by up to 8 percent after it leaves the bloc. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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CIA Denies Being Bilked by Russian Promising Trump Info 

The CIA on Saturday categorically denied reports that it was fleeced by a mystery Russian who promised compromising information on U.S. President Donald Trump.

The secretive agency rarely issues any kind of comment, but came out to deny the report in The New York Times and a similar one in The Intercept, an online journal focusing on national security issues.

“The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false,” the Central Intelligence Agency said in a statement sent to AFP.

“The people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg,” the CIA said, referring to Times reporter Rosenberg, who wrote the story, and Risen, a former Times reporter who authored The Intercept’s article.

Both reports appeared Friday.

The president tweeted approvingly that the Times article shows a need to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

Worthy of a le Carre novel

In a story worthy of a John le Carre novel that included secret USB-drive handovers in a small Berlin bar and coded messages delivered over the National Security Agency’s Twitter account, CIA agents spent much of last year trying to buy back from the Russians hacking programs stolen from the NSA, the Times reported.

The seller, who was not identified but had suspected links to both cyber criminals and Russian intelligence, tantalized the U.S. spies with an offer of the NSA hacking tools that had been advertised for sale online by a group called the Shadow Brokers.

Some of the tools, developed by the NSA to break into the computers of U.S. rivals, were used by other hackers last year to crack or infect computer systems around the world. The Times described the Americans as desperate to get the tools back.

Reached through a chain of intermediaries, the seller reportedly wanted $1 million after quickly dropping his opening demand of about $10 million.

The $100,000 was an initial payment by U.S. agents still dubious he really had what he was promising.

In its report, the Times cited U.S. and European intelligence officials, the Russian, and communications the newspaper reviewed.

The seller also repeatedly pressed U.S. agents with offers of compromising materials, or kompromat, on Trump, the Times said.

‘Off the books’

But an investigation was under way in Washington on possible links between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and the U.S. agents reportedly did not want to get involved in anything that smelled of the politics back home.

U.S. intelligence officials say that Russia interfered with the election to help elect Trump, and that it continues to use disinformation to sow confusion in the American political system.

The Intercept reported that the “off-the-books communications channel” with Russia created rifts in the CIA. The agency is led by Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo, but many of its staffers are still smarting over Trump’s repeated harsh comments about the intelligence community’s role in the Russia meddling investigation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing the possible links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Moscow, as well as possible obstruction of justice.

Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu said in a tweet Friday that Risen’s article “suggests the CIA Director fears getting information damaging to @realDonaldTrump that is being offered by Russians.”

If that’s true, Lieu said, “the CIA Director needs to explain his actions to Congress. He took an oath to the Constitution, not to Trump.”

Trump on Saturday referred favorably to the Times article about the Russian who “sold phony secrets on ‘Trump’ to the US,” and noted the operative reportedly had drastically lowered his original price.

“I hope people are now seeing and understanding what is going on here. It is all now starting to come out — DRAIN THE SWAMP!” he tweeted, in a reference to what he sees as a need for reform.

Trump has frequently criticized the Times, which has published numerous investigative reports about him and his administration, calling it a “failing” newspaper providing “fake news.”

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.

The Times reported that, in the end, the deal with the Russian broke down last month as the Russian failed to come up with any of the sought-after NSA materials, and the Trump-related material was either already known or untrustworthy.

The Russian was told by the Americans to leave Western Europe and not return, according to the Times.

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