Category Archives: World

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Israel-Palestinian Peace Elusive Under Trump Administration

Twenty-five years after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Peace Accords that raise hopes for a comprehensive settlement, experts say peace in the Middle East is as elusive as ever. And as VOA Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports, some of those experts caution that the Trump administration has lost the trust of Palestinians to be an honest broker in the conflict through several recent actions.

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Israel-Palestinian Peace Elusive Under Trump Administration

Twenty-five years after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Peace Accords that raise hopes for a comprehensive settlement, experts say peace in the Middle East is as elusive as ever. And as VOA Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports, some of those experts caution that the Trump administration has lost the trust of Palestinians to be an honest broker in the conflict through several recent actions.

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Manafort Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Mueller Probe

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges Friday in connection with his past lobbying efforts on behalf of Ukraine. As part of the plea deal, Manafort has also agreed to cooperate in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election led by special counsel Robert Mueller. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

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Manafort Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Mueller Probe

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges Friday in connection with his past lobbying efforts on behalf of Ukraine. As part of the plea deal, Manafort has also agreed to cooperate in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election led by special counsel Robert Mueller. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

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Kavanaugh Denies Allegation of Sexual Misconduct in School

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Kavanaugh’s statement comes after Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received about the nominee but won’t disclose publicly.

The New Yorker reported the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that the alleged incident happened in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP has not confirmed the details of the alleged incident in The New Yorker’s account.

Other women back Kavanaugh

Rallying to Kavanaugh’s defense, 65 women who knew him in high school issued a letter, released by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”

“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983,” wrote the women, who said most of them had attended all-girl high schools in the area. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

The Judiciary Committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to recommend that he be confirmed by the full Senate.

The White House called Feinstein’s move an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

The California Democrat said in a statement Thursday that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”

The FBI confirmed that it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.

Feinstein’s statement that she has “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” jolted Capitol Hill and threatened to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

Lawmakers react

Feinstein has held the letter close. Democratic senators on the panel met privately Wednesday evening and discussed the information, according to Senate aides who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, learned about the information for the first time at the meeting, according to one of the aides.

A spokeswoman for Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, declined to confirm reports that the congresswoman had forwarded a letter containing the allegations to Feinstein. She said her office has a confidentiality policy regarding casework for constituents.

A White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh “thoroughly and repeatedly” during his career in government and the judiciary.

She said Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony and publicly addressed more than 2,000 questions. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” she said.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican and a member of the committee, was also skeptical.

“Let me get this straight: this is (sic) statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right,” he tweeted.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was unaware of the information until it was made public, according to a GOP committee aide. Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks over time in government, including one most recently for the nomination, the aide said.

The new information on Kavanaugh was included Thursday in his confidential background file at the committee and is now available for senators to review, the aide said.

Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination if Republicans are unified in favor of it.

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Kavanaugh Denies Allegation of Sexual Misconduct in School

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Kavanaugh’s statement comes after Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received about the nominee but won’t disclose publicly.

The New Yorker reported the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that the alleged incident happened in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP has not confirmed the details of the alleged incident in The New Yorker’s account.

Other women back Kavanaugh

Rallying to Kavanaugh’s defense, 65 women who knew him in high school issued a letter, released by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”

“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983,” wrote the women, who said most of them had attended all-girl high schools in the area. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

The Judiciary Committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to recommend that he be confirmed by the full Senate.

The White House called Feinstein’s move an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

The California Democrat said in a statement Thursday that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”

The FBI confirmed that it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.

Feinstein’s statement that she has “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” jolted Capitol Hill and threatened to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

Lawmakers react

Feinstein has held the letter close. Democratic senators on the panel met privately Wednesday evening and discussed the information, according to Senate aides who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, learned about the information for the first time at the meeting, according to one of the aides.

A spokeswoman for Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, declined to confirm reports that the congresswoman had forwarded a letter containing the allegations to Feinstein. She said her office has a confidentiality policy regarding casework for constituents.

A White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh “thoroughly and repeatedly” during his career in government and the judiciary.

She said Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony and publicly addressed more than 2,000 questions. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” she said.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican and a member of the committee, was also skeptical.

“Let me get this straight: this is (sic) statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right,” he tweeted.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, was unaware of the information until it was made public, according to a GOP committee aide. Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks over time in government, including one most recently for the nomination, the aide said.

The new information on Kavanaugh was included Thursday in his confidential background file at the committee and is now available for senators to review, the aide said.

Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination if Republicans are unified in favor of it.

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Sources: Former Trump Aide Manafort Close to Plea Deal With Mueller

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months.

“It’s close but not there yet,” one of the sources said about negotiations over a deal.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C., on Monday in Manafort’s second trial in federal court on charges including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States, and failing to register as a foreign agent for the tens of millions of dollars he earned lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in the first trial that ended last month. Prosecutors said he evaded taxes on $16 million laundered through shell companies overseas.

The talks over a deal come ahead of a planned hearing in Washington on Friday where the judge, among other things, is scheduled to rule on evidence to be allowed at trial. Manafort could plead guilty at the hearing, one of the sources said.

Three members of Manafort’s defense team — Kevin Downing,Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling — declined to comment as they entered their office on Thursday evening. Mueller’s spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the possible deal, which was first reported by ABC News.

Manafort’s wife Kathleen also did not answer questions when she stopped by the lawyers’ office to drop off a navy men’s suit.

‘Bloodied up’

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it made sense that Manafort, 69, was considering cutting his losses and avoiding the time and money needed to defend himself against a second trial.

Manafort is already facing 8 to 10 years in prison from the eight guilty counts in Virginia, terms that may not change significantly no matter the outcome of the second trial.

“With eight convictions already in place, and more possible convictions awaiting him, it seems that he has been bloodied up enough to see the light,” Dressler said.

Manafort worked for five months on Trump’s 2016 campaign, including three as chairman. He resigned in August 2016 following a news report linking him to covert payments from a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russia probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort’s chances of receiving an

eventual presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort but he has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering “dirt” on election opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump’s critics have pointed to the meeting as evidence of the collusion with Russia that Trump denies.

“I don’t think he has any information that would hurt the president,” Giuliani told Reuters.

Trump praised Manafort last month for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.”Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!,” Trump wrote on Twitter on August 22.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and the campaign’s deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Gates could be called as a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well, as could veteran political operative Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty to unregistered lobbying for Ukrainian politicians two weeks ago.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort’s Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller’s team has linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

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Sources: Former Trump Aide Manafort Close to Plea Deal With Mueller

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is nearing a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

A move by Manafort to cooperate could be a blow to Trump, while an outright guilty plea with no cooperation would resolve a cloud over the president ahead of congressional elections in less than two months.

“It’s close but not there yet,” one of the sources said about negotiations over a deal.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C., on Monday in Manafort’s second trial in federal court on charges including conspiring to launder money and defraud the United States, and failing to register as a foreign agent for the tens of millions of dollars he earned lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in the first trial that ended last month. Prosecutors said he evaded taxes on $16 million laundered through shell companies overseas.

The talks over a deal come ahead of a planned hearing in Washington on Friday where the judge, among other things, is scheduled to rule on evidence to be allowed at trial. Manafort could plead guilty at the hearing, one of the sources said.

Three members of Manafort’s defense team — Kevin Downing,Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling — declined to comment as they entered their office on Thursday evening. Mueller’s spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the possible deal, which was first reported by ABC News.

Manafort’s wife Kathleen also did not answer questions when she stopped by the lawyers’ office to drop off a navy men’s suit.

‘Bloodied up’

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it made sense that Manafort, 69, was considering cutting his losses and avoiding the time and money needed to defend himself against a second trial.

Manafort is already facing 8 to 10 years in prison from the eight guilty counts in Virginia, terms that may not change significantly no matter the outcome of the second trial.

“With eight convictions already in place, and more possible convictions awaiting him, it seems that he has been bloodied up enough to see the light,” Dressler said.

Manafort worked for five months on Trump’s 2016 campaign, including three as chairman. He resigned in August 2016 following a news report linking him to covert payments from a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is representing Trump in the Russia probe, previously told the Politico news outlet that taking a plea deal to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort’s chances of receiving an

eventual presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort but he has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort was at a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 where Russians were offering “dirt” on election opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump’s critics have pointed to the meeting as evidence of the collusion with Russia that Trump denies.

“I don’t think he has any information that would hurt the president,” Giuliani told Reuters.

Trump praised Manafort last month for not entering into a plea agreement, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.”Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!,” Trump wrote on Twitter on August 22.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and the campaign’s deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia.

Gates could be called as a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well, as could veteran political operative Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty to unregistered lobbying for Ukrainian politicians two weeks ago.

A second trial could delve deeper into Manafort’s Russian connections including to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller’s team has linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said Manafort and Kilimnik conspired to tamper with witnesses, which prompted U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail and order him jailed pending trial.

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US Imposes New Sanctions Targeting North Korea

The U.S. sanctioned a China-based firm Thursday and its Russian subsidiary connected to North Korea, the latest in the Trump administration’s attempts to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Lawmakers applauded the move as they received an update from administration officials on U.S. sanctions countering Russian aggression and Chinese human rights violations. VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more from Capitol Hill.

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US Imposes New Sanctions Targeting North Korea

The U.S. sanctioned a China-based firm Thursday and its Russian subsidiary connected to North Korea, the latest in the Trump administration’s attempts to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Lawmakers applauded the move as they received an update from administration officials on U.S. sanctions countering Russian aggression and Chinese human rights violations. VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more from Capitol Hill.

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