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Moscow ‘Trump Tower’ Talks Lasted Through 2016, Lawyer Says

U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani says Trump’s discussions with Russian officials over construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow went on throughout the time he was campaigning for the White House in 2016, months longer than previously acknowledged.

“It’s our understanding that they went on throughout 2016,” Giuliani told NBC’s Meet the Press. Giuliani said there “weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations.  Can’t be sure of the exact date.”

“Probably could be up to as far as October, November — our answers cover until the election,” Giuliani said, referring to written questions Trump has answered from special counsel Robert Mueller, who for 20 months has been investigating Trump campaign ties to Russia and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

“So anytime during that period they could’ve talked about it,” Giuliani said. “But the president’s recollection of it is that the thing had petered out (subsided) quite a bit,” and the construction project never materialized.  During the early stages of the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump often said he had no business ties to Russia.

Giuliani, a former New York mayor, said that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, “would have a much better recollection of [the Moscow negotiations] than the president. It was much more important to him. That was his sole mission. The president was running for president of the United States.  So you have to expect there’s not going to be a great deal of concentration on a project that never went anywhere.”

‘Big news’

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the lead Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that has been investigating Trump campaign ties to Russia, said on the NBC show the length of Trump’s efforts to build a Moscow skyscraper, extending into the November 2016 national election, was “news to me, and that is big news.  Why, two years after the fact, are we just learning this fact now when there’s been this much inquiry?”

Warner added, “I would think most voters — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — that knowing the Republican nominee was actively trying to do business in Moscow, that the Republican nominee at least at one point had offered, if he built this building, Vladimir Putin, a free-penthouse apartment, and if those negotiations were ongoing up until the election, I think that’s a relevant fact for voters to know.  And I think it’s remarkable we are two years after the fact and just discovering it today.”

Cohen has pleaded guilty to, among other offenses, lying to Congress about the extent of Trump’s involvement with the Moscow project, telling a congressional panel that Trump’s efforts ended in January 2016, just as the Republican presidential nominating contests were starting three years ago.  He has said he lied to comport with Trump’s own public comments to voters, but more recently has said he recalls the Moscow discussions extending to June 2016, a shorter time frame than Giuliani acknowledged Sunday.

The online news site BuzzFeed said last week that Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Moscow timeline, but Mueller’s office late Friday said the report was “not accurate.”  BuzzFeed said it continues to stand by the story.

In a separate interview on CNN, Giuliani said he had “no knowledge” of whether Trump talked to Cohen before his congressional testimony.

Mueller is believed to be writing a report on his findings from his lengthy investigation.  He and other federal prosecutors have secured convictions or guilty pleas from several key figures in Trump’s orbit, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign aide Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos and Cohen.

 

 

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Democrats Reject Trump’s Offer to End US Government Shutdown

With a partial U.S. government shutdown in its fifth week, Democrats are rejecting President Donald Trump’s offer of limited and temporary protections for some immigrants to America in return for billions of dollars to extend barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports the political stand-off endures and hundreds of thousands of government workers are likely to miss a second paycheck this week.

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Trump Assails Pelosi’s Rejection of ‘Compromise’ to End Government Shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump assailed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday for rejecting what he is calling a compromise to end the record 30-day partial government shutdown, with $5.7 billion for his barrier along the U.S.-Mexican border and three years of protection against deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak. They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020 – which they are not going to win. Best economy!” Trump said on Twitter, referring to next year’s presidential election. “They should do the right thing for the Country & allow people to go back to work.”

Trump, now halfway through his four-year White House term, offered his plan to end the longest government closure in American history in a speech Saturday. But Pelosi, leader of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, called it a “non-starter” before Trump spoke.

Pelosi responded to Trump on Twitter, saying, “800,000 Americans are going without pay,” the furloughed government workers and civil servants forced to work without being paid.  “Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to bring Trump’s proposal to a vote in his chamber in the coming days, although he will need some Democratic support to win approval.

Watch related video by VOA’s Michael Bowman:

Trump defended his call to offer deportation protection to 740,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children and thousands more from Latin America and African nations who have been living in the United States temporarily, but are facing orders to return home.

Conservative critics of Trump’s plan said the protections against deportation amounted to amnesty for lawbreakers.  But Trump tweeted, “No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer … Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.  Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

Vice President Mike Pence, in a Fox News Sunday interview, said, “This is not amnesty.  There’s no pathway to citizenship.  What the American people heard yesterday was statesmanship.”

Pence said Trump “set the table for a deal.  The president is offering a solution, the Democrats just sound bites” in television interviews.

Democrats have demanded Trump reopen the government and then negotiate border security provisions, while rejecting a wall as ineffective and immoral.  They are offering $1.3 billion in new border security funding, but none specifically for a wall.  House Democrats plan to offer more border security legislative proposals this week.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, but major legislation in the chamber almost always requires a 60-vote majority.  It is unclear if Trump will be able to convince at least seven Democrats to vote for his proposal.

“As the president says, ‘We’ll see,'” Pence told Fox News. “Now people will start voting and we’ll see where they stand.”

Even if the Senate approves Trump’s plan, it would face defeat in the House, where Pelosi-led opposition runs strong.  A Senate victory for Trump, however, could force new negotiations over his border wall plan and over reopening the government, where the furloughed federal workers are set to miss their second paycheck next Friday.

Trump tweeted, “Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat.  She is so petrified of the ‘lefties’ in her party that she has lost control … And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!”  The California city is Pelosi’s home town.

As tensions over the border wall and the government shutdown continued unabated last week, Pelosi demanded Trump postpone his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress until after the government is reopened, submit it in writing to Congress or make the speech at the White House.  Trump, in turn, postponed her fact-finding trip with other congressional leaders to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Trump had not directly responded to her call to delay the State of the Union speech till after the shutdown ends.

But on Sunday, he said, “Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options – including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance.  While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!”

 

 

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Women’s March in Washington Brings Heat on a Wintry Day

The third annual Women’s March on Washington attracted a smaller turnout than the original event in 2017, held one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. But Saturday’s event was no less rollicking as women and men marched through the nation’s capital amid considerable controversy leading up to the rally. VOA’s Anna Kook has the details.

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What Is DACA? 

President Donald Trump on Saturday proposed to extend protections for individuals enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. 

 

The Obama administration in June 2012 issued the DACA executive order after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act did not pass in Congress several times. The young people affected by DACA and the DREAM Act are often referred to as “Dreamers.” 

 

The executive order allowed some illegal and undocumented immigrants who had entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to be exempted from deportation and to obtain renewable two-year work permits. 

 

Eligible persons must have lived continuously in the United States since 2007. 

 

They must be enrolled in school, have completed high school or the equivalent, or have been honorably discharged from military service.

They must not have been convicted of a felony or a serious misdemeanor, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. 

 

In November 2014, DACA was expanded to include illegal immigrants who entered the country before 2010, and it eliminated the requirement that applicants be younger than 31. 

 

The Trump administration rescinded the DACA program in September 2017. 

 

On Friday, the last day the U.S. Supreme Court could accept an appeal and schedule arguments, it took no action on the administration’s bid to end DACA, which means the program will likely survive until the fall, when the court again is in session.  

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Trump Plans ‘Major Announcement’ on Border, Longest Shutdown

President Donald Trump said he’ll be making a “major announcement” on the government shutdown and the southern border on Saturday afternoon as the standstill over his border wall continues into its fifth week.

Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.

After days of bitter clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it was unclear if the twin developments represented serious steps toward resolving the nasty partisan fight or posturing. But they were the first tangible signs of movement in a dispute that has caused a partial government shutdown, which Saturday was entering its record 29th day.

Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.

The White House declined to provide details late Friday about what the president would be announcing. But Trump was not expected to sign the national emergency declaration he’s been threatening as an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Instead, Trump was expected to propose the outlines of a new deal that the administration believes could potentially pave the way to an end to the shutdown, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to discuss the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The move, amid a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks, represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.

Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.

In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.

It was possible Democrats would unveil that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump’s wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, “What is our plan?”

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly. The Democrats’ spending plans were first reported by The New York Times.

In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said only that Trump was “going to continue fighting for border security” and “going to continue looking for the solution” to end what the administration had repeatedly referred to as a “humanitarian and national security crisis at the border.”

While few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hardline response overwhelm border resources, critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.

Trump will be speaking from the Diplomatic Room at 3 p.m.

Trump’s Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.

It was the latest turn — and potentially the most dangerous — in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has been playing out against the stalled negotiations over how to end the partial government shutdown.

And it showed once again the willingness of the former hard-charging businessman to hit hard when challenged, as he was earlier this week when Pelosi suggested postponing his State of the Union address until after the shutdown.

It was an unusually combative week between the executive and legislative branches.

Tensions flared when Pelosi suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a grand Washington tradition — and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats — that was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.

Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops.

Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar stop in a conflict zone during the shutdown — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

Pelosi, undeterred, quietly began making her own preparations for the overseas trip.

But on Friday, Pelosi said her plan to travel by commercial plane had been “leaked” by the White House.

“The administration leaked that we were traveling commercially,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. She said it was “very irresponsible on the part of the president.”

She said the State Department told her “the president outing” the original trip made the scene on the ground in Afghanistan “more dangerous because it’s a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming.”

The White House said it had leaked nothing that would cause a security risk.

Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, traveling to a combat region — is very rare.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plan, calling it “completely and utterly irresponsible in every way.”

Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” He called Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political” but said Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate.”

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Thousands of Women Expected in US Capital for 3rd Annual March

Thousands of women are gathering in cities in the United States and around the world Saturday for the third annual Women’s March to demand gender equality and call attention to environmental concerns and immigrant rights, among other issues.

The beginning

The first Women’s March was held in 2017, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States.

On Trump’s first full day in office, hundreds of thousands of women descended on Washington in a display of popular opposition to the new administration and its policies. Sister marches were held in more than 600 locations in the U.S. and across the globe in solidarity with the marchers in Washington.

Peter Newsham, Washington’s interim police chief at the time, said of the march in the U.S. capital, “The crowd stretches so far that there’s no room left to march.”

Many of the women wore knitted pink “pussycat” hats, featuring small catlike ears, to show their solidarity with the anti-Trump sentiments and as an oblique reference to vulgar comments Trump was known to have made years before he entered politics.

​Moment to movement

In 2018, organizers of the Women’s March sought to build on the first rally by focusing on politics and the power of women voters. They held the second march in Nevada, a battleground state for the midterm elections later in the year. The rally touting the message “Power to the Polls” focused on voter registration, featuring activists and members of Congress as speakers.

As in 2017, sister marches were held in cities across the U.S. and thousands of women also marched in London, Paris, Sydney and other European and Australian cities.

In 2019, the organizers are bringing the march back to Washington. Hopes were high for this year’s turnout, especially after a record 102 women were elected to the House of Representatives in the midterms at the end of last year.

​A growing controversy

Several prominent women’s and civil rights organization are absent from the list of partners published on the Women’s March website.

Among those that had partnered with the group in the past, but missing in 2019, are civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center and the political action committee Emily’s List. By late Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee had also withdrawn its name from the list of partners.

The controversy surrounds several Women’s March leaders who have been accused of holding racist and anti-Semitic views.

Organizers have repeatedly denied all accusations of misconduct or using inappropriate speech.

The issue resurfaced when two of the march’s organizers appeared on ABC talk show The View on Monday and refused to denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made repeated anti-Semitic and anti-white remarks.

When asked why she had posted a photo of Farrakhan on Instagram with a caption that included the hashtag for the title “Greatest Of All Time,” Women’s March’s co-president Tamika Mallory said, “I didn’t call him the greatest of all time because of his rhetoric. I called him the greatest of all time because of what he’s done in black communities.”

Mallory’s co-president, Bob Bland, denied allegations printed in The New York Times and the Jewish magazine Tablet that members of the organization had expressed anti-Semitic beliefs at a meeting behind closed doors.

“The people that the journalist spoke to did not tell the truth, period, full stop,” Bland said. “The Women’s March unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism, bigotry, transphobia. … We condemn any statements of hate.”

​Going forward

Some marchgoers say they are not deterred.

“The controversy has certainly influenced conversations around my decision to attend or not. Though it never was going to stop me, even more so I feel it’s important to attend,” said Naomi Zipursky of San Francisco, who is attending the local march there Saturday.

“By not showing up, I don’t even allow the conversation to begin and only create a bigger gap.”

“The thought that I, as a Jewish woman, wouldn’t be welcome or would need to leave part of my identity at the door in order to attend the march is disheartening and frankly, alienating,” Zipursky said. “(But) I also believe that what one person may say or do doesn’t necessarily represent what an entire organization may stand for.”

A separate “March for ALL Women” is planned for Saturday in the U.S. capital, with organizers rallying those who may feel the main march is divisive and not inclusive.

Many participants don’t think the marches will ever compare to the first one. 

“It’s going to be very hard to pull off the momentum of the first women’s march,” said Mary Tablante, communications officer at the Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “I am still going (this year) because I do think they are trying to improve it. There’s still a lot of work to be done in the movement.”

Despite the controversy, marches are planned in almost every U.S. state. ABC News reports some states will hold multiple marches: California plans to have more than 30 marches, New York 15, Texas, 13 and Florida 11. Michigan will host eight and Pennsylvania seven.

Marches are also planned in more than a dozen European nations, as well as in Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, and South Africa, among others.

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Graham: US, Saudis Cannot Move on Until Prince ‘Dealt With’

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said Saturday the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is “dealt with,” without being more specific.

Speaking in Ankara a day after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Graham also said Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is dealt with,” Graham said.

Khashoggi was a prominent Saudi journalist and U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post. He was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Riyadh initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance, then offered contradictory explanations, including that he was killed in a rogue operation.

Saudi officials have said the crown prince knew nothing of the killing. Saudi Arabia said last year that 21 Saudis were taken into custody in relation to the Khashoggi case, 11 of whom have been indicted and referred to trial.

Crown Prince Mohammed’s top aide Saud al-Qahtani was dismissed after overseeing the operation.

The United States imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials in November for their role in the Khashoggi killing.

The Senate voted in December to move ahead with a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen, and lawmakers vowed to push for sanctions against the kingdom in the new year.

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US House to Probe Report Trump Directed Lawyer to Lie to Congress

The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

“The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

The report by BuzzFeed News, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, says that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow project — even as Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia.

The Associated Press has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report.

An adviser to Cohen, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on the substance of the article, saying that he and Cohen wouldn’t answer questions out of respect for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mueller is investigating Russia meddling in the election and contacts with the Trump campaign.

The BuzzFeed story says that Cohen told Mueller that Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, scoffed at the report, saying in a statement, “If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in 2017 to cover up that he was negotiating the real estate deal in Moscow on Trump’s behalf during the heat of his presidential campaign. The charge was brought by Mueller and was the result of his cooperation with that probe.

Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax crimes, bank fraud and campaign violations. He is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee February 7.

The report comes as House Democrats have promised a thorough look into Trump’s ties to Russia. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has discouraged any talk of impeachment in the early days of her new majority, some senior Democrats said that if the BuzzFeed report is true, Trump’s actions could rise to that level.

“If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,” tweeted Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the House intelligence panel.

Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that if Trump directed Cohen to lie, “that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop.”

William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that a president or anyone else who directs a witness to lie is illegally obstructing an investigation. That statement attracted attention given Barr’s expansive views of presidential powers and his belief that presidents can’t be scrutinized by prosecutors for acts the Constitution allows them to take.

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