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Activists: Trump’s ‘Fake News’ Theme Used to Limit Global Press Freedom

With the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide at an all-time high, press freedom groups are drawing a direct line between President Donald Trump’s verbal slugfest with some of America’s most venerable news institutions and the adoption of his “fake news” mantra by autocrats and dictators around the world.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented attack on both the institution of journalism and the media, as well as very personal attacks on individual journalists and individual media outlets,” says Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists.  “And what this does is it creates an environment in which journalists operate less safely.”

 

The CPJ’s 2017 press freedom survey shows 262 journalists are behind bars worldwide, slightly higher than the number a year ago.  More than half the total are in Turkey, China, and Egypt.

 

“We saw the term ‘fake news’ being used in the Philippines, in Russia, in China, in Egypt to justify their own oppression of the media in attempts to delegitimize journalists” Radsch told VOA.  “We’ve also seen China saying, ‘Hey the U.S. is finally waking up to what we’ve been saying the whole time about the media being problematic,’ and that’s not what we want to see around the world.”

 

An opinion piece in China’s Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper this month said, “If the president of the United States calls leading media outlets a stain on America, then negative news about China and other countries should be taken with a grain of salt, since it is likely that bias and political agendas are distorting the real picture.”

 

British scholar Hisham Hellyer, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, says fallout from Trump’s “fake news” charges is serious and should not be underestimated.

 

“When Trump uses his own freedom of expression to denigrate the media’s ability to report the facts, and often puts forward his own ‘fake news’, it has the effect of empowering others who would like to do the same,” Hellyer said.

Trump has hammered at the “fake news” theme in hundreds of Twitter posts, public comments and speeches, singling out media powerhouses like CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times for special criticism.

 

He once called CNN, “the enemy of the people.”

The president’s tactics have fueled a polarizing national debate about what Trump defenders call persistent media bias, and critics describe as hard-nosed reporting.

Studies show coverage of Trump has tilted heavily negative.  An analysis by the nonprofit Pew Research Center showed reporting about the first months of the Trump presidency was 62 percent negative and 5 percent positive.

Coverage for the same period of President Barack Obama’s presidency was 42 percent positive and 20 percent negative, according to Pew.  The leader of the Pew Journalism Project cautioned the result is not evidence of media bias.

Trump’s critics see nothing exceptional in those figures given the volume of missteps and misstatements coming from the White House, but the president and his supporters cite them as evidence of the media’s malign intent.

Stung by Trump’s criticisms and polls showing low public trust in the media, CNN and the big newspapers have fought back with ad campaigns and fresh slogans emphasizing their accuracy and objectivity.

 

But a series of recent high-profile reporting blunders in stories about the White House has damaged the media’s reputation for trustworthiness, and given Trump fresh ammunition.

Earlier this month, CNN erroneously reported that the Trump campaign had been offered the contents of hacked emails from the campaign of his Democratic Party competitor, Hillary Clinton, before they were released by Wikileaks last year. The Washington Post later reported accurately that the offer came days after Wikileaks published the emails.

Now, some of the world’s worst violators of media freedom are using Trump’s “fake news” refrain to justify press restrictions.

 

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, asked about an Amnesty International report on systematic killings in Syrian prison, replied, “We’re living in a fake news era, as you know.  Everybody knows it.”

 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro complained international media are spreading lies about him, saying, “This is what we call fake news, isn’t it?”

Cambodia’s Hun Sen, who regularly quotes Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric, has ordered more than a dozen radio stations to close or stop broadcasting programming from the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, and shut down a leading independent newspaper.

Libyan media used the term in trying to discredit a CNN report on slavery among migrants, and Russia’s foreign ministry has begun posting stories it considers false on its website covered by the words “FAKE NEWS” in big red letters.

China’s top cyber security official cited “fake news” about a report ranking China last in the world in internet freedom.  

Trump has welcomed several known foes of free media to the White House.  He hailed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a friend, despite that country’s reputation as the world’s leading jailer of journalists.

 

With Trump at his side during a recent ASEAN summit, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called reporters “spies.”

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak have raised the issue of “fake news.”

 

“It’s hard enough to be a journalist in dictatorships like Cambodia when the United States is setting a good example,” Tom Malinowski, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Labor, told VOA.

 

“Now every dictator who wants to ban media he doesn’t like can say, ‘Trump does it so why can’t I?'” said Malinowski, who served under President Obama.

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America First? Trump Struggles to Implement Campaign Promises on Military

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised a radically different approach to foreign intervention than that of his predecessors.

At campaign events, Trump railed against U.S. military intervention so frequently that it eventually became a part of his stump speech.

“We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East,” Trump repeatedly lamented. “We could have rebuilt our country twice.”

In his first year as president, Pentagon data suggests Trump has struggled to carry out his “America First” approach to the world, at least when it comes to the use of force.

Instead, Trump has sent more U.S. troops to conflict zones in the Middle East and South Asia. He’s dropped more bombs on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. And he’s expanded a global campaign of targeted drone killings.

Add it all up, and it’s hard to see how Trump’s foreign policy is any less interventionist than his predecessors. If anything, Trump’s policies are a little more hawkish than those of Barack Obama, says Christopher Preble, with the CATO Institute.

“He’s largely continued what he’s inherited, with some additional increment of the use of force,” says Preble.

Doubling down in Afghanistan

Perhaps no conflict exemplifies Trump’s approach more than Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been fighting Taliban insurgents for 16 years.

Before becoming president, Trump was a regular critic of the war, calling it a waste of lives and money and demanding an immediate withdrawal.

But six months into his presidency, Trump reversed his position, instead deciding to indefinitely extend the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan.

Under Trump’s plan, 3,000 more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan, backed by an expanded U.S.-led bombing campaign.

According to U.S. military figures, the NATO coalition is on pace to triple the number of bombs dropped on Afghanistan in 2017 compared to the previous year.

The bombing could continue to expand in 2018, in part because of the relaxed rules of engagement that allow the U.S. military to go after insurgent targets.

More bombs, more troops

It’s part of a larger pattern of a bigger Pentagon footprint across the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Since Trump took office, there has been a 31 percent increase in the number of U.S. troops and civilians working for the Pentagon in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Pentagon data.

That includes increases not only in well-known conflict areas, such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but also in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.

The U.S. military also recently acknowledged it has about 2,000 troops in Syria – four times as many as Pentagon officials previously said. According to a recent report, the U.S. forces will stay in Syria indefinitely.

Under Trump, the U.S. is also dropping more bombs.

The international coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is on pace to drop 30 percent more bombs in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to official figures, though that campaign appears to be winding down as the Islamist group is forced out of its so-called caliphate.

Drone war expanded

Drone strikes have also continued in non-battlefield settings, including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya – a continuation of President Barack Obama’s global campaign of targeted killings.

“If Obama expanded the U.S. drone program, Trump has expanded it even more, both in terms of geography and frequency,” says Rachel Stohl, who specializes in drones at the Stimson Center, a research group.

In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes have tripled, and in Somalia they have doubled this year compared to last, according to Jessica Purkiss with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. drone and other airstrikes.

“The uptick in strikes in these countries is largely because parts of both these countries were declared areas of active hostilities, which effectively means the U.S. can launch strikes with fewer constraints,” Purkiss says.

The U.S. military could also soon conduct drone strikes in Niger, after the African country last month granted the U.S. permission to conduct armed drone flights.

Not surprising?

Trump’s hawkish tendencies aren’t surprising to some analysts, such as the CATO Institute’s Preble. “The totality of Donald Trump’s statements as a candidate, and even before, did tend to be fairly hawkish,” he says.

As a candidate, Trump did, after all, vow to “bomb the s**t” out of Islamic State. He also consistently threatened to “take the oil” as compensation for U.S. military intervention in countries such as Iraq and Libya. And he pledged to make the U.S. military more powerful than ever.

“That’s not exactly an argument for not fighting wars that he didn’t like,” concedes Preble.

Trump isn’t the only president who has struggled to fulfill his campaign promises on foreign policy. President Obama, for instance, campaigned on bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. And he did, before eventually sending them back to fight Islamic State.

It’s perhaps a reminder that presidential candidates promise a lot when it comes to foreign policy. But they can’t always deliver.

 

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2017 Marked a Sea Change in Attitudes Toward Sexual Misconduct

Doug Jones was a little speechless at first. Then he thanked the various voters who elected him the first Democratic senator from Alabama in 25 years.

“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than to divide us.” His stunning victory was a fallout from a barrage of sexual harassment allegations that shook the country in late 2017.

His Republican opponent, Roy Moore, campaigned while denying at least nine allegations of sexual misconduct, some involving women when they were teenagers. Accuser Beverly Young says she was terrified at the time.

“I thought he was going to rape me,” she said.

Despite an endorsement from President Donald Trump, and Moore’s insistence that the “allegations are completely false … malicious,” Moore lost.

​Opening the floodgates

By the end of 2017, more than 60 prominent men were suspended, fired or forced to resign from their highly visible jobs because of allegations of sexual harassment and even assault against women, some occurring years ago. More than 100 stand accused of sexual harassment or misconduct. The trend began in October when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, was exposed as an alleged serial predator of young actresses who wanted to be stars.

Louisette Geiss says her heart raced as he told her “he could get me a three-picture deal, but that I had to watch him masturbate.” By December, more than 80 women had accused Weinstein of sexual harassment.

He admitted, “I got to get help, guys,” as he left for an Arizona rehabilitation facility. He stayed for a week. His business, the Weinstein Company, co-founded with his brother, is in jeopardy, plagued by lawsuits from women who claim the company knew about and hid his harassment.

WATCH: Dozens Shamed in Sexual Harassment Charges in 2017

The Weinstein effect

The public accusations against Harvey Weinstein emboldened other women to tell their stories. Suddenly, other high-profile men began to fall in what would be known as the “Weinstein Effect.”

Melissa Silverstein writes the blog “Women and Hollywood.” She says the outpouring of accusations proves that women are “reacting that our rights are being rolled back and we are tired of it.”

The “Weinstein Effect” hit others in Hollywood, including House of Cards star Kevin Spacey, accused of sexual harassment of a teenaged boy. Netflix suspended its filming of the show’s last season, then announced it would resume without Spacey as the main character.

In other media, NBC fired its Today show host of 20 years, Matt Lauer, after accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior on the job. CBS suspended its morning anchor, Charlie Rose, for similar allegations.

Comedian Louis C.K. is accused by five women of sexual misconduct for actions including stripping and masturbating in front of them. Louisiana Celebrity Chef John Besh, who’s known for the country’s southern food trend, stepped down after several dozen women claimed harassment and that his restaurant atmosphere allowed it to thrive.

In music, Russell Simmons, co-founder of the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings, and James Levine, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, face sexual assault allegations.

​More political fallout

Moore was not the only politician accused of improper behavior. A radio news anchor accused U.S. Senator Al Franken of groping her while she slept on a military plane headed home from a USO tour. Leeann Tweeden posted the photo as part of an essay she wrote about the 2006 incident. Tweeden also accused Franken of forcibly kissing her. 

“He just smashed his lips against my face,” she said in the news conference, “and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast.”

More complaints would come forward, and Franken announced in December he would step down: “I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.” Franken’s last day in office will be Jan. 2.

In late December, a group of Democratic senators used Franken’s resignation as a reason to demand President Donald Trump resign. They cited at least 15 women who have accused the president of improper conduct. Trump was elected U.S. president more than a year ago, despite the public accusations.

​#MeToo rally, Time award

The shift in attitudes against sexual harassment triggered a social media campaign. #MeToo became the rallying cry for women worldwide. Women posted the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to acknowledge publicly their experiences and to demonstrate the extent of the problem.

Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as its “Person of the Year” for 2017. The issue is dedicated to those who have accused powerful figures of sexual misconduct, calling them the “voices that launched a movement.”

A Time magazine survey shows that 82 percent think women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations.

By the end of 2017, the movement changed the nation’s mores, as men and women better understood the definition of sexual harassment and no longer ignored it.

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Dozens Shamed in Sexual Harassment Charges in 2017

Widespread allegations of sexual harassment rocked many American institutions in 2017, including Congress, the media and the film industry. By the end of the year, numerous prominent men were suspended, fired or forced to resign from their highly visible jobs because of allegations of sexual harassment and even assault against women that happened in many cases years ago. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains the change in social attitudes.

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US Congress Closes Troubled Year with Victorious Tax Vote

With control of the White House and Congress, Republicans expected a historic opportunity to carry out an ambitious legislative agenda in 2017. But the party’s narrow margins in the Senate slowed progress on a range of priorities. VOA’s congressional reporter Katherine Gypson looks back on a consequential, and often unexpected, year for the U.S. Congress.

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Trump Administration Decries Family-Based Immigration Policy

Two recent incidents have bolstered the Trump administration’s stance against the United States’ family-based immigration system, which the president says threatens national security.

Tyler Houlton, acting press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement Saturday that his agency could “confirm the suspect involved in a terror attack in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and another suspect arrested on terror-related money-laundering charges were both beneficiaries of extended family chain migration.”

He said both cases “highlight the Trump administration’s concerns with extended family chain migration.”

Pennsylvania case

On Friday, a gunman in Harrisburg, who was an immigrant from Egypt, fired at police and state troopers in several locations before they shot and killed him.

Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty shot one state trooper, but officials say she is expected to make a full recovery.

A relative of El-Mofty said the family is perplexed by his actions. Ahmed Soweilam told the media that his sister had been married to El-Mofty, but they separated six years ago. He said his brother-in-law had worked as a security guard and had moved back to Egypt, but returned to the U.S. a few months ago.

“He’s not the perfect guy, but he’s not an aggressive person,” Soweilam said.

“The long chain of migration” that led to El-Mofty’s “admission into the United States was initiated years ago by a distant relative of the suspect,” said Homeland Security’s Houlton.

Pakistani woman charged

In a separate incident, a Pakistani woman who entered the U.S. through the family-based immigration system has been accused of laundering bitcoin and wiring money to Islamic State jihadists. Zoobia Shahnaz’s lawyer says her client was trying to help Syrian refugees.

Houlton said family-based migration has “been exploited by terrorists to attack our country.” He said the family-based system makes it “more difficult to keep dangerous people out of the United States and to protect the safety of every American.” He said a merit-based immigration system is “used by nearly all other countries.”

​Merit-based immigration

Proponents of merit-based immigration say the current system lowers wages and discourages assimilation.

Supporters say a merit-based system also would help lower immigration rates and ensure that the immigrants who do come are highly skilled and less likely to need public assistance.

Earlier this year, President Trump said, “For decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-skill immigration system, issuing record numbers of green cards to low-wage immigrants.”

“This (family-based) policy has placed substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources,” Trump added.

Critics of merit-based system

But critics say the American economy also needs low-skilled workers and a merit-based system would hurt industries that rely on them.

A merit-based system would also cost the government more because the government would have to review the applications and pay resettlement costs that are currently covered by sponsoring families.

Critics also see the merit-based system as un-American.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said the merit-based system “abandons the fundamental respect for family, at the heart of our faith, at the heart of who we are as Americans.” 

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U.S. Territories — and Emergency Agency — Struggle to Recover from Disasters

The year has been a tough one for Puerto Ricans, Floridians, Texans and Californians, and recovery efforts continue for those three areas hit by hurricanes and one, California, struggling to contain wildfires. In a year of disasters, even the Federal Emergency Management Agency is struggling to cope.

At a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee November 30, FEMA head Brock Long asked lawmakers for supplemental funding to handle its operations after a year studded with natural disasters.

Long told lawmakers that Hurricanes Harvey, which hit Texas, Irma, which targeted Florida, and Maria, which walloped the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, added to the ongoing California fires “have compelled FEMA to push its limits.”

Long noted that about 25.8 million people were affected by the three hurricanes, which took place in rapid succession in August and September. He said that as of November 13, more than 4½ million storm survivors had registered for FEMA assistance. He asked for $23.5 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund for fiscal 2018 to help with continuing recovery efforts. He said the agency is “committed to the long-term recovery of all impacted individuals as well as conducting this recovery in a fiscally responsible and prudent manner.”

​Puerto Rico response criticized

But FEMA has been criticized for its response to the crisis in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean islands that took a double hit from Irma and Maria within the space of a month. Three months after the second storm, only 65 percent of Puerto Rico has its power restored, thanks to an aging infrastructure and bungled reconstruction deals. The Army Corps of Engineers now estimates that power may not be fully restored to all communities until May.

Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia reported that protests broke out in the municipalities of Aguas Buenas and Trujillo Alto Thursday, among frustrated residents who want the lights back on.

Vox News, citing statistics by the research firm Rhodium Group, reports that Puerto Rico is now the site of the longest blackout in U.S. history in terms of lost customer-hours of service.

FEMA has reported that more than 450 people are still living in shelters in Puerto Rico, and it is still distributing tarps, food and water to some communities. More troubling, Florida officials say more than 269,000 people have arrived in Florida from Puerto Rico since the storm, and some 10,000 Puerto Rican children have enrolled in Florida schools.

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at City University of New York says the exodus is likely not over. It estimates that 470,335 Puerto Ricans will leave the island by the end of 2019, driven out by poor services and slow recovery. Experts fear that many of the displaced may not return to the island; as full U.S. citizens, they are legally able to move anywhere within the United States.

Virgin Islands overshadowed

In the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands, often overshadowed by its more populous neighbor, conditions are similar. The San Juan Daily Star reports about half of electrical customers remain without power, and about one quarter of the tourism-reliant island still lacks mobile phone service.

FEMA reported Thursday that more than $870 million in federal funds have been provided to survivors of Irma and Maria in U.S. territories, including grants, low-interest loans, and flood insurance claims.

But the tough times may get tougher before they ease: FEMA’s voucher program for displaced storm victims expires January 15.

Death toll

One more major point on which U.S. officials have been criticized is the storm-related death toll in Puerto Rico. The official total was placed at 64, but both Vox news and the New York Times published analyses in the past week comparing historic death rates from September and October with the death tolls from this year. They both found more than 1,000 more deaths occurred this year than in previous years, and both publications attributed the higher tolls to the stresses of storm recovery.

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Judge Partly Lifts Trump Administration Ban on Refugees

A federal judge in Seattle on Saturday partly lifted a Trump administration ban on certain refugees after two groups argued that the policy prevented people from some mostly Muslim countries from reuniting with family living legally in the United States.

U.S. District Judge James Robart heard arguments Thursday in lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Family Service, which said the ban was causing irreparable harm and put some people at risk. Government lawyers argued that the ban was needed to protect national security.

Robart ordered the federal government to process certain refugee applications but said his directive did not apply to people without a “bona fide relationship” to a person or entity in the United States.

President Donald Trump restarted the refugee program in October “with enhanced vetting capabilities.”

Agency chiefs’ memo

The day before his executive order, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats sent a memo to Trump saying certain refugees had to be banned unless additional security measures were implemented.

It applied to the spouses and minor children of refugees who had already settled in the U.S. and suspended the refugee program for people coming from 11 countries, nine of which are mostly Muslim. 

In his decision, Robart wrote that “former officials detailed concretely how the agency memo will harm the United States’ national security and foreign policy interests.”

Robart said his order restored refugee procedures in programs to what they were before the memo and noted that this already included very thorough vetting of individuals.

The ACLU argued the memo provided no evidence for why additional security was needed and didn’t specify a time frame for implementing the changes. The groups said the process for imposing the policy violated a federal law.

August Flentje, a Justice Department attorney, told the judge that the ban was temporary and “was a reasonable and appropriate way for agency heads to tackle gaps” in the screening process.

Lawsuits consolidated

The lawsuits from the two groups were consolidated; they represent refugees who have been blocked from entering the country.

The ACLU represents a Somali man living in Washington state who is trying to bring his family to the U.S. They have gone through extensive vetting, have passed security and medical clearances, and just need travel papers, but those were denied after the ban.

Lisa Nowlin, staff attorney for the ACLU of Washington, said in a statement they were happy that their client, “who has not yet had the opportunity to celebrate a single birthday with his younger son in person, will soon have the opportunity to hold his children, hug his wife in the very near future, and be together again as a family for the first time in four years.” 

Two other refugees included in the Jewish Family Service lawsuit are former Iraqi interpreters for the U.S. Army whose lives are at risk because of their service.

Another is a transgender woman in Egypt “living in such extremely dangerous circumstances that the U.S. government itself had expedited her case until the ban came down,” said Mariko Hirose, a lawyer with the Jewish Family Service case.

Yet another is a single woman in Iraq, Hirose said. Her husband divorced her after she was kidnapped and raped by militants because she worked with an American company. Her family is in the U.S. but she’s stranded by the ban, Hirose said.

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Report: FBI Deputy Director McCabe to Retire in 2018

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the focus of criticism over the past year from President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress, plans to retire in 2018, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

McCabe, 49, is the No. 2 official in the FBI and had been acting director after Trump fired the former director, James Comey, in May. According to the Post, McCabe plans to retire once he becomes eligible for a full pension in March.

Shortly after the newspaper report was published, Trump retweeted his earlier contention that McCabe’s wife, Jill, who ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia Senate in 2015, had been given nearly $700,000 by allies of Hillary Clinton at a time when Andrew McCabe was involved in the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

The FBI has said McCabe did not start overseeing the Clinton investigation until his wife’s state Senate campaign was over. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, the two major donations that Jill McCabe received, totaling nearly $700,000, came from a political action committee of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and Clinton friend, and from the Virginia Democratic Party.

Trump, who is spending the holidays at his Florida resort, said in a second tweet Saturday, “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!” 

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

Under pressure

McCabe has come under fire from Republicans over the past year because of the bureau’s investigation into the Clinton email issue as well as the probe into possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community released a report that stated Russia had meddled in the 2016 election, showing a preference for Trump over Clinton, his opponent. Russia denies meddling in the election, and Trump has denied any collusion.

Shortly after Comey’s firing, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel of an investigation into whether any members of Trump’s campaign conspired with Russian agents during the campaign. 

McCabe faced questions about that probe as well as the email issue when he testified earlier this week before three congressional committees.

“Andy’s in a difficult position now … because of the hyperpartisan political environment,” John Pistole, who held the FBI’s No. 2 job for six years under Mueller, told the Post. He said McCabe was “weathering the storm.”

Republicans have said they want answers to why Comey publicly discussed the Clinton investigation and then announced that the bureau would not seek to bring charges. Critics say the Republicans’ focus on Clinton is merely a tactic to distract from Mueller’s investigation.

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