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Poll: More Americans Disapprove of Trump’s Performance

The U.S. president’s performance as leader of the American people has received failing grades from the public, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey.

Donald Trump has been in office almost one year, and his approval rating is “demonstrably lower than any previous chief executive at this point in his presidency over seven decades of polling” says a report on the poll in The Washington Post. Only 37 percent of Americans, or fewer than 4 in 10, approve of Trump’s job performance as the U.S. chief executive.

His disapproval rating has reached a stunning 59 percent, and half of that group strongly disapproves of the job he is doing.

At 100 days into the presidency, 42 percent of Americans said they thought Trump has accomplished a great deal, but now that number has slipped to 35 percent.

The newspaper report said a 65 percent of those surveyed say Trump has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing.”

The survey also indicated 51 percent of Americans trust Trump not at all in his handling of the threat posed by North Korea.

The Post reports that half of all Americans think the president has a bias against black people and more than half, 55 percent, think he is biased against women.

However, of those who voted for Trump in the election, 91 percent continue to approve of his performance.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 1. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

 

Trump in Japan: ‘No Dictator … Should Underestimate American Resolve’ 

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told servicemen at Yokota Air Base in Japan that “no one, no dictator, no regime … should underestimate American resolve.” His remarks came at the start of a nearly two-week Asian trip that is expected to focus on North Korea.

Some of his comments, while directed at the American troops, could also be seen as a veiled warning to the isolated nation:

“You are the greatest threat to tyrants and dictators who seek to prey on the innocent.”

Message to North Korea

En route to Japan, the president spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, where he was asked by VOA’s Steve Herman if he had any message for the North Korean people.

“I think they’re great people,” the president said. “They’re industrious. They’re warm, much warmer than the world really knows and understands, they’re great people. And I hope it all works out for everybody. It’ll be a wonderful thing if we can work it out for those great people and for everybody.”

Trump also indicated he expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in the Philippines later in the trip.

After his speech at Yokota, the president took a 25-minute flight on Marine One to the the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama prefecture (state) near Tokyo.

Asked by VOA News if he was ready to play golf, Trump responded “we’re ready.” He was then greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the expansive clubhouse. The course will play host to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic golf tournament.

As club members ate lunch, Trump and Abe, in the dining room, signed white hats reading “Donald and Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.”

The two leaders, following lunch, went outside to the golf course to play nine holes with professional Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama at the private club founded in 1929.

​Stopover in Hawaii

Trump arrived in Japan after a stopover in Hawaii, where he paid a solemn visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the site of the surprise Japanese naval attack in 1941 that plunged the U.S. into World War II. He also received a classified briefing by the military at the U.S. Pacific Command.

Before departing for Japan, his first stop on a multination tour of Asia, Trump stopped at his Trump International Hotel in Waikiki and spoke with some employees.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Trump “wanted to say hello and thank you to the employees for all their hard work.”

North Korea to dominate talks

Trump said he had wanted to spend another day in Hawaii at the end of what he called this “very important trip,” but canceled that plan to stay longer in the Philippines to attend the East Asia Summit, in addition to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting.

Before arriving in the Philippines, the 13-day trip will take Trump to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam, his longest journey as president. 

In Trump’s meetings with other Asian leaders, the president is expected to tell them the world is “running out of time” to stop North Korea’s nuclear warhead and ballistic missile development, which U.S. administration officials deem to be the biggest threat currently faced.

“The discussions will be around mainly what more we can do now to resolve this, short of war, recognizing that all of us are running out of time,” according to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. “The United States, South Korea, Japan, China are running out of time on this.”

Latest JFK Files Call CIA Link to Oswald ‘Unfounded’

Government documents newly released Friday regarding John F. Kennedy’s assassination say allegations that Lee Harvey Oswald was connected to the CIA were “totally unfounded.”

A 1975 CIA memo says a thorough search of agency records in and outside the United States was conducted to determine whether Oswald had been used by the agency or connected with it in “any conceivable way.”

The memo said the search came up empty. The memo also said there was no indication that any other U.S. agency used Oswald as a source or for recruitment.

Third document release

The National Archives released another 676 government documents related to the assassination, the third public release so far this year. Under law, all the documents were to be disclosed to the public last week.

Most of the latest release includes 553 records from the CIA that previously were withheld in their entirety. There also are records from the Justice and Defense departments, the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the National Archives.

University of Virginia historian Larry Sabato complained that many of the documents in the latest release were heavily redacted. He tweeted about a 144-page record, titled “Material Reviewed at CIA headquarters by House Select Committee on Assassinations staff members,” that had writing on only a handful of pages.

President Donald Trump has ordered the release of all records related to the assassination, and they are expected to be made public on a rolling basis during the next three to four weeks. He also directed agencies to take another look at redactions and withhold information only in the rarest of circumstances.

​Oswald’s Mexico trip

One record showed how U.S. officials scrambled after the assassination to round up information about Oswald’s trip to Mexico City weeks earlier. Officials wondered whether Oswald had been trying to get visas at the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Mexico City in order to “make a quick escape after assassinating the president.”

A CIA message sent Nov. 24, 1963, two days after Kennedy was killed, said an “important question” that remained unsolved was whether Oswald had been planning to travel right away or return to the U.S. and leave later.

The message said that although it appeared Oswald “was then thinking only about a peaceful change of residence to the Soviet Union, it is also possible that he was getting documented to make a quick escape after assassinating the president.”

Another record dated April 11, 1964, recounted a visit to the CIA by three staff members of the Warren Commission, which was set up to investigate the assassination.

The memo said the staff members indicated that Thomas Mann, former ambassador to Mexico and then-assistant secretary for inter-American affairs, “still has the ‘feeling in his guts’ that (Cuban leader Fidel) Castro hired Oswald to kill Kennedy. They said, however, that the commission has not been able to get any proof of that.”

MLK document released

Also in the latest release was a 20-page FBI analysis of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. dated March 12, 1968, a month before he was assassinated April 4, 1968. One section alleges that King was attracted to former members of the Communist Party in America. It notes that two previous aides were party members and eight others, who helped shape King’s organization in its early stages, had communist affiliations.

The analysis said that in the early 1960s, the Communist Party was trying to get a black labor coalition to further its goals in the United States. It referenced a May 1961 issue of a communist newspaper that stated, “Communists will do their utmost to strengthen and unite the Negro movement and ring it to the backing of the working people.”

The FBI said King and his organization were “made-to-order” to achieve these objectives.

The FBI’s surveillance of King is well-known, and the analysis includes several pages about his sexual life. One document said a black minister who attended a workshop to train ministers in February 1968 in Miami “expressed his disgust with the behind-the-scene drinking, fornication and homosexuality that went on at the conference.”

“Throughout the ensuing years and until this date, King has continued to carry on his sexual aberrations secretly while holding himself out to public view as a moral leader of religious conviction,” the FBI report said.

US Releases Immigrant Girl with Cerebral Palsy to her Family

U.S. authorities released a 10-year-old immigrant girl with cerebral palsy who had been detained by border agents after surgery because she is in the U.S. without legal permission.

The American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro said that Rosa Maria Hernandez was returned to her family Friday. Her parents brought her into the U.S. from Mexico in 2007, when she was a toddler, and they live in the Texas border city of Laredo.

Surgery, then detention

A cousin who is an American citizen took Rosa Maria from Laredo to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi on Oct. 24, where she was scheduled to have emergency gallbladder surgery. To get to Corpus Christi, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) away, she had to pass through an interior checkpoint in South Texas operated by the Border Patrol.

Border Patrol agents followed Rosa Maria and the cousin to the hospital, then took the girl into custody after the surgery and transported her to a facility in San Antonio for unaccompanied immigrant minors, under the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Border Patrol has said it had no choice but to detain Rosa Maria, arguing that she was considered an unaccompanied minor under federal law, the same as a child who crosses into the United States alone without legal permission.

ACLU sues; deportation still a threat

The ACLU sued the government on Rosa Maria’s behalf Tuesday, argued that the U.S. government violated federal law on unaccompanied minors and endangered Rosa Maria’s health by not sending her home.

“She never should have been in this situation in the first place,” ACLU lawyer Michael Tan said Friday. “There is no reason Border Patrol had to target a child.”

While Rosa Maria has been reunited with her family, she still faces the threat of deportation. Tan said Friday that Border Patrol agents had issued Rosa Maria a notice to appear in immigration court, but that the case had yet to move forward.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, declined to comment. HHS declined to comment on Rosa Maria’s case, but said the agency’s focus was “on the safety and best interest of each child.”

Leticia Gonzalez, an attorney for Rosa Maria’s family, said the 10-year-old had the mental capacity of a child closer to 4 or 5 years old because of her cerebral palsy. Priscila Martinez, an activist at the Workers Defense Action Fund, said the child had started to show signs of socially withdrawing while in detention and refusing to eat her favorite kind of bread.

Border patrol criticism

Federal immigration authorities have faced strong criticism from advocates and some Texas Democratic congressmen over their handling of the case.

Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, said Friday that he had tried to see Rosa Maria earlier in the day and had spoken to federal officials about her case. He said Border Patrol agents could have chosen to let Rosa Maria pass through the checkpoint without following or detaining her.

But U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a previous statement after she was detained that “there is no discretion with regard to the law whether or not the agents should enforce the law.”

As Trump Visits Asia, Russia Probe Escalates

President Donald Trump may be away on a nearly two-week trip to Asia. But back in Washington, special counsel Robert Mueller is digging up new details in his investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russians trying to influence the election. VOA’s Peter Heinlein at the White House has the latest.

Democrats Cry Foul Over ‘Rigged’ Primary Election

Prominent Democrats are expressing outrage over revelations from former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile that Hillary Clinton’s campaign rigged the primary election against rival Bernie Sanders.

Brazile, in an excerpt from her upcoming book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, claims that prior to securing the party’s nomination, Clinton, through a joint fundraising agreement signed with the DNC, agreed to finance the DNC in exchange for power over the organization’s operations.

Normally, a nominee wouldn’t exert control over the national party apparatus until after accepting the nomination. According to Brazile, though, the Clinton camp took control of DNC operations in August 2015, nearly a year before Clinton accepted the nomination.

Brazile said the arrangement was “not illegal, but it sure looked unethical.”

“If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” she wrote.

The DNC is, ostensibly, a neutral organization meant to facilitate the contest between Clinton and Sanders, though Sanders supporters had long claimed the party showed a clear preference for Clinton.

Several prominent Democrats were quick to pounce on Brazile’s claims. Senator Elizabeth Warren, when asked by CNN if she believes the DNC rigged the primary contest against Sanders, said one word: “Yes.”

Warren, who campaigned heavily for Clinton during the election, called the Clinton revelations “a real problem” for Democrats.

“What we’ve got to do as Democrats now is, we’ve got to hold this party accountable,” she said.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who previously served as the DNC vice-chairwoman, called for a complete overhaul of campaign finance laws and a restructuring of the national party in response to the revelations the DNC rigged the nomination process in favor of Clinton.

“The DNC secretly chose their nominee over a year before the primary elections even occurred. This shines a light on how deeply broken our campaign finance laws are, and how they’ve weakened individual candidates while strengthening and empowering political parties and special interests,” Gabbard says in a video released Friday.

Gabbard said campaign finance laws “allowed the Clinton campaign to bypass individual campaign contribution limits by funneling millions of dollars through the DNC and state parties — taking control of the DNC in the process.”

Brazile laid out in her book, published by Politico, how the Clinton campaign used the DNC as “a fund-raising clearinghouse” in order to skirt election finance laws. Individuals are allowed to contribute a maximum of $2,700 directly to a presidential campaign, but the limits for state parties and the national committee are a lot higher.

Under the joint fundraising agreement Clinton signed with the DNC, individuals could write a check for $353,400 to the joint account. The money would first be deposited in state party accounts, before being transferred back to the DNC, and on to Clinton.

“Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state, but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn,” Brazile wrote, referencing the Clinton campaign headquarters in New York.

Ties to Obama

According to Brazile, former President Barack Obama and former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz left the DNC $24 million in debt following the 2012 presidential election, which led to the “unethical” agreement with the Clinton campaign.

“What had happened?” Brazile wrote. “The party chair usually shrinks the staff between presidential election campaigns, but Debbie had chosen not to do that. She had stuck lots of consultants on the DNC payroll, and Obama’s consultants were being financed by the DNC, too.”

The Clinton campaign cleared up the pre-existing debt left behind by the Obama campaign and, in return, the DNC agreed to let the Clinton campaign “control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised,” Brazile said.

Brazile took over as chairwoman of the DNC when her predecessor, Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign after emails released by WikiLeaks appeared to show her coordinating party efforts with the Clinton campaign.

Trump Calls Russia Probe ‘Disgrace" Wants Clinton Investigation

U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday federal probes into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election to help him win are a “disgrace,” and he questioned why investigators are not looking into a disclosure the Democratic National Committee acted improperly in favor of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during last year’s primary election season.

Trump raised questions about the DNC controversy in a series of tweets prior to departing for a 12-day trip to Asia, and one day after former interim DNC Chairwomen Donna Brazile disclosed an agreement between the DNC and Clinton’s campaign that effectively allowed Clinton to reign over the party’s finances and other operations before the primary elections began.

“Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems..,” Trump tweeted.

 

In a second tweet, Trump referred to Brazile’s revelation, which was made in her new book, and cited a number of other issues surrounding Clinton and the DNC.

“…New Donna B book says she paid for and stole the Dem Primary. What about the deleted E-mails, Uranium, Podesta, the Server, plus, plus….”

In yet another tweet, the president then turned his attention back to federal investigators, whom he suggested are not doing their job effectively.

“….People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!”

Trump implied in his fourth tweet that allegations are untrue his presidential campaign colluded with Russia to capture the White House last year.

“The real story on Collusion is in Donna B’s new book. Crooked Hillary bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!”

In an apparent reference to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, the president used his derogatory nickname for her, in reference to an interview Warren had with CNN Thursday, saying she believed the Democratic primary elections were rigged to help Clinton win.

“Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.”

Before leaving the White House for his trip to Asia — his longest foreign presidential trip to date — the Republican president criticized the probes into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia and again turned his attention to the Democrats.

“There was no collusion, there was no nothing. It’s a disgrace frankly that they continue.” He added: “… they should be looking at the Democrats,” he said. “They should be looking at a lot of things and a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”

After Trump departed for his trip abroad aboard Air Force One, he resumed his tweeting, suggesting supporters of Clinton’s Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders are angry about his loss in the primary elections.

“Bernie Sanders supporters have every right to be apoplectic of the complete theft of the Dem primary by Crooked Hillary!”

“I always felt I would be running and winning against Bernie Sanders, not Crooked H, without cheating, I was right.”

The president’s focus on the Democrats comes four days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged two former Trump campaign aides in connection with the probe into Russia’s attempt to influence last year’s presidential election.

Paul Manafort, who for three months was Trump’s campaign chairman last year, and former business associate Rick Gates, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington as part of Mueller’s criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. They were the first charges Mueller has made public in his five-month probe, although the allegations did not relate directly to the election.

Manafort was charged with conspiring against the U.S., money laundering, and lying to the government as part of a wide-ranging lobbying effort for former Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych.

In addition, Mueller disclosed that former Trump foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty October 5 to lying to federal agents in January about his contacts with people “he understood to have close connections to senior Russian government officials.”

As he spoke with reporters Friday at the White House, Trump said he has few recollections about a March 16 meeting with Papadopoulos, at which Papadopoulos allegedly offered to set up a meeting for the candidate with Vladimir Putin.

“I don’t remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. It took place a long time ago. Don’t remember much about it,” said Trump.

Trump’s flurry of activity on Twitter Friday came hours after one of his Twitter accounts, “(@realDonaldTrump),” was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday evening.

Twitter initially said the account had been inadvertently deleted due to human error, but later said it was deactivated by an employee on the worker’s last day on the job.

“We are conducting a full internal review,” the company said.

 

Trump: American Public ‘Deserves’ Clinton Investigation

President Donald Trump said Friday the American public “deserves” a federal investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee over a joint fundraising agreement they signed in August 2015.

Trump launched a multi-part Twitter attack criticizing his former 2016 rival. Trump writes: “Crooked Hillary bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!” He adds it’s the “real story on Collusion.”

Trump’s accusation follows Politico’s publication of an excerpt from former acting DNC Chair Donna Brazile’s upcoming book. Brazile alleges she found “proof” that the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged in Clinton’s favor. Brazile writes that she believes no laws were violated, but that a funding agreement “looked unethical.”

Late Thursday, Trump tweeted without evidence that he believed they had acted “illegally.”

In subsequent tweets Friday, Trump highlighted criticism of the DNC from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom he has mocked by calling her “Pocahontas.” He also called on federal authorities to launch an investigation.

“Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.,” he tweeted.

The fundraising agreement, signed in August 2015 during the primary process, was unusual for an open seat and, according to Brazile, gave the Clinton campaign oversight of some DNC decisions. Months later, Clinton’s chief challenger, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, signed his own agreement with the party.

Trump and his campaign are subjects of a wide-ranging investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The White House has repeatedly sought to turn the attention of the probe, which is looking into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, to Clinton and her campaign.

Ivanka Trump: World Needs More Women in STEM Fields

Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter and informal adviser, told a summit in Tokyo Friday that the world must boost women and minority participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Ivanka Trump, seen as an important influence on her father, has made women’s issues one of her signature policy areas since beginning her role at the White House. Her comments came ahead of her father’s trip to Asia, his first since taking office in January, that begins in Japan on Sunday.

 

WATCH: Ivanka Trump on Women’s Participation in STEM Fields

“Female and minority participation in STEM fields is moving in the wrong direction,” she said at the World Assembly for Women summit. “We must create equal participation in these traditionally male-dominated sectors of our economy.”

She said her father’s tax reforms, unveiled by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, would benefit American families.

“We are seeking to simplify the tax code, lower rates, expand the child tax credit, eliminate the marriage penalty, and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans,” she told a meeting room in a Tokyo hotel that had a number of empty seats.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government was aiming to mobilize women in Japan’s workforce and boost economic growth, launching policies such as improved childcare in his “Womenomics” program.

“We’ve put our full strength into creating an environment where it’s easy for women to work,” Abe said in an opening address to the conference. “I really feel that Japan has come a long way,” he said. 

Japan’s gender gap remains wide despite such efforts, with little progress made since Abe vowed at the United Nations in 2013 to create “a society where women can shine.”

Japan ranked 114 out of 144 in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report, sandwiched between Guinea and Ethiopia and down 13 places since Abe took power.

Abe appointed only two women to ministerial posts in a Cabinet reshuffle in August, down from three and five respectively in his previous two Cabinets. Only 14 percent of Japan’s lawmakers are women.

Men also dominate decision-making in business in Japan. Only 3.7 percent of Japanese-listed company executives were women at the end of July, according to the Cabinet Office, barely changed from 3.4 percent a year earlier.

 

Twitter Employee ‘Inadvertently’ Deactivates Trump Account

President Donald Trump’s @realdonaldtrump Twitter account was “inadvertently deactivated” by a Twitter Inc. employee Thursday and was down for 11 minutes before it was restored, the social media company said.

“Earlier today @realdonaldtrump’s account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee,” the company said in a tweet.

“We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again,” it added.

A Twitter representative declined to comment further. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has made extensive use of messages on Twitter to attack his opponents and promote his policies, both during the 2016 presidential campaign and since taking office in January. He has 41.7 million followers on Twitter.

His first tweet after Thursday’s outage:

In a similar incident last November, Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey’s account was briefly suspended as a result of what he said was an internal mistake.

Facebook Pressured to Notify People Who Saw Russian Posts

Facebook received several tongue-lashings during U.S. congressional hearings this week, but the world’s largest social network also got an assignment: Figure out how to notify tens of millions of Americans who might have been fed Russian propaganda.

U.S. lawmakers and some tech analysts are pressing the company to identify users who were served about 80,000 posts on Facebook, 120,000 on its Instagram picture-sharing app, and 3,000 ads that the company has traced to alleged Russian operatives, and to inform them.

The posts from Russia were designed to divide Americans, particularly around the 2016 U.S. elections, according to Facebook, U.S. intelligence agencies and lawmakers. The Russian government has denied it tried to meddle in the elections.

“When you discover a deceptive foreign government presentation on your platform, my presumption, from what you’ve said today — you’ll stop it and take it down,” Democratic Senator Jack Reed told Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday.

“Do you feel an obligation, in turn, to notify those people who have accessed that? And can you do that? And shouldn’t you do that?” Reed asked.

Stretch responded that he was not sure Facebook could identify the people because its estimates have relied on modeling, rather than actual counts, but he did not rule it out.

“The technical challenges associated with that undertaking are substantial,” Stretch said.

Critics of Facebook on social media and in media interviews have expressed skepticism, noting that the company closely tracks user activity such as likes and clicks for advertising purposes.

Facebook declined to comment on Thursday.

As many as 126 million people could have been served the posts on Facebook and 20 million on Instagram, according to company estimates.

Social media critics

Many of them will not believe they were manipulated unless Facebook tells them, said Tristan Harris of Time Well Spent, an organization critical of advertising-based social media.

“Facebook is a living, breathing crime scene, and they’re the only ones with access to what happened,” Harris, an ex-Google employee, said in an interview Thursday.

The 2.1 billion people with active Facebook accounts often get notifications from the service, on everything from birthdays and upcoming events to friend requests and natural disasters.

Shortly before 6 p.m. EDT on Thursday, more than 83,000 people had signed a Change.org online petition asking Facebook to tell users about the Russian posts.

Lawyers for Twitter and Alphabet’s Google also said their companies would consider notifying customers.

The intelligence committee’s vice chairman, Senator Mark Warner, drew an analogy to another industry.

“If you were in a medical facility, and you got exposed to a disease, the medical facility would have to tell the folks who were exposed,” Warner said.

IN PHOTOS: A Look at Russian Social Media Election ‘Meddling’

‘Duty to warn’

U.S. law includes a concept known as “post-sale duty to warn,” which may require notifying previous buyers if a manufacturer discovers a problem with a product.

That legal duty likely does not apply to Facebook, said Christopher Robinette, a law professor at Widener University in Pennsylvania. He said courts would likely rule that social media posts are not a product but a service, which is exempt from the duty. Courts also do not want to interfere in free speech, he said.

Robinette added, though, that he thought notifications to users would be a good idea. “This strikes me as a fairly significant problem,” he said.

Social Media Companies Face Tough Congressional Questions on Russian Election Interference

Facebook, Twitter and Google executives testified in public before Senate and House investigations into Russian election interference for the first time Wednesday, amid disclosures that Russian influence on social media platforms was much wider in scope than previously understood. The lawmakers had tough questions for the Silicon Valley executives as VOA’s Katherine Gypson reports from Capitol Hill.

New York Uzbeks Seek Greater Community Outreach, Societal Inclusion

As U.S. authorities seek motives that might have led 29-year-old suspect Sayfullo Saipov to run down and kill innocent pedestrians and cyclists in Lower Manhattan, New York’s Uzbek community believes his radicalization can be attributed in part to a lack of language and culture-specific inclusion among Uzbek nationals attempting to integrate into U.S. culture.

Trump Election Anniversary Approaches

Wednesday, Nov. 8, marks the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th U.S. president. Trump’s surprise election sent shockwaves across the country and around the world, but his first nine months in office have often been chaotic. Trump has followed through on some of his election promises, but failed on others. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Trump Tweets NY Attacker Had Diversity Visa

According to a tweet by President Donald Trump Wednesday morning, the Uzbek attacker who killed at people Tuesday night in Manhattan came to the United States on a diversity immigrant visa.

For would-be Americans who don’t have family in the U.S., or an employer to sponsor them, or who aren’t refugees, the diversity visa, also known as the green card lottery, is the only option. It requires a high school degree or a few years of work experience just to qualify.

The State Department noted, however, that visa information is confidential under U.S. law, and that they could not comment on any specific visa application.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer played an important role in drawing up legislation for the program in the 1990s. In a statement released Tuesday, he said “I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America,” proposing that Trump focus on the “real solution” of anti-terrorism funding.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department announced that all entries to the lottery this year had been lost and must be resubmitted.

Earlier this year, republican senators proposed scrapping the program altogether.

If the application to the Green Card lottery is valid, your number is chosen and you pass the other requirements for immigrants, you still need the money to get to the U.S. It’s a small portion of immigration to the U.S. every year, but larger than other cornerstones of the program, like employment-based immigrant visas.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the U.S. issued 48,097 diversity visas out of 531,463 total immigrant visas.

Natives of all countries qualify except Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. People born in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are eligible.

On Climate Change, It’s Trump vs Markets

Though the Trump administration has taken steps to undo regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, experts say economic forces are helping to push down U.S. emissions anyway.

U.N. climate negotiators will meet in Bonn, Germany, November 6-17. It will be their first gathering since President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Trump considers efforts to fight climate change a barrier to economic growth. Promising to dominate global energy markets and put struggling U.S. coal miners back to work, he has taken a series of steps to roll back regulations aimed at fighting climate change. They include moving to revoke the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s primary tool for cutting carbon emissions from power plants.

Energy transition

Losing those regulations won’t stop the transition in energy sources that’s already underway, according to George Washington University Solar Institute Director Amit Ronen.

“We’re still going to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan in most states, even if it’s withdrawn,” he said, “just because we’re substituting so much natural gas and renewables for coal.”

Coal-fired power plants — the most climate-polluting source of electricity — are shutting down across the country. More than 500 closed between 2002 and 2016, and additional plants are slated for closure, according to the Department of Energy. Electric utilities are replacing them with cheaper, cleaner natural gas.

And renewable sources, such as wind and solar, are booming. Prices have plummeted. Renewables are beginning to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Solar tariffs

Though electric utilities are choosing natural gas and renewables over coal, the Trump administration may influence energy markets in other ways.

A case before the International Trade Commission will soon give the president the authority to put tariffs on imported solar panels — and nearly all of them are imported.

The case is billed as an effort to help domestic solar manufacturers. While Trump has not embraced renewable energy, he has said he wants to support U.S. manufacturing jobs.

But solar manufacturing is mostly automated. Far more people work in labor-intensive installation. The Solar Energy Industries Association has opposed measures limiting imports, saying it would cost jobs.

The International Trade Commission recommended tariffs smaller than what the plaintiffs asked for. But Trump gets the last word, expected before mid-January.

Even more severe trade restrictions would not extinguish the renewables industry, however.

“[A tariff] certainly adds cost and might stifle solar development,” said Rhodium Group analyst John Larsen. “But the overall clean energy picture doesn’t get hit too hard.”

That’s because many states and cities have policies requiring electric utilities to use renewable energy, Larsen noted. They are stepping up their efforts to cut greenhouse gases, even as the federal government is pulling back. If solar dips, wind may fill in the gap.

Subsidizing coal, nuclear

The proposal that could have a bigger impact on electricity markets comes from the Trump administration’s Department of Energy.

With so many coal plants shut down and eight nuclear plants on the brink of closure, Secretary Rick Perry said the reliability of the U.S. electric grid is in jeopardy.

Because coal and nuclear plants provide constant power and have their fuel supplies on-site, Perry suggested paying them more than other sources for their electricity.

The proposal has made unusual allies of the natural gas, solar and wind industries. They wrote joint comments opposing it. And critics across the political spectrum have blasted it.

“This has no intellectual depth. It’s unprofessional. It’s badly thought out,” said finance director Tom Sanzillo of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Sanzillo noted that the Department of Energy study on which Perry based his recommendations does not show that grid reliability is threatened. And Perry himself rejected a similar proposal as governor of Texas, where the growing influx of wind power was pushing coal plants out of business.

Not fast enough

Ultimately, experts say, the Trump administration has limited powers to save the coal industry.

While coal’s decline is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, experts say they are not falling fast enough to avoid the worst of climate change.

Under the Paris climate agreement, nations agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Former President Obama pledged that the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Even the Clean Power Plan, plus other Obama-era regulations, still would have left the United States short of that goal, Larsen said.

“The current U.S. trajectory is not in line with Paris, and the U.S. commitment in Paris wasn’t necessarily on track for 2 degrees,” he said. “It was a starting point, a down payment.

“Hopefully, other countries step up to the plate to fill in some of that gap. But that’s a big if.”

The latest report from the U.N. Environment Program says pledged emission cuts worldwide add up to just one-third of what is needed to keep the planet below the 2-degree target.

NY Mourns, Tightened Security, After Bike Path Rampage

Authorities in New York are trying to determine what led the driver of a rented pickup truck to mow down people on a busy bike path Tuesday in the deadliest terrorist incident in the city since the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

At least eight people were killed and 11 others injured in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called “a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said around 3:05 p.m. local time, a man driving a rented commercial pickup truck entered the bike path, striking riders and pedestrians. The truck also struck a school bus, injuring two adults and two children.  

The man then “exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns,” O’Neill said. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were later found at the scene. The suspect was shot in the abdomen by police and taken into custody.

Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told media outlets the suspect was a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan named Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the United States in 2010. He underwent surgery and is expected to survive.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN he believes the suspect was “radicalized domestically.”  News reports indicate a note was found at the scene referencing Islamic State.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump said, “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty.  I want merit based.”

Tuesday night, Trump said he ordered “Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”

There has been no official claim of responsibility from IS, but Greg Barton, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia, said it seems as if the attacker was inspired by the terror group.

“Islamic State doesn’t claim attacks when the attacker is held in custody and so they probably won’t claim this one,” Barton told VOA.  “But there’s no question that we’ve seen many attempted attacks in New York and there will be more attempts in the future.”

WATCH: Ramon Taylor reports from the scene

Uzbek reaction

Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Wednesday the attack was ruthless and cruel, and that his government stood ready to use all means to assist in the investigation.

“We express our feelings of full solidarity to the people of the United States of America,” Mirziyoyev said in a statement posted on the Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry website.

“We strongly condemn the terror truck attack on the innocent civilians in New York City. Our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” said the Turkistanian American Association of New York and New Jersey, on behalf of the Uzbek community, in a statement sent by email to the Voice of America.

The Cato Institute told VOA only about 40,000 Uzbeks have entered the United States as migrants in the last 20 years, and that of those, only 2 percent arrived as refugees.

David Bier, a policy analyst at the Washington-based research institution, said he believed this is the first time an Uzbek national has killed anyone on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack.

Witnesses describe chaos

For some witnesses, the chaos was reminiscent of images of deadly attacks from across Europe.

“It always seems really distant but then when it’s right next to you, obviously it’s really shocking and disturbing, and you don’t want it to happen to anybody,” said Elizabeth Chernobelsky, who witnessed the crime scene.

Others were left in disbelief. College student Jake Saunders, who barely missed a train at a crucial moment, told VOA he considers himself lucky.

 

“If I had made that train, I would be right where the shooting is, right there, because that was my destination,” Saunders said.

Police said the driver shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” when he got out of the truck. But when O’Neill was asked whether the suspect shouted the phrase, he replied: “Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” though he declined to elaborate.

The New York Police Department said they will increase the number of officers throughout the city “out of an abundance of caution.”

Ramon Taylor in New York and Victor Beattie in Washington DC contributed to this report

 

White House: Trump Has ‘Warm Rapport’ with Philippines’ Duterte

The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has developed a “warm rapport” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte even though the Manila leader has verbally attacked the United States in profane terms.

A senior Trump administration official, talking about details of Trump’s five-nation Asia visit that starts Friday and includes a stop in Manila, said Trump and Duterte have become friendly during telephone conversations and exchanges of letters.

“I think there’s a warm rapport there and he’s very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with President Duterte,” the official said. Their meeting is scheduled on the last stop of Trump’s 12-day trip that includes visits to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.

Anti-drug campaign praised

Duterte has alleged that the U.S., despite its long-standing alliance with the Philippines, has treated it “like a dog,” and a year ago, before Trump assumed power, announced a “separation” from the U.S. The Philippine leader was angered that the administration of former President Barack Obama voiced objections to the country’s extrajudicial killings of people involved in drug transactions.

But Trump, in a May call to Duterte, praised his anti-drug campaign, saying Duterte was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

The White House official said, “The amount of cooperation that’s taking place below the leader level, made possible by our long-standing relationship and alliance with the Philippines, is still very robust. And that expands to areas like counter-terror, all of the close people-to-people ties between the countries, and human rights as well. The president will have frank and friendly discussions in his first meeting with Mr. Duterte.”

Elsewhere on his trip, Trump is planning to advance efforts to force North Korea to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and pushing countries in the region to adhere to United Nations sanctions to limit trade with Pyongyang that it needs to fund its missile and nuclear tests.

No DMZ visit

But the White House official said Trump, unlike some other U.S. presidents, “is not going to visit the DMZ,” the heavily armed buffer zone between North and South Korea.

He said, “There’s not enough time in his schedule. It would have had to be DMZ or Camp Humphreys,” a military base south of Seoul, the South Korean capital, to highlight the military cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea.

“No president has visited Camp Humphreys, and we thought that that made more sense in terms of its messaging, in terms of a chance to address families and troops there,” the official said.

“It’s becoming a little bit of a cliche, frankly” to visit the DMZ, the official said, noting that Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all visited the buffer zone this year.

AP Fact Check: Trump Marginalizes Adviser Snagged in Probe

President Donald Trump is working to discredit and marginalize an adviser to his 2016 campaign who took steps to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from a Russian source close to the Kremlin. Trump branded George Papadopoulos “low level” and a “liar” Tuesday, a turnaround from describing him as an “excellent guy” when he joined his campaign team.

 

It’s become harder for Trump to speak dismissively of the Russia investigation now that his former campaign chief is under house arrest and Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about his Russian interactions. But he’s trying.

 

A look at statements by Trump and spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the special counsel’s investigation unsealed criminal charges against Paul Manafort and his business associate and revealed Papadopoulos’ plea:

 

Trump tweet Tuesday: “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”

The Facts: Papadopoulos, though not senior, was not obscure. Trump named Papadopoulos to his foreign policy advisory council in March 2016, where he joined a short list of experts helping the candidate with international affairs.

 

“He’s an oil and energy consultant,” Trump told The Washington Post at the time. “Excellent guy.” Trump tweeted a photo of his March 31 advisory council meeting, with Papadopoulos among several advisers at the president’s table. Jeff Sessions, then a senator and now attorney general, was helping Trump’s campaign and attended at least two meetings of the advisory council with Papadopoulos also there.

 

Papadopoulos was based in London at the time but did not operate in a bubble.

 

In April 2016, he met a Russian professor close to the Russian government for breakfast in London and was told Moscow had “dirt” helpful to Trump, namely Clinton emails. Investigators said Papadopoulos emailed a Trump campaign policy adviser the next day, saying “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”

 

Court filings say the adviser met later with an unidentified Russian woman who claimed to be related to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a third person who claimed connections with the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry. The two men then exchanged emails about a possible meeting between Trump campaign aides and Russian government officials.

 

Altogether, this episode has provided evidence in the first criminal case connecting Trump’s team to alleged intermediaries for Russia’s government. Papadopoulos is cooperating with investigators.

 

His lie? He told the FBI his Russian interactions came before he joined Trump’s team. These steps came after he joined.

 

Trump tweet Monday: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”

 The Facts: Not true, according to the indictment.

 

Manafort and his associate Rick Gates are charged with criminal activities that go back to 2006 but extend to February of this year. The charges do not refer to Manafort’s activities with the campaign but rather accuse him of laundering money and conspiratorial acts before, during and after he was campaign chairman.

 

Manafort and Gates face 12 counts, which do deal largely with activities from 2006 to 2015, before Manafort joined the campaign in March 2016.

But both are charged with conspiring together and with others to knowingly and intentionally defraud and commit crimes against the U.S. from 2006 to this year.

 

And both are charged with conspiring together to make false statements and conceal crimes against the U.S., and to causing others to do so, from November 2016 to February 2017.

 

The indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates acted as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia leader, government and party from 2006 to 2015. The indictment says that “from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT and GATES laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.”

 

Manafort was hired in late March 2016 as the campaign’s manager for the Republican convention in July. He was promoted to campaign chairman in mid-May, after he had essentially assumed control, and then was pushed out August 19 when questions intensified about his lobbying for Ukraine interests.

 

This indictment emerged from the broad investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It does not go to the heart of that matter.

Sanders: “Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.” – briefing Monday.

 

The facts: It’s true that Trump himself isn’t wrapped up in the charges, but his campaign adviser is.

 

Sanders said Papadopoulos’ work for the campaign was “extremely limited. It was a volunteer position.”

Yet investigators said his position was significant to those who wanted to pass on information helpful to the campaign. The allegations unsealed Monday state “the professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign.”

Sanders: “What the Clinton campaign did, what the DNC did was actually exchange money …. actually paying money for false information.” – briefing

 

The facts: She is right that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party hired a firm that came up with sensational allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia. The material is unverified. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false.

Trump Disparages Ex-aide Cooperating With Prosecutors in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump disparaged one-time foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos on Tuesday, a day after it was disclosed that he pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal agents but has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

A year ago, Trump described Papadopoulos, a 30-year-old energy and oil consultant, as an “excellent guy.” But in a new Twitter comment from the White House, Trump said, “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!”

Trump said, “The Fake News is working overtime,” referring to mainstream U.S. news outlets’ widespread coverage of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea in early October and the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his protege Rick Gates on money laundering and conspiracy charges linked to their multimillion-dollar lobbying effort for one-time Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych. Trump’s campaign was not implicated in the charges against Manafort and Gates.  

“As Paul Manafort’s lawyer said, there was ‘no collusion’ (between Trump aides and Russia) and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign,” Trump tweeted.

He added, “I hope people will start to focus on our Massive Tax Cuts for Business (jobs) and the Middle Class (in addition to Democrat corruption)!”

In a statement of facts underlying Papadopoulos’s guilty plea, special counsel Mueller detailed several emails Papadopoulos sent to high-level Trump aides during the height of the election campaign about his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump campaign and Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin. The meeting never occurred.

The statement did not name the Trump aides Papadopoulos emailed about his overseas contacts involving Russia, but The Washington Post said that it had identified Manafort, Gates, national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis and one-time campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski as the recipients.   Clovis called Papadopoulos’s efforts “great work.”

The documents also say one of the contacts told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”  Starting in July 2016, WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails, with many of them showing embarrassing behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton win the party’s nomination. She has partly blamed her loss on the disclosure of the emails.

Monday’s allegations and disclosure of the Papadopoulos guilty plea have left Washington speculating where Mueller’s investigation is headed next, but legal experts expect more charges to be filed.

Mueller has been investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia and Turkey in recent years, ahead of his brief White House tenure at the outset of Trump’s presidency. Flynn was an outspoken campaigner for Trump last year, but Trump fired him as national security adviser as news surfaced that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington in the period before Trump took office in January.

Mueller is also probing whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired then-Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey last May while he was heading the agency’s Russia investigation before Mueller, over Trump’s objections, was named to take over the probe. Monday’s allegations against Manafort and Gates and disclosure of the Papadopoulos guilty plea were the first charges Mueller has brought in his five months as special counsel.

The White House says Trump has no intention of firing Mueller or pardoning the campaign aides charged so far.

Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, told ABC News on Tuesday, “The president has not indicated to me or to anyone else that I work with that he has any intent on terminating Robert Mueller.”

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that Putin personally directed a campaign to undermine U.S. democracy and help Trump win.  On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the allegations, saying there is no evidence of election meddling in the United States or other countries.

Both Manafort and Gates turned themselves in to the FBI in Washington for processing and later pleaded “not guilty” in a federal court.  A judge ordered both placed under house arrest.

The indictment against them alleged that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager from June to August last year and was a key figure in the campaign before then, enriched himself with his lobbying for the Ukrainian leader before he was forced from power by a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to Russia.

Mueller alleged that Manafort hid his assets in accounts in Cyprus, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and the Seychelles and then “spent millions of dollars on luxury goods” to “enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States.”

The 12-count indictment alleged that more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts, with Manafort laundering more than $18 million to buy property and goods in the United States and Gates sending more than $3 million to accounts he controlled.

Mueller charged that Manafort and Gates conspired to carry out the scheme between 2006 and this year, failed to register as foreign agents and then offered “false and misleading” statements to federal agents about their activities.

In addition to Mueller’s investigation, there are three separate congressional probes into Russian meddling and possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

 

Lobbying, Political Worlds of Paul Manafort Merge in Indictment

For nearly 40 years, Paul Manafort has been one of Washington’s top lobbyists, paid millions of dollars to represent controversial  figures from around the globe who needed to burnish their standing in the U.S. capital, including the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos,  Zaire’s military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and most recently Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych.

At the same time, he has been a Republican political operative, advising and serving an array of the party’s presidents since the 1970s. Just last year, he briefly was campaign chairman for the upstart candidacy of real estate mogul Donald Trump on his eventually successful run to the White House.

Now the lobbying and political worlds of the 68-year-old Manafort have achieved a merger of sorts.

A federal grand jury in Washington indicted him in a money-laundering scheme linked to his lobbying for Moscow-supported Yanukovych before the Kyiv leader was ousted in 2014 and fled to Russia in exile. The charges came as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election aimed at undermining U.S. democracy and help Trump win.

By the end of Monday, Manafort was under house arrest, awaiting resolution of charges that could, if convicted, land him in prison for years.

The indictment against Manafort did not describe his tenure as Trump’s campaign chief and was related solely to lucrative lobbying transactions that predated the Trump campaign.

Trump was quick to note, “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”

After Manafort pleaded not guilty to the charges, his lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters, “I think you all saw today that President Donald Trump was correct. There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Mr. Manafort represented pro-European Union campaigns for the Ukrainians and … was seeking to further democracy and to help the Ukraine come closer to the United States and the EU.”

Downing said, “Those activities ended in 2014 over two years before Mr. Manafort served in the Trump campaign.”

But Manafort was at the top of the Trump campaign for three months in 2016 and Mueller’s investigators are in the midst of a months-long investigation of trying to determine who had contacts with Russia in the long run-up to Trump’s upset win in the November election over former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One person they could look to for answers is Paul Manafort.

US Russia Probe Takes Dramatic Turn with Indictments, Plea Deal

The special counsel investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia took a dramatic turn Monday with criminal indictments of two former Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Special Counsel Robert Mueller also revealed that a former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with the Russia probe. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Indictment Against Manafort, Gates Details Elaborate Scheme

The indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, and a longtime business associate alleged the two carried out an elaborate scheme that involved the use of a little-known outfit to mask years of lobbying on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, his pro-Russia political party, and the Ukrainian government. 

Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, are charged in a 12-count indictment including conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements. The two could faces decades in prison if convicted, and both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The allegations do not include collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign.

The indictment was approved by a federal grand jury on Friday and unsealed after Manafort and his right-hand man and former Trump campaign adviser, Gates, turned themselves in to the FBI. It represents the first charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Manafort’s consulting work for Ukraine started in 2006 when the Republican political strategist was retained by Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions to “advance its interests” in Ukraine. In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, the party’s candidate, was elected president. Four years later, he fled to Russia following popular protests.   

Eight-year lobbying campaign

The indictment alleges that during the eight-year period, Manafort and Gates “engaged in a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign” in the U.S. on behalf of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the Ukrainian government. The two hid their activities from U.S. authorities and used offshore accounts to launder millions of dollars in Ukrainian payments.  

As part of their effort to mask their lobbying from U.S. authorities, the pair used a little-known outfit called the European Center for Modern Ukraine. The Brussels-based outfit called itself “an advocate for enhancing EU-Ukrainian relations” but in reality served as “a mouthpiece” for Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, according to the indictment. Manafort and Gates used the nonprofit to carry out lobbying and public relations campaigns, according to court records.

Manafort and Gates then hired two Washington, D.C., firms to lobby members of Congress about Ukrainian sanctions, the “validity” of Ukraine elections, and the “propriety” of Yanukovych’s imprisonment of his political rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. 

“Manafort and Gates did so without registering and providing the disclosures required by law,” the indictment alleges.

The two lobbying firms are Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC, the Associated Press reported last year.  The Podesta Group is headed by Tony Podesta, the brother of John Podesta, who was campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton. Politico reported on Monday that Tony Podesta was stepping down from the firm.

To conceal the lobbying effort, Manafort and Gates allegedly arranged for the two lobbying firms to be ostensibly working for the European Center for Modern Ukraine, which in fact was “under the ultimate direction” of Yanukovych, the Ukrainian government and the Party of the Regions, according to the indictment.

Manafort and Gates are also accused of using their offshore accounts to secretly pay $4 million for a report about Tymoshenko’s trial commissioned by the Ukrainian government.

Ties to Trump

Manafort and Gates joined the Trump campaign in March 2006. Gates was later promoted as deputy campaign manager and Manafort served as campaign chairman. He was fired in August after reports of his lobbying for pro-Russia interests in Ukraine.

The Department of Justice began looking into Manafort’s and Gates’ lobbying for Ukraine last year. The indictment says the two partners told investigators in 2016 that they merely “provided an introduction” between the Brussels center and the Washington lobbying firms, and that their efforts “did not include meetings and outreach within the United States.”

In fact, according to the indictment, Manafort and Gates were deeply involved in the scheme. They had weekly phone calls and email communications with officials of the two companies, directed them on “specific lobbying steps,” received regular reports from them, and updated Yanukovych about the lobbying activities. For their efforts between 2012 and 2014, the firms were paid $2 million. 

Charges

The charges against Manafort and Gates include conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering, failure to report foreign bank holdings to the U.S. Treasury Department, lobbying for a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department, and making false statements about their lobbying efforts.

Manafort and Gates are accused of serving as unregistered foreign agents of Ukrainian interests in violation of Department of Justice registration requirements.

Between them, Manafort and Gates controlled 17 domestic entities, 12 Cyprus-based entities and 3 other foreign entities, according to the indictment. In all, $75 million passed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is alleged to have laundered more than $18 million. Gates is accused of laundering more than $3 million from offshore accounts.

Washington Waits for Criminal Charges in Probe of Russia Links to US Election

Washington braced Monday for the potential unsealing of the first criminal charges linked to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as President Donald Trump reiterated his stance that the underlying investigations are a “witch hunt.”

A federal grand jury on Friday approved charges in the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to several major news outlets that reported the indictment could be made public as soon as Monday.

There was no public indication of who is facing charges or what crimes are being alleged. Legal experts say the first charges could be against a peripheral figure in the case, with prosecutors using a common strategy to first build their case against lower level officials before focusing on more prominent people.

In addition to Mueller’s investigation, there are separate congressional probes into Russian meddling and possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in early 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed a campaign to undermine U.S. democracy and help Trump win

Trump has insisted there was no collusion, including in a series of tweets Sunday in which he said Democrats and his election opponent Hillary Clinton are the ones who are guilty.

“The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s [Republicans] are now fighting back like never before,” Trump wrote. “There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!”

He further blamed the Russia investigations for taking attention away from Republican efforts on tax reform.

“Is this coincidental? NOT!” Trump said.

Ty Cobb, a member of Trump’s legal team, said in a statement that Trump’s comments were not related to the developments in Mueller’s investigation.

“Contrary to what many have suggested, the President’s comments today are unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate,” Cobb said.

Mueller is believed to be examining activities of two key Trump campaign officials, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired by Trump less than a month after he took office for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, and Paul Manafort, who for a short time last year was Trump’s campaign manager and also had wide lobbying interests in Ukraine and links to Russia.