U.S. blocks Syrian rescue worker from attending the Oscars

The New York Times reports: Khaled Khatib, a Syrian rescue worker who served as a cinematographer on the Oscar-nominated documentary short “The White Helmets,” has been barred by American officials from traveling to Los Angeles for Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that the Department of Homeland Security blocked Mr. Khatib after discovering “derogatory information” about him. Mr. Khatib had planned to fly from Istanbul to Los Angeles on Saturday. The AP said he had been detained earlier in the week by Turkish officials for undisclosed reasons, and that he needed a passport waiver to travel to the United States, which was denied. Raed Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets, was also to attend the Oscars; there was no indication that his plans were upended.

Mr. Khatib had planned to attend the ceremony after the Trump administration’s travel ban was lifted. The ban had halted or slowed travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, but it was frozen by the courts.

A member of the White Helmets, a group that searches for survivors in the rubble of bombed-out buildings, Mr. Khatib also filmed the group’s rescue efforts for the 40-minute film, which was made for Netflix and directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. [Continue reading…]

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Kuwait could pay up to $60,000 for party at Trump Hotel in Washington

Reuters reports: The Kuwaiti government could pay up to $60,000 to President Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington for a party on Saturday that will be an early test of Trump’s promise to turn over profits from such events to the U.S. Treasury.

The Kuwait Embassy is hosting an event to mark their National Day. Similar National Day celebrations at the Trump International Hotel for a crowd of several hundred can run from $40,000 to $60,000, according to cost estimates from the hotel seen by Reuters. The hotel declined to comment on the figures.

One of Trump’s lawyers, Sheri Dillon, pledged at a Jan. 11 press conference to donate any Trump Hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.

The White House and Alan Garten, the general counsel for the Trump Organization, did not return calls for comment on whether any profits from foreign government payments to the hotel have been donated. Dillon’s firm declined to comment. [Continue reading…]

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Rep. Darrell Issa: Trump-Russia probe requires a special prosecutor

Politico reports: A Republican congressman who aligned with President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign called Friday for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into Trump associates’ contacts with Russia.

Rep. Darrell Issa said on HBO’s “Real Time” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who Trump appointed as the nation’s top law enforcement officer — should not handle the problem.

“You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” the California Republican said in response to a question from host Bill Maher. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office to take — not just to recuse. You can’t just give it to your deputy. That’s another political appointee.”

Issa emphasized that “there may or may not be fault” with Trump’s associates but said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutality toward political enemies highlighted the need for such a probe. [Continue reading…]

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Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories

The Washington Post reports: The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.

Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.

The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.

The White House on Friday acknowledged those interactions with the FBI but did not disclose that it then turned to other officials who agreed to do what the FBI would not — participate in White House-arranged calls with news organizations, including The Washington Post.

Two of those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity — a practice President Trump has condemned. [Continue reading…]

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The crook behind the Trump-Russia ‘peace’ plan

The Daily Beast reports: Felix Sater is an immigrant who did prison time for stabbing a man in the face with the broken stem of a margarita glass, and he would surely qualify for the label “bad hombre” were he from Mexico instead of Russia.

It was only by becoming a federal informant that Sater avoided an otherwise 20-year mandatory term for a $40 million fraud in which most of the victims were elderly, a number of them Holocaust survivors.

Sater’s father also became an informant after being convicted of joining a Mafia soldier shaking down small businesses in Brooklyn for nearly a decade.

None of that stopped Donald Trump from having extensive business dealings with Sater that included the high-rise Trump SoHo New York hotels and condos. Then, after Sater’s rap sheet was widely publicized, Trump said he hardly knew the man.

“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump says in court papers from a 2013 law suit.

Yet, even as the Trump administration was preparing plans to ramp up deportations, the president’s longtime personal attorney sat down for coffee in a Manhattan hotel with this Russian immigrant.

According to The New York Times, Trump attorney Michael Cohen and Sater were party to some amateur diplomacy aimed at settling the Russian war on Ukraine with a plan to push Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko out of office.

Cohen insisted to The Daily Beast that the Times account was wrong and that he had not been involved in the peace plan. He declined to comment on whether he was troubled by Sater’s criminal background and organized crime ties. [Continue reading…]

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ICE agents feel unshackled as they fan across the U.S. in Trump’s war on undocumented immigrants

The New York Times reports: In Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waited outside a church shelter where undocumented immigrants had gone to stay warm. In Texas and in Colorado, agents went into courthouses, looking for foreigners who had arrived for hearings on other matters.

At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane.

The Trump administration’s far-reaching plan to arrest and deport vast numbers of undocumented immigrants has been introduced in dramatic fashion over the past month. And much of that task has fallen to thousands of ICE officers who are newly emboldened, newly empowered and already getting to work.

Gone are the Obama-era rules that required them to focus only on serious criminals. In Southern California, in one of the first major roundups during the Trump administration, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all.

“Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did,” said a 10-year veteran of the agency who took part in the operation. “Now those people are priorities again. And there are a lot of them here.”

Interviews with 17 agents and officials across the country, including in Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Washington and California, demonstrated how quickly a new atmosphere in the agency had taken hold. Since they are forbidden to talk to the press, they requested anonymity out of concern for losing their jobs.

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Tuesday that the president wanted to “take the shackles off” of agents, an expression the officers themselves used time and again in interviews to describe their newfound freedom.

“Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a joint statement after President Trump issued the executive orders on immigration late last month. [Continue reading…]

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I cover hate. I didn’t expect it at my family’s Jewish cemetery

By Ariana Tobin, ProPublica, February 23, 2017

When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions: We name our children after dead relatives, we sit shiva for a week, we gather around trays of fruit and lox and cream cheese, we cover the mirrors, we say the Kaddish prayer, we each toss three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave, and we wait a year to put a stone on top of it. When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident.

But traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it. When I told my grandmother — her mother called her Malka, her sisters called her Mollie — that I had an opportunity to teach English abroad, I knew what to expect in response: “That’s nice, baby, but why don’t you find a teaching job around here where it’s safe?” That, and a $20 bill she couldn’t necessarily afford to give.

But when I added, “I’m going to a place in Belarus called Minsk; it’s a big city,” her reply took me by surprise. “Minsk!” she exclaimed. “That’s where my mother was from! I guess you could go. Maybe you’ll see where they lived?”

I did go. I didn’t see where they lived because that place does not exist anymore, thanks to World War II and the Soviets. To identify the symbols of Judaism left in a city that was about 37 percent Jewish in 1941, you have to squint at the stone facades of buildings and say, “Yes, I think that might be a Hebrew character.” You have to stare hard, and wonder, “Hmm, is that Yiddish?”

There are statues and plaques here and there. But look as one might, there are few relics of Jewish death. When you visit Khatyn, a memorial to the victims of “the Great War,” you learn about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but little to nothing about what religion they practiced. Nor are there signs marking entire villages of Belarussians, Jews and non-Jews, that became unmarked mass graves. When I would ask my students and co-workers and friends, “What happened to the Jews here?” all most of them would say was, “They left.”

[Read more…]

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Australian children’s author detained and insulted by U.S. officials when arriving in Los Angeles

The Guardian reports: The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.

Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.

She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people – an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.

“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.

“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”

The author attributed the aggressive questioning to border police who had been “turbocharged” by Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban.

Fox said she was questioned over her visa, despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident. She was eventually granted access to the country.

After lodging a complaint over her treatment with the Australian embassy in Washington and the US embassy in Canberra, Fox received an emailed apology from US officials. [Continue reading…]

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‘I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children’ to the U.S., distraught father says after shooting

The Washington Post reports: Family members of the Indian men shot at an Olathe, Kan., bar Wednesday in a possible hate crime said they feared that an atmosphere of fear and xenophobia in the United States means the country is not a safe place for Indians, with one Indian father exhorting parents not to send their children there.

“There is a kind of hysteria spreading that is not good because so many of our beloved children live there,” said Venu Madhav, a relative of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the young software engineer fatally shot Wednesday night. “Such hatred is not good for people.” [Continue reading…]

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Who is Nils Bildt? Swedish ‘national security advisor’ interviewed by Fox News is a mystery to Swedes

The Washington Post reports: In a segment on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” that aired Thursday, host Bill O’Reilly spoke with two Swedish nationals about allegations that Sweden had become a more dangerous place in recent years because of immigration.

One guest, Swedish journalist Anne-Sofie Naslund of the Expressen newspaper, pushed back against O’Reilly’s comments, suggesting that her country was far safer than it was being presented.

Nils Bildt, billed as a “Swedish defense and national security advisor” by Fox News, told O’Reilly that Naslund was “rather incorrect” and that there had been big problems with integrating immigrants into Swedish society. “These things are not being openly and honestly discussed,” Bildt said.

It was only a brief segment, but it quickly caused controversy back in Sweden, where reporters and experts suggested that Bildt was unknown within the Swedish national security world.

The Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported Friday that neither the Swedish armed forces nor the Foreign Ministry had heard of Bildt. Johan Wiktorin, a fellow at the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, took to Twitter to suggest he had not heard of Bildt either. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s silence about two Indians shot in Kansas tells you everything you need to know about Trump’s America

Jamelle Bouie writes: On Wednesday night at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, 51-year-old Adam Purinton pulled out a gun and opened fire on two local engineers from India as well as two patrons who tried to intervene in the situation. One of the Indian men, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, died of his wounds while at a hospital. The other, Alok Madasani, also 32, was injured. One of the bystanders, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who is white, was seriously wounded. According to witnesses, Purinton had been kicked out of the bar after causing a disruption. He later re-entered carrying a weapon. Hurling racial slurs at the two engineers, he began firing. “Get out of my country,” he reportedly said.

If accurate, witnesses and victims have described a hate crime: an attack meant to intimidate an entire community, as much as to harm a particular individual. Given the larger atmosphere of fear and hostility toward immigrants and people perceived as “foreigners,” this shooting has received wide attention from national outlets. But there’s one prominent observer who hasn’t weighed in on the incident: the president of the United States. Donald Trump is quick to comment on everything from leaks in his administration to cable news — and he’s never refrained from condemning terrorist attacks.

Earlier this month, for example, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, a young man attacked a group of soldiers: Wielding a machete, he ran at them shouting in Arabic, “Allahu akbar.” Police shot and subdued the suspect, who was taken into custody with serious injuries. The attempted attack placed terrorism back in the headlines of French politics, renewing fears and concerns around security and immigration. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump used the incident to justify his exclusionary policies toward Muslim immigrants and refugees. “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down,” said Trump on Twitter. “France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.” This was of a piece with statements Trump made in the wake of incidents in Nice, France, Berlin, and other attacks overseas claimed by militant Islamist groups.

There was no such statement about the two men in Kansas. No condemnation of the racial violence that grievously wounded an American and claimed the life of a law-abiding legal resident. But then, Trump is rarely interested in those incidents. Just two days after the attempted attack in France, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. Described by activists as a “white nationalist,” Bissonnette was known locally as a right-wing, anti-immigrant troll inspired by extreme right-wing figures like Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. Where Trump was vocal in the face of the incident in Paris, he was silent following the murders in Quebec. [Continue reading…]

Times of India reports: The wife of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was shot dead in an apparent hate crime by a Navy veteran at a bar in Olathe city, has said that she had her doubts about staying in the US but was assured by her husband that “good things happen in America”.

Speaking at a news conference organised by GPS-maker Garmin where Srinivas worked, Sunayana Dumala said reports of bias in the US make minorities afraid as she questioned “do we belong here”.

She said she now wonders what will the US government do to stop hate crimes against minorities. [Continue reading…]

McClatchy reports: Kansas doesn’t have any hate crime statutes so the FBI was called in to investigate possible civil rights violations.

The shooting set off a wave of fear throughout the local Indian community and even got the attention of India’s government, which has promised to keep tabs on the investigation’s progress.

Kansas lawmakers immediately condemned what they saw as an act of prejudice and “cowardly” xenophobia.

“I am very disturbed by last night’s shooting in Olathe,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “I strongly condemn violence of any kind, especially if it is motivated by prejudice and xenophobia.”

Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican who represents Olathe, called the attack “a senseless tragedy,” praised the “vibrant Indian-American community” and said diverse political and religions views are what make Kansas great. [Continue reading…]

Earlier this month, NBC Miami reported: An ex-convict who posted anti-Islamic rants online pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday for setting fire to a mosque that the Orlando nightclub shooter attended occasionally.

[Joseph] Schreiber, who is Jewish, posted on Facebook last July that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.

Prosecutor Steve Gosnell said Schreiber, 32, confessed to detectives that he set the fire, saying he believed Muslims “are trying to infiltrate our government” and that “the teaching of Islam should be completely, completely illegal.” [Continue reading…]

CNN reports: A small fire that damaged a mosque in suburban Tampa, Florida, has been ruled arson, Hillsborough County fire investigators said Friday.

The fire was reported about 2 a.m. Friday at the Islamic Society of New Tampa, fire department public information officer Corey Dierdorff said.

Firefighters arrived and quickly put out the fire at an entrance to the building, CNN affiliate WFTS reported. Nobody was injured in the blaze.

Authorities have not decided if the fire was a hate crime, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a news conference: “This is no different than the wave of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish community centers and synagogue and bomb threats that have been called in all across the country, including in Tampa over the recent months.” [Continue reading…]

USA Today reports: The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials earlier this month at a Florida airport, according to a family friend.

Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the first wife of Muhammad Ali, were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini.

Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo and wasn’t as lucky. Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”

When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport. [Continue reading…]

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Trump intensifies his attacks on journalists and condemns FBI ‘leakers’

The New York Times reports: President Trump turned the power of the White House against the news media on Friday, escalating his attacks on journalists as “the enemy of the people” and berating members of his own F.B.I. as “leakers” who he said were putting the nation at risk.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump criticized as “fake news” organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him. And in a series of Twitter posts, he assailed the F.B.I. as a dangerously porous agency, condemning unauthorized revelations of classified information from within its ranks and calling for an immediate hunt for leakers.

Hours after the speech, as if to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s determination to punish reporters whose coverage he dislikes, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations from attending his daily briefing, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

Mr. Trump’s barrage against the news media continued well into Friday night. “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after 10 p.m., singling out The Times and CNN. “A great danger to our country.”

The moves underscored the degree to which Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle are eager to use the prerogatives of the presidency to undercut those who scrutinize him, dismissing negative stories as lies and confining press access at the White House to a few chosen news organizations considered friendly. The Trump White House has also vowed new efforts to punish leakers. [Continue reading…]

Trump’s temper tantrums are bound to escalate because while he has the power to do things like selectively exclude journalists from press briefings, he doesn’t have the power to control the coverage he gets on television — the source of validation and visibility on which his career and core identity utterly depend. Indeed, the harder Trump throws his counterpunches, the more they will empower Jake Tapper and others who refuse to be silenced.

 

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Trump’s new national security adviser rejects the anti-Islamic views being promoted by the White House

The New York Times reports: President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser has told his staff that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are perverting their religion, rejecting a key ideological view of other senior Trump advisers and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world.

The adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council on Thursday, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” according to people who were in the meeting.

“This is very much a repudiation of his new boss’s lexicon and worldview,” said William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse.”

“McMaster, like Obama, is someone who was in positions of leadership and thought the United States should not play into the jihadist propaganda that this is a religious war,” Mr. McCants said.

“There is a deep hunger for McMaster’s view in the interagency,” he added, referring to the process by which the State Department, Pentagon and other agencies funnel recommendations through the National Security Council. “The fact that he has made himself the champion of this view makes people realize they have an advocate to express dissenting opinions.”

But Mr. McCants and others cautioned that General McMaster’s views would not necessarily be the final word in a White House where Mr. Trump and several of his top advisers view Islam in deeply xenophobic terms. Some aides, including the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, have warned of a looming existential clash between Islam and the Judeo-Christian world.

Mr. Bannon and Stephen Miller, another senior adviser with anti-Islamic views, have close ties to Mr. Trump and walk-in privileges in the Oval Office. General McMaster, 54, has neither. [Continue reading…]

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For Syrian refugees, there is no going home

The New York Times reports: In the makeshift tent settlements that dot fields and villages in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, Syrian refugees are digging in, pouring concrete floors, installing underground sewerage and electric wires, and starting businesses and families.

What they are not doing is packing up en masse to leave, despite exhortations from Syrian and Lebanese officials, who have declared that safety and security are on the march in neighboring Syria and that it is time for refugees to go home.

But as a new round of peace talks convened Thursday in Geneva, Syrians interviewed at a randomly selected camp in the Bekaa Valley this week offered a unanimous reality check. Their old homes are either destroyed or unsafe, they fear arrest by security forces and they know that despite recent victories by pro-government forces, the fighting and bombing are far from over. They are not going anywhere.

About 1.5 million Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon, making up about a quarter of the population, according to officials and relief groups, and there is a widely held belief in Lebanon that refugees are a burden on the country’s economy and social structure.

Nearly six years into a war that began with a security crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad, countries once eager to see him ousted are now more focused on containing the migrant crisis and defeating the Islamic State, and are willing to consider a settlement that allows Mr. Assad to remain in power.

That leaves many governments invested in vague hopes that such a settlement, however rickety or superficial, will somehow stop the metastasis of the Syrian crisis and ease fears of Islamic State terrorism — often conflated with concerns about ordinary Syrian refugees — that have fueled the rise of right-wing politicians.

And it gives many countries a strong stake in declaring Syria safe for return, even without resolving the political issues that started the conflict, including human rights abuses by the Syrian government.

Mr. Assad, Syrian officials and their allies in Lebanon are reading that mood. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has called for the return of migrants, and Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, has called on global powers to facilitate it.

But in a tent settlement in the village of Souairi, Syrians made clear that neither a fig-leaf deal nor an outright government victory would send many of them home.

Every family interviewed had at least one member who had disappeared after being arrested or forcibly drafted by the government. The refugees said they cared less about whether Mr. Assad stayed or went than about reforms of the security system. Without an end to torture, disappearances and arbitrary arrests, they said, they would remain wary of going back.

Virtually all said that they dreamed of going back, but that it was increasingly a dream for the next generation. [Continue reading…]

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White House blocks CNN, New York Times from press briefing hours after Trump slams media

The Washington Post reports: The White House on Friday barred news outlets — including CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times — from attending an off-camera press briefing held by spokesman Sean Spicer, igniting another controversy concerning the relationship between the Trump administration and the media.

The Wall Street Journal, which did participate in the briefing, said in a statement that it was unaware of the exclusions and “had we known at the time, we would not have participated, and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future.”

The Washington Post did not have a reporter present at the time of the gaggle. [Continue reading…]

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Comey faces pressure as White House fights Russia reports

The Associated Press reports: FBI Director James Comey is again in a familiar spot these days — the middle of political tumult.

As a high-ranking Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, he clashed with the White House over a secret surveillance program. Years later as head of the FBI, he incurred the ire of Hillary Clinton supporters for public statements on an investigation into her emails. Now, Comey is facing new political pressure as White House officials are encouraging him to follow their lead by publicly recounting private FBI conversations in an attempt to dispute reports about connections between the Trump administration and Russia.

It’s an unusual position for a crime-fighting organization with a vaunted reputation for independence and political neutrality. Yet Comey, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who later became deputy attorney general of the United States, is known for an unshaking faith in his own moral compass.

“I’m not detecting a loss of confidence in him, a loss of confidence in him by him,” said retired FBI assistant director Ron Hosko, noting the broad recognition that “these are very tumultuous, polarized, angry, angry times.”

The latest flare up occurred Friday, when White House officials told reporters that chief of staff Reince Priebus had asked top FBI officials to dispute media reports that Donald Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election. The officials said the FBI first raised concerns about New York Times reporting but told Priebus the bureau could not weigh in publicly on the matter. The officials said Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Comey instead gave Priebus the go-ahead to discredit the story publicly, something the FBI has not confirmed.

As the FBI declined to discuss the matter, pressure mounted on Comey to either counter or affirm the White House’s account. Even the Trump administration urged him to come forward, which as of Friday was not happening. [Continue reading…]

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