In spite of tweet, lawyer says Trump not under investigation

President Donald Trump and his son Barron Trump walk to Marine One across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 17, 2017, en route to Camp David in Maryland. (AP)
Updated 19 June 2017
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In spite of tweet, lawyer says Trump not under investigation

WASHINGTON: A member of the president’s outside legal team says Donald Trump is not under federal investigation, days after Trump appeared to confirm he was with a tweet about being the target of a “witch hunt.”
Appearing on a series of morning news programs, attorney Jay Sekulow repeatedly stressed Sunday that “the president has not been and is not under investigation.” He said a Friday tweet from Trump was specifically directed at a story in The Washington Post about the expanding probe into Russia’s election meddling.
As evidence, Sekulow said that Trump has not been notified of any investigation. He also cited the testimony from former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate intelligence committee, in which Comey said he had told Trump he was not under investigation in the months leading up to his May 9 firing.
Asked about the possibility that an investigation has since developed and the president just does not know, Sekulow said: “I can’t read people’s minds, but I can tell you this, we have not been notified that there’s an investigation to the president of the United States. So that — nothing has changed in that regard since James Comey’s testimony.”
The Post reported last week that Robert Mueller — the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election — was looking into whether Trump obstructed justice. Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has expansive powers to probe any matters that develop from his initial investigation.
The president wrote on Twitter Friday: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”
“Witch hunt” has become Trump’s preferred phrase to dismiss the probe into Russian election interference. The message apparently referred to Rosenstein, whose role leading the federal investigation has become increasingly complicated. The White House used a memo he wrote to justify Trump’s decision to fire Comey, but Trump’s firing of the FBI director may now be part of the probe.
The president has denied that he has any nefarious ties to Russia and has also disputed that he’s attempted to block the investigation into his campaign’s possible role in Russia’s election-related hacking.
The president has directed some of his frustration at Rosenstein and Mueller. Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday that he does not expect Trump to seek to fire them.
“I don’t believe it’s going to happen,” said Rubio on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation.”
Trump is under pressure to reveal whether he has any tape recordings of private conversations with Comey. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said that the panel — overseeing one of several congressional investigations — is looking forward to getting a response from the White House on whether recordings exist.
The president suggested on Twitter that he may have taped those conversations. Schiff said he wants the White House to acknowledge the tapes or make clear there are no tapes and “it was an idle threat.”
The committee sent a bipartisan letter this month to White House counsel Don McGahn seeking an answer by this Friday. It also sent a letter to Comey asking for any notes or memos. Schiff said if the panel can’t get an answer then he believes a subpoena will be needed.
Schiff also said he believes recent congressional testimony from Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions points to signs of possible obstruction by Trump that warrant further investigation. Schiff cited the fact that the president at one meeting “cleared the room” of advisers and asked to speak to Comey alone. Comey testified to Congress that Trump then asked him to back off the investigation into his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
“That signifies this president knew all too well that it was inappropriate,” Schiff said.
And Senate intelligence committee member Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, stressed that the probe will likely last for a long time. King said the “collusion, the cooperation aspect of the investigation is not over.” He added: “A lot of people have said, ‘When do you think you’ll be done?’ Maybe the end of the year. This is a very complex matter, involving thousands of pages of intelligence documents, lots of witnesses. There’s a lot of information yet to go.”
While aides have advised Trump to stay off Twitter, the president continued to weigh in Sunday as he spent the weekend at Camp David, the government-owned presidential retreat in Maryland.
In a two-part tweet posted before 7 a.m., Trump wrote: “The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt.”
Sekulow appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday” on Fox. Rubio spoke on NBC, CNN and CBS. Schiff spoke on ABC’s “This Week“and King spoke on NBC.


Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

Afghan children fill canisters with water from a water pump outside their temporary homes on the outskirts of Jalalabad. Files/AFP
Updated 27 May 2018
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Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

  • Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought
  • More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces

KABUL: Rain and snow are as important as peace for Afghanistan. But the landlocked and mountainous country this year had its lowest rainfall for years, causing widespread drought and leaving 2 million people facing food shortages.
Livestock in many areas have died, and some farmers have been forced to send their herds for pasture to neighboring Turkmenistan.
Thousands of people have left their homes already due to water shortages, with fears that the situation will worsen in autumn, Afghan and UN officials say.
Twenty of the country’s 34 provinces, including the northern region — Afghanistan’s food basket — have been badly affected, they said.
The aid-reliant Afghan government has begun delivering aid to affected areas. But assistance will be needed for months to come. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said rapid action was needed to enable delivery of food and water. More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces, it said.
“Drought is gripping large parts of Afghanistan, with more than 2 million people expected to become severely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance for survival,” OCHA said.
“A quick, comprehensive response will enable the delivery of food and water to the rural villages and help to avoid the migration of families to cities where they risk losing all of their few possessions, and where they lack shelter and access to health facilities and schools for their children,” it said.
Water points and fountains across the country have dried up, and the lack of rain and snow melt has made rivers run low or dry up, the organization said.
About 1.5 million goats and sheep in northeast regions are struggling to find food and more than half of the 1,000 villages in the province are suffering from lack of water.
Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought, limiting communities’ access to markets.
In Helmand, village elders reportedly need to obtain special approval from the armed groups to access markets in areas under government control.
In Uruzgan province, people often cannot access the main market in Tirinkot due to fighting and insecurity on the roads to the provincial capital. Following a temporary closure of the road to neighboring Kandahar province in April due to fighting, wheat prices went up by 50 percent in the city, and the price for fresh produce quadrupled within days.
Engineer Mohammed Sediq Hassani, chief of planning in the government’s Disaster Management Department, said the drought has directly and indirectly taken the lives of dozens of people.

“The impact of drought in terms of taking lives is intangible and slow. An indirect impact can be the recent floods, which claimed the lives of 73 people. Floods happen when there is a drought because of the change of the climate,” he told Arab News.