Trump distances himself from indicted former aides

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 30, 2017. (AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM)
Updated 31 October 2017
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Trump distances himself from indicted former aides

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump moved quickly Monday to distance himself and the White House from the indictment of his former campaign chairman and another aide, saying Paul Manafort’s alleged misdeeds occurred “years ago” and insisting there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Responding to news that two former senior campaign aides were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating interactions between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, the president tried to shift the focus elsewhere, asking on Twitter why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats aren’t the focus of the probe.
Trump’s tweet: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????“
He tacked on this addendum: .”...Also, there is NO COLLUSION!“
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the indictments have “nothing to do with the president,” because “most” of the alleged crimes occurred before they worked Trump.
Sanders also dismissed former foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous — who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI — as a “volunteer” on the Trump campaign and said he served on a committee that only met once. Mueller’s office announced Monday that Papadopolous pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI agents about the timing and detail of his attempts to line up meetings between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign.
Sanders said Papadopolous’ actions were not sanctioned by the campaign.
The three men were the first to be charged by Mueller.
Manafort and Rick Gates surrendered to federal authorities Monday to face felony charges of conspiracy against the United States, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and several other financial counts involving tens of millions of dollars routed through offshore accounts. They pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday afternoon.
The indictment against Manafort and Gates alleges criminal activity through “at least 2016,” when the presidential campaign was in full swing.
White House allies privately expressed relief that the charges against Manafort and Gates did not specifically pertain to Russia or the Trump administration.
Over the weekend, Trump had taken to Twitter to allege that the “facts are pouring out” about links to Russia by Clinton, his former presidential opponent.
“DO SOMETHING!” Trump urged in one of five tweets on Saturday.
Trump and the White House insist there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia. Both have pointed a finger at Clinton and have suggested that the real story of collusion with Russia is the sale of uranium to Moscow when Clinton was secretary of state.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered with the election to benefit Trump, a finding that Trump has not fully accepted. Mueller and Congress are looking into allegations of ties between Trump associates and Russia.
In his weekend tweets, Trump referenced the fact that Clinton’s presidential campaign helped fund political research into Trump that ultimately produced a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia. He also pointed to the uranium sale, the tens of thousands of emails from Clinton’s time at the State Department that she later deleted from a private email server, and the decision by then-FBI Director Jim Comey to not bring criminal charges against Clinton for possible mishandling of classified information.
“Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia ‘collusion,’ which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s are now fighting back like never before,” Trump says across several tweets. “There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!“
Trump also suggested that Russia’s re-emergence into the conversation is no accident, tweeting that “All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!“
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers are scheduled to release a tax cut bill that is being pushed by the GOP lawmakers and Trump.


Days from summit, May takes Brexit battle to Brussels

Updated 1 min 46 sec ago
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Days from summit, May takes Brexit battle to Brussels

  • May hopes to wring out of Brussels a Brexit arrangement that she can sell to her Parliament
  • May and Juncker were expected to cover fishing rights and the movement of goods after Brexit, as well as the duration of the transition period and the British territory of Gibraltar

BRUSSELS: Theresa May briefly escaped the Westminster bear pit to bring her Brexit battle to Brussels on Wednesday, just four days before the divorce deal is to be signed.

After enduring another parliamentary grilling at prime minister’s questions in London, the British leader crossed the Channel and met EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The pair shook hands and posed briefly for photographers before heading into talks in the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters for what an EU spokesman had earlier called “afternoon tea.” 

Having seen off — at least for now —  a potential leadership challenge by hard-line Brexiteers in her own party, she hopes to wring out of Brussels a Brexit arrangement that she can sell to her Parliament.

The withdrawal treaty itself is all but final, and preparations are under way for a summit on Sunday to sign it, but there remains the matter of a parallel 20-page political declaration on future EU-UK ties.

European diplomats and EU officials have been in intense talks on the declaration this week. One of them told AFP that they now expect to publish it on Thursday morning, after May’s afternoon tea with Juncker.

Neither side has much wiggle room left to polish the text, but May must show that she has left nothing on the table if she is to convince British members of parliament to ratify the deal in the coming weeks.

May and Juncker were expected to cover fishing rights and the movement of goods after Brexit, as well as the duration of the transition period and the British territory of Gibraltar, which lies on an outcrop off Spain.

May faces pressure from her Northern Irish allies, who oppose a deal they say weakens British sovereignty in their province, and from Spain, which warned it might oppose the accord over Gibraltar.

Madrid wants a veto over applying any agreement on post-transition relations to Gibraltar, but May told MPs on Wednesday that Britain “will not exclude Gibraltar from our negotiations on the future relationship.”

There is frustration among some EU countries at Spain trying to play hardball so late in the game.

“We are following the latest developments with growing concern and incomprehension —  among the EU27 our Spanish friends are all alone on this,” an EU diplomat told AFP.

Two of May’s top ministers quit last week, including her Brexit secretary, while MPs from all parties came out against it — increasing the chances that Britain will crash out of the Union on March 29 without an agreement.

A minister who opposed Brexit and who returned to May’s cabinet in a reshuffle triggered by the resignations, tried to rule out this economically disruptive scenario.

“It is my view that the parliament, the House of Commons, will stop no deal ... There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons to allow that to take place,” Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told BBC radio.

The withdrawal deal covers Britain’s financial settlement, expatriate citizens’ rights, contingency plans to keep open the Irish border and the terms of a post-Brexit transition.

Officials are now racing to agree the accompanying outline statement on the future trading and security relationship for after Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union in March.

Opposition to the agreement is also building in the pro-Brexit camp.

On Monday, MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) abstained on three budget votes in the Commons and voted against a fourth, despite their deal to back the government on finance matters.

Anti-Europe Conservatives have also savaged the divorce deal, which they say keeps Britain too close to the EU.

Rebels led by MP Jacob Rees-Mogg failed in their attempt to force an immediate confidence vote in May’s leadership, but warned they would keep trying.

The withdrawal agreement sets out plans for a 21-month transition after Brexit, in which Britain and the EU want to turn their outline agreement on the future relationship into a full trade deal.