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Trump’s Inner Circle Sought Russian ‘Dirt’ on Clinton

Dirty business. The New York Times landed a bombshell in the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy investigation over the weekend. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign. Trump Jr. said the attorney’s comments were “vague, ambiguous and made no sense.” Present at the meeting were Trump. Jr., First Son-in-Law (to be) Jared Kushner, then-campaign chief Paul Manafort and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Here clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting. Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the F.B.I., The times reported. Trump Jr. said his father “knew nothing of the meeting or these events.” Federal prosecutors and congressional investigators are trying to determine whether the Trump campaign encouraged Russian efforts to meddle in the election. The meeting at Trump Tower—on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination—is the first confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle and a Russian. Trump Jr. initially said the meeting was mostly about adoptions of Russian infants.

Blind spot. Meanwhile, Trump Sr.’s on-again-off-again bromance with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has cooled a bit since the couple’s two-hour Hamburg diplo-tryst. After effectively dismissing our own intelligence community’s position that Russia attempted to sway the presidential election, Trump said he wanted to make nice with Russia and perhaps set up a cybersecurity unit that would prevent future election hacking. Then, he didn’t. In a late Sunday night tweet, Trump threw cold water on the idea—while praising a Russian-U.S.-brokered ceasefire in Syria. Both Democrats and Republicans had already rebuked Trump on the cyber-security plan, as well as his relationship with Putin. “When it comes to Russia, he’s got a blind spot,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Inside enrichment. Some Republican representatives and senators are boosting their own finances with investments in health stocks as they debate Trumpcare, a bill that could ruin the finances of lower-income people in our country. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) bought between $50,000 to $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock. An account owned by the wife of Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) bought UnitedHealth stock worth as much as $30,000. Conaway, a GOP deputy whip in the House, has a long history of investing in firms connected to his official duties. The STOCK Act was supposed to curb these abuses, but it has been watered down, and parts of it have been repealed.

American isolationism. European heads of state have stopped acting nice about their divisions with Trump. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Europe must “take our fate into our own hands.” The Group of 20 summit meeting was held in Hamburg. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord has been widely condemned.

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How The Mainstream Media Is Helping Russia

Once again, the liberal, mainstream media has lost its collective mind over the mess swirling around President Trump in regard to the firing of former FBI director, Jim Comey.

It’s sad to see the lack of any attempt by the mainstream media to simply do its job, which is to merely report the facts, without any spin or bias.

The only ones, who are winning in this false debate are the Russians. As I wrote in my column two months ago, Russia has released a psychological operations campaign against our country and it is having its desired effect—to destabilize our country. Psy-ops are another form of warfare that causes a nation’s people to doubt the trustworthiness of its various institutions: political, corporate, religious, etc.

Once a nation begins to distrust its leadership, total collapse can’t be far off.

While we are debating Comey’s firing and Russia’s so-called meddling in our elections, does anyone realize that Russian president Vladimir Putin is asserting extraterritorial authority in his attempt to make legal claims of ownership to vast portions of the North Atlantic (off the coast of Alaska) and the Arctic, even though this area has historically been considered international waters.

This part of the North Atlantic has untold oil and gas resources and would be an extremely profitable shipping route for global business. Russia’s Northern Fleet is attempting to secure the northern sea route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

So, please allow me to deconstruct the phony arguments being promulgated by all the radical liberals from mainstream media, the talking heads and wayward politicians.

The President of the United States has the absolute power and authority to hire and fire the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to an amendment to the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title VI, Section 1101. Prior to this amendment, the director was nominated by the U.S. Attorney General.

I find it quite ironic that even Comey acknowledged that the president had the authority to fire him. In a letter sent to FBI employees the day after his firing, Comey said, “…I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all…”

The first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, served from the founding of the agency in 1924 to 1972 with unchallenged power.

Former President Barack Obama appointed Comey to head the bureau in 2013 for a statutory term of ten years, so Comey had six years left on his term. The ten-year term was established in the aftermath of Watergate as a part of the Crime Control Act of 1976.

Does anyone really believe that if Trump had fired Comey immediately after he was sworn in, the mainstream media and their liberal sycophants would not have tied it to Russia? So, I have absolutely no issue with Trump’s actions; but I do have a major problem with his lack of a communications strategy. The public fallout over the Comey issue should have been easily anticipated and an appropriate communications plan should have already been in place.

Another argument being pushed by Democrats is that we are now facing a “constitutional crisis” along the lines of Watergate. Are you kidding me?

Can somebody please tell me how in the hell can we have a constitutional crisis when the president used the very power conferred to him by the very U.S. Congress that is making the bogus charge?

There is a big difference between Trump’s actions, the firing of Comey, and his verbiage regarding the firing.

The president was well within his rights to fire Comey with or without cause as established above. The communications strategy behind his act has been horrendous, but the mainstream media is trying to conflate the two.

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has stated emphatically that there has been no evidence of Trump or his campaign colluding with the Russians about anything. There may be investigations going on that we are not aware of and if there is, we shouldn’t know.

The mainstream media knows full well that the controversy surrounding the Comey firing is ALL political, not legal. Optically and politically, there was never going to be a good time to fire Comey.

There is absolutely no question that there is no legal issue with Trump’s actions and everyone knows it, but for the mainstream media to create this mass hysteria with the constant invoking of “Watergate” is simply another example of how the mainstream media has proven, once, again that it is totally incapable of being an objective reporter of the facts.

And to my weak-kneed, spineless Republicans: When you caved to the silly demands of the Democrats to appoint a special prosecutor, you basically handed them the House and Senate in 2018, and quite possibly the White House in 2020.

Is that really what your constituents sent you to Washington to do? I don’t think so.

Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party. BAFBF focuses on the Black entrepreneur. For more information about BAFBF, visit www.bafbf.org. You can follow Raynard on Twitter @Raynard1223.

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Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Washington reacts to Trump’s disclosure of classified information

The White House and lawmakers reacted May 15 to Washington Post revelations that President Trump disclosed classified information during a meeting with Russian officials.

[Lawmakers express shock and concern about Trump disclosure of classified information]

The revelation comes as the president faces rising legal and political pressure on multiple Russia-related fronts. Last week, he fired FBI Director James B. Comey in the midst of a bureau investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Trump’s subsequent admission that his decision was driven by “this Russia thing” was seen by critics as attempted obstruction of justice.

One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

McMaster reiterated his statement in a subsequent appearance at the White House on Monday and described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.

McMaster: Trump 'did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known'

In their statements, White House officials emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods, rather than addressing whether he had disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources.

The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment.

But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.

[On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds]

“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

What Trump’s classified revelations to Russian officials mean for allies

Washington Post national security reporter Greg Miller explains what President Trump’s potential disclosures to Russian officials means going forward. (The Washington Post)

The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

“Everyone knows this stream is very sensitive, and the idea of sharing it at this level of granularity with the Russians is troubling,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.

[Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment in Moscow]

Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.

“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said.

A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”

At a more fundamental level, the information wasn’t the United States’ to provide to others. Under the rules of espionage, governments — and even individual agencies — are given significant control over whether and how the information they gather is disseminated, even after it has been shared. Violating that practice undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.

The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.

Trump also described measures the United States has taken or is contemplating to counter the threat, including military operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as other steps to tighten security, officials said.

The officials would not discuss details of those measures, but the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed that it is considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices from carry-on bags on flights between Europe and the United States. The United States and Britain imposed a similar ban in March affecting travelers passing through airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries.

Trump cast the countermeasures in wistful terms. “Can you believe the world we live in today?” he said, according to one official. “Isn’t it crazy?”

Lavrov and Kislyak were also accompanied by aides.

A Russian photographer took photos of part of the session that were released by the Russian state-owned Tass news agency. No U.S. news organization was allowed to attend any part of the meeting.

Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests View Graphic

Senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout. Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.

One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.

White House officials defended Trump. “This story is false,” said Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy. “The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

But officials could not explain why staff members nevertheless felt it necessary to alert the CIA and the NSA.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would rather comment on the revelations in the Post story after “I know a little bit more about it,” but added: “Obviously, they are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening. And the shame of it is, there’s a really good national security team in place.”

Corker also said, “The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think makes — it creates a worrisome environment.”

Trump has repeatedly gone off-script in his dealings with high-ranking foreign officials, most notably in his contentious introductory conversation with the Australian prime minister earlier this year. He has also faced criticism for seemingly lax attention to security at his Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago, where he appeared to field preliminary reports of a North Korea missile launch in full view of casual diners.

U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points — and often ignores those.

“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

Lavrov’s reaction to the Trump disclosures was muted, officials said, calling for the United States to work more closely with Moscow on fighting terrorism.

Kislyak has figured prominently in damaging stories about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign just 24 days into the job over his contacts with Kislyak and his misleading statements about them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from matters related to the FBI’s Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had met and spoke with Kislyak, despite denying any contact with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing.

“I’m sure Kislyak was able to fire off a good cable back to the Kremlin with all the details” he gleaned from Trump, said the former U.S. official who handled intelligence on Russia.

The White House readout of the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak made no mention of the discussion of a terrorist threat.

“Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria,” the summary said. The president also “raised Ukraine” and “emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia.”

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