Trump claims Obama wiretapped him during campaign; Obama refutes it

UNTV News   •   March 5, 2017   •   2363

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets President-elect Donald Trump at inauguration ceremonies swearing in Trump as president on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump accused predecessor Barack Obama on Saturday of wiretapping him during the late stages of the 2016 election campaign, but offered no evidence for an allegation which an Obama spokesman said was “simply false”.

Trump made the accusation in a series of early morning tweets just weeks into his administration and amid rising scrutiny of his campaign’s ties to Russia.

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!,” Trump wrote in one tweet. “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

The remarkable tussle between the current and former presidents just 45 days since the handover of power is the latest twist in a controversy over ties between Trump associates and Russia that has dogged the early days of his presidency.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic emails during the election campaign as part of an effort to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Trump has accused officials in Obama’s administration of trying to discredit him with questions about Russia contacts.

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said it had been a “cardinal rule” of the Obama administration that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice.

“Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” Lewis said in a statement.

The statement did not address the possibility that a wiretap of the Trump campaign could have been ordered by Justice Department officials.

Trump said the alleged wiretapping took place in his Trump Tower office and apartment building in New York, but there was “nothing found.” The White House did not respond to a request to elaborate on Trump’s accusations.

AIDES CAUGHT BY SURPRISE

Trump was spending the weekend at his Florida seaside resort, Mar-a-Lago. He was scheduled to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly before a dinner with officials also including adviser Steve Bannon and White House Counsel Don McGahn, the White House said.

Amid a political storm, Sessions on Thursday announced he would stay out of any probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election after it emerged he met last year with Russia’s ambassador, although he maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose the meeting.

A Trump spokeswoman said the president spent part of Saturday “having meetings, making phone calls and hitting balls” at his golf course in West Palm Beach.

His supporters, meanwhile, staged small rallies in at least 28 of the country’s 50 states, most of which passed off peacefully. But there were clashes in the famously left-leaning city of Berkeley, California, where protesters from both sides hit each other over the head with wooden sticks.

Trump’s tweets caught his aides by surprise, with one saying it was unclear what the president was referring to.

Members of Congress said Trump’s accusations require investigation or explanation.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican, described the allegations as serious and said the public deserved more information. He said in a statement it was possible that Trump had been illegally tapped, but, if so, the president should explain what sort of tap it was and how he knew about it.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s assertion a “spectacularly reckless allegation”.

“If there is something bad or sick going on, it is the willingness of the nation’s chief executive to make the most outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them,” Schiff said in a statement.

Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes strongly denied Trump’s allegations: “No president can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you,” Rhodes wrote on Twitter.

RUSSIA SANCTIONS

Trump’s administration has come under pressure from Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional investigations into contacts between some members of his campaign team and Russian officials during his campaign.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had no knowledge of any wiretapping but was “very worried” about the suggestion Obama had acted illegally and would also be concerned “if in fact the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity.”

Several other Republicans again urged an investigation into a series of intelligence-related leaks.

Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and ordered Russian diplomats to leave the United States in December over the country’s involvement in hacking political parties in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

Under U.S. law, a federal court would have to have found probable cause that the target of the surveillance is an “agent of a foreign power” in order to approve a warrant authorizing electronic surveillance of Trump Tower.

Several conservative news outlets and commentators have made allegations in recent days about Trump being wiretapped during the campaign, without offering any evidence.

Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office.

Flynn had promised Vice President Mike Pence he had not discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by U.S. officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador. — By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

(Additional reporting by Melissa Fares in West Palm Beach, Florida, Richard Cowan and Steve Holland in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Richard Cowan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Mary Milliken)

Congressional report cites ‘overwhelming’ evidence against Trump

UNTV News   •   December 4, 2019

US President Donald Trump leaves 10 Downing Street during the NATO Summit in London on Tuesday, 3 Dec. 2019. EFE-EPA/WILL OLIVER

WASHINGTON — The Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives said Tuesday that its impeachment probe of President Donald Trump uncovered “overwhelming” evidence that the occupant of the White House has engaged in misconduct.

“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” the Democratic-led panel said in its 300-page report.

The members of the committee, including Trump’s Republican allies, are due to vote Tuesday evening on whether to accept the report and forward it to the House Judiciary Committee as the basis for drafting articles of impeachment against the president.

Trump, according to the document, withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into launching an investigation of 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

That investigation – which never materialized – would have focused on Hunter Biden’s acceptance of a position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, when his father was coordinating US policy toward Kiev as vice president under Barack Obama.

The intelligence committee report describes a “drastic” increase in pressure on Ukraine during the period between the July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and the public revelations about that conversation due to the whistle-blower complaint filed by a US government official.

“In the weeks following the July 25 call, the President’s hand-picked representatives increased the President’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian government officials – in person, over the phone, and by text message – to secure a public announcement of the investigations beneficial to President Trump’s re-election campaign,” according to the document.

“To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary,” the report says.

Trump denies that delaying the nearly $400 million in eventually disbursed aid to Ukraine or his reluctance to invite Zelensky to the White House had anything to do with a desire that Kiev announce an an investigation of the Bidens.

But the report concludes that Trump did seek to extract such a commitment from Zelensky and that in so doing, he “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

The text goes on to accuse the president of orchestrating an “unprecedented” effort to obstruct the impeachment probe.

Within minutes of the report’s publication, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the document “reflects nothing more than their (Democrats) frustrations” and “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.” EPA-EFE

Trump confirms US Navy secretary forced out over SEAL case

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2019

A handout file photo made available by the US Navy shows US Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer addressing the crew of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) via the ship’s 1MC during a visit to the ship at sea near Newport News, Virginia, USA, 27 October 2019 (issued 25 November 2019).

WASHINGTON – The United States president confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon has asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his management of the case of a Navy SEAL who was demoted for misconduct.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had requested Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.”

In July, Gallagher was convicted for illegally posing next to the body of the dead jihadist for photographs during his 2017 deployment in Iraq, and acquitted him of a murder charge for allegedly killing an injured captive.

The case has attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump, who last week expressed his support for Gallagher and on Sunday night confirmed Spencer had been “terminated.”

“Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday night, adding “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”

The Trident pin is the badge that marks membership to the elite Navy SEALs.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Spencer and Naval Special Warfare Commander Rear Admiral Collin Green had threatened to resign if the Navy complied with Trump’s request to revoke Gallagher’s demotion, although Spencer denied the news.

Trump said Sunday he “was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy.”

“He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank,” Trump added.

In its statement, the Pentagon said that Esper spoke with the “commander in Chief” on Friday about the Gallagher case and found out that Spencer had privately proposed to the White House, contrary to his public position, to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with the Trident pin.

The Department of Defense spokesman added that recently during a conversation between the two, Spencer never informed Esper of his private proposal to the White House.

In the statement, Esper said he is “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official.”

“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said.

Following recent events, Esper has also ordered that Gallagher retain his Trident pin.

Trump said that “Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy.” EFE-EPA

ssa /tw

US says it’s ready to deter N Korea’s ‘bad behavior’ amid Pyongyang pressure

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

Manila – The United States Defense Secretary said Tuesday that Washington was prepared to deter North Korea’s “bad behavior,” after Pyongyang announced it was not interested in holding more “fruitless” summits with his country.

Mark Esper, on his first official visit to the Philippines, made the announcement during a press conference in Manila after North Korea rejected Washington’s request to close the Sunday deal US President Donald Trump offered on Twitter.

Esper said he did not want to make forecasts about the future of the negotiations so far and prefers to move “one step at a time.” However, he warned Pyongyang and said the US is “prepared to deter North Korea’s bad behavior and if that fails we’re prepared to fight tonight.”

Kim Kye-gwan, an important regime figure and ex-North Korean vice-foreign minister, said Monday that there had hardly been improvements in the countries’ bilateral relations after three summits between his leader Kim Jong-un and Trump and urged Washington to end its “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

North Korea issued Tuesday a third statement in 24 hours, urging the US to stop what it called a hostile policy and proposed concessions to resume denuclearization talks.

The latest statement, released by state-owned KCNA agency and signed by the country’s chief negotiator in the disarmament negotiations, Kim Myong-gil, said talks were “impossible” if Washington “makes a bold decision to drop the hostile policy” against the regime.

Kim referred to a recent US offer to hold a fresh work meeting in December, which took place through Sweden – a country that has actively mediated between them for years.

The statement said Sweden no longer needed to work for the talks between the US and North Korea, given that the slow progress was “not for lack of communication channel or mediator.”

The recent statements by the regime calling for more concessions come after South Korea and the US announced the cancellation of imminent joint military drills, which the North considers a rehearsal to invade its territory.

The cancellation aims to give impetus to the denuclearization process, which has been blocked since the failed February summit in Hanoi, where Washington considered Pyongyang’s offer to dismantle its nuclear assets insufficient and refused to lift economic sanctions.

Both sides held a working-level meeting in October in Stockholm but it ended with North Korea accusing Washington of offering nothing new and holding onto its “hostile policy.”

Pyongyang has said the White House has until year’s end to consider its proposals and experts believe the regime could conduct new intermediate-range ballistic-missiles weapons tests from January if no progress is made.

After visiting South Korea and Thailand, Esper arrived Monday night in the Philippines and met Filipino counterpart Delfin Lorenzana at Camp Aguinaldo military base, where they discussed the situation in the South China Sea and revision of a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951.

Esper also visited the Manila American Cemetery, where he paid respects to the US soldiers who died during the World War II in the Philippines.

The US secretary of defense is set to visit Vietnam, where he will conclude his Asia tour. EFE-EPA

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