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Trump praises Putin for holding back in U.S.-Russia spy dispute

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2016

FILE PHOTOS: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin (REUTERS)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Friday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for refraining from retaliation in a dispute over spying and cyber attacks, in another sign that the Republican plans to patch up badly frayed relations with Moscow.

Putin earlier on Friday said he would not hit back for the U.S. expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies by President Barack Obama, at least until Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump wrote on Twitter from Florida, where he is on vacation.

Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of the Russians and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking political groups in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

“We will not expel anyone,” Putin said in a statement, adding that Russia reserved the right to retaliate.

“Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out,” he said.

In a separate development, a code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations of the utility, the officials told the Post, but penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.

Trump has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, but it is unclear whether he would seek to roll back Obama’s actions, which mark a post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyber attacks.” It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said on Thursday, though he said he would meet with intelligence officials next week.

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election. Moscow denies this. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested Trump could reverse them when he takes over from Obama, a Democrat.

A senior U.S. official on Thursday said that Trump could reverse Obama’s executive order, but doing so would be inadvisable.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration “a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers.”

REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION

Should Trump seek to heal the rift with Russia, he might encounter opposition in Congress, including from fellow Republicans.

Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that Russia must face a penalty for the cyber attacks.

“When you attack a country, it’s an act of war,” McCain said in an interview with the Ukrainian TV channel “1+1” while on a visit to Kiev.

“And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy,” added McCain, who has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on foreign cyber threats.

Other senior Republicans, as well as Democrats, have urged a tough response to Moscow.

A total of 96 Russians are expected to leave the United States including expelled diplomats and their families.

Trump will find it very difficult to reverse the expulsions and lift the sanctions given that they were based on a unanimous conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies, said Eugene Rumer, who was the top U.S. intelligence analyst for Russia from 2010 until 2014.

But that might not prevent Trump from improving ties to Russia, said Rumer, now director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a policy institute. “If Mr. Trump wants to start the relationship anew, I don’t think he needs to walk these sanctions back. He can just say this was Obama’s decision,” said Rumer.

As part of the sanctions, Obama told Russia to close two compounds in the United States that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for “intelligence-related purposes.”

Convoys of trucks, buses and black sedans with diplomatic license plates left the countryside vacation retreats outside Washington and New York City without fanfare on Friday.

A former Russian Foreign Ministry employee told Reuters that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by diplomatic staff and their children. The 45-acre complex includes a Georgian-style brick mansion, swimming pool, tennis courts and cottages for embassy staff.

Neighbors said the Russians were a lively bunch, seen water-skiing in summer and known for throwing a large, annual Labor Day party.

The Russian consulate in San Francisco said on its Facebook page, “We hate to have to say goodbye to close to a dozen of our colleagues, our friends.” Among those expelled was the consulate chef.

Obama had promised consequences after U.S. intelligence officials blamed Russia for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election. Officials accused Putin of personally directing the efforts and primarily targeting Democrats.

Washington also put sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that Obama said “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”

(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson, Jonathan Landay and Yara Bayoumy in Washington, Yeganeh Torbati and Joel Schectman in Centreville, Md., David Ingram at the United Nations, Katya Golubkova and Svetlana Reiter in Moscow and Sergei Karazy and Matthias Williams in Kiev; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)

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Trump says he should have left UCLA players in jail in China

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, November 20th, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about his recent trip to Asia in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday upbraided the father of one of the three UCLA basketball players who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, tweeting he “should have left them in jail!”

Trump’s comments on Twitter came the day after LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, downplayed Trump’s involvement in the three athletes’ release.

“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!” the president tweeted.

Hours after the first tweet, Trump posted again on Twitter, saying Chinese officials told the students why they had been released.

“Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!” Trump wrote in the second tweet.

The three players from the University of California, Los Angeles, apologized last week and thanked Trump for helping secure their release by raising the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit.

All three players have been suspended indefinitely from the UCLA basketball team.

But LaVar Ball told the ESPN TV network on Saturday: “Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out,” referring to Trump.

The White House declined to comment on Sunday on the president’s tweet. Attempts to reach LaVar Ball for comment were unsuccessful. Ball has stirred controversy with comments promoting the careers of his three basketball-playing sons, including Los Angeles Lakers rookie and former UCLA star Lonzo Ball.

The Republican president, while finishing up a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia, said he had sought the help of the Chinese president in the case.

“What they did was unfortunate,” Trump told reporters in Manila last week, while describing Xi’s response as “terrific.”

The three players – Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill – admitted to stealing items from three stores during a team trip to China. Before they thanked Trump on Wednesday for intervening with Xi, Trump had wondered whether they would express gratitude to him.

“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Trump’s remarks on Sunday provoked strong reactions on Twitter, including from one Democratic lawmaker who accused the president of personal pettiness.

“The President would have left American students in a foreign jail because their families didn’t lavish sufficient praise on him. How can someone in such a big office be so small?” U.S. Representative Adam Schiff wrote on Twitter.

Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Valerie Volcovici and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney

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Trump brags of his five-nation Asia tour as a “tremendous success”

by UNTV   |   Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2017


In a televised speech, US President Donald Trump bragged his five-nation Asia tour as a tremendous success claiming America is back as a global leader.

“The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over. Other countries treat America with the respect that our country so richly deserves,” said Trump.

Trump returned on Tuesday night, from a tour that took him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The president claimed to have won agreement from countries in the region to exert “maximum pressure” on North Korea in its development of nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

He also mentioned of other accomplishments that resulted from his meeting with ASEAN and other partner countries such as paving the way for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and insisted on “free and reciprocal” trade relations with the Pacific Rim.

“At ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, we made it clear that no one owns the ocean. Freedom of navigation and overflight are critical to the security and prosperity of all nations,” said the US president.

On his trip to the Philippines, Trump vowed to deepen the US ties with the Philippines and preserve the long-standing alliance the following rift from his predecessor, citing the US help during the war in Marawi City.

“During our visit, President Duterte of the Philippines thanked the American people and our armed forces for supporting the recent liberation of Marawi from ISIS,” said Trump. — Reuters

 

 

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Lower House of Parliament approve legislation on media “foreign agents”

by UNTV   |   Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Russia’s Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill that would give Moscow the power to force foreign media to brand the news they provide and also to disclose where they get their funding.

The legislation is part of the fallout from allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the U.S. presidential election last year in favor of Donald Trump.

“They have declared a hybrid war against us and we have to answer to that in an integral way. They remove our flags from embassies. They do everything to humiliate our athletes. They have adopted a law on sanctions under which they try to dismantle our commodities-based complex which is the main currency production unit of the country,” said Gennady Zyuganov, a Communist party leader.

Under the 2012 law, “foreign agents” have to include in any information they publish or broadcast to Russian audiences a mention of their “foreign agent” designation.

They also have to apply for inclusion in a government register, submit regular reports on their sources of funding, on their objectives, on how they spend their money, and who their managers are.

They can be subject to spot checks by the authorities to make sure they comply with the rules, according to the 2012 law.

“We were forced to adopt these change [to the law]. This is not a directly applicable law. It gives an opportunity and a right to the ministry of justice of Russian Federation – after the law comes into force – to register the media as foreign agents. This norm is now applicable only and exclusively to the media of the United States which work in the media space of the Russian Federation. We are not talking about any other countries,” said Yevgeny Revenko, a member of parliament.

Putin has been fiercely critical of U.S. measures towards Russian media, but he has not given wholehearted support to the draft legislation, saying at the weekend it “might be a little too harsh”. — Reuters

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