Category Archives: current-topic-views
The Ambani’s bash in town last night was a star-studded affair. Celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Sachin Tendulkar and others made their presence felt at the party.
After Delhi’s infamous toxic air disrupted the 3rd test match between India and Sri Lanka in Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Sunday, Head Coach of Sri Lanka, Nic Pothas said that the situation was abnormal in Delhi and he hopes that umpires and referees will file a report which will be taken into consideration by International Cricket Council (ICC). The coach further stated that the test match came to a halt because he wanted to have clarity on the safety of his players.
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on Sunday on the credibility of his own FBI, responding to revelations that an FBI agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election meddling because of anti-Trump text messages.
Trump, two days after his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, again denied that he directed FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
The Republican president offered a running Twitter commentary Sunday amid renewed focus on Mueller’s probe and Flynn’s decision to cooperate with the investigation as part of his plea agreement. Democrats said the developments suggested growing evidence of coordination between Trump’s circle and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel is beginning to see “the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice” against Trump.
“I think we see this in indictments … and some of the comments that are being made. I see this in the hyperfrenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets,” Feinstein said. “And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice.”
In a series of tweets, Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Comey, whom Trump fired in May, the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” He vowed to “bring it back to greatness.” The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI Director Chris Wray “needs to clean house.”
After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputatio… https://t.co/gdbdgXZ57e
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1512306047000
The president seized on reports that a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from Mueller’s team last summer after the discovery of an exchange of text messages that were viewed as potentially anti-Trump. The agent, Peter Strzok, had also worked on the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said Mueller removed Strzok from the team “immediately upon learning of the allegations.” He would not elaborate on the nature of the accusations. The person who discussed the matter with The Associated Press was not authorized to speak about it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump tweeted Sunday: “Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI ‘agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.’ Led Clinton Email probe.” In a separate tweet, he wrote: “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!”
Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1512304967000
Strzok’s removal almost certainly reflected a desire to insulate the investigators from any claims of political bias or favoritism. Trump and many of his supporters have at times sought to discredit the integrity of the investigation, in part by claiming a close relationship between Mueller and Comey and by pointing to political contributions to Democrats made by some lawyers on the team.
Following the tweets, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned the president to tread cautiously. “You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this,” Graham said.
Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and Strzok’s background in counterintelligence would have been seen as particularly valuable for a secretive FBI probe examining foreign contacts.
Mueller’s investigation has so far netted charges against four people, with the most recent criminal case brought Friday when Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he “had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
The tweet suggested that Trump was aware when the White House dismissed Flynn on Feb. 13 that he had lied to the FBI, which had interviewed him weeks earlier. Comey has said Trump the following day brought up the Flynn investigation in private at the White House and told him he hoped he could “let this go.”
Amid questions raised by the tweet, Trump associates tried to put distance Saturday evening between the president himself and the tweet. One person familiar with the situation said the tweet was actually crafted by John Dowd, one of the president’s personal attorneys. Dowd declined to comment when reached by the AP on Saturday night.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said given that Mueller could have charged Flynn with more crimes but instead limited it to just one offense, “Bob Mueller must have concluded that he was getting a lot of value in terms of Gen. Flynn’s cooperation.”
“I do believe he will incriminate others in the administration. Otherwise, there was no reason for Bob Mueller to give Mike Flynn this kind of deal,” Schiff said, adding, “Whether that will ultimately lead to the president, I simply don’t know.”
Feinstein spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Graham spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and Schiff spoke on ABC’s “This Week.”
The annual US-South Korean drill, called Vigilant Ace, will run until Friday, with six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to be deployed among the more than 230 aircraft taking part. The exercises have been condemned as a provocation by the isolated North.
F-35 fighters will also join the drill, which will also include the largest number of 5th generation fighters to take part, according to a South Korea-based US Air Force spokesman.
Around 12,000 US service members, including from the Marines and Navy, will join South Korean troops. Aircraft taking part will be flown from eight US and South Korean military installations.
South Korean media reports said B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week. The US Air Force spokesman could not confirm the reports.
The joint exercise is designed to enhance readiness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, the US military had said before the drills began.
The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.
Pyongyang blamed US President Donald Trump for raising tensions and warned at the weekend the Vigilant Ace exercise was pushing tensions on the Korean peninsula towards “a flare-up”, according to North Korean state media.
North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called Trump “insane” on Sunday and said the drill would “push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war”.
The North’s KCNA state news agency, citing a foreign ministry spokesman, also said on Saturday the Trump administration was “begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula”.
North Korea regularly uses its state media to threaten the United States and its allies.
The leftist leader offered few specifics about the currency launch or how the struggling OPEC member would pull off such a feat, but he declared to cheers that “the 21st century has arrived!”
The petro, he said, would help Venezuela “advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade.”
Opposition leaders derided the announcement, which they said needed congressional approval, and some cast doubt on whether the digital currency would ever see the light of day in the midst of turmoil. The real currency, the bolivar, is in freefall, and the country is sorely lacking in basic needs like food and medicine.
Still, the announcement highlights how sanctions enacted this year by US President Donald Trump‘s administration are hurting Venezuela’s ability to move money through international banks.
Washington has levied sanctions against Venezuelan officials, PDVSA executives and the country’s debt issuance.
Sources say compliance departments are scrutinizing transactions linked to Venezuela, which has slowed some bond payments and complicated certain oil exports.
Maduro’s pivot away from the US dollar comes after the recent spectacular rise of bitcoin BTC=BTSP, which has been fueled by signs that the digital currency is slowly gaining traction in the mainstream investment world.
The announcement bewildered some followers of cryptocurrencies, which typically are not backed by any government or central banks. Ironically, Venezuela’s currency controls in recent years have spurred a bitcoin fad among tech-savvy Venezuelans looking to bypass controls to obtain dollars or make internet purchases.
‘No credibility,’ opposition says
Maduro’s government has a poor track record in monetary policy.
Currency controls and excessive money printing have led to a 57 percent depreciation of the bolivar against the dollar in the last month alone on the widely used black market. That has dragged down the monthly minimum wage to a mere $4.30.
For the millions of Venezuelans plunged into poverty and struggling to eat three meals a day, Maduro’s announcement is unlikely to bring any immediate relief.
Economists and opposition leaders say Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, has recklessly refused to overhaul Venezuela’s controls and stem the economic meltdown.
He could now be seeking to pay bondholders and foreign creditors in the currency amid a plan to restructure the country’s major debt burden, opposition leaders said, but the plan is likely to flop.
“It’s Maduro being a clown. This has no credibility,” opposition lawmaker and economist Angel Alvarado told Reuters.
“I see no future in this,” added fellow opposition legislator Jose Guerra.
Maduro says he is trying to combat a Washington-backed conspiracy to sabotage his government and end socialism in Latin America. On Sunday he said Venezuela was facing a financial “world war.”
Trump appeared to be backtracking furiously from a tweet on Saturday that deepened suspicions that he engaged in obstruction of justice, an impeachable offence — in the Russia scandal haunting his presidency.
In that Twitter post, Trump said he had fired Flynn in February for lying not just to the vice president but also to Comey’s FBI, which was probing Flynn over his pre-inauguration contacts with the Russian ambassador about US sanctions imposed by Barack Obama against Russia for interfering in the US election.
Comey has testified under oath to lawmakers that a day after firing Flynn, Trump asked him to drop the Flynn probe.
If Comey is to be believed, the Saturday tweet suggests Trump asked the FBI to lay off someone in his administration that Trump now acknowledges he knew had committed a felony — lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
But on Sunday, Trump insisted, “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
Trump fired Comey in May and has said he did so with the Russia probe in mind.
Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said on Sunday that suspicions of obstruction of justice by Trump are growing.
Schiff argued that if the evidence shows that Trump knew about and directed Flynn’s Russia contacts, and then asked Comey to drop the matter after his lies to the FBI came to light, “Then you get the case of obstruction of justice.”
“I think that’s the significance of this context in which the president was intervening,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
Senator Diane Feinstein told NBC: “I think what we are beginning to see is a case of obstruction of justice.”
“Clearly he is making progress,” Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
In an ominous turn for the president, Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and pledged to cooperate with Mueller.
White House officials told The New York Times that in his tweet Saturday Trump was only referencing Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd told ABC News that he had drafted the tweet and had done so in a “sloppy” manner.
Mueller’s focus goes beyond possible collusion with Russia to business dealings and whether Trump himself tried to thwart the investigation.
Trump also expressed anger Sunday over word that a senior FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok, was removed from the Russia investigation over the summer for sending text messages critical of Trump.
Strzok had also worked on the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
“ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE” Now it all starts to make sense!” Trump wrote.
As he left for a day trip to New York on Saturday, Trump again insisted his team had not plotted with Moscow to sway the election in his favor over Clinton, who won the popular vote but lost the all-important electoral college count.
“What has been shown is no collusion. There’s been absolutely no collusion. So we’re very happy,” Trump said.
Comey himself seemed to be addressing the latest developments in an Instagram message: “To paraphrase the Buddha — Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun; the moon; and the truth.”
The explosive new developments in the Russia probe have overshadowed a major legislative win for Trump: the Senate’s passage of the most significant US tax overhaul in 31 years.
Both the Senate and House versions lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, and include more modest tax cuts aimed at individuals across all income levels.
Democrats argue that the plan is too expensive and will accommodate only the rich, and that it could ultimately impact cherished US entitlement programs like Medicare.
The Senate bill was, just 24 hours earlier, on the brink of collapse when a handful of Republican deficit hawks balked at the plan’s $1.5 trillion price tag for 10 years.
Trump hopes to sign a final bill before Christmas. That would be a much-needed victory for the president, who has delivered on hardly any of his major legislative promises, including repealing the health care law known as Obamacare.