By Robert A. Vella
A whistleblower inside the U.S. intelligence community reported a recent conversation between President Trump and a foreign leader which was so egregious, and which presumably represented an urgent threat to national security, that it prompted Inspector General Michael Atkinson to file a formal whistleblower complaint requiring Congress to be notified. However, Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence – Joseph Maguire – refused to share details of the complaint with congressional oversight committees which has triggered a fiery dispute between lawmakers and the White House. The incident may involve Trump’s interactions with foreign officials in July and August which included Russian president Vladimir Putin, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte, and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
In a Freudian slip, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly acknowledged that the escalating geopolitical crisis between the U.S. and Iran is a direct result of President Trump’s actions. In his memoirs, former U.K. prime minister David Cameron admitted his concern – following the 2016 Brexit referendum vote – that rising populist angst in western democracies could allow Donald Trump to be elected president in the U.S. Reacting to growing recession fears, the Federal Reserve has announced a second interest rate cut this year although it wasn’t nearly enough to mollify an angry President Trump. A new report attempts to quantify the societal costs of America’s gun violence crisis.
In other news, the Department of the Interior is transferring public land to the Department of Defense for President Trump’s border wall project, a white supremacist has been charged with intimidating a black politician in Charlottesville Virginia, a Republican state senator in Pennsylvania has resigned over child porn charges, gray whales along the west coast of North America are dying in large numbers apparently from starvation, Queensland Australia has passed some environmental protections for the endangered Great Barrier Reef despite irrational claims from conservative opponents who ranted about “socialism” and the climate change “hoax,” and finally defendants have been acquitted of all criminal charges for responsibility in Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The dispute is expected to escalate Thursday when Atkinson is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in a classified session closed to the public. The hearing is the latest move by committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to compel U.S. intelligence officials to disclose the full details of the whistleblower complaint to Congress. Maguire has agreed to testify before the panel next week, according to a statement by Schiff. He declined to comment for this article.
The complaint was filed with Atkinson’s office on Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.
Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday acknowledged that the current crisis with Iran is a “direct result” of actions taken by President Donald Trump.
Since Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, his administration has engaged in a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran in an effort to cripple the Iranian economy with harsh sanctions. The end goal of this is to squeeze Iran into coming back to the negotiation table to agree to a more stringent version of the nuclear deal that prevents Iran from building nuclear weapons.
But so far, Trump’s hard-line strategy has not been successful and there’s little evidence this is changing.
Donald Trump won the nomination to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 because of his “protectionist, xenophobic, misogynistic interventions”, the former British prime minister David Cameron has said.
Writing in his memoir, published in the UK on Wednesday, Cameron said he found it depressing and was immediately concerned that Trump – whom he called a “maverick businessman” – could win in the wake of the Brexit referendum result.
He said that “the rise of the far-left and hard-right parties in Europe [had] shown us that anti-establishment, divisive politics was the new normal.”
The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates again on Wednesday to help sustain a record-long economic expansion but signaled a higher bar to further reductions in borrowing costs, eliciting a fast and sharp rebuke from President Donald Trump.
Describing the U.S. economic outlook as “favorable,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the rate cut was designed “to provide insurance against ongoing risks” including weak global growth and resurgent trade tensions.
“If the economy does turn down, then a more extensive sequence of rate cuts could be appropriate,” Powell said in a news conference after the Fed announced it had lowered its benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 1.75% to 2.00%. It was the second Fed rate cut this year.
Gun violence’s toll
Gun violence hits America’s youth and rural states the hardest and has reached the highest levels in decades, a report released Wednesday by Democrats on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee has found.
U.S. teens and young adults, ages 15-24, are 50 times more likely to die by gun violence than they are in other economically advanced countries, according to the 50-state breakdown.
In 2017 — the year of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured hundreds — nearly 40,000 people died from gun-related injuries, including 2,500 school children, the report said, noting that six in 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
That year marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents, the report said.
The Trump administration plans to transfer federal land to military control in order to continue construction of the wall along the southern border, officials from the Interior Department announced Wednesday night.
The Department of Interior, which controls public land around the country, announced that 560 acres of federal land will be transferred to the U.S. Army for the construction of 70 acres of border wall.
The campaign signs had been printed. The launch party was scheduled. And the African American activist was ready to join the race for Charlottesville City Council.
He had sent out a news release announcing his intention to run the night before the party, on Jan. 7. But just 24 hours later, the campaign was over. Standing before his supporters, the black candidate said he would not be kicking off his campaign after all.
Daniel McMahon of Brandon, Fla., was arrested Wednesday and charged with bias-motivated interference with a candidate for elective office, accused of cyberstalking and threatening the candidate to the point that he dropped out of the race, prosecutors said. The candidate is identified in court documents only as “D.G.” but the Daily Progress reported that the details in the charges match the halted campaign of deacon and activist Don Gathers. The co-founder of Charlottesville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, Gathers also served on a committee dedicated to relocating Confederate statues in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2017.
LEBANON, Pa. – Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Folmer, a four-term Republican from Lebanon County, resigned Wednesday after he was charged with possession of child pornography.
Something killed 121 gray whales this spring and summer, and scientists are struggling to find out what it was.
The dead giants of the ocean washed up on West Coast beaches as they finished their annual epic migration to their winter feeding grounds between Alaska and Russia. Many were emaciated and appeared to be starving.
The near-final death count, tallied this week, makes this the second-worst year on record for gray whales, which were hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800s. It could represent as much as 10% of the species’ total population.
The Queensland government has passed new regulations to limit agricultural pollution damaging the Great Barrier Reef in the face of a hostile campaign that has sought to discredit consensus science.
On Tuesday the state made relatively minor commitments to agricultural groups, including an undertaking not to vary new limits for farm sediment and chemical runoff into reef catchments for at least five years.
The laws were passed without amendment on Thursday afternoon after a debate that oscillated between authentic concern about the impact of regulation on primary producers and hysterical attempts to discredit robust science that warns agricultural pollution is a significant threat to the health of the reef.
The only criminal prosecution stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has ended in not guilty verdicts, in a blow to families displaced by the meltdown, as the fallout promises to haunt northern Japan for decades to come.
A court in Tokyo acquitted the former chairman and two former vice presidents of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the firm which operated the Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to public broadcaster NHK. The trio were accused negligence for failing to implement safety measures, all three pleaded not guilty. Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro argued they could not have reasonably foreseen the disaster and thus were not responsible for its effects, including the premature deaths of 44 hospital patients linked to the emergency evacuation.
Japanese prosecutors had previously refused to charge the men, and only took up the case after a concerted legal effort by the families of the dead and those who were evacuated from the area around Fukushima.