Democrats To Probe Report Whether Trump Told Lawyer To Lie To Congress

Washington: House Democrats on Friday moved to accelerate their investigations into President Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russian interests, reacting to an explosive but unconfirmed report that Trump directed his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about his push for a Moscow real estate project.

The assertions contained in a BuzzFeed News report landed like a mortar in Washington, where Trump and Democrats are already locked in a weeks-long standoff that has shut down large swaths of the federal government over Trump's demand that taxpayers provide funding for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Friday evening, BuzzFeed said the special counsel's office disputed certain claims made in the report. "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate," said the unusual statement from the spokesperson for the special counsel's office shared by BuzzFeed.

The claims in the news reports prompted Democrats, who now control the House, to ratchet up their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including allegations that the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian operatives and that Trump has since sought to obstruct an ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller III.

"We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in a tweet, promising to "get to the bottom" of the allegations in BuzzFeed's report.

"Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress," Nadler added, "is a federal crime."

Some Democrats on Friday also revived calls for Trump's impeachment, though House leaders and most Democrats have sought to tamp down talk of moving toward that option.

In the report published late Thursday night, BuzzFeed quoted two unnamed federal law enforcement officials saying that Cohen acknowledged to prosecutors that the president directed him to deceive Congress about key facts linking the president to the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. BuzzFeed also said Mueller learned about the directive to lie from "interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents."

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying under oath to Congress about negotiations over the Moscow project, but there is no indication in public filings or proceedings that he was instructed to lie at Trump's direction. The Washington Post has not independently verified the BuzzFeed report.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on Friday issued a flat denial of the BuzzFeed report.

"Any suggestion - from any source - that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false," Giuliani said in a statement. "Today's claims are just more made-up lies born of Michael Cohen's malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence."

Cohen is due on Capitol Hill in early February to give public testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, and is also expected to speak around that time with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees behind closed doors, according to top Democrats. Lawmakers anticipate that Cohen may refuse to speak about Russia-related issues during his public hearing, as Mueller is continuing to investigate those matters, but hope to glean more information during private testimony. In his guilty plea, Cohen admitted lying to the two intelligence panels.

Most top Democrats on Friday were careful to note that they did not know if the BuzzFeed allegations were true while vowing to investigate them.

"These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice," Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement Friday, adding that the panel "is already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters."

Some rank-and-file Democrats on Friday suggested the allegations should spark serious consideration of impeachment proceedings, despite party leaders' best efforts to defer such decisions until after Mueller has completed a final report expected in coming months.

"If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached," Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted after the story was published.

Former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder, who is eyeing a 2020 Democratic presidential bid, egged on the impeachment talk Thursday night, calling the BuzzFeed report "a potential inflection point."

"If true - and proof must be examined - Congress must begin impeachment proceedings," he wrote, adding that attorney general nominee William Barr should "at a minimum" give lawmakers the relevant materials that Mueller has in his possession if he is confirmed by the Senate for the top Justice Department position.

"If Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., wrote on Twitter late Thursday. "Mueller shouldn't end his inquiry, but it's about time for him to show Congress his cards before it's too late for us to act."

A person close to the Trump Organization, with knowledge of documents and witness testimony in the ongoing investigation, said he has "seen nothing to corroborate the allegations" in the BuzzFeed article.

"We believe the story is completely false," said the person, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the topic.

In November, Cohen admitted he had falsely told Congress that Trump's efforts to build a condo tower in Moscow ended in January 2016 when, in reality, those efforts continued through June of that year. Last month, he was sentenced to three years in prison for those lies and various financial crimes.

As Mueller noted, Cohen's testimony was an attempt to "minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1," which is how Trump is referred to in the report. Trump had repeatedly insisted on the campaign trail that he had no ongoing business interests in Russia, even as the deal continued to unfold.

In court documents, Cohen admitted that he briefed Trump on his ongoing negotiations with Russian officials about the proposed deal and said that he had consulted with Trump's team before his false testimony before Congress. But he never said in those documents that Trump himself played any role in encouraging his false testimony.

In his first public comments on the BuzzFeed report, Trump went on Twitter on Friday morning to quote a Fox News reporter, Kevin Corke, as saying, "Don't forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars . .. "

"Lying to reduce his jail time!" Trump added in his own words.

The Journal story in question reported that Cohen had hired a technology company to help rig online polls in Trump's favor ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The report said that Cohen sought a larger reimbursement from Trump and his company than what he paid the technology company.

In a statement, Lanny Davis, a legal communications adviser to Cohen, said both he and Cohen are declining to respond to reporters' questions "out of respect for Mr. Mueller's and the Office of Special Counsel's investigation."

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, largely sought to deflect questions about the BuzzFeed report on Friday.

Asked if it would be an impeachable offense for Trump to direct Cohen to lie to Congress, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters he was focused on ending the partial government shutdown.

"Honestly, I haven't even seen the reports. I'm not focused on that right now," he said, adding that Mueller's investigation "is the place to sift all this out . . . unimpeded."

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Russia Denounces US Policy of Dismantling Governments

Moscow, Jan 16 (Prensa Latina) The United States maintains the policy of dismantling Latin American governments and other regions that considers uncomfortable, Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov said today, referring to US interventionist actions against Venezuela.

Russia has always supported the process, along with other nations in the region, to encourage dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, the head of state diplomacy said during his annual press conference.

We know that this dialogue, in which nations of the region had hopes, finally failed because part of the opposition was pressured from abroad, especially from the United States, and that influence made part of the opposition irreconcilable, he said.

We see that with great regret because now even a possible military interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela is admitted, he stressed.

Furthermore, the declarations that the United States is going to recognize only the top leader of the Venezuelan Parliament (in rebellion since March 2017), instead of the legally elected president Nicolás Maduro, are unfortunate, he said.

All this indicates that the North American line of destroying or overthrowing uncomfortable governments remains one of its practices, not only in Latin America, but in other regions, he estimated.

Last Friday, Russia rejected the interventionist maneuvers of the United States and its allies in Latin America, after the inauguration of the Venezuelan leader, and denounced the violation of the sovereignty of the South American country in a communiqué issued by the Foreign Ministry.

The aforementioned agency referred to Washington's policy of trying to create anti-constitutional bodies, parallel to the current government of Venezuela, by ignoring the realities of that country.

In that sense, the document highlights the maneuvers of the White House to ignore legal bodies and, at the same time, recognize other unconstitutional, while closing the siege of economic sanctions around Venezuela.

The Foreign Ministry also denounces that the US policy of restrictions leads to the worsening of the socioeconomic situation, which hits the pocket of the Venezuelan people, all of which constitutes a violation of sovereignty, he points out.

In no way can the division of Venezuelan society be allowed, rather it should seek an internal conciliation, to unify the efforts of the Government and the opposition to reduce tensions and improve the situation in that nation, he says.

This, of course, must be done with full respect for the Constitution of all parties and the current law, the statement said.

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Trump says he will 'devastate Turkey economically' if it attacks Kurds

President tweets blunt warning over Syria troop pullout, drawing a swift response from Ankara.

Donald Trump has warned Turkey of economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish forces in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria, while also urging the Kurds not to “provoke” Ankara.

“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile ‘safe zone’. He then added: “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”

Trump did not detail who would create, enforce or pay for the safe zone, or where it would be located.

He called the Syria pullout “long overdue” but said the US would still hit “the little remaining Isis territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms.”

“Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”

The posts drew a swift response from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin. “Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.

“Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda,” he said.

Trump’s Twitter posts on Sunday were the the latest in the slow drip-drip of information being released by his administration after his shock December announcement of a troop withdrawal.

Trump’s top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, is on a whirlwind regional tour aimed at reassuring Washington’s Kurdish allies in the fight against Isis. They fear the departure of American troops would allow Turkey to attack them.

Turkey had reacted angrily to previous suggestions that Trump’s plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, who are seen by the Turkish government as terrorists.

US-led operations against Isis in Syria have been spearheaded on the ground by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

On Saturday, more than 600 people were evacuated from the remaining Isis holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as US-backed fighters prepared for a final assault on the area.

Rami Abdel Rahman from the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several dozen jihadist fighters were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.

Abdel Rahman said 16,000 people, including 760 Isis fighters, had fled the area since the start of December, though this marked the first time the SDF and the coalition provided buses, suggesting a deal struck between the warring sides.

The United Nations said on Friday 25,000 people had fled the violence over the past six months as jihadists defend their dwindling bastions.

An estimated 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin, the United Nations said.

The US-led coalition on Saturday fired more than 20 missiles against jihadist positions, the observatory said.

The monitor said 300 SDF combatants had deployed near the village of Sousa in preparation for a final assault.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this article

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Venezuela Rejects US Attempted Coup and 'Puppet Government'

The puppet government would've catered to US transnational corporations, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Venezuelan state is accusing Washington of promoting a coup d’etat by imposing a “puppet government” in the nation, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

RELATED: Venezuela: Lawmaker Juan Guaido Released, Rogue Officers Fired

"The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela denounces once again the attempts by the supremacist elite that controls the White House to promote a coup in Venezuela, attacking the Constitution, Democracy and Peace in the country," the ministry said in a statement.

The Bolivarian state denounced the conspiracy lead by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his attempts to forcefully impose a puppet government- like in 2002- which caters to US transnational corporations and rejects both the Constitution and the popular will.

"While the Constitutional President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, urges dialogue with respect between countries, Bolton, in turn, embraces the script of the coup-driven adventures, historically inserted in the imperialist agenda," the statement said.

The greatest threat to the security of Venezuelans is the criminal blockade imposed by the United States, the letter said, calling for an end of all “economic and diplomatic aggression.”

Maduro who was officially inaugurated on Thursday for the second time, denounced the U.S. interventionist attitudes, saying "the imperial attack against Venezuela is part of a regional dispute that promotes imperialism for the reconquest of what they see as their backyard.”

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry assured that, “No matter how powerful the pressures, threats, and attacks, the Bolivarian Government will never give in to the integral defense of the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people.

“Venezuela will use all its political, moral and constitutional power to defeat imperialist aggression in all its forms,” the letter said.

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FBI Investigated if Trump Worked in Favor of Russia

Washington, Jan 12 (Prensa Latina) The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) opened a probe in 2017 to determine if U.S. President Donald Trump worked secretly in benefit of Russia, U.S. media publish today.

Dailies, TV networks and digital websites echo a report published by The New York Times, which says that after Trump dismissed former FBI director James Comey in May that year, officials in charge of enforcing the law were concerned about the president's behavior.

Based on that concern, they began investigating Trump to see if he had worked in favor of Russia and against U.S. interests in a probe of explosive implications, said the NYT.

According to the paper, counterintelligence officials should consider if the president's actions represented a threat to national security and they also attempted to determine if he acted knowingly or not for the Euroasian nation.

The inquiry of the Federal agency also focused in a criminal aspect already known for a long time: if the dismissal of Comey obstructed justice on the part of the head of the White House.

After leaving his post, many attributed the fact that Comey was the person heading the probe about a supposed Russian interference in the 2016 elections and a supposed complicity with the Trump campaign.

Although at first the administration attributed the dismissal to the handling carried out by the former director of the investigation on the private e-mail server of democrat former candidate Hillary Clinton, the president himself let it be known later that the dismissal was related to the Russia issue.

According to the newspaper, agents and high officials of the FBI suspected the connection of Trump with Russia during the 2016 campaign, but they abstained from opening a query on that issue, partly because they were not sure of how to pursue a probe of such sensitivity and magnitude.

But the activities of the president before and after the dismissal of Comey helped to boost the aspect of counterintelligence of the investigation, indicated the daily that quoted sources familiar with the issue.

The special prosecutor Robert Mueller took charge after the investigation on the 2016 elections, as part of which have been accused on different charges previous Trump collaborators, but the daily sustained it is not clear if at this time the process of counterintelligence begun in 2017 is still going on.

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US House Passes Bill To Reopen Some Agencies Shut Down Amid Border Wall Row

WASHINGTON: The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives voted on Friday to restore funding for federal agencies that have been shut down by a fight with President Donald Trump over border wall funding, as some 800,000 government workers, from tax collectors to FBI agents, missed their first paycheck.

But a full resumption of government operations did not appear in sight because Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring the House bill up for a vote. Republicans who control the Senate have so far stood with Trump and insisted that any spending bills include money for his wall.

The House bill, which passed 240-179 with only a handful of Republicans supporting it, would restore funding for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, two of the agencies that have been without funding since Dec. 22 amid the standoff over the proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. The bill provides $35.9 billion in discretionary funding, $6 billion above Trump's budget request and $601 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.

Facing the prospect of the longest US government shutdown in history, Trump has said he might declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to get funding for his wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.

"Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border," Trump said on Twitter on Friday, a day after he visited the Texas-Mexico border. "I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!"

Entering its 21st day, the partial shutdown on Friday tied the record for the longest in US history. Some 800,000 federal workers did not receive paychecks that would have gone out on Friday. Some have resorted to selling their possessions or posting appeals on online fundraising outlets to help pay their bills.

"Most of them are living from paycheck to paycheck and now they approach this day on Friday having moved from paycheck to no check," Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings said in debate on the House floor.

The head of the US Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, warned employees that financial stress can lead to depression and anxiety. "Keep an eye out for warning signs of trouble," Director RD "Tex" Alles wrote in a memo seen by Reuters.

House approves back pay

The House also passed a bill by a bipartisan vote of 411-7 that would provide back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends. That legislation, which has already been passed by the Senate, now heads to Trump's desk to be signed into law.

Separately, Senator Rob Portman and eight other Republican senators introduced legislation that would permanently outlaw the closing of government operations during budget fights, underscoring the growing frustration in Washington.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged that Mexico would pay for the wall, which he says is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. But the Mexican government has refused and Trump is now demanding that Congress provide $5.7 billion in US taxpayer funding for the wall.

Democrats in Congress call the wall an ineffective, outdated answer to a complex problem.

With no Capitol Hill compromise in sight, Trump publicly ruminated on Thursday during the Texas trip about declaring an emergency.

A close Trump confidant judged the time for such a step had come. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement: "It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works."

Critics of the national emergency strategy have said it may be illegal. In any case, it was almost certain to trigger an immediate court challenge from Democrats, including an accusation of trying to circumvent Congress' power over the national purse strings.

An emergency declaration would come with risks. Even some of Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress have signaled worries about such an action. Given that the Constitution gives Congress the power to set spending priorities and appropriate money, they worry about a tough legal fight and an unwise precedent.

"I don't think he should do that. It's a bad precedent," Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said on CNBC. "It seems to me that

An emergency declaration, however, would allow the government to be fully reopened while the judges weigh the case, which could take months.

Before the shutdown began, Trump said he would be "proud" to close the government over the issue of border security and would not blame Democrats, although he later did.

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US: Federal Workers March On White House Against Trump Shutdown

Federal employees marched in front of the White House, chanting slogans which included "We Want Our Pay!", "Stop The Shutdown!" and "We Want to Work!"

United States federal employees launched protests Thursday in different cities to demand the end of the administration's partial government closure, which has been paralyzing the country for the last 20 days, due to President Donald Trump's steady desire for border wall funding.

RELATED: US: Union Sues Trump Administration Over Government Shutdown

"Thousands of hard-working Americans are being excluded from their jobs for no other reason than the politics of fear. Shame on the Senate! Shame on the White House!," Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO - the largest union platform in the country, declared.

On the 20th day of a partial shutdown, furloughed federal employees marched in front of the White House, chanting slogans which included "We Want Our Pay!", "Stop The Shutdown!" and "We Want to Work!"

One of them, Elaine Suriano, a 62-year-old environmental protection agency scientist, said she will be forced to dip into her retirement savings if the shutdown continues. "It's just clear that [Trump] administration doesn't understand normal people and real life or they wouldn't do this," Suriano said.

Mathew Crichton, a Peace Corps employee, said uncertainty over how long the shutdown will last made it impossible to budget for food, lodging and other needs. "It could go on another day, and it could go on more weeks. It could go on for months," Crichton said and added that "it's really a shame that I'm ready to go to work, I'm able to go to work and I can't."

“I’m a furloughed Federal employee, but the doesn’t just affect me. My daughter’s daycare is in the Commerce Dept and is closed during the shutdown, but we still have to pay our weekly invoice.” More here -->

In cities such as Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Ogden (Utah) or Denver (Colorado) there were also various manifestations of union pushback. Protesters, wearing green vests which read "I am a worker, I demand a voice," asked for detaching the U.S. Federal Administration's functioning from any debate over President Trump's border wall funding.

To deal with the suspension of payments, thousands of federal employees have decided to apply for unemployment benefits, even though technically they do have a job.

More than 4,700 public workers joined the unemployment lists in the last week of December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This procedure will allow the affected individuals to receive financial compensation for being officially unemployed.

Once the U.S. government is reopened, federal workers could collect their past payrolls. However, thousands of subcontracted employees will not have the same benefit.

Other federal workers have also turned to online fundraising outlets such as to help cover expenses from food to utility bills.

Tonight at 11 and , meet a Walton, KY family struggling to make ends meet in the midst of the . They've got a sick one-year-old daughter that needs constant care and rely on dad's job at the IRS. Hear their message to President Trump.

On Dec. 22, 2018, U.S. President Trump decided on a partial closure of the Federal Administration, seeking to put pressure on Congress to approve a US$5.7-billion funding for the construction of a wall at the border with Mexico, a device Trump states will deter Central American migrants from entering the country.

Besides affecting 800,000 employees who have stopped receiving their salary, Trump's government shutdown has disrupted the operations of different tourist facilities and activities of agencies which are yet to be assigned new resources.

Little or no advances toward ending the partial shutdown have occurred, since Trump has been intransigent in his negotiations with Democrats.


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Trump cancels Davos trip citing ‘Democrat intransigence’ on shutdown

US President Donald Trump has canceled his planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, citing the ongoing impasse with congressional Democrats that’s keeping parts of the US government closed for a third week.

Trump, who is visiting the US-Mexico border on Thursday, tweeted from Texas that he will be “respectfully canceling” the Davos trip because of the “Democrats intransigence on border security.”

Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. My warmest regards and apologies to the !

The Davos conference is scheduled to start on January 22, so Trump’s announcement means the current government shutdown may continue to that date and beyond.

The US government has been partially shut down for 20 days now, after Senate Democrats refused to back a Republican-majority House bill that would allocate $5.7 billion to building the border wall just before Christmas.

Democrats took over the House on January 3, and have proposed several bills to reopen the government, but have rejected any funding for the wall, ever, calling it “immoral.”

Also on ‘Total waste of time’: Trump walks out of shutdown talks with Democrats...

Trump walked out of a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on Wednesday, calling it a “waste of time” because the Democrats were not willing to negotiate.

Some 800,000 federal workers will soon miss their expected paychecks, and each side has accused the other of ignoring their needs and interests.

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