Senate committee to interview Trump Jr. behind closed doors

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will privately interview Donald Trump, Jr., Thursday -- and are expected to ask about his meeting with a Russian lawyer in New York City during last year's presidential campaign.

Senators had sought to interview the president's son publicly in July but he instead offered to be privately interviewed and provide documents.

"We look forward to a professional and productive meeting and appreciate the opportunity to assist the committee," Trump, Jr.'s attorney, Alan S. Futerfas, said in a statement.

Last week, Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California issued a joint statement confirming the interview with the president's eldest son was imminent.

Trump, Jr., has acknowledged he met with a Russian lawyer -- who he said had damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton that could help his father's presidential campaign. He released emails this summer that showed it was "part of Russia and its government's support for [President Donald] Trump."

Also attending the meeting were Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a senior adviser to the president, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Kushner and Manafort have already been interviewed by the Senate Committee on Intelligence.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are investigating Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump's campaign, but the judiciary panel wants to investigate whether any federal criminal statutes that ban solicitation from foreign nationals were violated.

Feinstein told reporters Wednesday the committee staff will conduct the interview, and a public hearing will be conducted later. Feinstein said she doesn't plan to attend the interview.

Other committee members, including Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said they plan to attend.

"There are penalties if he lies, and he presumably is aware that he is testifying with very severe penalties if he fails to tell the truth, so we presume he will," Blumenthal told reporters.

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Moscow has become ‘very convenient scarecrow’ for US – Russia’s UN envoy

Russia has turned into a convenient bogeyman used in the internal battles raging in the US political landscape, the Russian envoy to the UN says.

Although tensions are simmering, too much hinges on the bilateral relations, with the UN Security Council remaining one of the few cooperative platforms.

“We, unfortunately, became a very convenient scarecrow, including in the domestic political battles that are raging [in the US],” Vasily Nebenzya said in an interview with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze.

 

The entrance to the building of the Consulate General of Russia is shown in San Francisco © Stephen Lam

No thaw happened in the US-Russian relations with President Donald Trump coming into office due to “the domestic dimension and the political situation within the United States,” Nebenzya believes.

Relations have sunk to a new low after a series of diplomatic tit-for-tat measures, which started with the Obama administration expelling 35 Russian diplomats and denying access to the Maryland and New York compounds late last year. In August, Moscow responded by demanding a reduction in the number of US embassy and consulate staff, to which Washington retaliated and ordered three Russian diplomatic properties on its soil shuttered.

However, “too much depends on our bilateral relations, and it's not appropriate that they are so low these days and they should be improved, and that will be for the best – for the better of the world and not just our two countries,” he said.

“I will not make peace and security hostage to our bilateral relations,” Nebenzya added.

“The Security Council maybe is one of the few platforms left for us and the US to cooperate,” he said. “Hopefully, that platform that is the Security Council will help us in many things, including improving Russian-American relations.”

 

Anatoly Antonov © Maxim Blinov

As to how work gets done in the Security Council despite the diplomatic standoff between the US and Russia, Nebenzya assures he has “no problem in communicating personally on good terms with any American colleague, not only Nikki Haley,” calling it “a professional camaraderie.”

With rhetoric occasionally flaring up at Security Council meetings, Nebenzya says he hadn’t engaged in a heated exchange with his colleagues.

“I think that the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, should not be a place for futile rhetoric and a spotlight to master their rhetorical skills,” he says, adding the UN should serve its main purpose: “to maintain the international peace and security.”

“I never, never imagine that the Russian and the American people have anything like hostility towards each other. It's the political situation that is to blame, but on a personal level we are all humans, first of all, and secondly, we feel sympathy towards Americans and I feel that Americans feel sympathy towards Russians,” Nebenzya says.

You can watch the full interview with the Russian envoy to the UN Friday on RT’s SophieCo.

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China says it will never allow war or chaos on its doorstep as tensions escalate on Korean Peninsula

Beijing has said it will not allow war or chaos on the Korean Peninsula, as two US B-1B bombers conducted a new flight in the area, joined by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in a show of force amid mounting tensions.

The statement was made by defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang at a monthly news briefing on Thursday, Sina reports.

Six American warplanes - two nuclear-capable B-1B strategic bombers and four Marine Corps F-35Bs - held a joint flight operation with Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) said in a statement. The squadron flew near the island of Kyushu, south of the Korean Peninsula.

Following that, the US warplanes, accompanied by South Korean F-15K fighter jets, conducted a joint operation over South Korea as well as bombing drills over the Pilseung range in the eastern province of Gangwon, according to Yonhap.

The maneuvers come just two days after North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan.

Ren Guoqiang also reiterated China’s position that the North Korean crisis should be resolved through dialogue, and insisted on the denuclearization of the peninsula, according to Sina, citing the spokesman.

Russia also insists that there cannot be any military solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. At the latest UNSC meeting, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, reiterated Beijing and Moscow’s ‘double freeze’ initiative, recommending Pyongyang halt all nuclear and missile tests while the US and South Korea cease the military build-up in the region.

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also expressed concern, saying that the Korean issue is serious and not a computer game, Reuters reports, citing the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

During a previous news briefing, Hua responded to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call on Beijing to exert more pressure on Pyongyang voiced during her trip to Japan on Wednesday. Hua also questioned whether other relevant parties implement the UN resolutions “without holding back anything.”

“They are the loudest when it comes to sanctions, but nowhere to be found when it comes to making efforts to promote peace talks. They want nothing to do with responsibility,” Hua told reporters on Wednesday. 

READ MORE: Tokyo & Seoul seek ‘maximum pressure’ after UNSC condemns Pyongyang’s ‘outrageous’ missile test

The flyover of the North Korean medium-range missile was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council, which convened for an emergency meeting following the test. The UN called on Pyongyang to halt their activities, which are “not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states.”

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea, later tweeting that “talking is not the answer.” Trump also said that Washington has been paying Pyongyang “extortion money” while negotiating for over two decades.

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New Investigation Exposes US Support for 2009 Honduras Coup

U.S. officials were more concerned with maintaining military power in Honduras than overturning the coup, the investigation reveals.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CEPR, reveals key details involving U.S. officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

RELATED: Honduran General Election Campaigning Kicks Off

The investigation, published by The Intercept, was based on military intelligence documents and interviews with Honduran and U.S. officials. It focuses on the Pentagon and the United States Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, and their interests in ensuring the success of the coup against Zelaya by the country's military.

Here’s what CEPR found:

- A top U.S. military official met with Honduran coup plotters a day prior to the coup, demonstrating that they knew about the forthcoming ouster. 
- A Honduran military official’s warning to the U.S. ambassador was met with “indifference.”
- A retired U.S. general provided assistance to Honduran military leaders advocating for the coup, according to interviewed sources, confirming previous allegations.
- U.S. military officials were guided by an “obsessive concern” with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region as opposed to domestic Honduran issues. 

Overall, what the investigation demonstrates is that the Pentagon's main interest was to maintain close relations with close Honduran military allies, rather than overturning the coup.

“This is a story that reveals much about how foreign policy works in general, not just in Honduras,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston said in a statement.

“The investigation shows the often hidden roles that various actors within the U.S. foreign policy establishment play in determining and carrying out policy. What’s clear is that personal relationships matter just as much as any official policy position announced in Washington.”

RELATED: Honduras Marks 8 Years Since US-Backed Coup Against Zelaya

Prior to his removal, Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding, nationwide poll on whether to include a fourth ballot box in the forthcoming elections to usher in a National Constituent Assembly for the rewriting of the country’s constitution. The effort was intended to democratize the country’s laws, which have traditionally favored the Honduran elite. 

Zelaya had also begun forging ties with progressive Latin American governments — like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia — while joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.

On June 28, 2009, high ranking army officials received orders issued by the Supreme Court to detain Zelaya and transferred him, by force, to Costa Rica.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that plunged into rampant violence following the coup. Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

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Reckless “Present” CIA to Venezuela

Hours ago it was revealed that the top brass of that espionage agency works with the governments of Colombia and Mexico to destroy Venezuela.

Thus was written this Wednesday by an Argentinean journalist to the unconditional service of Washington.          

His name, Andrés Oppenheimer, New Herald columnist and well known in other U.S. media circles and for special services of that country.

Now he got published a significant title: “The Gift the CIA Gave to Nicolás Maduro.”

It begins asserting, Trump’s government “is the most inexpert and inapt regarding foreign policy ever remembered in recent history.”

And he adds, but what the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, did when he talked about Venezuela “is a huge stupidity.”

He affirmed last July 20th that they worked hard for the reestablishment of democracy in Caracas.

And he added, I was in Mexico City and Bogotá two weeks ago, speaking about this issue.

“Trying to help them understand what they could do, so that they can get a better result for their side of the world and our part of the world.”

Soon after, said Oppenheimer, Pompeo’s comments were in YouTube.

“The United States conspires against Venezuela, the head of the CIA confirms”, read a headline in Telesur, the television network that broadcasts in all Latin America.

Hours later, Oppenheimer continued, Maduro was on television, taking advantage of Pompeo’s “screw up” and attacking the governments of Mexico and Colombia.

Then the North American journalist tried to mend both images saying that they have been active in the efforts so that Maduro reestablishes the democratic order in Venezuela.

Unable to answer, Oppenheimer turns to the intrigue (made in U.S.A.) regarding the supposed dominant role of Cuba in that South American nation.

Earlier, Nicolás Maduro had summoned the governments of Mexico and Colombia to clarify the statement of the CIA director.

Faintly, very faintly, they tried and failed miserably.  

According to Oppenheimer Venezuelan and Latin Americans “followers of Telesur”, they believe that agency is still bent on overthrowing governments.

For them, he wrote, Pompeo’s words sounded like alarms going off.

Hence Mr. Andrés Oppenheimer helped to explain why he symbolizes one of the most despicable personalities in the journalistic world of this region.

He is ideal to serve those who trained him and awarded him in the United States and today hire him further south.

But the core matter is, once again they’ve silenced the multiple aggressions Venezuela has suffered and implicitly they justified it, because they are accomplices.

All that thanks to the testimony of the CIA Director they were caught “red handed.”

New Sanctions Show US Insistence on Hostility toward Iran: Senior MP

A senior Iranian lawmaker deplored the US Congress move to pass a bill to impose fresh sanctions on Iran, saying it proves Washington’s persistent animosity toward the Islamic Republic.

“Today, it is no secret to anyone that the Americans are still the Iranian nation’s number one enemy,” Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, the rapporteur of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told Tasnim.

The fresh embargoes signify that Washington keeps on the path of hostility toward Iran and applying pressure on the country, he added.

They show that the Americans are not going to pay any attention to international demands and live up to their commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Naqavi Hosseini said, referring to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, including the US.

Now that US officials have demonstrated their disregard for the JCPOA, he said, all related bodies in Iran, including the diplomatic apparatus, should proceed with “revolutionary and decisive” measures against Washington’s breaking of laws and breaches of commitments.

Naqavi Hosseini went on to say that the parliament plans to hold a special session on Saturday to discuss a motion to counter the United States’ adventurous and terrorist activities in the region as well as its recent sanctions on the country.

On Thursday, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea.

The Senate backed the bill by a margin of 98-2.

The legislation will now be sent to President Trump to sign into law or veto.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already passed the bill on Tuesday in a 419-3 vote to impose new sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had on Wednesday vowed that the US congressional bill on new sanctions against Tehran will receive the necessary response.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly show a reciprocal reaction to the US Congress’ new measure, President Rouhani said.

“We… withstand the pressures and sanctions, and will take reciprocal action,” he stressed.

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Russia retaliates over new US sanctions

Russia retaliated Friday to new sanctions from Washington by announcing it would seize US properties and demand a reduction in American diplomatic staff, according to reports.

The Kremlin took the tit-for-tat action in the wake of the US Senate vote to slap new financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea over President Trump’s objections.

The bill now awaits the president’s signature.

Russian officials said the US Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok must cut the number of their “diplomatic and technical employees” to 455 by Sept. 1, the Washington Post reported.

That staffing level would equal the number of Russian diplomatic staff in the US.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it would seize a Moscow warehouse and recreation complex used by the American Embassy.

A US Embassy spokesman could not immediately say how many people work for the Embassy and consulates in Russia.

The new US legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad.

It bars Trump from easing or waiving the penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees.

In December, President Obama kicked out 35 Russians described as “intelligence operatives” and seized two Russian diplomatic compounds because of Russia’s interference in the election.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recommend that President Vladimir Putin respond by expelling US diplomats, but he said he would wait, apparently hoping the newly elected president would reverse the decision after his inauguration.

US-Russian relations dropped to a post-Cold War low after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The new package of sweeping sanctions aims to hit Putin and his inner circle by targeting alleged corrupt officials, human-rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia dismissed the new sanctions as “creating unfair competitive advantages for the US economy.”

“This kind of blackmail aimed at restricting the cooperation between Russia and other nations is a threat for many countries and global businesses,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

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Thousands of CIA, FBI Documents on JFK Assassination Released for First Time

The US National Archives have made 3,810 CIA and FBI documents on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 public for the very first time. Among the trove are 400 documents previously unavailable in any form – the rest were hitherto redacted, in some cases heavily. The pile is likely to prove a goldmine to conspiracy theorists.

In 1964, Chief Justice Earl Warren, then overseeing the Warren Commission, the US government's first official public inquiry into the Kennedy assassination, was asked by journalists if the full record of their investigation would be made public.

"Yes, there will come a time… but it might not be in your lifetime," Warren responded.

While the fate of the reporters is unknown, the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Collection Act stipulated all documents on the killing must be released by October 2017 — and the latest release marks the first document dump of the year.

The taking is modest — official estimates suggest around 40,000 documents remain classified, of the original five million — but nonetheless is undoubtedly chock-full of scintillating nuggets for conspiracists to get their collective teeth in to, particularly as 400 of the documents have never been seen by public eyes.

These documents were "withheld in full" as they contain information deemed at the time "security classified" — while a tantalizing classification, they may have been mundanely withheld to protect confidential sources, privacy, tax and grand jury information — all information routinely classified in the vast majority of criminal cases.

A cursory look at the contents of the files reveals that on top of CIA and FBI documents, included in the tranche are testimony and other records of the Warren Commission (which concluded alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald likely acted alone) and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (the second official inquiry into Kennedy's assassination, which concluded Kennedy was "probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy"), records from the National Security Agency and other Defense Department offices and files from the Church, Pike and Rockefeller Committees (which investigated the activities of US intelligence services), and many pages relating to the interrogation of Yuri Nosenko.

Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected to the US shortly after the Kennedy assassination, was and is a controversial figure in both government and conspiracist circles.

He claimed to have seen KGB files on Oswald prior to the assassination, when the former US Marine briefly defected to the Soviet Union. He claimed while Soviet intelligence services had monitored Oswald, they had not attempted to recruit him.

However, other disclosures offered by Nosenko contradicted those of another Soviet defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn — which led the CIA to conclude Nosenko was a KGB plant.

As a result, he was incarcerated in solitary confinement for three and a half years, spending 16 months of this period in a small room with no windows, furniture, heat or air conditioning, or human contact, and four months in a ten-by-ten-foot concrete bunker. Allowed a shower once a week only, but permitted no television, reading material, radio, exercise, or toothbrush, he was frequently and aggressively interrogated. Nosenko also claims he was tortured, and even dosed with LSD.

His allegation were flatly denied by Richard Helms, CIA Director during much of Nosenko's internment — although Stansfield Turner, CIA Director 1977-1981, subsequently judged Nosenko's treatment to be "excessively harsh" — and called on senior CIA officers to "make certain [it] will not again be repeated."

It's questionable whether the documents will shed conclusive light on the key questions which have hung over the assassination almost ever since that third fateful shot delivered a coup de grace to then-President Kennedy on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, much less offer a "smoking gun" for any them.

Did alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald act alone, or at all even? Did individuals or agencies within the US government have foreknowledge of the assassination? Did authorities collude and obfuscate to prevent a full investigation of the crime?

Nonetheless, they are also equally unlikely to quell the countless assassination conspiracy theories which have circulated.

Perhaps most popularly, researchers suggest JFK was killed in a plot engineered by CIA agents — Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Mossad, the FBI, the Secret Service, the Mafia and Cubans (whether by Fidel Castro, or anti-Castro rebel groups) have all been fingered as potential directors and/or conspirators in the assassination.

Such suspicions are not restricted to the public. For instance, three of the Warren Commission's seven members — Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana and and Senator Richard Russell of Georgia — doubted the inquiry's single shooter conclusion, and Johnson later publicly voiced concerns about the Commission's findings.

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