Trump signs declaration recognizing Israel's sovereignty over disputed Golan Heights

US President Donald Trump has signed a declaration recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.

In a joint press conference with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Trump hailed the “powerful” relationship between the US and Israel, while Netanyahu called the signing “historic justice” and a “diplomatic victory.”

BREAKING: Trump signs declaration declaring Israel's sovereignty over disputed Golan Heights

The announcement comes less than a week after Trump tweeted support for Israel’s claim to the territory, despite the UN ruling the annexation “null and void.” The Golan Heights is home to some 27,000 Syrians, and the Israeli occupation of the area has been blasted as “completely beyond international law” by the Arab League.

After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!

Netanyahu’s visit to Washington was cut short on Monday morning, after a Palestinian rocket struck a house in a town near Tel Aviv, injuring seven people. As the PM and Trump spoke to the press, Israeli helicopters and jets began pounding Hamas targets in the Gaza strip in retaliation.

Trump signs declaration recognizing Israel's sovereignty over disputed Golan Heights...

 

Before returning to Israel, Netanyahu vowed to respond “forcefully” to the “wanton” rocket attack.

 
 
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White House says pardons for Trump associates not discussed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There have been no conversations about President Donald Trump issuing pardons for any of his associates who have been charged or pleaded guilty as part of the U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the White House said on Monday.

There has been “no discussion that I’m aware of” regarding pardons, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. Fellow White House spokesman Hogan Gidley also told MSNBC in an interview that the White House has not had any conversations about such pardons.

Gidley said he did not know whether any lawyers for Trump’s associates had approached the White House counsel about pardons.

Mueller’s team finished up work on Friday and submitted its findings to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who issued a four-page summary on Sunday. Barr said the Special Counsel’s Office had found no evidence of criminal collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election but had left open the issue of whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice.

Still, Mueller’s investigation led to charges and guilty pleas against dozens of people, including a series of Russian nationals and companies as well as several top Trump advisers, such as former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and former adviser Roger Stone.

“We have a very rigorous process that relates to pardons,” Gidley told MSNBC.

 

Trump Campaign off the Hook in Russian-US Meddling Probe

After nearly two years, the Special Counsel presented the investigation denying that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.

Special Counsel, Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election did not find that any U.S. or Trump campaign officials knowingly conspired with Moscow, according to a summary released Sunday by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

RELATED: Bernie Sanders: 'No One is Above the Law'; US Lawmakers Urge Quick Release of Mueller Report

"The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” stated Mueller’s report, which parts were disclosed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). 

After nearly two years, the Special Counsel presented Friday the investigation to the top U.S. law enforcement officer. U.S. President Donald Trump has denied collusion and obstruction, while Russia has denied election interference. Yet, during this time, Trump sought to discredit the investigation, calling it a "witch hunt" and accusing Mueller of conflicts of interes.

No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!

The report is divided into two parts: first, it describes the main results of the investigation. According to the U.S. Attorney General, there was no association between Russia and the Trump Campaign to conspire or coordinate efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which would be a federal crime. 

While the second part addressed Trump’s actions, which could be considered an obstruction of justice. Mueller left open the possibility that Trump had obstructed justice in his response to the Russia probe, yet Barr concluded that the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed obstruction of justice offense,” the summary said. The DOJ has a policy that sitting presidents cannot face criminal charges.

However, as both Mueller and Barr cited “this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime it also does no exonerate him”. After the release of the summary, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said his panel would call Barr to testify shortly, citing concerns over Barr’s conclusions from the report.

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In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other experts. More than 2,800 subpoenas were issued, nearly 500 search warrants executed, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses. 

The DOJ reported on Friday that the investigation brought forward charges against 34 people, including Russian agents and former Trump aides, such as his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Mike Flynn and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. 

However, the report does not say exonerate the Russian government alleged meddling, insisting that Moscow interfered through social media to “sow social discord” and that it also hacked into computers from the Clinton Campaign, disseminating sensible information to outlets such as Wikileaks.

 
 
 
 
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Bolton says Trump ‘very serious’ about ‘all options’ as Venezuela dismantles ‘terrorist cell’

Donald Trump is not kidding when he says “all options” to topple Maduro are open, National Security Adviser John Bolton said, as the Venezuelan government busted wannabe president Juan Guaido’s aide for running a terrorist cell.

“President Trump himself has been clear on this point on any number of occasions when he says all options are on the table. I think people need to understand and believe that; he’s very serious about it,” Bolton told Breitbart.

While refusing to explicitly confirm or deny whether the US is willing to arm the opposition or is mulling an all-out invasion of the country, Bolton did stress that the US has “no higher duty internationally” than to protect up to 50,000 Americans living in Venezuela from “violence and intimidation.”

Also on rt.com Bolton’s ‘Monroe Doctrine’ remark on Venezuela arrogant & insulting to all of Latin America – Lavrov...

A similar concern for some 800 American students at the US-run St. George's University School of Medicine in Grenada was used as an excuse to invade that island nation in 1983 to oust the country’s leftist government. The tiny tropical paradise is located just 160 kilometers (99 miles) north of Venezuela.

Once again referencing the notorious Monroe Doctrine, Bolton essentially admitted the US plans to impose its hegemony over Venezuela, and to prevent Russia and China from even trying to help Caracas overcome its economic crisis – which the socialist government maintains was caused by US sanctions and the Washington-led global effort to isolate the country financially and politically.

Also on rt.com Lavrov’s deputy to war-hawk Abrams: Venezuela ‘aid’ op unacceptable, Russia to protect its interests...

“Our goal is to make sure these foreign influences are not controlling Venezuela and adversely affecting the United States and our interests in our own hemisphere,” he said. “So we’re talking here about wresting control away from a socialist autocracy and keeping the Monroe Doctrine alive in the Western Hemisphere to have powers outside the hemisphere not dictating what goes on here.”

Also on rt.com ‘Armed terrorist cell’: Venezuela’s Interior Minister confirms arrest of Guaido’s aide...

Maduro made another “big mistake” when he arrested Roberto Marrero, the aide of self-proclaimed ‘interim’ president Guaido, Bolton stated earlier on Thursday, threatening that the move “will not go unanswered.”

Venezuelan security forces said they caught Marrero red-handed and accused him of being “directly responsible for the organization of criminal groups” and of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks against the public and senior government officials.

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Trump Dethrones Obama As 'Droner-in-Chief' With New Civilian Killing Policy

The U.S. President recalled a policy of reporting on civilian deaths by U.S. drone strikes in areas outside war zones, started by Obama.

The United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday revoking the Obama-era policy of reporting on civilian deaths in drone strikes outside of active war zones.

RELATED: Trump Renews Obama-era Emergency Over Venezuela, Maduro Calls It 'Historic Error'

Former President Barack Obama enacted a policy in 2016 that required U.S. intelligence officials to report civilian deaths in a bid to be more transparent about drone strikes, after having increased them to combat religious extremist groups.

“This action eliminates superfluous reporting requirements, requirements that do not improve government transparency, but rather distract our intelligence professionals from their primary mission," an administrative official said.

“The United States government is fully committed to complying with its obligations under the law of armed conflict, minimizing, to the greatest extent possible, civilian casualties, and acknowledging responsibility when they unfortunately occur during military operations.”

According to Obama’s policy, the U.S. director of national intelligence was supposed to release an unclassified summary every May 1 on the number of strikes launched by the U.S. against militants outside actively hostile zones.

U.S. Representative and Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, a Democrat, said in a statement that the measure taken by Obama was "an important measure of transparency," and said that "there is simply no justification" for canceling it.

"Today’s decision underscores the need for Congress to make this reporting mandatory, something I intend to pursue through the Intelligence Authorization Act this year," he said.

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Trump Renews Obama-era Emergency Over Venezuela, Maduro Calls It 'Historic Error'

Donald Trump says he believes that Venezuela "is a threat" to the United States, while the U.S. continues to promote aggression against Maduro’s government.

The United States government has renewed it's declaration of a national emergency over Venezuela for another year, which former President Barack Obama initially decreed in March 2015.

RELATED: The CIA’s View of Venezuela: What We Learn From Archives

In response, the Venezuelan government said the renewal of this measure is "a historic error" in the context of the economic aggressions and threats of military intervention to which the U.S. has subjected the country.

In a statement sent to Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump asserted that Venezuela continues to represent "a threat to U.S. policy."

The decree against Venezuela includes sanctions against government officials within the framework of an economic blockade against the country that has cost around US$35 billion, according to complaints to the U.N. from the Venezuelan government.

Elliot Abrams, U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, affirmed Tuesday that the White House does not rule out imposing secondary sanctions against the Venezuelan government. Abrams said the U.S. government has many plans on the table to be lodged against the government of the South American country, including possible military action.

"It's a possibility, but it's not yet time," Abrams said during a press conference. "Our policy is diplomatic pressure. Although all options are on the table, we have not chosen the military option."

RELATED: 
Venezuela Confronts US-backed Right-wing Coup

The special envoy to the U.S. said they are considering imposing sanctions on actors from third-party countries in response to situation in Venezuelan. For the moment, Abrams said that "there will be more revocations and cancellations of visas" for officials linked to the Venezuelan government.

Abrams' words come a day after the White House Security Adviser John Bolton indicated that President Trump's administration will take measures against Cuba for supporting President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro.

The U.S. and its right-wing allies in Latin America have come out in support of opposition lawmaker, Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela 13 days after Maduro’s inauguration on Jan. 23. The opposition refused to particpate in last years elections last May, saying the election was rigged.

Amidst the controversy, Maduro called for the restoration of talks between his government and the opposition in order to maintain peace and avoid a U.S.-backed coup. He also appealed to Pope Francis who said that both sides would first need to agree to a mediation.

The Pope notably brokered a negotiation between the U.S. and Cuba in 2014 to end to more than five decades of hostilities.

 
 
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Donald Trump Jr signed Stormy Daniels check, Michael Cohen to tell Congress

Donald Trump’s former lawyer will tell Congress on Wednesday that the president’s eldest son signed a check to fund illegal hush money payments to a pornographic actor, potentially placing Donald Trump Jr in legal peril.

Michael Cohen is preparing to show a House committee a check signed by Trump Jr reimbursing Cohen for payments to Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with Trump, according to a source familiar with Cohen’s plans.

Cohen, who spent a decade as Trump’s enforcer, also intends to say that Trump had advance knowledge of plans by WikiLeaks to release stolen Democratic emails and of a meeting his son held with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.

A copy of Cohen’s prepared remarks to the House oversight committee was obtained by the Guardian. He declared his former boss was a racist, a conman and a cheat.

The finding that Donald Jr was directly involved in the scheme to pay off Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, could mean the president’s son faces legal jeopardy. Federal prosecutors in New York, who have had copies of the checks and other records for months, say the payments violated campaign finance laws.

Cohen is the first Trump associate to publicly allege that the president had inside information about WikiLeaks releasing Democratic emails, which US intelligence agencies say were hacked by Russian operatives working to help Trump’s campaign.

Trump received the information on WikiLeaks in the days before the Democratic party convention July 2016 in a telephone call from Roger Stone, his longtime friend and adviser, according to Cohen, who said the call was placed on speakerphone.

“Mr Stone told Mr Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr Assange told Mr Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’”

Trump has denied knowing about the hacking of Democratic emails or of plans for their release. Stone previously claimed to have been in touch with Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, but now says that he was lying about this.

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Stone, whose public statements have been restricted by a judge’s gag order, said on Wednesday: “Mr Cohen’s statement is untrue.”

Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is concluding a two-year investigation into any links or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is accused of sharing polling data with an alleged Russian intelligence operative. Trump has dismissed Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch hunt”.

Cohen also said that he recalled Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, telling his father “in a low voice” in early June 2016: “The meeting is all set.” Cohen claims this was a reference to Donald Jr’s now-infamous gathering with several Russians, including a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, at Trump Tower that month.

“I remember Mr Trump saying, ‘OK good … let me know,” Cohen said in his prepared remarks. He said Trump had previously complained that Donald Jr “had the worst judgment of anyone in the world” and would not have set up a meeting of such significance without clearing it with his father.

Trump told Mueller in a series of written answers last year that he did not discuss WikiLeaks with Stone and did not know of the Trump Tower meeting in advance, according to CNN.

Cohen was preparing for a marathon hearing of the oversight committee, which has 42 members. Republicans keen to defend the president were expected to attack his credibility. Cohen pleaded guilty to crimes including lying to Congress and is scheduled to go to prison in May to begin a three-year sentence.

His prepared remarks painted a scathing picture of a mobster-like president, who denounced Cohen as a “rat” for turning on his former boss. Cohen recalled being dispatched by Trump to shortchange suppliers and to threaten his schools that they must not release his student grades.

Describing his testimony as a step on “path of redemption”, Cohen apologized to Congress for his past lies about the details of Trump’s plans in 2016 to build a tower in Moscow. He also said sorry to the country for “working to hide from you the truth about Mr Trump when you needed it most”.

Cohen described being intoxicated by Trump’s charisma in the early days of their work together. Now, he said, he understood Trump was an unkind, disloyal man in whom “the bad far outweighs the good’”.

Trump said black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and remarked during a drive through a poor area of Chicago that “only black people could live that way,” according to Cohen. “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole’,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he was asked during the 2016 campaign to handle negative press around Trump’s avoidance of the Vietnam war draft by claiming he had bone spurs on a foot. “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam,” Cohen quoted Trump as saying.

He also planned to produce false financial statements Trump provided to Deutsche Bank in pursuit of loans. Cohen said Trump inflated his wealth to secure a place on rich lists and artificially reduced it to avoid paying tax.

The prepared remarks described a remarkable scheme in which Trump directed Cohen to find a “straw bidder” to ensure a portrait of Trump fetched the highest price in a charity auction in 2013. Once the fake buyer secured the painting for $60,000, Trump paid for it out of his charitable foundation, according to Cohen.

Trump later boasted on Twitter that his portrait had attracted the top price.

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