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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Spike Lee rounds on Donald Trump over Twitter attack

Oscar-winning director responds to the president’s claim that his acceptance speech was ‘a racist hit’.

Spike Lee has addressed Donald Trump’s claim that his Oscars acceptance speech was a “racist hit” aimed at the president.

When Lee won his first Oscar on Sunday night, he used his speech to attempt to mobilise the crowd ahead of the 2020 elections, saying: “Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!”

Although he mentioned no one by name, Trump was swift to retaliate on Twitter, saying:

“Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!”

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the social media retort, Lee said: “Well, it’s okee-doke, you know. They change the narrative.

“They did the same thing with the African American players who were kneeling, trying to make it into an anti-American thing, an anti-patriotic thing, and an anti-military thing. But no one’s going for that.”

Lee’s victory, in the best adapted screenplay category for BlacKkKlansman, was one of the key moments of Sunday night’s ceremony. After leaping into the arms of presenter Samuel L Jackson, he paid tribute to his late grandmother, “Zimmie Shelton Reatha, who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave.

“My grandma who saved 50 years of social security checks to put her first grandchild – she called me Spikie Poo – she put me through Morehouse College and NYU Grad Film.”

Lee seemed to speak for many present when he later declared himself dissatisfied with the best picture victory for Green Book.

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Trump's Ex-Campaign Worker Says He Forcibly Kissed Her Before A Rally

A woman who worked on Donald Trump's presidential campaign sued the president on Monday, accusing him of kissing her without consent before a 2016 rally in Tampa, Florida.

Alva Johnson said in the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Florida's Middle District, that the alleged incident was "part of a pattern of predatory and harassing behaviour towards women" by Trump.

"This accusation is absurd on its face," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement

"This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts. "Trump has denied charges by a number of women who said he groped and kissed them over a period of years without permission. The lawsuit alleges the encounter occurred inside a campaign RV before a rally on Aug 24, 2016

While leaving a meeting in the vehicle, Trump gripped Johnson by the hand and leaned in so close that she felt his breath, the lawsuit says. Johnson turned her head, trying to avoid a kiss, but Trump still managed to kiss the corner of her mouth, the lawsuit says

Johnson claims Trump had to move deliberately because her face was framed by a baseball cap. "She felt confused and humiliated," the lawsuit said. High-profile Trump supporters including then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump's Florida campaign director Karen Giorno were in the RV at the time, the lawsuit said

Both told the Washington Post, which first reported the lawsuit, that they saw nothing inappropriate. Johnson is seeking financial damages and a court order to prohibit Trump "from grabbing, kissing or otherwise assaulting or harassing women without prior express consent. "According to the lawsuit, Johnson called her partner and her parents in tears the day of the encounter with Trump and described what had happened

She said fellow campaign workers subsequently joked about the kiss after Giorno shared details. In a phone interview on Monday, Johnson's lawyer, Hassan Zavareei, rejected the White House denial and said the witness accounts were not credible

He said Johnson, 43, a mother of four living in Alabama, was not available for an interview and worries about her family's safety as a result of the lawsuit. The lawsuit said Johnson also experienced discrimination as one of the campaign's few female and African-American staff members.

She earned less than her colleagues and experienced "a larger culture of racist and sexist behaviour," the lawsuit said.

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Kim Jong-Un Arrives in Vietnam Ahead of Meeting With Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived in Vietnam for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, scheduled for Wednesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived in Vietnam for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, scheduled for Wednesday.

RELATED: Trump, Kim Arrive in Vietnam Ahead of 2nd Summit: Ministry

The second US-North Korea summit is a follow-up from the historic talks between the two countries that took place in Singapore in 2018.

Kim was greeted by a large crowd, who had been camped-out most of the day in anticipation for the North Korean leader's arrival. He was subsequently ushered from his train into a waiting car by security officials, where he was scheduled to head to the Hanoi Melia Hotel, ahead of a visit with Vietnamese leaders, according to CNBC. 

Kim made the journey from Pyongynang to Vietnam in his famous armored train, paying homage to his grandfather - North Korea's first leader, Kim II-sung, who traveled by train when he went to Vietnam, and throughout Europe.

According to BBC, Kim's journey took more than two days and traversed about 4000 km (2485 miles). 

U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to arrive later on Tuesday, and while there are few expectations for the meeting, the previous summit resulted in a 'gentleman's agreement' that the two countries would "strive for denuclerisation," reported AlJazeera.

The only set plan is that Trump will meet Kim for a "brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening, followed by dinner together, along with their respective advisors," according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. The next day, the two will meet again for a series of back-and-forth meetings.

President Trump has been coy about reports suggesting that denuclerisation will be achieved, saying he was "in no rush," according to AlJazeera.

"I don't want to rush anybody. I just don't want testing. As long as there's no testing, we're happy," he said.

Washington had previously said that North Korea had to unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons before there could be any sanctions relief.

According to TeleSUR, "the initial meeting in June 2018 produced a vague statement in which Kim and Trump outlined four commitments without an exact timeline: establishing "new relations" for peace and prosperity; building a "lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula;" working "towards denuclearisation;" and recovering and repatriating the remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also arrived in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, where he is set to meet Washington's Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun.

Pompeo, Trump's top envoy in his efforts to improve ties with North Korea, has made several trips to Pyongyang to negotiate steps towards ending its nuclear programme.

Kim Jong-un will meet with the Vietnamese president, Nguyen Phu Trong early Tuesday as well as the general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, before continuing on to visit the industrial zone of Bac Ninh, Laos, and the port city of Hai Phong, ahead of the bilateral meeting with President Trump.

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What has Happened in Latin America? Understanding the Imperial Counteroffensive

With the essay "The imperial geopolitics of the development in Latin America: an overcome model?", Cuban researchers Yazmín Bárbara Vázquez Ortiz and Olga Rosa González Martínez, from the Center of Hemispheric Studies and the United States of Havana University have just won the International Prize of Essay Pensar a Contracorriente, in its XVI edition. With talked to them, to understand the imperial avalanche and reconquest in the region, as well as the chances for the left-wing to face this challenge. And we do this at a key moment: when threats of an armed intervention on behalf of the United States or of a fratricidal war, they are enraged with the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela.

Which are in bold strokes, the mechanisms that characterize the imperial geopolitical positioning in Latin America, from the perspective of the development?

Yazmín: To speak of the Model of Imperial Geopolitical of Development, we must specify, above all that it’s a group of mechanisms that work together, and have not just an economic nature. Although they include the Free Trade Treaties, the Aid Development Programs (with domestic scope like FORTAS and International like those of USAID), those mechanisms applied in the cultural dominance are also essential to understand the reach that have, in the field of dominance and political subversion, the model we are speaking about.

For example, the articulation of messages issued from the media, international consultant, think tanks, and international institutions like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, with more or less technical level have in two impact directions. The first one, to discredit the programs, the politics generated from governments or left-wing forces, those who think of a future of human and social development from the socialization of the wealth and power, with transformations that must be done to this purpose, in every geographic levels and structural dimensions and of needed social actions that are transformed in essential processes. The second, aimed at socializing and building up approval about alternative proposals to these on-line with the interests at heart of transnational capital and the imperial project of the United States government.

What’s striking about these action guidelines, especially the second one is the way to build approval that uses conceptions (what to understand by development), values (how to guide the individual behavior to achieve it), ideals (what project should the family and society bet to progress) which has as essential objective the dispute of senses for the cultural change. A process that has won over the symbols, speech, and practices that from the left-wing have shown capacity to mobilize society for the political change. Olguita may speak further on how a model of political communication for the cultural change have taken shape from the action of the aforementioned mechanisms and others, more aggressive that are in motion today.

That same way of acting, I assume has been toward the entire region, but taking into account particularities and specific objectives in each country. How has it been expressed especially against the progressive and liberating processes of the region, and among them, against the Bolivarian Revolution?

Yazmín: The particularity that has had the application of these mechanisms in countries with progressive and liberating processes has been, on one side, the insert of a series of instruments that hinder the realization of the development programs, as well as of politics set with this end and on the other hand, the combination of all these with those politics aimed at guaranteeing “the necessary political changes to access development.”

In the first case, beyond the media offensive to damage the reputation of the programs, plans and politics for the development, boycott processes,—economic war (like in Venezuela), the blockade (like in Cuba)—, juridical instruments have been set, sanctions with international reach, manipulation of international institutions, as they did to lower oil prices with OPEC. All of which seeks to create certain lacks of materials and other elements from which later the uneasiness is worked, along with the “need” of change and ideas on how to do it. Very similar to Danny Glover’s statements on the U.S. position towards Venezuela today: I create the problem, I attack you and then I will come to save you. Only that this salvation is designed and conditioned on the needs of the great capital to enter our economies and the United States guarantees an area of geopolitical support against China, Russia and the challenges they impose to the perpetuation of the imperial hegemony.

To the mechanisms that are already articulated to those mentioned seeking to guarantee “the necessary political changes to access development”, have been added those that are included in the promotion of security, as condition of development from the Initiatives for security deployed in the continent. From these last mechanisms it has been worked the criminalization of the social protest, to eliminate those they cannot convince, those who fight against transnationals and their expropriation processes. Likewise, the processes of “institutional strengthening” have worked through actions of “independent” attorney’s offices, in processes of judicialization of politics that invalidates left leaders like Lula, with chances of recovering the government, or the case of Cristina, Correa that during their time in office limited the capacity to expropriate the natural resources in the countries they governed and they impacted in their rescue for the social progress, with nationalizations.

Today we have corporations meddling in government functions and in the mechanisms of alleged integration as the Initiative for Prosperity and Security of the Northern Triangle. The corporation of politics is part of what promotes the Model of Imperial Geopolitics of Development, together with civic and community empowering, but only in the economic area, as labor force or entrepreneurs subordinate to the chains of global value.

A proposal where many and dissimilar actors participate: ranging from agencies and foundations of the United States, think tanks, churches, corporations, among other that act at territorial, national and regional level.

This process promotes since 2017, as part of the actions of the South Command in Latin America, Internet, the coordination of the mechanisms aforementioned by North American military forces. It’s part of the scheme applied in Venezuela in an attempt to create approval to legitimate the intervention for the national political change.

After studying this phenomenon, what do you think the left-wing in Latin America can do to face and overcome this challenge?

Olguita: I don’t intend this to be a unique answer neither to offer a recipe, I believe the most important thing is that the left-wing comes together, that works in block that makes a balance of its mistakes and that elaborates projections in different areas. Latin America has proven in the last few years that it’s not just reaching the government via elections. It’s about once the Executive Power is attain a process of revolutionary radicalization must occur in the broadest sense of the word. Like Che Guevara said, “the enemy must not be given an inch”. There are spaces that cannot be given freely, it’s necessary to speak to people, to work with the lowest ranks, in the neighborhoods, to speak face to face. The media is important, social media are useful, but the space within the community cannot be lost, there is where the right-wing and the United States have been working hard. Everyone who is strategically thinking of its future should go beyond the debate of public policies and include all the actors who influence in the creation of approval and the mobilization.

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