Putin: Don’t know if it would have been better or worse if Trump had not been elected

The Russian President said there was no way of knowing if Russia had benefited from Donald Trump’s presidency, but promised to work with the current administration no matter what. Politics knows no ‘what ifs,’ he added.

“The United States is a great power, and leads the world in many respects,” said the Russian leader, who had been asked repeatedly about relations between Moscow and Washington during the Russian Energy Week International Forum. “We consider it our natural partner on a whole range of issues, including security, non-proliferation, anti-terrorism and environmental solutions.

“I don’t know if it would have been better or worse if Trump hadn’t won the election – there are no 'what ifs' in politics, and we will work with what we have,” he told the audience during the open session in Moscow.

Read more Putin to Trump: ‘Donald, look into mirror to find culprit for surge in oil prices’

© Mike Segar

Putin said that he hoped to sway Trump towards signing the Paris climate accord, which the US has exited under the current administration. He agreed with his US counterpart that oil prices, which are inching upwards to $100 per barrel, are too high; but said that America’s Iran sanctions were contributing to the volatility.

The Russian president also hoped that the “nonsense” of the Russia election meddling probe would soon be put to bed, and urged Trump to “restore internal balance” to American politics.

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FBI probe is the next battle in war over Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. senators expressed concern on Sunday over reports the White House was working with Republicans to narrow the scope of an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

President Donald Trump bowed to pressure from moderate members of his Republican Party on Friday and ordered the probe after Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor, detailed her allegations at a Senate hearing that Kavanaugh assaulted her in 1982, when the two were in high school.

The stunning reversal capped two weeks of allegations, followed by furious denials, that roiled prospects for Trump’s nominee, a conservative federal appeals court judge once expected to easily become the second Trump nominee to win a lifetime appointment to the top U.S. court.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s accusation, as well as those of two other women.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee made public late on Sunday a previously unreleased interview with Kavanaugh from Sept. 26, before a public hearing with Ford, in which he denied all the allegations against him and committee Democrats declined to ask questions, saying they felt the FBI should investigate the allegations.

Republicans, who are trying to retain control of the U.S. Congress in November elections, are seeking to balance their desire for another conservative justice on the court with sensitivity about how they handle sexual misconduct allegations amid the reverberations of the #MeToo movement.

It did not take long, however, for the FBI probe to become an object of partisan division.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the White House had defined the parameters of the probe for the FBI and that the investigation would start with interviews with only four people.

NBC News, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal previously reported that the White House was constraining the investigation, prompting Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to express concern.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, wrote to White House counsel Donald McGahn and FBI Director Christopher Wray and asked that the committee be provided with a copy of the written directive the White House sent to the FBI, as well as the names of any additional witnesses or evidence if the probe is expanded.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

LIMITING THE PROBE

The administration denied it was trying to control the probe, which the Judiciary Committee said on Friday “would be limited to current credible allegations” and wrapped up within a week.

“We’re staying out of the way,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told “Fox News Sunday.”

However, the administration made clear there would be limits. “It’s not meant to be a fishing expedition,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump vowed on Saturday that the FBI could interview “whoever they deem appropriate.”

On Sunday, he criticized Democrats for expressing concerns about the length and scope of the probe.

“For them, it will never be enough!” he wrote on Twitter.

The FBI will question Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when both were students at Yale University, the White House official told Reuters.

It will also question Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said witnessed the assault, and Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth, who she said were at the gathering.

A third accuser, Julie Swetnick, was not on the initial list of witnesses to be interviewed.

Senate Republicans compiled the list of four witnesses and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell shared it with the White House, the official and another source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that the White House asked the FBI to share its findings after the initial interviews and that Trump and his advisers would then decide whether the accusations should be investigated further.

Neither the FBI nor a Judiciary Committee representative would comment on details of the probe.

Senator Susan Collins, among a handful of moderates who joined Republican Senator Jeff Flake, said in an email: “I am confident that the FBI will follow up on any leads that result from the interviews.”

Flake was instrumental in forcing the investigation.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said it would not be unlawful for the White House to restrict the investigation’s scope because the FBI is under the executive branch.

However, Tobias said FBI agents were usually allowed to act independently and it would be a “clear conflict of interest” for White House officials involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation process to interfere with the FBI’s investigation.

 

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Trump uses Kavanaugh delay as rallying cry for midterm elections

WHEELING, WVa. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday used the stalled nomination of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a rallying cry for Republican voters in November congressional elections.

At a West Virginia rally, Trump did not say a word about the testimony of university professor Christine Blasey Ford who detailed her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh at an extraordinary hearing on Thursday.

After that hearing, Trump bowed to pressure from moderate Senate Republicans and ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to further investigate.

Trump told supporters, who packed a hockey rink to the rafters for a raucous and freewheeling speech, that the delay showed why they need to vote against “mean and nasty and untruthful” Democrats in the Nov. 6 midterms.

“I will tell you, he has suffered. The meanness, the anger,” Trump said.

Trump was campaigning in a state he won by more than 40 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost support for Republican Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey, who is trailing in polls behind Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin is one of a handful of senators seen as key swing votes on Kavanaugh’s appointment.

It was the first of five rallies for Trump this week to energize supporters and volunteers ahead of Nov. 6 congressional elections, where Republicans are at risk of losing control of Congress.

“A lot of what we’ve done - some people could say all of what we’ve done - is at stake in November,” Trump said, urging supporters to get involved.

“We are just five weeks away from one of the most important congressional elections in our lifetimes,” he said.

Kavanaugh’s troubled confirmation has disappointed conservative voters and energized Democrats.

Trump touted a poll done in West Virginia after the Senate hearing by the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative activist group that is backing Kavanaugh with a $1.5 million ad campaign.

The polling showed 58 percent of voters in the state want the confirmation to go ahead, while 28 percent are opposed.

“We think that in general, the attention on this hasn’t swayed opinion so much as it has hardened intensity,” a White House official said, speaking on background.

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"No Way": North Korea Says Will Not Disarm Without Trust In US

United Nations, United States: North Korea's foreign minister on Saturday told the United Nations there was "no way" that his country would disarm first as long as the United States continued to push for tough enforcement of sanctions against Pyongyang.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Ri Yong Ho accused Washington of creating a deadlock in talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

"The recent deadlock is because the US relies on coercive measures which are lethal to trust-building," Ri told the assembly.

"Without any trust in the US, there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances, there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."

The United States is insisting on a "denuclearization-first" policy that "increases the level of pressure by sanctions to achieve their purpose in a coercive manner," said the foreign minister.

"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us."

Led by the United States, the UN Security Council adopted three sanctions resolutions last year aimed at depriving North Korea of revenue for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

A landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June led to a warming of ties and a halt in Pyongyang's missile launches, but there has been little concrete progress since.

While in New York, Ri met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who agreed to return to Pyongyang next month to discuss US demands that the North scrap its weapons programs.

Pompeo will also try to arrange a second summit between Trump and Kim, whose June meeting in Singapore was the first ever between sitting leaders of the long-time enemy states.

Russia, China want sanctions relief

The North Korean foreign minister told the UN assembly that his government had stopped nuclear and missile tests, dismantled a nuclear test site and continued to make efforts to build trust.

"However we do not see any corresponding response from the US," he said.

North Korea's complaints have gotten a sympathetic ear from Russia and China, which this week called for an easing of sanctions to encourage Pyongyang to make concessions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the "positive developments" in relations between North and South Korea -- combined with warmer US-North Korean ties -- should lead to sanctions relief.

The United States however has pushed for full enforcement of the tough measures that include a cap on oil and fuel deliveries, a ban on exports of North Korea's raw commodities and an end to contracts for its workers abroad.

China is Pyongyang's top trading partner, while Russia has welcomed tens of thousands of North Korean laborers that provide a vital source of hard currency. Human rights groups say the laborers often work in slave-like conditions. 

The United States is also hearing calls for step-by-step sanctions relief from ally South Korea, whose left-leaning President Moon Jae-in helped arrange Trump's diplomatic drive.

That view is not shared by Japan, which wants complete and verified disarming of North Korea as a condition for lifting any sanctions.
 

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Barbra Streisand takes aim at Donald Trump on new song Don't Lie to Me

Barbra Streisand has released Don’t Lie to Me, a new song that takes aim at Donald Trump.

Over a bombastic string-laden backing, Streisand sings: “How do you win if we all lose? / You change the facts to justify / Your lips move but your words get in the way” – an allusion to Trump’s notoriously liberal attitude to the truth, with the Washington Post calculating he has made 5,000 “false or misleading claims” since his presidency began.

Barbra Streisand - Don't Lie to Me (Official Audio)

She describes the American people as “on our knees”, and says “all that we built has come undone”. The song climaxes with the plea, “Can’t you see we’re crying? Where’s the new horizon?” before asking, “How do you sleep?”

While Trump isn’t mentioned by name, there are clear indicators that Streisand is singing about the US president, including lines like: “You can build towers of bronze and gold.”

It’s an explosive return for Streisand, who, at 76, is releasing one of the most politically outspoken songs of her career. A Hillary Clinton supporter, she has been a frequent critic of Trump in interviews, calling his prospective presidency “terrifyingly scary” in 2015, before saying earlier this year: “I call him the liar in chief, the misogynist in chief. He’s so crazed.” She said she believed that the 2016 election was rigged: “I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.” Yesterday, she tweeted: “Accused of sexual assault by 19 women … how did Trump get to be the President of the United States?”

Don’t Lie to Me is taken from her forthcoming album, Walls, her first collection of primarily original material since 2005 – she has released albums featuring cover versions in the interim, including 2014’s Partners, an album of duets with Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel and John Legend among others. In a tweet announcing the album, Streisand wrote: “This collection of songs reflects what’s been on my mind lately, and I look forward to sharing that with you.”

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Laughter at Trump’s UN Speech Sign of Growing US Isolation – Tehran

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Laughter at US President Donald Trump’s claims of US achievements during his speech at the UN General Assembly is a sign of his country’s deepening isolation, the chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Mohammad Ali Jafari called laughter heard during Trump’s address to the assembly "a major political scandal" that spelled "further isolation of the US."

The commander also slammed the US leader for his "cheap comments" on Iran’s alleged villainy, saying the United States and its Gulf allies were the ones destabilizing the Middle East.

READ MORE: UN Sec. Council Will Isolate Trump, Not Iran, Against US Wishes — Iran Deputy FM

In his speech at the general assembly on Tuesday, the US president praised the "extraordinary" work of the current White House administration, while some delegates laughed and muttered. He then accused Iran of sowing "chaos, death and destruction" in the Middle East.

According to the media reports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the hall of the UN General Assembly while Trump was talking, however, later correspondent of the Turkish government newspaper Sabah Ragip Soilu stressed that Erdogan left in order to prepare his own speech, not to protest against the US statements.

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Trump Backs Military Coup in Venezuela Against Maduro

Speaking on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting, an organization meant to promote peace, the U.S. president confirmed his backing for violent military takeovers and interventions. 

U.S. President Donald Trump, said Tuesday a military coup against the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela could succeed "quickly" if the Venezuelan Armed Forces decided to organize it, and confirmed that he is keeping the military option on the table in the face of the crisis in that country.

"It's a regime (Maduro's) that frankly, could be defeated very quickly if the military decides to do that," Trump told reporters according to EFE during his first meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly debate. 

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Trump Praises Saudi Arabia, Israel at UN, Rejects Globalism

Trump used his speech to promote more intervention and to praise governments doing so, while rejecting the ideals and mission of the United Nations.

U.S. President Donald Trump praised right-wing and authoritarian governments around the world including Saudi Arabia, Israel, the right-wing Modi government of India, while promoting his economic war of sanctions against Venezuela and Iran, and bragging about his administration's push for more military spending, furthering neo-liberal policies, trade war with China, crackdown on immigration, as well as rejecting the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court.

RELATED: UN Chief Kicks Off UNGA, Warns Leaders of 'Increasingly Chaotic' World Order

“We have passed the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history. We have started the construction of a major border wall, and we have greatly strengthened border security. We have secured record funding for the military — $700 billion this year, and $716 billion next year. Our military will soon be more powerful than it has ever been before,” Trump said.

His comments on more military spending, at the very organization that was founded to promote peace in the world after World War Two, came before he bragged about cutting funds to countries and organizations that do not align with his government's policies. In recent months, Washington cut funds to several U.N. organizations including those helping Palestinian refugees and proposing human and women's rights. 

Trump also attacked the International Criminal Court, in which a lawsuit is being processed against U.S. crimes in Afghanistan and said that the court did not have "legitimacy, jurisdiction or authority" over the world, and that "we will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy."

Trump also used his speech to attack the leaders of the Iranian government, just days after a terrorist attack took place in the capital. "Iran's leaders sow chaos, death and destruction," Trump told the annual gathering. "They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations," while praising Saudi Arabia and Israel despite their proven pro-war policies in Syria and Yemen, and Palestine. 

Trump called for international trade reforms and insisted that his main objective as president is to protect American sovereignty. He called on OPEC to stop raising oil prices and criticized China's trade practices.

Trump also prompted murmurs from the crowd of world leaders and diplomats when he declared that he had accomplished more as president than almost any other administration in history. "I didn’t expect that reaction, but that's okay," he said.

Trump praised North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday for his courage in taking some steps to disarm, but said much work needed to be done and sanctions must remain in place on North Korea until it denuclearizes.

"The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction, nuclear testing has stopped, some military facilities are already being dismantled," Trump said in his speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly.

"I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done," Trump said. "The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs."

Trump's remarks on North Korea were dramatically different to those in his speech last year at the U.N. assembly, when he threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea and mocked the North Korean leader as a "Rocket Man" on a "suicide mission."

@telesurenglish António Guterres opens the UN General Assembly with an appeal against war, inequality and racism.

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