FBI Director James Comey has confirmed the FBI is investigating whether President Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election.
James Comey: “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
That’s FBI Director James Comey speaking before the House Intelligence Committee Monday, issuing the first public confirmation of the agency’s investigation into the relationship between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
FBI Director James Comey also said the FBI has “no information” that supports Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that President Obama tapped Trump’s phones in Trump Tower during the election.
James Comey: “With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components: The department has no information that supports those tweets.”
During the hearing, the director of the National Security Agency, Michael Rogers, also refuted President Trump’s claims that President Obama asked the British intelligence agency GCHQ to carry out the wiretap on Trump Tower. This is Rogers being questioned by California Democratic Congressmember Adam Schiff.
Rep. Adam Schiff: “Now, the British allies, our British allies, have called the president’s suggestion that they wiretapped him for Obama 'nonsense' and 'utterly ridiculous.' Would you agree?”
Michael Rogers: “Yes, sir.”
President Trump appears to have issued the unfounded claims that the British intelligence agency GCHQ carried out the alleged wiretap after watching a Fox News report last week. Fox has pulled its senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, who made the claims last week, off the air. Following the hearing, President Trump refused to heed mounting calls for him to apologize for his unsubstantiated claims that Obama tapped his phones. Instead, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was still looking into the possibility of surveillance.
The New York Times reported Monday that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort is facing a new round of accusations in Ukraine, after evidence emerged that he sought to hide payments he’d received while doing political consulting work for former President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort was ousted as Trump’s campaign chair in August after handwritten ledgers unearthed in Ukraine showed $12.7 million of cash payments from a pro-Russian party that were slated to go to Manafort—although it is not known whether he ever received the money.
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is back on Capitol Hill today for day two of his confirmation hearing. During Monday’s hearing, Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Gorsuch’s record, as well as their Republican counterparts for refusing to take up the nomination of Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Neil Gorsuch has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. We’ll have more on Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings after headlines.
President Trump is expected to seek security clearances for his daughter, Ivanka Trump, so she can access classified information. Ivanka is also expected to receive an office in the West Wing and government-issued communication devices. Ivanka has been one of her father’s most trusted advisers, despite having no official government role. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior White House adviser.
Top Republican lawmakers have announced a slew of amendments to the Republican healthcare plan ahead of the House vote Thursday. Many of the amendments were pushed by conservatives within the Republican Party. One amendment seeks to halt immediately the Medicaid expansion program. Another would allow states to make it harder for people to receive Medicaid by imposing requirements that able-bodied people have a job or participate in job training programs. A third amendment would allow states to choose to receive less federal funding for Medicaid.
The Trump administration has enacted new rules prohibiting some passengers flying to the United States on foreign airlines from carrying on any electronic devices larger than a cellphone. The new rules apply to passengers flying from airports in Cairo; Istanbul; Kuwait City; Amman, Jordan; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The electronic devices are still allowed to be packed into passengers’ checked luggage.
A new report by the World Meteorological Organization warns the planet is experiencing unprecedented increases in global temperatures and rising sea levels that smash all previous measurements. David Carlson, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s World Climate Research Program, said, “We are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory.”
A high court in India has granted the Ganges and Yamuna rivers the same legal rights as human beings. The ruling comes after the New Zealand Parliament passed a law granting the Whanganui River full legal rights last week.
President Trump met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House Monday, on the 14th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. During their meeting, Trump pledged continued U.S. military support for the ongoing campaign against ISIS militants, including in the city of Mosul. On Monday, the Iraqi government said as many as 180,000 people have been displaced from west Mosul amid the ongoing fighting. More than 100,000 of those who have fled are now in temporary refugee camps.
Mexican journalist Ricardo Monlui Cabrera has been murdered in the Mexican state of Veracruz. He was the editorial director of the newspaper El Político and the president of the local journalists’ association in the city of Córdoba. He’s the second journalist to be murdered this month, after Cecilio Pineda was killed in the Mexican state of Guerrero. On the same day as Monlui’s murder, a mass grave containing nearly 50 corpses was discovered in Veracruz—only days after another mass grave of more than 250 corpses was discovered in the same state.
Parents of the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero met with officials from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C., on Friday to demand action in the investigation into their missing children, who disappeared more than two years ago after being kidnapped by local police.
In Florida, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala has received death threats from another government employee after she announced she would not seek the death penalty in any murder cases, including in a case of a police officer’s killing. After her announcement, the assistant finance director of the Seminole County Clerk’s Office, Stan McCullars, wrote on Facebook, “Maybe she should get the death penalty. … She should be tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree.” Ayala is the first African-American state’s attorney in Florida’s history. The Orlando Sentinel reports that from 1877 to 1950, more than 331 black people were lynched by whites in Florida—the most lynchings per capita of any U.S. state.
In California, a three-day African trade conference at the University of Southern California was held without a single person from Africa, after the U.S. government denied the visas of every single African seeking to attend. Organizers of the African Global Economic and Development Summit say between 60 and 100 potential attendees from Africa all had their visas denied. Organizer Mary Flowers said, “I don’t know if it’s Trump or if it’s the fact that the embassies that have been discriminating for a long time see this as an opportunity, because of talk of the travel ban, to blatantly reject everyone.”
Forbes magazine has published its annual billionaires list. According to Forbes, President Donald Trump’s net worth has dropped by $1 billion. His fortune is now reportedly $3.5 billion, making him the 544th richest person in the world.
In more news on billionaires, banker David Rockefeller has died at the age of 101. One of the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune, he also exerted extensive political influence worldwide. David Rockefeller was the longest-serving member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a strong promoter of neoliberalism and was involved in U.S. political interventions, including the ousting of Chile’s democratically elected leader Salvador Allende. David Rockefeller also engaged in philanthropy.
And Peter Kwong, a leading scholar of Asian-American studies and immigration has died. Born in Taiwan in 1941, Kwong was a distinguished professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College and a professor of sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His work was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2010, Kwong appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about his Oscar-nominated film, “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province.” This is Kwong speaking about how the Chinese government was seeking to suppress information about the earthquake, which killed 80,000 people.
Peter Kwong: “So, ironically, ours is the only document of history. This is the only thing that’s left. And so, it is therefore very, very important for us to continue to push. People in China are pushing, but we have to do our task. This is really very important, because the parents knew, we’re the only ones could let the rest of the world know.”
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