“. . . a White House scandal . . .”

Note–> This article compiled with the help of various and sundry sources.

FBI Director Comey to testify again?

House Intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Tuesday he has invited FBI Director James Comey to testify again before House investigators.

Nunes did not say when he expected Comey to testify, only that he had extended the formal invitation.
Nunes originally planned to have Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testify in private Tuesday, but he canceled the meeting Monday.
Comey’s second round of testimony touched off a partisan fight among House investigators into Russia’s meddling in the US election, with Democrats saying they were angry Nunes canceled a public hearing with former intelligence officials, including former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
 Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that Yates had been preparing to answer questions about phone calls between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian officials.
Schiff said he only wanted Comey to testify if it was not behind closed doors.  “We certainly welcome the director to come back, but not in lieu of a public hearing,” Schiff said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan today reiterated his solidarity with Rep. Devin Nunes, saying the Intelligence Committee chairman should continue to lead the chamber’s Russia investigation.

When asked today whether he thought Nunes, R-Calif., should recuse himself and whether he knows the source of Nunes’ information on alleged incidental collection of information from the Trump presidential campaign, Ryan said simply, “No and no.”

Sen. John McCain called on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to explain his decision to brief President Donald Trump on possible “unmasking” of Trump transition officials, suggesting that Nunes has undermined the credibility of the panel by not first communicating with fellow committee members.

“I think there needs to be a lot of explaining to do,” McCain said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” “I’ve been around for quite a while, and I’ve never heard of any such thing. Obviously, on a committee like an intelligence committee, you’ve got to have bipartisanship; otherwise, the committee loses credibility. And there’s so much out there that needs to be explained by the chairman.”

March 27, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) responded Monday to a statement by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes that he, “met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.” Chairman Nunes was referring to classified information that President Trump falsely claimed validated his unfounded assertions that he was wiretapped by President Obama.

“My fears have been validated. Through his bizarre and partisan actions over the last week, Chairman Nunes has demonstrated to the entire nation why he is unfit to lead our critical investigation into ties between President Trump’s Administration and Moscow. The Chairman’s admission this morning that he met with an unnamed ‘source’ on White House grounds ‘in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view [classified] information’ is the last straw. This implies that the Chairman and the White House colluded in a desperate attempt to salvage the President’s credibility, after the President’s bogus wiretapping claims were debunked by his own FBI Director,” Rep. Speier said. “The documents in question have yet to be shared with the full Committee, despite the fact that the Chairman held two press conferences and met with the President – a subject of the investigation – in the same day to discuss their contents. These actions are entirely unconscionable, and I therefore call for Chairman Nunes to recuse himself from the remainder of this investigation. Further, as the Chairman is full aware, ‘proximity’ to a secured location provides zero protection – none – to classified information, so we need more clarity on the carefully-chosen wording in his statement to prove that no classified information was put at risk. In order to make sense of these developments, the White House must release its visitor logs so we can learn who from the President’s staff granted the Chairman access to the White House complex, and where he viewed the documents. It is now apparent to all that an independent, non-partisan investigation is the only way that we can get to the bottom of Russian actions to undermine our democracy.”


A Russian bank under Western economic sanctions over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine disclosed on Monday that its executives had met Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, in December.

A U.S. Senate committee investigating suspected Russian interference in the election wants to interview Trump associates, including Kushner, 36, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and has agreed to testify.

Kushner previously acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador to Washington last December and only on Monday did it emerge that executives of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a bank roadshow last year.

The bank said in an emailed statement that as part of its preparing a new strategy, its executives met representatives of financial institutes in Europe, Asia and America.

It said roadshow meetings took place “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.” VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates.

According to two congressional staffers, some Senate investigators want to question Kushner and Flynn about whether they discussed with Gorkov or other Russian officials or financial executives the possibility of investing in 666 Fifth Avenue in New York or other Kushner Co or Trump properties if the new administration lifted the sanctions.

VEB, aside from being under sanctions, has been grappling with bad debt after financing politically expedient projects such as construction for the Sochi Winter Olympics.

There was no immediate comment from Kushner.  Kushner may’ve broken a law by meeting with a Russian bank under US sanctions at the time of the meeting.


Bill KRISTOL (Weekly Standard): “I think it’s a White House scandal more than a Nunes scandal. That’s the distraction. Who’s the staffer who let him in? You can’t just walk onto the White House grounds even if you’re a senior congressman. Who’s this guy who let him into the SCIF, the sensitive room that you can look at classified information on? Who logged him onto the computer? You can’t just walk in and say, ‘Hey, I think I’ll use the computer,’ right? There’s a password, etc.”


According to the top U.S. commander in Iraq there is “a fair chance” that a coalition airstrike played a role in the deaths of as many as 200 civilians killed inside three leveled buildings in western Mosul.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told reporters Tuesday that an ongoing review of the incident may find that the civilian deaths were due to a combination of the airstrike and the ISIS tactic of using human shields inside the buildings.

“If we did it, and I’d say there’s at least a fair chance that we did, it was an unintentional accident of war and we will transparently report it to you when we’re ready,” Townsend said in an audio briefing from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters.

Townsend said initial indications show there were multiple airstrikes in the area where the buildings are located.

“Is it possible that we did that? Yes, I think it’s a possible,” Townsend said later. “That’s what I mean by a fair chance. If we didn’t strike in that area, I’d be telling you it was unlikely. But because we struck in that area, I think there’s a fair chance that we did it.”


BAGHDAD — A recent spike in civilian casualties in Mosul suggests the U.S.-led coalition is not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths as it battles the Islamic State militants alongside Iraqi ground forces, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The human rights group’s report follows acknowledgement from the coalition that the U.S. military was behind a March 17 strike in a western Mosul neighborhood that residents have said killed more than a hundred civilians.

U.S. officials did not confirm there were civilian casualties but opened an investigation.

Amnesty’s report also cites a second strike on Saturday that it said killed “up to 150 people.” The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement that it was investigating multiple strikes in western Mosul that allegedly resulted in civilian deaths.

Evidence gathered on the ground in Mosul “points to an alarming pattern of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” the report stated.

It said any failure to take precautions to prevent civilian casualties would be “in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

In Baghdad, visiting U.S. army chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, said on Monday that what caused the explosion was still unknown and added that “some degree of certainty will be known in the coming days following the investigation.”

“It is very possible that Daesh blew up that building to blame it on the collation in order to cause a delay in the offensive into Mosul and cause a delay in the use of collation airstrikes, that is very possible,” Milley told reporters after meetings at the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

Daesh is an Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State group.

“And it is possible the collation airstrike did it,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, the spokesman of the U.N. human rights office called on the international coalition fighting in Iraq to work to “minimize the impact” on civilians. Rupert Colville said IS militants are brazenly employing human shields, urging the coalition forces to “avoid this trap.”

Colville added that the rights office has tallied the deaths of at least 307 people between Feb. 17 and March 22, including 140 from a single March 17 airstrike incident on a house in al-Jadida neighborhood on March 17.

Iraqi forces began the assault on IS-held Mosul in October, after months of preparation and buildup. In January, Iraq declared the eastern half of Mosul — the Tigris River divides the city into an eastern and western sector — “fully liberated.” Iraqi government forces are now battling to retake the city’s western half.

Civilians, humanitarian groups and monitoring officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the higher density of the population there and the increased reliance on airstrikes and artillery. Faced with their toughest fight against IS yet, Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to airstrikes and artillery to clear and hold territory in Mosul’s west.

Unlike its previous battles against IS in urban settings in Iraq, the government made the decision to instruct Mosul civilians to remain in their homes. In the battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, those cities were entirely emptied of their civilian population while Iraqi forces fought to push out IS. In Mosul, the Iraqi government said it asked civilians to remain in place to prevent large-scale displacement.

When the operation to retake Mosul was launched, more than a million people were estimated to still be living in the city, Iraq’s second-largest. Today, the United Nations estimates about 400,000 people remain trapped in IS-held neighborhoods in western Mosul.

Amnesty International’s report quoted survivors and eyewitnesses of airstrikes that have killed civilians as saying that “they did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes.”

 

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