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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016. – Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost Saturday April 27th, 2019 at 7:48 PM


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Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost – Ukraine’s Global Voice  Kyiv Post

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016.
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Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016.
Speaking on his favorite Fox News Channel, which provides uncritical, partisan support for Trump, the president said “big” and “incredible” new allegations have emerged that Ukraine tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of his rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. 
America has been an invaluable ally to Ukraine on the international stage since Russia invaded in 2014, providing much financial and military support.  But while the U.S. Congress, State, Defense and other government departments have worked closely with Kyiv, relations between Ukrainian authorities and the Trump White House have been cool.
Trump’s words could throw a pall on relations with Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, before the country’s new leader even takes office.
Ukrainians became wary of Trump during the election campaign because he often praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and seemed to suggest that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea was justified. 
Trump was forced to fire his campaign manager Paul Manafort when it merged, in the summer of 2016, that he had worked for many years in a key role for Ukraine’s ousted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. 

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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Trump drags Ukraine into his conspiracy allegations | KyivPost


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is keen on pursuing allegations that Ukraine tried to hamper his presidential bid in 2016.

Speaking on his favorite Fox News Channel, which provides uncritical, partisan support for Trump, the president said “big” and “incredible” new allegations have emerged that Ukraine tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of his rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. 

America has been an invaluable ally to Ukraine on the international stage since Russia invaded in 2014, providing much financial and military support.  But while the U.S. Congress, State, Defense and other government departments have worked closely with Kyiv, relations between Ukrainian authorities and the Trump White House have been cool.

Trump’s words could throw a pall on relations with Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, before the country’s new leader even takes office.

Ukrainians became wary of Trump during the election campaign because he often praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and seemed to suggest that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea was justified. 

Trump was forced to fire his campaign manager Paul Manafort when it merged, in the summer of 2016, that he had worked for many years in a key role for Ukraine’s ousted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. 

Prominent Ukrainian journalist and member of parliament, Sergii Leshchenko, made public that Manafort had received millions of dollars in payments from the Yanukovych camp, which the American political operative stashed in offshore accounts and failed to declare to U.S. tax authorities.

Trump and some of his supporters called the revelations about Manafort a conspiracy by Ukrainian authorities to influence the election. They have sought to portray equivalency between Russia’s widespread and well-documented by U.S. intelligence agencies interference in the election with the Ukrainian information shedding light on Manafort’s connections to pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs.

A two-year investigation by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign ended last month without enough evidence to indict anyone of criminal actions with Moscow.  

However, the 448-page report detailed much murky behavior, lying and plentiful contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates which have laid the ground for months more of investigations by Congressional committees and that in turn has triggered presidential fury with demands that those who initiated the investigation and provided information from Ukraine, should themselves be investigated.

Trump’s opponents say talk of a “Ukrainian conspiracy” is designed to deflect attention from the damning Mueller report.

Lutsenko fuels Trump’s ‘Ukrainian conspiracy’ case

The contentions by the Trump side that Ukrainian officials played an improper part in 2016  have been strengthened by statements from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko that his office has opened investigations into such allegations. He and Barr apparently met in in the U.S. in February.

Speaking on Fox News on April 25, Trump said he wants the American public to be aware of the Ukrainian Prosecutor Generals’ office investigation. He said that U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr would decide on how to handle any probe into “Clinton-Ukraine” connections.

He said: “I would imagine (Barr} would want to see this..…. I would certainly defer to the attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it. It sounds like big stuff, very interesting with Ukraine. I just spoke with the new president| a while ago, and congratulated him. … But that (Ukrainian revelations) sounds like big, big stuff, and I’m not surprised.”

The previous day Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted: “Keep your eye on Ukraine.”

As described in a Kyiv Post article last week, some of the allegations of “Ukrainian interference” home in on Ukrainian-American Alexandra Chalupa’s work with the Democratic Party’s national body. 

She publicized Manafort’s unsavory background, which made him a prime focus of the Mueller investigation and earned him a seven and a half year prison sentence for financial crimes. Neither did she hide that she had open contacts with Kyiv’s embassy in Washington as part of her role as Ukrainian expert for the Democratic Party committee reaching out to the many ethnic groups that compose American society.

Trump allies wove those facts into a “Ukrainian conspiracy” theory which has resurfaced with a vengeance since the publication of Mueller’s report. Chalupa has been the target of hostile statements and tweets by Trump supporters and is mentioned in a pro-Trump book called “Spygate.”

It is unclear why Lutsenko and other Ukrainian law enforcement officials became so enthusiastic, shortly before Ukraine’s own recent presidential elections, about investigating possible illegal Ukrainian interference into America’s 2016 election.

Any “illegal interference” implicitly points the finger at some connected to the administration of the president at that time, Petro Poroshenko, who last weekend lost his bid for another term. 

Poroshenko appointed, against much opposition, his close ally Lutsenko, as Ukraine’s top lawyer. Some believe Lutsenko launched the investigation as part of a misconceived attempt to repair relations with Trump and curry his support ahead of the Ukrainian elections for Poroshenko.

The announcement by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that he will seek to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate against Trump in 2020 elections offers more opportunities for Ukraine to be sucked into what promises to be America’s next nasty electoral saga.

There have been allegations in the past that Biden’s son, Hunter, gained improper financial benefit while serving on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, a job he got while his father was vice president and heading then U.S. President Barack Obama’s relations with Kyiv.

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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: AP fact check: Trump’s torrent of twisted claims on Russia


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WASHINGTON — Russia keeps reverberating even with special counsel Robert Mueller’s report now part of history.

As much as President Donald Trump says he wants the United States to move on, he’s found it hard to turn away himself, as seen in a torrent of tweets and remarks railing against Democrats, trashing Mueller and painting his own actions in a saintly light.

There is little truth to be found in these statements.

A review of a week of Russia-heavy rhetoric from Trump and his team, also touching on the census and the economy:

RUSSIA

TRUMP: “No Collusion, No Obstruction – there has NEVER been a President who has been more transparent. Millions of pages of documents were given to the Mueller Angry Dems, plus I allowed everyone to testify, including W.H. counsel.” — tweet Wednesday.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: “The White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.” — remarks at the Justice Department on April 18.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates for the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. Photo by Erin Scott/ Reuters

THE FACTS: It’s a huge stretch for them to cast the White House as being “fully” cooperative and open in the investigation into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian figures.

Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.

In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

Also on the matter of transparency, Trump is an outlier among presidents in refusing to release his tax returns . Providing tax information as a candidate in 2016 and as president is something party nominees have traditionally done for half a century.

TRUMP: “In the ‘old days’ if you were President and you had a good economy, you were basically immune from criticism. Remember, ‘It’s the economy stupid.’ Today I have, as President, perhaps the greatest economy in history.” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: You can assume many previous presidents would beg to disagree that a good economy shielded them from criticism.

Under President Bill Clinton, whose top campaign staffer James Carville coined the phrase “the economy, stupid” to underscore what the campaign should be about, the unemployment rate fell to 3.8% and the nation’s economy grew 4% or more for four straight years.

Workers assemble sneakers at the New Balance Inc. manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The U.S. Census Bureau is scheduled to release factory orders figures on August 2. Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Workers assemble sneakers at the New Balance Inc. manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S., on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The economy added 157,000 jobs last month. Photo by Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yet Clinton was under independent counsel investigation for all but one year of his presidency, 1993. The House impeached him in December 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, though the Senate acquitted him in February 1999. In January 1998, Hillary Clinton alleged a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to take down her husband, a widely mocked complaint about the relentless criticism the Clintons faced from the right (which extended to ridicule over the title of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, “It Takes a Village.”)

Under President Ronald Reagan, the economy expanded 3.5% or more for six years in a row, with growth rocketing to 7.2% in 1984. Yet Reagan was dogged in his second term by the Iran-Contra investigation, which focused on covert arm sales to Iran that financed aid to Nicaraguan rebels.

Both presidents saw much faster growth than Trump has presided over, despite Trump’s faulty claim to have “perhaps the greatest economy in history.” Growth reached 2.9% last year, the best in four years, but far below the levels achieved under Clinton or Reagan. The unemployment rate touched 3.7% last September and November, the lowest in five decades, but just one-tenth of a percentage point below the 3.8% in April 2000 under Clinton.

TRUMP: “Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation (there was no crime), headed by a Trump hater who was highly conflicted.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump is wrong to suggest that the FBI acted illegally by investigating him. The FBI does not need to know if or have evidence that a crime occurred before it begins an investigation.

Many investigations that are properly conducted ultimately don’t find evidence of any crime. The FBI is empowered to open an investigation if there’s information it has received or uncovered that leads the bureau to think it might encounter a crime. Apart from that, the investigation into the Trump campaign was initially a counterintelligence investigation rather than a strictly criminal one, as agents sought to understand whether and why Russia was meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump also makes a baseless charge that Mueller was “highly conflicted.” Mueller, a longtime Republican, was cleared by the Justice Department’s ethics experts to lead the Russia investigation. Nothing in the public record makes him a “Trump hater.”

According to the special counsel’s report, when Trump previously complained privately to aides that Mueller would not be objective, the advisers, including then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, then-White House counsel Don McGahn and Reince Priebus, chief of staff at the time, rejected those complaints as not representing “true conflicts.” Bannon also called the claims “ridiculous.”

TRUMP: “I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: He’d have a tough hearing at the Supreme Court. Justices ruled 9-0 in 1993 that the Constitution grants sole power of impeachment to the House and Senate, not the judiciary.

Under the principle of separation of powers, Congress is a co-equal branch of government to the executive branch and judiciary. The House is afforded power to impeach a president by bringing formal charges and the Senate convenes the trial, with two-thirds of senators needed to convict and remove a president from office. The Constitution does not provide a role for the judiciary in the impeachment process, other than the chief justice of the United States presiding over the Senate trial.

In its 1993 ruling, the Supreme Court said framers of the Constitution didn’t intend for the court to have the power to review impeachment proceedings because they involve political questions that shouldn’t be resolved in the courts.

Advisors to President-elect Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon depart from services at St. John’s Church during the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/ Reuters

KELLYANNE CONWAY, White House counselor, saying there’s no need for Congress to continue investigating with the Mueller probe concluded: “We all know if Director Mueller and his investigators wanted to or felt that it was right to indict they would have done that. He had every opportunity to indict and declined to indict. Investigators investigate and they decide to indict, they refer indictment or they decline indictment. That’s the way the process works.” — remarks Wednesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: That’s not how Mueller’s process worked. According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to “make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether to indict — that is, do what prosecutors typically do, as Conway describes it — because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted. “Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought,” the report states.

As a result, the report factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter or for prosecutors to do so once Trump leaves office. Mueller’s team wrote that its investigation was conducted “in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh” and documentary material available.

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 8 : President Donald J. Trump stops to speak to reporters and members of the media as he departs for the G7 Summit in Canada, from the South Lawn of the White House on Friday, June 08, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

HOGAN GIDLEY, White House deputy press secretary: “He’s already denounced, multiple times, Russian involvement.” — remarks Tuesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: Trump has had it both ways, at times criticizing that involvement but more often equivocating, and long after U.S. intelligence agencies and other parts of his administration became convinced of Russian meddling. “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,‘” Trump said of Putin in November 2017. “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.” In February 2018, he tweeted: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’”

Now he’s assailed the report by Mueller, whose investigation fleshed out the audacious Russian effort to shape the election in favor of Trump and resulted in indictments against 25 Russians accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts or sowing discord in America through social media, as well as Trump associates.

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump, is sworn in to testify before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2019. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

TRUMP: “Isn’t it amazing that the people who were closest to me, by far, and knew the Campaign better than anyone, were never even called to testify before Mueller. The reason is that the 18 Angry Democrats knew they would all say ‘NO COLLUSION’ and only very good things!” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump’s wrong to suggest that the people “closest” to him weren’t called to testify before Mueller’s team.

Plenty of people close to him, including in his own family, interviewed with the special counsel’s investigators or were at least asked to appear. And of those who did, some said not very good things about their interactions with the president.

Among the advisers and aides who spoke with Mueller was McGahn, who extensively detailed Trump’s outrage at the investigation and his efforts to curtail it. McGahn told Mueller’s team how Trump called him at home and urged him to press the Justice Department to fire the special counsel, then told him to deny that the entire episode had taken place once it became public.

Mueller also interviewed Priebus, Bannon, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, former White House communications director Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who once said he was so close to the president that he’d “take a bullet” for him, also cooperated with Mueller and delivered unflattering details.

Mueller certainly wanted to hear from Trump’s family too, even if not all relatives were eager to cooperate. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declined to be voluntarily interviewed by investigators, according to Mueller’s report. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spoke multiple times to Mueller’s team. One of the president’s daughters, Ivanka Trump, provided information through an attorney.

GIDLEY: “It was Barack Obama who leaned over to Dmitry Medvedev in the Oval Office and said, ‘Listen, we’ll have more flexibility when the election’s over.’” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: First, the conversation was in South Korea, not the Oval Office. Gidley accurately recounted the gist of what Obama was heard telling the Russian president on a microphone they didn’t know was on. But Gidley did not explain the context of the remark.

Obama was suggesting he would have more flexibility postelection to address Russia’s concerns about a NATO missile defense system in Europe. The conversation with Medvedev, who was soon succeeded by Vladimir Putin, had nothing to do with Russian meddling that would be exposed in the U.S. election four years away.

Photo via The U.S. Census Bureau

CENSUS

TRUMP: “The American people deserve to know who is in this Country. Yesterday, the Supreme Court took up the Census Citizenship question, a really big deal.” — tweet Wednesday.

GIDLEY, when asked whether Trump believes an accurate census count isn’t necessary: “He wants to know who’s in this country. I think as a sovereign nation we have that right. It’s been a question that’s been on the census for decades.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Not since 1950 has the census collected citizenship data from the whole population.

Moreover, Trump’s position that asking a citizenship question in the census is needed to “know who is in this country” ignores the judgment of the Census Bureau’s own researchers, who say that it would not result in the most accurate possible count of the U.S. population. The question is already asked in other government surveys.

According to January 2018 calculations by the Census Bureau, adding the question to the once-a-decade survey form would cause lower response rates among Hispanics and noncitizens. The government would have to spend at least $27.5 million for additional phone calls, home visits and other follow-up efforts to reach them.

Federal judges in California, Maryland and New York have blocked the administration from going forward with a citizenship question after crediting the analysis of agency experts. The experts said millions would go uncounted because Hispanics and immigrants might be reluctant to say if they or others in their households are not citizens.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has argued that a citizenship question is needed to help the government better comply with the Voting Rights Act. But the Justice Department has been enforcing the 1965 law, which was passed to help protect minority groups’ political rights, with citizenship data already available from other government surveys.

The count goes to the heart of the U.S. political system, determining the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House and how the electoral votes that decide presidential elections are distributed. It also shapes how 300 federal programs distribute more than $800 billion a year to local communities.

General Motors production workers work on the 10-speed transmission assembly at the General Motors Powertrain Transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, March 6, 2019. The manufacturing sector lost 6,000 jobs in March after gaining only 1,000 in February. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

General Motors production workers work on the 10-speed transmission assembly at the General Motors Powertrain Transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, March 6, 2019. The manufacturing sector lost 6,000 jobs in March after gaining only 1,000 in February. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

ECONOMY

TRUMP retweet of RONNA MCDANIEL, Republican National Committee chairwoman: “If Joe Biden wants to keep score: In 8 years, Biden & Obama had a net loss of 193,000 manufacturing jobs. In just over 2 years, @realDonaldTrump has created 453,000 manufacturing jobs.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: McDaniel is right but presents a misleading portrait of economic growth during Barack Obama’s presidency, with Biden serving as vice president.

Obama’s eight years in office began with the final five months of the 17-month Great Recession, which began under his predecessor and included some of the worst stretches of job loss since World War II.

Manufacturing jobs bottomed out in February 2010, then grew steadily for the next six years before declining during Obama’s last year in office. Still, during that stretch the economy added 915,000 manufacturing jobs.

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠