JUST IN: Trump-Russia probe shifts to Deutsche Bank

Trump-Russia probe shifts to Deutsche Bank

US POLITICS – Democrats on a U.S. of House of Representatives panel have asked Deutsche Bank to provide information on whether any accounts connected to President Donald Trump have ties to Russia, adding another dimension to probes into connections between Moscow and Trump.

Democrats on the U.S. House Financial Services Committee said on Wednesday they had sent a letter the previous day to Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer John Cryan seeking details of internal reviews to determine if Trump’s loans for his real estate business were backed by the Russian government.

The congressional inquiry also seeks information about a Russian “mirror trading” scheme that allowed $10 billion to flow out of Russia.

“Congress remains in the dark on whether loans Deutsche Bank made to President Trump were guaranteed by the Russian government, or were in any way connected to Russia,” the Democrats wrote. “It is critical that you provide this committee with the information necessary to assess the scope, findings and conclusions of your internal reviews.”

The Democrats requested the documents from the bank, but cannot compel it to hand over the information. The committee has the power to subpoena the documents, but that would require cooperation from committee Republicans who make up the majority of the panel because the party has control of the House. No Republicans signed on to the document request.

Citing media reports, the Democrats called for the bank to hand over any documents tied to internal reviews of Trump’s personal accounts at the bank. They also said the bank should state publicly that it had reviewed both the “mirror trading” scheme and Trump’s accounts.

Mirror trading involved buying stocks, for example, in Moscow in rubles, with related parties selling the same stocks shortly thereafter through a bank’s London branch.

They also called on the bank to name an independent auditor to verify the results of the reviews, which should be turned over to the committee “as soon as reasonably practicable.”

Renee Calabro, a spokeswoman for Deutsche, declined to comment.

The House panel request to Deutsche comes as Trump is mired in controversy over FBI and congressional probes into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and potential collusion between the Moscow and the Trump campaign. Moscow has denied the allegations, and Trump has denied any collusion

Former FBI boss, Robert Mueller to lead Russia inquiry

Robert Mueller

A former FBI boss, Robert Mueller, has been named special counsel to oversee an inquiry into Russia’s alleged interference in the US election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said it was in the public interest to bring in an outsider.

The appointment has been widely praised by politicians from both sides.

Calls for a special prosecutor had mounted since President Donald Trump fired the most recent FBI director, James Comey, last week.

READ MORE: US President Trump accepts sharing information with Russia

The FBI and Congress are looking into potential links between Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russia.

Just over an hour after the news of Mr Mueller’s appointment emerged, President Trump predicted the investigation would confirm there had been no collusion.

“A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” he said.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Mr Mueller was “exactly the right kind of individual for this job”.
READ MORE: TRUMP’S FIRING OF JAMES COMEY IS AN ATTACK ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
And the House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said he had “impeccable credentials”.

In his statement announcing the move, Mr Rosenstein said: “The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

US President Trump accepts sharing information with Russia

Trump and Putin

US President Donald Trump acknowledged Tuesday that he shared information with top Russian envoys at an Oval Office meeting last week, but argued that it was his “absolute right” to do so, despite an outcry about potentially leaking sensitive data.

His early morning tweet appeared to fly in the face of repeated White House denials of a Washington Post report on Monday.

The newspaper reported that Trump revealed highly classified information about the Islamic State terrorist group during his talks with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the US on May 10, citing current and former administration officials.

Trump called it his “absolute right” to provide the Russians with facts that could help in the fight against terrorism.

“As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH [White House] meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump wrote.

Trump did not respond to repeated questions by reporters about whether he had shared classified information, but called the talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “very, very successful.”

When asked by reporters about the controversy, Trump said the talks focused on cooperation in fighting terrorism, declaring “we’re gonna have a lot of great success over the next coming years.”

National Security Advisor HR McMaster maintained later Tuesday that Trump did not compromise any intelligence sources or methods and his discussions with Russian officials last week were “appropriate.”

McMaster would not discuss whether Trump revealed classified information or not, but said he is not concerned that Trump’s conversation would prompt the source to stop sharing intelligence.

“What he discussed was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the sharing of information by the president with any partners with which he’s engaged,” McMaster told reporters.

The New York Times reported that Israel was the source of the intelligence, quoting a current and a former US official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. Neither is identified.

The White House would not say that Israel was the source, but spokesman Sean Spicer did stress the importance of the US-Israeli alliance during a news conference.

“We appreciate the strong relationship that we have with Israel with respect to intelligence sharing, and hopefully can continue to grow that bond,” Spicer said, pointing to remarks by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.

Dermer had told the Times that Israel had “full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship ahead under President Trump.”

Trump is scheduled to visit Israel during his first trip abroad as president starting later this week.

Passing on sensitive information gathered by Israel to the Russians raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East.

Late Monday, the White House blasted the story as “false.” McMaster Tuesday said he stood by his statement that the “premise is false” because Trump had not had an “inappropriate” conversation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the story “fake.”

According to the Post, Trump discussed details with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergei Kislyak of a suspected plot by Islamic State involving laptop computers to target aircraft.

The newspaper alleged that, by sharing the information with a US adversary, Trump had jeopardized a key intelligence source in the US-led fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

Trump’s revelations to the Russians included the city within Islamic State-heldterritory where the unnamed US partner had gleaned the threat information. The Post said it was withholding the city and other details of the plot on the advice of US officials.

The partner that provided the now-exposed information in an intelligence-sharing arrangement had not agreed to the United States passing the information to Russia, it said.

The reports have prompted serious concerns among lawmakers and intelligence officials about the president’s handling of classified information.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump’s tweets suggested he had discussed something of concern and worried about whether allies can trust the US with intelligence.(dpa/NAN)

“We immediately have to go into damage mitigation mode,” he said.

Donald Trump asked FBI’s Comey to drop Flynn inquiry – reports

James Comey and Donald Trump

President Donald Trump asked FBI chief James Comey to drop an inquiry into links between his ex-national security adviser and Russia, US media report.

“I hope you can let this go,” Mr Trump reportedly told Mr Comey after a White House meeting in February, according to a memo written by the ex-FBI director.

The memo was written immediately after the meeting, a day after Michael Flynn resigned, according to media reports.

The White House has denied the allegation in a statement.

Media captionA wild week for Trump in Washington

“The president has never asked Mr Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” it said.

Mr Flynn was forced out in February after he misled the vice-president about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador before Mr Trump took office.

The latest Russian twist, first reported by the New York Times, comes a week after Mr Trump fired Mr Comey over his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the state department.

Mr Comey’s dismissal sent shockwaves through Washington, with critics accusing the president of trying to thwart the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the US election and any Moscow ties to Trump associates.

Mr Comey reportedly wrote a memo following a meeting with the president on 14 February that revealed Mr Trump had asked him to close an investigation into Mr Flynn’s actions.

He reportedly shared the memo with top FBI associates.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the president told Mr Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy.”

Mr Comey did not respond to his request, according to the memo, but replied: “I agree he is a good guy.”

In response to the report, a White House official pointed out that acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had testified last week that there had been “no effort to impede our investigation to date”. READ MORE

US, Russia Looking Into Clues Suggesting North Korea Is Behind Global Cyber Attack

Kim Jung Un

Software companies in the US and Russia have said the North Korea-linked Lazarus Group may be behind a global cyber attack.

Symantec Corp and Kaspersky Lab said yesterday they were looking into clues that may connect the global “ransomware” attack known as WannaCry with programs previously attributed to East Asian country.
The two companies said some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry ransomware – which has encrypted data on hundreds of thousands of computers since Friday and demanded users pay money to regain control of their machines – had also appeared in programmes used by the Lazarus Group.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment.

Unites States President Trump ‘shared classified information with Russia’

Mr Trump (centre) jokes with Mr Lavrov (left) and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak

President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information about so-called Islamic State (IS) to Russia’s foreign minister, sources have told US media.

The information came from a partner of the US which had not given permission for it to be shared with Russia, says the Washington Post.

Mr Trump received Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office last week.

Officials denied the media report but a senior member of Mr Trump’s Republican party called for an explanation.

The Trump campaign’s alleged links to Moscow have dogged his presidency and are part of several investigations.

But the president has dismissed such allegations as “fake news”.

During the election campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly criticised his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for how she handled sensitive material.

The fallout from this story could be enormous and not just because there is a boundless trove of Republican quotes over the past year – directed at Mrs Clinton – about the utmost importance of protecting top-secret information.

There is the Russian connection, of course.
The FBI is currently investigating the Trump campaign for possible ties to Russian interests. Meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak featured prominently in the firing of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal on Russian investigation matters.
Then there is the question of whether US allies will be more reluctant to share sensitive intelligence information with the US, lest the president put sources at risk.
This will only stoke accusations by Trump critics that the president is undisciplined and inexperienced in the delicacies of foreign policy, where his shoot-from-the hip style presents an ongoing danger.
Finally, it is worth remembering the simmering feud Mr Trump has had with the US intelligence community. It took less than a week for this highly embarrassing story to leak. If the revelation was a knife twisted in the president’s back, it is not hard to suspect where it came from.
n a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, in the Oval Office, the president revealed details that could lead to the exposure of a source of information, officials told the Washington Post and the New York Times.
The discussion was about an IS plot and he reportedly went “off-script”. The intelligence disclosed came from a US ally, information considered too sensitive to share with other US allies, the papers report.
Others present realised the mistake and scrambled to “contain the damage” by informing the CIA and the National Security Agency, says the Post.
The meeting came a day after Mr Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, sparking criticism that he had done so because the FBI was investigating alleged Russian ties.
A Russian photographer was present for part of the meeting but US media were not allowed to attend.
The Senate’s second-highest ranked Democrat, Dick Durbin, said Mr Trump’s actions appeared to be “dangerous” and reckless”.
A spokesman for Paul Ryan, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount.
“The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”
The Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said the story was “very, very troubling” if true.
“Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips” with it, he told Bloomberg.
National Security Advisor HR McMaster told reporters that the story was “false”.
“The president and foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation,” he said.
“At no time… were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”
In a statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the point that “the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations”.
The Washington Post, which first broke the story, said this did not amount to a denial of their story.

United States President Trump and Putin ‘seek Syria ceasefire’

United States President Trump and Putin 'seek Syria ceasefire'

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to press for a ceasefire to halt the war in Syria.

The two spoke by telephone for the first time since the US launched air strikes against Syria nearly a month ago, straining relations.

White House and Kremlin statements suggested a productive conversation.

Other topics discussed included North Korea and the timing of a future face-to-face meeting.

Mr Trump ordered air strikes after a chemical weapons attack blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s ally. The Russians which blamed Syrian rebels for the use of illegal nerve gas.

A White House statement said “President Trump and President Putin agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence.

Syria Civil war started since 2011

“The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons”.

The Kremlin statement said the two men had agreed to step up attempts to find ways to strengthen a ceasefire.

“The aim is to create the conditions for the launch for a real resolution process in Syria,” it added.

The White House also said Mr Trump and Mr Putin had also spoken about “how best to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea”.

The secretive communist state’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes have raised tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, with Mr Trump saying last week that a “major, major conflict” was possible.

The Kremlin said: “The dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula was discussed in detail. Vladimir Putin called for restraint and for the level of tension to be reduced.”

The two had also discussed having their first face-to-face meeting since Mr Trump was elected on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg in early July, the Kremlin said.

(BBC)