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World News

    Several thousand people have turned up at an anti-government protest in Belgrade a day after Serbia's populist President Aleksandar Vucic held a mass rally in an apparent bid to counter months of street demonstrations against him. Protesters marched through downtown Belgrade on Saturday demanding more democracy and media freedom in Serbia. Such marches have been held every Saturday since last December. A former extreme nationalist who now says he wants Serbia to join the European Union, Vucic has rejected opposition allegations that he has imposed an autocracy on Serbia. He told supporters at Friday's rally that political differences should be solved at the ballot box. Tens of thousands of people from all over Serbia and some neighboring countries were bused to Belgrade for Vucic's rally in a show of political strength.
  • Authorities in Bulgaria say a small private plane has crashed in a field in a southern region, killing the pilot and the lone passenger on board. Plovdiv police chief Atanas Ilkov said the two-seat Zodiac aircraft was on a demonstration tour when one of its wings separated in flight and it fell to the ground near a stadium in the village of Orizare. The accident occurred at 10:20 a.m. Saturday as a sports event was taking place at the stadium. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The crash is the second of a small Bulgarian aircraft this month. On April 2, a small plane crashed into a mountain in neighboring Northern Macedonia, killing all four people on board.
  • A German military plane on Saturday evacuated 15 German tourists who survived this week's bus crash on the island of Madeira that claimed 29 lives, Germany's Foreign Ministry said. The injured were put on a German air force plane and flown out of the Cristiano Ronaldo international airport on Madeira. They arrived later Saturday in Cologne, where the city said they were being admitted to a hospital. One German survivor remains in the hospital in Madeira's capital, Funchal, Portuguese health officials said. Another German injured in the crash was flown out on Friday. The bus plummeted down a slope in Wednesday's crash, killing 29 people, all German citizens, in the coastal town of Canico. The bus driver and a tourist guide, both Portuguese, also remain in the hospital. Eleven other people hurt in the crash had been discharged by Friday. The cause of the crash is being investigated. Madeira, an important European tourist destination, is a Portuguese island located 580 miles (935 kilometers) west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • London police say more than 710 people have been arrested and some 28 have been charged since climate change protests began earlier this week in the British capital. The Extinction Rebellion protests started Monday and have at times paralyzed parts of London, with peaceful demonstrations at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and other key landmarks. Protesters were out again Saturday, urging the British government to make fighting climate change its top priority. London police have taken a cautious approach rather than a massive show of force to remove the demonstrators, saying they respect the right to peaceful protest. They still had to ask neighboring forces for some 200 additional officers to help cope with the situation, and many officers had their weekend leaves cancelled.
  • Several dozen supporters attended the funeral Saturday of Mirjana Markovic, the widow of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic who was dubbed the 'Lady Macbeth' of the Balkans because of the huge influence she had on her husband. Markovic's ashes were placed in her husband's grave in the backyard of the family house in the central Serbian town of Pozarevac. Milosevic was buried there in 2006 after he died in the middle of his trial on genocide charges at a U.N. war crimes tribunal. The couple's son, Marko, and daughter, Marija, did not attend the burial. Those who did included a former president of neighboring Montenegro, members of Milosevic's Socialist Party and others. Markovic, 76, died last week in Russia, where she had been granted asylum. Serbia's former first lady had fled to Russia in 2003 after Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular revolt and handed over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Markovic, who had been a sociology professor at Belgrade University, served as leader of a neo-Communist party during her husband's presidency in the 1990s, a coalition partner with a major influence on Milosevic. Often wearing a trademark plastic flower in her hair, Markovic was known for 'diaries' she published in local newspapers that were widely read because they often predicted future political moves by her husband. Milosevic is widely considered the politician most responsible for the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia that resulted in the deaths of at least 120,000 people in wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo during the early 1990s. The wars devastated the Balkans, forcing millions to flee their homes. Markovic was sought for questioning in the killings of Milosevic's political opponents during his autocratic rule but Russia refused to extradite her to Serbia. Although she was never formally charged, Markovic was widely suspected of playing a role in the 1999 assassination of prominent Belgrade newspaper editor Slavko Curuvija, who was gunned down during the NATO bombing of Serbia. Markovic had publicly accused him of supporting the Western military alliance's attacks. A Serbian court recently convicted four former state security members of slaying Curuvija but the court did not reveal who ordered the editor's slaying.
  • The Latest on the yellow vest protests in France (all times local): 6:35 p.m. Masked protesters and helmeted riot police have clashed repeatedly in Paris amid tensions on the edges of a yellow vest protest. Tear gas hung in the air throughout the afternoon Saturday around the Place de la Republique plaza in eastern Paris. Radical protesters hurled paving stones and flares, attacked at least one boarded-up store, and set fire to a few vehicles. Police repeatedly charged as they tried to contain the crowd. Associated Press reporters saw at least two journalists injured in the melee. Meanwhile a separate, smaller crowd of yellow vests marched peacefully toward the cordoned-off neighborhood around the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral. Young women skipped down a street along the Seine River with drummers and singers. They are urging the French government not to forget the troubles of the poor even as it gathers millions to rebuild the cathedral. ___ 3 p.m. A car, motorbikes and multiple barricades are ablaze in eastern Paris as a yellow vest protest has degenerated into scattered violence. Paris firefighters are battling multiple small but impressive fires Saturday around the Place de la Republique. The smell of tear gas mixed with black smoke choking the air. Associated Press reporters saw a car and motorbikes on fire and multiple volleys of tear gas and dispersion grenades, as riot police worked to control the crowd. Several protesters also set flares. French television showed images of volunteer medics treating a yellow-vested protester lying on the ground. While that neighborhood was tense, overall Saturday's yellow vest actions have been peaceful. Many protesters are frustrated that the international effort to help fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral has eclipsed the five-month-old yellow vest movement against wealth inequality. ___ 2 p.m. Protesters have set small fires and police have fired tear gas on the sidelines of yellow vest demonstrations in the French capital. The Paris police headquarters said authorities detained 126 people by early afternoon and carried out spot checks of more than 11,000 people trying to enter the capital for Saturday's protests. Police fired tear gas amid tensions at a march of several thousand people from France's Finance Ministry toward the Place de la Republique plaza in eastern Paris. Barricades were set ablaze at one spot, and branches set on fire elsewhere. Firefighters quickly responded to extinguish the flames. The march was one of several actions around Paris and other French cities Saturday. The protesters are angry at high taxes and economic injustice, and are largely peaceful. Some are also frustrated that the effort to save fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral is eclipsing the yellow vest movement's demands. ___ 10:15 a.m. French yellow vest protesters are marching anew to remind the government that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn't the only problem the nation needs to solve. Multiple protest events are planned around Paris and other cities Saturday for the 23rd weekend of the yellow vest movement against wealth inequality and President Emmanuel Macron's leadership. One group wants to march on the presidential palace despite bigger-than-usual police presence. Another is aimed at showing yellow vest mourning over the Notre Dame blaze while also keeping up pressure on Macron. Many protesters were deeply saddened by the fire at a national monument. But many are angry at the $1 billion in Notre Dame donations that poured in from tycoons while their own demands remain largely unmet and they struggle to make ends meet.
  • A comedian who plays the role of Ukraine's president on television is set to take on the job for real, pushing out the man who currently holds the office, according to public opinion surveys ahead of Sunday's election. Saturday was a so-called 'day of quiet,' on which electioneering is forbidden, a respite from a campaign of heated statements and unexpected moments. Dismayed by endemic corruption, a struggling economy and a five-year fight against Russia-backed insurgents in the country's east, Ukrainian voters appear poised to strongly rebuke incumbent Petro Poroshenko and replace him with Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Despite never having held political office, Zelenskiy could get more than twice as many votes as Poroshenko, polls suggest. Since Zelenskiy and Poroshenko advanced to Sunday's runoff in the first round three weeks ago, the campaign has been marked by showy jockeying for dominance, including a dispute over holding a debate that left Poroshenko standing next to an empty lectern bearing his opponent's name and Zelenskiy's challenge for both of the candidates to undergo drug testing. Zelenskiy has run his campaign mostly on social media and has eschewed media interviews; Poroshenko has called him a 'virtual candidate.' Poroshenko in turn was criticized for a video linked to his campaign that showed Zelenskiy being run over by a truck. The two finally held an actual debate on Friday evening, just hours before campaigning was to end. They harshly criticized each other and engaged in the melodrama of both kneeling to ask forgiveness of those who lost relatives in the eastern fighting. Zelenskiy, a 41-year-old comic actor, is best known for his TV portrayal of a schoolteacher who becomes Ukrainian president after a video of him denouncing corruption goes viral. The name of the show, 'Servant of the People,' became the name of his party when he announced his candidacy in January. Like his TV character, the real-life Zelenskiy has focused his campaign strongly on corruption. Although criticized as having a vague platform, Zelenskiy has made specific proposals, including removing immunity for the president, parliament members and judges, and a lifetime ban on holding public office for anyone convicted of corruption. He also calls for a tax amnesty under which someone holding hidden assets would declare them, be taxed at 5% and face no other measures. He supports Ukraine's eventual membership in NATO, but only if the country were to approve this in a referendum. Zelenskiy has proposed that direct talks with Russia are necessary to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting with Russia-backed separatist rebels has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014. The Kremlin denies involvement there and says it is an internal matter. Zelenskiy says Russia-annexed Crimea must be returned to Ukraine and compensation paid. Zelenskiy's image has been shadowed by his admission that he had commercial interests in Russia through a holding company, and by persistent speculation about links with oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who owns the television station that airs 'Servant of the People.' A Ukrainian court this week ruled that the nationalization of a bank once owned by Kolomoyskyi was illegal, leading to new concern about Zelenskiy's possible ties to him. Poroshenko, who entered politics after establishing a lucrative candy-making company, came to power with a pragmatic image in 2014 after mass protests drove the previous, Russia-friendly president to leave the country. Five years later, critics denounce him for having done little to combat Ukraine's endemic corruption. The war with Russia-backed separatists in the east grinds on with no clear strategy for ending it. And while his economic reforms may have pleased international lenders, they've left millions of Ukrainians wondering if they can find the money to pay their utility bills. After his weak performance in the election's first round, in which Zelenskiy got nearly twice as many votes, Poroshenko said he had taken voters' criticism to heart. He has since made some strong moves, including the long-awaited creation of an anti-corruption court. He also ordered the dismissal of the governor of the corruption-plagued Odessa region, and fired the deputy head of foreign intelligence who reportedly has vast real estate holdings in Russia. Poroshenko, 53, has positioned himself as a leader who will stand up to Russia. He has scored some significant goals for Ukraine's national identity and its desire to move out of Russia's influence. He signed an association agreement with the European Union — which predecessor Viktor Yanukovych turned away from, setting off the 2014 protests. Ukrainians now can travel visa-free to the European Union, a significant perk. He has also pushed relentlessly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be recognized as self-standing rather than just a branch of the Russian church.
  • Thirteen people, including a child, were killed at a bar in Mexico when gunmen raided a family celebration Friday in the city of Minatitlán, CNN reported. >> Read more trending news  Four other people were injured in the attack. According to a spokesman for the state government of Veracruz, the gunmen, who were not identified, attacked after seeking a man at a bar, The New York Times reported. Seven men, five women and a child died in the shooting, the newspaper reported. The motive for the killings was unclear, the Veracruz spokesman said. According to preliminary reports, the man the attackers sought was called “El Beky,” the owner of a bar in Minatitlán, CNN reported 'Federal and state forces have deployed a strong search and capture operation of those responsible for the events,' Gutiérrez Maldonado, secretary of public security in Veracruz, tweeted Saturday.
  • Kosovo authorities announced Saturday they have brought back from Syria 110 Kosovar citizens, mostly women and children, with the assistance of the United States. Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri, top policeman Rashit Qalaj and a health official told journalists early Saturday that 'a planned operation to bring back some of our citizens from Syria ended successfully' bringing back four alleged fighters with the Islamic State group, 32 women and 74 children, without giving more details 'due to the sensitivity of the case.' Nine children had lost parents during the fighting in Syria. The group has been taken to a center in Vranidoll, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the capital Pristina, to be taken care of before sent to homes in the next 72 hours. Three children were seen playing football inside the shelter, well-protected by special police force surrounding its perimeter. The four suspected fighters were arrested. Tahiri said a task force was created in October in close cooperation with the United States. 'Our message is clear: The Kosovo government will strongly continue to prevent and fight violent extremism and terrorism,' he said. The U.S. embassy in Pristina commended Kosovo's move for setting 'an important example' and applauded its 'compassion in accepting the return of this large number of civilians.' 'The United States remains grateful to the Syrian Democratic Forces for their support in the repatriation and for continuing to humanely detain hundreds more ISIS fighters from dozens of countries,' it added. The minister considered the women and children to be 'innocent victims,' adding that the authorities had plans to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society. More than 400 Kosovars initially joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, but none has left in the past three years, according to Kosovo authorities. Qalaj said that 30 Kosovo citizens are still actively supporting the groups there, and there are also 49 women and eight children. 'We shall not allow our citizens to turn into a threat to the Western world and will take all to ensure that those accountable face the law,' Tahiri said, adding that 'there is no amnesty for any person, be it a woman or a man, who has committed an extremist or terror act.' ___ Semini reported from Tirana, Albania ___ Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: @lsemini
  • North Korea on Saturday issued a relatively mild criticism of White House national security adviser John Bolton for calling on North Korea to show more evidence of its disarmament commitment before a possible third leaders' summit. North Korea's criticism appears to be a continuation of its frustration at deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the United States. Earlier in the week, the North tested a new weapon and demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear negotiations. But the country is still avoiding directing harsh rhetoric toward the U.S. and directly criticizing President Donald Trump in an apparent effort to keep diplomacy alive. On Saturday, state media cited First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as criticizing Bolton over his recent interview with Bloomberg News. In the interview, Bolton said the U.S. would need more evidence that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ready to give up his nuclear weapons before Trump would meet with him for a third summit. Choe described Bolton's comments as having 'no charm' and being 'dim-sighted,' and said the United States has nothing to gain with such remarks. But she stopped short of asking Washington to remove Bolton from the nuclear talks. Her criticism was much softer than the North's past fiery rhetoric directed at the U.S. and South Korea in tense times. In 2003, North Korea's state media called Bolton 'human scum' after he described then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the late father of Kim Jong Un, as a 'tyrannical dictator.' Earlier this week, North Korea test-fired what it called a new type of 'tactical guided weapon,' but many foreign experts say it wasn't a prohibited test of a medium- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle the nuclear negotiations. In her Saturday statement, Choe said Bolton 'should at least have understood about what kinds of substantive communications are made between the top leaders concerning the third round of summit before he had ever opened his mouth.' South Korean media quickly speculated that there might be some sort communication between the U.S. and North Korea over a third Trump-Kim summit. Kim and Trump had two summits — the first in Singapore in June last year and the second in Vietnam in February. The second summit collapsed due to disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North. Kim is to visit Russia for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month.
  • Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed legislation establishing guidelines for producing commercial hemp in the state on Thursday.  The bill authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to develop and manage a hemp production program under the 2018 federal farm bill.  The measure received bipartisan support in the state House and Senate. State leaders expect rules to be in place to allow for planting of industrial hemp in the 2020 crop year. 
  • When Roger and Marcia Altis’ family business didn’t quite work out as planned — especially after Roger’s first heart attack — they decided to file for bankruptcy. Medical and other bills had piled up. The Internal Revenue Service came calling, demanding tax money. So the Eureka couple hired a Wichita attorney who they thought would help shepherd them through the financial mess. Instead, that attorney, Christopher O’Brien, made it worse — by stealing money meant to pay down the Altises’ debt. O’Brien, 69, last month pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement in the case — and agreed to pay nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in restitution to the Altises and two other clients who accused him of thievery. He’s set for sentencing at the federal courthouse in Wichita on June 3, according to court records. What’s already been a horrible ordeal for the Altises has taken another difficult turn. The couple is now at risk of losing their home over unpaid property tax they thought the estate would handle, the Wichita Eagle reported. In March, they received notice that they had only a short period of time to come up with more than $24,000 to pay to Greenwood County — or what’s left of their land, where their house and garden sit, will be sold to the highest bidder at a sheriff’s auction.
  • A large fire broke out at a midtown Tulsa apartment complex Friday, damaging or destroying more than a dozen units. It happened at the Cobblestone Apartments, west of 51st Street and Memorial Road, about 9:30 a.m. No one was hurt in the fire, as management acted quickly to notify residents they needed to evacuate.  Fire investigators say early on, it appears a smouldering cigarette or cigar left on a balcony was the source of ignition. KRMG spoke with a resident at the scene who was visibly upset because her pet was missing.  “The manager, Andy, knocked on the door and said to get out because the building was on fire,” Elizabeth told KRMG, “and I couldn’t find my cat.”  “I just want my baby!” she sobbed, as a friend tried to offer encouragement.  Firefighters did pull other pets from the building safely.  TFD spokesman Andy Little said the department’s response included five engines and four ladder trucks.  “It’s under control right now,” he said about 10:00 a.m., “but we still  have a lot of work to do.”  He said when firefighters arrived, “fire was coming out of the balcony and up onto the roof. Within minutes, it was through the roof so it was going pretty good when we got here.” The Red Cross responded to the scene to help residents.
  • Two hit sitcoms from the 1970s are coming back for a live, one-night-only event. Archie, Edith, George and Weezy from “All in the Family,” and its spin-off “The Jeffersons” will air next month on ABC for a prime-time special, The Associated Press reported. Woody Harrelson will play Archie Bunker, Marisa Tomei will portray his wife Edith. Jamie Foxx will play Archie’s former neighbor George Jefferson and Wanda Sykes will play his wife Louise. >> Read more trending news  Ellie Kemper, Justina Machado and Will Ferrell will also star in the event with more stars expected to be announced later, the AP reported. But why bring back such classic shows, ones that hit many hot button topics like racism and women’s rights head on? Norman Lear, who created both programs said in a statement, people say “These two shows were meant for the ‘70s and would not work today. We disagree with them and are here to prove, with two great casts depicting ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons,’ the timelessness of human nature.” The show, “Live in front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All In The Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’” will air May 22, 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET, Deadline reported.
  • There’s another turn of events in the murder a rape case involving 17-year-old Deonte Green. Green is charged with murder, rape and other felonies following a 2017 string of crimes in Tulsa. The teenager pleaded guilty March 13 to first-degree murder and 19 other counts in a blind plea, meaning it was entered without a sentencing agreement with prosecutors. Attorneys for Green later filed to withdraw the pleas, arguing in part that Green didn't know what the word 'guilty' meant.  Green withdrew that request during a court hearing Thursday. Green was 16 when he was accused of killing Broken Arrow middle school teacher Shane Anderson and raping an 81-year-old woman in a separate incident.  He faces a possible sentence of life in prison when he's sentenced in July.

Washington Insider

  • The newly released report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections rejected the claims of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that he received leaked emails from a young employee at the Democratic National Committee, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Assange used the murder of DNC worker Seth Rich in an effort to cover up the fact that Russian Intelligence had hacked the DNC emails, and transferred them to WikiLeaks. 'As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' the Mueller report stated, referring to Assange's claim that Rich was involved. 'The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails,' the report added on page 56 of the 448 page document released on Thursday by the Justice Department. The redacted version of the Mueller Report reiterated what had been alleged in a previous indictment of a group of Russian Intelligence agents, that they had hacked into a DNC email server starting in May 2016, and posing as 'Guccifer 2.0,' sent an encrypted attachment, 'wk dnc link1.txt.gpg' to WikiLeaks. For the Rich family, it was confirmation that Assange's claim - which had readily been embraced by familiar Republican voices, Fox News, and conservative talk radio - was indeed false, and had created 'unimaginable pain.' The Mueller report said WikiLeaks did not receive the hacked DNC emails and documents from GRU officers until July 14 - four days after Rich had been murdered. 'The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks's claims about the source of material that it posted,' the Mueller report stated. During the campaign, in an August 25, 2016 interview with Fox News cited by Mueller, Assange asserted that Rich - who was murdered on July 10, 2016 - was a 'potential' source of emails from inside the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks stuck to that story, even as U.S. investigators began to focus more and more on the ties between Assange and Russian GRU hackers, as WikiLeaks increased the reward for clues to Rich's murder to $130,000 the day before President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January of 2017. Not only did WikiLeaks push the Seth Rich angle - along with Fox News, Infowars, and various conservative talk radio hosts - but so too did the Russians; this tweet was from the Russian Embassy in London in May of 2017. Two days after that tweet from the Russian government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used an appearance on 'Fox and Friends' to further spread the theory that Rich had been murdered after giving WikiLeaks thousands of hacked documents from the DNC, as the matter quickly gained the attention of talk radio and conservative commentators. Soon after that Gingrich interview in May of 2017, Fox News retracted the network's original report tying Rich to the leak of materials to WikiLeaks. In the end, investigators concluded all signs pointed to Moscow and Assange, as the Mueller Report said the mentions of Rich were 'designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' that being the Russians. Like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory - which claimed that a supporter of Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a neighborhood pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. - no evidence was ever offered up by Assange and WikiLeaks to support the Rich claim.
  • Thursday's release of a 448 page redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections certainly did not end the questions about the investigation, as President Donald Trump labeled it, 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' and Democrats demanded even more answers about what was in the report. First, you can find a link to the report on the website of the Department of Justice. The report is divided into two parts. The first deals with questions of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia - the Special Counsel found evidence of 'numerous' contacts between them, but not enough to merit charges for any illegal activity. The second part of the report deals with questions about obstruction of justice. In that portion, investigators found that top aides, advisers, and friends of the President routinely ignored his orders to fire people like the Special Counsel and more. Here's more from the fine print of the Mueller report: 1. The first part of the collusion statement used by Barr. The release of the Mueller report allowed a full review of a sentence fragment employed by Attorney General William Barr in his late March letter, which (accurately) said, 'the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. Many reporters had wondered what was in the first part of that statement and why it was not included in Barr's letter. And, starting on page nine, it seemed clear. 'The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,' the Mueller report concluded. Then adding the start of the sentence used by Barr: 'Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benfeit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts...' 2. It wasn't just Comey writing memos after talks with Trump. After getting fired as FBI Director, James Comey made public memos which he had written after various talks with President Trump. It's also been reported that former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe did the same thing. Now the Mueller report shows others did, too. Deputy National Security Director K.T. McFarland saved a contemporaneous memo after a discussion with the President in which the Mr. Trump asked McFarland to 'write an internal email denying that the President had directed Flynn to discuss sanctions' with the Russian Ambassador, when McFarland knew the real answer was that Mr. Trump had done exactly that. Then there were top officials at the National Security Agency, who were so alarmed by a phone call with Mr. Trump - they wrote a memo and put it in an NSA safe - with the deputy NSA chief saying it was 'the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.' 3. Aides, advisers, friends, regularly ignore Trump requests. Whether it was on big items like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or sending messages to top officials, the Mueller report is chock full of examples where the President tells people to do something - and they refuse to do it - worried it's the wrong move. White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus wouldn't tell Sessions he should leave. Corey Lewandowski wouldn't send a message for the President to Sessions, and even tried to get a White House aide to do it - but he also refused. Then there was this tidbit from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had lunch with President Trump, and was told to send along a message to James Comey. This was the same day that Mr. Trump told Comey - after clearing the Oval Office of other officials - that he wanted the feds to 'let this go' when it came to legal issues for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 4. Rosenstein threatened to 'tell the truth' on Comey firing. After using a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a pretext to fire FBI Director James Comey - the White House pressed Rosenstein to further explain why Comey had been fired, 'to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein's idea to fire Comey.' Rosenstein said that was a 'false story,' and after President Trump called on the phone to ask the Deputy A.G. to do a press conference about the Comey firing, the report says Rosenstein said he would 'tell the truth that Comey's firing was not his idea.' The Mueller report goes along with testimony released by Republicans in recent weeks which depicted Rosenstein as furious with the White House over the Comey firing, convinced that he was 'used' to get rid of the FBI Director. 5. Sarah Huckabee Sanders comments 'not founded on anything.' After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, the White House repeatedly defended the move by saying that ousting Comey was supported by 'countless members of the FBI,' though the White House produced no evidence to reporters back up that assertion. Fast forward a bit over a year to July of 2018, when Sanders was interviewed by investigators, she admitted there was no truth to her assertion from the podium. 'Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue,'' the report stated. Asked about a comment in another press interview about how FBI agents had supposedly lost confidence in Comey, 'Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.'  6. A series of unknown Mueller cases are still active. While Attorney General William Barr told Congress last month that the Mueller report 'does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public,' the details show a slightly different story. At the end of the report, there are lists of cases transferred to other prosecutors, and information on other matters - uncovered by Mueller - but referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. In those two lists, a series of cases were redacted - two cases transferred by Mueller - and 12 other cases in which referrals were made. All of them were redacted for the reason that publicity could damage ongoing investigations, what was officially known as, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' Maybe they are cases which have nothing to do with the Russia investigation or with President Trump. But one of the referrals which was not redacted involved Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Technically, these aren't Mueller cases - but they're also still secret. 7. Mueller discredits Wikileaks claim of Seth Rich DNC leak. Along with Pizzagate, the claim by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that a former DNC staffer was the source of leaked Democratic Party emails was one of the biggest conspiracy theories to emerge from the 2016 campaign. In the report, Mueller's team says file transfer evidence linking Wikileaks to Russian Intelligence lays waste to the claim that Seth Rich had leaked materials to Assange - and may have been murdered as a result. Assange has repeatedly denied any ties to Russian agents, but U.S. Intelligence has long regarded Wikileaks as a 'fence' for Russian Intelligence, and that the two tied themselves together to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. 8. Mueller says witnesses deleted potential evidence. In laying out the evidence put forward in the report, the Special Counsel's office made clear that the Russia probe was hampered because of information which could not be obtained - making it clear that some people under investigation had deleted texts and other electronic communications, 'including some associated with the Trump Campaign.' One example was between former White House aide Steve Bannon and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who were questioned about a secretive meeting in the Seychelles, which involved Russian figures. Bannon and Prince told different stories - but investigators couldn't see their text messages, because they had simply disappeared from their phones, as both men denied deleting the messages. 'Prince's phone contained no text messages prior to March 2017, though provider records indicate that he and Bannon exchanged dozens of messages,' the report stated. 9. Mueller Report redactions - 'lightly redacted' or more? The evening before the release of the report, officials told a variety of news organizations that the report was 'lightly redacted.' One group looked at it and found redactions of over 170 pages, as there were examples where entire pages were blacked out. The very first redactions in the document came in the Table of Contents - and had to do wtih the 'Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials,' dealing with stolen Democratic Party emails and Wikileaks. Some items were redacted for grand jury information, investigative techniques, harm to ongoing matters, and third person privacy concerns. 10. Trump's answers to Mueller questions. At the end of the Mueller report, you can read the President's answers to a series of written questions posed by the Special Counsel's office, after they were unable to get the President to sit for an interview, in person. Critics of the President noted derisively that there was a theme in many of his answers. 'I don't recall,' or 'I don't remember,' were phrases found. 'I have no recollection,' and 'I do not remember.' 'I do not recall being aware during the campaign' of any contacts with Wikileaks, the President testified. 'I have no recollection' that any foreign government or entity wanted to support the campaign, Mr. Trump said. 'I have no recollection of being told during the campaign that Vladimir Putin' supported my bid for the White House, the President added.
  • In a redacted 448 page report delivered to Congress Thursday by Attorney General William Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed a series of actions by President Donald Trump to rein in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, clearly stating that while Mr. Trump tried to undermine the Russia investigation, his efforts were stymied mainly because top aides and other government officials ignored his demands for action. Prime among them was White House Counsel Don McGahn, who told investigators that the President ordered him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June of 2017, soon after press reports emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. 'McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,' referring to the  episode in the Watergate investigation where President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Later, when press reports emerged stating that the President has ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, the report says the President then 'directed White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed.' McGahn again refused to follow the President's order - defying him in an Oval Office meeting. 'McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle,' the report concluded. There were other stories of top aides similarly ignoring the President, such as Corey Lewandowski, who was told by Mr. Trump to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly state that the Russia investigation was 'very unfair' to Mr. Trump. First in June of 2017, then again a month later, Mr. Trump used a private meeting to press Lewandowski - an outside adviser - to get Sessions 'to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference.' But like the White House Counsel, Lewandowski balked, and refused to follow the President's request, going so far as to ask a senior White House official - Rich Dearborn - to do the dirty work for him. 'Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through,' the report stated. The report also details how the President tried to lobby senior leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community to help him limit the Russia probe, as Mr. Trump complained to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, his daily intelligence briefers, and top officials at the National Security Agency. In late March of 2017, the President complained directly to DNI Coats, who counseled that it would be best to allow the investigations to 'run their course,' and not interfere with the work of FBI Director James Comey. While Coats did not tell investigators that he felt directly pressured to act, his top aides told a different story, that 'Coats was upset because the President has asked him to contact Comey to convince him there was nothing to the Russia investigation.' Mr. Trump also called the head of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, to weigh in on the Russia investigation - a conversation that so alarmed Rogers and a top deputy that they immediately drafted a memo, and placed it in an NSA safe to memorialize the communications with the President, much as Comey had done after his own meetings with Mr. Trump. Intelligence officials also said the President complained about the Russia investigation during his daily briefings, and asking for messages of support in the news media. 'On at least two occasions, the President began Presidential Daily Briefings by stating that there was no collusion with Russia and he hoped a press statement to that effect could be issued,' the report said. NSA chief Rogers recalled a private talk with Mr. Trump where the President vented his frustration, 'and said something like the 'Russia thing has got to go away.'' In another example from July of 2017, President Trump was ready to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but encountered resistance from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. 'Even though Priebus did not intend to carry out the President's directive, he told the President he would get Sessions to resign,' the report stated. Priebus later told the President that Sessions could not be ousted, because other top officials - including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand would also resign - setting off a Saturday Night Massacre type of situation for President Trump. In the end, the Mueller investigation found that top aides to the President had saved Mr. Trump from possible legal jeopardy, mainly by ignoring his demands on the Russia investigation. 'The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,' the Mueller report concluded. Top Democrats in Congress immediately made clear they want more information about the obstruction matters. 'As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. Not surprisingly, the White House saw things differently, as the redacted version of the Mueller report was issued. On the issue of collusion, the Mueller report stated the investigation 'identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign' - but that there was no evidence that the campaign had 'conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.' Mueller seems likely to be asked directly about his investigation in May, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he would ask Mueller to testify next month. Attorney General Barr is already scheduled for two days of testimony before the House and Senate on May 1 and May 2.
  • Official Washington is focused primarily today on the release of a redacted version of a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed almost two years ago by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, a probe which has generated fierce criticism since the outset by President Donald Trump and many of his political allies. First, this is the link to the 448 page Mueller report. There are two parts to the report - Volume 1 covers questions about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Volume 2 covers matters related to possible obstruction of justice by the President on the Russia probe. Here's where we stand: + 1:20 pm - The Mueller report raises the specter that associates of the Trump campaign and/or allies of the President may have deleted emails and other electronic evidence, which impeded the Mueller investigation. + 1:10 pm - While the Special Counsel was never able to get an in-person interview with the President, this report does include his written answers to questions submitted by the Mueller legal team. + 1:00 pm - The report goes into a lot of detail about the interactions between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, which ultimately resulted in Comey's firing in May of 2017.   + 12:50 pm - While Attorney General Barr talked earlier today of all the cooperation that the White House had provided in the investigation, the Mueller reports paints a different picture, especially when it comes to the question of getting testimony from President Trump.  The Special Counsel's office determined that an effort to subpoena the President would require an enormous amount of legal effort and time, even though simple written responses from President Trump were viewed as insufficient.  “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate,” the report stated. + 12:30 pm - The report details a number of contacts and calls made by the President to top intelligence officials, asking for their help in refuting the Trump-Russia story.  Top officials at the National Security Agency were so alarmed that they immediately wrote out a memo after the conversation, and put it in a safe.   Like White House aides, intelligence officials basically ignored the President's demand for help. + 12:10 pm - The Mueller report basically says that because top aides to the President consistently refused to carry out his orders to rein in - or even terminate - the Russia investigation, they saved the President from committing illegal acts, and obstruction of justice. + 12:00 pm - As mentioned earlier, President Trump had ordered his White House Counsel to fire Robert Mueller.  Don McGahn had refused.  Months later, the issue surfaced in the press, and the Mueller report says the President then demanded that McGahn deny the reports.  McGahn refused. + 11:55 am - The Mueller report says President Trump personally intervened to change a statement from his son, Donald Trump, Jr., about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, deleting a reference to how the meeting was to offer information about Hillary Clinton, and instead saying the meeting was about adoption policies.  + 11:50 am - After telling the White House Counsel to fire Mueller in June of 2017, President Trump kept pressing aides to help limit the Russia probe.  He asked Corey Lewandowski to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly declare the Russia probe, “very unfair.”  Lewandowski said he would do that, but refused - and tried to get another aide to do the same thing, who also refused. + 11:40 am - As the Mueller report was being released, President Trump was making comments about it during a White House event with wounded warriors.  + 11:35 am - In testimony from White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Mueller report spells out how President Trump ordered his top lawyer to fire the Special Counsel in 2017, once stories emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. + 11:30 am - A reminder in the report from the Special Counsel that a number of people connected to the Trump campaign lied about their contacts during and after the election when questioned by the feds. + 11:25 am - Here is the conclusion of Special Counsel Mueller when it comes to whether President Trump should have been charged with Obstruction of Justice: + 11:20 am - While there were indications the report was 'lightly redacted,' that's not the case in some areas, where entire pages were blacked out. + 11:10 am - The redactions give us little new information on links between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. + 11:06 am - The first redaction is in the table of contents, dealing with materials linked to Wikileaks and the Trump Campaign. + 11:05 am - The Mueller report has been released.  It is 448 pages. + 11:00 am - Don't forget, this report is not just about President Trump.  It also will spill into the race among Democrats to try to replace him. + 10:55 am - My ten year old kid asks me, “Have they released the Mueller report yet?”  Soon, I tell him. + 10:50 am - President Trump's scheduled 10:30 am event with Wounder Warriors at the White House still has not started.  With the Mueller report scheduled to be delivered to Congress at 11 am, it will be interesting to see if the President is speaking at that moment.  A President has the power to dominate the airwaves in a way that no other person can in the United States. + 10:45 am - As we await the exact details of the Mueller report, it is a good time to remember how important actual documents are in any investigation, and how politicians deal with public discussion of that material.  This from one House Democrat from Florida: + 10:40 am - Donald Trump Jr. did not mention his initial reaction to the offer of 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton, which he welcomed.  + 10:35 am - President Trump's son is echoing the declarations of his father as the Mueller report is released. + 10:30 am - Democrats are furious about the news conference of Attorney General Barr, claiming it was nothing more than Barr acting like President Trump's defense lawyer. + 10:25 am - Not long after the Attorney General said he had no opposition to the idea, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are now officially asking for public testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. + 10:20 am - Here is how the Barr news conference ended. + 10:15 am - The Trump White House is ready for today.  This was tweeted out soon after the end of the Barr news conference. + 10:10 am - Even on Fox News, there were not universally good reviews for the Attorney General. + 10:05 am - Here's some of the Attorney General's news conference. + 10:00 am - The news conference ends on a somewhat testy note, as the Attorney General sparred with reporters over how he characterized the impact of the investigation on President Trump, labeling the probe an 'unprecedented situation.' + 9:55 am - Barr says he has no opposition to the idea of Special Counsel Mueller testifying before Congress. + 9:50 am - Barr confirms that the President's legal team was allowed to see the Mueller report before Congress. + 9:45 am - Here is a link to Barr's statement he is giving to reporters. + 9:40 am - In his news conference, the Attorney General keeps repeating a main theme over and over again - that there was no collusion or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.  “The Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy,” Barr says. “So, that's the bottom line.” + 9:35 am - Attorney General William Barr says the redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be delivered to Congress at 11 am, and then it will be posted on line for the public to read. + 9:25 am - As we wait for the news conference of Attorney General William Barr, Democrats are denouncing Barr, ridiculing his decision to hold this session with reporters before the report is even released. + 9:20 am - President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is making his own noise today, saying he's ready to fill in any of the blanks left by redactions in the Mueller report.  Cohen's lawyer - Lanny Davis - was emphasizing the same as well. + 9:10 am - A quick reminder of what we know so far about the Russia investigation.  We know the basics already from the charges brought - or not brought by the Special Counsel.  Russian intelligence agents hacked Democratic Party emails and documents, and gave them to Wikileaks during the campaign. There were numerous contacts between Russians and people affiliated with the Trump campaign, both before and after the elections. But we also know that no indictments were ever returned for any Trump-Russia conspiracy, or collusion.  + 9:05 am - Congress is not in session this week, but the miracle of social media will make it very easy for lawmakers to weigh in on today's events as they transpire.  Republicans are backing the President, while Democrats are raising questions about the actions of Attorney General William Barr, who is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30, before the release of the report. + 9:00 am - It's been a busy morning on Twitter for President Trump, who has been again voicing his displeasure with the Mueller investigation, and re-tweeting items related to Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her emails from her time as Secretary of State.
  • With a political battle ready to boil over at any minute on how much is going to be revealed to the public about the Russia investigation, and both political parties fully ready to press their case to the public on how to digest what's being released by the Trump Administration, the Justice Department on Thursday morning is set to release some of the details of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 elections. Here's the basic run down on what to expect on Thursday: 1. Attorney General starts first with a news conference at 9:30 am EDT. Even before the redacted report from the Special Counsel is made public, U.S. Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference at the Justice Department. News organizations were told that Congress would get the report between 11 am and 12 noon - and around that time, the report will be posted on the website of the Special Counsel. President Trump also suggested that he might hold a news conference before he leaves for his Florida retreat to spend the Easter weekend. 2. Redactions are certain to be a big issue. There were reports Wednesday night that the redactions were not going to black out a significant part of the Mueller report, but no one will know that until we get to read the report with our own eyes. Four specific types of information would be redacted as spelled out by Attorney General William Barr - 1) Materials from grand jury proceedings, 2) Classified information, 3) information related to ongoing prosecutions, and 4) Materials which touch on third parties who are not directly involved in the Russia investigation. Barr says the redactions will be 'color coded,' allowing people to know why certain passages or words were not made public.  You can listen to Barr's explanation from his testimony to a House panel last week: 3. We already know a lot about the Russia investigation. Even before some of the details from the Mueller report are released to the public, the Special Counsel has put a lot on the record. There clearly was an effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections. Russian intelligence agents were indicted for hacking Democratic Party emails and documents, and providing those materials to Wikileaks. A series of people who worked for the campaign, or were foreign policy advisers, have come under scrutiny for contacts with Russians - both during and after the elections. A number of people have plead guilty to lying to the feds about such contacts. But the Special Counsel never tied it all together into any indictments which alleged coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, something the President has trumpeted repeatedly in recent days. 4. President Trump and the question of obstruction of justice. In his March 24 letter to Congress, the Attorney General clearly stated that Special Counsel Mueller did not make a final conclusion about whether President Trump obstructed justice during the Russia investigation. 'The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'' It will be interesting to see how the report deals with this matter, and how much of the Mueller evidence - and his own internal deliberations about obstruction - will be made public by the Attorney General. 5. Is Congress really getting the Mueller report on a CD? According to news organizations on Wednesday, the Justice Department is sending Congress the redacted version of the Mueller report on a CD. Needless to say, many of you reading this probably don't have a CD drive on your laptop or home computer - let alone on your cell phone. Many of you probably forgot that CD's could be used for something other than music. In 1998, Ken Starr's investigation delivered its report in both written form and - wait for it - on a CD. And of course, I still have my copy.