Through The Smog: Last Week’s Stories You Might’ve Missed
With all that goes on in a given week, it can be tough to keep up with everything that happens here at home and around the world. It’s especially difficult when we have a president who enjoys to troll the American public everyday on Twitter.
Here are some of the most important stories of the week, and some that may have gotten lost in the smog:
Trump Wiretapping Lies
Tapper Confirms Trump Got Wiretap Lie From Conservative News
On Saturday, President Donald Trump sent out a series of accusatory tweets claiming that he is the victim of wiretapping by his predecessor.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!
I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
However, Trump’s claims were quickly fact-checked and, as you might have already guessed, have no basis in this reality. A fact that Jake Tapper of CNN quickly pointed out:
WH officials with whom I spoke said POTUS got the info about wiretap from media – Breitbart, Levin – not from govt sources.
It’s extremely troubling that our President is making public accusations from unverified, and unsubstantiated, “news” sources. Here is the Breitbart article — and Levin segment — that Trump seems to have gotten his fake news from.
FBI Director James Comey Asks DOJ To Dispute Wiretap Lie
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that F.B.I. Director, James Comey, has called on the Department of Justice to “reject President Trump’s assertion that President Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones.” Also confirmed by senior U.S. officials, Comey not only wants the DOJ to reject these baseless claims but to correct all of Trump’s wiretapping falsehoods with a public statement. A public statement has yet to be released by the Jeff Sessions led Justice Department.
Donald Trump’s bizarre wiretapping claims have members of both parties and the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, scratching their heads due to the astonishing lack of evidence to back them up.
Below you can watch a segment from Chuck Todd’s “Meet The Press” where Sen. Marco Rubio [FL] and James Clapper address Trump’s puzzling accusations.
The White House Doubles Down On Wiretapping Falsehood
On the same day that F.B.I. Director Comey called for a public condemnation from the DOJ on baseless wiretapping accusations, the Trump Administration decided to go in a different direction. Instead of letting his latest attempt at distracting the american people from his Russia problem fizzle out, he doubled down. In a statement from Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, he says
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
Spicer followed up his statement with a series of tweets seemingly designed to offer an escape from their wild accusations:
(1/4) Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling.
(2/4) President Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees
(3/4) exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.
(4/4) Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.
“Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”
Russia-Trump Collusion Suspicion Grows
Jeff Sessions Recused Himself For Meeting With Russian Ambassador Kislyak And Lying About It
On Wednesday, news broke that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year while he was a Senator. This is the same Russian ambassador that Michael Flynn communicated with about lifting sanctions. Those communications led to Flynn being fired as national security advisor.
The Washington Post reported that “one of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”
This development was in stark contrast to Sessions denial of Russian contacts while under oath at his confirmation hearing. After facing a firestorm of calls for his resignation from Democrats and his recusal from both Democrats and Republicans, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from handling any investigations regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
European Allies Confirmed Russian Meetings With Trump Campaign
The New York Times reported that European allies confirmed meetings between Russian officials and Trump’s campaign in various European cities:
As WikiLeaks was pushing out emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee through online publication, American intelligence began picking up conversations in which Russian officials were discussing contacts with Trump associates, and European allies were starting to pass along information about people close to Mr. Trump meeting with Russians in the Netherlands, Britain and other countries.
Obama Administration Attempted To Preserve Intel About Collusion
That same NYT report mentioned above, detailed an in-depth effort by White House officials in the final days of the Obama administration to spread and preserve information about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. This information included intel about contacts between Russian officials and President Trump’s campaign.
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information…There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress.
J.D. Gordon and Carter Page Met With Kislyak At The RNC
USA TODAY reported that two more Trump campaign officials met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, but this time it was at the Republican National Convention:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not the only member of President Trump’s campaign who spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a diplomacy conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July. At least two more members of the Trump campaign’s national security officials also spoke with Kislyak at the event, and several more Trump national security advisers were in attendance. It’s unknown what the Trump campaign officials who spoke with the ambassador — J.D. Gordon and Carter Page — discussed with him.
These revelations continue to contradict Trump officials’ denial that there were any contacts whatsoever between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Carter Page admitted to the meeting on CNN despite having previously denied it. This development is noteworthy, given Page’s extensive Russia ties and repeated trips to Moscow throughout 2016.
Jared Kushner And Michael Flynn Snuck Kislyak Into Trump Tower
The White House confirmed that Jared Kushner and former national security advisor Michael Flynn met with Ambassador Kislyak at Trump Tower in December. Given the exhaustive media coverage at Trump Tower that month, this revelation has led many to believe Kislyak must have been snuck onto the premises.
Remember the coverage at Trump Tower in Dec? NOBODY passed thru w/o press noticing. CSPAN had a freaking pool cam. They snuck Kislyak in. https://t.co/KlL98KD0SD
Roger Stone’s Late Night Twitter Confessional
Roger Stone, former Trump advisor under investigation for Russia ties, had a full blown meltdown on Twitter. Stone lashed out at people using vulgar language and also admitted to the long suspected back channel between him and Wikileaks Founder, Julian Assange.
This isn’t the first time Stone has bragged about his relationship with Assange. In October, Roger Stone boasted about being in regular contact with Assange, through “mutual friends.” This boast appeared to be validated by his eerie knowledge of upcoming Wikileaks centering around Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails. Several months before it occurred, Stone tweeted about an October surprise involving Podesta, that would disrupt Clinton’s campaign.
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
Sweden Implements Mandatory Military Service In Fear Of Russia
Sweden is bringing back the draft.
The return to conscription was prompted by “the security change in our neighbourhood.”
Starting on January 1, 2018, 4000, out of a group of 13,000 young people born in 1999, Swedes will be called upon to undergo “military assessment.” Also known as conscription.
“The Russian illegal annexation of Crimea [in 2014], the conflict in Ukraine and the increased military activity in our neighbourhood are some of the reasons,” she said.
The Fight Against ISIS Intensifies
Iraqi Forces Push Into Western Mosul
After losing the city of Mosul to ISIS in 2014, Iraqi forces have returned with a vengeance. Iraqi special forces entered the eastern outskirts of Mosul in early November of 2016 and have made significant advances. They are now in the final phases of their campaign to retake Mosul.
Civilians have been fleeing the city and being provided relief by the Iraqi Government. 57,000 civilians have fled the city in recent weeks.
Iraqi forces are now making their way into western Mosul, and running into the most heavily fortified areas. It was estimated at the time this campaign begun that 5,000 ISIS fighters were held up in Mosul. That number has most certainly decreased.
Mosul is the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State, and it’s final stronghold in Iraq. The retaking of Mosul would be both a major territorial and symbolic win in the battle against ISIS, leaving Raqqa in Syria as the last major city under their control.
U.S. Strengthens Forces In Syria
The United States has increased its forces near the northern Syrian town of Manbij as concerns have grown that fighting could erupt among the complex array of militias and Syrian and Turkish troops who are operating on the crowded battlefield near there…American military officials said the total number of United States forces in Syria had not increased. But the new deployment of American troops around Manbij has been done in a visible manner.
Syrian Government Retakes Palmyra
After losing the city to ISIS in December, Syrian government forces have recaptured Palmyra, Syria. It’s location in central Syria and proximity to the de-facto ISIS capital Raqqa, makes it a strategic territory.
The Private Email Usage Of Mike Pence and Scott Pruitt
After experiencing a 2016 election where we never heard the end of Hillary Clinton’s so-called “disqualifying” and “criminal” use of a private email server to conduct official state department business, this week news broke of some private email use from some folks in the Trump administration.
USA TODAY reported that “Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues.”
Pence used his personal AOL account and discussed highly sensitive issues, including how the state of Indiana would respond to terrorist attacks. Pence’s account was hacked.
EPA head Scott Pruitt copied official emails from his work as Oklahoma state attorney general over to his personal email account. He lied about that during his confirmation hearing causing Democratic leaders and environmental activists to all for a review of those emails.
North Korea Fired Missiles Into The Sea Of Japan
In yet another provocative action, North Korea has fired off four ballistic missiles. The move comes after North Korea tested a long-range ballistic missile in mid-February. CNN reports:
North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles, three of which landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday.
Speaking to the Japanese parliament, Abe said the launch was a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. “It is an extremely dangerous action,” he said.
The move comes as South Korea and the United States are holding joint military exercises, which Pyongyang views as preparations for an invasion.