US Supreme Court Lets Donald Trump Transgender Troop Restrictions Take Effect


Donald Trump in 2017 announced a plan to ban transgender people from the military

WASHINGTON: 

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday let President Donald Trump enforce his policy barring certain transgender people from joining or staying in the military as the justices put on hold lower court rulings blocking the plan on constitutional grounds.

The conservative-majority granted the Trump administration’s request to lift injunctions issued by federal judges against the policy while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.

Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy. The justices refused the administration’s request for them to decide the merits of the legal fight even before a California-based federal appeals court already considering the matter is given a chance to rule.

The lawsuits challenging the policy were filed in 2017 by civil liberties and gay and transgender rights groups on behalf of current transgender military service members, including some deployed overseas with decades of experience in the armed forces, and transgender people aspiring to join the military.

Trump in 2017 announced a plan to ban transgender people from the military, moving to reverse a policy announced a year earlier under Democratic former President Barack Obama allowing them for the first time to serve openly and receive medical care to transition genders.

Trump, whose administration also has taken other steps to limit the rights of transgender Americans, cited the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of having transgender military personnel.

Trump in March 2018 announced he would endorse a plan by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that replaced the ban on all transgender people. The revised policy would ban the service of transgender people who seek or have undergone gender transition steps. It also would ban under certain circumstances transgender people who experience gender dysphoria, a condition the American Psychiatric Association defines as clinically significant distress due to “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender” and the individual’s gender identity.

Federal courts blocked the administration’s policy, finding that it likely violated the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Various injunctions allowed transgender troops to join the armed forces as of January 1, 2018.

Though another injunction issued by a judge in Maryland was not on appeal, the administration said in court papers the high court’s action would apply to that one, too.





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Belarus Model Who Claimed Donald Trump’s Russia Secrets Freed From Russian Jail


Anastasia Vashukevich had been waiting to travel on to the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Moscow: 

A Belarusian escort who claimed she had proof of Russian collusion with Donald Trump‘s election campaign was freed from a Russian jail on Tuesday following her arrest last week, lawyers said.

Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, was arrested alongside Alexander Kirillov, a self-styled sex guru, when the two arrived at Moscow’s main airport following their deportation from Thailand last Thursday.

Vashukevich had been waiting to travel on to the Belarusian capital Minsk.

“The investigation made a decision to free them from jail with the obligation to appear” for further proceedings, Kirillov’s lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina told AFP.

Vashukevich was deported from Thailand after pleading guilty to participating in a “sex training course”.

She became famous after posting videos allegedly showing tycoon Oleg Deripaska and an influential Russian deputy prime minister on a yacht.

While in Thai prison, she said she had information about Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

Her lawyer Dmitry Zatsarinsky posted a video on Instagram Tuesday showing him and Vashukevich apparently in a car following her release.

“Nastya Rybka is free. We’re going home,” he says, as Vashukevich flashes a peace sign and laughs.

The decision was unexpected following a court ruling on Saturday to extend her detention.

Sitting in a glass cage during that hearing, Vashukevich told journalists she wanted to apologise to Deripaska and no longer wants to “compromise him” or publish a book on seducing oligarchs.

“I’ve had enough,” she said.





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Donald Trump Blasts China For Slow Economic Growth


US China Trade War: Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to iron out differences (AFP)

Washington: 

US President Donald Trump asked China to “stop playing around” and do a “Real Deal” in the wake of slowing economic figures amid US-China trade friction.

“China posts slowest economic numbers since 1990 due to U.S. trade tensions and new policies. Makes so much sense for China to finally do a Real Deal, and stop playing around!” Trump tweeted on Monday (local time).

The US President’s comments come after China announced that its economy cooled down in the last quarter of 2018, recording a growth rate of 6.6 per cent, which is the slowest in the last 28 years.

The trade dispute between the US and China is currently on hold after Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed to iron out differences.

Furthermore, after a round of negotiations in Beijing in the first few days of January 2019, officials from the two countries are set to hold talks in Washington DC on January 30 with an aim to resolve the trade tiff.





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US Senator Lindsey Graham Says Imran Khan An Agent Of Change, Will Urge Donald Trump To Meet Him


“Imran Khan is the agent of change that I’ve been looking for,” Senator Lindsey Graham said. (Reuters)

Islamabad: 

Leading US Senator Lindsey Graham vowed Sunday to urge President Donald Trump to meet Imran Khan to boost Washington’s Afghanistan peace efforts, calling the Pakistani prime minister an “agent of change”.

The Republican — an influential ally of Trump — made the comments in Islamabad after meeting with the Pakistani leader, saying Khan was a “new partner” who could potentially help with a peace deal in Afghanistan.

“I’m going to urge him (Trump) to meet with the prime minister as soon as practical,” Graham told reporters, saying he believed Khan and Trump would “hit if off” because they have “similar personalities”.

“Prime Minister Khan is the agent of change that I’ve been looking for,” he added.

Ties between Washington and Islamabad have soured recently, with US officials repeatedly accusing Pakistan of turning a blind eye to or even collaborating with the Afghan Taliban, which launch attacks in Afghanistan from alleged havens along the border between the two countries.

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Pakistan’s alleged duplicity, saying late last year that Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US.

Khan has been equally critical of Trump, saying before 2018’s election in Pakistan that a potential meeting with the US president would be a “bitter pill” to swallow.

The US lawmaker’s trip to Pakistan comes as American officials have held several rounds of talks with Taliban representatives.

Graham said a meeting between the two leaders was vital to carve out a potential deal in Afghanistan.

“They actually need to meet and come up with a agenda that will push a resolution to the war in Afghanistan,” the senator added.

Graham — once a potent critic of Trump — has transformed in recent months into an ardent defender and influential ally of the president.

The senator’s arrival also overlapped with an ongoing trip by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been shuttling around the region for months to build support for the peace initiative.

Khalilzad was in Kabul last week and then flew to Pakistan were he also met with the prime minister Friday as news reports in Pakistan suggested Islamabad was open to hosting the next round of talks with the insurgents.

The Taliban, however, have threatened to suspend the fledgling peace efforts, accusing Washington of changing the agenda of the talks and “unilaterally” adding new subjects.

Graham’s trip also comes after US officials announced in December that Trump intends to withdraw as many as half of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

The meetings are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing the Taliban to the table for negotiations with the Afghan government on ending the conflict which began with the US invasion in 2001.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Donald Trump Had Conversations On Moscow Luxury Tower Till US Elections


Donald Trump’s then personal lawyer Michael Cohen had spearheaded negotiations with Russia.

Washington: 

US President Donald Trump had conversations about a proposed project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously acknowledged, his lawyer said Sunday.

Trump’s conversations with his then personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who was spearheading the negotiations in Moscow, continued throughout the year until October or November 2016, Rudy Giuliani said.

“It’s our understanding that they went on throughout 2016 — there weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations,” the former New York mayor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Can’t be sure the exact dates, but the president can remember having conversations with him about it,” he said.

Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison for an assortment of felonies, has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 when he testified that the negotiations had ended by January of 2016.

In fact, he later admitted, they had gone on much longer, until June of 2016, when Trump had become the presumptive nominee of the Republican party.

The latest disclosure extends that timeline right up to the presidential elections in November.

The Trump Tower project has been a subject of scrutiny because Trump had denied any business dealings with the Russians.

He has since acknowledged that Cohen pursued a deal with the Russians well into 2016, but has insisted there was nothing wrong with seeking business opportunities while running for office.

Giuliani said Trump had fully answered questions about the Trump Tower project put to him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with a Russian effort to sway the 2016 elections in the Republican’s favor, as well as possible obstruction by the president.

Giuliani portrayed Trump’s role in the Moscow negotiations as that of a passive participant who was too busy running for president to pay much attention to it.

“It was Michael Cohen driving the project,” he told CNN in a separate interview on its “State of the Union” show.

Candidate Trump, he said, was “tied up 18 hours a day with that (the campaign). If he could devote a minute a day to this, it would be a lot. A minute here, a minute there.

“Your recollection of that is not going to be as strong. The guy running it is going to remember it,” he said.

Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on February 7.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Donald Trump Warns Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi Over Mexico Wall Deal


Democrat Nancy Pelosi rejected Donald Trump’s deal on immigration and the Mexico border wall.

Washington: 

US President Donald Trump bitterly attacked top Democrat Nancy Pelosi on Sunday after she rejected a deal on immigration and the Mexico border wall that would end a 30-day-old government shutdown.

Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, on Saturday called Trump’s offer of temporary protections for about a million immigrants in return for $5.7 billion to fund the wall a “non-starter.”

“Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat,” Trump tweeted. “She is so petrified of the ‘lefties’ in her party that she has lost control.”

“…And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!” he added, in a seemingly gratuitous aside. Pelosi is from San Francisco.

The offer also was assailed by prominent anti-immigrant voices, which denounced it as tantamount to amnesty.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3 year extension of DACA,” Trump said in another tweet, referring to former president Barack Obama’s program to shield undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.

Besides the 700,000 immigrants already enrolled in the so-called DACA or “Dreamers” program, Trump’s proposal would also extend to another 300,000 people who had been protected from deportation under another program.

He said that while there would be “no big push” to remove the 11 million people in the country illegally, he warned: ‘but be careful, Nancy!”

Vice President Mike Pence, who has been leading the administration’s contacts with members of Congress, said a bill with the president’s proposal would be introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate as early as Tuesday.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Donald Trump Tells Obama-Era Dreamers Amnesty Not Part Of His Offer


Donald Trump has been steadfast in his demand for a wall along the border with Mexico.

Washington: 

President Donald Trump said on Sunday his proposed immigration deal to end a 30-day partial government shutdown would not lead to amnesty for “Dreamers,” but appeared to signal support for amnesty as part of a broader immigration agreement.

In a morning Twitter storm, Trump also said he would not seek the removal of millions of illegal aliens living in the United States, while bashing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for turning down his offer on Saturday.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3-year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else,” Trump said on Twitter.

“Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

The Dreamers, which refers to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA was put in place under former President Barack Obama. The Trump administration said in September 2017 it would rescind DACA but it remains in effect under court order.

Trump did not make clear what he was referring to regarding the 11 million people mentioned in his tweet. About 12 million people are living in the United States illegally, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

About one-quarter of the U.S. government shut down on Dec. 22 over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the border with Mexico, which Democrats have refused to consider. Some 800,000 federal workers have been ordered to stay home or work without pay during the shutdown.

On Sunday, a day after Trump’s DACA proposal, there appeared to be signs of movement, even as Democrats insisted the government should reopen before proceeding with talks over border security.

“What the president proposed yesterday – increasing border security, looking at TPS, looking at the Dreamers – I’ll use that as a starting point. But you’ve got to start by reopening the government,” U.S. Senator Mark Warner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) refers to another class of immigrants – nationals from designated countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster, or other strife.

Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said reopening the government ahead of border security negotiations was important for preventing future shutdowns.

“If the president can arbitrarily shut down the government now, he will do it time and again,” Warner said.

Warner also said Congress should approve pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown before they miss another paycheck this week.

“Let’s at least pay them on Thursday, so they don’t have to go through more angst,” Warner said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Second US-North Korea summit Place choose said Donald Trump


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Donald Trump Offers 3-Year Protection For Immigrants In Exchange For Border Wall


Trump’s proposal was immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty.

President Donald Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty.

Aiming to end the 29-day partial government shutdown, Trump outlined his plan in a White House address in which he sought to revive negotiations with Democrats, who responded that they would not engage in immigration talks until he reopened the government.

Trump proposed offering a reprieve on his attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations, in exchange for building hundreds of miles of barriers on the southern U.S. border and hiring thousands of new law enforcement agents to be deployed there.

“This is a common-sense compromise both parties should embrace,” Trump said. He added: “The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let it happen.”

But the initial reaction to the offer from Democrats and conservative border hawks was hostile, raising doubts that it would be enough to break an impasse that has resulted in 800,000 federal workers being furloughed or forced to work without pay and numerous government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, operating at minimal staffing levels.

The shutdown has become the longest in U.S. government history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., dismissed the proposal as a “non-starter” and vowed that Democrats would pass legislation next week to reopen the government, putting the onus on the Republican-led Senate to follow suit.

“The president must sign these bills to reopen government immediately and stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown,” Pelosi said. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also said he opposed the plan.

Moving ahead on Trump’s plan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he would put the legislation on the Senate floor for a vote next week. And Trump heralded the package as a bipartisan, “compassionate response” that would offer humanitarian relief on the border and curb illegal immigration – while allowing the government to reopen.

McConnell laid out his plan in a private call with GOP senators late Saturday afternoon, where there was little dissent, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

In addition to its immigration provisions, the package – which McConnell could move to advance as early as Tuesday, although a Thursday vote appears more likely – would reopen all parts of the government that are closed. It also would provide emergency funding for U.S. areas hit by hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.

The package would include an extension of the Violence Against Women Act.

Senior White House aides cast the proposal as a good-faith effort from the president to incorporate ideas from Democrats during weeks of talks with a negotiating team led by Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

In a briefing for reporters after Trump’s remarks, the aides acknowledged that the bill faces a difficult path in the Senate, where it would require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. But they predicted that ordinary Americans would view the plan as a compromise and pressure lawmakers to make the deal.

“I hope once people get past their initial statements, initial reaction, they will really look at the legislation that comes to the floor and see what it is – a sincere effort by the president of the United States to take ideas from both political parties,” Pence said of lawmakers.

The shutting down of some 25 percent of the federal government was triggered by Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build more than 200 miles of new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Pelosi has called the wall “immoral,” and Democrats are refusing to offer more than $1.3 billion, maintaining existing funding levels for border barriers and fences. Democrats also frequently point out that Trump long claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Trump’s offer would not provide the path to permanent legal status – or citizenship – for DACA beneficiaries that many Democrats have sought in any immigration deal that dramatically ramps up border security. The DACA program, which began in 2012 under President Barack Obama, has provided renewable work permits to more than 700,000 undocumented young immigrants, known as “dreamers,” who were brought into the country when they were children.

Trump appealed to “rank-and-file” Democratic lawmakers, hoping to peel them away from leadership, but many issued statements of opposition moments after his 13-minute speech.

Trump’s proposal also was pilloried by some of the most influential border hawks, including conservative author and commentator Ann Coulter, who said in a tweet that the proposal was “amnesty.”

“We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” she wrote, referring to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who had a more moderate immigration position when campaigning for the presidency.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a longtime anti-immigration voice in the House, blasted Trump’s offer, and the conservative news website Breitbart noted that most of the border would remain without a wall under the plan.

Pence vehemently disputed the suggestion that the plan was a betrayal of Trump’s hard-line border agenda. “This is not an amnesty bill,” he said, noting the deportation protections are temporary under the plan.

Some congressional Republicans tried to bolster the president.

“This bill takes a bipartisan approach to reopening the closed portions of the federal government,” McConnell said in a statement.

Yet McConnell’s decision to advance the bill to the Senate floor in the coming days marks a reversal of his promise not to hold votes on legislation that did not already have explicit support from the White House and Democratic leaders.

The calculus for the majority leader changed as the shutdown has dragged on, people familiar with his thinking said, pointing to Pelosi’s letter to Trump on Wednesday suggesting he postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address until the government reopens. That moment, the sources said, convinced McConnell that Pelosi would not negotiate without further incentives.

McConnell spoke to Trump that afternoon, asking the president to add legislative sweeteners for Democrats, and Trump agreed, the official said.

Saturday’s offer also marks a reversal for Trump, who had indicated for weeks that he would not include DACA in the talks.

Trump had said he was hoping the Supreme Court would hear an appeal to a lower court’s injunction on his attempt to end the program; a high court ruling in his favor would give him more leverage.

But the Supreme Court signaled Friday that it might not take the case, meaning Trump cannot end the program for the time being.

On TPS, Trump has declared an end to a program that has offered hundreds of thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan the right to remain in the United States after they were uprooted from their home countries during natural disasters and other emergencies. But that move also has been enjoined by federal courts.

White House aides said the president’s proposal was an echo of a bipartisan bill called the “Bridge Act,” previously offered by Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would have provided a three-year renewal of DACA-style protections from deportation – a period in which it was hoped lawmakers would pass a comprehensive immigration bill that included a permanent solution.

But Trump’s proposal was far smaller in scope, covering fewer immigrants, and Democrats said his plan was akin to trading “permanent” border wall for “temporary” protections for immigrants that Trump could reverse in a second term.

Asked about that criticism, Pence replied: “I read that turn of phrase.” He then paused and changed the subject.

Durbin issued a statement saying he opposed the offer.

After his speech, Trump joined a call with House Republicans, stressing his desire to finalize a deal with Democrats, according to an official on that call. Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, also detailed to Republican lawmakers the administration’s case for a wall, as well as for additional border security resources to “stop the flow of crime, drugs and trafficking coming over the southern border,” the official said.

Other Trump aides said they think the president has the legal authority to declare a national emergency at the border, which could allow him to redirect Pentagon funding to a build a border wall, but they said Trump prefers a negotiated solution.

At the White House on Saturday morning, Trump continued to point to a new “caravan” of Central American migrants crossing into Mexico from Guatemala, which was featured on “Fox & Friends,” a show the president watches regularly.

“If we had a wall, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Trump told reporters.

Ahead of his afternoon remarks from the White House, Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony in the Oval Office for five new Americans, who recited the Oath of Allegiance, led by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. They had come to the United States from Iraq, Bolivia, Britain, South Korea and Jamaica.

The image of the new citizens raising their hands in the Oval Office was meant to underscore Trump’s support of foreigners who enter the country through legal immigration programs, even as his administration has supported policies to slash overall immigration.

“Each of you worked hard for this moment,” Trump told them. “You followed the rules, upheld our laws, and contributed to the strength and success and vitality of our nation.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Against Michael Cohen, Donald Trump Lawyer, Robert Mueller Didn’t Know Extent Of Allegations


“I made these misstatements out of loyalty to Individual 1,” Michael Cohen said referring to Donald Trump

When a BuzzFeed reporter first sought comment on the news outlet’s explosive report that President Donald Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, the spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller III treated the request as he would almost any other story.

The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.

The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.

Within 24 hours of the story’s publication, the special counsel’s office issued a statement doing just that. Trump, who has called the media the “enemy of the people,” on Saturday pointed to the special counsel’s assertion as evidence of what he sees as journalists’ bias against him.

“I think that the BuzzFeed piece was a disgrace to our country. It was a disgrace to journalism, and I think also that the coverage by the mainstream media was disgraceful, and I think it’s going to take a long time for the mainstream media to recover its credibility,” Trump said Saturday. “It’s lost tremendous credibility. And believe me, that hurts me when I see that.”

BuzzFeed has stood by its reporting.

“As we’ve reconfirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate. We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able,” Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for the news outlet, said Saturday.

People familiar with the matter said Carr told others in the government that he would have more vigorously discouraged the reporters from proceeding with the story had he known it would allege Cohen had told the special counsel Trump directed him to lie – or that the special counsel was said to have learned this through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, as well as internal company emails and text messages.

Carr declined to comment for this story beyond the special counsel’s office statement issued Friday.

After Carr declined to comment to BuzzFeed, but before the story was published, he sent reporter Jason Leopold a partial transcript of Cohen’s plea hearing, in which Cohen admitted lying to Congress about the timing of discussions related to a possible Trump Tower project in Moscow, according to the emails BuzzFeed’s spokesman provided. Cohen had claimed falsely that the company’s effort to build the tower ended in January 2016, when in fact discussions continued through June of that year, as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination for president.

“I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1,” Cohen said at his plea hearing late last year, using the term “Individual 1” to refer to Trump.

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Peter Carr, Robert Mueller’s spokesman, people familiar with the matter said, hoped Jason Leopold, reporter for BuzzFeed, would notice that Michael Cohen had not said during the hearing that Donald Trump had explicitly directed him to lie (File Photo)

Carr, people familiar with the matter said, hoped Leopold would notice that Cohen had not said during the hearing that Trump had explicitly directed him to lie. But Leopold, who co-authored the story with reporter Anthony Cormier, told the spokesman he was not taking any signals, and Carr acknowledged the point.

“I am not reading into what you sent and have interpreted it as an FYI,” Leopold wrote.

“Correct, just an FYI,” Carr responded.

A person inside the Trump Organization said a BuzzFeed reporter also talked with a lawyer for the organization hours before the story posted and was warned that the story was flawed and should be scrutinized further. Mittenthal said, “We trust our sources over the organization still run by Donald Trump’s family. That organization is directly implicated in the allegations related to the Trump Tower Moscow project, and refused to speak on the record for our story.”

The language Cohen and his representatives used in court had been ambiguous. Cohen had pleaded guilty in two cases – one for lying to Congress about the Moscow project, and another involving campaign finance violations for hush-money payments to women who had alleged affairs with Trump.

While neither Cohen nor his representatives had ever said explicitly that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, Guy Petrillo, Cohen’s attorney, wrote in a memo in advance of his sentencing, “We address the campaign finance and false statements allegations together because both arose from Michael’s fierce loyalty to Client-1. In each case, the conduct was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directives.”

Client-1 refers to Trump. Petrillo declined to comment Saturday. It is unclear precisely what “directives” Petrillo was referring to, though he did not allege elsewhere in the memo that Trump explicitly instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. He wrote that Cohen was “in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1” as he prepared his testimony and “specifically knew . . . that Client-1 and his public spokespersons were seeking to portray contact with Russian representatives in any form by Client-1, the Campaign or the Trump Organization as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”

People familiar with the matter said after BuzzFeed published its story – which was attributed to “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter” – the special counsel’s office reviewed evidence to determine if there were any documents or witness interviews like those described, reaching out to those they thought might have a stake in the case.

They found none, these people said. That, the people said, is in part why it took Mueller’s office nearly a day to dispute the story publicly. In the interim, cable news outlets and other media organizations, including The Washington Post, dissected its possible implications – even as their reporters were unable to independently confirm it.

Told of the special counsel’s failure to find support for the story, Mittenthal, the BuzzFeed spokesman, said, “Our high-level law enforcement sources, who have helped corroborate months of accurate reporting on the Trump Tower Moscow deal and its aftermath, have told us otherwise. We look forward to further clarification from the Special Counsel in the near future.”

Two people familiar with the matter said lawyers at the special counsel’s office discussed the statement internally, rather than conferring with Justice Department leaders, for much of the day. In the advanced stages of those talks, the deputy attorney general’s office called to inquire if the special counsel planned any kind of response, and was informed a statement was being prepared, the people said.

Around 7:30 p.m. Friday, Carr distributed it to numerous media outlets via email.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” he wrote.

People familiar with the matter said the special counsel’s office meant the statement to be a denial of the central theses of the BuzzFeed story – particularly those that referenced what Cohen had told the special counsel, and what evidence the special counsel had gathered.

BuzzFeed, though, asserted that the language was not specific about what was being contested.

“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith said in response to the special counsel’s statement.

Cohen has not addressed BuzzFeed’s reporting, and BuzzFeed has made clear he was not a source for its story. Lanny Davis, a legal and communications adviser to Cohen, said before the special counsel statement was issued, “Out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation, Mr. Cohen declined to respond to the questions asked by the reporters and so do I.” He declined to address it after the special counsel’s office released the statement.

Cohen declined to comment Saturday.

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The Washington Post’s Shane Harris and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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