Latest news emerges as president leaves on first foreign trip
Probe focuses on White House official, Washington Post reportsFormer FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the bureau’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, intensifying President Donald Trump’s political troubles.
The announcement from committee Chairman Richard Burr, of North Carolina, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat, followed only hours after the Washington Post reported that the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election had identified a senior White House adviser close to the president as a significant person of interest. The Post didn’t name the official.
The probe is about to accelerate as investigators shift from work that has largely been hidden from the public to conducting interviews and asking for grand jury subpoenas, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the investigation.
Also, the New York Times reported Friday that Trump had told top Russian diplomats who visited the Oval Office last week that firing Comey relieved “great pressure” on him. The report, which cited a U.S. official who has seen a document summarizing the meeting, said Trump also told the Russians the FBI director “was crazy, a real nut job.”
Spicer’s StatementsWhite House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who was on Air Force One with Trump when both stories broke, issued written statements responding to them.
Spicer didn’t confirm or dispute the comments in the Times story on the meeting with Russian envoys. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Spicer said.
He responded to the report that a White House official is a person of interest with one sentence: “As the President has stated before -- a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.”
The Trump administration already was engulfed in crisis as the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation into Russian election meddling and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in the effort.
Trump had ignited political firestorm the previous week when he fired Comey, who was running the investigation. After the firing, associates of Comey leaked a February memo the FBI director had written describing a conversation in which Trump asked him to drop an investigation into former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn’s dealings with Turkey and Russia.
The controversy is following Trump on a high-stakes eight odyssey across the Mideast and Europe packed with crucial sit-downs with key allies. Trump is scheduled to meet with Saudi King Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Pope Francis and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron.
Trump also plans to make an address to the Arab World while in Saudi Arabia and make his debut in international summitry at meetings of NATO leaders and leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized democracies.
The political baggage from home adds to an already-big challenge for a president who had no experience in foreign affairs before his election and who has already suffered repeated stumbles in encounters with other leaders.
Trump and his team planned the trip as an opportunity for the U.S. president to unify Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders against extremism, a senior administration official said. Trump hopes to use his appearances in the Mideast to define the conflict with Islamic State and other terrorists as one of good versus evil, rather than the West versus Islam, the official said.
Trump also set a goal to use the visits as a way to signal that the U.S. is re-establishing its global leadership role while emphasizing its allies’ responsibility to share more of the burden of their own defense and to increase investment and partnerships that can create U.S. jobs, the official said.
Hoy es el día más hermoso de nuestra vida, querido Sancho; los obstáculos más grandes, nuestras propias indecisiones; nuestro enemigo más fuerte, el miedo al poderoso y a nosotros mismos; la cosa más fácil, equivocarnos; la más destructiva, la mentira y el egoísmo; la peor derrota, el desaliento; los defectos más peligrosos, la soberbia y el rencor; las sensaciones más gratas, la buena conciencia, el esfuerzo para ser mejores sin ser perfectos, y sobretodo, la disposición para hacer el bien y combatir la injusticia dondequiera que esté.
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
Don Quijote de la Mancha.
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
Don Quijote de la Mancha.
19 de mayo de 2017
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