WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s election team and Russia in the 2016 election but left unresolved the question of whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice by undermining investigations that have dogged his presidency.
Even though Mueller’s findings were inconclusive over whether Trump had sought to influence the probes, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a summary released on Sunday that the special counsel had not found enough proof to warrant bringing obstruction charges against Trump.
It marked a political victory for Trump and he claimed “complete and total exoneration,” although his Democratic opponents quickly expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome and vowed to keep up their political assault against him.
Mueller’s nearly two years of investigation ended with a finding that no one in Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” according to the four-page summary of Mueller’s confidential report.
The long-awaited report into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to help the Republican defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, marked a major milestone of his presidency as he prepares for his 2020 re-election battle.
Mueller himself did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump broke the law by interfering with the various probes into the 2016 election, but presented his evidence to Barr to make a determination.
Many of Trump’s opponents had accused the president of obstructing the Russia probe when he fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr quoted Mueller as writing in the report that concluded his 22-month investigation, which has led to convictions of several of Trump’s senior former aides.
In a decision quickly attacked by Democrats, Barr – a Trump appointee who took office last month – said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence did not justify bringing obstruction charges.
Democrats, however, immediately said they wanted to see Mueller’s report for themselves as they launch congressional investigations of their own into the 2016 election and Trump’s business and financial dealings.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement that the fact that Mueller had not cleared Trump on the obstruction issue “demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”
U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said Barr should release as much of Mueller’s report as possible.
It remained unclear, however, how much more would be made public.
Any relief on global financial markets about the report’s findings was overridden by recession concerns.
‘THIS IS VERY GOOD!’
Trump, who was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter for much of the weekend, was in his private quarters at his Mar-a-Lago resort when he got the news from his advisers.
“This is very good!” Trump said, according to White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.
“It’s a shame that our country had to go through this,” Trump later told reporters before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington from Florida. “This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully, somebody’s going to be looking at the other side.”
Mueller’s team concluded Trump’s team did not work with Russia in its efforts to help the Republican candidate and hurt his Democratic opponent.
“The special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign, “ Barr said in the summary of Mueller’s report that he sent to lawmakers and the White House.
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he returns to the White House after U.S. Attorney General William Barr reported to congressional leaders on the submission of the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
The closure of the special counsel’s probe, while offering a potential political boost for Trump and a political weapon to wield against Democrats, does not mark the end of legal woes for Trump and people close to him.
Other investigations and litigation are focusing on issues including his businesses and financial dealings, personal conduct, charitable foundation and inaugural committee. Committees of the Democratic-controlled House are also preparing a series of their own inquiries.
U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it “seems like the Department of Justice is putting matters squarely in Congress’ court.”
The release of the summary is likely to ignite a new political fight in Washington as Democrats push for Barr to release the full report, and Trump seizes on the findings as vindication of his near daily assertion that he was a victim of a “witch hunt” that has cast a long shadow over his presidency.
Although the Justice Department’s summary rules out any conspiracy with Russia by the Trump campaign and associates, it leaves uncertainty over the question of obstruction of justice.
Mueller declined to draw a conclusion on whether Trump’s conduct constituted obstruction, flagging “‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” according to Barr, who said that decision was left to him.
In his letter to lawmakers, Barr concluded that there was not enough evidence to move forward with such a charge.
“The report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent … each of which … would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Barr explained in his letter to lawmakers.
Nadler called for Barr to testify to Congress, citing “very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department.”
Vice President Mike Pence hailed it as “total vindication of the President of the United States and our campaign.”
Slideshow (15 Images)
Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted Mueller’s conclusion that there was no effort by Trump’s campaign to conspire with Russia but said he was disturbed by ongoing Russian efforts to “interfere with our democracy” and looked forward to reviewing additional information from the special counsel’s report.Trump has always denied collaborating with Moscow or obstructing justice and Russia says it did not interfere in the election.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded shortly before Trump took office in January 2017 that Moscow meddled in the election with a campaign of email hacking and online propaganda aimed at sowing discord in the United States.
The Department of Justice announced on Friday that Mueller had ended his investigation after bringing charges against 34 people, including Russian agents and former key allies of Trump, such as his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Mike Flynn and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
None of those charges, however, directly related to whether Trump’s campaign worked with Moscow.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by by Roberta Rampton in Palm Beach, Florida; Karen Freifeld, Doina Chiacu, David Morgan, Mark Hosenball, Jason Lange, Susan Cornwell, Alexandra Alper and Nandita Bose in Washington and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Writing by Matt Spetalnick, Ross Colvin and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney
People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.
between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
heightened and clashes broke out.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of clashes.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.
Everyone has the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada – but we cannot and will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind. We strongly condemn the despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.
‘Protesting is a right’
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.
Montreal is a city of peace.
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.
“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”
When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…
NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…
Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…
Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.
“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.
Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”
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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”
The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.