Netanyahu: Iran had secret ‘Project Amad’ to design, produce and test warheads

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.
Amir Cohen | Reuters Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministryof Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday revealed a cache of files he claims were obtained from Iran and prove Tehran ran a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders have long said their nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. But Netanyahu on Monday revealed tens of thousands of pages of documents, which he said were copied from a “highly secret location” in Iran and detailed an effort to build nuclear arms. He said the evidence provided “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community in its secret atomic archive.” His remarks come less than two weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether to continue suspending sanctions against Iran, or restore the penalties on one of the world’s biggest oil producers. The Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. The accord lifted a series of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran accepting limits on its nuclear program and allowing international investigators access to its facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the signatories to the agreement have repeatedly confirmed that Iran is complying with the deal as it is written. But the Trump administration and foreign policy hawks have long argued that the accord itself is flawed. Last year, the White House announced a major policy shift aimed at working with U.S. lawmakers and European partners to toughen the nuclear deal. In January, Trump waived sanctions against Iran, but said he would not suspend them when the next deadline arrived on May 12 unless the United States and Europe had agreed on a path forward.

Inflation hits Fed’s 2% target, PCE shows, in prelude to faster rise in U.S. interest rates

 

Getty Images Americans increased spending in March for the first time since the end of 2017, but rising inflation could be a problem.

The numbers: A key inflation gauge rose to 12-month rate of 2%, hitting the Federal Reserve’s target for the first time in a year and potentially signaling a faster increase in U.S. interest rates. The PCE index, the Fed’s preferred inflation barometer, rose to 2% year over year from a 1.7% pace in February. The 12-month increase in the more closely followed core rate of inflation was close behind, rising to 1.9% in March from 1.6% in the prior month. That’s the biggest yearly gain in the core rate since April 2012. The PCE index was unchanged in March, the government said Monday. The core rate rose 0.2%. The inflation figures are included in the government’s monthly report on consumer spending. Outlays rose 0.4% last month to mark the first advance since the end of 2017. Incomes climbed 0.3% in March. Both figures were in line with Wall Street expectations. Inflation has been increasing steadily for months owing to the rising cost of oil, higher home prices, the tightest labor market in decades and a strong U.S. and global economy. Prices pressures aren’t likely to ease up much, either. The savings rate dropped to 3.1% from 3.3%. The U.S. economy is growing soundly nearly nine years into an economic expansion, but it was inevitable that such a long period of growth would eventually trigger higher inflation. Inflation is still quite low by historical standards, but the Fed might be inclined to raise U.S. interest rates more aggressively to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. If so, Treasury rates are expected to rise and stocks could take a hit. Higher rates tend to draw money out of equities and into bonds

Gold eases for session and heads for April loss in shadow of firming dollar

Reuters

Gold slumped to start the week and headed for a roughly 0.9% April drop, retreating as the dollar index looked set to close out its best month in more than a year. The yellow metal’s drop comes even as closely tracked Treasury yields pulled back slightly from the 3% line in Monday trading. Nonyielding gold had lost some demand in favor of riskier assets. Early Monday, June gold GCM8, -0.64% fell $8.50, or 0.6%, at $1,314.90 an ounce. The contract did end higher Friday, at $1,323.40 an ounce, bouncing off its lowest closing level since March 20. June gold notched a 1.1% drop for last week. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.36% was up 0.3% at 91.84. Its moves can influence appetite for dollar-priced commodities, including the yellow metal, to investors using other currencies. The index is on track for a 1.8% April gain, according to FactSet Data. That would be the strongest showing since February 2017, when it also rose 1.8%. Still, gold’s back-and-forth has been restricted to a narrow trading range so far this year. “The dollar strength is not having a lasting impact on the technicals of gold and coming into this week, there is little expectation that the range of support band $1,300/$1,310 will be broken,” said Richard Perry, analyst at Hantec. “During 2018, there has not been a closing session within or below $1,300/$1,310 as time and again the corrections have been bought into.” Investors also have been tracking the 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.50%  , which last week climbed above 3% for the first time since 2014, but then slipped back under that psychologically important level. A jump for that benchmark rate tends to peel money away from riskier assets such as equities. Economic reports Monday include a look at personal income and spending, the April release on the Chicago area’s business conditions and a March report on pending home sales. On the Federal Reserve front, no speeches are scheduled. The central bank’s policy makers are slated to start a two-day meeting on Tuesday, and they are expected on Wednesday to leave interest rates on hold and signal no change to a tightening path of two more rate hikes in 2018. However, that’s a course of action that some market participants believe is too slow to keep up with mounting inflation risks. The jobs report for April, set to be released next Friday, could keep market action limited in the days leading up to the release. In addition, the prospect of a trade war between the U.S. and China is one of those worries, so traders are likely to watch U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s visit to China this week for high-level trade talks.

Trump says he relishes enthusiasm, ‘love’ at Michigan rally

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style rally in Michigan, an Upper Midwest state that was crucial in sending him to the White House.

Trump has been urging voters to support Republicans for Congress as a way of advancing his agenda. In the Saturday night rally in Washington Township, he repeatedly cited Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as one of the Democrats who needed to be voted out.

After saying Stabenow was standing in the way of protecting U.S. borders and had voted against tax cuts, Trump said: “And you people just keep putting her back again and again and again. It’s your fault.”

Earlier Saturday, Trump tweeted criticism of Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling for Tester to resign or at least not be re-elected this fall.

In Michigan, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator.

“I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump said without elaborating.

As he has at similar events, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize conservatives: appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending sanctuary cities and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress. He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience, “We’ll see how it goes.”

“Great evening last night,” the president tweeted early Sunday. “The enthusiasm, knowledge and love in that room was unreal. To the many thousands of people who couldn’t get in, I cherish you … and will be back!”

Trump chose a friendly venue for his rally, which not coincidentally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He skipped the dinner last year.

“While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really ‘bombed,'” Trump tweeted.

That barb was directed at Michelle Wolf, who provided the after-dinner entertainment for the White House press corps and their guests, and whose performance was surprisingly racy. After one crass joke drew groans from the audience, Wolf laughed and said, “Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.”

Before the Michigan rally, Trump had said in a fundraising pitch that he had come up with something better than being stuck in a room “with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me.” He said he would rather spend the evening “with my favorite deplorables.”

During the 2016 campaign, Clinton drew laughs when she told supporters at a private fundraiser that half of Trump supporters could be lumped into a “basket of deplorables” – denouncing them as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”

Clinton later did a partial rollback, said she had been “grossly generalistic” and regretted saying the label fit “half” of Trump’s supporters. But she didn’t back down from the general sentiment.

Trump soon had the video running in his campaign ads, and his supporters wore the “deplorable” label as a badge of honor.

Trump, in his remarks at the rally, repeatedly weaved back into immigration and his support for a border wall. He accused Democrats of not wanting to secure the border and keep violent criminals out of the country.

“Debbie Stabenow is one of the leaders for weak borders and letting people in. I don’t know how she gets away with it,” Trump said. “A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime. It’s very simple. It’s also a vote for much higher taxes.”

A spokeswoman for Stabenow hit back Sunday against Trump.

“Michigan families are tired of political attacks,” spokeswoman Miranda Margowsky said. “Instead they want results, and that’s exactly what Senator Stabenow has done.”

Trump warns his impeachment could follow if Democrats take back Congress

“We gotta fight like hell, and we gotta win the House and we gotta win the Senate.”

 

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally on April 28, 2018 in Washington Michigan. CREDIT: Scott Olson/Getty Images Addy Baird Apr 29, 2018, 10:53 am

President Trump is concerned he will face impeachment if Republicans lose their House majority, he said Saturday night at a rally in Michigan. “We have to keep the House,” he said. “Because if you listen to Maxine Waters, she goes around saying, ‘We will impeach him! We will impeach him,’” he said, referring to the Democratic congresswoman from California. “Then people said, ‘He hasn’t done anything wrong,’…’Oh, that doesn’t matter, we will impeach the president.’”Trump noted that the party in the White House usually loses seats during the midterms and called for Republicans not to get comfortable. “We cannot be complacent — we gotta go out and we gotta fight like hell and we gotta win the House and we gotta win the Senate,” he said. Waters, whom Trump singled out, has repeatedly called for Trump to resign or be impeached. Most recently, last Tuesday, she was asked at the Time 100 gala if she had any advice for Trump. “Please resign so that I won’t have to keep up this fight of your having to be impeached because I don’t think you deserve to be there,” she said. “Just get out.”

On Monday on MSNBC, Waters said she often hears from people around the country saying they support impeachment. “Everywhere I go, people are talking about, ‘Why can’t y’all get rid of him? Why can’t you impeach him?’” Waters said. “They say all of these things and I’m not just talking about my district — whether I’m on the airplane, I’m walking down the street in New York, wherever I am — I’m hearing it.” And Waters is onto something: A poll released last Thursday found that if Democrats take back the House, more than 70 percent of Democratic voters want them to take steps to begin impeachment proceedings.But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been less keen to call for impeachment, saying she believes it would harm Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, and calling the push for impeachment a “gift” for Republicans.  “I don’t think we should be talking about impeachment. I’ve been very clear right from the start,” Pelosi said Thursday during a press conference. “On the political side, I think it’s a gift to the Republicans. We want to talk about what they’re doing to undermine working families in our country and what we are doing to increase their payrolls and lower their costs. Pelosi added that she doesn’t see the upcoming midterms as a referendum on the White House. “It’s about our addressing the needs of the American people, and we cannot take our eye off that ball,” she said, adding that impeachment proceedings should, if they happen, be bipartisan.“Impeachment is a very serious matter,” she said. “I don’t think we have the information to go to that place, and I would discourage any discussion of impeachment.”With the midterm elections six months away, Democrats currently hold about a nine point lead over Republicans on the generic ballot.

Trump Sharpens Aim at Democrats Facing Election

Image: Trump Sharpens Aim at Democrats Facing Election
(Getty) Sunday, 29 April 2018 07:05 AM

President Donald Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style rally in Michigan, an Upper Midwest state that gave him a surprising victory in the 2016 election. Trump has been urging voters to support Republicans for Congress as a way of advancing his agenda. In his rally in Washington Township Saturday night, he repeatedly pointed to Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as one of the Democrats who needed to be voted out. After saying Stabenow was standing in the way of protecting U.S. borders and had voted against tax cuts, Trump said: “And you people just keep putting her back again and again and again. It’s your fault.”Earlier Saturday Trump tweeted criticism of Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling for Tester to resign or at least not be re-elected this fall.  In his rally remarks, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator. “I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump said without elaborating. As he has at similar events, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize grassroots conservatives — appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending “sanctuary cities” and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress. He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience “we’ll see how it goes.”Trump chose a friendly venue for his rally, which not coincidentally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He skipped the dinner last year, too, and attending a rally in which he took time to attack the news media and assure his audience — as he did in Washington Township, about 40 miles north of Detroit — that he’d rather be with them.  Ahead of the rally Trump said in a fundraising pitch that he had come up with something better than being stuck in a room “with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me.” He said he would rather spend the evening “with my favorite deplorables.”Trump repeatedly weaved back into immigration and his support for a border wall throughout the speech. “If we don’t get border security, we’re going to have no choice, we’ll close down the country,” Trump said.He accused Democrats of not wanting to secure the border and keep violent criminals out of the country.  “Debbie Stabenow is one of the leaders for weak borders and letting people in. I don’t know how she gets away with it,” Trump said. “A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime. It’s very simple. It’s also a vote for much higher taxes.” Macomb County, the site of Trump’s rally, is among the predominantly white counties known as a base for “Reagan Democrats” — blue-collar voters who abandoned the Democratic Party for Ronald Reagan, but who can be intriguingly movable.

Will Cohen Flip? Tenuous Finances May Provide Crucial Clues

Barbara Jones Appointed to Review Cohen’s Seized Materials

In the two weeks since federal agents seized the files of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and fixer, a question has hovered: Will Cohen cooperate with investigators? His decision could depend in part on whether he can readily shoulder the enormous legal fees required to fight a federal probe of this magnitude. At first blush, Cohen looks like a pretty rich man. He drives a white Rolls Royce, sports a $50,000 watch and owns a fair amount of Manhattan real estate. But just as his loyalty to Trump is coming under scrutiny, a more tenuous financial picture is emerging. A taxi business he and his wife built is deeply in debt and losing money daily, his commercial real estate is throwing off only modest income, and his legal and consulting work is on hold while he remains under investigation.

The owners of 32 New York City taxi licenses — known as medallions — he and his wife, Laura, took out at least 16 loans based on their once-soaring value, liens show. With the rise of Uber and Lyft, the price of a medallion has fallen from more than $1 million to around $163,000 in the past four years. Income from the taxi business has plummeted, and millions of dollars of the Cohens’ loans went under water. Their bank said in a November public filing that it had loans out to three taxi borrowers, and all were at high risk of default. Unpaid taxes and fines have piled up at the Cohen taxi companies, triggering a suspension of about half of the medallions, city records show, squeezing cash flow.

Whatever monthly income the cabs once produced almost certainly fell well short of the debt payments owed to Sterling National Bank, their Montebello, New York-based lender. Sterling has foreclosed on operators in similar situations and sued them but appears to be taking a less-confrontational approach with the Cohens. On Tuesday, the bank agreed to new loans for their companies and to Cohen personally, public filings show. Sterling declined to comment.The taxi business isn’t the only part of Cohen’s empire that’s suffering. The law firm Squire Patton Boggs said it ended its “strategic alliance” with Cohen after law enforcement raided his offices, and the rest of his legal work could decline for the same reason. Cohen, 51, makes others’ ugly problems disappear, a practice that was previously lucrative. Essential Consultants LLC, a company affiliated with Cohen, was paid $250,000 after he negotiated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model on behalf of Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy, according to a Wall Street Journal report.  Cohen has said in court that he had only three legal clients during the past year: Broidy, Trump and talk-show host Sean Hannity. He gave seven others “strategic advice and business consulting.” Last month Cohen said he borrowed from his home-equity credit line to make a $130,000 payment in October 2016 to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film star who says she had sex with Trump.

In a Thursday morning appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Trump distanced himself from Cohen, saying he did only “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s legal work, but it included representation “on this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud and violating campaign-finance law. But his decade at Trump’s side as his lawyer and enforcer could yield information he might trade to investigators looking into the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

Still, if he chooses to defend himself, Cohen does have assets. Companies he signs for own two investment properties purchased in 2015. The larger one, with 92 units on New York’s Upper East Side, is 38 percent owned by Cohen’s companies. The businesses also appear to be the sole owner of a downtown building with 20 units. Together they likely generate less than $1 million in annual net income for Cohen’s companies after accounting for partner interests, expenses and financing costs, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Debt against the buildings is low, meaning that Cohen could tap them for cash. Last October, the Cohens sold a unit at Trump World Tower, near the United Nations, for $3.3 million. Cohen has been a savvy property investor. He previously owned four buildings in need of repairs in Lower Manhattan, rehabilitated them and sold them for $32 million in 2014, more than doubling his initial investment. Richard Guarino, a partner at Friedman-Roth Realty, has worked with Cohen on a handful of deals, including the purchase of his Upper East Side building. As a real estate investor, Cohen is “cautious, methodical, smart and, I think, conservative,” Guarino says.

Continue reading “Will Cohen Flip? Tenuous Finances May Provide Crucial Clues”

Trump threatens govt. shutdown in September if no funding for wall

WASHINGTON, Michigan (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald on Saturday threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress did not provide more funding to build a wall on the border with Mexico.U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again Rally in Washington, Michigan April 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts “That wall has started, we have 1.6 billion (dollars),” Trump said at a  campaign rally in Washington, Michigan. “We come up again on September 28th and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.”Trump made a similar threat in March to push for changes in immigration law that he says would prevent criminals from entering the country. The government briefly shut down in January over immigration.

A $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump signed last month, will keep the government funded only  through the end of September.
A government shutdown ahead of the November mid-elections is unlikely to be supported by his fellow Republicans who are keen to keep control of the U.S. Congress. Trump cited the hundreds of Central American migrants traveling in a “caravan” as one of the reasons for strong border security.

“Watch the caravan, watch how sad and terrible it is, including for those people and the crime that they inflict on themselves and that others inflict on them,” said Trump. “It’s a horrible dangerous journey for them and they come up because they know once they can get here they can walk right into our country.” Migrants, who include women and children, have said they fled their homes in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras because of death threats from gangs, the murder of family members or political persecution. Nick Bit: See trump thought he was elected like Putin to be dictator and chief. He cannot comprehend we are a nation ruled by law. And their is a Congress that gets a say on how money is spent. And despite the Republican majority he has not been able to get the 100 billion to build a wall that they will jump over, fly over and tunnel underneath…  But after all Trump is DE man!!!!

Asylum-seekers in Mexico snub warnings of stern US response

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — U.S. immigration lawyers are telling Central Americans in a caravan of asylum-seekers that traveled through Mexico to the border with San Diego that they face possible separation from their children and detention for many months. They say they want to prepare them for the worst possible outcome. “We are the bearers of horrible news,” Los Angeles lawyer Nora Phillips said during a break from legal workshops for the migrants at three Tijuana locations where about 20 lawyers gave free information and advice. “That’s what good attorneys are for.”  The Central Americans, many traveling as families, on Sunday will test the Trump administration’s tough rhetoric criticizing the caravan when the migrants begin seeking asylum by turning themselves in to border inspectors at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest. President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet have been tracking the caravan, calling it a threat to the U.S. since it started March 25 in the Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. They have promised a stern, swift response.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the caravan “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system,” pledging to send more immigration judges to the border to resolve cases if needed. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said asylum claims will be resolved “efficiently and expeditiously” but said the asylum-seekers should seek it in the first safe country they reach, including Mexico.  Any asylum seekers making false claims to U.S. authorities could be prosecuted as could anyone who assists or coaches immigrants on making false claims, Nielsen said. Administration officials and their allies claim asylum fraud is growing and that many who seek it are coached on how to do so.

Trump dismissed warnings from GOP leaders that party could lose house: report

President Trump has privately dismissed concerns from top Republican lawmakers over the GOP’s performance headed into the 2018 midterms later this year, according to a New York Times report. During a dinner with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and White House legislative director Marc Short, Trump listened to McConnell fret about the GOP’s one-seat majority in the Senate while Short claimed that the GOP’s House majority was threatened, according to the Times.“That’s not going to happen,” Trump said multiple times during the meal, the Times reports, referring to the possibility of the GOP losing its lower chamber majority. Some Trump supporters, including Eric Beach, a strategist at the pro-Trump America First PAC, told the Times that Trump is rightfully skeptical of election plans laid out by McConnell and retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “He doesn’t think that’s how you win elections because that’s not how he won his election,” Beach tells the Times. “He knows and understands that the core issues of today are illegal immigration — including building the wall — and trade inequity.”

Trump’s rosy outlook for the midterms comes despite reported increasing worry from GOP members that the Republicans’ majority in both houses of Congress is in jeopardy and a series of polls indicating Americans’ rising support for Democrats to retake both chambers.

A Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll released Friday found Democrats with a double-digit lead on generic House and Senate ballots heading into November. Democrats also hold a 9-point advantage — 43 percent to 34 percent — when voters were asked whether they support a Democratic or Republican candidate in their district. “Democrats have a significant edge in the midterms as Republicans in Congress have no coherent leadership and a constituency lower than Trump’s,” said Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll Co-Director Mark Penn in the poll’s summar

 

German business leaders fear U.S. tariffs after Merkel-Trump talks

BERLIN (Reuters) – German business leaders voiced disappointment on Saturday over the outcome of talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump, saying they feared he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder  The United States imposed import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, but it provided a temporary exemption until May 1 for the European Union. Trump will decide then whether to make the exemption permanent.

“I regret the fact that the chancellor’s visit to Washington produced no palpable progress on the contentious issues between Germany and the United States,” said Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI industry body.

Merkel and Trump aired differences over trade and NATO on Friday at a White House meeting where they tried to put on a show of warmth and friendship.During a joint news conference, Trump lamented his country’s trade deficit with the EU. Merkel said any decision on whether to exempt the bloc from tariffs permanently was now in the president’s hand.  “The threatened tariffs remain a major burden on transatlantic relations,” added Kempf. French President Emmanuel Macron also pressed Trump on trade during a three-day state visit in the same week as Merkel’s quick trip. Neither leader appeared to have made progress convincing Trump to make the exemptions permanent. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the EU will be exempted from the unfair U.S. tariffs,” said Volker Treier of the DIHK industry and commerce chambers.

Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction On Mixed Earnings

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Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Friday. The major averages have spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line. Currently, the major averages are posting modest losses on the day. The Dow is down 72.46 points or 0.3 percent at 24,249.88, the Nasdaq is down 14.19 points or 0.2 percent at 7,104.49 and the S&P 500 is down 2.69 points or 0.1 percent at 2,664.25. The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders are digesting a mixed batch of earnings news from several big-name companies. While tech giants Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), and Intel (INTC) reported better than expected quarterly results, energy giant ExxonMobil (XOM) reported first quarter earnings that came in below analyst estimates. Concerns about the outlook for interest rates may also be keeping traders on the sidelines following the release of a Commerce Department reporting showing stronger than expected economic growth in the first quarter. The report showed GDP growth slowed to 2.3 percent in the first quarter from 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, although the decrease was far below economist estimates for 3.4 percent growth. A separate report from the University of Michigan showed consumer sentiment in the deteriorated by less than initially estimated in the month of April.The report said the consumer sentiment index for April was upwardly revised to 98.8 from the preliminary reading of 97.8

Steel stocks have shown a substantial move to the downside, dragging the NYSE Arca Steel Index down by 2.5 percent. The index is pulling back off its best closing level in well over a month. U.S. Steel (X) is leading the sector lower after reporting better than expected first quarter earnings but providing disappointing guidance for the current quarter. Energy stocks are also seeing some weakness in mid-day trading, as the price of crude oil for June delivery is falling $0.32 to $67.87 a barrel.

Apple is in a correction, and one market watcher sees possible bear market ahead

Apple is trading in correction territory just days before it’s set to release earnings. One market watcher sees the possibility of another 10 percent drop ahead. “We would have a hold on this. We could see potential 5 to 10 percent additional downside,” Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors, told CNBC. Apple sits 11 percent below a 52-week high set in mid-March, putting its losses at more than the 10 percent drop marking a correction. Another 10 percent decline would put its shares down more than 20 percent from that March high and tip them into a bear market.”The uncertainties are regarding China and the demand of iPhone sales within China,” said Morganlander. “People in China are not actually wanting to buy these high-end phones. So, gross margins as well as operating margin vulnerability there in the short run.” China accounts for nearly one-fifth of Apple’s total revenue. Sales in the region have contracted in the past two years after double-digit growth from 2012 to 2015. Sales in Apple’s software and services segment are forecast to pick up speed in coming quarters. Segment sales are expected to rise 19 percent in its March-ended second quarter and 16 percent for the full fiscal year. The charts don’t look good for Apple performance in the short term, according to Mark Newton, technical analyst at Newton Advisors.”Apple likely continues its string of underperformance. The relative strength really started to flatten out last November,” Newton told “Trading Nation” on Thursday. “The stock right now is up against its upper area of channel resistance going back over the last few years.”

Apple shares stalled out at $180 after hitting their one-year intraday high in mid-March and have since scaled back to levels not seen since November, Newton said. “At current levels it’s tough to see a lot of incremental upside in the stock,” he said. “It’s been going sideways really for four months and it’s really begun to underperform the broader Nasdaq and really a lot of technology.”

Apple’s stock has dropped more than 4 percent since the beginning of the year, trailing the Nasdaq’s and XLK technology ETF’s roughly 3 percent rise. “Until that shows signs of improving, I’d be a buyer on pullbacks right near $130 and really a seller up near $180,” Newton said. “I think it’s going to continue to trade really neutral and range bound for the time being.” A decline to $130 would represent a nearly 20 percent drop from current levels. Its shares are currently 11 percent from $180. Nick Note: I believe high Tech is headed for another wreck! its a bubble. the world is nt looking for a $1000 smart phone and China made phones are better and much cheaper. Wehave a trade for that!

FBI Says it Warned White House About Rob Porter in March ’17

Image: FBI Says it Warned White House About Rob Porter in March '17
Rob Porter (AP)

The FBI first flagged “derogatory information” about Rob Porter, one of President Donald Trump’s closest aides, to the White House counsel’s office in March 2017, according to a new timeline provided by the FBI to Congress and publicly released Thursday. The timeline raises new questions about the White House’s handling of spousal abuse allegations against Porter, the former staff secretary. The administration has offered several contradictory accounts of who knew what and when about the allegations.Porter was forced to resign in February after the allegations by his ex-wives were made public by the Daily Mail. He has denied them.  According to the timeline, outlined in a letter to the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, the FBI provided a “partial report” about Porter to White House counsel Don McGahn on March 3, 2017. That report included “derogatory information” about Porter, but the letter does not specify exactly what it said. A White House official suggested Thursday that McGahn had not read it.The FBI says that it then submitted a completed background investigation to the White House personnel security division in July. A month later, the FBI said, it received a request for additional information from the personal security office, including requests to re-interview Porter, his ex-wives and his girlfriend at the time. The FBI submitted that report, which it says “contained additional derogatory information,” in November.The White House has said Porter told McGahn after his second interview that there were allegations of emotional and verbal abuse against him but that he did not disclose allegations of physical assault.  The FBI also provided additional information to the office, after it had closed the investigation, in February 2018. White House officials have long insisted that they were not aware of the specific allegations against Porter until they were published, along with photographs, in the Daily Mail. The episode prompted changes in how the White House handles security clearances, and a number of staffers’ clearances were downgraded as a result.The White House official noted Thursday that a memorandum released by chief of staff John Kelly in the scandal’s aftermath included a new requirement that derogatory information uncovered during background checks now be provided in-person, directly to the appropriate person.  The official, who was not authorized to discuss specifics about Porter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said that was not the case in 2017.

Russian from Trump Tower meeting: ‘I am a lawyer, and I am an informant’

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential race, appears to have greater ties to the Russian government than she previously admitted. The New York Times reports that Veselnitskaya in at least one instance worked for Russia’s chief legal office against the U.S. Justice Department in a fraud case targeting a top Russian firm with government connections. And in an interview set to be broadcast Friday on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and on MSNBC’s “On Assignment with Richard Engel,” Veselnitskaya calls herself an “informant” for the Russian government, an admission that goes further than her previous claims of just being a private attorney. “I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she says in the NBC interview. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.” The admission also comes despite testimony Veselnitskaya submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, in which she claimed no connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. “I operate independently of any governmental bodies,” she wrote in November. “I have no relationship with Mr. Chaika, his representatives and his institutions other than those related to my professional functions as a lawyer.” Veselnitskaya was referring to Yuri Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, for whom on Friday she admitted to being a regular source of information. Friday’s reports raises new questions about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting attended by Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now senior adviser, and whether that meeting had connections to Russia’s government that were previously unknown. It was previously reported that Rob Goldstone, a British music producer who set up the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr. that the information the lawyer could provide was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied to Goldstone in one email.

PPG Will Cut 1,100 Jobs Amid Growing Material Costs

Costs are rising for the raw materials it uses to make paints and coatings
 

The Pittsburgh-based company also said it would book a pretax charge of as much as $85 million in the second quarter related to severance and other cash costs.
The Pittsburgh-based company also said it would book a pretax charge of as much as $85 million in the second quarter related to severance and other cash costs. Photo: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg News By Andrew Tangel

PPG Industries Inc. PPG +0.29% said it would cut 1,100 jobs in part to offset rising costs for the raw materials it uses to make paints and coatings. The Pittsburgh-based company also said it would book a pretax charge of as much as $85 million in the second quarter related to severance and other cash costs. PPG said it was trimming its costs as a result of “sustained, elevated raw material inflation.” A PPG spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It wasn’t clear how much of the workforce reduction would involve layoffs, in what locations and when.PPG said the restructuring would be substantially complete by the second quarter of 2019.  Earlier this month, PPG reported $3.8 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 9% from a year ago. Profit of $353 million, or $1.40 a share, was up from $334 million, or $1.29, the prior year. At the time executives said they were paying more for materials including titanium dioxide, a compound used in paint. Nick Note: I don’t get it… With the great great great tax breaks and JOBS JOBS JOBS legislation corporation were suppose to save so much money they would hire MORE people.  Increase the pay of American workers and pay out bonuses. (it is amazing to be people are stupid enough to believe that SHIT!)I know i heard this over and over and over again. It goes lke this.. The 10% at most saving on taxes US companies with a foreign presence would rush to close those Mexico, China and India factories and bring the jobs “Home”.  Shit amazing leave a $5.00 labor market come back to het welcoming arms of the GREAT GREAT GREAT US worker the best in the world and pay $50.00 a hour in total costs. Well to my simple mind the math does not work. AND i guess it does not work for anyone else because this Kudlow Laughing curve is going to throw the US economy into a depression. With the national debt soaring by 2 trillion dollars this year alone. And the deficit soaring by three trillion dollars because of lost corporate tax revenue…….. If people can’t see this they deserve to stand in a bread line and sell their ass for a potato.

Dollar index on track for best week since November 2016

British pound falls to 2-month low
Getty Images

The U.S. dollar rallied against most of its major rivals on Friday, putting it on track for its best weekly performance since late November 2016. The dollar was helped by a stumble by the British pound, after U.K. growth figures widely undershot analysts’ forecasts, while the euro remained on the back foot after the European Central Bank struck a relatively cautious tone at its meeting on Thursday.The U.S. dollar continued its recent uptrend, which was initially inspired by rising Treasury, but also got a boost from supportive economic data in the U.S. and disappointing data elsewhere. First quarter U.S. GDP grew 2.3%. Meanwhile, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.84% has pulled back from the psychologically important 3% mark, last trading to yield 2.973%. Sterling was the worst performer among major currencies on Friday, after official data showed the U.K. economy grew at its slowest pace in more than five years in the first quarter of 2018. The data dampen the case for an interest-rate increase from the Bank of England when it next meets in May. The Office for National Statistics said Friday that gross domestic product in the U.K. expanded by 0.1% in the first quarter. Economists had expected a reading of 0.3% in the preliminary report. It was a visible slowdown from the fourth quarter of 2017, when GDP grew 0.4%. Meanwhile, the euro added to losses from Thursday that came after the ECB’s policy meeting. The central bank kept policy unchanged, but gave no new guidance on interest rates or its bond-buying program. “We believe the trapped dollar is about to break out to the strong side. The balance between positive cyclical drivers and structural and political headwinds is leaning increasingly toward the former,” David Bloom, global head of FX strategy at HSBC, said in a note. “The Fed looks likely to match its ‘dots,’ once again confounding the market’s more dovish stance. In contrast, other central banks across the G-10 face challenges to begin or extend their tightening process,” he added.

Deutsche Bank likely to axe 1,000 U.S. investment bank jobs: source

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) is expected to cut around 1,000 jobs or 10 percent of its workforce in the United States, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, as the German lender scales back its global investment banking ambitions.  The bank has already axed 400 U.S.-based employees this week – of which around three quarters worked in its trading business and the rest in corporate finance, according to a second source who is a senior U.S.-based Deutsche Bank official. “I can tell you that the people who make money here will continue to get paid and be supported, because Deutsche Bank needs the revenue,” the banker said. “The challenge now is to keep our people.”Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity. On Thursday, the bank announced that it would make “significant” cuts at its investment bank, scaling back its corporate finance operations in the United States and Asia, U.S. government bond trading, and equities.  It did not provide specific numbers or a time frame. “We do not see increased fluctuation in the core areas of the bank,” the bank said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday. “Europe is the region in which we want to expand our market position. Here we want to grow and gain market share. Especially in Europe, we are the first choice for many investment bankers.” Credit ratings agency Standard & Poors, which had placed the bank on “credit watch” after retail banking specialist Christian Sewing abruptly replaced John Cryan as CEO earlier this month, said late on Thursday that the bank’s new direction “lacks the specificity that we need to assess the credibility of this adjusted approach.” Deutsche Bank’s investment banking unit has been losing market share in recent years. In Europe so far this year, the bank has a 4 percent market share in investment banking fees, down from 6 percent of the market in 2013, according to ThomsonReuters data. Its ranking fell from second to sixth place.  In the United States during that same period, Deutsche’s share of fees dropped to 3.3 percent from 4.9 percent. It ranks ninth, behind all the Wall Street power houses but also European rivals such as Barclays (BARC.L) and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S).

Charter plummets 15% on big subscriber losses, drags cable stocks down

 Charter plunges on poor quarterly subscriber numbers  

Shares of Charter Communications tumbled 15 percent on Friday after the company reported a bigger-than-expected loss of video subscribers for the previous quarter.  The company reported a loss of 122,000 video subscribers for the first quarter. Analysts polled by StreetAccount expected a loss of 43,000. Charter also added 331,000 internet subscribers, less than a forecast of 370,000 additions. “The changes in the video business are significant and hard to predict, but there’s video growth capable inside of our asset base,” CEO Tom Rutledge said during a conference call. Charter’s sharp losses dragged shares of other cable companies lower. Comcast’s stock fell 2.2 percent, while shares of Altice USA dropped 9.2 percent. Cable companies have been under pressure in recent years as consumers shift away from traditional cable services to over-the-top options like Netflix and Hulu, for example.

Exxon first quarter profit misses estimates on refining, chemical woes

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi/File Photo

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, posted a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday as weakness in its chemical and refining operations offset a boost from higher crude prices  It was the second consecutive quarter of weakness in Exxon units that make gasoline, plastics and related products. Exxon blamed weak margins for the income drop in those segments. The company posted net income of $4.7 billion, or $1.09 per share, compared to $4.01 billion, or 95 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.Profit jumped more than 50 percent in the company’s upstream division, which pumps oil and natural gas, thanks largely to rising commodity prices.

In the downstream refining unit, though, profit fell 12 percent, and in the chemical unit, profit dropped 14 percent. Production fell 6 percent to 3.9 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d).

Exxon said earlier this month it resumed production at the Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (LNG) project a fortnight ahead of schedule after it was shut down in the wake of a deadly earthquake in February. The shutdown cut quarterly earnings by $80 million and production by about 25,000 boe/d, Exxon said. The company has struggled in the past 16 months to unwind some of the biggest bets taken by former Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, who left to become U.S. secretary of state in early 2017 before being fired by President Donald Trump last month. Exxon has recorded billions of dollars in writedowns amid falling production since Tillerson left, and successor CEO Darren Woods has moved quickly to try to repair operations. Woods laid out a bold plan last month to double annual earnings by 2025 through heavier investments in U.S. shale, Guyana and several LNG projects around the world.

North and South Korea vow to end war, pursue denuclearization

Reuters South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon’s wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

GOYANG, South Korea—The leaders of North and South Korea agreed to pursue a peace agreement in historic talks on Friday, but steered clear of specifics on the question of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, leaving uncertainties about the regime’s willingness to cede ground on its arsenal ahead of a meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. After an 8½-hour meeting in the demilitarized zone that was heavy on shows of amity between Kim and Moon Jae-in, his South Korean counterpart, both men agreed to take steps to dial down tensions and start talks with the U.S., and perhaps China, aimed at declaring within the year a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended in an armistice that has held, despite some skirmishes, for 65 years. The joint statement, called the Panmunjom Declaration, also calls for restarting reunions of families separated by the Korean War, and the establishment of an inter-Korean liaison office on the northern side. As part of the pact, Moon will travel to Pyongyang in the fall for a summit meeting. In one surreal moment in a day replete with symbolism, Kim and Moon abandoned their aides and strolled side by side to a park bench on a footbridge, where they conversed for more than half an hour—as cameras captured the moment for a rapt South Korean audience.

APNewsBreak: Cohen loaned millions to Ukraine-born cab mogul

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, whose business dealings are being investigated by the FBI, and his father-in-law have lent $26 million in recent years to a taxi mogul who is shifting into the legalized marijuana industry, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Semyon “Sam” Shtayner, a longtime business associate of Michael Cohen’s father-in-law, created Nevada-based Cannaboss LLC the day before the 2016 election. A few months later, he took a majority position in a company that is provisionally licensed to cultivate medicinal marijuana and produce edibles, the records show. “He personally manages over 500 taxi medallions, but he is looking to transition from the medallion business to the cannibas (sic),” according to the personal narrative Shtayner submitted last October to city officials in Henderson, Nevada, that was obtained by the AP under the state’s public records law. It’s not clear whether Shtayner used any of the loans – $6 million of which have come directly from Cohen since 2014 – to finance his grow operation. Earlier this month, FBI agents searched Cohen’s hotel, office and home seeking banking records, as well as records related to his dealings in the taxi industry, people familiar with the probe told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation. Public records show the Ukraine-born Shtayner, 63, his wife and companies they control have used their properties in Chicago and Sunny Isles, Florida, as collateral for the loans from Cohen and his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman. The value of medallions – the physical plates affixed to cabs that owners are required to display – have dropped precipitously in recent years from highs of over $1 million apiece in New York just a few years ago to nearly half those amounts today.The subsequent drop has left many taxi medallion owners overleveraged. One former Cohen business partner, who managed Cohen’s taxis for years, is accused in a lawsuit by creditors of hiding his assets in financial disclosures to his bank – including a luxury apartment in a Trump skyscraper. Another former cab manager of Cohen’s has declared bankruptcy and is facing criminal charges from state prosecutors in New York, who accuse him of pocketing nearly $5 million in taxes. The business relationship among Cohen, Shusterman and Shtayner stretches back years. Property records in New York show that Shtayner and Shusterman were among the investors in an upper Manhattan taxi garage and auto repair shop in the 1990s. Cohen has been involved in the New York City yellow cab industry since the 1990s. He has a fleet of 22 cabs in Chicago and, along with his wife and father-in-law, has owned some 30 medallions in New York after initially going into business with his father-in-law, records show.

800,000 people are about to flee New York and California because of taxes, say economists

800,000 people will leave New York and California over the next three years due to the new tax bill, conservative economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

New York City skyline with plane.
Tim Clayton | Corbis | Getty Images

Conservative economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore are predicting a new mass exodus of wealth from New York and California because of the new tax law.  In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined “So Long, California. Sayonara, New York,” Laffer and Moore (who have both advised President Donald Trump) say the new tax bill will cause a net 800,000 people to move out of California and New York over the next three years.
The tax changes limit the deduction of state and local taxes to $10,000, so many high-earning taxpayers in high-tax states will actually face a tax increase under the new tax code. Laffer and Moore say that the effective income-tax rate (what people actually pay) for high earners in California will jump from 8.5 percent to 13 percent. Wealthy Manhattanites would face a similar increase, they say. Those who make $10 million or more will see a potential tax hike of 50 percent or more, according to their analysis. Those hikes, they say, will cause an exodus of residents to move to lower or no-income tax states. “In years to come, millions of people, thousands of businesses and tens of billions of dollars of net income will flee high-tax blue states for low-tax red states,” they said. They say 800,000 people will move from California and New York over the next three years. Connecticut, New Jersey and Minnesota will lose a combined 500,000 people over the same period. Moore and Laffer say that 3.5 million Americans on net have moved from the highest-tax states to the lowest-tax ones. They add that high earners are the ones who have cost the states the most by leaving.
High-profile emigres like David Tepper leaving New Jersey for Florida give outsized publicity to the moves.

rump begins distancing himself from Cohen after FBI raid

President Trump has admitted for the first time that his personal lawyer Michael Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” despite previously denying that he knew about the payment Cohen made to the porn star. “Michael would represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said Thursday during a half-hour phone interview with “Fox & Friends. Trump has previously said he had no idea that Cohen paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about an alleged affair they had in 2006. When pressed by reporters aboard Air Force One last month on whether he had knowledge of the payment, Trump responded “No” and then deferred all queries to Cohen. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” he said at the time. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.” Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, took to Twitter to gloat following Trump’s admission. “Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen previously represented to the American people that Mr. Cohen acted on his own and Mr. Trump knew nothing about the agreement with my client, the $130k payment, etc. As I predicted, that has now been shown to be completely false. #basta,” Avenatti tweeted.  Earlier this month, the feds raided Cohen’s office and hotel room, seizing documents related to a number of topics, including the payment he made to Daniels on behalf of Trump. Daniels has filed a lawsuit against Trump over their alleged affair, and it emerged this week that Cohen will assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the case. During the “Fox & Friends” interview, Trump drew space between himself and Cohen, saying his longtime lawyer only dealt with a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s legal work. “Michael is a good person,” Trump said. “This doesn’t have to do with me,” he added of the federal investigation into Cohen. “Michael is a businessman. He also practices law, but I would say the big thing is his business and they’re [the feds] looking at something that has to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business.” The commander-in-chief noted that he “has many attorneys … sadly, I have so many attorneys, you wouldn’t even believe it.” “From what I understand, [the feds are] looking at his businesses, and I hope he’s in great shape,” the president said. “I’m not involved, and I’ve been told I’m not involved.

EX-CIA chief Mike Pompeo confirmed as secretary of state

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Pompeo secretly met the North Korea leader in Pyongyang earlier this month

The US Senate has confirmed former CIA director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, ending a tough confirmation battle. Mr Pompeo had been accused by Democrats of being a war hawk and harbouring anti-Muslim and homophobic views. The Senate voted 57-42 to approve him as America’s top diplomat, the second of the Trump presidency. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, was sacked last month by the president via Twitter.  Some of those Democrats – including North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – come from states that President Donald Trump won in 2016. The approval comes in time for Mr Pompeo – a former hardline conservative congressman from Kansas – to lead a US delegation to Nato foreign minister talks in Brussels this weekend. Before he was confirmed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker described him as the “perfect person to come in at this time and lead” talks with North Korea. Over the Easter holiday he travelled to Pyongyang, where he met Mr Kim. On Tuesday, Mr Trump described the North Korean ruler as “very honourable”, after months of deriding him as “Little Rocket Man”. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also congratulated Mr Pompeo following the confirmation vote.

Bill Cosby found guilty of sexual assault in retrial

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Bill Cosby, 80, faces a lengthy prison term

US comedian Bill Cosby has been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, each of which carries a potential 10 years in prison. The actor, 80, has been on trial for drugging and assaulting ex-basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby, the first major black actor on primetime TV, will remain out of jail until he is sentenced, the judge ruled. He unleashed an expletive-filled rant after the verdict, as prosecutors argued he should be denied bail. It was the second time the actor had stood trial for the allegations, after an earlier jury failed to reach a verdict in June 2017. At the start of the retrial in Pennsylvania it was revealed that Cosby had paid Ms Constand almost $3.4m (£2.4m) in a civil settlement in 2006. Cosby is best known for starring in the 1980s TV series The Cosby Show. Around 60 women over five decades have publicly accused the Emmy award-winning actor of being a sexual predator. But statute of limitation laws mean that only one charge has been brought to trial.Some of his accusers were present in court, and cried as the guilty verdict was returned.Cosby’s lawyer insisted “the fight is not over”, adding that he believes Cosby is innocent.

 

James Comey on Trump’s assertion that releasing memos was illegal: ‘I think he’s just making stuff up’

Washington (CNN)James Comey defended releasing his memos detailing his conversations with President Donald Trump Wednesday in a CNN town hall, adding that he doesn’t believe he broke the law. “I don’t, but that won’t surprise you,” he said when asked whether there’s any credence to Trump’s claim that Comey releasing the memos broke the law. “I don’t,” Comey added. “In fact, I think he’s just making stuff up.” The live town hall hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday comes amid the former FBI director’s media blitz to promote his new book and a series of high-profile clashes with Trump. “The details matter because the facts matter, and should matter even to the President,” Comey explained, adding that he had chosen to classify some memos but not all of them. “Some of those memos I decided should be classified. Four others, I wrote them and was highly confident they should not be classified. Those four I kept a copy at the FBI and a copy at my personal safe at home.” Comey confirmed CNN’s reporting last week that he had shared the memos with additional close associates, outside of the FBI — telling Cooper that he had shared the memos with his legal team after he was fired. “After I was fired, I put together a legal team of three people,” Comey said. “One of whom was professor Dan Richman at Columbia University. After I had asked him to give this information to the media, I separately gave my legal team four memos, which were unclassified.” Some close associates of Comey have been questioned by the inspector general’s office about precisely which memo or memos they saw and when Comey shared them, sources told CNN. The event took place less than a week after the Justice Department provided Congress with memos Comey wrote documenting his interactions with Trump. The President seized on the release of information to attack Comey, claiming that the memos were classified and belong to the government.’It’s always significant when someone lies to you’ CNN reported shortly before Trump took office that top intelligence officials, including Comey, presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him. BuzzFeed News published the full, unverified dossier that included the infamous claim that Russian authorities had evidence of Trump watching prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite. There is no indication that such a tape exists, and Trump has denied it. Cooper asked Comey, “Since then, flight records, social media posts, congressional testimony, also photographs prove that he actually did spend the night in Moscow. Do you think it’s significant that the President lied to you twice?” “It’s always significant when someone lies to you, especially about something you’re not asking about. It tends to reflect a consciousness of guilt,” Comey said. “I don’t know what was in his head. I don’t know whether he was intentionally misstating a fact to me.

Deutsche Bank plans ‘significant’ job cuts after sharp drop in profits

New Deutsche Bank chief executive says he has the right strate
  • Deutsche Bank posted first-quarter net profits of 120 million euros ($146 million) Thursday, a 79 percent fall from last year’s figure.
  • The bank announced plans to significantly reduce its workforce through the rest of 2018, particularly in its corporate and investment bank and infrastructure functions.
  • The Frankfurt-based lender has been under scrutiny from shareholders for posting three consecutive years of losses, including a 497 million euro loss for 2017.
 

Deutsche Bank posted first-quarter net profits of 120 million euros ($146 million) Thursday, a 79 percent fall from last year’s figure. The bank announced plans to significantly reduce its workforce through the rest of 2018, particularly in its corporate and investment bank and infrastructure functions. It also aims to scale back operations in bond sales and equities trading, particularly in the United States and Asia.

The net profit number was significantly lower than a Reuters poll prediction of 376 million euros. The Frankfurt-based lender has been under scrutiny from shareholders for posting three consecutive years of losses, including a 497 million euro loss for 2017.

Revenues for the quarter were down by 5 percent on the prior year period at 7 billion euros, pressured by the appreciation of the euro against the dollar and lower corporate and investment bank revenues, which fell 13 percent year-on-year to 3.8 billion euros. Revenues for all businesses were lower year-on-year.Here are the key first-quarter metrics:

  • First-quarter net profits of 120 million euros ($146 million), a 79 percent fall from last year’s figure.
  • Revenues for the quarter down 5 percent on the prior year period at 7 billion euros.
  • Corporate and investment bank revenues fell 13 percent year-on-year to 3.8 billion euros. Revenues for all businesses were lower year-on-year.
  • Asset Management revenues down 10 percent year-on-year; Private & Commercial Bank down 2 percent.
  • Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio was 13.4 percent at the end of the first quarter, versus 14.0 percent at the end of 2017.

Christian Sewing, the bank’s recently-appointed chief executive officer, stressed the need to adjust its strategy in several areas of the business. He described Deutsche as being “on a good track” with its asset management business and private & commercial bank, but said in a statement that “we need to substantially improve profitability in both.” “There is no time to lose as the current returns for our shareholders are not acceptable,” Sewing said. Sewing is the lender’s fourth chief executive in six years.

Senate panel approves bill to protect special counsel

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation on Thursday to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. In a 14-7 vote, the panel approved the bipartisan proposal that deeply divided Republicans on the committee.  With every committee Democrat backing the legislation, only one Republican was needed to secure passage. In the end, four Republicans voted for the bill: Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.). Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ben Sasse (Neb.), John Kennedy (La.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) opposed it. The vote marks the first time Congress has advanced legislation to formally protect Mueller from being fired by President Trump, who has railed against him in public and reportedly talked in private of dismissing him. It would give a special counsel an “expedited review” of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn’t for “good cause,” the special counsel would be reinstated. The committee also added new reporting requirements into the bill, including notification when a special counsel is appointed or removed and requiring a report be given to Congress after an investigation wraps up; that report would detail the investigation’s findings and prosecution decisions. Feinstein praised Grassley on Thursday for making the “necessary compromises.”  “We have a piece of legislation that I believe will stand the test of time and will also stand the test of scrutiny,” she said. The legislation now heads to the full Senate, where it faces entrenched opposition from key Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor, that’s my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell told Fox News earlier this month. The bill doesn’t have the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate, and has even less of a chance to pass the more conservative House. It also would be unlikely to win the two-thirds support needed to override a presidential veto. McConnell and most GOP senators say publicly that they believe Trump will ultimately decide not to fire Mueller, a former FBI director who is widely respected in Washington.  The Judiciary Committee voted down an amendment from Cornyn, Hatch and Lee that would have gutted the special counsel bill and replaced it with a nonbinding sense of the Senate resolution on allowing Mueller to finish his investigation.

Twitter shares fall on outlook of slower growth, rising costs

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) shares fell about 5 percent Wednesday after the social network said its revenue growth would slow this year and costs rise as it works to fight the spread of hate speech and allegations of election manipulation through its service.That outlook overshadowed the second profitable quarter in the 12-year-old company’s history, topping Wall Street estimates for revenue, profit and monthly active users, as advertisers in Asia and other markets outside the United States embraced its video ads.  Revenue growth for the remainder of 2018 will be similar to the slower rates of 2016, Twitter said. It said its tally of daily active users, a closely watched metric, grew 10 percent year-over-year, a slower pace of growth than the 12 percent to 14 percent maintained in recent quarters.That slower user growth “has spooked investors,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said. Twitter said it expected to increase its workforce by 10 percent to 15 percent in 2018 to make discussions on the service more civil, increase ad sales and meet other priorities. Twitter cut its headcount 6 percent last year.  Its shares traded down 5 percent around midday at $28.92 on the New York Stock Exchange. Through Tuesday’s close, they were up 26.9 percent this year, compared with a 1.5 percent decline in the S&P 500 Index .SPX. Total revenue rose to $664.9 million, beating analysts’ expectations for $607.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.Twitter swung to a net profit of $61 million, or 8 cents per share, in the first quarter, from a loss of $61.6 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding items, the company earned 16 cents per share, topping the average analyst estimate of 12 cents per share.  U.S. President Donald Trump has kept the San Francisco-based service in the headlines, with his regular missives to his more-than-51 million followers, but Twitter has found more business success abroad growing its user base and ad sales. International sales accounted for 48 percent of revenue, growing 53 percent year-over-year, compared with 2 percent growth in the United States.

Macron: France Will Not Leave the Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Because We Signed It’

French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that France will not leave the Iran nuclear deal and urged Washington to remain committed to the agreement. “There is an existing framework called the JCPOA to control the nuclear activity of Iran,” Macron said, using the official acronym for the deal. “We signed it, at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that.” “It is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns and very important concerns—this is true,” Macron added. “But we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead. That’s my position. That’s why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it.” During his address, Macron also vowed that “Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons,” prompting loud applause from both Republicans and Democrats. “As for Iran, our objective is clearer: Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons,” Macron said. “Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years, never.” Macron said that he and President Donald Trump should work on a “more comprehensive deal” addressing all of the concerns about the nuclear deal. The French president explained that four pillars should serve as the foundation for this plan: “the substance” of the existing nuclear deal; the JCPOA’s sunset clauses, key restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program that are set to expire in about a decade; containing the Iranian regime’s military influence in the Middle East; and monitoring Iran’s ballistic-missile program. France was a party to the nuclear deal, which it, the U.S. under the Obama administration, and four other world powers struck with Iran in 2015. The deal curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests

The mountain’s collapse after a fifth blast last fall has led to the creation of a massive ‘chimney’ that could leak radioactive fallout into the air, researchers have found

North Korea’s mountain nuclear test site has collapsed, putting China and other nearby nations at unprecedented risk of radioactive exposure, two separate groups of Chinese scientists studying the issue have confirmed. The collapse after five nuclear blasts may be why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared on Friday that he would freeze the hermit state’s nuclear and missile tests and shut down the site, one researcher said.   The last five of Pyongyang’s six nuclear tests have all been carried out under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea’s northwest. One group of researchers found that the most recent blast tore open a hole in the mountain, which then collapsed upon itself. A second group concluded that the breakdown created a “chimney” that could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air.  A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak. The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found. The mountain’s collapse, and the prospect of radioactive exposure in the aftermath, confirms a series of exclusive reports by the South China Morning Post on China’s fears that Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test had caused a fallout leak.  Radioactive dust could escape through holes or cracks in the damaged mountain, the scientists said.  “It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” Wen’s team said in the statement.  The findings will be published on the website of the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, likely next month.  North Korea saw the mountain as an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation – it stood more than 2,100 metres (6,888 feet) above sea level – and its terrain of thick, gentle slopes that seemed capable of resisting structural damage.  The mountain’s surface had shown no visible damage after four underground nuclear tests before 2017.  But the 100-kilotonne bomb that went off on September 3 vaporised surrounding rocks with unprecedented heat and opened a space that was up to 200 metres (656 feet) in diameter, according to a statement posted on the Wen team’s website on Monday.  As shock waves tore through and loosened more rocks, a large section of the mountain’s ridge, less than half a kilometre (0.3 mile) from the peak, slipped down into the empty pocket created by the blast, leaving a scar visible in satellite images.  Wen concluded that the mountain had collapsed after analysing data collected from nearly 2,000 seismic stations.  Three small earthquakes that hit nearby regions in the wake of the collapse added credence to his conclusion, suggesting the test site had lost its geological stability.

Trump threatens ‘big problems’ for Iran

Media caption Trump brushes ‘dandruff’ off ‘perfect’ Macron

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran of “big problems” if it resumes the nuclear programme it agreed to curb in a 2015 international accord. Speaking at the White House with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Trump called the Iran deal “insane”. Mr Macron, who is lobbying Mr Trump to preserve the deal, said it was possible to forge a new Iran accord. The US president has been threatening to reject an extension of the Obama-era nuclear pact by a 12 May deadline. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit the US capital on Friday to make a last-minute bid to dissuade Mr Trump from potentially torpedoing the Iran agreement. “It won’t be so easy for them to restart,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday when a journalist asked him about the possibility of Iran relaunching its nuclear programme if the deal is scrapped. “They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before. “And you can mark it down – they restart their nuclear programme, they will have bigger problems than they’ve ever had before.” Mr Trump’s stark warning comes a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened “severe consequences” if the US withdraws from the nuclear deal. Mr Rouhani did not specify what retaliatory action Tehran might take. But his Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, has said a probable response would be to restart the enrichment of uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.The US president is also demanding that signatories to the pact agree permanent restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment. Under the current deal they are set to expire in 2025.  At one point during Tuesday’s Oval Office photocall, Mr Trump wiped “dandruff” from Mr Macron’s shoulder. “We do have a very special relationship,” Mr Trump told journalists gathered in his office. Also on the agenda is the Paris climate accord, the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and planned US tariffs on EU steel and aluminium. Earlier in the day, Mr Macron and his wife were welcomed to the White House with a military ceremony and a 21-gun salute. In welcoming remarks, Mr Trump thanked France for joining the US and Britain earlier this month in launching air strikes after an alleged chemical attack in Syria. On Tuesday evening, the White House will host an official state dinner for the Macrons, who will be served lamb and jambalaya, a traditional Cajun stew.

Google-owner Alphabet’s shares fall on rise in costs

FILE PHOTO: The Alphabet Inc. campus, also known as Googleplex, is shown in this aerial photo in Mountain View, California, U.S., April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Noah Berger/File Photo

(Reuters) – Shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) lost more than 5 percent on Tuesday as a surge in costs drove what analysts said was its biggest ever contraction in gross margins, overshadowing strong first-quarter ad sales. The dive in first-quarter operating margins, to 22 percent from 27 percent a year ago, follows a troubling six weeks for major U.S. tech players, now facing a more questioning public and the prospect of tighter official scrutiny on privacy issues. The fall in Alphabet shares following its first-quarter results on Monday evening turned them negative for the year and amounted to a roughly $37 billion reduction in the value of the Mountain View, California-based firm. Other members of the FAANG group of tech stocks that include Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Facebook Inc (FB.O), Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) also tracked that move lower. Longer-term capital expenditures at Google nearly tripled to $7.3 billion in the first quarter from $2.5 billion a year ago. The company said that continuing cost increases came from acquiring streaming rights for YouTube’s new TV service and marketing new products.

GOOGL.O

“With YouTube’s rapid growth (also in non-ad-supported services) and a greater emphasis on hardware made by Google, we think this gross margin contraction will continue,” Canaccord Genius analyst Michael Graham wrote in a client note. “Gross margin contracted ~370 bps y/y, (that is) the largest contraction in company history.” Ad sales also suggested that there were no immediate signs of the privacy concerns affecting profits. Alphabet’s shares have risen 25 percent in the past year, making it the third best performing of the FAANG group, trailing only Amazon and Netflix. The sharp declines in FAANG stocks pushed the S&P 500 .SPX and Nasdaq Composite .IXIC lower on Tuesday afternoon. Facebook and Amazon were each off nearly 4 percent, Netflix dipped 5 percent and Apple shed 1.6 percent. The technology sector .SPLRCT sank 1.47 percent, making it the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite.

10-year Treasury yield hits 3% for first time since 2014

The most widely watched bond rate in the world just hit a milestone.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which helps set rates for auto loans, mortgages and other lending, climbed to 3% on Tuesday for the first time since 2014. For Americans, that means borrowing costs are on the way up. For Wall Street, it’s a warning that higher interest rates may eat into corporate profits and that faster inflation is coming — both of which could eventually hurt the economy. Investors also worry that the Republican tax cuts for businesses and individuals will cause the economy to grow too quickly. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise short-term interest rates at least twice more this year and three times in 2019, in an effort to tap the economy’s brakes. That will probably lead to even higher rates on longer-term Treasuries. In another potential warning sign in the bond market, short-term rates have also been rising. The difference in yields between short-term bonds and the 10-year note is narrowing, a phenomenon known as a flattening yield curve. Why is this a problem? If short-term rates move higher than long-term rates, that creates something known as an inverted yield curve — and that has often happened just ahead of recessions. But others argue that Treasury yields should be going up, because the US economy is in good shape. Rates are climbing around the world, too, as Europe’s economy stabilizes and China and India post strong growth. “This is consistent with a good economic backdrop,” said Doug Peebles, CIO of AB Fixed Income. Peebles argues that bond rates need to go even higher before Americans will slow their spending. Investors seem to be growing more nervous, too. Even though blue chip Dow companies Verizon Caterpillar and United Technologies reported strong earnings, the Dow was down more than 250 points in midday trading.

US extends deadline for Rusal sanctions, aluminum prices dive

Oleg Deripaska, CEO of United Company Rusal, at the SPIEF on June 21, 2012.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images Oleg Deripaska, CEO of United Company Rusal, at the SPIEF on June 21, 2012.

The United States on Monday gave American customers of Russia’s biggest aluminum producer more time to comply with sanctions, and said it would consider lifting them if United Company Rusal’s major shareholder, Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, ceded control of the company. Aluminum prices on the London Metal Exchange tumbled 8.7 percent on the U.S. Treasury Department announcement, which gives Rusal longer to sell off large quantities of aluminum it had been stockpiling in the wake of sanctions. Last week, aluminum prices rallied to their highest in years after Washington, in response to what it called “malign activities” by Russia, imposed the sanctions that will in effect choke off access for Deripaska’s businesses to the international financial system. Treasury gave Americans until Oct. 23 instead of June 5 to wind down business with Rusal. It said it would not impose secondary sanctions on non-U.S. entities engaged with Rusal or its subsidiaries. Deripaska owns a 48 percent stake in Rusal “and controls the company via his shareholder agreement with other owners,” said Oleg Petropavlovsky, a senior analyst at BCS Global Markets. “It is not clear whether potential cancellation of this shareholder agreement would be enough” to satisfy U.S. officials, he said. Last week, aluminum rallied to its highest since mid-2011 on fears the global market could face shortages as a result of the U.S. sanctions. It remains up more than 16 percent this month. Wood Mackenzie analysts said Treasury’s announcement provides “much-needed breathing space” for the aluminum market, adding “We expect near-term correction and volatility” in prices. Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone, said there is potential for Rusal to survive and that “the 5 mln (million) tons of Rusal production that a week ago was arguably radioactive, will no longer be so.”

Apple loses $64 billion in stock value as Wall Street is in ‘full panic mode’ on iPhone demand

Apple’s trying to find balance on iPhone pricing, says expert
Apple’s trying to find balance on iPhone pricing, says expert

Disappointing guidance from key iPhone suppliers is raising worries about Apple shares and could signal the death of the technology-driven stock rally. Apple’s stock is cumulatively down 7.1 percent in the three trading sessions through Monday, wiping out $63.9 billion of shareholder value. The decline was sparked by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing’s weaker-than-expected guidance Thursday morning. The world’s largest semiconductor foundry and key Apple chip partner said its revenue forecast range for the second quarter is $7.8 billion to $7.9 billion versus the Wall Street estimate of $8.8 billion. The company blamed “weak demand” in the mobile sector for its forecast. “Heading into Apple’s much anticipated March (FY2Q18) quarter next week the Street has gone into ‘full panic mode’ as supply chain checks out of Asia indicate that June iPhone shipments are trending well below expectations,” GBH Insights analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook

One veteran industry analyst believes TSMC’s poor guidance is a precursor to a chip sector and stock market drop. “TSM’s warning this A.M. likely puts the kibosh on the semiconductor (SOX) rally. SOX is a leading indicator for overall stock market and has been rock-solid (relative strength) past 2 yrs. Additionally it’s open season on AAPL, the highest valued stock, and its suppliers,” Fred Hickey, editor of High Tech Strategist, wrote in on social media Thursday.

It didn’t take long for a top Wall Street firm to significantly lower its iPhone forecasts. A day after TSMC’s warning Morgan Stanley reduced its June quarter iPhone unit estimate to 34 million from 40.5 million versus the nearly 43 million average estimate. “We expect Apple to report an in-line March quarter, but are cautious into earnings on May 1 due to our belief that June quarter consensus estimates need to be revised lower,” analyst Katy Huberty wrote Friday. “Apple’s capital return announcement could amount to a ‘sell the news’ type of event, especially if forward estimates are revised materially downward.” Another important Apple supplier gave dramatically lower June quarter guidance Monday. Austria-based AMS, a supplier of optical sensors used in the iPhone X, said it expects sales for its second quarter to be in the range of $220 million to $250 million, down nearly 50 percent from its first quarter. “We are not able to discuss the specific customer, but we are seeing significantly lower business from a large smartphones program and that is having a strong impact on the consumer business and the company as a whole,” AMS’ head of investor relations, Moritz Gmeiner, told Reuters. Wall Street blamed poor iPhone X demand for both suppliers’ weak guidance. As a result, J.P. Morgan predicts other semiconductor suppliers will report June quarter results below expectations. “TSMC’s June quarter guidance and ams’s guidance are further evidence of decelerating Apple demand (with iPhone X demand being particularly weak),” wireless semiconductor analyst Bill Peterson wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “As such, we believe consensus revenue/EPS estimates for the June quarter are too high, and we lower our estimates for wireless semiconductor companies under coverage.” Mizuho Securities now estimates demand for higher-end new iPhone models will materially fall in the second half of 2018. The firm told its clients Monday it estimates iPhone production will decline by 2 percent year over year in the second half of 2018, with new models such as iPhone 9 and the successor to iPhone X down 15 percent year over year.

FAANG, industrial stocks hit Wall Street

GOOGL.O

(Reuters) – A sharp drop in so-called ‘FAANG’ group of technology stocks pushed the Nasdaq Composite lower on Tuesday, with rising 10-year yields and contrasting earnings reports from industrials also adding to the pressure. Google-parent Alphabet (GOOGL.O) sank 3.9 percent, erasing all its gains for the year, as investors focused on rising costs at the company rather than the profit beat. The other FAANG members, which had powered the stock market to record highs, also fell. Facebook (FB.O) declined 2.8 percent, Amazon (AMZN.O) dropped 2.6 percent and Netflix (NFLX.O) declined 3.5 percent. “Given the weakness in Google, you’re seeing profit taking in rest of the FAANG stocks … a spillover into some of the other tech names,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.“Those five names are enough to weigh on Nasdaq and tech stocks.” Apple was down 0.8 percent, falling for the fifth straight session as results from its suppliers continue to feed fears of slowing demand for iPhones.Chipmaker AMS warned of a downturn this quarter owing to weaker orders from a main customer that analysts said was Apple. Corning said it expects weak demand for phone screen glass to spill into the current quarter.  The technology sector .SPLRCT sank 0.7 percent, making it the biggest drag on the S&P and Nasdaq.Adding to nerves, was the yield on the 10-year U.S Treasury bonds US10YT=RR hitting 3 percent for the first time since 2014, before easing off, due to a growing supply of government debt and accelerating inflation as commodity prices gained.Most market strategists said the mark was more a technical or psychological level than anything else. “These higher Treasury yields are providing competition with riskier fixed-income products and things like REITs and dividend-producing stocks,” said Bill Northey, senior vice president with U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Helena, Montana. Caterpillar was down about 4 percent, reversing course from earlier in the session after it beat profit estimates and raised its earnings forecast. Lockheed Martin sank 5.1 percent after the Pentagon’s No.1 weapons supplier failed to raise its outlook for cash flow. 3M dived 7.7 percent after it cut the top end of its full-year forecast. Nearly a quarter of the S&P 500 companies have reported first-quarter results so far, with 77 percent of them topping profit estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

3M’s stock tumbles into bear market territory after most disappointing results in a decade

Price plunge shaves nearly 130 points off the Dow industrials’ price after lowered profit and sales outlook
Bloomberg

3M Co. earnings report is shaping up to be the most disappointing for investors in over a decade, as the industrial and consumer products manufacturer’s stock plunged into bear-market territory. The company, which brands include Post-it, Scotch and Thinsulate, reported before Tuesday’s open first-quarter results that were in line with expectations. But the company trimmed its full-year guidance ranges for profit and revenue, citing softness in its automotive aftermarket, oral care and consumer electronics businesses. That sent 3M’s stock MMM, -7.85%  tumbling 8.6% in afternoon trade, enough to pace the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s DJIA, -2.26%  losers, as it heads for the first sub-$200 close since July 2017. The price decline of $18.60 was subtracting about 128 points off the Dow’s price, which was down 374 points. See Market Snapshot. The selloff is putting the stock on track to be the biggest one-day post-earnings percentage decline since Oct. 19, 2007, when it tumbled 8.6% following 3M’s third-quarter 2007 results. The stock has now shed 23.7% since its Jan. 26, 2018 closing record of $258.63. Many on Wall Street define a bear market as a decline of 20% or more from a bull-market peak. The last time 3M shares were in bear-market territory was January 2012. Although the magnitude of the stock’s decline may be a surprise, the fact that investors were disappointed with results is not. The company hasn’t missed earnings expectations since the first quarter of 2015, but the stock has declined on the day earnings were revealed in eight of the 13 quarters since then.

Facebook’s hidden data haul troubles German cartel regulator

Andreas Mundt, president of Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Bonn, Germany April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

BONN, Germany (Reuters) – That the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook ( users fell into the wrong hands is troubling politicians, but Germany’s top competition regulator is questioning the sheer volume of information that the social network harvests. Andreas Mundt, president of the Federal Cartel Office, is awaiting Facebook’s response to his findings, published in December, that it abuses its market dominance by gathering data on people without their proper consent. That includes tracking visitors to websites with an embedded Facebook ‘like’ or share button – and pages where it observes people even though there is no obvious sign the social network is present. Mundt’s inquiry has gained new relevance since revelations that the data of 87 million Facebook users, gathered via an online personality quiz, was passed to Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy that advised Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.“For Facebook to collect data when I as a user am on Facebook, that’s clear. The user knows this and has to expect it,” Mundt told Reuters in an interview. “What is problematic is the collection of data in places and moments where the user can’t realistically expect that data is collected by Facebook.”CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in testimony before the U.S. Congress, said Facebook tracked people whether they have accounts or not – something the firm said was “fundamental to how the internet works”.  Facebook tracks an estimated 28.6 percent of web traffic across 59.5 percent of internet sites, making it the world’s fifth most prevalent behind several Google ( properties, according to WhoTracks.me. Mundt’s case rests on his analysis that Facebook has a market share of social media in Germany of over 90 percent – he sees its only direct competitor as Google+ – making it dominant in anti-trust terms and not, as Facebook argues, merely popular.“If Facebook has a dominant market position, then the consent that the user gives for his data to be used is no longer voluntary,” said Mundt, 57, a jurist who has headed the cartel office since 2013. “That’s because he has no alternative – he has to use Facebook if he wants to use a social network.” Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, describes Mundt’s view as “inaccurate” but has said it will cooperate with the investigation, which would not result in fines but could lead to some practices being banned. The scrutiny from German regulators enjoys the backing of lawmakers, reflecting broader hostility toward anything resembling surveillance that goes back to Germany’s history of Nazi and Communist rule in the 20th century. Mundt pushed back against suggestions that, in taking on the case, he was encroaching on the domain of data protection authorities. He said there was a solid precedent in Germany for inappropriate terms of use to be treated as an anti-trust issue. “The entire business model relies ultimately on access to data and the reach of these platforms,” he said. “With the Facebook probe we are doing pioneering work – but in no way is this an experiment.”

Chicago Fed economic measure cools in March from February’s nearly two-decade high

As factory output and hiring slowed, March index eased to 0.10 from February’s 0.98
AFP/Getty Images

A measure of the U.S. economy from the Chicago Federal Reserve cooled in March from an upwardly revised, multiyear-high February reading as weaker hiring within a still-strong job market pushed down the broader index. The Chicago Fed’s index of national economic activity was a positive 0.10 last month, down from the upwardly revised positive 0.98 in February. February’s result was the highest marker for this volatile index since positive 1.19 in October 1999, according to the St. Louis Fed’s FRED database.. The index’s less-volatile, three-month moving average registered a positive 0.18 last month, down slightly from 0.20 in February.

U.S. stocks  showed little reaction to Monday’s economic data, maintaining their downward slant as market attention fixed on rising Treasury yields. The Chicago Fed index is a weighted average of 85 economic indicators, designed so that zero represents trend growth and a three-month average below negative 0.70 suggests a recession has begun. Forty-four of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the index in March, while 41 made negative contributions. Production-related indicators, meaning factories, contributed positive 0.14 to the index in March, down from positive 0.54 in February. Other Fed data had shown that total industrial production increased 0.5% in March after increasing a much stronger 1.1% in February and, separately, the new orders component of the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index decreased to 61.9% in March from 64.2% in the previous month. Employment-related indicators contributed a negative 0.07 in March, a marked reversal from their positive 0.35 boost to February. As Labor Department data showed earlier this month, nonfarm payrolls increased by 103,000 in March after increasing by 326,000 in February. Meanwhile, the contribution of the personal consumption and housing category improved slightly but was still at negative 0.01 last month. Housing starts increased to 1.32 million annualized units in March from 1.3 million in February, and housing permits increased to 1.35 million annualized units in March from 1.32 million in the previous month, government data showed. Financial markets get a look at the broader economy with this week’s release of GDP data. The economy likely decelerated to a growth rate of about 2% from a more robust pace of 2.9%, 3.2% and 3.1% in the prior three quarters, according to a MarketWatch survey. The expected slowdown is not a shocker. It’s happened repeatedly over the past decade and a half; growth starts out slow and then speeds up during the rest of the year.

Stocks stumble as U.S. yields near the 3 percent barrier

 It a historic pattern 10 year up stocks down!

LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks slipped on Monday ahead of a blizzard of earnings from the world’s biggest firms and as wary investors watched U.S. bond yields approach peaks that have triggered market spasms in the past. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries US10YT=RR hit its highest level since January 2014 at 2.99 percent, pushing the gap – or spread – to German bonds to the widest in 29 years and the dollar .DXY higher in the process. Traders were also getting a global round of economic surveys that should show in the coming days if economic softness in the first quarter was just a passing phase linked to wintery weather and the Lunar New Year holidays in Asia. Readings from Japan, France and Germany were all relatively reassuring. Japan’s PMI data firmed as output and domestic demand picked up, France got help from its services sector, while Germany came in above forecast despite weaker new orders numbers. “It’s a good reading, it’s still encouraging,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, of the combined euro zone numbers, which he said pointed to quarterly GDP growth of 0.6 percent. More than 180 companies in the S&P 500 are due to report results this week, including Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, Boeing and Chevron. Of particular concern for U.S. analysts will be executives’ views about their exposure to China, amid the recent worries about a trade war. Back in commodity markets, the spike in oil has driven up both market expectations of future inflation USIL5YF5Y=R and long-term bond yields.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries US10YT=RR are at the highest now since early 2014 and again threatening the hugely important 3 percent bulwark.

Dealers cited widening yield differentials for the dollar’s broad rally. The gap with German bonds has touched the widest in almost three decades. On a spot basis shorter-term U.S. 2-year yields are testing 2.5 percent US2YT=RR, which is the highest since 2008.

Saudi says it intercepted missiles fired at Aramco facility by Houthis

Workers drill at the Saudi Aramco oil field complex facilities at Shaybah, Saudi Arabia.
Reza | Getty Images Workers drill at the Saudi Aramco oil field complex facilities at Shaybah, Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s armed Houthi movement fired two ballistic missiles at a Saudi Aramco facility in the southern city of Jizan on Monday, but Saudi state media said both projectiles were destroyed. The Houthis’ al-Masirah TV said they had targeted a port belonging to the Saudi state oil giant. The Saudi state news agency quoted the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that intervened against the Houthis in Yemen’s war in 2015 as saying the two missiles were intercepted over Jizan and their debris fell on residential neighborhoods. “There were no casualties or damages recorded as of the time of (our) statement,” Colonel Turki al-Maliki said. Aramco did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company is building a 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Jizan, part of a new economic city on the Red Sea, and it is expected to become fully operational in 2019. The Houthis say their missile attacks on the kingdom are in retaliation for air raids on Yemen by the Western-backed coalition. Saudi Arabia and an alliance of Muslim states intervened in Yemen’s civil war to try and push back the Houthis after they drove the internationally-recognized government into exile in Riyadh. Air strikes by the coalition killed at least 20 people attending a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen late on Sunday, residents and medical sources said. The coalition has carried out thousands of air strikes in Yemen that have hit schools, markets and hospitals, killing hundreds of people – though it says it does not target civilians. The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of famine, according to the United Nations. The coalition says the Houthis are armed and supported by Saudi arch-adversary Iran – charges the group and Tehran deny. Nick Bit: I know the Yemen people. The soft Saudi’s have got themselves a Vietnam going……

NYT reporter: Story on Cohen flipping ‘hitting a nerve’ with Trump

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman

“I think he and his lawyers are very anxious about the Southern District investigation into Michael Cohen, that is more of an imminent threat than the Robert Mueller special counsel probe is,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” of the probe into Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer. Haberman, who has interviewed Trump several times but who the president referred to as “third rate” in his tweet, added that her report wasn’t about “destroying” the relationship between Cohen and Trump. “The president has destroyed their relationship pretty handily on his own over a very long time and that is what the story is about,” she said. “Which is that he is abusive…to most people in his organization and that family is not excepted.” “But he is particularly abusive to Cohen over the years and the question is does that come back to haunt him,” she added. Trump had lashed out over a Times story Haberman wrote, reporting that the president’s legal team is preparing for Cohen to cooperate with prosecutors.

The report written by Haberman quotes aides on and off the record saying that Trump takes Cohen for granted. Cohen is reportedly under investigation for bank fraud and violating campaign finance law. On CNN, Haberman in discussing the potential danger to Trump said that prosecutors could place Cohen in a situation where it’s “his life before the president’s life.”

Oil steady as US drilling tempers bullish sentiment

Getty Images

Oil prices were steady on Monday as a rising U.S. rig count pointed to further increases in American output, marking one of the few factors tamping back crude in an otherwise bullish environment.

U.S. drillers added five oil rigs drilling for new production in the weekended April 20, bringing the total count to 820, highest since March 2015, according to General Electric’s Baker Hughes energy services firm.

The rising rig numbers point to further increases in U.S. crude production, which is already up a quarter since mid-2016 to a record 10.54 million barrels per day (bpd). Only Russia produces more at almost 11 million bpd. Despite the dips in crude oil on Monday, the overall market remains well supported, especially by strong demand in Asia, and Brent prices are up by 20 percent from their 2018 lows in February. Prices are also being supported by the supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that were introduced in 2017 to prop up the market. “Added price pressure comes from U.S. sanctions against the key oil exporting nations of Venezuela, Russia and Iran,” said J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Market Strategist Kerry Craig. He was referring to action the U.S. government has taken on Russian companies and individuals, as well as on potential new measures against struggling Venezuela and especially OPEC-member Iran.The U.S. trade action against Russia and, potentially, against Iran has resulted in a slump in Russia’s ruble and Iran’s rial. This means costs for any imported goods become more expensive for its citizens or companies, but it has also pushed up the value of Russia’s and Iran’s oil sales as all of their production costs are in the local currencies, while foreign sales are virtually all made in the U.S. dollar. The generally elevated oil prices have also sparked a spat between U.S. President Donald Trump and producer cartel OPEC. Trump on Friday accused OPEC of “artificially” boosting oil prices, threatening on Twitter that this “will not be accepted”, drawing rebukes from several of the world’s top oil exporters within OPEC. Nick Note: Sanctions don’t mean shit. The market for oil is the biggest of them all. And sanctions against oil producers have proven to be a mere inconvenience. All they do is discount their oil and buyers line up…. Sanctions ultimately push oil prices lower. And don’t forget Hugh new fracking wells are coming on stream each day!

Report: Sean Hannity received HUD help on multimillion dollar property deals

The Guardian reported Sunday that Hannity is linked to a web of shell companies that spent at least $90 million buying more than 870 homes across seven states over the past 10 years. The newspaper said it reviewed thousands of pages of public records to piece together Hannity’s alleged property portfolio. The Fox News host bought two apartment complexes in Georgia in 2014 for $22.7 million, according to The Guardian. It reported that HUD helped him get mortgages worth $17.9 million to fund the purchases by insuring the loans under a National Housing Act program. Hannity didn’t mention this link to the department when he interviewed HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Fox News in June 2017.

The Guardian reported that some of the properties Hannity acquired were purchased “after banks foreclosed on their previous owners for defaulting on mortgages.” The purchases were spread across states including Alabama and New York, according to the report.

“Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them,” the Guardian reported. The newspaper said those shell companies are limited liability companies, which are “popular among well-known figures such as Hannity who wish to keep their business arrangements private.”

In an email to The Guardian, Hannity real estate attorney Christopher Reeves said the transactions were highly confidential and said, “most people prefer to keep their legal and personal financial issues private. Mr Hannity is no different.” Last week, it was revealed in court that Hannity is a client of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, a relationship the Fox News commentator hadn’t previously disclosed.

Following that revelation, Hannity said that he never retained Cohen “in the traditional sense” and that their conversations were “almost exclusively about real estate.”

Fox News said last week that it had been “unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen.” It said it reviewed the matter and spoke to Hannity, who “continues to have our full support.” Nick Note: Holy shit bat man… A free market conservative who wants government out of business. Received government subsidized housing   money for his socialist housing projects…… Do you thing they are shitting us? And Trumps big time attorney helped him put the secret deal together…… FOR FREE!!!! One hand washes the other!. I call this cronyism!!!!!  Can you hear the screams if crooked Hillary was involved with such a deal with CNN?

Report: Mueller Team ‘Amused’ by Rudy Giuliani’s Goal to End Russia Probe

Image: Report: Mueller Team 'Amused' by Rudy Giuliani's Goal to End Russia Probe
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

Rudy Giuliani said he joined President Donald Trump’s personal legal team to bring an end to the Russia probe, but special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators are said to be “amused” by the former New York City mayor’s objective. “If Rudy comes to Mueller trying to negotiate anything short of a presidential guilty plea, he will likely be met by deaf ears,” a lawyer following the case told Fox Business for a Friday report. Mueller’s team has signaled that its investigation into possible meddling by Moscow in the 2016 election is “exploring new avenues presented by at least two cooperating witnesses” — according to the report — and Giuliani can do little to force the special counsel’s hand.”Giuliani’s great, but I don’t think he’s going to move the dial one way or another,” Chris Swecker, a white-collar criminal attorney and FBI assistant director, told Fox Business.  “I know how Mueller operates. “He’s not going to let anyone stampede him into it early or bring this case to an early conclusion,” Swecker told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. However, Swecker said he believed the Russia probe was winding down. “I do think something’s going to happen in the next month or two,” he said. Mueller has put off the sentencing until later this month of two former Trump aides charged in the Mueller probe: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos. “This leads me to believe he is keeping his witnesses on ice until the next indictment,” Swecker told Cavuto. “Working your way up the food chain to the next level … related to Russia collusion.”I don’t think the president is going to get brought into this, but I do think there is something else coming.” Possible targets for criminal charges, according to Swecker: Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son who met with Russian operatives under the guise of obtaining negative information on Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who is a top White House adviser, who also attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. Both Trump Jr. and Kushner have denied any wrongdoing — and President Trump has continuously slammed the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.” A Giuliani spokeswoman did not return requests seeking comment, Fox Business reports. A Mueller representative declined to comment. A former federal prosecutor who was dubbed “America’s Mayor” because of his leadership during the 9/11 attacks, Giuliani, 73, told The Washington Post Thursday that Mueller’s investigation needed to end “for the good of the country.” “I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” he said. President Trump in a statement from one of his other personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said: “Rudy is great. “He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country.” Giuliani, who worked with Mueller at the Justice Department in the 1980s, joins Trump’s legal team after lead attorney John Dowd quit amid difficulties in working with the president. Dowd is the only lawyer on Trump’s team who has examined every document the White House surrendered to Mueller in the inquiry, a person familiar with the matter told Fox Business.Giuliani is said to have a good relationship with Mueller from their Justice Department days.  Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly told Trump that he was not a target of the Mueller probe — though some of the president’s advisers have cautioned that the legal troubles engulfing longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, could prove more perilous to him than the Moscow investigation. FBI agents raided Cohen’s offices in Manhattan on April 9, armed with search warrants based in part on information obtained from Mueller’s investigators. The raid was overseen by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the office Giuliani once headed. While Rosenstein also assured Trump that he was not a target of the Cohen probe either, the president’s advisers cautioned that he could “flip” and turn against Trump if faced with criminal charges. “I don’t see Michael as taking the pressure or a fall for somebody else,” longtime Trump attorney and adviser Jay Goldberg told CNN on Thursday. Cohen has not been charged — and his attorney declined to comment to Fox Business. President Trump on Saturday slammed The New York Times for reporting that he and his advisers were concerned that Cohen might turn against him.

Trump touted hiring Giuliani as ‘hiring America’s f—ing mayor’

Trump touted hiring Giuliani as ‘hiring America’s f---ing mayor’
© Getty

President Trump reportedly touted his decision to bring former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani onto his legal team by proclaiming that he was hiring “America’s f—ing mayor,” The Associated Press reported Friday. Trump’s decision to hire Giuliani to assist him in the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election came as he grew increasingly frustrated with speculation that he was having trouble finding a legal heavyweight to join his team. Giuliani, a Republican and ardent supporter of the president, reportedly traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla. last week to finalize the deal, the AP reported. Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump’s team, confirmed the hire on Thursday and said Giuliani would be accompanied by former federal prosecutors Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin.  Giuliani told The Washington Post on Thursday that he wanted to help “negotiate an end” to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which Trump has referred to as a “hoax.” Trump’s legal team had been short-staffed for several weeks, since the departure of attorney John Dowd last month. The hire came as Trump’s lawyers are said to be negotiating an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump had previously expressed a desire to sit for an interview with investigators, but Dowd cautioned against doing so.

Report: Trump ‘Hasn’t Cooled’ on Firing Rosenstein

Image: Report: Trump 'Hasn't Cooled' on Firing Rosenstein
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (Getty Images) By Todd Beamon

President Donald Trump “hasn’t cooled off on” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and could still fire him over his role in the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, Axios reported Friday. Axios cited “a source close to Trump,” noting that the White House is “in a defensive posture” on the issue.  “Trump doesn’t know exactly what to do with [Rosenstein],” the source told the site. “They don’t have a clean way to get rid of him. “That’s the problem.”Rosenstein, however, might be “about to be spit-roasted” by President Trump, the source said. Rosenstein appointed Mueller after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Trump has repeatedly said that he had no plans to fire Rosenstein or Mueller, telling reporters at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday: “They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months — and they’re still here. “We want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us,” the president said of the Moscow probe. “We have to get back to business.” Bloomberg News also reported Thursday that Rosenstein told Trump last week that he was not a target of any part of Mueller’s investigation or the inquiry into his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Still, Axios disclosed Friday that a case was “being built against” Rosenstein by two members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, and founding member Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. “That’s what Meadows and Jordan are doing,” the source said. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Republican lawmakers met with Rosenstein in his office the day before after Meadows warned him that he could face impeachment proceedings or be held in contempt of Congress if Rosenstein did not hand over Justice Department documents on the Clinton and Russia probes. In addition, the source told Axios that Trump naming former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to his legal team reflected his frustration with the progress of the Mueller probe. “The way it’s been characterized by senior administration officials is that the president is frustrated and casting about,” the source said. “That’s typical of him. “He’s done it before. “He’s upset — and the way he thinks more will happen is if new people are brought onto the scene.” Giuliani, 73, a former federal prosecutor who managed the city during the 9/11 attacks, told the Post Thursday that he joined Trump’s personal legal team to “negotiate an end to this for the good of the country.” “This is all Trump trying to move the ball,” the source told Axios, “and he thinks by having substitutions and additional players he’ll do that. “What he really needs is what he’s not getting,” the person added. “He needs a lead lawyer who has the backing and resources of a large firm.”

Trump Rips WashPost Story on AG Jeff Sessions: More ‘Fake’ News

Image: Trump Rips WashPost Story on AG Jeff Sessions: More 'Fake' News
Attorney General Jeff Sessions (AP) By Todd Beamon

President Donald Trump continued his Twitter attacks on the media Saturday, slamming The Washington Post on its Friday report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to quit last week if the president fired his embattled No. 2, Rod Rosenstein.

“Just more fake and disgusting news to create ill will,” Trump said in his post:

The Post disclosed that Sessions told White House counsel Donald McGahn of his position in a telephone call last weekend.

Fusion GPS Founders Lay Out Where Mueller’s Case Against Trump Might be Going (And It’s Not Stormy)

I’ve started to tune out the legal pundits who are doing their best to guess where/what/how Trump will end up in legal trouble, and where Robert Mueller’s probe is really going. They’ve been wrong over and over again. But, when the Fusion GPS founders (yeah, those guys) penned an opinion piece in The New York Times, they got my attention.  Funded by both Democrats and a right-leaning news outlet, these guys spent months and months doing oppo research on Trump, the Trump campaign, and the Trump Organization.  They know where the bodies are buried. They say the most significant thing that has happened to date is that Mueller subpoenaed Trump Organization business records, and seized records from Cohen’s office that might address all of his dubious real estate deals.

Their basic thesis is this: After a string of bankruptcies in the 1990s and 2000s left Trump unable to get “traditional” funding, he looked elsewhere at a time when money “was pouring out of the former Soviet Union.”  Now, Peter Fritsch and Glenn R. Simpson are careful to say their research has “not uncovered conclusive evidence that the Trump Organization or its principals knowingly abetted criminal activity,” but they said there are some clear indications that Trump could be in deep.

“We found strong indications that companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, might have been entangled in foreign corruption,” they explained.  On top of that, they contend that Trump’s company “routinely teamed up with individuals whose backgrounds should have raised red flags.”

Here’s just one example they cited in their rather lengthy analysis:

Consider the Bayrock Group, a developer that once had lavish offices in Trump Tower. The firm worked with Mr. Trump in the mid-2000s to build the Trump SoHo in Lower Manhattan, among other troubled projects. One of its principals was a Russian émigré, Felix Sater, linked to organized crime who served time for felony assault and who later pleaded guilty to racketeering involving a $40 million stock fraud scheme.

Belgian authorities accused a Kazakh financier recruited by Bayrock of carrying out a $55 million money-laundering scheme (that case was settled without an admission of guilt). Civil suits filed in Los Angeles and New York allege that a former mayor of the largest city in Kazakhstan and several of his family members laundered millions in stolen public funds, investing some of it in real estate, including units in Trump SoHo. (The family has denied wrongdoing and says it is the victim of political persecution.)

So where is this going if charges were to be filed by Mueller’s team? The Fusion GPS Founders point to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which makes it a crime for companies to influence foreign officials with payments (i.e. you can’t bribe governments for business).

“It remains unclear whether Mr. Mueller will investigate these deals, or already is. But a comprehensive investigation could raise questions about the Trump Organization’s compliance with anti-money-laundering laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which — according to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice — makes it a crime for a United States company to act with willful blindness toward the corrupt activities of a foreign business partner,” they contend.

Kushner Companies Faces Federal Grand Jury Subpoena

An Associated Press (AP) investigation last month revealed that the Kushner Companies repeatedly filed forms with the New York City Department of Buildings claiming they owned no rent-controlled units while actually possessing hundreds of such units in Queens, New York apartment buildings they purchased in 2015. Those filings reportedly allowed the Kushner Companies to raise rents and, in turn, sell those buildings at a great profit two years later, at which point Jared was no longer at the company’s helm, but serving in the Trump administration alongside his wife, Ivanka Trump.

On Thursday, a grand jury serving under the auspices of federal prosecutors from the Brooklyn-based U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York approved subpoenas based on that AP report, demanding documentation as to how the allegedly false forms were prepared and by whom.

The subpoena was first reported in the Wall Street Journal Friday. “Kushner Companies has nothing to hide and is cooperating fully with all legitimate requests for information, including this subpoena,” a Kushner spokeswoman told the Journal. “We believe that this subpoena, which has already been complied with, was issued based solely on an article that appeared in the press the day before it was issued,” the spokeswoman continued in reference to the AP investigation. In response to the original AP reporting, the Kushner Companies denied all wrongdoing. “[I]f mistakes or violations are identified, corrective action is taken immediately,” they said in a statement, claiming the allegedly false filings were prepared by a third party. “Kushner would never deny any tenant their due-process rights,” the statement continued, claiming Kushner Companies “has renovated thousands of apartments and developments with minimal complaints over the past 30 years.” The explanation was not enough to stave off a New York City Council investigation, and now that scrutiny evidently has expanded to a federal investigation, although as is typical in grand jury inquiries, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the EDNY could neither confirm nor deny its existence. This Kushner Companies was founded by Jared’s father and predecessor as head of the Kushner Companies, Charles Kushner, who was convicted on 18 felony counts in 2005, and since Jared’s departure has been led by Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer. The company has repeatedly found itself under federal pressure over the last year, most notably in connection with their improper promotion of the controversial EB-5 visa program – complete with hints at Jared’s influence in the administration – to entice Chinese investors to put large sums into a Kushner building project in New Jersey with promises of American residency. One of the Kushner Companies main financiers, Deutche Bank, also faced subpoenas last year, reportedly aimed at banking activity related to the Kushners and their real estate business.

Stormy Daniels lawyer predicts Trump deposition, says they’ve found his ‘Achilles heel’

Stormy Daniels’s lawyers told “Real Time” host Bill Maher on Friday that he has found President Trump’s “Achilles’ heel” and predicts he can get Trump and Michael Cohen to appear for a deposition. “I think we are going to get an opportunity to depose Michael Cohen and the president within the next 60 to 90 days and … I truly believe this is the Achilles’ heel of the president,” Avenatti said about the president and his personal lawyer. “He has trusted a moron with his innermost secrets.”“The problem is he has surrounded himself in his adult life with people that are incompetent and the chickens are going to come home to roost,” Avenatti added. Maher said that even if Trump gets a deposition, he might not show up to court and trigger a constitutional crisis. Avenatti predicted the president would show up to court, but argued that it might not matter since he thinks Cohen will end up telling the court everything he knows about the president. “Michael Cohen knows where almost all the bodies are buried and I think he is going to sing like a canary,” Avenatti said. “I know he is going to fold.” “When you have a fixer, you need two things, at least. You need a guy who is tough and you need a guy that is smart,” Avenatti said. “This guy is neither tough nor smart.”

Kim Jong-un says halted North Korean tests for now

Image copyright Getty Images Kim Jong-un’s announcement that North Korea is to halt nuclear and missile tests immediately comes as he prepares for two major diplomatic events. Analyst Ankit Panda asks what the North Korean leader hopes to gain with his latest move.

North Korea’s declaration will no doubt lead to effusive headlines touting an end to nuclear and long-range missile testing, but a look at the country’s historical record and the context of its nuclear and missiles programme suggests that we might temper our expectations. First, regarding nuclear testing, the statement released on Saturday makes clear that the reason Kim Jong-un is submitting voluntarily to a testing freeze and to the closing of the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site – the scene of all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests since 2006 – is because he feels that his country has mastered the design of nuclear weapons. Although difficult to verify, this claim is not obviously an exaggeration or unbelievable. Consider that India and Pakistan, by 1998, had each conducted six nuclear tests and are now counted among the pantheon of nuclear weapons possessors, without conducting further tests. North Korea, with an additional eight years of access to knowledge available in open source material concerning nuclear weapons design, can feel similarly comfortable with its six nuclear tests. On a more granular level, North Korea’s fifth and sixth nuclear tests – in September 2016 and 2017 respectively – marked important benchmarks. The September 2016 test, according to North Korean state media, involved a standardized and compact nuclear device, one that could be mounted on any of its various short, medium, intermediate, and intercontinental-range missiles (ICBMs). The bottom line is that just as Kim Jong-un’s recent trip to Beijing was a show of strength – a signal that he felt comfortable enough in his consolidated domestic power to leave North Korea – so too is the declaration of a nuclear test ban a sign that he feels renewed confidence. As long as North Korea hangs on to its missiles, it can break its self-imposed ban with little warning. In 1999, North Korea submitted to a missile testing moratorium, but that eventually broke down in 2006, a few years after the collapse of the 1994 Agreed Framework. In the end, what North Korea loses by demolishing its nuclear test site and submitting to a unilateral moratorium on ICBM launches is entirely tolerable compared to what Mr Kim gains by sitting alongside President Trump. North Korea’s announcement sounds like the declamations of a nuclear weapons state – one that has no intention of giving up those weapons which give the country its ultimate guarantee of survival. Even though President Trump has lauded Mr Kim’s move as “big progress,” the sooner he recognizes Kim’s ultimate objectives, the better. Nick Note: this is so stupid i can’t believe i am commenting on it. Of course he will stop testing. No need to test anymore once you know how to do it. Do you really believe kin Um Numchucks  is going to GIVE UP his ROCKETS and Nukes? Please give me a break. They know exactly how to  play Trump for the fool he is. Stroke his ego, give hmi  a headline and a golden shower!

 

Sessions warned White House he could quit if Trump fired Rosenstein: report

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned the White House recently that he could resign if President Trump were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  The Washington Post reported Friday that Sessions told White House counsel Don McGahn in a phone call last weekend that he could leave the Justice Department in the event of Rosenstein’s ouster. The phone call came amid a series of attacks on Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller by Trump, following the FBI raid of the home and office of his personal attorney Michael Cohen. His attacks have led to speculation that Trump may fire Rosenstein or Mueller. Rosenstein oversees the law enforcement investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller is carrying out that probe. In the phone call with McGahn, Sessions also asked for details of a meeting between Trump and Rosenstein that took place on April 12, and was reportedly relieved when he was told that the encounter was cordial, according to the Post. One person familiar with the phone call told the Post that Sessions did not intend to threaten his resignation, but simply wanted to express his concern that Rosenstein’s ouster would put him in a difficult position. Trump’s anger with Rosenstein and Mueller flared last week after news of the raid on Cohen’s home and office emerged. That raid was carried out after federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained a search warrant, based, in part, on a referral from Mueller. But the president reportedly backed away from the idea of firing Rosenstein and Mueller after the deputy attorney general told him in the White House meeting that he was not a target of Mueller’s investigation. The details of that meeting were reported Thursday by Bloomberg News. Trump has long bristled at the Russia investigation, insisting that there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow, and that the probe is a “witch hunt.”

Comey: Trump has ‘an emptiness inside of him and a hunger for affirmation’

Comey: Trump has 'an emptiness inside of him and a hunger for affirmation'
© Getty Images Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday night accused President Trump of having “an emptiness inside of him and a hunger for affirmation.”

“I think he has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult,” Comey told The New Yorker Editor David Remnick on stage at The Town Hall theater in Manhattan. “It’s all, ‘What will fill this hole?’” Comey’s media tour to promote his new memoir “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” has included stops at ABC’s “20/20” and “The View,” NBC’s “Today” show, CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” among other outlets. Comey continued his media blitz to promote his new book on Thursday at a town hall hosted by The New Yorker, where he told Remnick that he doesn’t “crave to be known.” Remnick also pressed Comey on a New York Times story that ran eight days before the 2016 election with the headline, “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” “Why would the FBI push that story on The New York Times a week before the election?” asked Remnick. “Yeah, that’s a hard one to answer. I don’t know who the FBI is in this context,” Comey replied. “You’re saying that the Times’s FBI sources on that story were wrong?” Remnick pressed. Comey, a likely witness for special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russia’s election meddling, including possible collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates, issued a disclaimer about what he was legally able to answer before replying. “At least with respect to what the goals of the Russian effort were, it’s just wrong,” Comey said. Regarding the closing and reopening of the FBI investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s handling of classified information before the 2016 election that at the time angered both sides of the political aisle, Comey said he felt “tremendous pain over the prospect that we played any role” in the election. But he added that he didn’t think he made any mistakes in handling the situation. Democrats in particular seethed when Comey reopened the case against Clinton on Oct. 28, 2016, and some have stated in several interviews this week that Comey should be investigated for his actions.

 

Fed’s Kashkari: Bond market is ‘yellow light flashing’ about a possible recession

Neel Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images Neel Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The bond market is indicating that the U.S. economy could be hovering around a recession, which in turn would mean that fewer interest rate hikes are needed ahead, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said Friday. A flattening yield curve, or a narrowing between yields of different maturities, is indicating to the central bank official that confidence is waning and the Fed may be near the end of its rate-hiking cycle.

“It’s at least a yellow light flashing” about a potential recession, Kashkari told CNBC’s Steve Liesman in a “Power Lunch” interview.

That phenomenon is happening even as Congress has cut taxes and President Donald Trump earlier this year signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill, both moves that should be accelerating growth and causing the curve to widen. “The fact that the yield curve is flattening into that is actually I think a sign that we may not be that far away from neutral,” or a rate that is neither stimulative nor restrictive,” Kashkari said. “Every time somebody says that this time is different, it makes me nervous. Still, Kashkari has softened his stance against Fed rate hikes. He voted against all three in 2017 but has been less opposed this year, though he is not a Federal Open Market Committee voter. Kashkari added that he is concerned about the potential for a trade war, though he still considers it “a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of action yet.”

Ex-Forbes reporter says Trump posed as executive, lied to him to crack Forbes 400 list

CNN Politics Trump's business empire

Washington (CNN)A former Forbes reporter claims that Donald Trump, before he was president, pretended to be a Trump Organization executive speaking on Trump’s behalf and then lied about his wealth in order to crack the Forbes 400 list. “He figured out what he had to do in order to deceive me and get onto that list. And he did it very well. And he maintained that persona of just sort of talking about his assets without any sense of debt and lying about it,” Jonathan Greenberg said in an interview Friday on CNN’s “New Day.” Greenberg broke the news in a Washington Post story. He wrote that when he was compiling the magazine’s list of the richest people in America in the 80s, Trump had called him posing as “John Barron,” a purported executive with The Trump

Organization.Greenberg said Trump’s actual net worth at the time as a real estate developer was less than $5 million, though the magazine had listed it as $100 million for its first-ever Forbes 400 list.

“He should never have been there in the first place,” said Greenberg, who provided an audio recording of a phone call between him and “Barron” that he recently discovered to CNN. Greenberg told CNN that Trump, as Barron, “lied” in saying Trump owned all of his father Fred’s assets, which he did not until his father died in 1999. The May 17, 1984, phone call from Barron came after Forbes had listed Trump’s holdings at $200 million in its previous edition, Greenberg wrote in the Post.
“Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump, and I’d like to talk to you off the record if I can, just to make your thing easier,” Trump, as Barron, is heard saying in the recording of his conversation with Greenberg. “I think you can really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it. I think last year someone showed me the article and he had two hundred and two hundred and the other’s been pretty well consolidated now for the most part.” Greenberger wrote in the Post that he decided to publish the off-the-record conversation because the “intent to deceive” released him from his “good-faith pledge.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. The Post reports that the White House declined to comment, and The Trump Organization did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
A similar recording of a man who sounds like Trump posing as his spokesman surfaced during the 2016 campaign. The Washington Post reported in May 2016 that Trump routinely made calls to reporters in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s posing as a publicist named John Miller or John Barron. Following the report, Trump denied it was him on the phone or that it sounded like him in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.

Trump Criticizes OPEC, Calling Oil Prices ‘Artificially’ High

President Trump boarding Air Force One at Palm Beach, Fla., criticized OPEC on Friday, arguing that it “artificially” raised oil prices. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

President Trump railed against the OPEC oil cartel on Friday, declaring that the group of oil producers had “artificially” raised oil prices and warning that such efforts would “not be accepted!” The president has frequently commented on financial markets, from stock market trends to the value of the dollar. But he has rarely commented on commodities, and oil in particular.

His remarks, which coincided with a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in the Saudi city of Jidda, came as oil prices are at their highest point in years. Prices for Brent crude, the international benchmark, were at $73.52 a barrel, near their highest level since late 2014.

Prices have risen in recent years as a result of a deal between the 14-member OPEC group of oil exporters and Russia that restrained production

The countries agreed in 2016 to lower their crude output, and the deal remains in place. Although oil prices remain well below the heights of more than $100 a barrel in 2014, they are still more than double their price two years ago. There is no doubt that the orchestrated output curbs led by major producers have contributed to those higher prices. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, Russia is a major non-OPEC oil power, and the greement has helped to ensure that a global oil glut that was depressing prices has reduced substantially. Geopolitical concerns are also coming into play. The oil industry of Venezuela, once a major OPEC producer, is near collapse, pulling down production there. There are also worries that Mr. Trump’s own threats to tear up the Iran nuclear deal will have an impact on Iranian supplies, which had increased. And worsening tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have added to traders’ concerns. But there are mitigating factors. Higher oil prices have spurred some suppliers to increase their production. In particular, shale oil producers in the United States have raised their output in recent months. These operators sharply cut production after prices crashed in 2014, but they have cut costs in the years since and streamlined their operations.

Comey: Trump was upset at Flynn for not telling him first post-inauguration call was from Putin

Comey: Trump was upset at Flynn for not telling him first post-inauguration call was from Putin

Comey claims in memos released Thursday that Trump was unhappy with his top aide after Flynn revealed the call during a conversation between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. The admission apparently happened right after Trump had thanked May for being the first foreign leader to offer a congratulatory call after Trump’s election victory. Flynn, according to the memos, then said Putin had called nearly a week beforehand. Trump’s anger with Flynn seemed to stem from his belief that six days, the length of time between the call and Flynn’s revelation, was too long to make it appropriate for the president to return the call, Comey wrote. “The guy has serious judgment issues,” Trump later told Comey of Flynn, according to the memos. Flynn was later fired for misleading Vice President Pence regarding his own communication with Russian officials, and has since pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI. Comey’s memos, which detailed his conversations with Trump that Comey has said made him feel uneasy, were supplied to Congress on Thursday as part of the investigation into possible misuse of authority at the FBI and Justice Department. Within hours, they had been posted in full online. The White House has responded to claims made by Comey in the book and subsequent interviews by accusing the former FBI chief of dishonesty and partisanship.

Trump’s Latest Plan for Saving Coal Comes from Truman Era

Image: Trump's Latest Plan for Saving Coal Comes from Truman Era
President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida,

Months into the Korean War, President Harry Truman capped wages and imposed price controls on the steel industry, seizing authority under a newly passed law to take action in the name of national defense. Now, more than a half century later, Trump administration officials are considering using the same statute to keep struggling coal and nuclear power plants online, according to four people familiar with the discussions who asked for anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Under the approach, the administration would invoke sweeping authority in the 68-year-old Defense Production Act, which allows the president to effectively nationalize private industry to ensure the U.S. has resources that could be needed amid a war or after a disaster.

“The security of our homeland is inextricably tied to the security of our energy supply,” Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said in a Wednesday letter urging President Donald Trump to employ the statute. “The ability to produce reliable electricity is critical to ensuring our nation’s security against the various threats facing us today — whether those threats be extreme weather events or adversarial foreign actors.”

Trump campaigned on a promise to bring back coal that is increasingly being edged out of the U.S. power market by cheap, cleaner-burning natural gas.

But the administration has struggled to find an approach that can survive scrutiny from the courts and independent energy regulators. A proposal to subsidize some power plants was unanimously rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January. And doubts have risen within the White House about a request by a FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary for the government to declare a grid emergency and guarantee profits for coal and nuclear plants using a legal authority generally reserved for emergencies such as war. Administration officials are researching the law that Truman invoked on behalf of steel as a possible alternative. The statute classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material” and gives the president wide latitude to protect providers, including by ordering businesses to accept contracts for materials and services. It was previously invoked in 2001 to keep natural gas flowing to California utilities to avoid electrical blackouts. By contrast, this would be an unprecedented use of the law more typically employed to invest in critical technologies used to develop advanced weapons. “This would extend the statute far beyond how it’s ever been used before,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard University. “This statute did not contemplate the sort of use that apparently now the administration is considering.” Nick Bit: talk about a act of  desperation!

Russia says it might not stay committed to the OPEC oil deal until the end

Russia may not support the ongoing oil supply-cutting deal led by OPEC until the end of the year, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told CNBC Friday.Russia energy minister says no rush to exit OPEC deal

OPEC, Russia and several other allied producers have spearheaded an ongoing effort to try to clear a global supply overhang and prop up prices. The agreement, which came into effect in January 2017, has already been extended through until the end of this year.  However, Russia might jump off before the expected end-date. “I cannot at the moment give you a precise answer because we do not have the full idea how the market is going to perform in the forthcoming months. We need to carry on monitoring the situation,” Novak told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick in Jeddah.  “I cannot tell unequivocally: yes or no, this would be too blunt,” he said. “We keep our options open in order to be able to take a more balanced decision based on more accurate data over a longer-term period.”

 

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak earlier this month.
Sergei Karpukhin | Reuters Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak earlier this month.
The agreement was initially brought forward to boost oil prices after years of stalled levels. Oil producing countries are set to meet in June to review the deal. Novak acknowledged that their agreement has worked, but there’s still more to be done.”Undoubtedly, the situation is much better than it was three months, half a year or a year ago, but the patient has not yet fully recovered,” he said.

“To continue with the metaphor: we have brought the temperature down but we have not seen a full recovery yet,” Novak added. The Russian minister explained that what will determine the future of the deal is the situation in the market. “I would like to emphasize once again that we need to proceed according to the market situation and we need to be confident that we have achieved a stable state of affairs,” he added. Earlier on Friday, the Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, Khalid al-Falih, told CNBC that it’s not mission accomplished yet for the oil producers. “We have to be patient. We shouldn’t jump the gun, we shouldn’t be complacent and listen to some of the noise such as ‘mission accomplished.’ I think we still have work ahead of us,” he said. The next key date is June, when ministers reconvene to asses the path forward for the oil deal.

Comey: Trump says Putin bragged about Russia having the ‘most beautiful hookers in the world’

Trump should learn from a pro.. He has given new meaning to the phrase:
Its Pissing Rain
“I have sinned against you, and I beg your forgiveness…. My sin was done in secret, and God has said to me, ‘I will do what I do before the whole world’…. I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgetfulness, never to be remembered against me, any more.”
President Trump once said Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that Russia has “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world,” according to memos written by former FBI Director James Comey.

The memos, which the Justice Department handed over to Congress on Thursday, are Comey’s account of several of his personal interactions with the president from before he was fired.  In one of the memos, dated Feb. 8, 2017, Comey writes that Trump “brought up the ‘Golden Showers thing,’ ” a reference to one of the salacious claims made in the so-called Steele dossier involving a trip to Moscow and Russian prostitutes. Trump denied the claims during his conversation with Comey, telling him that “ ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” according to the memo, but that “Putin had told him ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.’ ” He adds that Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment. In public comments in January 2017, Putin also refuted the claims made in the dossier, during which he said that Russian prostitutes are “the best in the world, of course,” according to the Telegraph.  Comey writes in his new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” about the claim made in this memo, writing that Trump said it bothered him if there was “even a one percent chance” that first lady Melania Trump believed the allegation. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told Comey in a phone call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to the book. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.”  The “golden showers” allegation, which first surfaced in the unverified dossier created by former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, claims Trump ordered two prostitutes to urinate on a bed once used by the Obamas at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. The comment by Trump allegedly came during the same conversation in which Trump told Comey he expected “loyalty.”

Comey memos detailing conversations of Trump meetings published

‘No adequate people around Trump to contain him,’ Comey says
 

Detailed notes by former FBI director James Comey documenting his conversations with US President Donald Trump have been published. The memos cover Mr Trump’s concerns about a lurid intelligence dossier and also go into the president’s relationship with the then National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Mr Trump said the published memos cleared him of wrongdoing. The partially redacted notes were handed to Congress on Thursday. They were requested by three Republican committee chairmen – Devin Nunes, Robert Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy – last week in the belief that their contents would prove allegations that Mr Trump had sought to obstruct justice were wrong. The allegations relate to comments made by Mr Comey in testimony to Congress that the president had asked him to “let go” of an investigation into Mr Flynn. In response, however, Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday that in his view, Mr Comey’s notes clearly show that there was no obstruction.

Details published in Mr Comey’s notes are consistent with allegations in his new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. In his memos, Mr Comey writes that he was asked by Mr Trump to drop an inquiry into links between Mr Flynn and Russia.

“I hope you can let this go,” Mr Trump is reported to have said after a White House meeting.

The memo was written immediately afterwards. Mr Trump is also disclosed to have told Mr Comey that he had reservations about Mr Flynn: “The guy has serious judgment issues.” Mr Flynn was forced to resign over charges that he had lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Other conversations documented in the memos include Mr Trump’s concerns over salacious allegations in an intelligence dossier. At a meeting in Trump Tower in New York just days before Mr Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, Mr Comey spoke alone with the then president-elect about details of an alleged 2013 encounter involving prostitutes in Moscow.

Mr Comey writes that he is taking the allegations seriously, adding that “portions of the material were corroborated by other intelligence”

The president and Mr Comey have been feuding for weeks. Mr Trump has referred to Mr Comey as “slippery” and a “slimeball” and the “worst FBI director in history”. He continues to attack him over his “many lies” – Mr Trump has even suggested he be jailed over his testimony to Congress. “Why did he lie to Congress (jail),” Mr Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “How come he gave up classified information (jail).” He has also criticised Mr Comey’s new memoir, saying the “badly reviewed book” raises “big questions”. Mr Trump sacked Mr Comey last year while he was leading an FBI investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

N.Y. / Region|New York Attorney General Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential Pardons

Credit Mike Groll/Associated Press

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday. The move, if approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, would serve notice that the legal troubles of the president and his aides may continue without the efforts of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Under the plan, Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, seeks to exempt New York’s double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. The current law and the concept of double jeopardy in general mean that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Right now, New York state law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. There are already a number of exceptions to the law, and the letter says that Mr. Schneiderman is proposing to add a new one that could be used if federal pardons are issued. Mr. Trump and Mr. Schneiderman have a contentious past. Mr. Schneiderman led a three-year investigation of Trump University that resulted in a $25 million settlement. For his part, the president has dubbed Mr. Schneiderman “the nation’s worst AG.” He has also called him a “lightweight” and a “total loser,” and even tweeted that he wore eyeliner. The proposal would be structured so that it would not affect people who sought clemency after long jail sentences, an aide to Mr. Schneiderman said. If the proposed law is passed, anyone indicted on state charges after being convicted in federal court and then pardoned would likely challenge the state law in court. But Mr. Schneiderman wrote in the letter that he and his advisers were confident the legislation would withstand any constitutional scrutiny. Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement provided by his office. “We must ensure that if the president, or any president, issues such pardons, we can use the full force of New York’s laws to bring such individuals to justice.”

IMF warns shadow banking poses high risk to China’s financial stability

Unregulated lending adding to massive debt levels and murky investment products sold by insurance sector also a threat, says US-based organisation

China has been urged by the International Monetary Fund to increase oversight of shadow banking from unregulated lenders and exercise tighter control of the fast growing insurance sector to address threats to its financial system.The IMF said unregulated lending risked adding to massive debt levels in China and that risky investment products are sold by the insurance sector which need far greater oversight from the authorities.  “The large-scale and opaque interconnections of the Chinese financial system continue to pose stability risks,” the Washington-based organisation said in a half-year report on global financial stability released on Wednesday. The IMF has long warned of China’s murky shadow banking activities and its threat to the financial system of the world’s second largest economy. The fresh warning came on the heels of Beijing’s reshuffle of its financial regulatory regime. This included the establishment of a Financial Stability and Development Commission and the merging of the banking and insurance regulators. A fresh team of government leaders has also been unveiled to oversee the finance sector. Vice-Premier Liu He, banking and insurance regulator Guo Shuqing and central bank governor Yi Gang have taken office to help clean-up the financial sector. China’s top leadership has prioritised financial risk prevention over the next three years. Efforts to reduce massive levels of debt have plunged the level of transactions between banks and brought on the first slowing in their balance sheets in years. “Despite these [derisking] efforts, vulnerabilities remain elevated. The use of leverage and liquidity transformation in risky investment products remains widespread, with risks residing in opaque corners of the financial system,” the report said. Beijing announced regulations in November to oversee the 100 trillion yuan (US$15.9 trillion) asset management sector, which was previously full of leveraged investments. China’s off-balance-sheet investment vehicles are largely funded through investment products, many sponsored by banks. Government policy measures, such as lowering economic growth targets, could also be used to reduce incentives to borrow excessively, the IMF said. China’s insurance companies’ assets are fairy small in the nation’s financial sector, but they have more than tripled in scale over the past seven years. The firms have invested aggressively at home and abroad through the sale of “universal life insurance” products to raises funds. Medium-sized and smaller insurers have invested more heavily and have a weaker capability to manage risks, while the size, complexity and interconnectedness of the big life insurers requires greater supervision and a framework to aid their recovery should one fail, the IMF said.

Is Fox News personality and Trump sympathiser Sean Hannity a journalist or not? There’s good reason for asking

The broadcaster often says there is a clear line between its news side and its opinion side, represented by hosts such as Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro

Sean Hannity is one of America’s most famous television personalities, a conservative opinion-slinger who regularly attracts more than 3 million viewers to his nightly prime-time Fox News show while also hosting a daily syndicated radio programme.But lately a kind of Talmudic question has swirled around Hannity: Is he a journalist? And if not, what is he?  The question is probably irrelevant to Hannity’s loyal fans, who tune in for his reliably fierce defence of President Donald Trump. But its importance rose anew on Monday when lawyers for Michael Cohen, the president’s beleaguered lawyer, revealed that Hannity was also one of Cohen’s clients, a fact Hannity never mentioned to his audience while denouncing a federal investigation into Cohen. (Hannity says he merely consulted Cohen and was never a client.)  Journalists are bound to recuse themselves from a story in which they have a personal stake, or at least to disclose their relationship with a person they’re covering or commenting about. Even Fox acknowledged it was blindsided by Hannity’s Cohen connection. The ethical obligations of a talk-show host, however, are considerably less fixed.

But Fox is not keen on declaring the latter group to be “journalists”. Asked repeatedly on Wednesday whether Fox considered Hannity a journalist, a network spokesman declined to answer directly. She would only allow that Hannity is “an opinion talk-show host”. Journalists at the network said they were angry and disappointed by Fox’s decision not to discipline Hannity this week over the Cohen controversy. They said another employee would very likely have been suspended or fired for not disclosing such a relationship with someone they’ve reported on.

Whether he is a journalist or not, experts agree Hannity had an obligation, if only as a broadcaster, to disclose his involvement with Cohen. “He has an audience, and he is bound as a broadcaster to be transparent with them,” said Susan King, a veteran television journalist who is now dean of the University of North Carolina’s journalism school. “He owes it to his audience to let them know when he is talking about something that impacts him directly.

Trump undercutting ambassador plays right into Comey’s tease about the worst Russia narrative

Top WH aide says Haley got 'ahead of the curve' with sanctions announcement
Top WH aide says Haley got ‘ahead of the curve’ with sanctions announcement

CNN)If there is one subject (just one!), on which, you’d think the President would be doing everything in his power to make sure the world knew he was tough, resolved and independent, it would be Russia. But the White House and the President continue to act on Russia and Vladimir Putin in a way that can only be described as strange. Everything Trump does on Russia is viewed through the smoke of the Russia investigation. Why then, in the days after fired FBI Director James Comey used innuendo to imply, without evidence, that maybe the Russians do have kompromat on the US President, would Trump undercut his own ambassador to the UN specifically on the subject of getting tough on Russia? On Sunday, Haley said new sanctions against Russia would be coming to target the companies that produced weapons of war for Syria. As CNN has reported, Haley and others walked away from a Friday meeting believing new sanctions against Russian entities tied to Syria were imminent. But by the time she went on TV Sunday and said the new sanctions were coming, the thinking at the White House had changed.  Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said clearly there was some confusion. Haley shot back in a statement that “I don’t get confused.” The New York Times reported that Trump saw Haley refer to sanctions on TV on Sunday morning and grew angry because he had made no decision about sanctions. But it’s clear that as of Friday Haley thought the sanctions were a done deal.  Haley dustup comes at an inopportune time for the President on Russia, after the fired and scorned former FBI director lit off a new smoke bomb on television and said maybe Russia does have compromising information about the President. Probably not. But maybe. “I think it’s possible, I don’t know,” he said to George Stephanopoulos’ question about whether Comey thinks the President has been compromised by the Russians. Russia have some, some sway over him that is rooted in his personal experience, and I don’t know whether that’s the business about the activity in a Moscow hotel room or finances or something else.” Comey.

James Comey: ‘It’s possible’ Russians have dirt on Trump
“Honestly, I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said in a clip of an interview with ABC News that aired last Friday on “Good Morning America.” “It’s possible, but I don’t know.  Comey: Trump won’t criticize Putin, even in private. So why they walk back Haley’s announcement about sanctions  unless it absolutely needed to be walked back and why not deal with it much more carefully? Certainly the White House is aware of the narrative about Trump and Russia. Why play into it? Trump has taken some token actions against Russia, including expelling Russian diplomats in tandem with European nations last month. Except it was later reported by The Washington Post that he was fuming after that move and felt misled by his national security team. His hard-to-follow policy in Syria and possible withdrawal of US troops there has Republicans like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker fretting about a vacuum for Russia to step in.

Oil’s ‘artificial’ surge to multi-year highs could spark a new crisis, economist warns

Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia's energy minister and president of OPEC, speaks as Alexander Novak, Russia's energy minister, left, listens during a news conference following the 172nd Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister and president of OPEC, speaks as Alexander Novak, Russia’s energy minister, left, listens during a news conference following the 172nd Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Oil prices soared to levels not seen since late 2014 on Thursday, following reports OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia would be content to see crude prices rally as high as $100 a barrel over the coming months.

“Oil prices are high because the dollar is low,” Daniel Lacalle, chief economist at Tressis Gestion, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Thursday. He went on to warn that “massive supply management” in the energy market was always likely to trigger an “artificial” upswing in oil prices. “That is a big concern … Because oil prices don’t generate crises; the abrupt and unexpected rise of oil prices creates crises,” Lacalle said. OPEC, Russia and several other allied producers have led an ongoing effort to try to clear a global supply overhang and prop up prices. The agreement, which came into effect in January 2017, has already been extended through until the end of this year — with producers scheduled to meet in June to review policy. The initial target of the supply-cutting deal was to reduce industrialized nations’ oil inventories back to their five-year average. Nonetheless, with several major global producers honing in on achieving their original aim, there is little indication from the world’s top exporter that it wishes to wind down the supply cuts In fact, Saudi Arabia is thought to be happy to see crude futures rally up to triple digits in the near term, according to a Reuters report citing three unnamed industry sources. The news prompted oil prices to surge to multi-year highs Thursday. Brent crude futures traded at $74.11 during mid-morning deals, up around 0.9 percent, while WTI was at $69.04, approximately 0.8 percent higher. Both benchmarks had peaked at their highest respective levels since late 2014 earlier in the session. Reports that Saudi Arabia could be supportive of a further uptick in oil prices comes at a time when the kingdom is undergoing final preparations for its planned sale of a minority stake in state oil company, Saudi Aramco. An initial public offering (IPO) for Aramco on a major international exchange was planned for this year, but is now widely expected to occur in 2019, following a listing on the domestic Tadawul exchange.

Saudi Arabia aims to raise about $100 billion and attract a valuation of $2 trillion in the offering, though other analysis suggests a $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion valuation is more likely.

The IPO is the cornerstone of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious effort to diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy. Meanwhile, OPEC and its partners are poised to meet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday. The 14-member oil cartel will then reconvene on June 22 to review to its oil production policy. Few market participants expect calls for an exit strategy to OPEC’s output cuts at either meeting.

75% of the ultra-rich forecast a US recession in the next two years, survey finds

People line up to receive a free meal at the St. Anthony foundation dining room in San Francisco, California (File photo).
Getty Images People line up to receive a free meal at the St. Anthony foundation dining room in San Francisco, California (File photo).

The U.S. economy is firing on all cylinders, yet 75 percent of ultra-high net worth investors predict it will hit recession by 2020, a J.P. Morgan survey found. Of those expecting an economic downturn in the U.S., a fifth of respondents — 21 percent — believe it will begin in 2019 and 50 percent expect the next recession to start in 2020. J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s Spring Investment Barometer, released this week, surveyed more than 700 global private clients across Europe and the Middle East. Ultra-high net worth individuals (HNWI) are generally classified as anyone with more than $30 million in liquid financial assets, and high-net worth is defined as having more than $1 million. The ominous predictions may come as a surprise to some, seeing as the U.S. is enjoying strong growth, robust corporate earnings and its lowest unemployment in 17 years. The International Monetary Fund recently upped its U.S. growth forecast for 2018 to 2.9 percent. J.P. Morgan’s Anthony Collard, head of U.K. and Nordic investments, said that while concern was evident among ultra-high net worth investors regarding America’s economic future, the bank does not see signs of it being close to a recession. “Until we see clear imbalances building, and policy approaching a point where it really constrains economic activity, we lean towards a view that the cycle will continue to expand,” he said. Economists like Carl Tannenbaum at the Chicago-based Northern Trust warn that growth will not keep pace with the U.S. budget deficit, which is set to top $1 trillion in the next two years. “Sometime in the next decade we’re going to have a recession which is really going to throw us off that trajectory,” he told CNBC this week. And billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates makes a similar prediction, though without a specific timeline. Asked in March if there would be another financial crisis like the one in 2008, Gates replied, “Yes. It is hard to say when but this is a certainty.”

Market observers also worry about the flattening of the yield curve. The short-term U.S. two-year Treasury yield is nearing that of the 10-year yield, rising to its highest level since 2008 this week. This typically triggers worries that a recession is on the horizon, since higher short-term yields suggest that inflation and interest rates are expected to remain low for a longer period.

Markets are expecting at least three interest rate hikes from the Fed this year.  “Following the first U.S. rate hike in March, we expect the Federal Reserve to raise its policy rate significantly this year,” said Collard. “We entered the year thinking that three 25 basis point hikes would occur in 2018, but four hikes could be possible under the right conditions.”

The typical Amazon worker made less than $30,000 in 2017

 Chief Executive Jeff Bezos made 59 times the median employee, Amazon discloses
Reuters Amazon employs workers in a variety of jobs, including at fulfillment centers.

The typical Amazon.com Inc. employee was paid less than $30,000 in 2017, the company disclosed Wednesday afternoon. In an annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon said its median employee brought home $28,446 in total compensation in 2017. That figure is much lower than other tech companies — Facebook Inc. for instance, recently disclosed a median salary of more than $240,000 — as well as United Parcel Service Inc., which reported median compensation of $53,433. In an email to MarketWatch, an Amazon spokeswoman pointed out that the compensation figures include a wide range of roles across many countries. “Amazon proudly employs over 560,000 people around the world. These roles range from associates working in our fulfillment centers to customer service representatives to software engineers and product managers,” the spokeswoman said. “We also offer employees a lot of flexibility, from part-time to seasonal to full-time. And we employ people in more than 50 countries — from the U.S. to Poland to India. Our median pay is across that entire range of our workforce — global, full and part-time, and every area of the company. In every country and every sector where we employee people, we offer highly competitive wage and benefits such as company stock, health insurance and retirement savings, innovative parental leave, and training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program.” Companies this year are reporting their CEO pay in relation to the compensation of a median worker for the first time as a result of a 2015 rule mandated by the Dodd-Frank act. Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos recorded total compensation of $1,681,840 in 2017, almost all of which is money paid for personal security — Bezos drew a salary of $81,840 and received no additional stock. Bezos’s compensation is 59 times the median Amazon worker’s. Amazon had about 566,000 employees as of the end of 2017, according to filings, 225,000 more than it reported at the end of 2016.

Trump declared he’s running again. Many Republicans aren’t ready to back him.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks to the media after a luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington in September 2016.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks to the media after a luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington in September 2016.

Washington (CNN)A wide array of House and Senate Republicans are not yet ready to endorse President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term, a reflection of the deep uncertainty on Capitol Hill over his political standing amid growing problems at home and abroad. In interviews with a cross-section of more than two dozen GOP lawmakers, ranging from rank-and-file members, conservatives and party leaders, many refused to say they’d back Trump’s re-election bid — a surprise declaration given that members of Congress are typically quick to endorse sitting presidents of their own party without hesitation. Hardly any would offer a categorical endorsement of the President. “I don’t know what the world is going to look like,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, when asked if he’d endorse Trump for re-election. “But let’s say it’s not something I’ve given any thought to.” Asked several days later if he had given thought to it, Cornyn demurred. “I haven’t even thought about that election,” said Cornyn, No. 2 in the Senate GOP conference. “I’m worried about the midterm election.” He’s not alone. Many lawmakers sought to avoid the topic altogether.”Look, I’m focused on opioids,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, the veteran Republican from Tennessee, referring to efforts in Congress to deal with the drug epidemic. “And I was just reelected myself three years ago. So, I’m focused on that.”

And others said they were still uncertain the President would ultimately stand for re-election — even though the White House and Trump himself have repeatedly said he would do so, as he’s hired a campaign manager, has been raising money and holding campaign rallies in anticipation of 2020.
Many Republicans have continuing uneasiness  over Trump’s presidency, and the lingering questions about how the multiple legal battles the President is facing — from the allegations of hush money to silence an alleged affair with the porn actress Stormy Daniels, the raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s properties and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — will eventually shake out. And they also contradict Trump’s oft-stated contention that the party has “never” been more united. Nick Bit: Trump will not be running for reelection! He may be running from criminal indictments thou after he is forced to resign!

Cohen Would Turn Against President if Charged, Counselor Warned Trump

Former prosecutor Jay Goldberg says he cautioned president that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, could be compelled to cooperate with prosecutors

Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer and confidante for President Donald Trump, leaving the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday.
Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer and confidante for President Donald Trump, leaving the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images By Joe Palazzolo,Michael Rothfeld and Michael Siconolfi

One of President Donald Trump’s longtime legal advisers said he warned the president in a phone call Friday that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and close friend, would turn against the president and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen is under criminal investigation for potential bank fraud and campaign-finance violations. FBI agents raided Mr. Cohen’s home, hotel and office last week, seeking documents.

Prosecuters, among other matters,  want to know about a $130,000 payment he made in October 2016 to a former adult-film actress to prevent her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006, The Wall Street Journal previously reported, citing people familiar with the matter.​Messrs. Trump and Cohen deny such an encounter occurred. Investigators are examining whether Mr. Cohen committed bank fraud in using a home-equity line of credit to pay the former porn star for her silence, as well as potential campaign-finance violations related to the payment, the people said.

“Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president.

.Mr. Goldberg said the volume of correspondence taken and the potential pressure the government can bring to bear on Mr. Cohen to testify put the president in more potential peril from the Cohen matter than from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Speaking from his experience as a prosecutor, he said even hardened organized-crime figures flip under pressure from the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Mr. Goldberg said. Mr. Goldberg, who is 85 years old and has practiced law for more than five decades, said he suggested that Mr. Trump add a well-known New York lawyer to his legal team. Mr. Goldberg declined to name the lawyer, but a person familiar with the matter said it was Frederick Hafetz, a former chief of the criminal division of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office. Nick Note: I must warn you again… Don’t let FOX sold out News fool you… and cost you your wealth. Trump is  Done… put a fork in him. Think the Dapper Don Gottie and Sammie the Bull. Cohen will flip on trump like Flipper the Dolphin at the water park! AND this will turn the coming recession into a full blow depression. You have been warned!

Fed’s Dudley: No more than four interest rate hikes this year

Nick Note: More then enough to bring on the next recession 
William C. Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
William C. Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The Federal Reserve remains on track to raise interest rates three or four times in 2018, but any more than that would be unlikely, New York Fed President William Dudley said Monday. Market speculation has intensified over how aggressive the central bank will be this year on its path to normalizing monetary policy. Current expectations are for three increases, though traders are watching the trajectory of economic growth and inflation. “Three or four seems like a reasonable expectation this year,” Dudley told CNBC’s Steve Liesman during a “Squawk on the Street” interview. “As long as inflation is relatively low, the Fed is going to be gradual. Now, if inflation were to go above 2 percent by an appreciable margin, then I think the gradual path might have to be altered.”  During its March meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee approved a quarter-point rate hike in its benchmark funds rate, bringing the target range to 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent. Market participants expect the Fed to move again in June and in September, but are pricing in just a 37 percent chance of a fourth increase by the end of the year. However, with signs showing that inflation is on the rise, there has been speculation that the Fed could get more aggressive. Nick Bit: Dudley went on to say he expects Fed Funds rate to hit 3% this year. this is a disaster for banks and for junk bond holders (mostly boomers) they do not realize the disaster that is just around the corner!

White House notifies Russia that no new sanctions are coming: report

White House notifies Russia that no new sanctions are coming: report
© Getty Images

The White House assured the Russian Embassy in Washington on Wednesday that there are no plans to slap additional sanctions on Moscow, the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported. But a State Department official disputed that report, telling The Hill that new sanctions are, in fact, still under consideration.  A White House spokesperson not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. The Russian Embassy also did not return a message from The Hill. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that President Trump planned to hit Russia with a new round of sanctions for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program. But the White House was quick to refute Haley’s claim. Trump was reportedly angered by Haley’s suggestion of new sanctions, according to The New York Times, and White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said that the U.N. ambassador “might have been some momentary confusion.” Haley responded to Kudlow’s suggestion on Tuesday, insisting that she doesn’t “get confused.” Kudlow later told The New York Times that he was wrong to say that Haley was confused, and that he had called her to apologize for his remarks.  Still, the spat between Haley and the White House highlighted a sense of confusion in an administration that has seen a particularly high rate of turnover, especially in recent weeks. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is still awaiting confirmation to become the next secretary of State, leaving the State Department without a permanent leader. And the National Security Council has seen the departure of several top officials in recent weeks, after John Bolton took over as Trump’s national security adviser.

Exclusive: OPEC’s new price hawk Saudi Arabia seeks oil as high as $100 – sources

 

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia would be happy to see crude rise to $80 or even $100 a barrel, three industry sources said, a sign Riyadh will seek no changes to an OPEC supply-cutting deal even though the agreement’s original target is within sight. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and several other producers began to reduce supply in January 2017 in an attempt to erase a glut. They have extended the pact until December 2018 and meet in June to review policy. OPEC is closing in on the original target of the pact – reducing industrialized nations’ oil inventories to their five-year average. There is no indication yet, however, that Saudi Arabia or its allies want to wind down the supply cut. Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has emerged as OPEC’s leading supporter of measures to boost prices, a change from its more moderate stance in earlier years. Iran, once a keen OPEC price hawk, now wants lower prices than Saudi Arabia. Industry sources have linked this shift in Saudi Arabia’s stance to its desire to support the valuation of state oil company Aramco ahead of the kingdom’s planned sale of a minority stake in an initial public offering. The supply cut has helped boost oil prices this year to $73 a barrel, the highest since November 2014. Oil began a slide from above $100 – a price that Saudi Arabia endorsed in 2012 – in mid-2014, when growing supply from rival sources such as U.S. shale began to swamp the market.

But the kingdom wants the rally to go further. Two industry sources said a desired crude price of $80 or even $100 was circulated by senior Saudi officials in closed-door briefings in recent weeks.

“We have come full circle,” a separate high-level industry source said of the change in Saudi thinking. “I would not be surprised if Saudi Arabia wanted oil at $100 until this IPO is out of the way.” The cuts have been even bigger than those specified in the deal, thanks in part to a slide in Venezuelan production due to an economic crisis in the South American country. Compliance has reached 150 percent, according to OPEC, meaning the organization’s members have cut production by about 1.8 million barrels per day, 600,000 bpd more than pledged. Few OPEC sources call for an exit strategy. Most officials are talking of introducing additional inventory metrics to assess the success of the deal, and of a need to support investment in new production to avert any supply crunch.

The impression is that oil prices are seen as not yet high enough to encourage sufficient oil investment.

“We will know what will be the good price when the market is balanced and we have enough investments,” the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister, Suhail al-Mazroui, told Reuters last week. “We need to have more investments coming.” Nick Bit: OPEC is making the same mistake again. Fracking is now profitable at $15 a barrel.And the Saudi crazy man Crown Prince Salaman has decided to go for broke. This will end in the biggest crash we have had yet in oil prices.

Starbucks to close all company-owned stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias education day

Starbucks to close stores to conduct racial-bias education
Starbucks to close stores to conduct racial-bias education

Starbucks said Tuesday it will be closing all of its company-owned restaurants in the U.S. during the afternoon of May 29 to conduct a racial-bias education program.”I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, said in a statement Tuesday. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.” Some 8,000 of the company’s U.S.-based locations will participate so that nearly 175,000 employees attend the training program that will address implicit bias, promote inclusion and help prevent discrimination. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer,” Howard Schultz, executive chairman for the brand, said in a statement. Starbucks will be working with Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League to create this program. Once the company has completed this training at its company-owned locations it will make it available to its licensed partners.

What’s in those seized records? Trump’s biggest new worry

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and his allies have hit a new level of anxiety after the raid on his personal attorney’s office, fearful of deeper exposure for Trump, his inner circle and his adult children — and more than concerned that they don’t know exactly what is in those records and electronic devices seized last week. There is also some worry that Michael Cohen, the self-described legal fixer who helped make bad stories go away and took a leading role in Trump Organization projects in foreign outposts, may strike a deal with prosecutors out of concern about his own prospects. The wild legal show continued to play out Monday, at a court hearing in New York before a federal judge who is considering what to do with the material that the FBI seized from Cohen.  Cohen was forced to reveal that another one of his clients is Fox News host Sean Hannity, a high-profile confidant of the president. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, appeared in court Monday for a hearing over whether prosecutors are allowed to see documents seized form his office last week. Trump left the White House for Florida, for a two-day summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Advisers are hoping the meeting will draw attention from the legal tempest in Washington and New York.   Cohen’s communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments he made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and to Daniels, both of whom allege relationships with Trump, people familiar with the raid told the Associated Press. The court proceedings Monday dealt with who gets to look at Cohen’s seized documents and devices before they are turned over to prosecutors. Though Cohen once said he “would take a bullet” for Trump, he is aware of the possible outcome — including potential prison time — and has expressed worry about his family, said a person who has spoken to the lawyer in recent days but is not authorized to discuss private conversations.  Trump’s moods have grown darker in recent days, as he lashes out at the “overreach” of the raid. Further angering the president is that the raid was triggered in part by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The raid was authorized by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

On Twitter Sunday, Trump said that all lawyers are now “deflated and concerned” by the FBI raid on Cohen, adding that “Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past.” Trump has also taken to downplaying Cohen’s role. Nick Note: Don’t cry Mr President it been gone since the drug wars got going good in the mid 1980’s

Many in the White House view the aftershocks of the Cohen raid as potentially more threatening than Mueller’s Russia probe, fearful of what skeletons may be in the lawyer’s closets, according to five officials and outside allies who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “I agree with the consensus forming that it’s very dangerous for the president, probably the most serious thing yet,” said Sol Wisenberg, a defense attorney who was a deputy independent counsel during the Starr special counsel investigation into Clinton. Trump’s anger at the probe has intensified, with him musing publicly about firing Mueller and the man who authorized the probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Those around Trump have hoped that this week’s visit to Mar-a-Lago, where he is generally happier, along with the tightly scheduled summit with Abe, would somewhat distract him from Cohen and from Comey’s ongoing publicity tour.  One recent presidential dinner guest was Hannity, a longtime Trump ally whose connection to Cohen shed more light on the attorney who was more than just a lawyer for Trump.

In South Korea, overseas cryptocurrency offerings skirt local clampdown

SEOUL (Reuters) – Six months after South Korea banned the issuance of new cryptocurrencies, they are starting to creep back into the country by using overseas listings for local trading. The country prohibited initial coin offerings (ICOs) starting in September. Soon afterward, South Korea’s financial regulator made it difficult to trade cryptocurrencies anonymously, and trading volumes in digital money such as bitcoin BTC=BTSP promptly collapsed in what had been their busiest market. Icon, a newly launched South Korean digital currency, is the market’s first attempt at changing that deadlock via a simple method: it was issued in Switzerland. Launched by DAYLI Financial Group, Icon is listed in Bithumb and Upbit, South Korea’s major cryptocurrency exchanges, and started trading on March 21. “Icon’s listing in local exchanges is significant itself as the coin is South Korea’s first platform coin,” built on code that can be used for other applications, said Park Nok-sun, a cryptocurrency analyst at NH Investment and Securities.Touted as Korea’s answer to the popular Ethereum cryptocurrency, Icon launched at a price of $0.11 and is now trading at 2,814 won ($2.64).  Kim Haw-joon, co-chief of the Korea Blockchain Association, predicted that local exchanges would begin handling more such foreign-issued cryptocurrencies as a way to reinvigorate cryptocurrency trading. Already, a dozen or so South Korean companies have done ICOs overseas. Hyundai BS&C, an affiliate of Hyundai Group, launched its own virtual coin, called Hdac, in Switzerland. Another is Medibloc, a token that was designed to redistribute scattered healthcare information. It attracted investment from healthcare industry officials and venture capital funds, raising $21.2 million, according to database ICO Drops. Choi Il-kyu, a 24-year old investor in Seoul, said Icon’s launch might be a turning point. “The cryptocurrency market’s future seemed unclear as the market has been constantly declining for the past few months. Such disappointment made me think maybe I should stop investing, and that’s when I found Icon,” Choi said. The Financial Supervisory Service, meanwhile, has asked South Korean companies to report on their overseas ICOs, but the regulator says it has no plans to more directly manage trading. The blockchain association’s Kim said the ban on local ICOs would push more companies to pursue the overseas route. But businesses that have done so say they wish there were an easier and cheaper way.  “We have to establish an overseas branch, hire workers there, spend a huge amount of money for all the paperwork needed, and often have to fly there to take care of things, making it just so inconvenient,” said Lee Eun-sol, 33-year-old co-founder of Medibloc. Nick Bit: for over 50 years the US fought a war on drugs. The fact Pot is becoming legal means they lost. The same with Bitcoin. Make it illegal and it will go underground. And it will beat the regulators. Regulate it now while you still can. Bitcoin will win because people want them. And weather it is legal or not is little more then a minor inconvenience.

Corporations will be incentivized to offshore jobs thanks to GOP tax bill

All while receiving massive tax windfalls.
Building are seen reflected on the exterior of a Bank of America Corp. branch in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Bank of America Corp. is scheduled to release earnings figures on January 17. Photographer: Daniel Tepper/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Saving American jobs from going overseas was the cornerstone of candidate Trump’s populist campaign for president. “We’re just shipping company after company after company is leaving this country and leaving jobs behind,” Trump said in March of 2016. “And I’m going to get it stopped.”In October of 2017, while the GOP tax bill was in its early stages, Trump announced he was looking into legislation that would actively punish companies that moved overseas. He told Forbes magazine that U.S. companies that move their operations to another country would “get penalized severely.” The Congressional Budget Office report released last week, however, suggests corporations may be incentivized under the legislation to offshore “tangible assets” like factories and offices. “By locating more tangible assets abroad, a corporation is able to reduce the amount of foreign income that is categorized as GILTI (Global Intangible Low Taxed Income),” the report said. “Similarly, by locating fewer tangible assets in the United States, a corporation can increase the amount of U.S. income that can be deducted as FDII (Foreign-Derived Intangible Income). Together, the provisions may increase corporations’ incentive to locate tangible assets abroad.”

The CBO findings echo analysis from non-partisan think tanks like the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which found that the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would make offshore tax dodging even worse than it was before.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities similarly found that the plan is “likely to lead to more outsourcing of U.S. jobs and a larger trade deficit” due to its tax
cuts for overseas profits.

“The new law gives companies an annual deduction on their offshore earnings worth 10 percent of their offshore tangible assets (such as factories). This means that companies with $100 million worth of tangible assets offshore would pay nothing in U.S. taxes on the first $10 million worth of profits they earn,” according to the ITEP report. “Because the size of the deduction depends on the amount invested offshore, this new break creates a unique incentive for companies to move real investments offshore to boost the size of their deduction.”

Additionally, the GOP tax bill allows companies to deduct half of their offshore income earned above 10 percent of the company’s tangible assets.

In short, both of these tax breaks will result in offshore earnings from companies being taxed at half the rate of domestic earnings, with many companies paying nothing in U.S. taxes on these earnings.

According to the most recent quarterly reports, Bank of America’s first quarter profits rose by 30 percent thanks to the new tax bill. Three major U.S. banks, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and CitiGroup, appeared to have saved roughly $1.6 billion in the first quarter.

Banks could increase their savings even more by continuing to quietly offshore jobs, something they have already been doing for years. A March 2018 report by the Communication Workers of America outlined how the banking industry is one of the leading practitioners when it comes to offshoring jobs to low wage countries, particularly call center and customer service jobs. The number of support staff in India for four U.S. investment banks,  Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citi, rose 50 percent between 2008 and 2015 to more than 12,500.

Comey speculates Russians may have damaging info on Trump

Comey speculates Russians may have damaging info on Trump
In this image released by ABC News, correspondent George Stephanopoulos, left, appears with former FBI director James Comey for a taped interview that will air during a primetime “20/20” special on Sunday, April 15, 2018 on the ABC Television Network. Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” will be released on Tuesday. (Ralph Alswang/ABC via AP)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — In his scathing appraisal of the man who fired him as FBI chief, James Comey cited “some evidence of obstruction of justice” in President Donald Trump’s actions and speculated that Russians might have dirt on the president. Comey’s in  his forthcoming book, offer his version of events surrounding his firing and the investigations into Russian election meddling and Clinton’s email practices. Several of the episodes he describes in detail, including a private conversation about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, are central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and his recollections are presumably valuable for prosecutors examining whether the president’s actions constitute obstruction of justice.

The ex-FBI director, who until his firing in May led an investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, acknowledged that it was “stunning” to think that Russia could have damaging information about a U.S. president. But he said that in Trump’s case, he could not discount the possibility that the president had been compromised.

“These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible,” Comey told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos. He also acknowledged he had no proof that Russia has dirt on Trump: “I think it’s possible. I don’t know.” He also answered “possibly” when asked if the president was attempting to obstruct justice when he cleared the Oval Office of other officials in February 2017 before encouraging him to close the investigation into Flynn, who by that point was suspected of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. The retired general pleaded guilty in December and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. Comey also said he believed Trump treated women like “pieces of meat.” “A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Comey said. Trump fired Comey in May 2017, setting off a scramble at the Justice Department that led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

Mueller’s probe has expanded to include whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. So far, 19 people — including Flynn and Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort —have been charged in the investigation. Flynn and two of the president’s campaign aides, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller.

Asked whether he believed Trump ought to be impeached, Comey replied, “I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.” He added: “But you cannot have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and independents treasure. That is the core of this country. That’s our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would short circuit that.”

Catherine Lucey and Eric Tucker, Associated Press

Trump’s personal lawyer coughs up name of mystery client: Sean Hannity

The Sean Hannity Show host was recently accused of sexual harassment by former Fox News guest Debbie Schlussel, who claimed the political pundit wanted to mix business with pleasure when they appeared together for one of his programs.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – As adult-film actress Stormy Daniels looked on, a federal judge ordered U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen to cough up the name of client he had hoped to keep secret at a Monday court hearing: Sean Hannity is a conservative television host known for passionately advocating for Trump on his Fox News show, and often receiving public praise from Trump in return. Calls to a Fox News spokeswoman were not immediately returned. Cohen, Trump’s fiercely loyal and pugnacious lawyer, was in court to ask a judge to limit the ability of federal prosecutors to review documents seized as part of a criminal investigation. The investigation has frustrated the White House as it has spread to enfold some of Trump’s closest confidantes.But in the background, Cohen also had to contend with Daniels’ efforts to keep attention on her story, relating to what she says is a past affair with Trump. Daniels is engaged in a separate civil legal fight over $130,000 she received in a 2016 agreement arranged by Cohen to stop her from discussing a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade earlier. Cohen has argued that some of the documents and data seized in last week’s raids are protected by attorney-client privilege or otherwise unconnected to the investigation. But Judge Kimba Wood rejected his efforts to mask the identity of Hannity, a client Cohen had said wanted to avoid publicity.

 “I understand if he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough under the law,” Wood said, before ordering a lawyer for Cohen to disclose the name.

Cohen has asked the court to give his own lawyers the first look at the seized materials so they can identify documents that are protected by attorney-client privilege. Failing that, they want the court to appoint an independent official known as a special master, a role typically filled by a lawyer, to go through the documents and electronic data seized under a warrant and decide what prosecutors can see.Prosecutors have asked that the documents be reviewed for attorney-client privilege by a “filter team” of lawyers within their own office, who would be walled off from the main prosecution team.  A lawyer for Trump, Joanna Hendon, asked in a filing on Sunday to be allowed to review documents that in any way relate to the president, which she described as being seized amid a “highly politicized, even fevered, atmosphere.” She also appeared in court on Monday. A person familiar with the raids said last week that the information Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were seeking included information about payments to Daniels. Reporting by Brendan Pierson, Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel in New York, Writing by Jonathan Allen, Editing by Susan Thomas and Rosalba O’Brien

Trump hits China for currency devaluation, countering Treasury report

Trump hits China for currency devaluation, countering Treasury report
© Getty Images
Trump said on Twitter that both China and Russia “are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. “Not acceptable!” the president tweeted.

Trump’s comments came just three days after the Treasury Department declined to label China a currency manipulator despite the president’s repeated campaign promises to do so. Treasury’s twice-yearly report on foreign currency exchange, released Friday, rebuked China for not doing enough to balance its trade surplus with the U.S. But Treasury did not find that China was devaluing its currency, called the renminbi. Treasury’s report is the third consecutive analysis released during the Trump presidency to avoid labeling China a currency manipulator. Beijing has been frequently criticized by Western economic powers for taking measures to deflate the renminbi, meant to lower the prices of Chinese goods while encouraging outside investment. The report does not address Russia’s economic policies in depth. The Russian economy is far smaller, less influential and less integrated into U.S. markets than China’s. Trump has routinely accused China of manipulating its currency, undercutting American manufacturers, violating trade laws and cheating U.S. politicians and companies. The president has announced $50 billion in tariffs against Chinese imports to the U.S. and has threatened to impose another $100 billion. China has promised to fight back with its own tariffs on U.S. goods. Investors are fearful that trade tensions with China and rising Federal Reserve interest rates could suppress economic growth and let more steam out of the volatile stock market. The Fed raised interest rates once this year and three times in 2017 with the hopes of avoiding an abrupt and damaging end to the recovery from the 2008 recession. With unemployment near record lows, stable economic growth and signs of rising inflation, the Fed is looking to bring interest rates toward historic neutral levels without short-circuiting the economy. The Fed is expected to raise rates at least two more times for a total of three hikes in 2018. But a growing number of Fed officials and analysts expect a fourth rate hike as inflation begins to reach the Fed’s ideal target. Raising rates too quickly could cut off job gains and economic growth, while waiting too long could risk overheating the economy and triggering rampant inflation.

Oil prices drop as fears wane about fallout from Syria strikes

FILE PHOTO: Oil barrels are pictured at the site of Canadian group Vermilion Energy in Parentis-en-Born, France, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil eased on Monday after U.S. drilling activity rose and fears waned about escalating tensions in the Middle East following air strikes on Syria over the weekend. The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles on Saturday, targeting what they said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack on April 7. The oil price had risen nearly 10 percent in the run-up to the strikes, as investors bulked up on assets, such as gold or U.S. Treasuries, that can shield against geopolitical risks.

By 1140 GMT on Monday, Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were down 83 cents at $71.75 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures CLc1 were down 78 cents at $66.61 a barrel.

“As far as developments in Syria are concerned, the market has had a sigh of relief in the sense that there is no escalation, either diplomatically, or on the ground, following the intervention by the U.S., France and the UK,” said BNP Paribas global head of commodity market strategy Harry Tchilinguirian.“As a macro asset-allocator, if you want to hedge your portfolio against geopolitical risk, your prime candidate is oil, especially if that risk is in the Middle East.” Although Syria itself is not a significant oil producer, the wider Middle East is the world’s most important crude exporter and tension in the region tends to put oil markets on edge. “Investors continued to worry about the impact of a wider conflict in the Middle East,” ANZ bank said.

Fund managers hold more Brent futures and options than at any time since records began in 2011, according to data from the InterContinental Exchange.

Investors have added to their bullish positions in Brent, which now equal nearly 640 million barrels of oil, in nine out of the last 10 months, in part thanks to the premium of the front-month futures contract over those for delivery at a later date, known as “backwardation”. Backwardation makes it profitable to retain a bullish position in oil futures. Aside from a flurry of profit-taking after the air strikes, oil also came under some pressure from another rise in U.S. drilling activity. U.S. energy companies added seven rigs in the week to April 13, bringing the total to 815, the highest since March 2015, and nearly 20 percent higher than a year ago, services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday. Despite this, Brent is still up more than 16 percent from its 2018 low in February.

Britain’s biggest carmaker cuts 1,000 jobs

Jaguar Land Rover factory 01
Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s biggest auto manufacturer, is cutting jobs at a factory in Birmingham.
The UK’s biggest auto manufacturer — Jaguar Land Rover — is cutting 1,000 jobs in its home market as Brexit and slumping sales hit the quintessentially British brand. Jaguar Land Rover — which is owned by India’s Tata Motors — employs about 40,000 workers in the UK who produce over 500,000 vehicles a year. The company is cutting the jobs at a factory in Birmingham that manufactures the Jaguar F-Pace along with the Land Rover Discovery and various Range Rover models. It said that a sharp decline in British car sales caused by a loss of consumer confidence contributed to the decision. Jaguar Land Rover’s UK sales in March were down 26% compared to the same month last year. Car sales across the industry were down nearly 16%.

Brits have cut back on big-ticket purchases as their wages have been squeezed by a rise in inflation, a side effect of the Brexit referendum in 2016. A sharp drop in the pound following the vote made imported products more expensive and ultimately caused inflation to spike above 3%

Demand for Jaguar Land Rover cars has also fallen in Europe due to fallout from the diesel emissions scandal.

Jaguar Land Rover pointed out that “the huge drop in demand in diesels” led to its decision not to renew the contracts of 1,000 workers. European governments are looking to clamp down on diesel sales after an outcry over the environmental damage caused by the engines. This has even led to calls for bans on heavily polluting diesel cars in some cities. Drivers are holding off buying new diesel cars as they await clear government guidance on the future. Auto makers are concerned that Brexit could lead to new tariffs, taxes and transit slowdowns at the UK border. “A final deal that keeps our frictionless trade links with our biggest market, the EU … is now a pressing priority,” Mike Hawes, the head of the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said in a statement last month.

Comey in ABC interview: Trump is ‘morally unfit to be president’

Former FBI director says he can’t rule out Russian blackmail
Reuters Former FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in June 2017.

Former FBI Director James Comey said President Donald Trump is not fit for the Oval Office, and can’t rule out that the Russians may have blackmail material that they’re holding against him.

“He is morally unfit to be president.”

James Comey

In a wide-ranging interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos that aired in a primetime special Sunday night, Comey went into great detail about the investigation into Hilary Clinton’s emails that led up to the election, and his dealings with Trump after he took office. It was his first televised interview since Trump fired him last May. Many of Comey’s comments — such as calling Trump a habitual liar and comparing him to a mob boss — were consistent with excerpts released last week from Comey’s upcoming tell-all book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which will be released Tuesday. It is already No. 1 on Amazon.com Inc.’s   bestseller list. In Sunday’s interview on Walt Disney Co.’s  ABC, Comey added that Trump treated women like “meat” and was a “stain” on those around him, and was not morally fit to lead the country. “Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey said, according to a transcript of the interview. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.” However, Comey said he does not think Trump should be impeached, because that “would let the American people off the hook.” Instead, “people in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values,” he said.

Comey said he was “mystified” why Trump refused to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, even in private, especially after the abundance of evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Comey said it’s possible the Russians “have something” on Trump. “I think it’s possible,”he said. “I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible. . . .

It is stunning and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just … it’s the truth. I cannot say that. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I woulda been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible.”

White collar lawyer declines opportunity to join Trump’s legal team

  A white collar lawyer has reportedly declined the chance to serve on President Trump‘s legal team.

 

CNN reported New York attorney Steven Molo — a former special prosecutor who specializes in white collar defense — was contacted by people close to Trump. Molo declined the offer due to an unidentified conflict. “I regret a current conflict related to the investigation prevents me from representing the President at this time,” Molo told CNN. Multiple lawyers have turned down opportunities to represent Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Last month, Tom Buchanan and Dan Webb, who are partners at Winston & Strawn, said the president reached out to them to see if they would join his legal team. They turned down the offer, citing business conflicts.  Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson also turned down an offer to join the team.  One of Trump’s attorneys, John Dowd, abruptly resigned from his legal team last month. Trump in recent weeks has been ramping up his attacks on the Russia investigation. After the FBI raided the office and home of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the president publicly discussed the idea of firing Mueller, saying “many people have said” he should fire the special counsel. Legal experts say Trump cannot directly fire the special counsel, who reports to the Justice Department and specifically Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Russia starts blocking Telegram messenger: regulator

The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this picture illustration taken April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s state telecommunications regulator said on Monday it had begun blocking access to messenger service Telegram after the service’s owner refused to comply with an order to give Russian state security access to users’ secret messages. The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement on its website that it had sent telecoms operators a notification about blocking access to Telegram inside Russia The service, set up by a Russian entrepreneur, has more than 200 million global users and is ranked as the world’s ninth most popular mobile messaging app. Interfax news agency quoted an official at the watchdog as saying it would take several hours to complete the operation to block access. In Moscow, the Telegram app was still functioning as normal early on Monday afternoon.Roskomnadzor was implementing a decision handed down on Friday by a Russian court that Telegram should be blocked because it was in violation of Russian regulations.  Telegram had refused a request by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to give them access to users’ encrypted messages.The FSB has said it needs access to the messages for its work, which includes guarding against terrorist attacks. But Telegram said to comply would violate users’ privacy. Telegram’s founder and CEO, Pavel Durov, was a pioneer of social media in Russia but left the country in 2014. He has since been a vocal critic of the Kremlin’s policies on Internet freedom.  Telegram is widely used in countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East. As well as being popular with journalists and members of Russia’s political opposition, Telegram is also used by the Kremlin to communicate with reporters and arrange regular conference calls with President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.On Monday, the spokesman’s office asked journalists who were previously subscribed to a chat in Telegram to switch to a chat that had been set up in a different messaging service, ICQ, which is part of the Russian mail.ru technology group.

Trump lawyer arranged $1.6 million payoff to Playboy Playmate for Republican fundraiser: source

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer arranged for a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy Playmate to keep secret her sexual relationship with Republican fundraiser and Trump ally Elliott Broidy, during which she became pregnant, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday. Michael Cohen, whose home and office were raided this week by FBI agents searching in part for information about payoffs to women alleging sexual encounters with Trump, handled the matter on behalf of Broidy. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was confirming a report by the Wall Street Journal. The woman’s name has not been made public and the source declined to disclose it. Cohen has been at the center of a controversy over a $130,000 payment he has admitted making shortly before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has said that she had sex once with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it.

A former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, has described having a 10-month affair with Trump, which the White House has said Trump denies. McDougal said her lawyer at the time secretly negotiated with Cohen on a deal with American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer, which paid her $150,000 in 2016 to keep quiet.

Broidy acknowledged in an emailed statement on Friday that he had a relationship with a Playboy Playmate and offered to help her financially after she told him she was pregnant.

“She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period. We have not spoken since that time,” Broidy said in the statement. Broidy, a former national vice chair of the Trump campaign, resigned on Friday as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, according to a person familiar with that matter. Broidy said Cohen reached out to him after being contacted by the woman’s attorney, Keith Davidson. Broidy said he retained Cohen because Cohen had a prior relationship with Davidson. Cohen and Davidson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Cohen used the same pseudonyms in a non-disclosure agreement between Broidy and the Playmate that he used in a similar agreement that involved Trump and Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. In this case, Broidy was known as David Dennison and the Playboy model was described as Peggy Peterson. Broidy agreed to pay the $1.6 million over two years, and completed the first installment in December, the person said. The news is the latest damaging revelation about Broidy. He filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court last month, accusing the Gulf nation of Qatar of stealing and leaking emails to reporters in retribution for Broidy’s attempts to influence the Trump administration in favor of regional rivals of Qatar. Broidy pleaded guilty in 2009 in New York as part of a “pay-to-play” scheme involving the state pension fund. In that case, he admitted he made nearly $1 million in gifts for New York state pension fund officials. Markstone Capital Partners, a private equity firm he founded, received $250 million of pension fund money to manage. His felony was later reduced to a misdemeanor, and he was spared jail time, but paid $18 million to the state in restitution.

NYT: Trump confidants see Cohen probe as bigger threat to Trump than Mueller probe

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump’s confidants see the criminal investigation into Michael Cohen as a bigger threat to Trump than the special counsel investigation, The New York Times reported Friday, citing several people close to the President. According to The Times report, both Trump’s and Cohen’s legal teams on Friday were assessing the damage from documents obtained in a raid on Cohen’s home and office Monday. Trump spoke with Cohen, his personal attorney, on Friday over the phone, a source with knowledge of the matter confirmed to CNN. One source familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN that a week ago, the President was sanguine and in a decent mood, believing he had finally wrested control of the White House. However, the source said the President is now angry, “flailing and upset.” The source added that Trump is upset beyond anything he has witnessed so far in the administration, and that the Cohen raid was a tipping point. The source called it akin to a “final blow” for Trump, and said the President’s anger is “beyond what anyone can imagine.” Another source who has spoken with the President said he’s becoming “unmanageable,” and that he is in a “lash out” mode. The source pointed out that the only two people who know if there is anything there are the President and Cohen. Cohen’s tumultuous week began with federal investigators raiding his home and office on Monday. On Friday, the Department of Justice announced Cohen had been under criminal investigation for several months in New York over his business dealings. Lawyers for Cohen attempted to block federal prosecutors from using some of the recordings they seized by filing a temporary restraining order. However, the US attorney in New York asserted the raids had been authorized by a federal judge to seek evidence of conduct “for which Cohen is under criminal investigation.” Cohen has not been charged with a crime. The special counsel investigation is being run by Robert Mueller, who is looking at Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This includes investigating any potential ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia. The President has repeatedly denied collusion.

Exclusive: FBI seized recordings between Trump’s lawyer and Stormy Daniels’ former lawyer

Trump called attorney Michael Cohen on Friday

(CNN)The FBI seized recordings President Donald Trump’s attorney made of his conversations with a lawyer representing two women who had alleged affairs with Trump, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN. The recordings could prove valuable to the government’s criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. The President’s personal attorney is under scrutiny in part for his role in seeking to suppress the alleged affair through a hush deal with porn star Stormy Daniels. The warrant sought information about that payment along with any information that connected Cohen with efforts to suppress disclosure of Trump’s alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal. The warrant for the raids also specified that Cohen was being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance issues, CNN reported earlier this week. Trump called attorney Michael Cohen on Friday  While Cohen has admitted to no wrongdoing, the intensity of the government’s investigation will put significant pressure on one of the President’s closest confidants. If Cohen chooses to cooperate rather than fight a potential case against him, then his knowledge about the President’s activities could create serious problems for Trump as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation.

The source said Cohen recorded some calls he had with attorney Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both Daniels and McDougal. Davidson no longer represents either woman. Their deals to keep their stories about alleged affairs quiet are now the subject of litigation, with each seeking to be released from their agreements.
Another source tells CNN that in at least one conversation between the two men, “Cohen was being unusually simplistic, like he had bullet points that he was reading from to try and make himself look good. He was trying to clarify the timeline of the agreements made with Davidson in his (Cohen’s) favor.” Michael Cohen facilitated $1.6 million agreement on behalf of GOP fundraiser
“Attorney Davidson never consented to any recordings of his conversations with Mr. Cohen. If they in fact do exist, Attorney Davidson will pursue all his legal rights under the law,” Dave Wedge, a spokesman for Davidson, said. Recording phone conversations without the consent of both parties could be a legal issue if Davidson was in a state that has such laws, like California.  Prosecutors are “going to be very excited at the prospect of having an independent means of corroborating what was said between the two parties,” CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin said. “If all that stuff gets recorded, then they are in deep hurt because if it was just oral between them, it could be a conspiracy of liars but the tapes undermine that.” In an exclusive interview with CNN last month, Davidson described several calls he had with Cohen about striking a deal for Daniels to keep her story quiet. Davidson also said he was contacted in recent weeks by Cohen, who encouraged him to go out and reveal what he knew about his clients and their agreements. Davidson said Cohen argued that the women had waived attorney-client privilege by going public with their stories. “He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts,” Davidson said. There was no discussion of recordings during a court hearing on Friday to argue over Cohen’s filing of a temporary restraining order that seeks to suppress the evidence gathered in the raid.
The Davidson recordings may not be the only conversations the FBI gathered in the raid. Cohen often recorded telephone conversations both before and during the 2016 presidential campaign that also could have been scooped up in the FBI raid on his apartment, office and hotel room, sources told CNN. One source said Cohen played to Trump and some associates conversations that he had with political and media figures during the exploratory part of the campaign.

Huge rally in Barcelona to demand jailed separatists go free

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Catalan separatists rallied in downtown Barcelona on Sunday to demand the release of high-profile secessionist leaders being held in pre-trial detention. Protesters waved Catalan separatist flags behind a huge banner that read “for rights and liberties, for democracy and unity, we want them back home!” The demonstration was organized by two pro-independence grassroots groups, the National Catalan Assembly and Omnium, whose presidents are among the nine separatists in prison awaiting trial for their roles in last year’s failed breakaway bid by the northeastern Spanish region. The regional chapters of Spain’s two leading labor unions, along with other civil society groups, supported the protest despite the complaints from some members who don’t want secession for Catalonia. Barcelona police said 315,000 people participated in the protest. “The majority of Catalans, regardless of their political position, agree that pre-trial jail is not justified,” said regional UGT union leader Camil Ros. “What we as labor unions are asking for now is dialogue.” The secession movement in the wealthy region has plunged Spain into its deepest institutional crisis in decades. Separatist lawmakers defied court orders and held an ad-hoc referendum on independence in October. Their subsequent declaration of independence for the region led to a crackdown by Spanish authorities acting to defend the Spanish Constitution, which declares the nation “indivisible.” Pro-independence parties retained a slim majority in Catalonia’s parliament after an election in December, but courts have blocked their attempts to elect as regional chief any lawmaker who is either behind bars or has fled the country. The latest opinion poll published by the Catalan government in February said that support for independence had decreased to 40 percent from near 49 percent in October. The poll surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

US claims on setting back Syria chemical weapons capability likely exaggerated, say experts

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Getty Images Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia.
President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon claimed Saturday the U.S.-led attack on Syria set back regime’s chemical weapons program “for years,” but experts contend those assertions may be exaggerated. Defense analysts that spoke to CNBC suggested that some of the dangerous material is probably still available, or relatively easy to reproduce.

“The damage assessment is suspiciously quick.” said Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official who is an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

President Donald Trump ordered the military intervention as punishment for Syria unleashing chemical weapons April 7 in the rebel-held town of Douma that killed more than 40 people. In a Pentagon press briefing Saturday, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said the three facilities targeted in the coordinated operation with allies were “fundamental components of the regime’s chemical weapons warfare infrastructure.” Officials expressed confidence that much of the country’s illicit arsenal had been degraded by the strike, with McKenzie stating it was “going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years.” Yet defense veterans expressed doubts.

“That claim that Syria was set back for years is pure PR,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a former U.S. defense official and now the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

According to Lewis, the Department of Defense’s “battle damage assessments are never that strong, especially not this fast and from afar. They can hope that they’ve set back the program for a years, but its more likely that the setback is more modest.” And despite the president’s claims of the mission having been accomplished, Lewis suggested that the intervention in Syria had a certain air of futility. “This is starting to become like mowing the lawn. They gas civilians, we strike them, they do it again,” he said. “As important as the hardware and software are, unless you kill the wetware, ‘years’ is probably an exaggeration,” CSIS’s Cordesman noted. Experts noted it would be difficult for the U.S. coalition to completely knock out Syria’s chemical weapon arsenal, or to fully disable the regime’s ability to produce lethal agents. They suggest Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons — from nerve agents such as sarin and VX to chlorine and mustard gases — are spread around more than three dozen locations.

Trump approval declines, and Democrats have big enthusiasm edge over GOP for midterm elections: NBC/WSJ poll

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C

President Donald Trump’s approval rating declined in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, and Democrats are showing more enthusiasm for voting this fall than Republicans.

Among all adults in the survey, 39 percent approved of Trump’s performance, down four points from last month. Fifty-seven percent disapproved of how the president is doing. Forty-four percent strongly disapproved, while 22 percent strongly approved.

There are warning signs for the president in the internal numbers as well, as his core constituencies back away from him a bit. Trump’s approval rating is 79 percent among Republicans, but that represents a five-point decline from last month. Forty-six percent of white voters view Trump’s job favorably, down four points since March. The president had the approval of 50 percent of men last month, but that slipped to 45 percent in April. Thirty-four percent of women approve of Trump’s performance. In one somewhat bright spot for Trump, 36 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 said they approved of his performance – a five-point boost from April. Yet his approval rating among independents is now 38 percent, which is seven points lower than last month’s results. “2018 is shaping up as a referendum on President Donald Trump,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart of Hart Research Associates, who conducted the poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, told NBC News.

Democrats have a seven-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot for this fall’s midterm elections, the poll said, while Democrats have much more intense enthusiasm heading into the pivotal contests.

The poll showed voters favor Democrats by a 47-40 edge on the generic ballot, which is down from a 50-40 lead Democrats had in March. Democrats need to flip 23 seats this fall to secure a majority. However, 66 percent of Democratic voters have a high level of interest in voting this fall, while 49 percent of Republicans do. A high level of interest is marked by a score of 9 or 10 on 10-point scale. The percentages are reminiscent of the last time a president was facing intense opposition during his first term. Data from NBC/WSJ polling in 2010, when Republicans seized the majority in the House during President Barack Obama’s first term, showed that 66 percent of GOP voters had a high level of interest, while 49 percent of Democrats said as much. The poll was conducted April 8-11 of 900 adults – including nearly half by cell phone. It has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points. The margin of error for the 720 registered voters in the poll is plus-minus 3.7 percentage points.

 

Chaos, consultation: Inside Trump’s decision to strike Syria

By CATHERINE LUCEY AND JILL COLVIN
 WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in his presidency, President Donald Trump stared, horrified at pictures of children killed in a chemical attack in Syria. And for the second time in his presidency, those visceral images helped propel Trump toward military strikes in a country he sees as a trap for the United States. At times, the lead-up to Friday’s strikes was orderly — a traditional decision-making process for an unconventional president. He sought the input of national security advisers and convened Situation Room meetings. He consulted with allies, who shared his anger at the photos emerging from Syria of children and adults apparently killed or sickened by poisonous gases. But at other moments, the chaotic nature of Trump’s presidency broke through. He hinted at his plans in bellicose and at times confusing tweets. And he seethed over the legal threats springing up around him, including a raid on his longtime lawyer’s home and office. Through it all, U.S. and Western officials said it was clear Trump intended to take military action. Discussions with France and Britain were focused not on whether to strike, but how to do so in a way that went beyond “punishing” the Assad regime for the attack and instead would degrade its ability to use chemical weapons in the future, according to two Western diplomats with knowledge of the discussions. The diplomats and U.S. officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the private discussions. Trump attended multiple briefings per day, according to officials, and sat in on most high-level meetings in the Situation Room. Advising Trump on Syria was John Bolton, the newly installed national security adviser with a militaristic and hawkish reputation, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who sought to ensure that military action was linked to a broader strategy.

At a Cabinet meeting Monday, Trump condemned the “atrocious attack,” promising speedy action. As negotiations over the Syria response continued, Trump was pummeled by the surprise raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and office and the new book from fired FBI director James Comey. He was particularly incensed by the raid, which was prompted in part by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election shadows the president. As the deliberations dragged on, Trump vented on Twitter. He threw the process into confusion Wednesday when he tweeted at Russia to “Get ready” because missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” After sustaining criticism for appearing to reveal his strategy, Trump tweeted the following day that he had not signaled the timing of an attack, adding: “Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” By Thursday, Trump made the final decision to authorize the strike. Officials said the plan to hit three targets in Syria was aimed at avoiding “collateral damage,” including Russian assets.

Asked why the president had acted now, given the Assad government is alleged to have used chemical gas at least 50 times, administration officials said they believed there was “incontrovertible evidence” that chemical weapons had been deployed.

Officials said Trump was also frustrated that economic, diplomatic and political efforts aimed at convincing Assad that using chemical weapons was not in his interest had failed. For a full day after Trump made his decision, the administration managed to keep its intentions largely under wraps. The tweets stopped and White House officials suggested to journalists that Trump might spend Friday night dining at his hotel in Washington. As the missiles rained down, one administration official explained that, over the course of this week, the president had tweeted his intention to the American people. Now, they said, his orders were being carried out. By Saturday morning, Trump celebrated a “perfectly executed strike.” “Mission Accomplished!” he wrote.

Trump’s personal attorney can’t seem to keep his lies straight

Michael Cohen has made contradictory statements about his travels to Prague.

Michael Cohen has resumed tweeting following the FBI raiding his office, home, and hotel room on Monday. On Saturday, Trump’s longtime personal attorney took to Twitter to deny a bombshell report that he “secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign” — a development that, if true, would corroborate a key claim in former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier detailing the Trump campaign’s coordination with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

“Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC,” Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, tweeted. “No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven!”

But Cohen has presented no evidence that he was in Los Angeles at the time in question, and his claim that he’s “never been to Prague” directly contradicts his previous public statements.During a January 2017 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cohen was asked about the Steele dossier’s claim that his work for Trump included traveling to Prague in August or September 2016 to meet with Russian officials and Eastern European hackers who were coordinating with the Trump campaign in an effort to discredit Hillary Clinton. Cohen merely denied that he had traveled to Prague recently.

Mr. Cohen told The Wall Street Journal he hadn’t been to Prague since 2001, but on Twitter Tuesday night he said he had never been there.

He declined to answer further questions on Wednesday.

The tweet referred to in the Journal’s report is one Cohen posted of a photo of the front of an American passport — an image that obviously doesn’t constitute evidence of anything at all, much less the dossier’s claims being false.

Even if Cohen were to flip through his passport, it’s possible that inside of it wouldn’t contain any indication that he traveled to Prague. Sources who spoke to McClatchy told the publication that “investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany.” Cohen would not have needed a passport to travel in between the two countries.Beyond Cohen’s inconsistent statements about his travels to Prague, there are other reasons to be skeptical about his denial of the McClatchy report. Cohen’s explanation for a $130,000 hush payment he made just before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who claims to have had an affair with Trump, is that he made the payment by himself, without informing Trump and using exclusively his own personal funds.

In Moscow, a Sense of Relief After a Limited Syria Attack

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia meeting with the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, on Saturday. Mr. Putin issued an unusually rapid condemnation of the airstrikes against Syria. Credit Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik, via Reuters

MOSCOW — Moscow met the limited American-led airstrikes against Syria before dawn on Saturday with plenty of bluster and heated rhetoric, starting with an uncharacteristically quick response from President Vladimir V. Putin condemning the attack and accusing the United States of aggravating the humanitarian situation.But there was also a palpable sense of relief. The sun was barely up before the Defense Ministry, not famous for speedy reactions, pumped out a statement underscoring that none of the thousands of Russian troops garrisoned in Syria had been threatened by the American, British and French attack and that none of its air defense systems had been mobilized. “It looks like both sides were playing according to their prescribed roles and managed to limit the harm from this kind of confrontation,” said Aleksandr M. Golts, an independent Russian military analyst and deputy editor of Yezhenedelny Zhurnal, an online current affairs magazine. “Syria will not be the starting point for some kind of global confrontation.” The American ambassador to Russia, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., released a statement on Facebook on Saturday confirming that the two sides had taken steps before the assault to made sure they stayed out of each other’s way. “Before we took action,” he said, “the U.S. communicated with the R.F. to reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties.” Mr. Assad has become something of a “human shield” limiting Russia’s options, noted Vladimir Frolov, an independent foreign affairs analyst and columnist for Republic.ru, “but it was a choice that Moscow made.” Mr. Putin will accept limited strikes against Syria that do not indicate a sustained American effort to help the opposition, said Mr. Frolov, the foreign affairs analyst, and would avoid engaging Mr. Trump on the rest.

Trump in ‘Serious Peril’ over Cohen: Former US Prosecutor

Image: Trump in 'Serious Peril' over Cohen: Former US Prosecutor
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, pictured on April 13 in New York. (Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is in “serious peril” with the ongoing investigation of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and a series of hush-money payoffs, National Review contributing editor Andy McCarthy writes in an opinion piece for the publication Saturday.

“I believe that the government is investigating whether there was, in connection with Trump’s White House bid, a conspiracy to commit fraud and extortion for the purpose of silencing potentially compromising sources — specifically, people in a position to portray Donald Trump as a womanizer,” McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, said. “Clearly, the prosecutors regard Trump and Cohen as potential co-conspirators. That does not mean a conspiracy will be proven, but the possibility is certainly being scrutinized.”

The investigation is different from the investigation into Russian activities during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, McCarthy said.

“The SDNY is unquestionably conducting a criminal investigation, and a federal judge would not have authorized search warrants absent finding probable cause that federal crimes may have been committed,” he added.

McCarthy said he never thought the claims that Trump colluded with Russia put him in jeopardy, as either the Kremlin or “political anti-Trump factions” from either the law-enforcement or intelligence communities would have leaked details.

He also hasn’t given special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction angle much weight,” as “there is a line between foolishness and crime,” and some of his actions, such as the firing of FBI Director James Comey, were on their face, legal.But the Cohen matter is different, and holds much more different implications for Trump, McCarthy, who spent nearly 20 years as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, wrote.  “I’m always inclined to assume my old office is up to serious business,” he said. “I also know well the ostentatiously careful steps the SDNY typically takes to avoid unconstitutional interference in the right to counsel — meaning to distinguish real legal assistance from schemes masquerading as attorney-client relationships.” The search warrants against Cohen sought all documents related to Cohen’s efforts to suppress negative publicity during the election, according to the New York Times. They involve burying stories about Trump in connection with adult actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, said McCarthy, and on reports that a former Trump building doorman was paid $30,000 to stay quiet about an unverified claim that Trump, 30 years ago, allegedly fathered a child with a Trump Organization employee.It’s not illegal to enter into non-disclosure agreements, but some other facts surrounding the allegations create worry for Trump, said McCarthy, describing in detail the transactions that had occurred in the cases.

“If a lawyer is involved with a client in a criminal conspiracy, the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege strips their communications of privileged status,” he said,

and if Cohen had incriminating items in his office, he’s not shielded from liability, even if he’s a lawyer. “Trump and Cohen both say that Cohen did not tell Trump about the Clifford arrangement,” said McCarthy. “It seems evident that prosecutors are investigating on the theory that Clifford, McDougal, and perhaps others were defrauded or extorted into silence.”

Report about Michael Cohen’s secret trip to Prague corroborates key Steele dossier claim

Mueller reportedly has evidence that Trump’s attorney has been lying.

COHEN ON FRIDAY. (CREDIT: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

On Friday, McClatchy reported that special counsel Robert Mueller possesses evidence that Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, “secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign.” If true, the report corroborates a key claim in former British spy Christopher Steele’s partially unverified dossier detailing the Trump’s campaigns contacts with Russians.While the McClatchy report doesn’t detail what evidence Mueller has, it notes that “investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported.”  It’s unclear who Cohen met with or what he did in Prague, but his reported trip there came shortly after Paul Manafort abruptly resigned from his role as Trump campaign chairman amid news he had secretly received $12.7 million in secret payment from a pro-Putin Ukrainian political party.

According to the Steele dossier, Cohen traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials and Eastern European hackers in late August or early September.

 “[T]he agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team more generally,” the dossier says.

When the contents of the dossier were first published by Buzzfeed in January 2017, then-president-elect Trump dismissed the entire document as “false and fake.” Cohen denied that he had ever been to Prague, and used his denial of that specific claim as evidence that the whole dossier is fake news.

In recent months, Trump has repeatedly attacked the credibility of the dossier, and used his attacks on it to try and discredit the entire Russia investigation.

Trump’s allies in Congress have also used the dossier to try and discredit the entire Russia investigation. The so-called “Nunes memo” released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleges the FBI inappropriately relied on the dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.Not only would evidence that Cohen indeed traveled to Prague reveal he’s been lying, but it would discredit the argument Trump and his allies in Congress have been using to discredit the Russia investigation. It could also constitute smoking gun evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the presidential campaign.  The most salacious claim in the dossier is that Russia is in possession of a tape of Trump participating in lewd sex acts in a Moscow hotel. An excerpt of former FBI director James Comey’s new book released this week contradicts an alibi Trump has used to deny such a tape exists.

Pentagon: Syria strikes took out the ‘heart’ of Assad’s chemical weapons program

Cruise missiles as well as U.S., French and British manned aircraft targeted sites in and around Damascus and Homs. Western leaders warned Syria on Saturday that they could launch further missile strikes if chemical weapons are used again, while the pre-dawn attacks were denounced by Damascus and its backers as illegal actions that would carry repercussions. But one major worry appeared to ease: That the coordinated attacks by the United States, France and Britain late Friday could have set off a direct confrontation with Syria’s most powerful military partner, Russia. At the Pentagon, the director of the Joint Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said the more than 100 missile strikes delivered a blow to the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons network. He acknowledged, however, that Syria retained “residual” capacity, but gave no details on the scope of what could be left. There was, however, a wider sense of relief that the strikes on three targets — believed to be research and storage cogs in Syrian’s chemical weapons production — had not caused Russian casualties, which could have led to a direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow.

McKenzie confirmed there was no Russia response and said Syrian air defenses had “no material effect” on the incoming barrage. Earlier, Russian officials said some missiles were intercepted by the Soviet-made antimissile batteries used by Syrian forces.

The rhetoric from Syria’s backers was harsh.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes would have “a destructive effect on the entire system of international relations” and called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, which was scheduled to convene at 11 a.m. EDT. But there were no signs the Russian military was preparing a retaliatory response that could bring Moscow and Washington into direct confrontation. Syrian television called the attacks a “flagrant violation” of international law, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, derided them as a “military crime.”

But apart from Tehran and Moscow, which support the Syrian government, much of the world saw the U.S.-led strikes as justified and hoped it would prove a deterrent to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the three-nation attacks a success and were “right and legal” in response to the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons a week ago in rebel-held Douma, killing dozens of people. “A perfectly executed strike last night,” tweeted President Trump. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” The attack involved munitions fired from aircraft and naval vessels, including about 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. The Pentagon also employed the B-1 strategic bomber. The assault came despite the lack of a definitive independent finding that chemical weapons were used or who had deployed them. An initial team of inspectors had only arrived in Syria on Friday.

Trump allies fear feds may have seized recordings made by Trump’s lawyer: Report

Allies of President Trump fear federal investigators could have their hands on recordings made by Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, according to a Washington Post report. Cohen sometimes taped recorded conversations with associates, three people familiar with Cohen’s practice told the Post. Allies of the president, the Post reports, are concerned that if Cohen had recordings, federal investigators might have seized the recordings when they raided his home, office and hotel room earlier this week. But the Post says that it is unknown if Cohen ever taped conversations between himself and Mr. Trump .

As CBS News’ Jeff Pegues has reported, the search and seizure warrant documents mentioned Mr. Trump by name

The search warrants also listed records related to the release of the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape, sources familiar with the matter told CBS News’ Andres Triay and Len Tepper. The New York Times first reported the connection to the tape. Investigators were also looking for information related to non-disclosure agreements between Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claim they had sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is cooperating with federal investigators. Mr. Trump was frustrated by the raid, calling the situation a “disgrace” on Monday. “It’s a real disgrace,” Mr. Trump said, calling it “an attack on our country.” “That is really a whole new level of unfairness,” the president added.

The evidence seized at Cohen’s home, office and hotel room was a part of an investigation into possible campaign finance violations, bank fraud, and other possible crimes.

CBS News has reported federal investigators seized financial records and other documents. The raid can be traced back to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to the Trump campaign. Nick Bit: And get this. The investigation about Trumps election crime spree is not art of the Special Prosecutor Mueller’s  investigation. Worse Trump is powerless to stop this investigation. Holy Shit batman!

How the ‘Love Child’ Story Could Be Used as Evidence of Illegal Campaign Contributions

 

Trump Tower Doorman paid Hush money by Trump Mob FIXER Cohen

Trump and Cohen are facing complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission that claim that the payments made to McDougal and Daniels were really in-kind contributions to the Trump campaign, since they were done to keep potentially damaging information away from the public while Trump was running for president. If the FEC does deem either of these payments to be campaign contributions, they would exceed the maximum amount that people are allowed to contribute under federal law. Additionally, if Trump knew about the payments, he and his campaign would be in violation for not reporting them to the FEC. One defense that Trump may have had available is one that John Edwards used in a similar situation after he ran for president in 2008. In the Edwards case, his mistress was paid to remain silent, but Edwards said any effort made to keep the affair under wraps was to protect his family, not his campaign. It appears that this defense would now be difficult for Trump to make, if Cohen was indeed involved in the AMI deals with McDougal and Sajudin. The fact that McDougal and Sajudin were allowed to talk about their stories after the election seems to indicate that the motivation behind their initial deals was to keep them quiet before the election, and not to protect Trump’s family. As former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman said on Twitter, this could be evidence that the deals violated campaign finance laws.

With reports that the warrant used for the raid on Cohen’s office dealt with communications related to “negative publicity” about Trump, it appears the FBI could be thinking the same thing.

Trump Lawyer Has Been Under Criminal Probe for Months, U.S.

Cohen Trumps Fixer

 A months-long investigation into President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s business dealings led to this week’s searches of Cohen’s residence, hotel room, office, safety deposit box and two cell phones, U.S. prosecutors told a judge in a court filing. Cohen claims the seizures will undermine attorney-client privilege. His lawyers asked a U.S. judge Friday to let them review the information before FBI investigators go through it so they can highlight what’s covered by privilege. Prosecutors countered saying Cohen’s request is just a delaying tactic.
 There’s an ongoing grand jury probe being conducted by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan. It’s independent of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. elections, the prosecutors said.
Investigators are seeking evidence of crimes “many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings,” prosecutors said. Investigators have reason to believe “that Cohen has exceedingly few clients and a low volume of potentially privileged communications,” they said.
  The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had obtained earlier search warrants on multiple different email accounts maintained by Cohen, and reviewed them for privileged material, the prosecutors said. “Zero emails were exchanged with President Trump,” they wrote.

The prosecutors explained that they had to obtain the evidence through a search, “given that the crimes being investigated involve acts of concealment by Cohen,” it wouldn’t have worked to issue a subpoena. Cohen has wide-ranging business interests, including in New York city taxi companies. The attorney has been known for decades as Trump’s “fixer.” He arranged a $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual tryst she had with Trump in 2006.When asked on Friday whether Cohen was still Trump’s personal attorney, press secretary Sarah Sanders said she wasn’t sure.  Evidence gathered in the probe so far shows that the “overwhelming majority” of material seized during the raid won’t be privileged, prosecutors said in their memo. The government said it’s not even apparent that Cohen has any attorney-client relationships with anyone other than Trump – and that there is “reason to doubt” that his communications with the president regarding Daniels are protected. “Among other things, President Trump has publicly denied knowing that Cohen paid Clifford, and suggested to reporters that they had to “ask Michael” about the payment,” the prosecutors wrote. The government was responding to a request for a temporary restraining order blocking prosecutors from reviewing materials seized during the raid until Cohen’s lawyers can determine if any information is covered by attorney-client privilege. While it’s not clear exactly what was seized, the materials likely include documents concerning negotiations to pay Daniels, an adult-film actress who says she had an affair with Trump, her attorney said. Cohen also helped a top Republican donor negotiate a payment to a former Playboy Playmate. The fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, agreed in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to the woman, who said she had been impregnated by him, according to a person familiar with the matter. Broidy, in a statement Friday, said that he retained Cohen in the matter after the lawyer approached him about it. The agreement was first reported to the Wall Street Journal. Nick Bit: Its coming unglued!  this is the guy that has the keys to Trumps Closet full of Skeletons. And the Zombies are rising up! They got the grave yard and the names on the tomb stones.

Ex-CIA director tears into Trump: ‘Your kakistocracy is collapsing’

Former CIA Director John Brennan on Friday went after President Trump over his attacks on former FBI Director James Comey, tweeting that Trump’s “kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey.” “As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived,” Brennan tweeted at Trump.

A kakistocracy is a form of government in which the worst persons are in power. Brennan has been a regular critic of Trump, warning last month that lawmakers who protect him will face “a reckoning.” If anything, his criticisms have become more pronounced in the last few months.  Trump lashed out at Comey in a pair of tweets early Friday, calling him a “leaker & liar” and an “untruthful slime ball.”

The attack came after multiple media outlets reported on excerpts of Comey’s upcoming book.Comey writes in the book that Trump had asked him to probe the infamous “pee tape” mentioned in the so-called Steele dossier in order to disprove its existence. The dossier alleges that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on a bed used by former President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. Comey also ripped Trump as “untethered to truth” in the book and compared him to a mob boss.

Higher stakes than ever as Trump, allies mull Syria strike

WASHINGTON — The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting Friday morning on Syria, following the recent suspected chemical weapons attack in the country. Russia requested the meeting and said the top priority should be averting a wider war. President Trump discussed U.S. military options to respond to the alleged chemical attack in Syria with his advisors and American allies on Thursday, but has not made a final decision on his response. President Trump spoke Thursday evening with British Prime Minister Theresa May. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the two leaders agreed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons should not go unchallenged. Britain, the U.S. and France are working together on an international response .Defense Secretary James Mattis left the White House late Thursday afternoon after briefing the president on options for a military strike on Syria. But shortly afterward the White House said “no final decision has been made.” That was a marked change from Monday, when a decision seemed imminent. U.S. intelligence estimates that 42 people died in the weekend attack, most of them showing symptoms consistent with chlorine gas, with others having symptoms more consistent with exposure to a nerve agent. “We have proof that last week chemical weapons, at least chlorine, were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” French President Emmanuel Macron said flatly this week. A spokesman for Britain’s prime minister said her cabinet agreed it was “highly likely” the regime was responsible.But testifying before Congress on Thursday morning, Mattis seemed more cautious, saying he believed there was “a chemical attack,” but noting that U.S. officials were still waiting “for the actual evidence.”  The pictures of the aftermath of the attack in Syria are compelling, but two critical questions remain; what kind of chemical was used and who was responsible. Former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morrell, now a CBS News analyst, said if President Trump is going to take military action, “the intelligence community would want to give him a high confidence judgment” to make that call. Intelligence analysts have concluded the symptoms shown in the videos are consistent with exposure to chlorine gas, and that some of the victims look like they may have been exposed to a nerve agent. But that’s not enough.”You can only really nail it down when you get a blood sample that you have confidence in where the blood sample came from and what the chain of custody was,” Morrell said.  U.S. officials have told CBS News the blood samples provided by hospital workers in Syria do indeed confirm the presence of chemicals, but they need to be sure the evidence hasn’t been doctored. “Assad’s never been stronger than he is today, so the opposition would want nothing more right now than to significantly weaken him with a U.S. airstrike,” notes Morrell.Over the past six months, U.S. intelligence has confirmed four other chemical attacks carried out by the regime, but none of them triggered a military response.   The stakes are higher after this latest attack because Russia has warned the U.S. not to strike. “I do think there’s the possibility of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia in Syria,” Morrell said. Morell said the fact that the administration did not come to a final decision on Thursday night suggests they want any military effort to be a coalition military effort.

 

 

Trump is suddenly very concerned about Scooter Libby. Here’s why.

The former Bush aide was convicted of obstruction of justice — the same thing Trump is being investigated for.
Libby in 2015. (CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Libby in 2015. (CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Trump is set to pardon Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 for lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice as part of the Bush administration’s effort to discredit Valerie Plane, a CIA agent and wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson.

Trump “has already signed off on the pardon.”

The timing of the White House’s sudden concern about Libby is notable, given that special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating Trump and his campaign for obstruction of justice. Trump pardoning Libby may be a signal to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison because of charges brought against him by Mueller, but is still not cooperating with the investigation.

“Why pardon Scooter Libby today? People have forgotten about Scooter Libby,” Kaine added. “The pardoning of somebody who is convicted for obstruction of justice working in the White House, I think is more about sending a message to people today than it is about a case that’s 10 years old — so we’re in a very very challenging time right now.”

On Thursday, NBC reported that prior to an FBI raid on Trump’s personal attorney on Monday, Mueller’s team had been aiming to finalize a report on its findings about  whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation “in the coming months, as early as May or as late as July.”NBC’s report adds that the timeline might be moved up now that Mueller’s team no longer expects to be able to interview the president. It adds that Mueller’s investigation of Trump for obstruction is going down four paths:

Three sources familiar with the investigation said the findings Mueller has collected on Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice include: His intent to fire former FBI Director James Comey; his role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians; Trump’s dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

On Wednesday, Trump casually admitted to obstructing justice on Twitter, saying he only did so to “fight back.” But there is no “fighting back” exception to obstruction of justice charges, which were part of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinto


In a White House statement officially announcing the pardon, President Trump sounds likes he’s barely familiar with the details of Libby’s case, but decided to pardon him anyway because of hearsay evidence.

Haley: No One is Buying Russia’s Lies and Cover-Ups

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley blasted Russia’s “lies and cover-ups” of the Bashar al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria in a speech at the United Nations Security Council Friday. “We should not be condemning the countries or groups of countries that might actually have the courage to stand up in defense of our common principle, the principle against the use of chemical weapons,” she said. “Instead, we should be condemning the country that unilaterally has stopped the security council from upholding this principle.” “It is Russia alone that has stopped at nothing to defend the Syrian regime’s multiple uses of chemical weapons.” Haley’s condemnation comes after reports that Assad’s government used chemical weapons against civilians in Douma, a rebel-held Damascus suburb, killing dozens. Almost a week later, Russia is making claims the chemical attack was staged. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had “irrefutable evidence” that the attack was staged by one country conducting a “Russophobic” campaign, the BBC reported. Haley pointed out Russia had agreed to be the guarantor of Syria’s chemical weapons removal. “If Russia had lived up to its commitment, there would be no chemical weapons in Syria,” she said. “Should the United States and our allies decide to act in Syria, it will be in defense of a principle on which we all agree.” Haley also noted the Assad regime’s continual use of chemical weapons, and blamed Russia for preventing a response from the U.N. “Russia can complain all it wants about fake news,” she said. “But no one is buying its lies and cover-ups.”

Tax cuts were supposed to juice the economy, but banks aren’t seeing it

JPMorgan CFO suggests loan growth could be just above GDP growth
Bloomberg News Politicians said the tax cuts would be ‘rocket fuel’ for the economy but so far corporations aren’t borrowing much more.

On Friday, JPMorgan Chase said its quarterly profit jumped by more than one-third to an all-time high, helped along by hundreds of billions in tax savings. The banks all saw their tax rates slashed—Wells Fargo’s went from about 30% a year ago to 18.8% this quarter, it said in its release. That helped Wells WFC, JPMorgan, and Citigroup all report earnings for the quarter that beat analyst expectations. What’s less clear is whether the hoped-for effects of the tax cuts are reaching the business community the banks serve, and rippling into the broader economy. Commercial lending rose just 6% compared to a year ago for JPMorgan, while commercial and consumer loans both declined for Wells Fargo. Lending to business jumped 19% from the year-earlier period for Citigroup, but was up only 2% from the fourth quarter, but from a very small starting point—corporate lending totaled only $521 million for the bank in the first quarter.In response to a reporter question about whether cheery sentiment would actually start to show up in lending volumes, JPMorgan CFO Marianne was noncommittal. “Pipelines are solid,” Lake said. “We’re expecting to see (commercial and industrial) demand and loan growth be solid but in the mid-single digits – GDP plus.”  Edward Jones analyst James Shanahan noted JPMorgan’s sluggish loan growth in a note out after the earnings release, writing that 7% compares favorably to “less than 3% growth in loans for U.S. banks overall.” Of course, there are many reasons why corporations would remain skittish about ramping up borrowing and spending, even with tax cuts padding their own bottom lines. Asked whether recent skirmishes over global trade policy were starting to have an effect on business, Lake called it “a point of discussion quite broadly.” “At this point it isn’t having a material impact but that’s not to say that if things were to escalate, it wouldn’t,” she added. After premarket gains, bank stocks reversed sharply at the 9.30 a.m. open. Some analysts thought that might be due to the stocks failing to hold above technical levels, while others pointed to the possibility that there is little upside left for banks that hasn’t already been priced in to shares.

Trump Can’t Stop Russia Investigation Even If He Fires Mueller

Donald Trump Jake Sherman Supreme Court Twitter tweet

We know that there is a way for President Donald Trump to orchestrate the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and/or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but we also know this is a perilous path to take. A writer of regulations that are currently in Trump’s way of dismissing Mueller, former Solicitor General Neal Katyal, has been at the forefront of those who say he has the constitutional power to fire Mueller at peril of ending his presidency through the very public and suspicious repeal of those regulations. How would the end of the presidency come to pass? Would the ensuing DEFCON 1-level public and press outrage be enough? Maybe.

Even Trump ally Roger Stone said a Mueller firing would be a political mistake that will result in a “firestorm.”

“I actually think from a political point of view that the termination of Mr. Mueller would probably give the Democrats the firestorm they’re looking for,” Stone told ABC News on Wednesday. “I would not recommend that.” But a more important factor than bad optics connected to the “firestorm” was mentioned by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) Thursday morning: Mueller and Rosenstein could disappear, but the investigation won’t. Even without Mueller or Rosenstein, long-time prosecutors and FBI agents would continue to do their jobs.

“The prosecutors and FBI agents at the Department of Justice here in DC, the Brooklyn prosecutors, the prosecutors at the Southern District of New York, and all those FBI agents, they understand that their oath is to the Constitution,” he said. “Their investigation keeps on going.” “This train has left the station. There is nothing this president can do to stop it because even if he were to replace some of the Republicans at the top, the career professionals keep on going,” Lieu continued. Lieu isn’t the only one saying this.

Former FBI special agent, lawyer, and CNN analyst Asha Rangappa said the same thing on CNN Wednesday morning.

Regardless of any firings, Rangappa said, “these investigations will go on” and apparent attempts to stop them will only make people dig deeper for a “paper trail revealing […] attempts to obstruct justice.” All of this is to say, Trump can’t stop the Russia investigation even if he fires the special counsel.

China’s trade imbalance with the U.S. worsened sharply in the first three months of the year, potentially adding fuel to the countries’ already heated trade dispute

First-quarter surplus hits $58.25 billion, up nearly 20%
China’s overall trade surplus decreased nearly 20% from a year ago to $48.39 billion in the first quarter. Here, shipping containers at a port in Qingdao, in China’s eastern Shandong province.
China’s overall trade surplus decreased nearly 20% from a year ago to $48.39 billion in the first quarter. Here, shipping containers at a port in Qingdao, in China’s eastern Shandong province. Photo: -/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

BEIJING—China’s trade imbalance with the U.S. worsened sharply in the first three months of the year, potentially adding fuel to the countries’ already heated trade dispute. China’s trade surplus with the U.S. reached $58.25 billion in the first quarter, up 19.4% compared with the same period a year ago, official data released Friday showed. The rise in the surplus with the U.S. contrasted with China’s overall trade surplus, which decreased nearly 20% from a year ago to $48.39 billion in the first quarter. Chinese officials and economists have long attributed the imbalance to deeper economic factors, including the countries’ differences in industrial structures and in household savings rates. Huang Songping, a spokesman for China’s customs administration, told reporters that the imbalance should be looked at “in an objective and rational way.” China’s trade gap with the U.S. is smaller than the official figures show if trade via Hong Kong and other transshipment points and trade in services are calculated, said Mr. Huang. Though economists differ on the importance of trade balances, the Trump administration has criticized Beijing for what it says are unfair policies that hinder access to China’s market, contributing to an imbalance of $375 billion in China’s favor, according to U.S. statistics. China puts last year’s surplus at $275.8 billion, the largest-ever annual figure. Some economists said that the large first-quarter surplus is a sign that the imbalance is going to worsen this year, as the two governments pursue diverging policies.

What Trump looks at is the bilateral trade data, not China’s total trade, so today’s figure is definitely going to complicate any efforts to ease trade tensions

—Shuang Ding, economist at Standard Chartered Bank

Washington’s expansionary fiscal policy contrasts with Beijing’s efforts to reduce debt and financial risk, and that means the U.S. will import more while China will buy less, said Shuang Ding, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank. “Continued imbalance with the U.S. is almost inevitable in 2018,” he said. “What Trump looks at is the bilateral trade data, not China’s total trade, so today’s figure is definitely going to complicate any efforts to ease trade tensions.” President Donald Trump wants to reduce the imbalance with Beijing by $100 billion. His administration plans to ratchet up the pressure on China by focusing on new tariffs and threatening to block Chinese technology investment in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The administration has proposed tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods and threatened to go after $100 billion more.To each measure, China has promised commensurate retaliation. A Chinese commerce ministry spokesman on Thursday vowed to stick to the government’s “teeth-to-teeth” way of responding to any U.S. penalties and to fight back to the end.  Reviving global trade last year after several lackluster years gave the Chinese economy a boost, and, economists said, overall the first-quarter numbers show that China trade looks healthy. In the first quarter, China’s total exports rose 14.1% from a year earlier, while imports climbed 18.9%. A looming trade war, however, is going to dent trade growth, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics.

Comey book claims President Trump sought loyalty like mafia boss ‘Sammy the Bull’s’ induction ceremony

PHOTO: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

Donald Trump engaged in a months-long effort to secure the loyalty of then-FBI Director James Comey in a series of meetings and phone calls that began in the presidential transition period — behavior Comey likens to that of a mafia boss, Comey writes in a book set for release next week.Those efforts included a now-famous, private White House dinner with Trump just a week after the president was inaugurated, in which Trump, Comey writes, told him: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”  Comey writes that to him, “The demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony,” referring to Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, a former leader of the Gambino crime family, whose testimony ultimately helped convict mob boss John Gotti. Comey responded with silence, he writes in the book, and Trump moved the conversation along. Later in the dinner, Trump returned to the subject: “I need loyalty.” “You will always get honesty from me,” Comey writes that he responded. “That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said. “You will get that from me,” Comey responded. The book, “A Higher Loyalty,” is Comey’s first extensive public accounting of his handling of investigations affecting Trump and Hillary Clinton – and the circumstances around his firing by Trump – since his congressional testimony last year. In it, Comey paints Trump as someone who is “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” and who is “ego driven and about personal loyalty.” A few weeks before his private dinner with the president, shortly before his inauguration, Comey had a similar feeling about mob loyalty pledges during his first meeting with Trump, he writes. Comey and other top intelligence officials were at Trump Tower to brief the president-elect, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and a small circle of their top aides on Russian efforts to influence the election. Rather than ask about how to meet the threat from Russia, Comey writes, Trump, Pence and incoming White House aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer quickly focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them,” debating “how to position these findings for maximum political advantage.”

“I sat there thinking, Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us ‘amica nostra’ – friend of ours. To draw us in,” Comey writes. “As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family and that Team Trump had made it a ‘thing of ours.’” Weeks later, after the private dinner with Trump in which Comey says he agreed to give the president “honest loyalty,” Comey had another private Oval Office meeting with Trump. This time, he writes, Trump appeared to ask him to drop an FBI inquiry of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. “He is a good guy,” Trump told Comey, according to the book. “I hope you can let this go.” “I did not interrupt the president to protest that what he was asking was inappropriate, as I probably should have,” Comey writes. “But if he didn’t know what he was doing was inappropriate, why had he just ejected everyone, including my boss [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] and the vice president, from the room so he could speak with me alone?”

Continue reading “Comey book claims President Trump sought loyalty like mafia boss ‘Sammy the Bull’s’ induction ceremony”

‘Take your money and run.’ Investor David Tice warns on ‘pretty dangerous’ stock market

Stock market is ‘pretty dangerous,’ David Tice warns investors the party is ending on Wall Street
Stock market is ‘pretty dangerous,’ David Tice warns investors the party is ending on Wall Street

The investor known for running a bear fund suggests a stock market crash may be virtually unavoidable — citing Federal Reserve Policy and geopolitical risks. In a note to CNBC, David Tice wrote that investors should “take your money and run.” “You guys have enjoyed the party,” he said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “There are a lot of people dancing. But I think that could be pretty dangerous. I’d say the last couple of 10 percent declines were a sign that the band is about ready to go home.” Tice has viewed the February correction as a foreshock — predicting stocks could lose 20 to 25 percent of their value by year’s end. “All this volatility with the VIX [Cboe volatility index] having doubled is very, very disturbing,” said Tice. “We’re testing 200-day moving averages on some of the hot stocks like Google and Facebook.” Tice, who sold his Prudent Bear Fund to Federated Investors in 2008 just as the financial crisis was unfolding, wasn’t in the bear camp much of last year. On “Trading Nation” last July, he urged investors not to bet against stocks. “I was actually bullish because I was thinking we’d have a melt-up,” he said. But nowadays, Tice says he’s very worried about the trade wars and Syria. He also cites President Donald Trump’s rhetoric toward Russia as an additional source as anxiety.  Tice also sees rising interest rates putting the economy under pressure. “You have a Fed that is raising rates,” he noted. “We have a Fed chairman who really doesn’t care about we’ve had two 10 percent declines both in February and then March/April. Those are not great signs.” According to Tice, Fed rate hike cycles historically lead to recessions and deep market declines. He says this time is no different because the market is very overvalued.

Ambassador Haley: ‘We Have Enough Proof’ to Act in Syria

Image: Ambassador Haley: 'We Have Enough Proof' to Act in Syria

By Mark Swanson   Ambassador Nikki Haley on Thursday said the United States has “enough proof” that Syria was behind the fatal chemical attack there, telling NBC News that “we just have to be thoughtful in our action.””So, we certainly know that chemical weapons were used, we certainly know that we had issues in Syria,” Haley told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “Last time we dealt with it by sending 59 Tomahawks into there, and clearly that didn’t do the trick. “We definitely have enough proof, but now we just have to be thoughtful in our action,” Haley told Mitchell. “So we’ll see what happens. I know that the president’s looking at his options and the national security team is trying to give him as many options as we can, and we’ll be thoughtful about it and see what happens.” The death toll has risen past 70 – including 20 children – in the chemical attack Saturday that targeted civilians.

Donald Trump back-pedals on Syria saying he ‘never said WHEN an attack would take place’

The US President backed away from his claim that Assad’s major ally Russia should ‘get ready’ for American ‘smart missiles’

DONALD Trump has back-pedalled on his threat to bomb Assad claiming he “never said when an attack on Syria would take place.”

Yesterday, the US President tweeted that Syria’s major ally Russia should “get ready” for American “smart missiles” days after despot Bashar Assad killed at least 70 people in an evil chemical attack.

 President Trump tweeted that a US attack on Syria 'could be very soon or not so soon at all'
President Trump tweeted that a US attack on Syria ‘could be very soon or not so soon at all’

But after the White House played down Trump’s remarks, the brash billionaire has himself backed away from Wednesday’s Tweets. Today, he posted: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! “In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?” Trump’s threats on Wednesday against Russia were in response to comments from senior Russian officials that Vladimir Putin’s military would strike US bomb sites in retaliation to American aggression.President Donald Trump says he’ll ​’​forcefully​’​ respond to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria

 Syrian kids receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack in Douma
Getty – Contributor Syrian kids receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack in Douma

Trump tweeted: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it! The Republican firebrand then added: “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?” Responding to Trump’s tweet, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said: “Smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not a legal government.”

Trump attempts to cloud timing of potential Syria strike

US destroyers, subs, jets could answer Trump's Syria strike call
US destroyers, subs, jets could answer Trump’s Syria strike call

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Thursday attempted to cloud the timing of potential airstrikes on Syria, a day after indicating they were imminent.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!,” the President tweeted. But Trump notably did not rule out plans to attack Syria in retaliation for the weekend’s suspected chemical attack on civilians at the hands of the Assad regime.
Trump on Wednesday vowed to thwart Russia’s missile defense system in Syria, warning that rockets “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart.'” The President did not specifically refer to the attack’s timing in that tweet, but warned Russia to “get ready.” But in tweeting about a potential attack, Trump appeared to publicly telegraph military plans — something for which he heavily criticized former President Barack Obama back in 2013. Trump on Thursday also suggested he did not get enough credit for US gains against ISIS in the region.
“In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS,” the President wrote in the same tweet. “Where is our ‘Thank you America?'”
The White House said Wednesday that the administration had not finalized its decisions about a course of action in Syria. “We’re maintaining that we have a number of options and all those options are still on the table. Final decisions haven’t been made yet,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “The President has a number of options at his disposal and all of those options remain on the table.” Top military officials were at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss options for Syria, according to senior aides. The national security team is expected to meet at the White House Thursday for further discussions, according to three sources familiar, but it is not clear if the President will take part in that meeting. The White House said Wednesday that Trump “holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.” Defense Secretary James Mattis said earlier that day that the US is “still assessing the intelligence” on whether the Assad regime is to blame for the recent suspected chemical attack. Russia has blamed Syrian opposition forces for the attack.
Trump has consulted with US allies, particularly France and the United Kingdom, about a coordinated response to the suspected chemical attack, but officials say they have not reached a firm agreement on scale or timing. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was convening a meeting of her Cabinet on Thursday afternoon, at which she is expected to make the case for supporting the US in any military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned against a missile strike, writing on Facebook Wednesday that it could destroy evidence on the ground and interrupt the work of international investigators. “Smart missiles should fly toward terrorists, not the legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory,” Zakharova wrote in response to Trump’s Wednesday tweet. Should the President follow through on his warnings of an attack, two US Navy destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles are in position and ready to be called into action, among other assets including jets and submarines.

OPEC oil output falls in March as U.S. shale production grows

OPEC output declines to 31.96 million barrels a day in March
AFP/Getty Images

OPEC said Thursday its crude oil output fell last month amid compliance with the oil cartel’s agreement to cut production, even as the world’s total oil supply continued to rise on the back of burgeoning U.S. shale growth. In its closely watched monthly oil market report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said the group’s total crude output declined by 201,000 barrels a day in March in month-on-month terms, to average 31.96 million barrels a day. The drop was mainly attributable to lower production in Angola, Venezuela, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

But OPEC said that the world’s total oil supply rose by 180,000 barrels a day last month, mainly as a result of higher output from non-OPEC producers like the U.S., Norway and the U.K.

U.S. shale fracking is one of the primary drivers of non-OPEC production, with tight and shale formations expected to account for 94% of total petroleum liquids growth this year, compared with 90% in 2017, OPEC said in the report. Nick Bit: And US production will continue to climb. And eventually the rest of the world will get into the fracking fun!

Feds Collect Record Individual Income Taxes Through March

 

(CNSNews.com) – The federal government collected a record $736,274,000,000 in individual income taxes through the first six months of fiscal 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 through the end of March), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today. The approximately $736,274,000,000 in individual income taxes that the Treasury collected in October through March of this fiscal year was $24,473,780,000 more than the $711,800,220,000 (in constant March 2018 dollars) that the Treasury collected in the first six months of fiscal 2017.

While the federal government was collecting record individual income taxes in the first half of this fiscal year, both payroll taxes and corporate income taxes declined compared to last year.

In October through March of fiscal 2018, the federal government collected approximately $560,407,000,000 in Social Security and other payroll taxes. That was $3,210,000 less than the approximately $560,410,000,000 (in constant March 2018 dollars) that the federal government collected in Social Security and other payroll taxes in October through March of fiscal 2017. In October through March of fiscal 2018, the federal government also collected approximately $78,607,000,000 in corporation income taxes. That was $23,992,230,000 less than the approximately $102,599,230,000 that the federal government collected in corporation income taxes (in constant March 2018 dollars) in October through March of fiscal 2017.

With the $23,992,230,000 cut in corporation income tax revenues between last fiscal year and this fiscal year, the federal government’s overall tax haul in the first six months of this fiscal year declined compared to last year—even while individual income tax payments were increasing.

In the first six months of fiscal 2017, the Treasury collected $1,507,935,630,000 in total taxes (in constant March 2018 dollars. In the first six months of fiscal 2018, it has collected $1,497,005,000,000. While taking in those $1,497,005,000,000 in tax dollars, the federal government spent $2,096,713,000,000, thus running a deficit of $599,708,000,000 for the first six months of the fiscal year. That is $60,419,720,000 more than the $539,288,280,000 deficit (in constant March 2018 dollars) that the federal government ran in the first six months of fiscal 2017.

Nick Bit: As i been telling you despite the school teachers tax “savings” of $1.50 per week most people in the middle class are paying MORE in taxes……. And the billionaires and corporations are paying LESS. And the numbers prove it… Don’t let the Bullshitter and Chief fool you.. You been screwed!!  Stormy did not enjoy it… Did you?

U.S. runs budget deficit of $209 billion in March, Treasury says

New tax law drives corporate tax revenue lower Budget deficits MUCH higher
Reuters The tax law signed by President Donald Trump in December is boosting the U.S.’s budget deficit.

The numbers: The federal government’s budget deficit was $209 billion in March, the Treasury said, up 18% from the same month a year ago. Receipts were $211 billion, down 3%, and spending rose 7% to $420 billion. The new tax law continues to widen the deficit, with withholding of individual income and payroll taxes off by 2% in March. In January, the IRS issued new withholding tables based on the law enacted by President Donald Trump in December. Spending was higher in March on Social Security, Medicaid and interest on the public debt. Interest payments were 11% higher, Treasury said. For the first half of the fiscal year, the shortfall is $600 billion, up 14% over the prior fiscal year’s first six months. The Treasury’s latest release comes after the Congressional Budget Office forecast a deficit of $804 billion for the current fiscal year — and a return to trillion-dollar deficits in 2020. Corporate  Tax cuts will lead to sea of red ink, CBO forecasts. Nick Bit: this was the dumbest tax overhaul ever. Tax Break Bonanza for Billionaires. Tax increases for the middle class SERIOUS workers. And as far as the Laughing (Laffer Curve)  what a pile of Kudlow BULLSHIT! You can wipe your ass with it!

Capitol Hill defense hawks push Trump to strike Syria soon

Trump surprises aides, gets ahead of allies with promise of Syria strike
Trump taunts Russia, says US military response coming in Syria

Washington (CNN)After President Donald Trump warned Russia in a tweet Wednesday that it should “get ready” for missile strikes against Syria, key lawmakers on Capitol Hill questioned whether threats of war should be made via social media while some Republican defense hawks urged Trump to act soon. The President signaled in a morning tweet that the US would fire missiles into Syria: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the influential Foreign Relations Committee, questioned the value of Trump’s tweet and warned the inflammatory rhetoric could escalate the crisis into a “geopolitical outbreak.” Corker has called for “surgical strikes” against Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s government for allegedly carrying out a chemical attack against Syrian civilians last week. “The only thing I worry about is that it’s not going to happen,” he said about a possible military response. “Because so many things get announced and then they never happened. I’m actually more concerned on the other side and I think every day that goes by, we actually get ourselves more fully in position where it could create a geopolitical outbreak whereas if we had just done it, before the Russians and the Iranians, and the Syrians prepped for it, we’d been in much better shape.”
He continued: “Now we’re announcing what we’re going to do and unfortunately it puts us in a place where possibly it creates a greater conflict.”
 Even as Trump appeared to announce a decision to launch strikes, White House officials said no final plans had been made. Trump has consulted allies in Europe to arrange a coordinated effort, and was planning to meet with top military leaders on Wednesday afternoon. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, welcomed Trump’s consideration of “retaliatory action” even as he called the President’s tweet “unconventional.”
“Well, I am glad he is considering retaliatory action. Because we have seen that red lines that go unenforced just encourage further provocative action by Assad,” he told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. “So it is unconventional, to be sure. Something I doubt any other president would have done. I don’t think it caused any harm because I know Assad and Russians are expecting something to happen.”

The Federal Reserve plans to hike interest rates even faster

interest rates are on their way up.

Buoyed by a strengthening economy and increased confidence that the Federal Reserve will reach its inflation target in the near future, central bank policymakers suggested the path of future rate hikes could be “slightly steeper” over the next few years than previously thought, according to minutes of their March meeting released on Wednesday.”Members agreed that the strengthening in the economic outlook in recent months increased the likelihood that a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate,” according to the minutes. In March, the Fed lifted the federal funds rate to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. That was an increase of a quarter of a percentage point. The Fed’s target rate helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other borrowing. According to the minutes, there was some debate by policymakers on whether to delay raising rates to a later meeting to send a strong signal to investors that monetary policy decisions would be based on incoming economic data. But they ultimately agreed to press ahead.

It was the sixth increase since December 2015, when the Fed started tightening monetary policy for the first time after the financial crisis. Rates are still extremely low by historical standards.

Fed officials were split on whether last month’s policy meeting was the appropriate time to announce a fourth rate hike in 2018. The Fed has signaled it would raise rates three times this year. At the March meeting, the Fed hinted it would favor a more aggressive pace to keep the economy humming in the coming years. It also shifted its plans to raise interest rates for next year, calling for three more rate hikes instead of two. Nearly half of FOMC members, at the time, said they believed that would be necessary to raise rates faster if the economy keeps performing as well as they expect. A hastened pace of interest rate hikes prompted some policymakers to suggest the possibility of revising the Federal Open Market Committee’s statement “at some point” to acknowledge a monetary policy shift from “accommodative” to “neutral or restraining,” according to the minutes. Powell told reporters at his first press conference that economic forecasts can change, and the Fed could be “a little less gradual or a little more gradual” when it comes to future interest rate decisions. Minutes of the March meeting, the first chaired by Jerome Powell, also indicated that policymakers were uncertain about the future of the economy because of the impact of tax cuts and the possibility a tit-for-tat trade war.

A “strong majority” of Fed officials worry that a trade war would harm the US economy, while most shrugged off the economic impact of steel and aluminum tariffs alone, according to the minutes.

Fed officials were deliberating their March rate hike decision just as the Trump administration was considering slapping tariffs on Chinese imports. Most policymakers also weren’t sure how much — and when — the tax cuts would boost the economy. It’s rare for lawmakers to stimulate the economy with tax cuts when the economy is already at full steam. Overstimulating an already healthy economy could force the Fed to speed up interest-rate hikes. During their March meeting, the Fed raised its economic growth forecast to 2.7%, up from 2.5% in December. That was before Republican tax cuts were enacted and lawmakers made a deal for $300 billion in additional government spending.

Netanyahu Uses Holocaust Event to Urge Action Against Syria, Iran

Image: Netanyahu Uses Holocaust Event to Urge Action Against Syria, Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a speech at Israel’s annual Holocaust commemorations on Wednesday to call for action against Syria following a suspected poison gas attack.The United States has threatened air strikes against Syria over the use of chemical weapons that Syria and its ally Russia deny. “The events of the last days teach that standing up to evil and aggression is a mission that is incumbent upon every generation,” Netanyahu said at the Holocaust commemorations’ opening ceremony, without explicitly referring to the standoff between Washington and Moscow.”We saw the Syrian children who were slaughtered with chemical weapons. Our hearts were rent by the horrific sights.” Netanyahu also invoked the lessons of World War Two and the Holocaust to call for action against Iran, criticising the nuclear deal Tehran signed with six world powers.  “The lack of willingness among the powers of the West to stand firm in the face of the tyrannical regime, their lack of willingness to pay the price of stopping aggression at an early stage, led to humanity paying a much greater price later on,” he said..

FBI reportedly sought records of Trump ‘Access Hollywood’ tape in raid of president’s lawyer Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen
John Taggart | Bloomberg | Getty Images Michael Cohen

FBI agents looked for all of the records related to the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape involving President Donald Trump when they raided the New York City office and hotel room of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing sources. That tape, which came to light just a month before the 2016 presidential election, revealed Trump and then-“Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush talking in lewd terms about women in 2005. The Times said that a search warrant executed on Cohen’s property on Monday also was seeking evidence about whether he tried to suppress damaging information about Trump during the presidential campaign. The FBI was acting as part of a probe related to Cohen by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who were acting on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election as well as potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Trump has repeatedly denied that he either colluded or obstructed justice. He condemned the raid against Cohen as a “disgrace” and claimed it was a violation of attorney-client privilege. Exposure of the “Access Hollywood” tape, on which Trump is heard bragging about grabbing women without their consent, caused a sensation and led to speculation that it would doom his candidacy.

“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything,” Trump told Bush on the tape. As the campaign was headed into the home stretch, Trump recorded a video in which he apologized for making the remarks.

It was already known that FBI agents seized records relating to a $130,000 payment that Cohen made porn star Stormy Daniels three weeks after the “Access Hollywood” tape came to light, and shortly before Election Day Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said that she was paid that money in exchange for her agreement to remain silent about an affair she had with Trump that began in 2006. The White House has denied such an affair. FBI agents were also looking for documents in Cohen’s possession related to payments made to another woman who claims she had an affair with Trump, Playboy model Karen McDougal. Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s attorney, told CNBC on Wednesday that he was making no statement on the case. “Access Hollywood,” which is an entertainment news show, is now known as “Access.” It is aired by NBCUniversal Television, which like CNBC is a division of NBC Universal. Bush was fired from his job at NBC’s “Today” Show after the tape with Trump came to light. Bush told CNBC on Wednesday that he was unaware of the Times story about FBI agents being interested in the tape during their raid of Cohen. “I have not been contacted” by federal investigators, Bush said.

Reddit bans nearly 1,000 accounts linked to Russian ‘troll farm’

Steve Huffman CEO, Reddit, delivers remarks on 'Redesigning Reddit' during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Horacio Villalobos | Corbis | Getty Images Steve Huffman CEO, Reddit, delivers remarks on ‘Redesigning Reddit’ during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 27 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Reddit has banned almost 1,000 accounts linked to a controversial Russian firm accused of using online propaganda to influence the U.S. presidential election. The firm found 944 accounts on the platform with ties to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), a so-called “troll farm” based in St. Petersburg, CEO Steve Huffman said in an announcement Tuesday. The development follows Facebook’s efforts to purge IRA-related accounts from its network. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social network was removing more than 270 pages and accounts operated by the IRA. Zuckerberg was faced with intense grilling by Congress on Tuesday, over the sharing of 87 million users’ personal information with data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook’s co-founder is due to appear before U.S. lawmakers again on Wednesday. Facebook and Reddit differ, however, in that the latter lets users create anonymous accounts. Both have content policies that restrict what users can post online, and Reddit has said it is doing more to tackle content violations. In October, the site implemented a ban on content that “glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people.” This led to the shutting down of Nazi communities, or “subreddits,” including r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi and r/Far_Right. Last year, Huffman told CNBC that users misbehaving on Reddit were a minority. One subreddit, r/The_Donald became surrounded in controversy during the 2016 election battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The community is devoted to supporters of the president. Huffman said that IRA-linked accounts made 316 posts to r/The_Donald. He said in March that the company was cooperating with Congressional inquiries related to possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. The chief executive also included a link in the announcement to all of the 944 IRA-linked accounts “to allow moderators, investigators, and all of you to see their account histories for yourselves.” Reddit and Facebook aren’t alone in being troubled by Russia-linked accounts that are accused of attempting to sway the U.S. election. In February, NBC News published a database of more than 200,000 Twitter posts that could be traced back to Russia’s IRA. In February, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office announced that a federal grand jury had indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities. Mueller’s office also alleged that the IRA was controlled by Yevgeny Progozhin, a wealth ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Robert Mueller’s Nuclear Option

If Trump fires him, the special counsel should reveal everything he’s discovered in the Russia investigation.

Robert Mueller’s first duty is to the truth. His mandate as special counsel is to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. His powers in that role allow him to bring criminal charges if they are warranted. But his most fundamental obligation is to answer a complex question: What happened? It’s clear that President Donald Trump doesn’t want that question to be answered. A purge of the Justice Department’s upper ranks, perhaps coupled with Mueller’s dismissal, now feels like a matter of when, not if.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday afternoon that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire the special counsel, and that “a number of individuals in the legal community, and including at the Department of Justice, said he has the power to do so.”

It’s been known that Trump attempted as much in June, but on Tuesday evening The New York Times reported that the president tried again in December. And CNN reported later that night that Trump is also openly weighing the ouster of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein so that he can install someone else to supervise—and curtail—the Russia investigation.

If Trump fires the special counsel or substantively hamstrings his ability to pursue the Russia investigation to whatever end, Mueller won’t be able to fulfill that responsibility to the truth. Fortunately, the former FBI director has an option of last resort: releasing everything he’s discovered to the American public, in one way or another.

 This drastic step would not be necessary in a healthier republic. The best check on presidential abuses is Congress, which has its own inherent powers to conduct investigations, subpoena witnesses and documents, and even hold executive-branch officials in contempt or remove them from office. In theory, this would be the best place to which Mueller could turn to ensure his investigation’s findings wouldn’t be buried by the Trump administration and its more pliable officials.

Unfortunately, the House and Senate Republicans who control Congress have been largely supine when it comes to challenging the president. Most of them have kept quiet whenever Trump threatened the Justice Department’s independence or tried to interfere in the Russia investigation. More congressional Republicans tend to defend the president from investigators than not. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters in March that he received assurances Trump wouldn’t fire Mueller. But he also stood by as Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, led by Trump ally Devin Nunes, abused their oversight powers in a misleading effort to discredit the FBI over the past three months. Some Senate Republicans have proposed legislation to insulate Mueller from Trump’s whims, only to be stonewalled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose wife, Elaine Chao, serves in Trump’s cabinet as the secretary of Transportation. “I haven’t seen a clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen, and that remains my view,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. Though he said this before Sanders’s comments and the Times and CNN reports, McConnell has been steadfast in his position for many months; it’s not likely to change even in the face of increasingly compelling evidence. Based on Ryan and McConnell’s intransigence so far, it’s hard to see how Congress would take forceful action to protect Mueller under their leadership. Democrats won’t have an opportunity to retake Congress until the November midterms, when they will need a historic landslide to seize both chambers (winning the House looks likely, but not the Senate). Even then, the new Congress wouldn’t be seated until January. That means Trump has at least nine months of relatively unchecked power over the Justice Department before Democrats have a chance of even moderately constraining him. As a result, Mueller’s best options to preserve his investigation’s findings, if the worst should occur, are more unorthodox. The most straightforward method would be to send the most relevant findings to the press, either through anonymous sources or by simply mailing select reporters a manila envelope containing key documents. Former FBI Director James Comey deployed this tactic to extraordinary effect last year when he used a middleman to get copies of his memos about Trump’s interference attempts into the Times’s hands. The disclosures culminated in Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.

Continue reading “Robert Mueller’s Nuclear Option”

How Paul Ryan lost and Donald Trump won in the fight for the future of the GOP

Paul Ryan in 2017: Not going anywhere

(CNN)Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision not to seek an 11th term this fall sends a chilling signal to Republicans hoping to keep control of the House in November while also illustrating the impossibilities of serving as an elected GOP leader in Donald Trump’s Washington. “This morning Speaker Ryan shared with his colleagues that this will be his last year as a member of the House,” confirmed Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. “He will serve out his full term, run through the tape, and then retire in January.” Ryan had been hinting behind-the-scenes for months that he wasn’t going to be around all that much longer. Remember that he was cajoled into taking the job in 2015 following then-Speaker John Boehner’s resignation amid pressure from conservatives inside and out of Congress. Ryan initially blanched at taking the job but stepped forward when it became apparent that there was simply no one else who could win a majority of the majority’s vote. Nonetheless, his retirement will send shockwaves through a party already reeling in the face of what looks to be a growing Democratic wave headed its way in a few months time. Ryan is the 40th Republican to announce a decision not to seek reelection as compared to just 19 for Democrats. While Ryan’s seat isn’t ultra-competitive — Trump won it by 10 points — his decision not run could well set off a slew of retirements from GOP members who had been wavering about whether to run again in what looks to be a very, very difficult national environment. (There are still 19 states where the filing deadlines haven’t passed — including New York where filing closes on Thursday.) “It may encourage other Republicans to not run again, I think moreso than affecting the money,” Rep. Tom Massie, a Kentucky Republican, told CNN’s Juana Summers. “We’ve already got twice as many retirements in our party as the Democrats. l The problem for Ryan was that Trump wasn’t willing to simply follow the blueprint the House Speaker laid out for him.  The latest provocation? Trump threatened to veto the omnibus spending bill last month, insisting it didn’t do enough about funding the border wall. That veto threat, which Trump eventually backed away from, stunned congressional Republicans who had already left Washington patting each other on the backs for keeping the government open and funded.

Senate GOP leaders warn Trump not to fire Mueller but reject calls for legislation to protect him

Their reluctance to take more forceful action came as Democratic leaders voiced new urgency to shield Mueller a day after Trump said he had been encouraged by some to dismiss the special counsel. At least one rank-and-file Republican endorsed moving forward soon with a bill to protect him. But Senate GOP leaders were not budging from their position against taking preventive action, underscoring the downside they have long seen in being too confrontational against the leader of their party. Even at moments of great uncertainty about what Trump will do next, congressional Republican leaders have opted not to further agitate him. “I haven’t seen clear indication yet that we needed to pass something to keep him from being removed, because I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell did not elaborate on why he believed that.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, his top deputy, said he also didn’t believe Mueller would be removed. Asked why, he replied, “I think the consequences of doing so are some that not even the president can anticipate. And I think it would be a mistake.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, issued Trump a sharper warning. He said on Fox Business Network it would be “suicide for the president to want, to talk about firing Mueller.” Grassley said the less the president said about it, “the better off he would be, the stronger his presidency would be.” The ousted special counsel would have those 10 days to appeal the decision to a three-judge panel before their termination is complete. The bill would also require all staff and documents be preserved during that window. “I think we’ve got a compromise,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who proposed one of the bills last year. “But I’m not worried about Mueller being fired.”

Mueller and Trump became major topics of conversation on Capitol Hill the day after the FBI’s seizure of privileged communications between Trump and Cohen, as well as documents related to a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who has alleged that she had a sexual affair with Trump a decade ago.  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire Mueller. “I accept virtually every Republican senator who’s made a comment on this,” Warner said. “This would be the end of the Trump presidency if he were to take this precarious action.”

Trump Rants on Ukraine, WH Fake News, ‘Corrupt Russia’ Probe

Image: Trump Rants on Ukraine, WH Fake News, 'Corrupt Russia' Probe
(Getty Images) By Mark Swanson

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to berate more fake news stories concerning Ukraine and alleged White House turmoil amid the “corrupt Russia investigation.”

The New York Times on Monday reported that among special counsel Robert Mueller’s spider crack investigations was a $150,000 donation to the Trump Foundation from a Ukrainian businessman in exchange for a brief speech by Trump.And Trump’s “unthinkable” reference was the FBI’s raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen on Monday, action reportedly approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of the Trump administration.

Oil jumps 3% to above $65 on growing Middle East tensions

Oil prices settled at a two-week high Tuesday as Wall Street grew increasingly concerned over possible military actions in the Middle East. Geopolitical concerns elevated crude prices on Tuesday after President Donald Trump canceled his scheduled trip to multiple South American countries to focus on the U.S. response to developments in Syria. The president met with military officials in the White House Monday to discuss the administration’s response to an alleged chemical weapons attack carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government against its own people. But future U.S. involvement in the Middle East could interrupt crude supply chains and make it difficult for producers to ship overseas, sparking a bid for oil on Tuesday. Adding to the tenions, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Tuesday that the country could be a part of an international response to the Syrian violence, Reuters reported.

 

“There are headlines of a U.S. carrier group heading to the Middle East, the Saudis are looking for $80 Brent crude, and this is ahead of API inventories,” said Roberto Friedlander, head of energy trading at Seaport Global Securities. The “market [also] bounced this morning after the Chinese president’s more dovish comments on the trade war.”

Both equity and oil markets rallied after the speech, while supposed safe havens like U.S. Treasurys and gold slipped, supporting Wall Street’s thesis that a trade war between the economic superpowers is increasingly unlikely. Oil prices also traded higher Tuesday amid a report from Bloomberg News, which said that Saudi Arabian officials were seeking $80 a barrel on Brent crude to support the valuation of its energy giant, Aramco, before its initial public offering. Also helping were comments from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih who said oil cartel OPEC will continue to steward the market. The minister said he would seek an extension to the OPEC – Russia deal, which expires in December. The report comes a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first told Time magazine that he expected Aramco’s public launch to coincide with higher oil prices. “We believe oil prices will get higher in this year and also get higher in 2019, so we are trying to pick the right time,” the prince told Time in reference to the IPO. While Riyadh initially targeted the IPO for the second half of 2018, the Saudis are now forecasting the launch for. Nick Bit: This is a GREAT SHORTING OPPORTUNITY! After the blow and go markets will achieve new cycle low

A total witch hunt’: Trump tweets blistering early morning attack on his own Justice Department and says ‘attorney-client privilege is dead’ after the FBI raids his lawyer’s office for Stormy Daniels hush money files

Trump called Monday's raid ordered by federal prosecutors on his personal attorney Michael Cohen's hotel  room and offices 'an attack on our country and what we all stand for' – and then tweeted twice about it on Tuesday morning

Donald Trump lashed out at hs own Justice Department on Tuesday morning, following FBI raids on his longtime personal lawyer’s offices, home and hotel.

‘Attorney–client privilege is dead!’ Trump tweeted.

‘A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!’

The White House has yet to formulate a strategy for dealing with the fallout of an apparent criminal investigation of Michael Cohen by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.Trump, according to one White House official who spoke with DailyMail.com on Monday night, is most angry about what he thought was an impenetrable barrier: the decades-old secrecy between Cohen and himself. Trump called Monday’s raid ordered by federal prosecutors on his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s hotel  room and offices ‘an attack on our country and what we all stand for’ – and then tweeted twice about it on Tuesday morning

Cohen, a personal attorney for President Trump, had his hotel room and office both raided by the FBI acting on the instructions of the Justice Department

The president let it all hang out on Tuesday, ignoring Twitter's 280-character limit and blasting his own Justice Department in a pair of tweets that totaled just nine words

The president let it all hang out on Tuesday, ignoring Twitter’s 280-character limit and blasting his own Justice Department in a pair of tweets that totaled just nine wordsFamed Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz (right), a liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton, said Monday night that ‘this is a very dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations’

Mueller is investigating a $150,000 payment a pro-Russian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation during the campaign

The special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into a large donation a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015 after then-candidate Donald Trump gave a video talk at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, The New York Times reported. At the time, Trump was one of several Republicans vying for the 2016 presidential nomination. In August 2015, Doug Schoen, a political consultant who works for the Ukrainian billionaire and steel magnate Victor Pinchuk, personally contacted Trump to set up the speech, according to the report. Trump accepted the request but reportedly did not broach the subject of any payment. However, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is said to have called Schoen the next day to ask for a $150,000 fee from Pinchuk in exchange for the talk. The revelation comes as Mueller investigates the flow of foreign money into the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal business. The special counsel is also examining whether administration officials used their influence within the White House to benefit their personal finances. On Monday, investigators working for the US attorney’s office at the Southern District of New York raided Cohen’s offices in New York after obtaining a search warrant, and seized records on various topics, such as the $130,000 nondisclosure payment Cohen made the adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels, shortly before the 2016 US presidential election. Investigators also seized a computer, phone, personal financial records, and attorney-client communications. Cohen is currently a subject of scrutiny in two criminal investigations, one of which is being overseen by the SDNY and the other by Mueller’s office. The Washington Post reported Monday that Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Meanwhile, the special counsel’s heightened focus on Cohen comes after he subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents and records related to its foreign deals. According to The Times, the Trump Organization responded by handing over documents about Pinchuk’s donation, among others. As part of his investigation into the Trump Organization’s foreign deals, Mueller is said to be particularly interested in the company’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015, just months after Trump gave the talk in Kiev. Cohen and the Russian-born businessman Felix Sater were instrumental in pushing for the deal. Though the project ultimately fell through, it attracted renewed scrutiny last month when Sater confirmed on national television that the Trump Organization was actively negotiating with a sanctioned Russian bank to secure financing for the building at the height of the election. Meanwhile, the Times’ report about Pinchuk’s donation to the Trump Foundation comes after Mueller questioned at least three wealthy Russian oligarchs over whether they directly or indirectly funneled money into the Trump campaign. Investigators have also been asking witnesses about money flowing in from the United Arab Emirates and asked for information about Pinchuk as part of that line of inquiry. Pinchuk’s donation was the largest the Trump Foundation received in 2015 from anyone other than Trump himself, the report said. Experts also pointed out that the large amount of the donation was disproportionate to the relatively short length of Trump’s talk, which lasted 20 minutes. Trump gave the talk via a video link at the Yalta European Strategy conference, which promotes closer ties between Ukraine and the West. Previous attendees include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton. Trump has frequently criticized the Clintons for using their charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation, for personal financial gain and to peddle political influence. Pinchuk has donated more than $13 million to the Clinton Foundation, per The Times. The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which sponsored the conference, said in a statement to The Times that the $150,000 donation to Trump’s foundation was “a specific request of Mr. Trump Foundation in September of 2015 when there were multiple candidates for the Republican nomination for president and it was by no means assured that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee in 2016.” The Trump Foundation has drawn significant scrutiny for appearing to use donations for Trump’s and his family members’ personal benefit. The foundation also reportedly said in a tax filing made two weeks after Trump won the 2016 election that it may have broken federal rules that prohibit charitable organizations from self-dealing.

Donald Trump cancels South America trip

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is considering the US response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria and is facing domestic pressure after the FBI raid on his lawyer Michael Cohen. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The White House announced on Tuesday that Donald Trump will not travel to South America this week as planned. The president had been due to attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima and travel to Bogotá, Colombia, as well. Vice-president Mike Pence will make the trip in his stead. It would been Trump’s first visit to Latin America as president. A statement issued by the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said: “At the president’s request, the vice-president will travel in his stead. The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.” On Monday, Trump said a decision about a US response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria was imminent. Speaking to reporters at the White House, he said: “We’re making decisions as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus. And it will be met. And it will be met forcefully. When I will not say because I don’t like talking about timing.” At the White House press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump’s “national security team thought it was best he stay in the United States”. “Mar-a-Lago happens to be within the United States,” she added. Trump also faces pressure from within the US, over an FBI raid on the office of his attorney, Michael Cohen. He described the raid as “an attack on our country in a true sense … an attack on what we all stand for”. In a statement, Pence communications director Jared Agren said: “The vice-president is honored to represent the United States at the eighth Summit of the Americas at President Trump’s request. “He looks forward to promoting policy that will lead to an even stronger US economy and working with our close allies in Latin America to collectively hold undemocratic actors in the region accountable for their actions.” Pence travelled to Latin America in August 2017, visiting Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Panama.

GOP strategists close to congressional leaders are worried that FBI’s raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen could signal trouble in midterms

President Donald Trump speaks to the press with Vice President Mike Pence (L), in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on March 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.
FBI raid related to more payments to women, says NYT 2 Hours Ago
 

The FBI raids conducted against President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney have sent shockwaves through Republican leadership ranks as Democrats look to flip both houses of Congress in November’s midterm elections. Political operatives close to congressional GOP leadership are shaken after the FBI raided the office and residence of the lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Monday. These external advisors spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity as they are heavily involved with the elections. Republican political advisors think the issue could push voters away from the GOP agenda and give Democrats a big boost in the midterms.”Among strategists, concern is at an all-caps level,” said one Republican strategist who is close to Senate leaders. The reason for the fear, this strategist said, comes from uncertainty about how the president may react, including possibly firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who reportedly made the referral leading to the Cohen raid, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who reportedly signed off on the raids.

Trump on Monday called the investigation “an attack on our nation.”

There also appears to be a concern, the strategist said, about potential charges being brought against Cohen, who is one of Trump’s closest confidants. Cohen is known to have extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the Trump Organization. “Most operatives are monitoring the situation closely with the hope for some sign of relief,” the strategist said. “I don’t think anybody knows what to expect. To us, the unknown is the scariest part.” Another strategist close to GOP leaders shared similar concerns — and called for Republicans to distance themselves from the situation before it hurts them in November. “I imagine people are watching closely while trying to stay as far away as possible,” the GOP operative told CNBC.

The GOP tax plan means short-term gains for the economy, but federal debt is primed to explode, CBO analysis says

CBO: Tax law will add $1.9 trillion to deficit over a decade
CBO: Tax law will add $1.9 trillion to deficit over a decade

The Republican overhaul of America’s tax code and increased government spending are projected to boost economic growth to 3.3 percent this year but push the national debt to nearly the same size as gross domestic product by 2028, according to government data released Monday. The Congressional Budget Office forecast that the new tax law will generate an average of 0.7 percent growth over the decade and create 1.1 million jobs. It also predicted the two-year federal spending deal would increase GDP by 0.3 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2019. However, larger budget deficits would crowd out private investment in later years, dampening economic growth. As a result, the CBO estimated the cumulative deficit over the next decade will be $1.6 trillion larger than previously projected. By 2028, the national debt would total 96 percent of GDP. “Such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences for the budget and for the nation,” the CBO report said. Republicans have been fending off criticism from fiscal hawks for passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut late last year and following it up with a $1.3 trillion government spending deal with Democrats signed last month. The CBO estimates that annual deficits will reach $1 trillion in 2020, buttressing similar warnings from private forecasters. Democrats seized on the CBO analysis to attack one of the main GOP arguments for the tax cut bill. “The CBO’s latest report exposes the scam behind the rosy rhetoric from Republicans that their tax bill would pay for itself,” New York’s Chuck Schumer, the leading Democrat in the Senate, said in a statement. Amid unrest among the conservative flank, Republicans are now trying to make amends. On Thursday, the House is slated to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The proposal would prohibit federal spending from outpacing revenues unless three-fifths of the House approves an exemption. A supermajority would also be required to raise taxes or the national debt limit, so it is unlikely to become a reality. In addition to the amendment, Republican leadership has also spoken with the Trump administration about the possibility of rolling back parts of the federal spending deal. President Donald Trump spoke with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy last week about sending Congress a so-called rescission request to cut funding, although by how much remains unclear. A GOP source who declined to be named said lawmakers are supportive of the effort and are taking the little-used presidential power “seriously.” Still, it is unclear whether Republicans would have 60 votes in the Senate to pass a spending reduction, but it would signal a remarkable about-face for members of both parties who backed the deal. In its report Monday, the CBO also estimated the impact of making permanent the temporary provisions in the new tax law, which Trump and some GOP leaders have discussed, and maintaining the higher level of spending under the recently passed budget deal. The moves would push the national debt to 105 percent of GDP in 2028, the second-highest level in the nation’s history. The last time the U.S. debt hit 105 percent of GDP was right after World War II. “Such high and rising debt would have serious consequences for the budget and the nation,” CBO Director Keith Hall said. “The likelihood of a fiscal crisis for the United States will increase.” Hall added: “The timing of this is really concerning because we’re not coming out of a recession. We’re quite a few years out of a recession, and we have very high deficits.” Meanwhile, five former White House economists warned Monday against addressing the deficit by cutting entitlement programs such as Social Security. Writing in The Washington Post, Martin Neil Baily, Jason Furman, Alan Krueger, Laura D’Andrea Tyson and Janet Yellen argued that the funding gap has largely been driven by lower revenues and unfunded wars. “The primary reason the deficit in coming years will now be higher than had been expected is the reduction in tax revenue from last year’s tax cuts, not an increase in spending,” they wrote.

Search warrant reveals Mueller’s interest in Manafort’s actions during Trump campaign

(CNN)Search warrant documents used by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators reveal how agents zeroed in on potential criminal activity related to Paul Manafort’s time as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. The documents, used to obtain a search warrant in building the case against Manafort, were revealed in a court filing late Monday night. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in two federal cases, and the charges he faces do not include allegations about his time on the campaign.

The search warrant makes clear that Mueller is also focused on Manafort’s actions connected to the campaign. The White House and others have repeatedly said that the investigation into Manafort concerns his activities before he joined Trump’s team in 2016.
Investigators in a search warrant application last July told a judge in Virginia that they sought evidence related to Manafort’s interactions with a Russian real estate magnate and were suspicious of possible campaign finance violations. Specifically, the investigators sought from Manafort’s apartment records “involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower” and anything involving Aras and Emin Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire and his son tied to the meeting, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and to a possible earlier unsuccessful attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Manafort attended the meeting, which was facilitated by the Agalarovs and attended by their publicist and an employee of their company, and a Russian lawyer who was believed to be bringing revealing information about Hillary Clinton. Manafort was in the meeting, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein outlined for the special counsel that he could investigate Manafort for payments from Ukrainian politicians but also allegations that Manafort was “colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The investigation team sought a laundry list of data, including interactions between Manafort and his family and close associates, financial records and purchases of luxury suits, rugs and watches.
Manafort previously took issue in court with a search of his storage locker in Virginia, which contained boxes of business records. The illumination of the July raid of Manafort’s home, which became public days after it happened, happens hours after prosecutors in New York, separate from Mueller, swept the belongings of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney.

US’ Moscow sanctions are finally proving a ‘major game changer’ for Russia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during a meeting with his election representatives at Moscows Gostiny Dvor; Putin is running for re-election in the 2018 Russian presidential election scheduled for March 18, 2018.
Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Image
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looks on during a meeting with his election representatives at Moscows Gostiny Dvor; Putin is running for re-election in the 2018 Russian presidential election scheduled for March 18, 2018. Unloading a raft of targeted sanctions after months of perceived inaction against Russia by the Trump administration, it’s becoming clear that Washington has hit the country where it hurts. The intended message is that no oligarch can escape economic punishment for involvement in the country’s alleged transgressions.

Russian stocks suffered their worst day since 2014 as fears over recently-imposed U.S. Treasury sanctions swept the country. Monday saw Russia’s main share index, the dollar-denominated RTS, crash 11.4 percent while the ruble fell 4.5 percent against the dollar on Tuesday.

Until recently considered a safe bet with many investors “overweight” on Russian assets, the country’s markets now appear at the mercy of the U.S. Treasury, whose deployment of punitive economic measures Friday was its most severe — and most unpredictable — yet.

The gut-punch? Washington’s secondary sanctions, which threaten to punish non-American individuals and companies doing business with the sanctioned entities in the same way they would Americans. This is a particularly powerful component of the sanctions placed on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 businesses and 17 government officials which were put on the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, freezing their U.S. assets and forbidding U.S. persons and companies from doing business with them. Congress’s sanctions legislation, CAATSA (the Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act) allows for the measures to be expanded as well, according to Max Hess, political risk analyst at AKE Group. Depending on the U.S. government’s determination, he said, “They would apply in full to pretty much anyone — well, anyone hoping to ever use the U.S. financial system — as they would to a U.S. person or company, hence a big deal.” The latest measures came as a surprise to many, after some eight months of delayed action by President Donald Trump on punitive economic measures overwhelmingly passed by Congress in August 2017. And according to senior portfolio strategist Tim Ash at Bluebay Asset Management, they represent “a major game changer in terms of how one should view Russian credit and market risks.” This is, experts say, the first time under the Trump administration that the Treasury has really shown its teeth on Russia — raising questions of how Russia will respond, and what will come next.

Mueller is investigating a $150,000 payment a pro-Russian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation during the campaign

 

The special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into a large donation a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015 after then-candidate Donald Trump gave a video talk at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, The New York Times reported. At the time, Trump was one of several Republicans vying for the 2016 presidential nomination. In August 2015, Doug Schoen, a political consultant who works for the Ukrainian billionaire and steel magnate Victor Pinchuk, personally contacted Trump to set up the speech, according to the report.

Trump accepted the request but reportedly did not broach the subject of any payment. However, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is said to have called Schoen the next day to ask for a $150,000 fee from Pinchuk in exchange for the talk.

The revelation comes as Mueller investigates the flow of foreign money into the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal business. The special counsel is also examining whether administration officials used their influence within the White House to benefit their personal finances. Cohen is currently a subject of scrutiny in two criminal investigations, one of which is being overseen by the SDNY and the other by Mueller’s office. The Washington Post reported Monday that Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Meanwhile, the special counsel’s heightened focus on Cohen comes after he subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents and records related to its foreign deals. According to The Times, the Trump Organization responded by handing over documents about Pinchuk’s donation, among others. As part of his investigation into the Trump Organization’s foreign deals, Mueller is said to be particularly interested in the company’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015, just months after Trump gave the talk in Kiev. Cohen and the Russian-born businessman Felix Sater were instrumental in pushing for the deal. Though the project ultimately fell through, it attracted renewed scrutiny last month when Sater confirmed on national television that the Trump Organization was actively negotiating with a sanctioned Russian bank to secure financing for the building at the height of the election. Meanwhile, the Times’ report about Pinchuk’s donation to the Trump Foundation comes after Mueller questioned at least three wealthy Russian oligarchs over whether they directly or indirectly funneled money into the Trump campaign. Investigators have also been asking witnesses about money flowing in from the United Arab Emirates and asked for information about Pinchuk as part of that line of inquiry. Pinchuk’s donation was the largest the Trump Foundation received in 2015 from anyone other than Trump himself, the report said. Experts also pointed out that the large amount of the donation was disproportionate to the relatively short length of Trump’s talk, which lasted 20 minutes. Trump gave the talk via a video link at the Yalta European Strategy conference, which promotes closer ties between Ukraine and the West. Previous attendees include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton. Trump has frequently criticized the Clintons for using their charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation, for personal financial gain and to peddle political influence. Pinchuk has donated more than $13 million to the Clinton Foundation, per The Times.

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which sponsored the conference, said in a statement to The Times that the $150,000 donation to Trump’s foundation was “a specific request of Mr. Trump Foundation in September of 2015 when there were multiple candidates for the Republican nomination for president and it was by no means assured that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee in 2016.”

The Trump Foundation has drawn significant scrutiny for appearing to use donations for Trump’s and his family members’ personal benefit. The foundation also reportedly said in a tax filing made two weeks after Trump won the 2016 election that it may have broken federal rules that prohibit charitable organizations from self-dealing.

Donald Trump has never been more likely to fire Robert Mueller than he is right now

Cohen raid ignites Trump's rage and sparks speculation

(CNN)In the wake of the FBI raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump is mad as hell. And he may just be willing to take a step considered to be a political nuclear bomb in Washington: Fire special counsel Robert Mueller. “Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” Trump responded Monday night to a question from a reporter. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. Many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.” That’s a remarkable statement. And further than Trump has gone — at least publicly — before. Openly contemplating the firing of the special counsel feels like a precursor to the actual act, a trial balloon floated to see how it might land.  Trump is massively unpredictable and prone to changing his mind without warning. And, according to CNN’s Gloria Borger, Trump’s fury is more directed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein than at Mueller at the moment. “The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when recused himself or he certainly should have let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have put a different attorney general,” Trump said Monday night. Trump has repeatedly blasted Sessions for that choice, making clear on several previous occasions that he never would have nominated Sessions for the AG role if he had known the former Alabama senator would recuse himself. So, it’s possible that Trump gets rid of either Sessions or Rosenstein as payback for the Cohen raid. (Make no mistake: The targeting of Cohen by the FBI is the equivalent in Trump’s mind of raiding the home of a member of his family; he and Cohen are that close.) But, we know that Trump already ordered Mueller fired last summer, only to be talked out of it by White House counsel Don McGahn. That he has already gone down that road once means he can go down it again. An angry and embittered Trump without any sort of protective cocoon around him is capable of almost anything — up to and including getting rid of the man who has been a burr in his saddle for the past year. Trump added this on Mueller and his team:

“This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I have ever seen. Democrats — all. Either Democrats or a couple of Republicans who worked for President Obama. They’re not looking at the other side — Hillary Clinton… all of the crimes that were committed, all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about from the Republican side and the independent side. They only keep looking at us. ” Nick Bit: Trump is setting things up to fire Muller!

Trump furious after FBI seizes documents from his lawyer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agents on Monday raided the office of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, seizing records on topics including a $130,000 payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels. A furious Trump, who in the last month has escalated his attacks on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, said from the White House that it was a “disgrace” that the FBI “broke into” his lawyer’s office. He called Mueller’s investigation “an attack on our country,” prompting new speculation that he might seek the removal of the Justice Department’s special counsel.

The raid was overseen by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and was based in part on a referral from Mueller, said Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan.

“The decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” Ryan said in a statement. “It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients.” Federal agents on Monday raided the office of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, seizing records on topics including a $130,000 payment made to a porn actress who says she had sex with Trump more than a decade ago. (April 9) The raid creates a new legal headache for Trump as he and his attorneys weigh whether to agree to an interview with Mueller’s team, which in addition to investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign is also examining whether the president’s actions constitute obstruction of justice. And the law enforcement action will almost certainly amplify the public scrutiny on the payment to Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The payment was made just days before the 2016 presidential election. Trump told reporters last week that he did not know about it. Search warrants are a fairly standard, though aggressive, law enforcement tool and are often sought in cases where authorities are concerned someone may hide or withhold evidence. To obtain one, agents must convince a judge they have probable cause of criminal activity and they believe they’ll find evidence of wrongdoing in a search. A warrant requires high-level approval within the Justice Department, and agency guidelines impose additional hurdles when the search target is an attorney.  Mueller opted to refer the matter to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Besides Cohen’s office, agents also searched a hotel room where he’s been staying while his home is under renovation. Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller must consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then will determine whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or another part of the Justice Department. Cohen has more recently attracted attention for his acknowledgment that he paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket shortly before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen has said neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Daniels and he was not reimbursed for the payment. Federal agents searched Cohen’s office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, where he had been working as part of a “strategic partnership” with the law firm Squire Patton Boggs. On Monday, the firm said in a statement that its relationship with Cohen had “reached its conclusion, mutually and in accordance with the terms of the agreement.” “We have been in contact with Federal authorities regarding their execution of a warrant relating to Mr. Cohen,” the firm said. “These activities do not relate to the firm and we are in full cooperation.”

Russia sanctions: Shares in Deripaska-controlled firms crash

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The US has accused Oleg Deripaska of operating for the Russian government

Shares in firms controlled by Oleg Deripaska have plunged after the US imposed sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and their companies on Friday. Shares in the Russian aluminium giant Rusal nearly halved on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Monday. EN+, another firm controlled by Mr Deripaska, dived by 25% in London. The sanctions follow a diplomatic crisis sparked by the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. They affect the seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, as well as 17 senior Russian government officials. According to Washington, the individuals and companies were targeted for profiting from a Russian state engaged in “malign activities” around the world. Other magnates hit by sanctions include Alexei Miller, director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom. Rusal, which produces about 7% of the world’s aluminium, said it regretted its inclusion on the new US sanctions list. The company said the sanctions were likely to have a “materially adverse” impact on its business and finances. The rouble fell 2% against the US dollar while the Moscow stock market was down 6.5% on Monday as investors assessed the effect of the sanctions. Shares with Russian exposure listed elsewhere were also hit. Shares in Russian steelmaker Evraz were the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 in London, down amore than 15%. The US said it imposed the latest sanctions because of Russian activity in Ukraine, its support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war and for subverting Western democracies. It has also expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK. On Friday Russia’s foreign ministry said there would be a “tough response” to the sanctions. Nick Bit: the Russian RTX stock index is getting killed. As you may know we have a trade for that because we told you sanctions with TRUMP kicking and screaming the whole way would ramp up.

FANG stocks’ bite has US fund managers looking for alternatives

The FANG stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google
Adam Jeffery | CNBC The FANG stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Googl

Fund managers have begun to ditch so-called FANG stocks that powered the U.S. stock market to record highs in January and are slowly rotating into commodity-related shares and other value stocks which typically outperform in late-cycle recoveries. Portfolio managers holding shares of Facebook, Amazon.com, Netflix, and Google-parent Alphabet say they are increasingly concerned that the data scandal that has sent shares of Facebook down nearly 15 percent year-to-date will spill over into all of the FANG stocks, imperiling the broad market’s momentum at a time when there are no clear companies or sectors to take their place. “There are legitimate concerns over the business models of these companies, and I expect that they will be ironed out in legislation” that will likely eat into their profit margins, said Michael Cuggino, a portfolio manager of the $2.7-billion Permanent Portfolio funds. Each FANG company rose more than 33 percent last year, helping power the S&P 500 to a nearly 20-percent gain. Yet those gains have left the broad S&P 500 trading at a high trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 21.7, leaving it overpriced despite a boost to margins from the Republican-led corporate tax cut at the end of 2017.

Rising volatility and changing market leadership are now pointing towards the possible conclusion that the stock market peaked in late January 2018,” said Douglas Kass, president of Seabreeze Capital Management.

Even after the selloff, FANG stocks continue to trade at higher valuations than the broad market. Netflix trades at a P/E of 210 and Amazon.com trades at a P/E of 327. Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet, both of which have been directly linked with privacy concerns, now trade at valuations near 52-week lows. Nick Bit: Some crazy shit! trading at 200 even 300 times earnings… that is if they have any earnngs to begin with. Your Right the FANGS are dead meat and we have a trade for that……

Iran Threatens to Restart Nuke Enrichment Program in Matter of Days

Threats ‘confirm that the Iranian regime never gave up on its atomic weapon ambitions’

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei / ReutersBY: Adam Kredo Follow @Kredo0

 

Iranian leaders are threatening to restart the country’s contested nuclear enrichment program in just a matter of days as the Trump administration and European allies scramble to address a range of flaws in the landmark nuclear accord ahead of a May deadline that could see the United States walk away from the accord, according to regional reports and administration insiders. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization disclosed on Sunday that the Islamic Republic has maintained the ability to restart the full-scale enrichment of uranium—the key component in a nuclear weapon that was supposed to be removed from Iran as part of the nuclear agreement—in just four days. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic work, claimed Iran could enrich uranium to 20 percent, which is more than enough to quickly reach the threshold to power a nuclear weapon, in just four days if the word is given by Iran’s hardline ruling regime. The disclosure has roiled Trump administration insiders and nuclear experts who have been warning for months that Iran never fully disclosed the nature of its nuclear weapons work and progress as international leaders struggle to fix the deal by May, according to those who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the situation. The Trump administration is pushing European allies to agree to a range of new strictures that would constrain Iran’s ongoing nuclear research, as well as its ballistic missile program, which has continued to progress unimpeded since the nuclear deal was locked in place. “If senior Islamic Republic officials issue an order to resume the 20% enrichment, we can do it in [the] Fordo [nuclear facility] within 4 days,” Salehi was quoted as telling reporters on Sunday in Iran’s state-controlled press. “We don’t have any problems technically,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, another Iranian atomic official was quoted as saying last year. “We were moving normally in the past but if we want to soar up, we can ascend to go up the ladder and develop 100,000 SWUs [of enrichment capacity] in one and a half years.” Iran’s “threats confirm that the Iranian regime never gave up on its atomic weapon ambitions,” said Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think-tank. Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, noted that while international inspectors have had access to some of Iran’s nuclear sites, it has not been permitted to inspect secret sites, including underground facilities that could have continued to serve as a nuclear research hub for Iran since the deal was implemented.

McCain takes his Trump criticism to a whole new level, suggesting blame for chemical weapons attack in Syria

Sen. John McCain (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
 McCain’s comments about Trump on Sunday might be his most severe to date.In a statement Sunday afternoon, McCain indirectly blamed Trump for the chemical weapons attack in Syria, suggesting Trump’s recent comments about leaving Syria “very soon” and his non-interventionist approach have “emboldened” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria,” McCain said. “Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma.”

Trump wants them home, but how long will U.S. troops really be in Syria? President Trump said he wants to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria where they’re supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against the Islamic State. Wow. The comments came on an otherwise pretty politics-free weekend, but the severity of what McCain said shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice.

McCain did choose his words carefully so as not to completely lay what happened at Trump’s feet. He doesn’t directly tie Trump’s withdrawal comments to the chemical weapons attack. But he does seem to lump them in with “American inaction,” and the clear implication is that the Assad regime has decided to act in a way it might not otherwise have acted — were it not for Trump signaling that the United States would soon be gone and doesn’t really want to be there. Trump earned criticism on the campaign trail for suggesting George W. Bush was indirectly to blame for what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. (“The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe.”) What McCain’s saying here isn’t that far afield of that charge. Nick Bit: Bush 1 also gave the clearance for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq attack of Kuwait. We made the same mistake Trump just made: In the two weeks before Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait, the Bush Administration message to Iraq was this: The United States was concerned about Iraq’s military buildup on its border with Kuwait:

The US did not intend to take sides in what it perceived as a no-win border dispute between Arab neighbors.

Trump  twitted that he wanted to pull US troops out of Syria and did not want to get involved in Syria’s civil war. A few days later Syria gassed its citizens.

Pres. Trump: “We’ll be coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now…We’re going to have 100% of the caliphate, as they call it —sometimes referred to as land. We’re taking it all back.” pic.twitter.com/x8Q4wZCuxv

See what presidents say or in the case of our reality TV President TWIT…   like “let other people take care of it” means they will…..  And their idea of taking care of things is  a gas attack that  gets innocent people like children killed.

Trump confers with military on suspected gas attack in Syria

By JONATHAN LEMIRE

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to confer with senior military leaders Monday, after he threatened a “big price to pay” for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria that killed women and children. Trump was set to get a briefing and have dinner with military leaders. Monday is the first day on the job for his new national security adviser, John Bolton, who has previously advocated significant airstrikes against Syria. The White House deliberations came as Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack on a major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched the missiles from Lebanon’s air space. A war-monitoring group said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.

Syria’s state news agency SANA initially said the attack on the T4 air base was likely “an American aggression,” but Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood quickly denied the United States was behind the strike and the agency then dropped the accusation, blaming Israel instead.

Saturday’s suspected poison gas attack took place in a rebel-held town near Damascus amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce. Syrian activists, rescuers and medics said the attack in Douma killed at least 40 people, with families found suffocated in their houses and shelters. The reports could not immediately be independently verified. Just over a year ago, Trump ordered dozens of cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base after declaring there was no doubt Assad had “choked out the lives of helpless” civilians in an attack that used banned gases. White House advisers said at the time that images of hurt children helped spur the president to launch that air strike, and television new shows on Sunday aired similar depictions of suffering young Syrians. The developments come as Trump has moved to dramatically scale back U.S. goals in Syria, pushing for a quick military withdrawal despite resistance from many of his national security advisers. Trump has given no formal order to pull out the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria or offered a public timetable other than to say the U.S. will withdraw as soon as the remaining Islamic State fighters can be vanquished. But Trump has signaled to his advisers that, ideally, he wants all troops out within six months.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Assad heard Trump’s signal that he wanted to withdraw from Syria and, “emboldened by American inaction,” launched the attack. In a statement, McCain said Trump “responded decisively” last year with the air strike and urged Trump to be forceful again to “demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

 

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower says Facebook users’ data could be stored in Russia

COLLUSION IS COLLUSION

  • Wylie said Aleksandr Kogan, whose quiz app harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users, could have allowed that data to be stored in Russia.
  • The whistleblower believes the total number of Facebook users whose data was shared could be even more than the 87 million admitted by Facebook last week.
Chesnot | Getty Images

The number of Facebook users affected by the recent data sharing scandal could exceed 87 million and records could be stored in Russia, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie said on Sunday. Wylie said that Aleksandr Kogan, whose quiz app harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users, could have allowed that data to be stored in Russia. An organization run by Kogan, called Global Science Research (GSR), shared the data with controversial political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica without their permission.

“I think that there is a genuine risk that this data has been accessed by quite a few people and it could be stored in various parts of the world, including Russia, given the fact that the professor who was managing the data harvesting process was going back and forth between the U.K. and Russia at the same time that he was working for Russian-funded projects on psychological profiling,”

“I couldn’t tell you how many people had access to it, that’s a question better answered by Cambridge Analytica, but I can say that various people had access to it.” Facebook and Cambridge Analytica were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. CNBC also contacted Kogan’s Cambridge University email address, but the academic was not available at the time of publication. Wylie believes the total number of Facebook users whose data was shared could be even more than the 87 million admitted by Facebook last week. Initial reports by the Observer and New York Times newspapers put the figure at 50 million. Cambridge Analytica has said that it licensed no more than 30 million Facebook users from GSR. Nick Bit: Please connect the dots before it to late. Cambridge Analytical… Bannon’s company that way hired by the Trump campaign and funded with 10’s of millions of dollars of Trump campaign funds colluded with the Russians. Get it the Russian secret agent was part of the campaign and he went back and forth to Russian at the very time the Russian troll farm was working with Cambridge Analytical data (supplied by the RNC and Facebook) to get Trump elected… if that is not collusion then collusion does not exist..

Israel Accused of Bombing Syrian Air Base After Attack in Douma

As Trump Seeks Way Out of Syria, New Attack are the result

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria and Russia blamed Israel on Monday for early morning airstrikes on a Syrian military base that a conflict monitoring group said killed 14 people, including fighters from Iran. The strikes came a day after President Trump warned that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his Russian and Iranian backers would have a “big price to pay” after dozens of people were killed near Damascus in what rescue workers said was a chemical attack. American and French officials denied that their countries had carried out the airstrikes, and a spokesman for the Israeli military declined to comment. The airstrikes on Monday hit a Syrian military base known as T4, in the central province of Homs, that has been used not only by Syrian forces but also by the Iranian-backed militias that have flocked to the country to help Mr. Assad’s war effort. The Russian military said in a statement on Monday that two Israeli F-15 warplanes had launched the strikes, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. The statement said the planes had fired from Lebanese airspace and that Syria’s air defense systems had shot down five of the eight missiles fired. Despite Mr. Trump’s promise to respond to the reported chemical attack in Syria on Saturday, which killed at least 49 people in the Damascus suburb of Douma, it remained unclear what he would do and how it would relate to a broader American policy toward Syria. Nick Note: This joint Russian Syrian poison gas attack on innocent civilians came within days of Trumps Tweet that he wanted US troops out of Syria now. For my reactionary friends this might seem like  the actions of a strong man. But in reality its the stupid Tweets of the Moron and chief and it gets people killed. Trump needs to figure out he is no longer a reality TV show blow hard. AND people actually react what he says and innocent people suffer while he grabs a headline

Jared Kushner’s $1.2 billion miracle

Someone is doing Jared Kushner a huge favor. But we don’t know who.

March 6, 2018 New York City. Kushner Companies, run by the family of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, has been trying to raise funds for their $1.2 billion dollar mortgage on the building that is due in February 2019. The Kushners bought the property for $1.8 billion in 2006. Many real estate analysts say that they Kushners vastly overpaid for the property.The 41-story skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was supposed to be Jared Kushner’s signature investment. A 27-year-old Kushner bought the property in 2007 for a record $1.8 billion — the most ever paid for an office tower. The move was supposed to catapult the family real estate firm, previously known for mid-priced apartments in New Jersey, into the big leagues. has been an unmitigated disaster. Shortly after the sale, the recession hit, depressing the commercial real estate market in Manhattan. To keep things afloat, Kushner was first forced to sell the building’s lucrative retail space and nearly half of the office space to Vornado Realty Trust, a firm with much more experience in real estate.But even that was not enough. The building is aging, and therefore is saddled with high vacancies and low rents. That means that instead of rent payments covering the mortgage, Kushner’s firm and Vornado are having to pour in millions every year to stay current on the debt.  On the horizon is an even bigger problem. The full mortgage for the office space of about $1.2 billion becomes due in February 2019. Many real estate experts believe that the mortgage balance exceeds the value of the portion of the property still owned by Kushner, making refinancing a challenge. Upon entering the White House, Jared Kushner divested the property only in the most technical sense. He “sold” the assets to his brother and a trust controlled by his mother. A lawyer described the transaction to the New York Times as a “shell game.” Now, with Kushner ensconced as a senior adviser in the White House, someone has emerged to bail him and his family out of this mess. The identity of Kushner’s white knight is a mystery. In a filing with the SEC on Friday, Vornado revealed the existence of an extraordinary “handshake” agreement that would not only refinance the $1.2 billion but allow the Kushners to buy out Vornado’s portion of the debt. This means the Kushners would once again own the entire office tower and Vornado would own only the retail space. The key question, however, is who would lend $1.2 billion to the Kushners to refinance an aging office tower with high vacancy rates? As of now, neither the Kushners nor Vornado is revealing who is facilitating the deal.

Continue reading “Jared Kushner’s $1.2 billion miracle”

Stocks to retest correction lows as easy money disappears

Stocks to test correction lows, warns bear Peter Boockvar. He’s a Wall Street bear who sees more monster market moves coming — with the majority of them leaving stocks deep in the red. The Bleakley Advisory Group’s Peter Boockvar warns there’s more trouble brewing, because the era of easy money is ending, thanks to global central banks hiking borrowing costs. And as fears intensify over a trade war, Boockvar expects a solution to the tariff issue will eventually come at the expense of rising rates. “We could get that resumption of higher interest rates which would then concern the markets, and then retest the [S&P 500 Index] 2500-ish type lows,” the firm’s chief investment officer told CNBC’s “Futures Now” last week. “We’re late cycle in the market. We’re late cycle in the economy, and you have an intensification in a tightening of monetary policy,” he said. Boockvar, a CNBC contributor, blamed the end of quantitative easing in the United States and Europe for increasing sell-off risks. “We’re a step closer to them wanting to take away negative interest rates. But there are still trillions of dollars of global bonds that have negative yielding rates,” he added. “So, it’s this rate environment that I think is becoming more of a headwind. That really is my main concern.” He doesn’t believe the situation will abate any time soon. Boockvar contended the 10-Year Treasury yield will push back toward 3 percent — preventing the S&P 500 from cracking above its Jan. 26 record high anytime soon. In bond markets, a  2.70 percent [on 10-Year yield] led to a 10 percent correction in the stock market. So 3 percent, just because it is a round number, I think is something that garners people’s attention just as 2.70 percent did,” he said. “I just think we’re very sensitive to changes in interest rates because we became so accustomed to this artificially low level of rates,” Boockvar added. And, he has little faith that even a strong first-quarter earnings season, which is just days away, could entice buyers into stocks, because good results are already priced into the market. As stocks were plummeting on Friday, Boockvar told CNBC that “unfortunately, we are at the whims of the tariff talk right now where any tweet or comment can either quicken the move to the lows or reverse it, all by Monday afternoon. What’s clear is the market is losing patience with this trade situation at the same time the Fed is tightening policy and QT is ramping up.”

 

Soaring US oil exports may derail the crude rally, Oil Price Information’s Tom Kloza says

U.S. oil exports at records could hit crude prices, says Kloza

U.S. oil exports at records could hit crude prices, says Kloza. The U.S. is exporting crude oil at a record pace with no signs of slowing down. That has the potential to unbalance a global oil market in recovery, says energy expert Tom Kloza. “The exports are what we need to focus on through the next 30 days,” Kloza, co-founder of the Oil Price Information Service, told CNBC’s “Futures Now” last week. High U.S. production could decide how oil prices trade in the second half of this year and through 2019, he added.

Domestic exports have not dipped below 1 million barrels a day since late November, as U.S. oil producers fill the void left by reduced capacity from Mexico and Venezuela. Higher demand for petroleum and gasoline in South America has also boosted appetite for North American oil.

 U.S. crude oil exports rose to 2.175 million barrels per day, or more than 15 million a week, at the end of March. That marked its highest level on record.

 

Rising U.S. production and exports comes at a time when other oil producers are ramping up their own activity, said Kloza. Russia recently had “the highest output in about 11 months and there’s some hints that maybe they’re not going to be in this long-term supply cutting agreement with the Saudis,” said Kloza. On top of that, “we’re going to see higher production from Kazakhstan, from Brazil, from the United States, and from Canada.” Global oil production may put a dent in the progress made the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in correcting a supply-demand imbalance. In 2016, OPEC and some non-OPEC members had agreed to limit production to re balance oil markets after their late-2014 plunge. On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump announced he would consider levying an additional $100 billion in tariffs against China in response to possible tariffs on U.S.-made products such as soybeans. “Trade wars, a recession, any notion of any weakness in global economies are going to cut into,” oil prices, Kloza said. “So keep that in mind. We might yet be priced for perfection but perfection is a pretty difficult thing to see.”  Nick Note: Crude oil and OPEC are doomed. Prices cannot maintain this level. By heating season Crude oil will be under $47 a barrel. And US production will continue to set new records. Frackers have got their cost of production under $15 a barre. And it will continue to drop

Fed’s Evans says inflation will hit 2 percent, and gradual rate hikes will be appropriate

Charles Evans, president of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images Charles Evans, president of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans one of the Fed’s most dovish policymakers, said Saturday that he is optimistic inflation will reach the Fed’s 2 percent goal and that slow, gradual rate increases will be appropriate. The Fed next meets to set policy in June, by which time the Fed will have more inflation data in hand. If it remains on track for 2 percent, “continuing our slow gradual increases will be appropriate to get us to the point where monetary policy isn’t really providing more lift to the economy,” Evans said.

Stocks drop after Fed chairman signals more rate hikes

US stocks extended losses and the S&P 500 hit a session low in Friday afternoon trading after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the US central bank will likely need to keep raising interest rates to keep inflation under control.In a speech in Chicago on the US economic outlook, Powell said the labor market appeared close to full  employment. It was his first speech on the economic outlook since taking over as chairman on Feb. 5. Stocks already were sharply lower before the comments following President Donald Trump’s latest tariff threat late Thursday on Chinese imports, which revived fears of a trade war between the two countries. “The market wouldn’t be acting nearly as negative to all the news in general if it would not be in a vulnerable state already,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group in Minneapolis. “It’s got higher values, financial liquidity is contracting, you came into the year with a little too much optimism, you got rising rates going on, you got rising inflation fears,” he said. Trump threatened to slap $100 billion more in tariffs on Chinese imports, while Beijing said it was fully prepared to respond with a “fierce counter strike.” All S&P main indexes were down sharply, but industrials, financials, energy and materials sectors led the declines, with S&P industrials .SPLRCI down 2.7 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 565.49 points, or 2.31 percent, to 23,939.73, the S&P 500 lost 53.08 points, or 1.99 percent, to 2,609.76 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 134.34 points, or 1.9 percent, to 6,942.21.

Fears of a trade war since Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports more than a month ago have kept investors on edge over concerns that such protectionist measures would hit global economic growth. “It’s a reaction to concerns about the administration’s approach to trade. The market has vacillated between writing it off as just talk and assuming there could be a serious problem,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey. Before the session started, a Labor Department report showed nonfarm payrolls increased by a smaller-than-expected 103,000 last month. While annual growth in average hourly earnings rose to 2.7 percent, it stayed below the 3 percent that economists estimate is needed to lift inflation toward the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target