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British PM Theresa May to confront Donald Trump over US leaks regarding Manchester Bombing

In Brussels for the NATO summit, May told reporters that the deep defense and security partnership between the U.S. and Britain "is built on trust and part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently."

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British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for the NATO summit in Brussels, May 25, 2017.Source-VOA

Brussels, May 25, 2017: British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will raise concerns on Thursday with President Donald Trump over U.S. leaks to the media revealing details of the Manchester bombing investigation.

In Brussels for the NATO summit, May told reporters that the deep defense and security partnership between the U.S. and Britain “is built on trust and part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently.”

“I will be making it clear to President Trump today that inteligence that is shared between law enforcement agency must remain secure,” she said.

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In a statement issued by the White House, Trump said the “alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling.” “I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to
launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Police working on the Manchester case, who are “furious about the disclosures,” have stopped sharing information with their American counterparts, according to media reports.

The halt in sharing with the United States of police information about the attack will remain in place until assurances are received from Washington that there will be no further leaks, news reports said Thursday.

Various U.S. media outlets reported the name of the suicide bomber, attributing the information to American officials, before it was released by British officials. The New York Times subsequently published forensic photographs from the attack, which had not been officially released.

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People attend a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended Monday night.
People attend a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended Monday night, VOA

Terrorism fight to top talks

Before meetings this week with NATO leaders, Trump has called terrorism the “number one” problem facing the world, and said we are “making tremendous progress” in the fight against terror.

Trump, meeting Wednesday with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Brussels, said the United States and NATO will work on “various problems,” but Trump pointed to the suicide bombing Monday in Britain and noted terrorism is at the top of the list.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel prior to a meeting at the Royal Palace in Brussels, May 24, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel prior to a meeting at the Royal Palace in Brussels, May 24, 2017, VOA

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“When you see something like that happened a few days ago, you realize how important it is to win this fight, and we will win this fight,” he said.

Aboard Air Force One, on the flight from Italy to Belgium, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump would be “very tough” on NATO allies Thursday and tell them “you need to make sure you’re doing your share for your security as well.”

Trump wants to “persuade NATO members to step up and fully meet their obligations under burden sharing the two percent of GDP is a target they all agreed to,” Tillerson told reporters.

“We have to be able to increase defense spending when tensions are going up. And tensions are going up,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday.

The defense alliance is expected to give the U.S. president at least one big thing he wants, a commitment to the coalition to fight Islamic State.

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“We do think that would be a really important step for them to take,” Tillerson said.

Reassuring allies

Trump is likely to allay NATO members’ concerns about his administration’s commitment to the pact’s mutual assistance pledge, something that has been in doubt.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017, VOA

During a ceremony Thursday, Trump is expected to endorse Article 5, under which any NATO member agrees to come to the aid of an ally under attack. The only time it has been invoked was when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Previous stops

Trump arrived in Brussels Wednesday following talks with the Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome. Trump said on Twitter after the meeting he is “more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before beginning their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before beginning their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017, VOA

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Prior to Wednesday’s meeting with the pope, Trump spent several days touring the Middle East and meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as other leaders in the Muslim world. While speaking to dozens of Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he called for Muslim unity in the fight against terrorism.

After participating in the inauguration of a new NATO headquarters and a meeting of the alliance’s leaders, the president will return to Italy, specifically the island of Sicily, for the Group of Seven summit.

May is to cut short her attendance at the NATO leaders’ meeting in Brussels amid a critical-level threat of another terrorist attack in her country. (VOA)

Next Story

No Evidence of Trump ‘Collusion’ with Russia in 2016 Elections: Mueller in Final Report

Mueller reached no conclusion and punted the decision to Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

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Trump knew nothing about son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner's use of the WhatsApp encrypted messaging tool. VOA

In a big legal and political win for U.S. President Donald Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded in his final report that there was no evidence that Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign or anyone associated with it colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the vote, according to a summary of the confidential report released on Sunday by Attorney General William Barr.

That finding was emphatic, and validated Trump’s long-standing insistence that “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russian hackers and meddlers who sought to change the outcome of Trump’s presidential battle with Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state. Using Mueller’s own words, the Barr letter stated that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice in the course of the investigation, Mueller reached no conclusion and punted the decision to Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to a letter Barr wrote to top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate judiciary committees summarizing the report’s “principal conclusions.” Complicating Mueller’s challenge in getting to the bottom of the question was Trump’s refusal to answer questions under oath and instead provide written answers. Barr and Rosenstein – who appointed Mueller as Special Counsel and oversaw the investigation– concluded that the evidence developed during the investigation “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

That finding is certain to be a key bone of contention for congressional Democrats who are investigating Trump and his administration, especially given the Special Counsel’s assertion that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, tweeted that “The fact that Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report & documentation be made public without any further delay.”

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks at an Economic Club of Washington luncheon gathering in Washington, March 8, 2019. VOA

Mueller submitted his report to Barr late Friday, nearly two years after he was appointed to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

After combing through the report over the weekend, Barr submitted a four-page letter to Congress absolving Trump of any collusion with the Russians or obstruction of justice in blocking the criminal investigation. Barr’s letter was made public shortly after it was delivered to Congress.

“It was complete and total exoneration,” Trump told reporters in Florida before returning to Washington Sunday afternoon. “This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at their other side.”

Here are five key take-aways from Barr’s summary of the Mueller report:

Trump was right: There was no collusion

The central question before Mueller was whether members of the Trump campaign or any other Americans conspired with Russians to tip the 2016 campaign in favor of the real estate tycoon. On that score, the Mueller report delivers a categorical vindication of the president.

While Mueller’s investigators uncovered evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, “[the] investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the summary quotes Mueller as writing.

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FILE – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort looks on during Trump’s walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 21, 2016. VOA

The special counsel interpreted “coordination” fairly broadly to include both tacit and express agreements.But he found no evidence that members of the Trump campaign accepted offers of help from Russian operatives. “There was really an affirmative ‘No’” said Eric Jaso, a former associate special counsel for the Whitewater affair during former President Bill Clinton’s administration.“If they’d gone along and said yes, that would have fallen under the tacit agreement category.”

Mueller punts obstruction of justice question

Mueller’s decision to punt the question of obstruction of justice struck many legal experts as unusual.

The Special Counsel took up the question after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation and after Comey claimed that Trump had asked him to stop investigating his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.

But Mueller drew no conclusion about whether Trump’s actions during the investigation amounted to obstruction of justice, according to the Barr summary.

“Instead, for each one of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of” whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr wrote.

With Mueller leaving the matter unresolved, it was left to the attorney general to make a determination. Barr wrote that after consulting with Justice Department officials, he and Rosenstein concluded that there was not enough evidence that Trump had committed obstruction of justice. The determination, he added, was made irrespective of a long-standing Justice Department guidance that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

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DOJ Notification to Congress Regarding the Conclusion of the Mueller Investigation. VOA

Before taking the helm of the Justice Department last month, Barr had written critically of the Mueller probe and called the investigation of Trump for possible obstruction of justice “fatally flawed.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called the decision “concerning” and said he’ll ask Barr to testify before the panel in the near future.

Jaso said the fact that Barr made the determination in concert with Rosenstein provides Barr with political cover.

“He can’t be just painted as toady of the president,” Jaso said.

No additional indictments

The Special Counsel investigation led to the indictments of 37 individuals and entities, mostly Russian operatives and a handful of former Trump associates. In the run-up to the Mueller report, speculation was rife that the Special Counsel would announce new indictments against individuals in the president’s orbit.

But Barr’s summary says the Special Counsel does not recommend any additional indictments in his report and says that there are no indictments under seal that have yet to be made public.

A redacted version in the works

The full extent of Mueller’s findings, including evidence concerning obstruction of justice, will remain unknowable until a more complete version of the report is released. In his letter, Barr indicated that he’ll share a redacted version of the full report at a future date.Barr said that he’s asked the Special Counsel to identify confidential information that must be kept classified and that as soon as “that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining” what can be released. Democrats are demanding full disclosure and vowing to compel the attorney general to comply.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign, at the Capitol in Washington, June 21, 2017. VOA

Thorough investigation

Defenders of the Mueller investigation found a measure of vindication in the thoroughness with which the veteran prosecutor and former FBI director carried out the probe. According to Barr’s letter, the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

By all accounts, Mueller left no stones untouched in his dogged effort to probe whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow and whether the president sought to impede the investigation that followed.

ALSO READ: Robert Mueller Probe Concludes, Political Parlor Game Has Just Begun

But Mueller appears to have steered clear of one line of inquiry that the president had said was off limits: Trump’s finances and whether the president’s business interests in Russia led him and his campaign into collusion.

“It does not say that thirdly or furthermore we investigated whether the Trump campaign or Trump himself had a desire to ingratiate himself with the Russians which somehow made him vulnerable to this effort,” Jaso said. (VOA)