Thursday September 19, 2019
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Trump Denies Allegations Suggesting He Is Beholden to Putin

He has helped Putin destabilize the United States and interfere in the election, no matter whether it was purposeful or not,” Bernstein said.

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Donald Trump. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump is dismissing news reports suggesting he is beholden to Russia and President Vladimir Putin or hiding accounts of his private talks with the Russian leader the five times they have met, including at their July summit in Helsinki.

Asked directly late Saturday by Fox News talk show host Jeanine Pirro whether he is now or has ever worked for Russia, Trump said, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked.”

The U.S. leader said, “If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other — probably any other president period, but certainly the last three or four presidents, modern day presidents. Nobody’s been as tough as I have from any standpoint.”

Trump was reacting to a report in The New York Times that Federal Bureau of Investigation officials started investigating whether he “was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence” because they were so alarmed by Trump’s behavior after he fired former FBI chief James Comey in May 2017 when he was leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2017. VOA

“It’s a very horrible thing they said…,” Trump said. “They really are a disaster of a newspaper.”

Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that has been investigating Trump campaign links with Russia, told CNN on Sunday that at times Trump has “almost parroted” Putin’s policies.

“It’s a very real consideration” whether Trump is a willing agent of Russia, Warner said, especially considering information that surfaced last week that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data in 2016 with a former business associate of his that U.S. investigators believe had ties to Russian intelligence.

Another key Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told ABC News there are “serious questions” about why Trump is “so chummy” with Putin.

Earlier, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that in the coming weeks his panel “will take steps to better understand both the president’s actions and the FBI’s response to that behavior. There is no reason to doubt the seriousness or professionalism of the FBI, as the president did in reaction to this story.”

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In this Monday, July 16, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. VOA

Trump also assailed The Washington Post’s new account that he has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide details of his conversations with Putin over the last two years. On one occasion, the newspaper said Trump took possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructed the linguist to not discuss what had transpired with other Trump administration officials.

The newspaper said that incident occurred after Trump and Putin met in Hamburg in 2017, a meeting also attended by then-U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump’s most high-profile meeting with Putin occurred in Helsinki, where the two leaders met for two hours behind closed doors with only their interpreters listening in. No official accounts of their talks have been released, but Trump told Pirro there was nothing to hide about their discussions and could release a transcript.

“Well Jeanine I would, I don’t care,” Trump said. “I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries, I do it with all countries. We had a great conversation. We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things. And it was a great conversation. I’m not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn’t care less. I mean, it’s so ridiculous.”

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President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, July 7, 2017. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is at left, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is at right. VOA

He added, “Anybody could have listened to that meeting, that meeting is up for grabs.”

Trump’s first two years in office have been consumed by the now 20-month investigation whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to help him win and whether, as president, Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the investigation after Trump ousted Comey.

Shortly after Trump dismissed Comey, he told NBC news anchor Lester Holt that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire the FBI chief, saying that he felt the investigation was created by Democrats dismayed that Trump had upset former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to win the White House.

Mueller is believed to be nearing the end of his investigation and is expected to write a report on his findings.

Also Read:FBI Probes Into Donald Trump’s Relationship With Russia

While appearing on CNN’s Reliable Source program Sunday, investigative journalist Carl Bernstein said he’s been told that Mueller’s report will show how President Trump helped Russia “destabilize the United States.”

“From a point of view of strength… rather, he has done what appears to be Putin’s goals. He has helped Putin destabilize the United States and interfere in the election, no matter whether it was purposeful or not,” Bernstein said. He explained that he knew from his own high-level sources that Mueller’s report would discuss this assessment.

“And that is part of what the draft of Mueller’s report, I’m told, is to be about,” he said. “We know there has been collusion by [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn. We know there has been collusion of some sort by [Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul] Manafort. The question is, yes, ‘what did the president know and when did he know it?’” (VOA)

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Trump Administration to Revoke California’s Authority to Set Auto Mileage Standards

The Trump administration is poised to revoke California's authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting

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FILE - Automobile traffic flows over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. California's long struggles with smog mean the state has been setting its own mileage standards since before the 1970 Clean Air Act was written. VOA

The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.

Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal announcement of the rollback set for Wednesday afternoon at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Tuesday that her group was among those invited to the event featuring EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to slow climate change.

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sept. 12, 2019. VOA

Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to stop the rollback.

The White House declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to EPA. EPA’s press office did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that the Trump administration would move “in the very near future” to take steps toward establishing one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said, adding that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles.

Also Read- Lack of Sleep Alters Fat Metabolism, Says Study

Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

California’s authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the Trump administration’s action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. He said California would fight the administration in federal court.

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”

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FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a news conference in Sacramento, July 23, 2019. VOA

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House “has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming.”

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” said Newsom, a Democrat.

The deal struck in July between California and four of the world’s largest automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — bypassed the Trump administration’s plan to freeze emissions and fuel economy standards adopted under Obama at 2021 levels.

The four automakers agreed with California to reduce emissions by 3.7% per year starting with the 2022 model year, through 2026. That compares with 4.7% yearly reductions through 2025 under the Obama standards. Emissions standards are closely linked with fuel economy requirements because vehicles pollute less if they burn fewer gallons of fuel.

Also Read- Festival Sales by Amazon, Flipkart Violating FDI Norms

The U.S. transportation sector is the nation’s biggest single source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

Wheeler said Tuesday: “California will be able to keep in place and enforce programs to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor vehicles.” But fuel economy has been one of the key regulatory tools the state has used to reduce harmful emissions.

Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration’s expected announcement, which comes as gasoline prices have crept higher following a weekend drone attack that hobbled Saudi Arabian oil output.

“Everyone wins when we adopt strong clean car standards as our public policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Strong clean car standards give us healthier air to breathe, help protect us from the urgent threat of climate change and save Americans hundreds of dollars a year in gas expenses.” (VOA)