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Strong US-Russia Alliance Could Result in ‘Better and Safer’ Global Community: Trump

Trump, speaking alongside Slovak Republic Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, described his discussion with Putin on Venezuela as “very positive"

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US-Russia alliance
FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump is seen during a phone call at the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, June 27, 2017. VOA

VOA’s Steve Herman at the White House, Nike Ching at the State Department, Carla Babb at the Pentagon, and Patsy Widakuswara, also at the White House, contributed to this report.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday a strong U.S.-Russia alliance could result in a better global community.

“Tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia,” Trump tweeted one day after he had what he described as a very positive phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The World can be a better and safer place. Nice!” Trump added.

In the conversation, which exceeded an hour, Trump said Venezuela was among the issues he discussed with Putin.

“He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. I feel the same way,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon.

Trump, speaking alongside Slovak Republic Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, described his discussion with Putin on Venezuela as “very positive.”

US-Russia alliance
People take cover behind barriers as shots are fired near the Simon Bolivar international bridge, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, in Cucuta, Colombia, May 3, 2019. VOA

Tension has grown in recent days between Washington and Moscow over the increasingly destabilizing events in Caracas. The Trump administration has accused the Russians of preventing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from giving up power and fleeing the country.

“This is our hemisphere,” national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday. “It’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a phone call earlier this week, told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “grave consequences” should there be further aggressive steps in Venezuela, interpreted as a warning to Washington not to intervene militarily.

Pompeo and Lavrov are scheduled to talk on the sidelines of an Arctic Council ministerial session in Finland next week, and Venezuela is almost certainly to be discussed.
US-Russia alliance
FILE – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

“They will have an opportunity, obviously, to meet and review whatever topics they choose to,” a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call previewing Pompeo’s trip.

The president’s national security team, including Bolton, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Navy Adm. Craig Faller, met Friday in a secure Pentagon room that is reserved for top-level discussions of sensitive issues and military operations.

Defense officials said they discussed options on Venezuela.

“The president is going to do what’s necessary,” Sanders replied to a question from VOA about whether that meeting had moved the ball on U.S. military intervention in Venezuela.

She repeated that “all options continue to be on the table,” something administration officials have stressed for weeks.

Trump issued a couple of tweets Friday afternoon about the call with Putin:

US-Russia alliance
National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, May 1, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Shanahan told reporters that the meeting reviewed the situation in Venezuela and was to ensure there is alignment within the administration on the South American country.

The U.S. and most other Western countries no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, having switched interim recognition to Juan Guaido, the president of Venezuela’s democratically-elected national assembly.

Also discussed was the possibility of a “nuclear deal of some kind” involving the United States and Russia, as well as possibly China.

“We’re talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less and maybe even where we get rid some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now,” explained Trump. “China, I’ve already spoken to them. They would very much like to be a part of that deal.”

Trump said he also discussed with Putin on Friday the Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“He actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse.”

Repeatedly asked if he told Putin not to meddle in the 2020 presidential election, Trump finally said: “We didn’t discuss that.”

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Queried by VOA about what he could do to improve his relationship and communication with the news media, as Friday was being marked as World Press Freedom Day, Trump responded that he has a very good relationship with some reporters.

“Unfortunately, some of the press doesn’t cover me accurately,” Trump contended. “They go out of their way to cover me inaccurately. So, I don’t think that’s a free press, I think that’s a dishonest press. And I want to see a free press.” (VOA)

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Three Most Important Things to Look out for in Mueller Report

The report runs about 400 pages, excluding tables and appendices, nearly twice as long as Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr's 1998 report to Congress

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FILE - The letter that Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress on the conclusions reached by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe is photographed on March 24, 2019. VOA

On March 22, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his 22-month-long investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by submitting a nearly 400-page confidential report of his findings to Attorney General William Barr. A week later, Barr wrote to members of Congress that he expects to release a redacted version of the full report by mid-April, if not sooner.

Here are three of the most important things to look out for when the report is released:

How much of the report will the public see?

The report runs about 400 pages, excluding tables and appendices, nearly twice as long as Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s 1998 report to Congress. But not every page is likely to be seen by the public, which could deepen a controversy already swirling around Barr’s refusal to release the full report.

While congressional Democrats want the complete report out, Barr has said redactions must be made to shield secret grand jury material and other sensitive information from public disclosure.

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FILE – U.S. Attorney General William Barr leaves his house after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election in McLean, Virginia, March 25, 2019. VOA

If the special counsel’s previous court filings are any indication, parts of the report are likely to be heavily redacted. In one recent filing by Mueller, almost every page was blacked out.

Barr has pledged to provide maximum transparency. Whether he errs on the side of less or more redactions remains to be seen.

 

Blacking out large portions of the report could renew criticism that the Justice Department is hiding information from Congress and intensify Democrats’ demands for full disclosure. So far, Congress and the public have had to rely almost exclusively on Barr’s interpretation and summary. “Show us the Mueller report!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California demanded.

On the other hand, if summaries of various sections of the report — which were reportedly designed by Mueller and his team for immediate release — are not heavily redacted, the attorney general could face questions for holding them back.

What will the report add to well-documented Russian election interference?

The first part of the Mueller report documents Russian computer hacking and social media disinformation efforts to influence the 2016 election. The majority of this part appears based on grand jury indictments handed down against Russian operatives in February and July 2018.

Per Barr, the special counsel’s finding was categorical: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Barr quoted from the Mueller report.

mueller report
FILE – Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, returns to Capitol Hill for a fourth day of testimony as Democrats pursue a flurry of investigations into Trump’s White House, businesses and presidential campaign, in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Trump seized on Barr’s letter to declare “total exoneration” for himself. But whether the full report totally vindicates him of involvement in the Russian meddling effort or leaves any clouds hanging over him remains to be seen.

While the special counsel has documented interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russia, he has not revealed whether Trump was aware of and endorsed any of the exchanges.

Disgraced former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has claimed that Trump knew of both the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump advisers and Russian operatives, and interactions between Trump informal adviser Roger Stone and WikiLeaks, which published damaging hacked emails regarding Democrat Hillary Clinton and her campaign organization. Trump has denied the allegations.

Was Barr’s exoneration of Trump justified?

The second part of the report, which deals with whether Trump obstructed justice, has generated the most controversy and is likely to be closely studied, parsed and debated.

In his summary, Barr wrote that “the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question. It leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as ‘obstruction.'”

 

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On the other hand, the report could shed light on how Mueller arrived at his decision not to draw any conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice. VOA

In recent days, however, Mueller’s investigators have reportedly expressed frustration to associates that Barr’s summary failed to adequately describe “derogatory information” about Trump’s actions included in the report.

If borne out, this apparent contradiction between what Mueller’s prosecutors claim is in the report and how Barr subsequently characterized it to Congress could renew criticism that Barr cherry-picked the report to justify exonerating the president of obstruction of justice.

ALSO READ: House Committee Wants Barr to Release Summaries of Mueller Report

On the other hand, the report could shed light on how Mueller arrived at his decision not to draw any conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice.

In his letter, Barr wrote that his determination that there was no obstruction was based on a long-standing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president. However, he left unmentioned whether the guidance had been part of the special prosecutor’s calculus. (VOA)