U.S. worried by foreign voter-influence

U.S. intelligence officials said they are concerned about “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China, Iran and other countries to undermine confidence in the American democratic process.

In a joint statement the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say they’re worried about activities that “seek to influence voter perceptions and decision-making” in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

The agencies say the “ongoing campaigns” could take many forms. Examples include attempts to influence voters through social media, sponsoring content in English language media such as the Russian outlet RT (Russia Today), or “seeding disinformation through sympathetic spokespersons regarding political candidates and disseminating foreign propaganda.”

The joint statement follows recent reports throughout Texas accusing the Texas Democratic Party of sending voting applications with the citizenship box pre-checked to non-citizens, as reported by Fox News.

It also comes amid independent campaigns led by citizens in the United Kingdom and U.S. to expose private entities influencing elections like the Knights Templar International and their U.S.-based Knights Templar Order International group, which have been constantly reported on by the U.K.-based group IRBF.

President Trump supports pushing Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court

Photo by Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump on Thursday night told Fox News he thinks Brett Kavanaugh is “an outstanding person”, adding “I don’t think you can delay it any longer.”

The remarks came during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity ahead of a “Make America Great Again” rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is up for re-election.

Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s, when Kavanaugh was 17 and she was 15.

Ahead of the rally, Trump added that Ford should be given an opportunity to “have her say and let’s see how it all works out.”

“But I don’t think you can delay it any longer. They’ve delayed it a week already,” President Trump continued.

“I say, let her say what she has to say. And let’s see how it all comes out. But they’ve delayed it a week. And they have to get on with it,” Trump said.

In the wide-ranging interview with Hannity, the president also briefly touched on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation, calling it a “witch hunt.”

“Well it has to come to an end. It’s so bad for our country. I call it the witch hunt. It is so bad for our country,” Trump said.

Kavanaugh’s accuser may testify ‘under right terms’

Photo by the Associated Press

Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who has alleged sexual assault, may testify against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, her attorney said Thursday, but not without conditions set.

The preference would be for Ford to testify next Thursday, and she doesn’t want Kavanaugh in the same room, her attorney told Judiciary Committee staff in a 30-minute call that also touched on security concerns and other issues, according to a Senate aide who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ford is willing to tell her story to the Judiciary Committee, whose senators will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation—but only if agreement can be reached on “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” the attorney said in an email earlier Thursday. In the call, she said Ford needs time to secure her family, prepare her testimony and travel to Washington. No decisions were reached, the aide said.

The discussion revived the possibility that the panel would hold an electrifying campaign-season hearing at which both Ford and President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could give their versions of what did or didn’t happen at a party in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, now a judge on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has repeatedly denied her allegation.

Two of Kavanaugh’s former girlfriends also denied the allegation. They said the allegation doesn’t match up with his character.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled a hearing for Monday morning, and he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have indicated it would be Ford’s only chance to make her case. Republicans are anxious to move ahead to a vote by the committee, where they hold an 11-10 majority, and then by the full Senate, which they control, 51-49.

Taylor Foy, spokesman for Republicans on the panel, said after the call that Grassley “will consult with his colleagues on the committee. He remains committed to providing a fair forum for both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.”

Trump cancels pay raise due federal workers

Photo by the White House

President Donald Trump has told Congress he is canceling a pay raise that most civilian federal employees were due to receive in January, citing budgetary constraints.

Trump informed House and Senate leaders in a letter sent Thursday.

Trump says in the letter that locality pay increases would cost $25 billion, on top of a 2.1 percent across-the-board increase for most civilian government employees.

He cites the costs and says: “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases.” Trump says he’s determined that for 2019 “both across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero.”

From the Associated Press.

Trump stands by midterms warning

President Donald Trump recently urged evangelical leaders this week to get out the vote ahead of upcoming midterm elections and warned of “violence” by opponents if they fail to do so.

President Trump made the dire warning at a White House dinner Monday evening attended by dozens of conservative Christian pastors, ministers and supporters of his administration.

President Trump was stressing the stakes in November when he warned that, if Democrats win, they “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently,” according to attendees and audio of his closed-door remarks obtained by media outlets, including The New York Times. He specifically mentioned self-described Antifa, or anti-fascist groups, describing them as violent people, of which he is correct by the actions of the radical leftists in the groups pertaining to the destruction of public and private property since President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The fears of President Trump could be akin to fearing what socialists and communists did to Russia, turning it into a totalitarian, atheistic society where not just Christians but all religious persons were persecuted, and the economy was primarily owned by the government under the principle of revolutionary progress due to over-regulation by lovers of big government. Many members and affiliates with anti-fascist groups tend to believe such suppression is justified as they are composed of staunch atheists and irreligionists who show their desire to attack human rights and disturb the peace.

Trump receives new letter from Kim, sends his reply

The White House said Thursday that President Donald Trump received a new letter from the North Korean leader and responded quickly with a letter of his own. The correspondence, following up on their Singapore summit, came amid fresh concerns over Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization.

President Trump early Thursday tweeted his thanks to the North Korean leader “for your nice letter—I look forward to seeing you soon!”

The White House did not provide details on the specific content of the letter from Kim, received Wednesday, or of President Trump’s reply. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the letters addressed their commitment to work toward North Korea’s “complete denuclearization.”

Sanders said no second meeting is “locked in” as a follow-up to the Singapore summit in June, but they remain open to discussions.

President Trump in his tweet expressed gratitude to Kim “for keeping your word” on the return of the remains of more than 50 American service members killed during the Korean War. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. military leaders received the remains in Hawaii during a somber ceremony on Wednesday.

The latest letter from Kim arrived on the heels of concerns over North Kore’s ballistic missile program and commitment to denuclearization. Senior Trump administration officials have urged patience, cautioning that the process of denuclearizing North Korea and removing the threat of its long-range missiles will take time.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was headed to an Asian security meeting in Singapore, where a meeting this weekend with North Korea’s foreign minister was possible.

Presdient Trump has sought to show progress from his June 12 summit with Kim. He said during a Tuesday rally in Tampa, Florida, that the U.S. was “doing well” with North Korea and noted the return of detained Americans and Pyongyang’’ ceasing of nuclear testing and missile tests. “A lot of good things are happening. No tests. No rockets flying. But we’ll see what happens,” Presdient Trump said.

U.S. officials have been closely watching North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Backlash leads to Trump’s correction

Photo by the Kremlin

After the 2018 Russia-United States Summit, deemed by many Americans and Europeans as a disaster took place on Monday in Finland, Trump sought to “clarify” his public undermining of America’s intelligence agencies when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia” instead of “why it would,” Trump said.

His comment came amid great rebuke by his own party approximately 27 hours after his original, widely reported statement, which he made at the summit in Helsinki, standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also handed him a football in reference to the U.S. co-hosting the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said Tuesday. “It could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all,” he continued.

The “disaster control team’s cleanup” of this event was only the latest of Trump’s problematic statements during his week-long trip, in which he sent the NATO alliance into emergency session and assailed British Prime Minister Theresa May as she was hosting him for an official visit.

Moments earlier, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a public reassurance to U.S. allies in NATO and Europe with whom Trump clashed during his trip last week.

“The European countries are our friends, and the Russians are not,” McConnell said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.