Exclusive: Trump says he is looking at 10 or 12 candidates for chief of staff jobBy Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton•U.S. President Donald Trump arrives with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstBy Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he has 10 to 12 candidates he is considering for the post of new White House chief of staff and although he could move quickly to fill the job, he was in no particular rush.Trump’s current chief of staff, retired General John Kelly, is leaving at the beginning of the new year. Smiling broadly, Kelly trailed Trump into the Oval Office briefly as the president began a half-hour interview with Reuters.While some potential candidates like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have offered polite no-thank-yous, Trump said he was having no trouble recruiting people for one of the most powerful jobs in Washington.”I have at least 10, 12 – 12 people that want it badly. I’m making a decision. Great people,” he said. „I could do it immediately. I’m in no rush. A lot of people want it.”Trump said one candidate, North Carolina Republican Representative Mark Meadows, „is a great guy,” as is former campaign adviser Dave Bossie, who is also on the list – „friend of mine.” But he gave no indication who he was leaning toward.”Everybody wants it. Who doesn’t want to be one of the top few people in Washington, D.C.,” Trump said, gesturing to the three reporters interviewing him. „I mean, you three guys would take it.””I have so many people, I cannot interview them all,” he said. Turning to senior communications adviser Bill Shine, Trump asked: „Is that a correct statement?”Shine agreed.SIMILAR IDEAS-Trump, who is in search of his third chief of staff after Kelly and Reince Priebus, said he is looking for „somebody that I can really get along with well.””Somebody whose ideas are similar to my ideas. Somebody that will take my ideas and go with them. That doesn’t mean they can’t be questioned. I like being questioned. I think it’s good to be questioned,” he said.”You know people would be surprised to hear that. But I do like to be questioned. And somebody that loves our country,” he added.Kelly, with whom Trump clashed at times, took the job in July 2017 to instill order to a sometimes chaotic White House after Priebus left the post.Trump was left without a clear replacement for Kelly after Nick Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, declined the job and said on Sunday he was returning to Georgia with his family at the end of the year.The opening comes as the White House braces for an onslaught of political and legal challenges in the coming year in the face of the Russia investigation, multiple lawsuits and Trump’s efforts to win re-election in 2020.Besides Meadows and Bossie, Trump has also been considering former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney have said they are not interested, sources said.Bossie, who is a contributor for Fox News, said on Tuesday he was meeting with Trump on Friday but did not expect to be offered the job.(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Sonya Hepinstall)
Rudy Giuliani says Trump’s legal team wants Mueller to ‘wrap the damn thing up’Hunter Walker White House Correspondent•Rudy Giuliani says Trump’s legal team wants Robert Mueller to ‘wrap the damn thing up’ Rudy Giuliani says Trump’s legal team wants Robert Mueller to ‘wrap the damn thing up’Yahoo News VideoScroll back up to restore default view.WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s attorneys, unloaded on special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI and Trump’s one-time fixer Michael Cohen in a phone conversation with Yahoo News on Wednesday.Giuliani said the Trump legal team is focused on encouraging Mueller to end his investigation into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russian intervention efforts in the 2016 election. He further suggested that Mueller lacks the authority to prosecute Trump.“Our strategy is … to do everything we can to try to convince Mueller to wrap the damn thing up, and if he’s got anything, show us,” Giuliani said. “If he doesn’t have anything, you know, write your report, tell us what you have, and we’ll deal with it. He can’t prosecute him [Trump]. All he can do is write a report about him, so write the goddamned thing and get it over with now.”Rudy Giuliani at an event in Portsmouth, N.H. (Photo: Charles Krupa/AP)The special counsel’s office declined to comment on Giuliani’s assessment of the investigation.Giuliani’s unprompted call to Yahoo News came hours after President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for what a judge described as a “smorgasbord” of federal crimes. Cohen’s offenses included charges related to lying to Congress about a tower Trump sought to build in Moscow, tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign violations stemming from payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Tapes Cohen made of his conversations with Trump and other associates were seized in FBI raids on his home and office in April.Giuliani also blasted Cohen, who spent more than a decade working for Trump as his personal attorney and as an executive at his real estate company.“Cohen is a completely dishonorable person. … I’ve never heard of a lawyer that tape-recorded their client without the client’s permission, and I’ve known some pretty scummy lawyers,” Giuliani said. “You don’t exist very long in the legal profession if you go around taping your client.”Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Trump’s former personal lawyer received a reduced sentence because he pleaded guilty and cooperated with Mueller’s team. Cohen testified that the money paid to the two women was designed to suppress their stories during the election and that Trump directed those payments. The president and his legal team have offered shifting stories about what he knew about the payments. On Monday, Trump tweeted that the money was a “simple private transaction” that was not a campaign finance violation.The campaign finance charges against Cohen were based on the premise that the six-figure payments to the women were designed to help Trump escape scandal during the election. As such, they could be viewed as campaign contributions that were well above legal limits.Giuliani pointed to Trump’s lack of legal expertise when he was asked whether he thought it was plausible to argue that the payment was a private matter rather than an attempt to influence the 2016 campaign.“The president’s not a lawyer. The simple fact is that it’s not a criminal violation of the campaign finance law,” said Giuliani.Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill in June 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)Giuliani claimed the case of 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards proves it’s “questionable” to accuse Trump of a campaign finance violation. Edwards was indicted in 2011 for payments that were made on his behalf during the 2008 race to a woman he had an affair and fathered a child with. Edwards was acquitted on one count for a payment made after the 2008 election. The jury deadlocked on five other counts, resulting in a mistrial.“They tried exactly the same theory against Edwards in order to sensationalize the case,” Giuliani explained. “They couldn’t succeed in that. The campaign finance board has indicated that payments like this, which even if they’re for some campaign purpose, if they’re also for a personal purpose and you would have made them anyway, are not campaign contributions.”Giuliani went on to argue that Trump can “hardly” be prosecuted for a “questionable violation of the law.” He also suggested that Mueller’s prosecutors have shifted their focus to possible campaign finance violations because they have been unable to find evidence of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice.“How do they all of a sudden become campaign finance prosecutors? You need a special prosecutor for campaign finance? I mean, they started with collusion. … After two years and two investigations … they have nothing on collusion,” Giuliani said. “Then, they started squeaking about obstruction. They’ve got nothing on obstruction, and Article II prevents them from doing anything about obstruction. Now they’re doing campaign finance.”While Trump and his allies have argued that the information released by Mueller so far shows prosecutors have found there was no collusion with Russia, the spate of recent legal filings in cases involving members of the president’s inner circle have revealed that there are multiple ongoing federal investigations.Nevertheless, Giuliani said he was certain there is no further probe of whether Trump’s team aided the Russian efforts to hinder his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Giuliani said his confidence in this assertion was based on having seen written questions Mueller submitted to the president, as well as a belief that no one on the Trump campaign was guilty of any wrongdoing with respect to Russia.“I’ve seen their questions. There’s nothing to look at. They could look at collusion for the next 30 years and, unless they get somebody to lie, they’re not going to find any evidence of it because it didn’t happen,” Giuliani said.“I think he’s desperately trying to come up with some smoke and mirrors so he can say there’s some form of collusion. I don’t think he can do it,” Giuliani said. “I saw a prosecutor that was on a fishing expedition as opposed to somebody that has a solid piece of evidence and wants to nail you with it. It’s like something you’d do at a beginning of a case, not the end.”Giuliani also suggested a crime would have taken place only if Trump was directly involved in Russian efforts to hack into Democrats’ emails and computer networks during the 2016 race.“Collusion isn’t even a crime. Collusion is like the biggest bunch of bullshit. The crime is conspiracy to hack. Do you believe that Donald Trump engaged in a conspiracy with the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton? Of course not. It’s ridiculous,” Giuliani said.The U.S. intelligence community has concluded the Kremlin directed hacking efforts during the 2016 election to boost Trump and hurt Clinton. In July, Mueller’s team issued an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents for allegedly participating in the election hacking. Trump has steadfastly denied that his campaign worked with the Russians and has dismissed Mueller’s probe as a partisan “witch hunt.”Giuliani echoed Trump’s characterization of the Mueller probe. He pointed to the fact that Cohen was not being prosecuted for false statements he initially made about the payments to women as proof of the prosecutors’ unethical behavior.Federal prosecutors in New York urged the judge to give Cohen only a “modest” break from the recommended sentence for his crimes because they said he was unwilling to fully cooperate with their investigations.Giuliani suggested Cohen still received an overly light sentence. He contrasted Cohen’s situation with that of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s campaign.Manafort pleaded guilty to multiple charges in September, including making false statements about lobbying work he did for the government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and filing false reports to conceal money he made from those efforts. Manafort has also admitted to obstructing justice by attempting to influence witness testimony in his case.As part of his plea deal, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, but late last month the special counsel accused him of violating the terms of his plea agreement by lying about contacts he had with the Trump administration.Some observers have suggested Manafort and other Trump associates who have attracted Mueller’s attention are refusing to cooperate with prosecutors because they hope to be pardoned by Trump. Giuliani said he thinks Manafort isn’t waiting for a pardon and is simply refusing to lie just to appease prosecutors.“In Manafort’s case, they really should give up at this point. I mean, how much do you want to do to the guy? Do you want to waterboard him? I mean, come on, you have him in solitary confinement. They take him out every other day,” Giuliani said. “He knows exactly what he has to say to get out, but he says, you know, ‘I’m not going to say it because it’s not true.’ Gee, is it possible maybe he’s right — it isn’t true?”While Giuliani rejected the notion that Manafort is holding out for a pardon, he also noted that Trump hasn’t ruled out absolving his former allies of guilt.“Pardons are not on the table for anyone right now,” Giuliani said. “At the same time, he’s not forfeiting his right to pardon based on an analysis of the case.”
Chekatt had been imprisoned in Germany in 2016 and 2017 on theft charges, and was deported to France in 2017, a spokeswoman for Germany’s BKA criminal police said.The suspect is a 29-year-old French citizen who is known to French authorities as a radicalised Islamist, the spokeswoman said.Germany’s interior ministry said it has no information that Chekatt has an Islamist background.The gunman fired his first shots just before 8pm local time just as the picturesque Christmas market in the historic city was winding down for the evening.He engaged in two brief gunfights with security forces as he evaded a police dragnet.Eyewitnesses told investigators that the gunman shouted „Allahu Akbar” as he carried out the attack.France has said a „radicalisation” in Chekatt’s „religious practices” was detected while he was in jail, but there were no signs that he was preparing an attack.The suspect had evaded arrest just hours before the shooting when police raided his home on Tuesday morning in connection with a burglary and attempted homicide investigation.Chekatt, who has 27 convictions, was not home at the time.Mr Heitz said police found a grenade, a loaded gun, ammunition and knives.Five people were detained and under interrogation as part of the investigation into an incident in Eckbolsheim, just west of Strasbourg, in August.In that incident, a woman was stabbed when four men armed with guns tried to rob her at her home, it is claimed.The three victims of the Strasbourg shooting include Anupong Suebsamarn, a 45-year-old holidaymaker from Thailand.He is said to have arrived in France with his wife and another couple a day before he was killed.Eyewitnesses said he was shot in the head and he was not responding to attempts to revive him in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.US President Donald Trump tweeted: „Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!”
The Trump tax cuts are putting America in a holeRick Newman Senior ColumnistYahoo Finance•President Donald J Trump celebrates the six month anniversary of his tax cut at the White House last year. Credit: Patsy Lynch/MediaPunch /IPX Tax cuts and a slowing economy will erode America’s fiscal strength during the next decade, according to a new report from Moody’s Investor Service, the bond-rating agency. At some point, Moody’s might cut the nation’s top-tier credit rating.The Moody’s warning challenges a core promise of President Trump and his fellow Republicans, who insisted the $1.5 trillion tax cut they passed last year would pay for itself and even generate more tax revenue, not less, because economic growth would suddenly boom. Trump predicted last year that the economy would “take off like a rocket ship” once his tax cuts went into effect. White House economists predicted family incomes would rise by $4,000 or more due to a sharp cut in business taxes.None of that is happening or coming into view. The economy grew at a robust 4.2% in the second quarter, the highest level since 2014. But Moody’s Analytics predicts growth of just 2.9% for all of 2018, and 2019 as well. It will then fall to 0.9%, according to the forecasting firm. If so, economic growth under Trump would average just 2.2% per year, almost exactly the same as during President Obama’s second term.The federal budget deficit, meanwhile, rose from 3.5% of GDP in 2017 to 3.8% in 2018. Moody’s expects it to hit 4.8% of GDP in the current fiscal and soar to 8% by 2028. The U.S. fiscal debt burden is the heaviest among nations that earn Moody’s Aaa rating, its highest.Corporate profits are surging–but tax revenue from businesses is going the other direction.When the economy’s strong, as it is now, the government’s debt burden normally declines rather than spiking. That’s because businesses and individuals earn more money and therefore pay more taxes. But the Trump tax cuts have weakened revenue intake, pushing deficits up.Tax revenue from businesses fell by 31% in fiscal 2018, which ended in September. That decline mostly came from cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%. Tax revenue from individuals rose by 6.1% in 2018, but that was mostly because of inflation, population growth and 1.7 million new jobs created during 2018.The deficit rose from $666 billion in 2017, before the tax cuts, to $779 billion in 2018, when the tax cuts had been in effect for eight months. The deficit is likely to approach $1 trillion this year, an unprecedented gap for an economy that’s supposedly booming. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, unemployment was roughly as low as it is now, but the government ran a budget surplus for four years in a row.“The United States’ fiscal strength is set to gradually decline from 2019 onward,” Moody’s Analysts wrote in the report. “A persistent widening of fiscal deficits will push the federal debt and interest burdens to historic levels, which will ultimately weigh on the sovereign credit profile.”The gap between government spending and revenue is growing historically large.Moody’s sees several risks from mushrooming deficits. Interest payments on the debt are likely to rise from 7% of all federal outlays in 2017, before the tax cuts, to 16% in 2028. That leaves less money for defense, roads, student loans and everything else. It also raises pressure to reform and possibly cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which are headed for their own solvency problems during the next couple of decades.Back in 2011, Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. credit rating by one notch. Some analysts thought Uncle Sam would have to pay more to borrow as a result, but that didn’t happen. As a borrower, the United States enjoys unique, privileged status thanks to the dollar’s role as the world’s preferred currency, which keeps demand for U.S. Treasuries strong and interest rates low.But privilege can backfire, if it breeds sloppy habits and excess. Moody’s says it will “revisit” its U.S. credit rating—in other words, downgrade Uncle Sam—if “policymakers do not have the capacity to respond decisively to mitigate the country’s adverse fiscal dynamics.” Right now, they seem to have no such capacity.Confidential tip line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.
The US military said Tuesday five Marines who had been missing since two planes crashed off Japan a week ago were dead.
The announcement brings the final toll in the December 6 crash to six, with a seventh crew member rescued after the incident.
The crash involving an F/A-18 fighter jet with two crew onboard and a KC-130 refuelling tanker with five crew occurred in the early morning around 100 kilometres (55 nautical miles) off the cape of Muroto in southwestern Japan.
It prompted a massive search and rescue operation, which the US military said had now been called off.
„Every possible effort was made to recover our crew and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by US, Japanese, and Australian forces during the search,” said US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Eric Smith, commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The accident was initially reported to have happened during a refuelling operation, but the military said Tuesday this had not been confirmed and that the circumstances were still under investigation.
There are around 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan and accidents are not uncommon.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a condolence message to US President Donald Trump, saying the deaths of the crew members were „a matter of the deepest regret,” according to the foreign ministry.
„Closely cooperating with Donald, I’m determined to further strengthen the bond of the Japan-US alliance and work together to secure peace and stability in the region,” Abe said in the message.
In November, a US navy fighter jet crashed into the sea off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. Its two crew members were rescued alive.
And in November 2017, a C-2A „Greyhound” aircraft with 11 people on board went down in the Philippine Sea — eight were rescued and the search was called off for the remaining three.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Kosovo is moving to build itself a regular army, angering neighboring Serbia enough to talk of military intervention — a seemingly empty threat.
In a vote set for Friday, Kosovo’s 120-seat parliament is expected to approve draft government-submitted legislation to turn an existing 4,000-strong paramilitary force, known as the Kosovo Security Force, into an expanded, lightly armed army.
Belgrade does not recognize the independence of Kosovo, a landlocked former Serbian province lost two decades ago after an uprising by ethnic Albanians and a campaign of NATO airstrikes.
Serbia says the proposed army’s main purpose would be to take over and ethnically cleanse Kosovo’s Serbian-dominated north. Officials in Pristina deny that.
Warning last week of a potential military intervention, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said she hopes „we won’t ever have to use our army” but that it is „currently one of the options on the table.”
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WHAT TRIGGERED THE CRISIS?
Long-simmering tensions soared after Kosovo slapped a 100-percent tax on Serb imports last month — in apparent retaliation after Serbian lobbying thwarted Kosovo’s bid to join Interpol, the international police organization. Serbian officials claim the tariffs are a virtual embargo designed to force Kosovo’s remaining ethnic Serbs, chief consumers of the affected goods, out of the country. The European Union, the United States and Russia have all urged lifting of the tariffs.
HOW SERIOUS IS THE SERBIAN THREAT?
Although Serbia has increased its saber-rattling, it is highly unlikely to take military action. That would trigger a direct confrontation with some 4,600 NATO-led peacekeepers, including U.S. troops, stationed in Kosovo since 1999. It would also almost certainly prompt Western sanctions and Serbia’s isolation.
WHAT IS THE MILITARY MATCHUP?
Disregarding the NATO presence in Kosovo, Serbia has a much stronger military — some 30,000 professional troops, compared to 5,000 of the new Kosovo army. Russia has recently been arming Serbia with fighter jets and tanks, but the 1999 bombings devastated the country’s military capability, which remains negligible compared to NATO’s.
WHAT IS NATO’S POSITION?
Alliance Secretary-General Jans Stoltenberg said Kosovo’s plan for an army is „ill-timed, goes against the advice of many NATO allies, and can have negative repercussions on Kosovo’s prospects” of eventually joining the alliance and the EU. If Kosovo goes ahead, Stoltenberg said, „NATO will have to examine the level of our engagement with the Kosovo Security Force.”
WHAT IS KOSOVO’S ARMY FOR?
The new army will have a 98-million-euro ($111 million) annual budget, with 5,000 troops armed with light infantry weapons and 3,000 reservists. Kosovo officials said it will handle crisis response and civil protection operations — essentially what the current paramilitary force does. Its main tasks would be search and rescue, explosive ordnance disposal, firefighting and hazardous material disposal.
HOW LEGITIMATE IS THE MOVE?
A UN Security Council resolution from 1999 specifies that Kosovo is under the authority of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo with security provided by the NATO-led peacekeepers. NATO and the U.S. have helped train the current Kosovo Security Force. The U.S. backs formation of the new army through a long process leading to multiethnic representation, starting with a change to the country’s constitution, which makes no reference to an army. This, however, would require support from ethnic Serbian lawmakers, who strongly oppose the move.
THE RUSSIAN FACTOR
Russia has strongly supported Serbia, its only real ally in Europe, and said the Kosovo army formation „may lead to the most severe consequences not only for the region’s Serbian population but also for the security of the entire Balkans.” But Moscow is unlikely to join Serbia in any military action against NATO in Kosovo. Furthermore, Russia’s military has no real access to Serbia and Kosovo, which are practically surrounded by NATO-member states.
THE U.S. FACTOR
President Donald Trump has shown little interest in Balkan tensions, but Kosovo is virtually an American protectorate thanks to the former Clinton and Bush administrations that helped it gain independence. The U.S. has some 600 soldiers in Kosovo and any Serbian attack would likely be met with fierce retaliation.
Serbia has refused to take part in EU-mediated negotiations in Brussels to normalize the two countries’ relations until Kosovo lifts the imposed taxes. Kosovo’s government says it will not lift the tariffs until Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s statehood. It will take a lot of international lobbying to restart the talks, which are crucial for both countries in their desire to join the EU.
HOW DID KOSOVO SPLIT FROM SERBIA?
A 1998-1999 war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo left more than 10,000 dead. Serbia’s bloody crackdown against separatists and civilians in Kosovo prompted NATO airstrikes, ending the war. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. The US and most of the West recognize it, but Russia and China do not.
Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.