Federal prosecutors subpoena Trump’s inaugural committee•FILE – In this Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump waves after stepping off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Federal prosecutors in New York have issued a subpoena seeking documents from Trump’s inaugural committee. A spokeswoman says the committee intends to cooperate with the inquiry. She said the committee received the subpoena late Monday and was still reviewing it. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors in New York issued a subpoena Monday seeking documents from Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, furthering a federal inquiry into a fund that has faced mounting scrutiny into how it raised and spent its money.Inaugural committee spokeswoman Kristin Celauro told The Associated Press that the committee had received the subpoena and was still reviewing it.”It is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” she said.A second spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, declined to answer questions about which documents prosecutors requested. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which issued the subpoena, declined to comment.The investigation is the latest in a series of criminal inquiries into Trump’s campaign and presidency. Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. In a separate case in New York, prosecutors say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign.The Wall Street Journal, citing a copy of the subpoena, reported that prosecutors asked for „all documents” related to the committee’s donors and vendors, as well as records relating to „benefits” donors received after making contributions.The newspaper reported late last year that federal prosecutors are investigating whether committee donors made contributions in exchange for political favors— a potential violation of federal corruption laws. It said the inquiry also was focused on whether the inauguration misspent the $107 million it raised to stage events celebrating Trump’s inauguration.The subpoena also requested documents relating to donations „made by or on behalf of foreign nationals, including but not limited to any communications regarding or relating to the possibility of donations by foreign nationals,” the Journal reported.The New York Times reported late last year that federal prosecutors are examining whether anyone from Qatar, Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries made illegal payments to the committee and a pro-Trump super political action committee. Foreign contributions to inaugural funds and PACs are prohibited under federal law.The head of the inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, confirmed to The Associated Press that he was questioned by Mueller in 2017. He told the AP he was not a target of the Mueller investigation.
Trump says U.S. military intervention in Venezuela ‘an option;’ Russia objects By Brian Ellsworth•FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference to mark six months since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo By Brian Ellsworth CARACAS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said military intervention in Venezuela was „an option” as Western nations boost pressure on socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to step down, while the troubled OPEC nation’s ally Russia warned against „destructive meddling.”The United States, Canada and several Latin American countries have disavowed Maduro over his disputed re-election last year and recognized self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful leader.Trump said U.S. military intervention was under consideration in an interview with CBS aired on Sunday.”Certainly, it’s something that’s on the – it’s an option,” Trump said, adding that Maduro requested a meeting months ago.”I’ve turned it down because we’re very far along in the process,” he said in a „Face the Nation” interview. „So, I think the process is playing out.”The Trump administration last week issued crippling sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA, a key source of revenue for the country, which is experiencing medicine shortages and malnutrition.Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse and the exodus of millions of Venezuelans, maintains the backing of Russia, China and Turkey, and the critical support of the military.Russia, a major creditor to Venezuela in recent years, urged restraint.”The international community’s goal should be to help (Venezuela), without destructive meddling from beyond its borders,” Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Latin America department at Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told Interfax.France and Austria said they would recognize Guaido if Maduro did not respond to the European Union’s call for a free and fair presidential election by Sunday night.”We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone,” Maduro said in a defiant interview with Spanish television channel Antena 3 carried out last week and broadcast on Sunday.”I refuse to call for elections now – there will be elections in 2024. We don’t care what Europe says.”EMBOLDENED OPPOSITION The 35-year-old Guaido, head of the country’s National Assembly, has breathed new life into a previously fractured and weary opposition. Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of various Venezuelan cities on Saturday to protest Maduro’s government.Guaido allies plan to take a large quantity of food and medicine donated by the United States, multilateral organizations and non-profit groups across the Colombian border into the Venezuelan state of Tachira this week, according to a person directly involved in the effort.The group has not yet determined which border point it will cross, said the person, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.It is unclear whether Maduro’s government, which denies the country is suffering a humanitarian crisis, will let any foreign aid through.The embattled president on Sunday promised peace for Venezuela without specifically responding to Trump.”In Venezuela, there will be peace, and we will guarantee this peace with the civil military union,” he told state television, in the company of khaki and black-clad soldiers who were earlier shown carrying guns and jumping from helicopters into the sea.Maduro has overseen several such military drills since Guaido declared himself president to display he has the backing of the military, and that Venezuela’s armed forces are ready to defend the country.Air Force General Francisco Yanez disavowed Maduro in a video this weekend, calling on members of the military to defect. But there were no signs the armed forces were turning against Maduro.Venezuela has as many as 2,000 generals, according to unofficial estimates, many of whom do not command troops and whose defection would not necessarily weaken the ruling socialists.The police have also fallen in line with Maduro.A special forces unit called FAES led home raids following unrest associated with opposition protests in January, killing as many as 10 people in a single operation in a hillside slum of Caracas.Venezuela’s ambassador to Iraq, Jonathan Velasco, became the latest official to recognize opposition leader Guaido this weekend.(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Brian Ellsworth and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)
Leak of Trump’s daily schedule prompts White House fury•Washington (AFP) – Donald Trump’s typical day starts late and is spent mostly watching TV, browsing newspapers and tweeting, according to a leak of the president’s confidential schedule.The weekend report on news site axios.com angered the White House, which did not deny the details of what appears to be a rather easy typical day at the office for the world’s most powerful man.Most days, Trump has no official work before 11:00 am, according to the daily guidance given to the media by the press office. That usually begins with the president receiving his intelligence briefing.According to detailed private schedules published by Axios, things don’t get much more hectic after that.Sixty percent of the president’s work life is categorized as „executive time,” meaning unstructured time to make phone calls, read newspapers, tweet and watch television.Trump’s personal secretary, Madeleine Westerhout, was not amused by the embarrassing report.”What a disgraceful breach of trust to leak schedules,” she tweeted, adding that the leaked documents in Axios don’t show „the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday.””This POTUS is working harder for the American people than anyone in recent history,” she tweeted.Monday’s official schedule, released by the press office, indicated business as usual. Trump, who spent the weekend at his Florida golf club, was due to have his intelligence briefing at 11:45, followed by lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 12:45.No other events were listed.
EU nations back Venezuela’s Guaido as Maduro faces rising pressure By Jose Elías Rodríguez and David Ljunggre•Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido walks at the National Assembly before a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero By Jose Elías Rodríguez and David LjunggrenMADRID/OTTAWA (Reuters) – Major European nations joined the United States on Monday in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, while members of a separate regional bloc kept up the pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro.The coordinated recognition by a flood of European Union nations including Britain, Germany, France and Spain followed the expiration of an ultimatum for Maduro to call a new presidential election, aligning them with Washington and against Russia and China.”From today, we will spare no effort in helping all Venezuelans achieve freedom, prosperity and harmony,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said as he announced Madrid had recognized Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly who declared himself last month to be the oil-rich South American country’s interim ruler.Eleven of the 14 members of the so-called Lima Group, including Argentina, Brazil and Canada, reiterated their support for Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate interim leader and called for free elections.In a statement following a meeting in Ottawa, they urged the international community to prevent Maduro’s government from conducting financial and trade transactions abroad, having access to Venezuela’s international assets and doing business in oil, gold and other assets. Mexico, a Lima Group member opposed to steps aimed at ousting Maduro, did not attend.Maduro’s government, overseeing an economic collapse that has prompted 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country, lashed out at the EU nations, saying their move would affect relations with Caracas. In a statement, it accused them of submitting to a U.S. „strategy to overthrow the legitimate government” and singled out Spain for acting „cowardly.”Among other EU nations recognizing Guaido were: Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden. The United States welcomed the EU nations’ recognition of Guaido and encouraged other countries to follow suit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.Italy, however, blocked a joint EU position to recognize Guaido, diplomatic sources said, with the government in Rome deeply divided over the issue. Norway, not an EU member, said it also was not recognizing him.In power since former President Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013, Maduro has been accused by critics of running the OPEC nation of 30 million people like a dictatorship.The 35-year-old Guaido, accused by Maduro’s government of staging a U.S.-directed coup, has galvanized Venezuela’s opposition with a hopeful message. Guaido repeatedly has called on Venezuela’s military, which has remained loyal to Maduro, to support a transition to democracy.”Soldiers, we continue to wait for you. The moment is now,” Guaido said in a speech on Monday in Caracas, urging the military to allow humanitarian aid to reach people.Maduro is facing calls from a growing chorus of nations, including some of Venezuela’s neighbors, to resign in the wake of last year’s disputed presidential vote in which he won re-election. Critics have called that election a sham and the mainstream opposition boycotted it.He has defied European heads of state, calling them sycophants for following U.S. President Donald Trump.Maduro sent a letter to Pope Francis requesting a renewal of dialogue in the crisis, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said in Abu Dhabi.‘VERY CRITICAL’ Most members of the Lima Group, which aims to peacefully resolve the Venezuela crisis, have said Maduro should quit in favor of Guaido and have called for new elections. The United States also wants Maduro gone, as do other key Western nations.Last month, the Lima Group announced a travel ban on senior Venezuelan officials and a freeze on their foreign assets.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would formally recognize Guaido’s chosen envoy as Venezuela’s legitimate representative in Canada in a move his government called symbolic.In New York, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said U.N. officials will not participate in international initiatives on Venezuela in order to remain neutral.Maduro’s critics have said incompetent policies and corruption have impoverished the once-wealthy nation, leaving it with widespread shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation forecast to reach 10 million percent in 2019.Guaido accused Maduro’s government of trying to move up to $1.2 billion from the state development bank Bandes to a financial entity in Uruguay, but did not present evidence. Guaido urged Uruguay to prevent the move. Uruguay’s central bank and the office of the country’s president did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Maduro blames Washington and other Western nations for sabotaging Venezuela’s economy, including through sanctions. The United States last week imposed sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA. Trump, in an interview that aired on Sunday, said military intervention in Venezuela was „an option.”(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Philip Pullella in Abu Dhabi and Steve Scherer and Giuseppe Fonte in Rome, Nerijus Adomaitis in Oslo, Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Vivian Sequera and Angus Berwick in Caracas and Malena Castaldi in Montevideo; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Will Dunham)