Lots of Russia and Trump, as you know. Some secondary fallout stories, too. "Fox News pulls Judge Napolitano over his Trump wiretap claims," "As it happened: FBI at Russia hearing," "Trump Russia claims: FBI's Comey confirms investigation of election 'interference',"Video: Here's that moment: Comey confirms the Russians hacked both Dems & Republicans, but didn't release any GOP info."
Not part of the hearings but part of the bigger story: "Russian elite invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings," "Exclusive: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April - sources," "Exclusive: Powerful Russian Partner Boasts Of Ongoing Access To Trump Family."
"Why Is YouTube Blocking Videos By LGBTQ+ Creators In "Restricted Mode"?" gets another, slightly larger story. YouTube late today was tweeting about errors in categorisation; we'll see.
"The EPA Needs Lots of Money to Gut Itself" talks about how the Trump administration plans to end the EPA for all practical purposes.
"Supreme Court nominee: Senators clash at Neil Gorsuch hearing."
Some on the ACA repeal: "Ahead of Trump visit, Paul hopes health proposal will fail," and "Conservative senators disappointed after White House health care meeting."
Finally, a couple of social stories: "Tomi Lahren's show suspended over host's pro-choice views," and the much more in-depth "How a Sleepy German Suburb Explains Europe’s Rising Far-Right Movements."
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Georgia nonprofit says it unwittingly gave $25,000 to white nationalist Richard Spencer
Matt Pearce | The Los Angeles Times | 20 March 2017
The largest donor to Richard Spencer’s nonprofit in recent years was a Georgia community foundation that said it didn’t know it was supporting a white nationalist.
Its donations to his National Policy Institute totaled $25,000 from 2013 to 2014, according to three years of unpublished tax returns that Spencer gave to The Times.
The returns offer the most detailed look to date at the finances of a white nationalist who has risen to national prominence over the last year. The growing revenue of his organization — which has failed to file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service since 2012 and as a result lost its tax-exempt status — came primarily from anonymous donors and conferences advocating a separate nation for white people.
The Georgia group, the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area, which promotes philanthropy to a wide range of causes and counts the Masters golf tournament as one of its biggest donors, is based in Augusta and gives away between $5 million to $9 million a year.
Its chief executive, Shell K. Berry, said the donations to Spencer’s group came from a “donor-advised fund” — a common arrangement in the charity world in which a donor gives money to one group with the intention of having it forwarded to others. The arrangement can offer the donor tax benefits as well as anonymity.
Neither Berry nor Spencer would reveal the identity of the original donor.
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Fox News pulls Judge Napolitano over his Trump wiretap claims
Stephen Battaglio | The Los Angeles Times | 20 March 2017
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano is being kept off the air indefinitely amid the controversy over his unverified claims that British intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower at the behest of former President Obama.
Fox News did not respond to inquiries about Napolitano’s status Monday. Napolitano was conspicuously missing from the network’s coverage of the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch — an event in which he typically would have played a significant role. He has not been on the air since Thursday.
People familiar with the situation who could speak only on the condition of anonymity said Napolitano is not expected to be on Fox News Channel any time in the near future. Napolitano was not available for comment.
On March 4, President Trump first tweeted the accusation that Obama ordered his “‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”
“Nothing found,” Trump tweeted. “This is McCarthyism!”
The tweet has been widely discredited, but last week, Napolitano heightened the controversy — and caused a major embarrassment for Fox News — when he presented a scenario on several programs that backed the accusation.
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As it happened: FBI at Russia hearing
BBC News | 20 March 2017
• The FBI's director confirms an inquiry into any Donald Trump campaign links to Russia
• The law enforcement chief says there is no evidence to support Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped Trump
• The Trump administration says 'nothing has changed' and 'there is NO EVIDENCE of Trump-Russia collusion'
• The NSA's head strongly denies Trump administration claims that he asked Britain's GCHQ to spy on Trump
• Democrats and Republicans, meanwhile, trade barbs at Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch
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Trump Russia claims: FBI's Comey confirms investigation of election 'interference'
BBC News | 20 March 2017
FBI director James Comey has confirmed for the first time that the FBI is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
However, Mr Comey said his agency had seen no evidence to back up President Trump's claim that his phones had been tapped by the Obama administration.
He was giving evidence to the congressional intelligence committee.
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Why Is YouTube Blocking Videos By LGBTQ+ Creators In "Restricted Mode"?
BY Erika W. Smith | BUST
20 March 2017
YouTube is not doing great by the LGBTQ+ community.
YouTube has a “restricted mode,” which is turned off by default, but when turned on, filters out “potentially inappropriate” content. And guess what YouTube thinks is “potentially inappropriate”? Yep, LGBTQ+ people.
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The EPA Needs Lots of Money to Gut Itself
Trump’s budget proposal would slash funding to the agency, which may run counter to his more ambitious goals.
Robinson Meyer | 20 March 2017
There is, as yet, no 2018 budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
What exists instead is a “skinny budget” proposal, released on Thursday by the White House. It advances a drastic and aggressively curtailed agenda for the EPA, planning to cut the agency’s budget by 31 percent while laying off 3,200 employees. Popular programs—like EnergyStar and some Superfund cleanups—would be slowed down or eliminated.
But a skinny budget proposal is still just a proposal—and a funny one at that. While this proposal hints at President Trump’s governance priorities, and serves as an initial negotiating position, it mostly markets his ideological bonafides to other Republicans. It’s fiduciary fan fiction for conservatives, basically, with little chance of becoming law. Not only will a tiny EPA be politically difficult to enact, but there are also sticky legal limits on the extent to which the non-military side of the government can be defunded.
Trump has promised the same. In a Republican primary debate last year, he said that “we are going to get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form.”
Certainly Pruitt shares many of these goals. During his confirmation process, he could not name a single rule under the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act that he supported. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he sued the agency 14 times, and he’s said that the EPA should cede much of its power back to states (even as he reportedly prepares to fight California’s special ability to restrict air pollution).
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Russian elite invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings
A Reuters review found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.
By Nathan Layne, Ned Parker, Svetlana Reiter, Stephen Grey and Ryan McNeill | Reuters
Filed March 17, 2017
MIAMI/MOSCOW – During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump downplayed his business ties with Russia. And since taking office as president, he has been even more emphatic.
“I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” President Trump said at a news conference last month. “I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
But in the United States, members of the Russian elite have invested in Trump buildings. A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.
The buyers include politically connected businessmen, such as a former executive in a Moscow-based state-run construction firm that works on military and intelligence facilities, the founder of a St. Petersburg investment bank and the co-founder of a conglomerate with interests in banking, property and electronics.
People from the second and third tiers of Russian power have invested in the Trump buildings as well. One recently posted a photo of himself with the leader of a Russian motorcycle gang that was sanctioned by the United States for its alleged role in Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.
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Supreme Court nominee: Senators clash at Neil Gorsuch hearing
BBC News | 20 March 2017
Senators have clashed fiercely at the confirmation hearing for Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
The seat was vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia 13 months ago.
There were angry exchanges among Democrats and Republicans over why Barack Obama's choice for the post had not been given a hearing last year.
Mr Gorsuch is yet to be questioned, but in a short address strongly backed an independent judiciary and said that judges cannot be lawmakers.
He largely took a back seat on the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. He faces a tough grilling on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Before he spoke, Democrats lined up to berate Republicans for blocking Mr Obama's nomination of federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as Justice Scalia's replacement.
Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein said she was "deeply disappointed that it is under these circumstances that we begin this hearing".
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Below is the full transcript from the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Washington Post | 20 March 2017
NUNES: The committee will come to order.
I would like to welcome our witnesses, director of the FBI, Jim Comey
and director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Rogers. Thank you
both for being here today.
Before we begin, I would like to remind our members and witnesses that
this is an open hearing. I recognize the challenge of discussing
sensitive national security issues in public. However, as part of this
committee's investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016
election, it is critical to ensure that the public has access to
credible unclassified facts and to clear the air regarding
unsubstantiated media reports.
To our guests in the audience, welcome. We appreciate you being here. I
also expect that the proper decorum will be observed at all times today
and that disruptions during today's proceedings will not be tolerated.
I now recognize myself for five minutes for the purpose of an opening
The Putin regime has a long history of aggressive actions against other
countries, including the outright invasion of two of its neighbors in
recent years, as well as its brutal military action in Syria to defend
the Assad regime. But it's hostile acts take many forms, aside from
direct military assaults.
For example, the Kremlin is waging an international disinformation
campaign through the RT propaganda network which traffics in
anti-American conspiracy theories that rivaled the extravagant untruths
of Soviet era Pravda (ph). Russia also has a long history of meddling
in other countries, election systems and launching cyber attacks on a
wide range of countries and industries.
The Baltics and other Russian neighbors have long decried these
attacks. But their warnings went unheeded in far too many nations'
capitals, including our own. The fact that the Russia — that Russia
hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this
committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia's aggression for
A year ago, I publicly stated that our inability to predict Putin's
regime plans and intentions has been the biggest intelligence failure
that we have seen since 9/11 and that remains my view today. However,
while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S.
presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already
clear. It has focused wide attention on the — on the pressing threats
posed by the Russian autocrat.
In recent years, committee members have issued repeated and forceful
pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerents. But the Obama
administration was committed to the notion against all evidence that we
could reset relations with Putin. And it routinely ignored our
warnings. I hope today's hearing will shed light on three important
focus points of the committee's investigation on Russia active
First, what actions did Russia undertake against the United States
during the 2016 election campaign and did anyone from political
campaign — a political campaign conspire in these activities? Number
two, were the communications of officials or associates of any campaign
subject to any kind of improper surveillance? The intelligence
community has — has extremely strict procedures for handling
information pertaining to any U.S. citizens who are subject even to
incidental surveillance. And this committee wants to ensure all
surveillance activities have followed all relevant laws, rules and
Let me be clear, I've been saying this for several weeks. We know there
was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it's still possible
that other surveillance activities were used against President's Trump
and his associates. Number three, who has leak classified information?
Numerous current and former officials have leak purportedly classified
information in connection to these questions. We aim to determine who
has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these
individuals can be brought to justice.
I hope that this committee's bipartisan investigation will result in a
definitive report on the Russian actions taken during the election
campaign. To that end, we encourage anyone who has information about
these topics to come forward and speak to the House Intelligence
Committee. I again think the witnesses for helping shed light on these
And I will let recognize Ranking Member Schiff. He's asked for 15
minutes for his opening statement, so I will go ahead and give him 15
minutes for his opening statement.
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Ahead of Trump visit, Paul hopes health proposal will fail
Updated 8:52 am, Monday, March 20, 2017 | Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says he hopes the Republican health care proposal will fail so that "true negotiations" can begin.
Paul spoke to a group of Louisville business leaders on Monday, hours before President Donald Trump planned a campaign-style rally in the same city to advocate for the plan that would repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law.
Paul said he would not attend the rally because he planned to fly back to Washington to continue building a coalition to defeat the plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is scheduled to attend the rally.
Trump's Kentucky visit is his latest attempt to pressure conservative lawmakers opposed to the health care proposal.
Kentucky voters chose both Trump and Paul in November by wide margins.
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Conservative senators disappointed after White House health care meeting
By MJ Lee and Lauren Fox, CNN
Updated 7:18 PM ET, Mon March 20, 2017
Conservative senators hoping for changes to the Republican health care bill emerged from a meeting at the White House Monday afternoon disappointed, with Sen. Mike Lee describing the meeting as "terribly frustrating."
Lee, a Utah Republican, and other conservatives were making a last-minute pitch to Trump officials and House leaders to revise the bill. But the White House made it clear the bill is closed, a Lee aide said.
House Republicans are preparing for a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare Thursday.
President Donald Trump will personally rally the troops Tuesday morning, attending a closed-door House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill to make a final pitch to his colleagues.
The final changes from House Republican leaders are expected to be unveiled Monday night.
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How a Sleepy German Suburb Explains Europe’s Rising Far-Right Movements
The New York Times - MARCH 20, 2017
By AMANDA TAUB
BUCH, Germany — Buch, a small community on the outskirts of Berlin, seems at first glance to be the kind of place Goldilocks would declare “just right.” It is not too rich or too poor, not too expensive or too scruffy, not too close to the crowded city center but not so far that its tree-lined streets of tidy apartments are beyond a daily commute.
It is probably not the sort of place people picture when they think about the tide of far-right populism overwhelming Europe. But beneath the surface, this cozy, safe neighborhood is starkly different from the depressed postindustrial zones often portrayed as the populist wellspring, and is emblematic of the forces threatening to upend Western politics as we know it.
In this apparent stronghold of ordinariness, the Alternative for Germany, a far-right populist party, won more than 22 percent of the vote in the 2016 local election — more than any other party.
I went to Buch to better understand how far-right populism has taken root across much of Europe. I found signs of subtle forces that social scientists have long theorized could be driving the populist surge rising across Western societies.
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Tomi Lahren's show suspended over host's pro-choice views
US News | 20 March 2017 | Seen on Twitter
Glenn Beck's The Blaze reportedly cancelled the 24-year-old conservative media fixture's show for a week amid conflict over Lahren's position on abortion rights.
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Exclusive: Tillerson plans to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April - sources
Reuters | Tue Mar 21, 2017
By Arshad Mohammed and John Walcott | WASHINGTON
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China's president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them.
Tillerson intends to miss what would have been his first meeting of the 28 NATO allies on April 5-6 in Brussels so that he can attend President Donald Trump's expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, four current and former U.S. officials said.
Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security, two former U.S. officials said.
Trump has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Tillerson worked with Russia's government for years as a top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp, and has questioned the wisdom of sanctions against Russia that he said could harm U.S. businesses.
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Here's that moment: Comey confirms the Russians hacked both Dems & Republicans, but didn't release any GOP info
Kyle Griffin - Verified account @kylegriffin1
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Exclusive: Powerful Russian Partner Boasts Of Ongoing Access To Trump Family
Noah Kirsch | Forbes | March 20, 2017
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” Donald Trump bellowed to thousands of frenzied supporters at a Tampa, Florida rally last October. The truth, it seems, is a bit more complicated.
In an exclusive interview with FORBES, Emin Agalarov—a Russian pop singer, real estate mogul and son of one of the country’s richest people—described an ongoing relationship with the Trump family, including post-election contact with the president himself.
Among Agalarov’s most striking claims: that he and his billionaire developer father, Aras, had plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia that would now likely be under construction had Trump not run for office; that he has maintained contact with the Trump family since the election, and has exchanged messages with Donald Trump Jr. as recently as January; and that President Trump himself sent a handwritten note to the Agalarovs in November after they congratulated him on his victory.
“Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends,” Agalarov says.