Arizona congressman to resign after discussing child surrogacy with female staffers

Republican Trent Franks says he deeply regrets that workplace debate caused distress as Congress grapples with sex misconduct allegations

The Arizona congressman Trent Franks has announced he will resign from Congress at the end of January after discussing child surrogacy with female staff members.

” I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry considering my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, building each feeling uncomfortable ,” Franks said in a statement on Thursday.” I deeply regret that my discussion of this alternative and process in the workplace caused distress .”

However, the Arizona Republican insisted,” I want to make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced or had, or attempted to have, any sex linked with any member of my congressional personnel .”

Franks, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus and a staunch social conservative, said he would step down on 31 January 2018. Roll Call first reported the story.

Franks’ departure comes amid widening allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in politics and increased scrutiny over how such asserts are managed on Capitol hill.

Just hours before Franks’ proclamation, the Minnesota senator Al Franken, a Democrat, said he would resign in the coming weeks after females accused him of sexual harassment. It also came days after the departure of the Democratic congressman John Conyers, the longest-serving African American member in House history, who is facing the allegations that he made recurred unwanted sexual advances toward female staffers.

Franks, who represents a deeply conservative district and is known in Washington as an anti-abortion crusader who often cites scripture, could be seen on the House floor on Thursday huddling with his fellow Arizona Republicans David Schweikert and Andy Biggs, just after the story broke. As he walked off the floor, Franks declined to confirm to reporters that he wants to resign.

” I’ll let the statement speak for itself ,” he said, in a rush to the elevator banks.

In his lengthy written statement, Franks said he took “full responsibility” for the way he” broached the topic, which unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain people uncomfortable “.

He also shared details about the difficulties he and his wife had had conceiving a child, including three miscarriages and two failed attempts to adopt a child before a” wonderful and loving lady” acted as a gestational surrogate for their twins. He said the process was a” pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos “.

Franks said the couple continued to look for surrogates to give their twins another sibling.

The statement ending by saying, in part:” In the midst of this current cultural and media climate I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would set me, my family and my staff and my noble colleagues in the House of Representative through hyperbolized public excoriation .”

” It is with great sadness that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the combat I have spent over three decades fighting ,” Franks added.” I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have built .”

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, said in a statement that on 29 November he had been” briefed on believable claims of misconduct by Rep. Trent Franks” that he found” serious and requiring action “. He also said that Franks, when will come forward with the accusations, did not deny them and that Ryan told him he should resign.

In background further provided by Ryan’s office, it was disclosed that an investigation was opened two weeks ago when the speaker’s general counsel was given” information about troubling behaviour by Rep. Trent Franks directed at a former staffer “.

The Arizona Republic reported that last week the congressman declined to respond to a request by the paper about whether he was aware of any legal settlements” to resolve claims against him involving sexual harassment or creating a hostile workplace for women “.

In light of the allegations in Congress, a group of lawmakers led by a alliance of bipartisan females are pushing for stricter standards for reporting sexual assault and would reform the rules around resolving harassment claims. Currently, accusations of sexual harassment in Congress are overseen by the little-known Office of Compliance, which over two decades employed approximately $17 m in taxpayer dollars to pay out settlements and awardings to federal employees.

Last week, an ethics panel in the House of Representatives demanded records of all settlements for sexual harassment attained in the lower chamber of Congress.

It was revealed that Conyers was among those who utilized the fund to softly settle a claim for $27,000 with a former staffer who said she was fired for refusing to give in to his recurred sexual advancements. It was afterward unearthed that the Texas Republican Blake Farenthold determined a 2014 sexual harassment grievance with a former female aide for $84,000. Both humen deny the allegations. The House ethics committee also announced Thursday night that it was launching an investigation into the claims against Farenthold.

The rapid succession of resignations this week is an indicator of how politically toxic the issue has become since the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct.

Such articles was revised on 7 December 2017. An earlier version said Trent Franks asked female staff members to act as surrogate moms. This has been changed to say that Franks discussed surrogacy with his staff member.

‘Enough is enough’: leading Democrats call on Al Franken to quit

Minnesota senator, 66, recommended by several female my fellow members to resign as allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior mount

Half a dozen female Democratic senators have called on Al Franken to resign, as other women stepped forward to accuse the Minnesota Democrat of sexually inappropriate behavior. They were joined by the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, and the national party chair, Tom Perez, who also called on Franken to step down.

Franken’s office said he would make a public statement- expected to include a response to the calls- on Thursday. One Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, said he expected Franken to” announce his resignation tomorrow “.

In Facebook posts, tweets and public statement, several Democrats advised their colleague to step aside amid widening accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against powerful humen that have roiled Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington.

” I have spent a lot of day reflecting on Senator Franken’s behaviour ,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a longtime advocate for victims of sexual assault, said in a Facebook post that started the cascade of calls.” Enough is enough .”

Gillibrand was joined by Patty Murray of Washington, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kamala Harris of California and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

Those calls were swiftly echoed by other colleagues, including Dick Durbin, the No 2 Democrat in the Senate, as well as Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, also called on Franken to resign.

” Everybody has to share the responsibility of building a culture of trust and respect for women in every industry and workplace, and that includes our party ,” Perez said.

Perez’s remarks came less than 36 hours after the Republican National Committee renewed its support for Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate who is facing multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior with teenage girls and women, including sexual assault.

While many national Republican have distanced themselves from the Alabama Republican, he has approved by Donald Trump. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has called on Moore to drop out, has said the Alabama Republican would face an ethics investigation if elected.

McConnell issued a statement calling for Franken to step down:” The near daily barrage of allegations of sexual misconduct against Senator Franken are extremely concerning to all of us in the Senate. While the Senate ethics committee is reviewing these serious allegations, it now appears that Senator Franken has lost the support of his colleagues, and most importantly, his constituents. I do not believe he can effectively serve the person or persons of Minnesota in the US Senate any longer .”

Hours afterward, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, weighed in to say he too believed Franken should resign. In a brief statement, Schumer said:” I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately .”

Franken, 66, who has been accused by multiple other women of groping or trying to forcibly kiss them, has apologized for his behaviour and asked the Senate ethics committee to analyse himbut the senators said elected official must be held to a higher standard, putting his political future in question. Franken did not appear in the Senate on Monday.

” This institution has evolved over centuries, it’s evolved over my virtually three decades of service, and it’s evolving once more before our very eyes ,” said Murray, a member of Democratic leadership.

” This current evolution is long overdue. It’s time for us as elected representatives to hold ourselves to a higher criterion, to define two examples, and to live a situated of values that is truly representative and worthy of the Congress, our republic, and our great country .”

Hirono tweeted:” Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside. I’ve fought with this decision because he’s been a good senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behaviour and his mistreatment of women .”

Harris posted:” Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down .”

Earlier on Tuesday, Politico reported on a new accusation against Franken. A former Democratic congressional aide said the former comedian tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, as he was ramping up his campaign for the US Senate, according to Politico. The aide dodged his advance and alleged that Franken said as she left:” It’s my right as an entertainer .” Franken denied the accusation to Politico.

The calls for Franken to resign come one day after John Conyers, the longest-serving Democrat in Congress, resigned after allegations of sexual harassment. Conyers, who was the top Democrat on the House judiciary committee and spend over a half-century on Capitol Hill, had settled one claim of sexual harassment against him with taxpayer money and had been accused of misconduct by several other former staffers.

Two other members of Congress currently face allegations of sexual harassment: Republican Blake Farenthold of Texas and Democrat Ruben Kihuen of Nevada.

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Texas Republican Joe Barton in scandal over sexually explicit photos

Report says representative threatened woman over release of scenes such as that of the 68 -year-old which circulated on social media this week

The Texas Republican representative Joe Barton told a woman he would complain to US Capitol police if sexually explicit photographs of him and other material from their relationship were to be exposed publicly, according to a newspaper report.

The Washington Post reported the threat on Wednesday after Barton, from North Texas, apologized for a nude photo of him that circulated on social media. The photo of Barton appeared on an anonymous Twitter account. It was not immediately known who posted the photo or when it was taken.

Barton, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the longest-serving is part of Congress from Texas, announced his re-election bid this month in a district that includes several districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Earlier on Wednesday, his spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News he had no plans to step down.

Barton issued a statement went on to say that while separated from his second spouse, prior to their divorce in 2015, he had sexual relationships” with other matured adult females “. The 68 -year-old said each relationship was consensual and had ended.

” I am sorry I did not use best judgement during those days ,” said Barton.” I am sorry that I let my constituents down .”

A woman whom the Post did not identify told the newspaper of Barton’s threat over the sexually explicit photographs, videos and messages he had sent to her. The girl described sex encounters and contact extending over five years, beginning with her posting a message on Barton’s Facebook page in 2011.

She also shared with the Post a secretly recorded telephone conversation with Barton in 2015 in which he cautioned her against employing the material” in a way that would negatively affect my career “.

The Post reported that the woman, who is not married, spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy.

A message left at Barton’s district office in Arlington, Texas, was not returned. The voicemail for its term of office in Washington was full.

In a statement to the Post, Barton said a transcript of the telephone conversation provided by the newspaper is a possibility “evidence” of a” potential crime against me “. He also said Capitol police had informed him on Wednesday they were opening an inquiry. Capitol police did not respond to a request for commentary late on Wednesday.

There is no federal statute prohibiting sharing intimate pictures of other adults without their consent. In 2015 Texas passed a revenge porn statute which the Dallas Morning News said criminalized” the purposes of the act of intentionally disclosing scenes or videos’ depicting another person with the person’s intimate proportions uncovered or engaged in sexual conduct’ without their permission “.

Barton was a consultant in the oil and gas industry before he joined the House in 1985. He is the vice-chairman of the powerful energy and commerce committee, which he chaired from 2004 to 2007.

He induced headlines in 2010, when he apologised to BP for the company’s treatment by Congress during hearings over the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In 2013, he cited the biblical inundation to dispute human links to climate change.

Barton has been the longtime manager of the GOP congressional baseball squad. In June, he was taking part in a team practise when a gunman opened fire, injuring another congressman and others.

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Opinions clash in Roy Moore’s home town: ‘There’s a lot of rumors in small-town Alabama’

David Smith visits Gadsden to hear locals opinions on the misconduct accusations, and finds advocates, waverers and critics who loathed Moore from the start

” I won’t bite ,” Tiffany Jones, an African American woman, joked to Richard Helms, a white man and Donald Trump advocate, as he hesitantly sat down beside her at a bus stop.” Even though we have different opinions, we can still sit and talk to each other .”

It was Thursday afternoon in Gadsden, the Alabama hometown of US Senate candidate Roy Moore. Jones, 38, a social work student, is vehemently opposed to the maverick Republican and observes the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him compelling. Helms, a 62 -year-old pipe fitter, takes the opposite view.

” I believe the women ,” Jones said.” Do I believe anything is going to be done about it? No, because he’s white and prejudiced and they want to keep it the same. That’s how it is in Alabama .”

Helms, however, intends to vote for Moore.” They’re trying to drum up some garbage to discredit him ,” he contended over a cigarette.” There might have been some sort of incident- altogether innocent, human, man and woman- and people get out there and exaggerated and blew it out of all proportion .”

The disagreement is typical of Gadsden, an understated, churchgoing city of 36,000 people on the Coosa river where the grapevine has been buzzing of late. Interviews by the Guardian with 20 residents on Thursday uncovered a wide spectrum of views, from diehards who stand by Moore to Republicans who are wavering because of the scandal to critics who loathed his firebrand populism from the start.

Behind Jones and Helms’s seat was the modest law office of Leroy Cobb, who was wearing a long and thick white beard, a tie-in patterned with the Confederate battle flag and a baseball cap with a picture of Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson and the words” southern heritage “. Breaking off from a client session, Cobb, 69, insisted that he could not contemplate voting for Doug Jones- bid to become the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century- over Moore on 12 December.

Tiffany
Tiffany Jones and Richard Helms at a bus stop in Gadsden. Photo: David Smith for the Guardian

” On the one side you’ve got a human who believes in using taxpayer money to murder “childrens and” dedicate sodomites equal rights ,” he said.” On the other you’ve got a man who doesn’t believe in those things. I’m a Christian and my Bible doesn’t teach those .”

Dismissing the allegations against Moore, he added:” Forty years ago? They never told anybody or nobody believed them? What does that tell you about what kind of women they are? If it was my daughter, I would have killed whoever did it. I don’t believe them .”

The candidate is being held up to unfair scrutiny, Cobb insisted, quoting rightwing conspiracy theories.” No reporter ever went and looked at the background of Barack Obama .”

Cobb was not alone in rallying to the defence of 70 -year-old Moore, whose campaign on Thursday hit back at his accusers, declaring” let the battle begin “. Waiting outside the Gadsden Career Center, Christopher Brand, 38, said:” I believe it’s just stuff in the paper and I think it will go away. I don’t know if they’re lying but some people try to seek publicity these days, get their name in the paper. Some do it for money .”

Brand, who voted for Trump in the presidential election, admitted that he heard the rumours about Moore before they became public. But he said:” There’s a lot of gossips in little town in Alabama. I only believe what I know to be fact .”

Others were more willing to theorize. A 67 -year-old man, who gave his name merely as Al for dread of reprisals from his employer, said he believed there would be more accusations to come against Moore.

” I’d be very surprised if there weren’t ,” Al said.” He has a history that goes back a long ways. I know the girl Leigh Corfman[ who told the Washington Post that Moore sexually abused her when she was 14] and about 12 years ago she told me the tale. She is absolutely not lying. I know he molested her when she was very young .”

Quick Guide

Gay prohibits and kudo for Putin: the world according to Roy Moore

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Homosexuality should be illegal

In 2005, Moore said:” Homosexual conduct should be illegal .” In an interview televised on C-Span, Moore added:” It is immoral. It is defined by the law as detestable .” During a debate in September 2017, he went out of his route to bemoan the fact that” sodomy[ and] sexual perversion sweep the land “.

September 11 attacks as divine punishment

In a speech in February, Moore appeared to suggest that the terrorist attacks of September 11 were the result of divine retribution against the United States and prophesized in the Book of Isaiah. In commentaries first reported by CNN, Moore quoted Isaiah 30:12 -1 3, saying:” Because you have despised His word and trust in perverseness and oppression, and say thereon … hence this iniquity will be to you as a breach ready to fall, swell out in a high wall, whose transgressing cometh suddenly at an instance .” Moore then noted:” Sounds a little bit like the Pentagon, whose transgres came abruptly at an instance, doesn’t it ?” He added:” If you think that’s coincidence, if you go to verse 25:’ There should be up on every high mountain and upon every mound, rivers and streams of water in the working day of the great carnage when the towers will fall.'”

Praise for Putin

In an interview with the Guardian in August, Moore praised Putin for his views on lesbian rights.” Perhaps Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know .” The commentaries came as Moore suggested the United States could be described as” the focus of evil in the world” because” we promote a lot of bad things “. Moore specifically named lesbian wedding as one of those “bad things”.

‘Reds and yellows ‘

At a rally earlier in September, Moore “was talkin about a”” reds and yellows opposing” while discussing racial division in the United States. Moore justified this on Twitter by quoting lyrics from the anthem Jesus Loves the Little Children. He wrote” Red, yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. This is the Gospel .”

Tracking livestock is communism

In 2006, Moore denounced a proposal for a national ID system for animals as” more identifiable with communism than free enterprise “. The proposal received attention after a cow in Alabama had been diagnosed with mad cow illnes. Moore, who was then operating for governor, was skeptical that the outbreak was real. Instead, Moore suggested it was a ruse intended to promote the tracking system.

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Al also backed reports that Moore sought daughters at the Gadsden shopping mall.” He always wore the same tan camel-hair coat. There was a store called Pizitz and he would always hang around the lingerie section; they were the first ones to hurl him out. Then he would hang around outside the Record Bar and hit on young girls there. He was always alone; never with another adult. The mall hurled him out.

” Then he decided he would thump the Bible and these people believed him and he became some sort of cult figure. But he’s a shady character, a really strange guy. There’s no way I would vote for him; I never have. I don’t see him winning, actually. If you look at middle-class, better educated areas, he never gets those elections .”

Chad Gowens, a medical assistant who served in the navy, said:” Growing up in this town, most people know Roy Moore and the type of person he was. At school you heard the narratives. It was a hush-hush because he was assistant DA[ district attorney ].”

Gadsden, Alabama

Gowens, 33, always suspected that a scandal would burst into the open sooner or later.” I figured it would be that they discovered him on Grindr or something. Anyone who’s preaching that hard is normally got skeletons in their cupboard .”

Henry Joseph, 80, a retired building contractor, was sitting at the bar at the Blackstone Pub and Eatery on Broad Street, said he was a Republican but was willing to vote Democrat next month.” I’ve turned ,” he said.” Doug Jones did very well in Birmingham when he was a prosecutor .”

As for Moore, Joseph was adamant.” I think the man’s in love with himself. His ego’s all the more important than Trump’s and he probably misses himself when he goes to sleep at night .” But he added:” I suppose part of the allegations are presumptively right and a lot are fabricated. I can’t go back 30 years and tell you where I was on a devoted day .”

Lonnie Dorcey, 42, a business proprietor in the hospice industry, also dismissed the accusations.” He’s known to all the members of the country and nothing like this has come out until four weeks before the election. There were lots of opportunities over the last 30 years. It’s a small enough town, a small enough community. Everyone knows everything about everyone. You just can’t maintain a secret like for 30 years: there have been bitter election opposes and it would have come out .”

Steve Beene, 68, relaxing on a bench, said:” I believe Roy Moore could shoot somebody here and still get the votes. People are not as informed as they used to be .”

Gadsden is the county seat of Etowah County, which in the past has voted for Democrats John F Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton( twice ), but had now been been staunchly Republican, strongly backing Trump in last year’s presidential election.

It fits the profile of some of Trump’s strongholds. Gadsden’s main employers were textile mills, a steel mill that shut down in about 2000 and a tyre-manufacturing plant that virtually ran the same style. The main boulevard, Broad Street, is lined with bars and restaurants, insurance and investment companies and shops selling antiques, comics and dolls, as well as an art museum and dance conservatory, but little traffic and few household name chains. Within walking distance are several advance cash and payday loan outlets.

Greg Bailey, co-managing editor of the Gadsden Hour, a 150 -year-old daily newspaper with a circulation of 10, 000, said:” It’s gone from a smokestack city to a city looking for an identity. There are people saying,’ When are those smokestack days coming back ?’ They’re not coming back. We’re still in flux .”

Beverly
Beverly Young Nelson at a press conference in Manhattan where she has accused Roy Moore of sexually abusing her when she was 16. Photograph: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images

The paper has been inundated with calls from around the country since the Moore scandal erupted. Bailey believes he still has a chance of winning the Senate race.” It would not surprise me ,” he said.” His core base, the conservative evangelical Christians, is very loyal. This is a group that feels put upon by the socioeconomic changes they see around them and they’re desperate for a champ and they’re not easily going to give their champion up .”

The journalist added:” I have some people in my social media who are absolutely doubling down and some who are vacillating. If he sticks it out, I can’t tell what’s going to happen on December 12.”

But the waverers are much in evidence, even among unrepentant Trump voters. After all, the president himself- who won Alabama by 28 percentage points- has hardly been enthusiastic about Moore’s candidacy, first endorsing his challenger Luther Strange in the Republican primary, then suggesting that Moore should step aside if the allegations prove true, though he stopped short of demanding his immediate withdrawal.

Preparing to order lunch at Cafe 5, Rick Green, 69, said he backed Trump strongly but was undecided on how to vote in the Senate race.” I need more information about some things ,” he said.” These allegations seem to be getting stronger and stronger every day but I want to see proof. You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. I think the election’s going to be awful close .”

A military special operations veteran of 30 years who served in Vietnam and Iraq, Green criticised congressional Republicans for trenching Moore.” You can’t seem these days to get the Republicans to stand together on anything. I’m just entirely disgusted. They can’t get their act together. They’re constantly squabbling when I want a wall construct, I want taxation reform .”

A poll released on Wednesday by the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm demonstrated Jones constructing a once unthinkable 12 -point lead since the accusations became public. Another Trump voter, 29 -year-old Jessica Jones, owned of the Sew Much Grace boutique store, said:” I lean more towards Republican in my voting. We share the same values and notions, but I cannot in good conscience vote for Roy Moore .”

Not everyone is gripped by the tournament, however. Back at the bus stop, Betty Way, 60, who works in an adjacent office for a trucks and trailer company, said:” I don’t even know what the allegations are. I don’t watch TV. I live in the country and there’s better things to do than look at politics.

” If you ask me how the deer’s running or how’s the rabbit’s hopping, I could tell you, but when you get into politics, I don’t have a position .”

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Senators call for investigation after Paradise Papers reveal tax avoidance

Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse among Democratic lawmakers attempting congressional investigation and statutes to fight offshore investors strategies

Senators have demanded a congressional investigation and new laws to combat taxation avoidance after the Paradise Papers exposed the secrets of offshore investors.

Bernie Sanders, ranking member of the Senate budget committee, wrote on Tuesday to its chairman, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, arguing that it had a responsibility to taxpayers to get to the bottom of the issue.

” The offshore taxation dodging uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists( ICIJ) in the’ Paradise Papers’ raise serious questions about the integrity of our taxation systems and the ability of the top one percent to rig it in order to benefit themselves at the expense of everybody else ,” the independent Senator from Vermont says in the letter .~ ATAGEND

” I am writing today to urge the Budget Committee to hold a hearing on this issue and to conduct a thorough bi-partisan investigation on how much offshore tax evasion has contributed to our $20 trillion national debt .”

Separately on Tuesday, the Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and the Democratic congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas exhorted Republicans to take up legislation to crack down on the use of offshore taxation havens.

The Paradise Papers , a leak of more than 13 m files obtained by Suddeutsche Zeitung in Germany and shared with nearly 100 news organisations around the world, including the Guardian, revealed how corporations, billionaires and senior officials in Donald Trump’s administration use complicated financial maneuvers to hide their income from the Internal Revenue Service.

Sanders notes that individuals implicated in the papers include the billionaires the Koch friends, Sheldon Adelson, Carl Icahn and Robert Mercer, as well as financial institutions such as Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America, and corporations such as Apple and Nike.

The letter also cites a Guardian report that members of the US president’s inner circle- the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; the chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn; and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin- have links to taxation havens.

Sanders, runner-up to Hillary Clinton in last year’s Democratic presidential primary race, says the issue of how much money these someones, institutions and firms has avoided in taxes remains unanswered.

He said:” The revelations from the Paradise Papers are just the tip of the iceberg .”

Sanders added:” In my view, before the Senate deems taxation reform, we must fully analyse offshore tax haven abuse and come up with legislative solutions to prevent the wealthiest people and most profitable firms in America from dodging US taxes .”

When the enormous leak became public, Sanders advised in a statement to the Guardian that the world was rapidly becoming an” international oligarchy” controlled by a small group of billionaires.

Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Doggett of Texas argue that the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which they introduced in April, would close some taxation loopholes, eliminate incentives for US companies to move assets and operations offshore, and make it harder for companies to shirk their taxation bills through cross-border mergers. It would also give the government new tools to crack down on the use of illegal tax shelters.

Whitehouse and Doggett said in a joint statement:” These documents pull back the curtain on a complex shell game, where firms’ staggering profits vanish offshore and rematerialize when the time is right and the tax liability is the lowest.

” Middle-class American households can’t put in their own Grand Cayman subsidiaries. Instead, they’re left paying a bigger share of taxes than they should. As the Paradise Papers show, we need to shut down tax havens and bring jobs and earnings back to our coasts , not hand out more goodies to the super-rich, as the Republicans’ taxation scheme would do. Congress needs to take up the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act now .”

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Al Franken hammers Facebook lawyer at hearing over Russian ads

Senator conflicts with Colin Stretch over how tech giants apparently missed posts coming from Russia: How could you not connect the dots?

A top executive at Facebook struggled to answer on Tuesday as an angry and incredulous Al Franken, a Democratic senator, demanded why the social network accepted political advertisements paid for in Russian roubles during the presidential election.

Colin Stretch, vice-president and general counsel at Facebook, admitted that the internet company could have done better in tracing the source of its ad fund during testimony to a Senate judiciary subcommittee. It is the first of three congressional hearings focusing on how three tech giants- Facebook, Google and Twitter- were exploited by Russia to sway voters.

” This is something you guys have to deal with and fix ,” Franken told Stretch, who was appearing instead of the more recognisable Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg.” You were kind of the canary in the coal mine in 2016.”

In a devastating line of questioning, Franken asked irately:” How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them into personal connections for its users, somehow not induce the connection that electoral ads paid for in roubles were coming from Russia? Those are two data points! American political ads and Russian fund: roubles. How could you not connect those two dots ?”

Stretch said Facebook had done an effective job on cyber-theft but admitted:” I think in hindsight, we should have had a broader lens. There were signals we missed and we are now focused -”

But Franken, angry and sardonic, interrupted:” People are buying ads on your platform with roubles. They’re political ads. You set billions of data points together all the time. That’s what I hear that these platforms do: they’re the most sophisticated things invented by human, ever. Google has all knowledge that human has ever developed. You can’t put together roubles with a political ad and go hmm, those two data points spell out something bad ?”

Stretch responded:” Senator, it’s a signal we should have been alert to and in hindsight -”

But Franken cut him off, asking whether Facebook would pledge not to publish a political ad paid for in Northern korean won. As Stretch demurred, Franken interjected ferociously:” Please answer yes or no, sir … You’re sophisticated. You’re the chief legal counsel for Facebook. Please answer yes or no .”

Stretch sought to clarify that currencies did not necessarily indicate the source country of an advert and refused to commit to banning political ads purchased in foreign currencies. But Franken snapped back, asking why a bad actor would choose the North Korean won to conceal his activities. He told the counsel:” My goal is for you to think through this stuff a little bit better .”

The hearing on Capitol hill heard how Russia’s attack via social media began in 2015, before the party primaries, and continued even after last November’s presidential election. Stretch said there had been an effort to challenge the validity of Donald Trump’s election, sowing further division.

Facebook, Twitter and Google defended their security measures and promised to do more to stop the misuse of their platforms by a foreign power. Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security at Google, said:” We take this seriously. We’ve stimulated changes and will continue to get better .”

But some senators were sceptical. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, called the companies” Johnny come latelies” and said:” There’s a lot that I think you could have done earlier .”

Senator Dianne Feinstein highlighted fake pages such as “Black Matters US” and” United Muslims of America”, which Russians use a custom audience tool to target. Stretch described such attempts to exploit divisions in society as “vile” and “cynical” and said there have been a modification to ad targeting policies with added layers of review.

Senator Chris Coons struck a similar tone to Franken and again Facebook the brunt. He drew attention to an advert that claimed Hillary Clinton, along with Barack Obama, was despised by Americans and the army should be withdrawn from her control. Another advertised a non-existent” miners for Trump” rally. People were “duped”, Coons said.

Stretch reacted:” That advertisement has no place on Facebook and we are committted to preventing that sort of behaviour happening again on our platform. You’re right to surface it. It induces me angry, it induces everyone angry .”

But Coons said he was ” concerned” that it had taken Facebook 11 months since the election to come forward and address the issue. Stretching disputed this , noting the company had published a white paper in April.

In written testimony to members of the committee, Facebook said it calculated approximately 29 m people were served content in their news feeds immediately from Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s( IRA) 80,000 posts over two years.” Posts from these pages were also shared, liked, and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a tale that originated from the Russian operation .”

The company said its best calculate was that about 126 m people may have been served content from a page associated with the IRA at some phase during the two-year period. This equals about 0.004% of content in news feed, or about one out of 23,000 pieces of content. Stretch testified that many of those users may never have find the material.

These “organic” posts are separate from more than 3,000 ads linked to the agency that Facebook has already turned over to congressional committees. Many of the ads focused on divisive social issues.

Twitter told the same subcommittee that it had found and shut down 2,752 accounts linked to Russia’s IRA, which is notorious for pro-Russian government positions.

On Twitter, the Russia-linked accounts put under 1.4 m election-related tweets from September through 14 November last year- nearly half of them automated. The company also procured nine Russian accounts that bought ads, most of which came from the state-backed news service RT, previously known as Russia Today. Twitter said last week it would no longer accepted ads from RT and Sputnik, another state-sponsored news outlet.

Twitter’s acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, said:” The investigation continues and we expect to keep the committee up to date on any future discoveries .” The other companies also said the investigations continued.

Twitter’s general counsel claimed that the company could” draw lines” between organic tweets and advertisings. But Senator Richard Durbin objected:” When it comes to drawing those lines, it’s a challenge for us, and we do it for a living. I think it’s going to be very hard for you, too .”

Google said two accounts linked to the Russian group spent $4,700 on ads on its platforms during the 2016 election. The company also detected 18 YouTube channels likely backed by Russian agents. Those channels hosted 1,108 videos with 43 hours of material, although they racked up just 309,000 opinions in the US between June 2015 and November 2016, Google said.

The Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar asked the companies whether they would support the” honest ads” bill she has introduced with Senator Mark Warner, which would bring political ad regulations from Tv, radio and publish to the internet.

Each of the tech giants offered qualified subsistence rather than answering “yes”. Stretch said:” We stand ready to work with you and your co-sponsors on that legislation going forward .”

Edgett of Twitter added:” The same runs for Twitter .”

Salgado of Google said carefully:” We surely support the goals of the legislation and would like to work through the subtleties to make it work for all of us .”

The committee chair, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, quoted Donald Trump as went on to say that he had won the election based on Twitter. Graham warned that the social media platforms were being used by people who” wish us damage and wish to undercut our way of life “.

The Republican senator John Kennedy said he was proud of the American companies but added:” I think you do enormous good, but your power sometimes scares me … You’ve got 5m advertisers and you’re going to tell me you’re going to be able to tell me the origin of all those advertisers? … I’m trying to get us down from la-la land .”

All three companies will also testify Wednesday before the House and Senate intelligence committees as part of congressional investigations conducted by Russian election interference.

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Democrats push bill to stop a Trump pre-emptive strike on North Korea

Conyers-Markey legislation has two Republican backers in House after chairwomen menace to entirely destroy North Korea fuelled nuclear war fears

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation aimed at preventing Donald Trump from launching a pre-emptive attack on North Korea, as concerns grew about the administration’s failure to explore talks with Pyongyang.

The” No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea” bill is the second legislative attempt to curtail’s Trump power to start a war unilaterally. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced to prohibit the president from ordering a nuclear first strike against a foreign adversary without a declaration of war by Congress, amid concerns over Trump’s belligerent language, erratic behaviour and frequent tweeted menaces against other countries.

The new legislation prohibiting an attack on North Korea without congressional authority was launched by Democrat John Conyers in the House and Ed Markey in the Senate. It has two Republican among the 61 backers in the House, but at present no formal Republican backing in the Senate.

” As a veteran of the Korean war, I am ashamed that our commander-in-chief is conducting himself in a reckless manner that endangers our troops stationed in South Korea and our regional friends ,” Conyers said.

” President Trump’s provocative and escalatory rhetoric, with threats to unleash’ flame and fury’ and’ wholly destroy’ North Korea, cannot be allowed to turn into reality ,” Senator Markey said.” As long as President Trump has a Twitter account, we must ensure that he cannot start a war or launching a nuclear first ten-strike without the explicit authorization of Congress .”

The bill’s supporters acknowledge that it will not pass without attracting more Republican support, but they argue that it helps focus attention on the unlimited authority of a US president to order the use of nuclear weapons, many of which can be launched within a few minutes. No officer has the power to stop or even delay the launch.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, speaking at a meeting organised by the Ploughshares Fund, an non-proliferation advocacy group said she once asked a former head of US Strategic Command if he would carry out a launch order even if he knew it was a catastrophically bad decision.” He looked me straight in the eye and said: Yes ,” Senator Feinstein recalled.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have reached critical levels since Pyongyang carried out a sixth nuclear exam in September and a series of long-range weapon tests. Trump has tweeted a series of threats against the regime and declared at the UN in September that he could” altogether destroy” North Korea.

Meanwhile, Trump and his administration have given mixed signals on whether they would consider any kind of dialogue with Pyongyang, and no overtures appear to have been stimulated in that direction.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Joseph Yun, the top American diplomat on North Korean issues, has been warning of a breakdown in diplomatic efforts at meetings in Congress and attempting help in persuading the White House to give negotiations a chance.

William Perry, a former US defence secretary and a veteran of the Cuban missile crisis, said there was a rising danger of the US stumbling into a war with North Korea by making Pyongyang think a” decapitation strike” is imminent and panicking it into launching its own nuclear weapons.

” What we’re doing is making the regime think they are about to go, so they might as well go out in a flame of glory ,” Perry said, adding that the best thing Congress could do to stop the drift to nuclear war was to pass the Conyers-Markey legislation.

” It doesn’t seem now it can be passed, but things can change ,” he said.

Ted Lieu, the Democratic congressman who co-authored the bill in January to limit the president’s power to launch a first strike said the best recruiter for Republican support was Trump’s behaviour.

” Every time the president does something erratic, which is every day, we get more co-sponsors ,” Lieu said.

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White House under fire for suggesting general’s remarks should not be questioned

Press secretary calls reporters question highly inappropriate as Frederica Wilson says Kelly lied about her during press provide information on Thursday

The White House has been condemned for attempting to stillnes the media by warning that it is” highly inappropriate” to challenge the veracity of remarks by a military general.

A reporter on Friday questioned a claim by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, a retired four-star marine general, that the Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson had taken credit for securing funding for an FBI building in Florida.

Chip Reid, a CBS News correspondent, said during the daily press briefing:” He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was procured before she came into Congress .”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, replied coldly:” If you want to go after Gen Kelly, that’s up to you. But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate .”

Reid’s follow-up topic was ignored and the implication- from a democratically elected civilian government- that a military general was beyond criticism was troubling to many.

Perry O’Brien, a former army medic who served in Afghanistan, said:” It’s just another example of the administration conceal behind the uniform of others. That’s why it’s so unfortunate to see someone like Gen Kelly enable that and jump on the grenade that Trump hurled .”

O’Brien, organising director of Common Defense, a group of veterans against Trump, added:” When “theyre saying”,’ How dare you criticise a general ?’, how about[ former Trump national security consultant] Gen Michael Flynn, who was the first to resign after we learned they were colluding with foreign powers? I don’t think most generals would say a star on your shoulder stimulates you immune from criticism .”

Kelly appeared at the White House podium on Thursday, to defend Trump against the charge that he caused offence during a bellow with the widow of Sgt La David Johnson, one of four US soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month by Islamic State fighters. Wilson heard the call and criticised Trump for disrespecting Johnson’s widow, Myeshia.

While defending the president, Kelly- whose son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010- accused Wilson of “grandstanding” in a 2015 speech by saying she was instrumental in getting funding for an FBI building in Florida and took care of her constituents because she got the money. Wilson denied the charge and video evidence appeared to support her account.

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John Kelly rebukes Trump critics over military deaths- video

Kelly stood by his accusation, Sanders said on Friday.” Gen Kelly said he was stunned that Representative Wilson induced commentaries at a build dedication honouring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former president Obama on legislation ,” she said.

” As Gen Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honouring American heroes all about yourself, you’re an’ empty barrel ‘. If you don’t understand that reference, I’ll put it a bit more simply. As we say in the south: all hat , no cattle .”

Wilson regularly wears a cowboy hat.

Challenged over the video footage of the speech, in which Wilson praises FBI agents, Sanders insisted:” She also had quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there .”

The press secretary also rejected criticism from Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, who supports the accounts of the Trump phone call given by her son’s widow and Wilson.

” Certainly, if the spirit of which those comments were intended were misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate ,” Sanders said.” But as the president has said, as Gen Kelly said- who I guess has a very deep understanding of what that individual would be going through – his comments were very sympathetic, very respectful. And that was the spirit in which the president intended them. If they were taken any other style, that’s certainly an unfortunate thing .”

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Trump: ‘I didn’t say what the congresswoman said’- video

According to Wilson, Trump told Johnson’s widow her late spouse” knew what he signed up for, but when it happens it hurts anyway “.

Kelly in effect corroborated that account, saying he had counseled Trump on how to induce the bellow by telling him of the morning he was told of his son’s death. Kelly remembered his close friend, Gen Joseph Dunford, telling him his son” was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed “.

” He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war ,” Kelly said.” That’s what the president tried to say to the four families the other day .”

Trump, however, continues to vehemently deny that he said such words.

” The fake news is going crazy with wacky congresswoman Wilson[ Democrat] who was secretly on a very personal call and dedicated a total lie on content ,” he tweeted late on Thursday.

Kelly also indicated Wilson had eavesdropped on a highly sensitive call. The congresswoman, a close friend of the Johnson family, pointed out she was in the car when Myeshia Johnson received the call, which was placed on speakerphone.

” I wasn’t listening in ,” she told CNN on Friday.” Please don’t characterize it as that .”

Wilson said Trump’s comments were” not a good message to say to anyone who has lost a child at war “.

” You don’t sign on because you think you’re going to die ,” she said.” You sign up to serve your country. There’s nothing to misinterpret. He said what he said. I only don’t agree with it. I just don’t agree with that’s what you should say to grieving households .”

Regarding Kelly’s statements about the FBI field office speech, Wilson said she had not been a member of Congress in 2009, when the funding mentioned by Kelly was procured. “That’s a lie,” she said of Kelly’s characterization.” How dare he ?”

She added:” I feel sorry for Gen Kelly. He has my sympathy for the loss of his son. But he can’t just go on Tv and lie on me .”

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Trump risks making US rogue actor as he condemns Iran nuclear deal

If the US enforces new restrictions on Tehran, Washington will find itself isolated and without leverage to limit Irans nuclear programme, experts say

The content, tone and style of Donald Trump’s speech about Iran on Friday was a reminder of how much the current president of the United States enjoys conflict.

With his domestic legislative agenda stalled and a federal investigation scrutinising his finances and his relations with Moscow, Trump has taken to finding foes to rail against, including the press and black football players who kneel during the national anthem.

The tactic galvanises his core advocates and seems to rejuvenate him. He seemed similarly energised excoriating Iran on Friday. But taken into foreign policy, Trump’s visceral drive for showdown threatens to add a second nuclear crisis to the one Trump has already intensified in the Pacific with North Korea.

The 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action( JCPOA ), was aimed at ensuring that nearly 40 -year feud between the US and revolutionary Iran did not mutate into a clash between two nuclear nations.

In return for sanctions relief from six major powers and the international community as a whole, Iran accepted very deep constraints on its nuclear programme. Its current stockpile of enriched uranium, for example, is merely over 1% of what it was before the bargain.

But in his speech, Trump completely ignored the non-proliferation gains represented by the JCPOA, and portrayed the repatriation of Iran’s previously frozen assets as money for nothing. He stimulated the false assert that Iran had been on the point of” total collapse” when the agreement was signed.

His claims that” the Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement” were also misleading at best. On two occasions, Iran’s stockpile of heavy water flowed over the ceiling imposed by the bargain, but the situation was promptly rectified and Iran’s reserve is now below the limit.

Nor is heavy water a direct proliferation threat. It is used in certain reactors that render plutonium as a by-product. However, under the bargain, Iran has destroyed the only reactor of that type.

Trump’s remark that Iran had” failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges” appeared to refer to an ambiguity in the deal that had now been been resolved and was not declared to be a violation.

Trump’s litany of Iran’s past alleged crimes was also highly contentious, including an attempt to connect Shia Iran with the Sunni militants of al-Qaida, and including with regard to Osama bin Laden’s 1998 attacks on US embassies in east Africa.

The state department did not comply with White House pressure to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps( IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, but the Treasury did build that designation- under a comparatively obscure clause- marking the first time a major part of a country’s armed forces has been described as terrorist. It was- to say the least- a risky move given that troops from both countries are in close proximity in Syria and potentially elsewhere in the region.

Trump’s speech also dimmed said that he hoped the nuclear deal could escape Trump’s hostility if he passed the decision over its fate to Congress. Congress is deeply divided over the questions and therefore might end up doing nothing, European envoys had reasoned.

But after Trump’s remarks, that escape ramp appears to be blocked. Trump has called on Congress to add conditions to those Iran already complies with under the JCPOA, restricting ballistic missile growth and extending restrictions on its nuclear programme indefinitely.

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Trump retains right to cancel Iran nuclear deal – video

Even if a deep divided Congress agreed on such changes- which would require the support of 60 senators- “were not receiving” realistic potential Iran would accept them.

In that case, Tehran would be bound to cast the US as the rogue performer on the world stage- and Washington’s European actors would find it hard to disagree.

” Iran is not going to comply with provisions imposed unilaterally by the US. If the US then imposes sanctions or scraps the deal, then the US will be left highly isolated ,” said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for World peace.

” The US will be blamed across the world for the collapse of the Iran deal, other countries will not cooperate with the US in reimposing sanctions on Iran, and the end effect will be that Iran’s nuclear programme is likely to be unconstrained and the US will have no leverage to try to constrain it .”

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Iran will not renegotiate nuclear deal, says Rouhani – video

However, if Congress does not agree on new conditions, Trump threatened to “terminate” the deal himself, by executive order. If he sticks to his term, the JCPOA appears doomed in its current form.

The other signatories could try to keep it going but major European companies are likely to flee Iran for dread of losing US marketplaces. The benefits for Iran would shrink significantly, as would incentives to abide by its strictures.

A change of mind is always possible. Trump on Friday said he was ” always open” to negotiation with North Korea after weeks insistenting that he had no purpose of talking to the regime. Yet his animus towards Tehran, stoked by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seems, if anything, even more deeply entrenched.

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The Trump-Russia dossier: why its findings grow more significant by the day

As US officers analyse potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, the series of reports by the former UK intelligence official Christopher Steele are casting an ever darker darknes over the president

Nine months after its first appearance, the situated of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown-up darker as time has gone by.

It was reported this week that the document’s author, former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators working for the special advise on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are, meanwhile, asking to see Steele to make up their own intellect about his findings. The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff, said that the dossier was ” a very important and useful guide to help us figure out what we need to look into “.

The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional researchers has far-reaching implications.

Originally commissioned by a private firm as opponent research by Donald Trump’s Republican and then Democratic adversaries, they quote a range of unnamed sources, in Russia and the US, who describe the Kremlin’s cultivation over several years of the man who now occupies the Oval Office– and the systematic collusion of Trump’s associates with Moscow to help get him there.

The question of collusion is at the heart of the various investigations into links between Trump and Moscow. Even a senior Republican, Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted this week it was an open question.

Burr said his committee needed to talk Steele himself to assess the dossier properly and recommended him to speak to its members or staff. According to an NBC report on Friday, Steele had expressed willingness to meet the committee’s leaders.

In his remarks this week, Burr said his committee had come to a consensus in supporting the conclusions of a US intelligence community appraisal in January this year that Russian had conducted a multi-pronged campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, in Trump’s favour.

It is a finding that echoes the reports that Steele was making seven months earlier. Trump has called the assessment a “hoax”, but there is no sign the three agencies that came to that conclusion, the CIA, FBI and NSA, have had any second thoughts in the intervene months.

” Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken[ the Steele] reports seriously since they were first published ,” wrote John Sipher, a former senior officer in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service on the Just Security website.

Christopher
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer who compiled the reports. Photo: Victoria Jones/ PA

” This is not because they are not fond of Trump( and many admittedly are not ), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methodology and the nature of raw intelligence reporting .”

Sipher emphasised the “raw” nature of research reports, aimed at conveying an accurate account of what sources are saying, rather than claiming to be a definitive summary of events. There are spelling mistakes and rough edges. Several of the episodes it described remain entirely unverified.

But as every passing month brings more leaks, revelations in the press, and more progress in the investigations, the Steele dossier has generally gained in credibility, rather than lost it.

Trump Tower meeting

One of the more striking most recent developments was the disclosure of a meeting on 9 June 2016 in Trump Tower involving Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with a Russian lawyer closely tied to the government, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

After the meeting was first reported on 8 July this year, the president’s son claimed( in a statement dictated, it turned out, by his father) that it had been about adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

The next day that was exposed as a lie, with the publication of emails that made it clear that Veselnitskaya was offering injury material on Hillary Clinton, that an intermediary setting up the session said was ” part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump “.

If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer ,” Donald Trump Jr responded.

Just 11 days after that meeting- but more than a year before it became public- Steele quoted information sources as saying that” the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his squad valuable intelligence on his foes, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton”, for several years.

A subsequently report, dated 19 July 2016, said:” Speaking in confidence to a countryman in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership .”

The report said that such contacts were handled on Trump’s end by his then campaign director, Paul Manafort, who participated in the 9 June Trump Tower session.

Manafort has denied taking part in any collusion with the Russian nation, but registered himself as a foreign agent retroactively after it was revealed his firm received more than $17 m running as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party. He is a subject of special attorney Robert Mueller’s investigation and in July the FBI raided his home in Virginia.

Other key protagonists in the Steele dossier have surfaced in subsequent revealings and investigation. Two of them, an Azeri-Russian businessman Araz Agalarov and his son Emin, are described in emails released by Donald Trump Jr as offering to serve as intermediaries in passing on damaging material on Clinton and is reported to have help set up the Trump Tower meeting.

Carter Page

Another key figure in the Steele dossier is Carter Page, an energy consultant who Trump named as one of his foreign policy advisors. Steele’s sources describe him as an “intermediary” between Manafort and Moscow, who had met a Putin lieutenant and head of the Russian energy giant, Rosneft, and a senior Kremlin official, Igor Diveykin.

Donald
Donald Trump and his son, Donald Jr. Photo: Jewel Samad/ AFP/ Getty Images

Page denied meeting either human on his trip-ups to Moscow, which he has said were for business purposes and not connected to his role in the Trump campaign.

Nonetheless, he has become a focus of investigation: it was reported in April that that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued an order last year for his communication to be monitored. To obtain the order, researchers would have to demonstrate” probable cause” to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. Page has said he welcomed the news of the order as it demonstrated he was being made a scapegoat of the investigation.

Elsewhere, a Steele memo in September 2016 mentions a “Mikhail Kulagin” who had been withdrawn from the Russian embassy in Washington because of his” heavy participation in the US presidential election operation “.

There was no envoy of that name at the mission, but there was a Mikhail Kalugin; five months ago, it emerged that he had left the embassy in August 2016.

McClatchy reported he was under investigationfor his role in Russia’s interference in the campaign. The BBC reported that the US had identified Kalugin as a snoop.

Facebook

More lately, there has been a slew of revelations about the role of disinformation spread by Russians and other eastern Europeans posing as Americans on social media. The New York Times reported that hundreds and possibly thousands of Russian-linked fake accounts and bots on Facebook and Twitter were used to spread anti-Clinton narratives and messages.

Facebook disclosed that it had shut down several hundred accounts that it believes were fabricated by a Kremlin-linked Russian company to buy $100,000 in ads that are typically promoted racial and other divisive issues during the campaign.

This week, Facebook handed over to Congress 3, 000 ads bought by a Russian organisation during the campaign, and it was reported that many of those ads, some of them Islamophobic, were specifically targeted on swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Steele memo from August 2016 states that after Russia’s hand had been discovered in the hacking of Democratic party emails and passing them to WikiLeaks for publishing, another boulevard of influence would be explored.

The memo says” the tactics would be to spread rumours and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content “.

The
The Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who fulfilled Donald Trump Jr and other campaign figures. Photograph: Yury Martyanov/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Russian official alleged by Steele’s sources to be in charge of the operation, Sergei Ivanov- then Putin’s joint chiefs of staff- is quoted as saying:” The audience to be targeted by such operations was the educated youth in America as the PA[ Russian Presidential Administration] assessed that there was still a chance they could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump as a protest against the Washington establishment( in the form of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton ).”

The Steele dossier said one of the aims of the Russian influence campaign was to peel off voters who had supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and nudge them towards Trump.

Evidence has since emerged that Russians and east Europeans posing as Americans targeted Sanders advocates with divisive and anti-Clinton messages in the summer of 2016, after the primaries were over.

Unsubstantiated claims

There are other details in the Steele dossier that have echoed in subsequent news reports, but there are also several claims and accounts for which no supporting evidence has emerged.

The startling claim that Trump was filmed with prostitutes while staying at a Moscow hotel in November 2013, when he was staging the Miss Universe contest there, has not been substantiated in any way.

Nor has the allegation that Trump’s lawyer and vice-president of the Trump Organisation, Michael Cohen, travelled to Prague in August 2013 to conspire with a senior Russian official. In a letter to the House intelligence committee, Cohen said he never went to Prague and took issue with a string of other claims in the dossier.

It has however emerged that Cohen was involved in investigating a real estate deal in Moscow for the Trump Organisation while the campaign was in full swing. He has been summoned to appear in open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee later this month.

The Steele dossier, its writer and the firm who hired him, Fusion GPS, have become favoured targets for Trump’s loyalists on Capitol hill. They point to the fact that the genesis of the documents was a paid commission to find damaging facts about Trump.

But the dossier has not faded from view. Instead, it appears to be growing in significance as the investigations have gathered pace.

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