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Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

(WaPo) Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.


GOP strategist admits he colluded with Russian hackers to hurt Hillary Clinton, Democrats

(Salon) The U.S. intelligence community has long since concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and it was reported shortly after the 2016 presidential election that a GOP superPAC linked to Paul Ryan used illegally hacked material to attack Democratic House candidates. But a bombshell report published on Thursday confirms that Republican political operatives were working with the Russian government to hurt Hillary Clinton and Democrats during the election — the first direct evidence of so-called collusion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that hacked information was posted on a blog run by Aaron Nevins, the political operative, and then passed along to top Trump adviser Roger Stone during the campaign. The Republican operative in Florida received a trove of Democratic documents from the allegedly Kremlin-linked hacker, Guccifer 2.0. For months, both Congress and the FBI have been scrutinizing evidence that associates of Trump may have colluded with Russia during the campaign.

Nevins confirmed to the Journal that he told hacker Guccifer 2.0 to “feel free to send any Florida based information” after learning that the hacker had tapped into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) computers last summer. From the DCCC, Guccifer 2.0 released internal assessments of Democratic congressional candidates, known as “self-opposition research,” to GOP operatives using social media. Nevins told the Journal that, after receiving the stolen documents from the hacker, he “realized it was a lot more than even Guccifer knew that he had.” The stolen DCCC documents also contained sensitive information on voters in key Florida districts, breaking down how many people were considered dependable Democratic voters, undecided Democrats, Republican voters and the like. Nevins made a war analogy, describing the data he received to Guccifer 2.0 as akin to a “map to where all the troops are deployed.”


Trump Reportedly Called Germans Very Bad, Vowed To Stop German Car Sales In The U.S.

(HuffPo) During a meeting with top leaders of the European Union, President Donald Trump said “the Germans are bad, very bad,” according to participants in the room who spoke to German newspaper Der Spiegel.

Trump’s specific criticism was that Germany’s auto industry exported cars. “See the millions of cars they are selling in the U.S. Terrible,” Der Spiegel reports he said. “We will stop this.”

In January, Trump threatened to slap a 35 percent tax on German auto imports. “If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax,” he said. “I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars to the USA, without a 35 percent tax, then you can forget that.”

louis c

Jared Kushner Now Under FBI Scrutiny in Russia Probe Say Officials

(NBC News) The FBI's scrutiny of Kushner places the bureau's sprawling counterintelligence and criminal investigation not only on the doorstep of the White House, but on the cusp of the Trump family circle. The Washington Post first reported last week that a senior White House official close to Trump was a "person of interest," but did not name the person. The term "person of interest" has no legal meaning.


Pelosi: Dems will pass $15 minimum wage if we take power

(Politico) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday vowed to take up a $15 minimum wage in the first 100 hours of the next Congress if Democrats take back the chamber next year.

Pelosi offered the commitment while appearing alongside fellow Democratic leaders and advocates to release new legislation raising the minimum wage to $15. Her comments offer an early view at Democrats' potential agenda for the House if they can regain control in 2018, a long-shot prospect that some in the party think could grow increasingly more realistic given President Donald Trump and the GOP's recent struggles.

If "we win the election," Pelosi told the gathered audience, "in the first 100 hours we will pass a $15 minimum wage."


Obama Takes Aim At Trump Proposal: 'We Can't Hide Behind A Wall'

(TPM) Former President Barack Obama on Thursday took some not-so-oblique jabs at President Donald Trump’s nationalist, isolationist ideology.

During a debate in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who Trump once declared his favorite world leader, Obama appeared to criticize Trump’s “America First” policy and his proposed border wall.

“In the eyes of God, a child on the other side of the border is no less worthy of love and compassion than my own child,” Obama said. “We can’t distinguish between them in terms of their worth and their inherent dignity and that they’re deserving of shelter and love and education and opportunity.”


Republican candidate 'body-slams' Guardian reporter in Montana

(Guardian) The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting, “Get the hell out of here.”

Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire running for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.

“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. Gianforte’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Stuart G

WH Budget Chief: "I Hope Fewer People Get Social Security Disability Insurance"

(TPM) White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday that he hoped fewer people received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a result of President Donald Trumps 2018 budget proposal, suggesting that some SSDI recipients were not really disabled.

He said the proposal was the definition of compassionate: a compassion that is balanced between the people who get the benefits and the people who pay them.

Trumps budget proposal, though widely disregarded by congressional appropriators, would cut $31.4 billion from SSDI over 10 years, according to the Washington Post.

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