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Obama holds final press conference as President



barack obama

Washington, Jan 19 : Barack Obama held his last press conference as the President of the US to offer an assured outlook for a country governed by Donald Trump who is slated to take charge on Friday, a media report said.

“At my core I think we’re going to be OK,” Obama said on Wednesday during the conference at the White House.

“We just have to fight for it, work for it, and not take it for granted.”

“I know that you will help us do that,” CNN quoted the President as saying.

In his question-and-answer session with reporters, Obama said that after two terms of political warfare with Republicans, he was emerging unbowed in his faith in the US and its citizens. But he continued to express concerns about his successor’s stance on Russia and his readiness for office.

“I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad,” Obama said.

“I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.”

Conceding that Trump may not take his advice on issues, Obama said he would avoid weighing in on specific policy matters during his post-presidency, using his time instead to write and “not hear myself talk so darn much”, CNN reported.

Obama also took advantage of the conference to defend the importance of guaranteeing freedom of the press, given that the president-elect has openly insulted several media outlets that he said are “dishonest”.

He said that a free press is “essential” to US democracy, and he took pains to provide an example to his successor by taking questions during the press conference from a wide variety of journalists: progressive, conservative, Latino, African American, foreign and a one specialising in reporting on LGBT rights issues, Efe news reported.

Obama also defended some of his recent moves as President, including his decision to eliminate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Cuban migrants, which he said represented “a carryover of an old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age” within the context of normalising relations with Cuba.

He also said that it made sense for him to commute the prison sentence of former US soldier Chelsea Manning, who in 2010 leaked numerous secret documents to WikiLeaks and who will be able to leave prison in May.

Despite Republican criticism, Obama said that he felt “very comfortable” with his decision on Manning, who “has served a tough prison sentence” after “due process was carried out,” and he added that he did not agree with the idea that her release sends a message that people who leak classified documents will remain unpunished.

He also defended his decision last December to have the US abstain from voting in the UN Security Council on – and not veto – a resolution condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, saying that he felt it was important to “send a signal, a wakeup call” to Israel that the time for implementing a two-state solution in the region may be ending.

Obama also referred to Trump’s recent remarks on the possibility of ending sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine in exchange for cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.

“The reason we imposed the sanctions … was not because of nuclear weapons issues, it was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon by force, by Russia. That wasn’t our judgment, that was the judgment of the entire international community,” he said, going on to advise Trump not to “confuse” the issue of Ukraine with nuclear matters.

The president closed the press conference on an optimistic note despite the fears of many regarding Trump’s election win and what it may portend for US domestic and international policy, Efe news added.


Trump administration imposes sanctions against 19 Russians over interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Trump himself ignored a question about the new sanctions Thursday during a short press availability in the Oval Office. He did respond to a question on the U.K. attack, saying it “certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.”



Putin Trump

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took a tougher tone on Russia Thursday, signing on to a statement sharply criticizing Moscow for allegedly orchestrating a chemical weapons attack against an ex-Russian spy in the U.K., and issuing long-awaited sanctions against Russian “cyber actors” for interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The new sanctions — against five entities and 19 individuals — come amid criticism that President Donald Trump had failed to firmly confront and aggressively counter alleged Russian attacks on allied soil and continued efforts to destabilize U.S. politics.

The sanctions, while new from the Treasury Department, overlap with previous steps taken by the U.S., including naming all 13 Russians previously indicted by Robert Mueller for 2016 election meddling. The president has previously sought to delegitimize Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and called claims that his campaign colluded with Russia “phony.”

On a call with reporters Thursday a senior national security official called the sanctions “just one of a series of ongoing actions we’re taking to counter Russian aggression.”

“There will be more to come,” said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity and offering no further specifics.

Speaking to the disinformation campaign that Russia employed during the 2016 U.S. election, another senior national security official advised that propaganda disinformation campaigns “lose their effect if the American people are aware of foreign actors attempting to manipulate them.”

That awareness could be bolstered by the president, who has been reluctant to speak out at length about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. An official demurred when asked if Trump would speak out as part of these stepped up efforts.

Trump himself ignored a question about the new sanctions Thursday during a short press availability in the Oval Office. He did respond to a question on the U.K. attack, saying it “certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.”

The president begrudgingly signed a bill last year that imposed sanctions on Russia, pressured by his Republican Party not to move on his own toward a warmer relationship with Moscow in light of Russian actions during the 2016 elections. Trump called the bill “seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

The sanctions announcement came shortly after the release of a joint statement from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France on Thursday morning in which the U.S. said it shared British assessments “that there is no plausible alternative explanation” to the military-grade nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, adding that “Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the United Kingdom further underlines Russia’s responsibility.”

The White House’s tough response on the chemical attack comes after an initially tepid one from the briefing room lectern on Monday. Asked if the Trump administration shared the U.K.’s assessment that Russia was behind the attack, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered “the fullest condemnation” of the “reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible” act — falling short of saying Russia was definitely behind it.

Just hours before his surprise firing-via-Twitter, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke with the administration on the issue, telling reporters traveling with him on an overseas trip that the poisoning attack “clearly came from Russia” and “certainly will trigger a response.”

The administration’s response evolved by midweek, however, culminating in a forceful and direct statement from Ambassador Nikki Haley at the United Nations Security Council in New York in which she said “the United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.” She also voiced the “absolute solidarity” of the U.S. with Britain after the U.K.’s decision to expel 23 Russia diplomats in response to the chemical attack.

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Trump sacks Tillerson as secretary of state

The president also nominated Gina Haspel to become the first woman director of the CIA.




US President Donald Trump has sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo.

Thanking Mr Tillerson for his service on Twitter, Mr Trump said the new state secretary would do “a fantastic job”.

Mr Tillerson, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was only appointed to the job just over a year ago.

The president also nominated Gina Haspel to become the first woman director of the CIA.

A senior White House official told the BBC about the timing of the announcement: “The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.”

Mr Tillerson was on an official tour of Africa last week when he was apparently caught unawares by Mr Trump’s announcement that he would hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The top US diplomat’s team said he was feeling unwell on Saturday and later in the weekend the state department said he would cut short his tour by a day.

On Monday, Mr Tillerson appeared to depart from White House talking points when he backed British authorities in blaming the Kremlin for the poisoning of a former Russian spy near his home in southern England.

The secretary of state said the nerve agent attack “clearly came from Russia” and “certainly will trigger a response”.

But earlier in the day the White House declined to point the finger at Russia.

Reports have swirled of a schism in the Trump administration between the commander-in-chief and his top diplomat, as the US faces a host of vexatious foreign policy conundrums, from North Korea to Iran.

Last October Mr Tillerson was forced to convene a news conference to deny reports that he was considering quitting, though he did not comment on a report that he had called his boss a moron after a meeting last July at the Pentagon.

Last autumn, Mr Trump publicly undercut the former Texas oilman by tweeting that he was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with nuclear-armed North Korea.

Mr Tillerson was reported to be astonished at how little Mr Trump grasped the basics of foreign policy.

The New York Times quoted sources as saying Mr Trump was irritated by Mr Tillerson’s body language during meetings.

Mr Tillerson was said to roll his eyes or slouch when he disagreed with the decisions of his boss.

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Trump’s lawyer used home equity funds to pay porn star




Washington, March 10 : Donald Trump’s personal lawyer used funds from his own home equity line to make a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels on the US President’s behalf, he told CNN.

“The funds were taken from my home equity line and transferred internally to my LLC account in the same bank,” Cohen said in an interview on Friday.

The lawyer also confirmed that he used his Trump Organization email account to communicate details of a payment transfer to Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with the President before his time in office.

Earlier on Friday, Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, provided an email to CNN in which Cohen confirmed the transfer to Daniels’ former attorney, Keith Davidson.

In the email, both Cohen’s personal email account and email account were used.

The deposit was confirmed to Cohen by a First Republic Bank employee.

Cohen responded later on Friday, saying that he regularly used his business email account for personal matters.

“I sent emails from the Trump Org email address to my family, friends as well as Trump business emails. I basically used it for everything. I am certain most people can relate,” he said.

Avenatti, speaking on MSNBC, said Cohen’s use of his business email to conduct this transaction could be an indication that he was acting in an official capacity as a legal counsel to Trump when he transferred the money to Clifford.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that “arbitration was won in the President’s favour” regarding the case, reports CNN.

The statement was an admission that the nondisclosure agreement exists and that it directly involves Trump.

It was the first time the White House had admitted the President was involved in any way with Clifford.

Clifford filed suit against Trump on Tuesday, alleging that he never signed a hush agreement regarding the alleged affair and therefore the agreement is void.

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