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Trump asks Comey to drop Flynn probe, White House denies




Washington, May 17, 2017: US President Donald Trump had asked former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey to end the probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties with the Russian ambassador here, the media reported on Wednesday.

According to sources, the request was documented in a memo written by Comey that quoted Trump as saying: “I hope you can let this go.”

The White House has however rejected the new allegations. According to a White House official, a “conversation of that nature” did not happen.

“While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, he has never asked Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any probe involving Flynn,” the official said in a White House statement.

“The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Comey.”

The revelation on Tuesday escalated the already raging political crises engulfing the White House triggered by the FBI’s probe into alleged cooperation between Trump aides and Moscow, and reports that the President shared classified information to top Russian officials, CNN reported.

The stunning new developments triggered immediate claims from Democrats that Trump was guilty of obstructing justice and extreme concern from the President’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

Adam Schiff, the highest ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said this intervention by Trump, if correct, amounted to “interference or obstruction of the investigation”, the BBC reporterd.

Senator John MCain reportedly said at a dinner that the Trump scandals had now reached “Watergate size”.

Trump on May 9 fired Comey, who led the FBI investigation into the ties between Russian officials and Trump’s presidential campaign, an issue that Congress also addresses.

Flynn has been at the centre of that investigation shortly after Trump’s arrival to the White House.

Flynn advised Trump on foreign policy during the campaign and was later appointed NSA, a position he was forced to resign after lying about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador in Washington.

Sources said that Comey was so appalled by the request at an Oval Office meeting on February 14 that he wanted to document it to share his recollections of the encounter with senior FBI officials.

The report has put a new complexion on Trump’s firing of Comey, a move he later confided to NBC News was motivated by anger over the Russia probe.

A source said the encounter between Comey and Trump unfolded after the then FBI Director was in the Oval Office briefing Trump along with Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After the briefing, Trump “asked Sessions and Pence to leave”, the source told CNN.

According to Comey’s memo, the President said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

The President told Comey that Flynn, who was fired for lying to Pence about the content of his telephone conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration, hadn’t done anything wrong.

Tuesday’s developments sent shockwaves up to the Capitol Hill, where there has been increasing disquiet among Republicans due to allegations that the President divulged classified information to Russian officials.

Republican Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter from the FBI asking for the handover of “all memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President”.



Israel opens probe into Facebook after data scandal



Cambridge Analytica data scandal

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities said Thursday (Mar 22) they had launched an investigation into Facebook’s activities following a scandal over the hijacking of personal data from millions of the social network’s users.

Israel’s privacy protection agency “informed Facebook” of the probe after revelations over data transfers from the tech giant to consultant Cambridge Analytica, the agency said.

It said it was also looking into “the possibility of other infringements of the privacy law regarding Israelis”, it said in a statement released by the justice ministry.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper has reported that Israeli hackers offered material to Cambridge Analytica.

But an Israeli justice ministry spokeswoman said the probe did not involve hackers, focusing rather on whether Israeli users’ rights were violated.

Under Israel’s privacy law, personal data may only be used with consent and for the purpose for which it was handed over, the privacy protection agency said.


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Middle East

Loud explosion heard outside busy hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

Explosion hits busy road outside popular hotel in central Mogadishu.



Somalia Car Bombing

MOGADISHU: 16 people killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack at the entrance of  Wehliye hotel in Mogadishu. Most of the casualties are auto rickshaw drivers and passengers, according to witnesses.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The attacked was claimed by al-Shabab, Reuters news agency reported, citing the armed group’s military operation spokesman.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government, is frequently carrying out attacks in and around the capital.

More to follow.

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Twitter’s chief information security officer quits




San Francisco, March 22: As tech companies reel under mounting pressure to prevent their platforms from data breach and fake news, Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer Michael Coates has decided to quit.

In a tweet on Thursday, Coates who joined Twitter in 2015 announced his departure from the micro-blogging website.

“Twitter has been an amazing ride, but as I mentioned internally a few weeks back, my time is coming to an end. I’m confident to leave the program with an amazing security team,” Coates tweeted.

According to The Verge, Coates’ interim replacement is Joseph Camilleri, a senior manager for information security and risk.

Coates’ departure comes soon after reports surfaced that Facebook’s Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos is planning to leave the company by August.

Facebook is facing the heat after Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting company, was accused of harvesting data of up to 50 million Facebook users without permission and using the data to help politicians, including US President Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign.

Meanwhile, Michael Zalewski, Director of Information Security Engineering at Google, has also announced his departure from that company after 11 years.


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