Trump calls report on FBI probe of him ‘most insulting’

The New York Times reported that the FBI launched the previously undisclosed counterintelligence investigation to determine whether Trump posed a national security threat, at the same time that it opened a criminal probe into possible obstruction of justice by the president. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 January 2019
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Trump calls report on FBI probe of him ‘most insulting’

  • The New York Times report Friday cited unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation
  • Trump went on to say that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he has

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Saturday called “most insulting” a published report that federal law enforcement officials were so concerned about his behavior in the days after he fired James Comey from the FBI that they opened an investigation into whether he had been working for Russia against US interests.
The New York Times report Friday cited unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
Trump reacted Saturday during a telephone interview broadcast on Fox News Channel after host Jeanine Pirro asked whether he is currently or has ever worked for Russia.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing.”
Trump went on to say that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he has.
“If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other ... probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents.”
The inquiry forced counterintelligence investigators to evaluate whether Trump was a potential threat to national security. They also sought to determine whether Trump was deliberately working for Russia or had unintentionally been influenced by Moscow.
The Times reported that FBI agents and some top officials became suspicious of Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign but didn’t launch an investigation at that time because they weren’t sure how to approach such a sensitive and important probe, according to the unnamed officials. But Trump’s behavior in the days around Comey’s May 2017 firing as FBI director, specifically two instances in which he seemed to tie Comey’s ousting to the Russia investigation, helped trigger the counterintelligence part of the investigation, according to the newspaper.
Trump tweeted early Saturday that the report showed that the FBI leadership “opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof” after he had fired Comey.
Robert Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel soon after Comey’s firing. The overall investigation is looking into Russian election interference and whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russians, as well as possible obstruction of justice by Trump. The Times says it’s unclear whether Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence angle.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times he had no knowledge of the inquiry but said that since it was opened a year and a half ago and they hadn’t heard anything, apparently “they found nothing.”
Trump has also repeatedly and vociferously denied collusion with the Russians.


UK firms step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as PM Theresa May meets with EU leaders

Updated 21 March 2019
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UK firms step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as PM Theresa May meets with EU leaders

  • May is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in attempt to get support for Brexit delay
  • The Bank of England warned in November that the British economy could shrink by a massive 8 percent

LONDON: UK companies have ratcheted up their preparations for a disorderly “no-deal” Brexit as best they can over the past couple of months, the Bank of England said on Thursday.
With the prospect of a chaotic Brexit potentially eight days away, a survey by the central bank’s agents showed that around 80 percent of companies “judged themselves ready” for such a scenario, in which the country crashes out of the European Union with no deal and no transition to new trading arrangements with the bloc. That’s up from around 50 percent in an equivalent survey in January.
For decades, trading with the rest of the EU has been seamless. A disorderly Brexit could see the return of tariffs and other restrictions on trade with the EU, Britain’s main export destination.
To prepare, some firms have moved jobs and operations to the EU to continue to benefit from its seamless trade. Many have had to learn how to file customs declarations and adjust labels on goods. Exporters of animals are learning about health checks they will need to comply with.
According to the bank’s survey, however, many of those companies preparing for a “no-deal” Brexit said “there were limits to the degree of readiness that was feasible in the face of the range of possible outcomes in that scenario.”
There’s only so much companies can do, for example, to prepare for new tariffs and exchange rate movements.

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Britain appears headed for a “no-deal” Brexit on March 29 if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to win parliamentary support for her withdrawal agreement with the EU.
She is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in an attempt to get support for a delay to the country’s departure date to June 30. EU leaders have said a short extension would have to be conditional on her Brexit plan getting parliamentary backing and have indicated they would only be willing to back a delay to May 22, the day before elections to the European Parliament. After two heavy rejections in parliament, there are doubts as to whether she will be able to get parliamentary approval. What would happen next is uncertain.
European leaders, including those from France and Luxembourg, have said any extension will be granted dependent on May's deal passing a third parliamentary vote.
The Bank of England warned in November that the British economy could shrink by a massive 8 percent within months, though Governor Mark Carney has indicated the recession will be less savage, partly because of heightened preparedness.
According to the minutes of the latest meeting of the bank’s nine-member Monetary Policy Committee, at which the main interest rate was kept at 0.75 percent, rate-setters warned “Brexit uncertainties would continue to affect economic activity looking ahead, most notably business investment.”
Brexit uncertainty has dogged the British economy for nearly three years. In 2018, the economy grew by 1.4 percent, its lowest rate since 2012, even during what was then a global upswing. Business investment was down 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter from the year before.
“Business investment had now fallen in each of the past four quarters as uncertainties relating to Brexit had intensified,” the rate-setters said.
The survey showed uncertainty was likely to remain for months, even years, as Britain works out its long-term relationship with the EU. It said around 60 percent of UK firms in February said Brexit was one of their top three uncertainties, compared with 40 percent just after the June 2016 Brexit referendum.
Around 40 percent of firms expect the uncertainty to be resolved only by the end of 2019 and 20 percent anticipate it persisting into 2021 or beyond.