Jun 192017

A veteran federal prosecutor recruited onto special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is known for a skill that may come in handy in the investigation of potential ties between Russia and US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team: persuading witnesses to turn on friends, colleagues and superiors. Andrew Weissmann, who headed the US Justice Department’s criminal fraud section before joining Mueller’s team last month, is best known for two assignments – the investigation of now-defunct energy company Enron and organised crime cases in Brooklyn, New York – that depended heavily on gaining witness cooperation. Securing the cooperation of people close to Trump, many of whom have been retaining their own lawyers, could be important for Mueller, who was named by the Justice Department as special counsel on May 17 and is investigating, among other issues, whether Trump himself has sought to obstruct justice. Trump has denied allegations of both collusion and obstruction. “Flipping” witnesses is a common, although not always successful, tactic in criminal prosecutions. Robert Ray, who succeeded Kenneth Starr as the independent counsel examining former President Bill Clinton, noted that Trump’s fired former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has already offered through his lawyer to testify before Congress in exchange for immunity, suggesting potential willingness to cooperate as a witness. Donald Trump’s personal lawyer hires his own lawyer amid Russia investigation “It would seem to me the time is now to make some decisions about what you have and what leverage can be applied to get the things you [Read More…]

Jun 082017
Pakistan, India Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization

ASTANA — Pakistan and India have become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), expanding the regional security grouping into South Asia.The presidents of the SCO member-states — China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan — signed a document granting Pakistan and India membership at a summit on June 9.The presidents signed several other documents at the meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, including a convention on joint efforts against extremism.Talks between the leaders of the six original members were to be followed by a broader meeting including India, Pakistan, and observer states Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia.Regional giants Russia and China have similar positions on major global issues but are vying for influence in energy-rich Central Asia.Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036. Click for detailed story

Jun 082017

Former FBI director James Comey accused President Donald Trump on Thursday of firing him to try to undermine the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign team and Russia. Trump dismissed Comey on May 9 and the administration gave differing reasons for the action. Trump later contradicted his own staff and acknowledged on May 11 that he fired Comey because of the Russia probe. Asked at a US congressional hearing why he was fired, Comey said he did not know for sure. But he added: “Again, I take the president’s words. I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that.” Comey’s firing leaves red-hot political case to successor Comey earlier told the Senate Intelligence Committee in the most eagerly anticipated US congressional hearing in years that he believed Trump had directed him to drop an FBI probe into the Republican president’s former national security adviser as part of the Russia investigation. But Comey would not say whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice. “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning,” Comey told the committee. Trump critics say that any efforts by the president to hinder an FBI probe could amount to [Read More…]

May 292017

MOSCOW: A violent storm swept through Moscow on Monday, leaving six people dead and dozens injured as freak winds toppled hundreds of trees, officials said. “Due to hurricane winds in the northeast, southwest and east of Moscow trees fell on pedestrians. Five people were killed,” the city’s investigative committee said in a statement. “Also a bus stop was damaged due to a strong gust of wind. An elderly man…was killed on the spot,” it said, adding that an investigation was under way into the deaths. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said “over 40 people had to seek medical help” after the storm, expressing condolences for those who died. Rising seas set to double coastal flooding by 2050: study “Several hundred trees were felled,” he wrote on his official Twitter. “We are taking necessary measures to deal with the consequences.” Moscow emergencies services dispatched units to remove the felled trees but had no information about any serious material damages, a spokesman told AFP by phone. The weather caused delays in Moscow’s airports and the express train to Vnukovo airport had to halt service as workers removed a tree from the line. The post Violent storm claims six lives in Moscow appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

May 202017

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on his re-election Saturday, calling for deeper ties between Moscow and Tehran. In a telegram to Rouhani, Putin “confirmed the readiness to continue active joint work to further develop the Russian-Iranian cooperation partnership,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Putin also expressed confidence that Moscow and Tehran will continue to work in the spirit of “maintaining stability and security in the Middle East and the world as a whole” and that agreements reached during Rouhani’s visit to Russia in March will be successfully implemented. As US and China find common ground on North Korea, is Russia the wild card? The meeting in March between Putin and Rouhani, who have grown closer through their mutual support of Syrian president Bashar al Assad, mostly focused on the countries’ flourishing economic ties in the fields of energy and industry. Iran and Russia have become increasingly allied in Syria, helping Assad’s forces gain ground in recent months, including in the Syrian army’s major offensive last year to retake rebel-held eastern Aleppo. In addition to cooperation on Syria, energy and defence ties have deepened between Iran and Russia in recent years. Russia is to build nine of Iran’s 20 proposed nuclear reactors and has emerged as a long-term arms partner, supplying Tehran with its S-300 air defence missile system. The relationship has blossomed under Rouhani despite the countries having a complicated history over territory, oil and Communist ideology. Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded [Read More…]

May 102017

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump described an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as “very, very good” on Wednesday, claiming progress on ending the conflict in Syria. “We had a very, very good meeting” Trump said shortly after the meeting. “We’re going to stop the killing and the death [in Syria],” he added. Lavrov on Wednesday became the most senior Russian official to meet Trump since he came to office, and the most high-profile Kremlin official to visit the White House in years. Trump sacks FBI director, sparking firestorm It is rare for a foreign minister – or any non-head of state representing a foreign country – to be given a meeting in the Oval Office. “I think that we are going to do very well with respect to Syria, I think things are happening – they are really, really, really positive,” Trump said. The post Talks with Russia’s Lavrov ‘very, very good’: Trump appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Apr 282017
Strike a balance

We need good relations with Russia in one way or other. Russia not only has military might but is also the most powerful country in the region. Balancing relations with Russia and the US – who are supposed to be staunch enemies – is not an easy task. But Pakistan is handling this in a professional manner. Apart from this, relations between India and the US are also improving. The military logistics agreement, which was signed last year between India and the US, clearly paints a picture of their rosy relationship. On the other hand, Pakistan had joint military exercises (Drozabha 2016) with Russia apart from the Aman Naval exercises. Actually, the Putin administration has understood that without the help of Pakistan it cannot achieve its objectives in Afghanistan. To them, the biggest threat at the moment is the presence of the US military in the region. They need a friend like Pakistan to restore peace. This is why they convened the ‘Moscow Summit’ to find a solution. Pakistan’s relations with Russia and the US, at the same time, are quite balanced. This will undoubtedly help the countries tackle the growing problems across the region. Waqar Abro Karachi Click for detailed story

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