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Trump re-election bid picks up speed with NASCAR sponsorship

(Reuters) – United States president Donald Trump’s re-election bid will pick up speed this weekend with Trump 2020 the primary sponsor of Corey LaJoie’s car for NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Go Fas Racing announced on Wednesday it had entered into a partnership with Patriots of America PAC, a pro-Donald Trump Political Action Committee, for nine races, including the Cup Series race at the Brickyard.

“I am honored to be part of the President’s re-election campaign through the Patriots of America PAC,” said Go Fas team owner Archie St Hilaire.

“As a Trump 2020 supporter, this team will do everything possible to secure victory on and off the track electing President Donald Trump to a second term.

“Let us bring this country back and Keep America Great.”

LaJoie’s number 32 Ford Mustang will race with a red, white and blue livery and will have TRUMP 2020 decals on the hood and side panels.

In five seasons competing in NASCAR’s top series LaJoie is still chasing a first top-five finish and currently sits 28th in the Cup standings.

“With an estimated 75 million NASCAR fans out there, I was surprised that about 15 million of those fans are not registered voters,” said driver Corey LaJoie.

“I will give my best effort to get NASCAR fans registered to vote, through our team efforts on and off the track. When they see the car, hopefully it makes them race to the polls in November.”

Trump has courted the NASCAR vote and in February made an appearance as grand marshal at the Daytona 500 where he led a pace lap in his presidential limousine and gave the call for “Gentlemen, start your engines”.

Recently, however, Trump and NASCAR have been at opposite sides of the debate on Confederate symbols.

Last month NASCAR banned the Confederate flag, a symbol of oppression and slavery for many Americans, from all its races and events.

Trump, meanwhile, has ruled out renaming U.S. military bases that are named for Confederate leaders and demanded prison time for anyone caught vandalizing U.S. historical monuments.

Many statues and monuments targeted by crowds in recent weeks pay homage to the rebel Confederacy from the nation’s Civil War and are seen as tributes to those who perpetuated slavery.

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Trump faces pressure over Russia bounties to kill U.S. troops – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday came under growing pressure to respond to allegations that Russia offered bounties for killing American troops in Afghanistan, with Democrats demanding answers and accusing Trump of bowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the risk of U.S. soldiers’ lives.

Frustrated House Democrats returning from a briefing at the White House said they learned nothing new about American intelligence assessments that suggested Russia was making overtures to militants as the U.S. and the Taliban held talks to end the conflict in Afghanistan. Senate Republicans who attended a separate briefing largely defended the president, arguing along with the White House that the intelligence was unverified.

The intelligence assessments were first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to The Associated Press by American intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that Trump had been briefed on the intelligence, a day after saying he hadn’t because it had not been verified. McEnany added that there were still reservations within the intelligence community on the veracity of the allegations.

“Make no mistake. This president will always protect American troops,” she said.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and a small group of other House Democrats met with White House officials as Trump downplayed the allegations. The Democrats questioned why Trump wouldn’t have been briefed sooner and pushed White House officials to have the president make a strong statement about the matter.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, one of the Democrats who attended the briefing, said it was “inexplicable” why Trump won’t say publicly that he is working to get to the bottom of the issue and why he won’t call out Putin. He said Trump’s defense that he hadn’t been briefed was inexcusable.

“Many of us do not understand his affinity for that autocratic ruler who means our nation ill,” Schiff said.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., a freshman and former Navy helicopter pilot and Russia policy officer, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows briefed the group. She said the Democrats told the White House briefers that the president should make a statement.

“These are very concerning allegations and if they’re true, Russia is going to face repercussions,” Sherrill said. “We really pushed that strongly in the meeting.”

She wouldn’t say how the White House officials reacted or say if the briefers told the Democrats that in fact Trump had been briefed.

Trump and his aides set a high bar for briefing a president since it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers.

McEnany declined to say why a different standard of confidence in the intelligence might apply to briefing lawmakers than for bringing information to the president.

Some House Republicans who were briefed by the White House on Monday also said they left with questions.

Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the panel would “leave no stone unturned” in seeking further information. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming insisted there would be “ramifications” for any targeting of Americans.

But Senate Republicans seemed less concerned and questioned the media reports. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he didn’t think Trump should be “subjected to every rumor.”

“Conclusions, apparently, were not reached,” McConnell said.

The White House was working to schedule a briefing for Wednesday with McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Republicans and Democrats on the two intelligence committees according to a person familiar with the talks. The person declined to be identified because the so-called “Gang of 8” briefing will be classified. That group receives the most sensitive information in regular meetings with administration officials.

A separate group of Senate Republicans briefed in the White House Situation Room on Tuesday appeared mostly satisfied with the answers they received. Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said he was “convinced” Trump hadn’t known about the intelligence. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Trump “can’t be made aware of every piece of unverified intelligence.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio said he believed the U.S. was prepared “to do everything possible to protect our men or women stationed abroad, from a variety of threats.”

Some Republican senators did express frustration.

Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, a member of the intelligence panel, said Monday evening that Congress should focus on finding out who knew what, and when, “and did the commander in chief know? And if not, how the hell not?”

While Russian meddling in Afghanistan isn’t new, officials said Russian operatives became more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012.

The intelligence community has been investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicles as they traveled back to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, officials told the AP.

Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the attack, along with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The officials the AP spoke to also said they were looking closely at insider attacks — sometimes called “green-on-blue” attacks — from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.

One official said the administration discussed several potential responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any.

Intelligence officials told the AP that the White House first became aware of alleged Russian bounties in early 2019 — a year earlier than had been previously reported. The assessments were included in one of Trump’s written daily briefings at the time, and then-National Security Adviser John Bolton told colleagues he had briefed Trump on the matter. Bolton declined to comment on that matter, and the White House did not respond to questions.

The intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter insisted on anonymity to discuss the highly sensitive matter.

Trump’s Democratic general election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, accused the president Monday of a “betrayal” of American troops in favor of “an embarrassing campaign of deferring and debasing himself before Putin.”

“I’m disgusted,” Biden told donors, as he recalled his late son Beau’s military service. Families of service members, Biden said, “should never, ever have to worry they’ll face a threat like this: the commander in chief turning a blind eye.”

Asked about the reports on the alleged bounties, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, “These claims are lies.”

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, ZEKE MILLER and JAMES LaPORTA

Sourcing & Methodology

Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Alan Fram, and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

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World News

Judge blocks tell-all by Trump niece – for now

A New York judge has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s niece from publishing a damning tell-all memoir about the US first family.

Mary Trump’s upcoming book, Too Much and Never Enough, How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, is due to be published on 28 July.

But on Tuesday a judge granted a restraining order to Ms Trump’s uncle, the president’s brother, Robert.

Lawyers for Ms Trump say they will immediately appeal against the ruling.

“The trial court’s temporary restraining order is only temporary but it still is a prior restraint on core political speech that flatly violates the First Amendment,” said her lawyer, Ted Boutrous.

“This book, which addresses matters of great public concern and importance about a sitting president in an election year, should not be supressed even for one day,” he continued.

The book is being published by Simon & Schuster and has already reached fourth place on Amazon’s best-seller list ahead of its release.

A hearing is scheduled in New York’s Dutchess County for 10 July.

Ms Trump, 55, is the daughter of President Trump’s elder brother, Fred Trump Jr, who died in 1981.

The book claims to reveal “a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse”.

Robert’s Trump lawyer, Charles Harder, cheered the ruling, saying that “the actions of Mary Trump and Simon & Schuster are truly reprehensible”.

“We look forward to vigorously litigating this case and will seek the maximum remedies available by law for the enormous damages caused by Mary Trump’s breach of contract and Simon & Schuster’s intentional interference with that contract,” Mr Harder said.

“Short of corrective action to immediately cease their egregious conduct, we will pursue this case to the very end.”

Earlier this month, President Trump said that his niece was violating her non-disclosure agreement (NDA) by writing a book.

“She’s not allowed to write a book,” he told Axios, referring to a 20-year legal document she reportedly signed following a dispute over her father’s estate following his death in 2001.

Mr Trump called the NDA a “very powerful one,” adding, “It covers everything.”

What does the book say?

The book was scheduled to hit shelves only weeks before the Republican National Convention, where Mr Trump will accept his party’s nomination to seek a second term.

The memoir will reportedly reveal how Ms Trump supplied the New York Times with confidential documents to print a sprawling investigation into Mr Trump’s personal finances.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning exclusive alleged the president had been involved in “fraudulent” tax schemes and received more than $400m (£316m) in today’s money from his father’s real estate empire.

A lawyer for the president and the White House denied the allegations of fraud and tax evasion made against Mr Trump.

An Amazon blurb for Ms Trump’s book says the author will set out how her uncle “became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security and social fabric”.

This is the second book by publisher Simon & Schuster that Mr Trump and his associates are seeking to block.

Earlier this month, the US justice department was denied an injunction to block a memoir by John Bolton, President Trump’s former National Security Adviser.

The Room Where It Happened is due to go on sale later this month. One of the book’s claims is that Mr Trump “pleaded” with the Chinese president to help him win the November 2020 election.

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Is Trump right to say US does ‘the greatest testing’?

US President Donald Trump says the US has done the “greatest testing” in the world – but Chinese state media says China has carried out three times more tests than the US.

So who’s right?

Trump’s claim

“We have more cases because we do the greatest testing… Other countries, they don’t test millions.”

The US has carried out almost 31 million coronavirus tests, according to the latest data.

That is more than any other Western country, but significantly less than China’s reported total of over 90 million.

Exact testing comparisons can be difficult. Some countries count the number of people tested, while others count the total number of tests as someone can be tested several times if the first test doesn’t work properly.

The US largely reports people tested, but some states report the total of tests carried out. China’s reported total is of the number of tests conducted.

China’s claim

“Throughout China, the number a week ago was 90.41 million, three times the number in the US.”

In a tweet containing these figures, Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a state media outlet, also called President Trump’s claim that the US had carried out the most tests a “pure lie”.

The Chinese National Health Committee’s data, which is compiled by the Chinese government and cannot be independently verified, confirms, as of 22 June, China had conducted 90.41 million tests.

So the total is roughly three times the amount in the US, but China has a much larger population.

Based on these figures, China has carried out about one test for every 15 people, compared with about one in 11 in the US. So that’s slightly more per head of population in the US.

And China’s testing has been more localised, with over a third of tests carried out in Beijing, Wuhan and the most populated province, Guangdong, according to local reports.

The methods of testing are also different in the two countries.

China’s daily testing capacity has rapidly increased thanks to batch testing – grouping samples together and carrying out individual tests only if a batch proves positive.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top infectious disease expert, has said the US is “seriously considering” this method.

But it would work only in regions where the number of infections is low, as it is inefficient if a high proportion of the batches test positive.

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Trump orders statues be protected from ‘mob rule’

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order calling for protesters who target monuments to be imprisoned.

The measure says anyone who damages a public statue must be prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law”.

Mr Trump’s order also calls for withholding federal funds from local jurisdictions and police departments that fail to stop such “mob rule”.

A number of US statues have been pulled down since the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.

The president issued the order on Friday evening hours after he abruptly cancelled a planned trip to his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, writing on Twitter that he would stay in Washington DC to “make sure LAW & ORDER is enforced”.

I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!

End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

The measure says: “Many of the rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists who have carried out and supported these acts have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies – such as Marxism – that call for the destruction of the United States system of government.”

It accuses the protesters of “a deep ignorance of our history”.

The order cites the recent targeting of a San Francisco bust to Ulysses S Grant, who owned a slave before he became Union Army commander and defeated the slave-owning Confederacy during the Civil War, a statue in Madison, Wisconsin, of an abolitionist immigrant who fought for the Union, and a Boston memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the same conflict.

“Individuals and organizations have the right to peacefully advocate for either the removal or the construction of any monument,” the executive order says. 

“But no individual or group has the right to damage, deface, or remove any monument by use of force.”

It cites existing laws providing for up to 10 years in prison for anyone who damages federal property.

The order warns local jurisdictions that neglect to protect such monuments could face having their federal funding tied to public spaces withheld.

Police departments that have failed to guard statues from damage or vandalism could also lose such funds, the order warns.

It also states that anyone who “damages, defaces, or destroys religious property, including by attacking, removing, or defacing depictions of Jesus or other religious figures or religious art work” should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The measure appears to refer to a recent Twitter post by prominent social justice activist Shaun King who wrote that “statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down”.

The tweet added: “They are a form of white supremacy.”

Monuments linked to the Confederacy have been especially targeted in the US amid the nationwide protests ignited by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a month ago.

President Trump has defended Confederate symbols as a part of American heritage.

Statues of Christopher Columbus, the 15th Century explorer whose voyages on behalf of Spain opened the way for the European colonisation of the Americas, have also been targeted as perceived symbols of imperialism.

Some state and local leaders have themselves taken action to remove Confederate symbols.

Earlier this month, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced that a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee would be taken down from the state capital in Richmond.

More on George Floyd’s death


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Trump touts manufacturing on trip to Wisconsin, where he lags Biden in polls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, trailing in national opinion polls ahead of the November election, will visit a shipbuilding facility in Wisconsin on Thursday to tout his record on manufacturing and shore up support in the politically crucial state.

Trump will visit Fincantieri Marinette Marine, a naval construction company in Marinette, after making an initial stop in Green Bay to take part in a town hall meeting with Fox News.

Trump is well behind former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in polls in Wisconsin, a state Trump won narrowly in 2016.

The Republican president has come under pressure for his response to the coronavirus pandemic and to civil rights protests across the country. Advisers want him to focus on his economic record before the pandemic and convince voters that he is best placed to bring the country back to economic strength.

Biden, who travels to the battleground state of Pennslyvania on Thursday, said Trump did not deserve credit for the success of the area he was visiting.

“Today, Donald Trump is in Marinette to take credit for Obama-Biden Administration-fueled successes in an attempt to paper over the fact that Wisconsin has been bleeding blue-collar manufacturing jobs over the past few weeks,” he said in a statement. “Instead of offering real relief to working families, he’s trying to claim credit for progress in Marinette he did not build.”

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that Trump’s advisers have focused on for his re-election strategy, along with Michigan, Pennsylvania and increasingly Arizona, which the president visited on Tuesday.

The two trips this week have been official, White House-led trips rather than campaign-sponsored ones, but the choice of states was not coincidental. Trump’s official return to the campaign trail on Saturday in Oklahoma drew attention for an underwhelming crowd size, spurring officials to rethink his signature rallies.

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U.S. court orders dismissal of case against former Trump aide Michael Flynn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday directed a federal judge to drop a criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, handing the Justice Department a victory in the politically charged case.

Wednesday’s ruling by a three-judge panel is likely to anger Democrats, who have accused Attorney General William Barr of improperly meddling in criminal cases to help benefit the Republican Trump’s friends and political allies.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Wednesday’s ruling will likely be appealed to a larger panel of the federal appeals court.

Trump, who has signaled a possible pardon for Flynn, welcomed the ruling. “I’m very happy about General Flynn. He was treated horribly,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

In the 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration in preventing U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to grant the department’s motion to clear Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty.

The ruling prevents Judge Sullivan from hearing arguments at a July 16 hearing from retired judge John Gleeson, whom he appointed as a “friend of the court” to argue against dropping the case.

“In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the executive branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” wrote Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by Trump.

“The contemplated proceedings would likely require the Executive to reveal the internal deliberative process behind its exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was one of several former Trump aides charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

He then switched lawyers to pursue a new scorched-earth tactic that accused the FBI of entrapping him, and asked the judge to dismiss the charge.

WILKINS DISSENTS

Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama administration appointee, dissented.

He said the Justice Department’s flip-flop on the case raised questions that merited further scrutiny by the District Court.

“In 2017, the then-Acting Attorney General told the Vice President that Flynn’s false statements ‘posed a potential compromise situation for Flynn’ with the Russians,” Wilkins wrote. “Now, in a complete reversal, the government says none of this is true.”

“This is no mere about-face; it is more akin to turning around an aircraft carrier.”

After the Justice Department took the highly unusual step of seeking to abandon the case against Flynn, Sullivan appointed Gleeson to argue against the Justice Department’s request.

He also asked Gleeson to weigh in on whether Sullivan should hold Flynn in contempt for lying when pleading guilty.

Sullivan has said he cannot serve as a “rubber stamp” and must carefully review the facts in this “unprecedented” request.

Related Coverage

  • Trump says very happy about court of appeals decision on former aide Flynn

In the majority opinion on Wednesday, the appeals court called Sullivan’s appointment of Gleeson “troubling,” and said it was granting Flynn’s petition to get the case dismissed to “prevent the judicial usurpation of executive power.”

Gleeson had urged Sullivan to proceed with sentencing Flynn and accused the department of “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” in to “provide special treatment to a favored friend and political ally of the President of the United States.”

Beth Wilkinson, a veteran Washington trial lawyer who argued the case on Judge Sullivan’s behalf before the appeals court, declined to comment.

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