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McFaul expected to meet with Trump’s top adviser on Russia at White House

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Michael A. McFaul, a former U.S. diplomat and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will visit the White House on Tuesday for a private meeting with President Trump’s top adviser on Russia, according to two people familiar with the planned meeting.

McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, will meet with Fiona Hill, a senior director on the National Security Council who joined the president for last week’s summit with Putin in Helsinki, said the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Hill is widely seen within the administration as one of Trump’s most hawkish advisers on Russia and has written extensively and critically of Putin, including a 2013 biography of the former KGB officer.

Hill’s influence on Trump has drawn new scrutiny in recent days as the president has made overtures to Putin. But her willingness to meet with McFaul could be a sign that she is, at the least, interested in connecting with the Stanford University professor as McFaul deals with the fallout from an offer from Putin to Trump.

Last week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was considering Putin’s proposal for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to visit Moscow to interrogate Russian hacking suspects in exchange for Russians’ interrogating U.S. officials, including McFaul. Trump initially described the offer as an “interesting idea.”

Sanders, however, later ruled out the suggestion in a statement Thursday, following intense criticism from both Republicans and Democrats about the possibility of sending Americans abroad to be questioned by Russian intelligence officials.

Former secretary of state John F. Kerry tweeted that the offer was “not something that should require a half second of consultation. Dangerous.” And the Republican-controlled Senate voted 98 to 0 Thursday to approve a resolution urging the United States not to make any current or former U.S. diplomats available to Putin.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said. “Hopefully, President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

It is unclear whether Hill and McFaul have a specific agenda for the meeting or if the Trump administration is considering taking further steps to reassure McFaul that he is not at risk of being sent to Russia as part of any future agreement with Putin, the people said. The White House announced last week that the president had invited Putin to visit Washington this fall.

After The Washington Post posted this story on Monday, McFaul tweeted, “I am coming to DC today to try to meet with several US government officials to urge them to communicate with their Russian counterparts about the negative consequences of further harassing former US officials like me.”

McFaul added that he believes it is a “low probability event” that Russia would indict him or others, but he is seeking to ensure it is a “zero probability event.”

As the summit unfolded in Helsinki and the two leaders held a news conference, McFaul wondered on Twitter whether Hill agreed with the president’s political embrace of the Russian leader.

“I remember all the tough talk on Russia from [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s confirmation hearings, [national security adviser John] Bolton’s TV appearances, and Fiona Hill’s writings,” McFaul said. “I wonder what they were thinking today.”

Speaking last Wednesday on MSNBC, McFaul said he was stunned by the administration’s response to Putin’s offer.

“It’s been a weird couple of days,” McFaul said. “I was totally flabbergasted by why the White House would not defend me.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

A second White House official said McFaul requested a meeting with the National Security Council and added that the NSC accepted out of courtesy.

McFaul declined to comment.

McFaul served as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, a tumultuous period in relations between the two countries. President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law in 2012, prompting retaliation from Russia that included banning U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans. McFaul was often the target of anti-American attacks in the Russian media and said he ended up being Putin’s “personal foe.”

[email protected]

Samantha Schmidt contributed to this report.

 

This article was written by Robert Costa from The Washington Post

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Terrorism

Accused Domestic Terrorist Lt. Christopher Hasson Indicted On Charges, Plotted To Kill Top Democrats, Media Figures

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A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested Wednesday in Maryland and accused of plotting to kill top Democrats and members of the media was denied bail by a judge.

Lt. Christopher Hasson was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day after a federal prosecutor told the court that drug and gun charges brought against Hasson were “just the tip of the iceberg,” while characterizing the lieutenant as a “domestic terrorist,” according to The Associated Press.

The case was first uncovered by Seamus Hughes, a former Senate counterterrorism advisor who now works with the George Washington University Program on Extremism, which provides “analysis and policy solutions on radicalization, terrorism and extremism.” You can learn more about the GWUPoE and Hughes’ work here. Hughes, the program’s deputy director, has revealed details on several cases involving American extremism and terrorism, often finding the information in federal court documents before the media. Federal authoroties did not release a press release or statement on the case prior to Hughes’ tweets on February 20 about the arrest.

Day reportedly told prosecutors at the bail hearing Thursday that he would revisit his decision in 134 days if federal prosecutors do not bring more serious charges against Hasson by the deadline.

Prosecutors argued Thursday that Hasson “identified himself as a White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland” in emails to a neo-Nazi leader, according to the AP. Hasson’s public defender insisted that his gun collection represented a “modest, at best” gun collection.

christopher hasson list

The public defender also argued that Hasson’s use of a government work computer to research terrorists such as Anders Breivik and compile a spreadsheet of Democrats including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not amount to threats or intent to harm anyone.

Others on the spreadsheet included CNN’s Chris Cuomo and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Hasson had also searched for revealing phrases on his computer, according to prosecutors, such as “do senators have [Secret Service] protection.”

“It is not a crime to think negative thoughts about people,” Julie Stelzig told the court, according to the AP.

Federal prosecutors said in court documents that Christopher Hasson was inspired in building his list by the writings of Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who wrote in his manifesto about the traitors he was targeting. According to prosecutors, the list is “consistent with the directions in the Breivik manifesto,” which divided targets into categories A, B or C:

This classification system is used to identify various individual cultural Marxist/multiculturalist traitors. The intention of the system is to easier identify priority targets and will also serve as the foundation for the future ‘Nuremberg trials’ once the European cultural conservatives reassert political and military control of any given country. Any category A, B or C traitor is an individual who has deliberately used his or her influence in a way which makes him or her indirectly or directly guilty of the charges specified in this document: 1-8. Many of these individuals will attempt to claim ‘ignorance’ of the crimes they are accused of

According to Breivik’s system, category A was the “most influential and high profile traitors,” including political leaders, media leaders and cultural leaders.

Hasson had searched for “most liberal senators,” “do senators have [secret service] protection,” and searched for Scarborough after seeing a headline in which the MSNBC host claimed Trump to be “the worst ever” president. He also looked up where the host’s show, “Morning Joe,” is filmed, along with his home, prosecutors said.

Previously an aircraft mechanic for the Marines, Hasson was arrested Wednesday with 15 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition at his Silver Spring apartment.

“The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” prosecutors said Wednesday upon his arrest. “He must be detained pending trial.” [The Hill / Heavy]

Read the detention memeorandum released earlier Thursday, after Hasson’s court hearing.

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Teachers' Strike

Oakland Teachers Go On Strike Over Classroom Conditions, Pay, and Other Issues

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Teachers in Oakland, California, went on strike Thursday, part of a national wave of discontent by educators over classroom conditions, pay and other issues. Recent walkouts have taken place in West Virginia, Los Angeles and Denver.

The city’s 3,000 teachers want a 12-percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are the among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. They also want the district to hire more counselors to support students and more full-time nurses.

Kindergarten teacher Kaki Blackburn, 30, was among dozens picketing outside Manzanita Community School with signs saying “On strike For a Living Wage.”

Blackburn, who has 29 kids in her class, said her main concerns were class size and wages. She said her salary makes it impossible to afford an apartment on her own.

“There’s no way I’d be able to live here without a roommate,” she said. “This is not what I went to Brown University to get a master’s for.”

The union leader said the educators were forced to strike because administrators did not listen to their demands for two years.

“For two years we have been negotiating with the Oakland Unified School District to make our students a priority over outside consultants and central office administrators,” said Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown.

The district initially offered a 5 percent raise covering 2017 to 2020, saying it is squeezed by rising costs and a budget crisis.

In negotiations Wednesday aimed at averting a strike, the district increased its proposal to a 7 percent raise over four years and a one-time 1.5 percent bonus. The offer went higher than the recommendation of an independent fact-finding report that suggested a compromise 6 percent retroactive raise.

But union officials rejected the offer.

Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said school administrators hope to get a counter proposal from the union when negotiations resume Friday.

“We haven’t heard any proposal since last May so we’re hoping they have something for us when we meet tomorrow,” Sasaki said.

Teachers have been working without a contract since 2017 and have said their salaries have not kept up with the cost of living.

A starting salary in the district is $46,500 a year and the average salary is $63,000, according to the union. In neighboring Berkeley, a starting teacher makes $51,000 a year and the average salary is $75,000, the union said.

The walkout affects 36,000 students at 86 schools.

The district said schools would remain open, staffed by non-union employees and substitute teachers. However, parents should not expect teaching as usual, it said.

Manzanita Principal Eyana Spencer said 14 of the school’s 450 students turned up for school Thursday and were placed in one classroom to play games.

Nearly 600 teachers left their jobs at Oakland public schools last year, according to the union, which has said the district cannot retain teachers or attract experienced new teachers.

The union has also called for the district to scrap plans to close as many as 24 schools that serve primarily African-American and Latino students. The union fears further students will be lost to charter schools that drain more than $57 million a year from the district.

Recent strikes across the nation have built on a wave of teacher activism that began last spring. Unions for West Virginia teachers, who staged a nine-day walkout last year, ended another two-day strike Wednesday. Last week, teachers in Denver ended a three-day walkout after reaching a tentative deal raising their wages.

Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike last month that ended when they settled on a 6-percent raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.

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Trump Administration Wants California To Pay Back Billions For Bullet Train

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Trump administration plans to cancel $929 million in U.S. money for California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion it’s already spent.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announcement Tuesday came after threats from President Donald Trump to make California pay back the money awarded to build the train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The project has faced cost overruns and years of delays.

The Trump administration argues California hasn’t provided required matching dollars and can’t complete work by a 2022 deadline.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and California rail officials didn’t immediately comment.

Last week, Newsom said the rail project “as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.” He wants to refocus on building a line in central California.

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