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Democratic rebuttal to GOP FISA memo sparks reactions from politicians

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The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a long-anticipated Democratic rebuttal that attempts to dismantle claims made in a GOP memo alleging the government used improper surveillance tactics during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The rebuttal claims that officials at the FBI and Justice Department “did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

The Democratic rebuttal backed the FBI and DOJ in its pursuit of the FISA warrant, saying that the agencies “would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”

They added that the DOJ met the “rigor, transparency, and evidentiary basis” needed to meet FISA’s probable cause requirement.

The GOP memo, released in early February, asserted that the FBI and DOJ relied on a Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier to ask the FISA court for a warrant to monitor Page, a one-time adviser to President Donald Trump. They also claimed that the agencies left out the DNC’s funding of the dossier and the anti-Trump motivations of author Christopher Steele, a onetime British spy, in its request for a warrant.

The Democratic memo was voted out of committee earlier this month but a redrafting was ordered after the White House demanded that sensitive information be stripped out before the document be made public. The Justice Department and FBI claimed the initial draft would reveal information about sources and methods, ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.

President Trump tweeted following the rebuttal memo’s release, calling it “a total political and legal BUST.”

He added: “Dem Memo: FBI did no disclose who the client were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”

Here are some other reactions to the memo:

White House

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calls the rebuttal a “politically driven document” which “fails to answer serious concerns raised by the Majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, who spearheaded the rebuttal’s release, said it should “put to rest” any concerns about conduct by the intelligence agencies. Along with a copy of the memo, he tweeted Saturday: “Some time ago, Republicans on our committee released a declassified memo that omitted and distorted key facts in order to mislead the public and impugn the integrity of the FBI. We can now tell you what they left out.”

In a follow-up tweet, Schiff responded to Trump’s comment about the memo confirming “all of the terrible things that were done.”

“Wrong again, Mr. President,” Schiff said. “It confirms the FBI acted appropriately and that Russian agents approached two of your advisors, and informed your campaign that Russia was prepared to help you by disseminating stolen Clinton emails.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, D-Calif., who spearheaded the release of the GOP memo, said in a statement that Americans “now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt pair for the by Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party.”

“Furthermore, the FISA court was misled about Mr. Page’s past interactions with the FBI in which he helped build a case against Russian operatives in America who were brought to justice,” Nunes said. “It defies belief that the Department of Justice and the FBI failed to provide information to a secret court that they had provided to an open federal court regarding their past interactions with Mr. Page.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tweeted that “the Schiff memo is a well-considered rebuttal to the misinformation in the Nunes memo,” which she added, “shouldn’t have seen the light of day.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Democratic memo indicated “that Chairman Nunes cherry-picked and distorted information from sensitive inteligence to sow discord and undermine” the FBI. 

“By initially delaying the release of hte memo, the president purposefully silenced any Democratic rebuttal to the fabricated conspiracy theories pushed by Chairman Nunes,” he added. “Obviously, there is something the president is afraid of.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement said the Democratic response “helps set the record straight on Republicans’ attempts to obstruct the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.”

She added that it was “imperative” for lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to “end their political charades” and said Congress needed to “take real action to investigate the Russian attacks on our democracy.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, called the FBI’s actions “fully appropriate and entirely lawful” and said it was “deeply unfortunate that House Republicans decided to the release classified information in order to mislead the American people for partisan political purposes.”

“Now that the Nunes memo has been thoroughly debunked, the White House and its allies in Congress must put a stop to the dangerous partisan sideshows that jeopardize classified sources and methods and focus on Russia’s unprecedented interference in our election.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Madeline Farber and Kaitlyn Scallhorn contributed to this report.



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Kate Moss and daughter Lila star in Paris catwalk show together | Ents & Arts News

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She is one of the most famous supermodels in the world, and in recent years her daughter has been following in her catwalk footsteps.

So it was inevitable that British star Kate Moss and teenager Lila would one day walk the same runway.

Model Kate Moss, left, and her daughter Lila Grace Moss wear creations for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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It is reported to be the first time the mother and daughter pair have walked the same fashion show catwalk. Pic: AP


British model Kate Moss leaves the Topshop Unique Spring/Summer 2014 collection with her daughter Lila Grace during London Fashion Week
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Kate and Lila Moss pictured in 2014

Modelling for the Fendi spring/summer show in Paris on Wednesday, the mother-daughter pair were the stars of the show.

In 2016, they appeared on the cover of Vogue together, but this is believed to be the first time they have appeared on the same catwalk.

Lila, 18, whose father is Kate’s ex-partner Jefferson Hack, was pictured wearing a beaded caped dress, while Kate, 47, wore a silver satin dress.

Model Naomi Campbell wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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Fellow British supermodel Naomi Campbell also walked the Fendi catwalk. Pic: AP
Demi Moore. Pic: Fendi/Shutterstock
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As did Hollywood star Demi Moore. Pic: Fendi/Shutterstock

Several other high profile stars and supermodels – including Naomi Campbell – also featured in the show, which featured clothing by designer Kim Jones.

Actress Demi Moore was dressed in a dramatic black top, trousers and long headpiece as she took to the Fendi runway.

Model Cara Delevingne wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP
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Cara Delevingne and Bella Hadid (below) were also among the show’s stars. Pics: AP
Model Bella Hadid wears a creation for Fendi's Spring-Summer 2021 Haute Couture fashion collection. Pic: AP

Cara Delevingne walked the catwalk wearing a camouflage suit, while Bella Hadid wore a black gown underneath a cape.

Moss’s fellow 1990s supermodel Campbell, 50, wore a long metallic dress and headpiece for her appearance.

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COVID-19: South African coronavirus variant ‘between 20 and 200%’ more infectious than original | World News

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The KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform does not exactly trip off the tongue.

That’s probably why the people who work there, along with sister-organisation the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), call it KRISP.

And the researchers at KRISP, led by Professor Tulio de Oliveira, have done some really important work in the last few months.

The identification of the so-called South African variant of COVID-19, a hardy and more infectious strain of coronavirus, was done in a congested KRISP laboratory tucked away on the ground floor.

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At the peak of the second wave in January, more than 20,000 people were being infected every day

It was a difficult moment for members of the team to describe – a brilliant piece of detective work that revealed a dangerous new episode in the pandemic.

Professor de Oliveira told me how it happened. “We got very busy in the middle and end of November,” he explained.

Clinical staff at one of main hospitals in Nelson Mandela Bay were seeing a very unusual increase of new cases.

“They were convinced that there was probably something different about the virus so we answered their call very quickly,” Prof de Oliveira added.

By extracting the genetic material from the variant, which they call 501YV2, and tracking the way it was spreading around the country, the team at KRISP was able to determine that it was anywhere between 20 to 200% more infectious that the original.

In an equally disturbing finding, their partners at AHRI discovered that antibodies developed by people in response to the original strain of COVID-19 are “much less able” to neutralise the South African variant.

It raises the prospect that people who have already had coronavirus could get it again.

Prof de Oliveira told me that his team had seen “multiple samples” of this viral re-infection.

The genomic surveillance performed at KRISP has been utilised in neighbouring states, with the South African variant identified in countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Malawi.

“In Zambia, the last 23 genomes that have been done, 22 of those were the 501YV2 variant,” the professor said.

“We have just finished analysing samples from Mozambique and informed the minister of health about the lineages that are circulating in the country. I believe today he will go to the public to announce (the results).”

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Prof de Oliveira, from KRISP, says his team has seen multiple samples of viral re-infection

Prof de Oliveira would not give me advance notice of their findings but it seems inevitable that 501YV2 has indeed been identified in Mozambique.

This research will concern people – and politicians – right across the continent.

South Africa, which boasts relatively modern infrastructure, has struggled to deal with this now dominant variant of COVID-19.

At the peak of the country’s second wave in early January, more than 20,000 people were being infected every day.

Hospitals and clinics faced chronic shortages of staff, beds and critical supplies like oxygen.

In other parts of Africa, people are largely on their own.

I asked KRISP’s Dr Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist, whether the institute has pushed a proverbial alarm bell by identifying the variant and describing many of its characteristics.

“Yes, we are certainly trying to push the alarm bell and trying to make this point that we need help,” he said.

“We need help in South Africa (and) in the region and we need people to understand that this is a global pandemic and that if we leave Africa and African countries to try and deal with this themselves we are going to have a big problem.”

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COVID-19: WHO team leaves quarantine in Wuhan to begin coronavirus origins study | World News

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A World Health Organisation-led team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic is due to begin fieldwork in Wuhan after completing two weeks of quarantine.

The virus first emerged in the Chinese city in late 2019 and the United States has accused China of hiding the extent of the outbreak.

The mission has been plagued by delays, concerns over access and bickering between China and the US, which has criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

Live updates on coronavirus from the UK and around the world

 global team of scientists led by the World Health Organization arrived on Thursday (January 14) to China's central city of Wuhan, to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The team arrived in Wuhan on 14 January

Sky’s Tom Cheshire, in Wuhan, said investigations were due to start properly on Friday.

He explained the WHO has said it was unlikely it would find an origin of the disease on this trip but that it was a “crucial starting point” and “the best place to look”.

He said the team was facing some restrictions though, adding: “We don’t know if they’re going to have the freedom to move around. We don’t know if they’ll visit the Institute of Virology, for instance.

“A lot depends on what Chinese scientists will be telling them because they have been doing their own investigations. Will they share that data? How useful will that data be?”

Cheshire said the WHO team had a “tough” job trying to work with Chinese authorities “who may not want to show them everything”.

The team were seen leaving their quarantine hotel to be transported by bus to another hotel where they will remain for the investigation.

A relative of a coronavirus victim in China is demanding to meet the WHO team, saying it should speak with affected families who allege they are being muffled by the Chinese government.

Zhang Hai’s father died of COVID-19 in February 2020. He has been organising relatives of victims to demand accountability from officials.

Mr Zhang says he is worried the WHO probe might be used to provide cover for alleged Chinese mistakes in the early days of the outbreak.

The WHO says the visit is a scientific mission to investigate the origins of the virus, not an effort to assign blame.

On Monday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the US, told the World Economic Forum the origins of the virus were still unknown, “a big black box, which is awful”.

Keiji Fukuda, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong and a former WHO official said “it all comes down to what will the team have access to. Will they really be able to ask the questions that they want to ask?”.

Over three nights Sky News will host a series of special programmes examining the UK’s response to the pandemic.

Watch COVID Crisis: Learning the Lessons at 8pm on 9, 10 and 11 February

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