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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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Claude Monet painting from famed Water Lilies series to go under hammer for around £29m | Ents & Arts News

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A “monumental” painting by Claude Monet from his celebrated and famed Water Lilies series is to go on sale at auction in New York for around $40m (£29m).

Le Bassin aux Nympheas is “among the most iconic and celebrated Impressionist images”, according to Sotheby’s.

The 40in x 79in work was painted from 1917-19 and will be part of the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 12 May.

Before that it will go on view in Taipei, Taiwan, on 26 April and will return to Sotheby’s in the US city for exhibition by appointment from 1 May.

The piece is part of the Grandes Decorations series of paintings depicting Monet’s water lily pond at Giverny, France, which he began in 1914.

The series was ground-breaking in its nearly abstract treatment of the pond water’s surface and its reflections.

It took Monet’s paintings of the tranquil lily pond in a radical new direction, and the works were twice the size of his earlier Water Lilies.

The late works are considered an important bridge between Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism, as practised several generations later by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Julian Dawes, from Sotheby’s New York, said: “Claude Monet is among the most well-known and beloved artists of all time, and Le Bassin aux Nympheas represents a quintessential example from his celebrated and famed Water Lilies series.

“Sotheby’s has an exceptional history as the house for Monet, including holding the artist’s record at auction from our sale of Meules in 2019 for $110m.

“And we are extremely excited to bring such an illustrious picture to market for the first time in nearly two decades.

He added: “As a remarkable example of Monet’s late period works from his cherished home at Giverny, this monumental painting beautifully encapsulates how Monet’s oeuvre evolved over time from his Impressionist breakthroughs to a more abstract focus with his preoccupation of his pond and water lilies.

“From this perspective, this work opens a whole new window on to how Monet would influence later generations of artists who expanded on his radical concepts into full abstraction, and set the stage for a new artistic movement that would take the world by storm.

“After remaining largely absent from the very top end of the market in 2020, we are thrilled to see Monet take centre stage once again through this exceptional painting in our May Evening Sale.”

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COVID-19: Half of all adults in the US have received at least one coronavirus jab | US News

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Half of all adults in the US have received at least one COVID-19 jab, according to new figures.

Almost 130 million people aged 18 or older have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, or 50.4% of the total adult population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said almost 84 million adults, or about 32.5% of the population, have had two vaccine doses.

The US cleared the 50% mark just a day after the reported global death toll from the coronavirus topped three million, according to the Johns Hopkins University, though the actual number is believed to be significantly higher.

The country’s vaccination rate, at 61.6 doses administered per 100 people, currently falls behind Israel, which leads among countries with at least five million people with a rate of 119.2.

It also trails the United Arab Emirates, Chile and the UK, which is vaccinating at a rate of 62 doses per 100 people, according to Our World in Data.

The US states with the highest vaccination rates have a history of voting Democratic and supporting President Joe Biden in the 2020 election: New Hampshire at the top, with 71.1%, followed by New Mexico, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, CDC data shows.

The demand has not been the same in many areas of Tennessee – particularly rural ones.

A poll conducted in March found that 36% of Republicans said they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated, compared with 12% of Democrats.

Similarly, a third of rural Americans said they were leaning against getting jabs, while fewer than a fourth of people living in cities and suburbs shared that hesitancy.

Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has indicated the government will likely resume use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Dr Fauci said he expects a decision when advisers to the CDC meet on Friday to discuss the pause in J&J’s single-dose vaccine.

The vaccine was thrown into limbo after the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration said last week that they needed more evidence to decide if a handful of unusual blood clots were linked to the shot.

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Alexei Navalny’s doctors denied access to him in jail amid fears he ‘could die at any moment’ | World News

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Alexei Navalny’s doctors say they have been denied access to him in jail, as his health is thought to be deteriorating severely while he remains on hunger strike.

The Russian opposition leader’s physician, Yaroslav Ashikhmin, and head of the Alliance of Doctors union, Anastasiya Vasilyeva, said they spent two hours outside the prison in Pokrov but were not allowed to see him.

Mr Ashikhmin said Navalny could be on the verge of death, as latest test results show extremely high potassium levels, which put him at risk of cardiac arrest.

The physician also says he has high creatinine levels, which suggest his kidneys are damaged.

“Our patient could die at any moment,” he wrote on Facebook.

Ms Vasilyeva called his treatment in jail ”cruel and monstrous” and she demanded “action must be taken immediately” to address his condition.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia. Pic: AP
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The 44-year-old in the dock in Moscow. Pic: AP

Navalny’s allies are planning what they hope will be the largest street protests in modern Russian history to highlight the Kremlin critic’s declining health and a crackdown on his supporters.

“Things are developing too quickly and too badly,” they wrote in a statement on Mr Navalny’s website.

“We can no longer wait and postpone. An extreme situation demands extreme decisions.”

The protests, which the authorities regard as illegal and have broken up with force in the past, are planned for Wednesday – the same day as president Vladimir Putin gives an annual state-of-the-nation speech.

Mr Navalny, a fierce opponent of Putin, started refusing food on 31 March in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to provide him with adequate medical care for acute back and leg pain.

Russia’s state penitentiary service claims the 44-year-old is getting all the care he needs.

But his allies say he has lost 15kg (33lbs) since being held at penal colony number two in Pokrov, 60 miles from Moscow.

Prison staff have been threatening to force feed him, they claim.

Pic: AP
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Anti-Putin protests in Russia feature pictures of his most vocal critic. Pic: AP

A spokesman for the UK’s Foreign Office said: “Mr Navalny must be given immediate access to independent medical care.

“We reiterate our call for his immediate release from his politically motivated imprisonment.”

US president Joe Biden said of Mr Navalny’s deteriorating condition: “It’s totally, totally unfair and totally inappropriate. On the basis of having the poison and then on a hunger strike.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said the UK was “deeply concerned” by the reports.

“Mr Navalny must be given immediate access to independent medical care. We reiterate our call for his immediate release from his politically motivated imprisonment,” the spokesperson said.

A statement from the EU said it was “deeply concerned” about the situation.

“We call on the Russian authorities to grant him immediate access to medical professionals he trusts.

“The Russian authorities are responsible for Mr Navalny’s safety and health in the penal colony, to which we hold them to account.”

Mr Navalny was detained in January as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning.

He has blamed the Kremlin for targeting him with novichok – the same poison used on the Skripals in Salisbury – an allegation that Russian authorities reject.

Mr Navalny was jailed in February for two years and eight months for parole violations he says were exaggerated for political purposes.

A man is arrested in Moscow as thousands took to the streets to demonstrate. Pic: Associated Press
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A man is arrested during a Moscow protest that saw thousands take to the streets. Pic: AP

Desperate measures for desperate times
Analysis by Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay

Alexei Navalny’s team have done their best to keep his name in the focus even if he is behind bars.

It is difficult to gauge his medical condition given the lack of access and thus the claim he is at death’s door.

If he starves himself to death in prison in defence of his rights – the right to have his own doctor in to see him – it will be on the Kremlin’s conscience but at his hand.

Having survived so much it would seem a futile way to go. But his team are also savvy at making headlines, announcing another nationwide demonstration this coming Wednesday given what they say is his critical state.

Desperate measures for desperate times.

The scale of the turnout will be a mark of whether they can keep the protest momentum strong with its figurehead behind bars and physically at least extremely weak.

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