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Trump calls mosque attacks ‘horrible, horrible thing’

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By Jane C. Timm

President Donald Trump on Friday called the deadly shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand a “horrible, horrible thing,” saying he’d spoken with the country’s prime minister “to express the sorrow of our entire nation.”

But the president said he didn’t view white nationalism — the suspected shooter appeared to post a lengthy manifesto detailing his white-supremacist views before the attack — as a rising threat around the globe.

“I think it’s a small group of people who have very, very serious problems,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter at the White House.

Trump made the remarks after vetoing a piece of legislation that would have terminated the national emergency he declared after Congress refused to give him the funds he wanted to build a wall on the southern border.

He said the declaration was necessary to stave off an “invasion” at the nation’s southern border.

The president had tweeted earlier in the day to offer his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand, with many other current and former officials also using Twitter to express their dismay, condemn the attacks and offer condolences.

Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter, “We condemn this attack on people of faith in the strongest terms.”

“God be with you,” he wrote.

Former President Barack Obama issued his condolences in a tweet as well.

“We grieve with you and the Muslim community,” Obama said on Twitter. “All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.”

First lady Melania Trump tweeted prayers as well.

“My deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the horrific shooting,” she wrote in a tweet. “We pray & grieve with you and stand against all of the hatred.”

On Thursday night, immediately after reports of the shooting surfaced, Trump tweeted a link to Breitbart News, which was posting coverage about the attacks. He later deleted the tweet; his Friday morning tweet was his first comments.

On Friday, 49 people were murdered in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” One 28-year-old man was charged with murder and is due in court on Saturday. Three other people have also been arrested.

Arden said it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” New Zealand’s national security threat level has been raised to high.

Some Democrats touched on the suspected shooter’s apparent manifesto that details a white supremacist worldview and includes a sprawling array of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and white-supremacist references.

Although not confirmed by authorities, the 74-page manifesto titled “The Great Replacement” was posted online beforehand and matched several known details about the suspect and the attack.

Democrats zeroed in on Islamophobia in particular.

“The rising tide of white supremacy and Islamophobia around the globe must be met with our determination to work against hate,” Democratic presidential contender Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., wrote in a tweet.

That message was echoed by another 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, said her “heart breaks for New Zealand.”

“We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. White supremacist terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped,” she tweeted.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, tweeted to encourage people to embrace each other.

Another 2020 hopeful, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tied the attack to U.S. shootings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“Everyone should have the right to worship without fear, and an attack on a place of worship is terrorism perpetrated against all of us. My heart goes out to the people of New Zealand today,” she said in a tweet.

Other Trump administration officials reacted Friday, as well.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen expressed sympathy for the victims and families, and said on Twitter that there are no threats against the U.S., but encouraged vigilance.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also released a statement.

“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate,” she said.



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Bank CEO Stephen Calk charged with soliciting Manafort for Trump admin job

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By Tom Winter, Joe Valiquette and Adiel Kaplan

Bank CEO Stephen Calk tried to exchange $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort for a top position within the Trump administration, according to an indictment against the banking executive unsealed Thursday.

Calk, the president of the Federal Savings Bank, approved millions in “high-risk loans in an effort to secure a personal benefit, namely to an appointment as Secretary of the Army, or another similar high-level position in the incoming presidential administration,” said Deputy U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss of the Southern District of New York.

Stephen CalkThe Federal Savings Bank

Federal investigators were probing last year whether Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair, promised Calk a job in the White House in return for $16 million in home loans, NBC News first reported in February 2018.

Calk, who surrendered to the FBI Thursday morning, allegedly approved multiple high-risk loans for Manafort, who urgently needed them to avoid foreclosure. While the loans were pending approval, Calk allegedly provided Manafort with a ranked list of positions he desired. At its head were the two top positions at the U.S. Treasury, followed by Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Defense. The list also included 19 high-level ambassadorships, among them ambassador to the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.

Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City, Virginia and the Hamptons. The three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News last February.

The loans raised red flags at the bank in part because of Manafort’s history of defaulting on prior loans and that the size made Manafort’s debt the single largest lending relationship at the bank, according to prosecutors. Calk was required to authorize an unusual lending scheme to avoid passing the lending cap to a single borrower.

In exchange, Manafort provided Calk with personal benefits, prosecutors said. The bank CEO was appointed to Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers in August 2016, just days after the bank approved a proposed $9.5 million loan to Manafort.

According to the indictment, Manafort and his son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, approached the bank in an effort to refinance loans tied to a construction project in Los Angeles.

During a meeting held on July 27, 2016 — while Manafort was Trump campaign chairman — Calk allegedly broached the idea of him joint the Trump campaign. By the next day, the first loan of $5.7 million was approved. Less than a week later, Manafort offered Calk a position on the economic advisory committee for Donald Trump, according to the indictment.

Calk issued another loan for over $9 million later in the fall of 2016. Then, Calk reached out to Manafort asking him if he was involved in the Trump presidential transition following the election, according to the indictment.

Manafort allegedly responded, “total background but involved directly.”

Shortly after the election, in November or December 2016, Manafort recommended Calk for an administrative position, leading to a formal interview of Calk for Under Secretary of the Army at the transition team headquarters in Trump Tower in 2017. When Manafort made the recommendation, he had more than $6 million in loans pending approval at Calk’s bank.

Calk ultimately was not hired for the position.

Months later, the loans to Manafort were downgraded by the banks regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Calk allegedly lied to regulators, telling them he never desired a position in the presidential administration.

A November 14, 2016 email Calk sent to Manafort that included his resume and list of desired positions in ranked order was as exhibit in the Manafort trial.

Charlie Gile contributed.



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European elections UK results time: What time is the result of EU election due?

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THE EUROPEAN elections kicked off in the UK this morning, with polling stations open from 7am. What time is the result of the EU election due?

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Trump lashes out at Rex Tillerson for saying Putin out-prepared him

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump lashed out at Rex Tillerson on Thursday morning after his former secretary of state reportedly told a House committee that the president was ill-prepared for a 2017 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany,” Trump tweeted. “I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

The tweet followed a Washington Post report that Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Putin out-prepared Trump for the meeting at the 2017 G-20 summit. Tillerson said Putin’s higher level of preparation put Trump at a disadvantage during the meeting.

The U.S. had anticipated a shorter meeting between the two leaders, but it instead turned into a two-hour plus discussion of geopolitical issues, committee aides told the Post. Tillerson spoke before the committee for seven hours in a closed-door session on Tuesday.

“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a committee aide told the Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”

Tillerson spoke with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and staff at the request of the panel’s chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the newspaper reported. Unlike Trump’s solo meeting with Putin in Helsinki last summer, advisers — including Tillerson — were present alongside him at the meeting with the Russian president in Germany.

Tillerson and Trump had sparred for months before the president fired him in March of last year. The former secretary of state nearly resigned in the summer of 2017 amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House, NBC News reported, citing senior administration officials. As tensions came to a head, Tillerson called Trump a “moron” following a meeting at the Pentagon with Cabinet officials and members of Trump’s national security team, three officials familiar with the incident said.

In December, Tillerson told CBS News that Trump was “undisciplined,” didn’t read much and tried to do things that would violate the law. In response, Trump said Tillerson “didn’t have the mental capacity needed” to be secretary of state.

“He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough,” Trump tweeted. “He was lazy as hell.”

In hiring Tillerson to run the State Department, Trump pointed to the former Exxon Mobil executive’s “vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments” and called him “a world class player and dealmaker.”

“He will be a star,” Trump tweeted after Tillerson was sworn in.



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