Twitter removes New York Times photo from Trump tweet

Twitter took down a picture from a posting by President Trump after The New York Times, which owned the rights to the picture, filed a complaint.

The tweet, posted earlier this week, showed a 2015 photo of a stern-looking Trump pointing at the camera.

“In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you. I’m just in the way,” the caption read.

Twitter removed the image after The Times lodged a complaint under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, according to Axios, which first reported the story

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White House briefs ‘Gang of 8’ on Russia-Taliban bounty intel

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders in the so-called Gang of Eight were tight-lipped Thursday after receiving a classified briefing on the Russia-Taliban bounty intelligence fiasco — but Democrats used the opportunity to bash President Trump anyway.

“I’m not going to say anything about the briefing, but I believe that the president is not close to tough enough on Vladimir Putin,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after he emerged from the Capitol Hill meeting.

The briefing of the group of eight senior Democratic and Republican members of Congress who receive regular intelligence briefings from the White House comes after the New York Times last week reported that the Kremlin paid Taliban militants bounties to kill US troops in a bid to drive them out of Afghanistan.

The White House has denied allegations from the Times and the Associated Press that Trump was briefed on the matter months ago, arguing the intelligence was deemed not credible and for that reason was never brought to the president or vice president’s attention.

Speaking at a press conference after the briefing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) floated the idea of sanctions against Russia and said the president and Congress should have been briefed on what she called “consequential” intelligence.

“This is of the highest priority, force protection, a threat to our men and women in uniform,” Pelosi said, before claiming that the intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief, a daily summary of high-level national security issues.

“At the same time as the White House was aware of this threat to the security of our men and women in uniform, the president was still flirting with the idea of having Russia be part of the G8, in total opposition of the members of the G8,” she continued.

Russia and the Taliban have denied the allegations contained in the Times report.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and national security adviser Robert O’Brien have both maintained that rogue intelligence officers looking to damage the Trump administration leaked the information to the Times.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defended the handling of the intelligence by the nation’s spy agencies and questioned Democrats in Congress who said they were “shocked and appalled” by the allegations.

“The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new,” Pompeo said.

“So members of Congress are out there today suggesting that they are shocked and appalled by this, they saw the same intelligence that we saw,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chair and ranking member of the House Intel Committee, also left the meeting without saying anything.

In a joint statement after the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi again accused Trump of being “soft” on the Russian president without providing any further details.

“Force protection is a primary purpose of intelligence. It should have the same importance to the commander in chief. Any reports of threats on our troops must be pursued relentlessly,” Pelosi and Schumer said.

“These reports are coming to light in the context of the president being soft on Vladimir Putin when it comes to NATO, the G7, Crimea, Ukraine and the ongoing undermining of the integrity of our elections,” they added.

“Our armed forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy.”

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Russians vote to allow Putin’s rule to extend for 16 more years

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport as he arrives to cast his ballot in a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms at a polling station in Moscow.

MOSCOW — Russian voters approved changes to the constitution that will allow President Vladimir Putin to hold power until 2036, but the weeklong plebiscite that concluded Wednesday was tarnished by widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.

With the nation’s polls closed and 30% of all precincts counted, 74% voted for the constitutional amendments, according to election officials.

For the first time in Russia, polls were kept open for a week to bolster turnout without increasing crowds casting ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic — a provision that Kremlin critics denounced as an extra tool to manipulate the outcome.

A massive propaganda campaign and the opposition’s failure to mount a coordinated challenge helped Putin get the result he wanted, but the plebiscite could end up eroding his position because of the unconventional methods used to boost participation and the dubious legal basis for the balloting.

By the time polls closed in Moscow and most other parts of Western Russia, the overall turnout was at 65%, according to election officials. In some regions, about 90% of eligible voters cast ballots.

On Russia’s easternmost Chukchi Peninsula, nine hours ahead of Moscow, officials quickly announced full preliminary results showing 80% of voters supported the amendments, and in other parts of the Far East, they said over 70% of voters backed the changes.

Kremlin critics and independent election observers questioned the turnout figures.

“We look at neighboring regions, and anomalies are obvious — there are regions where the turnout is artificially (boosted), there are regions where it is more or less real,” Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of the independent election monitoring group Golos, told The Associated Press.

Putin voted at a Moscow polling station, dutifully showing his passport to the election worker. His face was uncovered, unlike most of the other voters who were offered free masks at the entrance.

The vote completes a convoluted saga that began in January, when Putin first proposed the constitutional changes. He offered to broaden the powers of parliament and redistribute authority among the branches of government, stoking speculation he might seek to become parliamentary speaker or chairman of the State Council when his presidential term ends in 2024.

Protesters, many of them expatriate Russians, demonstrate in front of the Russian Embassy against Russia’s possible new constitution in Berlin, Germany.

His intentions became clear only hours before a vote in parliament, when legislator Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet-era cosmonaut who was the first woman in space in 1963, proposed letting him run two more times. The amendments, which also emphasize the primacy of Russian law over international norms, outlaw same-sex marriages and mention “a belief in God” as a core value, were quickly passed by the Kremlin-controlled legislature.

Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades — longer than any other Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — said he would decide later whether to run again in 2024. He argued that resetting the term count was necessary to keep his lieutenants focused on their work instead of “darting their eyes in search for possible successors.”

Analyst Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin political consultant, said Putin’s push to hold the vote despite the fact that Russia has thousands of new coronavirus infections each day reflected his potential vulnerabilities.

“Putin lacks confidence in his inner circle and he’s worried about the future,” Pavlovsky said. “He wants an irrefutable proof of public support.”

Even though the parliament’s approval was enough to make it law, the 67-year-old Russian president put his constitutional plan to voters to showcase his broad support and add a democratic veneer to the changes. But then the coronavirus pandemic engulfed Russia, forcing him to postpone the April 22 plebiscite.

The delay made Putin’s campaign blitz lose momentum and left his constitutional reform plan hanging as the damage from the virus mounted and public discontent grew. Plummeting incomes and rising unemployment during the outbreak have dented his approval ratings, which sank to 59%, the lowest level since he came to power, according to the Levada Center, Russia’s top independent pollster.

Moscow-based political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann said the Kremlin had faced a difficult dilemma: Holding the vote sooner would have brought accusations of jeopardizing public health for political ends, while delaying it raised the risks of defeat. “Holding it in the autumn would have been too risky,” she said.

In Moscow, several activists briefly lay on Red Square, forming the number “2036” with their bodies in protest before police stopped them. Some others in Moscow and St. Petersburg staged one-person pickets and police didn’t intervene.

Several hundred opposition supporters rallied in central Moscow to protest the changes, defying a ban on public gatherings imposed for the coronavirus outbreak. Police didn’t intervene and even handed masks to the participants.

Authorities mounted a sweeping effort to persuade teachers, doctors, workers at public sector enterprises and others who are paid by the state to cast ballots. Reports surfaced from across the vast country of managers coercing people to vote.

Members of a local electoral commission count ballots at a polling station after a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms in Moscow, Russia.

Members of a local electoral commission count ballots at a polling station after a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms in Moscow, Russia.AFP via Getty Images
The Kremlin has used other tactics to boost turnout and support for the amendments. Prizes ranging from gift certificates to cars and apartments were offered as an encouragement, voters with Russian passports from eastern Ukraine were bused across the border to vote, and two regions with large number of voters — Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod — allowed electronic balloting.

In Moscow, some journalists and activists said they were able to cast their ballots both online and in person in a bid to show the lack of safeguards against manipulations.

Kremlin critics and independent monitors pointed out that the relentless pressure on voters coupled with new opportunities for manipulations from a week of early voting when ballot boxes stood unattended at night eroded the standards of voting to a striking new low.

In addition to that, the early voting sanctioned by election officials but not reflected in law further eroded the ballot’s validity.

Many criticized the Kremlin for lumping more than 200 proposed amendments together in one package without giving voters a chance to differentiate among them.

“I voted against the new amendments to the constitution because it all looks like a circus,” said Yelena Zorkina, 45, after voting in St. Petersburg. “How can people vote for the whole thing if they agree with some amendments but disagree with the others?”

Putin supporters were not discouraged by being unable to vote separately on the proposed changes. Taisia Fyodorova, a 69-year-old retiree in St. Petersburg, said she voted yes “because I trust our government and the president.”

In a frantic effort to get the vote, polling station workers set up ballot boxes in courtyards and playgrounds, on tree stumps and even in car trunks — unlikely settings derided on social media that made it impossible to ensure a clean vote.

In Moscow, there were reports of unusually high numbers of at-home voters, with hundreds visited by election workers in a matter of hours, along with multiple complaints from monitors that paperwork documenting the turnout was being concealed from them.

At the same time, monitoring the vote became more challenging due to hygiene requirements and more arcane rules for election observers.

A group of protesters hold different anti-Putin posters as they gather in Pushkin Square in Moscow, Russia.
A group of protesters hold different anti-Putin posters as they gather in Pushkin Square in Moscow, Russia.AP
The Golos monitoring group pointed out at unusual differences between neighboring regions: in the Siberian republic of Tyva over 73% voted in the first five days, while in the neighboring Irkutsk region, turnout was about 22% and in the neighboring republic of Altai, it was under 33%.

“These differences can be explained only by forcing people to vote in certain areas or by rigging,” Golos said.

Observers warned that the methods used to boost turnout, combined with bureaucratic hurdles that hindered independent monitoring, would undermine the vote’s legitimacy.

“There is a big question about the results of this vote,” Melkonyants said, adding that its outcome “can’t really bear any legal standing.”

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Mitch McConnell says Russia should not rejoin G-7

Mitch McConnell split with President Trump Tuesday on whether Russia should be allowed back into the G-7 — roundly rejecting the move, which has been repeatedly pitched by the commander in chief.

“Absolutely not,” the Senate majority leader told reporters at the Capitol.

Trump said last month that he wanted to expand the number of countries that take part in the next meeting, including Russia, which had been bounced by the Group of Eight after invading and annexing Crimea in 2014 and backing rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The president spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month, and according to a White House readout, they “discussed progress toward convening the G-7.

McConnell (R-Ky.) had already said in 2018 that Russia should not be allowed back in after Trump floated allowing it back in, and many Democrats agreed.

Trump called it “common sense” to invite Russia given that the country is generally among the topics discussed by member nations.

“It’s not a question of what he’s done, it’s a question of common sense,” Trump said about Putin.

“We have a G-7, he’s not there. Half of the meeting is devoted to Russia and he’s not there.”

Trump had also said he would postpone a G-7 summit he had hoped to hold this summer until September or later and expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea and India.

“I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said, adding that the current members — including most major US allies — were a “very outdated group of countries.

McConnell’s comment came after reports that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan for killing coalition and Americans forces.

The Kentucky Republican downplayed those reports.

“It appears as if this is not a conclusion that’s been reached to such a level that might have even made it to the top,” McConnell told reporters about the US intelligence findings and whether Trump was aware of them.

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Trump calls Queen Elizabeth to wish her belated happy birthday

President Trump Queen Elizabeth
WireImage via Getty Images
President Trump spoke with Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday and wished her a belated happy 94th birthday, the White House said.

The rare royal phone call occurred more than two months after the queen’s birthday in April, and the queen’s office said it was part of a series of calls to world leaders.

“The president wished the Queen a happy birthday, marking 94 extraordinary years,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an initial statement revealing the call.

Trump also expressed his condolences for the more than 43,000 British coronavirus pandemic victims, Deere said.

The pair “discussed close cooperation on defeating the virus and reopening global economies,” Deere said, and “reaffirmed that the United States and United Kingdom stand together in our special relationship and will emerge from this trying time stronger than ever before.”

In a statement hours later, the royal family’s press office placed a different emphasis on the conversation.

“Today, The Queen spoke to President Trump by telephone from Windsor Castle ahead of Independence Day in the United States on the 4th July,” the UK office said.

“The telephone call is the latest in a series Her Majesty has held with world leaders in recent months, including President [Emmanuel] Macron [of France], Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern [of New Zealand], Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [of Canada] and Prime Minister Scott Morrison [of Australia].”

Trump has met with the queen three times as president, including a July 2018 visit to Windsor Castle.

Trump often remarks approvingly of the long-reigning monarch, and this year took to Twitter to declare that her grandson Prince Harry would not be getting taxpayer-funded security in the US after ditching his royal duties.

“I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen & the United Kingdom,” Trump tweeted in March. “It was reported that Harry and Meghan, who left the Kingdom, would reside permanently in Canada. Now they have left Canada for the U.S. however, the U.S. will not pay for their security protection. They must pay!”

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WHO fears coronavirus pandemic ‘not even close to being over’

The World Health Organization warned Monday that “the worst is yet to come” from the global coronavirus pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing that the world should brace for the continued spread of the deadly virus, which has already infected more than 10 million people worldwide and killed more than 500,000 over the past six months, CBS News said.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world — and our lives — would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” he said.

“We all want this to be over,” Ghebreyesus added. “We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over. Most people remain susceptible, the virus still has a lot of room to move.”

WHO sending team to China to investigate coronavirus origins

Ghebreyesus also said the global health agency would send a team to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated, in an attempt to identify the cause of the pandemic.

“We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,” he said. “We will be sending a team next week to China to prepare for that.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US accounts for about one-quarter of the global COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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Starbucks latest to jump on social media ad pause wagon

Starbucks is the latest company to say it will pause social media ads after a campaign led by civil rights organizations called for an ad boycott of Facebook, saying it doesn’t do enough to stop racist and violent content.

Starbucks said Sunday that its actions were not part of the “#StopHateforProfit” campaign, but that it is pausing its social ads while talking with civil rights organizations and its media partners about how to stop hate speech online.

The coffee chain’s announcement follows statements from Unilever, the European consumer-goods giant behind Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap; Coca-Cola; cellphone company Verizon and outdoors companies like Patagonia, Eddie Bauer and REI; film company Magnolia Pictures; jeans maker Levi’s and dozens of smaller companies. Some of the companies will pause ads just on Facebook, while others will refrain from advertising more broadly on social media.

In response to companies halting advertising, Facebook executive Carolyn Everson said earlier this week the social networking platform is committed to purging hateful content from its services.

“Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good,” said Everson, vice president of Facebook’s global business group.

Facebook’s market value dropped Friday by more than 8%, or about $50 billion, as more companies said they would pause ads. Twitter stock also dropped more than 7% Friday.

Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said Friday the company’s “mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”

She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”

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European Union to speed up space ambitions to keep pace with US, China

PARIS – The European Union will plow more money into rocket launches, satellite communication and space exploration to preserve its often unsung successes in space and keep up with US and Chinese ambitions, its space chief said on Sunday.

Over the past decades, Europe has sought to build independent access to space from U.S. and Russian pioneers to help its industry, with successes such as Ariane rockets or GPS-rival satnav Galileo.

But the recent emergence of U.S. competitor SpaceX and its reusable rockets as well as China’s rapid advances, including the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon last year, is giving new urgency to Europe’s ambitions.

“Space is one of Europe’s strong points, and we’re giving ourselves the means to speed up,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton, whose brief includes the space sector, told Reuters in an interview.

Breton, the former French head of IT company Atos, said that for the first time, the EU budget will be used to support new technology to launch rockets, including reusable ones.

The EU will for the first time sign a 1 billion euro agreement with Arianespace with guaranteed orders to give it more visibility, in exchange for more innovation.

“SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, so Ariane 6 is a necessary step, but not the ultimate aim: we must start thinking now about Ariane 7,” Breton said.

Breton, who hopes the European Commission will provide 16 billion euros for space in its next budget, said he would propose a 1 billion euro European Space Fund to boost startups. He also wants to launch a competition to give free access to satellites and launchers to startups, to spur innovation.

For the Galileo satnav system, Breton said he would bring forward to the end of 2024 instead of 2027 the rollout of a new generation of satellites, “the most modern in the world”, that can interact with each other and provide a more precise signal.

He wants to launch a new satellite system that can give high-speed Internet access to all Europeans, and begin work on a Space Traffic Management system to avoid collisions, made more likely with the rapid increase in the number of satellites.

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Elizabeth Warren in awkward spot as afro american women dominate Joe Biden’s veep search

Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has found herself in an increasingly awkward position as the Biden campaign vets more African Americans as possible presidential running mates.

In recent weeks, white candidates have dropped out of consideration or fallen out of favor, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and former top contender Sen. Amy Klobuchar dramatically withdrew from the process last week and urged Joe Biden to choose a woman of color.

While the white women have faded, a growing number of black female candidates have emerged as serious veepstakes players.

“All the African American candidates are first-tier and Warren,” a Senate insider familiar with the process told The Post.

“They are going to keep her name going until the last possible moment because they don’t want Twitter to have a meltdown for no reason,” said the source, nothing he believed there was a “95% chance” Joe Biden would pick a black woman.

“At this point they are too on the record about the women of color they are vetting,” said the source. “If you hold them all up for the 70-year-old white lady from Massachusetts, you better have a really good reason, and you don’t.”

Among those considered top options: Florida Rep. Val Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, California Rep. Karen Bass, and former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Rice’s stock appears to have risen sharply within Biden’s team in recent weeks, the source continued.

Biden veepstakes hopefuls enter 2nd round of vetting as 2 frontrunners emerge

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) remains in strong contention, but her chances appear hampered by what’s been described as a frosty relationship with Biden. Many say the former vice president is still smarting from her attacks on him during the Democratic debates, which he took personally because of Harris’ past friendship with his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

Harris served as the attorney general in California when Beau Biden held the same position in Delaware. They overlapped in the roles between 2010 and 2015.

Stacey Abrams is all but out of consideration. Two other women of color, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, are considered second-tier options, the source added.

Though she once famously claimed to have Native American ancestry, Warren remains the only white women among the top contenders.

Protests against police killings have accelerated the emergence of black candidates.

Danielle Moodie, a political consultant and former vice president at SKDKnickerbocker, said the rise of qualified black women was inevitable, given the changes in the Democratic party’s demographics.

“When we look at who the backbone of the Democratic party is, it’s black women who consistently show up. They are the most steadfast voting bloc,” Moodie told The Post.

She said picking a Midwestern white moderate like Klobuchar to appeal to suburban soccer moms was a doomed effort.

“They are gone: 53 percent of white women voted for Trump and it is not an anomaly,” she said. “They vote with their white husbands, which is Republicans.”

TJ Ducklo, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, called The Post’s reporting “flat-out wrong” — though he declined to specify what exactly was incorrect.

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Minneapolis council members who voted to abolish cops get private security

Minneapolis council members who voted to abolish cops get private security
By Mary Kay LingeJune 27, 2020 | 5:23pm
Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins speaks to a group gathered outside the Cup Foods, where George Floyd was killed in police custody.

Three members of the Minneapolis City Council who voted to eliminate the local police force are being protected by a private security detail that costs taxpayers $4,500 a day.

News of the arrangement broke Friday, the same day that the council voted 12-0 to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

“My concern is the large number of white nationalist(s) in our city and other threatening communications I’ve been receiving,” Councilmember Andrea Jenkins told Fox 9 News — adding that she had been asking for private security ever since she took office in 2018.

The city has spent $63,000 on rent-a-cops for Jenkins and fellow councilmembers Phillipe Cunningham and Alondra Cano during the last three weeks after the three said they had received threats.

But an MPD spokesperson said that no complaints of threats against them had been filed.

All three have pushed the movement to scrap city police force in favor of “peace officers” and a “holistic, public health-oriented approach” to law enforcement.

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