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NEWS   FRIDAY, DECEMBER  15, 2017   NEWS

Remarks On Clinton Probe Were Watered Down
Newly released documents obtained by Fox News reveal that then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft statement on the Hillary Clinton email probe was edited numerous times before his public announcement, in ways that seemed to water down the bureau’s findings considerably. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the FBI on Thursday that shows the multiple edits to Comey’s highly scrutinized statement. In an early draft, Comey said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account. That was changed later to say the scenario was merely “possible.” Another edit showed language was changed to describe the actions of Clinton and her colleagues as “extremely careless” as opposed to “grossly negligent.” This is a key legal distinction. Fox
VOA VIEW: Comey lied.

Omarosa Ousted By Kelly In White House Situation Room
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly personally told former "Apprentice" star Omarosa Manigault Newman that her White House employment had been terminated, despite her insistence to the contrary. Fox News has learned that Kelly gave Omarosa -- as she is commonly known -- the news in the White House Situation Room, a subterranean space under the West Wing where electronic and recording devices must be surrendered at the door. Fox

Why Paul Ryan's Smartest Move Would Be To Quit In 2018
The news that Speaker Paul Ryan is engaged in "soul searching" about his political future and could leave Congress after the 2018 election shocked a political Washington sprinting toward a tax cut vote and Christmas recess. It shouldn't. While Ryan insists he isn't leaving anytime soon -- not a denial, it's worth noting! -- there's a very strong case to be made that quitting at the end of 2018 is the best possible move for his political future.  CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN likes to make innuendoes.

'Sunday Night Football' Takes A Big Hit As NFL Ratings Still Struggle
The NFL's premiere game of the week took a big hit in TV ratings on Sunday night, despite it being a close game. NBC's "Sunday Night Football" match up between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers brought in 17.2 million viewers on Sunday night. That number was down 35% from last year's Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants game, which was the most-watched prime time regular season since Thanksgiving 2015. CNN
VOA VIEW: The NFL has lost viewers and ratings.

Here’s Where The GOP Tax Plan Stands Right Now
Congressional leaders worked quickly to finalize compromise legislation for floor votes next week in an all-out effort to provide themselves and President Donald Trump with a major policy victory before the end of 2017. Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day: President Donald Trump said he’s “very sure” Senator Marco Rubio will vote to pass tax legislation next week -- despite the Florida Republican’s threat to oppose it unless there are further enhancements to the child tax credit. “I think that Senator Rubio will be there,” Trump said during a White House event about the administration’s broad deregulation plans. “Very sure.” Bloomberg

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Fight To Save Open-Internet Rules Faces Long Odds In Courtrooms
"Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open Internet," Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement announcing the intention to file challenges along with colleagues from other states. Democratic Attorneys General Eric Schneiderman, of New York, and Lisa Madigan, of Illinois, also announced plans to sue, as did Free Press, an activism group that helped organized the opposition to the FCC’s party-line vote to strike down open-internet policies. They are likely to be joined by others in coming weeks. Bloomberg

DOJ Rejects Charges Over Release Of FBI Agent's Text Messages
The Justice Department is rejecting accusations that it inappropriately offered several reporters access to private communications between two FBI officials who later worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. "Senior career ethics advisors determined that there were no legal or ethical concerns that prohibited the release of the information to the public either by members of Congress or by the department," the Justice Department said in a statement today. During a House hearing on Wednesday, Democrats raised concerns over the public disclosure of the messages, which were sent last year between FBI attorney Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok and document them repeatedly mocking then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in harsh terms. ABC News
VOA VIEW: There have been serious accusations that must be reviewed.

Putin Defends Trump
At his annual end-of-year press conference, a marathon question and answer session where he takes questions for hours, Russian president Vladimir again dismissed suspicions of possible collusion between Russia and members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, saying they were “invented” by Trump’s opponents. “This is all invented by people who oppose Trump to give his work an illegitimate character,” Putin said, answering a question from ABC News’ Terry Moran.
Russia will hold presidential elections next March and this year Putin used the event to broadcast his own achievements while heading off the battered opposition who have been permitted to run against him. ABC News

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Vladimir Putin Calls U.S. Election Meddling Claims ‘Spy Hysteria’
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday claims that his country meddled in last year's U.S. presidential elections were “spy hysteria.” Putin made the remarks in his annual news conference, where he  touched on a wide range of topics, a number of them involving the United States: Putin once again rejected allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying the “spy hysteria and nonsense” have damaged the American political system. USA Today

District Court Judge Nominee Fails To Define Basic Legal Terms
One of Trump’s judicial nominees drew a blank during his confirmation hearing on Thursday when a Republican senator grilled him on basic legal terms. Things got off to a rocky start for Matthew Spencer Petersen, a nominee for U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia when he was singled out for never having tried a case to verdict. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) went on to interrogate Petersen, a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, who admitted he had never taken a deposition by himself or argued a motion in state or federal court. NY Daily News

White House Urges Roy Moore To Concede
Two days after losing Alabama’s special Senate election, Republican nominee Roy Moore has yet to concede the race to Democrat Doug Jones — even after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that he should. “I think the president’s position is pretty clear in his outreach to Doug Jones directly,” Sanders said at Thursday’s briefing with reporters. “He likes Doug Jones and looks forward to meeting him in person. and hopes that he will come and follow through on his commitment to work with the president on some things that they agree on.” Washington Post

Comey Edits Revealed
Newly released documents obtained by Fox News reveal that then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft statement on the Hillary Clinton email probe was edited numerous times before his public announcement, in ways that seemed to water down the bureau’s findings considerably. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the FBI on Thursday that shows the multiple edits to Comey’s highly scrutinized statement. In an early draft, Comey said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account. That was changed later to say the scenario was merely “possible.” Fox News
VOA VIEW: Comey was bias and unethical.

Republicans Push Final Version Of Tax Bill
Republicans say the hardest part is behind them now that they have crafted a compromise between the House and Senate tax bills. The final plan preserves deductions for student loans and medical expenses targeted in previous bills, and it doubles the standard deduction, which Republicans say will enable millions of taxpayers to stop itemizing. "This relief gives people a simpler system, and a fairer tax code," said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). But residents of high-tax states could still get squeezed. The plan caps the deduction for state and local income tax plus property tax at $10,000 per year.  CBS News

GOP Senator Obtains Draft FBI Statement On Clinton Email
A Republican senator says edits to a draft FBI statement on the Hillary Clinton email investigation appear to have watered down the significance of the bureau's findings. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said Thursday he had obtained from the FBI a draft statement that then-Director James Comey produced in May 2016 in anticipation of closing out the Clinton email case. The document shows line-by-line edits.  CBS News

US Woman Used Bitcoin To Move Cash To Islamic State
A New York woman has been accused of laundering bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and wiring the money to help the so-called Islamic State. Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, was charged with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering and is being held without bail. Ms Shahnaz was born in Pakistan and worked as a lab technician in the US. Prosecutors say she took out fraudulent loans of $85,000 (£63,000) in order to buy the bitcoin online.  BBC

Trump Will Not Go Quietly
First, the underlying crime in Watergate, a break-in to wiretap offices of the DNC, had been traced, within 48 hours, to the Committee to Re-Elect the President. In Russiagate, the underlying crime – the “collusion” of Trump’s campaign with the Kremlin to hack into the emails of the DNC – has, after 18 months of investigating, still not been established. Campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted, but for financial crimes committed long before he enlisted with Trump. Gen. Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying about phone calls he made to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but only after Trump had been elected and Flynn had been named national security adviser. World Net Daily
VOA VIEW: Other than the wanting of liberals, Trump has no reason to quiet.

Paul Ryan Sees His Wild Washington Journey Coming To An End
Spirits were high inside the House chamber on Thursday, November 16, when, in the early afternoon, the gavel fell and a measure to rewrite the American tax code passed on a partisan tally of 227 to 205. As the deciding votes were cast—recorded in green on the black digital scoreboard suspended above the floor—the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, threw his head back and slammed his hands together. Soon he was engulfed in a sea of dark suits, every Republican lawmaker wanting to slap him on the shoulder and be a part of his moment. Politico

Rubio Comes Out Against GOP Tax Bill
Just days before an expected vote, the sweeping Republican tax bill's fate was up in the air Thursday, with few details confirmed and key senators withholding support unless changes were made. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced he would oppose the bill unless it expanded a child tax credit to millions of lower income families by making a larger portion refundable against payroll taxes. NBC News

Ksenia Sobchak — Daughter Of Putin Mentor — Runs In Russian Elections
Starstruck Russians snap selfies and crowd around reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate Ksenia Sobchak as she walks in Moscow's Red Square. When three teenagers scream her name, Sobchak, a journalist and television personality who is taking on President Vladimir Putin, instructs them to get out and vote when the elections come round in March. "We need real change in this country and together we can achieve this," she told the teens on Wednesday. NBC News

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Nikki Haley Offers 'Undeniable' Proof Iran Is Arming Houthi Rebels
Standing before large pieces of missile debris Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley presented what she said was "undeniable" evidence Iran is providing weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen. She said the debris was from a short-range missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen into Saudi Arabia. The weapon hit a civilian airport. "All of these weapons include parts made in Iran, some by Iran's government-run defense industry; all are proof that Iran is defying the international community," Haley said. "And not just one time. UPI

EU Agrees To Extend Sanctions Against Russia
The European Union agreed Thursday to extend sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. EU Council President Donald Tusk said the 28 EU leaders were in favor of extending the sanctions for another six months during their summit in Brussels. "EU united on roll-over of economic sanctions on Russia," Tusk said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a report on the implementation of the Minsk agreements and expressed concern over ongoing hostilities in eastern Ukraine, Russia's TASS news agency reported. UPI

Pelosi: GOP Congress ‘Robbing From Future By Increasing Debt
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during whose four-year speakership the debt increased by more than $5 trillion, said at her press briefing today that the Republican-controlled Congress is “robbing from the future by increasing the debt.” Pelosi made the remark as part of her criticism of the Republican tax-reform plan. “This is who they are,” Pelosi said. “This is what they came here to do: tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the middle class, at the expense of the health and well-being of the American people. Robbing from the future by increasing the debt.” CNS News
VOA VIEW: Obama created the biggest debt than all previous presidents.

Flood Of Venezuelans Are Fleeing Depressed Country
“Leaving was tough, but staying would have been tougher,” said Andrea Sequiera, 29, as she waits at the back of the line with her husband Luis, 31, and 8-year-old son Fabian. ”We know lots of people who would like to get out of Venezuela but can’t afford the ticket.” Although Venezuelans for years have been fleeing the “socialist revolution” first launched by the late Hugo Chávez in 1999, in recent months the trickle has turned into a flood as living conditions become ever more dire — from hyperinflation to acute shortages of food and medicine to one of the worst homicide rates in the world. USA Today

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State Dept Cut Deal For Clinton To Keep Call Logs Secret
The government watchdog group Judicial Watch released documents today from the U.S. State Department showing that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aide Huma Abedin were allowed to "remove electronic and physical records under a claim they were 'personal' materials and 'unclassified, non-record materials," including files on Clinton's telephone calls and schedules that were not to be made public. In addition, the documents show that Abedin took five boxes of "physical files" from the State Department that included records marked "Muslim Engagement Documents." CNS News
VOA VIEW: Illegal!

Uber Investor Departs Venture Firm Amid Harassment Claims
Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar, known for his early bet on Uber Technologies Inc, said on Thursday that he would sever ties with his venture capital company, Sherpa Capital, after being accused of sexual misconduct. Pishevar, who has denied the accusations, said in a statement provided by his lawyer that he was voluntarily leaving Sherpa Capital, which he co-founded, because of ongoing “untruthful attacks” against him. Reuters

Black Women Seek Share Of Democrats
Once again, black women showed up for Democrats, with nearly all of them voting in Alabama for new Sen. Doug Jones, just as they did for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in other states over the last few months. The same women, having proven their loyalty by voting 98 percent for Jones, now wonder whether the Democratic Party will return the favor by sharing some of the party's political power, handing over places at the negotiating table and pushing legislation that speaks to their unique issues.  Newsday

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White House Is 'Not Aware' Of Anything That Could Have Prevented Sandy Hook
Five years after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the White House downplayed efforts to prevent mass shootings, insisting there was no single solution to increasingly deadly violence. President Donald Trump's press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday she wasn't aware of any step that would have prevented the Newtown massacre or subsequent acts of violence, such as the Las Vegas attack in October. "I'm not aware of what that would be," Sanders said during a daily news briefing. CNN

Congressman Farenthold Calls It Quits
Congressman Blake Farenthold will withdraw from the 2018 Texas 27th Congressional District race but, Farenthold is expected to finish his term. Newscenter 25 is working to get more details from the Farenthold camp. But you may remember the Congressman spoke to constituents via Skype on Wednesday saying, "I just want to let everyone know, I absolutely did not engage in any improper conduct. I was investigated by the office of congressional ethics, and they found 6-0, there wasn't enough effort ," said Farenthold. A former senior aide to Rep. Blake Farenthold has approached the House Ethics Committee to share a damning account of working for the Texas Republican, with the intent of describing the congressman as verbally abusive and sexually demeaning.  Crossroads Today

Former High-Level Officials Submit 'Unusual' Russia Brief
Fourteen former national security, intelligence, and foreign policy officials recently wrote an amicus brief as part of a lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump's campaign and Roger Stone, his longtime adviser. Among the former officials are John Brennan, a CIA director; James Clapper, a director of national intelligence; and Michael Hayden, a director of the National Security Agency.  SF Gate

Trump Thanks Putin For Kind Words About US Economy
President Donald Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for remarks he made Thursday “acknowledging America’s strong economic performance,” the White House said. The two presidents spoke by phone following Putin’s annual press conference in Moscow. Trump and Putin also discussed ways to work together to address North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons program. NY Post

U.S. Regulators Ditch Net Neutrality Rules
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal landmark 2015 rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet, setting up a court fight over a move that could recast the digital landscape. The approval of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal in a 3-2 vote marked a victory for internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access. It also is the biggest win for Pai in his sweeping effort to undo many telecommunications regulations since taking over at the agency in January. Reuters
VOA VIEW: Good - the government should not dictate.

Firefighter Dies, Thousands More Take On California Blaze
One of the thousands of firefighters battling a series of wildfires across Southern California has died, but authorities gave no hint of how. San Diego-based Cory Iverson was assigned to the blaze northwest of Los Angeles, which has become the fourth largest in California history. Iverson, 32, was an engineer with a state fire engine strike team. He died Thursday. Boston Herald

There's A 30 Percent Chance Trump Attacks North Korea
It’s become a grim ritual in Washington foreign-policy circles to assess the chances that the United States and North Korea stumble into war. But on Wednesday Lindsey Graham did something different: He estimated the odds that the Trump administration deliberately strikes North Korea first, to stop it from acquiring the capability to target the U.S. mainland with a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile. And the senator’s numbers were remarkably high.  The Atlantic

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US F-22s Intercept Russian Jets Over Syria, Fire Warning Flares
Two US F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two Russian aircraft Wednesday after the Russian jets crossed the Euphrates River in Syria, flying east of the "de-confliction line" that is supposed to separate Russian and US-led coalition aircraft operating over Syria, two US defense officials told CNN. The US jets fired warning flares during the intercept of the two Russian Su-25 close air support jets according to the officials after they crossed the de-confliction line multiple times. CNN

Trump Phones Putin To Discuss North Korean Nukes
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, have spoken by phone at the American side's request, the Kremlin's press service has said. The two discussed "crisis areas, focusing on the settlement of the nuclear problem in the Korean Peninsula," as well as other "current matters of bilateral relations." The presidents have agreed to continue contacts, the Kremlin's statement says, without providing further details of the conversation. RT.com

ISIS Weapons Arsenal Included Some Purchased By U.S. Government
Some weapons bought by the U.S. military in 2015 ended up in the hands of Islamic State fighters within two months, according to a report released Thursday. The findings, by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an independent arms-tracking organization, are based on three years of meticulous documentation of weapons recovered from ISIS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.  NBC News

After Months Of Withering Criticism, Trump Prepares To Visit FBI
President Trump is traveling to Quantico, Va., on Friday to speak with an unlikely audience: the latest graduating class at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's not unusual for a president to shower love on his FBI agents and intelligence analysts. President Obama famously visited bureau headquarters a few months after he took office in 2009, donning an FBI baseball cap and sharing "the thanks of a grateful nation." A year earlier, then-President George W. Bush praised "the character and courage of those who carry the badge." NPR
VOA VIEW: Good!

Alleged Reckless Driver Charged With First-Degree Murder In Charlottesville Car Attack
The alleged reckless driver who plowed his car into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. is now charged with first-degree murder, after prosecutors showed a judge surveillance video of the deadly assault. Prosecutors announced at the start of a preliminary hearing for James Alex Fields that they were seeking to upgrade the second-degree murder charge he previously faced in the Aug. 12 collision in Charlottesville that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. The judge agreed to that and ruled there is probable cause for all charges against Fields to proceed. USA Today

Britain's Finance Minister In China
Britain's finance minister told the Chinese premier there are "many opportunities" for closer commercial ties as he started a visit Friday aimed at developing trade as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union. British leaders are looking to China for trade and investment as they try to fashion a new global role and offset reduced access to the European common market.  Tampa Bay

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