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Tuesday, Feb 19th

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Trump tells intel chiefs to 'go back to school' after they break with him

Intel Chiefs speak truth to powerPresident Donald Trump lit into the U.S. intelligence community on Wednesday, telling his intel chiefs to "go back to school" just one day after they publicly contradicted him on several of his foreign policy priorities.

"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran," Trump wrote on Twitter. "They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict."

TVNL Comment: Trump is a dangerous, if petulant child.  He understands nothing, but believes he is the smartest person around.

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New York Passes First Major Gun Control Bills Since Sandy Hook

NY passes first major gun control bills since Sandy HookNew York lawmakers on Tuesday approved the most comprehensive set of gun bills in the state in six years, including measures that would ban bump stocks, prohibit teachers from carrying guns in schools and extend the waiting period for gun buyers who do not pass an instant background check.

In total, six gun bills passed easily through the State Senate and Assembly, a remarkable sight in a Capitol that for years had resisted almost all new legislation on the subject.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, last ushered a major gun safety package into law in 2013, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The governor successfully corralled recalcitrant Senate Republicans into supporting the so-called Safe Act that expanded the state’s ban on assault weapons, tightened certification requirements, increased criminal penalties for illegal guns and closed private sale loopholes.

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Trump met Putin without staff or note takers present — again

Trump and Putin met again without notetaker

If you’re a US president, it’s probably not a great idea to meet with a foreign leader who meddled in your country’s elections without some way to record what’s being discussed.

But that’s just what President Donald Trump apparently did — again.

According to the Financial Times, Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin during last November’s G20 summit in Argentina without a US official present to take notes. First lady Melania Trump was by the president’s side during the chat, but no staff joined them.

The White House had previously acknowledged that both leaders met for an “informal” talk but didn’t disclose that Trump had no official member of his team present. Putin did have someone, though: his translator, although it’s unclear if that person wrote anything down.

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Dems Raise Concerns Over Mnuchin's Russia Investor Connection

Mnuchin's connection to Russian investor probed by Dems.

Two Congressional Democrats have reportedly raised concerns about whether Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's ties to a major shareholder in Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s companies played a role in the decision to lift sanctions.

According to The New York Times, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) both sent letters to Mnuchin on Tuesday about his connection to Len Blavatnik—an entertainment industry figure who also is a “major investor” in one of Deripaska’s companies, Rusal.

Blavatnik and Mnuchin are reportedly connected through a 2017 acquisition between Blavatnik’s Access Industries and a company that had a deal involving Dune Entertainment—where Mnuchin served as chairman joining the Trump administration. Blavatnik reportedly founded SUAL Partners Limited with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, which is a major shareholder in Rusal.

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Stacey Abrams to give Democratic response to State of the Union

Stacie Abrams to give Dem response to SOTU

Stacey Abrams will deliver the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address next week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

Abrams drew national attention as the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor in a contested race against Brian Kemp. Abrams eventually conceded, but blasted Kemp, who was secretary of state, for how he handled the election and said he pushed suppressed voter suppression efforts.

Although she lost the race, Abrams is viewed as a rising star in the party. Most recently, Democrats have pushed her to consider running in Georgia's 2020 Senate race against Republican Sen. David Perdue. She recently met with Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) about the 2020 race.

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U.S. intelligence chief breaks with Trump on North Korea, Iran, ISIS

US Intel cheif breaks with Trump

America's top intelligence official on Tuesday publicly broke with President Donald Trump on several critical foreign policy fronts, saying North Korea is not likely to give up its nuclear weapons, Iran is not yet seeking a nuclear weapon and the Islamic State terrorist group remains a forceful presence in Iraq and Syria.

The remarks by Dan Coats, the U.S. director of national intelligence, underscored how out of step Trump's pronouncements on major national security issues often are with the rest of the government he leads, including intelligence agencies that he has long scorned.

The divergence on Tuesday was perhaps most notable in the case of North Korea, which Trump has said no longer poses a nuclear threat to the United States.

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Utility bankruptcy could be costly to California wildfire victims

OG&E bankruptcyFaced with potentially ruinous lawsuits over California's recent wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday in a move that could lead to higher bills for customers of the nation's biggest utility and reduce the size of any payouts to fire victims.

The Chapter 11 filing allows PG&E to continue operating while it puts its books in order. But it was seen as a possible glimpse of the financial toll that could lie ahead because of global warming, which scientists say is leading to fiercer, more destructive blazes and longer fire seasons.

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Roger Stone enters not guilty plea

Roger Stone pleads not guilty.Roger Stone, a longtime Republican campaign adviser and confidant of President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to seven criminal charges of false statements, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and the US attorney for the District of Columbia have accused Stone of lying to congressional investigators about his communications regarding WikiLeaks' publication of stolen emails meant to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016.
In one charge, he is accused of threatening a contact of his whose congressional testimony about WikiLeaks would contradict Stone's.

Michael Cohen to testify before House Intel panel next week

Michael Cohen agrees to testify behind closed doors at House Intel Com.

President Donald Trump’s former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the committee, said Monday that Cohen agreed to appear voluntarily before the committee behind closed doors on Feb. 8.

Last week, Cohen backed out of his planned public testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee — initially scheduled for Feb. 7 — citing fears for his family’s safety after Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, publicly harangued Cohen and his father-in-law.

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