6:06 AM 11/22/2017 – “KELLY HAS CLIPPED HIS WINGS: JARED KUSHNERS HORIZONS…”

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Palestinians Cut Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Contact After Closure of Washington Office

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The Palestinians have severed all contacts with officials from the Trump administration after it decided to close their official representation in Washington, dealing a blow to any potential resurrection of peace talks with Israel.

Last week, the State Department declined to renew the permit for the office operated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington. The PLO is viewed in the international community as the official representative of the Palestinians.

“What is the use of holding any meetings with them when they close our office? Our meetings begin from our office, and the arrangements are there,” Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP news agency Tuesday.

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“In practice by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official.”

The note sent by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to official departments and embassies said that “any meeting with an American official is banned regardless of the reason until they back down and treat us fairly,” Bloomberg reported.

The decision means that no Palestinian official will be able to meet with President Donald Trump, his key Middle East adviser Jason Greenblatt, or his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with trying to find a solution to the conflict, while the temporary freeze is in place.

A PLO official and an official in Abbas’ office were not available for comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the reports. A State Department official, not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, told Newsweek in an email, “We continue to be in contact with Palestinian officials about the status of the PLO office in Washington as well as about our larger efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace. These discussions are ongoing.”

In this handout image provided by the Palestinian Press Office, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump in Ramallah, West Bank, on June 21. Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty

The justification for closing the office is that the Palestinians are threatening to submit cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) about Israel and alleged war crimes.

Rights groups have condemned what they say is the Palestinians’ right to seek an ICC decision on Israel’s conduct during the seven-week 2014 Gaza War, in which its forces were accused of not taking adequate measures to protect civilian live. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the ground invasion and aerial bombing of the territory known as Operation Protective Edge. Israel says many of those killed were militants.

“The U.S. threat to close the PLO’s mission in Washington as punishment for seeking justice at the ICC makes any U.S. commitment to justice for serious crimes seem at best selective,” said Omar Shakir, the rights group’s researcher on the conflict.

“Ongoing impunity for such crimes during Israel’s 50-year-occupation stands as a major barrier to a durable, just peace. The Trump administration should stop pressuring Palestine to abandon support for a credible, long overdue path to justice.”

Trump, who has said he wants to strike the “ultimate deal” in negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians after decades of conflict, now has 90 days to decide if “the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel,” and perform a U-turn on the decision to close the office.

Trump and his advisers have reportedly begun work on a Middle East peace plan that seeks to end years of stalemate in part fueled by Israel’s continued military occupation of parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the Palestinian failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in nature, as well as what Israel says is incitement for attacks against Jews.

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Palestinians Cut Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Contact After Closure of Washington Office
 

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

The Palestinians have severed all contacts with officials from the Trump administration after it decided to close their official representation in Washington, dealing a blow to any potential resurrection of peace talks with Israel.

Last week, the State Department declined to renew the permit for the office operated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington. The PLO is viewed in the international community as the official representative of the Palestinians.

“What is the use of holding any meetings with them when they close our office? Our meetings begin from our office, and the arrangements are there,” Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP news agency Tuesday.

Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now

“In practice by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official.”

The note sent by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to official departments and embassies said that “any meeting with an American official is banned regardless of the reason until they back down and treat us fairly,” Bloomberg reported.

The decision means that no Palestinian official will be able to meet with President Donald Trump, his key Middle East adviser Jason Greenblatt, or his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with trying to find a solution to the conflict, while the temporary freeze is in place.

A PLO official and an official in Abbas’ office were not available for comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the reports. A State Department official, not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, told Newsweek in an email, “We continue to be in contact with Palestinian officials about the status of the PLO office in Washington as well as about our larger efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace. These discussions are ongoing.”

In this handout image provided by the Palestinian Press Office, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump in Ramallah, West Bank, on June 21. Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty

The justification for closing the office is that the Palestinians are threatening to submit cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) about Israel and alleged war crimes.

Rights groups have condemned what they say is the Palestinians’ right to seek an ICC decision on Israel’s conduct during the seven-week 2014 Gaza War, in which its forces were accused of not taking adequate measures to protect civilian live. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the ground invasion and aerial bombing of the territory known as Operation Protective Edge. Israel says many of those killed were militants.

“The U.S. threat to close the PLO’s mission in Washington as punishment for seeking justice at the ICC makes any U.S. commitment to justice for serious crimes seem at best selective,” said Omar Shakir, the rights group’s researcher on the conflict.

“Ongoing impunity for such crimes during Israel’s 50-year-occupation stands as a major barrier to a durable, just peace. The Trump administration should stop pressuring Palestine to abandon support for a credible, long overdue path to justice.”

Trump, who has said he wants to strike the “ultimate deal” in negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians after decades of conflict, now has 90 days to decide if “the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel,” and perform a U-turn on the decision to close the office.

Trump and his advisers have reportedly begun work on a Middle East peace plan that seeks to end years of stalemate in part fueled by Israel’s continued military occupation of parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the Palestinian failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in nature, as well as what Israel says is incitement for attacks against Jews.

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“Kelly Has Clipped his Wings: Jared Kushners Horizons Are Collapsing within the West Wing
 

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Kushner and Kelly walk along the South Lawn on August 3, 2017.

By Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

When Donald Trump appointed John Kelly as chief of staff in July, the four-star Marine general arrived with a mandate to bring order to a freewheeling West Wing. Gone are the days of staffers waltzing into the Oval Office to lobby the president on policy or supply him with gossip. Trump still tweets, of course, but for the most part Kelly’s cleanup has been successful, according to interviews with a half dozen Trump advisers, current and former West Wing officials, and Republicans close to the administration. The aide who has ceded the most influence in the Kelly era, these people said, is Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “Kelly has clipped his wings,” one high-level Republican in frequent contact with the White House told me.

It’s perhaps hard to remember now, but it wasn’t long ago when Trump handed Kushner a comically broad portfolio that included plans to reinvent government, reform the V.A., end the opioid epidemic, run point on China, and solve Middle East peace. But since his appointment, according to sources, Kelly has tried to shrink Kushner’s responsibilities to focus primarily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And even that brief appears to be creating tensions between Kushner and Kelly. According to two people close to the White House, Kelly was said to be displeased with the result of Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia last month because it took place just days before 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salmanarrested 11 Saudi royals, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin TalalThe Washington Post reportedthat Kushner and M.B.S., as the prince is known, stayed up till nearly 4 a.m. “planning strategy,” which left Kelly to deal with the impression that the administration had advance knowledge of the purge and even helped orchestrate it, sources told me. (Asked about this, Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, in part: “Chief Kelly and Jared had a good laugh about this inquiry as nothing in it is true.”)

Where this all leaves Kushner in Trump’s ever-changing orbit is a topic that’s being discussed by Republicans close to the White House. During Kelly’s review of West Wing operations over the summer, the chief of staff sought to downsize Kushner’s portfolio, two sources said. In the early days of the administration, sometimes with the help of a small cadre of Ivy League whiz kids who staff his Office of American Innovation, Kushner dreamed up scores of business “councils” that would advise the White House. “The councils are gone,” one West Wing official told me. With some of their purview being whittled away, “they seem lost,” the official added.

As Kushner’s Russia troubles mount—last Friday the Senate disclosed that he had not turned over e-mails about WikiLeaks, a claim his attorney, Abbe Lowell, denied—insiders are again speculating, as my colleague Emily Jane Fox reported last month, about how long Kushner and Ivanka Trump will remain in Washington. Despite Kushner’s efforts to project confidence about Robert Mueller’s probe, he expressed worry after the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates about how far the investigation could go. “Do you think they’ll get the president?” Kushner asked a friend, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

According to two Republicans who have spoken with Trump, the president has also been frustrated with Kushner’s political advice, including his encouragement to back losing Alabama G.O.P. candidate Luther Strange and to fire F.B.I. Director James Comey, which Kushner denies. (For what it’s worth, Kushner’s choice of Strange prevented Trump from the embarrassment of inadvertently supporting Roy Moore.) Trump, according to three people who’ve spoken to him, has advocated for Jared and Ivanka to return to New York in part because they are being damaged by negative press. “He keeps pressuring them to go,” one source close to Kushner told me. But as bad as the Russia investigation may be, it’s not clear a New York homecoming would be much better for Kushner, given that his family’s debt-ridden office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue could be headed for bankruptcy.

This article has been updated to include a comment from the White House.

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Mueller is turning up the heat on Jared Kushner
 

mikenova shared this story from Politics.

Jared KushnerWhite House Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner arrives to address Congressional interns at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has reportedly landed in Mueller’s crosshairs.
  • Mueller’s team has begun to question witnesses about some of Kushner’s conversations and meetings with foreign leaders during the transition.
  • Investigators are also homing in on Kushner’s role in pushing Trump to fire former FBI Director James Comey in May.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is turning up the heat on President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as he examines potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May.

Mueller’s team has reportedly questioned witnesses about some of Kushner’s conversations and meetings with foreign leaders during the transition, when he famously hosted former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower and asked whether it would be possible to set up a backchannel line of communication to Moscow.

Kislyak then orchestrated a meeting between Kushner and the CEO of Russia’s Vnesheconombank, Sergei Gorkov, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2016 as part of a restructuring of the bank’s management team, Bloomberg reported last year.

The Kremlin and the White House have provided conflicting explanations for why Kushner met with Gorkov. Reuters reported earlier this year that the FBI is examining whether Gorkov suggested to Kushner that Russian banks could finance Trump associates’ business ventures if US sanctions were lifted or relaxed.

Federal investigators are also examining Kushner’s role in blocking a UN resolution that would have condemned Israel for building settlements in disputed territories, according to The Wall Street Journal, and whether Kushner advised Trump to fire Comey last spring. Kushner reportedly gave Mueller’s team documents related to Comey’s firing earlier this month.

Four people told The Journal that Kushner “pushed” Trump to fire the former FBI director in conversations with the president and his top advisers. His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, downplayed Kushner’s involvement.

“When the president made the decision to fire FBI Director Comey, Mr. Kushner supported it,” Lowell said in a statement.

Kushner has come under heightened scrutiny since last week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee said he forwarded emails about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” to Trump campaign officials and failed to produce those emails to lawmakers investigating Russia’s election interference.

Additional emails that he failed to turn over, according to the committee, involved communication with the anti-secrecy agency WikiLeaks and with a Belarusian-American businessman named Sergei Millian. Millian most recently headed a group called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.

The Journal reported in September that members of Trump’s legal team wanted Kushner to resign from his position as a senior adviser because of his controversial meetings with Russian nationals during the election and his initial failure to disclose them on his security clearance form.

Kushner has had to revise the form several times, at one point adding more than 100 foreign contacts that he initially failed to disclose. He still does not have a permanent security clearance, which experts say is rare for a senior official who has been in the White House for nearly a year.

They began pushing for his ouster when they became aware of Kushner’s attendance at a meeting organized by his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower last June with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Kushner was the only one at the meeting who currently holds a White House job.

One of Trump’s main lawyers in the probe, John Dowd, told The Journal that he “didn’t agree” with some of his colleagues’ view that Kushner should resign.

“I thought it was absurd,” Dowd said. “I made my views known.”

In an 11-page statement provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee in late July detailing his Russian contacts during the campaign and transition period, Kushner said he “did not recall” the meeting with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin until he began “reviewing documents and emails in response to congressional requests for information.”

Mueller Investigating Kushner Foreign Contacts The Forward
 

mikenova shared this story .

Investigators employed by special counsel Robert Mueller are looking into presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner’s conversations with Israeli officials during the presidential transition process, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Last December, the Obama administration chose not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that was critical of Israeli settlement construction. In the run-up to that vote, Israeli leaders reportedly made contact with several top Trump officials, including Kushner and Steve Bannon, in order to get Trump to help stop either the vote or the Obama administration’s plan not to veto it. Those contacts are the one of the subjects of Mueller’s line of inquiry, the Journal reported.

Kushner, whom President Trump charged with forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, is known to be close with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who once slept in Kushner’s childhood bedroom.

Mueller’s team is reportedly also looking at Kushner’s role in setting up other meetings and discussions with foreign leaders during the presidential transition, as well as his role in the firing of FBI director James Comey.

Kushner encouraged Trump to fire Comey, according to multiple reports. The president reportedly now blames him for giving him that advice, which ultimately lead to Mueller’s appointment.

While inquiries about the Israeli government may seem far removed from Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Journal noted that “investigators typically ask a host of questions over the course of a probe, and inquiries don’t necessarily indicate suspicion. Mr. Kushner figures into several events that Mr. Mueller is investigating, including a June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer at Trump Tower” — which Kushner originally failed to disclose on his security clearance forms.

Contact Aiden Pink at pink@forward.com or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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Russian baritone Hvorostovsky dies at 55 – The Washington Post
 

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November 22 at 3:37 AM

MOSCOW — Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 55.

Hvorostovsky’s office said in a statement Wednesday that the acclaimed singer “died peacefully” earlier and was “surrounded by family” near his home in London.

“May the warmth of his voice and his spirit always be with us,” the statement said.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2015, the beloved Russian baritone had all but given up live performances. In June, the Vienna State Opera announced that he had cancelled all upcoming performances.

Hvorostovsky made an unscheduled appearance in front of a rapturous audience at Metropolitan Opera in New York in May to perform an aria from Rigoletto, one of his trademark parts.

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