U.S. Intelligence Officials Tell Senate They Will Not Repeat What Was Said in Conversations With Trump

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At a Senate intelligence hearing for an unrelated matter this week, senators ended up asking NSA and other intelligence brass about the president and the Russia investigation.

The officials told senators they would not discuss the specifics of conversations with the president.

They said they thought it was confidential information that should be protected from public hearing. They also said they were waiting for more guidance from the White House.

There was some talk about senators now being concerned about their ability to look into these matters and get answers from U.S. intelligence, and whether power has now shifted to the executive.

Confederate Monument Removal Protesters Clash

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New Orleans has been removing monuments to its Confederate history, led by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Sunday afternoon protesters met at Lee Square, as did people who support monument removal.

The protesters included some considered to be white supremacists, but the peaceful protesters of all beliefs were aligned, as, in the words of one man who attended who did not give his full name: “As long as they’re fighting for my interests I’m with them.”

Many have voiced their concern about the erasing of history, whether they agree with the beliefs of those commemorated at the time or not.

However, monument removal advocates voiced their opinion in chants such as “Go home racists,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, white supremacy’s got to go.”

U.S. Accuses Syria of Mass Executions

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The message delivered from the White House through Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near East affairs, was:

“The regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Saydnaya. Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves.  We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Saydnaya complex which could dispose of detainees remains with little evidence.”

The U.S. government last month accused Assad of using chemical weapons against his people before imposing sanctions on Syria. Assad denied that he did so, and called the story a “fabrication.”

U.S.’s New Spending Bill

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The new bill has been approved, and it includes an extra $20 billion for defense. Immigration and border patrol get an 8% increase, but there is nothing for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

The defense amount includes a 2.1% pay raise for military personnel.

There was also nothing in the bill about hot topics planned parenthood and sanctuary cities. Both keep their current funding for now.

The Republicans traded a lot of the things they wanted in order to get funding for defense and border security.

The National Endowment for the Arts, about which there was some buzz that the program would see cuts, got a slight increase.

The UN will get $640 million less from the U.S. this year, and funding for the Coast Guard was also reduced.

Another Monument Removal in U.S. City

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New Orleans removed a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, part of what is seen as a wider movement to remove symbols of Confederacy and Jim Crow.

In the 1874 battle, a mostly Confederate veteran army which was part of the Democratic Party, fought New Orleans metro police and state militia, and held official buildings for days until federal troops removed them.

The battle was part of violence that followed a contested 1872 gubernatorial election in which both parties claimed victory.

The monument was erected in 1891 to celebrate and remember the Democratic insurrection. A white obelisk and inscription expressed what some consider white supremacist views.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu removed the monument without warning in the early morning hours, and told the public other monuments would be taken down in the same way.

Some called Landrieu’s method “the coward’s way,” and criticised Landrieu for removing pieces of New Orleans’ history, which is also an important part of the city’s tourist economy.

By way of explanation, Landrieu stated, “We will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city.”

Consumer Spending Low

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Q1 for 2017 GDP was weak: 0.7% annualized.

Of that, one of the weaker components was consumer spending, which rose only 0.3%, the weakest level for spending since Q4 2009.

Comey Firing: Conflicting Messages

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In the wake of Trump’s firing of the former FBI director for what Trump called “not doing a good job,” conflicting public messages have come out in favor of and against James Comey.

Testimony by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (who was until 3 days ago deputy director) in front of Senate Intelligence Committee members included his defending Comey as a man of integrity who has broad support in the FBI to this day. Others also came out in defence of Comey’s reputation in the face of White House allegations.

On Facebook at least a dozen FBI agents changed their profile photos of or including James Comey. a gesture usually reserved for slain colleagues.