Friday, September 21, 2018
Politics

Manafort, Trump aide with Russia ties, offers to talk to House panel

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, a key figure in investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, has volunteered to be questioned by lawmakers as part of a House probe of the Kremlin's alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House intelligence committee, told reporters on Friday that Paul Manafort's counsel contacted the panel on Thursday to offer lawmakers the opportunity to interview him. Nunes said he does not know if the interview will take place in a public forum or behind closed doors.

"We're not going to get into a neo-McCarthyism era here where we just start bringing in Americans because they were mentioned in a press story," Nunes said. "I'm highly concerned about that. Now, if people want to come in freely, we will do that."

Manafort volunteered to be interviewed by the committee the same week that The Associated Press reported that a decade ago he worked for a Russian billionaire.

Manafort, an international consultant, had pitched a wide-ranging political influence campaign to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally. In a proposal obtained by AP, Manfort said his proposal could "greatly benefit the Putin Government."

Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP.

In a statement to the AP earlier this week, Manafort confirmed that he worked for Deripaska, but denied that the work had been to advance Russia's interests.

The AP also reported Thursday that Treasury Department agents have recently obtained information about offshore financial transactions involving Manafort. The records were sought as part of a federal anti-corruption probe into his work in Eastern Europe.

Manafort also said his offshore banking transactions were a normal practice at his business. "Like many companies doing business internationally, my company was paid via wire transfer, typically using clients' preferred financial institutions and instructions," he said.

The latest development that Manafort has offered himself for questioning moves the spotlight off the House chairman himself.

Democrats expressed anger earlier this week after Nunes told reporters and briefed Trump he had seen new information showing that the communications of Trump transition officials were scooped up through monitoring of other targets and improperly spread through intelligence agencies during the final days of the Obama administration. Democrats expressed outrage that Nunes would meet with Trump before talking to committee members and cited the incident as another reason to question the panel's independence.

Nunes would not disclose the source of the information. But he specifically stated that the new information he received did not support Trump's allegations that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower.

Nunes, who was a member of President Donald Trump's transition team, later apologized to Democrats, saying that the presidential briefing was a judgment call. "Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the wrong decision," he said.

Nonetheless, White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed that Nunes was "vindicating" the president following his unproven assertion about a wiretap, and Republican groups moved quickly to raise money as a result of Nunes' revelations.

The National Republican Campaign Committee blasted out an email with the subject "Confirmed: Obama spied on Trump." The Republican National Committee made a pitch with the subject line "Vindicated" and went on to say, "President Trump has fought back and been vindicated time and time again."

It's common for Americans to get caught up in U.S. surveillance of foreigners, such as foreign diplomats in the U.S. talking to an American. Typically, the American's name would not be revealed in a report about the intercepted communications. However, if there is foreign intelligence value to revealing the American's name, it is "unmasked" and shared with other intelligence analysts who are working on related foreign intelligence surveillance.

Comments
Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

TEMPLE TERRACE — After complaints from city residents, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has notified the City Council that it will not rent space again to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its annual banquet.The country clubȁ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, it’s in your hands

Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, it’s in your hands

It’s not often that we citizens — busy with work, paying the bills, living our lives — find ourselves with the power to right a fundamental wrong.But here in Florida, we’re about to get that chance.On the November ballot — among all those candidates ...
Published: 09/20/18
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Published: 09/19/18
Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Two things you need to know about Florida’s prison budget:1. It was $2.3 billion this year.2. It was still not enough.Kind of staggering when you think of it that way, huh?We keep spending more and more on housing prisoners, and it’s like throwing mo...
Published: 09/18/18
Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to speak to a Senate panel to "refute" an allegation he sexually assaulted a woman while in high school, after his accuser said via her attorney that she was ready to testi...
Published: 09/17/18
California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in subu...
Published: 09/16/18
Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on em...
Published: 09/17/18
Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

His time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. Eight years of triumph or shambles, depending on your point of view. And yet, Rick Scott’s legacy may not be written until his final minute as governor.For several years, Scott has been plotting a judicial...
Published: 09/15/18
Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

WASHINGTON D.C.? — Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and President Donald Trump still called his defense secretary "Mad Dog" a nickname Jim Mattis detests ? the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with h...
Published: 09/15/18
Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

You would have thought the controversy over whether chickens should be left alone to keep boldly roaming the streets of historic Ybor City — and the impressive pro-chicken lobby that showed up to argue on their behalf — would be the quintessential on...
Published: 09/15/18