Washington (CNN)New questions hang over the integrity and motives of William Barr after it emerged Tuesday night that Robert Mueller expressed concerns about the attorney general’s initial letter to Congress summarizing his special counsel report.The bombshell revelations detonated hours before Barr was due to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, an appearance that was already likely to be a political cauldron with suspicion intense among Democrats over his framing and interpretation of the Mueller investigation.In a letter to Barr last month, Mueller expressed concerns that the attorney general’s four page letter to Congress summarizing his principal conclusions did not fully capture their context. He believed his report was more nuanced on the issue of whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice and he wanted more of his findings to be released, officials told CNN.Mueller did not believe the summary was inaccurate but was frustrated with media coverage based on Barr’s letter, officials said. The Washington Post first reported on the letter.The news of Mueller’s letter caused outrage among senior Democrats already warning that Barr’s handling of a redacted version of the report was designed to produce the most favorable political narrative for Trump. Barr’s decision to find that there was no obstruction case to answer also angered Trump’s critics since Mueller did not come to such a conclusion in the report but did include evidence of clear attempts by Trump to thwart investigations into his campaign and his administration.Top Democrats immediately called for a swift appearance on Capitol Hill by Mueller himself, in an escalating drama that not only hikes pressure on Barr but could influence the debate in the congressional Democratic Party about impeachment — a step House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been reluctant to initiate.”The Special Counsel’s concerns reflect our own. The Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to describe the Special Counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the President. It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement.”Attorney General Barr also should not have withheld this letter from Congress for as long as he has. I have demanded a copy from the Department of Justice. I have asked that it be delivered no later than 10:00 tomorrow morning,” the New York Democrat said.Barr is due to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday but his attendance is in doubt after he objected to Nadler’s plan to include the committee legal counsels in questioning.The attorney general is first scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 10 a.m ET — a session that will now take on extra significance and controversy and will have added electricity since several Democratic presidential candidates are on the panel and will be keen to make a splash.One Democratic presidential candidate who is not on the committee — former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro — tweeted Tuesday that Barr should “resign his position or face an impeachment inquiry immediately” for “willfully” misleading the American people.New intrigue in Mueller end gameTuesday night’s stunning developments left Washington digesting an unexpected new twist in the endgame of the Mueller investigation, which, in addition to not exonerating Trump on obstruction, did not establish a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign team and Russia during the 2016 election. Trump has selectively embraced Barr’s narrative about the report to declare, “No collusion. No obstruction.”Phil Mudd, a former FBI agent who once worked with Mueller at the bureau and is now a CNN commentator, said Tuesday on “Cuomo Prime Time” that it was “stunning” that someone as dutiful and restrained as his former boss had written to Barr to question his summary of the special counsel’s principal findings.”This is a baseball bat wake-up call. … You cannot underestimate what he is saying,” Mudd said.According to a source familiar with Mueller’s concerns, the letter from the special counsel’s office came in on March 27. It was first reviewed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office and is roughly a page in length.After reviewing it, Barr called Mueller the following day. Barr said something to the effect of “we’ve been friends for a long time, let’s talk about this,” according to a source with knowledge of the call. The call was described to CNN as polite, but there was clear disagreement.Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement Tuesday that Mueller did not tell Barr that anything in the letter was factually wrong.”In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading. But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel’s obstruction analysis,” Kupec said.The White House did not comment on the new developments. But Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Pamela Brown: “Mueller should have made a decision and shouldn’t be complaining or whining now that he didn’t get described correctly.”Even before the new intrigue over Mueller, Barr’s testimony was part of a building constitutional imbroglio over the attorney general’s performance, which also includes increasing stonewalling by the White House of Democratic investigative efforts and a rush of private litigation by the President to cloak his business history.The multiple confrontations consolidate around a common theme that is being tested in Congress and the nation’s courtrooms: How much transparency does the President owe Americans?Like everything in the Donald Trump era, the moment is tortured by angry political divides — one reason why this debate over presidential power will be long and possibly inconclusive.Democrats see a duty to investigate and constrain, and some even want to remove Trump over what they view as a documented record of corruption and obstruction in and out of office.”I think the President has escalated the conflict with Congress,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat of Maryland and a member of the House Oversight Committee, told CNN. “The obstructionism that we read about the Mueller report has come galloping off the pages and right onto our front doorstep.”Republicans, eager for their own political preservation with Trump’s base, view the oversight war as impeachment in disguise and an example of overreach they can exploit electorally.”Most Americans think it’s over, want to move on,” Senate Republican Majority Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.Fight to dominate 2020 election The strategic battle lines of the fight that will dominate Capitol Hill until the 2020 election are becoming clear.Democrats believe there is a mountain of evidence to highlight in the Mueller report, even though the special counsel did not establish conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia and did not draw prosecutorial conclusions on obstruction.A new CNN report on Tuesday, for example, found at least 77 instances where Trump’s staff, administration aides, family members, GOP backers and associates lied or made false assertions (sometimes intentionally) to the public.The plurality of falsehoods came from Trump himself. Many experts also believe conduct revealed by the President in Volume Two of the report does add up to obstruction of justice.Democrats are not just picking over ground plowed by Mueller.They are also using the power of their House majority to discomfort the President by digging into his past personal and business finances — a crossed red line that infuriates him.The White House has adopted a position of maximum resistance. It has blocked testimony from key aides and slow rolled demands for documents. The Treasury Department has missed two deadlines to respond to a House committee chairman’s demands for Trump’s tax returns.The accompanying political strategy with an eye on the 2020 election, is to portray Democrats as crazed by power.”The harassment of Bill Barr and the disrespect is completely disgraceful,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News on Tuesday. “I think it’s outrageous they want to play the system.”‘Delay, Delay, Delay’Ultimately, the President’s strategy appears to be to mire the Democrats oversight offensive in so many procedural and legal tangles that it struggles to produce — at least until 2020.It’s a bet that Democrats fear the political consequences of pushing for impeachment — since they are divided on the question — and will therefore not have sufficient leverage to hold the President to account.That reasoning may partly explain Trump’s latest gambit, a lawsuit — along with three of his children, to stop two banks handing over financial records to congressional committees.The suit contends that subpoenas sent to Deutsche Bank and Capital One were meant to harass Trump and to rummage and ferret through his personal life to “cause him political damage.”This is not the first time Trump restarted to a private legal strategy to thwart Democratic investigations.Last week, he and the Trump Organization sued his accounting firm Mazars USA and the House Oversight Committee to stop other financial records being turned over.CNN’s Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, Laura Jarrett, Jeremy Herb, Pam Brown and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.
Deepika Padukone: Bollywood star questioned in drugs case
Publishedduration19 minutes agoimage copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionDeepika Padukone is one of Bollywood’s highest-paid starsBollywood star Deepika Padukone is being questioned by India’s narcotics board in an investigation linked to the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.Padukone is among six people to be summoned – two other actresses will also be questioned on Saturday.Rajput’s girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly buying drugs for him – claims she has denied.The case has fuelled months of media coverage and speculation in India.Actresses Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor are among those who will be questioned on Saturday, according to news reports. Another actress, Rakul Preet Singh, was questioned on Friday. Rajput, 34, was found dead in his flat in Mumbai on 14 June. Police at the time said he had killed himself.But his family later registered a police complaint against Chakraborty, accusing her of abetment to suicide and other crimes, all of which she has denied.The case is now being investigated by three federal agencies.With investigators drip-feeding nuggets of information to the media, rumours and conjecture over what happened and who is responsible have been rife. What is the case?The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) seems to be pursuing two investigations – the first into Rhea Chakraborty, her brother and Rajput’s former house manager. All three were arrested for allegedly organising and financing the actor’s alleged consumption of cannabis. They have denied any wrongdoing. The second investigation, which followed on from the first, is into claims of widespread use of drugs in Bollywood, according to local media. image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionActress Sara Ali Khan is among those summoned by the narcotics agencyOfficials have been sparing with the details of the investigation, which has only added to the air of mystery. Within days of Rajput’s death, attention switched to Chakraborty, who found herself at the centre of a storm of allegations and conspiracy theories. As part of their investigation, NCB officials said they were looking into WhatsApp chat messages in which Chakraborty was supposedly discussing narcotics. While marijuana is illegal in India, a derivative of it – called bhang – is legal and commonly used. What does Deepika Padukone have to do with it?It’s not really clear yet. Narcotics officials say their questioning is based on WhatsApp chats involving Padukone and her managers, according to local media reports. But it’s still unclear what these messages contain.Some say she’s being targeted because in January she visited a university where a group of students had been attacked on campus allegedly by a mob of rival students linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP supporters had accused the actress of cynically mining publicity for her new film and on Twitter, they had asked people to boycott it.image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionSushant Singh Rajput started dating Chakraborty in 2019Social media users have also been asking why only actresses – and not actors – have been called in for questioning. But a case that began with an investigation into an actor’s death has spiralled into something else altogether in the weeks since. And now with a string of Bollywood insiders in sudden focus, the media circus around the case has only grown, taking over national headlines and social media feeds in the country. What has the reaction been?The aggressive approach of television channels has led many to point out the absurdity of their coverage.Over months, the media have spared none of the people around Rajput – his therapist, friends, family, colleagues and even his former cook have all been sought out for interviews and exclusives.And with a lack of official information, news channels have spent hours dissecting what little, seemingly random, details are leaked. In an attempt to show that Chakraborty was supposedly involved in Rajput’s finances, one television channel tried to interpret alleged messages from her phone. image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionChakraborty has been hounded by the mediaThe anchor pointed to one such message, which said “Imma bounce”, and concluded that this meant a bounced cheque – much to the amusement of social media users, who quickly pointed out that this was millennial slang for “I’m going to leave”. While the unyielding media focus has prompted laughs and memes online, it has also spurred plenty of criticism.Many have questioned whether all the hours spent on this have distracted people from other pressing issues India is battling at the moment – a Covid-19 caseload that is the second-highest in the world, an economy that has sharply contracted and rapidly deteriorating relations with China.
Kentucky’s only Black female legislator arrested in Breonna Taylor protest
(CNN)Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott, the state’s only Black female legislator, was among 24 people arrested Thursday by the Louisville Metro Police Department during Breonna Taylor protests, the Democratic lawmaker confirmed to CNN after her release from custody Friday morning.Scott — who in August had pre-filed legislation to end the use of no-knock warrants in…
(CNN)Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott, the state’s only Black female legislator, was among 24 people arrested Thursday by the Louisville Metro Police Department during Breonna Taylor protests, the Democratic lawmaker confirmed to CNN after her release from custody Friday morning.Scott — who in August had pre-filed legislation to end the use of no-knock warrants in Kentucky, known as “Breonna’s Law” — and her 19-year-old daughter Ashanti were charged with unlawful assembly, failure to disperse, and rioting, police records show.”I’m very traumatized,” Scott said. She says she’s innocent of all charges and was peacefully seeking authorized sanctuary at a church before the curfew time.According to police, a group of protestors began “causing damage” in downtown Louisville — including breaking windows of a restaurant and tossing a flare into a library — before the county-wide 9 p.m. curfew kicked in.”Protestors made their way to the First Unitarian Church at 809 S 4th Street. People gathered on the property of the church, which allowed them to stay there as the curfew had expired,” a police department statement said.Scott says she was arrested at 8:58 p.m., two minutes before the curfew started, as she and other protesters crossed the street to seek sanctuary at the church. “How could I have been breaking curfew before curfew even began?” she asked.The curfew, enacted by Mayor Greg Fischer on Wednesday ahead of the announcement by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron on a grand jury decision in the Taylor case, doesn’t apply to those commuting to houses of worship.”In Breonna’s name, neither I or my teenage daughter who was arrested with me tried to burn down a library that our people need,” Scott said at a press conference earlier Thursday morning. “Those are some ridiculous charges that are levied against us.”Scott recorded video of herself walking to the First Unitarian Church of Louisville, showing police officers and police vans on street corners as they walked past a library on their way towards the church.Five minutes into the video, Scott and fellow demonstrators were blocked by a group of police in the street between them and the church.”Where do you want us to go?” the video shows Scott yelling out to police, some in riot gear. Three minutes later an officer approaches Scott.”Ma’am is your phone recording?” the officer said.”Yes, it is,” she replies.”You might want to turn it off so it doesn’t get broke, OK? Turn it off and put it in your pocket, okay? Alright, go ahead and turn it off and put it in your pocket, I’m trying to be as nice as I can,” the officer says before the video cuts off.In a press conference Friday afternoon, LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder explained an “unlawful assembly” was declared because members of a protest group had started damaging property.”Even though this was prior to curfew, it means people must disperse,” he said.”An extra responsibility” to fight for justiceScott beat a 34-year incumbent in 2016 to become the first Black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in Kentucky’s legislature. She says she’s a certified anti-racism trainer and has a background in community organizing and civic engagement.”That’s who I am at core, so it’s natural,” she says about protesting, but the 48-year-old says she had never been arrested before Thursday night.”I actively tried never to be in that position,” she said. When asked if she regrets getting arrested with her daughter Thursday night, she said, “Absolutely not.”Thursday wasn’t the first time Scott and Ashanti, a McConnell Scholar at the University of Louisville, protested together.Scott said the two came out May 29, when outcry over the shooting reached a boiling point. Gunfire erupted during protests in Louisville and audio was released of Taylor’s boyfriend’s call to 911 the night she was killed.”That’s when I decided to dedicate my everything to seek justice for her, and with Breonna’s mother,” Scott said.On Wednesday it was announced the grand jury would not indict any LMPD officers for the death of Breonna Taylor. Instead, one officer who allegedly fired shots into her apartment was indicted on first-degree wanton endangerment charges, because some of the shots went into a neighboring apartment.”I was, I am heartbroken, disappointed but not surprised,” she said when asked about the Jefferson County grand jury’s decision. “It’s just very clear justice was not served for Breonna Taylor, her family and the community.””The real heartbreaking thing is my daughter said, ‘Mom, I wanted to be an EMT to help people and see things on the ground level but now I don’t know that’s the case, because being an EMT didn’t save Breonna Taylor.”Scott plans to continue protesting.”I’m a mom, I’ve communicated with Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother, and I have the responsibility as a woman, a Black woman, a mother, to keep the fight going,” she said.Scott spoke with CNN before joining Taylor’s family, their attorneys and social activists in a news conference that called for the attorney general to release documents related to his office’s investigation into the case.”This is just the beginning of our work moving from protest to politics,” she told CNN.
Analysis: Trump has trashed European confidence in the US. The damage might be irreparable
London (CNN)It’s no secret that Donald Trump is no big fan of the European Union. Over the past four years, the US President has talked positively about Brexit and claimed that the bloc was created in order to “take advantage of the United States.” So it’s perhaps no great surprise that several of his ambassadors…
London (CNN)It’s no secret that Donald Trump is no big fan of the European Union. Over the past four years, the US President has talked positively about Brexit and claimed that the bloc was created in order to “take advantage of the United States.” So it’s perhaps no great surprise that several of his ambassadors to several European nations have behaved in ways that are not exactly diplomatic, in the traditional sense. Earlier this week, it emerged that Pete Hoekstra, the US ambassador to the Netherlands, hosted an event at his embassy for Forum for Democracy (FvD), a far-right, anti-immigration and anti-EU party that is gaining popularity in the country. Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, which first reported on the event, described it as a fundraiser for the party. A US state department spokesperson told CNN that this event was not a fundraiser, but a “town hall discussion and Q&A session” with FvD. They added that during his stint in the Netherlands, Hoekstra has hosted “15 town halls with eight different parties,” suggesting that this event with FvD was nothing unusual. Not everyone agrees. “Hosting a political party event, fundraiser or not, you can see it as political support from the United States for a particular point of view. Normally, diplomacy is about government-to-government interactions, not promoting particular viewpoints and giving the impression of having political allies,” said Marietje Schaake, a former Dutch MEP and international policy director at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center. “The Trump administration has shown time and again that its allies are the Euroskeptics like [Nigel] Farage and FvD, not the governments of the day,” Schaake added. Hoekstra is just one of a number of divisive ambassadors appointed in Europe by Trump who appear to be eroding trans-Atlantic ties, enraging their hosts and representing Trump’s personal interests in Europe. “Europe has traditionally been a place where political appointees go, but usually it’s understood that they represent the US government,” said Tyson Barker, a former US State Department official in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. “What we have seen since 2016 is people representing Trump and his personal interests, rather than the US.” CNN recently reported that Woody Johnson, Trump’s ambassador to UK, was being investigated after allegations that he’d used his position to lobby for the British Open golf tournament to be held on one of Trump’s golf courses. Asked about the specific allegations, Johnson did not deny them and called it an “honor of a lifetime” to serve as ambassador. After the publication of CNN’s report, Johnson tweeted, “I have followed the ethical rules and requirements of my office at all times.” Trump said he “never spoke to Woody Johnson about doing that.”Johnson has also been open in his support of Brexit, suggesting it presents an opportunity for the UK and the US to grow closer, claiming this would strengthen Britain’s hand when dealing with the EU. This pattern has also been noticed in Germany, where former ambassador Richard Grenell waded into territory that diplomats traditionally avoid, such as tweeting that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” within hours of starting the job. Trump’s hard line on Iran has been particularly difficult for the EU to swallow, as the nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew was originally signed under the auspices of the EU, its most significant triumph on the geopolitical stage. Grenell also gave an interview to right-wing outlet Breitbart, where he said he wanted “to empower other conservatives throughout Europe.” Given the role of a diplomat is to deal with whichever government represents the country they are in, to speak so unambiguously about your political preference is highly unusual. Under Trump’s presidency, the US has also strengthened its relationship with EU countries that are generally considered to be delinquent member states, threatening the bloc’s unity. Most notably, Trump praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during his trip to the White House last year. Orban “has done a tremendous job in so many different ways. Highly respected, respected all over Europe. Probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s OK,” Trump said at the time. Orban spent the past decade presiding over assaults on his nation’s courts, academic institutions, central bank and press. The EU is currently investigating these assaults and could yet punish Orban by removing some of his rights at an EU level. The message has been well and truly received in Brussels. “Are there any EU-US relations left? The official political line is whatever the differences, there is more that unites us. But if you look at it properly, there are only divisions,” said one senior EU official. “Under Trump, it seems they never miss a chance to try and undermine the EU. They take radical action in areas of joint interest without consulting us, such as on Iran, moving the [US] embassy [to] Jerusalem. There is a growing sense that we simply cannot rely on the US in the same way as before,” the official added. In the eyes of many in Europe, the ambassadors appointed to key nations by Trump are consistent with a larger shift in EU-US relations. “Trump and his diplomats have given the impression that they want to punish the EU for some reason or another,” one German diplomat told CNN. “There is a huge internal debate over whether we can collaborate with the US anymore, even if [Joe] Biden wins, because they are just too unreliable.” The diplomat believes that the decline in relations began prior to Trump taking office. “In my experience, many of the younger politicians now in DC have a view of foreign policy shaped by 9/11 and the war on terror, not World War Two. They don’t really care about Germany or Europe anymore.” Barker explained that this new view of the US has changed what kind of relationship Europeans now want from the transatlantic partnership. “The transition from Bush to Obama to Trump has solidified the European view that America can pivot dramatically every eight years. The question is, how do you safeguard against this when you know the next President could be Kid Rock?” The EU official said that calm minds in Brussels are already trying to answer that question. “From the second we knew Trump was to be President, we started to see it as an opportunity to be more independent in certain areas like defense and geopolitics. You can see already how we are taking a dramatically different approach to China, Russia and Iran than the US.” None of this is to say that the EU is seeking to drift from the US, but many feel now isn’t a bad time for Europe to start thinking more about itself and its place in the world. “I hope the relationship can be repaired, of course. The transatlantic relationship is robust. But the ability for the two sides to work together, both bilaterally and as a united front on the global stage, has been undermined by the Trump administration,” said Schaake. “What that’s done is made the case for a more autonomous, actively geopolitical EU much more of a priority.” CNN contacted the US State Department to ask if it agreed or disagreed with the assertion that American diplomacy under this administration has treated the EU as less of an ally than before. It declined to comment. The crux of the problem for many in Brussels is a growing sense that maintaining or strengthening the transatlantic alliance is less of a priority for US than American interests elsewhere in the world. There is a perception that DC now wants a more transactional relationship with Brussels, which would ultimately see Europeans defer to US priorities on trade, NATO funding and diplomacy For a continent that has for decades relied on its bigger brother as it recovered from some of the bloodiest wars in history, that presents a potentially alarming new reality: This is it, you really are on your own.