<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego Politics and Political News]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/politics http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego https://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usSat, 21 Jul 2018 05:05:33 -0700Sat, 21 Jul 2018 05:05:33 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Mueller's Team Wants to Talk to Me, Says 'Manhattan Madam']]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 15:03:46 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/madAP_951763286835.jpg

The "Manhattan Madam" who boasted of providing prostitutes to New York's rich and famous, including Gov. Eliot Spitzer, says someone in special counsel Robert Mueller's office called her attorney Thursday to ask her to speak to investigators.

Kristin Davis, 41, said the Mueller representative asked if she would accept a subpoena or if the FBI would need to serve it to her, NBC News reported.

She said her lawyer called the representative back Friday to say she would accept it.




Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The Uproar Around Putin's Request to Work With US, Explained]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 11:33:36 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_110705167077-Sergei-Magnitsky.jpg

Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer of mutual assistance in criminal investigations with the United States this week might have sounded diplomatic — President Donald Trump called it an "incredible offer" on Monday and the White House took it seriously.

But in Congress and the diplomatic community, it was received like a bat to the head. Many argued that by cooperating Trump would be exposing Americans serving their country to made-up charges just for doing their jobs. And on Thursday, after days of bipartisan backlash, the White House officially shot the idea down.

Behind Putin's offer appears to be an focus on a six-year-old U.S. sanctions law called the Magnitsky Act.

In making the proposal at Monday's summit in Helsinki, Putin said that Russia would be interested in questioning people connected to William Browder, an American-born British banker who successfully pushed the U.S. to enact the bill in response to the death of a Russian whistleblowing lawyer who'd worked for Browder.

The Magnitsky Act sanctions Russians linked to Sergei Magnitsky's death and other gross violations of human rights as a way of combating corruption. The sanctions are now believed to have affected Putin's personal finances, and some people — including the man who implemented them at the State Department — have linked the Kremlin to a Russian lawyer lobbying the Trump campaign to remove the sanctions at a June 2016.

"The Russians have gone to enormous lengths to undermine the Magnitsky Act," said former U.S. Ambassador to Poland and career diplomat Daniel Fried, who was in charge of implementing the act as the State Department's sanctions coordinator starting in early 2013.

Here is more about the Magnitsky Act and how it ties into the Trump-Putin summit:

WHO WAS SERGEI MAGNITSKY?
He was a Russian tax lawyer working for Browder, a heavyweight hedge fund manager whose Russian firm was raided by federal investigators when he began speaking out against corruption that was becoming endemic in the country. 

Browder wanted to investigate, so he hired Magnitsky, a father of two whom Browder has testified was "the smartest Russian lawyer I knew." Magnitsky found that $230 million the firm had paid the government had been diverted to holding companies re-registered to a known criminal. When Magnitsky filed complaints about it, he was arrested by the same law enforcement officers he alleged took the money.

Magnitsky was imprisoned, held without trial, denied medical care, beaten and left to die in 2009 at 37. He was convicted posthumously along with Browder, who was tried in absentia. Amnesty International called the posthumous trial "kafkaesque."

Browder took up Magnitsky's cause with the U.S. government, hoping to bring accountability to Russia. His lobbying resulted in the Magnitsky Act, short for the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act of 2012.

According to the law, what happened to Magnitsky "appears to be emblematic of a broader pattern of disregard for the numerous domestic and international human rights commitments of the Russian Federation and impunity for those who violate basic human rights and freedoms."

The act enables the U.S. president to identify people who were responsible for, concealed or benefited financially from Magnitsky's detention, abuse or death; they can no longer enter the U.S. and their assets in the U.S. are frozen. The act also enables the U.S. to sanction other Russians connected to similar violent human rights abuses against whistleblowers or others exercising human rights. You can see who's been hit with Magnitsky sanctions by searching on this page under the program "MAGNIT," a list of 49 people that includes authoritarian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Other countries have passed similar laws, including the United Kingdom and Canada. Browder has been lobbying even more nations to adopt similar rules. The U.S. followed up the Magnitsky Act in late 2016 with another bill that expands the scope of the sanctions to anyone in the world, including government officials who order or are complicit in significant corruption. 

WHY WOULD THE ACT HURT PUTIN?
The Magnitsky Act turned out to be more important than U.S. officials realized at the time, Fried said.

In 2012, Putin wasn't directly tied to the millions Browder said was taken from him, but financial documents leaked in the Panama Papers indicate he benefited through an intermediary, Fried said.

"If Putin himself was somehow involved in the looting of Browder's company and the siphoning of his funds for his own personal use," Fried said, "it explains his animus against Browder and the lengths they are willing to go" to take down the sanctions.

Fried pointed to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting as another instance of Russia lobbying to remove the Magnitsky sanctions.

In that meeting, Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer who had offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, ended up discussing a ban on U.S. citizens adopting Russian children that the Kremlin enacted as retaliation for the Magnitsky Act. Veselnitskaya once worked on a documentary that smeared Magnitsky, and she was accompanied at the meeting by a former Soviet counterintelligence officer.

The meeting, and the Trump administration's changing story on who attended and what happened, are a part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The subject of adoption also came up in a conversation between Putin and Trump a year later, when they talked privately at the G-20 in July 2017, Trump told The New York Times afterward.

"I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Trump Jr.] had in that meeting," Trump said.

Fried noted that "any time the Russians raise the issue of adoptions, what that really means is they're raising the Magnitsky Act."

There is other evidence of Russia's interest in lifting U.S. sanctions, which extend beyond the Magnitsky Act to punishment for the annexation of Crimea.

Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired for not being forthcoming about discussions he had with the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions. Flynn later pleaded guilty in the Mueller probe for lying to FBI agents about those discussions.

And Fried said last year that others at the State Department warned him that Trump's team had planned to "unilaterally rescind the sanctions on Russia." Another former diplomat told NBC News that he believes the Trump team backed off after he and Fried lobbied Congress to put the sanctions into law.

The White House had no comment at the time of that report. It has also made use of the Russian and global Magnitsky sanctions programs, listing more individuals in December 2017, which the White House touted Tuesday in a list of things Trump is doing to protect U.S. elections and stand up to Russia.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK?
Russia and the U.S. don't have an extradition treaty for suspected criminals, but Putin offered American prosecutors the chance to "come and work" with Russian investigators to question 12 Russian military intelligence officials who Mueller accused of hacking Democrats' emails in the 2016 election. He said he might ask in return to question Browder, with U.S. agents allowed to be present.

Browder and his associates, Putin claimed without evidence, donated $400 million in tax-free Russian earnings to Hillary Clinton. That is an implausibly large amount, given it would account for more than half of her campaign's spending, according to one election finance watchdog.

Browder denied that claim, saying in an essay for Time that it's one of many baseless allegations Putin has made against him, and that it shows how desperate Putin is.

"These people are ready to kill to keep their money. Losing it would be devastating," he said.

While diplomats and others called the idea of cooperating in that criminal investigation preposterous, Trump at least considered the request. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Wednesday that "there was some conversation about it, but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States."

The State Department was on a different wavelength. Minutes after Sanders spoke, a department spokeswoman called the proposal "absurd" and said she would understand why members of the diplomatic community might feel concerned about it.

That included former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, one of the people Putin was seeking to question.

He said Thursday that the U.S. shouldn't allow "the moral equivalency between what Mr. Mueller did in his indictment and this cockamamie, crazy scheme that it sounds like President Putin spun up to Trump in their private meeting and then told the world in their press conference."

Also on the Russian prosecutor general's list, as reported in Russian state media, include a Senate aide who worked on the Magnitsky Act, a CIA agent and current and former U.S. employees.

Plenty of other top American officials dismissed the offer as ridiculous, from Democrats and Republicans in Congress up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said in an interview Thursday, "It's not going to happen."

By Thursday afternoon, the White House put the issue to bed, saying, "It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it."

Still, the Senate voted 98-0 to rebuke the idea of a current or former public servant being made available for questioning by Putin's government.

Browder tweeted Friday morning that all the attention Putin brought to the Magnitsky Act was good news for his cause.

"The best by-product of Putin attacking me in Helsinki is that it showed how rattled he is by the Magnitsky Act. His public outburst will significantly increase the chances of getting 8 other countries to pass," he tweeted.

WHAT'S THE HARM IN WORKING WITH RUSSIA?
When Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, it established that the U.S. should support and assist Russians in maintaining a democracy that protects human rights and stand up against Russia's suppression of dissent and political freedoms.

Putin's attempt this week to interrogate Americans working to promote human rights in Russia is reminiscent of the way Sergei Magnitsky was silenced for speaking out, said Paul Stronski, director for Russia and Central Asia on President Barack Obama's National Security Council between 2012 and 2014 and now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"This is Russia creating at times trumped-up charges against Americans that they don't like," Stronski said. 

Fried said it was "shocking to think that the White House is even considering handing over American officials who have been accused of nothing other than good service."

Stronski called it "outrageous" and dangerous. The danger stems from taking seriously Russian charges that come with no evidence, he said — a stark contrast to the 29-page indictment that Mueller released last week. 

Trump could have avoided making the mistake if he'd prepared a response to this kind of request ahead of time or involved aides instead of meeting Putin one-on-one, according to Stronski.

"You would think Trump would also be concerned about a successor to him — are they going to go after his officials as well? But there doesn't seem to be any thought about that," he said.

As for the Magnitsky Act, Stronksi said it's not clear the legislations has been effective in achieving its goal. 

"We have not seen an improvement in Russia's human rights behavior, but I think it is a clear signal to the world that we are watching gross violations of human rights," he said, calling it a "useful tool to have in our toolkit." 



Photo Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Administration Will Keep Protected Status for Somalis]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 08:19:46 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_18081553683110.jpg

The Trump administration said Thursday that Somalis granted special immigration status in the U.S. can keep the designation, making them one of the few groups permitted to stay in the U.S. under a program that has allowed them to remain here for years.

Somalia was first designated for the special status in 1991, following the collapse of the authoritarian Siad Barre regime, and the designation had been extended in part because nationals feared returning because of the ongoing armed conflict there. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen cited the armed conflict and other extraordinary conditions in supporting the continuation of Somalia's designation for about 500 people.

But the administration will not take on new applicants, disappointing advocacy groups.

Those already with the status will be able to remain in the U.S. and will be allowed to work through March 17, 2020.

Many Somalis have settled in Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population in the U.S. Community and immigration advocates have said that returning to Somalia would be a death sentence for some and that it would separate families.

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wrote a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, urging him to extend the special status. Dayton's letter said the conditions in Somalia are treacherous, and he pointed to a recent State Department advisory that tells people to avoid traveling to Somalia because of crime, terrorism and piracy. The advisory says those who do travel to Somalia should draft a will before traveling, name a family member to be a point of contact in the event of a hostage situation and leave a DNA sample in case it is needed to identify remains.

"Under those conditions, it would be horribly 'Un-American' to force innocent people to return to Somalia, to break up many of their families, and to forgo their chances to live safe and decent lives," Dayton wrote.

Members of Congress, including Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota, also wrote to the president, urging that the status be extended.

Advocates for Somali nationals who are living in the U.S. said Thursday they are relieved that about 500 Somalis will be able to reregister to extend their protected status for 18 months, but they are disappointed the administration didn't do more. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said if the administration would have redesignated the status instead of just extending it, then more than 1,000 Somali nationals could have enrolled.

The International Rescue Committee and Muslim Advocates also expressed disappointment.

"It is not only a mistake, it is a death sentence," Muslim Advocates said in a statement.

Around 437,000 immigrants from 10 countries have had temporary protected status, a designation created in 1990 to allow people from countries ravaged by natural disasters like earthquakes or man-made disasters like war to have a short-term safe haven.

Those with it have generally been able to work and, with permission, travel outside the U.S. and return.

Countries are added to the list as circumstances warrant, with renewals coming usually around every 18 months. While some countries were removed, others have stayed on for years, which critics say turns the program into default amnesty. Other countries that had the status for long periods of time — like El Salvador or Honduras — were cut off under Trump.

The protections were never meant to be permanent.

Under Trump, the Department of Homeland Security also ended the program for Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal and Haiti. Several groups are suing to stay in the U.S.

Protections were extended for about 1,100 Yemenis and 6,900 Syrians who already have them, but the administration has said it won't take on new applicants.

Trump has said he wants to curtail legal immigration and has been cracking down broadly on illegal immigration.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsame, ,File]]>
<![CDATA[Israel 'Nation-State' Law Prompts Criticism Around the World]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 07:05:34 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_18200400182302.jpg

Israel’s “nation-state” law that was celebrated as a “defining moment” for the country by its supporters has prompted forceful protests inside the country and around the world, NBC News reported.

The law that narrowly passed early Thursday declaring only Jews have the right of self-determination was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

It was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel and, among other things, strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew.

Netanyahu said the law was "a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel." But the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest and most prominent Jewish advocacy groups, said it was "deeply disappointed" by the law, and added it "put at risk the commitment of Israel's founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic."



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Olivier Fitoussi]]>
<![CDATA[Trump's Summit Sows Anger, Confusion. What Else Is New?]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 07:08:51 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/thumb-trump-636673601087113175.jpg

President Donald Trump’s refusal to publicly condemn Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election until a wall of bipartisan criticism forced a series of White House walk-backs appears to be following a familiar script.

Possible pivotal points in his presidency leave his supporters unfazed as Trump breaks norms, forcing his advisers to struggle with the fallout.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters," Trump famously said during a 2016 campaign rally.

Yes, each time Trump has weathered the criticism. Will it be any different now?

“The only honest answer to that question is ‘Who knows?’” said Whit Ayres, the president North Star Opinion Research and an adviser to top Republicans. “Past controversies that would have sunk most presidents have had no significant effect on this president's job approval. So until there is hard evidence to the contrary, the safest bet is that this will have no effect as well.”

The latest uproar began during a press conference on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin when Trump declined to denounce election interference that U.S. intelligence agencies say was meant to benefit him over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Nor would he warn Putin against doing it again, instead repeating conspiracy theories about Clinton and the Democratic party's computer servers.

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia," Trump said. "I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

The next day, after blistering criticism from even some of the president’s most reliable supporters, Trump told reporters he had meant to say “wouldn’t be.”

“The sentence should have been, 'I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.' Sort of a double negative,” Trump said.

But even then, he contradicted U.S. intelligence agencies' assessments again by ad-libbing that others could be responsible, too — a claim he has made repeatedly and one not backed by the assessments.

On Tuesday, another Republican pollster, David Winston, called that clarification in a Roll Call op-ed “probably the best we’re going to get.”

“But Trump’s grumbling comments, his ramblings about emails, servers and rogue FBI agents, and most important, his attempt to create a moral equivalency between our intel agencies and the actions of Russia, leaves most outside observers shaking their heads,” wrote Winston, the president of The Winston Group and an adviser to congressional Republicans.

Trump’s presidency has been a series of flare-ups: the rollout of the travel ban, separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, support for Alabama Republican Roy Moore, who lost his U.S. Senate race after women came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct, Trump’s waffling over condemning white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, and calling Haiti and some African nations: “sh--hole countries.”

Polls have found that support among his core backers has stayed strong through all of the upheaval. For example, an NBC News/Survey Monkey online poll in May found that although 22 percent of Republicans say they believe Trump tells the truth only some of the time, more than half of them, or 56 percent, still approve of his work as president.

After the Helsinki summit, according to a CBS News poll released on Thursday, only about 32 percent of Americans approved of Trump's performance and 8 percent of Democrats. By contrast 68 percent of Republicans thought he had done a good job.

Crucially, among independents, only 29 percent were happy with the president.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll also conducted after the summit found that 42 percent of registered voters said they approved of Trump's performance in office, in line with a daily average of between 40 to 44 percent this month. Only 32 percent of Republicans believe that Russia tried to influence the U.S. election, compared to 84 percent of Democrats, according to the poll, released on Tuesday.

Margie Omero, a principal at GBA Strategies who has worked with hundreds of Democratic candidates, said she thought the current controversy was different from earlier ones in that those reinforced what was known about the president —that he uses hostile rhetoric when he talks about immigrants, women or communities of color.

In Helsinki, he appeared weak, a pushover who lacked a clear, strategic goal, she said.

“Obviously we’ve known for a long time that Trump has been friendly toward Putin rather than tough toward him the way he is with other world leaders, including our allies, but the display was so over the top and it also went against what his says is his strength, of being tough,” she said.

It remains to be seen whether there will be any long-term damage, she said.

Trump continued the confusion on Wednesday when asked — while reporters were being told to leave the room before a Cabinet meeting — whether Russia was still targeting the U.S.

“Thank you very much, no,” he said.

“No? You don’t believe that to be the case?”

“No.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said that Trump was saying “no” to additional questions.

The reporter who asked the question, Cecilia Vega of ABC News, tweeted: “Getting a lot of questions about my exchange with @realDonaldTrump today. Yes, he was looking directly at me when he spoke. Yes, I believe he heard me clearly. He answered two of my questions.”

By Thursday, the White House had announced Trump was inviting Putin to the White House for a second summit in the fall, seemingly defying his critics.

That Mr. Putin could be coming to Washington appeared to be news to Coats. Trump's director of national intelligence seemed stunned when NBC's Andrea Mitchell told him about the invite during a Q&A at the Aspen Security Forum. 

"Say that again?" Coats said, leaning in then laughing along with others in the room.

"OK."

He paused.

"That's gonna be special," he said to more laughter.  

Perhaps just as astonishing: Coats also acknowledged he was clueless on the specifics of what Trump and Putin talked about when the two leaders were alone together in Helsinki for two hours.    

Back in Washington on Thursday, the U.S. Senate made a rare show of bipartisan unity by passing a non-binding resolution 98-0 that the U.S. should refuse to make any former diplomat accused of interfering in Russia's domestic affairs available to Russian investigators.

Senators scrambled for the vote because Trump was considering a Russian request  to interrogate former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and other former and current American officials. Putin had offered in return to let American investigators witness interrogations of 12 Russians named and accused in an indictment Friday of hacking Democrats. Trump had termed the quid pro quo an "incredible offer." 

But as the Senate was considering its vote, Trump backed down. 

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said in a statement. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.” 

Among the critics of Trump's press conference in Helsinki has been a crucial backer, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who said the president's performance was "the most serious of his presidency." 

“President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin,” Gingrich tweeted. 

“It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected -- immediately.” 

By Tuesday, Gingrich was tweeting approvingly of Trump's walk-back, writing that the president had done the right thing by clarifying his comments and reiterating his support for Coats and the intelligence community. 

“President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used the wrong language,” he wrote. 

And Gingrich turned again to criticizing former officials for failing to stop the Russian meddling, among them the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, the former head of the CIA, John Brennan, and the fired FBI chief, James Comey.

Omero, the Democratic strategist, said Trump’s performance has been problematic for Republican leadership, his intelligence and security staff and for Republican candidates who are not sure how to speak to voters about Trump. That was part of the reason Trump tried to reverse course, she said.

“They seem inauthentic because in order to show support for their president they have to stand by embarrassing behavior and completely incomprehensible walk-back,” she said.

Winston wrote that Trump was at a crucial point in his presidency.

“He can listen to the criticism of his Helsinki comments, learn a hard lesson, rein in his shoot-from-the-hip instincts and lead — or not, and put his leadership at risk,” Winston wrote.

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<![CDATA[Fewer Than 15 Percent of Separated Migrant Kids Reunited]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 11:31:41 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Fewer_than_400_Migrant_Children_Reunited_in_Past_Week.jpg

Fewer than 400 migrant children, ages 5 to 17, have been reunited with a parent, according to the latest court filing from U.S. government attorneys. 

The joint filing was made Thursday afternoon. It’s the latest update since the ACLU successfully challenged the government’s separation of undocumented migrant children from their parents when caught crossing the U.S. border illegally. 

The court filing confirms 364 children have now been reunited with a parent. 

Another 1,600 are potentially eligible for reunification. Federal District Judge Dana Sabraw set a July 26 deadline for reunifying all families who were separated when attempting to cross the border illegally. 

Of that group, more than 800 children have been formally cleared to rejoin their parents, who are held in detention centers across the country. 

The government stated that 908 children and teenagers are not eligible for reunification or their current status is unknown. 

The Department of Justice also revealed for the first time that 136 parents have declined offers to be reunited with their children. 

Ninety-one parents were identified as having criminal records or other problems that the government said made them ineligible to be reunited with their children. 

Seven-hundred and nineteen of the 2,551 “class members” have been served with a "final order of removal" and could be deported, according to the ACLU. 

In the court filing, ACLU attorneys said the government has not given them information about families who have been released from ICE custody, deported or given final removal orders. The ACLU claims those families must be immediately informed about their options and their children’s options. 

“These parents may only have a matter of days to make the momentous decision whether to leave their child behind in the United States,” the ACLU argued. 

On Monday, Federal District Judge Dana Sabraw temporarily halted any family deportations, at the request of the ACLU. Sabraw will consider any government arguments to the contrary and could allow deportations to begin as soon as July 26. 

To read the entire court filing, click here

All of the information included in the latest court filing will be discussed before Sabraw on Friday afternoon.


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<![CDATA[Woman Empowerment Felt at Comic-Con 2018 ]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 09:39:17 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/204*120/wonderwoman2345.JPG

Just strolling through the Exhibit Hall of Comic-Con this year, you can see it: more booths, bags, and banners displaying strong females. 

Women in downtown San Diego agreed on the opening day of Comic-Con Thursday that the influence of the #MeToo Movement could be felt at the event. 

"The panels I'm able to go to this year compared to the first year I came are incredible," said Donica Hart, a Comic-Con attendee. "I'm going to one on the importance of women in comics and another one on body diversity." 

Other women said they felt more comfortable dressing in cosplay costumes that were once reserved for men: outfits showing off Superman, Batman, and others. 

"One gentleman earlier actually asked permission before putting his arm around me for a photo," said cosplayer Maureen Dawson. "That was something new and I liked that." 

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System is hopping on board as well. This year they have four collectible trolley passes all featuring cartoon females and designed by women. 

"All the designers at MTS are women," said Marcial Gutierrez of MTS. "They were inspired by the #MeToo Movement and female empowerment." 

You don't need a badge to see all the female-inspired exhibits this year. For a list of things to do outside the convention center, click here.

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<![CDATA[Rosenstein Details DOJ Efforts to Fight Election Meddling]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 17:52:25 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/919082458-Rod-Rosenstein-Announcement-DOJ.jpg

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released a detailed Justice Department report Thursday describing efforts to combat foreign manipulation of American elections.

The document offered no major new policy initiatives, but described the nature of foreign influence operations and the efforts by the Justice Department and the FBI to monitor, expose and, in some cases, prosecute those involved.

The report, according to NBC News, focused exclusively on the activities of the Justice Department, even while acknowledging that 'the malign foreign influence threat" requires "a unified, strategic approach across all government agencies."



Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Trump: I'll Be Putin's 'Worst Enemy' If Things Go Bad]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 14:47:14 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1000144046.jpg

President Donald Trump vowed Thursday that if his dealings with Russian leader Vladimir Putin don't "work out, I'll be the worst enemy he's ever had."

Trump made the statement during an interview at the White House with CNBC's Joe Kernen that will air in full Friday at 6 a.m. ET on "Squawk Box."

In the same interview, Trump blasted his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for having been a "total patsy" for Russia — while claiming he has been "far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years."

But Trump also said he valued the opportunity to improve the United States' relationship to Russia, even after American intelligence agencies have said that Russia repeatedly tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mueller's Investigation Not a Witch Hunt, Spicer Says]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 08:46:26 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/071918seanspicer.jpg

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during an interview with “Today” on Thursday that he doesn’t believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 election is a witch hunt.

Spicer also said there has been "no evidence" that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. 

When asked about Mueller’s investigation, which is ongoing, Spicer said he does believe Russia meddled in the election. He didn’t criticize Trump for his remarks Monday during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said he had no reason to believe Russia would have interfered Monday before walking back on his comments Tuesday.



Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Coats Says He Wishes Trump Hadn't Met Alone With Putin ]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 13:48:18 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-928063560.jpg

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said Thursday he wished President Donald Trump had not met alone with Vladimir Putin of Russia.

In an extraordinary acknowledgement, the nation's spy chief said he had no idea what was said in the Helsinki summit Monday between Trump and the Russian president, NBC News reported.

"If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way," Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum. "But that's not my role, that's not my job…it is what it is."



Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Russia Continues to Sow Discord in US: Wray ]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 19:01:02 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/wrayAP_18179567101148.jpg

FBI Director Chris Wray suggested on Wednesday that he has previously threatened to resign — and pushed back against President Donald Trump's recent comments that cast doubt on Russian interference in the election.

"My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in maligned influence operations to this day," Wray told NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt at the Aspen Security Forum.

Wray also reaffirmed his position backing the U.S. intelligence community's finding that Russia interfered in the U.S. election



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Did Trump Deny Russia Is Still Targeting US? New Dispute Over ‘No’]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:13:34 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DIT_NAT_TRUMP_RUSSIA_NO_071818-153193732194500002.jpg

Asked at the White House if Russia is still targeting the United States, President Donald Trump appeared to say “no.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump was saying “no” to answering questions.

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<![CDATA[Kavanaugh Said He’d Overturn Independent Counsel Precedent]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:46:27 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/071618kavanaugh.jpg

Two years before President Donald Trump nominated him to a seat on the Supreme Court, federal appeals courts Judge Brett Kavanaugh said he believes the legal precedent that allows for independent counsels to investigate government officials for federal crimes should be overturned, NBC News reports.

When asked about cases he believes should be overturned, Kavanaugh cited Morrison v. Olson, a Supreme Court ruling upholding a 1978 law that creates a system for independent counsels to investigate and potentially prosecute government officials for federal crimes. 

Kavanaugh was quoted as saying "It's been effectively overruled, but I would put the final nail in" at an event for conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. 

After the law expired, new regulations allowed for the appointment of "special counsels," but unlike independent counsels, special counsels answer to the U.S. attorney general. The president's campaign is under investigation by a special counsel, Robert Mueller, as part of the ongoing federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

CORRECTION (July 28, 2018, 3:43 p.m. ET): A headline on an earlier version of this story mischaracterized Kavanaugh's comments. He was talking about the legal precedent that allows for independent counsels.



Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Covert Russian Agent Maria Butina Arrested: AP Explains]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 08:02:48 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/221*120/Screen+Shot+2018-07-19+at+11.01.00+AM.png

A 29-year-old gun-rights activist served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations, federal prosecutors charged Monday.

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<![CDATA[Americans Becoming More Anti-Russia Under Trump: Poll]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 08:53:16 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/071818trumpputin.jpg

Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe Russia is unfriendly or an enemy of the American people, a nine percent increase from a year ago, according to an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll.

Poll data was collected before President Donald Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During a news conference, Trump came under bipartisan criticism for failing to back the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. He attempted to walk back his comments Tuesday.

Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning participants believe Russia presents the greatest immediate threat to the U.S. Ten percent of Republicans said the same.



Photo Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Calls NATO Ally Montenegro 'Very Aggressive']]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 08:28:30 -0700 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_18193381933513-President-Donald-Trump-NATO-.jpg

Montenegro, a U.S. ally that is smaller than Connecticut and about as populous as Baltimore, found itself in President Donald Trump's cross hairs late Tuesday as he once again criticized NATO, NBC News reported.

The president suggested during an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson that he would be unhappy defending "tiny" Montenegro if it were attacked, calling into question NATO's central principle of mutual defense.

Trump also questioned whether the country's "very aggressive people" could draw NATO into a war with Russia.

Carlson had asked why his son would have to defend Montenegro should it be attacked. Trump replied that was a good question and said that Montenegro "may get aggressive, and congratulations you're in World War III."

Trump's comments come as 14 people are standing trial in Montenegro, accused of plotting to kill the prime minister and stage a coup to bring a pro-Russian party to power.



Photo Credit: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP]]>