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Mueller has evidence secret Trump transition meeting was a backchannel to Russia — contradicting adviser’s testimony: report

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A witness cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller has revealed that a meeting just before President Donald Trump’s inauguration in the Seychelles was intended to set up a backchannel between his administration and Russia — contrary to testimony given to congressional investigators.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that businessman George Nader told Mueller’s team the January 2017 meeting he attended on the Indian ocean island between a Russian official and Erik Prince, the founder of weapons manufacturer Blackwater, was meant to establish unofficial communications between the two countries. When testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Prince characterized the meeting as a chance encounter.

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Prince has maintained in the press and before lawmakers that the Seychelles meeting between himself and Kirill Dmitriev, a banker with a Russian government-controlled wealth fund, was “an unplanned, unimportant encounter that came about by chance because he happened to be at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean island nation with officials from the United Arab Emirates,” the Post noted.

Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, is an adviser to the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and was at the Seychelles meeting to “represent” the royal. Nader has met repeatedly with Mueller’s investigators, and has been cooperating with them since January after being served with a subpoena by the FBI in Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport. The special counsel is reportedly investigating whether Nader funneled money from the UAE to Trump’s campaign.

The Post‘s report also noted that Nader attended a December 2016 meeting between senior Trump officials and bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and according to the New York Times made “frequent visits” to the White House in the early months of the Trump administration to meet with senior advisers Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon to discuss Persian Gulf diplomacy.

Last May, the Post reported that Kushner also sought a Russian backchannel during the Trump transition — a move commentators noted he likely didn’t make on his own.

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Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.

"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.

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Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.

The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."

"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.

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Shep Smith blasts autocrats in first public remarks since leaving Fox News — and donates $500,000 to protect journalists

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On Thursday, for the first time since exiting Fox News, reporter Shepard Smith gave public comments at the International Press Freedom Awards — and used the occasion to blast autocratic leaders who use their power to suppress journalism.

"Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,” said Smith. "Our belief a decade ago that the online revolution would liberate us now seems a bit premature, doesn’t it? Autocrats have learned how to use those same online tools to shore up their power. They flood the world of information with garbage and lies, masquerading as news. There’s a phrase for that."

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