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Trump’s hypersensitivity is encouraging Russian interference in US elections: report

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Although special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation found that the 2016 Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians did not rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy, Mueller’s final report left no doubt that Russian government operatives went to great lengths to interfere in that presidential election. And cybersecurity experts are warning that Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election could also be a major problem for the United States. But journalist Eric Lutz, in an article published by Vanity Fair this week, reports that President Trump’s hypersensitivity on this subject and his “fragile ego” are getting in the way of efforts to protect U.S. elections from Russian interference.

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One of the things that frustrated former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the president, according to the New York Times, was his reluctance to discuss cybersecurity with her. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Lutz notes, asked Nielsen to refrain from bringing up Russian interference in U.S. elections during meetings with the president—as it was a sore subject with him.

“Trump’s election-meddling angst has long been a pain point for his administration,” Lutz reports. “The president has consistently cast doubt on the extent of Russia’s 2016 interference, going so far as to take (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence officials.”

Lutz reports that Trump deeply resents “the notion that he didn’t beat” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “all by himself” in 2016 and had any outside help. Regardless, Lutz adds, Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election is “already being deployed” against Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris and other Democratic primary candidates. And Trump Administration decisions like the elimination of a White House cybersecurity director position “may have kneecapped the government’s ability to address the problem, even as 2020 looms,” Lutz observes.

Lutz concludes his Vanity Fair piece with a quote from Kevin Carroll, a former Department of Homeland Security official who told the New York Times, “Russian intelligence’s 2016 covert actions to divide Americans by interfering in our election were so successful. Putin will amplify them in 2020.”

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Google pledges new $10 billion investment in US in 2020

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Google said Wednesday it would invest more than $10 billion in US offices and data centers in 2020, including its new campus planned for New York City and projects in 10 other states.

The pledge comes on top of some $22 billion invested by the US tech giant unit over the past two years.

"These investments will create thousands of jobs -- including roles within Google, construction jobs in data centers and renewable energy facilities, and opportunities in local businesses in surrounding towns and communities," said a blog post by Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google parent Alphabet.

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Devin Nunes’ income called into question as watchdog asks for investigation of his finances

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According to a report from the Fresno Bee,the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center is requesting a federal investigation into whether U.S. Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) is receiving legal services in violation of House ethics rules.

Over the past year, the conservative Republicans has launched a handful of lawsuits against critics -- including the McClatchy newspaper chain and a person on Twitter purporting to be one of his cows.

According to the Bee, "The complaint says Nunes appears to be in 'blatant violation of House rules,' because he would have trouble paying for all these lawsuits solely from his congressional salary of $174,000 per year. The group argues he’d only be able to pay if he received legal services for free, at a discounted rate, or based on a contingency fee, meaning the lawyer would get compensated from Nunes’ winnings if he prevails in his lawsuits."

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Americans ramp up new home buying in January

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New US homes continued to sell at a brisk pace in January, with sales hitting the highest level since July 2007 as builders struggled to keep pace, according to government data released Wednesday.

The better-than-expected results in the Census Bureau report showed the jump in new home sales that began last year had not tapered off in the first month of 2020, sending prices spiking.

Sales of single-family homes jumped in to an annual rate of 764,000, seasonally adjusted, an increase of 7.9 percent from December 2019, according to the report.

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