Sunday, March 18, 2018

African Envoys Hail Free Trade Area for Boosting Trade
2018/3/18 7:52:51

African ambassadors to the African Union (AU) on Saturday stressed importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to intra-African trade on the sidelines of an ongoing AU extraordinary summit.

During the the AU's extraordinary summit on the AfCFTA, which kicked off Saturday in Rwanda's Kigali, many of them also said their countries are ready to embrace the AfCFTA.

African leaders are expected to sign an agreement to launch the AfCFTA on March 21, the last day of the summit, according to the AU.

"Africa has a great business potential to offer to millions of its citizens, but the continent has not been able to unlock its business potential due to limited trading opportunities existing among African economies," said Evariste Koffi Yapi, Permanent Representative of Cote d'Ivoire to the AU.

Creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businessmen and investments will thus boost intra-African trade and the prosperity of Africa, Yapi told Xinhua.

He added that the AfCFTA will significantly contribute to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction, employment generation and better integration of the continent.

"My country was ready to make it possible for the AfCFTA agenda to be successful for the better future of Africa," said Yapi.

According to Gairy M. Saddigh, Permanent Representative of Libya to the AU, the AfCFTA will contribute immensely to opening up trading opportunities among African economies, which will significantly increase exports and imports through intra-regional trade.

"We all know the opportunities trade can offer for development and growth. Creation of a single African market will enhance competitiveness of African local industries and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production and better reallocation of resources," he told Xinhua.

The AfCFTA will create huge market potential for African goods and services, which would help Africa boost industrial development, promote economic transformation and create prosperity, said Ndumiso Ntshinga, South African Permanent Representative to the AU.

"The South African government is ready to implement the process and utilize opportunities accruing from the African single market," he said.
China Hands Over Disaster Risk Reduction Projects to Malawi Communities
2018/3/17 19:43:47

China has handed over projects to disaster-prone regions of Malawi to help them build resilience and reduce effects of the disasters.

The handover ceremony held in Kombeza area, a disaster-prone area in central Malawi's Salima district, about 93 kilometers from the capital Lilongwe, was attended by Clement Chintu Phiri, Secretary to the Vice-President and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Chinese Ambassador to Malawi Wang Shiting as well as United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres.

Launched in June 2016, the Disaster Risk Reduction Small Grants Scheme was supporting poor and vulnerable communities in 15 identified disaster prone districts and was a trilateral pilot project being undertaken by the Malawian government, with the technical and financial support of the Chinese government and the UNDP.

Among the projects are four evacuation centers, a dyke and two check dams meant to hold water.

In his remarks, the Malawian government official thanked China and the UNDP for the project, saying they will go a long way in building resilience in communities against disasters.

He said tackling disasters was expensive and unsustainable without the support of the cooperating partners.

He especially singled out the construction of evacuation centers as it will stop the tendency of taking people to facilities such as schools when there was no a disaster and that the facilities will also be used for other issues in the communities.

He commended the support the Malawian government has continued to receive from China, saying this has contributed to the uplifting of people's living standards.

On his part, the Chinese envoy thanked all the partners in the project and promised to continue working with authorities in coming up with projects to benefit the local people.

He said China's collaboration with the UNDP in the project has been a successful, adding that the disaster risk reduction project will help the communities build resilience and reduce effects of disasters.

China, he said, has always been ready to support Malawi in times of disasters and that the Chinese government provided 600,000 U.S. dollars after the disaster caused by climate change in 2015 as well as 10,000 tons of rice to tackle hunger caused by food shortages.

He further said Chinese enterprises have also been supporting the government in times of disasters.

The UNDP representative said the project was due to partnership of the governments of China and Malawi as well as the communities and that as a pilot project, other countries will also be looking at the success of the project to replicate it.

She said many parts of Malawi were prone to disasters which affected between 300 to 500 people each year and that the project will support about 23,000 people.
Chinese-built Second Highest Dam in Rwanda to Benefit Farming Sector: Official
2018/3/16 8:48:37

The recently completed Muyanza Dam in central Rwanda will benefit farmers and help grow crops for exports, a Rwandan official said on Thursday.

The 26-meter-high Muyanza Dam located in Rulindo District, Northern Province was built by China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) and financed by the World Bank. Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project and the Third Rural Sector Support Project (LWH-RSSP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources of Rwanda is the employer of the project.

The dam is the second highest in Rwanda and the country's highest and largest earth fill dam in the agriculture sector, Esdras Byiringiro, Acting Project Coordinator of LWH-RSSP, told Xinhua in an interivew.

The dam is expected to retain enough water to irrigate 1,100 hectares of crop fields throughout the year which will benefit all categories of farmers, said Byiringiro, adding that those include commercial, small- and medium-scale farmers.

A number of high-value legumes, grain and horticultural crops will be grown by farmers in the area, of which a significant portion will be for export markets, he said.

The irrigated area to be served by this dam is the largest consolidated hillside area in Rwanda, said the official.

Dams construction, irrigation schemes and marshland rehabilitation conducted by Chinese companies have helped the government of Rwanda to implement irrigation projects across the country, which has led to an increase in agricultural productivity and a significant rise in farmers' incomes and livelihoods, said the coordinator.

Since entering the market of Rwanda in 1999, CGC has completed 13 irrigation and water conservancy projects in the landlocked country.
China Railway Technology Helps Boost African Integration: Congolese Minister
2018/3/13 21:16:17

China's railway technology is beneficial to boosting integration, trade and industrialization in Africa, said Minister of Territorial Management and Major Projects of the Republic of Congo Jean-Jacque Bouya.

The minister, who visited Kenya as part of a benchmarking tour on the success of China-funded Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway (SGR), said Beijing has emerged as a significant partner in Africa's quest to modernize transport infrastructure.

"We can strengthen China-Africa cooperation and discuss implementation of infrastructure projects that can boost connectivity in line with the Belt and Road Initiative," Bouya told Xinhua in a recent interview.

On Sunday, Bouya rode on the SGR passenger train and later took an inspection tour of the new berth at the port of Mombasa developed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

Bouya noted that the SGR passenger and cargo services have improved connectivity, boosted cross-border trade, revived the manufacturing sector, and created jobs.

"The SGR is a good project that will act like a belt to connect this region and the continent. It has also given jobs to youth and realigns with our leaders' vision to enhance connectivity and integration," the minister said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the SGR passenger train dubbed Madaraka Express on May 31, 2017.

According to SGR's contractor and operator, the CRBC, about one million passengers have since been ferried by Madaraka Express between Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa.

Bouya said the successful launch of the 480 km SGR in Kenya has inspired other African countries to follow suit.

"What is important is for African countries to have similar projects like the SGR because it will boost our economies," Bouya said, adding that infrastructure development is the embodiment of win-win cooperation between China and African countries.

He praised the launch of SGR cargo service for reducing the cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to Kenya's hinterland, hence stimulating commerce in the country.

"The cargo train has brought economic benefits. It has reduced the cost of transporting a container by half. It is good for economic development of Kenya and Africa," said Bouya.

He said that the Republic of Congo, a mineral-rich country in central Africa, is ready to engage China as it embarks on modernizing key infrastructure like railways and ports.

"In Congo-Brazzaville, we have a maritime port and an old railway. If we build a new railway network, we will reduce the cost of transport and boost industrialization," Bouya said.

"We plan to develop this project soon and discuss the best approach with the CRBC," he added.

Bouya said the Republic of Congo, which has a population of 5 million people, intends to harness a commodities boom to modernize key economic sectors like manufacturing.
Chinese Diplomat Rebukes Tillerson's Untrue Remarks About China-Africa Relations
2018/3/13 11:04:20

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent remarks about China's role in Africa are untrue and the attempt to smear China is quite self-embarrassing, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa said in Johannesburg on Monday.

The US top diplomat "has obviously chosen the wrong place, wrong topic against the wrong target. That is why Africans have stepped up to tell His Excellency that his words about China are wrong and not true. Sorry to say this is quite self-embarrassing," said Lin Songtian at a press briefing on the same day as Tillerson wrapped up his first official visit to Africa.

During his tour of five African countries, Tillerson said the African countries should be careful while dealing with China and not forfeit their sovereignty or create a debt crisis.

In response, the Chinese ambassador said that China and its enterprises have invested over 100 billion US dollars on the continent, built over 6,500 km of railway, 6,000 km of highways, over 200 schools and 80 sports stadiums.

China have created jobs, transferred skills and technology and changed the lives of the African people, he added.

Tillerson probably landed on the ports built with Chinese financing, used roads built with Chinese assistance and made the remarks in the stadium built jointly by Chinese and Africans, Lin said.

"What they really want is to keep Africa as it was, poor and divided, to be always controlled by others. What they worry about is Africa's realization of economic independence with China's support. What they worry about is a strong Africa that can no longer be ordered around politically," the Chinese ambassador said.

Regarding Africa's debt problems, Lin said that China has funded many infrastructure projects on the continent. "American friends are worried about Africa's debt crisis on the lips. But they have no willingness to issue loans to support Africa's development, or to encourage their investors to (invest in) Africa."

Despite Tillerson's bizarre allegation, Lin also said the Chinese government has made earnest efforts to rid corruption domestically and contribute to the global fight against the scourge.
China Presence in Africa Did Not Marginalize Washington’s Interest
By Laetitia Tran Ngoc
Global Times
Published: 2018/3/13 21:28:40

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who was ousted by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, paid his first official visit to Africa recently - a move viewed as a way of building bridges two months after Trump used foul language to describe African countries.

In a speech before his departure, Tillerson slammed China's approach in Africa, saying it encouraged dependency, utilized corrupt deals and endangered Africa's natural resources. His key message was that unlike China, the US is a true friend of Africa - a rhetoric that sounds all the more hollow looking at the US presence in the continent.

Ahead of Tillerson's visit, some observers commented that China had smartly outplayed and marginalized the US in Africa. But this is not completely true as the continent never garnered much attention from the US. Long before the days of "America First," Africa had been relatively neglected by the US. Barack Obama's presidency was an even bigger disappointment: Despite the president's Kenyan ancestry, Obama's foreign policy was marked by his historical Asian pivot.

The amount of funds dedicated to Africa has been declining in recent years, especially compared to the countries that are on top of the list receiving US aid (Afghanistan, Israel and Iraq). In 2016, Jordan (population of 9.5 million), an "upper-middle level" country, received more funds than Ethiopia, most of whose 100 million population lives in poverty.

It is even worse for trade: In 1960, the whole continent only took 4 percent of US exports and supplied only 3.7 percent of American imports. Currently, approximately 1.5 percent of US exports go to sub-Saharan Africa despite the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that offers African participants preferential access to US markets by eliminating import tariffs.

Meanwhile, China's bilateral trade with Africa increased 21 times between 2000 and 2014. Beijing has diversified its business interests on the continent by participating in energy, mining and telecommunications industries and financed the construction of roads, railways, ports, airports, hospitals and schools - key areas for the long-term development of African countries.

The US has often boasted that its objectives in Africa - strengthening democratic institutions, advancing peace and security - were morally superior to China's. But these commitments have been strongly influenced by national security interests and in particular by the fight against international terrorism and Islamic radicalization, at the expense of other key sectors.

Democracy assistance has been continuously dropping since 2011. About 90 percent of exports from Africa to the US under AGOA are petroleum products - even though one of the most frequent criticisms of China is that it is only interested in Africa's natural resources.

Moreover, US development aid has been known for using tied aid that forces recipient nations to spend it on products from the donor nation. This type of aid is known reducing its value by as much as 30 percent and has the tendency to make donors focus more on the commercial advancement of their nations than what developing countries need.

This is why Tillerson's announcement of a $533 million humanitarian African aid plan and commitment that the US would do more to reduce trade and investment barriers for African partners is unlikely to change anything in the relationship between the US and Africa, especially as Trump has repeatedly spoken of making sweeping cuts to American contributions to peacekeeping and aid operations.

For decades, too few Western corporations have invested in Africa, leaving room for countries such as China, India and Turkey to move in. This has caused a major shift in African outlook, clearly expressed by African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki, who said during his briefing with Tillerson that "Africans are mature enough to engage in partnerships of their own volition. There is no monopoly, we have multifaceted, multifarious relations with parts of the world." Opinion surveys have shown that majority of respondents in African countries view China favorably.

In addition to investment, this outlook is the result of China's diplomatic efforts in Africa. Over the past 10 years, Chinese leaders have made 79 official visits to 43 African countries. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visits the continent every year. By contrast, Trump does not seem to be planning to visit Africa, and Tillerson is the most senior official of the Trump administration to visit the continent.

It is, therefore, wrong to say that China marginalized the US in Africa. The US' reduced engagement only became more noticeable as Chinese presence increased. China and the US' interests in the region are not mutually exclusive. They can work together in improving lives on the continent.

The author is a research officer with the Ethiopian Embassy in Belgium.
Trump Team Bashes China But Offers No Alternative in African Nations
The Hill
03/15/18 03:15 PM EDT 


The now former Secretary of State Tillerson’s talking points for his hastily-arranged trip to Africa last week accused China of fostering dependency, with “opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt,” hurting growth and local employment. Is China really a predatory lender in Africa?

It’s clear that Tillerson last trip as secretary of State to Africa was an attempt to try to repair relations with a continent that was outraged by President Trump’s foul language in discussing their countries. Pointing a finger at China is already deflecting attention from the Trump administration’s image problems. But are these accusations true?

Our two research groups have been tracking Chinese loans globally and in Africa for the past decade. Predatory lenders use deception and fraud to entice borrowers to take out expensive loans they don’t really need and can’t afford. But, it seems that Chinese loans fund projects African borrowers really do need, and the loans generally have favorable terms.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 600 million people have no access to electricity. Between 2000 and 2017, nearly $35 billion of loans in the SAIS-CARI database and the GDP Center database financed power generation and transmission.

One power station producing 100 milliwatts (mW) of electricity can support 80,000 jobs in low-income countries according to some estimates. That’s a lot of employment.

Twenty years ago, only 12 percent of African roads had all-weather paving, while bridges, airports and railways were in disrepair, many in conflict-affected countries like Angola, Liberia and the Congo.

Not surprisingly, African governments have borrowed $30 billion from Chinese banks during this period to pay for transportation infrastructure. Chinese loans can sometimes be tied to Chinese construction companies, although they do employ African workers as well.

Low commodity prices for exports have created difficulties for some countries, like Zambia and Angola, in servicing loans from China. But were terms for these loans usurious? It doesn’t appear so. Loans from China’s two official policy banks made up 80 percent of the $ 97.5 billion lent by China.

Policy bank loans are lent at low, fixed interest rates — usually 2 percent — or at commercial rates (LIBOR plus a margin). In one big borrower, Angola, Chinese oil-secured loans for which we have terms were actually lower cost than similar oil-backed loans from Western bank syndicates.

The Trump administration would have a better argument if they were offering an alternative. There are legitimate concerns about the extent to which Chinese development finance in infrastructure and energy is lower-carbon and socially inclusive — and both of our groups are studying these aspects.

But the Western-backed banks such as the World Bank had all but abandoned infrastructure financing on a continent in desperate need of infrastructure.

In 2013, the Obama administration belatedly began to address Africa’s electricity shortages and access problems through its Power Africa program. Power Africa promises to be more socially inclusive, address access issues, finance off-grid energy and put a premium on green energy. 

The program offers a mere $7 billion for energy on the continent, but has had trouble getting off the ground, and China has already invested five times the total amount earmarked.

The president has a chance to make his own mark in Africa, but now he has two strikes against him with his derogatory comments about the region and former Secretary of State Tillerson’s finger pointing at the only country willing to step up and address some of the continents most pressing needs.

President Trump would do better to put his money where his mouth is and offer a better alternative — scaling up Power Africa with better terms and better outcomes than those on offer. Until then, he should welcome the void the United States has abandoned.

Deborah Brautigam is the Bernard L. Schwartz professor of International Political Economy and director of the International Development Program (IDEV), and the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is the author of "The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa." Her newest book, "Will Africa Feed China?," was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.

Kevin P. Gallagher is professor of global development policy at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies where he directs the Global Development Policy Center. He is the co-author of "The Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization" and "The China Triangle: Latin America’s China Boom and the Fate of the Washington Consensus."
Africa Deserves Better Than What Tillerson Went to Give
Washington Post
March 15, 2018 11:50 PM

Turns out Rex Tillerson’s voyage to Africa was the trip of no return.

His tenure as secretary of state is finally ending, but with a whimper. His last hurrah as the top U.S. diplomat came in the form of a half-baked tour to Djibouti, Kenya, Chad, Nigeria and Ethiopia — all key U.S. allies on security and counter-terrorism. He got sick in Kenya and called off the day’s activities. He then cut short the Nigeria portion of the trip in order to come home to Washington on Tuesday to the newsthat President Donald Trump had fired him and seeks to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

So what was the point of it all? Couldn’t he have just stayed home and sent Africa an email? From an optics perspective, the administration no doubt needed to do something to soften the blow of President Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks (though Tillerson sidestepped the issue at news conferences), as well as address Trump’s nonsensical travel ban on Chad, which fields one of the most dependable fighting forces in West Africa in the fight against Boko Haram. Ultimately, many Africans in the countries he visited were unimpressed.

But Tillerson’s sleepwalker trip was a missed opportunity to signal a new course in U.S. relations with Africa, one that treats the continent as a source of economic growth and opportunities for investment. It was a reminder not only of America’s diminished moral standing, but also that Washington is sitting on the sidelines while other countries are becoming increasingly more engaged in Africa, for better or worse.

In Africa, China is now the rising tiger. It has been building up its military presence and increasing humanitarian spending, though only countries that tend to vote with China in the United Nations seem to get an influx of aid. Puzzlingly, Tillerson gave a tough speech on China-Africa relations not to an African audience, but at George Mason University in Virginia. He said that China’s approach to Africa could leave nations indebted to Beijing. From the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa the next day, Tillerson added a warning about Chinese investments, saying that African countries risked “forfeiting elements of your sovereignty as you enter into such arrangements.”

Such admonitions look weak considering that the United States lags behind China in Africa on multiple fronts. Beijing has been investing heavily in infrastructure, manufacturing and mining. According to a 2017 Ernst and Young report, American foreign direct investment in the continent fell 5.2 percent in 2016, while Chinese-backed projects increased by more than 100 percent over 2015. Most significantly, China is creating jobs: In 2016, jobs created by China hit an all-time high in Africa, according to the report, and were “more than three times the number of jobs created by the next biggest investor, i.e. the United States.” According to a 2017 McKinsey report, a survey of more than 1,000 Chinese firms revealed that China had created some 300,000 jobs for African workers. China has also invested in worker training and exchange programs for students.

As for the accumulation of debts to China, Tillerson’s criticism glossed over the fact that African nations still spend more on servicing their World Bank and International Monetary Fund debts than they do on healthcare and education.

This is not to play down China’s intentions. Beijing is in Africa to further Beijing’s interests, not Africa’s. Chinese companies have been accused of abusing African workers and of degrading the environment. Still, as an oil businessman serving a businessman president, a better message from Tillerson to Africa would have offered increased U.S. investment, infrastructure projects and help in strengthening the capacity of African regional blocs to trade among themselves. If the Trump administration is concerned about security and terrorism, then jobs, particularly for underemployed youths, are likely the most powerful counter-terrorism tool in the long run and could help stem the migration crisis that has been plaguing the continent and Europe.

In the end, perhaps the most notable gift to Chinese interests in Africa in the short term is the instability of the Trump administration and America’s loss of standing as a voice for democracy and human rights on the continent. An administration that has been riddled with corruption scandals, has attacked the press, has scuttled international agreements and has had its commander in chief retweet Islamophobic posts is in no position to preach respect for the rule of law. Tillerson’s departure, like the final trip that preceded it, sends the message to China that U.S. foreign policy under Trump is unserious, disjointed and not focused on the long term. Africa deserves much better.
McCabe Firing Roils Washington
The Hill
03/17/18 07:44 PM EDT

The abrupt ouster of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ignited a political firestorm in Washington on Saturday.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he fired McCabe on Friday, alleging that the FBI's former No. 2 official had misled congressional investigators and leaked information to the press.

But McCabe quickly pushed back on those claims. He said that his firing, which came just two days before he was expected to retire, was a political maneuver intended to undermine the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump touted McCabe's firing on Saturday as a "great day for democracy," and suggested that the former FBI deputy director was corrupt and dishonest. He also cast the decision as a victory for the "men and women of the FBI."

"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy," Trump tweeted. "Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"

But McCabe's ouster prompted an outcry from Democrats, who pointed to the episode as the latest in what they allege are Trump's efforts to discredit the FBI  and undercut federal law enforcement.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Saturday for a hearing on the Trump administration's attacks on the FBI and Justice Department.

"I fear the damage being done to the FBI, and to our nation’s institutions more broadly, will far outlast any current crises unless we take decisive, bipartisan action," he wrote in a letter to the committee's chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) accused Trump on Friday of trying to "vandalize our democracy," calling the move to dismiss McCabe just days before his retirement a "disgrace."

"McCabe's dismissal in the dead of night is a disgrace to this country and our law enforcement community. Every day they vandalize our democracy and harm our institutions, and @HouseGOP does nothing," he tweeted.

McCabe's firing also drew condemnation from former officials, most notably ousted FBI Director James Comey, who has come under particular criticism from Trump.

In a tweet on Saturday, Comey made no mention of McCabe, but said that he would soon tell the story of his firing, and that the American people would determine "who is honorable and who is not."

"Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon," he tweeted. "And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

Comey was abruptly fired in May for what Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein said was his mishandling of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State. But Trump later suggested that it was the FBI probe into Russian election meddling that prompted him to fire the former top cop.

Since then, memos have surfaced detailing Comey's interactions with Trump. Those memos include allegations that Trump once asked the former FBI director for a loyalty pledge, and later pressed him to drop his agency's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

McCabe reportedly authored his own memos detailing his interactions with Trump. Axios reported Saturday that he had turned those documents over to special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators, and that they corroborate Comey's claims about his meetings with Trump.

Former CIA Director John Brennan also blasted Trump after McCabe's firing, warning the president that he will go down "as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history."

"When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you," Brennan wrote on Twitter.

Adding to the firestorm surrounding Trump on Saturday was a statement issued by John Dowd, a lawyer for the president, who called for Rosenstein to shut down Mueller's investigation. Dowd initially told the Daily Beast that the statement was issued on Trump's behalf, though he later reversed that claim, saying it was issued in a personal capacity.

Still, the mere prospect of the Trump administration ending Mueller's probe drew scrutiny. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned of "severe consequences" if the investigation was shut down.

"The president, the administration, and his legal team must not take any steps to curtail, interfere with, or end the special counsel's investigation or there will be severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans," Schumer said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, noted that "it's impossible to evaluate the merits" of McCabe's firing since the Justice Department's inspector general has not released the report that triggered the disciplinary process that resulted in the recommendation that he be fired.

However, he tweeted, "That it comes after the President urged the DOJ to deprive McCabe of his pension, and after his testimony, gives the action an odious taint."
After McCabe Firing, Trump Attacks FBI, and His Lawyer Says Russia Probe Must End
Washington Post

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on March 16, shortly before McCabe was set to retire. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

By Philip Rucker, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig
March 17 at 6:59 PM

President Trump escalated his assault on federal law enforcement agencies Saturday while one of his attorneys argued that the controversial firing of a top FBI official was reason to end the Justice Department special counsel’s expansive Russia investigation.

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions acted late Friday night on Trump’s publicly stated wishes to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe — just hours before he was set to retire with full benefits — the president celebrated the ouster as a triumph that exposed “tremendous leaking, ­lying and corruption” throughout law enforcement.

The move emboldened Mc­Cabe, who said in a public statement that his dismissal was a deliberate effort to slander him and part of an “ongoing war” against the FBI and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Like former FBI director James B. Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, McCabe kept contemporaneous memos detailing his fraught conversations with the president, according to two people familiar with the ­records. The danger for Trump is that those memos could help corroborate McCabe’s witness testimony and become damaging evidence in Mueller’s investigation of whether Trump has sought to obstruct justice.

Trump asked McCabe in an Oval Office meeting in May whom he voted for in the election and complained about the political donations McCabe’s wife received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate campaign. In addition, Comey confided to McCabe about his private conversations with Trump, including when the president asked for his loyalty. Both had been probing links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

McCabe’s firing — coupled with the comments from Trump and his personal attorney, John Dowd on Saturday — marked an extraordinary acceleration of the battle between the president and the special counsel, whose probe Trump has long dismissed as a politically motivated witch hunt.

Trump said in a Saturday night tweet: “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

Dowd said in a Saturday morning statement, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.”

Dowd’s defiance was a dramatic shift for a legal team that had long pledged to cooperate fully with Mueller. The White House has responded to requests for documents, and senior officials have sat for hours of interviews with the special counsel’s investigators.

The statement was first reported by the Daily Beast, which explained that Dowd said he was speaking on behalf of Trump. Dowd later backtracked, telling The Washington Post that he was speaking only for himself.

Trump has been known to direct surrogates to make bold claims publicly as a way of market-testing ideas. Dowd declined to say whether he consulted with the president before issuing his statement. “I never discuss my communications with my client,” he said.

White House officials had no comment as to whether Dowd’s statement was delivered at the behest of his client, but they insisted it was not part of a coordinated administration strategy, and one official described the statement as ill-advised.

Still, officials acknowledged that Trump shares his lawyer’s sentiment that the Mueller investigation should come to a swift conclusion.

“We were all promised collusion or nullification of his election or impeachment,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “We were promised something that never came to be.”

The official added that Trump “just thinks they should wrap it up. He sees it becoming a big fishing expedition.”

For months now, the president has raged in private conversations with friends and advisers over the intensifying investigation. People familiar with his thinking said he has been especially agitated by Mueller’s probing into the financial and other records of his private business, the Trump Organization — an intrusion that he said in an interview last year would cross a red line.

Sessions fired McCabe as an outgrowth of an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is examining the FBI’s handling of its probe of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. In the course of that broad review, Horowitz’s investigators found that McCabe had authorized two FBI officials to speak to the media about an ongoing criminal probe and then — in the investigators’ view — misled them about it.

White House officials said they did not believe Trump had explicitly ordered Sessions to fire McCabe in recent days. But he arguably did not have to: The FBI’s former No. 2 official had long drawn Trump’s ire, and the president has publicly called for his dismissal. Trump has been furious at Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller probe. White House officials said the embattled attorney general is perpetually trying to prove his worth to Trump and had to have known that firing McCabe would please the boss.

Indeed, Trump hailed Mc­Cabe’s dismissal in a gleeful tweet at 12:08 a.m. Saturday as “A great day for Democracy.”

That drew a stern rebuke from former CIA director John Brennan, who responded on Twitter: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America ... America will triumph over you.”

After Dowd issued his statement Saturday, Trump reiterated his claim that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russians, and he attacked federal agencies that are under his command. But he stopped short of echoing Dowd’s call for an end to the Mueller probe.

Trump tweeted: “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp.”

Trump was referring to last week’s announcement by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee that they were concluding their own investigation of Russian interference in the election, though a separate investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee remains underway.

[Special counsel investigators have interviewed more than 20 White House officials, Trump’s legal team says]

In another tweet, Trump repeated his now-familiar attacks on McCabe and Comey. Some Trump allies said they worry he is playing with fire by taunting the FBI.

“This is open, all-out war. And guess what? The FBI’s going to win,” said one ally, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “You can’t fight the FBI. They’re going to torch him.”

Trump’s lawyers have long spoken privately about what they view as political bias inside the FBI and in the early stages of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to two top White House advisers.

Since late summer, Dowd and attorney Jay Sekulow have warned the president about what they saw as mounting evidence of pro-Clinton bias among senior FBI officials. Trump took some comfort in their predictions that pieces of this information would surface publicly over time in inspector general reports and responses to public information requests.

Dowd and White House lawyer Ty Cobb have publicly asserted that they are working collaboratively and cooperatively with Mueller’s investigators, voluntarily providing dozens of witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of records. Dowd told The Post in January that Trump was providing the special counsel “the most transparent response in history by a president.”

But behind the scenes, Dowd has told colleagues that the probe was poisoned. He has blamed it on an anti-Trump faction of law enforcement officials he derisively calls “the Comey crowd,” which includes McCabe, who was Comey’s deputy when the FBI began investigating Russia’s intrusions and possible links to the Trump campaign.

Democrats on Saturday quickly rushed to protect the Mueller probe, as former national security officials defended McCabe’s character and raised questions about the manner in which he was fired.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted: “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned of “severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans” should Trump try to curtail or interfere with Mueller’s investigation.

“Mr. Dowd’s comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn,” Schumer said in a statement.

McCabe’s firing just short of his 50th birthday on Sunday, is likely to cost him significant pension benefits. One House Democrat, Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.), offered McCabe a job to work on election security in his office “so that he can reach the needed length of service” to retire.

The dismissal once again drew the FBI into a political controversy as those inside the bureau already fear the institution’s reputation may not survive unrelenting attacks from Trump and his allies.

“Certainly the FBI is in the barrel, and they badly want to get out of it — the workforce does,” said former FBI assistant director Ron Hosko. “But headlines like this are not the way out.”

Inside the FBI, the mood was tense this weekend, with some agents exchanging messages about how they might help McCabe and expressing anger at what they saw as a cruel and vindictive dismissal.

But McCabe was not universally loved inside the bureau. Some agents resented him for what they felt was a rapid rise through the ranks in his 22 years there. And officials noted that misleading investigators is a fireable offense, though they were curious about how the evidence would show McCabe had done so.

Horowitz, the inspector general, had been investigating broad allegations of misconduct in the Clinton email case since early last year, but he zeroed in on McCabe over the last few months.

McCabe, who briefly served as acting FBI director after Comey’s firing, technically stepped down from his deputy post after now-director Christopher A. Wray was told of what the inspector general had found.

McCabe remained an FBI employee, but the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles employee discipline, later recommended he be fired. The inspector general’s report has not been made public.

On Thursday, McCabe pleaded with Justice Department brass to be spared. Late into the evening Friday, top officials drafted their own report on what McCabe had done. Just before 10 p.m., it was emailed to him and his attorneys. Minutes later, Sessions announced McCabe had been fired, effective immediately.

McCabe countered with a lengthy statement Friday night claiming his innocence — and pledging to fight back against Trump.

“All along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us,” McCabe wrote. “No more.”

Philip Rucker is the White House bureau chief for The Washington Post. He previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House, and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. He joined The Post in 2005 as a local news reporter.  Follow @PhilipRucker

Matt Zapotosky covers the Justice Department for The Washington Post's national security team. He has previously worked covering the federal courthouse in Alexandria and local law enforcement in Prince George's County and Southern Maryland.  Follow @mattzap

Carol Leonnig is an investigative reporter at The Washington Post, where she has worked since 2000. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her work on security failures and misconduct inside the Secret Service.  Follow @CarolLeonnig

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Zimbabwe: Crackdown On Mugabe Escalates
By Tinashe Kairiza
Zimbabwe Independent

Scores of workers at former president Robert Mugabe's vast Zvimba homestead and Highfield farm in Norton who were being paid by government have been relieved of their duties by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration.

Mugabe lost power in November after a military intervention, widely seen as a coup.

Shortly after his inauguration, Mnangagwa swiftly whittled down Mugabe's security personnel before the government let go of the bulk of his domestic workers. Government also recalled former first lady Grace Mugabe's security personnel.

A significant number of the affected workers at Mugabe's Zvimba residence were his relatives.

"A number of workers at Mugabe's home in Zvimba who were being paid by government were fired from their jobs. Most of them stay in Zvimba," an official close to developments said.

"The same applies to labourers at his Highfield farm. They were also fired from their jobs."

Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Ray Ndhukula refused to comment saying: "The best person to comment on that matter would be the former president."

Relations between Mugabe and Mnangagwa have been sour since their fall out over succession issues which were ultimately settled through a military intervention, which toppled the former president and catapulted his erstwhile confidante into power.

Mugabe last month told African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat that the Mnangagwa government was illegal and the AU should help to "restore normalcy and democracy in Zimbabwe".

Mugabe's association with the newly formed National Patriotic Front led by Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri has also infuriated Mnangagwa, the government and Zanu PF, setting the stage for a political showdown.

Military personnel rounded up "Blue Roof" staff last week, including the mansion's comptroller Funny Mpofu, who is basically the chief security guard, to quiz them on the visitors Mugabe has been receiving and the agenda of their meetings.
‘Panic’ in Zimbabwe’s Ruling Party as Ex-president Mugabe Appears to Back New Opposition Leader
The photo of the ousted former president with upstart opposition leader Ambrose Mutinhiri sent shock waves through Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party

Friday, 09 March, 2018, 1:04pm
South China Morning Post

Zimbabwe’s ex-leader Robert Mugabe sent shock waves through the party he dominated for decades when he posed with the retired general who will take on the ruling ZANU-PF in this year’s election.

Mugabe stood in the posed photo beside broadly grinning brigadier-general Ambrose Mutinhiri, the leader of opposition party the National Patriotic Front (NPF), which hopes to unseat the government in polls expected by August.

Mutinhiri’s abrupt resignation from ZANU-PF last week followed by his surprise announcement that he would be the presidential candidate of the new party exposed deep divisions in the governing party.

The symbolism of the photo opportunity, which was featured at the top of a press release issued by the new pro-Mugabe splinter party, was unmistakable.

Two days later ZANU-PF Youth League supporters chanted “down with Mugabe” at a rally, a rare outburst from the normally disciplined members of the party that Mugabe led for nearly four decades.
A leader of the league, Pupurai Tigarepi, later said that if Mugabe “is not responsible, we are going to look at him as a new enemy”.

In response to the hostility, the new president did little to defend the man who was once presented by ZANU-PF to the world as a liberation hero and father of the nation.

“There is an issue regarding the former president,” said President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“Currently we see in the media various speculations about his activities … we are not happy with what the media is saying. We don’t know whether it’s correct or not but it is an issue we are examining.”

“(The photo) sort of solidifies the whole idea that the Mugabe family is behind the project,” said Gideon Chitanga, an analyst with the Johannesburg-based regional think-tank Political Economy southern Africa, describing Mugabe’s meeting with Mutinhiri as “very cordial”.

Other analysts said that Mnangagwa had every reason to be concerned by Mugabe’s sudden re-emergence on the political scene.

“There is an understated panic – especially within ZANU-PF,” said Zimbabwean political analyst Brian Kagoro who added that the ruling party had already struggled to formulate a response to the opposition following the death of its figurehead Morgan Tsvangirai in February.

“It would have been a much easier task to concentrate on infiltrating the (opposition) – but now they have to deal with uncertainty as to who is with them,” said Brian Kagoro, a director of the UHAI Africa think-tank.

Mugabe was forced to quit when the military briefly took power in November and ZANU-PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader. Since his dramatic reversal of fortune, he has largely appeared to stay out of public life.

The military moved against Mugabe, 94, after he sacked his then-deputy and heir-apparent Mnangwga apparently fearing the nonagenarian was grooming his wife Grace to succeed him as president.

The former first lady had cultivated her own factional support base within ZANU-PF known as “G-40” that was seen as hostile to the security establishment.

“There is a fight for legitimacy among the retired military supremos,” said Kagoro, who suggested that Mugabe was behaving with “grand malice” over his treatment.

The NPF claims to have many members “who are outraged by the unconstitutional and humiliating manner in which president Mugabe was criminally ousted from the leadership of both ZANU-PF and the country”.

Despite the NPF’s emergence and the ensuing trepidation at the top of ZANU-PF, the pretender party is unlikely to make significant inroads at the polls.

“They are trying to create the impression that Mugabe has a lot of residual support,” said Derek Matyszak, a independent Zimbabwean political analyst. “But I don’t think they are going anywhere.

“And though he is unaccustomed to not exercising his bit of power, I can’t see him going full on into the political field because he is dependent on Mnangagwa to have a comfortable retirement.”

Mutinhiri himself is seen as a marginal figure without an established regional or ethnic base that would be essential to dent ZANU-PF’s monolithic grip on power.

Chitanga, the analyst, said it was unfortunate that Mugabe appeared to be “getting entangled in opposition politics.”

“The normal thing would have been for him to retire quietly,” he said.

The NPF has quoted Mugabe as saying that “people are free to belong to parties of their choice”.

It also vowed to ensure “there is no interference by the army, or those that would want to resort to violence as a means of getting votes”.

It is an irony that will not be lost on voters that elections held under Mugabe were marred by violence and voter intimidation – alongside allegations of electoral fraud.
7 U.S. Service Members Killed in Helicopter Crash in Western Iraq
By Missy Ryan
Washington Post
March 16 at 9:33 AM

Seven U.S. service members were killed Thursday when their helicopter crashed in western Iraq, the military said.

“All personnel aboard were killed in the crash,” Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement released Friday. “This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations.”

The incident is under investigation but does not appear to be the result of enemy fire, the statement said.

The HH-60 Pave Hawk was ferrying troops from Iraq to Syria on a routine mission and went down around the town of Qaim along the Iraq-Syria border, according to a defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an incident whose details are still emerging.

The military said the scene had been secured. The names of those aboard were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

There are about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria and about 5,000 in Iraq, according to statements from the Pentagon.

The United States is winding down its long campaign against the Islamic State in both countries, but the militants retain pockets of influence in some parts of Syria, including along the Euphrates River.

U.S. troops have been advising Syrian fighters who have been battling extremists in those areas. But the Pentagon has sought to keep American forces out of combat there.

Dan Lamothe and Marwa Eltagouri contributed to this report.

Missy Ryan writes about the Pentagon, military issues and national security for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2014 from Reuters, where she reported on U.S. national security and foreign policy issues. She has reported from Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Chile.  Follow @missy_ryan
Andrew McCabe, a Target of Trump’s F.B.I. Scorn, Is Fired Over Candor Questions
New York Times
MARCH 16, 2018

WASHINGTON — Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend.

Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness.

Mr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist.

In a statement released late Friday, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. McCabe had shown a lack of candor under oath on multiple occasions.

“The F.B.I. expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” he said. “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

Early Saturday morning, the president weighed in with another shot at Mr. McCabe, posting on Twitter that it was “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI.”

"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"

In an interview, Mr. McCabe was blunt. “The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” he said, adding, “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”

F.B.I. disciplinary officials recommended his dismissal. Mr. McCabe, who stepped down in January and took a leave of absence, denied the accusation and appealed this week to senior career officials in the Justice Department.

Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.

Mr. McCabe was among the first at the F.B.I. to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency.

As a witness, Mr. McCabe would be in a position to corroborate the testimony of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who kept contemporaneous notes on his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump prodded him to publicly exonerate the president on the question of Russian collusion and encouraged him to shut down an investigation into his national security adviser.

Since President Trump’s inauguration, staffers of the White House and federal agencies have left in firings and resignations, one after the other.

In a statement released by his lawyers, Mr. McCabe said his firing was part of Mr. Trump’s “ongoing war on the F.B.I.” and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. He said he answered questions truthfully in the internal investigation and contacted investigators to correct the record when he believed they misunderstood him.

“I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” he said.

Mr. McCabe, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran, was eligible for a government pension if he retired on Sunday. The firing jeopardizes that benefit, though it was not immediately clear how much he might lose.

“It’s incredibly unfair to my reputation after a 21-year career,” Mr. McCabe said. He said the president’s public attacks were aimed at several targets. “The real damage is being done to the F.B.I., law enforcement and the special counsel,” he said.

Mr. McCabe was the F.B.I.’s second in command during one of the most tumultuous periods in the bureau’s history. He oversaw investigations into both the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — and he dealt with the fallout from both. He became the acting F.B.I. director after the sudden firing of his boss, Mr. Comey, and he publicly contradicted the White House on national television over whether Mr. Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file F.B.I. agents.

Since then, Mr. Trump has repeatedly singled him out for public attack, suggesting that he helped protect Mrs. Clinton from prosecution during the 2016 presidential campaign. As evidence, he pointed to the fact that Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill, ran as a Democrat for a State Senate seat in Virginia and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a political committee run by Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of the Clintons.

As recently as Thursday, even as the White House said it left Mr. McCabe’s fate in Mr. Sessions’s hands, officials there left little doubt where the president stood. “It is well documented that he has had some very troubling behavior and by most accounts a bad actor,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Mr. McCabe’s lawyer called those comments “vile and defamatory” and said they were intended to put pressure on the Justice Department. “This intervention by the White House in the D.O.J. disciplinary process is unprecedented, deeply unfair and dangerous,” said the lawyer, Michael R. Bromwich.

Mrs. McCabe lost her race and Mr. McCabe was later promoted to deputy director, where he oversaw the investigation into Mrs. Clinton. No charges were filed in that case, and Mr. Trump has pointed to the donations to Mrs. McCabe’s campaign as evidence of F.B.I. bias.

The president is not involved in the firing decisions of career employees like Mr. McCabe. His firing had been recommended by veteran disciplinary officials. But Mr. Trump’s statements loom large over the decision, which is why previous presidents have typically refrained from wading into law enforcement and personnel matters.

The inspector general’s report faults Mr. McCabe for his lack of candor in interviews with internal investigators. The report has not been released, but people briefed on it say the allegations revolve around disclosures to The Wall Street Journal, which reported in October 2016 a dispute between the F.B.I. and the Justice Department over how to proceed in an investigation into the Clinton family’s foundation.

Mr. McCabe, working through the F.B.I. press office, authorized a spokesman and a bureau lawyer to speak with The Journal in order to rebut allegations that Mr. McCabe had slowed down the Clinton Foundation investigation. To the contrary, the article ultimately noted, Mr. McCabe had insisted that his agents had the authority to investigate the foundation, even if the Justice Department refused to authorize grand jury subpoenas.

Mr. McCabe joined the F.B.I. after law school and rose quickly through the ranks. Mr. Comey groomed him for senior leadership from a young age, rankling some agents who saw him as too academic and not enough of a traditional crime-fighter. But senior F.B.I. officials and his counterparts in other agencies praised his intellect and ability to manage complicated worldwide national security issues.

Katie Benner contributed reporting from Austin, Tex.
McCabe Says Republicans 'Mischaracterized' Testimony to Bolster Nunes Memo
The Hill
03/16/18 11:48 PM EDT

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday accused Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee of having "mischaracterized" his testimony used to bolster a controversial memo alleging surveillance abuses by FBI and Justice Department officials.

McCabe, who was fired Friday as the No. 2 FBI official, told CNN that information from an opposition research dossier on President Trump's ties to Russia did not comprise the "majority" of information for the FBI's request to obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

"We started the investigations without the dossier. We were proceeding with the investigations before we ever received that information," McCabe told CNN. "Was the dossier material important to the package? Of course, it was. As was every fact included in that package. Was it the majority of what was in the package? Absolutely not."

A memo released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee in early February said McCabe told the committee that "no surveillance warrant would have been sought" were it not for the information from the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. The memo said the dossier information was "essential" in acquiring the warrants to monitor Page.

McCabe told CNN his testimony was "selectively quoted" and "mischaracterized" to bolster GOP claims that the Steele dossier was the key to obtaining a surveillance warrant on Page.

Republicans have blasted the Steele dossier, calling it unreliable because it was funded by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The memo drafted by staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) did state conclusively that the investigation into whether Trump campaign officials had improper contacts with Russia began with information related to George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign foreign policy aide who last year pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his foreign contacts.

The New York Times previously reported that Papadapoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russians had damaging information on Clinton before the hack of the DNC became publicly known. The Australian government then reportedly tipped off the FBI to what Papadapoulos had said.

McCabe was fired Friday evening by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said that the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) had found McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and "lacked candor - including under oath - on multiple occasions."

"Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately," Sessions said.
Andrew McCabe, Trump’s Foil at the FBI, is Fired Hours Before He Could Retire
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on March 16, shortly before McCabe was set to retire. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post
March 17 at 12:52 AM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday night fired former FBI deputy director Andrew Mc­Cabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire — a move that McCabe alleged was an attempt to slander him and undermine the ongoing special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign.

Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

He said based on those findings and the recommendation of the department’s senior career official, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

The move will likely cost Mc­Cabe a significant portion of his retirement benefits, though it is possible he could bring a legal challenge. He responded on Friday night with a lengthy statement, claiming he was being targeted because he was a witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and asserting that his actions were appropriate. He also alleged former FBI Director James B. Comey knew about the media disclosure about which the inspector general has raised questions.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.”

Trump tweeted early Saturday morning, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

An email notifying McCabe of the move was sent to his work account and his lawyers just minutes before Sessions’s statement was made public, though McCabe learned of the firing from press accounts, his spokeswoman said. McCabe has been fighting vigorously to keep his job, and on Thursday, he spent nearly four hours inside the Justice Department pleading his case.

Michael R. Bromwich, Mc­Cabe’s attorney, said that he had “never before seen the type of rush to judgment — and rush to summary punishment — that we have witnessed in this case.” He cited in particular President Trump’s attacks on McCabe on Twitter and the White House press secretary’s comments about him on Thursday — which he said were “quite clearly designed to put inappropriate pressure on the Attorney General to act accordingly.”

“This intervention by the White House in the DOJ disciplinary process is unprecedented, deeply unfair, and dangerous,” Bromwich said.

McCabe has become a lightning rod in the political battles over the FBI’s most high-profile cases, including the Russia investigation and the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. He has been a frequent target of criticism from Trump.

His firing — which was recommended by the FBI office that handles discipline — stems from a Justice Department inspector general investigation that found McCabe authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to the media about a Clinton-related case, then misled investigators about his actions in the matter, people familiar with the matter have said. He stepped down earlier this year from the No. 2 job in the bureau after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was briefed on the inspector general’s findings, though he technically was still an employee.

McCabe, who conducted interviews with several media outlets in advance of his firing but declined to do so with The Washington Post, said in his statement he was “being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed” when the president fired Comey as FBI director. Mueller is looking at that termination as part of his examination into whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice.

McCabe said in the statement that his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee — which he believed accelerated the process against him — revealed he “would corroborate” Comey’s accounts of his interactions with Trump. Comey has said previously the president asked him for loyalty and, referring to the probe of the president’s former national security adviser, asked whether Comey would “let this go”

“The big picture,” McCabe said, “is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people.”

Bromwich, himself a former Justice Department inspector general, suggested that office treated McCabe unfairly, cleaving from a larger investigation its findings on McCabe and not giving McCabe an adequate chance to respond to the allegations he faced. In his statement, Bromwich said McCabe and his lawyers were given limited access to the inspector general’s draft report late last month, saw a final report and evidence a week ago and were “receiving relevant exculpatory evidence as recently as two days ago.”

“With so much at stake, this process has fallen far short of what Mr. McCabe deserved,” Brom­wich said. “This concerted effort to accelerate the process in order to beat the ticking clock of his scheduled retirement violates any sense of decency and basic principles of fairness.”

A spokesman for the inspector general’s office declined to comment.

Some in the bureau might view McCabe’s termination so close to retirement as an unnecessarily harsh and politically influenced punishment for a man who spent more than 20 years at the FBI. The White House had seemed to support such an outcome, though a spokeswoman said the decision was up to Sessions.

“We do think that it is well-documented that he has had some very troubling behavior and by most accounts a bad actor,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.

Trump and McCabe’s relationship has long been fraught. The president has previously suggested that McCabe was biased in favor of Clinton, his political opponent, pointing out that McCabe’s wife, who ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Virginia legislature, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the political action committee of Terry McAuliffe, then the state’s governor and a noted Clinton ally. During an Oval Office meeting in May, Trump is said to have asked McCabe whom he voted for in the presidential election and vented about the donations.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz put McCabe in his crosshairs during a broad look at alleged improprieties in the handling of the Clinton email case. In the course of that review, Horowitz found that McCabe had authorized two FBI officials to talk to then-Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett for a story about the case and another investigation into Clinton’s family foundation. Barrett now works for The Washington Post.

Background conversations with reporters are commonplace in Washington, though McCabe’s authorizing such a talk was viewed as inappropriate because the matter being discussed was an ongoing criminal investigation. The story ultimately presented McCabe as a somewhat complicated figure — one who some FBI officials thought was standing in the way of the Clinton Foundation investigation, but who also seemed to be pushing back against Justice Department officials who did not believe there was a case to be made.

McCabe said in his statement that he, as the FBI’s deputy director, had the authority to do what he did. He said he was simply trying to “set the record straight” and “make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed” after the bureau was “portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes.”

“It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter,” he said. “It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week. In fact, it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request.”

In an interview with CNN, McCabe alleged that in December, he had a “long conversation with the editor of a major national newspaper at Chris Wray’s request and engaged with this editor in an effort to get them to back off a story that we thought would be harmful to our operational equities.”

An FBI spokesman and a lawyer for Comey declined to comment. McCabe also said he answered questions about the matter “truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me,” acknowledging only that he had clarified his account.

“And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them,” he said.

McCabe, who turns 50 on Sunday and would have then been eligible for his full retirement benefits, had quickly ascended through senior roles to the No. 2 leadership post. He briefly served in an interim capacity as the FBI director, in the months between when Trump fired Comey from the post and Wray was confirmed by the Senate.

McCabe’s team on Friday night released a bevy of statements from former national security officials supporting the former deputy director, including from former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.; former National Security Agency Deputy Director Richard H. Ledgett Jr.; former U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg; former FBI national security official Michael B. Steinbach; and former Justice Department national security official Mary B. McCord.

Steinbach said McCabe had “become a convenient scapegoat so that narrow political objectives can be achieved.” McCord said she “never doubted his honesty or motivations, and can say without hesitation that he was one of the finest FBI agents with whom I ever worked.” Notably absent was a statement from Comey, McCabe’s former boss, though Comey did say after McCabe stepped down as deputy director that he “stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on.”

Comey is still considered a key subject in Horowitz’s probe of how the FBI handled the Clinton email case.

Matt Zapotosky covers the Justice Department for The Washington Post's national security team. He has previously worked covering the federal courthouse in Alexandria and local law enforcement in Prince George's County and Southern Maryland.  Follow @mattzap

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mnangagwa 'Betrayed the Whole Nation': Mugabe
16 March 2018 - 08:33

Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe said he never thought new President Emmerson Mnangagwa would turn against him and denounced Mnangagwa's move to oust him last year as a coup.

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe described his departure from office in November as a “coup d’etat” that “we must undo” in his first TV interviews since then, aired on Thursday.

Mugabe, 94, spoke slowly but clearly to South Africa’s SABC broadcaster from an office in Harare, dressed in a grey suit, sitting in front of a portrait of himself and his wife Grace.

“I say it was a coup d’etat — some people have refused to call it a coup d’etat,” said Mugabe referring to the brief army takeover which led to Emmerson Mnangagwa assuming power after Mugabe’s resignation.

“We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves, we don’t deserve it... Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it.” In another similarly vehement interview, with Britain’s ITV News, the elderly former leader said he had no desire to return to power.

“I don’t want to be president, no of course,” he said. “I’m now 94.” Mugabe told both interviewers he did not hate his successor President Mnangagwa, 75, but alleged that he had “betrayed the whole nation“.

The ousted leader insisted he would not work with Mnangagwa and suggested that his presidency was “illegal” and “unconstitutional“.

“People must be chosen in government in a proper way. I’m willing to discuss, willing to assist in that process — but I must be invited,” he said.

Gideon Chitanga, an analyst at the Political Economy Southern Africa think-tank, said that Mugabe’s intervention was significant “coming at a time of elections“.

Presidential polls are due by the end of August in which Mnangagwa will face his first major electoral test.

“In the back of his mind (Mugabe) still sees himself as part of the problem and part of the solution,” said Chitanga.

Mugabe’s media appearance was apparently organised by the new National Patriotic Front (NPF) party which hopes to unseat Mnangagwa’s government in polls expected by August. Mugabe sent shockwaves through the ZANU-PF ruling party when he recently met with the NPF’s leader, retired general Ambrose Mutinhiri.

In response to a widely-shared image of the two, ZANU-PF Youth League supporters chanted “down with Mugabe” at a rally, a rare outburst from the normally disciplined party that Mugabe led for nearly four decades.

Mugabe was forced to quit the political scene he had dominated since independence from Britain in 1980 when the military stepped in and ZANU-PF lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against their once beloved leader. Since his dramatic reversal of fortune, he has largely stayed out of public life — until breaking his silence Thursday.

Despite widespread jubilation following the army’s seizure of power, many Zimbabweans are now disenchanted by what they see as a mere changing of the guard at the top of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian system.

“It was a coup with a script to turn this into a military state. The people wanted a change of the entire ZANU-PF system — not just one individual,” businessman Munyaradzi Chihota, 40, told AFP as he travelled home.

“The situation has not changed since they removed Mugabe. If anything, we are worse off. (Mugabe) is 100% right that this was a military coup, that this country has been turned into a military state — and that this has to be undone.”

The military moved against Mugabe after he sacked his then-deputy and heir-apparent Mnangagwa, seemingly fearing the nonagenarian was grooming Grace to succeed him as president.

The former first lady had cultivated her own factional support base within ZANU-PF known as “G-40” that was seen as hostile to the security establishment — Mnangagwa in particular.

“I never thought... he would be the man who turned against me,” said Mugabe.

“It was truly a military takeover, there was no movement visible unless that movement was checked and allowed by the army.” Evan Mawarire, a pastor who became the face of anti-Mugabe demonstrations last year, tweeted that Mugabe “destroyed our lives“.

“Today he appears on foreign media which he banned and claims he must be invited to a transitional process for Zimbabwe #RetireInPeaceBob.” Reflecting on his decades in power, which were marked by catastrophic economic policies, Mugabe remained adamant it had been a success story and any errors “weren’t that bad“.

“If anything, in comparison to other countries in Africa, we have had greater prosperity here and people have their land,” he told ITV News.

However, when questioned about well documented human rights abuses throughout his tenure, Mugabe appeared more acknowledging of reality.

“We have been accused of that and on that side, yes some errors were done.” 
Robert Mugabe Breathes Fire, Calls Toppling Illegitimate Disgrace
March 16, 2018
Written by VOA

Deposed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has for the first time publicly condemned his removal from office by the military last year saying he feels betrayed by his former protégé Emmerson Mnangagwa, who now leads the country.

Mugabe blamed his successor for working with the military to stage a coup that dislodged his 37-year rule on November 15. He declared that he was removed from power through a military coup, contrary to observations by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and other political bodies who viewed his ouster a constitutional matter mandated to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

In an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and several other media houses, Mugabe indicated that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is an illegitimate leader of Zimbabwe, who needs to discuss with him how to legalize his presidency.

2018-03-06 - Mugabe acolyte forms new Zimbabwe political party to challenge Mnangagwa
Mnangagwa and the military deposed him last November when the military said it wanted to arrest so-called criminals surrounding him believed to have belonged to a faction of the ruling Zanu PF party known as Generation 40, which allegedly wanted Mrs Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

A defiant Mugabe told journalists at his family Blue Roof mansion, where he was put under arrest by the army last November, that he was forcibly removed from power by a person he saved from the gallows during the liberation struggle of the 1970s.

“On my side I always had Emmerson Mnangagwa on my side. I brought him into my government. But I never thought he whom I had nurtured and brought into government and whose life I had worked so hard in prison to save as he was threatened with hanging that one day he will be the man who would turn against me. But there it was, there it is. It happened on the 15th of November. He was assisted by the army. I said it was a coup d’etat. Some people have refused to call it a coup d’etat.”

Mugabe said the ZDF completely paralyzed other organs of the security services when it staged the coup d’etat with Mnangagwa and his associates, who belonged to a faction of the ruling party known as Team Lacoste.

“He (Mnangagwa) could not have assumed the presidency of the country without the army. It’s the army which assisted him. The army made sure that other organs of state were neutralized … completely neutralized. They neutralized the Central Intelligence Organization many of whose members were bashed, whose heads were cracked and this is not an exaggeration. Some of them are missing to this day. Their guns were taken away from them. The police had their armoury completely emptied.

“… Their guns had gone … disappeared. Who had taken them? The army. And then in our environment rolled what we never knew we had, some tanks. Oh! Did we have these tanks? I was told they are ancient ones, 1914 to 1918 tanks, 63 or 60 something (years old). There they were rolling, armoured cars running and people not allowed to move from one place to another unless they got the permission of the army. Searches were taking place, left, right and center. Persons being arrested. It was truly a military takeover. There was no movement permissible unless that movement was checked and allowed by the army.”

He said some people decided to only call it a military intervention and not a coup d’etat.

“That’s what it was but I don’t know what you would call it but our people had not experienced such an environment before. We had prided ourselves on being democratic.

The former Zimbabwean leader, who ruled the country for more than 37 years said he played a key role in saving some of the people that were being sought by the army but noted that his staff has been harassed about their whereabouts.

“Every day those young men and women we have are being called one by one to be asked very silly questions. Where is Jonathan, Professor Jonathan Moyo? Where is (Saviour) Kasukuwere? Where is (Patrick) Zhuwao? Ah! They are told ‘no’ there are mere cooks, they are mere messengers, gardeners. You don’t expect them to know. Why worry them? Ask me. I don’t even know where they are. Yes, once upon a time we assisted them to get to safety. Guns, volleys of bullets were being fired at their houses. And the cry came, please, please, and it was my wife. Mama save us, please save us. I wasn’t there. She organized some of her security and said go, go and save them.

“… What happens to you, I don’t know. You may die on the way but go. And she put together the cars and the persons that she had. I wasn’t here. And so they were brought to our house … Jonathan, Professor Jonathan Moyo, Kasukuwere and their families.

One had about four children, wife and four children (and) the other wife and three children and we kept them here and said to them we will keep your families. We said that to the men but you men find your way out. Go where you can. We will keep you wife and children here and save them. How they left we don’t know. We don’t know where they left. And we kept their families here until the situation got better. And then they asked to go back to their homes.”

Mugabe noted that he has since been abandoned by the current president and his colleagues.

“Today Emmerson (Mnangagwa) is no longer on my side. I’m no longer the president … he is. I called him president the other day and he said oh no don’t call me president call me Emmerson. I said I can’t call you Emmerson anymore. OK, I will call you ED … I don’t hate Emmerson, I brought him in government. I would want to work with him but he is improper. He is improper where he is … illegal.”

According to the SABC, Mugabe is willing to work with Mnangagwa, provided that he was invited to a meeting to table his ouster.

“ … If it is to correct that illegality (coup d’etat) that he would like me to discuss with him, I am willing. We must undo this disgrace which we have imposed on ourselves. We don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it. Please we don’t deserve it. Zimbabwe doesn’t deserve it. We want to be a constitutional country. Yes, we may have our shortcomings here and there but overall we must obey the law … Become constitutional.

“People must be chosen to be in government in the proper way. I will discuss. I’m willing to discuss … willing to assist in that process but I must be invited. Properly invited for that discussion. Currently I’m isolated but I’m glad I have your (journalists) company.”

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was not available for comment.