Daily Archives: Nov 12, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will consult with ethics officials about any matters that could require him to recuse himself, the Justice Department said on Monday, after critics called on him to step aside from overseeing a Special Counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Acting AG Matt Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

Whitaker became the acting attorney general last week after President Donald Trump ordered Jeff Sessions to resign following months of criticizing him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

Sessions’ recusal paved the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017.

The investigation has already led to criminal charges against dozens of people, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

With Whitaker’s appointment, Rosenstein is no longer in charge of the Russia probe. Democrats in Congress have said they fear Whitaker could undermine or even fire Mueller after he expressed negative opinions about the probe before joining the Justice Department as Sessions’ chief of staff in October 2017.

On Sunday, top Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate sent a letter to the Justice Department’s chief ethics officer to ask whether Whitaker had received any guidance on possibly recusing himself from the Russia probe.

“Allowing a vocal opponent of the investigation to oversee it will severely undermine public confidence in the Justice Department’s work on this critically important matter,” the letter said.

Democrats have also raised questions about whether Whitaker’s appointment was legal under the Constitution because Trump ignored a statutory line of succession and deprived senators of their “advice and consent” role.

San Francisco’s city attorney said on Monday his office may take legal action if the Justice Department does not provide a legal justification for Whitaker’s appointment.

The city has four cases proceeding in court that name Sessions as a defendant, including one which led to an injunction blocking a Trump executive order over “sanctuary cities” that the administration claims are protecting illegal immigrants from deportation.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the Justice Department expects to publish a legal opinion supporting Whitaker’s appointment.

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s major indexes tumbled on Monday as shares of Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) dragged down the technology and financial sectors.

    With Monday’s losses, all three indexes erased the gains from their brief rally after the U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 6.

    Apple shares fell 5.0 percent after several suppliers to the company, including Lumentum Holdings Inc (LITE.O), whose components power the iPhone’s Face ID technology, cut their forecasts. Apple’s decline impeded the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which fell more than 2 percent.

    Lumentum shares plunged 33.0 percent. Shares of several chipmakers that sell to Apple, such as Cirrus Logic Inc (CRUS.O), Qorvo Inc (QRVO.O) and Skyworks Solutions Inc (SWKS.O), dropped as well. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index .SOX dropped 4.4 percent.

    “The concerns are all about global economic growth, specifically demands for the products of companies like Apple,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis. “Investors are becoming more concerned about faster-growing companies and whether they will continue to grow at that pace.”

    Goldman Sachs shares dropped 7.5 percent after Bloomberg reported that Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the country was seeking a full refund of all the fees it paid to the Wall Street bank for arranging billions of dollars of deals for troubled state fund 1MDB. Goldman Sachs was the biggest drag on the Dow, which fell more than 2 percent.

    Among the S&P 500’s 11 major sectors, technology and financial stocks weighed most heavily. The S&P 500 technology sector index .SPLRCT fell 3.5 percent, and the financial sector index .SPSY fell 2.0 percent.

    Energy stocks .SPNY also accelerated their decline toward the end of the session as oil prices fell.

    “At the moment it seems the path of least resistance is down,” said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 602.12 points, or 2.32 percent, to 25,387.18, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 54.79 points, or 1.97 percent, to 2,726.22 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 206.03 points, or 2.78 percent, to 7,200.87.

    A holiday in the U.S. bond markets for Veterans Day kept trading volume muted. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.30 billion shares, compared with the 8.41 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

    General Electric Co (GE.N) shares fell 6.9 percent after Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said the company was saddled with too much debt and would urgently sell assets to reduce leverage. The shares dropped below $8 for the first time since March 2009.

    Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.64-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 29 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 25 new highs and 161 new lows.

     

    SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. think tank said on Monday it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 undeclared missile operating bases inside North Korea, underscoring the challenge for American negotiators hoping to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

    In reports released by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), researchers said maintenance and minor infrastructure improvements had been observed at some of the sites despite the negotiations.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work toward denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore but the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway.

    Trump said on Twitter shortly after that summit “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea”.

    North Korea declared its nuclear force “complete” and halted missile and nuclear bomb testing earlier this year but U.S. and South Korean negotiators have yet to elicit from Pyongyang a concrete declaration of the size or scope of the weapons programs, or a promise to stop deploying its existing arsenal.

    North Korea has said it closed its Punggye-ri nuclear testing site and the Sohae missile engine test facility. It also raised the possibility of shutting more sites and allowing international inspections if Washington took “corresponding measures”, of which there has so far been no sign.

    Asked whether those hidden sites went against the spirit of the summit and whether North Korea must give them up, a State Department official said Trump had made clear that “should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments – including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs – a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people”.

    An official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that Seoul is “familiar” with the sites identified in the report but declined to confirm whether intelligence has indicated any recent changes at the bases.

    “The areas are places that our military is surveilling under coordination with the United States,” the official said.

    North Korea called off a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York last week. State media said on Monday the resumption of some small-scale military drills by South Korea and the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula.

    The sites identified in the CSIS report are scattered in remote, mountainous areas across North Korea and could be used to house ballistic missiles of various ranges, the largest of which is believed to be capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

    “Missile operating bases are not launch facilities,” the report said. “While missiles could be launched from within them in an emergency, Korean People’s Army operational procedures call for missile launchers to disperse from the bases to pre-surveyed or semi-prepared launch sites for operations.”

    None of the missile bases has been acknowledged by North Korea and analysts say an accurate disclosure of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities would be an important part of any denuclearization deal.

    Sakkanmol, the site closest to the border with South Korea and its capital, Seoul, appears to be “active and being reasonably well maintained”, the report found.

    “North Korea’s decommissioning of the Sohae satellite launch facility, while gaining much media attention, obscures the military threat to U.S. forces and South Korea from this and other undeclared ballistic missile bases,” it said.

    TAMPA, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday urged Florida election officials to end a recount and declare his fellow Republicans the winners of disputed races in last week’s elections, while Democrats picked up a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.

    U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema declared victory and Republican opponent Martha McSally conceded after multiple media outlets called the closely contested Arizona race for the Democrat. Sinema will succeed Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic, who did not seek-election.

    The results will not affect Republican control of the 100-member Senate. Republicans have won at least 51 seats and Democrats 47 in the elections, with results in Florida and Mississippi still outstanding.

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