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US Budget Deficit Hits Record $204.9B for November

The federal budget deficit surged to a record for the month of November of $204.9 billion, but a big part of the increase reflected a calendar quirk.

In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Thursday that the deficit for November was $66.4 billion higher than the imbalance in November 2017.

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Washington, DC, United States (VOA) – The federal budget deficit surged to a record for the month of November of $204.9 billion, but a big part of the increase reflected a calendar quirk.

In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Thursday that the deficit for November was $66.4 billion higher than the imbalance in November 2017.

But $44 billion of that figure reflected the fact that December benefits in many government entitlement programs were paid in November this year because Dec. 1 fell on a Saturday.

For the first two months of this budget year, the deficit totals $305.4 billion, up 51.4 percent from the same period last year. The Trump administration is projecting that this year’s deficit will top $1 trillion, reflecting increased government spending and the loss of revenue from a big tax cut.

The new report showed that the higher tariffs from President Donald Trump’s get-tough trade policies are showing up in the budget totals. Customs duties totaled $6 billion in November, up 99 percent from November 2017.

Trump has imposed penalty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports froma number ofcountries and on $250billionof Chinese imports as the administration seeks to apply pressure to other countries to reduce their barriers to American exports. However, China and other nations have retaliated by imposing penalty tariffs on U.S. exports, sparking a tit-for-tat trade war.

The administration still believes it will prevail and is currently in talks with China over trade practices the administration feels are unfair to American companies and workers.

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Politics

Pentagon IDs 3 Americans Killed in Syria Suicide Bomb Attack

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Washington, DC, United States (NewsBahn) – Pentagon IDs 3 Americans Killed in Syria Suicide Bomb Attack

The Pentagon has identified three of the four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State group in Syria this week.

They are Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor. The four were killed in the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Wednesday. The attack also wounded three U.S. troops and was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.

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Report: Trump Told Attorney Cohen to Lie to Congress

U.S. President Donald Trump is reported to have directed his attorney to lie to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The late Thursday account on BuzzFeed News said two anonymous federal law enforcement officials were the sources for the report about the president and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.

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Washignton, DC, United States (VOA) – U.S. President Donald Trump is reported to have directed his attorney to lie to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The late Thursday account on BuzzFeed News said two anonymous federal law enforcement officials were the sources for the report about the president and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.

The sources say Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that the president told him to lie to Congress about Trump’s dealings with Russia.

BuzzFeed says the anonymous officials are also “involved in an investigation of the matter.”

According to the BuzzFeed account, Trump and two of his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., “received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.”

Russia negotiations

At the same time Cohen was providing the Trumps with news about the negotiations with Russia, Trump was engaged in his successful presidential election and denying that he had any business deals with Russia.

“The allegation that the president of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business deals with Russia is among the most serious to date” Representative Adam Schiff of California said via Twitter. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas posted on Twitter that if the BuzzFeed story is true, then Trump “must resign or be impeached.”

BuzzFeed says it learned about Trump’s effort to have Cohen lie to Congress “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

Giuliani on collusion

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, has acknowledged that some officials with Trump’s 2016 campaign may have colluded with Russia to help him win, but says that Trump himself did not.

“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani, a former New York mayor, told CNN late Wednesday.

“I said the president of the United States,” he added. “There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack” the opposition Democratic National Committee.

On Thursday, Giuliani sought to clarify his remarks, saying, “I represent only President Trump not the Trump campaign. There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form. Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”

Giuliani’s comments during the CNN interview about Trump campaign involvement with Moscow were sharply at odds with what Trump himself has tweeted at least 13 times, that his successful campaign for the White House did not collude with Russia.

Most recently, last month, Trump said on Twitter:

Russia has rejected the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Moscow’s agents meddled in the election to help Trump win, although President Vladimir Putin acknowledged at last July’s Helsinki summit with Trump that he wanted the then-real estate mogul to defeat his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors have been investigating Trump campaign links to Russia for 20 months and also whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

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Russia Detains Model Claiming Trump Secrets

Russia on Thursday detained a Belarusian model who once claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office, witnesses told AFP.

Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen name, NastyaRybka, was held for questioning at a Moscow airport after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a “sex training course,” other passengers on the flight told AFP.

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Moscow, Russian Federation (NewsBahn) – Russia on Thursday detained a Belarusian model who once claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office, witnesses told AFP.

Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen name, NastyaRybka, was held for questioning at a Moscow airport after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a “sex training course,” other passengers on the flight told AFP.

Russian authorities detained her and several others, including Alex Kirillov, a self-styled Russian seduction guru, witnesses said.

Plainclothes officials led away four members of the group,includingVashukevichand Kirillov, a woman who gave her name as Kristina told AFP after emerging at Sheremetyevo airport.

Describing herself as Kirillov’s wife, Kristina said she heard the group shouting and asking for an explanation of “why they were being detained.”

A law enforcement source told the TASS state news agency that Vashukevich,Kirillov and two others had been detained at the airport for questioning regarding recruitment for prostitution,a crime punishable by up to six years in jail.

Deripaska link

In a case that veered between salacious and bizarre,Vashukevichsaid she had traveled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russianaluminiumtycoon OlegDeripaska,a onetime associate of Trump’s disgraced former campaign director, Paul Manafort.

She then set tongues wagging by promising to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” regarding claims the Kremlin aided Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.But the material neversurfacedand critics dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt.

Vashukevichwas held with several others in apoliceraid last February in the seaside resort of Pattaya, Thailand. In a risque seminar there,led by Kirillov, some participants wore shirts that said “sex animator” — though one person at the time described it as more of a romance-and-relationship course.

Vashukevichpleaded guilty alongside seven others to multiple charges, including solicitation and illegal assembly, at a Pattaya court on Tuesday, which ordered that the group be deported.

Kirillov, who has served as a quasi-spokesman for the mostly Russian group, told reporters as they arrived at that court Tuesday that he believed they had been set up.

“I think somebody ordered [ourarrest] …for money,” he said.

Vashukevichlookedsomber as she entered the courthouse and did not respond to questions from reporters.

Blacklisted in Thailand

On Thursday afternoon,Vashukevichand the majority of the convicted were put on an Aeroflot flight for Moscow. Thailand’s immigration chief, SurachateHakparn, said the last of the group would leave the country later in the evening.

They were also blacklisted from returning to Thailand.

It was unclear what would happen to them upon arrival in Moscow, but as a Belarusian citizen,Vashukevichwas expected to transit to Belarus.

Vashukevich, who has more than 120,000 followers on Instagram and penned a book about seducing oligarchs, already faces legal problems in Russia.

Deripaskawon an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against her and Kirillov in July after a video apparently filmed by the model showed the tycoon vacationing with an influential Russian deputy prime minister at the time.

“I don’t think she wants to get out [of the plane] in Moscow,” a Russian friend in Thailand who helped with the case told AFP on Thursday.

Both Washington and Moscow publicly shrugged offVashukevich’sstory, which the U.S. State Department described as “bizarre.”

Kremlin-connectedDeripaskaand Manafort, Trump’s ex-campaign manager, did business together in the mid-2000s.Manafort has since been convicted in the U.S. of financial crimes related to political work he did in Ukraine before the 2016 election, as well as witness tampering.

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