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Ex-FBI Chief Mueller Named Special Counsel on Russia Probe

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  • Ex-FBI Chief Mueller Named Special Counsel on Russia Probe

The U.S. Justice Department has named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the bureau’s investigation of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election, as well as possible collusion by Trump campaign associates, and to prosecute any federal crimes uncovered.

The naming of Mueller — a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — comes as the White House is reeling from President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on May 9. That was followed by allegations Trump asked Comey in February to end his probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump was notified of the decision only about 25 minutes before it was made public — and only after the order was signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a White House official said. Rosenstein called White House counsel Don McGahn to inform him and McGahn told Trump.

Trump and chief of staff Reince Priebus told senior staff who gathered in the Oval Office that the decision meant it was up to Mueller to talk about the investigation now and the White House could return to talking about Trump’s agenda. The official said the moment was calm and oddly refreshing after weeks of chaos surrounding the probes.

Appointment of a special counsel was a key demand by many Democrats in the wake of those revelations, and Mueller was given broad powers by Rosenstein.

‘Unique Circumstances’

“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

The dollar clawed backed losses during Asian trading hours Thursday and U.S. equity futures rose after concern over U.S. political turmoil rippled across global markets. Futures on the S&P 500 Index were up 0.3 percent as of 3:13 p.m. in Hong Kong, after the underlying gauge fell 1.8 percent Wednesday, the most in eight months.

Rosenstein issued an order authorizing Mueller to pursue the investigation into Russian meddling, including “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”

‘Authorized to Prosecute’

“If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” the order says. That means he can issue subpoenas, present evidence to a grand jury and bring charges — all the powers of a federal prosecutor.

“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” Trump said in a brief statement. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Thursday that Trump’s transition team knew Flynn was under federal investigation before he was made national security adviser. Flynn disclosed weeks before the inauguration the probe into his work as a paid lobbyist for Turkey, the newspaper said, citing two people familiar with the case.

Russia Probe

The FBI’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and potential links with Trump’s campaign had been overseen by Rosenstein and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the inquiry earlier this year after it was revealed he had not disclosed conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Rosenstein, who is scheduled to brief the full Senate behind closed doors on the Russia probe Thursday, made the decision to name Mueller, according to the Justice Department.

Mueller, 72, was FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and was the longest-serving head of the bureau since J. Edgar Hoover. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, as the U.S. was ramping up security, he joined then-Deputy Attorney General Comey in threatening to resign if the White House overruled a Justice Department opinion that domestic wiretapping without a warrant was unconstitutional.

Before joining the FBI, Mueller served as U.S. Attorney in San Francisco and held other positions in the Justice Department. Obama asked Mueller to stay in office two years beyond the normal 10-year term.

Since leaving government service, Mueller has been a partner at WilmerHale LLP. The law firm confirmed Mueller’s resignation Wednesday evening.

“I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability,” Mueller said in a statement.

‘Great Selection’

Unlike Comey, who Trump charged was a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” Mueller typically shied away from making comments to reporters and routinely refused to discuss ongoing investigations. He also won wide praise as FBI director from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, an attribute that may help steady concerns about the handling of the Russia probe.

“Mueller is a great selection,” Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on Twitter after the decision was announced. “Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”

Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said “I think that’s probably a good choice. I’ve been impressed by him.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called the selection “excellent.”

It’s unclear how the appointment might affect the multiple probes already under way in Congress.

“I just don’t have a precedent for this that I can tell you,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said when asked about the impact of Mueller’s designation.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

INEC Plans Expansion Of Polling Units For 2023 General Election

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Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to make polling units accessible to the electorate to remove voter apathy during elections.

INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara, Malam Garba Attahiru-Madami, made this known on Monday in Ilorin while declaring open two-day training on “Implementation of expansion of voters’ access to polling units”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training was for Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) in charge of Administration, Operations and Cluster Registration areas drawn from the 16 local government areas of Kwara.

He noted that many eligible voters refused to vote on election day because of the distance of polling units to their residences.

The REC told the participants that the training was very important to INEC, just as election was important, adding that without polling unit, there would be no election.

“Election start from polling unit, if there is no polling unit, there would be no election and collation, that is how important polling unit is,” he added.

He therefore charged the participants to take the training very serious as the outcome of the training would offer opportunity on what they would do on the field.

“I don’t need to re-emphasise why access to polling unit is very important. We already know that this exercise was carried out in 1996 and it was to serve 50 million voters.

“In 2019 election, we have greater voters of 84 million; you can see that the polling units now are grossly inadequate.

“By the time general election will take place in 2023, our projection is to have over 120 million voters.

“The number of polling units we have now cannot serve the 120 million voters, so the training is very important,” he said.

According to the REC, one of the reasons for voter apathy is because the polling unit was not accessible to them.

He said that some polling units have over 1,000 to 5,000 voters that were spread to polling points.

“So, we want to see how we can convert some of these voting points to polling units to meet the need of the people on election day.

“In some communities with communal clash, having their own polling unit would solve such conflict, because you will see a villager that will say, I will not go to that village to vote,” he added.

He said the idea of expansion of polling units was to remove voter apathy and reduce distance from home to the polling unit. (NAN)

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African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity

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African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.

“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.

The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.

Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.

The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.

The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.

Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.

The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.

The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.

Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”

The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.

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ITF, Nigerian Air Force, Others, Sign MOU To Advance Research

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The Industrial Training Fund, ITF has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, and Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to establish the framework that will give room for optimal performance as well as enhance productivity.

The Director General, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari while speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, said the MOU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.

He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education noting that developed nations are where they are today because of the initiative.

According to him, “even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore”.

“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a university”.

“The ITF is well positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said

The ITF boss added; “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think about this Memorandum of Understanding because I deed, ITF is where you should be”.

“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and since then I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped it’s workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” Sir Ari added.

He also commended the men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Oladayo Amao said the Nigerian Air Force has a highly technical Service and technology is the bedrock of all its operations.

Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal, Olusegun Philip, Amao noted that in line with the focus of the Federal Government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.

“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,” Amao stated.

“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.

“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost effective manner,” he said.

The Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Engineer, Kola Balogun however, assured that the MOU entered would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.

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