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Saturday, November 09, 2019 1:00 am

Politics

Bannon: Stone seen as WikiLeaks link

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump's campaign viewed Roger Stone as an “access point” to WikiLeaks and tried to use him to get advanced word about hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton, a former top presidential adviser testified Friday.

In reluctant testimony, former campaign CEO Steve Bannon told a federal court that Stone, on trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, had boasted about his ties to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, alerting them to pending new batches of damaging emails.

It was the first time that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign acknowledged in court that they had actively sought material from WikiLeaks, which released emails that U.S. intelligence agencies determined had been hacked by the Russian government in order to damage Clinton. The White House had no immediate comment.

Stone, a colorful political operative and Trump ally, is charged with witness tampering and lying to Congress about his attempts to contacts WikiLeaks about the damaging material during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Water contract raises questions

The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural California water district that had long employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist.

Conservation groups are demanding fuller disclosure of financial terms and an environmental review of the proposed deal for the California's Westlands Water District, the nation's largest agricultural water supplier. The water district serves some of the country's wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers.

Bernhardt served as a lobbyist for Westlands until 2016, the year before he joined Interior, initially as deputy secretary.

Trump won't try to thwart Sessions

President Donald Trump says he won't campaign against his former attorney general, whom he publicly mocked in the past, as Jeff Sessions tries to reclaim a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Trump, whose relationship with Sessions soured when the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation, was noncommittal when asked if he would endorse Sessions.

“No, I won't. I'll see how it all goes,” Trump said when asked whether he would oppose Sessions. “We'll see what happens. He's got tough competition.”

President disputes progress on trade

President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed a Chinese official's assertion that his administration has agreed to roll back some of the higher tariffs it's imposed on Chinese goods.

The Chinese official said Thursday that the two sides had agreed to a phased cancellation of their tariff hikes as part of an emerging agreement. Trump's pushback suggested that negotiations haven't progressed as far as hoped as the world's two biggest economies struggle to negotiate an end to their trade war, which has hurt both economies.

“They'd like to have a rollback,” Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to the Chinese. “I haven't agreed to anything.”

Aide resigns over fundraising tactic

A top Iowa aide to businessman Tom Steyer resigned Friday, a day after The Associated Press revealed he had privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing Steyer's White House bid.

Steyer's Democratic presidential campaign announced the resignation of Pat Murphy, a former House speaker who served as a top adviser on Steyer's Iowa campaign. In a statement Thursday, Murphy apologized for but did not deny the interactions and said the concerns expressed by his former colleagues about his overtures were the result of a “miscommunication.”

Amtrak numbers picking up speed

Amtrak on Friday reported record ridership and revenue figures for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, leading officials to predict the heavily subsidized railroad could eliminate operating losses as soon as next year.

The government-owned passenger railroad said it provided 32.5 million passenger trips, an increase of about 800,000 over the previous fiscal year. Ridership numbers were affected the last two years by summer repair work at New York's Penn Station.