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Republican Senators Urge Trump To Embrace Findings On Russia Hacking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two senior Republican senators urged President-elect Donald Trump to punish Russia in response to U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that President Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts aimed at influencing the outcome of the November election.

In a joint appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election – a point that Trump has refuted repeatedly by arguing it might be impossible to tell who was responsible.

“In a couple weeks, Donald Trump will be the defender of the free world and democracy,” Graham said. “You should let everybody know in America, Republicans and Democrats, that you’re going to make Russia pay a price for trying to interfere.”

Both senators said they remain unsure if they will support Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, who has been criticized for his close ties to Putin. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday to consider Tillerson’s nomination.

Three U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint report on Friday that concluded that Putin directed efforts to help Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Hackers penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s email server and separately stole emails from John Podesta, who chaired Clinton’s campaign. The emails were then posted online and used to embarrass Clinton, including by Trump who frequently used the content as political ammunition.

Russia was trying to undermine public faith in the democratic process, damage Clinton, making it harder for her to win and harm her presidency if she did, the unclassified report said.

McCain said he supports continued investigations into the hacks.

“We need to come to grips with it and get to the bottom of it and overall come up with a strategy in this new form of warfare that can basically harm our economy, harm our elections, harm our national security,” he said.

Trump, whose views on Russia are out of step with his party, has repeatedly dismissed claims that the Russians were trying to help him, arguing that the charges against Russia are the product of his political opponents trying to undermine his victory.

On Friday, after receiving his intelligence briefing, Trump did not squarely address whether he was told of the agencies’ belief Russia carried out the hacking.

Instead, he said: “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations” including the DNC.

On Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter that having a better relationship with Russia is a “good thing.”

“Only ‘stupid’ people or fools, would think that is bad!” he tweeted. “We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Mary Milliken)

In America’s ‘Rust Belt,’ More Voters Trust Clinton On Trade

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s promise to restore American jobs by renegotiating international trade deals appears to be failing him in states most affected by outsourcing, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Voters in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – three competitive states in the Nov. 8 election that form the bulk of a region dubbed the Rust Belt for its swaths of shuttered factories – favor Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, on the issue of trade, according to the polling, with some respondents citing how international trade can bring down prices.

The results underscore the uphill battle the New York businessman faces on Election Day, when he needs to sweep a broad array of battleground states to win the White House.

“Trump has made a strong effort to portray Clinton as favorable to trade policies that he has labeled ‘a disaster’ for the United States,” said Thomas Nelson, a political science professor at Ohio State University.

In the automaking state of Michigan, which has voted reliably for Democratic candidates in recent presidential elections but which Trump has fought hard to win, some 40 percent of likely voters believed Clinton would be better equipped to address trade, compared with 36 percent for Trump.

In Ohio, known for its aerospace, steel and rubber industries, 45 percent said Clinton would be better on trade, compared with 38 percent for Trump. In Pennsylvania, long a steel and heavy manufacturing center, 45 percent favored Clinton on trade, compared with 38 percent for Trump, according to the polling, conducted in mid-October.

Clinton is leading Trump in all three states among likely voters, with advantages of 4 points in Michigan, 3 points in Ohio and 6 points in Pennsylvania, according to the Reuters/Ipsos polling.

But other polls show the race tightening in those states. RealClearPolitics, which averages data from most major polls, shows Clinton leading Trump by 6.6 points in Michigan and 5.1 points in Pennsylvania, and Trump leading Clinton by 2.7 points in Ohio.

Officials for Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

‘WHAT JOBS ARE YOU BRINGING BACK?’

Poll respondents reached by Reuters who favored Clinton on trade mainly gave two reasons – first, that international trade deals can help people by lowering prices for goods; and second, they doubt Trump can deliver on his promise to restore the U.S. manufacturing sector.

“We all like to have inexpensive items,” Ronald Lane, 56, of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, who plans to vote for a third-party candidate next week as a protest against both Trump and Clinton.

“I think it’s important to save American jobs which have already gone overseas, but I don’t believe there is much that can be done to bring them back,” he said.

Christina Ledesma, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Clinton supporter, said she also disagreed with Trump that the economy would suffer a lasting negative effect from trade deals.

“Our unemployment rate is lower than it’s been since 2008. What jobs are you bringing back?” she said.

Michigan’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in September, below the national average of 5 percent. Ohio’s was at 4.8 percent and Pennsylvania’s at 5.7 percent.

Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico one of the worst deals ever struck and blames it for manufacturing jobs being moved to Mexico.

He also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would open markets in East Asia. Trump argues that the deal, which must be ratified by Congress, would motivate more U.S. companies to move their production overseas.

Last week while campaigning, he called outsourcing “the greatest job theft in the history of the world”.

“The jobs theft will end … the day I start the presidency. It’s going to be America first again,” he said.

Clinton has offered a more tempered approach, saying she would seek to re-evaluate NAFTA if elected and that there were problems with some aspects of the TPP.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English from Oct. 6 to Oct. 17 in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12 in Ohio. It included 1,370 likely voters in Michigan, 1,467 in Pennsylvania, and 1,200 in Ohio. All three state polls had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Chris Kahn; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Hillary Clinton visits a campaign field office in North Las Vegas, Nevada. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Debates To Help Half Of U.S. Voters Decide Between Clinton, Trump – Reuters/Ipsos Poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Half of America’s likely voters will rely on the presidential debates to help them make their choice between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday.

The results show the stakes for the White House rivals as they prepare to face off on Monday at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, for their first of three one-on-one debates, a prime-time TV spectacle expected to draw a Super Bowl-sized audience of 100 million Americans.

Some 50 percent of likely voters think the debates will help inform their decision of whom to support, including 10 percent who say they are not currently leaning either way, according to the opinion poll.

Some 39 percent said the debates will not help, and 11 percent said they did not know how the debates would affect them.

In a strong signal that most viewers will also be hoping the debates bring clarity, some 72 percent of respondents said they want to see moderators point out when a candidate says something that is untrue. That included 73 percent of people who identified themselves as Trump supporters and 82 percent of those who said they back Clinton, according to the results.

“It helps the audience, particularly me, to recognise what’s bull crap and what’s real,” said Harvey Leven, 63, a teacher from Farmington Hills, Michigan. “It’s easy for the candidates to quote a statistic and people accept it.”

Clinton currently leads in most national polls and holds critical advantages in key swing states like Ohio and North Carolina. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll finds Clinton leading Trump nationally by 4 percentage points.

Clinton had seen her popularity dip in recent weeks after more questions arose about her family foundation and the use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

“NO” TO NAME-CALLING

Many voters are hoping to see a relatively civilized debate, after months of mutual attacks between Trump and Clinton on the campaign trail. Trump has called for Clinton to be jailed for her handling of emails as America’s top diplomat. Clinton has accused Trump of racism and of being temperamentally unfit for the Oval Office.

Of those polled, 61 percent said they are not interested in those kinds of attacks.

“Quit picking on each other,” said Lisa Miller, 48, of St. Louis, Missouri. “This isn’t a playground. Grow up and talk about your plan.”

A plurality of likely voters want to hear both Clinton and Trump talk about jobs and the economy, the poll found.

“I’ll tell you with Donald Trump I want to see that he has rational answers to questions without name calling,” said Leven. “I want to try to get beyond the political hocus pocus that both of them are doing and try to see who they really are.”

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English in all 50 states. It included 2,124 American adults, including 1,337 people who were deemed to be likely voters due to their voting history, registration status and stated intention to show up on Election Day. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2 percentage points for all respondents and 3 percentage points for likely voters.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson and Chris Kahn; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Leslie Adler)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts after speaking at a campaign event at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Trump Asks NATO For Help Defeating Islamic State

By Ginger Gibson

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump said on Monday he would work closely with NATO allies to defeat Islamic State militants if he wins the White House, reversing an earlier threat that the United States might not meet its obligations to the Western military alliance.

In a policy speech, Trump said he would wage a multi-front “military, cyber and financial” war against Islamic State, although it was not clear how that would differ from the Obama administration’s fight with the jihadist group.

“We will also work closely with NATO on this new mission,” said Trump, whose remarks about the defense organization earlier this summer drew heavy criticism from allies and even some of his fellow Republicans.

Trump said a newly adopted approach to fighting terrorism by the organization had led him to change his mind and he no longer considered NATO obsolete. He was apparently referring to reports the alliance is moving toward creating an intelligence post in a bid to improve information sharing.

While Trump appeared to claim credit for prodding NATO to focus more on the threat of terrorism, the 28-nation alliance has been grappling with the issue for more than a decade. NATO invoked Article 5, its collective self-defense mechanism, for the first time in its history to offer support to the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Trump called for shutting down access to the internet and social media for those aligned with Islamic State, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq. But he said he did not want to detail military strategy because it would tip off potential foes.

“We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism just as we have defeated every threat we’ve faced at every age and before,” Trump said, blaming his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, and President Barack Obama for aiding the rise of Islamic State.

In a speech in the swing state of Ohio, Trump also said that in implementing his call for a temporary ban on Muslims immigrating to the country, he would institute “extreme vetting” and develop a new screening test to try to catch people who intend to do harm to the United States.

As president, he said, he would ask the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security to identify regions of the world that remain hostile to the United States and where normal screening might not be sufficient to catch those who pose a threat.

The Clinton campaign said Trump‘s plan to have immigrants submit to ideological tests was “a cynical ploy to escape scrutiny of his outrageous proposal to ban an entire religion from our country and no one should fall for it.”

Reading from a teleprompter, Trump said Clinton did not have the judgment and character to lead the country.

“Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face,” he said.

Trump, a wealthy New York businessman whose volatile campaign has alienated some in the Republican establishment, faced a fresh rebuke on Monday as he falls behind Clinton in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

The Wall Street Journal, a leading conservative voice, said in an editorial he should fix his campaign within weeks or step down. Echoing growing alarm about Trump‘s candidacy among many leading Republicans, the newspaper said Trump had failed to establish a competent campaign operation.

‘STOP BLAMING EVERYONE ELSE’

“If they can’t get Mr. Trump to change his act by Labor Day, the GOP will have no choice but to write off the nominee as hopeless and focus on salvaging the Senate and House and other down-ballot races,” the newspaper said.

Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 5 this year, marks the end of U.S. summer vacations and traditionally launches the final phase of the long U.S. election season.

“As for Mr. Trump, he needs to stop blaming everyone else and decide if he wants to behave like someone who wants to be president – or turn the nomination over to Mike Pence,” it said, referring to the Indiana governor, who is Trump‘s vice presidential running mate.

Adding to Trump‘s woes this week was the news, first reported by The New York Times, that the name of his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was on secret ledgers showing cash payments designated to him of more than $12 million from a Ukrainian political party with close ties to Russia.

Manafort denied any impropriety in a statement on Monday. “I have never received a single ‘off-the-books cash payment’ as falsely ‘reported’ by The New York Times, nor have I ever done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia,” he said.

Artem Sytnik, the head of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau, confirmed in a briefing with reporters that Manafort’s name appeared on a ledger and that more than $12 million had been allocated as an expenditure, referencing Manafort.

But Sytnik said the presence of Manafort’s name “does not mean that he definitely received this money.”

The Clinton campaign said the news was evidence of “more troubling connections between Donald Trump‘s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.”

Trump has spoken favorably in the past of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last month, he invited Russian hackers to find “missing” emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state, when she used a private email server to conduct government business, although he later described that comment as sarcasm.

The current RealClearPolitics average of national opinion polls puts Clinton 6.8 points ahead ofTrump, at 47.8 percent to Trump‘s 41 percent. Polls also show Trump trailing in states such as Pennsylvania that are likely to be pivotal in the election.

(Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Warren Strobel and Eric Beech in Washington, Luciana Lopez in Scranton and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Trump Rails Against Press In Response To Reports Of Chaos

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Reuters) – U.S. Republican Donald Trump on Saturday repeated his attack on President Barack Obama that he helped “found” Islamic State and railed against media reports that his campaign is failing, at a campaign rally in Connecticut, a state where he has a long-shot of being victorious.

Speaking for more than an hour in a sweltering room, Trump spent a significant portion of his speech complaining about the media.

He again threatened to revoke the press credentials of The New York Times. The credentials allow reporters access to press-only areas of his campaign events. He has already banned other outlets, including The Washington Post.

On Saturday, the New York newspaper published an article detailing failed efforts to make Trump focus his campaign on the general election.

“These are the most dishonest people,” Trump said. “Maybe we’ll start thinking about taking their press credentials away from them.”

Trump visiting Connecticut, a heavily Democratic state, raised eyebrows among many Republicans.

“It’s asinine that he would be in Connecticut holding a public rally less than 90 days before the election,” said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak. “You don’t see Hillary publicly campaigning in Idaho and Mississippi. I have to think this proves the candidate is running the campaign, which explains why it’s such a disaster of biblical proportions.”

At several points the crowd chanted “lock her up,” a frequent campaign rally chant in reference to Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Trump told the crowd that normally he responds by saying he intends instead to defeat her in the Nov. 8 election, but this time added, “You know what? You have a point!”

Trump also dropped his recent efforts to say he was not being serious when he said Obama was the “founder” of the Islamic State militant group .

“It’s the opinion of myself and a lot of people that he was the founder,” Trump told the crowd.

Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized Trump’s assertion as patently false.

Trump took a detour from attacking Clinton’s economic record to discuss the 1998 scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky and former President Bill Clinton, whom Republicans attempted to impeach.

“Remember when he said, he did not have sex with that woman, and a couple of weeks later, oh you got me,” Trump said, to cheers. He then made reference to a blue dress that became a symbol in the investigation. “I’m so glad they kept that dress, so glad they kept that dress, because it shows what the hell they are.”

(Editing by Sandra Maler)