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Donald Trump has faced suspicion over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin

A Republican-led Senate panel has concluded that Trump campaign contacts with Russia in 2016 “represented a grave counterintelligence threat”.

The nearly 1,000-page intelligence committee report laid out links between President Donald Trump’s associates and Kremlin officials.

It is the fifth and probably final report into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

When asked about the report on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he “didn’t read it”.

According to the committee, the expansive report is “the most comprehensive description to date of Russia’s activities and the threat they posed”.

It details the interactions between Trump campaign staff and Russian operatives, including a Kremlin intelligence officer.

The findings also confirm aspects of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report from his criminal probe into the Trump campaign and Russian election interference.

What’s in the report?

The bipartisan senate committee investigation was not a criminal inquiry, but was meant to offer recommendations to prevent future interference.

The report concluded that the Kremlin “engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence” the 2016 election, and that some Trump associates were keen on help from Russia.

It said the Trump campaign, with many affiliates who had no government experience, were easy targets for foreign influence.

The committee also highlighted the role of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was convicted of conspiracy and fraud charges during the Mueller inquiry.

Manafort’s contact with Russian oligarchs and intelligence affiliates – namely Konstantin Kilimnik- and his access to Mr Trump “created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign,” the committee alleges.

The committee also reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the WikiLeaks effort to hack Democratic Party officials and leak information to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The report confirmed Kremlin used Manafort and WikiLeaks to help Mr Trump win the 2016 election, and that WikiLeaks was aware it was assisting Russian intelligence.

It also found that the Trump campaign tried to obtain information about the leak from Roger Stone – a longtime Trump ally and adviser. The committee was not able to determine how much access Stone had to WikiLeaks, however.

Mr Trump has said he does not recall speaking about WikiLeaks with Stone, but Tuesday’s report found that “despite Trump’s recollection”, he did speak to Stone and other campaign staff about the matter “on multiple occasions”.

Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering, but pardoned by Mr Trump in July.

What did Trump say?

The president has long derided claims that his election victory was influenced by Russia, at times questioning findings from his own agencies.

In response to a question about the report, Mr Trump told reporters: “I don’t know anything about it. I didn’t read it.”

He added: “It’s all a hoax.”

White House spokesman Judd Deere, however, said the report was further confirmation that “that there was absolutely no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia”.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The boy who swapped his piano for a gun

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The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over, but some families are still waiting for news of their missing relatives.

Bodies are still being counted and identified, and there is no clear information on what has happened to the missing.

Twenty-two-year-old Soghomon was fighting on the Armenian frontline against Azerbaijan. The last time his family heard from him was 1 October.

He was a soldier, but also an artist and a talented piano player.

His father and sister say they can’t give up hope that he will return.

Video by: Sofia Bettiza, Gabriel Chaim and Aren Melikyan

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Afghan car bomb kills at least 40 soldiers

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An attacker detonated an explosive packed vehicle in front of a security base in the Deh Yak district of the province.

According to a statement from the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the attacker was confronted by security forces as he tried to enter the base. No group has claimed responsibility yet.

The blast targeted a compound of the public protection force, a wing of the Afghan security forces, local officials told Reuters. It damaged civilian residences around the compound, and there could be more casualties from there, they said.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed that there had been a car bomb blast but did not provide further information on the target or possible casualties.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when contacted by Reuters, did not confirm or deny responsibility.

Afghanistan has seen a spate of car bombings over the last few months, despite peace talks being under way between negotiation teams of the insurgent Taliban and the government in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Violence in the country, at war for two decades, remains unacceptably high, foreign governments and institutions say, calling for an immediate ceasefire between the Afghan government and Taliban.
Afghan President orders resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban in blow to Trump's deal

Another bombing on Sunday, in the eastern province of Zabul, targeting a top provincial official, killed at least one person and injured 23, said Gul Islam Syaal, the spokesman for the province’s governor.

Haji Ata Jan Haqbayan, head of the provincial council of Zabul, suffered minor injuries in the attack on his convoy.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Haqbayan, an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

The Trump administration’s peace deal with the Taliban was dealt a blow in May as the Afghan government announced it was resuming offensive operations against the insurgent group following a spate of deadly terrorist attacks.

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Incoming GOP congresswoman to take aim at AOC with conservative ‘squad’

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Malliotakis, who frequently attacked Ocasio-Cortez during her campaign against Democratic Rep. Max Rose, took aim again at her New York counterpart when asked about the future of the Republican Party.

“I think one of the reasons why we were so motivated to run is seeing the Democratic women being elected in 2018 that don’t necessarily reflect our values, particularly those who are self-described socialists,” Malliotakis said. “I think there’s just a stark contrast between what we’re offering and what people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are offering. And that’s something that needs to be debated in Washington.”

House Republicans more than doubled the number of women in their conference in November, bringing the number to at least 28 from 13. Democrats, who added a record number of women to their ranks during the 2018 election, have at least 89.

A number of House races still remain uncalled, including New York Republican Claudia Tenney’s challenge against Rep. Anthony Brindisi; Tenney’s lead has narrowed significantly to just 13 votes as of Friday.

Malliotakis, who will be the only Republican to represent New York City in Congress, credited House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney for their efforts in recruiting “qualified women who have something to share with the American people” for the gains.

“What we stand for are freedom, liberty. We love this nation. We want to see it prevail. We want to see it remain the land of opportunity, what has, in essence, attracted millions of immigrants from around the world, to pursue that American dream,” Malliontakis said. “Somebody like me, daughter of a Cuban refuge, I want to be there to be a part of the discussion, debate and provide a counterview.”

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