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Blair ‘warned Trump aides Brit intelligence spied on them’

Blair met US President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner at White House last February
Former PM alleg..

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  • Blair met US President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner at White House last February
  • Former PM alleged to have been angling for role as Trump's Middle East adviser
  • Claims come in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline and Larisa Brown Political Correspondent For The Daily Mail and Alex Matthews For Mailonline

Published: 20:25 EST, 3 January 2018 | Updated: 06:06 EST, 4 January 2018

Tony Blair today furiously denied claims he warned Donald Trump's aides that British agents may have spied on them during the election at the behest of Obama administration.

An explosive new book alleges that the former prime minister passed on the gossip during a visit to the White House last February as he was angling for a job as the US President's Middle East envoy.

During the meeting with Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and a senior aide, Mr Blair is reported to have shared a rumour that GCHQ spies were monitoring the communications of Trump campaign staff and perhaps the future president himself.

But Mr Blair angrily denied the claims, made in a book by US journalist Michael Wolff, dismissing them as 'absurd' and a 'complete fabrication'.

'I have never had such a conversation inside the White House, outside the White House, with Jared Kushner, with anybody else,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The revelations echo Mr Trump's claims in tweet in March last year his 'wires were being tapped' by Barack Obama's administration during the presidential election.

Tony Blair said in an interview today that the allegations he relayed the rumour to Trump aides was a 'complete fabrication'

Tony Blair said in an interview today that the allegations he relayed the rumour to Trump aides was a 'complete fabrication'

Tony Blair pictured at the BBC studios in London todayTony Blair pictured at the BBC studios in London todayUS President Donald TrumpUS President Donald Trump

Tony Blair (pictured left today) warned Donald Trump's aides that British intelligence may have spied on them during the election, it is claimed in an explosive new book

Mr Blair (pictured at the BBC studios in London today) has angrily denied the claims, made in a book by US journalist Michael Wolff, dismissing them as 'absurd' and a 'complete fabrication'Mr Blair (pictured at the BBC studios in London today) has angrily denied the claims, made in a book by US journalist Michael Wolff, dismissing them as 'absurd' and a 'complete fabrication'

Mr Blair (pictured at the BBC studios in London today) has angrily denied the claims, made in a book by US journalist Michael Wolff, dismissing them as 'absurd' and a 'complete fabrication'

In Mr Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, he claims that 'the British had had the Trump campaign staff under surveillance, monitoring its telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself'.

It suggests that Mr Blair gave the impression that the Obama administration may have dropped hints that such surveillance would be helpful.

The explosive book draws on 200 interviews with Mr Trump's circle and the president himself.

In an extract printed in the Times, the book states: 'In February Blair visited Kushner in the White House.

'On this trip the now freelance diplomat, perhaps seeking to prove his usefulness to this new White House, mentioned a juicy rumour: the possibility that the British had had the Trump campaign staff under surveillance, monitoring its telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself.'

In March last year, Mr Trump accused Barack Obama's administration of wire tapping him during the presidential election  In March last year, Mr Trump accused Barack Obama's administration of wire tapping him during the presidential election  

In March last year, Mr Trump accused Barack Obama's administration of wire tapping him during the presidential election

It later adds: 'It was unclear whether the information was rumour, informed conjecture, speculation or solid stuff.'

The book explains that Mr Kushner and Steve Bannon went out to CIA headquarters in Langley to investigate the claims.

A few days later, the CIA reported back that the information was 'not correct… it was a 'miscommunication'.

A month after Mr Blair's alleged tip-off, Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, also claimed that GCHQ, Britain's eavesdropping agency, had spied on Trump Tower during the election.

In a rare statement, GCHQ denied the claims as 'utterly ridiculous' and said such claims should be ignored.

Mr Blair said today: 'This story is a complete fabrication, literally beginning to end.'

Asked if he had met Mr Kushner, the former prime minister replied: 'Of course I have met him and we discussed the Middle East peace process.'

Mr Blair insisted he had not been 'angling for some job' during the meeting. 'I never sought one, was never offered one, don't want one,' he added.

A spokeswoman for Mr Blair said: 'The allegations printed in The Times are categorically absurd. They are a complete fabrication, have no basis in reality and are simply untrue.'

The book provides a scathing portrait of Mr Trump and paints the West Wing as a place plagued by inexperience and feuding among its senior staff.

It goes on to allege that Mr Trump had promised his wife, Melania, that he would not win the presidency and she wept when she found out he had won.

It also claims that his daughter Ivanka, who is married to Mr Kushner, wants to be the first female president.

Other allegations include that Mr Trump has banned domestic staff from touching his belongings, especially his toothbrush, over fears he could be poisoned.

This phobia apparently goes towards explaining his love of fast food, which is 'safely pre-made' by a McDonald's cook.

A spokeswoman for Mrs Trump described the book as 'bargain fiction', adding: 'Mrs Trump supported her husband's decision to run for president. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.'

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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