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December 7, 2017
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince wants to privatize the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, but apparently he's also very interested in the country's rare minerals. On Thursday, BuzzFeed News published Prince's 19-page plan to end America's longest war, which involves sending private contractors and U.S. special forces to fight alongside and train Afghan soldiers.

But while Prince's push to privatize the war in Afghanistan has been well-documented, the presentation published by BuzzFeed News is the first instance of Prince explicitly highlighting his interest in the country's potential mineral wealth. In his pitch, Prince claims that there are over $1 trillion worth of rare minerals buried in Afghanistan, which his security forces would extract in order to "restore [the] U.S. high tech manufacturing supply chain." Prince additionally claims that mining would provide employment for Afghans and would break "the negative security economic cycle."

Earlier this year, Prince began his public push to convince President Trump to let his company take over the Afghanistan war, focusing on the conflict's high costs and only mentioning the country's mineral resources in passing. Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner reportedly tried to talk Defense Secretary James Mattis into considering the proposal, but Mattis was apparently not interested.

Trump himself reportedly learned of Afghanistan's mineral wealth in May and apparently expressed a desire to "see where the business deal is," but he ultimately backed a Pentagon proposal to increase troop levels instead.

Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, declined to speak to BuzzFeed News about his plan for the Afghan war. See his full plan here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

12:12 p.m. ET

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday offered a qualified defense of President Trump's claim that he has been vindicated by the evidence revealed in federal investigations of Russian election meddling.

Friday's indictment of Russian nationals and entities by Special Counsel Robert Mueller "proves there’s no collusion to this point," Christie said on ABC's This Week. "There's no collusion in terms of the Facebook ads, the other social media activity."

"Director Mueller made it very clear in the indictment that any participation by anybody — whether it was in the Trump campaign or the [Bernie] Sanders campaign, which they said was also being assisted by this effort by Russia — that all of that was done unwittingly," Christie continued. "No one participated in a knowing fashion. Now, we have to see where [Mueller] goes next, but certainly at this point, there is no allegation by Director Mueller and his team of collusion."

Watch a clip of Christie's comments below, or read his full interview here. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET

President Trump posted a pair of tweets Sunday morning aimed at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whom he dubbed "Liddle' [sic] Adam Schiff, the leakin' monster of no control." The president was pleased with Schiff's Friday statement that Russian meddling in U.S. politics should have been addressed sooner and more forcefully by the Obama administration. However, he also suggested Schiff's true motive was excusing Hillary Clinton's election loss.

Later Sunday, on CNN's State of the Union, Schiff hit back. Friday's indictment of Russian nationals "ought to put to rest for anyone, including the president who continues to call this a 'witch hunt,' that the evidence is now overwhelming and unequivocal and we need to move to protect ourselves from Russian interference in elections that are coming up," Schiff said.

Asked whether he concurs with Trump's frequent claim that his campaign has been proven innocent of collusion with Russian election meddling, Schiff disagreed. "No, of course not," he said. "This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes."

Watch an excerpt of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian

10:09 a.m. ET
Atta Kenare/Getty Images

An Iranian passenger plane heading to Tehran crashed Sunday morning in a mountainous rural region. All 66 people on board, 60 passengers and six crew members, are presumed, though not confirmed, to be dead. Retrieval efforts have been hindered by the crash site's remote location and bad weather.

Iran has a poor record on aviation safety because international sanctions intended to restrain its nuclear development make it difficult to obtain parts to keep planes in good condition. This plane, operated by Aseman Airlines, was 25 years old. The airline signed a contract with Boeing last year to purchase a new fleet of as many as 60 planes, but that agreement could be jeopardized if the Trump administration seeks to exit the Iran nuclear deal. Bonnie Kristian

10:01 a.m. ET
Lennart Preiss/The Associated Press

"Israel will not allow Iran's regime to put the noose of terror around our neck," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. "We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not only against Iranian proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself."

Netanyahu alleged Iran is attempting to "colonize" Syria, which is located between the two countries, as part of a larger project "to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza." As he spoke, he waved a piece of an Iranian drone recently downed on Israeli land.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif labeled the remarks "a cartoonish circus which does not even deserve a response." He accused Israel of practicing "aggression as a policy against its neighbors," saying Netanyahu is angry because "the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled." Bonnie Kristian

8:48 a.m. ET

President Trump on Twitter Sunday denied questioning whether Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 election:

The president was referring to comments he made in the first general election debate saying interference efforts "could be Russia. But it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?"

However, Trump also said in November of 2017 he is convinced by Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of election interference. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that,'" Trump said of Putin, "and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it."

In other tweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump complained about press coverage of Friday's indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. He also argued it was Moscow's goal "to create discord, disruption, and chaos within the U.S.," and he pushed back on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's Saturday remark that evidence of Russian meddling "is now incontrovertible."

One Sunday tweet on the subject ended on a plaintive note: "But," Trump asked, "wasn't I a great candidate?" Bonnie Kristian

8:18 a.m. ET

Floridians gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale Saturday to rally for stricter gun laws in response to Wednesday's deadly shooting at a high school in nearby Parkland. The crowd of several thousand heard from students who survived the attack.

"We are going to be the last mass shooting," said one student, Emma Gonzalez, whose impassioned speech was shared widely online. "We are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas [High School] in that textbook."

Gonzalez targeted President Trump for special criticism. "If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a 'terrible tragedy,'" she said, "I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association." As Gonzalez noted, Trump's presidential campaign was supported by about $30 million in ad buys by the NRA.

"If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur," she charged, "that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you." Watch the full speech below. Bonnie Kristian

7:52 a.m. ET

In a pair of tweets posted Saturday night and Sunday morning, President Trump aired three separate grievances with the FBI. First, he targeted the agency's failure to investigate a January tip about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who confessed the school shooting in Florida this past week. In the same tweet, the president went on to blame this grim error on the FBI's involvement in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe:

In a follow-up tweet, Trump turned to the Iran deal, criticizing the FBI for not investigating the Obama administration for one of the terms of the nuclear agreement:

Trump is correct that the Obama White House paid Iran $1.7 billion, though only $400 million is confirmed to have been paid in cash using non-U.S. bills; the rest may have been a bank transfer. The payment settled a decades-old legal dispute about a weapons deal and help secure the release of American prisoners. Bonnie Kristian

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