High Sheriff of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness welcomed an American sheriff from Rutland, Vermont, for a three-day visit to the county last week.

Stephen Benard stayed at Dr Furness’s Whissendine home during the trip which saw him meet with local police chiefs, visit tourist attractions, enjoy a trip to the pub and attend a special service celebrating the county at Peterborough Cathedral.

Visiting Oakham Castle

Visiting Oakham Castle

Dr Furness said the visit was organised to build close ties between the two Rutlands, share information and celebrate all that is great about our county.

Sheriff Benard’s visit began on Friday with a private tour of Burghley House in Stamford before lunch at the Old White Hart, in Lyddington and a stroll through Uppingham.

He also enjoyed a visit to Oakham and Rutland Water, and a tour of Belvoir Castle.

Dr Furness said: “Stephen was blown away by the history. He could not believe the 
beauty of our homes or the age of Oakham Castle, where we were given a special guided tour. It was so interesting discovering the differences in policing between the UK and USA.

The congregation gathers for the Rutland service in Peterborough Cathedral

The congregation gathers for the Rutland service in Peterborough Cathedral

“Stephen met Chief Constable Simon Cole and Crime Commissioner Lord Bach at the White Hart in Lyddington and asked them how they managed without guns. Stephen said he would feel naked policing without his.

“However, guns are not part of UK culture and Simon was able to reassure him that in most situations in Britain they are not needed or worn.

“Interestingly both Rutlands have some of the lowest crime figures in their respective countries.”

Dr Furness added that Rutland’s wonderful food was much appreciated by Sheriff Benard – Rutland sausages and bacon are apparently the ‘best ever’.

Stephen particularly enjoyed Rutland Water trout served in great style at the Barnsdale Lodge Hotel where managing director Ed Burrows hosted a dinner for the two Sheriffs and the Lord Lieutenant of Rutland Dr Laurence Howard.

Stephen was also treated to a memorable meal at Hambleton Hall Hotel thanks to owners Tim and Stefa Hart. Stephen is returning to the USA convinced that Rutland is a gastronomic hot spot in the UK.

The highlight of the tour was the service celebrating Rutland at Peterborough Cathedral on Sunday.

Historic and beautiful Peterborough Cathedral, burial place of Catherine of Aragon is Rutland’s ‘mother church’ or diocesan cathedral.

More than 700 people from Rutland attended the service celebrating the county, 159 of them children.

Pupils from Whissendine Church of England Primary School led others from across the county.

Whissendine had particular prominence because for the first time since records began both the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff live in the same village.

A wooden horseshoe, Rutland’s symbol, made by the High Sheriff’s husband, Peter, was presented by Whissendine children at the altar.

They led the prayers and then all the children sang ‘I The lord of Sea and Sky’ on their own before the congregation joined in.

Public services were well represented at the service. Dr Furness was particularly pleased that Chief Constable Simon Cole was joined by local police.

After the service High Sheriff Dr Sarah Furness was made an honorary Sheriff of Rutland, Vermont, USA.

The citation reads: ‘High Sheriff Furness lives up to the standards of honor, selflessness, giving, support of others and integrity that is expected of all. This appointment is an honor that is given for the way one leads one’s life’.

Dr Furness said she was surprised and very honoured and is delighted to be a Sheriff twice over. She hopes links can be forged between the two Rutlands to the benefit of residents on both sides of the Atlantic.

President Trump stood by his attorney general Jeff Sessions on March 2, amid a growing storm over revelations that Sessions met last year with Russia’s ambassador but did not disclose the contacts in Senate testimony. (Reuters)

President Trump’s Russia problem becomes more distracting and disturbing each day. Who do we find out today has lied? Who actually did speak to Russian officials? And what about Trump’s finances?

Within 24 hours of The Post’s story on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s undisclosed meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Sessions recused himself from the multifaceted Russia investigation and faced calls to step down from his job altogether. His problems are far from over.

He first will need to go back before the Senate Judiciary Committee and be grilled under oath about his testimony, both oral and written. Senators will want to know how Thursday morning he could disclaim that he had meetings and by the afternoon be describing Kislyak’s mood (“testy”) during a discussion about Ukraine. They will want to take him line by line through his testimony, pushing him to explain how he left the impression that he had no contacts with any Russians during the campaign.

“There really ought to be a higher standard for the attorney general of the United States than whether he violated the letter of the law in his testimony to Congress,” says Matthew Miller, who was the Justice Department’s director of public affairs for the Obama administration. “Even if you take Sessions at his word, which many people don’t, he still had ample opportunity to correct his initial statement in his follow-up answers. And not only did he not correct his statement, he misled the committee, and it’s hard to conclude that was anything other than intentional.”

Several parts of Sessions’s story simple do not add up. At his Thursday news conference, for example, he noted he had been at his job for three weeks and did meet with ethics officers: “In fact, on Monday of this week, we set a meeting with an eye to a final decision on this question. And on Monday, we set that meeting today. So this was a day that we planned to have a final discussion about handling this,” he said. “I asked for their candid and honest opinion about what I should do about investigations, certain investigations. And my staff recommended recusal. They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those recommendations are right and just.”

That opens up even more questions. When did Sessions first meet with ethics officials, and why did he announce a decision only after The Post’s story broke? It should not have taken this long for him to recuse himself; the conflict was obvious. “The rules are clear as day and it shouldn’t have taken more than five minutes to conclude he needed to recuse himself,” Miller observes. “What he needs to answer now is whether he was briefed on the substance of the underlying investigation, and, if so, did he discuss it at all with the White House?” (If he took any action on the investigation or conveyed any information to the White House, the investigation is tainted.)

Taking a step back from Sessions, the number of connections between the Trump team and the Russians that we now know about increases daily. Beyond Michael T. Flynn and Sessions, we now know, according to USA Today, that two other Trump advisers, J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, spoke to Kislyak at a diplomatic conference in connection with the Republican National Convention in July. (“The newly-revealed communications further contradict months of denials by Trump officials that his campaign had contact with officials representing the Russian government.”) The report also seems to cast doubt on the claim that Page wasn’t part of the Trump team. The connection also re-raises the question as to how the RNC platform was changed to delete support for supplying Ukraine with weapons, something for which the Trump team falsely denied responsibility.

That’s not all. The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Donald Trump’s eldest son was likely paid at least $50,000 for an appearance late last year before a French think tank whose founder and his wife are allies of the Russian government in efforts to end the war in Syria.

Donald Trump Jr. addressed a dinner on Oct. 11 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, hosted by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. Its president, Fabien Baussart, and his Syrian-born wife, Randa Kassis, have cooperated with Russia in its drive to end the Syrian civil war, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

In December, Mr. Baussart formally nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This only underscores how little we know about the Trumps’ personal and financial ties to Russia. We are in the dark because Trump refuses to release his tax returns and/or end ownership of his businesses. His sons continue to run his businesses, including international opportunities. Trump keeps insisting that he has no dealings or financial activity “in” Russia, but we know he sought out deals. Moreover, back in 2008, Donald Trump. Jr. was quoted as saying, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” As late as 2015 Trump lawyer Michael D. Cohen was still looking for deals for his client. The potential for corruption, influence-peddling and financial impropriety — even if nothing untoward has already occurred — is real.

Congress should demand three things: full disclosure of Trump’s tax returns and all financial dealings with Russian players (in or outside Russia); a complete list of all contacts and financial arrangements of Trump family members and campaign associates with Russian officials (before and after the inauguration); and appointment of a special prosecutor with full subpoena powers. Without these basic steps, the Trump presidency will operate under a cloud of suspicion, and Republicans will be seen as enabling corruption and foreign interference in our government. How do we know whether Trump or his advisers are compromised without these three essential items? We don’t. The longer Trump and the Republicans hide the ball, the more Americans will conclude that Russia has “something” on the president and/or someone on his team.

By David A. Andelman

Editor’s note: David A. Andelman, editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and member of the board of contributors of USA Today, is the author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN) — One of Donald Trump’s most vocal riffs during his campaign was “rip it up.”

He was referring, of course, to the Iran agreement that is meant to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the ayatollahs for at least a decade.

Candidate Trump boasted he would rip up the agreement, then renegotiate a much better document. This sent shivers of joy up the spine of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many of his conservative allies, who have opposed any document negotiated with Iran as a cave-in to their existential enemy.

But you don’t hear that “rip it up” language any longer. And you won’t. Indeed, in his landmark message to Congress on Tuesday, the President touched only once on Iran, in an all but a throwaway line that was also the only time Israel was invoked: “I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the state of Israel.”

The fact is that Trump will not be touching that Iran nuclear agreement. And, it seems, the Israelis are not unhappy about this — at least for the moment. There are several interesting reasons for this.

First, Israeli military leaders have told Netanyahu they can’t win that war. The war in question, of course, would likely be the consequence of a rapid chain of events that would quite clearly be unleashed the moment the Iranian treaty was torpedoed.

Iran would begin to rebuild its once vast centrifuge network — used to enrich uranium to bomb-making levels. Interestingly, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which the treaty designated was to monitor compliance with the agreement, reported last week that Iran has barely a third of the enriched uranium it’s allowed under the treaty — 101.7 kilos, compared with its authorized ceiling of 300 kilos.

Of course, it would likely take barely a year for a determined Iran to reverse this trend and work toward sufficient material to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons. At some point, likely quite early in that cycle, Israel, which has long believed itself to be the principal first target of any Iranian bomb, would launch a first-strike attack to put any such enterprise out of business.

What the Israeli military has come to realize is the same that the US military understands. Any such attack would require interdiction of multiple, deeply buried or hardened, targets deep inside Iran.

There is no way that Iran would put all its bomb-making eggs in one basket. Some of these targets would be so deeply buried or reinforced that the only weapons able to attack them would be the powerful bunker-buster bombs that the United States has developed and jealously guarded for years.

Their deployment would require full complicity if not participation on the part of the US armed forces. The consequences of that are too horrific to imagine, but range across all-out terrorist war against US interests worldwide by Iranian proxies, ostracism by all US allies globally, but particularly in Europe. And in the end no certainty at all that the United States, or even Israel, would wind up any more secure.

More than Israeli sensitivities, or paranoia, are at stake here these days. Iran is increasingly coming to play a central role in the battle against the threat of radical Islamic terrorists — or at least the Sunni threat. For while Trump correctly and publicly echoes the refrain of Netanyahu that Iran is a principal aider and abettor, not to mention financier, of international terrorism, or Middle East misery, it is also the most virulent opponent of the Sunni branch of Islam, which is embraced by ISIS and the various branches of al Qaeda.

Particularly when Iraqi forces, with American advisers, complete their seizure of Mosul and turn their attention to ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, then Iranian forces will be essential in these final stages of the war.

So, while Trump is prepared to continue embracing his decision to slap new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, the President has also backed away from, or at least refrained from any further embrace, of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s attitude toward Iran.

It’s still hard to forget the image of Flynn seizing presidential spokesman Sean Spicer’s podium in the White House briefing room on February 1 and before live television cameras, warning that he was “officially putting Iran on notice” after its latest ballistic missile test. No one was quite sure exactly what that warning meant, but less than two weeks later, Flynn was gone from the White House and more reasonable voices succeeded him.

At the same time, it was becoming increasingly clear that if Trump were to follow through on his ill-considered threat to “tear up” the agreement, he would be doing so alone. None of the other signatories to the pact — the permanent members of the UN Security Council (Britain, France, Russia, China) plus Germany — have made any move to follow him.

Indeed, most of these countries could be counted on to seize a host of commercial opportunities that could accrue following any such move by the United States. Already, substantial commercial contracts have been signed or negotiated — including an order from Iran Air for 80 Boeing planes announced in December, a near $17 billion contract that the European Airbus consortium would be delighted to pick up.

At some point, though, it is not inconceivable that Trump could try to put his mark on an Iranian treaty by extending the accord, not with sticks, but carrots. After all, some elements begin to expire barely 10 years from now, lifting Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity to a level that could allow the production of a bomb within six months. A number of senior ayatollahs have suggested, however, that a nuclear arsenal is not in keeping with the dictates of Shia Islam, though more militant Revolutionary Guard elements are still chafing at their inability to add the atom to their palette of threats. Further incentives to more moderate elements in Tehran could prolong the agreement’s reach indefinitely.

For the moment, too, Netanyahu is in some degree of political, even judicial, trouble as a result of corruption investigations against him and several of his top aides. Waiting eagerly in the wings, should he be forced to step down, is a host of center-left political figures who see a more flexible stand toward Iran as opportunistic, as long as Iran behaves. And behavior, at least for the moment, is very much in the interest of all parties concerned.

So, while chief strategist Stephen Bannon may believe the United States is in the midst of an existential struggle leading toward “a major shooting war in the Middle East,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told his Senate confirmation hearing in January: “When America gives her word, we have to live up to it.”

Hopefully he will not be tested by the Bannon view. But if he is, we can only hope he stands firmly behind his belief.

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