Moment of clarity comes too late for veteran

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A family friend recently passed away. Most of his 87years had been tough after his leg was amputated during World War Two.
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I last saw him three years ago back in England after his wife had had a stroke.

In an unexpected moment he opened up to me. Unexpected because we were not close. Unexpected because his emotions were usually hidden like so many other men from his generation.

He spoke of sadness as he could do nothing for his wife who needed full time care.

His disability and the long years of sufferinghad left him physically and emotionally unable to help.

All he wanted was to repay his wife after years of looking after him.

She had been the rock since he had returned from the war, a young man whose life had changed dramatically.

But it wasn’t just thecare she gave him for his disability. It was the day-to-day routines that he was most grateful for.

Cooking, cleaning, raising their children; tasks once seen as the expected role of wives were being re-evaluated by a husband who saw their true value.

The moment was brief and I had no time for a response to console him. In fact I cannot remember what I said so I imagine it was so poor that I conveniently cast it from my memory.

I’ve often thought about that moment and with his passing I now realise what I should have said:“Have you told her how you feel?”

I’ll never know the answer to this question. Knowing the man he wasit was probably a no.

The idealist in me believes that if he had shared this with his wife, it would have given her the boost he wanted.

It may have also lifted his burden in his later years.

I’ll share thestory with his wife in the hope it provides light in dark times.

GAVIN STONE, Fairfax Media

Chinan Derby hope Hollywood Mo tipped for improvement in Tulloch Stakes

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PUSHING: Hollywood Mo, with jockey Stephen Baster in yellow and black, right, finishing second in the listed Geelong Classic last October. Picture: Getty Images
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Newcastle trainer PaulPerry believes theTulloch Stakes on Saturday at Rosehill should have Hollywood Mo primed for the group 1 n Derby on April 1.

Hollywood Mo, seventh in the Rosehill Guineas last Saturday on a heavy 10,was among acceptances for the group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000 metres) on Wednesday. Perry also has The Mission in the group 3 Schweppervescence (1400m) and Wouldn’t It Be Nice in the group 3 Star Kingdom Stakes (1200m), where Kris Lees has Dal Cielo, Danish Twist and Savoureux.

Lees, meanwhile, has Beretta, Knit ‘N’ Purl, Star Reflection and Fashion Sniptz in the Kembla Grange Provincial Championships qualifier on Thursday.

Perry said Hollywood Mo had“pulled up super” from his effort in the Guineas, where he improved from last on the home turn in the tough conditions.

“He travelledgood and he needed the run, it will only benefit him,” Perry said.

“He should be more competitivethis week than the run before and it should top him off for the Derby anyway.”

The Mission was fourth in the Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) last start to finish short of a run in the Golden Slipper. Perry expected the Choisir colt, which isnominated for the Inglis Sires’ on April 1, to feature prominently on Saturday.

“The 1400 should suit and he’s dropped down in grade so he should run a nice race,” he said.

Lees accepted with Slow Pace but not Singing for the group 3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m).

Also, Country Champioships 2016 winner Clearly Innocent was an impressive victor in his first hit-out for Lees in trials at Wyong on Wednesday.

Clearly Innocent has switched from Greg Bennett’s stables after the Scone trainer’s decision to take up a job in Queensland.

Minister intervenes to stop deportation of 92-year-old war veteran

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A 92-year-old war veteran who had been slated for deportation due to potential health costs has been granted a reprieve from Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who has intervened in the case.
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As Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday, the family of James Bradley had pleaded with the government for clemency, claiming the frail great-grandfather could not survive deportation to Britain.

Bureaucrats had determined Mr Bradley fell foul of a sub-sub-paragraph of the Migration Act, which can deny a visa if the applicant is deemed to pose a “significant cost” to the health system.

Mr Bradley and his 91-year-old wife Peggie applied for permanent residency in 2007 but were caught in the lengthy queue of about 80,000 people. Mr Bradley’s health has since deteriorated.

Mr Hawke’s office confirmed on Wednesday the minister has granted both nonagenarians a permanent visa, which will allow them to remain in with their family for the rest of their lives.

“That’s absolutely marvellous,” Ms Bradley said upon being told the news. “I can’t believe it. It’s made my day. God bless him.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen if we were suddenly dumped in a country that we’d left 10 years ago. We’ve been in the doldrums for the last month or two. We’ll be able to sleep at night.”

Daughter Sharon Bradley thanked Mr Hawke for his intervention and compassion.

“We just couldn’t possibly be more thrilled. The feeling of relief is absolutely indescribable,” she said.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Alex Hawke for his rapid response, and for bringing some much-needed humanity and compassion to the proceedings.

“My heart goes out to other families who are still on that dreadful waiting list. It seems to be that the system is badly flawed and it needs to be addressed.”

Mr and Mrs Bradley live with their daughter Sharon and grand-daughter Karon in the Sydney suburb of Croydon, and draw on their British pensions for daily expenses.

Official documents show the pair will be granted subclass 151 “former resident” visas, one of the few options available to the minister, which allow them to remain in permanently.

The Bradley case, which made headlines in British newspapers and on television after Fairfax Media reported it on Sunday, highlighted the lengthy visa queues that can waylay potential migrants.

Mr Bradley passed medical checks when he applied for residency, but his heath deteriorated in the 10 intervening years and he now relies on a walker. He is also in the early stages of dementia.

Specialist migration agent Anna Dobos said the system was objective but often “ineffective”. “It doesn’t suit any purpose to have people sitting in the queue 20, 30 years,” she said.

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Building watchdog cut deal with blackmailer to testify against CFMEU

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The federal government’s building watchdog cut a deal to keep a disgraced former union official out of jail in return for testifying against his former colleagues, the Federal Court has found.
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Seven of Canberra’s top CFMEU officials could have been hit with fines of more than $1 million over the allegations of breaking industrial laws in a case which relied heavily on the word of convicted blackmailer Halafihi Kimonu Kivalu.

But the n Building and Construction Commission’s case against seven members of the union’s ACT branch has failed with the evidence of Mr Kivalu deemed, by Federal Court Judge Geoffrey Flick, too unreliable.

A criminal case against CFMEU official, former rugby league player Johnny Lomax, which also relied heavily on Mr Kivalu’s evidence, collapsed last year and the Canberra Raiders great is now suing the n Federal Police over their conduct in the matter.

Taxpayers were left with a hefty legal bill after the ACT Supreme Court ordered the AFP to pay the bulk of the CFMEU’s costs in a legal battle over an illegal raid on the union’s Canberra office in August 2015 by up to 20 officers attached to the Trade Unions Royal Commission.

Monday’s Federal Court decision is the latest legal setback for the ABCC, in its campaign against the building union after another judge last week sharply criticised for mounting a large and expensive case against the CFMEU over “virtually nothing”.

In the case against the union’s ACT branch secretary Dean Hall and his colleagues, ABCC alleged the CFMEU’s Canberra branch organised a blockade of the building site in the city’s inner-north in June 2014 on the false pretext of having safety concerns for the safety of the construction workers there.

But the real reason the union wanted work shut down, the commission alleged, was building firm Built had refused to sign a union-endorsed enterprise agreement.

The ABCC has other witnesses who alleged some of the union officials offered to end the safety dispute if the company signed the agreement and that Mr Hall threatened a “war” after police were called to the blockade.

But Justice Flick found that the ABCC director Nigel Hadgkiss had not met the burden proof to substantiate his allegations and found in the union’s favour.

“The evidence of Mr Kivalu is subject to such serious reservation that no reliance can be placed upon it,” Justice Flick wrote.

Reacting to the decision on Wednesday morning, Mr Hall was sharply critical of Mr Hadgkiss for running the case.

“Nigel Hadgkiss has always been a Liberal Party apparatchik, but, even for him, this was overreach,” Mr Hall said.

“The ABCC have made their political motivations evident in this case.”

Mr Hadgkiss issued a brief statement on Wednesday.

“The agency is reviewing the court’s decision,” he said.

Nearly two years since the Royal Commission into union corruption hearings came to Canberra in a blaze of publicity, there has only been one conviction as a result of allegations aired in the proceedings; that of Mr Kivalu who was given a suspended jail sentence in June 2016 after pleading guilty to blackmail charges.

What Emma Watson stands to earn from Beauty and the Beast

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She may have missed out on landing a lead role in La La Land, but Emma Watson still has a reason to smile.
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The actress, who became a household name for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, could soon have a $20 million cheque coming her way thanks to the new Beauty And The Beast film.

Watson was paid more than $A3 million upfront for her role as Belle in the live-action remake. However, she is set to earn a further $A20 million should the film gross $A1 billion at the box office, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film is well on track to smash that milestone, scooping up more than $A200 million in ticket sales during its US debut alone.

Some analysts are even tipping the live-action remake to earn as much as $A1.5 billion over the course of the next few weeks. Others are dubbing it the “fastest-selling family film in history”.

Watson has previously revealed how she was considered for one of the lead roles in La La Land, but turned down the opportunity because she knew she had to turn her full attention to Beauty and the Beast. Among the former Harry Potter star’s schedule was hours and hours of horse training, as well as gruelling song and dance routines.

The lead female role in La La Land, of course, ended up going to Emma Stone, who won this year’s Oscar for best actress in a leading role.

The original Beauty and the Beast movie, released in 1991, is one of Disney’s most successful animated films to date. It made more than $A500 million at the box office, and was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for best picture.

Beauty and the Beast opens in n cinemas on Thursday.

Time for common sense in the war between Airbnb and strata owners

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Airbnb’s latest Friendly Buildings Program could help anti-holiday letting campaigners in NSWFigures show n Airbnb hosts to make less than half of what they chargeTenants hurt as Airbnb closes in on empty rental properties in Sydney, according to new report
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The Airbnb verses apartment owners’ debate is only going to get more intense.

On one hand we have an aggressive, revenue-dominated multinational with a large advertising budget and a strong intent to lobby government.

Their opponents, many of them dwellers in strata properties, are highly fragmented and have few resources, but there’s a core of dedicated, battle-hardened strata advocates who are adept at trench warfare and have good relations with government. They won’t be a pushover.

We’re still only seeing the first forays into what could be an extended battle, though signs of compromise are emerging with the news that Airbnb is piloting its Friendly Buildings Program in the US, where a recommended 5 to 15 per cent of Airbnb booking fees will be paid to the body corporate or owners’ corporation.

This marks a shift in attitude by Airbnb, which has sought unfettered use of properties everywhere for so-called “short-term lettings”. And the Airbnb clients who list their properties have assumed it’s their right to do so.

In a sense, that’s what’s wrong with the n approach to communal living. We act as if the rights of quarter-acre-block dwellers can be transferred unconditionally into a strata living context. From barbecues on the balcony to smoking in the toilet, we are shocked to think we might have to modify our lifestyle to accommodate a strata community.

Airbnb’s business model puts enormous stress on this fundamental problem. “It’s my home, so it’s none of your business if I choose to let people take over my apartment for the week.” But it’s no longer just about the occasional overnight guest. There are people buying and leasing apartments specifically to put them onto the short-term letting market full-time. In effect, to create hotels where none were expected.

Those opposed to short-term lettings claim a number of problems – increased security risks, overcrowding, noise, anti-social behaviour, and increased wear and tear on the common property to which the short term letters don’t contribute a fair share.

How does government find a solution to this? A good place to start would be to recognise the underlying issues of both sides. Many people, legitimately, want to make their asset work better for them and earn some extra cash. Other people, legitimately, live in a building expecting it to be filled with like-minded people who want a home and not a hotel.

Short-term letting is an economic activity. For government, that means revenue; there’s not just the opportunity, but the social obligation to tax Airbnb’s n revenues. With that tax comes the government’s responsibility to properly regulate this new sector.

Here are a few suggestions for discussion I would like to see included in the government regulation debate: Allow each body corporate to determine whether or not individual units can be let on a short-term basis. Set up a system to categorise the types of short-term rental properties and let strata owners vote on the category for their building. Unlimited short-term letting could be at one end of the scale and a complete prohibition at the other end. There could be several intermediate categories with increasing requirements for security and temporary guests’ behaviour. Ensure that short-term landlords don’t get a free ride on the use (or abuse) of the common property and instigate a system of appropriate payments by the individual landlords for the increased use of common property. This could take the shape of a percentage of the short-term letting revenue payable to the owners’ corporation, a fee per lease or a bond to be placed prior to any rental start. Further regulate and enforce existing guidelines on tenants’ behaviour in regards to use and noise. Ensure appropriate controls over sub-letting – owners of rental properties should have a say in whether their investment is available for short-term letting.

As with all stakeholders in strata, Airbnb will do better if it recognises it is part of a community and focuses on what it can contribute, rather than what it and its landlords can get out of it. To be a good corporate and strata citizen, Airbnb should pay its taxes. It should expect that its client base of part-time landlords also pay taxes. Further, if body corporates start receiving income from short-term lettings, there will be tax implications for them.

Good government will recognise this by putting in place regulations that ensure all taxes are paid and that all use of common property is fully paid for.

Those against short-term lettings (and there are many of them with very valid concerns) should accept that some owners want to share their property. Instead of fighting a rear-guard action against it, the goal of the anti-Airbnb brigade should be to agitate to have government establish a good “fair use and fair pay” policy for strata living.

Paul Morton is CEO of Lannock Strata Finance, ‘s leading provider of strata loans.

Maitland Gold Cup 2017: Terry Priest hoping for home win

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IF Wild Walter can’t give him a first group title in the Maitland Gold Cup (450 metres) on Thursday night, Sawyers Gullytrainer Terry Priest hopes Ando’s Mac can do it for the Hunter.
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Terry Priest with Old Spice and its connections after he broke the Maitland track record.

Long shot Wild Walter ($36) and Richmond Vale trainer Jason Mackay’s Melbourne Cup champion ($3.80) will carry Hunter hopes in the group 2 race.

“He’s the outsider and heshould be,” Priest said of Wild Walter. “He’sa young dog and we don’t think he’s even been under lights yet, so it’s a big step but he’s been ticking the boxes for us.

“Jason’s dog isbrilliant and always hard to beat.As long as himor I win it for the Hunter Valley, that would be great.” The race is at 9.40pm.

Priest entered the series with Maitland track record-holder Old Spice as his best chance but made the decider with Wild Walter’s victory.

Old Spice was fourth in his heat and will feature in the consolation race.

“Old Spice is going good,” Priest said.

“After he broke the record he had a few injuries, back muscle injuries, and he’s getting on with age.

“I missed a fair bit of work with him leading up to the series, which was unfortunate because it is the last time he will go inthe Gold Cup, but I think he’s a good chance in the consolation race.

“He still holds the track record there, which we are very proud of, and Wild Walter is from the same mother, out of the next litter,and we’re hoping when Old Spice retires Wild Walter is the dog that can carry it forward for us.”

“It’s all for the future with him, he’s got a lot of upside and he knows the track.He’ll benefit from it,he doesn’t know the other dogs are champions, and he’ll be having a crack.”

Wild Walter has drawn six for the final, where No.8 Aussie Infrared was the early favourite.

Priest saidAussie Infrared and Ando’s Mac, which was second in his heat and has box two for the $40,000-to-the-winner final, would be the toughest to beat.

“I’m pretty sure minewon’t be up near the lead, on sectionals,” he said.“I would have rather been boxed on the inside, but you never know with interferences. Anything can happen.”

Bianca Rinehart given go-ahead to sue her mother Gina over family trust

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Bianca Rinehart has been given the green light to sue her estranged mother Gina for alleged misconduct in managing the multibillion-dollar family trust, including allegations she “improperly spent company money on personal expenses”.
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Ms Rinehart, who replaced Mrs Rinehart as the trustee following a protracted legal battle, asked the Supreme Court for judicial advice as to whether she would be justified in taking further action against her mother for alleged underpayment of mining royalties.

The mining mogul’s eldest children will claim Mrs Rinehart’s flagship company Hancock Prospecting failed to pay them and their younger siblings dividends from certain tenements. The unpaid dividends amount to approximately $500 million, of which the trustee would receive about $120 million.

They will also allege Mrs Rinehart breached her fiduciary duties when she was trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust by failing to ensure dividends were paid by Hancock Prospecting to the trust. Further, they claim she actively took steps to deny appropriate dividend payments.

Thirdly, Ms Rinehart, who is Mrs Rinehart’s second eldest child and eldest daughter, says her mother breached her duties to Hancock Prospecting by “improperly spending company money on personal expenses”.

Mrs Rinehart’s long-time executives Ted Watroba??? and Jay Newby are alleged to have been complicit in some of the alleged breaches.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, Justice Nigel Rein advised Ms Rinehart that she would be “justified” in commencing proceedings against her mother and Hancock Prospecting.

In doing so, he said he was not expressing a view as to whether any of the allegations would ultimately be made out.

Justice Rein also found Ms Rinehart would be justified in defending a related Federal Court claim bought against her.

Ms Rinehart’s solicitors told the court they expect the case to cost about $2 million to run.

“Given the history of the litigation to date, and the observations and findings of [Justice Paul Brereton] in the Trustee judgment [in 2015], it is appropriate to assume that the proceedings will be vigorously defended,” Justice Rein said.

The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust was set up by the late West n mining magnate Lang Hancock for the benefit of his grandchildren and is thought to be worth about $5 billion.

Mrs Rinehart, his only daughter, was trustee from 1992 until October 2013, when she stepped down amid a bitter court case.

In the very public battle, Mrs Rinehart and her youngest daughter, Ginia, were pitted against her eldest children, John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart.

Her third child, Hope Welker, who initially launched the legal action against her mother, settled in 2013 for $45 million because of the “high degree of distress” the litigation was causing her.

In May 2015, Bianca was appointed trustee. The trust’s main asset is a 24 per cent shareholding in Hancock Prospecting. Mrs Rinehart owns the remainder.

Folau back at fullback as one player keeps starting position in Tahs back line

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 18: Israel Folau of the Waratahs makes a break during the round four Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Brumbies at Allianz Stadium on March 18, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) Photo: Getty ImagesDaryl Gibson says the time has come to blow up the Waratahs back line, with Israel Folau shifting to fullback and Nick Phipps dropped to the bench in what he admits is the biggest wielding of the axe in his time as NSW head coach.
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As reported by Fairfax Media, Gibson dropped a bombshell before his side’s match against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park by making six changes from a possible seven positions in the backs.

It appears mounting pressure has finally got to Gibson as he tries to get his team out of a rut with just one win to its name from four starts.

“Given the situation we’re in ??? we had to make a change,” he said. “We feel at the moment the back line we have in that combination is not clicking and so we decided to make those changes and see if we can search for a better outcome.”

Folau will shift from outside-centre to fullback; a move Gibson had said he wouldn’t consider until after the Waratahs had had their bye in round eight.

The Waratahs boss is adamant Folau will be a better player for his time at outside-centre.

“I don’t view it as a failure,” Gibson said. “I think his last two games he’s really got into it. We felt we needed to change something.

“The opportunity he’s had to play up front has made him a better player I believe. He’s got more tools in his kitbag I believe, in terms of seeing the game.

“Hopefully, we can get the right back line that is really humming and clicking.”

Andrew Kellaway has been moved from fullback to the wing, with Reece Robinson joining him on the other edge.

Rob Horne returns to No.13, a position Gibson believes will fit like an “old glove” for the Waratahs veteran, while David Horwitz assumes the No.12 jersey.

Bernard Foley has finally been cleared of concussion and will line up next to a new halfback in Jake Gordon, who comes in for the dumped Phipps.

Gibson said Phipps, who started in six of his 13 Wallabies Tests last year, was upset at the news but has backed him to bounce back and have a profound impact from the bench.

“Nick’s a champion competitor, he took it hard,” Gibson said. “I know he’ll be back. He’s probably doubly determined to get back to the form we’re more accustomed to.

“None of our three halfbacks have set the world on fire in terms of nailing down that spot. Nick, by his own admission, is playing below his high standards, so for Jake it’s an opportunity. He’s a promising young player.”

Irae Simone has also been punted from the back line, with Horwitz getting the nod, but a problematic knee may have made the decision somewhat easier for Waratahs officials.

Horwitz is no stranger to inside-centre, having started there in the first three Waratahs matches last year and against the Rebels in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Ned Hanigan’s selection at blindside breakaway in place of the injured jack Dempsey is the only change in the Waratahs forward pack.

“He’s quite an abrasive character, throws himself about, excellent ball carry and good lineout ability,” said Gibson of Hanigan. “I just felt with that combination we’re running out with him in the back row, we’ll leave our tight five as it is.”

Gibson said prop Sekope Kepu was “100 per cent” to play despite being concussed in the Waratahs’ 28-12 loss to the Brumbies on Saturday.

On the bench, hooker Damien Fitzpatrick will get his first chance in Waratahs colours since returning from a stint in France.

Fitzpatrick has taken Hugh Roach’s spot, while Cam Clark and Taqele Naiyaravoro join Phipps on a 5-3 bench to face the last-placed Rebels.

Waratahs team (1-15): Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Jake Gordon, Bernard Foley, Andrew Kellaway, David Horwitz, Rob Horne, Reece Robinson, Israel Folau.

Reserves: Damien Fitzpatrick, Paddy Ryan, David Lolohea, David McDuling, Michael Wells, Nick Phipps, Cam Clark, Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Russia-Trump link: Smoke? Fire? Or just a ‘big, grey cloud’ over White House?

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Washington: In keeping with the first days of spring, Tuesday is bright and sunny in Washington. But a “big, grey cloud” hangs over the White House.
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Monday’s formal confirmation that the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and any collusion by the President’s associates, promises months or longer of distractive questions that risk casting a pall on Donald Trump’s executive and legislative agenda – not to mention the legitimacy of his stunning victory in November.

“The big unknowns are: was there collusion and can the FBI prove it?” Matt Miller, a senior public affairs official at the Justice Department in the Obama years, told Fairfax Media.

“If true, it would be staggering – his legitimacy would be questioned and, possibly, people would be going to jail. And, of course, it means more damaging leaks.”

Such eventualities, were they to come to pass, are a long way off.

But in a week in which the administration hoped to revel in the Senate confirmation hearing of a new Supreme Court judge and Thursday’s anticipated House vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare, the powerful diverting force of what can now be called the Russia scandal is evident: the dominant headlines are about the FBI inquiry.

Administration talking heads were scathing following FBI director James Comey’s appearance before a congressional committee. “Conclusions in search of evidence,” Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway said.

At the same time, their insistence that the FBI would come up empty handed, sat oddly with the indecent haste with which the White House disowned old friends from the campaign trail – and even from the first weeks of its tenure.

But in disclosing that the investigation had begun as early as July 2016, Comey also revealed the paucity of information in the White House on what his sleuths have been up to in the past seven or eight months.

In the hours before Monday’s unambiguous revelation, administration aides were confidently predicting the investigation was going nowhere, that Comey would declare there had been no contact or collusion. “The Russian collusion thing has always been bullshit,” an official was quoted as saying.

The President resorted to his weapon of choice – Twitter – to attack the committee hearing on Monday and to spin the evidence in his favour as it proceeded. But afterwards he had nothing to say – uncharacteristically ignoring the questions raised in the hearing when he spoke during the evening to a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Kentucky.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed to be unaware of any current White House staff being a part of the investigation. But Comey wouldn’t rule out anyone.

So is anyone safe? Trump loyalist and committee chairman Devin Nunes, who had invoked the image of the dark cloud over the White House, stunned a press gaggle with his ambivalence when asked after the hearing if Trump personally was under investigation. “I highly doubt that. But you know what? We don’t know everything.”

Here then is the breadth of Trump’s Russia-related web of influence, only some of whom are believed to be under FBI investigation and/or are likely to be called before the various congressional committees now investigating the Russia connection – along with the administration’s disowning of them in the wake of confirmation of the FBI’s investigation:

Jeff Sessions, Attorney-General: As the country’s top law officer, he was obliged to recuse himself from any Justice Department handling of the Trump/Russia investigations after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose two meetings with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in the course of the campaign.

Roger Stone, long-time adviser: He seemed to claim in the course of the campaign that he had advance knowledge of the leaking through WikiLeaks of troves of emails hacked from Democratic Party computers by Russian agents. (Sean Spicer: Trump and Stone speak “from time to time” but they had not done so recently.)

Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law: He had a meeting with Kislyak during the transition period and reportedly has real estate business deals with Russians.

Michael Flynn, a high-profile campaign surrogate and national security adviser: He was sacked by Trump after revelations that he lied about his conversations with Kislyak. Also under investigation as a former military officer, for accepting payment for attending a gala for the Kremlin-owned Russia Today TV network – during which he sat at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s table at a banquet. (Sean Spicer: he was just a “volunteer of the campaign.”)

Donald Trump jnr, the President’s son: He travels to Russia and famously told a New York real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager: He was sacked after six months after revelations that he has received millions of dollars in questionable payments from pro-Russian politicians and businessmen in Ukraine and of contacting Russian interests in the course of the campaign. (Sean Spicer: “[He had only a] limited role for a very limited amount of time.”)

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: A former ExxonMobil chief executive and Putin friend, he oversaw a partnership deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars between ExxonMobil and Russian energy giant Rosneft after which Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship.

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce: In the 1990s, he served on the board of the US-Russia Investment Fund, which helped drive business in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has a stake in a Cyprus bank favoured by wealthy Russians.

Carter Page, former adviser on foreign policy: He reportedly met Kislyak during last year’s Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio; speaks to business groups in Russia and, some years ago, worked in Moscow as an investment banker. (Sean Spicer: “An individual who the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”)

J.D. Gordon, former adviser on national security: A former Pentagon spokesman, he too reportedly met Kislyak in Cleveland. (Kellyanne Conway: “[He had] very attenuated contacts to the campaign. [The President] doesn’t know [him], didn’t work with [him].”)

Some who are independent of the Trump circle are dismissive about the alleged collusion with the Kremlin.

Mike Morrell, a former acting director of the CIA, is an authoritative voice in knocking it down. “There is smoke, but there is no fire at all,” he said.

But the circumstantial case put to Monday’s hearing before the House Intelligence Committee by senior Democrat Adam Schiff is seemingly sufficiently compelling for the FBI.

Here’s the scenario that Schiff, drawing on public sources, presented as, perhaps, a series of coincidences in the course of 2016, but perhaps not – and therefore warranting serious investigation.

Early July:

Page travels to Moscow with approval of the Trump campaign. In Moscow, he makes a speech critical of the US focus on democracy and corruption. Page secretly meets Igor Sechin chief executive of Rosneft, reportedly a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin and of Tillerson. Sechin reportedly offers Page brokerage fees in a deal involving the sale of a 19 per cent stake in Rosneft. Reuters reports the transaction but the name of the buyer and the amount of brokerage fees are unknown.

About the same time the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – Russian-sourced but laundered through WikiLeaks – in return for a future Trump administration watering down Washington’s criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and taking a stand against NATO.

Mid July:

Manafort, who had selected Page as the campaign’s Moscow go-between, attends the Republican convention with Page. Kislyak also attends – meeting Page, Gordon, Sessions and another Trump adviser, Walid Phares. The Republican platform is changed to delete references to giving “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine – and later Gordon admits that he had a hand in the revision.

Late July:

The first batch of damaging Democratic Party emails is released.

August 8:

Stone boasts publicly that he has communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and claims more documents would be coming, including an “October surprise”.

Mid August:

Stone claims to have had contact with the hacker of the Democratic computers and, soon after, makes the remarkable prediction that Clinton campaign executive John Podesta’s personal emails would soon be published – which duly happens.

November:

Post election, Trump appoints Flynn as his national security adviser, but he sacks him in February after he is revealed to have lied about his meetings with the Russian ambassador.

Comey is suspect in Democratic circles because of his 11th-hour, campaign revelation that Hillary Clinton’s controversial emails were still being investigated by the FBI.

But, just as Trump delighted in expressing confidence in Comey as the FBI boss made Clinton squirm during the campaign, Democrats now revel in Comey’s seeming determination to get to the bottom of the whole Russia business.

“I can promise you, we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he told the committee on Monday.

Schiff left the hearing with a spring in his step, telling reporters: “It gives me some level of confidence knowing that an agency that does have the resources is devoting itself to determining just what type of co-ordination might have taken place.”