Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have paid tribute to Senator John McCain at a memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral.
Vietnam War hero John McCain, who became one of America’s most high-profile politicians, died a week ago from brain cancer at the age of 81.
John McCain’s daughter Meghan was the first to speak, paying an emotional tribute to her father while also criticizing President Donald Trump’s agenda.
President Donald Trump did not attend the service.
The two Republicans had major differences, both personal and political, and John McCain’s family made it clear that President Trump was not welcome.
Members of the Trump administration who were present included Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Following memorial services in the state of Arizona – which John McCain represented as a senator, and where he died on August 25 – and in Washington, a private burial service will be held at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 2.
On August 31, John McCain’s body was taken back to the Congress buildings where he worked for decades and lay in state in the Capitol rotunda overnight.
On the way from the Capitol to the cathedral, the cortege stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where John McCain’s widow Cindy laid a wreath.
Meghan McCain told mourners at the cathedral: “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness.
“The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.
“The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold, she is resourceful and confident and secure, she meets her responsibilities, she speaks quietly because she is strong.
“America does not boast, because she does not need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.”
Former President Barack Obama paid tribute to the man he defeated in the 2008 US presidential election.
He described John McCain as an “extraordinary man – a warrior, a statesman, a patriot” who embodied much of what made America great.
Barack Obama said that, despite their many differences, “we never doubted we were on the same team”.
The former president added: “John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values – like rule of law and human rights – and an insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being.”
George W. Bush – who defeated John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 – paid tribute to the senator’s courage, honesty and sense of honor.
“At various points during his long career, John confronted polices and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist: <<We are better than this, America is better than this.>>
“John would be the first to tell you he was not a perfect man, but he dedicated his life to national ideals that are as perfect as men and women have as yet conceived.”
Other speakers included former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 95.
Before he went into politics, John McCain was a US Navy pilot who was shot down over Hanoi while on a bombing mission in 1967.
He was held as a prisoner until 1973, enduring torture that – along with the injuries he sustained bailing out of his jet – left him with life-long injuries.
While deeply conservative on some issues, the Arizona senator had a maverick streak that endeared him to political friends and opponents.
John McCain championed reform of US immigration, campaign finance and environmental laws, and was outspoken in criticizing those who advocated what he considered torture against captured enemies of the US.
The pallbearers he chose reflected his desire to reach across political divides.
They included actor and liberal political activist Warren Beatty; former independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; liberal former Senator Russ Feingold, who drew up campaign finance reform legislation with McCain; and Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara Murza.
Former President Barack Obama has been interviewed by Prince Harry on BBC Radio 4.
Prince Harry, the fifth in line to the UK’s throne, is one of several prominent figures who are guest-editing Today program over Christmas period.
Barack Obama warned against the irresponsible use of social media and how such actions were distorting people’s understanding of complex issues, and spreading misinformation.
The former president expressed concern about a future where facts are discarded and people only read and listen to things that reinforce their own views.
He said: “One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.
“The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground.”
President Donald Trump is a prolific user of Twitter, but Barack Obama did not mention him by name.
Donald Trump has been accused of overusing Twitter and following only a narrow range of users, though he maintains it allows him to connect directly with the American people.
Barack Obama suggested face-to-face contact would help counteract extreme views.
He said: “Social media is a really powerful tool for people of common interests to convene and get to know each other and connect.
“But then it’s important for them to get offline, meet in a pub, meet at a place of worship, meet in a neighborhood and get to know each other.
“Because the truth is that on the internet, everything is simplified and when you meet people face-to-face it turns out they’re complicated.”
The former president added: “It’s hard, being in the public eye is unpleasant in a lot of ways. It is challenging in a lot of ways.
“Your loved ones are made vulnerable in ways that might not have been true 20 years ago or 30 years ago.
“So it is a sacrifice that I think everybody has to be at peace with when they decide to go into politics. But, ultimately, I think the rewards of bringing about positive change in this world make it worthwhile.”
Barack Obama pays tribute to the support of his family, especially his wife Michelle, describing how glad he is that she was “my partner throughout that whole process”.
He compared his time in office to being a relay runner: “If you ran hard, you did your best and you were able to pass that baton successfully and the world was a little better then you had done your job.”
He cited ObamaCare – ensuring more people can afford basic healthcare – as a major achievement.
“What an enormous blessing it is to say that 20 million Americans have health insurance that didn’t have it before.”
Prince Harry’s program focused on issues such as the armed forces, mental health, youth crime and climate change.
Barack Obama went to Harvard Law School and lectured at the University of Chicago’s law school for 12 years before he joined the Senate. He also worked as a civil rights lawyer.
According to Chicago Tribune, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans said: “He made it crystal-clear to me through his representative that he would carry out his public duty as a citizen and resident of this community.”
Judge Timothy Evans said that Barack Obama’s security was a priority. A spokesman for the former president has not commented.
Jurors in the county get paid $17.25 for each day served.
If chosen, Barack Obama would not be the first high-profile person to appear on a jury in Cook County – celebrity Oprah Winfrey sat on a jury for a murder trial in 2004, NPR reports.
Meanwhile, Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced his panel’s investigation into the sale of a Canadian mining company that had mines in the American West.
Uranium One – which owned a fifth of US uranium supplies – was acquired seven years ago by Russian state-owned company Rosatom.
President Donad Trump tweeted on October 19: “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”
The State Department, under Hillary Clinton, helped approve the deal.
Last week, The Hill reported that at the time of the sale the FBI was investigating alleged attempts by Russia to gain influence in the US nuclear industry through bribery and extortion.
The New York Times and The Hill have reported that Russian nuclear officials and Uranium One’s chairman donated millions of dollars to the Clinton charitable foundation.
Devin Nunes told reporters at Capitol Hill on October 24: “One of the things we are concerned about is whether or not there was an FBI investigation, was there a DOJ investigation and if so, why was Congress not informed of this matter.”
However, Democratic congressmen accused Republicans of creating a distraction.
Elijah Cummings and John Conyers in a statement on October 24: “This new investigation is a massive diversion to distract from the lack of Republican oversight of the Trump administration and the national security threat that Russia poses.”
In an interview with C-SPAN on October 23, Hillary Clinton said that the Uranium One allegations are “baloney”.
Ex- Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have expressed their concerns regarding the current political climate in the US, in comments seen as a veiled rebuke of President Donald Trump’s leadership.
Barack Obama urged Americans to reject the politics of “division” and “fear”, while George W. Bush criticized “bullying and prejudice” in public life.
They were speaking separately and neither mentioned President Trump by name.
Donald Trump, who has been critical of his two predecessors, is yet to comment.
Ex-presidents traditionally shy away from commenting publicly on their successors, and Barack Obama said on leaving office he would extend that courtesy for a time to Donald Trump, as George W. Bush had to him.
Barack Obama has broken his silence since to issue statements on President Trump’s efforts to dismantle ObamaCare, as well as his controversial “Muslim ban” and decision to abandon the Paris climate accord.
Speaking at a Democratic campaign event in Newark, New Jersey, Barack Obama said Americans should “send a message to the world that we are rejecting a politics of division, we are rejecting a politics of fear”.
The former president added: “What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries.
“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That’s folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st Century, not the 19th Century. Come on!”
Barack Obama touched on similar themes at another event later in Richmond, Virginia, saying: “We’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”
Speaking just hours earlier in New York, George W. Bush said: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.
“There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned – especially among the young.”
Americans, the former president said, have “seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty”.
“At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.
“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”
Both ex-presidents have until now largely avoided commenting publicly on President Trump’s policies.
Before his election last year, Donald Trump was highly critical of both Barack Obama and George W. Bush, describing each of them at one time or another as “perhaps the worst president in the history” of the US.
Since his inauguration in January, Donald Trump’s combative style and direct public comments on a number of key issues have caused controversy both among Democrats and Republicans.
The president has regularly blamed the media, which he says do not focus on his achievements and instead choose to concentrate on what he describes as “fake news”.
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied any Russian interference into the presidential election.
According to the Washington Post article, President Obama was told early last August by sources deep within the Russian government that President Putin was directly involved in a cyber campaign to disrupt the election, injure Hillary Clinton and aid a Trump victory.
Image source AP
The Post said Barack Obama secretly debated dozens of options to punish Russia but in the end settled on what it called symbolic measures – the expulsion of 35 diplomats and closure of two Russian compounds. They came in late December, well after the election.
The paper reported that Barack Obama was concerned he might himself be seen as trying to manipulate the election.
The Post quoted a former administration official as saying: “From national security people there was a sense of immediate introspection, of, <<Wow, did we mishandle this>>.”
Measures President Obama had considered but which were not put into action included planting cyber weapons in the Russian infrastructure and releasing information personally damaging to Vladimir Putin.
President Trump tweeted on June 23: “The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?”
The president followed that up with two more tweets on June 24, the second saying: “Obama Administration official said they “choked” when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?”
Donald Trump repeats the argument in an interview with Fox News, which will air on June 25.
“If he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”
Allegations of collusion between the Trump team and Moscow officials during the election have dogged the president’s first five months in office.
Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations, calling the investigations a “witch hunt”.
Donald Trump’s tweets follow allegations made by conservative radio host Mark Levin, including that the Obama administration “sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop” on the Trump campaign last year.
Other media reports had previously suggested the FBI had sought a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance court (FISA) in order to monitor members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.
The warrant was first turned down but then reportedly approved in October 2016, though there has been no official confirmation.
Under FISA, wiretapping can only be approved if there is probable cause to believe that the target of the surveillance is an agent of a foreign power. President Barack Obama could not lawfully have ordered such a warrant.
Writing from his weekend home in Florida, Donald Trump called the alleged tapping “Nixon/Watergate”, referring to the most notorious political scandal of 1972, which led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon after a web of political spying, sabotage and bribery was exposed by the media.
Kevin Lewis said the accusation was “simply false”.
He said that a “cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice”.
The statement left open the possibility that a judicial investigation had been taking place.
Earlier Ben Rhodes, who was Barack Obama’s foreign policy adviser and speechwriter, also addressed Donald Trump’s claims in a tweet, saying: “No President can order a wire-tap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”
President Donald Trump has accused Barack Obama of wiretapping his phone a month before he was elected.
The president tweeted on March 4: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
Donald Trump went on to say that a court had earlier denied a wiretap request.
He has given no details to back up the claim – or suggested which court order he was referring to.
Media reports in the past few weeks have suggested the FBI had sought a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance court (FISA) last summer in order to monitor members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.
The warrant was first turned down but then approved in October, according to the media reports.
There has been no official confirmation and it is also not clear if this evolved into a full investigation.
There has been no comment yet from former President Barack Obama.
Donald Trump tweeted: “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to the Election.”
The president called the alleged tapping “a new low” and said “This is Nixon/Watergate” – referring to the most notorious political scandal of 1972, which led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon after a web of political spying, sabotage and bribery was exposed by the media.
Donald Trump also called it McCarthyism – the persecution for US Communists and their allies led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.
His tweets followed allegations made by conservative radio host Mark Levin, which were later picked up by Breitbart News, the website founded by Steve Bannon, now Donald Trump’s chief strategist.
Mark Levin said there should be a congressional investigation into what he called Barack Obama’s “police state” tactics in his last months in office to undermine Donald Trump’s campaign.
Breitbart summarizes Mark Levin’s accusations, which say that “the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA (National Security Agency) rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government”.
President Donald Trump has announced he will skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 29.
The event draws celebrities, journalists and politicians, normally including the president.
Donald Trump said he would not attend the event a day after the White House excluded several major broadcasters and newspapers from a press briefing.
The president has frequently described negative news coverage as “fake”.
However, he has not provided any evidence for his claims.
The announcement comes as relations between the White House and some media outlets continue to deteriorate.
On February 24, the CNN, Buzzfeed, BBC and the New York Times were among media groups barred from an off-camera informal briefing held by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Hours before the briefing, President Trump had delivered a strong attack on what he called “fake news” in the media, targeting stories with unnamed sources.
He said “fake news” was the “enemy of the people”.
Image source Getty Images
President Trump announced his non-attendance at the correspondents’ dinner via Twitter, writing: “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”
Bloomberg News and the New Yorker magazine are among media outlets who have said they will not hold their usual after-parties this year.
There have been some calls for journalists to boycott the event itself.
According to the New York Times, every sitting president since 1924 has attended the correspondents’ dinner at least once.
They traditionally make a light-hearted speech at the annual event. Former President Barack Obama attended eight times.
Donald Trump has been a regular at the dinner in the recent past.
In 2011, Barack Obama joked that Donald Trump would turn the White House into a casino if he became president and made fun of rumors, then propagated by Trump, that President Obama was not born in the United States.
Donald Trump was shown on camera sitting stony-faced through a barrage of jokes at his expense, including some from host Seth Meyers, although he said last year that he “loved that dinner”.
Many believe that the 2011 event fuelled Donald Trump’s desire to enter politics and later run for office.
In a statement the White House Correspondents’ Association said it took note of President Trump’s announcement and said the dinner would “continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic”.
President Donald Trump will rescind guidance enacted by President Barack Obama in favor of transgender students, the White House has announced.
The Obama-era rule directed public schools to allow transgender pupils to use toilets of their gender identity.
However, critics said that guidance was government overreach which threatened other students’ privacy and safety.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Trump firmly believes “this is a states’ rights issue”.
Sean Spicer told a news conference: “I would expect further guidance to come out on that today.”
Though the Obama-era order will be rescinded, anti-bullying safeguards are expected to remain in place, the AP reported, citing a government official.
In May 2016, President Obama’s justice and education departments instructed public schools to allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom corresponded to their gender identity.
Image source Wikipedia
Though not legally binding, President Obama’s order warned schools they could lose funding if they did not follow the new guidance.
The directive sparked a backlash across the country, prompting legal challenges from 13 states and a Texas federal judge’s preliminary injunction blocking the department’s position in August.
The Obama administration’s guidance was based on its interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in education.
Barack Obama argued that protection extended to gender identity.
However, Sean Spicer said the previous administration’s guidelines were confusing and too difficult to implement.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said transgender students should be allowed to use whichever bathroom “they feel is appropriate”.
However, he reversed his stance after facing Republican criticism.
Conservative activists praised Donald Trump’s impending order, saying it protected student rights to privacy.
“Our daughters should never be forced to share private, intimate spaces with male classmates, even if those young men are struggling with these issues,” said Vicki Wilson, a member of Students and Parents for Privacy.
“It violates their right to privacy and harms their dignity.”
Meanwhile, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the move a major setback for trans rights.
Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th US president after taking over from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the Capitol Hill.
The new president has delivered his inaugural address before leading a parade to the White House.
He has painted a bleak picture of a broken country speaking of abandoned factories, crime and a failed education system as problems of the past, pledging that his presidency would bring about change.
President Trump said on the steps of the Capitol: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Thousands of Donald Trump supporters travelled across the country to witness the occasion from the National Mall.
The moment marks the end of an improbable journey for the billionaire after a campaign marked by controversy.
Shortly after the ceremony Donald Trump was seen signing his first official actions as the 45th president.
He sent his Cabinet nominations to the Senate as well as a signed a proclamation for a national day of patriotism, according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Donald Trump also signed into law a waiver allowing retired Marine General James Mattis, his pick for defense secretary, to serve in the post.
In his inaugural address, President Trump promised to be the voice of the “forgotten people”, ignored by Washington politicians.
Today, he said, was “the day the people became rulers of this nation again”.
Image source CNBC
“I will fight for you with every breath left in my body and I will never ever let you down,” said President Trump after Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath.
“America will start winning again, winning like never before.
“We will bring back our jobs, bring back our borders, bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.”
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence waved goodbye as the Bidens and Obamas left the Capitol.
Barack and Michelle Obama held hands as they boarded a military helicopter that took them to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Barack Obama delivered remarks to staff and supporters before he and his wife flew to Palm Springs, California, for vacation.
He told a crowd they “proved the power of hope” and that “this isn’t a period, it’s a comma in the continuing story of building America”.
The historic moment drew congratulation messages from dignitaries around the world including Pope Francis, who said he was praying Donald Trump’s decisions would be guided by the “rich spiritual and ethical values” that have shaped America’s history.
Hillary Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump in a dramatic upset in November’s election, attended the ceremony with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Former presidents and first ladies, including George W. Bush and his wife Laura as well as Jimmy Carter, were in attendance.
The only absences were 92-year-old George Bush Senior, who is in hospital being treated for respiratory problems, and his wife Barbara.
Members of Congress were also in attendance, although more than 50 House Democrats had refused to attend the ceremony in protest.
Donald Trump takes power at a time when the country appears to be deeply divided. He enters the presidency with historically low approval ratings.
He has vowed to roll back many of his predecessor’s policies, including repealing Barack Obama’s signature health care law and building a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Authorities arrested nearly 100 people protesting against the inauguration, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Many were apprehended for “vandalism and destruction of property”, said spokesman Lieutenant Sean Conboy.
Sean Conboy also said two police officers were hurt during clashes.
Earlier, about 150 protesters dressed in black marched through Washington, smashing windows and rolling rubbish bins into the street to form blockades.
The Women’s March on Washington on Saturday – for racial and gender equality, and other issues perceived to be under threat from Mr Trump’s administration – is expected to draw about 200,000 people.
Meanwhile in New York, thousands of people attended a rally where dozens of celebrities and politicians voiced their concerns about the president-elect.
Some spectators had waited for hours, although crowd numbers seemed to be lower than some other recent inaugurations.
Outgoing President Barack Obama released a farewell letter to the country on January 19, just one day before he hands over the White House to Donald Trump.
My fellow Americans,
It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.
But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.
Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers — and found grace in a Charleston church.
I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.
I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’
In his final days in office, President Barack Obama has decided to end a longstanding policy that grants residency to Cubans who arrive in the US without visas.
According to the 20-year-old policy, Cuban immigrants who reach US soil to become legal permanent residents after a year.
In exchange, Havana has agreed to start accepting Cubans who are turned away or deported from the United States.
Many Cubans in the US say Washington is rewarding a regime which has failed to address human rights concerns.
However President Barack Obama says he is trying to continue the thawing of relations with Cuba: “With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.”
Image source Wikimedia
In a statement on state TV, the Cuban government praised the move as “an important step in advancing relations” between the US and Cuba.
It is unclear where relations between the two countries will go now.
Barack Obama’s successor, President-elect Donald Trump, has taken a much tougher stance and could reverse the change.
Until now, the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy has applied solely to Cubans, tens of thousands of whom reached US soil in 2016, including by land.
Thousands of other Cubans are intercepted at sea every year by the US coast guard before they can get a dry foot on land.
Immigrants from other countries who come to the US without a visa could be arrested and deported.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said: “I believe changing this outdated policy – in order to be fair to all and also to prevent people from abusing the system – is the right thing to do.”
However, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, a Cuban exile, blasted President Obama for giving Raul Castro a parting gift: “This is just a going-away present from Obama to Raul Castro.”
Tomas Regalado does not believe ending the policy will slow the flow of Cubans coming to the US.
VP Joe Biden has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.
President Barack Obama praised Joe Biden for his “faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and your lifetime of service”.
The award comes as both men prepare to leave office when Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20.
The vice-president has said he plans to stay active in Democratic Party politics.
A visibly emotional Joe Biden stood by as President Obama heaped praise on what he called the “best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people”.
According to the New York Times, the medal was awarded with distinction.
Image source NBC News
That additional honor has been reserved in recent administrations for just a handful of recipients, including Pope John Paul II.
Barack Obama joked that the internet would have one last chance to mock the pair’s “bromance”.
Joe Biden said he was “part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things”.
The vice-president said that he had had no idea the award was coming.
“I had no inkling. I thought we were coming over to Michelle for you, Jill and Barack and I and a couple of senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.
“Mr. President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill but I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room.
“Mr. President, I’m indebted to you. I’m indebted to your friendship. I’m indebted to your family.”
Barack Obama said that Joe Biden’s career was “nowhere close to finished” both at home or abroad.
The vice-president has said he plans to work on policy issues at institutes at the University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania, and continue his efforts tackling cancer, which claimed his son Beau in 2015.
Joe Biden gave an hour-long interview with media outlets on January 12 in which he strongly criticized Donald Trump for his condemnation of the US intelligence services.
“It is really very damaging in my view to our standing in the world for a president to take one of the crown jewels of our national defense and denigrate it,” he said.
“It plays into, particularly now, the Russian narrative that America doesn’t know what it’s doing.”
However, Joe Biden was full of praise for his successor, Mike Pence, saying he had sent him memos on how to handle certain situations.
In his first press conference as president-elect, Donald Trump says allegations Russia has compromising material on him are “fake news, phoney stuff”, put together by “sick people”.
Donald Trump was replying to unsubstantiated allegations that his election team colluded with Russia and there were salacious videos of his private life.
Intelligence agencies considered the claims relevant enough to brief both President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama last week.
Donald Trump also said for the first time that Russia was behind hacking attacks.
He went on to confirm he was handing total control of his businesses to his two sons.
His first briefing was scheduled in order for Donald Trump to give details about his business affairs, but was dominated by the allegations of compromising material.
Donald Trump said the information “should never have entered paper… it should never have been released”.
Image source Flickr
“It’s all fake news, it’s phoney stuff, it didn’t happen,” he said, adding that “sick people” had “put that crap together… it’s an absolute disgrace”.
Donald Trump thanked the news organizations that chose not to run with the claims, which have been circulating for months.
He said he could not talk about what he heard in last week’s intelligence agency briefing, but said there had been “many witnesses” there and that it would be a “tremendous blot” on the reputation of intelligence agencies if they had been responsible for leaking the details.
“That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done,” he said.
In response White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “deeply misguided for anybody, at any level, to question the integrity and motives of the patriots” in the nation’s intelligence agencies.
A 35-page dossier of allegations has been published in full on Buzzfeed and reported by CNN.
Donald Trump called Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage” and accused CNN of “going out of their way to build it up”.
The allegations claim Russia has damaging information about Donald Trump’s business interests, and salacious video evidence of his private life, including claims of using prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow.
Denying any such claims, Donald Trump said that as a high-profile person he was extremely cautious about all that he did when travelling abroad.
Russia has also strongly denied the allegations.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said they were “pulp fiction” and a “clear attempt to damage relations”.
Donald Trump said he “respected” Vladimir Putin for putting out a statement.
He was also asked about the hacking scandal that dominated the US election campaign, with the intelligences concluding Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails.
Donald Trump said for the first time “I think it was Russia”, but added that “we get hacked by other people”.
The president-elect said: “We talk about the hacking and hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done.”
But he added: “Look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking… Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it.”
Donald Trump added: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.”
He did not answer directly when asked whether his team had communicated with Russia during the election campaign, but he did say that any hacking by Vladimir Putin must stop.
“He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it.”
Before today’s briefing, the Trump team acted to dismiss news of the compromising material.
Michael Cohen, a lawyer to Donald Trump named in the 35-page dossier, denied a specific claim that he went to Prague in August or September 2016 to meet Kremlin representatives to talk about the hacking.
He tweeted: “I’ve never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.”
Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s chief of staff, called the dossier report “phoney baloney garbage”.
US media suggest the alleged salacious videos were prepared as “kompromat” – material collected about a politician or public figure in order to create a threat of negative publicity, if needed.
The allegations began circulating in political and media circles in recent months. The existence of the documents was first reported by Mother Jones in October 2016.
Five prominent Russians have been blacklisted by the Obama administration, just 11 days before the president leaves office.
Chief federal investigator Alexander Bastrykin and two men wanted in the UK for the murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko are among them.
The US sanctions come amid worsening ties, including claims Russia ran a cyber campaign to influence the November 8 election.
President-elect Donald Trump is seeking to restore closer relations with Russia.
According to officials, the sanctions are not related to the hacking but come under a 2012 law designed to punish human rights violators.
Under the act named after Russian tax fraud whistleblower Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009, people on the list have their US assets blocked and are banned from travelling to the United States.
It originally targeted officials implicated in Sergey Magnitsky’s death, but has since been broadened to cover other human rights cases.
Image source Moscow Times
The five persons to be blacklisted are: Alexander Bastrykin, a close aide to President Vladimir Putin and head of the federal investigative agency, who has led campaigns against domestic dissidents and foreign NGOs working in Russia. US officials say he was complicit in the Magnitsky case; Gennady Plaksin, former head of the Universal Savings Bank, and Stanislav Gordiyevsky, former investigative agency official. Both are said to be involved in covering up Magnitsky’s death; Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the main suspects in the poisoning of former KGB agent and London exile Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
Alexander Litvinenko died after drinking tea laced with a rare radioactive substance at a hotel in London.
Both Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun deny any involvement in the killing, and efforts to extradite the men to the UK have failed.
Last month, Washington expelled 35 Russian diplomats following allegations by US intelligence services that Russia had ordered the hacking of Democratic Party emails to damage Donald Trump’s Democrat rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.
Russia denies the allegations and on January 9 described them as a witch-hunt, but has so far not responded to the expulsions.
After the 35 were thrown out, Russia declined to respond in kind, with President Vladimir Putin saying his country would not stoop to “irresponsible diplomacy”.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, is said to have accepted the findings of the report but has declined to single out Russia as the source of the hacking.
Barack Obama has revealed he advised his successor Donald Trump not to attempt to run the White House “the way you would manage a family business”.
In an interview with ABC News, the outgoing president said that Donald Trump must “respect” US institutions.
Barack Obama said: “After you have been sworn in, you are now in charge of the largest organization on Earth.”
The president warned that there was a difference between governing and campaigning.
“There are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he [Donald Trump] says,” he said.
Image source AP
Barack Obama also talked about the US intelligence agency’s report into alleged cyber-attacks by Russia and the attempt to influence the 2016 US presidential campaign.
He said that he had “underestimated” the impact of such attacks.
Barack Obama said: “I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation… and so forth to have an impact on our open societies.”
He added that a conversation had taken place with Donald Trump in which he had discussed the importance of having faith in the intelligence community.
“There are going to be times where the only way you can make a good decision is if you have confidence that the process is working,” the president said.
Last week Donald Trump said he was a “big fan” of intelligence agencies, after months of casting doubt on the Russian link to the security breach. But he later raised questions over how the Democratic Party had responded to the cyber-attacks.
Donald Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, January 20.
Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin after he ruled out expelling American diplomats, despite a similar move by Washington in response to alleged hacking.
The president-elect tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
Vladimir Putin had earlier said Russia would not stoop to “irresponsible diplomacy”.
On December 29, Washington expelled 35 diplomats over hacking related to the US election. Moscow denies any involvement.
Donald Trump emphasized his statement on the row by pinning his tweet to the top of his account.
It was unclear exactly what he was referring to with the term “delay”.
Donald Trump has previously dismissed the hacking claims as “ridiculous” and said that Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked about the possibility of sanctions.
However, speaking before Vladimir Putin’s decision, Donald Trump did say he would meet US intelligence chiefs next week to be “updated on the facts of this situation”.
Donald Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway said on December 29: “Even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote <<box in>>President-elect Trump.
“That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”
Under the US action, 35 diplomats from Russia’s Washington embassy and its consulate in San Francisco were given 72 hours to leave the United States with their families; two compounds said to have been used by Russian intelligence services in New York and Maryland were closed.
Sanctions were announced against nine entities and individuals including two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB.
President Barack Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on January 20, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and from the servers of the DNC – some containing embarrassing information for Democrats – were released during the election campaign.
In a statement on the Kremlin website, President Putin said: “We won’t be expelling anyone.
“We won’t be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays. Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin.”
Vladimir Putin wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Donald Trump and “the whole American people”.
The Russian president’s comments rebuffed his foreign ministry which had reportedly suggested expelling 31 American diplomats from Moscow and four from St Petersburg.
The Russian foreign ministry also suggested banning US diplomats from their dachas (holiday homes) in Serebryany Bor near Moscow and a warehouse on Moscow’s Dorozhnaya Street.
There has been no response yet to Vladimir Putin’s move from the Obama administration.
However, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, described the Russian hacking as an “act of war”, adding: “And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.”
John McCain said a lot more needed to be done in response to the hacking, with many sanctions possible.
President Vladimir Putin has ruled out the eviction of US envoys after the United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats amid a row over hacking.
Vladimir Putin said Russia would not “stoop” to the level of “irresponsible diplomacy” but would work to restore ties with the US under President-elect Donald Trump.
Russia’s foreign ministry had formally asked President Putin to expel 35 US envoys.
The country denies involvement in hacking related to the US election, calling US sanctions “ungrounded”.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev accused the outgoing US administration of President Obama of ending in “anti-Russian death throes”.
President Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on January 20, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Image NBC News
Emails stolen from her campaign manager and from the servers of the DNC – some containing embarrassing information for Democrats – were released during the election campaign.
In a statement on the Kremlin website, President Vladimir Putin said: “We won’t be expelling anyone.
“We won’t be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays. Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin.”
Vladimir Putin wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Donald Trump and “the whole American people”.
In a message on the presidential website, Vladimir Putin said that, with the accession of Donald Trump, “the two states, acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, can take real steps for restoration of mechanisms for bilateral co-operation”.
Donald Trump has dismissed the hacking claims as “ridiculous” and said Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked previously about the possibility of sanctions.
However, the president-elect said on December 29 he would meet US intelligence chiefs next week to be “updated on the facts of this situation”.
Russia’s foreign ministry had reportedly suggested expelling 31 US diplomats from Moscow and four from St Petersburg.
It also suggested banning US diplomats from their dachas (holiday homes) in Serebryany Bor near Moscow and a warehouse on Moscow’s Dorozhnaya Street.
According to Russian media, the Russians facing expulsion from the embassy in Washington are struggling to buy plane tickets because flights are full ahead of the New Year holiday.
They will be forced to travel to New York, where their chances of finding plane seats are better, an “informed source” told Interfax news agency.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has denied a report by CNN that Moscow is shutting down a school attended by diplomats’ children.
Maria Zakharova said it was a “lie” that the Anglo-American School faced closure as retaliation.
Thirty five Russian diplomats have been expelled from the United States as punishment for alleged interference into this year’s presidential election.
The US will also close two Russian compounds used for intelligence-gathering, in Maryland and New York, as part of a raft of retaliatory measures.
President Barack Obama had vowed action against Russia amid accusations it directed hacks against the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Russia has denied any involvement.
The 35 Russian diplomats from the Washington DC embassy and the consulate in San Francisco have been declared “persona non grata” by state department, giving them and their families 72 hours to leave the US.
The Russian government is expected to respond in turn by expelling US diplomats.
The state department move follows calls from senior senators to sanction Russian officials who are believed to have played a role in the hacking, which some lawmakers referred to as America’s “political Pearl Harbor”.
President-elect Donald Trump has dismissed the claims as “ridiculous” and said Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked about the possibility of sanctions before the announcement on December 28.
Sanctions have also been announced against nine entities and individuals including the GRU and FSB Russian intelligence agencies.
The US Department of Treasury said that the move targeted those responsible for “undermining election processes or institutions”.
Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, told the RIA news agency the expulsion represented “the death throes of political corpses”.
In a statement President Barack Obama said “all Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions”.
The outgoing president called the moves a “necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests”, adding it would not be “the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities”.
Barack Obama also announced the US would declassify technical information related to Russian cyber activity to “help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities”.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said in a statement that despite the measures being overdue “it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia”.
Paul Ryan added that “it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world”.
Maryland Democrat Senator Ben Cardin applauded sanctions against Russia but called them insufficient.
Ben Cardin called for Congress to take action separately from the White House, and plans to introduce legislation to establish a committee “to further examine the attack and Russian’s efforts to interfere in our election”.
In a joint statement by the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Security, and the FBI, officials appeal to companies to “look back within their network traffic” and report any signs of “malicious cyber activity” to law enforcement.
The Russian hacking, which the intelligence agencies describe as a “decade-long campaign” included methods such as “spearphishing, campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations; theft of information from these organizations; and the recent public release of some of this stolen information”.
Emails stolen from John Podesta and from the servers of the DNC were released during the 2016 presidential election by WikiLeaks.
Several US agencies, including the FBI and CIA have concluded that the hacked information was released to cause damage to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in order to favor Donald Trump.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has visited Pearl Harbor naval base, where he offered “sincere and everlasting condolences” to the victims of the 1941 Japanese attack on the base.
Shinzo Abe said: “We must never repeat the horrors of war again, this is the solemn vow the people of Japan have taken.”
He was accompanied by President Barack Obama, making the visit the first by the leaders of both countries.
Japan devastated much of Pearl Harbor base, killing more than 2,400 Americans.
Shinzo Abe paid tribute to the men who lost their lives in 1941 at the naval base, many of whom remain entombed in the wreckage of the USS Arizona, sunk by the Japanese that day, and vowed reconciliation and peace.
He said: “To the souls of the US servicemen who lie aboard the USS Arizona, to the American people, and all people around the world, I pledge that unwavering vow.”
Image source Reuters
Shinzo Abe went on to praise the US for its efforts to mend relations with Japan following the war between the two countries, which ended shortly after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945.
The prime minister called the renewed alliance between the countries an “alliance of hope”.
President Obama also paid tribute to the dead, saying that he had laid a wreath on “waters that still weep”.
He said: “That morning the ranks on those men’s shoulders reflected them less than the courage in their hearts.”
Barack Obama welcomed Shinzo Abe “in the spirit of friendship, in the manner Japan has always welcomed me”.
ShinzoAbe is the first Japanese leader to visit the memorial on the site of the Arizona, although several of his predecessors have been to Pearl Harbor in the past.
The Japanese prime minister and President Obama laid wreaths at the site and the two leaders prayed for the dead.
However, as expected, Shinzo Abe did not issue an apology for the attack.
Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor damaged all eight of the US battleships at the base and sunk four of them, propelling the US into World War II.
Nearly half of those killed were on the Arizona and the remains of most are still entombed in the wreckage.
All eight battleships at the base were damaged and four were sunk. But the key US aircraft carriers were at sea at the time.
On December 26, Shinzo Abe visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and laid a wreath.
He stood for a moment of silence at the cemetery near central Honolulu, a memorial to those who died the Pacific theater of war.
Shinzo Abe also held a summit meeting with Barack Obama in Hawaii, their last before President Obama steps down in January.