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President Donald Trump has said that Russia should “get ready” for missiles to be fired at its ally Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on April 7.

The president tweeted: “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and <<smart>>!”

Senior Russian figures have threatened to meet any US strikes with a response.

The Syrian government denies mounting a chemical attack on Douma.

In one his tweets on April 11, President Trump called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “gas killing animal”.

In another, President Trump painted a dark picture of US-Russia relations but said it did not have to be that way.

He tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

Meanwhile, the US, UK and France have agreed to work together and are believed to be preparing for a military strike in response to the alleged chemical attack at the weekend.

Syrian opposition activists and rescuers say government aircraft dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals on Douma.

According to the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), which operates in rebel-held areas, and local aid workers, more than 500 people had been treated for symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”.

On April 11, the UN’s World Health Organization demanded access to verify reports from its partners, which include SAMS, that 70 people had died – including 43 who showed “symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”.

Meanwhile, a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to deploy to Syria “shortly” to determine whether banned weapons were used.

The town of Douma, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, was under renewed assault from Syrian and Russian forces last week.

Image source Flickr

Rebels have now been evacuating Douma under an agreement involving the Russian military.

Russia said it would deploy military police to Douma on April 12 and that the situation there had stabilized.


Several senior Russian figures have warned of a Russian response to a US attack, with Alexander Zasypkin, Moscow’s ambassador to Lebanon, repeating on April 11 a warning by the head of the military that missiles would be shot down and their launch sites targeted if they threatened the lives of Russian personnel.

Also on April 11, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asked whether the aim of Western strikes might be “to quickly remove the traces of the provocation… [so] international inspectors will have nothing to look for in terms of evidence”.

Addressing new ambassadors in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said the world was becoming more chaotic. He said he hoped common sense would prevail and that the situation would stabilize.

President Putin said Russia would “keep all its international obligations in full”.

On April 10, President Trump cancelled his first official trip to Latin America so he could focus on Syria.

Israeli F-16 Fighter Jet Shot Down by Syrian Anti-Aircraft Fire

TPS: Trump Administration Extends Temporary Protection for Nearly 7,000 Syrians

US Urges Russia to Stop Supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

On April 11, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US was still assessing the chemical attack and that the US military stood ready “to provide military options if they are appropriate as the president determines”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said any strikes would “not target allies of the [Syrian] regime or attack anyone, but rather attack the regime’s chemical capabilities”.

However, The Times newspaper reports that the UK’s PM Theresa May has urged President Trump to provide more evidence of the suspected chemical attack.

A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean Sea.

On April 10, the UN Security Council failed to approve moves to set up an inquiry into the alleged attack on Douma.

As permanent members of the council, Russia and the US vetoed each other’s proposals to set up independent investigations.

The US-drafted resolution would have allowed investigators to apportion blame for the suspected attack, while Russia’s version would have left that to the Security Council.

The OPCW’s fact-finding mission will not seek to establish who was responsible for the attack.

China has hit back with new tariffs of up to 25% on 128 US imports, including pork and wine, after President Donald Trump raised duties on foreign steel and aluminum imports in March.

The new tariffs affecting some $3 billion of imports kick in on April 2.

The Chinese government said the move was to “safeguard China’s interests and balance” losses caused by new US tariffs.

Beijing had previously said it did not want a trade war but would not sit by if its economy was hurt.

However, President Trump has insisted that “trade wars are good”, and that it should be “easy” for the US to win one.

The president has already announced plans for further targeted tariffs for tens of billions of dollars of Chinese imports.

President Trump said that is in response to unfair trading practices in China that affect US companies but it raises the possibility of yet more action being taken in what has become a tit-for-tat trade battle.

Image source Flickr

White House to Announce Sanctions against China over Theft and Transfer of Intellectual Property

US scrap aluminum and frozen pork will be subject to a 25% additional tariff – on top of existing duties.

Several other American foods including nuts, fresh and dried fruit, ginseng and wine will be hit by a 15% increase.

Rolled steel bars will likewise see a 15% rise in duties.

According to the Chinese government, the new tariffs were a retaliatory measure in light of President Trump’s decision to raise duties on steel and aluminum imports.

However, further tax hikes may lie ahead.

On March 22, the US said it was planning to impose duties on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports and limit its investment in the US, in retaliation for years of alleged intellectual property theft.

The White House said it was acting to counter unfair competition from China’s state-led economy.

President Donald Trump has launched a fierce attack on Amazon, suggesting the online retail giant is ripping off the US Postal Service.

The president tweeted that the US Post Office would lose $1.50 “on average for each package it delivers for Amazon”, but supporters of Amazon dispute this.

President Trump also said the Washington Post was a “lobbyist” for Amazon.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which publishes stories unpalatable to Donald Trump.

The Post has reported on stories including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into links between the Trump election campaign and Russia, as well has the president’s alleged relationship with Stormy Daniels.

Saturday’s edition details how three different legal teams are scrutinizing the Trump Organization’s accounts.

Image source Wikipedia

Amazon Buys Whole Foods in $13.7 Billion Deal

Anti-Amazon bill approved in France

Donald Trump’s attacks on Amazon have seen its share price fall in recent days, amid concern that he might push for its power to be curbed by anti-trust laws.

He tweeted that the US Post Office was losing “billions of dollars” in its contract with Amazon.

“If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.’ This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” Donald Trump continued, quoting the New York Times.

Amazon has not commented.

However, supporters of Amazon point out that the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the industry, has found that the US Postal Service makes a profit from its contract with the company.

This in turn helps subsidize the costs of letter delivery, which avoids the need for price rises.

President Donald Trump has fired his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster replacing him with Bush-era defense hawk and former UN ambassador John Bolton.

The president tweeted to thank General H.R. McMaster, saying he had done an “outstanding job & will always remain my friend”.

John Bolton, who has backed attacking North Korea and Iran, told Fox News his job would be to ensure the president has “the full range of options”.

The former UN ambassador becomes President Trump’s third national security chief in 14 months.

H.R. McMaster is the latest high-profile departure from the White House.

Last week, President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by a tweet, replacing him with former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

John Bolton’s appointment does not require US Senate confirmation. He will take the job on April 9.

The National Security Adviser is the key counselor to the president on national security and foreign policy issues, and acts as a conduit for policy proposals coming from various government departments, including defense and state.

John Bolton, 69, said he was looking forward to working with President Trump and his team “to make our country safer at home and stronger abroad”.

He has been a foreign policy hawk in Republican circles for decades, having served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Image source Wikimedia

HR McMaster Replaces Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser

Donald Trump Congratulates Vladimir Putin on Electoral Victory

President George W. Bush appointed John Bolton as US envoy to the UN, during which time diplomats privately criticized his style as abrasive.

A strident neo-conservative, John Bolton helped build the case that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be wrong.

Known for his walrus moustache, John Bolton does not appear to have greatly moderated his views since his last spell in government.

John Bolton stands by the invasion of Iraq and has advocated in newspaper op-eds using military force against North Korea and Iran.

In a brief statement on March 22, General H.R. McMaster, 55, thanked President Trump for appointing him and said he was applying to retire from the US Army later this year.

The three-star general is leaving after just over a year as national security adviser.

The White House said President Trump and H.R. McMaster had “mutually agreed” that he would leave. He had been rumored for weeks to be on his way out.

His departure came a day after someone at the White House leaked to media that President Trump was advised this week in briefing documents not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent re-election, but did it anyway.

General H.R. McMaster replaced Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired after less than a month in the job for misleading the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

President Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his electoral victory two days ago.

Donald Trump said they would meet in the “not too distant future” to discuss limiting a growing arms race, Ukraine and Syria.

Vladimir Putin was re-elected by a landslide, with 76.68% of the vote, for a fourth six-year term.

There was no strong challenger, with the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, barred from the race.

According to European observers, the poll was conducted efficiently, but there was a lack of genuine choice.

President Trump said the arms race between the US and Russia was “getting out of control… but we will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have”.

Image NBC News

Russia Elections 2018: Vladimir Putin Seeks Fourth Term in Office

UK Expels 23 Russian Diplomats over Chemical Attack on Sergei Skripal

According to the Washington Post, citing officials it said were familiar with the matter, the call was made despite warnings from the president’s security advisers, who provided a briefing which included a section that read “DO NOT CONGRATULATE”.

During the call, President Trump did not mention the issue that has sparked growing Western tensions with Russia – the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK.

The UK government blamed the nerve agent attack on Moscow, which denies any involvement.

The Kremlin said the conversation between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was “constructive and business-like”, adding that Russia hoped to “overcome problems” that had arisen between the two nations.

Senator John McCain criticized President Trump over the call, saying in a statement: “An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

On March 20, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker also wrote a letter of congratulations to Vladimir Putin, pledging to “always be a partner” in improving security co-operation with the Kremlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the first Western leaders to “warmly congratulate” the Russian leader on March 19 – a day after his re-election – stressing the need to continue dialogue “to address important bilateral and international challenges and find viable solutions”.

French President Emmanuel Macron wished Vladimir Putin success in “modernizing Russia”, but urged Moscow to shed light on the “unacceptable” attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in the UK.

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President Donald Trump has ordered the blocking of a planned takeover of chipmaker Qualcomm by Singapore-based rival Broadcom on national security grounds.

The president’s order cited “credible evidence” that the proposed $140 billion deal “threatens to impair the national security of the US”.

There were concerns the takeover could have led to China pulling ahead in the development of 5G wireless technology.

The $140 billion deal would have been the biggest technology sector takeover on record.

According to analysts, a takeover of Qualcomm by Broadcom would have created the world’s third-largest maker of microchips, behind Intel and Samsung.

The chipmaking sector is in a race to develop chips for the latest 5G wireless technology and Qualcomm is considered to be a leader in this field, followed by Broadcom and China’s telecoms giant Huawei.

Qualcomm is highly regarded for its commitment to research and development (R&D), particularly in the field of 5G technology. Huawei is equally committed to R&D in the area.

Image source Wikimedia

Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon Sense ID 3D Fingerprint Technology

Micron Technology buys rival Elpida for $2.5 billion

Broadcom is better known for selling assets and growing through acquisitions, and deemed to be weaker on R&D.

Analysts also say a deal between Qualcomm and Broadcom could have given Huawei the chance to take over the top spot in years to come – a situation US politicians wanted to prevent given their ongoing security concerns around Chinese telecom firms doing business with US carriers.

Broadcom said it was reviewing the order and “strongly disagrees that its proposed acquisition of Qualcomm raises any national security concerns”.

The company had been pursuing San Diego-based Qualcomm for about four months.

Last week, however, Broadcom’s hostile takeover bid was put under investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), a multi-agency body led by the Treasury Department.

Broadcom had rejected approaches from its rival on the grounds that the offer undervalued the business, and also that any takeover would face antitrust hurdles.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are to meet in person by May, South Korean officials confirmed after talks with the president at the White House.

The South Koreans passed a verbal message from Kim Jong-un, saying the North Korean leader was “committed to denuclearization”.

President Trump hailed “great progress” but said sanctions would remain in place.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the news “came like a miracle”.

He said: “If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest.”

Photo AP

Donald Trump’s Tweet Calls Kim Jong-un Short and Fat

Donald Trump Responds to Kim Jong-un’s Nuclear Button Threaten

China has welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was “heading in the right direction” and calling for “political courage”.

However, North Korea has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded.

The latest announcement came days after the South Korean delegation met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.

Speaking outside the White House after briefing President Trump, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said he had passed on a message that Kim Jong-un was “committed to denuclearization” and had “pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests”.

According to a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of Kim Jong-un would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region”.

There is no indication yet of where the Trump-Kim talks might take place, but the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as likely options.

President Donald Trump has threatened to “apply a tax” on imports of cars from the European Union.

He said other countries had taken advantage of the US for years because of its “very stupid” trade deals.

The trade wrangle began on March 1 when President Trump vowed to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

That brought a stiff response from trading partners and criticism from the IMF and WTO.

EU trade chiefs have reportedly been considering slapping 25% tariffs on around $3.5 billion of imports from the US, following President Trump’s proposal of a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum.

According to European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, they would target iconic US exports including Levi’s jeans, Harley-Davidson motorbikes and Bourbon whisky.

In a tweet on March 3, President said: “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the US.

“They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!”

Donald Trump Tax Plan Proposal: Sharp Reduction in Business Tax Rate

Donald Trump Threatens 35% Tax on US Companies that Move Jobs Overseas

Image source Flickr

A second tweet decried the “$800 Billion Dollar Yearly Trade Deficit because of our ‘very stupid’ trade deals and policies”.

The president added: “Our jobs and wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of us for years. They laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more!”

The US is the largest export market for EU cars – making up 25% of the €192 billion ($237 billion) worth of motor vehicles the bloc exported in 2016.

In the same year, China was second largest market with 16%.

Germany is responsible for just over half of the EU’s car exports, so new US tariffs would hurt the car industry there. However, German auto makers also build hundreds of thousands of cars in the US every year – providing many US jobs that German officials say President Trump overlooks.

A number of Republicans have questioned the wisdom of the tariff proposal and have been urging President Trump to reconsider.

Senator Orrin Hatch said: “I’m very surprised, he’s had very bad advice from somebody down there. The people who are going to have to pay these tariffs are going to be the American citizens.”

Senator Ben Sasse also said: “Kooky 18th Century protectionism will jack up prices on American families – and will prompt retaliation.”

The US Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association have expressed deep concern, saying the benefits from the recent cuts in corporation tax “could all be for naught”.

However, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stood firmly behind the plans, saying the president was “fed up with the continued over-capacity, he’s fed up with the subsidization of exports to us”.

The new tariffs chime with President Trump’s “America First” policy and the narrative that the US is getting a raw deal in its trade relations with other countries.

On March 2, President Trump tweeted that the US was “losing billions of dollars” and would find a trade war “easy to win”.

He is using a clause in international trade rules which allows for tariffs for national security reasons.

President Trump had already announced tariffs on solar panels and washing machines in January.

Hope Hicks has resigned as White House communications director.

The announcement came a day after Hope Hicks testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee, but White House sources said this was not the reason.

The 29-year-old former model is reported to have told colleagues she was leaving because she felt she had achieved all she could. Hope Hicks has worked for Donald Trump for years.

Hope Hicks is the fourth person to serve as President Trump’s communications chief.

On February 27, Hope Hicks gave a nine-hour testimony in front of the panel investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

She is reported to have admitted to the panel that she had occasionally told what amounted to “white lies” for President Trump, but she denied lying about anything relevant to the investigation.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders – who described Hope Hicks as “in a league of her own” – said it remained unclear when she would leave the administration.

Image source Wikimedia

Hope Hicks Reportedly Admits Telling White Lies for President Trump

Hope Hicks Replaces Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director

Hope Hicks’ departure will come as a major blow to President Trump, who said he would miss having her by his side. A former press secretary, Hope Hicks rose through the ranks to occupy the desk closest to the Oval Office.

She kept a low public profile but recently found herself part of a scandal when newspapers exposed that she was in a relationship with White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who had been accused of domestic violence against past partners.

When news of the allegations against Rob Porter broke last month, it was Hope Hicks who helped draft an initial White House statement defending him.

President Trump was reportedly not consulted and was unimpressed with Hope Hicks’ handling of the controversy.

Hope Hicks became head of the White House communications team in August 2017, after the abrupt firing of Anthony Scaramucci.

In a statement, President Trump said: “Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years. She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person.

“I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

Anthony Scaramucci, speaking on Fox News, said: “She’s one of the least malicious people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s dedicated, she’s charming, she’s thoughtful, at the end of the day she’s going to have an unbelievable career.”

Hope Hicks’ departure comes just after Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, had his White House security clearance downgraded.

In a testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, White House communications director Hope Hicks has reportedly admitted telling what amounted to white lies for President Donald Trump.

However, she denied lying about anything relevant to the Russia investigation.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Hope Hicks deflected some questions in the nine-hour hearing.

The 29-year-old former model has been by Donald Trump’s side for years.

Hope Hicks is seen as a key witness in the ongoing inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said afterwards that Hope Hicks answered questions about her role in Donald Trump’s campaign.

According to the California Democrat, Hope Hicks also discussed matters relating to the transition period between the election and the inauguration.

However, Adam Schiff said she would not answer any questions about events since Donald Trump became president.

Image source Wikimedia

Hope Hicks Replaces Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director

Hope Hicks reportedly refused to answer questions about a 2016 meeting between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower.

When reports of the meeting first emerged, President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., released a statement saying the meeting was held to discuss Russian adoptions.

However, in a later statement, Donald Trump Jr. said the meeting had been held after members of the campaign were offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Hope Hicks was with the president on Air Force One while they were penning the initial statement, which the White House has acknowledged Donald Trump had a role in drafting.

“All of our questions about what went into that statement went unanswered,” Adam Schiff told AP news agency.

“We got Bannoned,” said Democratic representative Dennis Heck as he emerged from the session.

Dennis Heck was referring to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who declined to answer questions about anything other than the Trump campaign during his testimony earlier this month.

Hope Hicks has already testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee and met Robert Mueller, the Department of Justice special counsel.

Robert Mueller is investigating whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, or obstruction of justice.

In a recent interview, President Donald Trump has warned that Israeli settlements “complicate” the peace process with Palestinians and urged “care” over the issue.

The president also told the Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom that he did not believe the Palestinians, and possibly Israel as well, were ready to make peace.

He angered Palestinians in December when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Donald Trump also threatened to withhold aid unless Palestinians agreed to talks.

The interview was published on February 11.

Asked by editor-in-chief Boaz Bismouth when the US would present its peace plan, President Trump said: “We will see what happens. Right now the Palestinians are not into making peace, they are just not into it. Regarding Israel, I am not certain it, too, is interested in making peace so we will just need to wait and see what happens.”

Image source Wikimedia

Israeli Settlements: UN Condemns Plans to Build 2,500 More Homes in West Bank

Israeli Settlements: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Condemns as Biased John Kerry’s Speech

Asked whether Israeli settlements would form part of the peace plan, the president said: “We will be talking about settlements. The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

President Trump said that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had been a highlight of his first year in office.

Israel claims the whole of the city as its capital but the Palestinians want East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will no longer accept the US as a mediator following the controversial recognition of Jerusalem.

President Donald Trump’s speechwriter David Sorensen has become the second White House aide this week to resign amid allegations of domestic abuse.

However, David Sorensen denies his ex-wife’s allegations he was violent and emotionally abusive.

David Sorensen’s departure comes just days after another Trump top aide, Rob Porter, quit over allegations of abuse from two ex-wives, something he denies.

Questions have been raised over how long it took the White House to act on the accusations facing Rob Porter.

Jessica Corbett, David Sorensen’s ex-wife, told the Washington Post that he was physically abusive to her while they were married.

She said that on separate occasions David Sorensen ran a car over her foot, threw her against a wall and extinguished a cigarette on her hand.

In response, her former husband released a statement in which he said he had “never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life” and that instead it was he who had been physically abused.

David Sorensen said he was considering legal action, but said he quit because he “didn’t want the White House to have to deal with this distraction”.

White House officials said they learned of the accusations by David Sorensen’s wife on February 8.

Deputy press secretary Raj Shah said: “We immediately confronted the staffer, he denied the allegations and he resigned today.”

Allegations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter involving two ex-wives surfaced on February 6.

It is alleged that the former White House staff secretary gave one ex-wife a black eye while another filed a restraining order. He denies the allegations.

On February 9, President Trump paid tribute to Rob Porter, who quit his White House position on February 7.

Speaking in the Oval Office President Trump said: “We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him.”

However, the president did not refer to Rob Porter’s accusers.

Donald Trump’s comments sparked criticism from Democrats, with former VP Joe Biden saying the president had downplayed the allegations against Rob Porter.

Joe Biden said: “That’s like saying: <<That axe murderer out there, he’s a great painter>>.”

Image source Wikimedia

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter Resigns amid Abuse Claims

The case has put pressure on President Trump’s Chief-of-Staff John Kelly, who has denied reports he offered to resign over his handling of the accusations.

After initially praising Rob Porter as a man of “integrity”, John Kelly later released a statement saying he was shocked by the claims and stressed domestic violence was unacceptable.

According to media reports, John Kelly and other White House officials were aware for several months of the domestic abuse accusations because they were holding up Rob Porter’s security clearance application.

Raj Shah said that President Trump was not aware of any security issues before February 6 and was “disheartened” and “saddened” by the accusations.

White House communications director Hope Hicks’ handling of the controversy has also reportedly displeased President Trump.

Hope Hicks, 29, has recently been in a relationship with Rob Porter, a Harvard graduate and former Oxford Rhodes Scholar.

President Trump was reportedly not consulted when Hope Hicks helped draft an initial statement defending Rob Porter.

According to CBS News, Rob Porter approached White House Counsel Don McGahn in January 2017 to inform him his ex-wives might say unflattering things about him to background check investigators.

In June 2017, Rob Porter’s preliminary file was sent from the FBI to the White House security office, containing the abuse allegations.

In November, Don McGahn received a call from an ex-girlfriend of Rob Porter alleging physical violence by the aide.

Don McGahn told the White House chief of staff there was an issue with Rob Porter’s security clearance, although he was vague, reports CBS.

Rob Porter told John Kelly his ex-wives were saying false things about him.

A White House spokesman said on February 8 that John Kelly did not realize the extent of the claims until a photo of one of Rob Porter’s former wives, Colbie Holderness, suffering a black eye, emerged on February 7.

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Russia suggests that an expected US report that could sanction Kremlin-linked oligarchs is an attempt to influence its March presidential election.

The treasury department report is expected to detail the closeness of senior Russian political figures and oligarchs to President Vladimir Putin, who is standing for re-election.

US officials accuse Russia of meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.

President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the forthcoming report would be analyzed.

During 2017, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions on Russia but he accused Congress of overreaching itself and preventing him from easing penalties on Russia in the future.

President Trump has repeatedly rejected any allegations that his campaign staff colluded with Russia to help him defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton at the November 2016 presidential election.

The allegations voiced by the US intelligence community are currently being investigated by Congress and Robert Mueller.

Dmitry Peskov said the US report was a “direct and obvious attempt to influence the elections” on March 18.

However, the spokesman added that he was sure the list would not affect the vote.

Russia Election Hacking: Robert Mueller Likely to Interview Donald Trump

Donald Trump: “President Putin Feels Insulted by Allegations of Russian Interference in US Election”

The Kremlin has pledged to help limit further damage to Russian oligarchs and businesses that could be on the list.

In 2018, President Vladimir Putin reportedly met top businessmen behind closed doors to discuss the issue.

Vladimir Putin is seen as the clear favorite to win the March elections.

His main opposition rival, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from standing in the race.

Alexei Navalny was briefly detained during a protest rally on January 28.

The US treasury department has to finalize the document on January 29, after which it is expected to hand the report over to Congress.

It is not known whether the names of those on the list will be publicly revealed or kept secret or indeed how many people and entities are on the list.

Being on the list does not automatically trigger sanctions but such penalties could be activated any time later by the United States.

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President Donald Trump has said he is prepared to be questioned under oath as part of an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The president said he was “looking forward” to it, subject to the advice of his lawyers.

Investigators are assessing if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in his favor – a claim denied by both Donald Trump and Russia.

Investigators will also determine if President Trump obstructed the inquiry.

The US intelligence community has already concluded that Russia tried to sway the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

He had previously said he thought an interview was unlikely because there had been no collusion

President Trump has called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” and a “hoax”.

Speaking at the White House on January 24, President Trump maintained he was “absolutely” prepared to be questioned under oath by the top investigator.

He said: “There’s been no collusion whatsoever, there’s no obstruction whatsoever.”

Image source Flickr

Russia Election Hacking: Robert Mueller Likely to Interview Donald Trump

Donald Trump Believes He Will Be Treated Fairly By Robert Mueller’s Investigation

President Donald Trump Denies He Is Planning to Fire Robert Mueller

Donald Trump’s lawyers have been talking to the investigation team led by justice department special counsel Robert Mueller about an interview, and the form it might take.

The questioning could happen face-to-face, in writing, or it could be a combination of both.

As to when it might happen, President Trump said: “Yesterday they were talking about two to three weeks.”

Asked if he thought Robert Mueller would be fair, the president replied: “We are going to find out… I hope so.”

President Trump told reporters that his former rival Hillary Clinton was not prepared to be interviewed under oath by the FBI about her use of a private email server.

He also said he did not recall asking an acting FBI director about his voting record.

“I don’t think I did,” he said.

“I don’t know what’s the big deal with that.”

Andrew McCabe, who took over the FBI after the president fired its previous director, James Comey in May 2017, said he found President Trump’s Oval Office question “disturbing”.

Andrew McCabe said he told the president that he did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Washington Post.

Robert Mueller is thought to be investigating whether James Comey’s firing was an attempt to obstruct justice.

Las t week, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the Mueller inquiry for several hours.

Jeff Sessions is thought to be the first member of the Trump cabinet to be questioned.

Four people have already been criminally charged as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about a meeting with a Russian ambassador.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been charged on 12 counts, including conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine, and conspiracy to launder money.

Paul Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates was also charged with conspiracy to launder money.

A third adviser to the campaign – George Papadopoulos – pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The US Senate has failed to pass the new budget and prevent the shutdown of many federal services.

A bill to fund the federal government for the coming weeks did not receive the required 60 votes by the deadline of midnight on January 19.

President Donald Trump accused the Democrats of putting politics above the interests of the American people.

The Democrats blame him for rejecting bipartisan compromise proposals.

Negotiations in both houses of Congress continued on January 20, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would be back in session on the next day to try to end the impasse.

The White House budget chief has expressed optimism that a resolution will be found before January 22.

Image source Wikipedia

US government shutdown cost taxpayers more than $2.5 billion

Monica Lewinsky and 1995 government shutdown

If not, hundreds of thousands of federal workers face the prospect of no work and shuttered offices at the start of the working week.

The last government shutdown was in 2013, and lasted for 16 days.

This is the first time a government shutdown has happened while one party, the Republicans, controls both Congress and the White House.

The January 19 vote was 50-49, falling far short of the 60 needed to advance the bill. With a 51-seat majority in the Senate, the Republicans did not have enough seats to pass the bill without some support from the Democrats.

They want funding for border security – including the border wall – and immigration reforms, as well as increased military spending.

The Democrats have demanded protection from deportation of more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children.

The Republicans added a sweetener in the form of a six-year extension to a health insurance program for children in lower-income families. However, Democrats want this program extended permanently.

President Trump accused the Democrats of being “far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border”.

However, the leading Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, blamed the president, saying President Trump was under pressure from “hard-right forces within the administration”.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders warned: “The president will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government.”

The US budget must be approved by October 1 – the start of the federal financial year.

However, Congress has often failed to meet this deadline and negotiations continue well into the new year, with the previous year’s funding to federal agencies extended on a temporary basis.

Because Congress failed to agree an extension that would have maintained government funding through to February 16, it means many federal agencies effectively closed for business as of 00:01 on January 20.

Most staff in the departments of housing, environment, education and commerce will be staying at home on January 22. Half of workers in the treasury, health, defense and transportation departments will also not be going to work.

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According to recent reports, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has been summoned to testify before a grand jury.

Steve Bannon was reportedly subpoenaed by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign.

On January 16, he appeared separately before a Congressional panel.

Congress is holding its own inquiry into the allegations.

Image source Wikimedia

Steve Bannon Fired as White House Chief Strategist

Steve Bannon Removed from National Security Council

The New York Times, quoting an unnamed person with direct knowledge of the matter, reports that Steve Bannon was subpoenaed last week.

However, the summons could be a negotiating tactic by Robert Mueller to persuade Steve Bannon to agree to be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in Washington, the newspaper’s source added.

The House Intelligence Committee is also investigating the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Its proceedings on January 16 were not open to the public.

This is one of four investigations being conducted by Congress into the alleged collusion, with others launched by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee.

President Donald Trump’s administration has issued new guidance that would allow states to impose work requirements on low-income healthcare recipients.

According to the document, able-bodied recipients of the Medicaid health program for the poor would be required to work, volunteer or prepare for a job through school or training.

However, critics argue that the move is aimed at cutting the number of people receiving government-funded Medicaid.

The administration contends the policy is to promote “community engagement”.

Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said: “This is about helping those individuals rise out of poverty.

“Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today’s announcement is a step in that direction.”

Seema Verma said the new policy came about at the request of 10 different states including Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, Indiana and Utah.

ObamaCare Repeal: Senate Votes to Start Debating New Republican Healthcare Bill

ObamaCare Repeal Bill: Some 22 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance over Next Decade

The new guidance also suggests considering exemptions or “reasonable modifications” for certain Medicaid recipients, including elderly, pregnant or disabled people; those in areas with high unemployment or people caring for children or elderly relatives; people with substance abuse disorders such as opioid addiction.

It states that a review of studies showed, “strong evidence that unemployment is generally harmful to health, including higher mortality; poorer general health; poorer mental health; and higher medical consultation and hospital admission rates”.

The report also states that people with a full-time job are less likely to suffer from depression.

As of October 2017, nearly 75 million individuals were enrolled in Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program (CHIP).

According to a study by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 60% of working-age Medicaid recipients are already employed full time or part time.

It is unclear how many Medicaid recipients who are actively seeking work may lose their insurance in the process if their state should choose to enact the new guidelines.

Several members of Congress were outspoken against the decision.

Under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, 31 states expanded Medicaid coverage. Republicans have tried repeatedly to overturn the health law.

The Obama Administration had previously rebuffed proposals allowing states the right to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, arguing it would result in fewer people having access to health insurance.

In order to implement any new policy based on the guidance, states would have to propose the changes through waivers and wait until they are granted federal approval.

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Steve Bannon has left Breitbart News organization, where he built his reputation.

The move comes amid a furore over remarks Donald Trump’s former chief strategist reportedly made about the president’s son, Donald Jr.

Steve Bannon described a meeting Donald Trump Jr. held in New York with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential election campaign as “treasonous”.

He was one of Donald Trump’s most trusted – and controversial – aides.

However, Steve Bannon left his post last summer after reports of a power struggle among President Trump’s White House staff.

Steve Bannon’s subsequent attempt to take on the Republican establishment suffered a severe blow when Roy Moore, the Senate candidate he championed in a special election in Alabama, lost to a Democrat – the first time that party has won in the state in decades.

Image source Flickr

Fire and Fury: Steve Bannon Tries to Reverse Treason Remark

Fire and Fury: Michael Wolff’s Donald Trump Book Goes on Sale Days Ahead Its Scheduled Release

Steve Bannon Book: Donald Trump’s Lawyers Issue Cease-And Desist Notice

President Trump has recently taken to referring to Steve Bannon as “Sloppy Steve”, a derogatory reference to his former aide’s famously disheveled appearance.

Rebekah Mercer, a wealthy benefactor of Steve Bannon, said at the weekend she had ended her support for his political efforts.

On January 7, Steve Bannon insisted that his “treason” comments – quoted in an inside account of the Trump White House, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury – were not directed at Donald Trump’s son but at another former aide, Paul Manafort, who was also present at the meeting in Trump Tower.

The Senate, House of Representatives and a special counsel are all investigating alleged Russian interference in the presidential election, allegations denied by both Russia and President Trump.

Steve Bannon had served as executive chairman of Breitbart since 2012.

Breitbart issued a statement saying it and Steve Bannon would “work together on a smooth and orderly transition”.

The organization quoted Steve Bannon as saying: “I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform.”

Larry Solov, the Breitbart chief executive, was quoted as saying: “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish.”

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According to recent reports, President Donald Trump’s legal team is in talks with investigators who are seeking to interview him as part of a justice department probe.

The Washington Post, quoting an unnamed person close to President Trump, says investigation lead by Robert Mueller is likely to interview him within weeks.

President Trump’s legal team has not confirmed the reports.

Robert Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia in the US elections.

Tensions between Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to look into alleged Russian interference, and the president have risen since the investigation led to charges against several former members of Donald Trump’s campaign team.

Donald Trump’s administration denies working with Russia on the election, and the president has labeled the investigation “a witch hunt”.

Image source Flickr

Donald Trump Believes He Will Be Treated Fairly By Robert Mueller’s Investigation

Robert Mueller Accused of Unlawfully Obtaining Emails

According to The Post, Robert Mueller first raised the possibility of interviewing the president in a meeting with his lawyers, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, in late December.

President Trump’s lawyers are reluctant to allow him to sit down for open-ended questioning and are discussing whether to allow him to provide written answers to some of the questions, The Washington Post and NBC News report.

According to NBC, which cited three people close to the story, the talks are “preliminary and ongoing”.

President Trump’s lawyers did not confirm the reports, but told both media outlets: “The White House is continuing its full co-operation with the OSC [Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller] in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution.”

The Post, quoting an unnamed source, says the two sides planned to meet again to continue discussions on terms and substance of any interview.

Aside from the Russia angle, special counsel Robert Mueller may also look into whether the president and his inner circle sought to obstruct justice while in office following the firing of FBI director James Comey.

Robert Mueller was appointed by the justice department as special counsel shortly after James Comey’s dismissal.

Sitting presidents have been interviewed by prosecutors in the past, most notably when Democrat President Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury in 1998 over his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

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Steve Bannon has tried to reverse remarks in which he called President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., “treasonous”.

His accusation appears in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist was referring to a meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians.

However, on January 7, Steve Bannon said the barb was directed at former aide Paul Manafort, who was also present.

The Senate, House of Representatives and a special counsel are all investigating alleged Russian interference in the presidential election, allegations denied by both Russia and President Trump.

In a statement first reported by news site Axios, Steve Bannon called Donald Jr. “both a patriot and a good man”.

“My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate,” he said. “He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”

Image source Wikimedia

Fire and Fury: Michael Wolff’s Donald Trump Book Goes on Sale Days Ahead Its Scheduled Release

Steve Bannon Book: Donald Trump’s Lawyers Issue Cease-And Desist Notice

The original remark, published in Michael Wolff’s book and not disputed by Steve Bannon, appeared to take aim at all three Trump campaign officials in the room, including Donald Jr.

It read: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Steve Bannon’s attempt to clarify follows repeated denunciations by President Trump, who dubbed him “Sloppy Steve” and said his former aide “cried when he got fired”.

It also follows the loss of the main financial backer of his conservative Breitbart website, heiress Rebekah Mercer, who said in a rare public statement that she had cut off Steve Bannon from funding following his remarks to Michael Wolff.

Steve Bannon went on in his statement to say he regretted waiting five days to say something, and called Michael Wolff’s reporting “inaccurate”.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House rocketed to the top of the Amazon bestseller list upon publication last week and became the talk of Washington DC and beyond.

Based on first-hand reporting at the White House and, according to Michael Wolff, more than 200 interviews with top administration figures and others, it portrays the president as impatient, unable to focus and with no interest in reading or attempting to understand policy.

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Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury : Inside the Trump White House, went on sale on January 5, days ahead of its scheduled release, despite President Donald Trump’s attempts to block its publication.

The book reveals how White House employees believed Donald Trump’s “mental powers were slipping” and how his team was shocked and horrified by his election win.

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, and the author have both been the target of the president’s ire over the past few days. Steve Bannon cried when he lost his job last year, President Trump said and Michael Wolff had written a book “full of lies”, the president added.

Image source Amazon.com

Steve Bannon Book: Donald Trump’s Lawyers Issue Cease-And Desist Notice

The book also claims that Melania Trump was in tears of sadness on election night – though she has denied this and the president’s son, Donald Jr., engaged in “treasonous” behavior, according to former Trump aide Steve Bannon (claims denied by the Trumps).

On January 5, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN that he had “no reason to question” President Trump’s mental fitness.

Rex Tillerson said Donald Trump was “not typical of presidents of the past”.

“I think that’s well recognized. That’s also though why the American people chose him,” the secretary of state said.

President Donald Trump and leading GOP members are meeting to thrash out their priorities for 2018.

According to recent reports, the two-day retreat at Camp David is expected to focus heavily on a strategy before crucial congressional elections in November.

The meeting takes place as a row continues between President Trump and Michael Wolff, the author of a new tell-all book about his presidency.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House raises concerns over Donald Trump’s mental health. The president called Michael Wolff a “total loser”.

Image source WhiteHouse.gov

Steve Bannon Book: Donald Trump’s Lawyers Issue Cease-And Desist Notice

The Camp David summit begins two weeks before the end of President Trump’s first year in office. It will seek to tie up unfinished business by Republicans, who have rallied around Donald Trump during the release of Michael Wolff’s book.

President Trump said as he left for the Maryland retreat: “We have a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to accomplish.”

The agenda is not public, but various media outlets have said the talks could also look at immigration and the opioids crisis.

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After Steve Bannon announced his tell-all book, President Donald Trump’s lawyers have written to his former strategist, saying he has violated a non-disclosure agreement.

The cease-and-desist notice accuses Steve Bannon of defaming President Trump in speaking to author Michael Wolff.

Michael Wolff’s forthcoming tell-all book describes Donald Trump as being unprepared for the president job.

The 64-year-old writer is a former columnist for New York magazine and Vanity Fair. He also wrote a biography of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

His book is reportedly based on more than 200 interviews.

President Trump responded by saying Steve Bannon had “lost his mind” after losing his White House position.

The president’s lawyers said Steve Bannon had broken his employment agreement by speaking to Michael Wolff about Donald Trump and his family, “disclosing confidential information” and “making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company”, the letter said.

Image source Flickr

Steve Bannon Fired as White House Chief Strategist

Steve Bannon Removed from National Security Council

Donald Trump Jr. Releases Private Twitter Correspondence with WikiLeaks

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House makes many explosive claims, including that Steve Bannon thought a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians was “treasonous”. The Trump team was shocked and horrified by his election win and Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, was in tears on election night. Donald Trump was angry that A-list stars had snubbed his inauguration and the new president “found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary”.  The book also claims that Ivanka Trump had a plan with her husband, Jared Kushner, that she would be “the first woman president”. Ivanka Trump mocked her dad’s “comb-over” hairstyle and “often described the mechanics behind it to friends”.

The book also alleges that former UK PM Tony Blair told Donald Trump during a meeting in February 2017 that the British intelligence services may have been spying on him and his campaign, according to a report in The Times.

The Times says Tony Blair was hoping to get a job advising Donald Trump on the Middle East.

A spokesperson for Tony Blair told The Times that the allegations were a “total fabrication: and said the former prime minister had not suggested himself as Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy.

In March 2017, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer told journalists UK intelligence services could have been involved in an alleged spying operation on Trump Tower in New York. GCHQ said the allegation was “nonsense”.

According to New York magazine, which first published the extracts from Michael Wolff’s book, the author was able to take advantage of the Trump administration’s political inexperience to gain an unusual amount of insight.

“There were no ground rules placed on his access, and he was required to make no promises about how he would report on what he witnessed,” it says.

Michael Wolff said he was able to take up “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing” following the president’s inauguration.

In a statement on January 3, President Trump said: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency.

“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

“Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party,” the president continued.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders described the book as “filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House”.

“Participating in a book that can only be described as a trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy.”

Steve Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, was considered a key player in the Trump White House and helped shape Donald Trump’s “America First” campaign message before he left his post in August.

In April, President Trump had declined to affirm that Steve Bannon still had his support, removing him from his elevated role on the crucial National Security Council.

He then appeared to downplay Steve Bannon’s role, declaring in a New York Post interview: “I’m my own strategist.”

After leaving the White House, Steve Bannon returned to his role as the head of the right-wing Breitbart News website, where he said he planned to help the Trump administration as a “wingman outside”.

Donald Trump reportedly spoke to Steve Bannon as recently as December 13, the day of the special Senate election in Alabama that saw the defeat of Republican Roy Moore, whom Bannon supported.

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President Donald Trump has responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un saying his nuclear button is “much bigger” and “more powerful”.

In a tweet, the president warned: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

President Trump’s tweet is the latest contribution to the bickering, increasingly personalized feud between the nuclear-armed leaders.

Earlier this week, Kim Jong-un threatened that his nuclear launch button was “always on my table”.

Photo AP

North Korea Crisis: Kim Jong-un Offers Threats and Hopes in New Year Speech

Donald Trump’s Tweet Calls Kim Jong-un Short and Fat

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s unorthodox words sent social media into a frenzy.

It ended a quick-fire day of tweeting that included taking credit for a lack of airplane crashed, announcing awards for “corrupt media”, and threatening to pull aid from Palestinians who do not show “appreciation or respect”.

President Trump’s latest comment states the obvious: any US president has immediate access to the nuclear codes and the US has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal.

Many people online have expressed alarm at the apparently light-hearted use of nuclear threats by world leaders.

However, Donald Trump’s supporters have defended him, saying his comments are both factually accurate and show American strength and resolve.

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had a long-running spat with Marco Rubio over the size of his hands.

At the time, he insisted: “He referred to my hands – ‘if they are small, something else must be small’. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee”.

This connection was not missed by social media users.

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The UN Security Council has imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea in response to ballistic missile tests.

President Donald Trump praised the decision in a tweet: “The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 in favor of additional Sanctions on North Korea. The World wants Peace, not Death!”

The US-drafted resolution includes measures to cut North Korea’s petrol imports by up to 90%.

China and Russia, North Korea’s main trading partners, voted in favor of the resolution.

North Korea is already subject to a raft of sanctions from the US, the UN and the EU.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said the sanctions sent an “unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishments and isolation”.

She described North Korea as “the most tragic example of evil in the modern world”.

Photo AP

US Urges World to Cut Diplomatic and Trade Ties with North Korea

US Declares North Korea A State Sponsor of Terrorism

The Chinese foreign ministry described the situation on the peninsula as “complex and sensitive” and called on all sides to “exercise restraint and make active efforts to ease tensions”.

The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions, including: deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year; all North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency. There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment.

Tensions have risen this year over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it has pursued despite pressure from world powers.

The UN sanctions came in response to North Korea’s November 28 firing of a ballistic missile, which the US said was its highest yet.

President Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described President Trump as “mentally deranged”.