Home Tags Posts tagged with "donald trump"

donald trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is visiting China for two days, just a week after meeting President Donald Trump.

Kim Jong-un will most probably discuss sanctions and the commitment he made at the summit, in general terms, to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea’s only economic ally, has already suggested sanctions against North Korea could be eased.

Meanwhile, South Korea and the US have confirmed they have suspended planning for their next joint military drills.

That follows a pledge made by President Trump at the Singapore summit.

Image source Wikimedia

Trump-Kim Summit: Donald Trump Praises Historic Talks With North Korean Leader

Trump-Kim Summit To Take Place at Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island

The visit to China is Kim Jong-un’s third since March, when his first trip abroad since taking office was to meet President Xi Jinping.

Kim Jong-un’s latest visit was, unusually, reported by Chinese state media. However, it gave no details on the agenda.

On June 12, President Trump and Kim Jong-un signed what the US president called a “comprehensive” agreement.

North Korea agreed to denuclearization – something it had also committed to in talks with the South – while President Trump said the US would end its joint military exercises with South Korea.

Ending the war games had been a long-standing demand by both North Korea and China.

However, both South Korea and Japan – the US’s other main ally in Asia – said the joint drills were very important.

President Trump’s announcement appeared to catch South Korea off guard and there was confusion how it would be implemented.

There was also confusion over President Trump calling the drills “provocative”, a term hitherto used by North Korea to describe them. The US had always insisted they are purely defensive in nature.

There are about 29,000 US soldiers based in the South and each year the US and South Korea regularly conduct large scale military drills.

The next military drill was scheduled for August with some 17,500 US military personnel due to take part.

President Donald Trump has praised his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that ended in a joint agreement were “tremendous”.

The agreement includes a pledge from Kim Jong-un to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

However, in an extraordinary media conference later, President Trump announced details not in the paper.

The American president said he would halt US military exercises in South Korea, something widely seen as a concession.

The Singapore meeting was the first time a sitting US president has met North Korea’s leader, and caps a remarkable turnaround for the two.

For both leaders the meeting brought much to gain as well as considerable risk.

The meeting is seen by North Korea as a way of bringing legitimacy to a nation long regarded as a pariah.

The summit centered on nuclear disarmament and reducing tensions.

The agreement said the US and North Korea would co-operate towards “new relations”, while the US would provide “security guarantees” to North Korea.

On nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.

Observers say the document lacks substance, in particular on how denuclearization would be achieved.

Photo AP

Trump-Kim Summit To Take Place at Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island

Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump revealed:

  • The US would suspend “provocative” drills it holds with South Korea. He wanted to see US troops withdraw from South Korea. A spokesperson for the US forces said they had yet to receive any new guidance
  • On denuclearization, Kim Jong-un had agreed to it being “verified”, a key US demand ahead of the meeting
  • they had also agreed to destroy a “major missile engine testing site”
  • however, sanctions would remain in place for now and argued “we haven’t given up anything”.

Several reporters asked whether President Trump had raised the issue of human rights with Kim Jong-un, who runs a totalitarian regime with extreme censorship and forced-labor camps.

President Trump said he had, and did not retract his description of Kim Jong-un as “talented”.

He said: “Well, he is very talented.

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. I don’t say he was nice.”

In a post-summit interview with ABC News, President Trump said he was confident that the agreement meant full denuclearization.

“Yeah, he’s de-nuking, I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place. It’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now,” he said.

“I think he trusts me and I trust him,” the president added.

Sitting alongside each other, ahead of a one-on-one meeting, President Trump and Kim Jong-un appeared relaxed against the odds.

Kim Jong-un said: “It was not easy to get here.

“There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”

The two leaders, accompanied only by interpreters, spoke for a little under 40 minutes. They were then joined by small delegations of advisers for a working lunch.

Over lunch Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shared a mix of Western and Korean dishes, including stuffed cucumbers and Daegu jorim, a soy-braised fish dish.

President Donald Trump, who is attending the G7 summit in Canada, says Russia should be part of the group.

Russia was expelled in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea, but President Trump said he wanted the country readmitted.

Fellow members of what was then the G8 suspended Russia after it took control of Crimea, saying it would remain until Russia “changes course”.

The build-up to the meeting has seen major disagreements between President Trump and other nations over his imposition of trade tariffs.

There are also likely to be disagreements with the US president over Iran and climate change.

The G7 summit, which groups the US, the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, is being held in the town of La Malbaie in Quebec.

Image NBC News

G7: Russia faces further economic sanctions over Ukraine crisis

The leaders of the nations, which represent more than 60% of global net worth, meet annually. Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

President Trump said he regretted the meeting had shrunk in size, putting him at odds with most other G7 members on yet another issue.

He said: “You know, whether you like it or – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in.”

President Trump found support in the shape of the newly installed Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted that it was “in the interests of everyone” for Russia to be readmitted.

Canada, France and the UK though immediately signaled they remain opposed to Russian re-entry. A Kremlin spokesperson said they were interested in “other formats”, apart from the G7.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing, where he was presented with a friendship medal by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

President Donald Trump has announced his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 is back on, a week after it was scrapped.

The president made the announcement after talks with senior North Korean envoy Kim Yong-chol at the White House.

General Kim Yong-chol hand-delivered a letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump.

President Trump at first said the letter was “very interesting” but later said he had not yet opened it.

He also said the issue of formally ending the Korean War would be on the table in Singapore.

The 1950-1953 war only ended with a truce, not a final peace treaty.

Photo AP

North Korea: Former Spy Chief Kim Yong-chol Travels to US for Talks

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn: “We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well.”

“We’ve got to know their people very well,” he added.

President Trump cautioned that the summit might not achieve a final deal on North Korea’s controversial nuclear program.

“I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building and that’s very positive,” President Trump said.

The historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders. President Trump has offered to help rebuild North Korea’s economy if it scraps its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un says he is committed to “denuclearization” in some form but his precise demands are unclear.

0

General Kim Yong-chol, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s most senior officials, is thought to be travelling to the US, as preparations for a possible summit gather pace.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said Kim Yong-chol was due to arrive in the US on May 30, via Beijing.

His trip to the US could be part of preparation for a proposed meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump.

The summit was thrown into doubt after President Trump pulled out last week.

However, both sides have been working to get the summit – scheduled for June 12 in Singapore – back on track.

It would be the first time a North Korean leader has met a sitting US president.

Photo AP

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

Kim Yong-chol was scheduled to fly to New York on May 30, after speaking with Chinese officials in Beijing, Yonhap reported, citing diplomatic sources.

The former spy chief would be the most high-profile North Korean official to visit the US since 2000.

The apparent introduction of Kim Yong-chol to negotiations would be significant, as it would underline North Korea’s desire to ensure the talks go ahead.

He has been part of recent high-profile diplomatic overtures by North Korea.

Kim Yong-chol, 72, is a controversial figure in neighboring South Korea, and previously served as a negotiator in inter-Korean talks.

During his time as a military intelligence head, Kim Yong-chol was accused of being behind attacks on South Korean targets, including the torpedoing of a South Korea warship which killed 46 seamen, as well as the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

As a result of these incidents, the US imposed personal sanctions on him in 2010 and 2015.

Despite reportedly being punished for an “overbearing attitude” in 2016, Kim Yong-chol has continued to hold senior posts in the army and party, and was the head of North Korea’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

He is regularly seen at Kim Jongg-un’s side and has attended meetings with the leaders of China and South Korea, and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang.

In February, Kim Yong-chol was sent to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he sat close to President Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.

President Donald Trump has announced he is canceling a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying the world had “lost a great opportunity for lasting peace”.

The American leader said his decision was because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent North Korean statement.

The summit aimed at ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and would have been the first time a sitting US president met a North Korean leader.

However, both sides have recently cast doubt on whether the talks would happen.

President Trump’s announcement came just hours after North Korea said it had dismantled tunnels at its only nuclear test site in a move witnessed by foreign reporters.

He said he had been looking forward to the now-canceled summit in Singapore on June 12.

Photo AP

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

President Trump said: “I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have the long-planned meeting.”

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.

The president called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, saying “someday, I look very much forward to meeting you”.

President Trump was apparently responding to statements from North Korea attacking his administration and casting doubt over the meeting.

Earlier today, North Korean official Choe Son-hui dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence – who had said North Korea “may end like Libya” – as “stupid”.

Choe Son-hui, who has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade, said North Korea would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.

A White House official quoted by Reuters described the comments about Mike Pence as the “last straw”. They stressed, however, there was a “backdoor that’s open still”.

References to Libya have angered North Korea. There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

0

President Donald Trump has officially disclosed his reimbursement to Michael Cohen, the lawyer who paid actress Stormy Daniels to hush up her claims of an affair.

The Office of Government Ethics found on Wednesday that Donald Trump ought to have revealed the payment in his previous financial disclosure.

The filing shows Donald Trump paid Michael Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 for expenses incurred in 2016.

President Trump previously denied knowing of the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

The White House stated in a footnote to the filing that it was listing the payment “in the interest of transparency”, and contended it did not have to make the disclosure.

However, the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) wrote in a letter that “the payment made by Michael Cohen is required to be reported” in the liabilities section of the statement.

In his letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the OGE acting director said: “You may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing.”

The deputy attorney general is overseeing the DoJ investigation into whether Trump aides colluded with alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Image source Wikipedia

President Trump Reimbursed Michael Cohen for Stormy Daniels Hush Money, Says Rudy Giuliani

Stormy Daniels Lawsuit against Michael Cohen Put on Hold for 90 Days

Michael Cohen’s Documents to Be Reviewed by Special Master Barbara Jones

Russia Denies Claims Its Intelligence Has Donald Trump Compromising Info

The Stormy Daniels payment is a potential legal problem for the president because it could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution.

Michael Cohen, whose records relating to the settlement were seized in an FBI raid last month, is now reportedly under criminal investigation.

Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges that she and Donald Trump had been in a hotel room in Lake Tahoe, a resort area between California and Nevada, in 2006. Michael Cohen said his client “vehemently denies” the claim.

If Stormy Daniels’ account is true, the tryst would have happened just a few months after Melania Trump gave birth to her son, Barron, whose father is Donald Trump.

Last month, President Trump said he was unaware Michael Cohen had paid Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.

Donald Trump’s payment to Michael Cohen was first confirmed two weeks ago by Rudy Giuliani, another of the president’s attorneys, in a TV interview.

Rudy Giuliani said the transaction was to keep Stormy Daniels quiet about her “false and extortionist accusation” that she had an affair with Donald Trump, suggesting her claim could have damaged his candidacy.

Later that week, President Trump said the newly hired Rudy Giuliani needed time to “get his facts straight”.

On May 16, the Senate Intelligence Committee backed up the American intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump.

The panel’s assessment contradicts a conclusion in March by the House Intelligence Committee rejecting allegations that Russia had aimed to boost Donald Trump’s chances.

Donald Trump’s financial disclosure shows millions in 2017 income from rents, licenses, book and TV royalties, company shares, hotel management fees and golf courses, with interests from India to Dubai.

Trump’s Washington hotel in a former Post Office building brought in more than $40 million in 2017, its first full year in operation.

His golf courses, including the Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, did not appear to see major gains, despite frequent visits from the president.

Mar-a-Lago contributed $25 million in income, compared with about $37 million on the previous report.

President Trump reported royalties from his 1987 book The Art of the Deal in the same $100,000-$1 million range as he did last year – and sales for some of his lesser titles picked up.

Many of Donald Trump’s shareholdings are in mutual and index funds, rather than the cross-section of American companies he once owned.

0

North Korea has threatened to pull out of a summit with President Donald Trump if the US insists it gives up its nuclear weapons.

The highly anticipated meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is due to take place on June 12.

However, in an angry statement, North Korea’s vice-foreign minister accused the US of making reckless statements and of harboring sinister intentions.

Kim Kye-gwan pointed the finger squarely at US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

He said: “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.”

The groundbreaking agreement for Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump to meet came about as North Korea said it was committed to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Photo AP

President Trump Welcomes Three American Detainees Freed by North Korea

Donald Trump to Meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12

Exactly what that would entail has remained unclear, but North Korea has invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month.

John Bolton recently said North Korea could follow a “Libya model” of verifiable denuclearization, but this alarms Pyongyang, which watched Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi give up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

Kim Kye-gwan’s statement, carried by North Korea’s state media, said that if the US “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks” and “will have to reconsider” attending the June 12 summit in Singapore.

The official said North Korea did have “high hopes” but that it was “very unfortunate that the US is provoking us ahead of the summit by spitting out ludicrous statements”.

He is known to be highly respected in the North Korean leadership and has taken part in negotiations with the US before. There is very little chance Kim Kye-gwan;s comments were not personally endorsed by Kim Jong-un.

Hours before the announcement, in a sign of growing problems, Pyongyang has also pulled out of a meeting scheduled with South Korea on May 16 because of anger over the start of US-South Korean joint military drills.

Pyonyang had earlier said it would allow them to go ahead, but then called them “a provocative military ruckus” which was undermining its diplomatic efforts.

The sudden change in tone from North Korea is said to have taken US officials by surprise. Analysts said Pyongyang could be trying to strengthen its hand before talks.

The US state department said it was continuing to plan the Trump-Kim meeting, and President Trump is yet to comment.

The US is moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Top US officials will attend the opening ceremony of the new embassy, including President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.

The move is praised by Israel but condemned by Palestinians who are gathering for mass protests. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their own future capital, and see the US move as backing Israeli control over the whole city.

For its part, Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

Last year, President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital broke with decades of American neutrality on the issue, and put it at odds with most of the international community.

Image source Wikimedia

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Protests in Occupied West Bank

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Outrage in Arab World

President Donald Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

A small interim embassy will start operating on May 14 inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem.

A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

President Donald Trump is expected to address those attending May 14 event via video link.

Alongside senior White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be at the ceremony.

The EU has voiced strong objections to the embassy move.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu called on “all countries to join the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem”.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has described President Trump’s decision as the “slap of the century”.

Thousands of Palestinians are gathering for a protest along the perimeter fence that separates Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 14.

The timing of the embassy move has led to concerns about increased tension in Gaza.

Since the end of March, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in protests at the border.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has accused Israel of using “excessive force”.

Israel maintains it has acted legitimately to protect its civilians from militants trying to breach the border.

President Donald Trump has announced he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June.

The president tweeted: “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”

Two months ago, President Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un for an unprecedented sit-down.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had previously exchanged insults and threats. The breakthrough came after landmark talks between North Korea and South Korea.

The president’s announcement came hours after he welcomed home three American detainees released by North Korea.

Their release came during a visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Photo AP

President Trump Welcomes Three American Detainees Freed by North Korea

Mike Pompeo Makes Second Visit to North Korea Ahead of Trump-Kim Summit

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.

According to the White House, the American citizens detained in North Korea were freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which President Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – over which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un furiously sparred in 2017.

North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006, despite international condemnation and sanctions, saying it needs the weapons for its own security.

The US wants North Korea to give up its weapons program completely and irreversibly.

Ahead of the meeting, Kim Jong-un has pledged to stop nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, and also to shut down a nuclear test site.

However, analysts caution that Kim Jong-un is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearization” means something quite different to both sides.

The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with the country in November 2017 as international sanctions were tightened.

Other locations which had been considered for the Trump-Kim summit included Mongolia and the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ).

0

Three American detainees, who were released by North Korea earlier, have been welcomed home by President Trump.

President Trump said it was a “special night for these really great people” as they arrived at the Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.

According to the White House, Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul had been freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the planned meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

President Trump said he thought the summit would be “a big success”.

The date and location have been decided but not yet announced.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump entered the plane after it landed at about 02:45 local time and a few minutes later emerged with the three men to wave to the media.

The president said he appreciated that Kim Jong-un had allowed the men to leave as “frankly we didn’t think that was going to happen before the meeting”.

Photo AP

Mike Pompeo Makes Second Visit to North Korea Ahead of Trump-Kim Summit

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Naming CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Replacement

Asked if this was his proudest achievement, President Trump said that would be “when we denuclearize that entire peninsula”.

He said: “It’s a great honor. But the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.”

Of the upcoming summit, President Trump said: “I think that we’re going to have… a very big success… I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.”

He said he hoped he could travel to North Korea one day and that he believed Kim Jong-un wanted to bring his country “into the real world”.

The three men were smiling and waving and appeared in good health.

In an impromptu chat before the media with President Trump, Kim Dong-chul said: “It’s like a dream and we are very, very happy. We were treated in many different ways. For me, I had to do a lot of labor. But when I got sick I was also treated by them.”

Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul had released an earlier statement saying: “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and the people of the United States for bringing us home.

“We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.”

The three men had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in labor camps.

Their release came during a visit to North Korea by Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

According to the North Korean state news agency KCNA, Kim Jong-un said he had accepted a US proposal to grant the three detainees an amnesty, adding that his meeting with President Trump would be an “excellent first step” towards improving the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making a second surprise visit to North Korea, with speculation growing that he will bring home three jailed Americans.

His visit is intended to lay the groundwork for a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.

Mike Pompeo told reporters he was hoping to finalize plans for talks, which are likely to focus on denuclearization.

However, the release of the detainees is a central issue for the Americans.

A South Korean presidential official told news agency Yonhap that North Korea was expected to release the US citizens as a “goodwill gesture”.

Mike Pompeo said he hoped Pyongyang would “do the right thing” and release three Americans imprisoned in North Korea.

He said: “We’ve been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months.”

Image source Wikimedia

Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Naming CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Replacement

North Korea has historically used its foreign prisoners as leverage in its diplomatic dealings.

One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. Their convictions have been widely condemned as political and an abuse of human rights.

The last American to be freed – Otto Warmbier, who was jailed for stealing a hotel sign – was released last year but was fatally ill, and died shortly after returning home. The cause of death remains unexplained.

Mike Pompeo said a “good relationship” was formed at the first meeting in April, which marked the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.

A state department official travelling with Mike Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.

Last month, President Trump stunned the international community by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks – it will be an unprecedented move for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.

President Trump referred to Mike Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing that the US was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

President Donald Trump has announced he will withdraw the US from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.

Calling it “decaying and rotten”, President Trump said the deal was “an embarrassment” to him “as a citizen”.

Going against advice from European allies, the president said he would re-impose economic sanctions that were waived when the deal was signed in 2015.

Iran has responded saying that it was preparing to restart uranium enrichment, key for making both nuclear energy and weapons.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “The US has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.

“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels.”

Image source Flickr

Hassan Rouhani said he would “wait a few weeks” to speak to allies and the other signatories to the nuclear deal.

According to the Treasury, economic sanctions would not be re-imposed on Iran immediately, but would be subject to 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods.

In a statement on its website, the Treasury said sanctions would be re-imposed on the industries mentioned in the 2015 deal, including Iran’s oil sector, aircraft exports, precious metals trade, and Iranian government attempts to buy US dollar banknotes.

Gulf Leaders Skip Camp David Summit on Iran Deal

The UK, France and Germany – who are also signatories to the deal – have said they “regret” the American decision.

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said the EU was “determined to preserve” the deal.

However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he “fully supports” President Trump’s “bold” withdrawal from a “disastrous” deal.

Donald Trump had previously complained that the deal only limited Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed period; had failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles; and had handed Iran a $100 billion windfall that it used “as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression” across the Middle East.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was involving in negotiating the deal, tweeted that pulling out of it risked “dragging the world back to the brink we faced a few years ago”.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Iran agree to limit the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium – which is used to make reactor fuel, but also nuclear weapons – for 15 years and the number of centrifuges installed to enrich uranium for 10 years.

Iran also agreed to modify a heavy water facility so it could not produce plutonium suitable for a bomb.

0

France’s President Emmanuel Macron met President Donald Trump in Washington to discuss a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

After talks, President Trump, who is skeptical of an accord that was struck in 2015, spoke about “doing a much bigger, maybe, deal”.

President Macron said a new pact must cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in the Middle East.

Iran warned of “severe consequences” if the US withdraws from the deal.

In 2015, Iran agreed to mothball its nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

President Trump has been threatening to reject an extension of the Obama-era nuclear pact reached between Tehran and world powers by a May 12 deadline.

President Macron had been lobbying Donald Trump to stick with the deal, saying there was no better option.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit the US on April 27 to make a last-minute bid to dissuade President Trump from potentially torpedoing the agreement.

Image source Wikimedia

Iran Nuclear Deal Reached After Nine Years of Negotiations

Iran Nuclear Deal: US Imposes Fresh Sanctions over Ballistic Missile Test

Oil Prices Hit $75 over Prospect of New US Sanctions on Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying that Tehran would “most likely” abandon the accord if the US pulled out.

Referring to the 2015 accord which he described as “insane”, President Trump said: “They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria, that covered other parts of the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron agreed that Tehran’s influence in the region must be part of negotiations.

The French president also stressed that – as well as controlling Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade as envisaged by the current agreement – a fresh deal would need to cover its nuclear activities longer-term, as well as its ballistic missile program.

Emmanuel Macron talked about working with President Trump to build a “new framework” in the Middle East – and especially in Syria.

He said he did not know whether President Trump would extend the May 12 deadline, adding: “I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us.”

President Trump earlier warned Iran against resuming its nuclear program.

“They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before,”

On April 23, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened “severe consequences” if the US withdrew from the deal.

Meanwhile, Javad Zarif said just hours before the Trump-Macron summit that a probable response would be to restart the enrichment of uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful civilian purposes.

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.

0

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.