Donald Trump Suggests He's Open to Lifting Russian Sanctions, 'One China' Policy

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President-elect Donald Trump has suggested that he is open to lifting the recently-imposed sanctions on Russia if Vladimir Putin assists the U.S. in its anti-terror initiatives and in other matters.

But the sanctions, imposed by President Obama in late December in response to Russia's alleged attempts to influence the presidential election via cyberattacks, will remain for "at least for a period of time," Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Friday night.

"If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?" he asked.

Trump also said that once he's sworn in as the 45th president, he will happily meet with Putin. "I understand that they would like to meet, and that’s absolutely fine with me," he said.

Also noteworthy was Trump's suggestion that the American "One China" policy -- which views Taiwan as part of China, not as a separate country -- could be modified.

"Everything is under negotiation including 'One China,'" Trump told The Wall Street Journal.

Such a move would anger China, considering it views Taiwan as a renegade province. China, for example, lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. after Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call last month from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump has repeatedly said in the past that he would label China a currency manipulator, but he told The Wall Street Journal he's not looking to do that on his first day in the Oval Office. "I would talk to them first," he said. "Certainly they are manipulators. But I'm not looking to do that."

But he didn't back down from his previous criticism of the Chinese. "Instead of saying, 'We're devaluating our currency,' they say, 'Oh, our currency is dropping.' It's not dropping," he said. "They're doing it on purpose ... Our companies can't compete with them now because our currency is strong and it’s killing us."

Trump did have kind words to say about Chinese leader Xi Jinping, though, who sent the incoming commander in chief a holiday greeting card. "I have a beautiful card from the chairman," he said.

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Poland Officially Welcomes US Forces Deployed for NATO Allies

iStock/Thinkstock(ZAGAN, Poland) -- More than 3,000 U.S. troops were welcomed by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and the country's defense minister, Antoni Macierewicz, on Saturday in a NATO show of force.

In the snowy, western Polish town of Zagan, Szydlo said it was an important day "for Poland, for Europe and our common defense" as the U.S. troops were sent under "Operation Atlantic Resolve" to reassure NATO allies against Russian threats.

The U.S. force is expected to rotate every nine months through several countries in Eastern Europe. It marks the first time western forces have been deployed on a continuous basis to NATO's Eastern Flank.

"America will always stand with Poland to defend freedom," U.S. ambassador Paul W. Jones said Saturday.

Russian officials this week criticized the increased military presence of its neighbor. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told BBC the move "threatens our interests and our security."

"It's a third country that is building up its military presence on our borders in Europe," he said to BBC. "It isn't even a European country."

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Senate Intel Committee May Use Subpoenas in Russian Hacking Investigation

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee is launching an investigation into the Russian hacking scandal which has cast a pall over the 2016 election, lawmakers said Friday.

"As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States," the statement said.

The U.S. intelligence community issued a report earlier this month saying that the Russian government and intelligence agencies, at the direction of the country's president, Vladimir Putin, waged a campaign in an attempt to influence the U.S. election.

Part of the campaign included cyber operations that targeted the Democratic National Committee, according to intelligence officials.

President-elect Donald Trump cast doubt on the intelligence community's assessment, only conceding this week that Russia was likely behind the hacking efforts.

According to the intelligence committee's statement, the body will be reviewing the intelligence that led the IC to its conclusion, any potential links between Russian and individuals in the political campaigns and Russian cyberactivity directed against the U.S. during the election and "more broadly."

The committee, which has subpoena power, led by Republican Richard Burr, of South Carolina, plans to interview members of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

"The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads," the statement said. "We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right."

Lawmakers from both political parties have expressed outrage over the suspected Russian activity.

"This issue impacts the foundations of our democratic system, it’s that important," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said. "This requires a full, deep, and bipartisan examination. At this time, I believe that this Committee is clearly best positioned to take on that responsibility, but whoever does this needs to do it right."

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Russian Ambassador Invited Trump Administration to Syria Peace Talks as US Issued Sanctions

Defense Intelligence Agency(NEW YORK) -- Russia's ambassador to the U.S. invited the Trump administration to Syrian peace talks during a phone call in December -- on the same day the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its hacking during the U.S. election -- a Trump spokesperson said Friday.

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak extended the invitation to the talks, which are scheduled for later this month, during a phone call with President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on December 29th, the day the U.S. issued sanctions and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country.

The Obama administration was unsuccessful in securing a seat in Syria peace negotiations during talks with Russia and other regional powers and has been excluded from the most recent rounds. The next talks about Syria are scheduled for January 23rd in Astana, Kazakhstan, three days after Trump takes office.

Spicer initially told reporters the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak only focused on arranging a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump after the Inauguration.

"They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call," Spicer said. "That was it. Plain and simple."

But Spicer later told ABC News the phone call included an invitation from the Russian ambassador to the Syrian peace talks. He emphasized that the topic of U.S. sanctions against Russia did not come up during the conversation.

Spicer said that Flynn and Kislyak exchanged text messages greetings on Christmas day. On December 29th, the same day the Obama administration announced its response to Russia's election-related hacking, Kislyak sent Flynn a text message asking if they could speak by phone. Flynn accepted the invitation, Spicer said. Spicer initially told reporters they spoke on the phone on December 28th, but later told ABC News he misspoke and clarified the call occurred on December 29th.

The Russian embassy declined to comment specifically on the call, but confirmed the ambassador will attend Trump's inauguration.

"The Embassy does not comment on multiple contacts, which are carried out on a daily basis with local interlocutors," a spokesperson for the Russian embassy told ABC News. "According to the practice and protocol rules, foreign ambassadors are invited to the U.S. president’s inauguration. The invitation to the event addressed to Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak was received from the State Department. The ambassador will participate in the event."

The Washington Post previously reported Flynn spoke with Kislyak multiple times on December 29th, the same day the Obama administration formally announced sanctions and kicked 35 Russian diplomats out of the country.

The State Department and the White House both agreed Friday that there's nothing wrong with the incoming administration making contact with diplomats, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he could neither raise an objection to this specific call nor deem it appropriate without knowing exactly what was said.

"As a general matter, you know on principle, you can imagine why these kinds of interactions may have taken place, why the incoming national security advisor may have the need to contact the representative of a foreign government based here in Washington D.C.," Earnest told reporters at the White House briefing Friday. "It depends on what they discussed. It depends on what he said, in terms of whether or not we would have significant objections about those conversations.”

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Frozen Fox Extracted from Danube on Display in Germany as Warning of Icy River

Image Source/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- An apparently drowned fox encased in a thick block of ice is being displayed in a small town in southern Germany.

Franz Stehle, a hunter, put the fox on display outside his home in Fridingen, near the upper reaches of the Danube, as a warning of the dangers of the icy river, according to BBC.

Stehle said he had discovered frozen deer and wild boars a number of times, noting it was not unusual for animals to break through the ice in the winter.

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UN: Freezing Temperatures in Europe Creating 'Dire' Situation for Refugees

UNHCR/Igor Pavicevic(UNITED NATIONS) — Freezing temperatures across Eastern Europe are imperiling the lives of thousands of refugees, many of whom are sheltered in makeshift tents with no heat, the U.N. said on Friday.

The harsh weather conditions have claimed the lives of five refugees in Europe so far this year, according to the U.N.

"We are deeply worried at the situation of refugees and migrants," Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, said at a press briefing in Geneva.

"As a life saving measure, we continue to provide heaters, blankets and winter clothes to residents of informal sites who have not yet agreed to move to government centers," Pouilly added.

Some of the most vulnerable groups include about 1,000 people, among them families with young children, on the Greek island of Samos, and 1,200 males — up to a quarter of whom are unaccompanied or separated boys — living in tents in Belgrade, Serbia, the U.N. said.

The U.N. is calling for humanitarian measures to be taken in light of the life-threatening cold facing the refugees and migrants.

Calling the situation in Greece "dire," Sarah Crowe, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, urged government officials in to take the extreme weather into consideration. "It's about saving lives, not about red tape and keeping to bureaucratic arrangements," she said.

Last year, a record of more than 5,000 refugees and migrants died or went missing attempting to reach Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, while some 360,000 arrived on Europe's shores, according to figures from the U.N. Many of the refugees hail from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan that have been mired in conflict.

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US Ending 'Wet Foot/Dry Foot' Immigration Policy for Cubans

Thinkstock/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration has ended the Clinton-era policy known as "wet foot, dry foot," which allows Cubans special immigration status just days before he leaves office.

The change in the policy would effectively mean Cubans are treated like other immigrants in that those who enter the United States illegally would be subject to return, according to the White House.

Other countries in the region have been asking the U.S. to end the special status because of what they say is the burden that Cuban immigrants trying to make it into America has placed on them.

Cubans have been offered a "special visa" status that allows them, with a single "dry" foot on U.S. soil to claim a green card and get onto a pathway to citizenship, a policy developed in the mid-1990s by President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton measure was designed to slow the tide of Cuban migrants coming to the U.S. by sea. Before that even migrants rescued at sea would be brought to the United States.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy was continued under Presidents Bush and Obama.

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities," the White House statement said. "By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries."

According to the White House, the Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of those entering the U.S. illegally as well as those who are stopped at sea.

The administration has for months said it can't end the special immigration status for Cubans coming to the U.S., claiming that decision rested with Congress.

According to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the decision to end the program with only a week left in the Obama administration came after negotiations with Cuba.

"Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies," the White House said. "With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws."

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British Woman Sets Up Coat Exchange to Keep Homeless Warm

Fay Sibley(LONDON) -- One British woman wanted to go above and beyond for her local homeless community and her selfless act is getting attention around the world.

Fay Sibley, who lives in Colchester, Essex, became concerned about the homeless people living in her neighborhood after weather forecasters predicted up to 4 inches of snow.

She decided to place a clothing rack filled with coats right outside her local library with the simple message: "Need a coat? Take one. Want to help? Leave one."

Sibley, 30, told ABC News that she got the idea after spotting a similar exchange in Yorkshire on social media. She gathered up coats from her friends and family and set up her coat rack outside of the Colchester Library.

"Then I took a picture of what I've done and popped it on Facebook and asked people to share it," she explained.

Within days, the photo had been shared more than 900 times.

"This is a particularly difficult time for [the homeless]," Sibley said. "The weather here has turned really cold and we’ve got snow on the way."

Sibley said so far the coat exchange has been successful.

"By Saturday afternoon, we had 40 [coats] on the rail," she recalled. "So we get about 40 each day. We cover up the coats so they don't get damaged each night. And by then, there's only three or four left."

Sibley's older sister Jo has been helping her collect coats to be added to the rack daily. For her own efforts, Jo has collected 15 or so coats from coworkers at her local school and friends.

"She had a little idea where she thought maybe it'll stay there for a couple of days, and I think it's actually amazing to see how quickly it's grown," Jo said.

Although Sibley's work schedule can be demanding, she doesn't mind maintaining the coat exchange.

"It takes so little time investment for me," she said. "My main hope is that people think they can go do this too. It's a simplistic pay-it-forward gesture. It's something we can all do."

Sibley said the coat exchange will be active outside of the library "as long as there's a need for it. We don't have a time limit."

"As long as people are there and donating, we'll try to keep it there," she added.

Sibley's coat exchange has gotten the attention of her local member of parliament, Will Quince. He tweeted that the paramedic had "great initiative in making it happen. Loving your work."

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Amazon Pulls Flag Doormats After Complaints From India

Thinkstock/iStock(NEW DELHI) -- After India's foreign minister demanded Amazon apologize for allowing doormats featuring India's flag to be sold on its Canadian website, the retail giant pulled the products and, according to the foreign ministry, expressed "regret" they had ever been available.

The doormats caused a diplomatic uproar in India after they appeared on the Amazon site. Some viewed walking on the flag as insulting the national symbol, a crime in India.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted Wednesday that if Amazon did not “withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately” and “tender unconditional apology,” India would not grant a visa to "any Amazon official" and would rescind previously issued visas.





A spokesman for the ministry, Vikas Swarup, tweeted a letter on Thursday in which he said Amazon expressed “regret” over the incident. In the letter Swarup posted, India's country manager, Amit Agarwal, said a third-party seller, not Amazon itself, was behind those products –- which he said were immediately removed.

“Amazon India is committed to respecting Indian laws and customs," Agarwal, an Amazon vice president, wrote to the foreign minister, according to Swarup. "To the extent that these items offered by a third-party seller in Canada offended Indian sensibilities, Amazon regrets the same. At no time did we intend or mean to offend Indian sentiments.”

Asked by ABC News if Amazon had indeed sent the letter, a spokesman for the company, Aaron Toso, only said in a statement, "The item is no longer for sale on the site."

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Four Charged in Paris Kardashian Robbery

Timothy White/E!(PARIS) -- Four people have been charged in France in the connection with alleged robbery of Kim Kardashian West, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

A 27-year-old faces charges of complicity with an armed robbery by an organized gang, sequestration and association with criminals, as do a 62-year-old and 63-year-old, authorities said.

Another suspect, 44, has been charged with concealment/fencing by an organized gang and association with criminals.

Six others are still being questioned, authorities said.

Last October, Kardashian West, 35, was allegedly robbed at gunpoint in a Paris apartment she had rented for Fashion Week. The assailants, whom the reality TV star's publicist described as "armed, masked men dressed as police officers," allegedly tied up Kardashian West and stole jewelry worth an estimated $10 million.

The French newspaper Le Monde first reported, and Us Weekly has confirmed, a report claiming that one of the 17 suspects arrested in connection with the Oct. 3, 2016 robbery works for the limo company that the Kardashian-Jenner family regularly used during their trips to the French capital.

According to Le Monde, the chauffeur was the last person to drive Kardashian West before the robbery, during which she was bound and held at gunpoint by five masked assailants who made off with an estimated $10 million worth of jewelry. Police are reportedly trying to determine whether the driver passed information to the thieves.

A representative for Kardashian West had no comment on the charges or arrests when reached by ABC News Thursday.

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