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Wednesday
Feb152017

Russian spy ship 30 miles from US Navy sub base

U.S. Navy photo by John Narewski (RELEASED) (NEW LONDON, Conn.) -- A Russian spy ship is now 30 miles south of New London, Connecticut, where a U.S. Navy submarine base is located.

The Viktor Leonov, a Russian intelligence gathering ship, had been making its way north along the East Coast of the United States. On Monday, the vessel was 70 miles off the coast of Delaware.

U.S. officials have said that the spy ship was likely headed to a location near Connecticut in international waters where it could be close to the submarine base in New London. U.S. territorial waters extend 12 miles from shore to the vessel.

According to a U.S. official, the Leonov is currently "loitering" about 30 miles south of New London.

The Leonov is equipped with communications and signal intelligence gathering equipment.

In recent years, Russian spy ships have been spotted operating near King's Bay, Georgia, the Navy's other submarine base along the East Coast.

The Leonov was in the mid-Atlantic about a month ago, apparently headed to the Caribbean.

In early February, the ship made a port of call in Kingston, Jamaica, before taking a path that took it north to the United States.

If the ship follows past Russian practice, it will head back to Cuba after completing its mission in the Northeast.

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Wednesday
Feb152017

Four themes to watch as Trump hosts Netanayhu

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet face-to-face with President Trump on Wednesday, setting the tone for what both leaders hope to be the dawn of a new era for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Analysts say that the meeting will hope to project a public theme of unity between the two governments on topics including Iran, Israeli settlements and the fate of the peace process.

"Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a very big stake in wanting to demonstrate that whatever the problems were with the last administration, they're now gone," Dennis Ross, a diplomat and former special Middle East coordinator under Clinton, told reporters on a call this week.

While close security and economic ties between the U.S. and Israel continued and expanded during the previous U.S. administration, Netanyahu and then-President Obama often sparred on a number of key issues, particularly over the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and the U.S.-brokered Iranian nuclear deal, which the Israeli leader forcefully denounced.

"There's a strong presumption [now] to send a message how close things are between the two leaders ... to demonstrate that the U.S. and Israel are on the same page strategically and practically," Ross added.

Analysts say that while Iran is likely to figure at the top of Netanyahu's agenda, Israeli settlements, the location of the U.S. Embassy and the peace process are also likely to factor in.

Iran


"The Prime Minister probably comes in with an agenda very heavily focused on Iran," Ross said.

Much of that focus concerns Iranian policy in the region and the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Tehran and the so-called P5+1, which Netanyahu opposed.

During his campaign, Trump voiced strong opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and in recent weeks has taken to Twitter to directly threaten Iran. While the administration has thus far continued U.S. participation in the agreement, Trump has expressed an interest in re-negotiating its terms.

Ross said Netanyahu is unlikely to demand a scrap to the agreement altogether, in part because he is determined to work well with Trump out of the gate.

"I think what he [Netanyahu] wants is some understanding -- and awareness not just about enforcement of the deal but that more needs to be done to deter the Iranians," Ross said.

Writing on Facebook on Jan. 30 after an Iranian ballistic missile test, Netanyahu said that “Iranian aggression must not go unanswered,” pledging to discuss with Trump “the renewal of sanctions against Iran in this context and in other contexts.”

In retaliation to the ballistic missile test, the Trump administration on Feb. 3 announced sanctions against Iran, a narrowly tailored action that did not alter the terms of the nuclear agreement that saw Iran receive sanctions relief in exchange for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Embassy moves


On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move opposed by past U.S. administrations because both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their capital. The U.S. has long maintained that the status of the city should be determined in final status negotiations between the two parties.

Still, there have been some suggestions that Trump has slightly softened his stance.

"His policy seems to be settling back into the mean," former U.S. Ambassador to Israel under President Obama, Daniel B. Shapiro, told Israeli TV channel i24, "which is to support efforts to a two-state solution, to support efforts to limit settlements and not to do things that might be disruptive and moving the embassy might fall into that category."

"It's not an easy decision," Trump said last weekend to the Israeli right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom, a free daily which is supported by Trump donor and Netanyahu patron Sheldon Adelson. "It's been discussed for so many years. No one wants to make this decision, and I'm thinking about it seriously."

But Netanyahu has long supported the move, and is likely to again bring it up.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it is proper that not only should the American Embassy be here, but all embassies should come here,” Netanyahu said in January.

Settlements


Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, Netanyahu has ratcheted up settlement expansion, a signal that the White House is far less critical of building in the occupied Palestinian territories than past administrations.

In the last three weeks, Netanyahu announced the approval of more than 6,000 housing units and the first new settlement since the 1990s. The United Nations considers settlements illegal, and they have long been a bone of contention between the U.S. and Israel.

But Trump's pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an ardent supporter of Israeli settlements and has opposed the two-state solution.

Nonetheless, Trump in the same interview with Israel Hayom seemed to moderate past statements, saying settlements were an obstacle to peace.

"There is limited remaining territory. Every time you take land for a settlement, less territory remains," he told the newspaper. "No, I'm not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace."

Peace negotiations


President Trump has called reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace the "ultimate deal," and has identified his son-in-law and senior adviser the president Jared Kushner as the man for the job.

"I think we can reach an agreement and that we need to reach an agreement," Trump told Israel Hayom. "I want Israel to act reasonably in the peace process,” he added.

Briefing reporters Tuesday night, a White House official said that the peace process was a priority, but would not commit to pushing the two-state solution which has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

"Maybe, maybe not," the official said in response to a question about the two-state solution. "It's something the two sides have to agree to. It's not for us to impose that vision."

The official added: "We're looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we'll be there to help them."

When asked by a reporter on the tarmac leaving Tel Aviv this week if he stands by a two-state solution, which he has at various times opposed or supported, Netanyahu responded: “Come with me, you will hear very clear answers, very clear answers."
 
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Tuesday
Feb142017

US will not insist on two-state solution in Middle East: White House official

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In what would be a major shift from the policy position held by the Obama administration, a White House official said Thursday night that the United States will not “impose” a two-state solution in the Middle East in an attempt to settle the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Maybe, maybe not," said the official when asked at a White House briefing whether peace equaled a two-state solution. "It's something the two sides have to agree to. It's not for us to impose that vision. But I think we'll find out more about that tomorrow."

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday at the White House.

"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not our goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official said. "Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want or something else, if that's what the parties want, we're going to help them."

President Obama’s administration emphasized the importance of two states to achieving lasting peace.

At the final news conference of his presidency on Jan. 18, Obama said that he did not see how, as the situation currently stands, “this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy.”

“Because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second class residents,” said Obama.

In late December, the U.S. abstained from a United Nations vote calling for the end of the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a move that received criticism from Israel, which sought the U.S.’s veto, as well as Trump.

“This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the two-state solution if they continue on their current course,” said then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power.

Trump, as president-elect in December, warned via Twitter that a change would be coming on policy related to the region, specifically referencing the U.N. vote and saying, “things will be different.”

 

 

Later that week in December, Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, made the policy a centerpiece of remarks on Middle East peace.

“The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Kerry. “It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future, freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people and it is an important way of advancing the United States’ interests in the region.”

The Trump official at Tuesday evening’s briefing insinuated that the policy hinged on a clearer definition of the proposal, saying “If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers.”

As to whether Trump and Netanyahu would use the term at their meeting Wednesday, the official demurred.

"We're looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we'll be there to help them," the official said.

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Tuesday
Feb142017

Russian aircraft buzzed US Navy ship 3 times in a day

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon says Russian aircraft flew low and fast above an American destroyer in the Black Sea last week in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner and a Russian intelligence vessel has been detected heading north along the eastern coast of the United States.

On Feb. 10, the Navy destroyer USS Porter noted three “unsafe and unprofessional” encounters with Russian military aircraft while in the Black Sea. In each of the incidents Russian aircraft approached the destroyer at an unspecified "low altitude" and some were at "high speed".

The Russian aircraft did not have their transponders on and did not respond when the destroyer's crew hailed the planes on radio.

“Such incidents are concerning because they can result in accident or miscalculation,” said Lt. Colonel Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokesman.

Russia's Defense Ministry denied any incidents occurred on Feb. 10 between Russian aircraft and the USS Porter. "All flights of our aircraft are done and have been done in neutral waters of the Black Sea in accordance with the international rights and security demands" said Igor Konashenkov, a Defense ministry spokesman.

Last April Russian fighters repeatedly buzzed an American destroyer in the Baltic Sea, with one pass coming as close as 30 feet to the USS Donald Cook. That incident was one of several close encounters between the U.S. and Russian militaries in 2016, but officials have said recently that such encounters had become infrequent.

At the time of the incident Baldanza said the destroyer was "conducting routine maritime operations in international waters in the Black Sea following the conclusion of Exercise Sea Shield."

According to Baldanza the first encounter involved a Russian Ilyushin 38, a maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft. The plane "flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner due to the unusually low altitude" above the USS Porter.

The second incident involved two SU-24 fighters and the third a different Su-24. A U.S. official said that on one pass one of the fighters flew 300 feet above the USS Porter.

Meanwhile American officials are not expressing concern about the presence of a Russian intelligence gathering ship headed northward along the East Coast. The White House deferred comment to the Defense Department on this issue.

According to a U.S. official, the Russian intelligence vessel Viktor Leonov was located 70 miles off the coast of Delaware yesterday in international waters heading in a northerly direction. American territorial waters extend 12 miles out to sea.

The official said the speculation is that the Russian ship is headed near the U.S. Navy's submarine base at New London, Connecticut.

Russian military monitoring of U.S. sub bases used to happen frequently during the Cold War, but became infrequent after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In 2015, another Russian spy ship made its way south along the East Coast past the sub base at Kings Bay, Georgia, but was apparently mapping underwater communications cables off the Florida coast.

If the Leonov follows previous deployment patterns it will eventually head to south to Cuba.

The official says there is not much concern about the Leonov's movements or its intelligence gathering capabilities.

The Russian ship was in the mid-Atlantic a month ago and made a port of call in Kingston, Jamaica in early February.

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Tuesday
Feb142017

Senate committee may call on Flynn to testify amid Russia questions

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republican leaders said Tuesday that former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn may be called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russia’s suspected involvement in the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s potential ties to the nation.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and part of the Republican leadership, told reporters that he thought it was likely that Flynn would, at some point, talk to the committee about “both post-election activities and any other activities that he would be aware of.”

Flynn resigned from his post Monday amid a swirl of questions about his calls to the Russian ambassador ahead of the inauguration. He also apologized to the vice president for misleading him about the communications, an official told ABC News.

The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, was less committal than Blunt, but said he would not rule out calling Flynn to testify.

“We will cast a wide net to look at individuals who can provide us additional insight into what went on,” Burr told ABC News.

The top Democrat on the committee, Mark Warner, of Virginia, had said definitively that he wanted Flynn to testify.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who also serves on the committee, said he would like to see the transcripts of the Flynn calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which the two discussed sanctions on Russia during the Trump team’s transition to the White House, current and former U.S. officials confirmed to ABC last week.

Trump has maintained he has no connections with or economic ties to Russia, as he insisted in this Jan. 11 tweet.

 

 

And while calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador are under investigation no clear evidence of wrongdoing has been found as of yet.

While Republicans mostly insisted that the investigation should be limited to those committees that have already begun Russia investigations, Democrats say that's not enough -- calling for a bipartisan committee to investigate as well.

“It’s critical that we fully understand the extent of the Russian government’s attempts to influence our elections and government—and we need to form a bipartisan Select Committee to investigate,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said in a statement.

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Tuesday
Feb142017

Kim Jong-un's half-brother killed in Malaysia, sources report

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated on Monday at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport, according to South Korean media outlets citing government sources.

Kim Jong-nam, the first-born son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was sprayed with poison by two unidentified women who fled the scene in a taxi, according to the reports.

Malaysian police said in a statement Tuesday that a 46-year-old North Korean man "who sought initial medical assistance at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport" died on Monday en route to the hospital.

The police said that the man's travel document identified him as "Kim Chol," a North Korean born on June 10, 1970. Kim Chol is the name of another brother of Kim Jong-un, although South Korean government officials told South Korean media that the name in the passport was an alias for Kim Jong-nam.

The State Department told ABC News it was aware of the reports and referred questions about the death to Malaysian authorities. The South Korean embassy in Washington told ABC News it did not have independent confirmation, but was monitoring press coverage.

Many feared that Kim could be assassinated after Kim Jong-un took office in April 2012. A fierce rivalry between the two half-brothers ran deep due to succession conflicts. Kim Jong-nam, as the eldest son in the family, had long been expected to rule North Korea after Kim Jong-il's death, backed by the Communist Party seniors including Jang Sung Taek.

Jang, the uncle of two rival brothers, was considered number two in power, but was brutally executed a year after Kim Jong-un took power.

"North Korea is a society where you will be easily executed, not because of your difference in political reasons, but because of simple reasons, that you angered Kim Jong Un," said Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest level official to have defected to South Korea in two decades.

Kim Jong-nam reportedly fell out of favor in Pyongyang after being caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001. He said he was heading to Tokyo Disneyland with his family. Since then, Kim has been in exile moving discreetly around several countries including China, Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. His son, Kim Han Sol, was recently enrolled at Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, according to South Korean media.

The two brothers have never met in person, according to North Korea analysts in Seoul. But Kim Jong-un has always regarded the outspoken Kim Jong-nam as a potential political threat.

For instance, Kim Jong-un has been building up his personal image after their late grandfather and founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, to win popularity from the people and to justify the unforeseen power succession. The late Kim Il Sung is still revered by the people as the pillar of the nation.

From the moment he began appearing in public, Kim Jong-un has emphasized striking similarities with his grandfather, like gaining weight, wearing the same eyeglasses and even having an identical haircut. But it was the elder brother, Kim Jong-nam, who grew up close to their grandfather.

The fact that Kim Jong-nam was born to the first legitimate wife of late Kim Jong-il also took a toll on Kim Jong-un. The current leader’s birth mother was the third wife, Koh Yong Hee, who came from a family that had defected from North Korea to Japan, which is looked down upon in a country where generations of continued loyalty to the regime is essential.


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Tuesday
Feb142017

Duchess Kate tests flight simulator on Valentine’s Day

Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Duchess Kate took over the controls as she tested a flight simulator Tuesday with Royal Air Force cadets at RAF Whittering in Cambridgeshire, England.

Kate, 35, was introduced to the new recruits at a training session after taking over as honorary air commandant of the Royal Air Force from Prince Philip.

Kate, who wore red for Valentine's Day, also participated in a team building exercise which included jumping.

Taking the controls and gripping the joystick, Kate got a taste of what it's like in the cockpit. She followed in the footsteps of her husband, Prince William, and brother-in-law, Prince Harry, who both are helicopter pilots.

"She was extremely good. She was a natural," flight instructor Lt. Michael Salter remarked of Kate. "She was very gentle on the controls. Very often people are too rough. If you feel it, it's extremely sensitive."

Salter continued, "She said she hasn't flown before and wanted to understand what the feeling was like in the air."

Kate brought her son, Prince George, 3, to the Royal International Air Tattoo in RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, last July when she last visited the cadets. The show bills itself online as "the world's greatest air show."

Kate, also the mother of 21-month-old Princess Charlotte, will travel to Paris next month with William, Kensington Palace announced Monday.

"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will undertake an official two-day visit to Paris on 17th and 18th March," Kensington Palace said in a statement. "Their Royal Highness' visit is at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Full details of the visit will be announced in due course."

The timing of William and Kate's visit is significant given the U.K.'s recent Brexit vote to separate the U.K. from the European Union. The trip will also be a poignant reminder of William's mother, Princess Diana, who tragically died nearly 20 years ago in the Pont de l'alma tunnel in Paris.

Both William, 34, and Harry, 32, are making arrangements to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. Earlier this month, Kensington Palace announced a statue has been commissioned of Diana. Several exhibitions to honor the "People's Princess," including a white sunken blooming garden at Kensington Palace and a fashion exhibition chronicling Diana's iconic style, are also being planned.

William’s and Kate's Paris visit will also include a reception with young French leaders, a dinner with the British ambassador to France and a less formal outing to a Wales vs. France rugby match.

William stood in solidarity with the French in November 2015 by attending a soccer match between England and France at Wembley Stadium in London shortly after the Paris terror attacks.

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Tuesday
Feb142017

A timeline of Michael Flynn's interactions with Russia that cost him his job

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Michael Flynn resigned as White House national security adviser late Monday night after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the pre-inauguration conversations he had with Russia’s U.S. ambassador about the U.S. sanctions imposed on that country.

In his resignation letter, Flynn wrote that he apologized to President Trump and Pence for "inadvertently brief[ing] the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador."

In the weeks before Trump was sworn in as president, Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak discussed sanctions the same day they were imposed, current and former U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News last week.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Flynn denied this. Pence also denied the reports in a January interview, based on information Flynn had given him.

Here’s what we know about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak and the Trump administration’s handling of the situation:

Friday, Nov. 18, 2016

Trump names Flynn as his national security adviser.

Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016

Flynn and Kislyak exchanged holiday greetings over texts, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Spicer told reporters in a transition team phone call Jan. 13 that Flynn had texted Kislyak, wishing the Russian ambassador Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Flynn also said he looked forward to touching base and working with Kislyak, Spicer said.

Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016

Firing back at alleged Russian efforts to influence the election, the Obama administration announced it was expelling 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and placing sanctions on five Russia entities.

“I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber-operations aimed at the U.S. election,” Obama wrote in a statement. “These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.”

The Russian ambassador sent Flynn a text message asking whether they could talk over the phone. Flynn accepted the invitation and the two spoke by phone that day, according to Spicer.

Flynn and Kislyak’s call "centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in,” Spicer said, adding, "They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it. Plain and simple."

Spicer later told ABC News the two discussed a number of topics on the phone, including the crash of a Russian military plane carrying an army choir on Christmas Day and an invitation from the Russian government to the incoming Trump administration to attend upcoming Syrian peace talks.

Spicer stressed to ABC News that Flynn and Kislyak did not discuss the sanctions.

Friday, Jan. 13, 2017


In a phone call briefing reporters on the transition period when Trump was president-elect, then-incoming press secretary Sean Spicer provided a tick-tock of Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Spicer detailed Flynn’s text messages on Dec. 15 and Flynn’s phone call on Dec. 29.

Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017


In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pence said that Flynn told him that conversation centered around “Christmas wishes” and “sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place” Dec. 25.

“It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation,” Pence said. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

A senior administration official told ABC News earlier this month that Pence's information had come from speaking with Flynn directly.

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017

A follow-up phone call occurred between Flynn and Kislyak to discuss setting up a call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spicer clarified in a press briefing on Jan. 23.

Monday, Jan. 23, 2017

During the White House press briefing, Spicer reiterated that the only topics Flynn and Kislyak discussed were holiday greetings, the deadly December plane crash carrying the Russia military choir, the conference in Syria on ISIS and to set up a call between Putin and Trump.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017

The Justice Department's then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn that they were misled and expressed concerns that Russia might try to blackmail Flynn. ABC News confirmed through a source close to Yates that U.S. authorities had captured a phone call between Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States discussing sanctions. Spicer confirmed the date the DOJ informed the White House in a Feb. 14 White House press briefing.

After he had been informed by the DOJ, McGahn briefed the president and a small group of aides on Flynn, Spicer said at his Feb. 14 press conference. The president asked McGahn to conduct a review to determine whether there was a legal situation. McGahn determined “within several days” there was not a legal issue, Spicer said, without providing further details.

Spicer stressed Flynn’s resignation did not derive from a legal issue nor did Flynn do anything “that was a violation of any sort,” but that Trump concluded that he no longer trusted his national security adviser.

“The issue here was that the president got to the point that Gen. Flynn’s relationship misleading the vice president and others or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and unsustainable situation,” Spicer said. “That’s why the president decided to ask for his resignation and he got it.”

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017


The Washington Post reported that Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Donald Trump took office. The Post reported that on Feb. 8 Flynn denied twice that he discussed sanctions with Kislyak.

Current and former U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News that Flynn and Kislyak spoke about Russia sanctions, but were unable to say that explicit promises were made to lift the sanctions. Officials said the discussion was under the context that the incoming Trump administration would have a chance to review the sanctions put in place by Obama administration.

Friday, Feb. 10, 2017


Flynn’s story begins to change. A senior administration official told ABC News that Flynn didn’t recall the issue of sanctions ever coming up in his conversations with Kislyak, but “isn’t completely certain.”

The Kremlin confirmed that Flynn spoke by phone with Kislyak, but said reports that the two discussed sanctions were "wrong."

Flynn traveled to Florida with Trump aboard Air Force One. During the flight, reporters asked Trump about the Washington Post story while on the way to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend. "I don't know about that. I haven't seen it,” Trump said. “What report is that?”

He added, “I haven't seen that. I'll look into that.”

A White House official later said Trump’s “full day” contributed to his lack of knowledge of the story.

Two top Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee -- Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. -- released statements calling for Flynn to be removed or suspended from his position. The allegations raise “serious questions of legality and fitness for office," Schiff said in a statement. If the allegations are true, Flynn "should no longer serve in this administration or any other," he said. Swalwell said in a statement: "The White House should immediately SUSPEND National Security Advisor Flynn & REVOKE access to classified information until investigated.”

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017

Pence spoke twice with Flynn on Friday Feb. 10, which a senior administration official confirmed to ABC News Saturday. Flynn spoke met with Pence Friday morning and then over phone in the evening.

The White House official would not discuss the content of their discussions.

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017

White House policy adviser Stephen Miller faced questions about Flynn as he did several TV interviews Sunday morning.

“I don’t have any information to change anything that has previously already been said by the White House on this matter,” Miller said. “General Flynn has served this country admirably and with distinction.”

When asked by NBC whether the president still has confidence in Flynn, Miller demurred, saying, “That's the question that I think you should ask the president, the question you should ask Reince [Priebus], the chief of staff.”

Monday, Feb. 13, 2017

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement calling on Flynn to be “fired immediately.” “We have a national security adviser who cannot be trusted not to put Putin before America,” the statement read.

A senior White House official told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that Flynn called Pence Feb. 10 to apologize for misleading him about his conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told MSNBC that Flynn “enjoy[s] the full confidence of the president.” An hour later, however, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus released a statement that said, “the president is evaluating the situation.”

Late Monday night, Mike Flynn resigned from his position as national security adviser. The retired lieutenant general released a letter of resignation in which he apologized to Trump and Pence.

"Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn's letter read. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on “Good Morning America” that she “did not know” whether Trump and Pence were aware three weeks ago that Flynn had misled them about the phone calls initially after the Justice Department relayed its warning about Flynn to the White House counsel.

“I’m not here to say who knew what when because first of all that would be divulging information that is highly sensitive,” she said. “And, secondly, I don’t know all the details.”

Sean Spicer, in a White House press briefing, confirmed that the president asked for Flynn's resignation.

Spicer also said the White House counsel briefed the president on the DOJ's finding the same day the White House counsel was informed.

"The President was informed of this, he asked the White House counsel to review the situation. The first matter was whether there was a legal issue. We had to review that, whether there was a legal issue, which the White House counsel concluded there was not. As I stated in my comments, this was an act of trust. Whether or not he actually misled the Vice President was the issue."

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when the DOJ told the White House counsel that Michael Flynn had misled them. It was Jan. 26, not Jan. 23.

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Tuesday
Feb142017

Russian lawmakers cry foul over resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Russian lawmakers have been reacting with outrage to the resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn, calling it the result of American paranoia towards Moscow and a campaign by Trump’s opponents to damage relations between Russia and the United States.

Flynn resigned on Monday after it emerged that he misled White House officials about his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to Washington ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

In his resignation letter, Flynn said he had “inadvertently” briefed Vice President Mike Pence and others with “incomplete information” on calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn came under fire for discussing U.S. sanctions on Russia with the ambassador back in December.

The Kremlin has confirmed the calls but denied the sanctions were mentioned.

A series of senior lawmakers in Moscow came to Flynn’s defense on Tuesday, saying he had been forced out for seeking dialogue with Russia.

“Even a readiness for dialogue is perceived by the hawks in Washington as thought-crime,” Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of Russia’s senate foreign affairs committee wrote in a post on his Facebook account.

“To force a national security adviser to resign for contacts with the Russian ambassador (a usual diplomatic practice) -— it’s not even paranoia but something immeasurably worse,” Kosachev wrote.

Flynn has garnered favor in Russia for his efforts to cooperate on terrorism, suggesting that the U.S. should seek to work together militarily with Moscow against the Islamic State in Syria.

Before joining Trump’s team, he traveled to Moscow in 2015 as a private citizen to speak at a conference hosted by RT, the Russian government-backed English language news channel, where he promoted closer cooperation.

Flynn’s attendance at the conference, where he was seated next to Putin, prompted critics to question his independence.

On Tuesday, president Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov called Flynn’s resignation “an internal affair” for America.

The controversy around Flynn came against a backdrop of confusion and suspicion around Trump’s relationship to Russia, even as the president has suggested he hopes to improve relations with Moscow.

A U.S. intelligence assessment released in January accused Putin of meddling in the U.S. election to undermine the democratic process. The report said the Russian interference showed a "clear preference," for Trump.

Prominent Russian government officials have celebrated Trump's election victory as a chance to rebuild relations and have derided the accusations of interference as a “red scare” effort to weaken Trump.

On Wednesday, several well-known Russian government figures derided Flynn’s resignation as more of the same anti-Russia provocations.

“Paranoia and a witch-hunt,” Aleksei Pushkov, a prominent Russian senator and television host, wrote on his Twitter account.

Kosachev, the Russian senate committee chairman, said Flynn’s resignation dampened hopes that Trump’s administration would be able to seek warmer relations with Moscow.

"Either Trump has not acquired the sought-for independence,” Kosachev wrote. “Or Russophobia has already permeated the new administration from top to bottom”.

Pushkov, known for his bombastic statements, went further, echoing a state media propaganda line. “The expulsion of Flynn was Act 1. The marked man now is Trump himself.”

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Tuesday
Feb142017

UK PM Theresa May rejects petition that would bar Trump from official state visit

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — British Prime Minister Theresa May formally rejected on Tuesday an online petition that called for President Donald Trump to be barred from making an official state visit to the U.K.

In its official response to the petition, the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it "recognizes the strong views" of the people who signed the petition, but added that Trump "should be extended the full courtesy of a state visit."

The petition amassed more than 1.8 million signatures as of Tuesday morning, arguing that a state visit by Trump "would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen."

The petition was launched before Trump announced his controversial executive order on immigration but it went viral and garnered the bulk of the signatures after news of the order emerged.

It is scheduled to be debated in the U.K.'s parliament on Feb. 20. As a part of British law, the parliament must consider debating an issue once it gains the support of at least 100,000 people.

May extended the invitation for a state visit to Trump during a Jan. 27 meeting at the White House.

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