Giuliani: Trump Lawyers Leaning to Not Let Him Testify in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani says it is an “open question” whether Trump will answer questions from investigators probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but that his legal team is leaning to not allowing him to be interviewed.

Trump has long said he wants to answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller, but on Sunday Giuliani told ABC News, “It’s beginning to get resolved” to not permitting the U.S. leader to sit for questioning. Giuliani has suggested Trump could be caught in a perjury trap, and charged with lying under oath, a criminal offense.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, said Trump’s legal team might allow an interview if it is “brief, to the point,” but are “leaning to not.”

Trump lawyers contended in a 20-page letter to Mueller in January, before Giuliani joined the president’s legal team, that he cannot be compelled to testify through a subpoena and argued he could not have obstructed justice by firing FBI director James Comey when he was leading the Russia investigation because as president he has unlimited power to terminate the investigation.

Giuliani called the letter, first disclosed Saturday by The New York Times, “very, very persuasive,” but said Trump’s lawyers would contest in court any attempt to subpoena Trump to answer questions.

Giuliani said Trump’s lawyers would tell Mueller’s team that “you’ve got everything you need, 1.4 million documents, 28 witnesses” to conclude its investigation.

“So we’ll say, ‘Come on, own up and make your decision,” Giuliani said. Adding, Trump “believes he’s telling the truth. He is telling the truth” that there was no collusion with Russia to help him win and that he did not obstruct justice.

The Trump lawyer said “at best there was ambiguity” whether Trump obstructed justice in his dismissal of Comey in May 2017, which then led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, over Trump’s objections, to name Mueller to lead the probe.

Within days of ousting Comey, Trump said that when he dismissed him he was thinking of “this Russia thing,” because he thought it was a made-up excuse by Democrats looking for a reason for Trump’s upset win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Last week, Trump said that was not the reason, but offered no other explanation.

Giuliani said Trump, who has pardoned notable conservative figures who have been convicted of crimes, has “no intention of pardoning himself,” but added that “it would be an open question” whether he could do so, acknowledging there would be a political firestorm in the United States if he did.

Giuliani said he believes Mueller will conclude the investigation by September 1, “so we can get this long nightmare over for the American people.”

Long-standing Justice Department rules have concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted for criminal wrongdoing. But Mueller could lay out his findings in a report that could eventually be turned over to Congress, where lawmakers could, if they decided there was wrongdoing by Trump, pursue his impeachment.

Trump in recent days has contended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation planted a “spy” in his campaign, although there is no evidence that the investigative agency embedded anyone in the Trump operations ahead of the November 2016 vote. But an FBI informant, Stefan Halper, an American-born professor at Britain’s University of Cambridge, reported to the FBI about conversations he had with three Trump campaign officials as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the election.

A leading Republican lawmaker, Congressman Trey Gowdy, said last week the FBI did nothing wrong, but Giuliani said he has “tremendous suspicion” that the operation was meant to spy on the Trump campaign.

Trump on Sunday offered three more Twitter comments on the election and Mueller investigation.

He quoted conservative Fox News analyst Jesse Watters as saying, “The only thing Trump obstructed was Hillary getting to the White House.” So true!”

Trump also complained about Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort, for three months his campaign manager in mid-2016, who was charged with criminal offenses linked to his lobbying efforts for Ukraine that predated his involvement with the Trump operations.

“As one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of “Justice” have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign? Should have told me!” Trump said.

“Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!” Trump concluded.


Report: Trump Lawyers Argue He Can’t be Subpoenaed

President Donald Trump’s lawyers composed a secret 20-page letter to special counsel Robert Mueller to assert that Trump cannot be forced to testify while arguing that he could not have committed obstruction because he has absolute authority over all federal investigations.

The existence of the letter, which was first reported and posted by The New York Times on Saturday, was a bold assertion of presidential power and another front on which Trump’s lawyers have argued that the president can’t be subpoenaed in the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The letter is dated January 29 and addressed to Mueller from John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers at the time who has since resigned from the legal team. In the letter, the Trump’s lawyers argue that a charge of illegal obstruction is moot because the Constitution empowers the president to, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

Trump weighed in on Saturday on Twitter:

Mueller interview

Mueller has requested an interview with the president to determine whether he had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into his associates’ possible links to Russia’s election interference. Trump had previously signaled that he would be willing to sit for an interview, but his legal team, including head lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have privately and publicly expressed concern that the president could risk charges of perjury.

If Trump does not consent to an interview, Mueller will have to decide whether to forge forward with a historic grand jury subpoena. His team raised the possibility in March of subpoenaing the president, but it is not clear if it is still under active consideration. Giuliani has told The Associated Press that the president’s legal team believes the special counsel does not have the authority to do so.

A court battle is likely if Trump’s team argues that the president can’t be forced to answer questions or be charged with obstruction of justice. President Bill Clinton was charged with obstruction in 1998 by the House of Representatives as part of his impeachment trial. And one of the articles of impeachment prepared against Richard Nixon in 1974 was for obstruction.

Topics of Mueller’s obstruction investigation include the firings of Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, as well Trump’s reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation.

Public relations campaign

In addition to the legal battles, Trump’s team and allies have waged a public relations campaign against Mueller to discredit the investigation and soften the impact of the special counsel’s potential findings. Giuliani said last week that the special counsel probe may be an “entirely illegitimate investigation” and need to be curtailed because, in his estimation, it was based on inappropriately obtained information from an informant and former FBI director James Comey’s memos.

In reality, the FBI began a counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 to determine if Trump campaign associates were coordinating with Russia to tip the election. The investigation was opened after the hacking of Democratic emails that intelligence officials later formally attributed to Russia.

Giuliani has said a decision will not be made about a possible presidential interview with the special counsel until after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore.


Superfund Chief’s Last Job: Lawyer for Polluter

A lawyer tapped to lead a task force at the Environmental Protection Agency overseeing cleanups at the nation’s most polluted places worked until recently for a top chemical and plastics manufacturer with a troubled legacy of creating some of those toxic sites.

Steven D. Cook has been named as the new chair of the Superfund Task Force, which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt created last year to revamp how the agency oversees cleanups at the more than 1,300 toxic sites.

Before beginning work in February as deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, Cook served more than 20 years as in-house corporate counsel for LyondellBasell Industries — one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies.

EPA records show that LyondellBasell and its subsidiaries are listed as being potentially responsible for at least three dozen Superfund polluted sites.

Half of appointees have industry ties

​An analysis by The Associated Press shows that nearly half the political appointees hired at EPA under President Donald Trump have industry ties. Of more than 60 EPA hires tracked by the AP over the last year, about one-third worked as registered lobbyists or lawyers for chemical manufacturers, fossil fuel producers or other EPA-regulated companies.

Trump promised as a presidential candidate to drain the swamp in Washington. An executive order signed two weeks after his inauguration bars former lobbyists and corporate lawyers from participating in any matter they worked on for private clients within two years of going to work for the government.

Following a request by AP, EPA provided a copy of an April 20 memo Cook signed recusing himself from participating in regulatory matters involving LyondellBasell. However, as stated in the letter, Cook can participate in matters affecting his former employer as long as his actions would also impact at least five similarly situated companies.

“All EPA employees receive ethics briefings when they start and continually work with our ethics office regarding any potential conflicts they may encounter while employed here,” said Lincoln Ferguson, an EPA spokesman. “Steven Cook is no different.”

It was not immediately clear whether Cook would be allowed to participate in decisions involving LyondellBasell, anyway. AP reported in March that White House counsel Don McGahn has issued at least 37 ethics waivers to key administration officials, including three working at EPA, that allow them to help regulate the very industries from which they previously collected paychecks even after signing recusals. It was not clear whether Cook was granted a waiver, and Ferguson did not respond to AP’s inquiries on the subject.

LyondellBasell claims

Lyondell Chemical Co., a Houston-based subsidiary of LyondellBasell, agreed to pay $250 million in 2010 to settle environmental claims and provide cleanup funds for 15 properties across the country as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

Another subsidiary of the Dutch chemicals conglomerate, Equistar Chemicals, agreed in 2007 to spend more than $125 million on pollution controls and cleanup costs to address a myriad of air, water and hazardous waste violations at seven petrochemical plants in Texas, Illinois, Iowa and Louisiana. Court filings made as part of the company’s legal settlement with the Justice Department, and EPA listed Cook as the primary contact for Equistar.

LyondellBasell subsidiaries are identified as a responsible party on dozens of Superfund sites. The companies set aside funds for cleanups before emerging from bankruptcy.

“LyondellBasell resolved its Superfund obligations nearly a decade ago,” said Pattie Shieh-Lance, a corporate spokeswoman in Houston. “The company does not currently have any such obligations.”

Replacing Pruitt friend

Cook is taking over as chair of the Superfund Task Force following the resignation of Albert “Kell” Kelly, a longtime friend and business associate of Pruitt’s. AP reported in August that federal banking regulators had banned Kelly, who previously the chairman of Oklahoma-based SpiritBank, from banking for life. Members of Congress had been pressing for details about what led to the banking sanctions against Kelly when he quit his EPA job.

Cook’s appointment to lead the task force was first reported by Bloomberg.

He is currently the top political appointee at EPA’s Land and Emergency Management office, which oversees the agency’s response to chemical spills and oversees management of the Superfund program.

Trump has nominated Peter C. Wright to serve as assistant administrator for Land and Emergency Management, but he has not yet been confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate. Wright has worked as a corporate lawyer at Dow Chemical Co. since 1999. 


Facebook Shareholders Ask Company Leaders for More Accountability

Facebook has faced backlash from customers, regulators and lawmakers over its handling of user data and its response to reports that foreign actors have used its service to upend elections. Now it’s Facebook shareholders’ turn to sound off at the company’s annual meeting in California. Michelle Quinn reports.


Pushed by Voters, GOP Moderates Rebel on Immigration

Cipriano Garza says Rep. Carlos Curbelo is “a decent man, a family man.” He lauds the South Florida Republican for defiantly pushing his party to protect young “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.

Founder of a nonprofit that helps farm workers, Garza happily hosted Curbelo at a reception honoring high school graduates last week at the massive Homestead-Miami Speedway. But his praise came with a warning about this November’s elections.

“He better do what’s right for the community,” said Garza, 70, himself a former migrant laborer. “If not, he can lose.”

Pressure from home

Across the country — from California’s lush Central Valley to suburban Denver to Curbelo’s district of strip malls, farms and the laid-back Florida Keys — moderate Republicans like Curbelo are under hefty pressure to buck their party’s hard-line stance on immigration. After years of watching their conservative colleagues in safe districts refuse to budge, the GOP middle is fighting back, mindful that a softer position may be necessary to save their jobs and GOP control of the House.

“Members who have priorities and feel passionate about issues can’t sit back and expect leaders” to address them, Curbelo said. “Because it doesn’t work.”

Curbelo, 38, is seeking a third term from a district that stretches from upscale Miami suburbs to the Everglades and down to eccentric Key West. Seventy percent of his constituents are Hispanic and nearly half are foreign-born. Those are among the highest percentages in the nation, giving many of them a first-hand stake in Congress’ immigration fight.

​Petition drive in the House

Curbelo and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., whose Modesto-area district thrives on agriculture powered by migrant workers, have launched a petition drive that would force House votes on four immigration bills, ranging from liberal to conservative versions. Twenty-three Republicans have signed on, two shy of the number needed to succeed, assuming all Democrats jump aboard.

Another supporter of the rare rebellion by the usually compliant moderates is Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a former Marine who learned Spanish when his district was redrawn to include Denver’s diverse eastern suburbs. In an interview, Coffman expressed frustration over waiting nearly 18 months for House Speaker Paul Ryan to deliver on assurances that Congress would address the issue.

“He was always telling me, ‘It will happen, it will happen.’ I never saw it happen,” Coffman said. “One cannot argue that those of us who signed onto this discharge petition didn’t give leadership time.”

​Path to citizenship

The centrists favor legislation that would protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They back a path to citizenship for these immigrants, who have lived in limbo since President Donald Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, called DACA. Federal courts have blocked its termination for now.

Trying to head off the petition, Ryan, R-Wis., and conservatives are negotiating with the centrists in hopes of finding compromise. Roll calls are on track for later this month, but it will be tough to steer legislation through the House that’s both liberal enough to survive in the more moderate Senate and restrictive enough for Trump to sign into law.

At the speedway, a local economic anchor since Hurricane Andrew shattered the city in 1992, Curbelo didn’t mention his battle in Washington to the graduates. 

“Our country and our community need you,” he told his audience, some of whom Garza said were DACA recipients.

Districts won by Clinton

Curbelo’s district backed Democrat Hillary Clinton by a whopping 16 percentage points in the 2016 presidential race over Trump, who has fanned immigrants’ resentment by repeatedly linking them to crime and job losses. That’s left Curbelo facing a competitive re-election, though he’s raised far more campaign cash than his likely Democratic challenger, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Of the 23 Republican petition signees, nine represent districts whose Hispanic populations exceed the 18 percent national average. Clinton carried 12 of their districts in 2016, and several are from moderate-leaning suburbs of cities like Philadelphia and Minneapolis and agricultural areas in California and upstate New York that rely on migrant workers.

The centrists’ petition echoes the hardball tactics often employed by the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. Its roughly 30 members often band together with demands top Republicans ignore at peril of losing votes in the narrowly divided House.

GOP leaders and Freedom Caucus members fear that under the votes the petition would force, liberal-leaning legislation backed by most Democrats and a few Republicans would prevail. That would infuriate conservative voters who’ll be needed at the polls to fend off a Democratic wave threatening GOP House control.

Some in GOP not persuaded

Among those envisioning that scenario is Nicholas Mulick, GOP chairman of Florida’s Monroe County, which encompasses the Keys and is the reddest portion of Curbelo’s district. 

“With the greatest respect for the congressman, I don’t think it’s going to work,” Mulick said.

Others reject that argument, saying moderates’ worries should be heeded because they must be re-elected for Republicans to retain their majority.

“That sounds like somebody who’s never run in a swing district,” former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once led his party’s House campaign arm, said of claims that immigration votes would dampen conservative turnout. “Do they want to be in the majority, hold gavels?”

Democrats and local immigration activists say they wish Curbelo’s effort well but question his motivation. They say he’s reacting to election pressures and simply wants to show voters he’s fighting for them.

“It feels very late, opportunistic, theatrical,” said Thomas Kennedy, deputy political director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Not all constituents on board

Many at the speedway event, sponsored by Garza’s Mexican-American Council, were sympathetic to Curbelo’s battle in Washington, signaling the type of support he’ll need to be re-elected.

Rosa Castillo, 51, of nearby Florida City, said she knows people who don’t get driver’s licenses for fear of having their residency challenged. 

“He’s doing an awesome job for our DACA people,” said Castillo, a Democrat who said she’ll back Curbelo.

“He’s aware of our issues in our community,” said Pedro Sifuentes, 45, an independent from Homestead.

That sentiment isn’t universally shared. Over breakfast at a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant, retiree and Trump backer Randy Nichols, 73, said he won’t support Curbelo.

“If they’re illegal, they need to leave. I hate to say that, but even for DACA kids,” said Nichols, who lives in Marathon, one of the Keys.

Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo’s likely Democratic challenger, said in an interview that she was glad he’d “finally found some strength” to take on fellow Republicans.

The former state Senate candidate, an immigrant from Ecuador, said Curbelo’s challenge to GOP leaders “will obviously bring some positive attention.”

She said she hopes Curbelo and his supporters “aren’t doing it for political reasons.”


Trump: Meeting With N. Korean Leader Set for June 12 in Singapore

U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore for what the U.S. president described as the start of a process.

The president made the announcement to reporters on the South Lawn after a lengthy Oval Office meeting with Kim Yong Chol, the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the United States in nearly 20 years.

Kim Yong Chol delivered a personal letter to Trump to from Kim Jong Un during the meeting, which also was attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

When asked to describe the meeting, Trump said it was a “get-to-know-you kind of situation” to pave the way for the June 12 summit and probable subsequent meetings with Kim Jong Un. “I think it will be a process,” he added, “but the relationships are building.”

The White House said Friday’s meeting was expected to take about five minutes but ended up lasting well over an hour. 

Upon arrival at the White House, Kim Yong Chol, who is under U.S. sanctions for links to cyberattacks against American companies, was escorted to the Oval Office by Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.

The development came a day after Pompeo said “real progress” had been made in discussions to revive the potential June 12 summit.

“We’ve made real progress in the last 72 hours in setting the conditions,” Pompeo said at a news conference after meeting with Kim Yong Chol, adding, “There remains a great deal of work to do.”

Pompeo said he believed North Korea was contemplating a new strategic path forward, but he cautioned that the country would “have to choose a path that is fundamentally different” to achieve security — meaning complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.

“Our two countries face a pivotal moment in our relationship in which it could be nothing short of tragic to let this opportunity go to waste,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol met at a U.S. government-leased apartment near the United Nations. They talked over a steak dinner Wednesday and chocolate croissants Thursday morning. The two men met twice before in Pyongyang.

Representatives of the Koreas, meanwhile, agreed Friday to hold “inter-Korean general-level military talks” June 14 to ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

The agreement was reached during talks at the Peace House of Panmunjom, a venue in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, where representatives also committed to discuss on June 18 potential athletic endeavors, “including joint entries to the South-North unification basketball game and the 2018 Asian Games.”

The two Koreas also agreed to discuss humanitarian issues, including the “reunion of separated families and relatives” on June 22 at the North’s Mount Geumgang resort. And they agreed to pursue dates and places for further talks on matters such as railway, road and forestry cooperation.

 

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Pyongyang on Thursday, according to North Korea’s official state news agency. KCNA said Kim told Lavrov that he hoped North Korea’s issues with the United States — including the state of U.S.-Korean relations and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula — could be “solved on a stage-by-stage basis” through “effective and constructive dialogue and negotiation.”

The White House said talks on the “total denuclearization of the peninsula” would not extend to U.S. weapons systems — a defense umbrella covering South Korea that includes nuclear-armed submarines and strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear bombs not based on the peninsula.

North Korea is estimated to have more than a dozen nuclear weapons. 

An advance team, led by Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, has held meetings with the North Korean team in Singapore this week.


In Texas, Trump Meets With School Shooting Families

Seeking to comfort grieving families and shaken survivors, President Donald Trump spent more than an hour privately Thursday with some of those touched by a Texas mass school shooting that killed 10 and wounded more than a dozen on May 18.

The latest spasm of violence in a year marred by assaults on the nation’s schools, the shooting at Santa Fe High School was the latest to test the president’s role as national comforter-in-chief. Trump met with more than two dozen people affected by the shooting and did not publicly share his message for the grieving families and local leaders during a meeting at a Coast Guard base outside Houston.

​Reports from the meeting 

Pamela Stanich, whose 17-year-old son, Jared Black, was among the eight students killed, was one of the parents who met with Trump, presenting him with a family statement and a copy of her son’s eulogy.

Trump “met with us privately and showed sincerity, compassion, and concern on making our schools safer across the nation,” she wrote in a Facebook post after the meeting. “He spent time talking to the survivors and asking on what happened and what would have made a difference. Changes are coming for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump.”

Rhonda Hart, whose 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed at the school, told The Associated Press that Trump repeatedly used the word ‘wacky’ to describe the shooter and the trench coat he wore. She said she told Trump, “Maybe if everyone had access to mental health care, we wouldn’t be in the situation.”

Hart, an Army veteran, said she also suggested employing veterans as sentinels in schools. She said Trump responded, “And arm them?” She replied, “No,” but said Trump “kept mentioning” arming classroom teachers. “It was like talking to a toddler,” Hart said.

Reporters were not permitted to witness the meeting.

A White House spokesman said Trump was “moved” by the shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two substitute teachers dead. A student faces capital murder charges in the attack.

“These events are very tragic, whenever they happen. And you know, the president wants to extend his condolences and talk about the issue of school safety,” spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.

​Safety commission

While in Texas, Trump’s school safety commission met outside Washington, part of the president’s chosen solution to combat the rising tide of bloodshed after his brief flirtation with tougher gun laws after February’s mass killing at a high school in Parkland, Florida, went nowhere.

Also Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whom Trump put in charge of the school safety commission, announced a $1 million grant to the Santa Fe school district to help with post-shooting recovery efforts.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans, greeted Trump after Air Force One landed at a Houston military base. Abbott joined Trump for the short ride in the presidential limousine to a Coast Guard hangar where the meeting took place.

Trump then headed to a fundraiser at a luxury hotel in downtown Houston, the first of his two big-dollar events in Texas on Thursday. A White House official did not immediately respond to requests for details about how much money was to be raised, and who was benefiting, from the fundraising events.

Florida shooting 

After 17 teachers and students were killed during a February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Trump said he would work to improve school safety, but has not called for new gun control legislation. He created the commission to review ways to make schools safer.

Trump briefly strayed from gun-rights dogma after the Parkland shooting, but quickly backpedaled. Abbott, a Republican and a staunch gun-rights supporter, has called for schools to have more armed personnel and said they should put greater focus on spotting student mental health problems. He’s proposed a few small restrictions on guns since the shooting.

As the Parkland students became vocal advocates for gun control, embracing their public positions as few school survivors had before, Trump quickly became a focal point for their anger. In Trump’s visit to Florida after the shooting, aides kept him clear of the school, which could have been the site of protests, and he instead met with a few victims at a local hospital and paid tribute to first responders at the nearby sheriff’s office.

There has yet to be a similar outcry for restrictions on firearms from the students and survivors in deep-red Texas.

Last in Texas for NRA

Before Thursday, Trump was most recently in the Lone Star State on May 4 to attend the annual National Rifle Association convention. He pledged in his address that NRA members’ Second Amendment rights “will never, ever be under siege as long as I am your president.”

He also touted the administration’s “aggressive strategy on community safety” and mentioned armed guards, armed teachers, mental health and metal detectors, but did not mention assault rifles like the one used in Florida.


UN Extends Sanctions on South Sudan Until Mid-July

A U.N. Security Council resolution to extend sanctions on South Sudan has been renewed for 45 more days after the U.S.-led effort passed at the U.N. Thursday.

The resolution passed with the required nine “yes” votes and six abstentions from the 15-member Security Council.

“The United States has lost its patience. And status quo is unacceptable. It is long past time for all of us to demand better for the South Sudanese people,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.

The Security Council delayed a decision for 30 days on imposing travel bans and asset freezes on six South Sudanese leaders accused of impeding peace, but said that move is still on the table pending a review of the parties’ commitment to adhere to a ceasefire violation.

Akshaya Kumar, the deputy U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, said the delay could be interpreted as an empty threat, but she contends it serves as “a warning to commanders responsible for abuses,” such as former army Chief Paul Malong and Michael Makuei, the country’s information minister. Both are under U.N. sanctions consideration.

Sanctions ‘unfortunate’

South Sudan’s representative, Ambassador Akuei Bona Malwal, said his government will work toward peace. He added that the proposal to impose an additional sanctions on six individuals was not necessary.

“The annex that is attached to this resolution is unfortunate, it is not helpful. The danger is that it may not give the desire that is hoped by those that have supported this resolution,” he said.

“A divided council on this issue will not be helpful to the peace process and it will not send the right message to the parties,” said Ambassador Tekeda Alemu of Ethiopia, who abstained from voting along with Russia and China.

Alemu urged council members to drop the threat of additional sanctions to allow the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to move forward with its efforts to revitalize the peace agreement.

Kumar said the 30-day delay concerning the six leaders “keeps the Security Council well-positioned to move decisively and keep adding individuals to their list if they find reason.” It also suggests the council is “watching and they are ready and willing to consider further action in early July,” Kumar said.

Ceasefire report

The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) is expected to brief the council on violations of the cessation of hostilities in the coming weeks. That could help “circumvent some of the problems we have had to date with the CTSAMM and the ceasefire monitoring, where information was being collected but it wasn’t going to decision makers publicly or in a timely fashion,” Kumar said.

A Reuters report this week accused CTSAMM of failing to release at least 14 ceasefire violation reports that document South Sudan’s army targeted civilians and “burned children alive and gang-raped women.” It also accuses the rebels of using child soldiers.

Kumar said that by reviewing CTSAMM’s reports, the Security Council has set the stage for more transparency in collecting evidence “and they are going to be reporting back within one month. So that’s quite strong. It shows that the eyes of the world are on South Sudan right now.”


Comic Samantha Bee, TBS Apologize for Explicit Remark About Ivanka Trump

U.S. comedian Samantha Bee has apologized for comments directed at White House adviser Ivanka Trump that Bee now says were “inappropriate and inexcusable.”

Bee hosts a late-night talk show on the U.S. network TBS where she often comments at length on U.S. politics. On Wednesday, Bee took to task a U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their parents.

The language

On Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Wednesday night, Bee noted that Ivanka Trump — the daughter of the president who also acts as presidential adviser — had published on social media a picture of herself with her infant son, in a week when the public conversation had centered on separations between children and parents.

In exhorting the presidential daughter to speak to her father about the policy, Bee called Ivanka Trump “feckless” and then added a sexually explicit epithet that refers to the female anatomy.

“He listens to you!” Bee continued, noting that Ivanka Trump is seen as one of the presidential advisers with the most influence over her father. “Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to … stop it,” Bee said, using a second profanity.

The firestorm

Bee’s comments ignited a firestorm of criticism. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the segment “vile and vicious,” adding, “Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast, and executives at [parent companies] Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.”

On Thursday Bee issued a statement saying “I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.”

TBS also issued an apology for Bee’s comments, which were aired in a pre-taped segment, rather than blurted out live.

“Samantha Bee has taken the right action in apologizing for the vile and inappropriate language she used about Ivanka Trump last night,” the network said. Alluding to the fact that the words were used during a pre-taped segment rather than spontaneously uttered during a live monologue, the statement continued, “Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake, too, and we regret it.”

The expletive Bee used is not allowed on traditional broadcast television and is rarely heard on cable networks like TBS.

​Roseanne show

Bee’s comments came in the same week that broadcast network ABC canceled a comedy show starring Roseanne Barr, after Barr tweeted a racist comment about a member of Barack Obama’s presidential administration.

Barr also has apologized, and Bob Iger, who heads ABC’s parent company, has reportedly called the Obama administration official to apologize.

In response, President Trump tweeted that ABC owes him an apology for anti-Trump statements the network’s guests have made on the air.

“Where was Bob Iger’s apology to the White House staff for Jamele Hill calling the President, and anyone associated with him, a white supremacist?” Trump tweeted. He and press secretary Sarah Sanders have said the lack of an apology to him amounts to a double standard.

The apologies by the two comedians, whose political leanings differ, have touched off public debates about the correct response to jokes that different segments of the public find offensive.


Navajo Presidential Race Draws Crowded Field of Candidates

The race to become president on the country’s largest American Indian reservation has drawn a record number of candidates with 19 filing for the office.

The field includes tribal President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez, three women, and others who have previously held or sought the tribe’s top two elected positions. 

The number is up from 17 four years ago, when a tumultuous election season was extended by nearly five months because of a heated court fight over a candidate’s ability to speak fluent Navajo. That qualification loosely remains because it will be up to voters to decide whether that matters to them.  

Candidates regularly promise to improve the tribe’s economy, increase government transparency, secure water rights and deliver basic services. A new challenge will be dealing with declining revenue as roughly one-third of the tribe’s budget is at stake if a coal-fired power plant on the reservation shuts down as planned next year.

One candidate is pushing hemp farms, another wants to build on efforts to designate the tribe as a Medicaid provider, some want to revisit the tribe’s ban on gay marriage, and others are promoting accountability and vowing to combat nepotism. 

Begaye’s office has been criticized recently for placing his daughter and chief legal counsel, Karis Begaye, on paid administrative leave rather than firing her after she was suspected of driving while intoxicated and crashing a tribal vehicle. She hasn’t been charged with a crime.

The list of candidates won’t be finalized until after election officials vet the applications over the next two weeks. Candidates also have a chance to challenge each other’s qualifications.

Russell Begaye, who is from Shiprock, New Mexico, advanced in the last election after the second-place finisher, Chris Deschene, was disqualified for failing to prove he was fluent in Navajo. Begaye easily beat out former President Joe Shirley Jr. of Chinle, Arizona, in the general election.

Shirley is running for the office again. His pick for vice president in 2014, Dineh Benally, also is running for president as is Shirley’s colleague on the Apache County Board of Supervisors, Alton Shepherd of Ganado.

The three women in the race are Emily Ellison of Chichiltah, New Mexico; Trudie Jackson of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona; and former tribal lawmaker Hope MacDonald-Lonetree of Tuba City, Arizona, whose father served as tribal chairman for 14 years in the 1970s and 80s.

The top two vote-getters in the August primary choose their own running mates and face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

Most of the candidates are from the Arizona portion of the reservation. They are: Kevin Cody of Pinon, Nick Taylor of Klagetoh, Tom Tso of Teec Nos Pos, Vincent Yazzie of Tolani Lake, Rex Lee Jim of Rock Point, Benny Bahe of Houck, Shawn Redd of Dilkon, Norman Brown of Chinle and Calvin Lee, Jr. of Greasewood Springs.

Those from New Mexico include Tom Chee of Shiprock and Lester Begay of Whiterock.

None are from the Utah side of the reservation. 



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