Biden presses Iran diplomacy as new special envoy tapped
(Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)WASHINGTON – The Biden administration says it’s going to revamp and enhance diplomacy toward Iran as the U.S. looks at restoring constraints on the country's nuclear program and reining in its regional ambitions. Iran vehemently condemned the Trump administration for withdrawing from the nuclear deal and reimposing struct sanctions. Iran hawks are furious with Malley’s appointment because they see him as soft on Iran and overly critical of Israel. They fear that Biden wants to rejoin the Iran deal at any cost and may be willing to sacrifice the security of Israel and the Gulf Arab states to do so. Like Biden, Blinken has said repeatedly that the U.S. would resume its obligations under the Iran deal by easing sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance with the accord.
China sanctions Pompeo, O'Brien, Azar and other Trump administration officials after Biden inauguration
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People on June 14, 2018 in Beijing, China. WASHINGTON – The Chinese government on Wednesday slapped sanctions on former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security advisor Robert O'Brien and former trade advisor Peter Navarro, along with other members of the Trump administration. The move came after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. "China has decided to sanction 28 persons who have seriously violated China's sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues," the statement also said. The Chinese government also named former deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger, former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former U.S.cnbc.com
'I can't stay here' — Mick Mulvaney resigns from Trump administration, expects others to follow
WASHINGTON — Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's former chief of staff, told CNBC on Thursday he has resigned as special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland. I can't stay," Mick Mulvaney said in an exclusive interview on "Squawk Box." Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, and Sarah Matthews, White House deputy press secretary, resigned Wednesday. Mulvaney told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin. Mulvaney added that Trump was "not the same as he was eight months ago."cnbc.com
First lady's chief of staff, White House deputy press secretary resign after Capitol Hill insurrection
Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, and Sarah Matthews, White House deputy press secretary, both resigned Wednesday after the violent rioting on Capitol Hill. Grisham, who is also a former Trump White House press secretary, submitted her resignation letter Wednesday afternoon in part over the riots, Javers reported. "It has been an honor to serve the country in the White House," Grisham said in a statement. Several law enforcement officials said a woman who was shot inside the Capitol building during the chaos had died. Congress on Wednesday night resumed the process to confirm Biden's win after the Capitol Building had been secured.cnbc.com
Reaction from leaders pours in after mob breaks into Capitol
A mob of violent protesters made its way into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, forcing police to evacuate lawmakers and delaying the constitutional process to affirm Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. Some of the reaction from around the United States and the world:British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power." Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy." The Congress of the United States must gather again this evening to conclude their Constitutional responsibility to accept the report of the Electoral College."
Trump says he will veto $740 billion defense bill, breaking with Republican-led Senate
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday he will reject the sweeping defense bill that authorizes a topline of $740 billion in spending and outlines Pentagon policy. "I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy. The Republican-led Senate overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Friday. The more than 70 members in support of the must-pass bill is more than the two-thirds majority that would be needed to defeat Trump's promised veto. The bill, which typically passes with strong bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities, authorizes a topline of $740 billion in spending and outlines Pentagon policy.cnbc.com
US Embassy says Sudan no longer on list of terror sponsors
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said the administration removed Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that could help the African country get international loans to revive its battered economy and end its pariah status. The embassy said in a Facebook post that the removal of Sudan from the list is effective as of Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Delisting Sudan from the state sponsors blacklist is a key incentive for the Sudanese government to normalize relations with Israel. The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. In October, Trump announced that he would remove Sudan from the list if it follows through on its pledge to pay $335 million to American terror victims and their families.
Trump skips Southeast Asia summit for third year in a row
U.S. President Donald Trump skipped a virtual summit with his Southeast Asian counterparts on Saturday, the third year in a row that the U.S. is being represented at a lower level. (VNA via AP)HANOI – President Donald Trump skipped a summit with his Southeast Asian counterparts for the third year in a row on Saturday, with rival China set to expand its influence with a massive free trade deal in the region. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Trump regretted he was unable to attend the online summit with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but stressed the importance of ties with the region. Trump attended the ASEAN summit in 2017, but sent only representatives during the last two meetings. At the separate summit later Saturday, China, Japan and South Korea sought deeper regional cooperation to battle the pandemic.
Trump tests limits as Cabinet members fan out to key states
(AP Photo/John Flesher)WASHINGTON – Education Secretary Betsy DeVos planned a “Moms for Trump” rally in her home state of Michigan. It's long been one of the benefits of incumbency that a president can enlist his Cabinet to promote administration accomplishments. “The Trump administration has completely obliterated that line," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, which describes itself as a nonpartisan watchdog organization. "The White House is now the seat of government, where the president lives, and one of his chief campaign props. “The Trump administration takes the Hatch Act seriously and all events are conducted in compliance with the law,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
Trump: Sudan to join UAE, Bahrain in recognizing Israel
In exchange, Trump notified Congress on Friday of his intent to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Previously, the Trump administration engineered diplomatic pacts between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — the first since Jordan recognized Israel in the 1990s and Egypt in the 1970s. “This is one of the great days in the history of Sudan,” Trump said, adding that Israel and Sudan have been in a state of hostilities for decades, even if they had not been in direct conflict. “Today, Khartoum is saying yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel and yes to normalization with Israel," Netanyahu said. "This is a new era, an era of true peace — peace that is proceeding and widening with additional Arab countries.
U.S. tries to get Huawei blocked from Brazil's 5G networks with $1 billion financing pledge
A logo of 5G is seen at a Huawei authorised experience store on May 29, 2020 in Beijing, China. GUANGZHOU, China — Washington has stepped up its offensive against Huawei, offering financing to Brazil to get the Chinese telco effectively blocked from the nation's next-generation 5G networks. These include energy and "especially in the telecommunications area and the important 5G," according to a statement by U.S. national security advisor Robert O'Brien. U.S. officials told reporters at the signing that the money was available for Brazil to buy telecommunications equipment from Huawei's rivals, according to Reuters. Huawei was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.cnbc.com
Adviser: Trump tweet about Afghanistan withdrawal was a wish
U.S. officials also said Friday that there currently is no approved plan to reduce the number to 2,500 by early next year. They also worry that a hasty withdrawal could force the U.S. to leave behind sensitive military equipment. America’s exit from Afghanistan after 19 years was laid out in a February agreement Washington reached with the Taliban. U.S. officials also say that the U.S. has critical classified equipment at bases in Afghanistan that needs to be moved out, which will take time. They also said that troop withdrawals from Afghanistan need to be coordinated with other coalition allies that also have forces there.
U.S. aims to lower troop level in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early 2021, Trump advisor says
O'Brien said Trump has ordered the Pentagon to draw down to approximately 2,500 service members in Afghanistan by early 2021. Trump's announcement, made via tweet, called for bringing U.S. service members home by Christmas. Trump, who is running for reelection, campaigned in 2016 on withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. "We need to stop spending the kind of money that we're spending in Afghanistan," O'Brien said, adding that it was "unsustainable for us to be in these countries forever." "We need to get out of Afghanistan," O'Brien said.cnbc.com
White House rejects Putin response to US arms control offer
The cap would cover warheads not limited by the New START treaty. Trump's lead arms control negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, blamed the Russians for missing what he called an historic opportunity. "I can’t see any rationale for it.”The arms control effort is hampered in part by deteriorating trust between Washington and Moscow. "The United States is serious about arms control that will keep the entire world safe. Russia previously offered the pact’s extension for five years without any conditions, while the U.S. administration pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China.
2 US citizens released by Iran-backed militants in Yemen
“The United States welcomes the release today of U.S. citizens Sandra Loli and Mikael Gidada from Houthi custody in Yemen,” national security adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement. Yemen plunged into chaos and civil war when the Houthi rebels took over Sanaa in 2014 from the internationally recognized government. The war in Yemen has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages. Mohamed Abdel-Salam, a spokesman for the Iran-backed militants, also confirmed that about 240 rebels returned to Sanaa on two Omani flights. ___Associated Press writer Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.
Trump says he and first lady tested positive for coronavirus
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled with him during the week had tested positive. “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. Pence's aides had no immediate comment on whether the vice president had been tested or in contact with Trump. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.
Bolton lawyers seek to question Trump officials over book
WASHINGTON – Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton told a judge Thursday they want to interview White House officials following new allegations that a pre-publication review of his tell-all book was politicized in an effort to block its release. A lawsuit over Bolton's book, including on the question of whether the Justice Department is entitled to proceeds from the publication, is still pending even though a judge in June denied a request for an injunction to block its release. The book, which details Bolton's 17 months as Trump's national security adviser, contains descriptions of conversations with foreign leaders that could be seen as politically damaging to the president. The Justice Department in June sued Bolton to immediately block the release of the book. “What is unprecedented here is a national security adviser releasing his memoir (of his time as) a national security adviser within months of leaving that job,” said Justice Department lawyer Jennifer Dickey.
Despite Trump attacks, both parties vow orderly election
Amid the uproar, Trump said anew he's not sure the election will be “honest." But his increased questioning before any result is setting off alarms ahead of an Election Day like no other. But it doesn’t surprise me.”On Capitol Hill, Trump's possible refusal to accept the election results has been discussed privately for weeks as lawmakers consider options. Before the 2016 election, much as now, Trump refused to commit to accepting the results during the summer. “I have to see,” Trump said two months ago on “Fox News Sunday.” “No, I’m not going to just say yes.
Alone among nations, US moves to restore UN Iran sanctions
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)WASHINGTON – The United States slapped additional sanctions on Iran on Monday after the Trump administration's disputed unilateral weekend declaration that all United Nations penalties eased under the 2015 nuclear deal had been restored. “The United States has now restored U.N. sanctions on Iran,” Trump said in a statement issued shortly after he signed an executive order spelling out how the U.S. will enforce the “snapback” of the sanctions. “No matter who you are if you violate the U.N. arms embargo on Iran you risk sanctions,” he said. “The country that’s isolated today is not the United States but rather Iran,” Pompeo said. But few U.N. member states believe the U.S. has the legal standing to restore the sanctions because Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Kosovo awards Trump with Order of Freedom for peace efforts
A photo of the Order of Freedom awarded to the U.S President Donald Trump, undersigned by Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci in capital Pristina, Kosovo on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Kosovo's president awarded U.S. President Donald Trump with one of the country's highest medals - Kosovo's Order of Freedom - for his government's efforts on peace and reconciliation in the former war-torn region. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)PRISTINA – Kosovo's awarded U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday with one of the country's highest honors for his government's efforts on peace and reconciliation in the former war-torn region. President Hashim Thaci awarded Trump with Kosovo's Order of Freedom “for his exceptional contribution for the freedom of Kosovo and the strengthening of Peace and reconciliation in the region.”The honor is given to local and foreign citizens for their high contribution in defending Kosovo’s freedom. In a letter sent to Trump, Thaci said that the Kosovo-Serbia deal can be achieved “only under the powerful leadership of the United States of America.
Book: Kim Jong Un told Trump about killing his uncle
As he engaged in nuclear arms talks with Kim, Trump dismissed intelligence officials' assessments that North Korea would never give up its nuclear weapons. Trump told Woodward that the CIA has no idea how to handle Pyongyang. Critics said that by meeting Kim, Trump provided the North Korean leader with legitimacy on the world stage. Kim wrote to Trump that he believed the deep and special friendship between us will work as a magical force." But the sources did not provide details and told Woodward, according to the book, that they were surprised Trump had disclosed it.
With Kushner in UAE, Iran's leader decries Israel-UAE ties
An official stands at the door of an Israeli El Al airliner after it landed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. King Hamad praised the steadfast, historic stances of the United Arab Emirates in ensuring Palestinian rights, BNA said. Kushner has expressed optimism that other Arab countries will soon follow the UAE in establishing official ties with Israel, even in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians. The United Arab Emirates committed treachery against either the Islamic world or Arab nations and regional countries, as well as Palestine," Khamenei said. The treason will not last for long.Both the UAE and Israel share a mutual suspicion of Iran.
Israeli, US delegations depart to UAE in 1st direct flight
But unlike those two nations, Israel has never fought a war against the UAE and hopes to have much-warmer relations. The American delegation includes President Donald Trumps senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as national security adviser Robert OBrien, Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz and envoy for Iran Brian Hook. Israel will be represented by national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and the director generals of several ministries, who will meet with their Emirati counterparts. The El Al flight, numbered LY971 as a gesture to the UAEs international calling code number, is expected to fly over Saudi Arabian airspace. Any long-term flights between Israel and the UAE would require Saudi clearance to be profitable.
Trump's national security adviser recovers from COVID-19
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's national security adviser, who tested positive for the coronavirus, returned to work Tuesday after recovering from a mild case of COVID-19, the White House said. Robert O'Brien has resumed his meetings with the president, said National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot. “During his quarantine at home, Ambassador O’Brien worked his normal duties. The administration said there was no risk of exposure to the president or Vice President Mike Pence. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said earlier that O’Brien’s daughter also contracted the virus and that that is how officials think he was exposed.
Trump: Fed retiree fund should ban Chinese investments
The administration has given the board overseeing the Thrift Savings Plan until Wednesday to comply with the president's directive. The more than $4 billion, however, is a small slice of the hundreds of billions in the tax-deferred retirement savings and investment plan that works like a 401(k) plan offered by private corporations. Scalia followed with a letter to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board asking it to forgo its plan to move money into the Chinese equities. The board declined to reverse its decision and the fund is expected to shortly invest up to $4.5 billion in Chinese equities. The board administers the federal employee retirement fund.
Trump imposes travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines over coronavirus outbreak
The Trump administration on Friday declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States, and announced that certain foreign nationals deemed to pose a risk of transmitting the disease will temporarily be denied entry to the U.S. Some returning American citizens potentially at risk will be quarantined. Also starting Sunday, U.S. citizens returning from other parts of mainland China will also face screenings and two weeks of monitoring and self-quarantine. The risk to the American public is "low" at this time, said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, officials said they wanted to ensure it would remain a low risk to Americans.cnbc.com
FBI presumes deadly Navy base shooting was "act of terrorism"
The FBI said Sunday that it will "work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism" after a shooting at a Florida Navy base left three sailors dead. The FBI also confirmed the weapon used in the attack was a Glock 45 9mm that was purchased lawfully. The FBI said it had uncovered digital evidence, including base security surveillance and cell phone videos taken by a bystander from outside the building. Two other Saudi students watched from a car, the official said. Ten Saudi students were being held on the base Saturday as part of the investigation, the official said.cbsnews.com
US wants China trade deal but won't turn blind eye to Hong Kong, Trump national security advisor says
U.S. national security adviser Robert O'Brien said Saturday that the so-called phase one trade deal with China could happen by the end of the year, and emphasized that President Trump would not ignore protests underway in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been crippled by widespread anti-government demonstrations since June. Trump said on Friday that the long-negotiated trade deal is potentially very close, despite reports that an agreement may not be reached until next year. "I stand with Hong Kong," he said during an interview on "Fox & Friends." But we're also in the process of making the largest trade deal in history."cnbc.com
US envoy decries Chinese 'intimidation' in South China Sea
This aerial photo taken on January 2, 2017 shows a Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea. A U.S. envoy on Monday denounced Chinese "intimidation" in the South China Sea at a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders, and conveyed an invitation from President Donald Trump for the leaders to attend a special summit in the United States. China has made sweeping maritime claims in the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea, and angered neighbors by sending ships into the busy waterway, where several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also have claims. "Beijing has used intimidation to try to stop ASEAN nations from exploiting the off-shore resources, blocking access to 2.5 trillion dollars of oil and gas reserve alone," U.S. envoy Robert O'Brien told the ASEAN-U.S. summit in a speech. O'Brien, the White House national security adviser, read a message from Trump inviting the ASEAN leaders to "join me in the United States for a special summit" in the first quarter of 2020.cnbc.com
Pence: US, Turkey agree to ceasefire in Syria
(CNN) - Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria. The high-level US delegation includes Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O'Brien. Before meeting with the larger delegation, Pence and Erdogan are expected to sit down one-on-one. It's also unclear whether the delegation can get Turkey to reach a ceasefire. We will never declare a ceasefire," Erdogan said.
Erdogan to meet with Pence and Pompeo
(CNN) - Despite earlier reports to the contrary, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to discuss the situation in Syria, according to a spokesman for the Turkish presidency. Trump directed the high-profile delegation that includes Pence, Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O'Brien to broker a ceasefire with Ankara amid the Turkish incursion into Syria. Altun also published a video of Erdogan saying, "At this time, It is out of the question for me to meet anyone except Pence and Pompeo." Earlier Wednesday, Pompeo voiced optimism about the prospects of a deal to halt the ongoing Turkish military operation. It's one of the things that we're traveling today to talk to President Erdogan about.
Trump administration intensifies Syria damage-control efforts
The senior administration official suggested that Turkey might be more inclined to honor a deal because of the sanctions. Moreover, analysts have noted that the sanctions Trump put in place Monday lack any real bite and aren't likely to deter Ankara. Another defense official clarified that the US has not made a final determination about the future of arms sales to Ankara. Days later, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that Trump was ordering the remaining American forces out of northern Syria. On Tuesday, a US defense official told CNN that the first planeloads of US weapons and equipment had left Syria as forces were rapidly consolidated into fewer locations.
New national security adviser once critical of Trump
Notably, in March 2016, O'Brien called Trump's foreign policy statements about US allies, including those in NATO, "extraordinarily dangerous." Criticized Trump's foreign policy statementsO'Brien had criticized Trump's foreign policy positions several times before lending his support to the eventual Republican nominee. In April 2016, O'Brien suggested on Fox News' "Strategy Room" that Trump was in a "bromance" with Putin. O'Brien also expressed concern Trump "could lose by double digits, especially given the standard among women and including Republican women." In the summer of 2016, Trump said the judge, who was presiding over a Trump University case, could not be impartial because he was "Mexican."
Trump national security team to meet again on Iran
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he was ordering new sanctions on Iran, though neither the White House nor the Treasury Department specified what entities would be sanctioned. But military officials would advocate for seeing if other, non-military options could work. Military options remain on the table, however. The official responsible for leading the national security deliberations is now Robert O'Brien, the U.S. hostage negotiator who Trump named his fourth national security adviser on Wednesday. Asked on the return flight from Washington whether O'Brien would be in meetings on Thursday related to Iran, Trump said he hoped so.