A Trump national security adviser tapped as Singapore envoy VIVIAN SALAMA,Associated Press 9 hours agoPALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A top national security adviser to President Donald Trump is the latest official heading out in an ongoing shuffle within the National Security Council.K.T. McFarland came into the White House as a deputy to Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn was asked to resign in February amid revelations that he misled senior administration officials about his contacts with Russian government officials.McFarland’s impending move was confirmed Sunday by a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement hasn’t been made. The administration is still awaiting approval from Singapore and the post requires Senate confirmation.Flynn’s replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, has freely made changes to the national security structure since assuming the role. McMaster immediately expressed a desire to run a less hierarchical organization and be more accessible to his staff.Another White House official, Dina Powell, was recently named deputy national security adviser for strategy and has been present in the recent high level meetings with delegations from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and China. Powell joined the White House to work with Trump daughter Ivanka on women’s empowerment issues. She had previously served as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs under President George W. Bush before joining Goldman Sachs.But Powell soon began attending senior-level staff meetings with the president himself. Her promotion to deputy national security adviser last month triggered early speculation that McFarland’s days on the National Security Council were numbered.On Thursday, as the president huddled with top national security and Cabinet officials to trigger U.S. missile strikes on Syrian government installations from a newly built situation room at Trump’s Florida resort, Powell was among the attendees. McFarland was not.McFarland had been working as a Fox News analyst before joining Trump’s national security team. She previously worked for three Republican presidents — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.Among the most notable changes to take place under McMaster was the removal of Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from the National Security Council, reversing an earlier, contentious decision to give Bannon access to the group’s highest-level meetings.A senior White House official said Wednesday that Bannon was initially placed on the National Security Council during Flynn’s tenure as a measure to ensure implementation of the president’s vision, including efforts to downsize and streamline operations at the NSC, and that McMaster quickly gained the confidence of the administration, eliminating the need for additional oversight.A new memorandum about the council’s composition, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, also reflected that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the energy secretary, had been restored as members of the principals committee.The changes come as Trump’s White House faces allegations that it funneled secret intelligence reports to a Republican congressman leading an investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russian officials as well as Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election. The New York Times last month identified two NSC officials as having helped House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes view secret reports that showed Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies.The senior White House official said the changes were not in response to the recent controversy linked to the NSC.
News Nikki Haley warns Putin on Assad: ‘We’re not going to have you cover for this regime anymore’ Dylan Stableford Senior EditorTop Trump administration officials are warning that Russia could be held accountable for the Syrian government’s chemical attacks against its own civilians — with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations accusing the Kremlin of “covering up” for Syrian President Bashar Assad.“You saw this terrible tragedy on innocent people, a lot of them children,” Nikki Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “And the first reaction from Russia wasn’t, ‘How horrible.’ It wasn’t, ‘How could they do this?’ It wasn’t, ‘How did this happen?’ It was, ‘Assad didn’t do it, Assad didn’t do it.’ Why was that the reaction?”Haley’s comments come three days after President Trump ordered an airstrike on a Syrian air base in response to last week’s suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people, including children, in Syria.Slideshow: U.S. attacks Syrian air baseA spokesman for the Russian defense ministry denied Assad had anything to do with last week’s attack and demanded that the Trump administration provide proof.“First of all, it cracks me up that Russia can say those things with a straight face,” Haley said. “I mean, truly, it is amazing that they continue to cover for Assad. And it’s very telling and it’s not putting Russia in a good light at all in the international community.”Haley said the U.S. strike should have sent a signal to Moscow.“This is something to let Russia know, you know what? We’re not going to have you cover for this regime anymore,” Haley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And we’re not going to allow things like this to happen to innocent people.”Haley added: “I think we desperately needed to send a message that, ‘You know what? Russia’s not going to have your back anymore. And if they do, we’re going to make sure that both of you know that we’re not going to settle for it.’”In his statement announcing the strike Thursday night, Trump did not mention Russia by name.“Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria,” Trump said, “and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”Tillerson says he had ‘no conversation’ with Mexico about who pays for border wall On ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he has not seen “any hard evidence that connects the Russians directly to the planning or execution” of last week’s chemical weapons attack. But Tillerson said it’s clear that Moscow has failed to “fulfill the obligation it made to the international community” when it agreed to make sure Syria got rid of its chemical weapons.“Why Russia has not been able to achieve that is unclear to me,” he said. “I don’t draw conclusions of complicity at all, but clearly, they’ve been incompetent, and perhaps they’ve just simply been outmaneuvered by the Syrians.”On Friday, Haley told the U.N. Security Council that Trump was “prepared to do more in Syria.” She reiterated that sentiment Sunday.“I was trying to give warning and notice to the members of the Security Council and the international community that he won’t stop here,” Haley said on CNN. “If he needs to do more, he will do more.”Haley to U.N: Airstrikes were ‘fully justified’ Tillerson, though, said the strike against Syria was a one-off.“I think the president was very clear in his message to the American people that this strike was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons against women, children, and as the president said, even small babies,” Tillerson said. “So the strike was a message to Bashar al-Assad that your multiple violations of your agreements at the U.N., your agreements under the chemical weapons charter back in 2013 — that those would not go without a response in the future, and we are asking Russia to fulfill its commitment. And we’re asking and calling on Bashar al-Assad to cease the use of these weapons. Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”And both Haley and Tillerson seemed to differ when asked whether the Trump administration is leading the push for regime change in Syria.“In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government,” Haley said on NBC. “We have to make sure that we’re pushing that process.”But Tillerson said regime change comes with a price.“We’ve seen what that looks like when you undertake a violent regime change in Libya, and the situation in Libya continues to be very chaotic, and I would argue that the life of the Libyan people has, is not all that well off today,” he said on ABC. “So I think we have to learn the lessons of the past and learn the lessons of what went wrong in Libya when you choose that pathway of regime change. So we know this is going to be hard work, but we think it’s also a process that will lead to a durable and lasting stability inside of Syria. Any time you go in and have a violent change at the top, it is very difficult to create the conditions for stability longer term.”Exclusive: General H.R. McMaster on decision to strike Syria On “Fox News Sunday,” Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, was pressed to explain the seemingly differing statements from Tillerson and Haley on regime change.“What Ambassador Haley pointed out was, it’s very difficult to figure out how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said. “We’re not saying that we are the ones who are going to effect that change. What we’re saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves, ‘Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”A pair of Syrian jets took off from the same air base that was hit by the U.S. airstrike on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Follow NBC News @NBCNews Sen. Graham on @MeetThePress: „Here’s what I think Assad is telling Trump by flying from this base: ‘F you.’”Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that Assad was sending Trump a defiant signal by doing so.“Here’s what I think Assad’s telling Trump by flying from this base: ‘F you,’” Graham said on “Meet The Press.”Graham, one of the most hawkish members of Congress, had his own message for Trump: “Go after Russia through sanctions not only for interfering in our elections, but aiding and abetting the use of chemical weapons by a war criminal, Assad.”
World China president’s plane stops in Alaska after Trump visit MARK THIESSEN and BECKY BOHRER,Associated Press Sat, Apr 8 12:05 AM PDTANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping was able to take in views Friday night of the natural beauty that Alaska has to offer. The state’s governor hopes this will lead to an increased appetite in the world’s most populous nation for more natural resources from Alaska.Xi requested time with Gov. Bill Walker Friday night as the Chinese delegation’s plane made a refueling stop in Alaska’s largest city following meetings with President Donald Trump in Florida. His wife and the Chinese delegation stepped off the Boeing 747 and were greeted by Walker, his wife and several dignitaries.Later, the two men spoke briefly to reporters before a business meeting, in which Walker touted the state’s abundant natural resources: oil, fish, air cargo, mineral resources industries.Walker also took time to advocate for a natural gas pipeline he has long backed, which would take natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to the coast for shipment.Alaska could provide a generation’s worth of liquefied natural gas to China, he told Xi.For Walker, even just a few hours of time with the president of China can pay dividends.China is the state’s top export market, buying nearly $1.2 billion worth of goods in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The next top international market was Japan, at nearly $820 million, followed by South Korea, at $730 million.Chris Hladick, the commissioner of the state’s Commerce department, called the visit by the Chinese delegation a „once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”The state’s top export product to China? Fish, accounting for 58 percent. Frozen cod and flat fish, such as halibut, topped a lengthy list of fisheries products, which also included frozen salmon and pollock.Jerry McCune is president of the United Fishermen of Alaska. He said he understood the trade talk would focus mostly on oil and gas, but added: „I would say that any trade that we can boost in the fishery with any particular county, China would be one that would be huge.”Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said the Chinese market is important to Alaska for two reasons: it purchases a huge amount of Alaska fish for re-exporting purposes around the world, and Chinese consumers are now buying more seafood for consumption at home.”Wild, sustainable, healthy, clean, —those type of attributes that you can put on Alaska seafood are becoming much more desirable for the Chinese consumer, and we’re seeing year after year, more Alaska seafood products actually staying in China for Chinese consumption” he said.A distant second on the export list are minerals and ores, accounting for 27 percent. Included in that last year was about $130 million of precious metals, which Hladick said was likely gold from the Fairbanks area.Hladick sees China as a potential market for Alaska coal and hoped to raise the issue with Chinese officials during their visit. „It’s meetings like this that spark interest and then you follow up,” Hladick said.The state’s only operating coal mine is the Usibelli Coal Mine near Denali National Park and Preserve, and it provides 100 percent of the coal needs to Alaska’s six coal-burning power plants.The company previously shipped coal to Chile, South Korea and Japan, but has no foreign export contracts this year.”The only way for us to expand as a company is on the export market,” said spokeswoman Lorali Simon.Xi didn’t discuss trade, but did tell reporters how much he enjoyed his short sightseeing tour of Anchorage, including a stop at Beluga Point, a pullout on the scenic Seward Highway about 15 miles south of Anchorage.The pullout offers a stunning view of the snow-capped Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The waters are home to the endangered Beluga whale.This wasn’t his first trip to Alaska, he said, but it was his first opportunity to see a little bit of the state’s natural beauty up close.Xi is the second major world leader to spend time in Alaska’s largest city in the last few years. U.S. President Barack Obama used a three-day trip to Anchorage in 2015 to showcase the impact of climate change. King Harald V of Norway also made an official visit to Anchorage a few months before Obama.Alaska’s location provides a natural stopping point for world leaders to make refueling stops, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage has hosted many presidents over the years for these short stints.President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II met in 1984 during refueling stops at the airport in Fairbanks. Their paths were crossing as one finished and one began trips to Asia._Bohrer reported from Juneau, Alaska.
World US deploys warships to Korean peninsula over North Korea’s missiles tests
Pavitra Dwibhashyam,International Business Times 22 hours agoThe US has sent an aircraft carrier and other warships to the Korean peninsula due to rising concerns over North Korea’s missiles tests. The USS Carl Vinson – a US Navy strike group – is moving towards the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula, a US official said on Saturday (8 April).Chief of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, gave directions to the Carl Vinson strike group to move north to the Western Pacific after leaving Singapore on Saturday.Trending: EDL protest in Birmingham condemned by cross-party coalition of city leadersAn unidentified US official speaking about North Korea’s missiles tests told Reuters, „We feel the increased presence [of the US Navy] is necessary…”The US Navy’s Third Fleet said in a statement on Saturday that the strike group has been given instructions to sail north, but did not specify an exact destination. The vessels will largely operate in the Western Pacific and will not make previously planned port visits to Australia, the statement said.Don’t miss: Teen shot dead in East London sees Met launch murder investigationNorth Korea recently tested a Scud missile which according to US officials exploded mid-flight. Pyongyang also carried out multiple missile engine tests as Kim Jong-un’s regime is working to improve its ballistic missile technology.Top Pyongyang officials and Kim himself have indicated that an intercontinental ballistic missile test or a similar test would be conducted on 15 April, which marks the birthday of North Korea’s founding president Kim Il-sung, Reuters reported.Most popular: George Michael’s ex-boyfriend Fadi Fawaz in line for £1m ‘tell-all’ book deal about singerThe move comes after US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping concluded a summit in Florida, where North Korea was top on the agenda.Trump also recently warned that US would act unilaterally to curb North Korea’s nuclear programme if China was hesitant to use its leverage over Pyongyang.
World Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds Cold War levels: U.S. admiral By Andrea Shalal,Reuters 11 hours agoBy Andrea Shalal BERLIN (Reuters) – Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War, a top U.S. and NATO military officer said, voicing concern that the distributed nature of the deployments could end up „splitting and distracting” the transatlantic alliance.Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, who heads NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples and commands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, said Russia had clearly stepped up its naval actions in recent years although the size of its navy was smaller now than during the Cold War era.”We’re seeing activity that we didn’t even see when it was the Soviet Union. It’s precedential activity,” Howard told Reuters in an interview late on Saturday during a missile defense conference.Howard cited a wide range of activities, including Russia’s deployment of its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean, increased patrols in the north Atlantic and Arctic region, significant out-of-area submarine deployments, and submarine movement in the Black Sea.”They’re a global navy, I understand that. But the activity in this theater has substantially moved up in the last couple of years,” Howard said.She said there was a danger that members of the NATO alliance would focus on the area of interest closest to them, while losing sight of Russian activities in other areas.”When … you think about what happens when they move forces around, you look at the alliance and they end up splitting and distracting the view of the alliance,” she said.Howard’s comments came amid a sharp escalation in tensions between Russia and the United States after Washington launched 59 cruise missiles against an air base in Syria in retaliation for a deadly toxic gas attack that killed scores of people.Howard said the Russian naval maneuvers had been matched by increased persistent cyber attacks by Moscow, and a steady number of unprofessional „fly bys” by Russian aircraft of U.S. and other allied vessels at sea.Ties between Moscow and the West have been strained since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.NATO has built up physical forces in Poland and the Baltic states to build up a deterrent and underscore the strength of the alliance, but U.S. and European officials are also increasingly concerned about what they describe as Moscow’s use of propaganda and cyber attacks to influence Western elections.Russia denies Washington’s claim that Moscow sought to influence the U.S. election, and views NATO’s buildup of troops in Europe as a provocation.Howard said members of NATO had rallied to increase their capabilities and send a clear signal about the strength and resolve of the alliance.She hailed a recent agreement by Germany and Norway to build new submarines together as a sign of increased cooperation and said she would welcome further efforts by European partners to pool resources.(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Susan Fenton)
News Trump’s media critics praise Syria strikesChristopher Wilson EditorFareed Zakaria and Brian Williams. (Photos: Kathy Willens/AP, Mitch Gerber/AP)Longtime critics of President Trump suddenly and dramatically reversed their assessments of him after he authorized Thursday night’s missile attack on a Syria airbase. CNN host Fareed Zakaria, who had called Trump a “cancer of American democracy,” praised him Friday morning following the strikes.“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States,” said Zakaria of the man who had legally assumed the office on January 20. (In the opinion of another CNN commentator, Van Jones, Trump had actually become president of the United States on February 28, with his emotional tribute to the widow of a Navy Seal killed in action during his joint address to Congress.) Zakaria continued: “I think this was actually a big moment because candidate Trump had said that he would never get involved in the Syrian civil war, he told President Obama you cannot do this without the authorization of Congress, he seemed unconcerned with global norms. President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose.”Slideshow: U.S. attacks Syrian airbase >>>“I think what’s interesting is the way in which he justified his actions,“ added Zakaria. “For the first time as president, he talked about international norms, international rules, America’s role in enforcing justice in the world. It’s the kind of rhetoric we’ve come to expect from American presidents since Harry Truman. There’s been an interesting morphing and a kind of education of Donald Trump.”Trump orders military strike on a Syrian base in response to chemical attack President Trump ordered a military strike against a Syrian base in response to this week’s chemical attack. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles from the USS Ross and the USS Porter in the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the al-Shayrat Airfield.MSNBC host Brian Williams, who had criticized other journalists for their favorable coverage of the president, was resoundingly positive in his coverage of the military operation, being overcome by the “beauty” of the missiles.FollowTrevor Tim@trevortimmBrian Williams refers to this Pentagon video of missiles going to kill people as „beautiful” 3 times in 30 seconds“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Williams Thursday night. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof — who called the Trump administration “breathtakingly incompetent” two weeks ago — has been praising the strikes, although hedging with his general mistrust of the president.“Trump is right to make Syria pay a price for war crimes, and taking out airfields is the best approach,” wrote Kristof. “I do worry about his execution. … I support Trump’s strikes on Syria. But a challenge is that he has lied so often about so much that in a crisis he has little credibility.”In an interview with CNN Friday morning, Kristof called the strikes “the right thing to do,” while admitting they were legally dubious and hypocritical.MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” has been a frequent critic of Trump since his inauguration, with co-host Mika Brzezinski calling his presidency “fake” and banning White House counselor Kellyanne Conway from the show.Friday morning, the show was more positive discussing the reaction to the strikes. Brzezinski mentioned the new dynamic of Trump being in a “foxhole” with his national security team, agreeing with Sen. John McCain when he said of Trump’s military advisers, “I’ve never seen better people.” Brzezinski then asked about the “psychological reset” that was happening following the strikes and how Trump had an opportunity for a reboot with the American people.Conservative columnist Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast has not been a vociferous Trump critic, but his tweet from Thursday night offered a typical reaction to the president’s statement on the strike.“This seemed like a very different Donald Trump,” wrote Lewis. “More serious — and clearly moved emotionally. Frequently invoked the Almighty.”