In Brief

Donald Trump sued by two states over business links

Attorney generals of Maryland and DC accuse US President of 'unprecedented constitutional violations'

Donald Trump 'to quit Paris climate deal'

May 30

Donald Trump has reportedly told confidants he intends to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement which was signed by his predecessor Barack Obama just last year.

Citing three sources with "direct knowledge" of the President's plans, the Axios news outlet claims Trump has told the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruit, he will take the US out of the landmark agreement on curbing carbon emissions.

Trump tweeted on Saturday that he would make a decision on the deal this week.

Another source told Reuters that a series of meetings were planned between the Trump administration and chief executives of energy companies and other big corporations ahead of the announcement later in the week, but "it was unclear whether those meetings would still take place".

The news follows a tense G7 summit where the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan made a concerted effort to get a firm commitment from the US.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discussion about climate "was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying. There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not".

Meanwhile, Theresa May has been accused of being Donald Trump's "mole" in Europe "after leaked documents showed the UK attempted to water down EU policies designed to tackle climate change", says The Independent.

The Independent said that, while other European politicians have made it clear to Trump that his denial of climate science is a problem, the PM has remained "resolutely silent" on the issue.

What happened when Donald Trump met the Pope

24 May

Donald Trump and Pope Francis have had their first meeting after an online war of words.

The US President was granted a 30-minute private audience with the pontiff in the Vatican early on Wednesday morning. He was accompanied by First Lady Melania as well as his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

Trump greeted the Pope by saying it was a "such a great honour" to meet him, the New York Times reports, before the media were ushered out of the room.

Thirty minutes later, a bell signalled the end of the private meeting and the First Lady joined them in the studio.

Shaking her hand, the Pope asked: "What do you give him to eat - potizza?" [a Slovenian pastry]

Smiling, she replied: "Potizza."

Francis then presented the Trumps with a medallion by a Roman artist.

"It is an olive tree, which is a symbol of peace," he said, adding it had "two branches and a division of war in the middle".

When Trump responded: "We can use peace", the Pope replied: "It is with all hope that you may become an olive tree to make peace."

In return, Trump presented the Pontiff with a first-edition set of Martin Luther King's writings.

"I won't forget what you said," he said as he left.

Trump said the meeting was "fantastic".

He added: "He is something. We're liking Italy very, very much and it was an honour to be with the Pope."

Neither man revealed what they talked about, CNN reports, "leaving those curious about the first meeting between the two starkly different world leaders thirsting for more".

The two men could hardly be more dissimilar in background and temperament. Trump is a brash New York capitalist, while the Pope, who was born in Buenos Aires, is a former parish priest who has brought a socialist-tinged brand of South American Catholicism to the Vatican.

When the Pope visited the US-Mexico border during the US election campaign, he said that "people who choose to build walls and not bridges weren't Christian", the BBC reports. It was an apparent dig at Trump's much-publicised promise to construct a hard border.

Trump clearly thought so, as he responded with a tweet saying it was "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith.

The Pope has also expressed concern about man-made climate change, but Trump remains sceptical of its existence.

However, Pope Francis told reporters earlier this month he intended to meet the President with an open mind.

"I will say what I think and he will say what he thinks," he said. "There are always doors that are not closed. We need to find the doors that are at least partly open, go in, and talk about things we have in common and go forward, step by step."

Ex-CIA chief claims Russia may have recruited Trump aides

24 May

A former CIA chief says he was concerned Russian officials may have recruited members of Donald Trump's campaign in a bid to interfere with the US presidential election last year.

Testifying before the House intelligence committee, John Brennan said the number of contacts and interactions between Trump aides and Russian officials justified further investigation by the FBI. 

An inquiry was "certainly well founded and needed to look into these issues", he said.

Brennan also said he warned Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, to stop meddling in the election on 4 August last year.

"I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals," he added.

"It raised questions in my mind again whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."

Brennan's testimony is "the most direct acknowledgment yet by a current or former US official that Russia sought to recruit Americans to help in its effort to affect the 2016 contest", Politico says.

Asked repeatedly whether he had seen evidence of collusion, Brennan "stressed that the CIA's business was intelligence rather than evidence and he could not make that judgment" and that "all intelligence on contacts was passed to the FBI", adds the site.

Donald Trump vows to combat 'threat posed by Iran'

23 May

Donald Trump has reiterated his hardline stance on Iran, vowing to combat the "threat of an Iranian regime that is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering".

In a speech made alongside Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, the US President accused Tehran of participating in the "funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias".

He added: "Iran will never have nuclear weapons, that I can tell you," reports the BBC.

It was a marked difference from Barack Obama's conciliatory stance towards the country. Relations between the US and Israel turned unusually frosty after he oversaw a deal to lift some economic sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on their nuclear programme.

Trump flew to Israel direct from visiting Saudi Arabia -  the first direct flight ever between the two countries, says Ha'aretz.

He said he had been "deeply encouraged" by his talks with Saudi monarch King Salman and that there was a "consensus" in favour of a peaceful deal in "many" Muslim nations.

For years, Netanyahu "has sought to recalibrate relations with Sunni Arab nations in a mutual bid to counter Shiite-led Iran", says the New York Times.

But while Trump's tough talk may have been music to Netanyahu's ears, the Israeli leader is likely to be less enamoured of comments about a "deal" between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu had reason to hope the election of a pro-Israel, right-wing president would spell the end of the US policy advocating mediation towards a two-state solution in the region. However, Trump "seems genuinely eager to strike a peace accord", says the Washington Post.

The US President has so far declined to follow through on comments about moving his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jersualem, a move that would delight right-wing Israelis and enrage Palestinians and their allies in the Muslim world.

Middle East analyst Ilan Goldenberg told the Post Netanyahu was "freaked out because Trump seems serious about peace".

Trump travelled to Bethlehem, in the West Bank area, to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas this morning.

In a joint press conference before returning to Jerusalem to fly to Rome for the next step of his first foreign tour, Trump thanked Abbas for meeting him and praised the Palestinian Authority's efforts to curb violence.

However, he "didn't speak of their right to self-determination, he didn't speak of the two state solution", Al-Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports, adding that Palestinians as well as right-wing Israelis will likely be "disappointed" by the visit.

Donald Trump 'resets' relations with the Middle East 

22 May

Donald Trump was given the royal treatment during his visit to to Saudi Arabia this weekend, a trip hailed as "historic" and "transformative" by the kingdom's state media.

His decision to make Riyadh, the Saudi capital, his first call "was seized on by senior Saudi officials as a symbol that Washington aimed to be once again a bedrock for the kingdom and its allies", says The Guardian.

The 36-hour stay, which included a series of lavish banquets, culminated with the US President making a speech on Islamic extremism to more than 40 Muslim heads of state. 

Billed by CNN as a "reset" speech with the Muslim world, it turned into a verbal attack on Iran, with Trump blaming the country for "fuelling sectarian violence" while holding it responsible for "so much instability" in the region - and for propping up Hezbollah and Shiite Yemenis.

Trump's debut foreign visit "was intended to be a blunt rejection of Barack Obama's vision for the region", says the New York Times.

Under Obama, the US worked towards a reconciliation with Iran, culminating in 2015's multilateral nuclear arms deal.

His administration also accused Saudi Arabia of promoting an extreme Wahhabi view of Islam across the Muslim world - a claim the kingdom denies - while Obama suggested Riyadh "might at times have been an unreliable ally in the fight against extremism", says the Guardian.

Trump had previously accused Saudi Arabia of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, which killed close to 3,000 people, a claim he did not reiterate during his visit.

Former State Department official Tamara Cofman Wittes said Trump's goal of aligning with Sunni states "fundamentally conflicted with his desire for closer relations with Russia", which has sided with Iran to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria.

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, described the US President's comments as "hypocritical and condescending... intended to appease the nation with whom he'd just signed a multi-billion dollar arms deal at the expense of the truth".

White House officials said the visit was a huge success, with Trump signing defence and business deals totalling $110bn (£84bn).

However, critics will "still wonder what the strong words from the leaders will do to settle tensions between the US and the Middle East, or if it will do anything to water down prejudices against American Muslims at home", writes Fisk.

Donald Trump goes on tour: What to expect

19 May

Donald Trump leaves US soil today for the first time since his inauguration, perhaps hoping his eight-day, four-country tour will provide some much-needed respite from the political whirlwind threatening his presidency.

National security adviser HR McMaster said the US President would touch down in Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning and deliver an "inspiring yet direct" speech to 50 Muslim leaders focusing on the need to confront radical ideology. Also on the agenda is a $100bn arms deal with the Saudis.

"The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilisation and to demonstrate America's commitment to our Muslim partners," McMaster said.

It is also likely to draw "increased attention to what is already supposed to be a high-profile trip", given Trump's previous rhetoric about Muslims, "which many pundits and Democrats have deemed discriminatory", says Time.

The magazine says it is as yet "unclear" whether leaders from the seven Muslim-majority countries Trump singled out in his executive order imposing a travel ban to the US — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — will be in attendance.

Recalling former president Barack Obama's speech in Cairo in 2009, which addressed violent extremism and "tensions" between communities, The Independent notes that "it is likely the style and substance of Trump's speech will be significantly different".

From Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel to Jerusalem to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and say a prayer at the Western Wall before meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The timing of this meeting could prove awkward after it was revealed Trump had leaked classified information from an Israeli source to Russian officials during a meeting at the White House.

Trump has refused to say whether he plans move to the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a long-held goal of some hard-liners in Washington, which would officially recognise the city as Israel's capital.

On Tuesday the President goes to Bethlehem to sit down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, before travelling to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis, who has voiced hope that he will find "open doors" between himself and the President.

Trump's roadshow then moves on to Brussels, where he will meet EU leaders before joining Secretary of Defense James Mattis for a Nato leaders' roundtable. The trip concludes with a G7 meeting in Sicily on Friday.

For months, the President's senior advisers had planned his first foreign trip "with hopes of investing it with historic grandeur: a tour of the world's three great monotheistic religions", says the New York Times. Now it looks more like "damage control".

Donald Trump's Russia leak 'harms US allies'

18 May

Donald Trump's decision to disclose allegedly classified information to Russian officials could threaten vital foreign intelligence ties, according to security analysts.

It has been claimed that the US President told Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia's ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak about an Islamic State terror threat relating to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

According to the New York Times, the source of the information, Israel, had shared it with the specific understanding it would not be passed on. It is understood that Trump and  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have since spoken by telephone.

The US President has denied doing anything wrong and declared on Twitter that it was his "absolute right" to share information with other countries.

However, says Bloomberg, while the commander-in-chief "can legally disclose classified information as he deems appropriate, doing so is typically a decision planned out in advance, with consideration of what should and shouldn't be shared and the benefits and risks in doing so".

Republican Senator John McCain said Trump's actions sent "a troubling signal to America's allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future".

CIA veteran Nicholas Dujmovic agreed, saying: "If true, the story will indeed harm relations with US allies who are our closest intelligence partners and will now be wary of sharing their best secrets with us." 

However, Israeli intelligence expert Yossi Melman, writing in a newspaper column headlined "Dangerous amateurism", said Trump presumably had passed on the information "not out of malice but simply due to his lack of understanding of the rules of the game".

Mordechai Kedar, a retired lieutenant colonel in Israeli military intelligence, said that "other states, not only Israel, will start sifting the information that they provide".

Theresa May said information would still be passed to the US.

"We continue to work with the United States and continue to share intelligence with the United States because we are all working together to deal with the threats we face," May said.

But in Germany, Burkhard Lischka, who sits on the Bundestag's intelligence oversight committee, called Trump "a security risk to the Western world".

One unnamed European official told the Associated Press that his country might stop sharing intelligence with the US completely as a result.

Trump 'asked Comey to drop Flynn inquiry'

17 May

Donald Trump asked FBI chief James Comey to shut down a federal investigation into then national security adviser Mike Flynn's links to Russia, claims US media.

According to a memo said to have been written by Comey shortly after a meeting in February, Trump asked him: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." 

"The documentation of Trump's request is the clearest evidence that the President has tried to directly influence the justice department and FBI investigation into links between Trump's associates and Russia," the New York Times says.

The White House has denied the claim, saying: "This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr Comey."

However, Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has written to the FBI, demanding that "memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings" of conversations between Trump and Comey be turned over to the committee by 24 May.

CNBC reports the memo also says Trump asked Comey to "consider imprisoning reporters for publishing classified information", comments Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said "cross a dangerous line".

He added: "Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a justice department that for decades has honoured the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information."

Trump fired Comey from his position at the FBI last week, later admitting he had been thinking about "this Russia thing" when he took the decision.

Donald Trump accused of giving classified information to Russia

16 May

Donald Trump revealed highly classified information about Islamic State terror tactics to Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House last week, claims the Washington Post.

The information reportedly came from a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement "considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the US government", continues the paper. 

Citing former and current US officials familiar with the matter, it adds: "Trump's disclosures jeopardised a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State."

HR McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, who was at the meeting, denied the claims at a press briefing more than an hour after the story broke.

"At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly," he said.

However, the Wall Street Journal reports that national security adviser Tom Bossert "called the directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency to alert them to the president's conversations".

A US official told the Washington Post that "code-word information" was discussed, meaning it was covered by one of the highest levels of classification used by spy agencies.

Trump "revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies", the paper says.

According to the New York Times, "sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardise a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship".

US lawmakers demand Donald Trump hands in any James Comey tapes

15 May

US lawmakers have called on Donald Trump to hand over any recordings of conversations he held with former FBI director James Comey after a cryptic tweet from the US President.

On Friday, Trump tweeted a message that suggested he might have tapes of his discussions with Comey and warned him against talking to the media.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham described the tweet as "inappropriate" and said the White House needed to "clear the air" over whether any tapes exist and what they contain if they do.

He told NBC News: "If there are any tapes, they have to be turned over. You can't be cute about tapes."

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said Trump must hand over tapes if they exist or admit he misled people into believing he does.

"To destroy [the tapes] would be a violation of law," he told CNN. "He should turn them over to Congress and to the investigators. If there are no tapes, he should apologise to both Jim Comey and the American people."

The White House has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of any recordings.

The US President abruptly fired Comey last week in the middle of an FBI investigation into potential collusion between his administration and Russia.

Donald Trump: I fired James Comey over 'this Russia thing'

12 May

Donald Trump has revealed he fired former FBI director James Comey over "this Russia thing", referring to the investigation into possible collusion between his administration and Moscow officials.

In his first interview since his decision, the US President told NBC News: "When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won.'"

Trump also said he asked Comey whether he was being investigated over his campaign's alleged links to Russia.

"I said, 'If it's possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?' He said, 'You are not under investigation,'" he said.

He held three conversations with Comey on the topic, he said, including one during a dinner between the pair where Comey's future with the FBI was being discussed. The other two took place over the phone.

"The revelation is likely to trigger a fresh storm of criticism," says The Guardian. "Such an intervention would not be illegal but would be highly irregular."

"The exchange as described by the president is remarkable," reports The Washington Post, "since he said the FBI director was discussing an ongoing investigation with the President - something Justice Department policy generally prohibits - at the same time Comey was seeking assurances he would remain in his job."

Legal and ethics experts in the US highlighted the apparent conflicts of interest, while others questioned whether Trump had accurately relayed the content of the discussions.

Matthew Miller, a former Department of Justice spokesman, told MSNBC: "It's completely inappropriate for [Trump] to ask that question. It would also be a violation of DoJ rules for James Comey to answer it."

Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor, said it seemed "improbable that these questions would have been asked and answered the way he indicated" because Comey would have risked "tainting evidence or foreclosing answers down the road".

Donald Trump digs in after firing FBI chief James Comey

11 May

The White House has defended Donald Trump's decision to fire former FBI director James Comey, which has outraged Democrats and divided Republicans.

Senior officials gave "a series of shifting and contradictory accounts" of the reasons, reports the New York Times, first saying it was "because the attorney general and his deputy recommended it", before suggesting the US President had "actually been thinking about getting rid of the FBI Director as far back as November".

However, the Seattle Times says, "Trump previously praised Comey for reopening the Clinton email investigation, which was the core of Trump's rationale for the firing".

Although Trump briefly answered questions following a meeting at the White House with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the man at the centre of a number of the administration's alleged ties to Moscow, he would not go into detail justifying his decision.

Asked why he fired Comey, the President replied: "Because he wasn't doing a good job. Very simple, he was not doing a good job."

Trump's anger at the former FBI head "had been building for months", says Reuters, "but a turning point came when Comey refused to preview for top Trump aides his planned testimony to a Senate panel", say White House officials.

The Washington Post says Comey had asked the Department of Justice for more prosecutors and other personnel just days before he was fired, leading some  to suggest his dismissal was intended "to quash the Russia investigation and the threat it poses to the Trump White House".

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren told CNN "there's just no doubt" Comey's firing was designed "to cut off any investigation into... any connections with the Russians". She repeated calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to lead the inquiry.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, House speaker Paul Ryan and chairman of the Senate intelligence committee Richard Burr have all publicly rejected calls for an independent investigation or special prosecutor.

Donald Trump's surprise firing of FBI chief James Comey branded 'highly suspicious'

10 May

Donald Trump has fired FBI director James Comey over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton's emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, the administration announced last night.

The move comes a day after CNN claimed federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which it said marked a "significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation" into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.

Trump's decision raises "the spectre of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation's leading law enforcement agency", the New York Times says.

"The abruptness and timing of Mr Comey's dismissal, to put it mildly, is highly suspicious," writes BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher.

In explaining the decision, the White House released a Justice Department memorandum outlining criticism of the FBI director by a number of former officials.

In his letter to Comey, Trump wrote: "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."

However, Donald Ayer, who served as the deputy attorney general under George HW Bush and whose opinion was quoted in the Justice Department memo, attacked the justification.

He told Buzzfeed News: "I view the firing based it seems entirely on Comey's mishandling of the Clinton investigation by making various inappropriate public statements as a sham."

Democratic leader Senator Chuck Schumer said he had told Trump he was making "a very big mistake" when the US President informed him about firing Comey.

Comey's dismissal has led to calls for an independent special prosecutor to be appointed to lead the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.

"If deputy attorney general Rosenstein does not appoint an independent special prosecutor, every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire director Comey was part of a cover-up," Schumer said.

Trump declares Obamacare 'dead' after repeal vote

5 May

US President Donald Trump has declared Obamacare "dead" after the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill to repeal and dismantle major parts of the Affordable Care Act.

The passing of his American Health Care Act, which went through by 217-213, one vote more than required, marks Trump's first legislative victory since taking office more than 100 days ago.

The bill now heads to the Senate", the BBC reports, "where Republicans have indicated they will cast it aside and write a new law".

Trump said: "It could get maybe better. It is a very good bill right now." 

Democrats say the new legislation will leave millions of Americans without health insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions.

The passing of former president Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act in 2010 was a landmark overhaul of the US healthcare system.

Prior to its passage, "insurers were able to deny coverage to people who were already sick and whose treatment was more expensive", The Guardian says.

Civil rights groups 'will challenge Donald Trump's religious freedom order'

4 May

Civil rights groups in the US are gearing up to challenge President Donald Trump on a planned religious freedom order they say targets LGBT people for discrimination.

A senior administration official confirmed the plan to Politico, saying it was possible Trump could issue the order to coincide with today's National Day of Prayer.

According to Buzzfeed News, a leaked draft that circulated in January revealed it will protect those who discriminate on "the belief that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman [or that] male and female refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy at birth".

Pink News reports the executive order was put on the backburner for "re-drafting" after the leak, but Congressional Republicans have pressured Trump to sign the new incarnation.

Depending on the final wording, legal groups say they are prepared to challenge it in federal courts on constitutional grounds, "thereby hoping to hand Trump another high-profile defeat like those he has faced with his travel bans", says Buzzfeed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the legislation could open the door to widespread discrimination.

Deputy legal director Louise Melling said: "The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others.

"If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a licence to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court."

Donald Trump backs down on funding for Mexico wall

26 April

Donald Trump has dropped his demand for funding for a wall along the US-Mexican border to be included in this week's key spending bill.

Democrats had vowed to block the budget measure if it included any funds earmarked for the plan, which was one of the US President's election campaign promises. If the bill had not passed by Friday, the government would have shut down and federal employees would have gone unpaid.

"The decision to withdraw a roughly $1.5 billion [£1.15bn] request to begin building a physical barrier between the two countries may eliminate the White House's best chance to secure the funding and begin construction this year," writes the Washington Post.

The BBC says Trump's wall has "united Democrats in blanket opposition". Some Republicans have also "balked at the estimated cost of $21.6bn [£16.8bn] - more than the price tag the President cited as $12bn [£9.3bn]".

Trump said he still plans to follow through on his campaign promise to construct the barrier.

Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray yesterday described the plan as "a hostile act" and made clear there was no way the Mexican government would fund a wall being built.

As the spending bill only covers through to September, Trump has another chance to push for wall funding for 2018.

However, writes Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein, "the answer is that there isn't going to be any wall, and everyone knows it".

He adds: "My guess is that [Trump] will continue to claim it's not only going to be built soon, but that everything is proceeding ahead of schedule and under budget. Even if it means spending money on designing something that's never going to happen."

Nato 'no longer obsolete', says Trump, as Russia vetoes UN resolution

13 April

Donald Trump has reversed his position on Nato, saying it is "no longer obsolete" after a meeting with the alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House.

In the past year, the US President has "repeatedly questioned Nato's purpose and efficacy", calling it "obsolete because it wasn't taking care of terror", CBS News says.

"They made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete," Trump said.

His change of heart coincided with a further souring of the relationship between the US and Russia. After months of speaking about his admiration for Vladimir Putin and pursuing friendlier terms between the two countries, Trump said yesterday that Washington's relationship with Moscow "may be at an all-time low".

The US also criticised Russia for blocking a UN Security Council resolution condemning last week's deadly gas attack in Syria and compelling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cooperate with an international investigation.

It is this attack, together with the US missile strike on Syria that followed, which has driven a wedge between Trump and Putin.

"The level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved but has rather deteriorated," Putin said.

Following the veto, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, accused Russia of "isolating [itself] from the international community every time one of Assad's planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians".

China abstained from the vote, a move described by Trump as "wonderful" but "not surprising".

Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping the night before the resolution was proposed and CNN reports that he backed down from a campaign promise to brand Beijing "a currency manipulator" following the two leaders' meeting in Florida last week.

"It was almost as if Trump's outsider presidential campaign never happened as he rushed to embrace mainstream political and national security positions he once publicly abhorred," the broadcaster says.


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