In Brief

Donald Trump sued by two states over business links

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

Russian arrested for 'hacking' US election

11 April

A Russian computer programmer has been detained in Spain for allegedly interfering with last year's US presidential election.

Spanish press reported that Pyotr Levashov was arrested on 7 April in Barcelona and has been remanded in custody. He could face extradition to the US.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the US Justice Department's criminal divison, refused to comment on the arrest, saying: "The US case remains under seal so we have no information to provide at this time."

But Spanish news site El Confidencial says the US has issued an international arrest warrant for Levashov, while his wife Maria told Russian broadcaster RT he had been arrested for creating a computer virus "linked to [Donald] Trump's election win".

According to cybersecurity site KrebsOnSecurity, Levashov was allegedly responsible for "running multiple criminal operations that paid virus writers and spammers to install 'fake antivirus' software" on behalf of a Russian spam kingpin who goes by the alias of "Peter Severa".

"Severa is the cybercriminal behind the Waledac spam botnet, a spam engine that for several years infected between 70,000 and 90,000 computers and was capable of sending approximately 1.5 billion spam messages a day," adds the site.

In January, Reuters reported that Spanish police had arrested another Russian computer programmer, whose name was given as "Lisov" and who was wanted by the US for leading a financial fraud network.

A US intelligence report released that month claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin had orchestrated a sophisticated disinformation campaign to "undermine public faith" in the US democratic process and "denigrate" Trump's rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Their methods are said to have included hacking email accounts used by the Democratic National Committee, leaking sensitive documents through intermediaries such as WikiLeaks, funding social media accounts to troll Clinton supporters and flooding the internet with "fake news" stories.

The US request to extradite Levashov is due to be examined by Spain's national criminal court today.

How China sees Donald Trump

11 April

Donald Trump welcomes China's President Xi Jinping to his holiday resort in Florida today for what are expected to be tense talks on trade and security.

The relationship between the two countries got off to a rocky start, with months of anti-China rhetoric from Trump followed by a protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump has blamed China for US unemployment and claimed Beijing invented global warming to hurt businesses in his country - but what do the Chinese think of him?

Chinese politicians

"In general, Chinese officials have avoided criticising Mr Trump directly," Jingsi Guo said in ABC News ahead of the US presidential elections last November. 

Indeed, when he was questioned on the US election last year, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said it was an internal affair and he could not comment.

Officials in Beijing hope today's meeting will improve strained relations, but are worried about how the pair will get on, reports the New York Times, which calls it "Trump's most important meeting".

"Both leaders have strong characters," one Chinese official told the newspaper.

Another Chinese diplomat told the South China Morning Post that while officials were encouraged by recent "signs of positive momentum", reservations about the new US President and his attitude towards China remained.

"Sources said Beijing remained cautiously optimistic about the summit's prospects even though the Chinese leadership was deeply suspicious of Trump," says the paper.

The press

An editorial published in the Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times in the month after Trump's election victory accused him of having no idea how to run a superpower.

Editor Hu Xijin said he wasn't sure whether the businessman's attacks on Beijing were an attempt to wage psychological war or simply an example of Trump's diplomatic incompetence. Hu also urged the government to "teach him some lessons".

However, a front-page article in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece, was more measured in its coverage.

"China hopes the inauguration of the new US president can be a new starting point for the development of China-US ties," it said.

The public

Trump's anti-establishment rhetoric, which helped propel him to the White House, also won him fans among Maoists in China.

They applaud him for leading a populist revolt that "humbled a corrupt political establishment not unlike what they see in China", says the New York Times.

"Maoists hear in his remarks an echo of their own disgust with Western democracy, American interventionism and liberal political values."

The general public, however, remains focused on other issues. Comments on Chinese social networking sites often centre on Trump's opulent lifestyle and business interests, the Washington Post reported in 2015.

Another hot topic has been his appearance, especially his signature hairstyle, "the fascination with which appears to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers", the paper adds.

One restaurant owner in Chengdu compared the business mogul to a lobster. "It's orange, cranky, confident and determined to have the last word," he told the China Daily.

Trump: US will tackle North Korea alone if necessary

3 April

Donald Trump says the US will act alone to dismantle North Korea's nuclear missile programme if China is not prepared to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

"China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't," he told the Financial Times. "And if they do, that will be very good for China; and if they don't, it won't be good for anyone.

"If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you."

Asked how he would tackle North Korea, he said: "I'm not going to tell you. You know, I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East."

Trump's ultimatum to China came days before he holds his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

He is "expected to pressure China's president to do much more at their meeting this week", and has "implied that the issue of trade could be used as leverage", the BBC reports.

China is believed to be able to influence North Korea because "the impoverished nation relies on Beijing for food, raw materials and technical expertise", The Times says.

Recent months have seen "a series of missile tests by North Korea, military drills by the US and South Korea, and sharp rhetoric from Pyongyang and Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, who warned that military action against North Korea was being considered", adds the paper.

Last week, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 North Korean agents in China, Vietnam, Cuba and Russia, accusing them of seeking components for the country's nuclear missile programme.

It is unclear whether Trump's remarks will move China, which has "taken steps to increase economic pressure on Pyongyang but has long been unwilling to do anything that may destabilise the North and send millions of refugees across their border", Reuters says.

Trump adviser Mike Flynn seeks immunity for Russia testimony

3 April

Donald Trump's former national security adviser Mike Flynn has told the FBI he is willing to be interviewed about alleged links between the US President's election campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

His lawyer Robert Kelner refused to divulge details of what evidence might be disclosed, but made it clear Flynn was ready to talk if he was given certain "assurances".

"General Flynn certainly has a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit," he said.

However, he added: "No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicised, witch-hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."

The Guardian says that immunity "is typically sought to avoid penalty for breaking the law".

Citing unnamed officials, the Wall Street Journal reports Flynn has "made the offer to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees through his lawyer but has so far found no takers".

Trump's former aide was dropped from his position after it was revealed he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US.

It has since been revealed that Flynn "was paid $45,000 [£36,000] plus expenses to speak at the 10th anniversary gala of the [Russia state-owned] television network RT in Moscow in December 2015, while he was already an adviser to Trump", says CNBC. The US "considers RT, which is state-sponsored, to be a propaganda outlet".

Last September, two months before the presidential election, Flynn told NBC's Meet the Press in September that "when you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime".

Trump's 'Muslim' travel ban on hold indefinitely after judge extends ruling

30 March

A judge in Hawaii has indefinitely blocked Donald Trump's travel ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations travelling to the US.

Judge Derrick Watson, who temporarily suspended the policy on 15 March, extended his ruling yesterday, saying the ban was unconstitutional because it discriminates against a religious group.

Trump's executive order is a revised version of his original ban from January, which was also rejected by judges. His administration argues this new order targets citizens of particular nations which happen to be mainly Muslim, not Muslims per se.

Lawyer Chad Readler, arguing the administration's case by telephone to the Hawaii court room, said the revised version had removed any references to religion in order to comply with the US constitution.

However, Douglas Chin, Hawaii's attorney general, told the court Trump had undermined his own case by telling a rally in Nashville the revised travel ban was a "watered-down version" of the original and he still preferred the first version.

Chin added that the "animus", or spirit, behind the executive order had not "been cured" but instead had been "intensified" by the revision.

He also argued the ban would harm tourism in Hawaii, a major source of income for the state.

Judge Watson agreed, saying he was making the "common sense conclusion that a religious objective permeated the government's action", Bloomberg reports.

In his original ruling, the judge had said "a reasonable, objective observer ... would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavour a particular religion [Islam]".

While the suspension was imposed in Hawaii, it applies to the entire US – individual states have the power to veto federal rules in this manner. Trump's next recourse can only be to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Trump scraps Obama's climate change laws

29 March

Donald Trump has signed an executive order obliterating the climate change regulation put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama.

The property developer-turned-US President signed the document flanked by a group of coal miners in the White House, while outside, hundreds of protesters condemned his actions, the BBC said.

Trump's Energy Independence Executive Order suspends more than six measures enacted by Obama to protect the environment and encourage green industries. 

Telling reporters he was ending a "war on coal" and putting a stop to "job-killing regulations", he said: "This is about bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again. We love our coal miners."

Gina McCarthy, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency who was replaced by Trump in January, said: "This is not just dangerous, it's embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth and US leadership."

Tom Steyer, the billionaire head of climate lobby group NextGen Climate, also criticised the order, saying: "These actions are an assault on American values and they endanger the health, safety and prosperity of every American." 

Conservationist and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall said the news was "immensely depressing" and flies in the face of scientific evidence, the BBC reported. 

Environmental activist and CNN commentator Van Jones tweeted that Trump had signed a "death warrant for planet Earth".

Trump has long been a climate-change sceptic, claiming in 2012 that global warming was a hoax "created by and for the Chinese". During his election campaign last year, he promised to pull the US out of the Paris accord on climate change, although it is not clear if he has the power to do so.

Even oil giant ExxonMobil has defended the Paris agreement, calling it an "effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change", says the Daily Telegraph.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said this week he had told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the US must help continue global efforts to stop warming, says the Financial Times, and said there was good reason to be "hopeful" that Trump was listening.

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