In Brief

Donald Trump sued by two states over business links

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

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner questioned over Russia links

28 March 

President's senior adviser to give evidence in front of Senate panel regarding meetings with Moscow officials

Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will be questioned by a US committee over meetings he held with Russian officials during and after the 2016 presidential election.

White House officials said Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka, met with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York in December.

He also met with the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), which was not reported on at the time, writes the New York Times.

This month, the Senate intelligence committee announced it was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The FBI is also investigating.

The US intelligence community believes alleged Russian hacking during the presidential election was done to help Trump defeat Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, writes the BBC.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there was nothing "nefarious" about Kushner's meetings with the Russian officials and that Trump's son-in-law had "volunteered" to appear before the Senate panel, he said.

BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher said: "When Mr Kushner sits down with committee investigators he will, in effect, be speaking for the president - and his words could go a long way toward assuaging concerns or bringing the controversy one step closer to the president himself."

Meanwhile, Kushner has been asked by Trump to lead the White House Office of American Innovation, which The Guardian says "is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector".

Joe Biden: I could have beaten Donald Trump

28 March

Former US vice-president Joe Biden believes he could have beaten Donald Trump and become US president if he had stood for the Democratic nomination.

Speaking to students at Colgate University in New York, Barack Obama's second-in-command also said he hopes Trump "grows into the job a little bit".

The 74-year-old politician, who was senator for Delaware for the Democrats from 1973 until he stood as vice president in 2009, decided not to run for the White House after the death of his son, Beau, from brain cancer in May 2015.

He said he was too busy with the "grieving process" to give a bid for the presidency his full attention.

However, he told the students he believed he could have won the election if he had successfully defeated Hillary Clinton in the primary election for the Democratic nomination.

According to the Observer-Dispatch of Utica, Biden said: "I had planned on running for president and although it would have been a very difficult primary, I think I could have won."

He added he had "a lot of data" to back him up.

However, he said: "At the end of the day, I just couldn't do it. So I don't regret not running. Do I regret not being president? Yes."

Asked about the current political scene in the US, Biden said: "I don't have a lot of hope now. I hope that [Trump] succeeds [and] grows into the job a little bit."

The President himself was said to be "sullen and quiet" in the Oval Office following the defeat of his attempt to replace the "Obamacare" Affordable Care Act, CNN reports.

According to the broadcaster, Trump's failure to get his American Health Care Bill passed last week was an "ignominious defeat" and left his "declarations that he is the ultimate dealmaker who can change Washington looking increasingly hollow".

It will also make it harder for the President to pursue his tax reforms, CNN adds, with one senior figure in the administration telling the broadcaster Trump will now have to accept a "smaller version" of his reforms.

Trump issues Obamacare ultimatum to Republican rebels 

24 March 

Donald Trump has delivered an ultimatum to Republican lawmakers following the breakdown of negotiations on healthcare reform, saying they must vote on his American Healthcare Act, or his administration would move on to other matters and they would be "stuck with Obamacare" - the Affordable Healthcare Act.

"The president has said he wants a vote tomorrow [Friday], up or down," New York Republican Chris Collins said. "If for any reason it is down, we are just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda."

CNN says "the struggle to repeal Obamacare has highlighted both Trump's and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan's struggles to reconcile their own party's deep and glaring internal divisions".

Now, says Reuters, they risk "defeat in their first attempt at major legislation and may fail to deliver on a key campaign pledge".

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, said Trump had made a major blunder in trying to introduce the bill, known as "Trumpcare", without ensuring he had support to get it passed.

"Rookie's error for bringing this up on a day you clearly are not ready," she said.

Republicans did say they would introduce the bill, but the vote was delayed after they failed to gather enough support from within their own ranks to guarantee it would pass.

Negotiations broke down after conservative GOP members argued the legislation does not go far enough in rolling back Obamacare, while more moderate politicians are worried it will strip their constituents of healthcare coverage, the BBC says. They had already made several amendments to the bill before Thursday's scheduled vote.

While the GOP holds a majority, they can only afford to lose 21 votes from their own side as Democrats are expected to vote unanimously against the legislation. 

The amended Trumpcare was dealt another blow when the Congressional Budget Office released an appraisal revealing it would "cost more while doing nothing to save any of the 24 million people estimated to be ejected from health coverage over the network under the original version of the legislation", The Guardian reports.

Donald Trump has kittens over teen's cat website

23 March

Lawyers for Donald Trump are reportedly striking back against a teenager who created a website where users can use kitten paws to "scratch" the US President's face.

TrumpScratch.com was created by a 17-year-old in San Francisco, identified only as "Lucy", in order to practise her coding skills.

However, three weeks after the site went live, she was sent a cease and desist letter from Trump's lawyers in New York.

It began: "As I'm sure you're aware, the Trump name is internationally known and famous," Lucy told the New York Observer.

After seeking advice from a family lawyer, she changed the name of her website to KittenFeed.com, but again received letters telling her to take the site down.

She said: "It's so sad that his administration is focused more on being liked, burying real news and taking down sites like mine as they supposedly make him look bad.

"I was going to just let this go but I think it's, pardon my French, f****** outrageous that the president of the United States has his team scouring the internet for sites like mine to send out cease and desists and legal action claims if we don't shut down."

According to Yahoo News,views of the site increased from 3,000 to 50,000 following initial reports about the story.

Trump's lawyers have yet to respond to the reports.

FBI director confirms investigation into Trump-Russia links

21 March

FBI director James Comey has confirmed the FBI is investigating allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during last year's US presidential elections.

Giving evidence to the House of Representatives intelligence committee during a five-and-a-half-hour session, Comey revealed the agency was looking for links between campaign staff working for Donald Trump and Russian officials that may have affected the outcome of the election.

He also warned that Russia "would attempt to influence the next US presidential election in 2020 and perhaps congressional elections next year," Reuters says.

The FBI usually avoids confirming the existence of ongoing investigations, but made an exception in this case "because it views doing so as being in the public interest", reports CNBC.

Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, also told the committee the NSA stands by an intelligence report published in January asserting that Russian President Vladimir Putin "ordered a campaign" to harm the electoral chances of Trump's main rival, Hillary Clinton.

In addition, Comey publicly challenged claims that Trump Tower had been "wiretapped" before the election.

"With respect to the President's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets," he said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump would not withdraw the accusations despite members of Congress, British intelligence officials and Comey all having publicly denied it occurred.

He also said he was unaware of any White House official being under investigation by the FBI.

FBI director expected to deny Donald Trump was tapped

21 March

The "bizarre saga" of Donald Trump's claim that his phones were tapped by former president Barack Obama moves to a new level today when two US intelligence chiefs testify before Congress, CNN reports.

James Comey, FBI director, and Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, will give evidence at a rare open hearing of the intelligence committee.

During the session, Comey is expected to deny the existence of any wiretapping, debunking the accusations that Trump has so far refused to withdraw.

The testimony may also expose new information about the FBI's investigations into the extent of Russian meddling in the presidential campaign last year.

Republicans will hope Comey denies the existence of evidence suggesting there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, "a move that could begin to break up a cloud of Russian intrigue that has stifled the early weeks of the administration", CNN says.

Comey's appearance comes after another round of criticism for Trump, with German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen rejecting his accusations that Berlin owes "vast sums of money" to Nato allies and the US.

Speaking at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, following joint appearances which "betrayed an awkwardness between the two leaders", The Guardian says, Trump announced: "Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe." 

Von der Leyen issued a statement saying "there is no debt account at Nato" and that it was wrong to link the target for member states to spend two per cent of economic output on defence by 2024 solely to Nato.

"Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism," she said.

Ivo Daalder, a former permanent US representative to Nato, also questioned whether Trump understood how Nato functioned.

"Sorry, Mr President, that's not how Nato works," he said. "The US decides for itself how much it contributes to defending Nato.

"This is not a financial transaction, where Nato countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment."

 

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