In Brief

Donald Trump sued by two states over business links

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

How will May and Trump's 'special relationship' compare with the past?

21 January 

Theresa May hopes to continue the "special relationship" between the UK and US when she meets President Donald Trump today, but things got off to an inauspicious start when a White House memo dropped the "h" in all three mentions of the Prime Minister's first name.

The meeting "could be an episode of The Odd Couple: The Stiff Headmistress meets the Great Salesman", says the New York Times. Trump has already set May's "teeth on edge" with his cheerful support for Brexit, says the newspaper, which she opposed but must now carry out. However, the Prime Minister "needs to show Britons they have big friends out in the world beyond Europe".

The pair are unlikely to have the same chemistry as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, says USA Today, despite May invoking the duo in her address to Republicans in Philadelphia. Their personal closeness was visible in politics: Thatcher, for example, defended Reagan's decision to bomb Tripoli, the capital of Libya, using planes that took off from British bases.

Still, you never know. Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to Washington, told the NYT: "What's required is a good working relationship."

Although the close ties between US and British leaders date back to Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt, the special relationship has at times looked distinctly chilly. John Major and Bill Clinton didn't have much in common – not least because Major backed George HW Bush in the presidential race.

And Gordon Brown never bonded with Barack Obama. In the aftermath of the Scottish government's release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, from prison, Brown was "repeatedly snubbed" by Obama on a trip to the States, eventually snatching a quick audience with the president in a New York kitchen. Obama preferred the charms of David Cameron, to the point that the then-prime minister declined to meet any Republican Party leaders during a 2012 visit to Washington, says the Daily Telegraph.

Whichever way the meeting with Trump goes, May clearly places great stock in the relationship between the two countries: Downing Street has, for example, chosen to move on from the President's meetings with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage. And in May's speech to Republicans she declared that Anglo-American relations have "defined the world".

SNL's Katie Rich suspended for mocking Barron Trump

24 January

A writer on US comedy show Saturday Night Live has reportedly been suspended "indefinitely" for mocking Donald Trump's ten-year-old son, Barron, in a tweet.

Writing during Friday's inauguration ceremony, Katie Rich suggested Barron would become "the country's first homeschool shooter".

Rich, 33, was "suspended immediately after the tweet and will be suspended indefinitely", a source told the Los Angeles Times.

The reaction was "swift and pointed", says the Chicago Tribune, with Twitter users condemning the writer both for her targeting of a young boy and her perceived insensitivity towards school shootings.

They also argued that the underage children of politicians should be "off limits", regardless of political orientation.

Rich, who joined SNL in 2013 to write the Weekend Update segment, deleted the tweet and expressed her apologies.

She wrote: "I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet. I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I'm so sorry."

Her name was not listed on the credits of Saturday's show, the Chicago Tribune reports, although NBC's media website still lists her as an SNL writer.

Barron's mother, Melania Trump, has previously threatened to sue over claims on social media that her son might suffer from a learning disability. Based on his demeanour, several people, including comedian and autism activist Rosie O'Donnell, have suggested the young boy could be on the autistic spectrum.

Last Sunday, Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Donald Trump's presidential rival Hillary, called for Barron to be left alone by both press and the public. Posting on Facebook, she said he "deserves the chance every child does - to be a kid".

Donald Trump: Ethics group to file lawsuit

23 January

An ethics group is to file a lawsuit against US President Donald Trump, claiming his business empire violates a little-known constitutional provision designed to prevent bribery.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) say the involvement of foreign governments with Trump's businesses constitute an "emolument", an archaic term for a payment for a service.

According to Article One of the Constitution, no officeholder "shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state".

Crew says: "The foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibits Trump from receiving anything of value from foreign governments, including foreign government-owned businesses, without the approval of Congress.

"Since Trump refused to divest from his businesses, he is now getting cash and favours from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad."

Although Trump has officially handed over control of his business interests to his sons, Donald Jr and Eric, he retains ownership of the Trump Organization, which has interests all over the world, some of which are intertwined with foreign powers.

"The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, whose majority stakeholder is the Chinese government, rents office space in New York City's Trump Tower," reports The Economist.

The practical meaning of emolument "has never truly been tested in court", says the Washington Post.

If the Crew lawsuit goes ahead, the issue of whether a state-backed company counts as a "foreign state" is likely to be a key matter of debate.

Trump's legal team has previously argued that the emoluments clause "is intended only to prevent federal officials from accepting a special consideration or gift from a foreign power" and does not apply to standard payments such as a hotel bill, the New York Times reports.

Putin: Russian prostitutes 'best in the world' but Trump dossier is 'nonsense'

18 January

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed claims that his security services filmed Donald Trump with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel.

At a news conference to mark Moldovan President Igor Dodon's first visit to the Kremlin, Putin "ridiculed" allegations that Russian spy agencies "collected compromising material on Trump when he visited Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant", the Chicago Tribune reports.

He said: "We didn't even know about his political ambitions. Do they think that our special services are hunting for every US billionaire?"

The claims were contained in a dossier reportedly authored by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele for Trump's opponents. No evidence has been found to support the allegations and the US president-elect has condemned the document as "fake news".

Putin also highlighted Trump's history with the Miss Universe beauty pageant to pour scorn on the reports, saying the tycoon would be unlikely to use Russian sex workers when he "socialised with the most beautiful women in the world".

He added: "I can hardly imagine he rushed to the hotel to meet our girls of lower social responsibility – even though they are the best in the world, of course."

As for the dossier, it showed "a significant degree of degradation of political elites in the west", which the New York Times reports is "one of the Russian leader's favourite themes", while the people "who order such fakes against the US president-elect, fabricate them and use them in political struggle are worse than prostitutes".

If the claims are ever substantiated, it would be "the most shocking political scandal in American history", says Sky News Moscow correspondent John Sparks, and it will take more than Putin's jeering to put the rumours to bed.

"The stakes are high," says Sparks, "and I for one think Mr Steele's work will linger around Donald Trump for months and months to come."

CIA director issues 'tweet warning' to Donald Trump 

16 January

Outgoing CIA director John Brennan has urged Donald Trump to be more careful with his communications after he takes office this week.

The US president-elect is "known for regularly making broad pronouncements on issues of national importance on his Twitter feed", says the BBC.

But Brennan warned that "spontaneity" will not protect the US's national security interests.

He told Fox News Sunday: "Now that [Trump's] going to have an opportunity to do something for our national security as opposed to talking and tweeting, he's going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that US and national security interests are protected.

"I think he has to be mindful that he does not have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road."

He also criticised the president-elect for comparing US intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany.

"I do take great umbrage at that," he said. "There is no basis for Mr Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly."

Trump answered with an angry Twitter comment that appeared to suggest Brennan was a source of "fake news".

Brennan's comments "reflected the extraordinary friction between the incoming president and the 17 intelligence agencies he will begin to command once he takes office on Friday", Reuters says.

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