Experts say that an ICBM class missile fired from North Korea on late Friday night was able to strike Los Angeles and other American cities, including Chicago, New York, and Washington, and possibly Denver and Chicago. President Kim Jong-un said that all of the US is now within striking distance of North Korea. The action took place a day after the Senate approved a package of sanctions on North Korea, Russia, and Iran. US president Donald Trump’s administration condemned North Korea’s action, calling North Korea “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace.” In a statement, Trump said, “by threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people. …The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.” The official North Korean news agency said Friday’s missile is a “stern warning” to the US.
The missile flew for about 45 minutes before landing in the waters off Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The missile reportedly flew more than 1000 km and reached an altitude of more than 3700 km. The Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) has determined that North Korea will be able to field a reliable nuclear capable ICBM by next year, earlier than previously believed.
US and South Korean military officials met to discuss military response options. The US and South Korea conducted a live-fire ballistic missile exercise in response to the missile launch, repeating a similar exercise earlier this month. South Korea’s defence minister Song Young-moo said Saturday that Seoul would prepare independent measures to curb North Korea’s nuclear threat. Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said that the window for a diplomatic solution is closing rapidly.” Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida said, “they could establish an acceptably reliable ICBM before the year’s end.”
The Trump administration has clearly stated that a military response is possible, though it prefers diplomacy and sanctions. South Korean president Moon Jae-in said that he wants the UN Security Council to impose new and stronger actions on North Korea.
US secretary of state Rex Tilleson blamed Russia and China for being “the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program [bearing] unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability” and said that the US will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea.
Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel, is investigating President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.
Mueller is interviewing three top intelligence officials, including Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence; Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency; and Richard Ledgett, the now retired deputy director of the NSA.
Coats will be meeting with the Senate Intelligence committee Thursday. Mueller’s investigation is going beyond questions of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Chris Ruddy has indicated that Trump might fire Mueller, who was appointed to lead the investigation after Trump fired James Comey, director of the FBI.
Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s private attorney, condemned the report. Corallo said, “The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.” Trump tweeted Thursday morning that the report is “phoney” and said, “”They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.”
The NSA said that the “NSA will fully cooperate with the special counsel. We are not in a position to comment further.”
Al Green (D, TX) became the first member of Congress to officially call for the impeachment of US President Donald J. Trump for obstruction of justice Wednesday morning.
Green said on the floor, “This is about my position. This is about what I believe. And this is where I stand. I will not be moved. The President must be impeached.”
Green said it was the House of Representative’s “duty” to take up impeachment.
Representative Maxine Waters (D, CA), has also called for the President’s impeachment.
A majority of members of the House of Representatives must support impeachment. No Republicans have publicly supported impeaching Trump.
The Washington Post reported that unnamed US officials said that President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador at the White House last week, jeopardizing a critical source of intelligence on ISIS. Trump appeared to confirm the truth of this statement in several tweets, despite denials by the White House. The information pertained to the terrorist threat related to the use of laptops on aircraft by ISIS.
Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president is reported to have said.
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how ISIS was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack might cause. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
Trump also described measures the United States has taken or is considering to counter the threat, including military operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as other steps to tighten security, officials said.
Trump set up the meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak one day after firing FBI director James B. Comey in the middle of a bureau investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, leading to charges of attempted obstruction of justice.
The information was so sensitive that details had been withheld from allies and restricted within the US government. An official stated that Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” Speculation is that the unnamed intelligence partner was Jordan.
The US did not have permission to share the information with Russia. Officials said that Trump endangered cooperation with an ally that has access to the inner operations of ISIS.
Senior White House officials immediately contacted the CIA and the NSA to contain the damage. Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.
One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.
The president has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that Trump’s disclosures broke the law.
HR McMaster, the national security advisor, said that “the president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. … At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” McMaster described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.
Another former senior US official is quoted as saying that “it is all kind of shocking. … Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
Photos of part of the session that were released by the Russian state-owned Tass news agency. No U.S. news organization was allowed to attend any part of the meeting.
US President Donald Trump fired James Comey, director of the FBI, Tuesday. Comey was investigating whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russia to interfere in the election last year.
Trump’s administration blamed Comey’s dismissal on how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, despite Trump’s previous praise of Comey’s actions during the campaign.
An inside source revealed that Trump’s team believed that Trump’s action would not generate a backlash because it was what the Democrats wanted.
Trump tweeted, “The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey,
including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!”
Comey learned that he was dismissed on tv while speaking to the workforce at the Log Angeles office of the FBI.
The White House released Trump’s signed letter in which he wrote to Comey that he was “hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” explaining that he reached the conclusion that Comey is “not able to effectively lead the bureau.”
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission. … I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he telephoned Trump and told him that he had made a terrible mistake. Schumer asked, “Were these investigations getting too close to home for the President?”
Republican Senator Richard Burr, who is leading a Senate intelligence committee probe into alleged Russian influence on the election, expressed concern at the firing of Comey, which he described as a “loss for the bureau and the nation. … I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee.”
Democrats are demanding that a special counsel be appointed to oversee the case, arguing that Trump’s Justice Department cannot be trusted.
Senator John McCain said, “While the President has the legal authority to remove the director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President’s decision to remove James Comey from office.” The Arizona senator requested that a special congressional committee be appointed to review the Russia allegations.
Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook. said, “I was as frustrated, concerned and disappointed as anyone with Director Comey’s handling of the email investigation, but President Trump just fired the man investigating how Russia meddled in our election and whether members of his campaign were involved, an investigation President Trump called a “charade” only 24 hours ago … It’s equally concerning that our attorney general, who lied about his own meetings with the Russians, approved Director Comey’s firing.”
On Tuesday President Trump reversed climate change regulations authorized by President Obama because they are interfering with oil drilling and coal mining, especially Obama’s clean power plan that requires states to reduce carbon emissions.
The energy independence order removes the ban on coal leasing on federal lands and curbing methane emissions from oil and gas production. It also reduces the weight of climate change and carbon emissions in policy and infrastructure planning.
Trump declared, “I am taking historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations.”
Trump wants to revive the drilling and mining industries by cutting environmental measures.
“I cannot tell you how many jobs the executive order is going to create but I can tell you that it provides confidence in this administration’s commitment to the coal industry,” Kentucky Coal Association president Tyler White told Reuters.
Billionaire enviromental activist Tom Steyuer said, ‘These actions are an assault on American values and they endanger the health, safety and prosperity of every American.”
Many organizations including Green group Earthjustice say that they will fight the order both in and out of court.
Almost all scientists believe that human use of oil and coal for energy is a major driver of climate change, causing rising sea levels, droughts, and more frequent violent storms.
Trump and several members of his administration doubt the reality of human-caused climate change. Trump promised during his campaign to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, declaring that it would harm U.S. business.
Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who helped broker the Paris accord, said that “trying to make fossil fuels remain competitive in the face of a booming clean renewable power sector, with the clean air and plentiful jobs it continues to generate, is going against the flow of economics.”
Trump directed the EPA to start a formal “review” process to reverse the clean power plan, introduced by Obama in 2014 but never implemented, partly because of the legal challenges of states controlled by the Republicans.
The plan required states to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 2030 to 32% below 2005 levels.
85% of U.S. states are on track to meet their targets, even though the rule has not been implemented.
Trump’s order removes the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management’s temporary ban on coal leasing on federal property introduced by Obama in 2016 as part of a review to study the program’s impact on climate change and to ensure that royalty revenues were fair to taxpayers.
Trump’s order also reverses rules limiting methane leakage from oil and gas operations.
Donald Trump declared in a joint press conference Wednesday with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, that he would support either a two-state or a one-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This effectively reverses a long-standing US policy supporting the two-state solution, which is supported by 70.5% of the United Nations’ members.
“The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal … We will be working on it very, very diligently. But it is the parties themselves who must directly negotiate such an agreement,” Trump said.
Trump’s position contradicts UN Security Council resolutions and the consensus position of the international community.
Netanyahu said that he preferred to focus on substance rather than labels, and declared that there are two prerequisites for peace. First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. Second, Israel must retain complete security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.
Trump also declared that he will move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and asked Netanyahu to “pull back on settlements for a little while.”
Earlier Wednesday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that there is “no alternative” to a two-state solution. “There is no alternative solution for the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis, other than the solution of establishing two states and we should do all that can be done to maintain this,” Guterres said.
Palestinian officials also warned the US against abandoning the two-state solution. “If the Trump administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said.
“Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy,” she said in a statement.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized during the 1967 Middle East war.
Netanyahu’s commitment to the two-state solution has long been in doubt, despite his commitment, with conditions, to the two-state goal in a speech in 2009, since he has also expressed support for a “state minus” option, in which Palestine would be offered autonomy but without full statehood, while Israel would retain full security control of the area. According to Al Jazeera, most Palestinian and Arab commentators would describe that either as occupation or as apartheid.