Trump more cautious on Iran than top advisers
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he hopes the U.S. is not on a path to war with Iran amid fears that his two most hawkish advisers could be angling for such a conflict with the Islamic Republic.
Asked Thursday if the U.S. was going to war with Iran, the president replied, “I hope not” – a day after he repeated a desire for dialogue, tweeting, “I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”
The tone contrasted with a series of moves by the U.S. and Iran that have sharply escalated tensions in the Middle East in recent days. For the past year, national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been the public face of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.
The friction has rattled lawmakers who are demanding more information on the White House’s claims of rising Iranian aggression. Top leaders in Congress received a classified briefing on Iran Thursday, but many other lawmakers from both parties have criticized the White House for not keeping them informed.
Iran poses a particular challenge for Trump. While he talks tough against foreign adversaries to the delight of his supporters, a military confrontation with Iran could make him appear to be backtracking on a campaign pledge to keep America out of foreign entanglements.
Iran’s regional proxies ensure it will never fight alone
BEIRUT – In the event of war with the United States, Iran “will not be alone.”
That message was delivered by the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group to a mass rally in Beirut in February marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. “If America launches war on Iran, it will not be alone in the confrontation, because the fate of our region is tied to the Islamic Republic,” Hassan Nasrallah said.
From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip, Tehran has significantly expanded its footprint over the past decade, finding and developing powerful allies in conflict-ravaged countries across the Middle East. Hezbollah is one of the most prominent members of the self-styled “axis of resistance,” armed groups with tens of thousands of Shiite Muslim fighters beholden to Tehran.
Iran has used such groups in the past to strike its regional foes, and could mobilize them if the latest tensions with the United States lead to an armed conflict – dramatically expanding the battlefield.
Here’s a look at Tehran’s allies in the Mideast:
US: Flynn described efforts to interfere with cooperation
WASHINGTON – Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn told the special counsel’s office that people connected to the Trump administration and Congress sought to influence his cooperation with the Russia investigation, and he provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, prosecutors said in a court filing made public Thursday.
Meanwhile, the judge in the case ordered that portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that relate to Flynn be unredacted and made public by the end of the month.
Thursday’s order from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is the first time a judge is known to have directed the Justice Department to make public any portion of the report that the agency had kept secret. It could set up a conflict with Attorney General William Barr, whose team spent weeks blacking out from the report grand jury information, details of ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.
Prosecutors revealed details about Flynn’s communications in a court filing aimed at showing the extent of his cooperation with Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Flynn, a vital witness in the probe, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the presidential transition period in 2016 with the-then Russian ambassador to the United States.
Prosecutors did not identify the people with whom Flynn was in touch nor did they describe the exact conversations.
10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
1. WHO IS PLAYING DOWN THREAT OF WAR WITH IRAN
President Donald Trump says he hopes the U.S. is not on a path to war with Iran amid fears his two most hawkish advisers could be angling for such a conflict.
2. IRAN’S REGIONAL PROXIES ENSURE IT WILL NEVER FIGHT ALONE
From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip, Tehran has significantly expanded its footprint over the past decade, finding and developing powerful allies across the Middle East.
Missouri House expected to pass abortion ban at 8 weeks
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Republican-led House is expected to pass a sweeping bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy on lawmakers’ final day in session Friday, joining Alabama and several other states that have moved recently to severely restrict the procedure..
If enacted, the ban would be among the most restrictive in the U.S. It would include exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cutoff. Women who receive abortions wouldn’t be prosecuted.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson is likely to sign the bill.
“Until the day that we no longer have abortions in this country, I will never waiver in the fight for life,” Parson said during a Wednesday rally with supporters of the legislation.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Leana Wen said in a statement that enacting the measure would be “disastrous.”
Taiwan approves same-sex marriage in first for Asia
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s legislature voted Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, a first in Asia and a boost for LGBT rights activists who had championed the cause for two decades.
Lawmakers pressured by LGBT groups as well as church organizations opposed to the move approved most of a government-sponsored bill that recognizes same-sex marriages and gives couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples.
That makes Taiwan the first place in Asia with a comprehensive law both allowing and laying out the terms of same-sex marriage.
“It’s a breakthrough, I have to say so. I could not imagine that could happen in just a few years,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.
“Taiwan’s action today should sound a clarion call, kicking off a larger movement across Asia to ensure equality for LGBT people and pro-active protection of their rights by governments throughout the region,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter. “No more excuses!”
For trans people, gender-swap photo filters are no mere game
NEW YORK – Hit a button, and you’re “transformed” into a woman. The beard disappears. The face and jaw smooth out. The hair floats jauntily around the shoulders.
“Yo this is SPOT ON my mom.” ”Pretty.” ”Are you in a sorority?”
A swipe and another click. Suddenly you’re a square-jawed man – heavy of brow, sporting five o’ clock shadow.
“I look like my brother Jay.” ”Hahahaha Suzie I’m dyingggg.” ”My sisters were like, ‘um… strange. You’re kinda hot’ haha.”
The gender-bending selfies accompanied by flip or sarcastic comments are flooding social feeds since Snapchat introduced a filter this month allowing users to swap gender appearances with the tap of a finger. But for many people who have longed for a button that would change them in real life, the portrait parade isn’t a game.
Courts weigh Trump’s plan to tap Pentagon for border wall
SAN FRANCISCO – President Donald Trump is moving fast to spend billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, but he first must get past the courts.
On Friday, a federal judge in Oakland, California, will consider arguments in two cases that seek to block the White House from spending Defense and Treasury Department money for wall construction. California and 19 other states brought one lawsuit; the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought the other.
On Thursday, a federal judge in the nation’s capital will consider a bid by the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent Trump from spending any Defense Department money for a border wall.
At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make major progress on a signature campaign promise heading into his campaign for a second term.
The president’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress, which authorized far less wall spending than Trump wanted. Trump grudgingly accepted congressional approval of $1.375 billion to end a 35-day government shutdown on Feb. 15 but declared an emergency in almost the same breath. The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion that it could spend.
A separate war: Pioneering black Marines endured, prevailed
GREENSBORO, N.C. – It was the dress blue uniforms that drew John Thompson to join the U.S. Marines, where black men were not welcome, so he could defend a country that denied him the rights he wanted to fight for.
“I said, ‘Wow, that’s a real pretty uniform,'” recalls Thompson, now 94.
It took President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 executive order banning discrimination in government and defense industry employment because of “race, creed, color, or national origin” to give the teenage son of black South Carolina sharecroppers a chance to serve as a Marine during World War II.
Just not alongside whites.
The first African Americans admitted to the Marine Corps after Roosevelt’s order were put in segregated units, starting with their training. At a swampy, bug-infested camp called Montford Point, adjacent to but separate from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, they endured indignities – but they also paved the way for others who came after.
I.M. Pei’s legacy stretched from the West to the East
BEIJING – The legacy of American architect I.M. Pei stretches from west to east, from the Louvre museum to his native China, where he helped fuse tradition and modernity as the country opened up after the Cultural Revolution.
Pei, who died earlier this week at the age of 102, added elegance to landscapes worldwide with powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces, from a trapezoidal addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the giant glass pyramid at the Louvre.
Born in southern China, he migrated to the United States and was one of the first overseas architects to visit China during its initial period of opening up, said Tan Xin, a garden designer who worked with him in the early 1980s on the Fragrant Hill Hotel, which still stands on the outskirts of Beijing.
Pei was highly influential in helping Chinese architects and landscapers imagine how Chinese architecture could be modernized while retaining its traditional elements.
“He was so modest and unassuming,” Tan said in an interview Friday at her Beijing office. “Even though he was Chinese American, he loved China and traditional Chinese culture.”