Last December, former President Barack Obama gave Russia 24 hours to vacate diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland and expelled 35 Russians he called "intelligence operatives" as punishment for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and now, the Trump administration is moving to return those compounds to Russia, The Washington Post reports.
Russia has asserted it used the facilities, which had diplomatic immunity, to hold events and as a place of relaxation for United Nations and embassy employees, but for decades the U.S. has believed the compounds are also used for spying. People with information on the matter told the Post that last month, the Trump administration told Russia it would consider turning the properties back over to Russia if Moscow agreed to lift a freeze on the construction of a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. During a meeting a few days later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the U.S. was no longer linking the compounds and the consulate. The Post reports that the administration is looking at enacting some restrictions at the compounds, including removing diplomatic immunity.
There are several ongoing investigations into Russia's interference in the election and ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials. One of the men under investigation, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, spoke with Kislyak before the inauguration and let him know that things would change once Trump was in the White House. Read the entire report at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
Instead of Tiki torches, the thousands of marchers who gathered at the University of Virginia on Wednesday night held candles in upside-down cups, passing the flame around like you might see at an Easter vigil.
They chanted "love wins" instead of "Jews will not replace us!"
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 17, 2017
And they sang, "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Bless America," "We Shall Overcome," and also "Amazing Grace," a song written by a former slave-ship captain after he came to see that slavery is evil.
Those on the lawn are now singing Amazing Grace. pic.twitter.com/1aVVaouw71
— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) August 17, 2017
Organizers of the event, which also paid respects to the three people who died during the "Unite the Right" melee in Charlottesville on Saturday — anti-racism protester Heather Hayer and Virginia State Police troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates — said they spread the word through text message, phone calls, and word of mouth, intentionally keeping it off social media so as not to attract any disruptive groups. Participants called it cathartic. "I have struggled to let go of my anger over what was done to us last weekend," tweeted UVA Dean of Students Allen Grove, "but seeing 5,000 of my fellow citizens tonight sure helped."
The University of Virginia also made it clear which of the two marches, each following the same route, it wanted to claim as its own. Peter Weber
— UVA (@UVA) August 17, 2017
Stephen Colbert uses zombies, Nazi jokes to highlight the seriousness of Trump's 'kamikaze press conference'
Surprisingly, there may be prominent American leaders who don't hate Nazis as much as you'd expect in 2017. But everybody hates zombies, right? To emphasize how President Trump's comments Tuesday about the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other "alt-right" marchers who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend might sound to those who unequivocally oppose white supremacy, The Late Show re-enacted Trump's press conference almost verbatim, but placed them in another context.
Stephen Colbert was slightly less subtle in his monologue on Wednesday, starting out by noting he is still reeling from Trump's "kamikaze press conference yesterday, where Donald let Donald be Donald, the consequences and our country be damned, and it was truly one for the ages — specifically, 1939 to 1945." He ran through some of Trump's comments, noted that Trump seemed to be pleased with them even if his staff was not, and compared Trump to a racist grandfather who shouldn't be speaking his mind in public places.
"In the wake of the furor Trump caused by channeling the Führer, the White House was desperate to get Republicans on board the flaming wreckage that was the SS Hinden-tanic by releasing talking points to Congress," Colbert said, indicating he was not impressed with the messaging. "But not every Republican followed the talking points," he said, showing a John Kasich interview and cheering, and then playing the second half. "Kasich is not the only profile in thinking about courage here," he said. "So far, the GOP's actions have spoken way more flaccid than words."
Still, "there was one group that really basked in the radioactive glow of the unshielded core of yesterday's Trump dump," Colbert noted. "Wow, David Duke complimenting your courage — that's like Jeffrey Dahmer complimenting your cooking: He means well, but it's a little upsetting." Watch below. Peter Weber
Phoenix mayor asks Trump to delay rally after Charlottesville tragedy, especially if he plans Arpaio pardon
On Wednesday morning, President Trump announced that he will hold a campaign-style rally in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, next Tuesday, his first trip out West since his inauguration. On Wednesday evening, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked him to reconsider. "I am disappointed that President Trump has decided to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville," Stanton wrote. "If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation. It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit."
— Greg Stanton (@MayorStanton) August 16, 2017
Trump told Fox News earlier this week that he is "seriously considering a pardon" for Arpaio, a supporter and anti-immigration stalwart who lost his bid for re-election as Maricopa County sheriff last year and was recently convicted of criminal contempt; at his scheduled Oct. 5 sentencing hearing, Arpaio, 85, could get up to six months in jail. Stanton said that the Phoenix Convention Center is a public space that anyone can rent, "and that includes the Trump campaign," adding that assuming sound judgment does not prevail, he and the Phoenix police department will be focused on "keeping everyone — those attending the rally, those expressing their First Amendment rights outside and the general public — safe." Peter Weber
It took three weeks for Dana, a lion rescued from a defunct zoo in Aleppo, Syria, to make the journey to her new home in Jordan, and during her first night at the al-Ma'wa reserve, she gave birth to a lion cub named Hajar — Arabic for "the immigrant."
Dana was one of 12 animals, including four other lions, two bears, and two tigers, to leave Syria for Jordan, thanks to the efforts of the animal charity Four Paws. The team had been concerned she might give birth while in the cage she had to travel in; had that happened, Dr. Amir Khalil said, the cub probably would not have survived. The vet thinks Dana waited until Friday, when she arrived in a secure area, to finally have her cub. "She is a mom, she had the instinct," he told ABC News. "It's a miracle."
Not much is known yet about the cub, as it is bonding with Dana and hasn't been examined by Khalil. Its fur is white, which could change, and it is estimated to weigh 3.3 to 4.4 pounds. An ultrasound done in Turkey showed that Dana was carrying two cubs, and a follow-up ultrasound will reveal if she is still expecting, or if the second cub was born at the same time as Hajar and died. Dana and Hajar already have a strong bond, something Khalil is grateful to see. "After the dark," he said, "there is light." Catherine Garcia
It wasn't something you hear on Fox News every day: A host on the conservative-leaning network making comments critical of President Trump.
Following his jaw-dropping press conference Tuesday where he blamed "both sides" for violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which ended in the death of counterprotester Heather Hayer, Kat Timpf, a co-host of The Fox News Specialists, said she was "disgusted" by the whole spectacle. It didn't take long for viewers to react, with many tweeting that Timpf, as well as co-host Eboni K. Williams, needed to be fired. In one case, Timpf told The Associated Press Wednesday, she was told she's a "disgrace to the white race."
Timpf said she's had to stop checking her email, and while the threats are hitting her hard, she won't be silenced by those who object to her opinions. "It doesn't seem like it's too difficult to do the right thing and respond by saying, 'Nazis are bad,'" she said. "I can't believe that my stance is a controversial stance, or something you need to even take a stand on at all these days. It's really upsetting." If she ends up losing the support of some viewers, Timpf told AP, that's fine, because "there's nothing in my head that has me even considering approaching things in any other way than I have approached it." Catherine Garcia
After President Trump's initial response to the white nationalist "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville, where he condemned the violence "from many sides," the top uniformed U.S. Navy officer, Adm. John Richardson, decided it was a good time to issue a statement affirming that the U.S. Navy "forever stands against intolerance & hatred."
— Adm. John Richardson (@CNORichardson) August 13, 2017
After Trump dug in on Tuesday, insisting that "both sides" were to blame for the Charlottesville melee, and said there are some "very fine people" among the torch-wielding alt-right marchers as well as the people protesting against them, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, tweeted that there is "no place for racial hatred or extremism" in the Marines.
No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.
— Robert B. Neller (@GenRobertNeller) August 15, 2017
He was soon joined in what might be viewed as subtweeting the president, or perhaps just a restatement of military values, by Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Army chief of staff, and then by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein.
The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It's against our Values and everything we've stood for since 1775.
— GEN Mark A. Milley (@ArmyChiefStaff) August 16, 2017
— Gen. Dave Goldfein (@GenDaveGoldfein) August 16, 2017
Several prominent Republicans — including the last two GOP presidents — have stepped up to denounce racism and white supremacy after Trump's comments, and the business leaders on two of Trump's advisory committees jumped ship, "but it was the statements from the country's top uniformed military leaders that broke most dramatically from the president," the Los Angeles Times argues.
None of the uniformed military leaders mentioned Trump by name, but Trump's Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, did on Wednesday, when he said that Trump speaks for himself but as far as Shulkin is concerned, "it is a dishonor to our country's veterans to allow the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged." Peter Weber
VA Sec'y Shulkin: "It is a dishonor to our country's veterans to allow the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/XSHCpO7Aip
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 16, 2017
The rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism sent a letter to members of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan, condemning the comments made by President Trump in the aftermath of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
The letter, sent Wednesday evening, was signed by Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein, as well as his successors, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz and Rabbi Elie Weinstock, New York reports. The rabbis said they were "appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right. While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence."
Because of his close ties to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, Lookstein was invited to speak last year at the Republican National Convention; he was going to give the invocation but changed his mind after backlash from the modern Orthodox community, New York reports. While President Trump on Tuesday blamed the violence on "both sides," his eldest daughter tweeted on Sunday that there should be "no place in society for racism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED." Catherine Garcia