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June 2, 2017
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In March, the White House acknowleged that Jared Kushner had secretly met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), in December. Kushner, the only known White House official to be a focus of the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, has been under scrutiny for back-channel communications with Moscow he suggested setting up in December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The White House maintains that the Kushner-Gorkov meeting was just one of many diplomatic meetings President Trump's son-in-law held during the transition, while VEB reiterated to The Washington Post this week that Gorkov met with Kushner as head of his family real estate business, as part of the bank's new investment strategy. VEB has been subject to U.S. sanctions since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

"Either account of the meeting could bring complications for a White House undergoing intensifying scrutiny from a special counsel and multiple congressional committees," The Washington Post notes: Either Kushner was representing Trump at a meeting with a Kremlin-linked bank pushing for lifting sanctions as the president, Barack Obama, was readying new sanctions over Russia's election interference, or Gorkov — a graduate of the FSB intelligence service academy — was meeting with a real estate executive, close to a president-elect, who was scouring for financing for his company's troubled $1.8 billion purchase of a Manhattan office building. Then the Post has this detail:

Flight data reviewed by The Washington Post suggests that the meeting may have taken place on Dec. 13 or 14, about two weeks after Kushner's encounter with Kislyak. A 19-seat twin-engine jet owned by a company linked to VEB flew from Moscow to the United States on Dec. 13 and departed from the Newark airport, outside New York City, at 5:01 p.m. Dec. 14, according to positional flight information provided by FlightAware. ... After leaving Newark on Dec. 14, the jet headed to Japan, where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin was visiting on Dec. 15 and 16. The news media had reported that Gorkov would join the Russian president there. [The Washington Post]

"Basically, VEB operates like Putin's slush fund," said Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Atlantic Center. VEB was also implicated in a U.S. espionage case with lateral ties to former Trump adviser Carter Page. The sanctions against VEB would not have barred Kushner from meeting Gorkov or Gorkov from investing in a U.S. real estate project. You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

11:32 a.m. ET

Hawaiian officials have urged complete evacuation of the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the path of lava flows from the still-active Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

"I don't know what's going to be left of Leilani," said resident Steve Gebbie. "I really think it might be wiped out."

So far, the lava has covered 2,200 acres, destroyed 82 structures, and made another 37 structures inaccessible. There were 90 earthquakes near the summit Friday, and tremors have continued over the weekend. Lava flows now threaten a nearby geothermal plant, which has been shut down as a precaution. Bonnie Kristian

11:17 a.m. ET

President Trump went after The New York Times on Twitter Saturday, revisiting his usual critiques of the paper's ethics and commercial viability. He also claimed an unnamed senior White House official the Times cited in a report on the North Korea summit was fabricated:

In reality, as recorded audio of a White House background briefing has demonstrated, the source is National Security Council official Matt Pottinger, and he was speaking in a White House-arranged conference call:

Other news organizations were present in the briefing and reported stories citing the same source. "I mean, every reporter on the call knows who this official was, and this official exists," said Mike Warren of the conservative Weekly Standard. "And we all heard the official say it." Bonnie Kristian

10:46 a.m. ET

President Trump was working his way through a fairly typical weekend tweetstorm about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling efforts when things took a ... strange turn Sunday morning. Amid lots of more usual fare — "the crooked highest levels of the FBI or 'Justice,'" "#SPYGATE & CONFLICTS OF INTEREST," "13 Angry Democrats," and so on — Trump posted this:

In a follow-up tweet, the president did not explain what "young and beautiful" people he has in mind. He is 71. Bonnie Kristian

8:37 a.m. ET

The approach of Subtropical Storm Alberto has prompted the governors of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi to declare states of emergency, warning residents and Memorial Day tourists of forthcoming heavy rain, high winds, storm surges, and flash flooding. "Remember, the track of these storms can change without notice," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). "Do not think that only areas in the cone will be impacted."

Alberto is expected to make landfall sometime Monday, gathering strength as it moves northward through the Caribbean and up the Gulf Coast. Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and experts are predicting a fairly normal year despite this head start. Bonnie Kristian

8:09 a.m. ET
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still very much committed to his maybe on-again summit with President Trump in Singapore on June 12, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday. The two Korean leaders met Saturday for an unannounced discussion of how to keep the summit and inter-Korean relations on track after Trump's surprise Thursday cancellation of the scheduled negotiations.

Moon also reported Kim reaffirmed his promise to pursue "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Kim's uncertainty, he said, "is not the will for denuclearization, but the concern that if [North Korea] denuclearizes, whether the U.S. can end hostile relations and guarantee the security of the [Kim] regime." Pyongyang has long cast its nuclear development as insurance against U.S.-orchestrated regime change, and in late April, Moon's government said Kim promised to denuclearize if the U.S. pledges not to invade.

Meanwhile, Trump told reporters late Saturday that if the summit proceeds, the time and location will remain unchanged. Bonnie Kristian

May 26, 2018

The Trump administration on Friday announced it has made a deal to help a Chinese telecom, ZTE, shuttered by a U.S. Commerce Department export ban. ZTE obtains about one quarter of its manufacturing components from American businesses, and it suspended operations earlier this month after the administration imposed sanctions as a penalty for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

On Twitter Friday evening, Trump used the deal as an avenue to criticize Democrats:

Trump's plan to get ZTE "back into business, fast," as he put it in an initial tweet on the subject earlier this month, has produced widespread confusion given his adversarial stance toward foreign manufacturers on the campaign trail. Some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have suggested they may attempt to block the new arrangement on national security grounds. Bonnie Kristian

May 26, 2018
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Exit polling and early vote counts indicate a majority of Irish voters have backed the repeal of their country's constitutional ban on abortion. Save the 8th, the campaign supporting retention of the amendment prohibiting abortion, conceded defeat Saturday after Friday's vote, calling the decision "a tragedy of historic proportions."

If the ban is lifted, the Irish Parliament is expected to pass a law legalizing abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy, with exceptions for later abortions if the mother's health is at risk or there is a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormalities.

Final voting results are expected Saturday afternoon, but with about half of all votes tallied, the repeal side has a strong lead of two-thirds support. Bonnie Kristian

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