The Russian foreign ministry on Sunday registered its disapproval of the Trump administration's demand that Russian diplomats vacate three outposts in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., on Saturday. The evictions were ordered in response to Moscow's recent reduction of the U.S. diplomatic presence in Russia.
"We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law," said the comments from Moscow. "We urge the U.S. authorities to come to their senses and immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities," or else the U.S "will bear total blame for the ongoing degradation of the relations between our countries."
The San Francisco facility was Russia's oldest consulate in the United States, responsible for issuing some 16,000 tourist visas to Americans annually. Before the building was vacated, consulate staff on Friday apparently burned unknown items they wished to keep out of U.S. hands. Bonnie Kristian
If Trump plans to pardon Joe Arpaio today, he apparently hasn't told the Justice Department about it yet
President Trump is holding a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday night, and he mentioned on Fox News last week that he's "seriously considering" a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff recently convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a federal judge's racial-profiling order before Arizona voters declined to re-elect him last year. If Trump plans to announce the pardon at the Phoenix rally, as widely believed plausible, he won't have gone through the normal channel for presidential pardons, CNN reports, citing a source familiar with that process.
Usually, a petitioner for a presidential pardon, serving time for a federal offense, submits a request to the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, who reviews the application and gives a recommendation to the deputy attorney general, who makes his or her own recommendation to the president. Trump does not have to follow this process, and there is some precedent for a president pardoning a controversial ally without going through the Justice Department, as former President George W. Bush did when he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence in 2007.
Arpaio told The New York Times last weekend that he has not spoken with Trump since November, was "honored by the potential pardon," and would accept it if offered. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked Trump last week to postpone the rally, especially if he plans to pardon Arpaio, saying such an announcement at a raucous rally would just "enflame emotions and further divide our nation" after Charlottesville. On Monday, Stanton and other Phoenix officials said they will do their best to balance the risks of clashes against public safety and everyone's First Amendment rights. You can watch their comments and footage of early protests below. Peter Weber
The Kremlin announced Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be visiting France next week as planned. Though the Kremlin said the cancellation was due to a change in the event schedule, CNN reported it likely has to do with French President Francois Hollande's recent remark that Moscow may be guilty of war crimes in Syria.
In an interview Monday on the French TV station TF1, Hollande suggested he may cancel his meeting with Putin, adding that Russia could face charges of war crimes for launching attacks on Aleppo. "These are people who today are the victims of war crimes. Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the [International Criminal Court]," Hollande said.
Tensions between the leaders initially spiked over the weekend, when Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by Spain and France. The resolution was "aimed at ending Syrian regime airstrikes on Aleppo and allowing humanitarian aid into the city," CNN reported.
A suicide bombing at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, on Monday has reportedly left at least 67 people dead and nearly 100 injured. Reuters reported that both the Islamic State and Jamat-ul-Ahrar, which The Guardian described as an "offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban," have claimed responsibility for the attack, which seemingly targeted a group of prominent lawyers who had gathered at the state-run hospital after a high-profile colleague was shot and killed earlier that day. Bilal Kasi, the local president of the Bar Association, was assassinated earlier Monday in an incident also reportedly perpetrated by Jamat-ul-Ahrar.
Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan's poorest province, Balochistan, has faced increased violence in recent weeks as it grapples with a separatist insurgency. The attack on the Quetta hospital marks Pakistan's second deadliest this year, after the Easter Sunday attack in Lahore that killed 75 people. Jamat-ul-Ahrar vowed in an email Monday to "continue attacks in Pakistan till the establishment of the Islamic system in the country." Becca Stanek
The United Nations' recently implemented sanctions against North Korea are already driving a wedge between longtime allies North Korea and China, a document from the Workers' Party of North Korea reveals. In the document, the Workers' Party condemns Beijing for partaking in the sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear program and urges its people to confront China with a "nuclear storm" for its alleged "betrayal of socialism," Daily NK reports.
"We must no longer go easy on the Chinese and instead deal with them equally in order to change their attitude of taking us lightly," the document reportedly reads, declaring China an "enemy state." Up until this point, the two nations had kept close ties since signing the Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance in 1961.
With North Korea's dismay at China's "eager" participation — which it says is a ploy to protect its "status of dominance in Northeast Asia" — the key relationship could meet its demise, Sino-North Korea relations expert Lee Young Hwa, a professor at Kansai University, told Daily NK. "There is a high possibility that Sino-North Korea relations will not only deteriorate," he said, "but lead to tensions as well." Becca Stanek
Early Tuesday, Israel shot down what it says was a Syrian fighter jet over its airspace in the Golan Heights. The Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24 got about half a mile into Israeli airspace and then tried to turn around, but was shot down by a Patriot missile, an Israeli defense official tells The Associated Press. The Syrian crew ejected from the jet before it exploded and parachuted down into Syrian territory. Syria confirmed that Israel downed one of its planes.
The Israeli military says "the circumstances of the incident are being reviewed," but Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is unapologetic. The fighter jet had infiltrated Israel's airspace in "a threatening way," he said. "We will not any allow element, whether it is a terror group or a state, to threaten our security and breach our sovereignty." Israel took the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war. Peter Weber