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Curated top stories of the day
- U.S. delays Russia sanctions – U.S. President Donald Trump delayed imposing additional sanctions on Russia and is unlikely to approve them unless Moscow carries out a new cyber attack or some other provocation, according to the administration. “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement (New York Times) Earlier U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley indicated her government was preparing new measures against Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Haley said the Kremlin has blocked proposals for UN action to investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria six times. The U.S. imposed sanctions against 24 Russian officials and oligarchs on April 6. Moscow is this week considering responding (FT) with restrictions on U.S. businesses and professionals.
- Meanwhile, a team of chemical weapons inspectors which was due to visit Douma, the site of an alleged gas attack in Syria, was delayed. The British delegation to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Russia and Syria had said the team’s safety couldn’t be guaranteed. Russia attributed the delay to Western strikes this weekend that targeted the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program.
- Trump still wants U.S. troops out of Syria despite U.S. intervention two days prior, according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. No timeline for the withdrawal was offered.
- Trump’s personal lawyer also represented Sean Hannity – A federal judge ordered Michael Cohen, the long-time attorney of Donald J. Trump, to disclose that he also represents Fox News pundit Sean Hannity. Hannity has been one of Trump’s fiercest supporters throughout the 2016 campaign and his current presidency. Federal prosecutors also learned that the New York lawyer represented Elliott Broidy, deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Convention. Broidy resigned April 13 for paying $1.6 million to a former Playboy model to ensure her silence on an affair that resulted with her becoming pregnant (New York Times). Cohen’s attorney failed to protect Hannity’s anonymity, but he had argued that disclosing the identity would be “embarrassing or detrimental” to the then mystery client (CNBC). Since the judge’s ruling, Hannity acknowledged on Twitter that he received confidential legal advice from Cohen, but claimed he never paid for any services, meaning the advice was pro bono or paid by someone else. He also tweeted that the legal advice only concerned him, and was mostly about real estate.
- Catalan supporters flood Barcelona – About 350,000 supporters of Catalan independence took to Barcelona’s streets on Sunday calling for the release of jailed separatist leaders after a court ruling frustrated their latest attempt to elect a regional leader. Catalonia’s challenge to find a leader began after the region declared independence in October. Spanish courts ruled the declaration was illegal and called for new elections. Read WikiTribune’s explainer on Catalan independence.
Comey says Trump ‘unfit’ – Former FBI director James Comey says US President Donald J. Trump is “morally unfit to be president.” In his first major television interview Comey told ABC News that Trump lies constantly, may have obstructed justice, and treats women like “pieces of meat.” He also said it is possible Trump could be compromised by his contacts with Russia. Comey, whose book A Higher Loyalty is out this week, was fired by Trump last year. Before the interview aired, the president accused Comey of “many lies.”
- Russia blocks Telegram app – The Russian state communication regulator, known as Roskomnadzor, announced it will block the Telegram app for failing to provide it with encrypted user data. Developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, Telegram is widely used in Russia and former Soviet Union nations. The announcement comes after Telegram was fined $14,000 for not obeying a previous demand for the encryption keys (Moscow Times). Russian authorities say that access to encrypted messages is needed to prevent terrorist activity. The Telegram app serves about 200 million people worldwide, and Durov said that the block would affect 15 million Russians.
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- WikiTribune tracks the global reaction to the April 14 missile strikes on Syria, which ranged from strong support to labeling the action as a war “crime.”
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- As many as 150,000 North Korean laborers are sent abroad to work to raise money for the regime, according to a BBC investigation. The report goes into depth on how that program is managed in countries across the world. It calls this “modern day slavery”.
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