Turkey warns US to cut Kurdish support; N Korea calls for unification

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  • Trump attempted to fire Mueller in JuneThe New York Times reports that President Donald J. Trump wanted to fire FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, claiming that the agent had several conflicts of interest. White House official Donald F. McGahn II ultimately convinced him to reverse his decision. McGahn reportedly refused to carry out the order and told Trump that the move would have a negative effect on his presidency.
    • If Trump fired Mueller, it would be his second firing of an FBI agent in charge of the probe into his administration’s ties to the Kremlin. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May in part because of Comey’s investigation into his alleged Russian ties.
  • Trump unveils immigration plan, includes border wall and “Dreamer” protection – The Trump administration said that it is willing to grant legal protections and a path to citizenship for 1.8  million undocumented immigrants who illegally entered the children as minors. The number is over double the 700,000 undocumented immigrants that Democrats were attempting to protect from deportation during the government shutdown. In exchange, Trump wants $25 billion to construct a wall along the Mexican border.
    • Bloomberg reports that Trump’s 1.8 million figure is a combination of the 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and those who are eligible program but didn’t register.
  • Trump arrives in Davos, courted by executives – In his first visit to the World Economic Forum, the president held a dinner with several leaders of multinational corporations. Trump is set to speak publicly on Friday. (Follow WikiTribune’s on-the-ground Davos coverage).
  • Brazil leftists rally behind Lula despite corruption conviction- Brazil’s Workers Party said they will support Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the upcoming presidential race even though his bribery conviction bars him from holding office. After serving eight years as president, Lula was swept up in the massive corruption probe that included impeached president Dilma Rousseff. Lula, who remains massively popular, says that he will continue to appeal his conviction which comes with a possible 12 year prison sentence.
  • Turkey warns U.S. to cut YPG support or face confrontation – Turkey said the United States should cut its support for Kurdish YPG fighters or risk facing off against Turkish troops fighting in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. The comments from Turkey’s deputy prime minister and government spokesman, Bekir Bozdağ, represent some of the most forceful yet between the two NATO allies. The White House said on January 24 that U.S. President Donald Trump had urged his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to curtail Operation “Olive Branch” to prevent a clash between both countries. Turkey disputes the White House’s characterization of the conversation.
    • Turkey launched a ground and air operation into northern Syria just under a week ago to neutralize what they perceive as the YPG threat. Ankara views them an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has fought a three-decade guerrilla insurgency in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. However, Washington backs the YPG in its fight against the Islamic State and has troops deployed only 100 kilometers east of Afrin. (Read more WikiTribune coverage here.)


  • U.S. diplomat quits Myanmar panel on Rohingya – Veteran U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson resigned from a panel set up by Myanmar to advise on the Rohingya crisis, calling it a government “whitewash”. He also accused the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of lacking “moral leadership”. Witnesses and human rights groups have accused the country’s armed forces carrying out killings, rapes and arson. Richardson resigned as the 10-member advisory board was making its first visit to western Rakhine State, from where nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled in recent months.
  • North Korea calls for unification – In a rare announcement, North Korea said that “all Koreans at home and abroad” should make a “breakthrough” for unification, Reuters reported. Pyongyang also called for a reduction of military tensions on the Korean peninsula, but added that it will “smash” any challenges to reunification. In a symbolic show of unity, North Korea will attend the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month.
  • Trump wants funds for border wall – President Donald J. Trump wants $25 billion to build a border wall and is open to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Trump told reporters that those immigrants known as “Dreamers” should not be concerned. “Tell them not to worry. We’re going to solve the problem. It’s up to the Democrats.” As a candidate, Trump promised tougher immigration laws throughout his 2016 campaign.

What we’re reading

  • In a detailed investigation, the New York Times reveals how Israeli security forces spent decades trying to kill Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. From attempting to bring down a transport plane in which he was thought to be travelling, to setting up a task force code-named Salt Fish, Ronen Bergman tells the story of how democratic forces can be corrupted by national security apparatus. – Burhan Wazir

What the WikiTribune community is up to

  • President Donald J. Trump is living up to his campaign promise to crackdown on what are known as “sanctuary cities.” The U.S. Justice Department requested immigration records from 23 police departments of major metropolitan areas. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to issue subpoenas if city governments fail to comply with the order. Work with WikiTribune reporter Charles Turner on this emerging story.

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