Trump Slashes Endangered Species Act!

H2 endangered species act threatened protections climate change mining drilling trump extinction plan

The Trump administration finalized changes rolling back the Endangered Species Act Monday. Regulators will now be allowed to factor in economic considerations when granting “endangered” status, species classified as “threatened” will see their protections weakened, and scientists will be limited in setting climate change-related protections. Critics say the changes were made to clear the way for mining, drilling and development projects in areas populated by protected species. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries. He is currently under investigation for possible ethics violations. The 46-year-old landmark Endangered Species Act has saved over 99% of classified animals, plants and insects since its inception. It’s credited with protecting the grizzly bear, the humpback whale and the bald eagle from extinction, among many others.

Environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers and attorneys general have vowed to fight the changes. The Sierra Club called the move the “Trump Extinction Plan.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement, “The most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity ever completed was released earlier this year and shows that more than one million species are at risk of extinction. These species are inextricably linked to our own well-being, livelihoods, economies, food security, and overall survival. Gutting key protections of the Endangered Species Act is precisely the wrong action for the U.S. to be taking.”

Amash first Republican legislator to call for Trump’s impeachment

In a series of tweets, legislator Justin Amash says the US president has engaged in ‘impeachable conduct’.

Amash first Republican legislator to call for Trump's impeachment
Amash sent a series of tweets, faulting Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Mueller’s report 

Republican legislator Justin Amash has said he believes Donald Trump has engaged in “impeachable conduct”, becoming the first politician from his party to call for removing the US president.

The Michigan representative on Saturday also accused Attorney General William Barr of “deliberately” misleading the public over the actual content and tenor of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference aimed at tipping the election to Trump.

WATCH

The Mueller report: Can Trump be impeached?

In a series of tweets, Amash – a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus – said “few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report,” which identified “multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice”.

“Undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence,” he posted.

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behaviour that met the threshold for impeachment.”

Justin Amash

@justinamash

Here are my principal conclusions:
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

Amash’s comments went even further than those by most Democratic leaders in Congress.

Fellow Michigan legislator Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, urged Amash to co-sponsor her impeachment resolution.

“@justinamash come find me in 1628 Longworth. I’ve got an impeachment investigation resolution you’re going to want to cosponsor,” she wrote in response to Amash’s thread.

Trump has proclaimed he was fully exonerated by Mueller’s report.

But some Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate who has called for impeachment proceedings, argue that the document lays out multiple occasions in which the president may have obstructed justice.

What is US impeachment? Six things to know

Other senior Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have cautioned against such a move, stressing it could deeply divide the nation of about 325 million people.

These Democrats warn it could backfire politically in the run-up to the 2020 election, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate likely to acquit the president in the event of impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Putin tells Pompeo he wants to ‘fully restore’ US-Russian ties

US secretary of state met Russian president and foreign minister to discuss Iran, Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria.

The Russian President Putin told Pompeo his country had not interfered in US elections [Pavel Golovkin/Pool via Reuters]
The Russian President Putin told Pompeo his country had not interfered in US elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would like to “fully restore” relations with the United States and believes that his US counterpart Donald Trump wants to do the same.

Putin on Tuesday told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he came to that conclusion after a phone call with Trump a few days ago.

The Russian president, speaking ahead of  a meeting with Pompeo, also said that his country had not interfered in US elections.

Earlier, Pompeo met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in hopes of finding common grounds in strategic issues over Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.

At a joint news conference following the meeting, Pompeo urged Russia to end support for President Nicolas Maduro, but his call was flatly rejected by Moscow.

“The time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go, he has brought nothing but misery to the Venezuelan people, and we hope that Russian support for Maduro will end,” Pompeo said. The US along with about 50 other countries, backs the opposition movement led by Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January.

For his part, Lavrov said Maduro’s future should be decided by the Venezuelan people and called US pressure on him undemocratic.

‘Many differences’ on Iran

Speaking on Iran, Russia’s ally, Lavrov said that Russia and the US “have many differences” and criticized the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement meant to rein in the country’s nuclear programme.

US air carrier in the Gulf a target not a threat: Iran commander

Pompeo said that the US will respond appropriately to any Iranian attacks on US interests, in an apparent reference to the Iranian military’s threat to shut the strategic strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. The US secretary, however, added that his country did not “seek war with Iran”.

The US recently tightened restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme by revoking key sanctions waivers, a move staunchly opposed by Moscow, over a year after Washington withdrew from a landmark deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme. It also imposed new sanctions on the country’s metal sector.

On the Ukrainian crisis, an issue the sides are also loggerheads, the Pompeo said the US would not recognize Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and would keep in place economic sanctions imposed on Russia over that move.

Mike Pompeo met Sergey Lavrov in Sochi to discuss a range of issues including Iran, Venezuela and Ukraine [Pavel Golovkin, Pool/AP]

Pompeo said he asked Moscow to free a group of Ukrainian sailors, seized by Russia last November, and to work with Ukraine‘s new president to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that the Kremlin would welcome an official request by Washington for a meeting between the US and Russian presidents at a G20 summit scheduled for June.

US warning on 2020 polls

Pompeo also said he had made it clear to Lavrov that there could be no repeat of election interference of the kind Washington accuses Moscow of undertaking in the 2016 United States presidential election.

If Russia interferes in the 2020 presidential election, “it would put our relationship in an even worse place,” Pompeo said.

Ties between the two countries have been damaged by allegations that Russia tried to influence the results of the election in favour of Trump, a claim denied by Moscow.

Putin tells Pompeo he wants to ‘fully restore’ US-Russian ties

“It’s clear that such insinuations are absolute fiction,” Lavrov said at the joint press conference.

Pompeo’s visit represents the first high-level contact between Moscow and Washington since US Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report examining the nature of Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

His inquiry had cast a pall over US-Russian relations, and Russian officials had expressed hope that Washington would have more scope to build friendlier relations with Moscow once it was out of the way.

Before his meeting with Pompeo, Putin praised the report.

“Despite the exotic nature of Mr Mueller’s commission, on the whole he conducted quite an objective investigation and confirmed the absence of any collusion between the US administration and Russia.”

The Mueller report called Russia’s efforts to influence the election “the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations”.

What is US impeachment? Six things to know

How does it work? Which presidents have been impeached? What do Americans think? A guide to the US impeachment process.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater

As the confrontation between US President Donald Trump and Democrats over Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia report intensifies, talk of impeachment has continued to swirl around Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has so far resisted calls to begin impeachment proceedings. Instead, House committees are aggressively investigating Trump, a Republican, through subpoenas of witnesses and documents.

In an April 22 letter to fellow Democratic politicians, Pelosi urged restraint and patience, insisting that it is “important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings”.

She repeated that sentiment on Thursday, saying Democrats will take a step-by-step approach. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us or any slower,” she said.

But she did say that as Trump continues to stonewall congressional investigations, he is “becoming self-impeachable”.

Trump and his supporters argue the Mueller investigation into the president and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is “case-closed”.

Despite the top Democrats’ effort to tamp down impeachment talk, several Democrats, including some 2020 presidential contenders, want the House to start impeachment proceedings.

Here’s what you need to know about the US impeachment:

1. What is impeachment in the US political system?

The founders of the United States included impeachment in the US Constitution as an option for removal of presidents by Congress.

Top House Democrat agrees US faces ‘constitutional crisis’

Impeachment, a concept in English common law, was one of the more hotly debated points during the constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. Delegates agreed that presidents could be removed if found guilty by Congress of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

Sole authority under the Constitution to bring articles of impeachment is vested in the House of Representatives where proceedings can begin in the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves articles of impeachment, or “impeaches” a president, he or she would then be subject to trial in the US Senate.

2. On what grounds can a president be impeached? How does impeachment work?

Under the Constitution, the president, vice president and “all civil officers of the United States” can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

To begin impeachment proceedings, a House member can introduce an impeachment resolution, or the entire House can vote to initiate an investigation into whether there are grounds for impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee or a special committee will then investigate. The panel votes on whether to bring a vote to the full House. Impeachment in the 435-member House must be approved with a simple majority.

Post-Mueller: Can Trump block witnesses, access to documents?

If the House votes to impeach, the matter moves to the Senate, where a trial is held. The chief justice of the US Supreme Court presides over the trial.

A two-thirds majority vote is required in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office.

The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. At least 20 Republicans would have to vote with all Democrats and the two independents to remove the president.

3. Which presidents have been impeached?

Only two US presidents have ever been successfully impeached and in neither instance was the president removed from office. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 in the tumultuous aftermath of the American Civil War; and Bill Clinton in 1998 for issues including his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Both times, the House approved formal charges and impeached the president, only to have the Senate fail to convict and remove him.

The House Judiciary Committee in 1974 voted to recommend impeachment accusing another president, Richard Nixon, of planning to obstruct an investigation in the Watergate scandal. Before the full House could vote on impeachment, Nixon became the only US president ever to resign.

4. Who would become president if Trump was impeached and removed? What would happen to Trump?

A Senate conviction that removed Trump from office would automatically elevate Vice President Mike Pence to become president, completing Trump’s term, which ends on January 20, 2021.

Top House Democrat agrees US faces ‘constitutional crisis’

Criminal charges cannot be brought against a sitting president, however, the Constitution does allow for separate criminal charges once a president is removed.

5. What do the Democrats say about impeachment? What does Trump’s team say?

The Democratic leadership has so far tried to tamp down impeachment talk, instead advocating a “methodological” approach.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for his failure to hand over the full, unredacted Mueller report.

Pelosi said, however, that she isn’t going to rush the full House vote on the contempt resolution.

“This is very methodical, it’s very Constitution-based,” the top Democrat told reporters on Thursday. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us, or any slower than the facts take us.”

Democrats want to see Mueller’s full Russia-Trump investigation report, as well as some of the underlying evidence.

Barr last month released a 448-page redacted version of Mueller’s report on his 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

US: White House orders ex-counsel McGahn to defy House subpoena

The redacted Mueller report details extensive contacts between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Moscow, as well as the campaign’s expectation of benefiting from Russia’s actions.

It did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.

The investigation did, however, examine “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations”. Mueller did not conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently concluded that Trump did not break the law.

The Department of Justice has accused Democrats of engaging in “inappropriate political theatrics” – an accusation Democrats dismissed.

Hours before the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt, Trump asserted executive privilege to block the release of the Mueller report.

The Trump administration has also blocked staffers and former aides from attending interviews or hearings, as well as having refused to disclose his subpoenaed tax returns.

Top Republicans have declared the Mueller investigation “case closed”.

“This investigation went on for two years,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “It’s finally over.”

Can the Supreme Court help Trump?

On the question of impeachment, Trump’s personal lawyer said in a recent New York Daily News interview that impeachment would give Trump a boost in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats “can do it if they want to,” Rudy Giuliani said. “Would it politically be the best thing that could happen to the president? Absolutely.”

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

But he has somewhat backtracked on those comments, telling the New York Times, “Nobody wants to be impeached. I think Clinton would say, even though it worked out to his favour, he would have rather not been impeached.”

Trump himself has falsely said he could turn the Supreme Court if the House moved to impeach him.

“I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted last month. “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

But the Supreme Court has previously ruled that impeachment authority resides solely with Congress.

Pelosi said she recognised what the Trump administration is trying to do.

“Trump is goading us to impeach him,” she recently said at a Cornell University event.

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

“That’s what he’s doing,” she said. “Every single day, he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting because he knows that would be very divisive in the country, but he doesn’t really care. He just wants to solidify his base.”

Who’s calling for impeachment?

As Democratic leadership continue to tiptoe around impeachment, a number of more progressive members of Congress have said it’s time for proceedings to begin.

“I believe impeachment is the solution to a constitutional crisis,” Representative Al Green told US media.

US Representative Rashida Tlaib speaks during a press conference [Saul Loeb/AFP]

Similar calls have also come from Rashida Tlaib, as well as Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

“If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail,” Warren said during a CNN town hall.

“He serves the whole thing up to the United States Congress and says, in effect, if there’s going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress,” Warren said. “And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics; this is about principle.”

6. What do Americans say about impeachment?

The number of Americans who said Trump should be impeached rose five percentage points to 45 percent since mid-April, while more than half said multiple congressional probes of Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

The opinion poll, conducted on Monday, did not make clear whether investigation-fatigued Americans wanted House of Representatives Democrats to pull back on their probes or press forward aggressively and just get impeachment over with.

WATCH

Debating Mueller, Trump and the lies told

In addition to the 45 percent pro-impeachment figure, the Monday poll found that 42 percent of Americans said Trump should not be impeached. The rest said they had no opinion.

In comparison, an April 18-19 survey found that 40 percent of all Americans wanted to impeach Trump.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from April 24-29 put the overall support of impeachment at 39 percent.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed stronger support for impeachment among Democrats and independents.

It also showed that 57 percent of adults polled agreed that continued investigations into Trump would interfere with important government business. That included about half of all Democrats and three-quarters of all Republicans.

The poll also found that 32 percent agreed that Congress treated the Mueller report fairly, while 47 percent disagreed.

Trump’s popularity was unchanged from a similar poll that ran last week – 39 percent of adults said they approved of Trump, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English, throughout the US. It gathered responses from 1,006 adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about four percentage points.

Boston Red Sox see racial divide over White House visit

US President Donald Trump (C) poses with the 2018 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 9, 2019
US President Donald Trump poses with the 2018 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox at the White House

US baseball champions the Boston Red Sox have visited the White House to celebrate their 2018 victory – without nearly all their non-white teammates.

At least 10 players and the World Series-winning team’s manager, all non-white, declined the president’s invitation.

In contrast, the dozen players who were due to attend were all white, except one who is Cuban-American.

US President Donald Trump celebrated the team on their “unstoppable” season.

But he did not comment at the White House on Thursday about the missing players.

“To all of the coaches and players of the Red Sox, congratulations on an incredible victory,” Mr Trump said.

Red Sox players Chris Sale and JD Martinez also made brief remarks, thanking the president for the invitation.

Mr Martinez called the trip a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Visiting the White House is a tradition for US championship teams. While certain players have opted out under past White House administrations, during Mr Trump’s presidency these visits – and those who decline – appear to have become more politicised.

US President Donald Trump (C) holds a Boston Redsox's jersey that was given to him as he welcomed the 2018 World Series Champions to the White House in Washington, DC, 9 May 2019
President Trump holds a Boston Redsox’s jersey that was given to him as he welcomed the team to the White House

Last year, Mr Trump cancelled the annual Super Bowl champions’ White House visit after most players said they did not want to attend.

In 2017, an invitation to the championship basketball team was cancelled for similar reasons.

The Red Sox, who won the World Series last year, told local media beforehand there was no ill will between the players who chose to meet Mr Trump and those who would skip the event.

Boston Red Sox manager Alex CoraBoston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was not at the White House

“We’re in a good place,” manager Alex Cora told WEEI radio.

Mr Cora is from Puerto Rico, and, in a rare move for a winning coach, said he would not be attending because it would not feel right to celebrate while people continued to struggle on the US island territory in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Mr Trump has been criticised for his handling of the US response to the hurricane, which devastated Puerto Rico and left nearly 3,000 dead.

Players Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, Eduardo Nunez, Christian Vazquez, and Hector Velazquez also stayed away.

Most of the players did not cite specific reasons for opting out. But as one local sports columnist tweeted: “So basically it’s the white Sox who’ll be going.”

The team’s owners also attended on Thursday. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy told the Boston Herald: “We fully support Alex [Cora] and respect his decision.”

Mr Kennedy added he was grateful for the Sox’s owners for fostering a team culture that encouraged “individual decision-making”.

Mitch Moreland, a white player who said he would attend, told the Washington Post that visiting the White House would be “very special”, but added that he respected his teammates’ choice.

Another player, Heath Hembree, said “it didn’t matter who was in the White House” – if there was a chance to meet the president, he would go.

A 2018 World Series Champions banner is unrolled before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays during pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park.Image copyrightREUTERS/BRIAN FLUHARTY/USA TODAY SPORTS
Image captionThe Red Sox were the 2018 World Series champions

All the discussion about the team’s apparent racial divide has also brought up the Red Sox’s troubled history.

The Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to end racial segregation in 1957.

The team’s former owner, Tom Yawkey, was an alleged racist who reportedly shouted slurs at black players, including legend Jackie Robinson.

Meanwhile, the White House welcomed the team’s visit with a spelling error that saw immediate outcry from fans.

On the official White House schedule of events, the Red Sox were erroneously referred to as the Red Socks. The mistake has since been corrected.

Trump, Putin discuss nuclear weapons and Venezuela in phone call

US President Donald Trump tweets he ‘had a long and very good’ phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July  2018 [File: Grigory Dukor/Reuters]
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July 2018

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour on Friday, discussing the possibility of a new nuclear accord, North Korean denuclearisation, Ukraine and the political situation in Venezuela, the White House said.

“Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia,” Trump said in a post on Twitter, noting they had discussed trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, nuclear arms and Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that the call was an “overall positive conversation”.

Mueller report

Sanders said the two men, who last chatted informally at a dinner of world leaders in Buenos Aires on December 1, briefly talked about the report Mueller report that concluded Trump did not collude with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Nadler gives Barr Monday deadline to produce full Mueller report

The Mueller probe discussion was “essentially in the context of that it’s over and there was no collusion, which I’m pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of long before this call took place,” Sanders said.

The Kremlin confirmed the two leaders talked and highlighted in its statement that the call was initiated by Washington.

It said the two leaders agreed to maintain contacts on different levels and expressed satisfaction with the “businesslike and constructive nature” of the conversation.

Venezuela

With the United States concerned about a Russian military presence in Venezuela at a time when Washington wants Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to leave power, Trump told Putin “the United States stands with the people of Venezuela” and stressed he wanted to get relief supplies into the country, Sanders said.

Tension grows between US and Russia over Venezuela standoff

Putin told Trump that any external interference in Venezuela’s internal business undermines the prospects of a political end to the crisis, the Kremlin said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by phone on Wednesday that further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, the Russian ministry said.

The US State Department said Pompeo urged Russia on the call to stop supporting Maduro. He also “stressed that the intervention by Russia and Cuba is destabilising for Venezuela and for the US-Russia bilateral relationship,” it said.

New START treaty

Sanders told reporters Trump and Putin talked about the possibility of a new multilateral nuclear accord between the US, Russia and China, or an extension of the current US-Russia strategic nuclear treaty.

She did not say which arms control agreement Trump and Putin discussed, but the Russian state news agency Tass reported that they talked about the New START treaty, the last major arms-control treaty remaining between the US and Russia.

The 2011 New START treaty expires in February 2021 but can be extended for five years if both sides agree. Without the agreement, it could be harder to gauge each other’s intentions, arms control advocates say.

‘Huge mistake’: Fears of arms race as US, Russia suspend INF pact

The New START treaty required the US and Russia to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, the lowest level in decades, and limit delivery systems – land- and submarine-based missiles and nuclear-capable bombers.

It also includes extensive transparency measures requiring each side to allow the other to carry out 10 inspections of strategic nuclear bases each year; give 48 hours notice before new missiles covered by the treaty leave their factories; and provide notifications before ballistic missile launches.

Trump has called the New START treaty a “bad deal” and “one-sided”.

“They discussed a nuclear agreement, both new and extended, and the possibility of having conversations with China on that as well,” Sanders said.

The Kremlin said the two sides confirmed they intended to “activate dialogue in various spheres, including strategic security”.

Trump earlier pulled the plug on a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Trump accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with “impunity” by deploying missiles banned by the pact. Moscow denies violating it and has accused Washington of being in non-compliance.

Ukraine

Sanders also said the two leaders discussed Ukraine.

US, Canada, EU hit Russia with fresh sanctions over Ukraine

Trump cancelled a summit meeting with Putin late last year after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships on November 25 and arrested 24 sailors. Putin also told Trump that the new leadership in Ukraine should take steps to solve the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin said.

North Korea

Trump also raised with Putin the issue of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Trump has met twice with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but Kim has yet to agree to a disarmament deal.

Kim and Putin: Challenging the US role in denuclearisation

Sanders said Trump mentioned several times “the need and importance of Russia stepping up and continuing to put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.” The Kremlin said both leaders highlighted the need to pursue denuclearisation of the region.

During an April summit with Kim in Vladivostok, Putin expressed Russian support for a gradual process of trading disarmament for sanctions relief.

William Barr: Five questions for US attorney general

Attorney General Bill Barr testifies before a Senate committee in April.

Attorney General William Barr will return to Capitol Hill for the first time since his justice department released a redacted version of the Mueller report into 2016 Russian election meddling. Democrats will be waiting and ready to grill him.

At the moment the attorney general is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and the equivalent House committee on Thursday – although there’s ongoing dispute over the format of the latter hearing. (Democrats want to have a staff lawyer conduct extended questioning outside of each member’s five-minute allotted time.)

It’s unclear at this point how this will all play out, but what is clear is that there are a number of lines of inquiry awaiting the attorney general. Here’s a look at some of the questions that might be in store.

When did you decide there was no obstruction – and why?

Donald Trump, in an interview last week with Fox News host Sean Hannity, said that Mr Barr made up his mind that the president did not commit obstruction of justice “right on the spot” after receiving the Mueller report.

That cuts against the justice department line that it took several days to review the report and craft the attorney general’s four-page letter summarising its findings. It may cause some Democrats to suspect that Mr Barr never actually considered the possibility of presidential obstruction and that an unsolicited June 2018 memo to the justice department about presidential immunity from obstruction charges was indeed an accurate reflection of his views (and quite possibly a prime reason why Mr Trump picked him for the job).

In his four-page summary of the Mueller report, Mr Barr concluded there was “not sufficient” evidence to merit prosecuting Mr Trump because there was no underlying crime of conspiracy with Russia and no evidence of “corrupt intent” by the president.

That was before the Mueller report detailed the long list of possible presidential obstruction, including requests for White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mr Mueller and attempts to have then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions resume oversight of the investigation or curtail its scope.

A report by the Washington Post on Tuesday night that Mr Mueller wrote to Mr Barr in late March to complain that his four-page memo “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report only raises the stakes.

Expect Democrats to go point by point through these specific instances and press Mr Barr to explain why each action didn’t meet the threshold for criminal charges.

Did you mischaracterise Mueller’s obstruction analysis?

In the obstruction section of his report, Mr Mueller explained that he felt bound by justice department guidelines that prohibited the indictment of a sitting president. Because a president would not be able to present a defence at trial, he reasoned, it would be improper to express a view about whether or not a president had engaged in criminal conduct.

Those, in a nutshell, are the “difficult issues” that the special counsel said prevented his office from making a “traditional prosecutorial judgement”. Twice, however, he noted that the report did not exonerate the president.

Mr Barr, in his four-page letter, seemingly glossed over this reasoning, instead saying the Mueller report “sets out evidence on both sides” but, in the end, “did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other”. The attorney general then put aside the question of whether a president could be indicted and concluded that the evidence was not sufficient in any case.

Democrats in Congress may challenge Mr Barr’s decision to make this determination rather than, say, leaving it to the House of Representatives to review the information as part of an impeachment inquiry.

The attorney general will be pressed to explain why he acted as he did – and why he didn’t more clearly explain in the first instance why Mr Mueller left the obstruction issue an open question.

When will it be Mueller’s turn?

Watching Mr Barr duck and weave under hostile questions is all well and good, but the man Democrats really want to hear from is the special counsel himself. They’d love to ask him how close the multitude of various contacts Trump campaign officials had with Russians came to criminal conspiracy and how confident he is that various witnesses – including Mr McGahn – are telling the truth.

Tuesday night’s Washington Post story about Mr Mueller’s dissatisfaction with Mr Barr’s summary letter will only make this desire sharper.

Mr Barr will get those questions, too, but chances are his answers will be less than revelatory. If and when Mr Mueller finally steps out of the shadows it will be the kind of high drama seldom seen on Capitol Hill.

For the moment, Mr Mueller is still an employee of the justice department, reporting, ultimately, to Mr Barr himself. The House Judiciary Committee has extended an invitation to the special counsel to appear publicly, but they’ve yet to receive an answer. The attorney general could speed the process along, if he wanted to.

At the very least, Democrats will want Mr Barr to explain why he doesn’t seem to be much help.

Why all the redactions?

The Mueller report was made public with roughly 36 pages of redacted material. At the time of its release, Mr Barr explained that this action covered four categories of material – dealing with ongoing investigations, grand jury proceedings, sensitive intelligence data and “peripheral third party” information.

For Democrats in Congress, the redacted version – or even a slightly less redacted one – isn’t good enough. Mr Nadler has said he wants his committee to see the full report and “underlying evidence”.

Expect Mr Nadler and others to press Mr Barr to more fully explain his reasons for withholding the full document from Congress – and provide insight on how the justice department might respond if he receives a congressional subpoena demanding it.

What were the origins of the Russia investigation?

Democrats will get most of the attention during Mr Barr’s Capitol Hill appearances this week, but it’s worth remembering that Republicans will have just as much time to ask their questions. Expect many of them to try to shift the focus to the early days of the Russia investigation and the now-controversial figures – like FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Director Andre McCabe and Obama administration intelligence officials – who played key roles in what began as a counter-intelligence investigation.

Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Obama White House “spied” on his campaign. While there’s no evidence of that, the justice department did obtain a secret warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, and used an FBI informant to approach Page, George Papadopoulos – who also advised the Trump team – and Sam Clovis, the campaign’s national co-chair.

Several weeks ago, in Senate testimony prior to the Mueller report’s release, Mr Barr said that he also believed the government had spied on the Trump campaign.

Republicans will probably encourage the attorney general to expand on his allegations and, perhaps, reveal more about who started the investigation – and why.