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New Zealand politician rides bicycle to give birth

New Zealand’s minister for women rode her bicycle “mostly downhill” to a hospital Sunday to give birth, The New York Times reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Julie Anne Genter, 38, who is also associate minister for health and transport, posted pictures on social media of herself and her partner, Peter Nunns, enjoying a “beautiful Sunday morning” ride to the hospital, the Times reported.

“There wasn’t enough room in the car for the support crew. ... but it also put me in the best possible mood!” Genter wrote on Instagram.

Genter, who is 42 weeks pregnant, will become the second government official in New Zealand to give birth this year. Prime Minister Jacinda Aldern gave birth in June, the Times reported. Genter, who was expecting her first child, was scheduled to be induced at an Auckland hospital, the newspaper reported.

Genter, who grew up in Los Angeles, emigrated to New Zealand in 2006. She has had two miscarriages, the NZ Herald reported. She is expected to take three months off from Parliament before returning to her post in November, the newspaper reported.

Actor Steven Seagal named by Russia as special envoy to U.S. 

Actor Steven Seagal has a new role, but this one isn't in a movie.

According to The Associated Press, the action star is taking on the real-life job of Russia’s special envoy for humanitarian ties with the U.S.

>> Read more trending news 

Russia's Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that it had named Seagal to the position, writing on Facebook that the actor would "facilitate relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges," the AP reported.

>> See the Facebook post here

Seagal, a frequent ally and defender of Russian President Vladimir Putin, became a Russian citizen two years ago and recently was banned from entering Ukraine because of national security concerns, the AP reported

Read more here. 

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trump tweets fiery warning to Iran's Rouhani: 'Never, ever threaten the United States again'

President Donald Trump took to Twitter late Sunday to issue a fiery, all-caps warning to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who told Trump hours earlier to stop "playing with the lion's tail ... or else you will regret it."

>> Jamie Dupree: Digging into the release of the Carter Page FISA application

"To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE," Trump wrote in the 11:24 p.m. tweet. "WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!"

>> See the tweet here

Update 3 p.m. EDT July 23: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news briefing Monday that the president’s statement on Twitter earlier in the day was consistent with the president’s previous comments to Iran.

“The president's been, I think, pretty strong since day 1 in his language toward Iran,” she said. “He was responding to comments made from them, and he's going to continue to focus on the safety and security of the American people.”

Original report: Iranian state media called Trump's tweet "passive" and said he was just imitating previous remarks from Iranian leaders, The Associated Press reported.

Trump's comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech slamming Iran, comparing its government to the mafia and accusing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, of having "his own personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion."

>> Read more trending news 

"Sometimes it seems the world has become desensitized to the regime’s authoritarianism at home and its campaigns of violence abroad, but the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses – and the United States under President Trump will not stay silent, either," Pompeo said Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, California. "In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you; the United States supports you; the United States is with you."

>> Watch his speech here

Pompeo's official Twitter account later shared several quotes from the speech. 

>> See the tweets here

 

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Russian government accuses FBI of 'political put-up job' after suspected foreign agent indicted

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the FBI of “implementing a political put-up job” after authorities arrested a Russian national over the weekend on allegations that she illegally acted as an unregistered foreign agent.

>> Read more trending news

Authorities on Sunday arrested Mariia Butina, a 29-year-old Russian citizen living in Washington, D.C., on suspicion of “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General,” according to the Justice Department. In a criminal complaint released Monday, authorities accused Butina of failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

>> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Russian woman arrested, charged with illegal political activities in U.S.

In a pair of tweets attributed Wednesday to Maria Zakharova, director of the Information and Press Department for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the foreign ministry wrote that officials were dismayed to learn of Butin’s arrest.

“We are dismayed by the reported arrest of Russian citizen Maria Butina in the US on July 15,” Zakharova said, using an alternative spelling of Butina’s first name. “It looks as if the FBI, instead of carrying out their responsibility of fighting crime, is implementing a political put-up job set to it by forces that are whipping up anti-Russia hysteria in the US.”

Justice Department officials allege that Butina schmoozed with influential people and organizations in the U.S. in order to advance the interests of Russia.

“From as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank,” Justice Department officials said Monday in a news release. 

>> Who is Mariia Butina, the woman charged with acting as a Russian agent in the US?

Authorities added that the unnamed official was among the 24 Russian oligarchs and senior Russian government officials sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for profiting from the country’s illegal and subversive activities in the U.S. and abroad. 

Butina was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a hearing. Prosecutors are expected to argue that the 29-year-old should be held without bail ahead of trial because she is a flight risk, NPR reported.

Trump-Putin summit: Trump takes Russia's side over intelligence community

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first official meeting meeting Monday at a highly anticipated summit in Helsinki, Finland. 

>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Trump-Putin summit: What people are saying about Trump's commentsJamie Dupree: With Putin, Trump calls Russia probe a ‘disaster’Photos | Jamie Dupree: Russia probe looms over Trump-Putin summit meetingTrump-Putin summit: What time do they meet, where, what will they be talking about?12 Russians indicted: Military officials accused of hacking DNC, stealing voter info | More trending news 

Here are the latest updates:

Update 11:00 p.m. EDT July 16: President Donald Trump sat down with  Fox News’ Sean Hannity after his meeting Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. Fox aired the interview Monday night as Trump  was arriving home from his week-long European tour.

Trump caused an uproar after telling telling journalists at a joint press conference with Putin that he didn’t believe his own intelligence leaders’ conclusion that Russia interfered the 2016 presidential election

"I thought that President Putin was very, very strong,” Trump said. “It was a very good meeting."

Update 9:15 p.m. EDT July 16: President Donald Trump has returned to Washington after a meeting with European allies and a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that has been widely criticized by both parties after Trump said he didn’t believe the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies  that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Air Force One touched down at Joint Base Andrews Air around 9 p.m. after a 7-plus hour flight from Helsinki.

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter under former President Barack Obama is weighing in on Trump’s comments in Helsinki about Russian election interference.

“I never saw or imagined so uneven a handover of American security interests and principles with nothing in return at a meeting. It was like watching the destruction of a cathedral,” Carter said, according to Politico.

Update 7:10 p.m. EDT July 16: Russian President Vladimir Putin again  denied any involvement in meddling in the 2016 presidential election in an interview with Fox News following the Helsinki summit with President Donald Trump.

Trump said during a joint press conference with Putin that he believed the Russian leader when he said Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, despite the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that it did and that it is still trying to interfere in the upcoming midterms.

Update 5:55 p.m. EDT July 16: Members of President Donald Trump’s own party and even close allies of the president’s have expressed shock and disappointment over Trump’s comments about the U.S. intelligence community and its  conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump called into question that conclusion at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a two hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

“I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," Trump said, appearing to take Russia’s side in the matter.

Putin also denied his country meddled in the 2016 election, but he did admit he wanted Trump to win the election. 

"Russia has never interfered in and is not going to interfere in U.S. internal affairs, including the elections," Putin insisted. He even offered to work with the U.S. in an investigation of the election interference.

Close Trump ally and longtime supporter former House Speaker Newt Gingrinch called the president’s comments in Helsinki “a serious mistake” and called on Trump to “clarify”  his statements and  to correct them “immediately.”

Update 5:40 p.m. EDT July 16: Former Democratic presidential nominee  and continued Trump target Hillary Clinton first tweeted a question about the president’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Great World Cup. Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

Then she answered the question.

“Well, now we know.”

Clinton responding there to the press conference after the summit in which Trump seemingly sided with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community, which has blamed Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Update 5:35 p.m. EDT July 16: Former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump last year, called on “patriots” to “reject the behavior of this president,” following Trump’s comments about the U.S. intelligence community after a summit with Russian President Valdimir Putin. 

Comey has been a vocal critic of Trump since his firing.

Update 5:25 p.m. EDT July 16: In a press conference earlier today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called President Donald Trump comments about the U.S. intelligence community during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “shameful.”

“For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak. The president is  putting himself over our country,” Schumer said in a tweet.

“In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way @realDonaldTrump has supported President Putin,” he said.

Schumer also suggested that Trump’s comments and his seeming support of Russia are a result of Putin holding “damaging information over President Trump.”

Update 5:05 p.m. EDT July 16: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a statement on President Donald Trump’s comments about believing Vladimir Putin when he said Russia had nothing to do with interfering in the 2016 presidential election, despite the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community.

Like his Senate counterpart, McCarthy also said he stands behind the findings of the intelligence community, The Washington Post reported, citing a statement .

“The intelligence community, including the House Intelligence Committee, has looked extensively into Russian election meddling in the United States. I fully support their findings and their work to hold those responsible to account.”

Update 4:45 p.m. EDT July 16: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just responded to President Donald Trump’s denial of the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election

“I’ve said a number of times and I’ll say it again. The Russians are not our friends and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community,” McConnell said, according to NBC News. 

Update 4:30 p.m. EDT July 16: President Donald Trump tried to walk back his comments about the U.S. intelligence community Monday at a press conference in Helsinki after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump refused to agree with the U.S. government’s position that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign, instead saying he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would be involved, despite the indictments handed down Friday against 12 Russian intelligence officers for interference in the election.

Trump tweeted on his way home from the meeting that he has “GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.”

He also tried to explain his comments by saying, again in a tweet, that he was “taking a risk in pursuit of peace.” 

Update 3:22 p.m. EDT July 16: The Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, said via statement that the intelligence community has “been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

However, Coats’ statement apparently was not cleared by the administration. 

An unidentified White House official told CNN that it was not approved by the White House before Coats released the statement.

Update 1:58 p.m. EDT July 16: House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement after today’s summit and resulting press conference between Trump and Putin. 

In the statement, Ryan said, “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” USA Today reported

Update 1:02 p.m. EDT July 16: Trump is en route to the airport to board the flight back to Washington, D.C. He spoke with Fox News before departing Helsinki. Fox News also spoke with Putin and will air the interview Monday.

Update 11:50 a.m. EDT July 16: When asked to denounce Russian interference in the election, Trump questioned the investigation and where former Secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer servers and emails were, instead of condemning Russia.

>>From our Washington Insider Jamie Dupree: With Putin, Trump calls Russia probe a ‘disaster’

Putin said that when it comes to the investigation, the only determination of what happened can come from the courts in the democracy, not law enforcement. He also said that he knows how dossiers are made from when he worked in intelligence. He said he will send a formal response to a formal request and hopes that the U.S. will reciprocate.

>>Read: Trump-Putin summit: What people are saying about Trump's comments

When Putin was questioned about compromising material the Russian government collected on not only Trump, but also his family, Putin said, that he had heard that the country had allegedly collected compromising material when Trump traveled to Moscow for business. 

Putin said that Trump was in Moscow as a private individual and a businessman and claimed that he didn’t know Trump was in the country. 

He then questioned reporters, hypothetically, if they thought he compiled compromising material on every businessman who was there for the economic meetings in 1987. 

Trump added that if Russia had any compromising information, it would have been out long ago.

Update 11:35 a.m. EDT July 16: Trump reiterated his stance that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russians, saying that the investigation has strained relationship between the two countries. 

Putin also said that the investigation needs to be guided by facts but not rumors. As for the 12 Russians who were indicted last week, Putin said his country will look into the case.

He did cite an extradition treaty that is in full effect since 1999. He said the treaty has specific procedures and that they will have a commission use it as a foundation to question the individuals and send the results to the United States. They can permit official representatives of the United States and allow them to be present at the questioning. They would hope that the U.S. would allow Russian officials question members of U.S. law enforcement and others in other cases.

Putin admitted, “I wanted Trump to win because he spoke about normalizing Russian relations,” the Guardian reported.

Update 11:22 a.m. EDT July 16: Trump spoke following Putin’s statement. He says that the relationship between Russia and the U.S. has never been worse up until today’s  summit 

“Even during the tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked much different than it does today, Russia and the US were able to maintain a strong dialogue.”

He said he would rather take a political risk instead of jeopardizing peace.

Trump said asked Putin about Russian involvement in hacking the U.S. elections. Trump said that Putin had an “interesting idea” as to what had happened, but did not go into detail. 

Trump said that he and Putin will be meeting again in the future and said it will be often. 

Update 11:12 a.m. EDT July 16: Putin started the news conference with a statement of where the two sides stand in the ever-changing world political structure.

Putin said the bilateral relationship is going though a complicated stage. He said that the Cold War is the thing of the past.  

“Today both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges,” the Guardian reported.

Today’s meeting and the negotiations they worked on are the “first steps for improving this relationship and to restore an acceptable level of trust,” Putin said.

Putin lauded Trump and his administration’s work on easing tensions with North Korea. 

Update 11:07 a.m. EDT July 16: A man who claimed he was a journalist representing the publication, “The Nation,” was removed from the room that is the location of an upcoming news conference between Trump and Putin, CNN reported. It appears that the man was displaying a sign and he was forcibly removed from the room.

The man was later identified as Sam Husseini, an op-ed writer for “The Nation,” CNBC reported. Husseini is also the communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. The group is a non-profit that suggests using progressive experts as alternative sources for reporters, CNBC reported

He had been given credentials by “The Nation,” The Hill reported.

Husseini held up a sign that read “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty” which was reportedly considered by Russian authorities as a “malicious item,” CNBC reported.

Husseini had been asked earlier to leave the press conference. He had but returned before being dragged out, Mirror reported.

Update 9:34 a.m. EDT July 16: The one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin is apparently over. As CNN releases video of the two sitting down to a meal accompanied by their aides, the Guardian reported. CNN characterized on-air that it as a working lunch between the two leaders and their aides. 

The one-on-one was expected to last 90 minutes, but ended up going on for more than two hours. Trump said it was a good start to the summit, The Associated Press reported

The first meeting between the two went longer than scheduled also when they talked for more than two hours. At one point first lady Melania Trump interrupted the meeting to try to get them back on schedule. After that interruption, the meeting went on for another hour, The AP reported.

Update 8:56 a.m. EDT July 16: The Russian embassy in the U.S. says Putin wanted to talk about “ways to normalise bilateral relations, as well as current international issues, primarily the situation in Ukraine, Syria and the Korean Peninsula, and the fight against terrorism.”

Update 8:39 a.m. EDT July 16: The White House told reporters, including The Guardian, that there will be another bilateral meeting and a joint press conference. It is expected to happen around 4:50 p.m. local time, or around 9:50 a.m. EDT.

Those expected to be in the room during the meeting are: U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman; U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, national security adviser, John Bolton, adviser Fiona Hill and interpreter Marina Gross, The Guardian reported

Update 7:51 a.m. EDT July 16: Trump and Putin are now meeting one-on-one, with translators.

Washington correspondent Jamie Dupree tweeted the following key points from their photo op: 

Update 7:11 a.m. EDT July 16: Trump and Putin have begun their meeting. Trump opened by congratulating Putin on the World Cup.

>> Watch here

Update 6:58 a.m. EDT July 16: Trump has arrived at the Presidential Palace.

Update 6:43 a.m. EDT July 16: According to the Guardian, Trump “appears to be trying to make Putin wait.” Trump was supposed to leave his hotel over an hour ago but held off because Putin was running late. Multiple news outlets are speculating that the two leaders are pushing back the schedule as part of a power play.

Update 6 a.m. EDT July 16: Putin’s plane landed in Helsinki just before 6 a.m. EDT, nearly an hour behind schedule.

Update 5:32 a.m. EDT July 16: Putin is running about 45 minutes behind schedule and is due to land in Helsinki about 5:47 a.m. EDT, CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell reports.

Update 4:22 a.m. EDT July 16: During his breakfast meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Trump said NATO “has never been stronger,” the Guardian reports.

“It was a little bit tough at the beginning, but it turned out to be love,” Trump said

Trump also said of his upcoming meeting with Putin: “We’ll be just fine.”

After the breakfast meeting ended, Trump and first lady Melania Trump left the Mäntyniemi Residence.

Update 3:11 a.m. EDT July 16: Trump is meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the Mäntyniemi Residence in Helsinki. The two leaders and their advisers reportedly are participating in a “working breakfast.”

Update 2:26 a.m. EDT July 16: Hours ahead of Monday’s summit, Trump took to Twitter to sound off about the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it,” Trump tweeted. “When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by [FBI agent Peter] Strzok!”

Trump added: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

>> See the tweets here

The tweets come days after 12 Russian military officers were indicted for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump wasn’t the only person tweeting about the summit. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ran against Trump in the 2016 presidential election, lashed out at Trump in a tweet Sunday night.

“Great World Cup. Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?” she wrote.

>> See the tweet here

Photos: Trump, Putin meet at Helsinki summit

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are having their first stand-alone meeting Monday at a highly anticipated summit in Helsinki.

Americans in UK warned to 'keep a low profile' during Trump visit

The U.S. Embassy in London has issued an alert warning Americans in the United Kingdom to “keep a low profile” during President Donald Trump’s visit to the country.

>> Read more trending news

The alert was prompted by demonstrations planned to take place during the president’s visit, from Thursday to Saturday. Americans were asked to stay aware of their surroundings and to “exercise caution if (you are) unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings that may become violent.”

Embassy officials said a majority of the protests are set to happen in central London on Friday. A 20-foot, orange blimp depicting the president as a cellphone-clutching baby will float over Parliament Square gardens on that day, according to the Evening Standard. More than 60,000 people have also said that they plan to participate in a march through London on that day.

“Numerous demonstrations are being planned for July 12 to 14, 2018, surrounding the visit of the President of the United States to the United Kingdom,” U.S. Embassy officials said in Tuesday’s alert. “Several of the events are expected to attract large crowds and there will be road closures in connection with those events.”

>> Photos: Protests planned as Trump visits UK

Trump left Tuesday for Brussels, his first stop on a four-nation European tour. He was scheduled to attend the NATO summit on Wednesday before flying to London. According to USA Today, he will do most of his travel in the United Kingdom by helicopter, “meaning he can likely avoid the large-scale protests in central London, including a giant ‘Baby Trump’ blimp.”

>> Trump and Putin to meet in Helsinki in July

After London, the president will stop in Scotland, where he owns a pair of golf resorts. He will make his final stop in Helsinki, where he’s expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Putin may be the easiest of them all," Trump told reporters Tuesday before leaving for Europe. "I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Ex-Trump aide Corey Lewandowski reacts to story of immigrant girl with Down syndrome: 'Womp womp'

President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is under fire for his reaction to the story of an immigrant girl with Down syndrome during a Tuesday appearance on Fox News.

>> Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage

Lewandowski's controversial comments came as he and panelist Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist, discussed the separation of immigrant children and parents at the United States' border with Mexico.

"I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage," Petkanas began before Lewandowski responded, "Womp womp."

>> Watch the clip here

>> All 5 living first ladies speak out on separation of immigrant children, parents at border

"Did you say 'womp womp' to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome being taken from her mother?" Petkanas replied angrily. "How dare you. How dare you. How absolutely dare you!"

The clip quickly circulated on Twitter, sparking outrage and condemnation from celebrities and public figures.

>> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know

“There is no low to which this coward Corey Lewandowski won’t sink,” former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who now hosts NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today,” tweeted. “This man should not be afforded a national platform to spew his hate.”

Conservative commentator Meghan McCain, daughter of Republican Sen. John McCain, tweeted: “This is so horrible, even by Lewandowski standards.”  

>> Read more trending news 

According to CNN, Luis Videgaray, Mexico's foreign minister, said in a news conference earlier Tuesday that the story of the girl, who is Mexican, was "particularly painful." After reaching the border, she and her brother were placed in a different detention facility from their mother, Videgaray said. Mexican officials are pushing for the girl to be released to her father, who legally resides in Texas.

Read more here.

Immigration: Babies and children held in 'tender age' shelters according to report

Top Republicans responded Tuesday to the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, a “zero tolerance” policy implemented six weeks ago. Many Republicans responded publicly to the harsh criticism over the policy, saying they support keeping migrant children and parents together.

>> Read more trending news

Update 11:07 p.m. EDT June 19: Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, according to The Associated Press

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

The three centers -- in Combes, Raymondville and Brownsville -- have been rapidly repurposed to serve needs of children including some under 5. A fourth, planned for Houston, would house up to 240 children in a warehouse previously used for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Update 10:00 p.m. EDT June 19: The growing backlash against the Trump administration’s immigration policy is expanding as tech workers take a stand in Silicon Valley.

Microsoft workers are demanding the tech giant end its relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the wake of the forced separation of families at the U.S. southern border.

Some 100 Microsoft employees signed an open letter that calls for the company to sever its ties with ICE, according to The New York Times.

“We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits,” employees said in the letter.

The letter was addressed to Microsoft chief executive, Satya Nadella.

Microsoft has a contract with ICE worth more than $19 million “for processing data and artificial intelligence,” the Times reported

Axios reported the letter demanded three things: Cancel its contract with ICE, create a public policy stating that "neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients who violate international human rights law,” and commit to "transparency and review regarding contracts between Microsoft and government agencies, in the US and beyond."

Update 8:30 p.m. EDT June 19: Protests unfolded in several U.S. cities Tuesday against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in the separation of at least 2,000 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past six weeks.

In New York, opponents of the policy marched from Union Square to Lower Manhattan, demanding an end to the separation policy.

In San Francisco, protesters marched to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, demanding that the agency stop separating children from their parents at the border.

Protesters also gathered in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square to protest the administration’s immigration policy during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence at a GOP fundraiser.

Update 6:30 p.m. EDT June 19: As President Donald Trump meets with Congressional Republicans this hour over immigration, it’s unclear whether lawmakers can agree on immigration legislation and whether the meeting will address the controversial policy of separating undocumented families at the U.S. border.

Trump is reportedly urging House Republicans to pass “the compromise bill and the Goodlatte bill,” according to The Hill, which is citing GOP sources.

Senior Trump administration officials are doubling down on the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, calling out opponents of the plan, according to a new statement, the Huff Post reported on Twitter.

“The administration’s zero tolerance policy is a response to a humanitarian crisis brought about by loopholes in federal immigration law that encourage human trafficking and smuggling. As a result of these loopholes, the only two options for the U.S. government are to either release into the country illegally all illegal Central American migrants who show up at our border with a minor, or to prosecute them for illegal entry. There is no policy of family separation,” the statement said.

“The Trump administration has repeatedly asked Congress to give us the authority to detain families together and promptly return families together. Members of Congress who are pushing to give immunity for child smuggling will only increase the crisis ten-fold.”

The statement urges Congress to close the loopholes so the government can return “illegal alien families in a fair, expeditious and humane fashion.”

Update 4:42 p.m. EDT June 19: An undocumented child with Down syndrome was separated from her parents while illegally trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The 10-year-old girl was separated from her parents, even though her father is a legal U.S. resident, and sent to an immigration facility in McAllen, Texas, the Journal reported, while her mother was sent to a facility in Brownsville. The separation occurred while the mother was trying to get the girl and her brother across the border.   

The newspaper learned of the situation after an interview with Mexico’s Foreign Prime Minister Luis Videgaray.

During a speech at a small business event Tuesday, Trump blamed Mexico for contributing to the crisis at the U.S. southern border, saying the Mexican government could help end the stream of people traveling to the U.S. if it wanted to. 

Update 3:09 p.m. EDT June 19: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Tuesday that Republicans support creating a plan to keep migrant children and parents together amid criticism of a Trump administration policy that separates families suspected of coming into the country illegally at the border.

“I … and all of the other senators of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, has passed a letter around to colleagues calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop separating families, The Hill reported.

“I’m asking for a pause,” Hatch said. “I think we ought to pause and look at this very carefully.”

Update 2:07 p.m. EDT June 19: A pair of Florida Democrats was barred Tuesday from going inside a Miami-area facility housing immigrant children as the national debate raged around the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from parents at the border.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wassermn Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson attempted to enter the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children Tuesday, but Wasserman Schultz said they were told that they needed to put in a request to visit the facility two weeks ahead of time.

The lawmakers said that they were told by the company that runs the facility that they would be able to visit Tuesday, but they were stopped by the a representative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is not a good day for our country, where a U.S. senator and a U.S. congressman have been turned away from a federal facility because the Trump administration does not want us to check on the welfare and the care of the children inside -- children who have been taken from their moms and dads,” Nelson said.

Update 1:30 p.m. EDT June 19: President Donald Trump once again blamed laws passed by Democrats for his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from parents suspected of coming into the country illegally while speaking Tuesday at a meeting of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Trump said the policy is necessary because loopholes in the immigration laws mean families “cannot  be detained together or removed together, only released.”

“These are crippling loopholes that cause family separations,” Trump said. “Child smugglers exploit the loopholes and they gain illegal entry into the United States, putting countless children in danger.”

There is no law that mandates the separation of children and parents at the border.

“We've got to stop the separation of the families, but politically correct or not we have a country that needs safety, that needs security, that has to be protected,” Trump said. “We don’t want people pouring into our country, we want them to come in through the process, through the legal system and we want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit.”

Update 11:40 a.m. EDT June 19: More than 20 state attorneys general are calling for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which has led to children being separated from their parents at the border and has sparked national outrage.

The 21 Democratic state attorneys general, from states including Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

“Put simply, the deliberate separation of children and their parents who seek lawful asylum in America is wrong,” the attorneys general said in the letter. “This practice is contrary to American values and must be stopped. We demand that you immediately reverse these harmful policies in the best interests of the children and families affected.”

The group is led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, who on Tuesday called the immigration policy “inhumane” and “draconian.”

“The Justice Department is ignoring its legal and moral obligations for the sake of a political agenda at the expense of children and the efforts of state law enforcement officials,” Balderas said. “The latest move to unnecessarily separate families is cruel and another example of this administration putting politics ahead of people.”

Update 10:15 a.m. EDT June 19: President Donald Trump insisted on Twitter that “Democrats are the problem” in the immigration debate as criticism of his administration’s policy of separating children from parents at the border continues.

Trump wrote Tuesday morning that Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”

The president has blamed Democrats for the recent surge in family separations, saying that laws need to be changed in order to change the separation policy.

>> Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage

“Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration,” Trump said Tuesday in a tweet with the hashtag #CHANGETHELAWS.

 

There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border.

The president also wrote Tuesday morning that “if you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country,” and reiterated a claim that crime has risen in Germany since the country started accepting migrants, despite government numbers that show crime at its lowest rate since 1992.

Update 9:44 a.m. EDT June 19: The executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund called stories of children being separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policy “heartbreaking,” saying in a statement Monday that “such practices are in no one’s best interests, least of all the children who suffer their effects.”

“Detention and family separation are traumatic experiences that can leave children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and can create toxic stress which, as multiple studies have shown, can impact children’s long-term development,” said Henrietta Fore, an American who has headed UNICEF since earlier this year.

She noted that the U.S. government has long supported UNICEF’s efforts to help uprooted children in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Haiti.

>> Clergy group brings church charges of child abuse, immorality against Jeff Sessions over zero-tolerance policy

“Children -- no matter where they come from or what their migration status -- are children first and foremost,” she said. “I hope that the best interests of refugee and migrant children will be paramount in the application of U.S. asylum procedures and laws.”

Update 8:40 a.m. EDT June 19: Sen. John McCain called the Trump administration’s family separation policy “an affront to the decency of the American people” in a tweet Monday night.

The Arizona Republican said the policy is “contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded.”

“The administration has the power to rescind this policy,” he wrote. “It should do so now.”

>> Is the immigration separation policy new, where did it come from, where are the detention centers?

McCain is among a growing number of Republican lawmakers voicing concern over the administration's "zero tolerance" approach to illegal border crossings. Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution. With adults detained and facing prosecution, any minors accompanying them are taken away.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

Update 7:15 p.m. EDT June 18: The nonprofit news organization ProPublica released an eight minute audio recording of wailing children, who were separated from their parents last week.

>> All 5 living first ladies speak out on separation of immigrant children, parents at border

A U.S. border patrol agent can be heard laughing in the background as the 10 children from Central America are separated from their families.

Update 6:00 p.m. EDT June 18: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, during a briefing Monday afternoon, said there’s nothing new about the current policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

>> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know

"This entire crisis is not new, Nielsen said, pointing to "loopholes" in federal immigration laws from the past, but that could change this week with the introduction of several immigration measures in the U.S. House and Senate, including one from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz is expected to introduce the “Protect Kids and Parents Act,” according to news reports. The measure would double the number of federal immigration judges from 375 to 750. It would authorize new temporary shelters to better accommodate families. 

The bill would mandate that immigrant families remain together, unless there’s criminal conduct or a threat to the children, and it would require that asylum cases are heard within 14 days of application.  

Update 5:35 p.m. EDT June 18:  The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, addressed the growing backlash over the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy at the southern U.S. border, which is separating undocumented children from their parents. Nielsen defended the policy and urged 

Congress to fix the system and close the loopholes.

>> Before Trump policy, immigrant families arrested at the border were detained together

Update 5:30 p.m. EDT June 18: Two more first ladies have weighed in on the widening controversy over the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern U.S. border. Michelle Obama retweeted comments Laura Bush made that Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

>> Trump border policy: How to help immigrant children separated from families

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter also released a statement Monday, according to The New York Times. "The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents' care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country," Carter said.

Update 4:30 p.m. EDT June 18: The Department of Health and Human Services has released photos of the “tent city” in the Texas border outpost of Tornillo, just outside of El Paso, where the U.S. government is sending children separated from their parents at the border. There are already dozens of children at the facility, according to news reports.

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT June 18: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, called Monday for the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen amid the ongoing debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

The demand came one day after Nielsen said in a tweet that, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

Nielsen echoed President Donald Trump’s claims that a law is behind the recent spike in separations of migrant children and their parents at the border.

“We will not apologize for enforcing the laws passed by Congress,” Nielsen said. “We are a nation of laws. We are asking Congress to change the laws.”

However, as Harris and numerous fact checkers have noted, there is no law that mandates the separation of children and parents at the border.

Harris said in a statement Monday that Nielsen’s “misleading statements ... are disqualifying.”

“We must speak the truth,” Harris said. “There is no law that says the Administration has to rip children from their families. This Administration can and must reverse course now and it can and must find new leadership for the Department of Homeland Security.”

Update 2:30 p.m. June 18: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that President Donald Trump is telling an “outright lie” when he claims that Democrats are behind the recent surge in separations of children from their parents on the border.

“This is not happening because of the 'Democrats' law,' as the White House has claimed,” Clinton said. “Separating families is not mandated by law at all.”

Clinton, who ran as a Democrat against Trump during the 2016 presidential election, also appeared to chastise U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who cited a Bible verse last week while justifying the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

“Those who selectively use the Bible to justify this cruelty are ignoring a central tenant of Christianity,” Clinton said. “Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children unto me.’ He did not say, ‘Let the children suffer.’”

Update 2 p.m. EDT June 18: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged President Donald Trump to end the policy that’s allowed authorities to separate migrant children from their parents on the border, writing Monday on Twitter that "children shouldn't be used as a negotiating tool.”

“(Trump) should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers,” he wrote.

The president has repeatedly called for Democrats to negotiate with Republicans to address illegal immigration after falsely claiming that the party is behind laws that mandate the separation of child from parent at the border. No such law exists. 

Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, ran against Trump in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination.

In an op-ed published Sunday by the Washington Post, former first lady Laura Bush called the Trump administration policy “cruel.”

"I live in a border state," Bush wrote. "I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart."

First lady Melania Trump has also criticized the policy, telling CNN in a statement through her spokeswoman that “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Update 12:46 p.m. EDT June 18: President Donald Trump again accused Democrats of obstructing efforts to deal with illegal immigration and the separation of children and parents at the border, telling reporters Monday that “we’re stuck with these horrible laws” because Democrats refuse to sit down with Republicans.

There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border.

“We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world,” Trump said. “Nobody has such sad, such bad – and in many cases, such horrible and tough – you see about child separation. You see what’s going on there.”

“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said.

Update 12 p.m. EDT June 18: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said authorities don’t want to separate children from their families but that officials have a duty to prosecute people who illegally cross the border.

“When we ignore our laws at the border we obviously encourage hundreds of thousands of people a year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country, creating an enormous burden on our law enforcement, our schools, our hospitals and (our) social programs,” Sessions said Monday during the National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in New Orleans.

He framed the issue as a debate over “whether we want to be a country of laws or whether we want to be a country without borders.”

“President Trump has said this cannot continue,” Sessions said. “We do not want to separate parents from their children. If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won’t face these terrible choices. We will have a system where those who need to apply for asylum can do so and those who want to come to this country will apply legally.”

Sessions’ arguments echoed those of President Donald Trump, who has blamed Democrats for passing laws that he said led to the separations.

There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said earlier Monday that officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws.

"We have to do our job," she said.

Original report: President Donald Trump defended his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy on Monday, writing in a series of tweets that children are being used “by the worst criminals on earth” to get into America as critics slammed the policy for separating children from their parents.

“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country,” Trump wrote. “Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.”

The president pointed to a rise in crime in Germany as an example of the chaos caused by illegal immigration, writing in a tweet that it was a “big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture.”

However, Germany’s internal ministry reported last month that criminal offenses in the country were at their lowest since 1992, according to Reuters.

This spring, the Trump administration ordered prosecutors to charge every person illegally crossing the border. Children traveling with the adults have been separated and placed in detention centers, prompting protests nationwide.

The president has blamed Democrats for not fixing the law that allows for the separations.

“Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration,” the president wrote. “Change the laws!”

Despite his claim that Democrats are at fault for the situation, The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration “put the policy in place and could easily end it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage

A recording of crying immigrant children who reportedly were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border circulated online Monday, sparking outrage among critics of the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration.

>> Click here to listen

>> Jamie Dupree: Trump to meet House GOP amid furor over immigrant families

The eight-minute audio clip, first published Monday by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news site, was recorded at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection center last week, the outlet reported. Children can be heard calling for "Mami" and "Papa" as one girl asks to call her aunt. One man, identified by ProPublica as a Border Patrol agent, can be heard saying of the sobs: "Well, we have an orchestra here. What's missing is a conductor."

>> Immigration: Trump administration defends 'zero tolerance' policy (live updates)

According to ProPublica, the person who secretly recorded the audio gave it to civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury, who then passed it along to the news site.

>> All 5 living first ladies speak out on separation of immigrant children, parents at border

According to The Associated Press, the "zero tolerance" policy, which started last month, "sought to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally," leading to more adults in jail, separated from their children. 

>> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know

At a White House press briefing Monday afternoon, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the recording, which one reporter played on speaker phone during the briefing. She said the children are treated humanely and given meals, education and medical care. 

>> Read more trending news 

Nielsen said recordings and photos from the border facilities that have circulated online "reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives."

Read more here and here.

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