Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Jan. 30. (Maxim Shemetov/AP)
A right-of-center Washington think tank has a novel recommendation for how the Trump administration can push back on Russian and Chinese hacking and disinformation campaigns: Strike back with its own information warfare operations.
The United States could hack and release embarrassing information about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal wealth, for example, as a bargaining chip to convince him to halt digital attacks against the United States, David Maxwell and Annie Fixler with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me.
U.S. officials could also release information about corrupt business practices by Chinese Communist Party officials or Iran’s theocratic rulers with similar goals, Maxwell and Fixler said.
“This generated from our thinking about where our adversaries are weak and we’re strong,” Fixler told me.
The idea, which comes from the think tank’s “Midterm Assessment” of the Trump administration’s foreign and national security policies, is aimed at giving the United States more leverage in cyberspace where it is routinely pummeled by adversaries that are highly aggressive and don’t fear U.S. retaliation.
The report may also may hold sway with the Trump administration. The Midterm Analysis includes a foreword by Trump’s former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who says the report “transcended the vitriolic and shallow partisan discourse that dominates much of what passes for commentary on foreign policy and national security.”
Yet the United States has not previously used hacking and information operations as a tool to shame adversaries — or at least, it hasn’t publicly acknowledged releasing hacked information about other leaders in the way the researchers describe. Doing so would mark a major escalation from typical U.S. responses to hacking campaigns,which have focused on escalating sanctions, indictments and calling out foreign government-backed hackers on the world stage.
Those diplomatic and law enforcement responses have the benefit of giving the United States a clear moral high ground about what is and isn’t acceptable in cyberspace.
But they haven’t actually deterred U.S. adversaries from playing dirtier, the researchers note. With Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean hackers unbowed two years after Russian hacking upended the 2016 elections, it’s time for a bolder response, Fixler and Maxwell told me.
The non-profit think tank is known for its focus on robust American engagement abroad. Funded by conservative luminaries includingcasino magnate Sheldon Adelson, it employs numerous former Republican officials including John Hannah, who advised former vice president Dick Cheney on the Middle East. McMaster is now chairman of its board of advisers at their center on military and political power.
Hacking and releasing compromising information about adversary nations’ leaders plays into U.S. adversaries’ weaknesses, Fixler and Maxwell told me. Unlike U.S. citizens, Russians, Chinese and Iranians aren’t used to a free press that publishes lots of detailed and often embarrassing information about their leaders, they said.
“We can use that to our advantage by providing more information to their public about corruption, about where their leaders have money, things that can be very damaging for authoritarian countries,” Fixler told me.
That idea carries its own set of dangers, cautions Chris Painter, the former State Department cyber coordinator under former president Obama who’s now a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation— especially if the United States falls into a tit-for-tat exchange releasing hacked information with a far more unscrupulous adversary.
“The worry is you have this escalating cycle with false and manipulated information that Russia has shown a great proclivity and ability to use,” Painter said. “But, on the other hand, they’re using it anyway, so we need to counter that.”
U.S. officials should make clear that the ultimate goal of any information operation is to make cyberspace more peaceful rather than simply to punch back in anger, Painter said. “You need to communicate very clearly that we’re using these tools and we’ll stop using them when you stop what you’re doing,” he told me.
Still, the idea of using information operations against adversaries is not a novel concept. U.S. intelligence officials considered but rejected such a plan to release damaging information about Russian officials, including bank account data, in response to Russia’s release of Democratic political emails before the 2016 election, according to a New Yorker report. And similar plans were widelydiscussed by analysts outside government after the election.
Fixler and Maxwell aren’t advocating releasing false or misleading information like Kremlin operatives did before the 2016 elections, they were quick to note.
They also don’t want the United States to abandon other methods of punishing adversaries that hack U.S. targets and launch disinformation campaigns, such as sanctions and indictments targeting companies and individuals that benefit from those operations.
But, so far, those methods have done little to change the willingness of Russia, China and Iran to hack U.S. targets or to engage in disinformation operations.
Just Thursday, in fact, Facebook and Twitter removed thousands of malicious accounts originating from Russia, Iran and Venezuela that spread false information about the 2018 U.S. election. On Wednesday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team revealed a Russian disinformation effort using documents the team shared with a Russian company that it had indicted on a charge of 2016 disinformation operations.
“What we’re saying is that, to date, [U.S. adversaries] haven’t felt the pain and we need to demonstrate that there’s a real cost to these actions that will change their calculations,” Fixler told me.
Barely 24 hours after some concerned Nigerians trooped out en mass in the United Kingdom to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, their counterparts in the United States (US) have followed suit.
These Nigerians, under the auspices of Restore Nigeria Coalition (RNC) were spotted in the streets of Washington, chanting ‘Sai Baba’ as they urged the Donald Trump-led government and the United Nations to support President Buhari in flushing out corruption.
Cosmas Collins, President of RNC, speaking on behalf of the group, believes Nigeria has made tremendous progress in the anti-corruption fight as witnessed in the case of embattled Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen.
“They are sufficing to note that since 2015, the present administration has initiated measures aimed at reducing corrupt practices in the conduct of government business at all tiers of governance. This effort has yielded positive results to the admiration of the bulk of Nigerians and the consternation of a select few that have benefited from the rot in the system,” he said.
“Undeterred, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has carried on with enthusiasm and a determination to see that structural defects are fixed to curb the rot in the system for the betterment of Nigeria as a country.
“You may also wish to note that the bane of underdevelopment in Nigeria is as a result of the lackadaisical attitude of previous governments in the fight against corruption that has resulted in the wanton disregard for accountability and transparency in the conduct of government businesses and by extension governance in Nigeria.
“Since 2015 when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over the affairs of the state in Nigeria, Nigeria has recorded tremendous progress in governance evident in the dividends of democracy trickling down the ladder.
“However, the present administration has encountered numerous challenges from individuals and organisations that have subverted the system through nefarious ways and means all in the quest to portray the Muhammadu Buhari administration in poor light in an attempt to pitch the populace against the government to fulfil their personal agenda of causing unrest and disaffection in the country.
“The recent case of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, who violated the law in declaring his assets as stipulated by the law has further emphasized the level of rot in the system.
“A particular segment of the Nigerian society has cried wolf where none exist and painted a picture of political persecution, forgetting that Nigeria was on the brinks of imminent collapse due the activities of a few that have benefitted from the rot in the system.
“We are through this medium soliciting for assistance from the United States and United Nation in the war against corruption in Nigeria as initiated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in recent times.
“A vivid example can be seen in the instance where the Chief Judicial Official in Nigeria, either by omission or commission failed to declare a part of his assets running into millions of dollars.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria as the number one judicial officer in the country for inexplicable reasons did not declare a part of his assets before the Code of Conduct Bureau in Nigeria. The CJN cited “forgetfulness and mistake” as the reasons for the non-declaration.
“The non-declared items are bank accounts with balances that runs into millions of pounds sterling and dollars. This is too much to be right in our considered opinion. As the number one judicial officer in the country, it is wholly untenable for such an excuse, unless for deliberate reasons.”
In a morning series of tweets, he also said a final deal would leave “NOTHING” unresolved but such a bargain could only be struck after he met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “in the near future.”
The meetings are “going well,” Trump said on Twitter.
“China does not want an increase in Tariffs and feels they will do much better if they make a deal. They are correct.”
The two sides have just a month remaining in a 90-day truce declared in December. Should the talks fail, US import duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports are due to more than double on March 2 — something economists say could help knock the wind out of the global economy’s sails.
But Washington’s aggressive prosecution of the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei — which federal prosecutors accused this week of industrial espionage, sanctions violations and fraud — threatened to upend the talks, drawing irate objections from Beijing.
“No final deal will be made until my friend President Xi, and I, meet in the near future to discuss and agree on some of the long standing and more difficult points. Very comprehensive transaction,” Trump said.
“China’s representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving NOTHING unresolved on the table. All of the many problems are being discussed and will be hopefully resolved. Tariffs on China increase to 25% on March 1st, so all working hard to complete by that date!”
Last year, the US pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, triggering widespread criticism from Washington’s allies.
Mr Trump also launched a diplomatic push to improve relations with North Korea, meeting the country’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last June to discuss denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
At the time, Mr Trump said this meeting had ended the North Korean nuclear threat – a claim questioned by a number of US politicians and experts.
The US intelligence report also warned that cyber threats from China and Russia were a growing concern, and both countries may be seeking to influence the 2020 US presidential elections.
What did Trump say about Iran?
In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said US intelligence officials “seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!”
Iran, he continued, was “making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond” in 2016, but had been “much different” since the US pullout from the “terrible” Iran nuclear deal.
However, Mr Trump warned that Tehran remained “a source of potential danger and conflict”, referring to reported recent Iranian rocket tests.
At the Senate hearing, CIA director Gina Haspel said Iran was “technically… in compliance” with the nuclear deal, despite the US withdrawal and the imposition of stricter sanctions against Tehran.
However, the intelligence report warned that Iran’s “regional ambitions and improved military capabilities” would probably threaten US interests in the future.
What about Trump’s remarks on North Korea?
The president wrote that “time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen.
“Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made – big difference!”
The US intelligence report earlier concluded that North Korea was “unlikely to give up” its weapons stockpiles and production abilities while it tried to negotiate “partial denuclearisation steps to obtain key US and international concessions”.
Having nuclear weapons was seen as “critical to regime survival”, the report added.
In Singapore, Mr Trump and Mr Kim signed an agreement pledging to “work toward complete denuclearisation” – but there was no agreed pathway and little progress has been made since then on the issue.
The White House has said there will be a second summit in February but no date or location has yet been confirmed.
For Trump and intelligence chiefs, a gaping chasm is normal
Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera
It used to be that finding the tiniest gap between the statements of a political leader and his intelligence chiefs would make for front-page news.
Yet these days a gaping chasm between President Trump and the heads of his intelligence agencies has almost become a new normal.
The willingness of Donald Trump to attack intelligence assessments began after his election and before he took office, when the intelligence community at the tail end of the Obama administration produced an assessment that said Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.
Rather than see the legitimacy of his victory undermined, he targeted the credibility of the spies.
That trend has continued in office even with intelligence chiefs who now serve at his pleasure.
They have to tread a thorny path (easier walked together than alone) between being seen to maintain their integrity in telling “truth to power”, and not risking the wrath of a president which in turn could undermine their work.
Is this the first time Trump has clashed with US intelligence bosses?
Last year, Mr Trump faced a barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans after he defended Russia over claims it meddled in the 2016 US presidential elections.
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scales of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
But after face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, Mr Trump said there had been no reason for Russia to interfere.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Mr Trump told a news conference.
Just 24 hours later, the US president said he misspoke and should have said, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be” Russia.
US special counsel Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 US election.
President Trump has repeatedly described the investigation as a “witch-hunt”.
The charges are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials.
The information contained in the emails was released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US election campaign.
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, who was targeted in the hack, accused self-described “dirty trickster” Mr Stone of knowing about it beforehand.
According to investigators, Mr Stone said he had “communicated” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the emails’ release and had described the contact as “perfectly legal”.
Mr Stone was detained in a pre-dawn arrest.
His campaign activities have long been under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
In 2016, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had tried to turn the election in Mr Trump’s favour through a state-authorised relay of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
Mr Trump has branded the Mueller inquiry a political “witch-hunt”. The Kremlin has always denied meddling in the US election.
Mr Stone is the 34th person to be charged as part of the Mueller investigation. Those indicted include 12 Russian military officers and 13 Russian nationals accused of leading a campaign to interfere in the US election.
Another three Russian entities, including the notorious Internet Research Agency “troll farm”, have also been charged.
Several people connected directly with Mr Trump have been indicted, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort, the former chairman of his election campaign, who is in jail.
Who is Roger Stone?
A long-time friend of Donald Trump, Roger Stone has worked on Republican political campaigns since the 1970s.
The 64-year-old favours three-piece suits and reportedly refuses to wear socks.
He began his career working on Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election bid, and has a tattoo of the 37th president across his shoulder blades.
Mr Stone published a book, The Making of the President 2016, after helping Mr Trump to power.
On Thursday, a small number of failed asylum seekers, who landed on UK shores in October, were sent back to France.
The Home Office said it wanted to provide “a strong deterrent against the dangerous crossings”.
The move is part of a new plan agreed by France and the UK which will see the UK spend an extra £3m on security.
It is understood fewer than five were returned to France on Thursday morning. The Home Office said it could not say where the migrants were from, nor whether they had travelled to the UK together in a small boat.
The measures come after a small spike in the number of migrants crossing the English Channel towards the end of last year.
Following talks with French ministers, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today’s joint action plan strengthens our already strong relationship and increases joint action around keeping both our borders secure and discouraging these dangerous journeys.”
Previously, the UK announced an extra £44.5m would be spent on strengthening Channel border security.
The home secretary has agreed now to spend £6m (of which £3m is new) on CCTV, night goggles and number plate recognition capability.
Extra security cameras will be placed at French ports and areas where migrants embark from, with a live feed viewable in the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, in Calais, which is staffed by British and French agencies.
The Home Office said there would also be increased surveillance of the Channel by air and boat patrols, and more foot patrols on beaches and coastal areas.
Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron,
It means it would take one month, rather than six, to process a migrant hoping to come to the UK from Calais – and 25 days to process children.
Over the whole of last year, 539 people attempted to travel to the UK on small boats – 434 (around 80%) made their attempts in the last three months of the year, according to the Home Office.
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
The U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for appropriation of funds for the construction of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border seems to have seen the light of day as Senate Appropriations Committee has unveiled legislation that will provide $5.7 billion for the construction of the wall. Also appropriated is fund that will see the federal government run its activities through Sept. 30.
The 1,301-page bill is the latest bid for a breakthrough that would end the partial government shutdown that has dragged on for about a month.
However, it is doubtful the legislation will reach the usual 60-vote threshold needed for bills to advance in the Senate.
The bill is in line with President Trump’s offer, announced over the weekend, to extend temporary protections for three years for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and those escaping disaster zones, in exchange for wall funding. Democrats said that the proposal for a three-year extension didn’t go nearly far enough, and that Trump was using as leverage programs that he had targeted. Meanwhile, some critics on the right, including conservative commentator Ann Coulter, accused Trump of offering “amnesty.” Despite the opposition to Trump’s proposal on both sides of the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
announced Saturday he would move to bring legislation to the floor “this week.” “With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well. “The situation for furloughed employees isn’t getting any brighter and the crisis at the border isn’t improved by show votes. But the President’s plan is a path toward addressing both issues quickly,” McConnell said.
The Senate bill also provides $12.7 billion in supplemental disaster relief for victims of last year’s hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. and wildfires in California, among other events. It also provides funding for nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments — including Agriculture, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Interior and Justice — that have not been funded since the partial shutdown began Dec. 22. Both houses of Congress are scheduled to be back in session Tuesday, but senators who will be given 24 hours’
notice ahead of any vote, have yet to be recalled to Washington. House Democrats, for their part, plan to push ahead with votes on their own legislation to re-open the government and add $1 billion for border security including 75 more immigration judges and infrastructure improvements, but no funding for the wall. The office of Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reiterated Monday that Democrats were unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump re-opens the government. “Nothing has changed with the latest Republican offer,” said Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman. “President Trump and Senate Republicans are still saying: ‘Support my plan or the government stays shut.’ That isn’t a compromise or a negotiation — it’s simply more hostage taking.” Meanwhile, the president took rhetorical shots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Twitter.
“If Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are ‘immoral,’ why isn’t she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the U.S. and Mexico,” he wrote Monday. “Let millions of unchecked ‘strangers’ just flow into the U.S.” Trump later tweeted: “Democrats are kidding themselves (they don’t really believe it!), if they say you can stop Crime, Drugs, Human Trafficking and Caravans without a Wall or Steel Barrier. “Stop playing games and give America the Security it deserves. A Humanitarian Crisis!”
Former defence secretary Jim Mattis refined the policy to limit it to transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, and it makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly or willing to serve “in their biological sex”.
Several trial judges around the country had issued injunctions blocking it.
The move is a reversal of an Obama administration policy that ruled transgender Americans could serve openly in the military as well as obtain funding for gender re-assignment surgery.
Gender dysphoria is when a person’s biological sex and identity does not match.
There are currently some 8,980 active duty transgender troops,
While Mr Trump’s rationale for banning transgender troops was financial, according to estimates by the RAND Corporation, a policy think tank working with the US Armed Forces, transition-related healthcare costs are between $2.4m (£1.8m) and $8.4m per year.
In 2017, defence data viewed by the Palm Center indicates that cost was in fact lower, at $2.2m.
US special counsel Robert Mueller has disputed a claim that President Trump told his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
Mr Mueller’s office said the report by Buzzfeed News was “not accurate”.
The website said that Cohen had told investigators that Donald Trump had instructed him to lie about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Mr Trump later denied the report saying his ex-lawyer had lied to investigators to “reduce his jail time”.
Responding to the special counsel’s statement, Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith tweeted that he stood by the story.
Democratic politicians have said they will investigate the allegations.
What did Mueller’s office say?
In a brief statement, it said: “Buzzfeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterisation of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
The statement did not say which parts of the BuzzFeed report were inaccurate.
It is extremely rare for Mr Mueller’s office to issue such a statement.
The special counsel is investigating alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election and whether Trump campaign figures were complicit – a claim repeatedly denied by Mr Trump.
Cohen told Congress that talks over the Trump Tower plan had taken place between September 2015 and January 2016, when the project was scrapped.
But he now says that the talks lasted until June, when Mr Trump was a candidate for president.
Quoting the officials, Buzzfeed said Cohen told the special counsel that after the November 2016 elections, Mr Trump “personally instructed him to lie” – by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did – “in order to obscure Trump’s involvement”.
Mr Mueller had already revealed that Cohen lied about the date the Moscow Trump Tower project ended.
“Remember it was Buzzfeed that released the totally discredited “Dossier,” paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
What is the latest with the Russia investigation?
Mr Mueller’s investigation is still ongoing and it is unclear when he will submit his findings to the attorney general. It is up to the attorney general to notify Congress and decide whether the report will be released publicly.
Mr Barr, who is currently undergoing confirmation in Congress, has said he will make as much of the Mueller report public as possible but has not promised to publish it all.
So far Mr Mueller’s investigation has led to charges against more than two dozen Russians, as well as several people connected to Mr Trump himself, including his former national security adviser and the former chairman of his election campaign.
A number of them, including Cohen, are known to be co-operating with Mr Mueller’s inquiry.
Cohen must report to prison by 6 March, but before that, he has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee in February.
Cohen fell afoul of the special counsel for lying to Congress at least three times about the timeline and extent of these plans.
He initially said the project dissolved in January 2016, that he “never considered” asking Mr Trump to visit Moscow for the project, “never agreed” to do so himself, and that he did not recall any Russian government response.
Cohen then admitted in a plea deal with Mr Mueller that he lied “to be consistent with” and “loyal” to Mr Trump and had indeed kept the Trump family appraised of the developments.
Now, it has become clear that negotiations over the tower continued through June 2016 – at which point Mr Trump was already the Republican presidential nominee.
Just how deeply was Trump involved?
Mr Trump has insisted he had no investments in Russia and the Moscow project was just one of the venues his organisation was pursuing during his presidential bid.
“There was a good chance I wouldn’t have won,” Mr Trump has told reporters. “And why should I lose lots of opportunities?”
But Thursday’s report claims Mr Trump received 10 personal updates from Cohen about the plans during a time when Mr Trump denied having any business ties to Russia.
Mr Trump “personally instructed” Cohen to lie in order to “obscure Trump’s involvement”, according to Buzzfeed, and Mr Mueller reportedly has substantial evidence of this.
Why is all this controversial?
There is no law barring a presidential candidate from exploring foreign business deals, though it is a rare situation.
It is, however, a federal crime for a president to direct a witness to lie to Congress.
This week, Mr Trump’s pick for attorney general William Barr confirmed during his hearings he certainly believes a president can be guilty of obstructing justice for doing so.
So if the claim that Mr Trump instructed Cohen to lie was found to be true, legal analysts say this would amount to obstruction of justice, and it would stoke calls for impeachment among the president’s critics.
Another issue the Moscow project raises is whether Mr Trump’s longstanding desire for the property has coloured his pro-Russia views.
If Mr Trump received updates about Cohen’s dealings with top Kremlin officials in a project that Mr Mueller’s team says could have made him “hundreds of millions of dollars”, the president’s calls for camaraderie with Russia may have served his personal interest instead of a patriotic one.
Several hundred migrants from Honduras who left the northern city of San Pedro Sula early on Tuesday are now crossing Guatemala on their way to the US.
The first wave of about 500 people has reached Tecún Umán on the border between Guatemala and Mexico.
A larger, slower group is in Guatemala City, where its members sought refuge at a local shelter.
This new caravan set off as hundreds of Central Americans remain stranded on the US-Mexico border.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly taken to Twitter to demand funding for the construction of a border wall to keep migrants out.
In his latest tweet on the issue, he said that similar walls had shown to be “close to 100% successful” but failed to offer any evidence or examples.
About 800 Hondurans set off from San Pedro Sula overnight Monday to Tuesday and they have since been joined by more people on their way north, among them many parents with young children.
In a tightening of its policies, Honduran authorities demanded that lone parents crossing with a child show a written consent form from the other parent allowing the child to leave the country.
Those who could not produce such a form were turned back. The same happened to unaccompanied minors without written permission from their parents.
At least 60 unaccompanied children were stopped at the border, according to Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Nelly Jerez.
Some of the migrants say they are trying to reach Mexico where they hope to take advantage of a promise by newly elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to provide them with work visas.
But many others say they want to cross into the US. Hundreds of members of an earlier caravan, which left Honduras on 13 October, are still in the Mexican border town of Tijuana waiting to request asylum in the US.
and thousands more turning back to their home countries.
Honduran Foreign Minister María Dolores Agüero put the number of those who had returned to the Central American nation at 7,200.
The migrant caravans have been seized upon by President Trump, who labelled them as “an invasion” ahead of mid-term elections in the US last November.
The issue continues to be in the spotlight with the president refusing to approve a federal budget unless it includes a fund for a wall along the Mexican border to keep illegal migrants out.
The move has led to longest-ever partial government shutdown in the US with much of the federal government out of operation.
Asked why she is running, Mrs Gillibrand replied: “As a young mom I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I fight for my own, which is why I believe health care is a right and not a privilege.”
Registering an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission allows Mrs Gillibrand to raise money like a presidential candidate before officially launching her bid.
Who is Kirsten Gillibrand?
Mrs Gillibrand, 52, was appointed to her seat in 2009, when Hillary Clinton accepted the role of US Secretary of State under former president Barack Obama.
Since then, she has won her re-election bids easily and remains popular in New York.
Mr Trump responded by claiming Mrs Gillibrand had come “begging” to him for donations and “would do anything” for cash.
As Democrats decried the language as sexist, the White House said the president was only referring to political corruption.
Young, charismatic, and a real contender
Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington
Announcing a presidential campaign on the Stephen Colbert Show may end up a cliché by the time the year is over, but credit Kirsten Gillibrand with being one of the first to try it.
The New York senator’s decision to (almost) thrown her hat into the ring isn’t a huge shock.
She’s long been positioning herself as one of the candidates most likely to capitalise on the #MeToo movement, and her pitch as someone who will “fight as hard for other people’s kids as she would for her own” just might resonate.
Her steady march to 2020 hit a few bumps along the way, however. She angered some Democrats by quickly calling for Senator Al Franken’s resignation after he faced sexual harassment charges. And she alienated Clinton loyalists by criticising Bill Clinton’s handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
These decisions could hurt her, even if she cites them as evidence that she matches her feminist rhetoric with action.
As a New Yorker, however, she can tap into a deep vein of campaign cash. She’s young and charismatic. If she catches the wave of women voters that powered Democrats to victory last year, it just might carry her to the nomination.
Who else is running?
Senator Elizabeth Warren announced her own bid on New Year’s Eve. Democratic representatives Tulsi Gabbard and John Delaney have also announces plans to run.
The burgers were from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, the market leaders in this category and the pizzas were from Domino’s, the leading chain.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in front of fast food provided for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Champion Clemson Tigers due to the partial government shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, U.S.,
As they ambled into the room, members of the championship soccer team whooped at the sight of burgers piled high on a table for their celebratory reception at the White House. There was another table, further up, with pizzas and fries.
All of it was paid for by US president Donald Trump personally, because most of the residence staff at the White House had been furloughed, which has impacted an estimated 800,000 employees of a fourth of the federal government.
The burgers were from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, the market leaders in this category and the pizzas were from Domino’s, the leading chain.
“Great American food,” is how Trump described the spread.
Trump is personally partial to that food himself. His daily dinner on the campaign trail was two McDonald’s Big Macs and two fillet-of-fish sandwiches pushed down with a chocolate milkshake, according to his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s book, which the president had endorsed.
So, there it was all the food he likes, minus the steaks, spread out for the players of the Clemson Tigers, the team that won the college football championship.
“The reason we did this is because of the shutdown,” the president said to reporters covering the reception. “We want to make sure that everything is right, so we sent out, we got this. And we have some wonderful people working in the White House.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the president wanted to host a “fun event” for the college players and added because “much of the residence staff at the White House is furloughed – so the President is personally paying for the event to be catered with some of everyone’s favorite fast foods”.
Trump had paid for them, and he had kept track of it, he revealed later. “We have pizzas, we have 300 hamburgers, many, many french fries, all of our favourite foods”. That seemed like an accurate account from someone who had ordered that many — 300 — burgers.
For a billionaire such as Trump, the cost of the food on the tables in the White House was but small change. He donates his $400,000 a year salary as president to charities and government organisations, such as veterans affairs.
But hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or made to work without pay are struggling to make ends meet. They are dipping into savings and selling personal and households goods such as cars, television sets, spare car tires and, even baby car seats.
Effects of the shutdown are also being felt by general public across sectors where the government’s interface with the public is typically high such as security screening of passengers at airports, where waiting lines have grown longer, and world-renown museums such as those prefixed Smithsonian.
Some of the iconic US national parks such as the Yellow Stone and Grand Canyon, which attract tourists from abroad and home, remain open and operational either with financial aid and other kinds of help from local government and businesses benefiting from them or with reduced or no official staff on duty.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not public, dismissed a report in the Financial Times that floated Ivanka’s name as a possible candidate and was repeated by several other media outlets over the weekend.
Ivanka Trump will help manage the Trump administration’s selection of a US candidate for the position of World Bank Group president, a White House official said on Monday.(Bloomberg)
Ivanka Trump will help manage the Trump administration’s selection of a US candidate for the position of World Bank Group president, a White House official said on Monday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not public, dismissed a report in the Financial Times that floated Ivanka’s name as a possible candidate and was repeated by several other media outlets over the weekend.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney “have asked Ivanka Trump to help manage the US nomination process as she’s worked closely with the World Bank’s leadership for the past two years,” the official said.
“Reports that she is under consideration are false.”
AUS Treasury spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ivanka Trump has worked with the World Bank and departing President Jim Yong Kim over the past two years, jointly launching a $1.6 billion women’s entrepreneurship fund with 13 other donor countries to raise capital for female entrepreneurs in developing countries.
The United States, which has a controlling voting interest in the World Bank, has traditionally chosen the institution’s leader since it began operations in 1946.
Kim announced his surprise Feb. 1 departure last week to join private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners, more than three years before his term ends in 2022, amid differences with the Trump administration over climate change and the need for more development resources..
The World Bank has said its executive board will begin accepting nominations starting on Feb. 7. It said candidates should be committed to implementing the bank’s 2030 development objectives and reforms under the 2018 capital plan.
Candidates should have a proven leadership track record, with experience managing “large organizations with international exposure,” diplomatic and communication skill and “a firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation,” the World Bank said.
Any nominee needs executive board approval and alternative candidates put forth by other countries are seen as likely to emerge, as they did in 2012, when Kim’s nomination was unsuccessfully challenged by candidates from Nigeria and Colombia.
“We will not be seating Steve King on any committees in the 116th Congress,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said after members of the Republican Steering Committee unanimously voted to remove Mr King on Monday night.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the latest Republican to speak out against Mr King on Monday, saying he has “no tolerance for such positions”.
“Rep King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work,” Senator McConnell said in a statement.
In a speech from the House floor on Friday, Mr King said he regretted “the heartburn that has poured forth” as a result of his interview.
“I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define.”
Politicians in Washington have had a lot to say about the merits or otherwise of a border wall thousands of miles away. But what do the lawmakers based there say?
There are nine members of the House of Representatives whose districts lie along the US-Mexico border.
It is perhaps not surprising that the eight Democrats oppose President Donald Trump’s signature campaign pledge.
But the one Republican congressman – whose district stretches for 820 miles (1,320km) along the border – is also hostile. Most of his party back the president.
These nine border politicians have intimate knowledge of the border and the issues arising from the movement of people – legal or otherwise – across it.
So what have they said?
Will Hurd, Texas Republican
“I think building a concrete structure sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” said Will Hurd, a Republican congressman whose district has the longest border with Mexico.
Congressman Hurd’s 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from El Paso to Antonio, shares the largest border with Mexico of any member of Congress.
Mr Hurd, a former CIA agent who happens to be the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, has argued for a “smart border wall” which would be composed of sensors and other technology.
“A Smart Wall would use sensor, radar and surveillance technologies to detect and track incursions across our border so we can deploy efficiently our most important resource, the men and women of Border Patrol, to perform the most difficult task – interdiction,” he wrote in an op-ed in 2017 .
Mr Hurd, who broke rank with Republicans to vote on a Democratic-led bill to reopen government, said after Mr Trump’s speech on Tuesday: “If this is a crisis, the people that are dealing with this crisis should get paid.”
Federal workers who are deemed “essential” such as border patrol agents, have been forced to work without pay as the shutdown continues.
“It’s a 4th Century solution to a 21st Century problem,” said Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes the border town of McAllen, which Trump plans to visit during the funding impasse.
“Nobody wants stronger border control than me,”he told CBS .
But he opposes adding to the existing border wall because he does not “think it brings real border security and it comes at a major cost to taxpayers”.
Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat
Congressman Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas’ 8th congressional district, believes $4bn is needed to modernise ports of entry, not for a wall which he says would only delay migrants by “a few minutes or a few seconds”.
He adds that modern telecommunications for border agents, and funding to help Mexico secure it’s own southern border, would also be helpful.
Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona Democrat
The new Arizona congresswoman took office in early January as the representative for Arizona’s 2nd District and has pledged not to vote for border wall funding.
“We don’t want a wall in southern Arizona. A third of our economy comes from Mexico. We want to build bridges not walls,” she told Arizona Public Media as she was sworn in.
Mr Grijalva has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump’s proposal.
“Not a single cent should go to funding Trump’s monument to hate,” he tweeted after Mr Trump addressed the nation on primetime TV to argue that there is a “crisis” at the border.
“This is a terrible, terrible mistake that Trump is making,” he told CBS, calling it “a fantasy” and “not a solution”.
“It would be devastating to my district,” said Mr Grijalva, whose own father came emigrated from Mexico in the 1940s.
Veronica Escobar, Texas Democrat
In her first act as a newly elected member of Congress, Veronica Escobar of Texas’ 16th District chose to cast her vote for “Nancy ‘no wall’ Pelosi” – the Democratic House leader who has opposed budgeting for Mr Trump’s wall.
Mrs Escobar, who represents the border city of El Paso, blamed Republicans for wrongly and “needless fear mongering about communities like mine”.
Juan Vargas, California Democrat
Congressman Juan Vargas, who has represented California’s 51st District for the last five years, said there is no crisis where he lives along the border.
“I live along the border, about a little over 10 miles from the border. It’s San Diego. I mean, it’s basically paradise,” he told CNN. “The notion that we have a crisis there, security crisis, is absolute nonsense.”
“The reality is, yes, there are people sneaking into our country,” Mr Vargas said. “We can stop that if we have smart solutions, and that’s only going to be reliant on technology.”
Xochitl Torres Small, New Mexico Democrat
New Mexico’s newly elected Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small visited the border earlier this week with other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
While visiting a Border Patrol station where a Guatemalan migrant child died on Christmas Eve, she called for first responders along remote and rural areas of the border to carry emergency medical equipment.
“The border is my home, and I am committed to fighting for and implementing policies which will help to make it #strong #smart and #fair,” she tweeted after the visit.
Filemon Vela Jr, Texas Democrat
Texas Congressman Filemon Vela Jr has said in the past that he agrees with President Trump on trying to tackle the Mexican drug cartels and deporting criminals.
But he is deeply opposed to the wall.
In a scathing open letter to candidate Trump in 2016 , he said: “Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighbouring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine.”
been an outspoken critic of Mr Trump’s immigration policies, and criticised his decision before the mid-term elections in November to deploy troops to the border, which he said “inspired white national vigilantes” to flood the region.
After US troops arrived in Brownsville, a city he represents, he condemned their defensive manoeuvres as “direct attacks on our border economy [which] provide no security value whatsoever”.
When US actress and director Regina King picked up her first Golden Globe on Sunday, she won a standing ovation for vowing “to make sure that everything that I produce is 50% women” for the next two years.
Her pro-equality speech began on a different tack, though – noting that stars are often mocked for bringing up social causes on the Red Carpet.
You might say they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. So why bother?
Well, there’s some argument that it works. Recent months have seen famous faces achieve real change by backing a campaign, a charity or an individual.
Here are just some of the stars taking on the world’s woes in 2019…
Kim Kardashian West, ‘prison reform princess’
It’s rumoured that the reality star and serial entrepreneur is expecting her fourth child with her rapper husband Kanye West, via surrogacy. But this year has already given her a reason to smile: the imminent release of US prisoner Cyntoia Brown.
Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison for murder when she was 16, was granted clemency by the governor of Tennessee on Monday after 15 years in prison – and a noisy, celebrity-led campaign to free her.
Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for shooting dead Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville estate agent who picked her up for sex.
The teenager who went home with Mr Allen that night had been repeatedly raped and beaten. She was on the streets by order of her boyfriend, described as a violent, drug-addled pimp nicknamed Kutthroat, who she said verbally abused her and made her strip at gunpoint.
Singer Rihanna and supermodel Cara Delevigne shared emotional posts on social media with the hashtag #freeCyntoiaBrown.
But Kardashian West, in the vanguard, posted a tweet about the case which racked up half a million “likes” in which she announced: “We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this.”
Nor is this her only example of successful activism.
In May last year, the TV stalwart met President Donald Trump to discuss a potential pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother serving life in prison for a first-time drug offence. She also asked her long-time personal lawyer, Shawn Holley, to look at the case and paid for a new legal team.
Sure, celebrity Twitter activism is not a catch-all answer to the ills of the US penal system. Genuine prison reform would be infinitely preferable. But in defence of Kardashian West – she asked Trump for that too.
Ryan Gosling, pro-democracy advocate
“Actor Ryan Gosling urges credible election results in DRC” may not be the first headline you’d expect to see from the Oscar nominee.
We’ll go further: it could appear deeply random.
It makes more sense if you know that Gosling, 38, swapped La La Land for the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010, travelling with the Enough Project, a US-based non-profit that works to counter crimes against humanity.
Gosling took a series of photographs, and in December 2018 launched a book with the group’s founding director, John Prendergast, and Congolese activist Fidel Bafilemba.
“Congo Stories: Battling Five Centuries of Exploitation and Greed,” explores the bloody history of the mineral-rich DRC – where elections were held on 30 December.
President Joseph Kabila is stepping down after 18 years, and promised the polls, which were meant to happen two years ago, would be the country’s first orderly transfer of power since independence in 1960.
Can Gosling deliver them a clean result? Obviously not. But activists might argue that his advocacy helps raise public awareness – and thereby a sense that corruption and irregularities do not go unnoticed.
Stormzy, Cambridge scholarship sponsor
British rapper Stormzy has described himself as “a child of grime” – but he still listens to his real mother.
“My mum always had this plan of ‘You’re going to school and college, then you’re going to go Cambridge’,” he said last August.
Her son became a music trailblazer instead – but to honour her wishes, he’s funding four black British students to go to the University of Cambridge – two in 2018, and two in 2019. The Stormzy Scholarship will pay tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant for up to four years of undergraduate study.
“It didn’t happen for me, so I feel that for me to get to this place in my career and be able to do something where we can help young black students get into Cambridge is a testimony to her hard work as well,” the rapper said.